Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Top 10 Books of 2014

Based on my rankings, I think this was the year of fantasy. If I remembered to record them all in Goodreads, I have 'read' 32 books this year. However, there are 2 of those books that I didn't finish. So I don't really count those. So I read 30 books this year.

10. The Supreme's at Earl's All You Can Eat (Blog Review)
9. The Slaves Have Names (Blog Review)
8. Snow White and Rose Red: The Curse of the Huntsman
7. Searching for Normal (Blog Review)
6. A Little Salty to Cut the Sweet (Blog Review)
5. Mixed Feelings (Blog Review)
4. Finding Poe
3. Ocean at the End of the Lane (Blog Review)
2. Mr. Penumbra's 24 Hour Bookstore (Blog Review)
1. River's Deep (Blog Review)

With links to two different-ish reviews, it seems silly to write more thoughts about them. So I won't. A couple notes about the rankings I will mention though.

Is anyone surprised that Erin Keyser Horn is number one again this year? I'm not. This is the 3rd year in a row she has been at the top of my book list. She really is that good and I really do love her characters that much!

Unreliable narrators are growing on me. Actually, I'm becoming rather fascinated by them as evidenced by #3 and #4.

I finished #8 and #4 late in the year. So I didn't have time to write a blog post on here about them. Maybe I will have one for them in the near future to elaborate more on my thoughts.

Fantasy has been an unintended focus for me this year. #1, #2, #3, #4, #5 and #8 are all books I would include in that genre.

#6 and #7 are memoirs. #9 is non-fiction, but not quite a memoir. #10 is fiction, but not fantasy.

#5 and #7 are books that I received through Story Cartel for free in exchange for an honest review. My honest review is that I really enjoyed them. Check out that site. They have good stuff.

And if you want a few more book thoughts from me, check this one out.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Reading Wrap Up 2014

So I did a reading preview at the beginning of the year, so it only seems fair to do a reading wrap-up. I'm sure I will do a best of post at a later point in time. And probably on my other blog, but for now, I'm going to update you on the books I mentioned earlier this year.

River's Deep was better than I expected. Soul of Storm has been delayed, but I'm okay with that because I would rather it be late and be written right.

From my bookshelves: 

I did not get to Mere Christianity. I have a feeling this is going to be a deep read and I want to be ready for that. I haven't been yet. So once again, I'm okay with a delay if it means I get it right.

Introverts in Church - Some good, some was more for church leadership. So I guess if I get to that place, I will be rereading this one.

The Slaves Have Names: Ancestors of My Home - This gave me a great sense of real people in real places that really lived. I wouldn't go so far as haunting, but memorable.

Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World - Practical suggestions in short and easy to ready chapters. There is a ton of information here though. You can read through it, but you could just as easily refer to the chapters you need when you need them.

A Salty Piece of Land - It was pretty good, but there were a few parts that were way too wordy and others that were way too explicit. Things that were thrown in and seemed completely unnecessary. I read it and pretty much enjoyed it. It just left a bad aftertaste.

Gringos in Paradise: An American Couple Builds Their Retirement Dream House in a Seaside Village in Mexico - This one took me a while to read because there was just so much in this one. Not to the point of boredom or frustration. Just made for slower reading.

From my Kindle:

There were a couple from my Kindle that I started by didn't finish. One I might come back to if I'm in the mood for a romance. One had an awful narrator and I will not go back to that one.

Firefly Beach - Nice enough read. I admired the author's work more than the book itself. Not sure if that says good things or bad things.

Finding Poe - AMAZING!! An unreliable narrator submerged in a world of Edgar Allan Poe made for an enjoyable page turner. Love, love, love it.

Henrietta Street - I started this one. I will finish it in January.

From Goodreads:

I read less of these because some were hard to track down and some were more serious non-fiction than I wanted to read. I did not read Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine, and the Murder of a President, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, , Life After Art: What You Forgot About Life and Faith Since You Left the Art Room, , After looking at a couple of these again, I'm determined to read a couple in 2015.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane - Beautiful and haunting. This one makes you wonder what is the world really made of.

A Little Salty to Cut the Sweet: Southern Stories of Faith, Family, and Fifteen Pounds of Bacon - She is a story teller, so this is a fabulous book. I loved to just sit back and read this one.

My Berlin Kitchen: A Love Story (with Recipes) - Um. No. I didn't finish it. I didn't like the author, or the way she sounded in the writing of the book.

Mr. Penumbra's 24 Hour Bookstore - Amazing! Even sitting here writing about it, I'm ready to read it again. Fabulous adventure.

Theology in Aisle Seven: The Uncommon Grace of Everyday Spirituality - I bought the book and have started to read it. I am LOVING it. There is so much that I'm highlighting. I'm glad I bought it, so I can come back to it over and over.

Asylum - I put this on hold at the library. I'm number 14, so it might be a while before I get it read. But I'll get there.

The Haunting of Maddy Clare - I put this one on hold at the library as well. I am number 2, so I will be getting to this one soon!

Author to rediscover:

Carol Goodman: After starting this post, I decided to see what the library had from North Carolina Digital Library. There was one, Arcadia Falls. I checked it out and enjoyed it. It is everything I expected from this author. It's great to know that I have several others to come back to when I need a for sure quick read winner.


The Charter - I went back and forth about liking and not liking this book. I'm glad I stuck with it, because I really did enjoy it.

Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie - Glad I finished it, but I don't think I love it so much that I will read the others in the series. (BTW, I am an awful reader of series' of books.)

Possible rereads:
Nope. I didn't reread anything. Not surprising. There are too many good books out there to go back and read something again!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Life Explosions

Life is going along just fine and then 5 different things happen and you aren't sure how you got here. That has been this week. It hasn't been anything horribly awful bad. It has just been a bunch of little things. 
Photo Credit: Umberto Salvagnin

Last week we were crazy busy. There was something every night from Monday to Saturday that kept us away from the house until 7 or 8 pm. So we were looking forward to this week being a little quieter. And it has been, but not based on our plan of quieter.

Sunday morning about 1 am, I woke up to hear Ben coughing and then running to the bathroom. That was followed by him vomiting. I got up and helped him as best I could and we went back to bed. This pattern continued about once an hour for the next several hours. Sometime around 7 or 8, Ben moved to the sofa. Needless to say church was out for the two of us on Sunday. Drew started getting ready and got Lily ready, but he felt awful himself. A lingering cold/cough/thing has left us worried that it could turn into pnuemonia. And Lily still wasn't over her cold virus either. So Sunday was spent on the sofa and in the bed instead singing and playing Marc's amazing Christmas song.

Monday was a little better. Ben stayed home from school just to make sure he was better. The gunk in Drew's chest was moving along and he was feeling better. Lily was still snotty and gunky sounding. I stayed home from work to keep caring for them all. Lily went to the doctor. She had a sinus infection. Since Drew took her, he didn't get done working until later. Since he didn't get done working until later, he didn't get to go to Bible study with me and the kids. However, the three of us made for the first time in months. It was good discussion and a couple points hit close to home. So Monday was looking up.

Then Tuesday morning at about 2 am Drew and I were each in a bathroom getting sick while Lily played in the floor of our bedroom because she thought that was a good time to play. So a minor bump in the road became a minor life explosion. This was one of those awful can't move off the couch because it will make me sick stomach bugs. And that's not really possible with two kids in the house. I was able to get Ben to school and get myself back home before I got sick again. Lily slept quite a bit that day, which she needed and so did we. Nana and Aunt Terry took for a little while too. Drew got Ben home from school and later went to go get him food. I pretty much stayed on the couch trying not to get sick anymore. So Tuesday didn't go as planned.

On Wednesday I get back to work and discover that several others had been sick in my absence and there are 3 Christmas meals planned for the end of the week. I also found out that there was water damage to the parsonage of our church. The music minister had to work late on Wednesday. And there are several student absences due to sickness this week. There was a computer crash that derailed a student project.

So the family dinner and Christmas movie didn't happen this week. The looking at Christmas lights didn't happen. The special Christmas music didn't happen. The Christmas meals at work are sort of happening. The group projects for this week are only sort of happening. The music at church sort of happened. 

All of this sort of happening and didn't happens could really throw me off and stress me out, but I decided that what will be will be. I don't need to make anything different happen. God is in control and not me. I can only do what is in my control, which isn't as much as I think. I can rework some things and give up on other things. It is all okay. These little life explosions are not the end of the world. They aren't even unexpected events because God knew what was going to happen anyway. So I lean in to Him and away from me. 

"God's in his Heaven and all's right with the world." Anne Shirley

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Here I am again

Attribution: Alice Popkorn

So after unintentionally taking a 2 month break, I'm finding myself wanting to blog again. Let me start by saying THANK YOU! So many of you still read what I have to say even though I only say it every great now and then. I really would like to get back to doing this regularly. I want to look at my world again though the lens of my blog. I want to see the stories that happen in life because stories are important. Stories connect us to each other. Stories challenge us. Stories encourage us. Stories stick with us. Stories make us better people.

I look back through past posts and I laugh about some stories. I cringe about others, but even those are memories. And those memories are recorded here for you and me to see and remember. So as this year is coming to a close and we begin to reflect on what has been and start thinking about what will be next year, this blog is on my mind. I am happy with what I have written because it was good stuff. I am happy with my One Word for this year, rest. I think have done well with that. I even thought about keeping it for next year because I need to remind myself to rest so often.

But more than just reminding myself to rest, I need to remind myself that I am living a story. Some days I live it well and some days I live it poorly. This blog really does help me live it well. I know I want to encourage people with this blog. In order to do that, I have to look out for stories of encouragement in my life. I can't look at a situation and only focus on the negative in that situation. I have to see some positive because I'm going to be back here telling you guys about that positive.

I'm going to be honest. Right now, my positivity sucks! I'm not positive. I'm not the light I have been called to be. I'm a dark complaining void of a person who is caught up in all the 'if you just did it my way' thinking that I should be getting rid of. Hello, Romans 12:2. I think we need to be friends again.

So here I am again saying thank you for sticking with me and I promise to do better. Not just for you, but also for me. I need to do better here because these stories make me a better person in my real life. Feel free to call me out if I'm not spending time here with you guys because that probably means, I'm not being the person I need to be in real life either.

Love you all.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

What NaNoWriMo Success Means To Me

I have attempted to participate in NaNoWriMo since 2012. I had heard of it before that, but was too scared to try. In 2012, I got to 30,000 words. However, I had a huge section of the story that I hated. In 2013, I got about 32 words. So yeah, I basically forgot about it, but I was pregnant and stuff like that happens when one is pregnant. So this year I wanted to participate, but October was closing and I had nary an idea. I had all the characters, like 9, I had created in an attempt at the 31 days of blogging. Surely in 9 characters there would be an idea somewhere. But no. There wasn't one idea.

Then we went to lunch at Wendy's as a family on October 31. As I sat there waiting on our food, I looked around at the people eating there. I wondered what their stories were. I saw some by themselves reading. I heard frustrated conversations. I heard laughter. There were people of all ages, races, genders, and socioeconomic statuses there. Then I got to thinking that this would be a great story. All of these people gathered in this place and then going out to finish living their stories. That was the entirety of my idea.

So the next day was a Saturday. NaNoWriMo month could not have started any better for me. Saturday morning is the one day I have a few hours to myself and no where to be. So I started writing about this diner on a highway somewhere in America. I had took some of the characters I had created and added a few new ones via a Random Name Generator. I picked a table and started writing. I didn't have a story planned for each person. I didn't even have an ending planned. I just wrote about that table until the story came to an ending point. Then I went back to another table and wrote about it until there was an end. Some characters eked out a few meager words just because I wasn't going to edit anything out. Some characters got just a few words because I hadn't really connected with them yet, but I had to get something on paper. Other characters got several pages because I started to fall in love with them. One character even got 40 pages. It is safe to say that she is my favorite. Then on November 29 I crossed the finish line! I wrote just over 50,000 words.

So after a month of writing and planning (Yes I did them in that order most of the time.), I learned a few things. NaNoWriMo is about writing. I have to have words before I can edit them. And that is where most of my problem lies. I start editing in my head before I have the words written. So I need to stop listening my inner editor and just write. The words have to be there before the editing.

I also learned that I am a pantser. I fly by the seat of my pants. I like not knowing where the story is going. The more I plan the less I want to actually write. And if I don't know where the story is going and there is no plan, then my inner editor can't tell me not to write it.

Editing is important, but not as important as the writing. Now that I am done with the novel, I know there are several places that need to be trimmed away and there are places that need to be filled out. There are characters I need to make less harsh and monologues that need to become dialogues. There are large sections of telling that need to be more showing. And I'm excited about doing that. I'm excited to go back and fix these things and make a better story. Now that the words are on paper, I don't have to stress about them. They are there, now I can just focus on making them better.

NaNoWriMo success = writing breakthrough.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Mixed Feelings by Olivia R. Burton: A Book Review

Kindle Price:$4.99

Length: 228 pages (estimated)

Book Description

 November 3, 2014
Being a therapist means dealing with other people's problems, but this is getting ridiculous.

Despite being an empath who tastes and feels others' emotions, Gwen Arthur's always managed to stay under the radar and out of the preternatural world. The worst she's had to deal with is a horny werewolf private eye named Mel.

Until now.

It starts with a terrifying visit from the monsters that plagued Gwen's childhood nightmares. They're back and they seem to think she's someone else entirely--someone very powerful. Someone capable of taking on the task they lay at her feet: find a group of kidnapped, magically gifted children before they're killed. Or worse.

She's got her smart mouth, her eerily competent best friend Chloe and, yes, even irritatingly attractive Mel to help her through this assignment. Hopefully that'll be enough, because she's also caught the attention of an invisible, candy-stealing interloper on top of everything else.

It's hard enough helping others sort through emotional turmoil, but now Gwen's got to rescue missing kids, figure out this whole “supernatural” thing, and treat Mel like a person? It's enough to give a girl MIXED FEELINGS. 

My Review:

DISCLAIMER: I received a free copy of this book from Story Cartel in exchange for an honest review.

I have received several books from them over the last couple years and have mildly enjoyed them. This one is different! I LOVED this book! The only thing I didn't like is that it was a little too bawdy for my taste. That is the only thing I didn't like. Seriously, that's it! I read most of it in one sitting. 95% of it one night. Like staying up until 2 am to finish it.

It started out reading like a Young Adult, but as I mentioned there is quite a bit of sexual humor. Therefore I would classify it as adult fiction. It does center around the magical/ supernatural world, so it is a fantasy novel. It is also funny. So it is a fantasy adult funny novel. (Not sure that is a genre)

The plot was great. The pacing was good. There were hints that there is more to the story, so we want to read future books in the series. There was one scene at the end with Dirk that didn't seem completely necessary. However, there might be events in the coming books in the series that reference that scene.

The characters are well rounded. They change over the course of the story and throughout the story we are allowed to see different sides of them. Even the minor characters were changed and adapted throughout the story. There are also lots of hints that there is more to come. However, the hints are not so large as to make you frustrated. You don't feel as if there is too much that you don't know. 

A few favorite things:

Gwen is an empath and does a great job of explaining how others people's feelings make her physically react. Her enormous sweet tooth and defense thereof is pretty funny. I'm not always so fond of her laziness. But she admits it and it makes it easier to wait on the future books in the series. So we end up feeling if she doesn't care then I don't need to care. It works for this book.

The anonymous snarky note leaver adds a good dash of humor and a little mysteriousness to the book and the series in general. 

The slow and steady revelation of the other world. We are not given all the answers at the beginning when Laurel and Hardy show up and ask for Gwen's help. She doesn't go on some crazy research binge to find everything out. She asks a few people and goes out try things on her own. We aren't even given all the answers by the end of the book either. And I like that.

A few not so favorite things:

The bawdiness of several scenes with Mel and a couple scenes with Evadne. Some of it seems like sexy for the purpose of sexy and not for anything needed in the plot. 

The entire character of Evadne, but that might be on purpose. Maybe we aren't supposed to like her.

The character of Merrin is too weak. She does some great stuff, but she doesn't have much character herself. Once again, maybe that's on purpose. 

Final thoughts:

I like this book enough to actually read future books in the series. And I've mentioned how I feel about series' before.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Mrs. Kaplan and the Matzoh Ball of Death by Mark Reutlinger

So I missed about 3 or 4 days of the 31 Days Challenge. If you were dying to see what was coming next, sorry. For my part, I'm not too sorry. It was good to challenge myself and some good stuff came from it, but I'm not sad to leave the challenge behind. Between home and work and some fun, I just didn't have the time to commit to that this year. Maybe next year.

But I did finish reading a book that I'm going to tell you about:

Mrs. Kaplan and the Matzoh Ball of Death

In the style of Sherlock Holmes, where the sidekick tells the story. We also do not know all of the facts as in the modern Sherlock adaptations. (I have read the original Sherlock. Some say they can figure it out, but I never did. So I don't know if I can say we didn't know all the facts.) The author did remind us of Sherlock and Watson in dialogue a time or two and I'm glad he did. Just when I started to get frustrated with what we didn't know and the sidekick point of view, I was reminded why he was doing that. Then I settled back into the story.

There were a few places where I started thinking it was too convenient or too fantastical.  The other is one character whose set was so fantastical and awkward that I struggled through her part of the story. I see why she was necessary, but I still didn't enjoy it. Those are the primary reasons I rated it a 3 instead of a 4.

The characters were a lot of fun though. The Yiddish words and dialect of the narrator really made me believe I was talking to an elderly Jewish woman. The ending was great because it didn't emphasize anything tragic or sad. It could very easily become a dark story when you are talking about death and the elderly. This one was not at all dark or tragic. The fabulous characters are what made me almost consider giving it 4 stars.

When I factor in the price, my enjoyment level goes up. It was an easy read and for $2.99 it is worth the money to get to know Rose and Ida.

It is available for pre-order now and will be released on Nov. 18, 2014.


Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review from NetGalley

Thursday, October 9, 2014

31 Days of Characters: Tennyson Locke

Day 9 and you think I would have these categories memorized, but I don't. In fact, I just realized that I've been missing a category for the last 2 days. Maybe I don't need that one after all?

Name: Tennyson Locke

Career: Invalid

Location: Small town, Southeastern US, Locke estate

Appearance: Dark hair, bright eyes, in a wheelchair

Personality: He was also rude, inconsiderate, and snobbish. Now he is like a kid again, simple and loving.

Back Story: He was a vibrant young man working his way up in the family company until the accident caused a traumatic brain injury.

Where are they now?: Living on the Locke estate being cared for by Daisy, resented by Duke, and pitied by his brother, Laurence.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

31 Days of Characters: Laurence Locke

Name: Laurence Locke

Career: CEO of a company

Location: Small town southeastern United States

Appearance: Tall, thin, dark hair, balding.

Back Story: He has always been the conscientious one in the family. Trying to protect their good name and their company. Trying to do right by everyone, which is the opposite of his brother.

Where are they now?: Struggling with the sacrifice Daisy has made for his brother who doesn't really deserve it. He understands Duke's feelings and feels the same way at times. However, he is immensely grateful for someone who is so compassionate and caring to look after his brother in his current condition.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

31 Days of Characters: Duke Thayer

 Name: Duke Thayer

Career: Estate Manager for the Locke family.

Location: Southeastern US. Small town.

Appearance: Blond hair, blue eyes, short, fit from working outside so often. 

Back Story: Hard working, self sacrificing for the good of the family, mostly his sister, Daisy.

Where are they now?: Frustrated that his talented sister is reduced to nursemaid for an invalid instead of a high paying powerful career woman.

Monday, October 6, 2014

31 Days of Characters: Daisy Thayer

Name: Daisy Thayer

Location: Southeastern United States. Small town. Everyone knows everyone else and everyone's business.

Career: Nurse for a wealthy family

Appearance: Short blond hair. Short. Thin. Blue eyes.

Personality: Very giving. Willing to give everyone a chance. Smart. Nice to a fault.

Back Story: She was in college and was on her way to being a doctor. Her family is a poor family. They were working hard to support her. Then the wealthy family they worked for had a tragedy occur. She came home without a thought to help Tennyson.

Where are they now?: Her brother is furious at her for giving up her chance at a 'good life' to work for the same family that they have been indebted to for so long. The fault was his and now it has cost her the career she has dreamed of. At least that's the story he is choosing to believe. Her opinions are little more confused.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

31 Days of Characters: Roman Kingsley

Name: Roman Kingsley

Location: Same as Jolie Graham

Career: An improver. Given various titles at various companies. His job is to make workers happier and more productive.

Appearance: Tall, dark, and handsome. Who could resist? Jolie for one.

Personality: Gregarious, hard working, loves a challenge

Back Story: Moved often as an adult, which is the opposite of his childhood. He has had a talent for making things run more smoothly and eventually that led to a career. Personally he doesn't let people in too far. He knows he will have to move on and doesn't want to leave any casualties.

Where are they now?: Living in the Northwest and charged with improving the company, he finds himself challenged by Josie. He either opens up or fails. What will he do?

Saturday, October 4, 2014

31 Days of Characters: Whit Gurdey

Day 3, . I'm almost out of it on day 3. This is why I don't do blogging challenges. But I going to try to get it into under the wire. I have searched every place that I can think of and have not found the list of names and places. I will keep looking, but in the meantime I will be closely observing my world for inspiration. For today,

Name: Whit (short for Whitten) Gurdey

Career: Ex-military. Currently, searching for a new postion. 

Location: Small city or small town USA. Maybe the mountains.

Appearance: Tall, broad, but not excessively so, very short hair

Personality: Demanding, disciplined, principled. Exudes confidence.

Back story: Several comically bad relationships left him wondering what in the world he is here for. He is used to rules and to have somone to tell him how to go about things. He has also had several comically bad job interviews. And his neighbors don't really like him either. He just doesn't understand people.

Where are they now?: Looking for his new place in this world. Job wise, neighborhood wise, relationship wise. He is desperately searching for someone to explain things to him, but he doesn't have the courage or humility to just open up about it. Then comes Ruby.

31 Days of Characters: Jolie Graham

Name: Jolie Graham

Location: Small city in America. Northern part. Maybe the north west.

Appearance: Long blonde straight hair. Thin frame. Average height. Not particularly attractive. Not ugly either. Average.

Career: Office work sitting behind a desk.

Personality: Quiet. Commonly perceived as aloof, but unsure of herself is a better definition. She wants to speak up and speak out more often, but can't seem to find her voice or an outlet to use it.

Back Story: Hearing her name people expect her to be bubbly outgoing and a magnetic personality. She never felt she could live up to hat expectation and consequently her name. She doesn't like her name and tries to hide as much as possible. She is single and many see her as someone to be won over. This leads to her desiring to hide more.

Where are they now?: Someone comes into the office culture or maybe her apartment building or a new person at her gym. Someone who wants to get to know her and help her to move out of her hiding. Moving out of hiding and finding an area to shine brings her to a new job, a new place to live and a new life. But maybe she doesn't really want that.

Day 5: Roman Kingsley

Friday, October 3, 2014

How to get Free Books and More

You may or may not know that I have another blog where I review books and post some creative stuff as well. I am currently participating in the 31 Days Challenge and blogging about 31 different characters that I have created, but not written into any stories yet. So click over and enjoy that. You can also snoop around and see some of the books I have read.

You will notice many of them are from the website Story Cartel. Story Cartel is pretty awesome because they give you free books! You get the book for free if you post an honest review on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Goodreads, etc. You read it and tell other people what you think and you get free books. And that's not all.

You get other free stuff too!

Last month I got this box of great stuff for book readers. A classic novel, moleskin notebooks. candles, tea, coffee, headphones, and a gift card to buy more books! I reviewed a book and was entered in the giveaway. And I won! Even the box they sent it in is cute!  How amazing are these people!

(In case you can't tell by the exclamation points, I'm really excited about it.)

So go check them out, get some free books, review them and get free stuff. It really doesn't get any better.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

31 Days of Characters: Ceddie Breen

I discovered that the 31 Days challenge originated at The Nester. There is a link up over there with a list of all the topics people are blogging about. I wanted to give her credit and let you know a little more about it in case you are interested.

Name: Ceddie Breen

Location: Same as Astin Windsor

Appearance: Short, blond, and round. Always well dressed in neutrals and metallics. Very little color because she doesn't want her clothes to distract from her personality or from the art she represents.

Career: Art Dealer

Personality: Bubbly and bright. She loves life and people and wants to share her love with everyone!

Back Story: Native of said city. Fluently speaks 3 languages. One of the few people Astin wants around her and trusts to see her work. In a world of serious men art dealers, she stands out loudly and loves every minute of it. One of the reasons she became an art dealer was her love of people and life. She finds so much life in art that she couldn't imagine living without it.

Where are they now?: Trying to convince Astin to host her own art show and start selling her art to the public. The story is probably from her point of view.

Day 3: Whit Gurdey

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

31 Days of Characters: Astin Windsor

Somewhere maybe a couple years ago, I read about the 31 Days blogging challenge. You pick a topic and write a blog post for every day in October on that topic. I have wanted to participate in the past, but haven't had a good idea. Last year, I told myself that I would do it this year. Well, here it is October and I completely forgot about the challenge until I read a blog post mentioning it. Then I thought I better come up with an idea quick. Followed by the thought that I was crazy to even think about attempting this. I'm sure that I'm crazy, but I came up with an idea. I may not finish this challenge, but that's okay. I'm going to try it. My motto will be: "Hold tight and pretend it is a plan.". (Thanks to Doctor Who via Michelle for the quote.)

Now on to my idea. A very long time ago, like about 18 years or so, I created a list of character names that I liked. I even grouped them together and put them in a setting in case I wanted to write a story about them some day. I am hoping to find that list and work from it. If not, then I will just make up a new one. I will present 31 characters to you that have been wandering around my head. I have not put any of them into stories, but I might some day.

So without further ado:

Name: Astin Windsor (As in the car and the House of...)

Location: Some large European city. Maybe Canada or South America. Somewhere foreign to her.

Appearance: Long straight black hair parted in the center, tall, curvy and well proportioned (Not fat, but not thin.) (At least that's what I think would be more interesting, but I can't picture it in my head yet.) Colorful! She is always mixing and matching patterns and colors that most wouldn't dare to wear, but she doesn't care for traditional fashion ideas.

Career: Artist.

Personality: Her social awkwardness has increased her preference for pictures over people. She is a loner. Words often escape her, so talking to others is difficult and writing is not preferred. Her lack of ability with words has made her choice to live in another country whose language she does not know easier. If she doesn't know the language, she doesn't have to worry about speaking to them. She seems snobbish because of her money and social awkwardness, but in reality she is just quiet and introspective. And I normally write characters with a little bit of sass. She will probably not be different.

Back Story: ????? I really have no back story for her.

Where are they now?: There is an artsy area of the city. She travels there on a bike each day with her art supplies. She creates quick things for tourist, but the heart of her work is at home in her loft space. And then what???

Day 2: Ceddie Breen

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Searching for Normal by Alison Neuman: Book Review

While we all have at times felt left out and alone, Alison Neuman can easily have us all beat. Her disease has excluded her from many 'normal' activities. Maybe those times of exclusion made her more sensitive to others because never once did I feel that as a reader. She does not make herself into a hero or a victim. She is simply a woman living life and inviting us to hear her story. I am glad I had the opportunity to do so. I am glad to be included in her circle.

There were many occasions that this book left me stunned. I was stunned by her disease. I was stunned by the treatment she received from various people in the medical profession. I was stunned by her courage to keep going. I was stunned by her desire to keep trying new things. Alison Neuman is a woman who has overcome and flourished through some incredible odds. Her story is comforting, inspiring, and educational. 

DISCLAIMER: I received a free copy of the book from Story Cartel in exchange for an honest review.

Searching for Normal Paperback – October 21, 2013

Thursday, September 25, 2014

River's Deep by Erin Keyser Horn: Book Review

If you have been around here or my Facebook page for any length of time, you know that I love the books this lady writes. So this one is no exception. In fact I love it so much that I'm going to post a review on here and on my other blog site.

RIVER'S DEEP front cover

So here we go with my review praise. (I might as well be honest.)

The character of Kasia  is one of my favorite people. She is honest and fierce in her love of people and protection of them. She is not afraid of the truth, but isn't always willing to share this truth with others. It is that protection thing again. She is trying to find faith, but has trouble loving herself  to believe God can help her. Thankfully she has a strong group of friends around her to push her to be better. Blay, Jen, and Scott never back down from the challenge. They are with Kasia every step of the way. These 4 people will make you believe in love, friendship, faith, and hard work.

The author, Erin Keyser Horn, did an amazing job with this book. She was not afraid to take her characters to hard places and push them through to become better people. The characters don't have an easy journey in front of them, but they really have no other choice. They have to walk through this. Sometimes as a reader it is hard to read as characters go though the hard stuff. This is not one of those books. They go through the hard stuff and we can read that without drowning in the pain. And for me, that is huge!

Some might be hesitant to read a book about the supernatural and God. You shouldn't be! Horn does a fabulous job balancing faith and fantasy. The characters of Slavic mythology fit into the rivers of Illinois and the overall Christian worldview. Some might find the final battle to be telegraphed, but I would disagree with that. The enemies are compelling characters and the heroes areas well. You care about who wins and who loses. The how doesn't matter as much as the who.

The who is the best part of Erin Keyser Horn's novel. These characters will become your friends and you will want to come back and visit them several times.

DISCLAIMER: I received a copy of this book from the author for an honest review.

You can buy it here. And you should buy it!


River's Deep (The River Immortals) (Volume 2)[Paperback]

Erin Keyser Horn 

List Price:$11.99
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  • Series: The River Immortals
  • Paperback: 202 pages
  • Publisher: Superstorm Productions (September 23, 2014)

River's Deep by Erin Keyser Horn

If you have been around here or my Facebook page for any length of time, you know that I love the books this lady writes. So this one is no exception. In fact I love it so much that I'm going to post a review on here and on my other blog site.

RIVER'S DEEP front cover

So here we go with my review praise. (I might as well be honest.)

The character of Kasia  is one of my favorite people. She is honest and fierce in her love of people and protection of them. She is not afraid of the truth, but isn't always willing to share this truth with others. It is that protection thing again. She is trying to find faith, but has trouble loving herself  to believe God can help her. Thankfully she has a strong group of friends around her to push her to be better. Blay, Jen, and Scott never back down from the challenge. They are with Kasia every step of the way. These 4 people will make you believe in love, friendship, faith, and hard work.

The author, Erin Keyser Horn, did an amazing job with this book. She was not afraid to take her characters to hard places and push them through to become better people. The characters don't have an easy journey in front of them, but they really have no other choice. They have to walk through this. Sometimes as a reader it is hard to read as characters go though the hard stuff. This is not one of those books. They go through the hard stuff and we can read that without drowning in the pain. And for me, that is huge!

Some might be hesitant to read a book about the supernatural and God. You shouldn't be! Horn does a fabulous job balancing faith and fantasy. The characters of Slavic mythology fit into the rivers of Illinois and the overall Christian worldview. Some might find the final battle to be telegraphed, but I would disagree with that. The enemies are compelling characters and the heroes areas well. You care about who wins and who loses. The how doesn't matter as much as the who.

The who is the best part of Erin Keyser Horn's novel. These characters will become your friends and you will want to come back and visit them several times.

DISCLAIMER: I received a copy of this book from the author for an honest review.

You can buy it here. And you should buy it!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Good Stuff Saturday 9-6

You may have noticed that I haven't posted a Good Stuff Saturday in a while. I find that I have less time to read blogs these days. So this might become a monthly feature instead of weekly.


Flames and trees
Beautiful land
Bear swimming
Fall beauty

A good reminder that what we say and do can make a difference.

This one really made me think about brokenness and holding on.

Friday, September 12, 2014

A Musically Significant Moment

Thanks to today's post from Carl's blog I have a story to tell.

Photo Credit: Chris Moore

This is the story of the day I discovered Jimmy Buffet.

As a grown up looking back on my childhood, I have a few snapshots in my mind of various events. There is the first time I remember throwing up, my Pink Panther cake, and waking up from the surgery on my adenoids. But today's story is the day I discovered Jimmy Buffet.

It was Father's Day around 1986. Well it was before Father's Day. My mom took my brother and I to a record store. Do you remember what those were back in the day when we actually bought physical copies of music albums? Anyway my mom was a brave woman and took a 5 year old and a 3 year old to a music store. I remember being in awe of all the albums they had in the store. I was equally in awe with my mom for being able to go right to the one that she wanted. I had no clue how she managed to pick that one album out of all the ones they had in that massive store.

She went right The Last Mango in Paris. It was a black background with some red words on it by a man named Jimmy Buffet. The words seemed fantastical. I couldn't imagine what story would bring mangoes and Paris together. I couldn't even imagine what a mango was or what Paris was. Who was this person that could use such fun words like mango and Paris in a song? And what were the other songs like?

I'm sure within a day or two we gifted the present to my dad and I know we listened to that tape a lot in the coming years on vacation especially. To this day that is one of my favorite albums. It brings me back to when I was kid and reminds me that songs can tell stories too.

Here are a couple of the amazing songs from this album.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Dear Maggie

Dear Maggie,

I work at Discovery this year. As I have told people where I work, they say, "Isn't that where that teacher...?" They never finish their sentence because the words are too hard to say out loud. The words are even too hard to say in my head.

This week was your birthday. We celebrated at Discovery. We wore pink ribbons and pink clothes because that was your favorite color. They were hoping to get enough cupcakes for everyone to have one. That's about 200. We had 800. That's a lot of cupcakes because there's a lot of love for you. You may not be there physically, but you are there. Your words and guidance still echo through the halls. Your actions still influence our decisions. You seem to roam the halls of the building like a guardian angel watching out for all of us.

Working at Discovery has reinforced an idea that has been roaming around my brain. I am sad that I never really got to know you. I saw you around district functions. I could tell from the way that you carried yourself that you were a good teacher. I could tell that you really cared about the kids. Now I have heard from so many people that you were a really good person too. I find myself missing you even though I never really knew you. I am left with a quote from a student, "Today we celebrate how beautiful she was and how beautiful she made us all feel."

Thank you for making us all feel more beautiful even if we didn't really know you.


Tuesday, September 2, 2014

The Perfume Collector by Kathleen Tessaro: A Book Review

I don't remember where I first heard about this book, but it has been sitting on my To Be Read shelf on Goodreads for a while. So on my most recent trip to the library I picked it up. The cover looked beautiful and the overall story seemed intriguing. However, I had my doubts. In the past I have not enjoyed most novels set in Paris and this one is primarily set there. As I began to read, the back and forth in time was interesting, but still made me hesitant. I was submerged into the various places and people of the novel quite easily and for the most part that was enjoyable. I didn't particularly like any of the characters and wondered more than once if society was really that way in the first half of the 20th century. So I wasn't completely sold on it. In fact about 3/4 of the way through the book, I started peaking ahead to see if I really wanted to finish it. I wasn't surprised by how the events unfolded, so they were rather obvious. The characters were still not particularly likable, so I had serious doubts about finishing this book. I decided to read a few more pages and see how it turned out. I'm glad I did because some of the characters finally became likable in the last 75 pages or so. The plot and setting were interesting enough to keep me reading through 350 pages or so, but it was the characters that made me finish the book.


The Perfume Collector: A Novel Paperback – February 4, 2014

Buy New $9.48

  • Print Length: 469 pages

Monday, September 1, 2014

Beyond Uganda

I recently discovered a company that does good in the world and provides good stuff.

Beyond Uganda

They have purses, stuffed animals, backpacks, and more. They provide training for women in Uganda who then make the items that are sold. With the money they make the women can then buy the sewing machine they are using and eventually go into business for themselves. They also sponsor children that most other sponsor organizations would not. Often the children they sponsor are orphans or handicapped in one way or another. All of that is exciting and I needed a backpack, so I ordered one. I waited to get some confirmation that it was shipped and I didn't get any. So after a few weeks I emailed to ask about it.

I got a SUPER nice email in response that my order had been overlooked as the team had just returned from Uganda at the time of my order. They sent my backpack out right away, but they didn't stop there. They sent me 4 other products because of the delay. How nice is that! I was blown away by the gesture. Then one day last week I actually got my backpack. It is padded and absolutely perfect for me to tote around my work computer. Even the straps are padded so when I have papers to grade in it, they won't hurt my shoulders.

The little purse I got is perfect for my church needs. I never carry a full purse to church because I have to carry a diaper bag and sometimes a bag for the Bibles and other whatnots. I don't need a full purse on top of it. The purse fits my phone, my keys, a couple cards I might need, a pen, chapstick, and my little notebook. It is padded as well.

The little stuffed giraffe is so cute!! I can't wait to order an elephant as well.

I also got a beaded necklace and earrings as well, but I don't have a good picture of them yet. And with the necklace, I got a little card that told me about the woman who made it. A few more things that these amazing people do. They provide clean water as well as educational grants and a classroom adoption program. What don't they do is probably a better question?

So go to and check out all of the stuff they do and the stuff that you can buy. And then support them if you can. They are nice people doing great work.