Friday, November 1, 2019

Review: The Christmas Star: A Love Story

The Christmas Star: A Love Story The Christmas Star: A Love Story by Robert Tate Miller
My rating: 4 of 5 stars


This story shows how even if we do not understand the who, what, when, where, or why... There is always light. God is always there we just have to choose to turn to him.

The appreciation of understanding how tragedy can affect a family and more so, an individual. The beauty in that while we are going through the ugly, God can and will restore us. We only need to look to him.

Using time travel/dream state as a way to bring about redemption was a nice device in the writing. It was done well.

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Monday, October 14, 2019

Review: Outlander

Outlander Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Perhaps I am late to the show... I mean the book was written originally in 1991. If I had run across it then, I am sure I would have read it. I have always had a thing for time travel and highlanders.

This book... I love it with some restraint.

I really enjoy the natural curiosity of Claire Randall. She has a unique personality. She is very much an independent woman and fits well in the mid 40s where feminism is beginning. She respects her husband but makes her own choices.

This personality of hers is ultimately what causes the situation that brings about her going back in time.

Now.. to be absolutely honest. The historical accuracy of male female relationships in the mid 1700s is most likely dead on. Men treated women as possessions. Yes, even sexy, highlanders. There are a few instances that sexual assault is an issue. As soon as Claire is sent back to 1743 Captain Jack Randal assaults her thinking she is a tramp. Is this politically correct? No. Is this acceptable? No. This is a story. This is character building. Are there lewd comments by the band of travelers that save her from the Redcoat captain? Yes. Do they act on it? No.

Historically, I believe Gabaldon kept to what very well could have happened. Claire finds herself in a position no faithful married woman that is strong-willed would ever want to be in. She does see that she has to compromise simply in order to survive. I don't say this to justify anything that was in the book. But, if you are going to read historical fiction, you have to have an understanding of the time period.

There is rape. There is spousal abuse. There is violence. There is talk of witchcraft.

Given that this book was originally written in 1991, it is written beautifully. I do not care for the end of the book because it is too graphic in my opinion. Watching the Starz series I have to skip the last 2 episodes because of it. But it is realistic to the time frame.

Gabaldon did her research and you can see it when it comes out. She makes Claire's character believable. Claire never gave up on returning to Frank, she survived. In surviving she ended up falling in love. Jaime can be a brut. Claire causes a change in him as their relationship deepens as well.

In all honesty, I am surprised with society as it is today that the series has had a resurgence. Except, Game of Thrones is pretty big too.

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Friday, October 11, 2019

Review: Something Like Family

Something Like Family Something Like Family by Heather Burch
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Growing up in a tough environment, believing that you have no family other than your mom who isn't the most stable person, can have an impact on your life.

Rave Wayne was that kid. His mom was a drug addict. She never stayed in the same area too long and so she and Rave were always moving from town to town. And then one day, she left him.

Rave was on his own from the age of 17. He had to scrape by and hope he would make it. The problem there is he has a tendency to get in trouble. At the age of 22, he finds himself in a situation that leaves him willing to take a chance. That chance happens to be with a guy named Phil that claims he knows Rave's grandfather and is seeking to connect them.

This isn't a fairy-tale in that estranged family members reunite and they all live happily ever after. This is a situation where individuals realize there is more to life than just themselves.

I enjoyed this book, it was different from others that I have read by Heather Burch, but it was good. I was left wanting more. The character development is good. The relationships are good although I feel one is rushed because of the situation, not a love interest.

This is a quick read, and it brings satisfaction.

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Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Review: Coral

Coral by Sara Ella
I received a complimentary copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
PLOT: I really enjoyed the idea of this story. The idea plays off of Hans Christian Anderson's "The Little Mermaid", only not quite. The hint to The Little Mermaid is what piqued my interest in reading this story. I was not disappointed, I was enthralled. Many fairy tales that we know today have been rewritten so that there is a happy ending or to show that things always work out for the hero/heroine. This story, Coral, may have you trying to figure things out all the way to the ending.
Of course there is a love story, most all fiction books have that element. Unlike fairy tales of the modern era, the girl doesn't immediately throw herself at the boy. I appreciate that. There is a lot of mental health enlightenment in the story and I feel like this can be a good book to open up discussion. I would not just throw this book at my teen and say enjoy. The story emphasizes the truth that mental illness is a disease.
While the main character of the story works through rejection and abandonment, she is also afraid to trust anyone. She experiences shocking tragedy and is sent away to live with somebody else. While she is going through the struggles she becomes mistrusting and one could even say bitter. She pushes everyone that does care away, finding herself Then just as things are looking better, tragedy strikes again. Will she get her fairy tale ending? Will she succumb to depression and anxiety?
Coral - a mermaid that just doesn't quite fit in with her family, or perhaps it's with the society her family is a part of. On top of that, it appears she may very well be infected with the dreaded... Disease. This disease looks like emotions to humans, but to a mermaid can be fatal.
Brooke - a girl that lives in a group therapy home. She is fighting depression and anxiety while attempting to push everyone around her away.
Merrick - seemingly the guy that has it made, but he rebels against the expected. He believes he knows what is really going on in his family, but does he? Perhaps meeting a girl that isn't so much unlike him will open his eyes.
WRITING STYLE: Once it is understood how the story is going the only issue I had disappeared, but to lay it out there... The story is written in first person point of view but from the perspective of three different viewpoints. It is clearly marked as to whose view, I just don't prefer the style. In this instance it does not take away from the story.

Overall I enjoyed the book. I did find myself having to face some of my own emotions and feelings while reading it. It is a good tool to use to reach out and to educate about mental health issues.

Monday, May 20, 2019

Review: The Line Between

The Line Between The Line Between by Tosca Lee
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I knew when I read the description of this book I would like it. I have enjoyed other books that Tosca Lee has written and I could not wait to get this one in my hands. Thankfully, hubby ordered it for me for my birthday (he was so sweet). The only thing I regret is that with work and family commitments, it has taken me until now to complete the book.

Have you ever started reading a book and get completely wrapped up into it and then for whatever reason have to put it down when you are only halfway through it? Ya, that happened.

The surprise?

I was able to pick it up and get transported right back into the story. And WOW! What a story.

Ms. Lee is able to get her readers completely invested in the characters so that you feel like you know them. In this particular book, I felt like I was having coffee with a friend and they were telling me about their background and how they survived some crazy stuff. (Okay, so I might have peculiar friends.)

The main character goes from being a young child introduced to a commune that lives completely different than what she is used to. In her mind she questions things but goes along with it. Her sister and mother are there with her until her mother gets sick. It turns out just her and her sister grow up there. Wynter has difficulty with relationships (really I see this as normal given circumstances). Without going into spoilers, crazy stuff starts happening (think David Koresh cult stuff).

Wynter gets away from the commune and that is only the beginning. Corrupt cult, bio-terrorism, grief, romance, puppy, suspense.

I feel like if I say too much it will spoil the book. Yet, I also feel like I haven't said enough. This is a book that I will look for the sequel to when it comes out. I can also see reading it again on a relaxing day.

The writing is sound. The plot is doomsday good. The character development is thorough and interesting.

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Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Review: Calming the Storm

Calming the Storm Calming the Storm by Melanie D. Snitker
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Left wanting more

The premise was good, the main characters needed more development.

The protagonist has a lot of life troubles thrown at her and is desperate. She needs help but has never been able to rely on anyone other than her sister. And now she doesn't even have her to help. Having grown up in the foster care system this is plausible. There are a lot of young adults that have been shifted from family to family and no real roots. This part of the story is realistic and I wish there were more development to the character.

Just as she (the protagonist) seems to be getting life going, she's in college and her sister and brother-in-law are letting her live with them to help with costs, tragedy strikes. The young college professor is concerned about his student when she abruptly starts missing class and fails a test.

Relationships build and while it is sweet and quaint, the characters are likable but need more developing. It feels like this story was rushed in order to finish writing it. There can be a stretch of the plausibility of this story being believable. I honestly think if the characters were developed more and the story itself fleshed out this would be an amazing read.

That said, check it out. I have this odd desire for fiction stories to be realistic to a degree. Especially romantic stories.

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Monday, January 7, 2019

Making Changes, with a plan.

When making changes, regardless of what you want to call them, the important thing is to be consistent. Typically to create a new habit it takes doing the new habit consistently for 21 days. So, if your goal is to drink a gallon of water every day, then you have to do it for 21 days before it is established as a new habit.
Unfortunately, it is easier to break a habit than it is to keep a habit. (unless you are speaking of things that are addictive and that is a completely different topic). An example of this is, we have been attending church for years going every service. Then one Sunday one of the kids was sick. The next Sunday I was sick. The following Sunday was REALLY difficult to get up and go to church.

Looking at professional goals you must be realistic. I am in process of prepping my curriculum for the semester, which starts January 14th. (I might be a procrastinator.) My goals are of course to have an amazing curriculum so that my students learn and add skills to their portfolio. I want them to be able to use what they have learned in their future careers. Being realistic, I must realize that it is my responsibility to present the curriculum and to be available to my students whether they learn new skills are up to them and that does not reflect on who I am as long as I am doing my job.

Let’s take a minute though and think about some SMART goals. SMART goals are deliberate goals that have a plan and thought behind them, not just thrown on the wall in hopes they would get done.

-          Updating the curriculum to enable students to learn and add skills
o   Specific – the course happens to be a web pages course, so I want my students to know how to create a basic website.
o   Measurable – students will have built a website by the end of the course.
o   Achievable – through the curriculum and the tutorials, students that follow along and are interactive should be able to complete the end goal.
o   Realistic – the course is 8 weeks so it will be a lot of work to complete but the motivated student can do it. The assignment is a 3-5 page website. For a basic website, 8 weeks is plenty of time.
o   Timely – being able to create your own website is a skill that can be invaluable. Knowing the basics of web building an individual can customize weblog templates, create their own, or even become a freelance designer. With our digital world, this is a timely skill.

Maybe something a bit generic?

-          Organize my office
o   Specific – make sure everything is where it belongs and has a place of belonging. Go through outdated material and discard. Less is more.
o   Measurable – my office will be less cluttered, and materials will be easily located when needed.
o   Achievable – By setting time aside daily and focusing on the end goal it is completable.
o   Realistic – Need to have a due date set so that the goal does not get brushed off. The goal is realistic as long as it stays a goal.
o   Timely – Having a less cluttered space limits chaos. There is always a place for order.

Not everything has to abide by SMART goals, but I have found having the reason and basic plan to get things done encourages me to complete them. Perhaps this is from my time advocating for my special needs son.

Do you have goals? Resolutions? Intents? For my home office, it is my intentional focus for the month of January. I figure if it is clean and organized then if for some reason somebody else needs to get something I won’t find a mess where there was searching going on. 😊

Friday, January 4, 2019

Review: Prize of War

Prize of War Prize of War by Carole Towriss
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A story that enraptured

This story has everything it needs and then some. Well researched and artistically told. I thoroughly enjoyed it. Must read.

I loved how the story of Caleb's daughter Acsah progressed. How the author showed the progression. It was also very nice to see a Christian book that included romance and desire without being trash or heavily suggestive.

The characters held interest as they were developed and the redemption of the antagonist was beautiful.

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Thursday, January 3, 2019

A New Chapter, But Not the Beginning

The New Year is always a time that many of us like to use as a restart or a rebirth. That's great! I am hoping to use the new calendar year to provoke myself into posting on my blog more consistently. I refuse to think of it as a resolution though.

See, the last decade has been crazy for me.

In 2009, I went to college. I blame it on a friend of mine, but I am very appreciative that I was given the encouragement. Sure, there have been times that I thought I was crazy for getting a degree and putting myself through the stress and work of getting it. I learned a few invaluable things though..

  • It's never to late to dream. I always wanted to go to college, things just didn't work out on a traditional schedule.
  • You never know who is watching you. Both of my adult daughters saw me go and get a college education. They saw me struggle and they saw me succeed. I believe they had a great role model in that.
  • Success can come out of left field. As I sit and write, I am currently the Assistant Director of my community library and an Adjunct Professor at a state university. Neither position was planned for, both are enjoyed.
I enjoy what I do. I also enjoy writing.

This past November, until I got bronchitis, I was having a successful go at NaNoWriMo. For the first time in years. I enjoyed it and I am still working on the story I started. My itch to write has returned.

So what is this whole "New Chapter, Not Beginning" thing?

I have actively been "becoming" for several years. I like who I am becoming, so I don't want to start over. However, I do feel that it is time for a new chapter. It is time to do things with intent. Be intentional with my interactions with others. Set my priorities and keep them. 

Starting a new chapter can be intimidating though. You are acknowledging that the past is behind you, regardless if there are mistakes and regrets. The past is done and now you are moving forward. It is best to move forward with a plan. What kind of plan? Hopefully a good one.

For myself, my plan is to focus.
  • As an individual, I will focus on liking myself. I am not perfect and will always have room for growth, but I need to like me. Which will require changes. For me, that means I have to allow myself to be me. I am a creative and I need to be able to create.
  • As an assistant director of a library, I need to be the best that I can. This includes learning the complete ins and outs of the library. My focus will be on programs and hopefully grant writing.
  • As an adjunct professor, my goals are to push my students to be the best that they can be. I know this means I won't be liked by everybody. I know this means I have to engage and answer questions before they are asked. This also means to be in a constant state of learning.
Three simple areas, three monumental tasks. But focus is where intent begins.

Are you starting a new chapter? What do you need to work on? Do you have a plan?