Thursday, December 28, 2017

Daniel (Robin Merrill) Book Review

2017 Reading Challenge

16. Daniel by Robin Merrill

Open Door Church has served as a homeless shelter for more than a decade, but when their pastor dies unexpectedly, those who remain struggle to take up the reins to keep the ministry going. And then there’s young Daniel, who seems to be working miracles in their midst, which of course, isn’t possible. Or is it?

My Review:
When a pastor started up a church, he also opened it up as a homeless shelter. Everything was going well for quite awhile, but it's thrown into disarray after the pastor dies suddenly and unexpectedly. Then it becomes a story of survival as there was no one left in charge in the event of his passing. I believe that those who took in the church for shelter had to attend the services, in addition to pitching in around the church as well. Since there was no protocol, they decide to sort of vote on who gets to lead them and it's someone who has been a crucial help to the church, although not homeless. While some good-hearted parishioners attempt to follow in the footsteps of the former pastor, there's a group of men who believe that they are supposed to be in charge and wants to ruin all the hard work put into the church and shelter by turning it into everything that it's not supposed to be.

At the heart of this novel (as it's aptly named after him) is Daniel, a little boy who can perform miracles by healing people. But only those he's supposed to heal. While his mom tries to keep it hidden, his secret comes out and all of a sudden he's supposed to heal everyone. Daniel doesn't know why he has this ability, but he also has a strong faith in God. Since he's only a kid, he can't put up with the pressure. And he's in further deep water when his taking about God and his faith gets them thrown out. Daniel was my favorite character because even though he has this special gift, he's just a sweet kid. He's one of the few people who believe that that church and shelter will go back to what it was supposed to be.

Daniel was definitely a page-turner. I enjoyed getting to know the families and parishioners of the church and shelter. There will be ones you love and ones you just love to hate. 

Happy Reading and Keep on Writing!


A Cat to Die For (Maria Grazia Swan) Book Review

2017 Reading Challenge

15. A Cat to Die For by Maria Grazia Swan
     Topic/Prompt: a book with a cat on the cover

Mina Calvi's new Furry Friends Foundation is a dream come true for the formerly footloose young woman. Her no-kill shelter rescues and places dogs and cats into new forever homes, and it gives Mina a purpose in life.
But changes are looming on a perfect Sunday afternoon at the Dana Point Marina where she is minding the adoption booth.
A Greek heiress, young, petite and beautiful, shows up on the arm of the love of Mina's life, Diego Moran. And worse, she wants to adopt Mina's calico cat, Houdini. The spoiled woman will not take no for an answer. Why is she so insistent on getting Houdini when she already owns a look-alike cat?
When Houdini is cat-napped, the cat-sitter murdered, and the ransom demand sent to the heiress, Mina has to keep her wits about her to get her beloved cat home safely, and to keep her heart from getting broken again by Diego, who inexplicably pops up at every turn of the unfolding drama.

My Review:
This book is considered to be a cozy mystery, but it's slightly different from other cozy mysteries. 

Mina is an Italian American character, the first that I've really read. She puts her heart into everything she does. She does this moreso for cats and dogs with her no kill shelter for rescues. She goes by the philosophy that every cat and dog that are brought in to her foundation shelter deserves to be placed in a permanent home. However, trouble seems to follow her wherever she goes, no matter her intentions. Whether it's a former love of her life who she can't decide if she wants to risk heartbreak again or when her cat gets kidnapped and the sitter winds up getting murdered. 

The whole storyline or plot with Diego was annoying. With that, Mina just plain got on my nerves. However, the mystery plotline turned into something different than I have ever read before. The ending is one you may not have seen coming. It turns into something like a ploy or scheme.

While this book wasn't necessarily my cup of tea, it is ideal for cat lovers. I did appreciate how Maria stressed the importance of no kill animal shelters, as it needs to be talked about. I don't believe that animals should be put down for overcrowding or whatever reason in shelters.

Happy Reading and Keep on Writing!


The Not So Secret Emails of Coco Pinchard (Robert Bryndza) Book Review

2017 Reading Challenge

14. The Not So Secret Emails of Coco Pinchard by Robert Bryndza
      Topic/Prompt: book by an author from a country you've never visited (United Kingdom)

Coco Pinchard always dreamed of being a successful writer, but then life got in the way. She married young, had a son, and put her dreams on hold. But now she's 40, and her first novel is about to be published! Her husband Daniel has greyed nicely into a silver fox, and her son Rosencrantz is all grown up. Shouldn't it be time to enjoy life?
That is, until the annual family Christmas when her hideous in-laws come to stay, and Coco opens her gift from Daniel. It's not the jewelry she chose, but an iPhone. This marks the start of Daniel's mid-life crisis and Coco catches him in bed with a younger woman.
The iPhone becomes a confessional, and as Coco's life unravels, she documents her seemingly endless (and often entertaining) run of bad luck through emails to loyal friends Christopher, an ageing trustafarian, and Marika, a slightly alcoholic schoolteacher.
Then Coco meets the hunky Adam and she's back in the world of dating as a single 40-something. Listen to the heart warming and often hilarious tale of Coco picking up the pieces, in this fun, feel-good romantic comedy.

My Review:
This story was told in a one sided email format. It does work once you get used to the style. It's also easier once you get to know the characters - because of the format, the characters aren't really introduced like normal as they are the recipients of the emails. It does take a little while to figure them out, but once you know who's who, it's much easier to follow along. There's one other thing that threw me for a loop and that would be the British humor. I am in no way knocking British humor; it is just that I am not accustomed to it. 

Coco tells all of her bad luck through a collection of emails to her friends and son. It's her way of venting about those times when life doesn't always go the way we want it to. No matter how her luck may be, she powers through with humor and the support of her friends. It may come off as whiny at first, but who doesn't complain like that when bad things happen to us. However, Coco becomes a prime example of how to handle whatever comes her way by complaining about it for a bit, but then moves on from it and fights her way through it. 

While I did like the email format, as I usually don't read this style, the story lacked the zest that I look for in a book. It was good, but not great. The best thing that I can say about this book is that it is like a romantic comedy without the predictable outcome.

Happy Reading and Keep on Writing!


Friday, November 17, 2017

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (John Tiffany and Jack Thorne) (J.K. Rowling) Book Review

2017 Reading Challenge

13. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by John Tiffany and Jack Thorne (based on an original story by J.K. Rowling)

The Eighth Story. Nineteen Years Later.
Based on an original new story by J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne and John Tiffany, a new play by Jack Thorne, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is the eighth story in the Harry Potter series and the first official Harry Potter story to be presented on stage. The play received its world premiere in London’s West End on July 30, 2016.
It was always difficult being Harry Potter and it isn’t much easier now that he is an overworked employee of the Ministry of Magic, a husband and father of three school-age children.
While Harry grapples with a past that refuses to stay where it belongs, his youngest son Albus must struggle with the weight of a family legacy he never wanted. As past and present fuse ominously, both father and son learn the uncomfortable truth: sometimes, darkness comes from unexpected places.

My Review:
As a Harry Potter fan, I was excited to read this book. It's weird, though, because if I didn't have to read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone for school in 7th or 8th grade, I don't know if I would have ever read the Harry Potter series or not.

Since this is a play version and written as a script, you can't expect this one to be like the original Harry Potter series. There's a different vibe during this story and it didn't feel like the eighth book in the series. Yes, I am one of those people who felt that the series should have concluded with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. That book just felt right for the story to end at that point; I felt that it was the right conclusion to the series.

It was hard to feel connected to the kids in this, especially Albus, as they just weren't going to compare to their parents. There was something magical in Harry, Ron, and Hermione and the rest of the characters and I felt like since it was written as a play format, you couldn't feel the magical connection to their kids.

I can appreciate the format of this book because I have performed in plays and musicals in the past, but at times, I was left bored and disinterested. It ended being more nostalgic as I liked meeting Harry and everyone else in his class again as I grew up with those characters (as someone who is 30 now, I feel as if I got older with them as they got older). It was nice seeing the original group change into the adults they are in this story because we all change as we grow into adults and figure out who we are.

Now, let's actually talk about the story itself, as that's what this review is supposed to be about. Albus feels the weight of the world on his shoulders as the son of Harry Potter, something he never asked for. Throughout Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Albus struggles with that and he wants nothing more but to try to do whatever possible to create his own identity and distance himself away from being Harry's son. He finds help with Scorpius (Draco's son) and together they team up to create some mischief, but don't realize how dangerous that can be, just like Harry and Ron used to do. It causes the past and present to come together and keep things interesting, as I don't want to give the story away.

There were a couple things I enjoyed. First, I appreciated the relationship between Albus and Harry. They may have been in conflict with each other more often than not, but I thought it kept the story interesting. Second, I enjoyed how Albus and Scorpius became friends despite being sorted in different houses and what the lack of friendship was like between their fathers. I feel like it can be applied to the world today. Too often, there are people who tell us not to be friends or associated with so and so because of different beliefs, race, etc. As long as we have things in common or similar interests with others, it shouldn't matter what race, religion, beliefs (they have), sex, identity, etc, they are.

Final Thoughts:
I had a love-hate relationship with Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.

1. Don't compare it to the original Harry Potter series. You'll just end up being disappointed.
2. While I didn't mind the play format, I thought it got in the way of the dynamics of the actual story.
3. It would be better to see this performed than to read it. (And yes, I usually like the book more than a movie or play version)
4. As a Harry Potter fan, you will still enjoy getting to know Harry, Ron, Hermionie, and Draco as adults.

Happy Reading and Keep on Writing!


Sunday, November 12, 2017

The Shack Book Review

2017 Reading Challenge

12. The Shack by William Paul Young
      Topic/Prompt: book that's becoming a movie in 2017

Mackenzie Allen Philips' youngest daughter, Missy, has been abducted during a family vacation, and evidence that she may have been brutally murdered is found in an abandoned shack deep in the Oregon wilderness. Four years later in the midst of his "Great Sadness," Mack receives a suspicious note, apparently from God, inviting him back to that shack for a weekend.

Against his better judgment he arrives at the shack on a wintry afternoon and walks back into his darkest nightmare. What he finds there will change Mack's world forever.

My Review:
I read this book several years ago, but wanted to read it again since the movie was coming out this year. I can honestly say that I really enjoyed it both times. When I read it the first time, I was left feeling confused after I finished it. This time around, I had a better understanding of what the book was truly about.

Mack's daughter was abducted and murdered in a shack in the wilderness. Several years later, Mack receives a letter from God inviting him back there for a couple days. He's basically given a choice and decides to take Him up on the offer. While Mack doesn't want to revisit that nightmare, he figures he has nothing to lose. In the several years since his daughter died, Mack had doubted and questioned his faith. During the weekend, he has conversations with God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. These conversations are meant to answer his questions about why it happened and how he can overcome this dark time in his life and any other questions he has to help him re-discover God and his faith.

Controversial at best for its theological viewpoints, I wrote this review not from the theology view, but about the story itself. When we go through hard times in our lives, we often question God and everything we believe in. While this book and the God, Jesus, and Holy Spirit presented in the story are not a substitute for the Bible and God's Word, it does help provide answers to some questions you may have like why did God let this happen? The book is about the relationship between Mack and God and what God means to him. It provides some thought provoking and life changing (for some people) conversations that you may ask yourself. If you ever find yourself doubting or questioning God, you should first and foremost seek out God's Word in the Bible, but this book can be a start. It was a story filled with moments of happiness, as well as sadness, and pretty much every emotion people go through when they lose a loved one.

I enjoyed the story and the concept. When a book is fiction, you should be able to distinguish between what's real and not when it comes to a spiritual subject like God and religion.

Happy Reading and Keep on Writing!


Be Thou My Vision (Faith Blum) Book Review

2017 Reading Challenge

11. Be Thou My Vision by Faith Blum

Anna Stuart is comfortable with her life. She may be a 30 year old spinster, but she has her routine and enjoys taking care of her father and older brother. One letter shatters all her routines, comfort, and enjoyment. After learning of her brother’s death, Anna feels like her life will never be the same again. Then she meets two motherless boys. Did God place them in her life to lead her to a new vision of life? Can she trust God to give her the desires of her heart before she even knows what they are?

My Review:
I thought this was a thoroughly good read overall. Anna may be a 30 year old spinster, but she has enjoyed being the caretaker for her father and older brother. Everything changes one day when she receives a letter that her other brother died and he also wrote something to her right before that. Anna, torn into despair and grief, starts to question everything she believes in, God included. However, the letter also inspires Anna to seek out God again. She does it for herself and nobody else. She does have a relatively quick transformation, but it doesn't happen overnight either. When she goes back to Church, Anna is in for the unexpected surprise of befriending two boys. James and John just happen to be the preacher's sons, who are motherless and one of which is deaf (James I believe). They are drawn to her and end up encouraging her more to believe in God without even knowing it. Anna does meet Miles, of course the preacher. They hit it off, but he's so guarded that it takes him awhile to let her in his heart. Miles has had his hands full with not only the Church, but his boys, and Anna ends up being the answer to his call. Despite their personal struggles, both seem to realize that they are meant to be together. One of my favorite parts was Anna truly wanting to learn sign language so she could communicate better with James.

There was only part of the novel that I didn't really like. The Church had a gossip group of ladies who were not very welcoming to either Anna or the budding relationship with Miles. I really didn't find that to be Christian-like of what seemed to be true God-loving characters at first. And also, they knew Miles needed some support, but didn't offer any. Since it was a small Church, I thought everyone would be supportive of each other in the community and church as well.

While this is a Christian fiction novel, the story wasn't overly preachy, but still maintained that strong sense of Christian faith. I would have liked to have met some more characters from the community and got to know them as well. It was a well written story filled with some decent plotlines. I know I probably mentioned this before, but I really feel that people are in our lives for a reason and that's how I felt that Miles, James, and John were meant to be in Anna's life to gain a new perspective or vision in her life.

Happy Reading and Keep on Writing!


Saturday, November 11, 2017

Gone With the Wind (Margaret Mitchell) Book Review

2017 Reading Challenge

10. Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
      Topic/Prompt: book you got from a used book sale (in my case, a used book store)

The story is set in Clayton County, Georgia, and Atlanta during the American Civil War and Reconstruction era. It depicts the struggles of young Scarlett O'Hara, the spoiled daughter of a well-to-do plantation owner, who must use every means at her disposal to claw her way out of the poverty she finds herself in after Sherman's March to the Sea. A historical novel, the story is a Bildungsroman or coming-of-age story, with the title taken from a poem written by Ernest Dowson.

My Review:
I saw Gone With the Wind when I was about ten or so and enjoyed it, even though at that age, I probably didn't understand everything going on. I've wanted to read the book for awhile now before watching the movie again. 

This review has been so hard to write because as a popular American classic, everything that could be said about it has been said before. I will say that I'm glad I waited to read this book until my 30s because I can appreciate it more now than if I had read it as a teenager.

Everyone know the famous line from this when Rhett says, "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn." I'm pretty sure that everyone know what Gone With the Wind is about, so I'm not going to give too much depth into the plot.

Gone With the Wind is a rich historical novel about life before, during, and after the Civil War in the South. It delves into the times of racism on both sides of the spectrum, slavery, the Ku Klux Klan, politics, and the depths of the war taking place in Georgia (for the setting of the book). While I don't necessarily agree with racism and slavery, without writing about it would have made the book worthless. But considering this novel was written in the 1930's about the 1860's, it had to be included. It's all part of history and while racism still exists today, we can't forget about the past, as it shapes our world today. The characters are unforgettable and portrayed remarkably well for the time, for both blacks and whites, that this book was written. Margaret Mitchell did a great job with character development in the beginning and it made you feel like you knew them. Mammy is hands down one of the most memorable African American characters of all time.

Gone With the Wind follows the journey of Scarlett O'Hara during the time mentioned above. Yes, I couldn't stand her throughout most of the book. She starts out being a spoiled member of a wealthy family to losing it all when the Civil War starts. Then Scarlett does whatever it takes to keep Tara Plantation up and running, even if it involves deceit, betrayal, unethical business practices, and so much more. However, Scarlett is one of the strongest feminist characters you'll ever read about. There was so much she did despite what everyone else and society said and you have no choice but to respect that quality. I did like her transformation after the climax and the infamous line said to her at the end. She never gave up in her pursuit of survival and what she wanted. When she loses everything at the end (Rhett I'm talking about), Scarlett goes back to Tara Plantation and the caring hands of Mammy to rebuild herself back up in a time when you can't help but feel sorry for her. I love how, even in her grief and loneliness of losing Rhett, that the book ends with Scarlett thinking of a plan to win Rhett back.

Just like with Scarlett, I had a love-hate relationship with Rhett. While he was a caring father and loving husband at times, there were times when his ego and pride and the things he did made me mad at him lol. One of my favorite characters was Melanie because I could relate to her. She took everything in stride and mostly kept to herself, but she maintained a strong and powerful inner persona. I've already mentioned that Mammy is a memorable and strong African American character that kept Scarlett in line, the one person that Scarlett could count on to make everything better.

Happy Reading and Keep on Writing!


Friday, November 10, 2017

Reinventing Mona (Jennifer Coburn) Book Review

2017 Reading Challenge

9. Reinventing Mona by Jennifer Coburn
    Topic/Prompt: book with a character's name in the title

What's new? Me, for starters... It all began when my job offered me a buyout package. That's when the realization hit: I'm young, I'm rich (thanks to a hefty inheritance), and I'm boring. Things are gonna change-starting now... Building a better man trap... First things first: Exercise. Carrot juice. Straight hair. Whiter teeth. Clothes that fit. But wait-there's more. I'm finally ready to take a chance on love with the perfect guy. He's handsome. He's smart. He's reliable. He's my CPA. Problem is, I'm clueless about winning him over. It's time to call in an expert. It's time to call in The Dog. Down, boy. Mike "The Dog" Dougherty is a man's man. A guy's guy. Okay, he's a chauvinist pig, and his sty is "The Dog House," a testosterone-charged column in Maximum for Him magazine. On one hand, I abhor all he stands for. On the other hand, who better to coach me? So here I am. Learning the complex unspoken language of the American male (Talk, bad. Sex, good.); trying exciting new things (Stripping lessons are empowering. Really.); falling for Mike. Uh oh. But the Mike I'm getting to know is different from The Dog. And the Mona I'm becoming isn't quite who I expected, either. This whole makeover scheme is getting crazier by the minute. But "crazy" beats "boring"...right?

My Review:
First and foremost, the writing style used in this story was a bit different than what I am used to. It was also hard to get into the story as well. This is a book with a lot of sarcastic humor.

After Mona accepts a buyout package from her work, she decides that it's the perfect time to reinvent herself. Mona chooses a few areas of her life to focus on. She sets goals to accomplish new changes in those areas, kind of bucket list style. To help get a man to like her, Mona hires a coach, a man who writes a column on what men want from women. Mike is a chauvinistic man who guides her along the way, even though he's one of those characters you love to hate. She steps out of her comfort zone and tries to figure out who she really is. We meet some interesting characters throughout, who also try to contribute to see where and how she can make changes in her life. Mona realizes that the perfect man she thought she wanted was not the type of man she wanted in the end.

The story was just alright. It didn't hold up to its potential. While I was disappointed overall in the story, I did like the premise of the story of reinventing yourself. It's never too late to make changes in your life, figure out you are meant to be. However, I think it's important to make those changes for yourself and not for some guy or anybody else. Stay true to yourself and anything can happen. It's never too late to chase and follow your dreams.

Happy Reading and Keep on Writing!


A Sister's Promise (Karen Lenfestey) Book Review

2017 Reading Challenge

8. A Sister's Promise by Karen Lenfestey
    Topic/Prompt: a book with a family member's name in the title

Kate Hopper can list a million reasons why she doesn’t have kids. No, more like reasons why she shouldn’t have kids: genetics, a dysfunctional family, and ultimately, the fear that she wasn’t cut out to be June Cleaver or Carol Brady or Claire Huxtable. TV moms always made it look so easy, but Kate knows better.
When Kate’s little sister, Joely, refuses a medical treatment because it will leave her infertile, Kate is willing to say anything to save her sister’s life—even promising to have a baby. Kate decides to keep her rash words a secret from her husband until she can figure out whether she really wants to be a mother. Especially since they agreed their marriage would remain childless.
A sister’s promise and a wife’s promise: Kate must break one. Should she risk everything she has for the unknown?

My Review:
Sisters share a special bond with each other that can't be broken. Although Kate and Joely are complete opposites, they will always be there for each other. After their mom died, Kate felt she had to take on the responsibility of taking on that role. It's some years later when Joely gets diagnosed with lupus. She refused to receive treatment unless Kate promises to have a child since the treatments will make her infertile. Joely is the sister who has always wanted to have children, while Kate has never seen herself fulfilling that role for several reasons. Without thinking about it and wanting her sister to get the care she needs, Kate agrees to have a child. Kate has a lot to think about as she has also made a promise with her husband that they wouldn't have children. 

Kate doesn't like to break a promise, but for the first time in her life, she has to with one of two people she loves the most. For Kate, it's a journey of self discovery while she decides if she wants to be a mother and then breaking the news to her husband. She doesn't take the decision lightly and she has to decide all the while dealing with work politics and dealing with the emotions of her sister's diagnosis.

For Joely, she goes through another journey through the emotions of dealing with and coming to terms with a terminal illness. There's no right way of trying to receive a medical diagnosis of any sort, especially if it's something that you'll have to live with for the rest of your life or a terminal illness. 

This is a story about the bond between sisters, confronting fears head on, and a family's reaction to Joely's lupus diagnosis, which includes their father. And just like any sisters, Kate and Joely didn't always agree with each other and the choices they made. No matter what, though, they were always brought back together. It really defined that family is everything and sometimes family is all you have. It brings about a reminder to treasure the time with your family because you never know how long you have with them. 

Happy Reading and Keep on Writing!


Saturday, October 28, 2017

Only Time Will Tell (Jeffrey Archer) Book Review

2017 Reading Challenge

7. Only Time Will Tell by Jeffrey Archer
    Topic/Prompt: book that takes place over a character's life span

The epic tale of Harry Clifton’s life begins in 1920, with the words “I was told that my father was killed in the war.” A dock worker in Bristol, Harry never knew his father, but he learns about life on the docks from his uncle, who expects Harry to join him at the shipyard once he’s left school. But then an unexpected gift wins him a scholarship to an exclusive boys’ school, and his life will never be the same again.
As he enters into adulthood, Harry finally learns how his father really died, but the awful truth only leads him to question, was he even his father? Is he the son of Arthur Clifton, a stevedore who spent his whole life on the docks, or the firstborn son of a scion of West Country society, whose family owns a shipping line?
This introductory novel in Archer’s ambitious series The Clifton Chronicles includes a cast of colorful characters and takes us from the ravages of the Great War to the outbreak of the Second World War, when Harry must decide whether to take up a place at Oxford or join the navy and go to war with Hitler’s Germany.

My Review:
This novel dragged quite a bit in the beginning and to be honest, I wasn't sure what to expect after reading the first couple of chapters. But I am glad I stuck with it. Harry's life is chronicled as he tries to figure out who his father was/is. He only knows what he's been told: that his father was killed in the war. As Harry grows up, he starts to question that story. 

Harry grew up poor and raised by his mom and uncle. His uncle teaches him the family workforce, the trade of the docks. It's expected of him to enter the shipyard when he's done with school. Everything changes when he gets accepted to a private school for boys on scholarship. His mother does everything possible to send him there, unbeknownst to him. As he grows older into adulthood, he finally starts to put the pieces together and gets to know the truth about his father (and his real father as well). Harry also realizes how much his mom sacrificed to be able to give him an education and a better life. She deals with her own tragedies and obstacles on her path to provide him with that, but doesn't let Harry know.

Once he graduates high school, Harry has to choose between going to Oxford or go to war with the navy. His past doesn't make it any easier to decide. When it turns out that his father might be his best friend's and lover's father as well, it complicates things even further. With his decision, he puts everything on the line. He ends up choosing the navy. When the ship gets sunk by the Germans, there are only a handful of survivors. To escape his past of buried family secrets, he assumes the identity of another crew member, not knowing what it might entail. The story has an ending you don't see coming and it leaves a major cliffhanger.

Throughout the story, Harry is guided by some great people to help guide him in life. There is a vast set of characters. Even though the story is told mostly from Harry's viewpoint, there are several chapters devoted to some of the other characters, which I thought was a good thing to help understand everyone involved in Harry's life, whether protagonists or antagonists.

This is the first book in the Clifton Chronicles series by Jeffrey Archer. Harry's life is chronicled in the six other consecutive books. That is why I chose this for the prompt listed above.

Happy Reading and Keep on Writing!


Wednesday, October 25, 2017

It's NaNoWriMoTime!

It's official! I will be participating in NaNoWriMo for the first time this year! In case anyone doesn't know, it stands for National Novel Writing Month. During the month of November, you are challenged to write a novel of at least 50,000 words. That comes to writing 1,667 words each day in the month.

I am not writing a novel, however. I am taking the month to write My Journey with Long QT book, so it will be a nonfiction novel. While I have written some parts of it already, I will be finally finishing the first draft.

I am excited to be partaking in NaNoWriMo. I will be posting weekly updates at Writing with Meg.


Sunday, October 22, 2017

Finding Peace (Melanie D Snitker) Book Review

2017 Reading Challenge

6. Finding Peace by Melanie D. Snitker

Police Officer Tuck Chandler is good at his job. He’s also good at holding women at arm’s length. Jilted by his fiancée for his dedication to his job, he’s not about to open himself up to hurt like that again.
Laurie Blake is a struggling photographer. After growing up in a wealthy family, she’s determined to make it on her own, even if it means doing it the hard way.
When Tuck is assigned to a puzzling burglary involving Laurie’s fledgling photography business, he goes into it with his usual perseverance. He wants to help her – if she’ll let him. As the case unfolds and the mystery deepens, another question arises.
Will the past get in the way of their future?

My Review:
First off, this is the second book that I read by Melanie D. Snitker. Both are from the same series: this is the first book in the series and the other one was the second one. There are five books in Melanie's Love's Compass series. It was another great read by the author. The characters have a sense of realness to them. To me, the story reminded me of something I have always believed in: that that are some people who you are meant to meet in your life.

Laurie is independent and never wanting to take the easy way in life. She has a wonderful knack of capturing the perfect moment(s). As a side story in this novel, Laurie gets the opportunity to work with an autistic child and takes it in stride.

Tuck is a police officer and you also get the sense that it's what he's supposed to be, what his calling in life is. He genuinely cares about helping others. It reminds you that there are good cops out there.

The main issue in this novel is finding out who burglarized Laurie's photography business and what they were after. Tuck goes beyond the call of duty when he wants to do more to help Laurie figure out the mystery. It takes Laurie some time to realize that she can't do an investigation by herself and eventually lets him help her work it out together. The only difference is that Laurie doesn't know how much she is putting her life in danger and Tuck knows too well the dangers of trying to solve a crime.

As they get to work together, a bond starts to develop, but both are unsure if they want to have a relationship. Tuck is more hesitant because he ex-fiancée decided she couldn't bear to be the wife of a cop. Laurie gets to know the dangers he faces as a cop and has to come to a decision if she could handle that as well. Both are a little scared to let each other in and have to come to figure out if they can put down their guard.

It's a feel good type of romance story. And like most people, they struggle with their past and fears. It makes you want to keep turning the pages to see what happens next. It was another great read by Melanie with strong plot lines and relatable characters.

I mentioned in the first paragraph that this is part of a series. They can be read stand alone or in order.

Happy Reading and Keep on Writing!


Saturday, October 21, 2017

Come to Me Alive (Leah Atwood) Book Review

2017 Reading Challenge

5. Come to Me Alive by Leah Atwood

Bryce Landry, country music’s hottest star, has it all, or so everyone on the outside thinks. They can’t see his struggle to discover himself, to find his place in unfamiliar territories, both as a dad and as a Christian. He takes a month off and escapes to the small town of Oden Bridge, Louisiana, where his daughter lives with his grandparents.
Sophie Thatcher has never been a risk taker, but she has no complaints and never thought her life lacked until her boyfriend of three years breaks off their relationship. Only then, does she begin to question what she’s missed by always playing it safe. Meeting Bryce is a call to action. She can let fear rule or trust in faith, which means taking the biggest risk of her life.
As the weeks and months pass, they discover finding each other was easy, but holding on will be a different story.

My Review:
A singer struggling to find his place in the world takes time off to discover who he is and to spend time with his daughter, who he didn't know existed until her mom died about a year before. A teacher who's re-examining her life and doesn't want to fall in love again after experiencing a breakup she didn't see coming. Could a chance encounter at the park change everything?

If you're looking for a quality chick lit and Christian romance book, then this is the book for you. Both Bryce and Sophie are questioning and re-examining their lives after certain situation. Bryce is trying to change his bad reputation after finding out that he has a daughter. Sophie is left wondering if she's always played it safe all her life. They put everything on the line as their relationship starts to build. Since Bryce is a celebrity, the couple faces some challenges. Does Sophie have what it takes to handle being in the public eye? Can Bryce balance his time between his celebrity persona and his personal life/relationship? Bryce realizes that his band mates will always be there for him if he lets them in. Both had supportive friends and/or family members to help them discover that anything is possible if they just believe, if they love each other. It's a love at first sight type of story, but they have to challenge a long distance relationship when he tours. Insecurities are put to the test in this quaint contemporary novel.

Q: Could you date a celebrity?

My answer would be yes. It would take some work, but any relationship takes work. It would just be a little harder because it would be more in the public eye.

Happy Reading and Keep on Writing!


Friday, October 20, 2017

National Day on Writing #WhyIWrite

Writing is my passion. Writing is my talent. I can express myself better in writing than talking or saying something. I write because it's a joy; it gives me this sense of happiness that I can't find anywhere else. 

Happy Reading and Keep on Writing!


Thursday, October 19, 2017

Forever Mine (Elizabeth Reyes) Book Review

2017 Reading Challenge

4. Forever Mine by Elizabeth Reyes

Seventeen-year old Sarah’s life is turned upside down when her single mom is sent to jail. She’s forced to move, leaving behind everything she’s ever known, including her best friend Sydney. Lost and bitter in a new school, her one goal is to save money and move back home. Then she meets Angel Moreno. Enigmatic but gorgeous, Angel is almost too good to be true. Except for one thing, his archaic belief that guys and girls can never be “just friends”. The problem? Sarah’s best friend Sydney is not a girl. With their unexpected romance intensifying to places neither ever experienced, how long can Sarah keep Angel in the dark about the guy waiting for her back home?

My Review:
First, this book is best suited for young adults. Unfortunately, I wouldn't highly recommend it as it was a disappointment overall. There were some good points, but I feel it didn't live up to its potential.

When Sarah has no choice to move to another state and school, she isn't thrilled to say the least. Instead of trying to fit in and get to know anyone, Sarah spends all her time finding ways to get back home as soon as possible. She figures that she'll only be there for a couple months at the most - she's used to her mom getting out in jail and getting out within a good time frame due to minor infractions, but this time, it may be different.

Everything starts to change when she meets Angel through his sister. Angel's the complete opposite of Sarah, but a relationship starts to form nonetheless. It takes them places they never thought possible. Angel is one of the first people to care about Sarah in a long time. The main issue with Angel is that he was controlling in their relationship and Sarah tolerated it, for some reason. I'm sorry, but no boyfriend or girlfriend should be telling the other who to hang out with, what to wear, etc. Sarah wasn't perfect either, as she didn't want to tell him that her best friend back home was a guy, rather than a girl. Angel was adamant in that girls couldn't just be friends with guys. That was what most of the story was about - Sarah going back and forth between telling Angel about Sydney and then losing the courage to do so, but one conflict wasn't enough to keep the story interesting and flowing. And if she would have been honest about Sydney in the first place, the whole situation could have been different.

While Angel didn't like Sarah talking to other guys, he did have the right intention for one man. In this story, Sarah begins training with the track team. Unbeknownst to her, the coach has been known for sexually harassing/assaulting the members. He sets them up to go running for better training/practice on a mountain trail and makes his move sometime during the run since it's a private area. Sarah did catch on at that point, but managed to fight him off and succeeded in getting away. This was the only time throughout the book that I praised Sarah for her actions. Once Angel became aware of where she was, he tried his best to get there in time to rescue her. He arrived just as Sarah was running away and she was able to run into his safe arms. And the coach's past and actions finally caught up to him.

Just like mental health, there's a stigma associated with sexual abuse/harassment/assault and rape. It's not something that's talked about seriously enough. And if a woman does say she was, no one really listens. Society, at times, makes it seem that it's always the woman's fault for any reason like she consented, she dressed a certain way so she had it coming, etc. Let's not forget at the same time, that it also happens to men, maybe not as much, but still. We should not have to feel ashamed and feel guilty just because it's not taken seriously. As a female, I understand that if you were a victim, it's not easy to talk about. It will take time to come to terms with the actions. If anyone has been a victim and needs to let it out, be heard, etc, here are some links to check out:

Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network - you can find help centers around the country and there's a hotline number to call
Women Organized Against Rape - my local rape crisis center

Happy Reading and Keep on Writing!


Monday, September 11, 2017

16 Years Later #NeverForget

At 14 and a freshman in high school, I learned that evil was real, that it existed in the world. What I never understood then and in the 16 years since is how people can have so much hate for one country that they're willing to lose their lives along with thousands of innocent lives lost that day.

I will always remember 9/11 as if it happened yesterday, but there's one memory that stands out above them all. As horrible as the terrorist attacks were, it brought the nation, my country, together. United we stood back then and I hope one day, united we will stand again.

Today I remember all those lives lost in New York, D.C., and PA in my thoughts and prayers. Let us never forget.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Talking As Fast As I Can (Lauren Graham) Book Review

2017 Reading Challenge

2. Talking As Fast As I Can by Lauren Graham

In this collection of personal essays, the beloved star of Gilmore Girls and Parenthood reveals stories about life, love, and working as a woman in Hollywood—along with behind-the-scenes dispatches from the set of the new Gilmore Girls, where she plays the fast-talking Lorelai Gilmore once again.
In Talking as Fast as I Can, Lauren Graham hits pause for a moment and looks back on her life, sharing laugh-out-loud stories about growing up, starting out as an actress, and, years later, sitting in her trailer on the Parenthood set and asking herself, “Did you, um, make it?” She opens up about the challenges of being single in Hollywood (“Strangers were worried about me; that’s how long I was single!”), the time she was asked to audition her butt for a role, and her experience being a judge on Project Runway (“It’s like I had a fashion-induced blackout”).
In “What It Was Like, Part One,” Graham sits down for an epic Gilmore Girls marathon and reflects on being cast as the fast-talking Lorelai Gilmore. The essay “What It Was Like, Part Two” reveals how it felt to pick up the role again nine years later, and what doing so has meant to her.

My Review:
Gilmore Girls is one of my favorite TV shows of all time. I also think that Lorelai and Rory are relatable to almost every mother - daughter relationship. I have been fortunate to have a close relationship with my mom and like Rory, I have always loved to read. As far as Parenthood, I've only seen a couple episodes here and there.

Lauren Graham has been a class act. She has avoided controversies and the like in the media, one of the rare celebrities to do so. She has acted more as a role model in that respect. It was nice to read about how Lauren got started in acting. She proves that you can't gain success overnight and every role, no matter how small, counts. As in any job, you have to start at the bottom and work yourself up the ladder to success. 

Since I'm a Gilmore Girls fan, I appreciated how Lauren reflected back on the successful seven year run. And even though I haven't seen the new episodes (since I don't have Netflix), I liked her journal entries, as I'm referring to it as, on what happened behind the scenes while filming those four episodes and her thoughts on reprising her role. Since everyone was talking about the four final words, I am aware of what they are and honestly, I saw it coming. It makes sense to me. 

Her look back on Parenthood was good, too. I love the fact that she created an alter ego as a way to give advice on life and such to the kid/teen actors on the show. It was creative. I kind of feel like she was closer to the Parenthood cast in a different way than the Gilmore Girls cast.

While I enjoyed Lauren's thoughts and advice (as well as her sarcasm and wit at times) throughout the book, I really enjoyed the chapters 'Someday, Someday, Maybe You'll Believe My Novel Wasn't Completely Autobiographical' and 'Kitchen Timer'. She talked about the process of writing her novel and this book as well. She admitted her struggles with procrastination and dealing with deadlines. Writing can be hard at times and that's okay. So she incorporated the strategy that Don Roos uses: the kitchen timer. The kitchen timer method is setting a time limit (an hour for example), having no distractions, and do nothing but write during that time. And then stopping no matter where you are after the said time is up and giving yourself credit when completed. It's all about keeping an appointment, so technically it's not necessary to write the entire time, but you still have to keep the scheduled appointment. Keep in mind, it doesn't matter if you write on an existing project or journal write for that time. 

I have one critique for the kitchen timer method. While I get that it's important to not have any distractions like not going on the internet or phone or doing anything else for that matter, there's one that I don't agree with. It's recommended that you don't have any music on, unless it doesn't have words or in another language than your own. Here's my problem with that: music actually helps me stay concentrated on what I'm doing and helps me think. Growing up, I would put music on if I was having trouble with my homework, like math, and it helped me to focus and get it done. 

Since I just said music helps me out when I get stuck, my question is:

What do you do when you get stuck or have a mental block?

Happy Reading and Keep On Writing!


Tuesday, April 25, 2017

The Tales of Uncle Remus: The Adventures of Brer Rabbit (Julius Lester) Book Review

2017 Reading Challenge

3. The Tales of Uncle Remus: The Adventures of Brer Rabbit by Julius Lester
    Topic: book you loved as a child

Whether he is besting Brer Fox or sneaking into Mr. Man's garden, Brer Rabbit is always teaching a valuable lesson. These classic tales are full of wit, humor, and creativity, and Julius Lester brings an added contemporary sense to these forty-eight timeless stories.

My Review:
I have loved to read as long as I remember, well since I learned how to read. I had many books that I loved as a child, but I went with this one for the reading challenge. I originally received this book when I was seven from my aunt and uncle. It was a favorite then and now.

It was nice to revisit Brer Rabbit and the rest of the delightful cast of characters. The forty-eight stories are black folklore tales passed on from generation to generation. They're great short stories for any race, however. I, once again, enjoyed the array of hilarious adventures of Brer Rabbit and his friends. Like most folklore tales and fairy tales, each story comes with a valuable moral or lesson. What I also liked is that it includes both color and black and white pictures throughout the book to bring the stories to life. What kid, or adult for that matter, doesn't like that?

What book was a favorite of your when you were a child?

Happy Reading and Keep on Writing!


Monday, April 24, 2017

Missing Melissa (Alretha Thomas) Book Review

2017 Reading Challenge

1. Missing Melissa by Alretha Thomas

Twenty-two years old with a journalism degree from UCLA and a promising entry level position at a television station, Madeline Patterson is ready to take on the Universe. Raised by two loving parents, adored by her grandmother, protected by her dog, Pepper, and supported by her best friend—Madeline has it all. There’s only one thing missing—literally missing—her identical twin, Melissa.
When Madeline and Melissa were three-years-old, their mother was carjacked in broad daylight while taking them to a doctor’s appointment. She was able to get away with Madeline in tow, but the assailants left the scene before she could rescue Melissa. A long and massive search ensued, but Melissa was never found and is believed to be dead. However, a dream Madeline has on her twenty-second birthday, wherein Melissa appears to her as a grown woman pleading for help, convinces her Melissa is still alive. Against her parents’ wishes, Madeline vows to find her twin. However, in doing so, she unknowingly stumbles upon a series of startling clues that point to her parents’ possible involvement in Melissa’s disappearance. Paralyzed by fear, Madeline doesn’t want to face what could possibly be the ugly and grim truth about her parents. However, her desire to find Melissa propels her forward—but nothing could prepare her for what she discovers.

My Review:
A great mystery filled with surprising twists and turns. Fresh out of college, Maddie is entering the workforce as a promising journalist. It's what she's always wanted, except there's a piece of her life that's missing: her twin sister, Melissa. When they were just three, Melissa went missing and has been presumed dead. Nineteen years later, Maddie starts having dreams of her sister. Everyone else thinks it's strange, but Maddie can't help but wonder if Melissa's been alive all this time. It prompts Maddie to have the police re-open the investigation against the wishes of her family. What she doesn't expect to find are family secrets that may open up new wounds. Is Melissa alive or dead? With many twists and turns along the way, this story will keep you guessing until the very end.

Happy Reading and Keep on Writing!


Friday, April 14, 2017

April Updates

First, I chose not to do the April A to Z Challenge this year. I had so much going on in March and the beginning of April. I knew I wouldn't have been able to put a lot of effort into the posts as much as I would have liked to. And since there's no linky list, it would have been harder for me to keep track during the first few days of the challenge.

The reason why I was so busy was I decided to do the show this year. I've been involved with community theatre for ten years now. Last year, I chose to do stage crew instead of acting. This year, we did Beauty and the Beast. It's a childhood and lifelong favorite of mine (and no, I haven't seen the live action movie yet) and I wanted to be a part of it. March was filled with rehearsals as the show was at the end of March and the beginning of April. We just closed this past Sunday, as we do two weekends. I had a lot of fun, but there were definitely some struggles and rough times during the course of these past three months. Our tech week, or as we actors call it hell week, was during the week of March 27. It was a really intense week with a lot of frustration and tears due to last minute changes to certain dances, multiple times. One dance was literally changed right after dress rehearsal (which is the night before opening night) and I was one of those in it. In the end, it was all worth it and the show was spectacular. Out of our six shows, four sold out. On Sunday, there were tears in our eyes when we sang Beauty and the Beast in the finale - sad that it was over with an amazing cast who gave it our all every night.

I will be writing about my theatre life in a post on my other blog right after I finish my long at series. I do have two posts already up, which will be linked down below. My third post will be out soon.

This year, I have read eight books so far and the book reviews for them will be up soon as well.

Meg's Long QT Journey Series:


Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Meg's 2016-2017 Book Awards

It's finally here: 

Meg's 2016-2017 Book Awards

Best Overall Book:
1. A Girl's Guide to Moving On - Debbie Macomber
2. The Inn at Rose Harbor - Debbie Macomber
3. Taking the Lead - Derek Hough
4. To Protect and Serve - Staci Stallings
5. Twelve Days of Christmas - Debbie Macomber

Honorable Mentions:
1. Tara Road - Maeve Binchy
2. The Glass Castle - Jeannette Walls
3. 41: A Portrait of My Father - George W. Bush
4. Angela's Ashes - Frank McCourt
5. Mystic Summer - Hannah McKinnon

Worst Book Overall:
1. Kellie's Diary #1 - Thomas Jenner and Angeline Perkins
2. Murder in the South of France - Susan Kiernan-Lewis
3. Sinful Cinderella - Anita Valle
4. The Iron Heel - Jack London
5. Confessions of a Transformed Heart - Nancy D. Sheppard
6. The 7 Habits That Will Change Your Life Forever - Adam Gouge
7. Homicide By Hamlet - Lois Lavrisa

Best in Classics:
1. A Separate Peace - John Knowles
2. The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin - Benjamin Franklin
3. The Sun Also Rises - Ernest Hemingway

Best Celebrity Book:
1. Taking the Lead - Derek Hough
2. My Point...And I Do Have One - Ellen DeGeneres
3. Live Original - Sadie Robertson

Best Book by an Author I've Read Before:
1. The Inn at Rose Harbor - Debbie Macomber
2. Rose Harbor in Bloom - Debbie Macomber
3. Love Letters - Debbie Macomber
4. Silver Linings - Debbie Macomber
5. Last One Home - Debbie Macomber
6. A Girl's Guide to Moving On - Debbie Macomber
7. Twelve Days of Christmas - Debbie Macomber

Best Book by a New Author I've Read:
1. To Protect and Serve - Staci Stallings
2. Tara Road - Maeve Binchy
3. Behind Her Smile - Rosemary Hines
4. The Tour - Jean Grainger

Book That Surprised Me:
1. Angela's Ashes - Frank McCourt
2. The Glass Castle - Jeannette Walls
3. 41: A Portrait of My Father - George W. Bush

Happy Reading and Keep on Writing!


Tuesday, February 21, 2017

The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin Book Review

2016 Reading Challenge

54. The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin by Benjamin Franklin
      Topic/Theme: an autobiography

Few men could compare to Benjamin Franklin. Virtually self-taught, he excelled as an athlete, a man of letters, a printer, a scientist, a wit, an inventor, an editor, and a writer, and he was probably the most successful diplomat in American history. David Hume hailed him as the first great philosopher and great man of letters in the New World.
Written initially to guide his son, Franklin's autobiography is a lively, spellbinding account of his unique and eventful life. Stylistically his best work, it has become a classic in world literature, one to inspire and delight readers everywhere.

My Review:
Benjamin Franklin is known for being one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. As a polymath, he was an author, printer, political theorist, politician, freemason, postmaster, scientist, inventor, civic activist, statesman, and diplomat. He is credited for laying or aiding in the foundation for several things including the first fire department in Philadelphia, the University of Pennsylvania (then known as The Academy and College of Philadelphia), the first public library (Library Company of Philadelphia), and Pennsylvania Hospital, the first hospital in the United States.

Ben Franklin started writing his autobiography for his son William. He wrote about parts of his life and he referred to it as memoirs instead of an autobiography. He talks about growing up in Boston, before running away to Philadelphia when he was 17 - to start over in a new city. Growing up in Philly, it was interesting to get to know more about Philly back then. Trying to establish himself in Philly, he became involved in several different avenues, including the newspaper and printing business and the postal service. He talks about the different positions he had in politics, including the time spent in the UK and France. Ben also was involved in making some changes to the Declaration of Independence.

There is no question that this book is unfinished. The American Revolution isn't mentioned because he felt that he couldn't talk about it for whatever reason. It's possible that he just ran out of time to write about it or didn't have the time to write about it. Benjamin Franklin wrote much of his autobiography from memory, especially about his childhood and the early days in Philadelphia. 

One of my favorite qualities about Ben Franklin is that he's always thought he could do better than what he was doing and that includes writing these pages. In doing so, he kept making changes to it from when he started writing it in 1771 until his death in 1790.

To keep this from going further, I have done a follow-up post about his thirteen virtues he lived by, which will be posted later today.

I want to point out that the picture I posted above of the book is my own copy that my grandmother had in the house.

Fun Fact: Ben Franklin never intended for this to be published.

Happy Reading and Keep on Writing!


Ben Franklin's 13 Virtues Lived By

Benjamin Franklin lived his life according to thirteen virtues. It was like his own religion and what he believed in. For that reason, I thought it could be a good follow-up post.

Note: His virtues can be found in his autobiography, hence the quotes.

The Thirteen Virtues are the following:

1. "Temperance. Eat not to dullness; drink not to elevation."

2. "Silence. Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation."

3. "Order. Let all your things have their places; let each part of your business have its time."

4. "Resolution. Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve."

5. "Frugality. Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself; i.e., waste nothing."

6."Industry. Lose no time; be always employ'd in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions."

7. "Sincerity. Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly, and, if you speak, speak accordingly."

8. "Justice. Wrong none by doing injuries, or omitting the benefits that are your duty."

9. "Moderation. Avoid extremes; forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve."

10. "Cleanliness. Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, clothes, or habitation."

11. "Tranquility. Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable."

12. "Chastity. Rarely use venery but for health or offspring, never to dullness, weakness, or the injury of your own or another's peace or reputation."

13. "Humility. Imitate Jesus and Socrates."

What do you think of Ben Franklin's 13 Virtues?

Happy Reading and Keep on Writing!


Saturday, February 11, 2017

Kellie's Diary #1 (Thomas Jenner and Angeline Perkins) Book Review

2016 Reading Challenge

52. Kellie's Diary #1 by Thomas Jenner and Angeline Perkins
      Topic/Theme: graphic novel

A series of diary entries through the eyes of a little girl as she tries to survive the end of the world.
What if the early 1990's didn't happen as we remember it? What kind of world would we live in today?
This story is told from the viewpoint of 9-year-old Kellie, a typical third-grade girl living her life as anyone else would, and she shares her daily activities with her diary. When the world crumbles and the dead walk, Kellie struggles to survive and find her way home, all the while sharing her tale with her diary.
This is an account of our hypothetical past, present and future.

My Review:
This was more of a novella, but this was what came up when I was looking for graphic novels. In a series of diary entries, nine-year-old Kellie gives her perspective of trying to survive a zombie apocalypse. Keep in mind, the writing style reflects that of a kid. She may not know that what she's seeing is zombies, but she is descriptive of her activities and what she sees. In this story, you have the option of reading it normally or as it's written in her diary (her own handwriting and diary pages).

This is book one in a series of Kellie's tales of living in a zombie apocalyptic world. I personally don't believe in a zombie apocalypse.

Happy Reading and Keep on Writing!


Friday, February 10, 2017

Leaves of Grass (Walt Whitman) Book Review

2016 Reading Challenge

51. Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman 
      Topic/Theme: book of poetry

Leaves of Grass collects dozens of poems that Whitman continuously revised over the last years of his life. As a whole, they explores themes of love, nature, spiritualism, and the soul, declaring that the body is one and the same as the soul.

My Review:
First off, I'm not someone who reads poetry that much. Throughout Leaves of Grass, Walt Whitman wrote his poetry in free verse and used a lot of metaphors. He pretty much wrote about anything and everything, from his love of nature to his views on faith (well, what he believed in) and so much more. The book is categorized into each of his themes. Poetry, to me, is like life: there are parts you like and parts you don't. Or in the case of this book, there were some poems that I enjoyed and some that I did not.

I was only really familiar with the poem, O, Captain, My Captain, before reading this. If you don't know, it was written about the death of President Abraham Lincoln. In this poem, the captain refers to Lincoln's assassination. The ship represents the war-weathered nation after the Civil War. And the "prize won" was meant to capture America's confusion after the Civil War ended.

Another popular and famous poem is Song of Myself. It's a lengthy poem. Parts of it is featured in John Green's Paper Towns

Here is the Walt Whitman Bridge in Philadelphia, PA:

Happy Reading and Keep on Writing!


Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Twelve Days of Christmas (Debbie Macomber) Book Review

2016 Reading Challenge

50. Twelve Days of Christmas by Debbie Macomber
      Topic/Theme: first book you see in a bookstore

Friendly and bubbly, Julia Padden likes nearly everyone, but her standoffish neighbor, Cain Maddox, presents a particular challenge. No matter how hard she’s tried to be nice, Cain rudely rebuffs her at every turn, preferring to keep to himself. But when Julia catches Cain stealing her newspaper from the lobby of their apartment building, that’s the last straw. She’s going to break through Cain’s Scrooge-like exterior the only way she knows how: by killing him with kindness.
To track her progress, Julia starts a blog called The Twelve Days of Christmas. Her first attempts to humanize Cain are far from successful. Julia brings him homemade Christmas treats and the disagreeable grinch won’t even accept them. Meanwhile, Julie’s blog becomes an online sensation, as an astonishing number of people start following her adventures. Julia continues to find ways to express kindness and, little by little, chips away at Cain’s gruff façade to reveal the caring man underneath. Unbelievably, Julia feels herself falling for Cain—and she suspects that he may be falling for her as well. But as the popularity of her blog continues to grow, Julia must decide if telling Cain the truth about having chronicled their relationship to the rest of the world is worth risking their chance at love.  

My Review:
This was one of my favorite Christmas stories I have read. When Julia starts getting aggravated with a neighbor, she tries to come up with a way to handle the situation. With the help of a friend, they come up with the idea of killing him with kindness. At the same time, a company that Julia's applying for couldn't decide on whether to hire her or another person. The company decides that the position will go to whoever can get the most views and comments on his or her blog. Julia decides to call her blog, the Twelve Days of Christmas, as a way of recording how her twelve days of kindness campaign with Cain goes. Of course, it goes without saying that the twelve days are the twelve days leading up to and including Christmas. The kindness campaign doesn't get off to a great start, but she's determined to not give up. The blog, on the other hand, is a hit. Slowly and surely, Julia begins to crack his shell. She soon realizes that there's more to him than meets the eye. As much as they hate to admit it, they start to feel attracted to each other and they start having dates. As the blog continues to grow each day, Julia struggles to come clean about how she's been chronicling not only her kind acts, but their relationship as well. Once the media gets involved, Cain finds out by accident and everything that they have worked for comes crashing down, as Cain thinks she was only putting on an act. In Cain's defense, he has struggled with the hurt and pain of a past relationship in which he was taken advantage of, among other things, and has a hard time trusting others. He also has struggled to come to terms with his mom's death and I can't blame him. I can't imagine how much it hurts to lose a parent or a child. It's a grief that goes on and on. While they start fixing things, Cain's grandfather becomes the hero in salvaging their relationship. 

The Twelve Days of Christmas was another heartwarminging tale from Debbie Macomber. She has this way of keeping a truth of reality to her characters. It can be hard to capture the essence of real life situations and what people really go through. Debbie never fails to deliver. The overall theme was that people aren't always what they seem. We don't know what a person is going through and have no place to judge based on how they act or seem like on the outside. 

Happy Reading and Keep on Writing!


Mystic Summer (Hannah McKinnon) Book Review

2016 Reading Challenge

49. Mystic Summer by Hannah McKinnon
      Theme/Topic: book that takes place during summer

A chance run-in with a college boyfriend puts a young woman’s picture-perfect life in perspective in this warm-hearted and lyrical novel.
Since finishing graduate school, Maggie Griffin has worked hard to build an enviable life in Boston. She’s an elementary school teacher in a tony Boston suburb, a devoted sister, and a loving aunt. With her childhood best friend’s wedding quickly approaching and her own relationship blossoming, this is the summer she has been waiting for. But when Maggie’s career is suddenly in jeopardy, her life begins to unravel. Stricken, Maggie returns home to seaside Mystic, Connecticut, where she expects to find comfort in family and familiarity. Instead, she runs into Cameron Wilder, a young man from her past who has also returned home, and whose life has taken a turn that puts Maggie’s city struggles in harsh perspective. When tragedy strikes for Cameron, Maggie is faced with big decisions as she weighs what matters most and strives to stay true to the person she’s become.
Set against the gorgeous backdrop of a New England summer when past and present collide, Mystic Summer is a gorgeous novel about looking back, moving forward, and the beauty that blooms when fate intervenes.

My Review:
Since this is about summer, don't we wish it was summer again? Okay, let's back to the review now. A light and easy read and you could even read this at the beach. At the beginning, Maggie has everything going for her. But in the drop of a hat, all that changes when she gets laid off from work. That one piece of news makes Maggie rethink everything else in her life and her thoughts of having a great summer goes out the window. It doesn't help that she's the only one who hasn't gotten married yet out of her close friends and she feels left behind in a way. While Maggie tries to take the time to deal with her situation, she runs into a former boyfriend, who just happens to be back in their old hometown as well. Cameron has his own issues to deal with and has no choice but to put his daughter first in his life. Just when they think they're back on good terms, Cameron's daughter's health problems get in the way, causing Maggie to question whether she's getting back together with him for all the wrong reasons, as her way of coping with losing her job. Maggie believes that they can recreate what once was, despite that they have grown and have had to face their own hardships. Sometimes fate can intervene, but only if you're willing to work at it, just like in every other relationship. A great read and it's good to see how much a person can change and grow in a short amount of time.

Throughout this story, Maggie struggles to come to terms with losing her job. She tried to find different ways of avoiding the situation and not trying to fix things. Going through hardships is a part of life. And it's okay to feel depressed and upset, as long as you don't let it control you. Did it take Maggie a little while to feel confident that she would find another job? Absolutely. I also wanted to say that it's okay to take a step back and reexamine your life every now and again. We learn, grow, and change everyday, every year and it's good to let go of what's not working anymore. 

After reading Mystic Summer, I now want to visit Mystic, Connecticut. I enjoyed how descriptive it was described.

Happy Reading and Keep on Writing!


Tuesday, February 7, 2017

The 7 Habits That Will Change Your Life Forever (Adam Houge) Book Review

2016 Reading Challenge

48. The 7 Habits That Will Change Your Life Forever by Adam Houge
      Theme/Topic: self-improvement book

Becoming a highly spiritual Christian needs to be the goal of every believer. Love in itself is an action and should be practiced habitually by everyone. We through love should be fervently seeking the Lord, and cherishing one another. We must be constantly portraying the heart of God toward one another on a habitual basis.
In this book we will distill the best habits down to the seven most productive ones. If practiced properly, they will carry over into every other category of life and drive you to become a highly spiritual Christian.

My Review:
As you can see from above, I chose this book as a self-improvement book. It seemed to have a great concept, but honestly, I was let down. The whole idea about this book is the best seven ways to become a better Christian. I have nothing against that as I was born and raised Catholic and Catholicism is a form of Christianity. While the seven habits are practical, the author made it sound like a lecture. It felt that most of the information was being forced on to me, making the book drag on in the process. In doing so, it lessened the effectiveness of what he was trying to say, the points he wanted to make. It didn't help that there was a lot of repetition of certain things throughout the whole book. Not to mention that some points he was trying to make contradicted each other. 

The Seven Habits are:
1. Love
2. Self-awareness
3. Pursuit of wisdom
4. Pursuit of truth
5. Avid listener
6. Tasteful tongue
7. Committed to a life of good

Once again, all seven habits are good concepts. It was just the way they were explained and broken down that was the problem.

Happy Reading and Keep on Writing!


The Thorn (Beverly Lewis) Book Review

2016 Reading Challenge

47. The Thorn by Beverly Lewis
      Theme/Topic: book set in your home state
Lancaster County, with its rolling meadows and secret byways, may seem idyllic, but it is not without its thorns. THE ROSE TRILOGY is the stirring saga of two Amish sisters on the fringes of the church, and the unforeseen discoveries that change their lives.
Rose Kauffman, a spirited young woman, has a close friendship with the bishop's foster son. Nick dresses Plain and works hard but stirs up plenty of trouble too. Rose's sister cautions her against becoming too involved, but Rose is being courted by a good, Amish fellow, so dismisses the warnings. Meanwhile, Rose keeps house for an English widower but is startled when he forbids her to ever go upstairs. What is the man hiding?
Rose's older sister, Hen, knows more than she should about falling for the wrong man. Unable to abandon her Amish ways, Hen is soon separated from her very modern husband. Mattie, their young daughter, must visit her father regularly, but Hen demands she wear Amish attire--and speak Pennsylvania Dutch, despite her husband's wishes. Will Hen be able to reestablish her place among the People she abandoned? And will she be able to convince Rose to steer clear of rogue neighbor Nick?

My Review:
Every rose has its thorn. I think everyone's familiar with this old adage that means that despite how perfect something may seem, it still has its flaws. The Thorn is based on exactly that. 

In case anyone doesn't know, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania is known for its Amish population. The Amish, like everybody else, have their secrets and flaws and people make mistakes. And then there are those who struggle with that lifestyle and faith. In this story, Hen was one of those. She felt too secluded and grew tired of the ways of the Amish. Doing so, she fell for the wrong man and married an Englishman. After marriage and having a daughter, Hen feels drawn back to the lifestyle that she wanted to get away from. 

On the other side of this, Rose has always stayed true to the Amish lifestyle. This was especially true after Hen abandoned her family. Rose didn't want to see her parents disappointed again. Although Rose is courted by an Amish male, she can't help but feel a growing attraction to the town's rebel. Nick is the bishop's foster son, who feels like he has been forced into the Amish instead of being born into it. And feels like he doesn't belong and has no problem showing it. As much as Rose tries to avoid Nick to prevent herself from going down the wrong road, he keeps showing up in times of need. 

Troubles arise for both sisters and they both try to figure out where they belong in society: either within the Amish or away from it. They both want to please their parents, but also be happy with their own needs and wants, their own lives.

In Amish, "Pennsylvania Dutch", the time of figuring out who they want to be is called rumspringa. By definition, rumspringa means a period of adolescence in which boys and girls are given greater personal freedom and allowed to form romantic relationships, usually ending with the choice of baptism into the church or leaving the community.

The Thorn depicted a more truer reality to what people go through. Who hasn't questioned who they are, what they believe in, what makes them happy? And which family doesn't have their problems and secrets? Perfection doesn't exist and this book proved just that. Sometimes it takes being away from something to realize how much you miss it and how much you cherish it. I mentioned above how Hen and Rose wanted to please their parents. Most of us want to do just that. The realization is all the same and I'm going to give you this gentle reminder. Parents just want their children to be happy, no matter what path they choose, what they believe in, etc. 

Happy Reading and Keep on Writing!


Friday, February 3, 2017

National Wear Red Day and Special Announcement

Today is National Wear Red Day for 2017. It's a day to support heart disease and stroke awareness for women by wearing red. I will always red on this day because, as I have mentioned in previous posts, I have Long QT Syndrome. It's a congenital heart condition that affects the electrical system of the heart. It's similar to an arrhythmia, but slightly different. I also wear red because heart disease runs in my family.

I am currently revamping my other blog, Writing With Meg. Starting next week, I will be posting once a week with a getting to know me series until the beginning of March.

This brings me to my special announcement. I am pleased to announce that I'll be starting my writing series, Meg's Long QT Journey, on March 10 on Writing With Meg. I have chosen that date for a reason, but you'll have to tune in then to find out why.

Happy Reading and Keep on Writing!