Julie in Michigan

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Friday, December 11, 2015

Inspiration for Serious Fiction Writers

The first half of Ashley Bell by Dean Koontz
 challenged me to stay tuned in. However, by the midpoint, my perspective changed and I was hooked, increasingly disappointed with each chapters end, knowing that each cliff hanger would require several more chapters to be read before I knew what would happen to my character.

My character was Bibi, a more than interesting heroine, in a coma with brain cancer. Leading a double life, she walks us through the dimensions of her imagination.  There were many times where I was disoriented, wondering, is this happening real time, a memory or a dream? The supernatural is ever present in the story as we travel with Bibi, running into the expected and intensely unlikable unexpected characters.

The question prevails, are our memories important pieces of who we are? I believe so. Pleasant and unpleasant they shape us and define us and in the end, they are who we are. We cannot erase events from our minds; although hypnotism, drugs and spells may proclaim to do so. Our childhood memories are still with us, buried deeply perhaps, but eventually we must pull them out and process them as adults. They are often gifts in disguise.

Facing her memories, this is where Bibi finds healing. The story builds from many directions, all coming together in an unexpected ending where it all it makes sense. Most importantly for me was the inspiration I found as Bibi explored how her interactions with her characters in her imagination brought them to a reality so vivid she struggled to believe they were her creations. It was recently suggested to me that I interview my characters from my writing and let them respond through the typewritten word. Bibi took this technique to a higher level. I enjoyed this book.

I received this book without charge, in exchange for my honest review.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

A Blossom of Bright Light, A Jimmy Vega Novel by Suzanne Chazin

While this was an entertaining mystery, an enjoyable voice in fiction, the characters told the truth of a national tragedy, immigration. The story line was imaginative but so close to the truth for many undocumented immigrants who enter this country from Mexico, pinning all their hopes and dreams on their oldest and most capable child. They sacrifice so that the children can attend school, strive to learn and earn good grades in hope of a better life for themselves and often for the family as well.

Unfortunately, if the child is a girl, she is most in danger of being sacrificed to the attentions of those who would gain financial and/or sexual advantage over her from her fears for her family’s safety. The story told in this book could easily be founded on a reality. Children impregnated by older men in the community, men sometimes respected because of their success in their business, the girls afraid to reveal they have been raped by those who publicly win the approval of their friends and families. Most horrific of all is women seeking this financial advantage at the cost of a young girl’s future and the political process that overlooks the cost to many in favor of campaign dollar support.

Babies born to babies, the cycle continues with the veil of secrecy, that the girl is somehow to blame. Often her only sin is her silence, necessary to protect her family from the worst fate of all, deportation. When the family is doing all they can to stay together and the law forces parents to return to their country of origin, the children are even more susceptible to the horrors that may befall them as their family protection is lost.

The story depicted was fictional, the alignment to the truth undeniable. The author told the tale in an enjoyable fashion and I read it through in one day, which truly speaks to the author’s ability to spin a tale. Unfortunately, the enjoyment was bittersweet as I was unable to bury my head in the sand as the character’s misfortunes and disappointments are paralleled in reality.

I received this book without cost in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

The Way of the Fairy Godmother by Jennifer Morse

I loved this book. It came at a time in my life when I needed to hear the very words she was saying. A shift in perspective is often all that is needed to enable one to go through a stressful time.  As I read this book, it spoke to me in true tones, as if peeking into my life to see what comments would help.

As Jennifer states, “Adopting the Fairy Godmother as a personal symbol of happiness buffers us”. She buffered my reality from the stress of enduring a time where I needed to rest for a while where I was. Even though I was crushed under the weight of a failed relationship, until I was ready to pick up the threads of my life and turn my attention toward LIFE once more, I needed a Fairy Godmother to help me wait patiently until the time was right for my move.

We are all aware of the dangers of focusing on negative, stressful or unwanted circumstances that can morph our bodies and spirits. That unhappiness can create a prison of unhappiness which is never in the interest of our health and well-being. But sometimes we need to be where we are for a bit longer and bring the light of the Fairy Godmother into our room.

How do we do that? Calming and Soothing, and knowing we have power over our reactions and circumstances. We cannot let our challenging circumstances define us. Gratitude, which Jennifer calls ‘Appreciating’, is so important in the interests of our well-being. Finding some, provides us with more of it.

During this period the author calls, “The Great Silence”, it appears our efforts have been for naught, our labors fall into a void. Our hearts desires are met with silence. This would be akin to the time in which Cinderella waited for love, enduring the negativity of her stepsisters and step mother, until her Fairy Godmother came to lend a hand. A positive attitude, gratitude, a spirit of acceptance will construct a foundation upon which our Fairy Godmother can arrive.

Ms. Morse helps us construct that foundation for our own personal Fairy Godmother. 

The Fine Print of Self-Publishing by Mark Levine

As a newcomer to the field of publication in today’s world, I needed a guide to unravel the sometimes intricate decisions required in self-publication. With so many options to consider, it can be mind-boggling. Unfortunate stories of losing story rights, overcharges and not getting what you think you’ re paying for had me scared stiff. I have kept true to my writing, but just wasn’t sure where my story was going to end up, other than on a flash drive in a drawer somewhere or a printed copy that I toted around with the intent to ‘someday’ get this published, ‘somehow’.

Mark Levine’s book, as I hinted in my opening, is what I needed. His clear, concise writing spells out the details on the various options. He offers suggestions and considerations that I truly needed to ponder. I’ve seen other reviews on this book and some people seem to feel that he is slanting the guide toward a particular publishing venue and that may be true. However, I won’t be swerved, unaware of the reasons that I choose to be swerved.

If this book was meant to be an advertisement for a particular path to follow in publication, it’s OK with me. I needed the education on the whys and why nots and this book provided that to me. My only disappointment is that I have this book on digital format and I really want a hard-copy to underline and highlight and keep around as I grow more seasoned in my writing and aware of the areas where I need and want help and where I can go it alone.

This book helps guide me there.

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for honest review.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

I wouldn't recommend it.

I just finished reading Witches Protection Program, as painful as it was. I would classify this book as a cross between the sixty’s television show Bewitched, the Harry Potter book series with junk food trivia and technology gone badly. If that sounds like I didn’t care for the book, you are right.

Apart from that, I can’t say too much. Based on the title I had expected an interesting read similar to the television program ‘In Plain Sight’ which showed the difficulties witnesses and US Marshalls have with the program. There really was nothing about the Witness Protection Plan in this book.

The story told of a cosmetic firm attempting to get mass market buy in of their facial cream which contained a secret ingredient allowing the cosmetic firm, along with its political allies, control of women’s minds. Wait, maybe this is actually being played out in the US; does either of the political parties have an interest in the cosmetics industry?

This could potentially be a fun action movie for young teens. Alas, it was of no interest to me.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Take me back to an earlier time

I was originally drawn to author Lea Wait's Threads of Evidence by the cover, an image of a cozy fireside spot, surrounded by needlework. However, after I began reading, the cover was soon forgotten and I was drawn into the story. In addition to the intrigue of the unfolding forty-five-year-old mystery, the quotes from historic samplers inspired me.

It would not be necessary to be a needlepoint hobbyist in order to understand the story but having this knowledge certainly makes the story resonate more strongly. The wall hangings in an ancient home reveal the awareness that a lingering mother has of her daughter’s murderer. When the local police fail to investigate the death as anything other than an accident, the grief stricken mother uses her needlework to provide the clues she has uncovered in hopes that one day the crime will be solved.

I was additionally captivated by the quotes from samplers done by young women in the late 1700’s and early 1800’s. Continually stressing virtues and character as the keys to a life of happiness and contentment I found this meaningful in today’s world as well. While we don’t adhere to the same standards for morality and virtuosity as were appropriate in those times, ideals are still mandatory in steering your life course to a higher level.

I would recommend this book to anyone who feels drawn to the small towns in Maine as well as those who enjoy working with colorful threads and historic needlepoint samplers. I thoroughly enjoyed the read and was disappointed when I had to turn the last page, completing my visit to Haven Harbor, Maine.

I did receive a free copy of this book from Kensington Books via Net Galley in order to write this review. I received no monetary compensation and was not obligated to make it a positive review. I was simply asked to give my honest opinion which I have done.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

The Keywords are “Be Good to Yourself”!

 I loved this book, even more than I loved Christiane Northrup’s book on Menopause and that’s a stretch because there was so much important information in that book. Ditto with this one. I did watch her PBS special where she outlined the book before a television audience after I had read the first few chapters. Fortunately, since I had the book, it wasn’t necessary for me to take notes during the presentation as I knew the references to books, authors and websites would be covered in the book. 

What a read, a streetlight for going forward in this Century. The good Doctor presents a paradigm shift for the inevitable ‘if you don’t die syndrome’… I won’t name various choices, but you know phrases that have the word ‘age’ in them. For Women, and she does include men here and there, this is a book for women because where we are now, we’ve never been before and we could use a few guideposts along the way to help us navigate this new world. We could say 70 is the new 50 but you get the idea.

As her previous books have revealed, Dr. Northrup embraces both the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual aspects of our biological processes (Menopause and Age) and she’s not bemoaning any of it. She’s not locked into testing this and that to prevent some disease or other and she’s not suggesting you just play cards with the folks at the senior center. She is inspiring us to Greatness! Great Lives, adventure, creativity, pleasure and with those comes the big one, Health!

From the esoteric to the practical, she covers seeking pleasure on a daily basis to getting your sugar number. She covers diet but she also covers daily movement, and not necessarily an exercise plan.

I did receive a free copy of this book from Hay House Publishing in order to write this review. I received no monetary compensation and was not obligated to make it a positive review. I was simply asked to give my honest opinion which I have done.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Review of The Real Food Revolution: Healthy Eating, Green Groceries and the Return of the American Family Farm by Tim Ryan

One fact in this book stood out above the rest for me and that was in 1920 a chicken took approximately 16 weeks to reach 2.2 pounds. Now, they can reach 5 pounds in 7 weeks.  As the author points out, this is because American farming has changed over the last several decades with small and medium scale farms being replaced by giant productions focused on increased productivity and efficiency. New farming practices with new technology have doubled milk production since 1960, tripled meat and quadrupled eggs at a rapid speed. However, the downside of this increase is that they do not supply our country with sustainable heathy food supply.  

The author, Congressman Tim Ryan, a democrat of the northeastern part of Ohio, lets us know who’s who that’s working for us and who is against us, that we need to know if we are interested in real change in the way that our country handles our food and labeling of that food. He appropriately compares the information we are required to be given with regard to automobiles, credit cards and banking but leaves us in the dark as far as how our food is processed. He also compares the way that other countries demand their food is handled and how these same standards are not required and therefore not followed for Americans.

The amount of processed foods, potato chips, quick oats, boxed cereals and prepared frozen or boxed meals with added ingredients that Americans are eating are not necessary healthy for us, they are leading to an epidemic of food related diseases including obesity, diabetes, heart disease and cancer.
The book encourages us to make healthier choices in our food, purchasing local and organic where possible and making some informed choices based on how animals are raised and suggesting that it might be more humane to give up meat and poultry altogether. However, if you do choose to remain a carnivore, at least look at grass fed and free range alternatives.

The Congressman encourages us to vote with our purchasing choices looking to buy fresh from local farms and leave behind the Frankenfood in the grocery stores. Big Business concerns lobby congress and our votes don’t have the impact that our buying choices do. The book provides many resources to look to for answers and grass roots efforts from organizations that are willing to help, websites and addresses are listed. 

This is an important book on an important topic. He backs up his claims with facts, figures and names names. If you are hoping to find a way out of the health care crisis facing us, this book will inspire you to get started locally.

I did receive a free copy of this book from Hay House Publishing in order to write this review. I received no monetary compensation and was not obligated to make it a positive review. I was simply asked to give my honest opinion which I have done.