☕ Book Break ☕ |~The Ocean at The End of The Lane by Neil Gaiman~

~The Ocean at The End of The Lane by Neil Gaiman~

I had no idea what this book was about or even what type of book it was when I picked it up. I thought it was suspense maybe. Instead, I was treated to fantasy.

I listened to the audiobook read by Neil Gaiman. I’m always curious to hear them read their own work, how they meant for the story to sound when they wrote it. I have to say Neil Gaiman is the best author narrator I have heard. Some authors probably should not read their own work, but I think Neil Gaiman could make a grocery list sound enthralling.
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A coming of age story at the crossroads of mystery and wonder, the book has tragedies and magic mixed together. Every once in a while, I like a story that has a little bit of magic and supernatural elements stitched through. .

The story has so many truths woven through it. The characters are fantastic. I adored this book.

“I lived in books more than I lived anywhere else.”

“Grown-ups don’t look like grown-ups on the inside either. Outside, they’re big and thoughtless and they always know what they’re doing. Inside, they look just like they always have. Like they did when they were your age. Truth is, there aren’t any grown-ups. Not one, in the whole wide world.” .
“I do not miss childhood, but I miss the way I took pleasure in small things, even as greater things crumbled. I could not control the world I was in, could not walk away from things or people or moments that hurt, but I took joy in the things that made me happy.”

“Books were safer than other people anyway.”

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☕ Book Break ☕ |~My Plain Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows~

~My Plain Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows~
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This book had me snorting into my teacup. It’s a retelling of Jane Eyre, with the authors taking flexible liberties. It’s kind of a cross between the classic tale and Ghostbusters with a little extra thrown in for good measure.
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For purists who like their classics, the irreverence may be a bit much. I found it hilarious. The cultural references to LOTR and the Princess Bride had me laughing out loud. I’ve always had a soft spot for literature that breaks the story by speaking directly to the reader. There’s something special about seeing “Dear Reader”. ❤️
I adore this book. I did not read the first one, but it certainly on my list now.
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If you’re looking for a lighthearted read I love Jane Eyre adaptations you should check this one out.
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There is mild language in one section of the book when are heroines are in dire straits and frustrated beyond their limits. Other than that, there should be nothing in here to shock the sensibilities. Unless ghosts disturb you. These ghosts are funny, for the most part.
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Loved it.

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☕ Book Break ☕ |~Entwined by Heather Dixon~

~Entwined by Heather Dixon~
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She wanted to give him toast. The sort that had melted butter and a bit of honey spread on top. It was a stupid thought, but there was something comforting about toast.
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I can be agreeable,” said Fairweller. “If the other party is.”
“Oh, well,” said Bramble. “There goes that, then.”
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If you want to break all the windows in the house and drown yourself in a bucket but don’t actually do it, well, that’s love.
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I am rediscovering my love of fairytales. This was a delightful read. I love the way the author took an old favorite fairytale of the twelve dancing princesses and wobe a completely new story but retained echoes of the old classic.
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The castle has a bit of magic around the edges, left over from the time when the evil king ruled. Azalea and her sisters are forced to give up everything for a year of morning when her mother dies. The hardest thing to give up is dance. Azalea discovers a secret passage way that leads to a magical place where she is free to dance, she returns again and again. She finds it she cannot give it up, even when the Keeper, Who rules this en chanted room begins to make her uncomfortable.
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I was thoroughly entertained and enchanted by this novel. I love Azalea. It seems like she got the short end of the stick. Her mother dies and her dad, the king, checks out. The girls must all wear black. Azalea is of the age that she should be attending parties and balls, interacting with prospective suitors.
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Father daughter relationships. Evil villains. Characters with strong personalities. Romances. Hardship. Enchantment. I love the sisters. I could clearly picture each one of the characters.
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This was a long book that didn’t feel long. There were parts that were creepy, parts that were lovely, and lessons to be drawn. Well done.
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The villain is quite dark compared to some fairy-tale versions, depending on what you’re used to. Those with younger readers may want to be aware. This fairy-tale is suitable for older teens. It really does depend on your experience and expectation. I usually find the fairy-tale retellings to be tamer than the original fairy tales I read when I was a child. Most of those did not end well.
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Chasing Contentment

It happened again. I find myself in the same position. The position of discontentment.

When my bones rest easy, laughter fills the house, and the world is sparkly, it’s child’s play to wrap myself in contentment.

Before the race gets muddy with feet bogging daily grime and I run slap into a mountain full of sharp teeth, I am doing all right. I can be content.

But I have to work at being content. It’s not one time accomplishment. Contentment is easier to misplace than my keys, my wallet, and that book of stamps that keeps walking off.

Contentment is elusive. Just about the time I’m thinking I’ve got this thing down. I finally learned my lesson, I slide back into the pit. I don’t notice it on the way down. I’m certain those around me do, but all my complaining and grumpiness is completely justified. That’s what I tell myself.

It comes from wanting to much. It comes from being unhappy with my destiny. It’s completely different than the failures, and failure is inevitable, that provoke and motivate me to strain toward the prize.

When contentment is lost, I gain nothing but a bad attitude. I forget all the blessings that surround me. Simple pleasures are overlooked and I fail to recognize the joy I hold in my hands.

I forget to breathe.

I forget to see.

These spider  lilies came up in my front yard. They wouldn’t have bloomed if the grass has been cut regularly. Some people call them surprise lilies because you never know where they might come up.

Surprise lilies don’t need special tending. A person doesn’t have to do anything to be graced with these flowers except allow them to be.

I didn’t even notice the flowers in the front yard until one of my kids told me about them. When I glanced out of the window, it was obvious surprise lilies were making an appearance. You can see the red from some distance, lacey flags of scarlet demanding attention before the season turns and they sleep under the ground once more.

I wonder how many other simple pleasures I’ve missed because I’m too busy being discontented to count my blessings.

How do you keep contentment?

I need to remember who I am, and who I am not. The comparison game is a contentment killer.

I need to recapture my ability to take joy in the simple things. Moments of beauty are fragile. They are like iridescent soap bubbles, reflecting the light in rainbow promises of better things that live on the edges of our perception,hints of the greater things we cannot see at present. Moments of beauty fly on whatever breeze exposed to, delicately ethereal, meant to be enjoyed in a fleeting space of time.

 

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☕ Book Break ☕ |~Summerlost by Ally Condie~

~Summerlost by Ally Condie~
“Why does the end always have to be what people talk about?”

“I have been in the presence of a lot of greatness. And people I love who loved me back. It might be the same thing.”

After a tragic accident takes the lives of Cedar’s father and younger brother, Ben, Cedar comes to spend the summer in Iron Creek and gets her first job at the Summerlost Theater. She and her new found friend, Leo, are determined to unravel the mystery of the festival’s most famous actress who died years ago. Items appear on Cedar’s window sill, items like the things her brother, Ben, would collect and Cedar tries to puzzle out who left them there.

Sweet, coming-of-age novel. I absolutely adore the main character, Cedar, and her vulnerability and honesty about her feelings for her brother.

This is a novel about Cedar’s coming to terms with losing her father and brother. Her grief, her experience.

It has a lovely summery feel to it, that fleeting warmth and sweetness of twelve-year-old summer, the time in between childhood and adolescence where things are bright and raw. Cedar’s summer is tinged with grief and memories.

This is a story of friendship between a boy and a girl. I like that it wasn’t necessary to have the friendship cluttered by romance. I love the message that it is perfectly acceptable to have a friend of the opposite sex, especially at this age. I remember the looks and raised eyebrows from the adults in my life when I was twelve and my best friend was a boy. Sometimes it’s about friendship, not kisses.

Sensitively done. Beautiful work. Moving.

In the author’s notes she mentions the neurodiverse community. I like that.

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Evelyn’s Autumn

This essay was in an old folder. Fall reminds me of my grandmother, Nana, and I’m posting this today for the first day of fall. I still have fond memories and miss her.

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In Autumn I always think of Nana Evelyn. Lord, what a grouchy old woman. The entire time of my growing-up years she was always there, in the background. She was never demonstrative, and I was sure she didn’t care for me at all, but every once in a while she would spend time with me. One summer she taught me how to paint. I vividly recall her exceptional patience, as she showed me how to blend the reds and oranges to make fall landscapes, flicking a bit of yellow ‘just so’ to finish the medley of colorful leaves. My mother still has one of my paintings from that summer.

Fall colors just seemed to BE Nana. Anything with rich browns, warm reds and orangy golds would make her smile. She didn’t really come alive until October, a respite from the sweltering heat. Transplanted from Wisconsin, the southern climate sapped her. She never complained, just wilted.

She was different from us. I never once heard her say y’all or ain’t. When she was amused she would draw a deep breath and her eyes would widen as she pushed the air out with a little smile. The rest of us cackled and brayed. She was a tad more subtle than us girls.

She and I finally became friends after I had my third child. I began to understand her a little. I think she began to understand me, too.

During cool weather she would tramp through the woods, and pick up scraps of moss, bark and any other interesting bit of nature that caught her eye. My middle son shared a passion for creation with her, and she loaded him up with hick’ry nuts, pine cones and interesting twigs. She would explain what each thing was. “See” she would say, and he would, because he took time to notice the treasures.

She saved nature magazines and stamps for the kids, and always had a pepsi for them.

Every Christmas we would receive a plastic canvas ornament, or a ceramic angel with a crooked smile painted on by shaking hands. She made crocheted rugs out of plastic bags. My boys thought that was so cool. My sisters thought it was tacky.

Every holiday she remembered to send cards and had some small toy and candy for the boys when we dropped by.

No one seems to care about family holidays anymore. I never thought it was Nana holding it together. She never orchestrated the ordeal. That was left to the rest of us women. She just always showed up with that awful cranberry relish and tuna salad.

I have an unfinished cross-stitch I bought to make for her with two of her favorite things in the design, brown and red cardinals in an autumn setting.

When I’m out shopping this time of year and see something in her colors, I always think, “This is perfect for Nana’s birthday.” (It’s November 16) Then I remember and put it back.

I am glad I was finally able to see the colors of Evelyn’s Autumn.

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Do the seasons trigger special memories for you?

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☕ Book Break ☕ |~I’d Tell You I Love You But Then I’d Have to Kill You by Ally Carter~

 

~I’d Tell You I Love You But Then I’d Have to Kill You by Ally Carter~ “All These years I’d thought being a spy was challenging. Turns out, being a girl is the tricky part.”
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This young adult novel by Ally Carter is absolutely wonderful. .
Cammi Morgan attends an exclusive private school. In fact, it’s so exclusive only certain people are allowed to attend. The students of the Gallagher Academy for Exceptional Young Women is a training facility for spies. The future of America depends on them. To complicate matters, Cammi’s mom, a former spy herself, runs the school.
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Cammi is a genius, fluent in multiple languages, and knows how to blend in. She can crack codes and kill a man with her bare hands. She has no idea what do do when she meets an ordinary boy. .
I’d Tell You I love You But Then I’d Have to Kill You made me smile and laugh. This is the first in the Galligher Girls series by Ally Carter. Fun book. A light easy read.

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☕ Book Break ☕ |Finding Hero by Diana L. Sharples

~Finding Hero by Diana L. Sharples~

Finding Hero is a young adult mystery, but rather than a straightforward whodunit, the characters each have their own story. I first read Diana Sharples’ work with her book, Running Lean, a story about a girl with an eating disorder. All of Diana Sharples’ characters in Finding Hero encounter problems other than simply solving a mystery. She writes a complex story.

Finding Hero is a multi layered tale involving teenage life, complicated family history, and a mystery from the past that could have severe consequences for Daniela and Devon. A storm wreaks havoc in their lives, not the least of which is uncovering a long buried body.

I like this new book. When I first downloaded it and saw all those little dots I thought it was on the long side, but as I was listening it did not seem long at all. It’s hard for a book to keep my interest when I listen to it on kindle, but Finding Hero did. I was hooked from the beginning.

I’ve been a sucker for Shakespeare since I first encountered The Bard, so when the book opens it with the character Daniella Cooper auditioning for a part in Much Ado About Nothing my antenna went up. If you’re not a Shakespeare fan the title is referring to a character in the play. You don’t have to be into Shakespeare to enjoy this book, by the way.

The only thing I did not like in this book was the behavior of some of the adult characters. I found myself getting angry at the failure of the grownups, but I understand that that was intentional. They just made me mad! However, simply having a child does not make one a mature adult. These characters reflect true people and the behaviors and obstacles encountered in real life. .
Finding Hero is a clean read. All of Diana Sharples books that I’ve read are, but this one is actually published by clean reads.

I received an advanced copy of this book and was asked for an honest review.

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☕ Book Break ☕ | ~Educated by Tara Westover~

~Educated by Tara Westover~

Tara Westover grew up never going to school, working in her dad’s junkyard, and assisting her mother as she prepared herbal remedies and served as a community midwife. The family practiced Mormonism and Tara’s father had strict beliefs that went beyond the mainstream. The book is about her experiences. I feel like it was it sensitively done. Often as I was reading this I had to put the book aside. It was difficult to read at times.

Is it possible to disentangle oneself from the influences of their childhood? How much do the things we experience growing up affect the rest of our lives? Familial bonds are far reaching, probably influencing us more than we realize.

Educated is a well written account, if at times stretching the limits of believability, but that is the nature of memory and Tara Westover makes note of that. I’m glad I stuck with this book because there’s something deeper here.

It made me reexamine my own childhood. While reading the narrative, I was deeply touched at times. I teared up when she was recounting a specific incident with her mother that appeared to be a restoration, giving hope for that relationship.

This is one complicated family. Her father doesn’t believe in doctors and, according to a now grown up Tara, displays signs of bipolar disorder. Paranoid, he stockpiles food and guns, ranting about the government and the Illuminati. He seems unaware of the danger he constantly puts himself and his family in, causing many injuries by refusing to take basic safety measures.

This is an important story to tell, showing how living with a parent who suffers from a mental illness can affect the entire family. By reading this account I have garnered a greater understanding of why adult children have a difficult time breaking free from their dysfunctional family.

As I read this memoir I pondered gender roles and the tragedies that can occur in a structure that allows only one member of the family to have authority.

It’s exactly the kind of book I like, one that makes you think. Educated is an excellent book for discussion and book clubs.

On a personal side note, we unschooled our children. In my opinion, what Tara is describing is not unschooling or homeschooling but is neglect. She does mention that other family members homeschool their children and those children appear to be receiving an adequate and genuine education. This memoir is not a criticism of homeschooling or religion but an account of her own experience told from her perspective.

 

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Finding Writing Support

“A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.”
~Thomas Mann

Writing can be a lonely occupation. Writing groups give encouragement, direction, and a place to commiserate when the inevitable rejection comes. For the past several years I’ve been limited to online support groups for writing, and those are wonderful, but there’s just something about meeting face to face with other writers.

I’ve been blessed to have access to a local group, NOLASTARS, in nearby Shreveport. They are affiliated with RWA, Romance Writers of America. While the focus is on romance, membership in NOLASTARS is open to serious writers in other genres. NOLASTARS is a well established group and has events throughout the year. It’s a wonderful group! RWA offers a long list of benefits accessible online to members.

I’ve found online friends and help as well. The amazing Sarah Tipton edited my YA I wrote for National Novel Writing Month, NANOWRIMO 2017. (Anyone else getting excited for NANOWRIMO 2018? Let’s do it!) Sarah was a godsend. I could not have managed without her. Her website is  www.sarahtiptonbooks.com.

Diana L. Sharples gave me an incredible amount of useful feedback on another of my books. She has also been an encouragement at the exact right moment.

Diana has a book coming out this month! She has been a busy bee with several releases this year and more to come soon. I am enjoying her book, Finding Hero. If you like YA Mysteries, you should check it out. It’s available for preorder here.

I found both of these wonderful online friends through Facebook. It’s good to have friends to help you along the journey.

Where do you find support for your creative pursuits?

 

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