Thursday, May 23, 2019

Avengers: Endgame review warning: possible spoilers

It all started in 2008 with Iron Man. The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) seemed to come out of nowhere and dominate the superhero genre. Now 22 films in, The Infinity Saga is coming to a dramatic end with Avengers: Endgame. The anticipation has been high, and the fan theories have been flying around since last year’s Avengers: Infinity War. And how the world can see what happens to the heroes. With a runtime of 3 hours and 1 minute, Endgame proved to be an exciting, emotional ride with a satisfying ending to this saga and opens the door to new heroes and new stories. What is the basic story of the film? What did I like? And what am I looking forward to?

The film opens 23 days after The Snap, the Avengers are searching for Thanos and the Stones in order to undo everything. Fast forward 5 years, the world is struggling to move forward. Monuments have gone up to honor the disappeared and governments are being pieced back to together as the world moves on. The Avengers are scattered, barely together as they deal with the aftermath and trying to find a way to bring everyone back. When a plan comes together, they must travel to uncharted territories and face new challenges they couldn’t train for and fight for the hope that they can restore the world’s population to what it was.

There is so much about this movie and in order to avoid as many spoilers as I can, I will discuss a few aspects that I enjoyed about the film. First, to see how everyone reacts differently in the aftermath of The Snap. Captain America tries counseling a few survivors. Thor sinks into a deep depression. Black Widow takes a leadership role in the Avengers and tries to keep everything running. And Tony runs from it all and makes a quiet life in the country. Second, I liked how the writers dealt with the time travel aspect. With many Hollywood films using their own version of time travel and Endgame discusses many of them and why they don’t work, I liked how they use the Quantum Realm and the Pym Particle. Third, I loved Hawkeye’s character in Endgame. He has been one of my favorite characters in the MCU since his quiet introduction in Thor (2011) and I loved how he has evolved. Even turning into a vigilante after his family vanishes, he still wasn’t willing to let his best friend sacrifice herself in order to get the Soul Stone. They battle over it. Despite his loss, despite the face they were trying to get everyone back, he was still willing to sacrifice himself to accomplish their mission.

This is usually when I discuss what I didn’t like about a film. However, there was very little I didn’t like about Endgame. So instead, I’m going to discuss what I’m looking forward to as the MCU movies into its next phase. First, Spiderman: Far from Home (opens July 2, 2019). I look forward to seeing Peter as he deals with the events of Infinity War and Endgame. How does he move forward? I am interested in seeing how the MCU will introduce the multiverse as the movie trailer hints that they might. Second, the other film featuring Marvel characters that I am not familiar with such as The Eternals and Shang-Chi. No exact dates have been set for these films yet. It will be exciting to see new characters and new stories in the MCU. Third, the sequels to the other films like Doctor Strange 2 and Black Panther. I am even looking forward to the Black Widow standalone film. I am also looking forward to the streaming shows that are planned for the Disney + service. The next phases of the MCU will be exciting.

In conclusion, Avengers: Endgame is a great ending to the 22 film, 11 year build up that has captivated audiences around the world. While it has been bittersweet to say goodbye to the storyline and even some of the characters that I have watched in action for 11 years; however, the future looks bright for the MCU. My only hope is that they keep up with the quality of stories and characters as they did with the Infinity Saga. One piece of advice though, if you have not seen the majority of the MCU films, then there will be much of Endgame that will be missed. I recommend watching all the MCU films. It will be worth it. 

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Young Guns and the Lincoln County War

I love history and I love historical films. I also enjoy discovering what the films got right, what it got wrong and what it twisted for dramatic effect. Most everyone is familiar with the 1988 film, Young Guns starring Emilio Estevez, Charlie Sheen, Kiefer Sutherland. Through the years and many viewings, I didn’t realize until recently when my husband and I were watching it again that the events in the movies were inspired by actual events. I realize that I didn’t really pay attention to the historical aspects or just assumed it was a fabricated conflict set in the American West. The Lincoln County War is an Old West conflict between two rival factions: the Murphy-Dolan faction and Tunstall-McSween faction. Beginning in 1878 in the New Mexico Territory, it would drag on until 1881. The feud became famous due to the participation of Billy the Kid. What started the war? Who were some of the key figures? How accurate was the movie, Young Guns?

The conflict began over control of dry good and cattle interests. John Tunstall arrived in Lincoln County in November 1876 and started a business with Alexander McSween, a lawyer, and John Chisum, a cattleman, to develop a cattle ranch, store and a bank. They became competition for the general store called “The House” owed by James Dolan and Lawrence Murphy who economically and politically controlled the town. According to historians, one main event which led to hostilities was the controversy over the disbursement of an insurance policy. Emil Fritz was a partner of Murphy and when he died in 1874, the executors of the estate hired McSween to collect his insurance policy. After collecting, McSween refused to turn over the money to the executors because The House claimed the money was owed to them for a debt. “McSween also knew how badly strapped for cash the House was and as a business competitor was likely loathe to see the money go to them, whether their claim was legitimate or not” (Nolan, 1992). A court order was later issued to seize all McSween’s assets and included Tunstall’s assets as well (Nolan, 1998). Sheriff Brady formed a posse to seize Tunstall’s ranch and Dolan would hire various gangs including the Jesse Evans Gang to harass and rustle the cattle from the Tunstall and Chisum ranches (Harden, 2012). Tunstall would be murdered on February 18, 1878 bringing the hostilities to full steam. Various battles and skirmishes would occur leading up to the Battle of Lincoln on July 15-19, 1878, a 5-day gunfight and siege resulting in the death of McSween and scattering the Regulators. Surviving Regulators, including Billy the Kid, would continue hostilities and would end in 1881 when the last of the Regulators were gunned down.

Billy the Kid was born Henry McCarty on September 17 (or November 23), 1859 and used the alias William H. Bonney. He would be gain notoriety from his participation in the Lincoln County War. He was shot and killed by Pat Garrett on July 14, 1881. However, in the decades following his death, many men would claim to be him which is the basis for the story of Young Guns II (1990).  John Tunstall was born on March 6, 1853 and his death would be the catalyst which would ignite the Lincoln County war. His death deeply his associates especially Billy the Kid whom he had always treated well. Alexander McSween was born in Canada and after attending law school, made his way to New Mexico. He originally worked for Murphy and Dolan but left to form a partnership with Tunstall. James Dolan was born on May 2, 1848 in Ireland and would immigrate to the US and serve in the Civil War. He would be a key instigator in the conflict. Lawrence Murphy was born in 1831 in Ireland and would serve in the US Army before moving to New Mexico. His store with Dolan charged high prices for their goods to the local farmers and ranchers, making them hated among much of the local population. When Tunstall and McSween opened their competing store, which enraged Dolan and Murphy supported any means necessary to end the competition. William Brady was born on August 16, 1829 in Ireland. He was elected sheriff of Lincoln County in 1876 and become close friends with Murphy and sided with the Murphy-Dolan side of the conflict. He was killed in an ambush with the Regulators on April 1, 1878. Billy the Kid would be tried and convicted of his death and sentenced to death; however, he escaped before the sentence could be carried out.

Most Hollywood films based on historical events are not known for their accuracy and Young Guns is no different. First, the movie portrays John Tunstall (played by Terrence Stamp) as an older English gentleman. Tunstall was only 24 years old when he died. Tunstall also wasn’t trying to civilize the rough and tumble youth of the area. He was looking for hired hands who could protect his interests. Second, the movie portrays Lawrence Murphy (played by Jack Palance) as the main villain. In fact, Murphy was dying of cancer by 1878 and left most of the business to Dolan, the real rival of the Regulators. Third, speaking of the Regulators. The movie portrays that there were six members: Dick Brewer, Billy the Kid, Doc Spurlock, Charlie Bowdre, Jose Chavez y Chavez and Dirty Dave. In fact, these six were just a part of dozens of Regulators as well as Mexican supporters who participated in the events. Third, in the film, a character remarks that none of the Regulators are over 21. From the Regulators portrayed in the film, Billy the Kid was the only one under 21. Chavez was 26, Charlie was 30, Doc was 29, and Dick Brewer was 28. Lastly, the movie portrays the primary motive for the building hostilities was money. While money was a main issue as both sides were vying for a military contract with nearby Fort Stanton; however, it was only one factor. Another factor was ethnically based. Dolan, Murphy and many of their men were Irish immigrants or of Irish decent and Catholic. Tunstall, McSween and their allies were mostly English Protestant. And it came down to class too. Tunstall and McSween thought they were better than the lowly Irish men as they were better educated Englishmen.

In conclusion, while Young Guns is not historically accurate, and it should not be viewed as such, it can be the jumping point to discover the true story of the Lincoln County War and the Regulators. It has brought to my attention a small piece of historical events of the American Wild West. In the film, there was clear cut bad guys and good guys. However, there were no real good guys or bad guys. Both sides were motivated by greed, religious and ethnic prejudice. While the events helped spur Billy the Kid’s reputation and the beginnings of his legend, many of the individuals involved in this conflict have been left to a small portion of American history that many people are not aware of. After watching a film that is based on a true story or historical event, take the time to learn more. Find books or documentaries to discover the story beyond the Hollywood version. You may discover hidden gems of history.


Harden, Paul (September 1, 2012). "Cowboys and cattle rustlers". DC Chieftain.

Nolan, Frederick (1992). The Lincoln County War: A Documentary History. Santa Fe, NM: Sunstone Press.

Nolan, Frederick (1998). The West of Billy the Kid. Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press.

Friday, May 17, 2019

The Scent Keeper: one girl's discovery of her father's secrets

The Scent Keeper by Erica Bauermeister is the story of Emmeline, a young girl who lives with her father on an isolated island. She listens to her father’s stories especially the ones about Jack the Scent Hunter and she’s curious about the mysterious bottles with blank pieces of paper in them that her father stores in drawers. When her life on the island abruptly ends, she must adjust to life in a small town and struggles with who she really is as the information her father gave her seemed to be far from the truth. She slowly learns her father’s true story and leads her on a journey to discover who she is and the mother she thought she didn’t have. Will Emmeline be able to handle the truth? Will she be able to tell who is telling her the truth and who is still hiding behind lies?

From the opening lines, The Scent Keeper pull you in and doesn’t let you go until the final page. I was instant engrossed in Emmeline’s story with the beautiful imagery of their island, the stories her father told and the mystery behind who he was and the reason they lived on the island. At the end, I was speechless and in awe at this beautiful story. There were a few moments that I gasped with realization and tears filled my eyes at the pain and truth that Emmeline discovers. It is a gripping story from beginning to end. I didn’t notice the length as I read page after page until I finished it in a several hours. It is a story you will not want to put down! I highly recommend The Scent Keeper!

The Scent Keeper
will be available May 21, 2019
in hardcover and eBook

Monday, May 13, 2019

Secrets of Wildflower Island: a great mystery that will keep you guessing!

Secrets of Wildflower Island by Michelle Files is the first book in the Wildflower Mystery series. The story opens with the Carmichael family, Tim, Roxanne and their 15-year-old twin daughters, Mary and Piper, as they sit down for a family meeting. They own the Wildflower Inn and CafĂ© on the island off the coast of California. Tim and Roxanne have employed girls who need a place to stay after leaving a bad home situation or after getting in trouble with the law. The locals affectionately call these girls, “The Wildflowers” and the current girls, Frankie and Anna, are working well with the family and the community. Suddenly everything goes wrong after an earthquake and tidal wave which wreaks havoc on the island and in the aftermath and clean up, the body of a teenage boy is found. Soon accusations are flying, and fingers are pointing at the less than reputable individuals in the community. Will the killer be found? Will the residents be able to restore their once peaceful and beautiful community?

Secrets of Wildflower Island is a fast-paced mystery will no clear clue as who the killer is and the reader will be kept guessing until the very end! It has an abrupt ending but since this book is the first in the series, I assume the aftermath of this case will continue in the next book along with a new mystery. The main characters are the teenage girls at the center of the case and each one has a secret to hide. I enjoyed each character and the tension and fights between the girls feel very realistic. I could easily imagine these girls in a real high school or community somewhere. I highly recommend Secrets of Wildflower Island and I look forward to reading the other books in this series.

Secrets of Wildflower Island
is available in paperback and eBook

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Aquaman: an enjoyable superhero film from the DCEU

The DCEU films have been hit and miss for me. I enjoyed Man of Steel (2013) and Wonder Woman (2017) while having a hard time watching Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016) and Justice League (2017). So, when Aquaman was announced, I was skeptical and wasn’t in a hurry to see it. The film opened in the USA on December 21, 2018 and went on to gross over $1.1 billion worldwide. It is the highest grossing DCEU film and highest grossing film based on a DC character, surpassing The Dark Knight Rises (2012). Recently, my husband and I were given the opportunity to watch it, so we decided to give it a try. Aquaman was directed by James Wan and stars Jason Momoa as Arthur Curry/Aquaman, Amber Hera as Mera and Patrick Wilson as King Orm. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this film.

The film opens in 1985, Maine as lighthouse keeper, Thomas Curry (played by Temuera Morrison) recuses Atlanna (played by Nicole Kidman) during a storm. Atlanna is queen of Atlantis and is running from an arranged marriage. They fall in love and have a son, Arthur, who can speak to marine life. Too soon, Atlanna’s location is discovered and she is forced to return to her kingdom. Fast forward to the present, several months after the events of Justice League, Arthur has developed the nickname, Aquaman, as he recues others at sea. Meanwhile, his half-brother, King Orm is attempting to unite the kingdom, claim the title of Ocean Master and attack the surface for their atrocities at sea. Mera knows King Orm as Ocean Master would bring terrible consequences for the ocean and the surface that she seeks out Arthur and urges him to find the Trident of Atlan and reclaim his rightful place as king. The trident is a magic artifact, once belonging to Atlantis’s first ruler, and gives the bearer the throne of Atlantis. Through a series of clues, they journey to the deepest parts of the ocean and the center of the earth. Arthur meets Karathen, a mythical leviathan and keeper of the trident. He must prove his worth to obtain the trident and claim control of over the seven seas and defeat Orm.

What I liked about this film, first was Jason Momoa as Arthur. Although I do not find him as attractive as many women do, he was perfect for the role of Arthur. Especially once the traditional Aquaman uniform was revealed, Momoa makes a usually mocked character, look like a formidable opponent. Second, one of my favorite line is Queen Atlanna’s response to Arthur’s question about what can be greater than a kind. She replies, “A hero. A king fights only for his own nation. You fight for everyone.” It acknowledges that Arthur fights for both sides of his heritage: his home on the surface and everything in the ocean. Third, Patrick Wilson as Orm. Wilson plays a terrific villain. He is very convincing as a man who will do anything to see his plan play out. Lastly, the soundtrack was a great addition to the film. From “Ocean to Ocean” by Pitbull to “It’s No Good” by Depeche Mode, the music was powerful for its scenes and added drama to the movie as music should.

There was little that I didn’t like about this movie and if I didn’t like it, it could be overlooked. For instance, there were aspects of Arthur and Mera’s journey to the trident that ignored science. However, it is a superhero film about a man who can speak to marine life. Scientific accuracy really isn’t a strong argument to dislike the movie, as many critics tried to use. I could see why buy seriously it’s a superhero movie, scientific facts are usually stretched. Second, there were times when the dialogue was very juvenile and failed as a joke. In one scene, Arthur and Mera are in the Sahara desert where they find an Atlantean artifact. When Mera realizes they need water to activate it and takes sweat from Arthur’s brow, Arthur responds, “Show-off. I could’ve just peed on it.” Really? Disgusting. However, I realize that the demographic that this movie is written for may have enjoyed this joke. And maybe not but it was a joke that I thought was inappropriate and wasn’t necessary.

In conclusion, Aquaman was surprisingly enjoyable and a movie I would watch again. It had all the elements of a good superhero story as well as an action film. The special effects were good. The battle scenes were enjoyable. I liked Jason Momoa as Aquaman and the overall story. While there were points in the story that were inaccurate and dialogue that seems inappropriate, I still enjoyed this movie. The DCEU has a long way to go to match the caliber of the MCU; however, if they look at the success of Wonder Woman and now Aquaman, they could be a strong competitor. I recommend Aquaman, even if you haven’t seen the rest of the DCEU films, you can enjoy Aquaman.

Aquaman is now available
on DVD, Blu-ray and various streaming services

Thursday, May 9, 2019

When Love Comes: a beautiful love story in a gorgeous setting

When Love Comes by J.H. Croix is the first book in the Diamond Creek, Alaska series. Hannah Gray is a young woman who returns to her hometown in Diamond Creek, Alaska. Her parents had died in a tragic plane accident two years prior and she had not been home since; but now it was time to come home. Hannah reconnects with her friends and community when she meets Luke Winters, a local businessman. There is an instant attraction, although both are reluctant to be more than friends. As time goes by, Hannah and Luke cannot resist their attraction and they begin to date until the past reenters Luke’s life. As Hannah is dealing with this surprise, she discovers a secret from her parents’ past. Will she allow her heart to open to Luke? How will she deal with this secret her parents managed to keep quiet all these years?

When Love Comes is a great love story. It was filled with drama and heartwarming moments. It also had great love scenes which were romantic and beautiful. I enjoyed all the characters from Hannah and her struggles to Luke and his own demons and their friends and family were rallying around them. It is a great picture of a community in a beautiful setting. I look forward to reading the other titles in the series. I highly recommend When Love Comes.

When Love Comes
is available in paperback and eBook

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Red Flags: what they are and why we shouldn't ignore them

Recently, I have been evaluating relationships and why they end the way the do. Sometimes it is because it has run its course and the individuals in the relationship no longer relate to each other and time begins to separate us. However, some relationships have red flags that something is wrong and we either ignore them or do something about them. Red flags are a signal for a problem that requires attention. It was first used in 1602 in the military as a signal to prepare for battle. It was also first used as a severe weather warning in 1777. Today, it is used in terms of relationships, usually romantic relationships but they can be signs in any relationship. What are the red flags? Why do we ignore them?

As I researched red flags, I found many articles which had long lists of red flags. I found that red flags fall into general categories. First, a lack of communication. The person gives you the silent treatment instead of discussing important issues. Second, he or she is irresponsible, immature and unpredictable. This person might be unable to master or maintain basic life skills. For example, they can’t take care of themselves or their personal space. They also may not be able to manage their finances and other responsibilities. They cannot hold down a job. They may also be unable to take responsibility for their own personal errors in past relationships. They blame others for their relationship failures. They are unable to evaluate why past relationships didn’t work out. Third, there is a lack of trust and they do not respect boundaries. In the terms of a romantic relationship, your significant other is weirdly possessive or secretive about their phone. Fourth, they refuse to spend time with your family or friends and may even try to drive a wedge between your and other significant people in your life. Also related to this red flag, is that your family and friends do not like this person and tell you that something is “off” about the person. Lastly, he or she may have trouble apologizing for even the smallest infractions.

We ignore red flags for many reasons. First, we are afraid that our intuition is wrong. Our gut tells us something is wrong; but we don’t want to admit we could be wrong about the relationships. Whether its pride or a fear of failure, we turn a blind eye to what is wrong. Second, we simply do not trust ourselves. When you sense that something is wrong; but you tell yourself that you’re overreacting and only focusing on the negatives. Third, the red flags seem minor. No one is perfect. No relationship is perfect. So, when we see something wrong, we tell ourselves it’s a minor flaw and ignore it or work around it. Fourth, we are so infatuated with the person that its hard to focus on anything else. Fifth, related with infatuation, we move too quickly into the relationship. The infatuation stage usually lasts between six and twelve months. When we intertwine your life with someone within this time period, it makes it harder to acknowledge red flags. Even when we see red flags, denial can be a powerful force when our infatuation overpowers our intuition. Lastly, we are stuck in wishful thinking. We want our relationships to work so bad that we chose to ignore the red flags. Our fantasies of what the relationship is or could be prevents us from seeing things as they really are.

When I decided to write about red flags and why we ignore them, I was thinking of someone close to me and a relationship that went wrong. While many of these red flags were present in that relationship. I realized that many of these red flags were present in a friendship of mine that recently ended. Looking back over the relationship, I realized that I ignored many of these red flags, either consciously or unconsciously, I chose to believe that my friend would never do anything to hurt me. I now realize that she did, not only did she, but she tried to place the blame on others in my life. She tried to drive a wedge between me and a family member. Why did I ignore these red flags? I think I saw the red flags as minor infractions. Until I realized that they weren’t minor. For example, I told her once that I do not disclose deep, personal information to just anyone and it takes a great deal of trust for me to talk about certain topics. I learned later that she was repeating some of these disclosures to others. People who had no business knowing these details. And when I finally had enough and established a boundary, she chose to shut me out and place the blame of our failed friendship on “my closed-mindedness and narcissism” instead of her own actions.

In conclusion, red flags are there to warn us and they should not be ignored. They signal a problem or issue that needs to be addressed. Their presence in our relationship doesn’t mean the relationship is bad, if we confront and deal with the issue, it could improve the relationship. And they can also signal that you need to end the relationship. In the case of my relationship, I admit my faults in the ending of the friendship and remind myself of what not to do in future friendships. We need to look at the red flags in our relationships, deal with them in the hopes to improve on the relationship and learn from them for future relationships.

Sunday, May 5, 2019

Stone Devil Duke: a standard but enjoyable romance novel

Stone Devil Duke by KJ Jackson is the first book in the Hold Your Breath series. It is the love story of Augustine “Aggie” Christopherson and Devin Williams Stephenson, the 12th Duke of Dunway. Aggie is on a quest for revenge after her father is murdered and her older brother goes missing. She is on the hunt for the killers when she meets Devin, who is immediately intrigued by her. Although they resist each other, they soon find themselves drawn together by when a misunderstanding of impropriety. Soon it becomes apparent there is someone out there who wants Aggie dead. As they learn about each other’s past, still on the hunt for those who want to harm Aggie, the two began to heal from the past and fall in love. Will they find the man behind her father’s murder? Is her brother still alive?

Stone Devil Duke is a standard romance novel which was followed the typical formula. The heroine/damsel in distress is a bit unconventional which draws in the roguish man who most of society would have told her to stay away from. That being said, I still enjoyed Stone Devil Duke. I loved the interactions between Aggie and Devin. I like the drama around the mystery of who is behind Aggie’s father’s murder and who is after her. There are two other books, Unmasking the Marquess and My Captain, My Earl, in this series which feature characters we see in this book. I look forward to reading those stories as well. If you are fan of romance novels, you will enjoy Stone Devil Duke.

Stone Devil Duke
is available in paperback and eBook

Unmasking the Marquess and My Captain, My Earl
are also available in paperback and eBook

Saturday, May 4, 2019

5 examples of movie adaptations that are better than the books

We’ve all heard the phrase, “the book is better than the movie.” As we all know too that there are usually exceptions to every rule. There are many examples of books being better than their movie adaptations, the Harry Potter series for one. However, there are many examples of movie adaptations being better than the book. While researching this topic, I found many examples of movies that were better than the original book. For this post, I will limit my list to movies that I have both read the book and seen the movies. Here are the 5 movies I believe are better than their literary origins.

First, The Last of the Mohicans (1992) was written and directed by Michael Mann and adapted from James Fenimore Cooper’s American classic, The Last of the Mohicans A Narrative of 1757 (1826). The novel is an 18th century classic which features the French-Indian War (1754-1763) between England and France. However, it’s also laden down with dense prose and overly detailed descriptions with a plot which moves at a glacial pace. The movie streamlines the action and gets to the heart of the story. Wes Studi brings the sadistic Magua to life that leaps off the screen in a way the character does not in the book. Plus, the musical score helps enhance the drama of this part of American history. The soundtrack with its Gaelic methods and hauntingly beautiful love song, “I Will Find You,” performed by Clannad helps make this movie great.

Second, The Lord of the Rings trilogy (2011-2003) was directed by Peter Jackson and written by Peter Jackson, Barrie M. Osborne, Fran Walsh, and Tim Sanders. It is, of course, adapted by the beloved JRR Tolkien’s beloved trilogy, The Lord of the Rings (1954-1955). While I love the books, and enjoyed for many years before the movies, the movies help streamline the novels into a great cinematic experience and brought me deeper into the characters, their struggles and desperation. I feel in love with the books even more with the imagery of the movies in my head. I could see the horrors of Mordur and the stumbling steps of Frodo as he pushes himself to Mount Doom.  I know many purest fans were furious at the omission and changes made. However, some of the omissions were material that wasn’t necessary to tell the story of the journey to destroy the One Ring. There are whole chapters that a reader could skip and not miss anything related to the main story.

Third, Ready Player One (2018) was directed by Steven Spielberg and written by Zak Penn and Ernest Cline. It is based on the book Ready Player One (2011) by Ernest Cline. While I enjoyed the book, the movie brought the wonder of the virtual world and the devastation of the physical world that Wade, the main protagonist, lives in. Plus, the book had some video games references that only a gamer would know and, in my opinion, bogged down the main story of the search for Halliday’s Easter Egg. I am a novice gamer and I am not familiar with the detailed history of video games so the long chapters of explanation about these games were great for me as information; however, this information was not needed in the movie and would be hard to transform to the screen. There are also long chapters on the history of the mysterious James Halliday which is great as exposition in the book but would bog down a film.

Fourth, the Marvel Cinematic Universe (2008-present) is a great adaptation of the beloved comics. I will admit that I have not read all the comics these characters appear in and I am not a big fan of reading the panel format of comics; however, I grew up watching the superhero cartoons. I have always been a fan of superhero stories. These movies are stunning visuals of these beloved characters’ adventures and builds a world in which they are all connected and fighting a main villain as well as their own specific adventures. The MCU has introduced me to characters that I had not been aware of, for example Black Panther and the Guardians of the Galaxy, and other characters that I only knew in passing, like Iron Man and Thor. Also, I believe the actors who portray these superheroes truly bring life to these characters and add more human dimensions that just straight forward superheroes.

Lastly, P.S. I Love You (2007) was directed by Richard LaGravenese and written by LaGravenese and Steven Rogers. It is based on the novel, P.S. I Love You, by Cecelia Ahern. The book was good; however, the movie had more of an emotional impact as the main character, Holly, deals with the aftermath of her husband, Gerry’s, sudden death and her struggle to move on with her life without him. As with any movie adaptation, changes were made, for example, the book is set in Ireland while the movie is set primarily in New York City. However, the essence of the story is there. I found the movie to be more focused on Holly’s grief as she struggles with life that goes on without her. The world doesn’t stop for her broken heart and she must learn to find her place in the world once again. Plus, Gerard Butler as Gerry doesn’t hurt.

In conclusion, most movie adaptations are poor reflections of their books; however, there are examples of movie adaptations that are better or enhance the magic of the book. A movie can make pages of scene description into a stunning visual which helps the audience focus on the story. Yes, there is more imagination involved when reading a book and visualizing the scene, And I think this is where people either hate or love movie adaptations because the directors and writers’ visualizing of a scene is not the one the reader had. There is a saying “Never judge a book by its movie.” Well, I say never judge a movie by its book. Some good books can be made into great movies.

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

If She Knew: a great, face-paced murder mystery

If She Knew by Blake Pierce is the first in the Kate Wise mystery series. Kate Wise is a 55-year-old woman who is a year into retirement after 31 years with the FBI. After the daughter of a friend is murder, Kate is drawn back in to find the killer as a favor to her friend. She knows she doesn’t have the same authority now as a retired agent, but she can’t turn down a grieving mother’s request. She quickly learns there is more to the victim than what it first appears. And she chases down new leads, she finds herself feeling the familiar rush and yet worrying about how this will affect her new life as she becomes a grandmother and is considering dating after the tragic death of her husband. The case leads to the victim’s close circle of friends, Kate must find out what secrets the group held before it’s too late. Will she find the killer in time?

If She Knew is a great mystery book! I was able to read the book in about 3 hours. Not because it was a simple read but because it held my attention. With each page turn, more was added to the mystery and I eagerly wanted to see who the killer was. I found Kate to be real as she struggles with how she defines her life now. She longed for the adrenaline of her job with the FBI but she also considered her daughter, her new grandchild and her own personal desires outside the job. The book was fast-paced, with great twists and turns and a shocking end like any great mystery should have. I highly recommend If She Knew!

If She Knew
is available in paperback, eBook and audiobook

Monday, April 29, 2019

Sabbath: a day of rest and worship

Sabbath is a weekly day of rest and worship. It was instituted at creation when God hallowed the 7th day and rested after his creative labors (Genesis 1:1-2:3). There is no distinct mention of the Sabbath in Genesis and no mention of the Sabbath until Exodus 16:21-30 when the Israelites were in the Desert of Sin before reaching Mount Sinai. God gave them a double supply of manna on the 6th day of the week in order that the 7th day may be a rest from labor (Exodus 16:23). Jewish tradition holds the Sabbath on Saturday (beginning at sundown on Friday) and Christians hold the Sabbath on Sunday. What exact does the Sabbath entail? What is the history behind it?

Observing the Sabbath became a requirement after Moses was given the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:1-17, 34:1-5). The 4th Commandment states that the 7th day would be observed as a holy day. A day when everyone, including strangers, would be required to rest from any work and labor. The reason given for this day of rest is that the Lord rested on the 7th day, having blessed it and hallowed it. God intended the Sabbath to be a blessing of both physical and spiritual. The sanctity of the Sabbath was to include the sacrifice of two lambs including a regular burnt offering (Numbers 28:9-10) and 12 loaves of showbread (Leviticus 24:5-9, 1 Chronicles 9:32). The Sabbath required extra offerings because it was a special day of rest and worship, commemorating creation and deliverance of Egypt. Numbers 15:32-36 dictated that a willful Sabbath breaker was to be put to death. When the Jews returned from their exile, Nehemiah made several reforms in order to reestablish their traditions including observance of the Sabbath. Trade was forbidden on the Sabbath because the lure of money interfered with the need of rest (Nehemiah 10:31) and traders were sent home and the city’s gates shut as the Sabbath hours approached (Nehemiah 13:19).

There have been attempts by Old Testament critics to find a Babylonian origin for the Jewish Sabbath. There is evidence that among the Babylonians, certain things were to be avoided on the 7th, 14th, 19th, 21st, and 28th days of the months. However, the 19th day breaks the sequence of 7s and there is no question the Hebrew Sabbath is older than the Babylonian observance. The Sabbath was associated with the idea of worship, rest, and divine favor rather than certain taboos and avoidance. Over the centuries, many Jewish religious leaders added rule after rules to God’s law which guaranteed that everyone who be in violation. Jesus healed people on the Sabbath to show that while the Sabbath was holy, it was created for man’s benefit and people’s needs must take precedence over the law (Matthew 12:1-14, Mark 2:23-36, Luke 6:1-11, and John 5:1-18).  The best time to reach out to someone is when he or she needs help and it is right to care for others’ needs even if it involves on a day of rest (Matthew 12:10, John 9:14-16). Seven times he performed miracles on the Sabbath. Why? Jesus empathized the intent of the law while the Pharisees focused on the letter of the law (Matthew 12:5).

Early Christians, most of whom were Jewish, kept the 7th day as a Sabbath. Since Jesus’ resurrection occurred at the beginning of the week, they began to meet for worship on the 1st day of the week which they designated as the Lord’s Day. As the split between Jews and Christians widened, Christians gradually began to meet for worship on the Lord’s Day and eventually it became the Sabbath and they gave up the 7th day observance. Through the centuries, the Lord’s Day (or Sunday as we know it today) became known as the 7th day. Unfortunately, there are Christians today who develop the attitudes of the Pharisees and forget the true nature of the Sabbath and look down on other Christians who are not in church every Sunday. And in this day of companies being open 7 days a week, it would be hard for many Christians to take every Sunday off. So, when someone a day off in the middle of the week, that day could be there Sabbath. A day to rest and worship God and study His Word. Bill Sunday (1862-1935) once said, “Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than going to a garage makes you an automobile.” There’s more to be a follower of Christ than church every Sunday.

In conclusion, it is easy to let responsibilities of work, family, and community to crowd our schedules that we don’t take the time to worship. Taking a day of rest, any day, is important to reenergize and focus on God and his Word. I think too many people get hung up on semantics when they argue whether the Sabbath is Saturday or Sunday. The Sabbath is simply a day of rest and worship. So, whether you rest and worship on Monday or Tuesday or Wednesday, et cetera, you are keeping the Sabbath. While the Sabbath is an important day, it does not allow us to be lazy bumps on a log. If you see someone who needs help, it is good for you to help, just as Jesus did.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

The Summer We Lost Her: a story of every parent's nightmare

The Summer We Lost Her by Tish Cohen is the story of Matt and Elise Sorenson who spend the summer fixing up the family cabin for sale as they struggle to keep their lives together while praising their own career ambitions. Elise Sorenson is an equestrian with Olympic dreams. Matt is offered a partnership with his law firm. It is evident that they both are madly in love with each other and they adore their daughter, Gracie. However, they seem to be slowly growing apart. As they struggle to find a way to pursue their goals while remaining a family, tragedy strikes, and Gracie goes missing. Will they find Gracie safe and sound? Will they be able to bring their lives back together?

The Summer We Lost Her was a hard book to finish. I didn’t care for the characters especially Elise. It was hard to sympathize with her as she struggles with her dreams and her role as wife and mother. The first half was very slow as I was waiting for the drama of Gracie’s disappearance and the search for her. The second half seemed way too fast. The resolution to the story was a bit of a letdown and the overall feel of the story was uneven. At the end, I felt nothing for these characters: no sadness, no sympathy, no tears. I do not recommend The Summer We Lost Her.

The Summer We Lost Her
will be available June 4, 2019
in paperback, eBook and audiobook

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Shadow Among Sheaves: a love story inspired by the Book of Ruth

Shadow Among Sheaves by Naomi Stephens is a historical romance inspired by the love story of Ruth and Boaz of the Bible. The story opens in July 1861, Rena is an Indian woman who is traveling with her mother in law, Lady Nell Hawley after the deaths of her husband, Edric, and father in law, Alistair. Rena and Nell find themselves in dire straits as people refuse to help the women. The Indian Mutiny of 1857 is still fresh in everyone’s mind and Rena is seen as the enemy. In desperation, Rena picks up grains which have fallen on the ground when she is caught by the estate’s steward, William. He takes pity on her and allows her to gather what she can carry. When the lord of the Manor, Lord Barric, sees Rena in the fields, she allows her to take whatever she needs. Soon Barric helps the women when so many had turned their backs. As the attraction between Rena and Barric is undeniable, will they allow love to blossom? Or will society and prejudice keep them apart?

I loved Shadow Among Sheaves. It was a great story with a great twist on the story of Ruth and Boaz. Having read their story so many times, I never imagined that Ruth, as a stranger from a strange land, could have suffered the prejudice that Rena does. However, it makes sense that she would have. And Barric is the caring yet stern landlord that Boaz may have been, Their story felt very real for 19th century England and is very relatable to today’s social and racial climate. I highly recommend Shadow Among the Sheaves.

Shadow Among the Sheaves
is available in paperback and eBook

Friday, April 19, 2019

What are empaths?

Do you know anyone who seems to carry the weight of the world on their shoulders? Someone who seems to completely understand what you are going through. Or maybe it is you? Maybe you can connect with someone on a deeper level than just simply empathizing. Over the past couple years, I have heard the term, “empath” and everyone seems to claim that they are one. I have only casually researched what an empath was. Recently; however, I became curious what was an empath really was. What does it entail to be an empath? And how can you distinguish between a real empath and a fake one?

According to an online dictionary, empath is defined as a person with the paranormal ability to apprehend the mental or emotional state of another individual. However, Dr. Judith Orloff, states that the trademark characteristic of an empath is the ability to feel and absorb another’s emotions and or physical symptoms due to high sensitivities. Empaths tend to filter the world through their intuition and have a difficult time intellectualizing their feelings (Orloff). Often overwhelmed with the impact of stressful emotions, empaths can have panic attacks, depression, chronic fatigue, and other physical symptoms which cannot be medically explained as well as engage in food, sex and/or drug binges (Orloff). When you search for signs or traits of an empath, you might get overwhelmed with the number of articles with some suggest there are numerous traits. However, many traits overlap. One classic trait is an empath will take on others’ emotions as their own (Solo, 2019). Many of the traits describe an introvert such as needing alone time and being overwhelmed in crowds which is possibly why so many people claim to be empaths. Another core trait is an empath will be able to understand where people are coming from (Solo, 2019).

During my research, I came across a term, covert narcissist, essentially someone who claims to be an empath but is really not. Covert narcissists care for themselves and the idea of caring for others. Many times, they will rally for the rights of others because it feeds their ego and makes them look good (Bell, 2017). Many covert narcissists have the attitude that they are the “misunderstood special person” (Ni, 2016). This attitude includes statements to the effect that they are special, one of a kind, or ahead of their time: “I’m so unique that no one can possibly understand me.” Covert narcissist still crave attention; however, they will do so passively and will try to sabotage someone’s other relationships if it is in their way (Winter, 2018). They are highly sensitive to negative feedback and will vilify anyone who dares try to unmask them. “They’ll use their shyness to rope people in who will do their best to nurture them, reassure them of how special and giving and kind they are, and then turn around and vilify their White Knight if they dare to pull back and stop lavishing them with praise” (Winter, 2018).

After reading the descriptions of an empath and a covert narcissist, it seems hard that one can pretend to be other. However, I can think of a couple of examples from my life which I can now say these individuals were covert narcissists. Dr. Ava Pommerenk suggests three basic methods to uncover a covert narcissist. First, set and reset boundaries. The best way is to respectfully and calmly set boundaries and note their response. A true empath, while initially embarrassed and/or defensive at being called out, would consider why what they said or did was wrong and understand your position. A covert narcissist will not and will play the victim and you the perpetrator. Second, watch what they do when you get angry and frustrated. An empath will immediately care and offer some help or reassurance. A covert narcissist will, at first care, but will eventually grow impatient or act wounded by your anger and frustration. Third, ask a lot of pointed questions and observe how they identify with being a helper. An empath will detail their own spiritual path and how it led to helping others. A covert narcissist’s narrative will show how shallow they are when the narrative focuses on themselves and how they have helped others rather than their journey to that path.

In conclusion, empaths are people who feel deeper empathy for others. Empaths are often overwhelmed by emotions as they view the events of the world. Covert narcissists are empaths in disguise in which they portray themselves as empaths in order to manipulate others and hide their own insecurities. Of course, as with any topic, the information out there about empaths is vast and expansive, so I have only written on overview of the main details and encourage you to seek out more information if you wish.


Bell, Margaret. November 8, 2017. The narcissist as the empath. Retrieved April 16, 2019.

Ni, Preston. January 10, 2016. 7 Signs of a Covert Introvert Narcissist. Retrieved April 16, 2019.

Orloff, Judith. Top 10 Traits of an Empath. Retrieved April 16, 2019.

Pommerenk, Ava. December 12, 2018. Narcissists claiming to be Empaths and Three Methods to Uncover the Truth. Retrieved April 16, 2019.

Solo, Andre. January 18, 2019. 13 Signs You are an Empath. Retrieved April 16, 2019.

Winter, Catherine. Mary 18, 2018. The Covert Narcissist and Why They Can Be So Hard to Identify. Retrieved April 16, 2019.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Sunset Beach: a quick summer read

Sunset Beach by Mary Kay Andrews is the story of Drue Campbell, a 36-year-old woman who is forced to take a job with her estranged father’s law firm. While she is battling her father and stepmother every step, she comes across a case she feels the firm dropped the ball on. She takes it upon herself to investigate and find justice for a young woman, Jazmin Hayes, that everyone has seemed to have forgotten. Has she gets closer to the truth, a series of events occur which seem to be a warning to stay away. However, Drue is determined to see it through regardless of the danger. At the same time, she is dealing with her mother’s death, moving into her grandparents’ beach cottage where she finds information to a 40-year-old case involving missing woman, Colleen Broadman Hicks. Will she find the truth? Will she convince the authorities of her findings? What is the link between the missing person and her family?

I wanted to really enjoy Sunset Beach and when I finished, I had mixed feelings. At first, I didn’t care for any of the characters, especially Drue. I only continued to find out what really happened to Jazmin and Colleen and how the cases connected to Drue and her family. The first half was very slow with the second half being very fast paced. I liked the resolution with the Jazmin Hayes case; however, the Colleen Broadman Hicks case was a little flat. Overall, it was an ok book. Nothing too great but it wasn’t horrible either. If you are a fan of Mary Kay Andrews, then you may enjoy Sunset Beach.

Sunset Beach
will be available May 7, 2019
in hardcover, eBook, and Audiobook

Monday, April 15, 2019

Jackie Robinson Day: honoring the man, the legend and his legacy

Today is Jackie Robinson Day, an annual traditional event for Major League Baseball, which commemorates and honors the day Jackie Robinson made his major league debut on Opening Day April 15, 1947. Robinson was the first black major league player which ended an approximately 80-year segregation when he began playing for the Brooklyn Dodgers (now the Los Angeles Dodgers). First started in 2004, Jackie Robinson Day is celebrated by every team in Major League Baseball. Who was Jackie Robinson? What is his journey into major league baseball? And how is the day celebrated in baseball?

Jack Roosevelt Robinson was born January 31, 1919 to sharecroppers in Cairo, Georgia. His middle name was in honor of President Theodore Roosevelt who had died 25 days before his birth. His father left the family in 1920 and his mother moved Jackie and his 4 older siblings to Pasadena, California. He attended John Muir High School (Muir Tech) where he played several sports at the varsity level. He would letter in 4: football (quarterback), basketball (guard), track and baseball (shortshop and catcher). He would then attend Pasadena Junior College (PJC) where he continued his athletic career. In 1938, he would be elected to the All-Southland Junior College Team for baseball and later selected as Most Valuable Player (MVP). After graduating PJC, he enrolled in UCLA where he was the first in the school’s history to letter in 4 sports. In 1942, he was drafted and assigned to a segregated Army Calvary unit in Fort Riley, Kansas. After a series of horrible racist events, Robinson was court-martialed in August 1944, charged with 2 counts of insubordination during questioning. He was acquitted by an all-white panel of 9 officers. He would be honorably discharged in November 1944, having never seen combat.

Early 1944, Robinson was offered a contract for the Negro League team Kansas City Monarchs. He would become frustrated with the leagues lack of organization. He pursued potential major league interests. No black man had played in the major league since Moses Fleetwood Walter in 1884. In 1945, the Boston Red Sox held tryouts, but it was a farce and Robinson left humiliated. On a side note, the Red Sox would be the last team to integrate, holding out until 1959. However, other teams were serious about signing a black player. Branch Rickey, club president and general manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers, actively scouted the Negro League teams in the mid-1940s. Robinson wasn’t considered the best player in the league so when he was signed, it disappointed other players like Satchel Paige (1906-1982) and Josh Gibson (1911-1947). Larry Doby (1923-2003), who broke the color line in the American League the same year as Robinson, said, "One of the things that was disappointing and disheartening to a lot of the black players at the time was that Jack was not the best player. The best was Josh Gibson. I think that's one of the reasons why Josh died so early – he was heartbroken” (Moore, 1988).

Jackie Robinson retired from baseball on January 5, 1957 at the age of 37. He died October 24, 1972. His number, 42, was retired by the Dodgers in June 1972. In 1997, his number would be retired across the league. He is the first pro athlete in any sport to receive such an honor. Jackie Robinson Day is held on April 15 and April 16 (for teams that are not playing on the 15th). All players, managers, coaches, umpires, and other on-filed personnel will wear #42. All licensed royalties from sales of items commemorating Jackie Robinson Day are donated to the Jackie Robinson Foundation. The foundation was founded in 1973 which provides scholarships and other programs for disadvantaged students of color. Robinson’s widow, Rachel and surviving children, Sharon and David, attend Jackie Robinson Day at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles.

In conclusion, Jackie Robinson Day is a day to commemorate and honor the man and his accomplishments in the sport of baseball as well as an inspiration for the many players who would follow him. Jackie Robinson faced many challenges and obstacles as he made history with his athleticism; however, he is an inspiration for perseverance and determination. Even though I am not a big baseball fan, I cannot ignore the impact Jackie Robinson has had on the game and those who followed him.

Moore, Joseph Thomas (1988). Pride and Prejudice: The Biography of Larry Doby. New York: Praeger Publishers. p. 30. ISBN 978-0-275-92984-8

For more information on Jackie Robinson Day events around MLB, please visit,

Sunday, April 7, 2019

Cheers! It's National Beer Day!

Today is National Beer Day! It is a day to celebrate the anniversary of the enactment of the Cullen-Harrison Act. Signed into law by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on March 22, 1933, the Cullen-Harrison Act legalized beer containing up to 3.2% alcohol by volume. The act would lead to the repeal of the 18th Amendment on December 5, 1933 with the ratification of the 21st Amendment. Beer is one of the oldest prepared beverages which dates to 9500 BCE by some estimates. It has been recorded in written histories of ancient Iraq and ancient Egypt. Beer has great cultural and social importance to many groups in the United States.

National Beer Day was first created by Justin Smith of Richmond, Virginia and after encouragement from his friend, Mike Connolly, Smith created a Facebook page. The page was noticed by Colorado Beer Examiner Eli Shayotovich and later officially recognized by Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe in 2017. It was first recognized on the Congressional Record of the 115th Congress on April 7, 2017 by Congressman Dave Brat of Virginia in 2017. The holiday was officially recognized by the Virginia General Assembly with House Joint Resolution 90 in 2018.

When Prohibition was first being passed, many voted for it with the understanding that beer and wine would be allowed. When the Volstead Act greatly lowered the allowed alcohol by volume, it felt a bad taste in their mouths. Beer had been a part of American life for decades as evidence shows that even the Native Americans had a form of beer made from corn, birch sap and water. When the Germans arrived during the Great Migration with their lager which had a longer shelf life, the sale of beer skyrocketed. It seems fitting that beer would be the first alcohol allowed as the country moved toward repealing the 18th Amendment. The Cullen-Harrison Act is named after its sponsors, Senator Pat Harrison of Mississippi and Representative Thomas H. Cullen of New York. The act redefined what an intoxicating beverage was under the Volstead Act. Alcohol of 3.2% was chosen because it was considered too law to cause intoxication. After signing the act into law, President Roosevelt famously commented, “I think this would be a good time for a beer.” The states had to pass their own similar legislation to legalize the sale of low alcohol beverages.

According to the Beer Institute and National Beer Wholesales Association, beer was a more than $350 million industry in the United States. In 2017, Bud Light was the #1 selling beer with 15.4% of the market. However, many traditional beer sales are on the decline. Why? The answer craft beers. Craft beers and microbrewers have become insanely popular in the United States. According to the Brewers Association, to be considered a craft beer, the beer must be: 1) small with an output of 3% of the market, 2) independent with only 25% of the brewery owned by anyone not identified as a craft brewer, and 3) traditional which a “majority of its total beverage alcohol by volume in beers whose flavor derives from traditional or innovative brewing ingredients in their fermentation.” is a great resource about each type of beer as it can be overwhelming when one views the list of possibilities. From pale ales to lagers to stouts and specialty beers, there’s a beer for everyone.

In conclusion, National Beer Day is a day to commemorate the Cullen-Harrison Act being enacted and the beginning of the end of Prohibition. First started in Virginia, the day has started to gain a following as craft beers and microbreweries have become increasingly popular. Beer has become more than just the familiar names and the flavors have expanded to a variety of flavors such as pumpkin. For those who love beer, lift of your glass to celebrate National Beer Day. Cheers!

Friday, April 5, 2019

The Silent Order: when secrets can't stay secret forever

The Silent Order by Melanie Dobson is another title in her Legacy of Love series. Set during Prohibition, Detective Rollin Wells is determined the take down the Cardano crime family. After he and his partner are gunned down deep in the country of the Ohio Valley, he is nursed back to health by the Lehmans, an Amish family who have their own secrets to hide. Katie Lehman is trying to raise her son and doesn’t want the trouble that this outsider will bring. As Rollin continues to find evidence against the Cardano family, Katie struggles to keep her deepest, darkest secret hidden. Will Katie trust Rollin and finally reveal the truth? Will Rollin be able to bring down the family?

This is the second book I’ve read in the Legacy of Love series and once again it was a great book. I loved The Silent Order. It is an excellent story with lots of twists and turns. From the opening scene to the final chapter, the story held my attention that I didn’t want to put it down. I love a story in which I cannot reveal too much as it would spoil plot points. When Katie reveals the secrets she has been hiding, I can say I did not see it coming. Once again, Ms. Dobson’s historical details are spot on and I enjoyed seeing more of the Prohibition era than just Chicago or New York. The characters of the Cardano family were terrifying and I was afraid of the Cardano family and held my breath as Rollin got closer to a final showdown. I highly recommend The Silent Order!

The Silent Order
is available in eBook and paperback