Snow Time! Mary Weber’s Mad Hatter Society!

Hello Everyone!

I realize, that quite often, I blog a bit and then disappear for quite a while. I am sorry about that.  I keep hoping to make writing a focus of my life, but all too often let that slip away because everything is crazy.

However, a good person I know who works at WKU (Dr. Dye) was speaking to us about self-care and she said women often live a “checklist life” and strive to always be checking things off, and we forget to just be.  In an effort for my own sanity, and self care, I am going to start writing. I have three more work days until WKU closes for 20 days, and I get time off. I plan to clean, get rid of some stuff, celebrate Christmas, and chill.

Oh, and finish potty training training Xander.

In good news, my book club is going well. We added a new member, who is a friend from college (and writes excellent things).  We will celebrate Christmas this month, and are reading “The School for Good and Evil.”

The most awesome Mary Weber also started a “Street Team” of which I have been added as a member! She sent us a Christmas card, a welcome note, a tattoo and tea!! She is calling it her Mad Hatter’s Society.  I also received a signed copy of The Evaporation of Sofi Snow, so I see a give away in our future! If you are interested, comment below, and I will set one up!

In even better news – She sent me an ARC of Reclaiming Shilo Snow, which I have started on and hope to speed read in the next couple of days, and review here and for the Daily News. I also have an ARC of Iron Gold which I cannot wait to read as well.  My book pile is growing and growing. Why can’t I get paid 40k a year to just review books??

If there is anything you would like to see here, let me know! Also, my book club had a Mad Hatter’s Tea Part – and I totally need to write about that here, so look forward to that (I dressed up as a Steampunk Belle), and we had the YA Bookcon, where I finally met Mary Weber, and her daughter!

For my reviews so far:

Storm Siren

Siren’s Fury

Siren’s Song

The Evaporation of Sofi Snow

#ReclaimingShiloSnow #ShiloSnow #SofiSnow #MaryWeber #MWMadHatters

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Fates Aflame

34788631“Fates Aflame” by P. Anastasia.  P. Anastasia (Self-Published). 430 pages. $16.95.

“In a society secretly fueled by unbridled magic, an ever-changing landscape of politics and formalities tugged the threads of my fate in all directions, shrouding the future in uncertainty. Earth granted her the ability to conjure fire at will, but the birth of her powers awakens a curse and a perilous trial unfolds, putting the lives of those she loves in jeopardy. When extinct beasts brought forth by ancient magic threaten her life, she has no choice but to take a stand…”

Valhara Hawksford is a young (18 years old) lieutenant who lives on a base in space – the Celestial Galaxy Academy.  Because of a mission to bring the two academies together, Valhara is being transferred to the Silver Diamond Academy, which is back on Earth, a place she does not want to go back to since a tragic accident.  We learn more about the two different academies, as well as the world itself and all the changes, as the story progresses, and I must say that Anastasia did a wonderful job of creating and building a world that is slightly familiar but overall very different.

I did become slightly restless with the first part of the book because I wanted to find out where the flames and magic pieces of the story came into play, but then a nice little romance starts to bud, and that helps carry you through.  To answer the question, it takes quite a bit of the book to get to the magical pieces of the story, and I do wish that that had occurred sooner.  If you read the synopsis, you do continually ask when that is going to come into play, and I wanted to see more of it in the book then just the last third (roundabouts). Also, in the description it says that the society is fueled by unbridled magic, but there is no hint about any of that for a very long time.

However, the overall plot is done well, and generally the pacing works because the story itself does build the entire time.  Anastasia creates a world in which we can see the characters growing, and we come to learn more about them so that we can understand the choices they are making.  There is a nice sense of history to everything, with even a detailed back story on one the character’s father’s and how he fought in an important war.  There is a library (yay for print books still existing), and old tomes of great information that I really enjoyed. The world and character building is what truly makes this book, and I think if the pace had picked up to get us to magic a bit quicker, it would that much better for it.

One thing I did particularly like about the world is that it is an interesting futuristic blend of science fiction, with advanced technology, military, and academies, as well as magic, and the legends that surround it.  There was quite an added twist with the King Author legend, and while I might not like how he was portrayed, I did very much like how it added to the story, and the fact that it was different from everything we normally read. I also very much liked the idea that the magic is reawakening and things are starting to shift and change as they had not for centuries, and things that were thought extinct are resurfacing.  Never doubt the world you live on!

The romance within the novel is well done. It is not a swooping “I fell in love at first sight” type of deal. They truly get to know one another, first as friends, and then maybe as more.  Now, I will say that the whole “her never having been kissed before” thing was slightly irritating, but I suppose there are 18 year old girls who have never kissed someone before… it’s just unlikely. Or seems that way. Her love interest is very likeable however, and I was always afraid that for some reason it was going to turn him into the bad guy… I’ll leave you hanging on that thought.

This would be a fantastic story for teenage girls and young adults.  Or you know, those of us who are not young adults but still mostly read that type of fiction… If you like fantasy, this is a nice combination of that world with a little bit of sci-fi thrown in.  I did love that there was a strong female lead, and it was never a question of if she could be promoted or not.  There were other female characters in leadership positions as well, though one country did have only a king, and both commanders of the academies were men as well (come on, let’s change that in our writing!).  I’m not one to usually harp on gender stereotypes, but it was something I noticed.  I think it would have been interesting if she could have had a female mentor within the book, who was her commander, or higher up in the hierarchy.  I also thought it was interesting because Valhara herself says that she does not want to be caught up in romance or anything else because she is so focused on her career – and how many times have we felt that, if you are a woman? It can be very hard to balance it all, and also we often hear how you cannot do both, but must choose one or the other. I liked that dynamic within the novel quite a bit.

I am hoping that we find out more about Valhara’s past, seeing as how she has this ancient mythical sword, and while we do mostly find out that story, I wanted to know more about it, and what she had done to get where she was.  This book did have young adults seemingly doing jobs fit for older people, but then again her role was to be a student at the academy, so it made sense.

This can be a standalone novel, though it does set it up nicely for the second book. Anastasia was at our SOKY Bookfest this past April, and has written several books including “Dark Diary.” She believes in writing the truth, and telling your character’s story, whatever that may mean. I look forward to the next Fates Aflame book, and the rest of her work!

The Evaporation of Sofi Snow

Book CoverMARY WEBER IS COMING TO BOWLING GREEN, KY! -squeals-  For the Young Adult Southern Book Con in October – I am so excited I can hardly stand it.  Below you will find my review of The Evaporation of Sofi Snow that will be published in the Bowling Green Daily News.

“The Evaporation of Sofi Snow” by Mary Weber. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson. 352 pages. $15.99.

“Ever since the Delonese ice-planet arrived eleven years ago, Sofi’s dreams have been vivid. Alien. In a system where Earth’s corporations rule in place of governments and the humanoid race orbiting the moon are allies, her only constant has been her younger brother, Shilo. As an online gamer, Sofi battles behind the scenes of Earth’s Fantasy Fighting arena where Shilo is forced to compete in a mix of real and virtual blood sport. But when a bomb takes out a quarter of the arena, Sofi’s the only one who believes Shilo survived. She has dreams of him. And she’s convinced he’s been taken to the ice-planet. Except no one but ambassadors are allowed there. For Miguel–Earth’s charming young playboy–the games are of a different sort. As Ambassador to the Delonese, his career has been built on trading secrets and seduction. Until the Fantasy Fight’s bomb goes off. Now the tables have turned and he’s a target for blackmail. The game is simple: Help the blackmailers, or lose more than anyone can fathom, or Earth can afford.”

Mary Weber is one of my favorite authors (if you have not read the Storm Siren trilogy I suggest you do that now – it was the first book I reviewed for Bowling Green Daily News), and when I received this book I was over the moon.  I was not disappointed.  Weber has the ability to weave together a beautiful tapestry of words, linking diverse cultures, sci-fi and fantasy is a way that had me turning page after page, until the point I could no longer keep my eyes open.  I finished this book in two days – and it only took me that long because I had to go to work.

Perhaps my favorite thing in this novel is the use of technology in the future (and a scary future it is).  Tech, due to alien influence, has taken on a whole new level of amazing when it comes to gaming – but it also has changed our lives and our privacy.  Anyone who likes gaming or advancing technology is going to love this book.  They hack into systems, change living environment digitally and write code. The best part is that it also deals with the negative side of all of these changes, and sometimes that gets glossed over within futuristic novels.

Characters, I believe, have always been Weber’s strong suit and she did not let me down now.  Perhaps my favorite character is Claudius, because he constantly made me laugh out loud while reading. He was certainly a great point of comedic relieve when needed, but he also was serious as it was called for – a dual character which I always appreciate.  Miguel and Sofi have some serious trust issues going on due to their past, and I generally loved their story line together.  Though I did occasionally really wish they would just speak up, I understand the difficulty that we all have doing that, and how we often sink back into our “protective” selves when our hearts are broken.

Characters also surprised me. I had suspicions about some of them – some proved true and some did not.  Something I always like in a book.  The characters have flaws, and their reactions always proved pretty genuine to reality.  Time wise, they also seemed to fit within the world – not to mention being pretty culturally diverse.  In this day and age that can be a hard thing to pull off well, but Weber did it.  The best thing is that Weber weaves in many themes that you pick up on if you know her writing, such as human trafficking.  On the plus side, because fans were asking she wrote back on Goodreads and gave us a list of themes she was exploring beneath the surface: “human trafficking, politics & elitism, strong women, identity, sibling relationships, parent/child relationships, how our words & actions impact others, the role the past plays in a person’s choices, how we retain our humanity.”

On the note of sibling relationships, I loved Sofi and her brother Shilo.  It is the driving force of the novel, and that really is a great change.  While I appreciated the love story sort of happening, I almost wish it did not factor in at all.  It would be nice to have a few books where siblings, family and friendships take the main role, and love stories do not have to be mentioned (I see the selling points though – literally).

Action is not at all lacking within this novel.  Though there are a few slow moments as needed, we quickly jump from one scene to the next, with unexpected turns.  Weber always writes from the point of view of both Sofi and Miguel, so be prepared for the shift – but always in third person and from chapter to chapter. I did want more information on the past history of Earth, but Weber does a great job of world building at a decent pace, without leaving us hanging or slowing down the story.  I learned everything I needed to, in order to understand things as they happened. In large part, there are things we do not know simply because the characters themselves do not know it.

One criticism I have seen, and that I kind of agree with is the fact that these teenagers have jobs way beyond their years.  Now, the game that starts the book off is for teenagers, age 17 and under only, but Miguel is a 17 year old ambassador.  While this is a futuristic world, and we do not know the age demographics of everyone, supposedly technology cures many things.  Perhaps that will be explored more in the next book. Maybe not.  It is a young adult book, and good enough that I threw that piece of common sense out the window and just enjoyed the story, and what was happening.

Be prepared – it does end in quite the cliffhanger. It is a duology, and the sequel, “Reclaiming Shilo Snow” will be released on March 6th 2018.  You can connect with Mary Weber via her website (http://www.maryweber.com/) on Facebook @MaryWeberAuthor, Iinstagram @MaryWeberAuthor, Twitter @mchristineweber, and Goodreads. She is lots of fun to follow, and her website stays pretty up to date.

Carving My Mark

A person who is very important to me thanked me for being such a great friend today, and also told me to look toward the future, look into getting my Phd, and that I will do great things – not to let now get in the way of the future.

And as I was sitting coloring my sun visor for my car (it’s finished and beautiful), I was thinking over this.  I remember my 5th grade teacher, Mr. Prunty, writing in my yearbook that I was going to accomplish great things, and he would keep an eye out for my name in the future.  While he may have wrote this for countless kids – several other teachers told me the same throughout my school career.  And I have always wanted to change the world.

The issue is, how?  One of my greatest passions is education. I have dreams of the educational world I want my son to grow up in.  However, it often seems any way of changing our current education system lies in politics – A world I never had much desire to enter.

I admitted to myself this evening, that I also become frightened of stepping out of my box, and doing something new. I’m used to the things I’m good at and I know what those are (especially school).  So thinking about politics, or higher up roles in education tends to scare me. Hence one of the reasons I went back for a second masters in Leadership – it is not just that I could not decide what to get a Phd or EdD in, it is also that I know I need to improve those skills.

So over the next year, I hope to challenge myself. I want to step outside my box, work on my leading skills, and also do new things.  I want to challenge the status quo.

I also want to write. Two of my awesome friends have been bugging me about this later. So often I say that I just don’t have the time. And it’s really not true. I just do not make the time.  I think it because I am scared to death that I will actually finish something and face rejection at every angle – because I have before.  Plus, I’m just lazy when I get home from work.

Here is to a year of challenges and goals.  Wish me luck. And keep me accountable. 🙂

Back to the basics.

I know the author of this new blog, and he is a great guy who truly cares about students – I interned for him for a semester in graduate school and learned a lot. This post is amazing.1

Higher Ed Introspection

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I was in an Apple store not too long ago in Nashville, Tennessee, with my wife. We were purchasing an Apple Watch for myself; this was my anniversary/Father’s Day gift – my wife is really kind as she knows how I “geek out” about technology.

While we awaited my iPhone to update software so that I could sync the Apple Watch to the iPhone, we struck up a conversation with a younger guy who worked at the Apple Store as a “Genius.” This update took forever, so we were able to have a long conversation with this individual.

This “Genius” had recently graduated from a college in Boston where he studied music business – he also was a musician. He moved to Nashville seeking to put his skills and education to use by entering into the music industry. Specifically, he wanted to pursue a career in the business side of…

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Life Updates & My Reading List

Hello, hello,

I hope you are having an awesome day!  I thought I would give you a few updates (since it has been so long since I’ve posted regularly). I am still working as an academic advisor at WKU, still tutoring, and I’m proud to announce I will be teaching a University Experience class in the fall for Freshmen!

I have also started my 2nd Masters in Organizational Leadership.  The weird thing is that I’m working ahead of schedule… both lessons that due this Sunday at midnight, I had finished by five today, AND I already have books checked out for paper due in two weeks. I don’t want happened to the old procrastinating me!

My son is THREE and lord, potty training is driving me crazy! We now barter – if he wants something, he does what I want – go sit on the potty. It’s pretty much the only way he agrees, and we just started that yesterday (I discovered it by luck). I’m going to have four and a half days off this weekend, so that is my grand plan! I also have a star chart he uses, and he gets a mickey mouse sticker.

My To Read List:

Dark Diary and Fates Aflame (ARC) by P. Anastasia

The Shadow Queen and The Wish Granter by CJ Redwine

Glitter by Aprilynne Pike

Chaos by Patricia Cornwell

Dark Highway (can’t see authors name on book – too far away), and a few others.

Yeeeeeep. I’m current reading Have I Got A Story For You which is a collection of short stories (check out my Goodreads).  I’m doing really well on my reading goal I set for myself!

One last Mention: My sister has started a blog called More Than Muscle.  It’s about the world of Strongmen (and Strongwomen), as she has become involved in the shows, and helps her boyfriend promote his own show Iron Warrior SoKY (http://www.ironwarriorsoky.com/). She shows the side most people don’t see of the people competing – that they are normal folks like us too (and not dumb/jocks/etc.)! Check our her blog HERE!  I help edit her blog (not that it needs much), and I also am in charge of the Iron Warrior website (I don’t know much about web design so forgive me!).

No Damsel in Distress Here – A Stranger at Fellsworth

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A Stranger at Fellsworth by Sarah E. Ladd – Published by Thomas Nelson, 2017, 324 pages.

Buy here @ Amazon. (And no, right now I make no commission from this :P)

I was sent this book by the publisher for an honest review.

I must say, I loved it. I had another book I had to finish first, and my fingers were itching to start reading this one once it arrived in the mail. I was in the mood for a good romance. And this certainly was, and then some.  I always love romances based in the past, and in England.  My title may be just a tad bit misleading – she is in distress a few times, but rightly so. However, what I utterly loved about this book is that SHE chooses to get herself away from a bad situation, and in every thing that follows, she is a woman making choices for herself.  There was no captured/kidnapped/etc. type romance going on here.  There was even a greater plot to the book. So I loved that aspect of it.

The pacing is quite well done. I did not want to put it down to sleep, and finished it the next day after work. I even read it on my lunch break.  The timing of the romance is great (even if slightly cheesy. But I mean, come on! It has to be a little cheesy!). Oh and Owen, I do love Owen.

There a people you despise, people you pity, and people you love.  There are some you question, some you could care less about. It’s all pretty great.  I liked the topics that are tackled in this book (abuse/bullying/rumors) and I think that is always a great thing for an author to do.

The locations are lovely, and the descriptions beautiful.  They are nicely detailed and I would  not say overdone (though I do love details).  We get to see London, and then Fellsworth.  There is a school, and normal every day life.  The issues that a woman faced during this time period are also brought up quite well.

As a quick note – this is Christian Fiction.  She talks about her mother’s faith, her faith, etc.  So that is a topic that is brought up – she prays to God – etc.  It is not over done.  Just a warning to those who do not like that kind of thing.

There are two other in this series so far (The Curiosity Keeper and Dawn at Emberwilde).  They have pretty great reviews as well.  I will be writing a more detailed book review of this for Bowling Green Daily News, which I will link when it is published.  I rate it 4 stars!

And hey – do you want me to try my hand at a video review? Let me know in the comments!

Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand: Book Review

Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand” by Helen Simonson

“You are about to travel to Edgecombe St. Mary, a small village in the English countryside filled with rolling hills, thatched cottages, and a cast of characters both hilariously original and as familiar as the members of your own family. Among them is Major Ernest Pettigrew (retired), the unlikely hero of Helen Simonson’s wondrous debut. Wry, courtly, opinionated, and completely endearing, Major Pettigrew is one of the most indelible characters in contemporary fiction, and from the very first page of this remarkable novel he will steal your heart.

The Major leads a quiet life valuing the proper things that Englishmen have lived by for generations: honor, duty, decorum, and a properly brewed cup of tea. But then his brother’s death sparks an unexpected friendship with Mrs. Jasmina Ali, the Pakistani shopkeeper from the village. Drawn together by their shared love of literature and the loss of their respective spouses, the Major and Mrs. Ali soon find their friendship blossoming into something more. But village society insists on embracing him as the quintessential local and her as the permanent foreigner. Can their relationship survive the risks one takes when pursuing happiness in the face of culture and tradition?”

I love this book.  For one, I love all things English.  Also, I love when cultures clash, and we see how people deal with it.  I thought this was an excellent book, with major characters who were older, and wiser but who still made mistakes. Both were dealing with grief – Major Pettigrew had lost his wife years before, and was also dealing with the very recent death of his brother. Mrs. Ali had lost her husband.

The romance here was everything I wanted.  There are mistakes along the way, issues as they try to figure out how to navigate tough waters, especially considering the fact neither has dated for a very long time. The characters are complex and well developed.

And then add in the children and family. The fact that the author deals with these issues was probably made the book for me. Romance is often shown as a whirlwind story between two people. This book shows how others opinions affect us, and also how our relationships affect them. I honestly wanted to flat out slap his son so many, many times.

The prose and dialogue are both well done.  There are outside issues affecting things as well (the town is facing development), and it even includes a Lord of the town, who is facing hard challenges on his land (something that is quite true for many English Lords).  I loved the cultures, the questions it raises for discussion and the happy ending.

The time line goes well. I never felt frustrated or annoyed, and it seemed well paced. Though I will say that the son’s story made me frustrated just by his selfishness (though the story does address that).  An interesting hint for parents at well.

Go read!

Waiting for Autumn: Book Review

Waiting for Autumn” by Scott Blum

In the tradition of The Alchemist, Way of the Peaceful Warrior, and The Celestine Prophecy, this enchanting semiautobiographical parable follows the inquisitive Scott as he finds himself in a parking lot where he meets a cardboard-sign-toting homeless man named Robert with a penchant for changing lives. With Robert and the sleepy black lab Puppy Don at his side, Scott embarks on a spiritual awakening and attempts to heal his past while confronting the spirit of his dead fiancée, learning the power of nature, exploring the spirit plane, and discovering the true nature of the universe. On this unique journey of self-discovery, various healing and spiritual modalities are revealed, including shamanic soul retrieval, ancestral healing, harnessing of lunar energy, conscious cooking, kirtan, manifesting, and lightworking. This easy-to-read book is a charming and affecting story of one humble soul’s profound awakening on the path to facing an extraordinary dilemma between his spiritual calling and earthly life purpose.” via Amazon

This book was given to me by someone, and we often do not seem to like the same things (He did not like To Kill A Mockingbird. He is also 67 and I am 27).  However, I was fully willing to read it… I did not know at all what it was about. It is certainly… interesting.

This is not the kind of thing I would ever normally read.  I was also not really looking to be enlightened.  For this kind of book for self-discovery, it was very unique, interesting, and had some good moments. The human interaction is quite good and I loved Puppy Dan.

There are apparently others, “Summer’s Path” written after but actually the prequel, and “Winter Moon Rising” the third, final book.

These books are very metaphysical and apparently have many Native American traditions in them.  It has communing with nature, a spirit realm, etc.  It is really about a man’s journey to find inner peace. He meets unique characters along the way.

Scott Blum is the founder of DailyOM.

The North Water: Book Review

The North Water by Ian McGuire

Length: 270 Pages

“Behold the man: stinking, drunk, and brutal. Henry Drax is a harpooner on the Volunteer, a Yorkshire whaler bound for the rich hunting waters of the arctic circle. Also aboard for the first time is Patrick Sumner, an ex-army surgeon with a shattered reputation, no money, and no better option than to sail as the ship’s medic on this violent, filthy, and ill-fated voyage.

In India, during the Siege of Delhi, Sumner thought he had experienced the depths to which man can stoop. He had hoped to find temporary respite on the Volunteer, but rest proves impossible with Drax on board. The discovery of something evil in the hold rouses Sumner to action. And as the confrontation between the two men plays out amid the freezing darkness of an arctic winter, the fateful question arises: who will survive until spring?

With savage, unstoppable momentum and the blackest wit, Ian McGuire’s The North Water weaves a superlative story of humanity under the most extreme conditions.”

Okay… So to be honest up front, I gave this book a two. It was also our book club pick for April (I was the host this month).  Three of our members gave it 1 star, I gave it a 2, someone else gave it a 4, and one gave it a 5.  So we had a nice range of opinions, and this was one of our liveliest debates. I research several different lists and this one was on many of them, plus it is:

One of The New York Times Book Review‘s 10 Best Books of the Year – National Bestseller – Longlisted for the Man Booker Priz – A New York Times and Wall Street Journal Bestseller – Named a Best Book of the Year by Chicago Tribune, The Wall Street Journal, The Guardian, New Statesman, Publishers Weekly, and Chicago Public Library”

However… I don’t think the blurb really prepared me for what this book was about. I personal opinion is that the last 100 pages or so could have been condensed, or completely changed.  After a certain major event (spoilers for the end), it felt like it slowed to a crawl, and almost never picked back up. Plus, the final big event almost fell flat because of it.  I was disappointed.

**Spoilers**

The blurb says something dark in the hold.  The book starts out with a man killing a another man for money, then following a little boy, knocking him out and raping him. Oh and then he does rapes a cabin boy aboard the ship, and finally kills him. I just was not prepared for that.

I have to say, the overall writing was amazing. It is very in tune with the time, the language, the history, etc.  They story was dark, and yet conveyed the struggles these men would have really faced.  The whaling was excellently described. The sealing hurt my soul. As did a scene involving polar bears.  There is cannibalism, death, murder, and more.  All the grim darkness you could just about imagine. And amazingly, with basically one female character in the beginning, mentions of whores in another town, and one maid at the end.  Of course, also true to the time and the job.

As to things that my friends loved – the language, Drax (who we debated on between Sociopath and Psychopath and landed on Psychopath), and the general overall story.  I will say we all mostly agreed that the ending could have been better.  The friend who gave it four stars did so because she wanted to see a better fight between Drax and Sumner.  The 2 star/1 stars of us had issues with the timeline. And violence. Oh it is brutally violent and the language is quite awful within (as to be expected of whalers but still).

Overall, I suppose give it a chance but just go in warned about the actual content.