Sunday, February 28, 2016

Musical Empowered Sunday Funday

Sunday Funday

In two weeks, the local theatre company in my neighborhood will be putting on their annual musical. I've acted in it for several years, but this year I decided to take a break and just do stage crew instead. As we started some set construction yesterday, I was inspired to make this Sunday Funday all about musicals.

I compiled a list of some of my favorite songs from musicals. They will be based on what shows I've seen or heard (thanks to Spotify).

1. "Climb Every Mountain" - The Sound of Music
    The Sound of Music is my absolute favorite musical. This song is one of the best in this show. To me, it means to do what it takes to go after your dreams and don't let any obstacles along the way to get you down or give up.

For the rest of the list, they are just iconic songs.

2. "Circle of Life" - The Lion King

3. "Do You Hear the People Sing?" - Les Miserables

4. "Beauty and the Beast" - Beauty and the Beast

5. "Defying Gravity" - Wicked

6. "Tradition" - Fiddler on the Roof

7. "There's No Business Like Show Business" - Annie Get Your Gun

8. "Hello Dolly" - Hello Dolly

9. "This is the Moment" - Jekyll and Hyde

10. "Seasons of Love" - Rent
      This song, just like "Tomorrow" from Annie, has been overdone, but it still remains one of my favorites.

My theatre company is doing Man of La Mancha this year. While I'm not too familiar with the show/musical numbers, it is based on the book Don Quixote, which I read two years ago. Of course, I know the song "The Impossible Dream".

Happy Reading and Keep on Writing!


Friday, February 26, 2016

Luanne Rice Spotlight

Author Spotlight

Luanne Rice

Did You Know?
  1. American novelist
  2. Author of 32 books
  3. Debut novel was Angels All Over Town
  4. Received 2014 Connecticut Governor's Arts Award in the literary arts category
  5. Crazy In Love, Blue Moon, Follow the Stars Home, Silver Bells, and Beach Girls have been adapted into TV movies and a mini-series for the last one.
  6. Her books are often centered on family, love, nature and the sea.
  7. New York Times bestselling author
  8. Just recently published her first novel for young adults
I've read a few of Luanne Rice's novels. My favorite of hers is Follow the Stars Home.
For more information about Luanne Rice and her books, check out her website here.
Happy Reading and Keep on Writing!

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

A Separate Peace Review

Writing Tuesday

2016 Reading Challenge

8. A Separate Peace by John Knowles
    Topic: a book you haven't read since high school

Set at a boys boarding school in New England during the early years of World War II, A Separate Peace is a harrowing and luminous parable of the dark side of adolescence. Gene is a lonely, introverted intellectual. Phineas is a handsome, taunting, daredevil athlete. What happens between the two friends one summer, like the war itself, banishes the innocence of these boys and their world.

My Review:
Since I last read this in high school, my opinions and thoughts have changed. Back then, I remember I didn't really like it. I thought it was slow and boring, but then again, I was only a teen who knew I would be tested on it.

Reading it now, my perspective is different. I love reading for fun, choosing a book that I want to read on my own. Anyway, I found it to be more enjoyable. Phineas and Gene have a friendship like no other. Gene is more laid-back and studious, while Phineas is more adventurous and pushes the boundaries. I liked how Phineas takes Gene along an adventurous ride, letting him know that you can still have fun and get good grades at the same time. Then something happens (you know I can't give it away) and instead of breaking them apart, it kind of brings them closer together. Yes, they have their issues after that moment, but they conquer through until the end. 

Happy Reading and Keep on Writing!


Sunday, February 21, 2016

Winter Wonderland

Sunday Funday

Although winter is over in just a few weeks, I've decided to do a winter tag. In my area, it's actually slightly warmer than normal.

All About Winter

1. Do you like the cold?
     Yes only because I don't tolerate heat well in summer.

2. Favorite Part About Winter?
     I've always liked a fresh coat of snow on the ground/ trees because it looks beautiful.

3. Favorite Winter Drink?
     Hot chocolate or tea

4. Do You Do Any Outdoor Activity's In The Winter?
     Not really. I've always wanted to learn how to ski. I like ice skating and even took lessons one winter - wish I could ice skate more.

5. Favorite Winter Scent?
     The crispness of a fireplace. I don't actually have a fireplace but there's a store down the street that always has a fire going to keep warm when people are outside of it.

6. Does It Snow Where You Live?
     Yep. My area had a blizzard a few weeks ago, part of winter storm Jonas. We also had a coating/couple inches not too long ago. When it comes to storms where I live, it's either hit or miss depending on the track of it.

7. Favorite Clothing Item In Winter?
     Just sweaters to keep warm.

8. Your Favorite Winter Memory?
     Don't really have one. When I do a play, rehearsals are in winter and they can be fun. I did like ice skating when I was a teen.

Happy Reading and Keep on Writing!


Saturday, February 20, 2016

Remembering Harper Lee

Author Spotlight

As I was preparing to start doing the author spotlight again yesterday, news came in of Harper Lee's passing. Even though I had another author in mind, I decided to hold off a day and dedicate this week's author spotlight to Harper Lee instead.


To Kill a Mockingbird is one of my favorite books of all-time. I read it in 7th grade so I would have been about 13. Harper Lee brought to us Atticus Finch, Scout and several other good characters. Atticus Finch, in my opinion, is one of the greatest literary figures/heroes of all-time. Harper Lee published her second novel, Go Set a Watchman, last year even though it was written years ago. It was thought to be the sequel, but was later found out to be the first draft, of To Kill a Mockingbird.

Did You Know?
To Kill a Mockingbird Edition
1. Harper Lee's real name is Nelle Harper Lee.
2. Won the Pulitzer Prize in 1961 just one year after publication
3. Classic of modern American literature
4. Lee was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom
5. Deals with adult attitudes of race and class in the South of the
6. Based loosely on Lee's observations and an event that took place
   where she grew up in Alabama.
7. Gregory Peck is known for his role of Atticus Finch, of which he
   won an Oscar.

Happy Reading and Keep on Writing!

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Murder in the South of France Book Review

Writing Tuesday -

2016 Reading Challenge

7. Murder in the South of France by Susan Kiernan-Lewis
    Topic: a murder mystery

Maggie Newberry is sheltered, privileged but also a whip-smart advertising copywriter who's fast on her feet and a little stunned to realize that she's 34 years old and still hasn't found "the one." When her long-missing sister ends up dead in Maggie's trendy Atlanta condo, Maggie finds herself flying to the south of France to find the little niece that up until then no one in the family even knew existed. Along the way, she finds handsome Laurent Dernier, a sexy if nefarious Frenchman who it's not clear is there to help or hinder Maggie's search for the girl. Meanwhile, her sister's murderer sets his sights on the little girl - and Maggie.

My Review:
I'm going to start this a little different. It's not really a secret, but the synopsis part of my book reviews are the book blurbs (you know the part on the back of a book that sums up what the book's about). Sometimes I'll redo it or what not and sometimes I keep it the way it is. Anyway, the synopsis of this particular book is a little misleading. I didn't want to adjust it because then I'll be basically giving the full story away.

I've got two words to sum up my thoughts: badly written. There were several discrepancies throughout the book, as well as inconsistencies. That combined made the story and plot drag on. I always try to come up with something positive about each book that I read, but I really can't think of anything that was good about Murder in the South of France. Even though the title suggests that most of the story takes place in France, it actually takes place more in Atlanta. I originally chose to read this book for a book that takes places in Europe, but had to change that theory after only reading the first couple of chapters. France isn't really described that well both times that Maggie was actually there - it seemed more fake. I had French in high school and learned a lot more about France than what was not even half decently described in the book. Setting and description are really important to the story, but it was lacking in that department. Choices made by Maggie and other characters were surprising and out of place.

I read this book on my Kindle app. One of the things that I most disliked is that the story ended around 85%. The remaining 15% of the book was a preview for the next book of the series. My problem is that it included four or five chapters before ending in a climax. To me, I want to be sold into a story in the first chapter or two. I did have another book in this series in my library (with Kindle) as well, but there's no way I'm reading it after how horrible this book was. Both were free when I got them and I now understand why.

Happy Reading and Keep on Writing!


Sunday, February 14, 2016

Valentine's Day Extravaganza

Sunday Funday

If you're single like me, it's just another day, but don't worry.

Let's show love for one another all year round instead of just one day.


Saturday, February 13, 2016

Live Original Book Review

2016 Reading Challenge

6. Live Original by Sadie Robertson

Seventeen-year-old Sadie Robertson-star of A&E’s Duck Dynasty and daughter of Willie and Korie Robertson-shares her outlook on life as she opens up about herself and the values that make her family what it is. Sadie Robertson represents everything that a well-adjusted teenager should be, even while growing up in the spotlight on Duck Dynasty. She exhibits poise, respect for her family and friends, and a faith that influences her choices. Everyone wants to know how a family as eclectic as the Robertsons are raising such confident, fun, family-loving kids. With this book, Sadie sheds light on the values instilled by her family that make her the person she is. Sadie lives by a simple list of principles that lead her to personal and spiritual growth and allow the relationships she has with her friends and family to flourish. These values include think happy, be happy; dream big; shake the hate; do something; and many more.

My Review:
I want to start out by saying that I'm not a fan of Duck Dynasty. I've seen a few episodes and it just isn't to my liking - nothing to do with their Christian lifestyle by the way. I got to know Sadie when she danced with Mark Ballas on Season 19 of Dancing With the Stars and ended up liking her because of her personality and staying true to her values.

In a time when being a Christian/Catholic is not easy, it amazes me to know that some people stay true to their faith and values despite the adversity they face, just like Sadie does. Sadie does a good job at sharing how her faith in God helps guide her through her teenage years. The teen years can be pretty rough, especially for girls. Sadie does give some great advice for getting through those challenging times. It didn't come across as being over preachy, but in some situations, it went over the top just a little.

Some of the things mentioned were repeated in different ways throughout the book and it was just using simple and basic language. Since Sadie is only a teen, there are still lots of challenges that she has yet to face. The only thing that I didn't like was that it came across as in Sadie believing that all teens are raised like she was most of her life. And unfortunately, that's not quite true. Yes, there are a lot of devout Christian families out there, kids included, who live exceptional lives as to God's lifestyle, so to say. I have no problems with that, but at the same time, you have to take into consideration and show compassion to the way others have grown up. It does sometimes takes people a while to put God first in their life and you have to be respectful of that as well.

Sadie said over and over again how she chooses to be happy regardless of what's going on, even through the tough times. That certainly isn't easy. While I agree that choosing to be happy (or hiding the fact that you're going through a hard time) is necessary in a way, it is also okay to have those bad days. Being sad and upset (this doesn't mean anger) it's normal to show those emotions as well. She does give advice to keeping emotions in check, like anger and jealousy, because people tend to say the wrong thing or do the wrong thing when they feel that way.

This is a great book for tweens and teens alike. I appreciated the scripture quotes throughout the story. It just underwhelmed me a little bit as a whole. What I liked the most about this book was that it encourages you to be you, so live original.

Happy Reading and Keep on Writing!



Friday, February 12, 2016

On Which Side of the Road Do the Flowers Grow? Book Review

2016 Reading Challenge

5. On Which Side of the Road Do the Flowers Grow? by Wendell E Mettey
    Topic: book that's under 150 pages

During his years pastoring an inner-city church, Wendell Mettey discovered that God uses even the most blemished vessels to bring beauty into the world. In On Which Side of the Road Do the Flowers Grow?, Pastor Mettey shares the humorous and touching stories of his diverse congregation— ordinary people whose lives were infused with an awareness of God's real and abundant grace.

My Review:
Reverend Wendell Mettey shares actual stories of some of his parishioners who left an impact on him and the church. Most of them are about those who didn't believe in God for awhile and their transformations on how they got to believe in God and their faith. Then there were those who didn't miss a service for anything, showing that God was the most important person in their life. This was kind of a quick read since it's under 150 pages (hence the topic I used it for). Some of the stories were heartwarming. Only a couple lacked to be touching and compelling for me. I believe that these stories revolved around a Baptist church, as well as the struggles an inner city church faces/faced. I especially liked how he portrayed how some sinners turned their life around for the church and God.

Happy Reading and Keep on Writing!


Thursday, February 4, 2016

Wild Irish Book Review

2016 Reading Challenge

3. Wild Irish Roots - Tricia O'Malley
4. Wild Irish Heart - Tricia O'Malley
Topic: a book and its prequel

Wild Irish Roots - Growing up in the small town of Grace’s Cove, Margaret never knew that she was different. She didn’t understand why people were unnerved by her ability to see what others could not. When her mother explains that she is special, gifted, her world shifts forever. Desperately wanting to be normal, Margaret is determined to seal that part of herself away. It seems as though she might succeed – until Sean Burke steps into her life. Sean is an apprentice on a fishing boat and is pursuing his dream of running his own fishing business. Tales of the fish pulled from the rumored-to-be-enchanted cove are legendary across Ireland, and Sean is determined to learn its secrets. What he doesn't expect is to be blindsided by his love for Margaret. Helpless to stop loving Sean, but unable to confess to her shameful secret, Margaret must face the truth about herself – or run away from it forever.

Wild Irish Heart - An ancient book, a power untouched, and a heart unloved lead Keelin O'Brien from her graduate studies in Boston to a small village on the coast of Southern Ireland. Determined to unearth the secrets lying hidden in the enchanted waters of the cove, Keelin has little time for a surly Irishman who infuriates her during the day and haunts her fantasies at night. Inexplicably drawn to the woman who has stepped from his dreams and into his world, Flynn fights a stubborn battle against his increasing attraction for Keelin. Forces unknown have better plans for the two. Only the secrets of the cove can show Keelin who she really is, the beauty of her mysterious power, and a love that will break the bounds of what she knows. (Note: Keelin is the daughter of Margaret from the prequel.)

My Review:
I was interested in these two books because they take place in Ireland. The prequel/novella gives the background story of a family of "gifted" individuals passed down from generation to generation. And how they react and the people around them react to having special powers. In the first book of the Mystic Cove Series, Wild Irish Heart tells the story of Keelin. When her mom, Margaret, wanted to run away from her magical power, she moved to the States with her then infant daughter. Keelin grows up normal, but feels like she doesn't belong. When she goes to Ireland to find out more about her own powers, as well as do research about a mystic cove, Keelin's in for more than she realizes. Keelin learns the truth about who she really is and finds a place where she belongs. Flynn and Keelin may be different, but are drawn to each other. Both are put to the test before finally realizing that they more in common than they thought and go against what they believe in. It's an example of how I believe that they're someone out there for everyone.

For me, both books were good, but not great enough to earn high praise. I appreciated the plot in Wild Irish Heart more than the prequel. I don't necessarily believe in people having powers to see things or heal people by touch (as portrayed in these). The stories just progressed a little on the slow side and I won't be reading any more books in this series. The rest of the series features the development of the other characters in the book who also have those magical powers and how they learn how to live with it and find love at the same time.

On a separate note, tomorrow February 5 is National Wear Red Day for heart disease and stroke awareness (the day is sponsored by the American Heart Association for American Heart Month). I do have a heart condition myself, as well as strong heart disease history in my family, so it's an important issue for me. Join me and many others in wearing read tomorrow for this special cause.
Happy Reading and Keep on Writing!

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Taking the Lead Book Review

2016 Reading Challenge - Writing Tuesday

2. Taking the Lead by Derek Hough
    Topic: book by a celebrity

Known for being on Dancing With the Stars, Derek Hough shares some insights of his dancing career and how he got there from the beginning. And the lessons he's learned along the way to success.

My Review:
I've been a fan of Dancing With the Stars almost since the beginning, getting really into it all the way back in season three. Now, as they're getting ready for season 22, the show's come a long way from 2005 when it first started. If anyone knows me, they know that Derek Hough, along with Mark Ballas, are my favorite pros. Both joined in season five and I knew that they had/were something special. They just brought something different, that more modern approach, to the dance floor. This does not mean that I don't like the other pros as well - let's face it, there's been a lot of great pros throughout the years/seasons.

For me, I really enjoyed the book. Derek did a good job of telling us more about his childhood before starting dance. I appreciated that he talked about a time in his life when he was bullied.  The sad truth is that many children/teens have been/are being bullied, myself included when I was younger. There are different extremes, but it's wrong regardless. Many do overcome it, though. I liked learning more about his dance days in England, when he was taught by Mark's parents and training with different partners. I kind of wish Derek would have talked more about that time, being that he was a tween/teen being away from his parents. Just like it was interesting to read about his different partners on Dancing With the Stars. What I enjoyed the most was the quotes throughout the book from different people in his life. I do wish there was more behind the scenes stuff about Dancing With the Stars, but I enjoyed it nonetheless.

Another favorite part was how Derek incorporated the lessons he learned at the end of each chapter. It seems odd that a man not quite of 30, at the time of his writing this, could learn so much in his life. The older we get, the more we learn. However, we need to make those mistakes when we're younger to get to that point of knowledge/wisdom. He did admit to having a hyperactivity disorder (let's face it - we've pretty much known that if you're familiar with the show lol) and how he overcame that.

Throughout his fame and success, Derek still has stayed humble. I liked how he talked about his partners on DWTS without bragging, but just being proud of what they were able to accomplish. After all, he did win the Mirror Ball five times (four at the time of writing this book), but I liked how all were different and brought different things to the table. It shows that we all learn things different ways. This book is an easy read for anyone, but great for anyone who's a fan of Derek or Dancing With the Stars.

Happy Reading and Keep on Writing!


Monday, February 1, 2016

Life After Joe Book Review

2016 Reading Challenge

1. Life After Joe by Ann Benjamin
    Topic: book about a road trip

When thirty-something Liz McNeil is unexpectedly widowed, she has no idea what to do with her life. After the initial shock of her husband's death wears off, she packs up her car and sets off on a tour of the country with Joe's urn in the passenger seat. Using social media to connect with a variety of friends and family, Liz works through her grief in a number of unpredictable methods. As she shares her experience via blog posts, on a road trip full of surprises, Liz takes what life has given her and makes the best of her situation.

My Review:
Before I start, I wanted to give you a little background story. I get daily emails on book deals or what books are free for purchase on Kindle. It's a great way to find out about lesser known authors. Anyway, I heard about Life After Joe on the same day as an aunt's funeral. My aunt died unexpectedly right before Thanksgiving and even though she battled with some health issues, it still came as a shock to my family. The funeral was out of town. After a long and emotional few days, we were back at my cousin's house (since it was her mom who died). It seemed only fitting and a little strange that I would come across this book after everything that had happened. The other strange thing that Joe was the name of my aunt's husband, who had passed away back in the '90s.

Life After Joe is good for anyone who has ever lost a lost a loved one, as in a family member for the best example. I recently heard that the hardest part is not in losing a loved one, but in learning how to live without them. This couldn't be more true. It could be something as simple as not being able to call that person with good news or whatever it may be. The list could go on and on.

That's the story with Liz. Not knowing what to do, Liz goes on a road trip around the country with her husband's urn, taking him to visit family and friends. With each person/couple, she grieves in different and unsuspected ways. She also learns more about Joe than she thought she knew. The ending came as no surprise as it was alluded to throughout the book basically from the beginning.

Life After Joe was just okay. The blogging style of Liz (well Ann if you want to get technical) was atypical of most bloggers. The writing style was different, making it hard at times to stay interested or understanding her grief. I Some posts were filled with unnecessary information. The best part of the book was definitely the dialogue. It kept the story intriguing. The takeaway here is to remember that everyone grieves in their own way.

Happy Reading and Keep on Writing!