Sunday, May 31, 2015

Author Spotlight: George R. R. Martin

Note: I just wanted to apologize for being late with the author spotlight this week. There's been a lot going on this week. And for any Roadtrippers from the A to Z Challene out there, I will be making my rounds soon.

Author Spotlight

George R. R. Martin

I am currently reading The Game of Thrones now and have decided to select George as the author this week.

As I'm sure everyone knows, George R. R. Martin is best known for his A Song of Ice and Fire series, which was turned into the Game of Thrones show on television.

George R. R. Martin is an American novelist for fantasy, horror and science fiction.

He is also a screenwriter and television producer.

George is a co-executive producer on Game of Thrones and scripts one episode each season.

He will not be writing a script for Season 6 because he wants to focus on The Winds of Winter, the next book in the A Song of Ice and Fire series.

You can follow him on his Not a Blog.

For more information check out his website.

Happy Reading and Keep on Writing!


Monday, May 25, 2015

The Awakening Book Review

2015 Reading Challenge
Information can be found here.

12. "The Awakening" by Kate Chopin
      Theme/Topic: a banned book

Synopsis/Book Blurb:
First published in 1899, this beautiful, brief novel so disturbed critics and the public that it was banished for decades afterward. Now widely read and admired, The Awakening has been hailed as an early vision of woman's emancipation. This sensuous book tells of a woman's abandonment of her family, her seduction, and her awakening to desired and passions that threaten to consume her.

Fast Fact: This book was originally entitled A Solitary Soul.

I did and did not like this book. First off, it was an easy read. While I do like how Edna wants to become true to herself, I'm not sure if I agree with the ways that she went about doing it. She's tired of living life according to everyone else's demands, including her husband and children, and wants to re-invent herself to live life according to her. I don't believe in cheating on a spouse or a significant other in that matter, nor abandoning one's family to live to one's desires. If she wasn't happy with her marriage, it would have been better to get a divorce than living on fantasies with other men (in Edna's case) or at least, try to rekindle the relationship.

In those times, the women's role in society was to take care of the house, the children and I might add, the demands or orders of the husband. And divorce was something that just didn't happen as it commonly does today. I respect Kate Chopin's choice to open up to readers the possibility of making females have a better and equal role in society as the men through Edna's character, but don't necessarily agree with how she went about doing it.

Happy Reading and Keep on Writing!


Short Stories Review

2015 Reading Challenge
11. Short Stories by Edith Wharton
      Theme/Topic: a book of short stories
This is a compilation of seven of Edith Wharton's short stories. I'm going to list them in the same order they are in the book and a brief synopsis.

1. "Expiation" - satiric revealing story about the publishing industry, featuring a writer determined to increase the sales of her first novel

2. "The Dilettante" - a young man who prides himself on his ability to manipulate women must face ironic consequences when he introduces his fiancée to his supposed lover

3. "The Muse's Tragedy" - a woman whose reality differs from her public persona 

4. "The Pelican" - another woman whose reality differs from her public persona

5. "Souls Belated" - a tragedy of mores, focuses on characters overcome by the demands of convention

6. "Xingu" - witty satire on the intellectual pretensions of a group of rich women

7. "The Other Two" - a darkly humorous look at the consequences of divorce

Instead of doing separate reviews on each story, I'm going to list them in order from my favorite to least favorite.

                                                       1. "Expiation"
                                                       2. "The Other Two"
                                                       3. "The Dilettante"
                                                       4. "Xingu"
                                                       5. "The Muse's Tragedy"
                                                       6. "Souls Belated"
                                                       7. "The Pelican"
Have you read any of Edith Wharton's works, either short stories or novels?

The list for the reading challenge can be found here.
Happy Reading and Keep on Writing!


Sunday, May 24, 2015

Sunday Funday: Memorial Day

Today's Sunday Funday is about Memorial Day. On this Memorial Day and weekend, let's remember all those who have died serving our country (the US) throughout the years, as well as those who served or are serving today. I have quite a few family members who served during World War II, including a distant cousin who actually died in that, as well a couple family members and friends who are currently serving.

With that being said, hope everyone has a good Memorial Day/Memorial Day Weekend with your family and friends.

Happy Reading and Keep on Writing!


Thursday, May 21, 2015

Author Spotlight: Nicholas Sparks

Author Spotlight
Nicholas Sparks

Some Facts about Nicholas Sparks
               ~ American novelist, screenwriter and producer
               ~ Published 17 novels and two non-fictions books
               ~ Eleven of his romantic drama novels have been made into movies
               ~ University of Notre Dame alum
               ~ 97 million copies of his books sold world wide
               ~ Amounts to his books being translated into 50 languages
               ~ 65 million copies in the US alone

I have yet to read all of Nicholas Sparks' books, but I have read several with intentions to read the rest. My favorites (which are the ones I have read) in no particular order are:

  1. "A Walk to Remember"
  2. "The Last Song"
  3. "Dear John"
  4. "The Rescue"
  5. "The Notebook"
What Nicholas Sparks' book is your favorite?


Happy Reading and Keep on Writing!


Sunday, May 17, 2015

Sunday Funday: Horses and Milestones

Today's Sunday, so it must be time for another Sunday Funday. I'm changing it up a little bit this time by doing two separate and different things at the same time.

At the Racetrack:
Growing up, my family always watched the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes and the Belmont Stakes, otherwise known as the Triple Crown for thoroughbred horses. Even though the actual race only lasts a few minutes, I found myself enjoying it year after year. I never really knew why I liked the horse races, I just know that I did. Over the years, I came to find out that my grandfather on my dad's side loved horseback racing and going up to the racetrack in our area. My grandfather died when I was only one, so I don't remember him, but he loved sports - particularly horseback racing, basketball and football I think. Knowing that nowadays, I think it's amazing and pretty awesome that I enjoy something that he did without realizing it in the first place. I will never know my grandfather until I make it to heaven someday, but it's nice to know that part of his legacy (in my mind/world) lives on.


American Pharoah won at the Kentucky Derby. It was a great race that came down to the wire - the best kind of races in my opinion.

American Pharoah won the Preakness Stakes yesterday. He stuck it out - in the rain and mud - to win the second race in the Triple Crown series. It will be interesting to see how he does at the Belmont Stakes on June 6.

When I was doing the A to Z Challenge in April, I did a post on long qt syndrome, a heart condition that I have. It was originally going to be posted on May 15 (Friday) and I'll explain why in a minute. To see that post, click here.
This past Friday (May 15) marked 14 years since my diagnosis of long qt syndrome. This milestone is important because it represents that I have had to live with this for 14 years as well - half of my life (I'm 28 now and was 14 at the time of getting diagnosed) and have had to take medicine for half of my life too. Technically, it's been 16 years, as my symptoms started two years before that, but this year is the milestone of the number 14 - thought that was pretty neat.

Photo credit for the EKG picture goes to the SADS Foundation. If you want to learn more about long qt syndrome, I recommend the following two sites:
Happy Reading and Keep on Writing!


Saturday, May 16, 2015

White Oleander Book Review

2015 Reading Challenge

10. White Oleander by Janet Fitch
    Topic/Theme: a book at the bottom of your to-read list

It tells the unforgettable story of Ingrid, a brilliant poet imprisoned for murder, and her daughter, Astrid, whose odyssey through a series of Los Angeles foster homes--each its own universe with its own laws, its own dangers, and its own hard lessons to be learned--becomes a redeeming and surprising journey of self-discovery.

My Review:
This book was at the bottom of my to read list because it's a book that I just wasn't sure if I was going to like it or not. Now that I'm finished reading this, I've come to realize that I made a mistake in doing that. This was one of the best well-written books that I have ever read.

Let's be honest, here. I've been struggling with this review because nothing that I have written seems right, at least to me (or maybe I'm just overthinking). There seems to be so much that I want to say, but that I can't explain.

Astrid's journey through the foster care system was so compelling to read. No matter what, good or bad, she managed to savor memories from each of the foster homes - I liked how she incorporated them into the suitcases at the end (you'll have to read the book to completely understand). Life is hard and it proved likewise for Astrid, although she had it pretty rough. She managed to pull through when all the odds were stacked against her.

The relationship between Ingrid and Astrid throughout Ingrid's time in prison was different. I found it odd that Astrid was the reason Ingrid managed to survive in prison, but at the same time, she seemed content when her daughter is hurting or unhappy. Astrid seems to be angry at her mother (and rightfully so) and for the most part, doesn't want anything to do with her. I found it surprising at the end when Astrid kept getting drawn back to Ingrid, despite everything that happened, but I'm glad she didn't give in and stayed with Paul in Berlin.

There were two things that were apparent. The most important thing that I got out of this story was that you can't let your past define you. And it's okay to start new and put the past behind you. After all, the present and the future is whatever you make it. Adversity is all around us and we all go through it in some way, but it's how you deal and get through that adversity that matters the most. You can choose to let the not so good memories of your past control you or you can use that to propel you do beat the odds.

The other thing (and which I have talked about before on this blog) is that Ingrid and Astrid both have something to express their feelings, with poetry for Ingrid and art for Astrid. I can't stress enough how important that is to have something to express yourself. For me, I can express myself through my writing (I'm not exactly the greatest at talking about my feelings person to person).

Saying that, what is your art, your passion, the thing you do to express yourself?

Happy Reading and Keep on Writing!


Friday, May 15, 2015

Author Spotlight: Stephen King

Today is Thursday, which means it's time for another author spotlight.

This week's author spotlight is Stephen King.

Stephen King is an American author of contemporary horror, supernatural fiction, suspense, science fiction, and fantasy. His books have sold more than 350 million copies, many of which have been adapted into feature films, miniseries, television shows, and comic books. King has published 54 novels, including seven under the pen name Richard Bachman and six non-fiction books. He has written nearly 200 short stories, most of which have been collected in book collections. Many of his stories are set in his home state of Maine.

Stephen King has also collaborated with musical artists, visual artists, as well as writing several books with a couple of other authors. Like any other highly successful author/celebrity, he donates money to charity and formed The Stephen and Tabitha King Foundation with his wife to provide grants to communities in need in Maine.

For any writers or aspiring writers out there, Stephen King wrote a book about the craft of writing, called On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft.

I personally have not read any of Stephen King's works, but a few are on my to-be-read list.

For more information, check out Stephen King's website here.

Happy Reading and Keep on Writing!


Thursday, May 14, 2015

Blog Updates

Hey! I'm writing a quick update about my blogging plans.

Since this is Thursday, I'm going to start with today. Thursdays are my author spotlight days and today's will be up soon.

Sundays are what I call Sunday Funday. I'll be posting random things, which may or may not be reading or writing related.

My other day will be Tuesdays. I'm still trying to figure out what exactly I'll be writing about. They'll be writing based - right now my ideas are to do short stories or writing tips - like maybe doing a short story every other week and writing tips or prompts the other weeks. My plan is to start it up this coming Tuesday.

I'm also in the process of doing another book review, which will be up either Friday or Saturday. I put up book reviews whenever I get done reading a book, but I won't be doing those on a certain day.

Hope everyone has been having a good May so far. It's been a bit crazy where I live this week - you might have heard of the Amtrak derailment which has now killed eight people in Philadelphia, well it happened in my neighborhood. It's slowly starting to get better.

Happy Reading and Keep on Writing!


Sunday, May 10, 2015

Sunday Funday: Mother's Day Edition

First and foremost, I want to wish every mother, grandmother, godmother a happy Mother's Day. And for those who may not have their mom around anymore, know that she's always with you.

Since it's Mother's Day, here is a picture of me with my mom. It was taken on Mother's Day two years ago and apparently, we haven't taken a picture of just the two of us since then.

Growing up (and since my parents were divorced), my mom was the one who was always there for me (and my brother). We did live with her, so naturally I'm a little bit closer to my mom than my dad, but more on him later. My mom and I go shopping together and spend a week each summer down the shore, just the two of us. I have always been her helper with doing things around the house, especially cooking. There's so much more that I could say about my relationship with my mom and what we do together, but that would take forever lol.


Thursday, May 7, 2015

Author Spotlight: Mitch Albom

Author Spotlight #7

I'm bringing back the author spotlight feature for the first time since I completed the A to Z Challenge. This week, I have chosen Mitch Albom.

Along with being an internationally renowned author, Mitch Albom is also a journalist, screenwriter, playwright, radio and television broadcaster and musician. His books have collectively sold more than 35 million copies worldwide; have been published in forty-nine territories and in forty-five languages around the world; and have been made into Emmy Award-winning and critically-acclaimed television movies. He's also known for his charity work, mostly in the Detroit area, where he lives. You can find more information about Mitch Albom here.

Book Highlights/Synopses:
"Have a Little Faith" - An 82-year-old rabbi from Albom’s old hometown asks him to deliver his eulogy. Feeling unworthy, Albom insists on understanding the man better, which throws him back into a world of faith he’d left years ago. Meanwhile, closer to his current home, Albom becomes involved with a Detroit pastor – a reformed drug dealer and convict – who preaches to the poor and homeless in a decaying church with a hole in its roof. Moving between their worlds, Christian and Jewish, African-American and white, impoverished and well-to-do, Mitch observes how these very different men employ faith similarly in fighting for survival: the older, suburban rabbi, embracing it as death approaches; the younger, inner-city pastor relying on it to keep himself and his church afloat. Mitch and the two men of God explore issues that perplex modern man: how to endure when difficult things happen; what heaven is; intermarriage; forgiveness; doubting God; and the importance of faith in trying times. Although the texts, prayers and histories are different, Albom begins to realize a striking unity between the two worlds - and indeed, between beliefs everywhere. In the end, as the rabbi nears death and a harsh winter threatens the pastor’s wobbly church, Albom sadly fulfills the last request and writes the eulogy. And he finally understands what both men had been teaching all along: the profound comfort of believing in something bigger than yourself.

"Tuesdays with Morrie" - Maybe it was a grandparent, or a teacher or a colleague. Someone older, patient and wise, who understood you when you were young and searching, and gave you sound advice to help you make your way through it. For Mitch Albom, that person was Morrie Schwartz, his college professor from nearly twenty years ago. Maybe, like Mitch, you lost track of this mentor as you made your way, and the insights faded. Wouldn't you like to see that person again, ask the bigger questions that still haunt you? Mitch Albom had that second chance. He rediscovered Morrie in the last months of the older man's life. Knowing he was dying of ALS - or motor neurone disease - Mitch visited Morrie in his study every Tuesday, just as they used to back in college. Their rekindled relationship turned into one final 'class': lessons in how to live.

"The Five People You Meet in Heaven" - Eddie is a wounded war veteran, an old man who has lived, in his mind, an uninspired life. His job is fixing rides at a seaside amusement park. On his 83rd birthday, a tragic accident kills him as he tries to save a little girl from a falling cart. He awakes in the afterlife, where he learns that heaven is not a destination, but an answer. In heaven, five people explain your life to you. Some you knew, others may have been strangers. One by one, from childhood to soldier to old age, Eddie's five people revisit their connections to him on earth, illuminating the mysteries of his "meaningless" life, and revealing the haunting secret behind the eternal question: "Why was I here?"

"For One More Day" - This is the story of a mother and a son, and a relationship that covers a lifetime and beyond. It explores the question: What would you do if you could spend one more day with a lost loved one? As a child, Charley "Chick" Benetto was told by his father, "You can be a mama's boy or a daddy's boy, but you can't be both." So he chooses his father, only to see the man disappear when Charley is on the verge of adolescence. Decades later, Charley is a broken man. His life has been crumbled by alcohol and regret. He loses his job. He leaves his family. He hits bottom after discovering his only daughter has shut him out of her wedding. And he decides to take his own life.He makes a midnight ride to his small hometown, with plans to do himself in. But upon failing even to do that, he staggers back to his old house, only to make an astonishing discovery. His mother, who died eight years earlier, is still living there, and welcomes him home as if nothing ever happened. What follows is the one "ordinary" day so many of us yearn for, a chance to make good with a lost parent, to explain the family secrets, and to seek forgiveness. Somewhere between this life and the next, Charley learns the astonishing things he never knew about his mother and her sacrifices. And he tries, with her tender guidance, to put the crumbled pieces of his life back together.

"The First Phone Call From Heaven" - I read this book at the beginning of this year and did a blog post on it - click here for a review and synopsis.

I apologize for this being long.

Happy Reading and Keep on Writing!


Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Bead on Trouble Book Review

2015 Reading Challenge

9. Bead on Trouble by Barbara Burnett Smith
Theme/Topic: a book you started but never finished

I got this book several years ago. I was into beading back then so the title had popped out for me and I was interested. That was until I actually started reading it. I think I ended up reading about half before giving up. This time around, I read the whole book, but was still left feeling unimpressed. It had its moments and some of the beading tips were good. However, the quality of writing was not presented well in my opinion, not to mention that there were parts that had nothing to do with the storyline at all. Those parts could have easily been left out. This was Barbara Burnett Smith's first book and authors do tend (something I've noticed) to write better as they keep writing more books. It is a murder mystery and unlike most mysteries, I was able to figure out who the murderer was long before the police/detectives and even Kitzi (the main character) did - pretty much almost immediately. It let me down because it took the fun out of trying to solve the actual mystery.
Synopsis: Meet Kitzi Camden, former stateswoman. When she retired, Kitzi dreamed of doing what she loves best--beading. She certainly didn't plan to try her hand at amateur sleuthing. But lately, trouble seems to find her wherever she goes--even deep into the woods. When a young beader is killed at a beading retreat, Kitzi is faced with almost as many suspects as there are beads in her bag.
I would recommend this book only to people who like beading and maybe a little mystery.
Happy Reading and Keep on Writing!

Monday, May 4, 2015

Reflecting Back on the A to Z Challenge


Today, I'm celebrating that I was able to finish the April A to Z Challenge on Thursday. I enjoyed writing posts daily, as well as visiting other blogs that I didn't know existed before the challenge. I am an aspiring writer (won't consider myself to be an actual writer until I get something published) and in recent years, have been struggling to write, even getting the motivation to write. It started out a bit as writer's block I guess, but it ended up being more than that. So I did this challenge to get back into the daily habit of writing. I started this blog back in December and didn't always write posts consistently and I also wanted to improve on that area. Writing almost every day in April tells me that I can actually stick to a schedule and write on a consistent basis. This was my first year doing the A to Z Challenge and I learned a lot along the way. I am already excited to do it again next year, but better prepared though.

Reflecting back on April, I really did learn a lot, about myself, as well as others when visiting their blogs. So my top three takeaways are the following:
          1. Learned how to link back to another site on a blog post. This may sound a little weird, but I never figured out how to do that before the challenge. Sometimes it's the little things that you learn along the way.
          2. Having a theme is easier. I decided to be random instead of picking a theme to blog about. The only problem with that is that I had trouble coming up with what to write about some days and I wouldn't get the post done until the last minute and late once. I do have a couple ideas for a possible theme next year.
          3. Pre-scheduling. I didn't really know that you could pre-schedule a blog post until the beginning of April. I ended up pre-scheduling some posts and I found that to be easier. I had more time to visit other blogs. Lesson learned: Pre-schedule all posts next year and I'll be able to visit more blogs than getting behind like I did this year.
Thanks to everyone who visited and commented on blog during April.
Feel free to follow me on twitter.
Happy Reading and Keep on Writing!

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Sunday Funday: All About Reading

Sunday Funday is back, now that the A to Z Challenge is over - look out for my reflections post tomorrow.

Reading Habits

1. Do you have a certain place at home for reading?
    not really

 2. Bookmark or random piece of paper?

 3. Can you just stop reading or do you have to stop after a chapter/ a certain amount of pages?
     I don't like to just stop reading. I try to read for a certain time (say 30 mins) and I like to get to the end of whatever chapter I'm reading when the time would be up

 4. Do you eat or drink while reading?
     Sometimes, but not really. I don't want to get the book ruined.

 5. Multitasking: Music or TV while reading?
     I've done both while reading and it doesn't bother me. Depends on the book, though.

 6. One book at a time or several at once?
     I tend to read either one or two at a time.

 7. Reading at home or everywhere?
     home mostly, but I do read while riding on a bus or a long car/train/plane trip.

 8. Reading out loud or silently in your head?

 9. Do you read ahead or even skip pages?
     I actually had a bad habit of doing that, but NOT anymore.

 10. Breaking the spine or keeping it like new?
       Try to keep it new, of course!

 11. Do you write in your books?


1. When do you find yourself reading? Morning, afternoon, evening, whenever you get the chance or all the time?
    mostly evening and night time, but sometimes when I get the chance

2. What is your best setting to read in?
    Don't really have one.

3. What do you do first – Read or Watch?
4. What form do you prefer? Audiobook, E-book or physical book?
    I prefer reading physical books, but e-books when travelling because it takes up less space.

5. Do you have a unique habit when you read?

6. Do book series have to match?

Happy Reading and Keep on Writing!


Saturday, May 2, 2015

The Lord of the Rings Trilogy Book Review

2015 Reading Challenge - Information found here.

The Lord of the Rings Trilogy
6. The Fellowship of the Ring by J. R. R. Tolkien
7. The Two Towers by J. R. R. Tolkien
8. The Return of the King by J. R. R. Tolkien

Reading Challenge Theme/Topic: Read a trilogy
It's one category, but counts as three books since it's a trilogy and I thought it would be easier if I reviewed all three at the same time.

Synopsis: The future of civilization rests in the fate of the One Ring, which has been lost for centuries. Powerful forces are unrelenting in their search for it. But fate has placed it in the hands of a young hobbit named Frodo Baggins, who inherits the Ring and steps into legend. A daunting task lies ahead for Frodo when he becomes the Ringbearer - to destroy the One Ring in the fires of Mount Doom where it was forged.
First things first. I never really got into "The Lord of the Rings" growing up. When the reading challenge list said to read a trilogy, I went with The Lord of the Rings trilogy because it's the one trilogy that we have in the house. Science fiction wasn't a genre that interested me. That being said, here's my take:
I thought that "The Fellowship of the Ring" went a little slow - it seemed to me to have a lot of history or backstory in it, which tends to be tedious to me. I found myself enjoying "The Two Towers" and "The Return of the King" better because they had more action. There were only two things that I didn't really care for in the trilogy: the first being that I noticed a lot of foreshadowing at times so at certain points, I kind of knew what was going to happen. And the second was just that it has a lot of characters or the same characters being referred to by multiple names (like Aragorn). I found that to be a bit confusing, but it works.
My favorite characters had to be Aragorn/Strider and Gandalf as they seemed to be well-educated in the history of the lands and all, not to mention they both showed and had a lot of wisdom. I couldn't do favorite characters without mentioning Merry and Pippin, as well as Sam.  All three wanted and did whatever they could to help Frodo out in his journey and I credit Sam for not giving up on Frodo at all and being there until the end. What I actually didn't understand was why Frodo never got any credit for taking down Sauron when he and Sam ended up doing the most heroic efforts, with Merry and Pippin close behind.
Now to my least favorite characters. Of course, I have to say Sauron, but I kind of felt sorry for him a little bit at the end. The only other character I didn't like was Gollum. If you've read the books or seen the movies, I'm sure you would agree. He seemed to be so helpful and had good intentions at first, but ended up being deceitful (even though I pretty much figured he had something up his sleeve). However, dishonesty and being deceitful are two characteristics that I can't stand, along with disrespect.
All in all, I found "The Lord of the Rings Trilogy" to be good, but different in what I like to read.
Happy Reading and Keep on Writing!