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.

Updates, General

Hello!

I hope you all are doing well!  I am currently taking a small break at work to update my blog!  I’ve been crazy busy of late. I started my new job on August 1st, so I’ve been figuring all of that out, helping my husband return to finish his degree, and also working on side projects!

I wrote three book reviews for Bowling Green Daily News last week, and one for Edmonson voice.  I am currently reading three books at once. I am reading I, Ripper by Stephen Hunter for my book club on Saturday, and The Man Who Loved Birds for review, as well as a Higher Education book a couple of professors wrote (also for a review).

I am pondering dying my hair red… it also needs cutting.

As things are beginning to level out, I am going to start writing again.  I want to get back on the wagon, and really work on my witch novel, which will be my focus for November. I plan to finish it by the end of November, which means I need about 65,000 more words on it.  We shall see how that goes!

Surely I will start writing on my blog more as well. I am currently obsessed with the song Lost Boys by Ruth B. If you haven’t heard it – go look it up on Youtube.

Oh, and I’m obsessed with PokemonGo.  I’m level 21, almost 22.  SO MUCH FUN!

Laters my friends!

Reading/Book Review Update

Oh me, oh my.

I’m having a hard time getting into a book this past week, for several different reasons.

First: Our book club picked “John Dies at the End” for June. The audiobook was on Overdrive, so I downloaded it.  I could not. I could NOT finish it.  The writing bothered me.  The tone bothered me.  There character drove me crazy. And from what I have been told, it got even crazier as it went on.  Only one person in my group liked it. I take that back, she LOVED it, and gave it five stars.  To each their own. I even tried to watch the movie on Netflix and made it about three minutes. To anyone who loved it, I’m sorry. I tried.

 

So, I think disliking that one so much but trying to listen to it as much as I could for book club kind of ruined for it me on the reading front at all.  That being said, I have several lined up I need to read. And I’m behind on book reviews. I need to review Queen Hereafter for the Edmonson Voice. I’m glad I get to review whatever I want for them.

'Third Target' an action-driven storyI have several books lined up for Bowling Green Daily News.  My review on “The Third Target” by Joel C. Rosenberg was published today. Check out the link for my full review, but overall it was a great read. There is death, destruction, politics and a bit of romance. It does have Christian overtones.  The overall politics are fascinating and slightly disturbing, since it is fiction but seems to ring so true to today. I have “The First Hostage” sitting on the shelf ready to read but I needed a small break from such topics.

I am reading “A Ghostly Grave” by Tonya Kappes, which was sent to me by BGDN. I am only about 20 pages in. It is … unusual. I thought it was a romance at first, but it seems to be more of a paranormal investigation type mystery – and the second in a series. I know I have two more coming from them, and possibly another on my shelf they sent.  I also have “The Drafter” by Kim Harrison to read. I’m actually really excited about that. I LOVED her Hollow series, and had been wanting to read her new Peri Reed Chronicles. She posted on her blog that they were looking for a few readers to get ARC’s of her second book in the series (The Operator). I wrote in, and talked about my blog, and that I could get my review published in the Bowling Green Daily News. I was picked for it, and will get The Operator in October. However, as a great surprise, her publishing company sent “The Drafter” (Which I had almost bought), along with an extra copy to give a friend to make sure we were all ready for the next one!

I have a few others I have bought myself that I want to read. Not to mention all the ones I’ve just been picked up or been given. I really wish I could make a living reviewing books and doing this all the time! Maybe then I would I wouldn’t be so behind…

So how do you handle being behind on your reading list? I’m ahead at least on my Goodreads goal! What do you do when you hit a book funk? When do you call it quits on trying to read something?

Parenting in Public: Judgement Come Forth

Today, my child was in a mood.  Now to begin with, he woke up at 6 am pretty happy.  But as the day wore on, with no nap in sight, we went back and forth a bit on the toddler mood spectrum.

For those of you who do not know my child, he is loud.  And I say it with love. I have a loud kid. He just is naturally loud. If you have met his father, you’d understand.  And generally, it really doesn’t bother me. Kids are loud anyways.  We chase each other with swords through the house screaming at the top of our lungs. We run yelling outside, and we dance like idiots. He is two. Some people I know love to tell me just how loud my kid is, like I haven’t noticed (that gets a bit annoying).

And he is a little extra loud. Oh, especially when angry.  And my child throws the occasional “I am utterly pissed and have no way to express it so I shall scream now” fits.  They aren’t fun. But they are rare.

I had Book Club today. An event I love, that happens once a month.  Most of the time Xander isn’t there – I usually tutor before hand so he stays in Brownsville with my awesome sister-in-law.  However, he does like Barnes and Noble, and today there was not tutoring. So off we went, backpack and shoes on, and he even got over not riding around in his car and having to get in the actual car, no problem.  He fell asleep. Ah, yes, the long awaited, oh so needed nap.

And shocking, he stayed asleep when I moved him to the stroller, for almost another hour. But when he awoke in Barnes and Noble, we went full on grumpy mood. I tried to appease him with trains, but there was another kid there, and he decided he just wanted to be held. And he stayed grumpy. He wanted to go outside to the car.

Honestly, I gave in. And I gave up. Because I know how loud my kid is, and especially just how loud he can scream.

And I hate the screaming. But even more so in public. It’s harder to deal with. It just plain is.  Parenting in public is difficult, and annoying. Even when your child is only minorly upset, you know you are instantly thinking about what everyone is thinking about your parenting. We have become a society that throws judgement around like we all know the perfect answer. And we don’t.

There are a million examples of this.  Mom bloggers.  Breastfeeding vs Formula. The recent gorilla incident, and then the Disney incident which ended much worse.  It takes a millisecond for other parents, or even NON parents (who honestly, can be much more frustrating), to start throwing out blame or advice. “I wouldn’t have done that” “Why wasn’t she watching her child” “Well, I never would have let that happen”

And on it goes.  And in public there are people who stare. And people who try to offer advice or judgement to your face.  Some try to be nice.  Some are downright rude.  And that, my friends, is stressful.

So yes, my child wanted to be held.  I held him.  Yes, he was grumpy and rude to my friends. He wanted to go outside, and screamed when we couldn’t walk through the window. I talked to him calmly, fussed at him, told him he could not talk to people that way. I put him in the stroller, and out we went.  And I just decided to leave.

Because no matter if I had continued to walk around holding him, or if I had let him sit in that stroller and yell at people or just be downright meant, it was no longer a fun experience for me. I can’t shop or talk about books or any of it, when I’m worried about my child. And really, I shouldn’t. I should do what is best for him and me. And in that moment, as much as I didn’t want to, leaving was it. We went and got him some juice.  We went and waited for his dad to go on lunch, and he heard birds and got all excited. So we drove from tree to tree while he said “here bird” and made that noise we all make to get dogs or cats attention. It was cute. And he was happy.  And I was less stressed.

So why did I go on this giant blog rant? Well, partly because a friend asked me to talk about this stuff more here so I’m trying that out.  Partly, because I’m still frustrated about something someone said.  Also, it’s been a rough day. I’m not sleeping well these days. Xander woke up at 6 am. My ear has been hurting nonstop all day.  He peed all over himself and his blanket and sheets when I tried to put ear drops in my ear, and then I had to give him a bath (which he loved). I went to make sure my dogs had water, and found a dead kitten by one dog’s doghouse. That upset me a lot. I drove to Bowling Green. I had a quiet hour with my friends, and then he was upset. It just was not the spiffiest of days. So when it came to dealing with the terrible twos, I took the easy road.

Posting this is opening myself up to all the advice, comments, judgement and drama possible in the land of internet.  And that is sad.  I hear people complain because we use Facebook to make ourselves look perfect. But if we ever open ourselves up to our insecurities, things go horribly wrong. People are mean and rude.  And Judgemental. At least most people in public couldn’t get the nerve to say to me what they would online (and we all know that is true). Then again, I have friends who love to repeat parenting advice, or give me that look when they disagree or really wish I’d let them handle it. I also have the friends/relatives who automatically try to yell at or discipline my child when I’m literally standing RIGHT THERE trying to talk to him.

It takes all kinds. It used to take a village, right? We used to give more support, and offer help, and just be nice to one another.  Now we feel like we have to one up one another in the internet land.  We say whatever we type, not thinking about how it affects someone else. And its sad.  We need to stop judging. I’ve seen some great posts from fellow moms who say the same thing. When you see a mom struggling, or doing something different from you, stop, think, and possibly just let it go.  They may be having a horrid day. They may not feel well.  But honestly, they know their child.  They know what works. And they know what actions will cause what.  It’s their choice.  Its their family. And as long as they aren’t beating the child in front of you, or doing something damaging, you need to let it go. I can work better on this than I do, even now feeling it from the other end.  So let us all breathe.

I know my child. I kiss his “hurts” and hold him when he cries, and get him to sleep at night.  There is two people on the a list that can pretty much say whatever they want to me about him and give me advice (and honestly, they hardly even do, which may be why they are on that list), and that’s about it.  I appreciate support, love and understanding.

(PS – Shout out to my book club for pushing my stroller for me, and following us around while I tried to make him happy.)

Oh The Treasures We Find…

So, I’m on a mission to get rid of stuff.  As I have way too much stuff. So does my husband, but he is a pack rat (I see most of his stuff staying) but I’m hoping to at least get it more organized and hidden in the back of our attic.

Going through a tote we took out of storage, I found these. Oh my.  From essays in high school, to all my poems, short stories and who knows what else.

This could get interesting.  As I’m trying to post more, my new idea is to do “Throwback Thursday” but with pieces of my writing.

Now you have that to look forward to 😛

Now to go back to the piles of crap to sort. Wish me luck!

The Night Circus Book Review

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The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called “Le Cirque des Reves,” and it is only open at night.

But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway–a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them, this is a game in which only one can be left standing, and the circus is but the stage for a remarkable battle of imagination and will. Despite themselves, however, Celia and Marco tumble headfirst into love – a deep, magical love that makes the lights flicker and the room grow warm whenever they so much as brush hands.

True love or not, the game must play out, and the fates of everyone involved, from the cast of extraordinary circus performers to the patrons, hang in the balance, suspended as precariously as the daring acrobats overhead.

Why I Read It:

My good friend Nick found a copy, excitingly, at the Half Price Book Store when I was with him and my book club.  His girlfriend, my friend, had got him to read it. They both LOVED it. He had the copy in person, so I relented and gave in.  I am glad I did.

Thoughts:

Overall, this book is amazing.  The ideas in it are complex and different about magic. It is something that can be inherent, or taught. A great twist, and what eventually leads to the game this book surrounds.  There is magic, a circus, great characters, and twists and turns. I was sucked into this book and did not want to put it down. I finished it in about a day.

There are time jumps, and character switches. It can become slightly confusing to follow, but after a few of the switches you become more used to it, and it is easier to follow.  The switch in point of view I actually liked, because otherwise the story would have been much less dynamic.  There were moments when I laughed, moments when I cried, and when I hoped things would not go the way I feared. The voice of each character was different, thank goodness. Too often when you switch point of views you wind up with characters who all sound the same.  This is not the case.  The author did a fabulous job here. Characters are well built, they evolve and change, and they are faced with issues unique to themselves.  The game changes them all, in unforeseen ways.

There is romance, as it promises in the blurb. I have seen arguments that it feels like a “love at first sight” thing, but I disagree. I liked the two together, and how their relationship evolved.  I think often the acts we perform in this world speak volumes about who we are.  The magic these two are creating, the tents they set up, truly give each other a view into their soul and their thoughts. It is a way of speaking to each other that so few people could understand.  It is this that leads to their love, and from there that love grows.  I liked it.

Favorite Thing:

The Tents. Oh, I loved the tents and the circus. The magic was lovely.  The tents they created, magical to be obvious in description.  Each new creation was wondrous, and I could envision them easily. Too bad this circus doesn’t exist…

I am afraid to write more as I may start accidentally giving spoilers.  I enjoyed it.

5stars

A Writing Prompt

This is Author Amanda McCormick‘s weekly writing prompt:

Using a photo from Garett Photography, write whatever inspires you.

I’m going to use these two, which are really lovely.

(This is a scene which may go into my new book)

The sun had almost set on the longest day of the year. The garden was bursting with blooms, having soaked in the sun. Ember gathered chamomile, yarrow, thyme and daisies.  She already had lilies, and had made flower crowns for her and her sisters, their aunt, and niece. She wasn’t sure if they would wear them, but she could not resist. It was a fond memory of her mother and her sisters, celebrating the solstice.  With their mother gone, and their training becoming more intense, she just wanted to liven things up for an evening.

She had already picked vegetables and apples.  She had also bought some fruit from the market. Oak was stacked by the firepit with pine needles, ready to burn, and she had her emerald earrings and necklace on. Gathering the rest of what she wanted, she took the bunches to the chairs, winding herbs together, laying a few bunches in the bottom of the pit.  As she finished,  she saw her sisters and niece come out of the kitchen.

“Hey Em. Anything we can do?”

“Bring out the trays in the kitchen and set the table over there.  There should be candles as well.”

Blaze and Ash disappeared through the door. Ella continued walking up to the firepit and looking in. “Why are there herbs and stuff in the bottom?”

“Mostly just because it smells wonderful when it burns. Our mom used to say that these plants held a special significance on the summer solstice however, so she always grew them. It’s tradition to burn them.”

Ella nodded, and Em smiled, as it was if she was carefully committing these thoughts to memory.  The sun had finally set, and the moon slowly began to become visible. Blaze and Ash had set the trays on the table, with Aunt Ember walking behind with the candles, arranging them just so. She waved a hand over them, and they lit.

“Did you make these Ember?” Amber asked.

“Yes. I sell quite a few in the store and online. These particular ones smell of Lavender”

“Wonderful.”

“Can we eat now? I’m famished?” Blaze said as she picked up a slice of watermelon.

“Me too!” piped up Ella.

Laughing Ember told them to eat up.  Getting a plate, she piled it full of salad, with a bowl of fruit.  They sat around the fire and as the night drew over them, and the stars began to appear, they lit the fire.

Ember walked around setting the crowns on each person’s head.  Blaze jumped when hers landed, and then giggled as she saw Ember’s.  “I had forgotten this. I haven’t done this in years.”

“Mom and I did it every year.  Ella, do you like yours?”

“I LOVE IT!” Ember had also made her a wand, using a long stick, ribbons and flowers.  She skipped around the garden, waving it as flowers trailed behind her.

Amber looked at each of them.  “I’m glad to see Sera kept doing this. Your mother did always love the holidays.”

“She respected them too. I want to honor that respect and love. We’ve all been working hard, I thought tonight would be a good night off. What about some stories about you two as children?”

“That was quite a while ago.”

“I’d enjoy a few.  Plus Ella did not know mom well. It would be nice” Ash said.

Ember noticed Amber give her a look, but was unsure what it meant. “Okay.”

Amber started off with a story about Sera lighting the teacher’s trash can on fire when she was mad in school, and from there she made their own antics in school sound like nothing.  Ash seemed to regret asking for the stories as Ella looked fascinated at the ideas.  The moon was now high above them, shining through the dream catchers hung in the garden. Lights flicked across the pavers, and sparkled like the stars above them.

Throwing herbs on the fire with the pine needles, Ember looked around her.  She missed her mother, but she was glad for the night.  Her sisters were together again, and celebrating this day of life and light.

The End

Hope you enjoyed! Join in the prompt, and link back to Amanda! Also, check out Garett’s photography! It is beautiful.

The Goodreads Challenge

If ever there was an invention for people who love to read, it is Goodreads.  I stumbled across it a couple of years ago and fell in love. The more I use it, the more I love it.  Not only can I look up books, see reviews, meet authors, and post my own reviews, but I can enter in contests for Giveaways (of which I’ve won several), and have even been sent books straight from the authors.  It’s a wonderful place.

To top it off – I LOVE that they have the Goodreads reading challenge every year.  Last year, I fell short. And it depressed me. So this year my goal was once again 50 books for the year.  I’m 7 books ahead. If you’d like to see what I’ve read, click here. Last year, I read 41 out of 50.

If you are not on Goodreads, go check it out.  It’s a fun way to keep track of when you read books. You can update your currently reading shelf, say what page you are one, and even add in comments. Are you hating the book at the moment? Write that in! Loving it? Add that too.  As a reviewer, it can be a nice trick to remember some key feelings.  Besides all that, its just fun to look back on.

As someone who reads a lot, its an easy way to go back and check when you have read something.  You can even surf book lists and add in books you know you have read. I really need to do more of that. I wish this had been around since I was tiny.

So, if you haven’t checked out Goodreads, you should.  Challenges are good things, and setting a goal you can visibly track for reading can be just as important for writing goals. Reading influences our writing in a way that not much else can. It can help us pick up vocabulary, and give us new ideas we may discover ages from now.  As writers, it is what we are trying to create – a world within pages that people want to read.  So be a reader, as nothing else can help you be a better writer.

Word Count for the Month of April

Hello everything!

So, I’m hoping April showers will bring May Flowers… but for now, it’s the last day of April, and I’m looking at my writing totals.

I’m ecstatic. I wrote 14,348 words this month. I have no idea when the last time I wrote that much was.  Probably in undergrad with all my papers.

The best part? I’ve started a new novel. One of my goals is still to finish my novel-in-the-works, Fated Destiny. However, I need to sit and study that and possibly rewrite much after finally figuring out some points that had me stuck.  I think I’m saving that for NaNoWriMo.

The other day I had an idea about witches.. and started working on it. I shared it with my friend Nick who is most awesome at helping me plot. He has wonderful ideas. And he ran with it. Gave me super ideas. Then I went and used a plotting worksheet and wrote and wrote. An entire plot. I was so super happy.

Then I pinned all the pins on witchcraft.

And then I started to write. Wrote over 1000 words before collapsing into sleep, and I just wrote over 1000 more tonight.

Wish me all the luck. Maybe if you guys want I’ll share snippets as I go. I also plan to blog weekly on my word count and where I’m at plot point wise.  I plan 1000 words a night. Maybe if I can do this, I can have a whole novel in three months.

Wish me luck!