Summer Reading – 2 Reviews

Nap or read?

It was the main decision I had to make while visiting my parents in Colorado. Poor me, right? Well, reading won out!

Fortunately, my ipad was (is) crammed with books, and I had a pile to choose from. I’m happy to kick off a couple of reviews of fellow bloggers’ books.

A Thousand Rooms

by Helen Jones

My review:

Keep a box of tissues at your elbow for this one! A Thousand Rooms had me red-eyed and snuffling. This is a character-driven book with a simple plot: Katie, newly dead and unfortunately overlooked in her transition from life, goes on a quest to find “her heaven” and travels through a series of manifestations (rooms) before she finds her own.

Jones draws on a variety of mystical traditions and beliefs to design the experience of being dead and the concepts of heaven, soul mates, and reincarnation. These were interesting, but what I loved, loved, loved about his book was the incredibly touching and heartfelt expressions of human emotions, particularly grief and sorrow and, ultimately, of pure love.

Jones writes beautifully. Descriptions are rich, and the characters, even those on the periphery, are wonderfully developed. As the main character, Katie is thoroughly relatable with a wide range of emotions including some delightful sarcasm. I found her personal evolution compelling as her earthly concerns slip away and she discovers the essence of who she is and the point of her journey. Katie’s realization of what it means to live a blessed life is uplifting and full of hope. Highly recommended for readers who love character-driven books and want to feel inspired.

Death by Pumpkin

by Noelle Granger

My review:

Death by Pumpkin was my second read in Granger’s Rhe Brewster series and a pure joy ride. Rhe is a single mom, ER nurse, and police department consultant in the small Maine town of Pequod. She, once again, takes an active role in a police department investigation when the pumpkin-drop at a local festival reveals a murder. She rapidly goes from investigator to target as an old nemesis is determined to make her and those she cares for suffer.

The book is fast-paced and well-researched. The scene in the small plane was particularly riveting and highlighted Granger’s attention to detail. Other than the villain, the characters are all beautifully three-dimensional and full of quirky personality. I thoroughly enjoyed the interplay in the authentic relationships. In addition to the murder investigation, romantic and political subplots add interest and tension. A perfect read for anyone who enjoys cozy mysteries with plenty of thrills.

More to come!

 

 

 

The Benefits of a Blogging Break

Arches National Park, Utah – near my parents’ home.

I’m back from Colorado! Two weeks felt like a month, and though it was wonderful to be off-line, it feels good to be back.

 

Blogging Breaks seem to work miracles for me in avoiding burnout and reinvigorating my enthusiasm for this time-consuming endeavor. Seeking balance has been an ongoing challenge as my blog grows and worldwide friendships form with people I care about. It doesn’t help that there’s wonderful content all over blogland, too. It’s hard to look away.

 

A couple years ago, I tried taking weekends off from the blog, and it didn’t work. Notifications amassed, and I spent my Mondays staring at the laptop until my eyeballs shriveled. Days off due to other commitments had similar results – a constant stream of busy-ness of one type or another and days of playing catch-up. My writing time suffered, and my husband started looking like an abandoned puppy.

 

The question that frequently rambled through my head was, “How does anyone keep this up and not burn out?”

 

The answer to blog management, for me anyway, seems to be in taking longer breaks than one or two days. Dollie Freeman wrote a short article on the benefits of blogging breaks that rang true: “Avoid Blogger Burnout With Blogging Breaks.” I encourage you to read the full article, but here’s the gist of her advice:

 

  • Don’t work for your blog – let your blog work for you.
  • Don’t sacrifice your home life, health, and relationships for the next post, the next series, the next promotion, the next…
  • Schedule one week per quarter where you will NOT post anything on your blog. Write ahead and schedule if you’re inspired.
  • In addition to one week per quarter, Freeman gives herself 4 additional weeks of unplanned ‘floating’ time to catch up, get ahead, work on a new product or just soak in the things that make her life meaningful.
  • Stay grounded and humble. Although your readers are interested in your blog, they aren’t hanging on to your every word. They’ll survive without you.
  • Life is too short to live it in front of a screen.

Back to my break!

No major adventures to report. It was too hot to go outside except for some early morning weeding in the garden. I read some great books in lieu of naps and will post reviews over the next few weeks.

 

Due to the lack of excitement, these photos are all from my last trip when I visited my brother down the road in Utah.

 

I’m looking forward to visiting everyone. It’s going to take a few days to make the rounds, but I’ll be by.

 

Happy Solstice!

Taking a break from taking a break

This is my destination (close enough). Image from Pixabay.

On Sunday, I’m off to visit the old folks (older than me anyway) in the Colorado high desert.

My parents haven’t acquired any of those new-fangled gadgets like wireless “internets” and email is still on par with magic. Their town is devoid of coffee shops because those places attract liberal, tree-hugging, Bernie supporters (like me). Needless to say, I will be offline for a couple weeks.

I’ll probably be engaged in manual labor, which is my father’s idea of family fun. Last summer he had my brother and me trekking into the hills and hauling rocks for his stone wall. I think we made 30 trips with the old Subaru and transported 200 rocks before dad attempted to jump a gulch and ripped off the back end of the car.

My brother won’t be making this trip as the volcano in Alaska’s Aleutian Islands has him grounded. So, I’m on my own. Think of me while I’m dragging dead branches out of federally-owned land, piling them on top of the same Subaru, hauling them home, and cutting them up for firewood. (The trees are that little fringe of dark stuff on the top of the mountain in the photo).

My mom is legally blind, so the rest of the time will be spent talking about their eventual move to Oregon over my dad’s dead body, and I’ll be cleaning the house. She does an amazing job considering, but she needs help, and these stubborn proud people refuse to allow help in the house. Actually, they do hire help, and then my mom says she can do a better job herself and chases them out asks them to leave.

My dad is hard at hearing, and since only old people wear hearing aids, he clearly doesn’t need them (he’s 87). The television volume is set on nuclear, and he’ll be ranting about Trump, while my mother and I shout at each other over the noise. We’ll be sharing the sofa with nine cats. It will be so relaxing.

I will be completely absent from blogland and anything resembling a normal life for the duration of the visit. Wish me luck. I’ll be back in two weeks.

P.S. For the sake of family peace, it is my daughterly duty to advise you that this post is the pure unadulterated truth grossly exaggerated. 🙂

Guest Author Friday – Diana Wallace Peach and Kari’s Reckoning

Debby Gies over at D. G. Kaye Writer was kind enough to feature “yours truly” over at her place. Debby is a proficient blogger and her site is full of interviews, reviews, wonderful tips on writing and blogging, and shared articles of interest. If you enjoy memoirs, her books win high praise – I’ve given her a few 5-star reviews myself! 

She also puts together a wonderful feature, and I’m delighted to be hanging out at her kitchen table with a big cup of coffee. If you can spare a moment, stop by for a visit and say hi! On to the interview:

Who Has a New Book?

I’m thrilled to welcome today’s featured author, friend and guest, Diana Wallace Peach. Diana is a dynamo author who writes and produces books at lightning speed these days. She has disciplined herself well with the time she commits to her writing, yet manages to make time to blog about all things writing on her blog Myths of the Mirror.

Today we’re going to get to know Diana and learn about what inspires her writing, and I’m going to be asking her about the ‘book writing break’ she is threatening to take, to find out if that can actually happen… (Continue to Debby’s site).

 

Sunday Blog Share: an ordinary day

A stunning, heartwarming poem about parenting a young child with diabetes. Love and play and wonder in an ordinary day.

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an ordinary day

by Sarah W. Bartlett

For ten days I lived the learning curve
of diabetes, partnering with my beloved son
to help his through maternal leave,
given the grace of time to relish
each extraordinary moment.

The first hour’s sing-song babbling
lifts from crib to giggled hugs and undercover
hide-and-seek en route to the day’s first blood glucose test
followed by calculations of insulin and carbs,
breakfast planned to even out
the hours to come.

This child, so gentle and joyful of spirit
accepts each poked finger and prodded thigh
with grace, a lesson I cannot fail to notice sets
the warp of our day through which we weave
our patterned way, each hour
a new adventure.

From Grandma’s blocks we build
to hold what he loved at the aquarium –
octopus by the elevator climbing glass walls,
his giant purple sac blowing up bigger then smaller
carefully reconstructed through his two-year
old imprint, giant tank within winding
ramp, sea lions sunning beyond.

(Continue Reading: an ordinary day)

Living with Nature – Snakes.

A  little creature that shares my world.

In most of my books, nature has a strong presence. It’s part of “write what you know,” and I often joke that I was raised by wolves. An exaggeration, but I was lucky enough to be brought up in the outdoors and feel quite comfortable in the woods.

Here’s a picture of my playpen, built by my dad out of sticks at the cabin overlooking Skylight Pond in Vermont.

When I was about 12 (and my brothers were 11 and 8), my parents used to drop us off on the Long Trail in the Green Mountains and pick us up three days later, fifteen miles down the path. We read maps, dealt with unexpected snow, built shelters, shooed porcupines from our food, and cut pine boughs for our beds.

1985 – On a month-long trek in Wyoming. I still have those clothes!

On other occasions, they’d leave us with the old canoe under a bridge (no life jackets back then) and pick us up miles downstream at the end of the weekend. It was a blast. It was normal. And somehow, we survived, even as our adventures increased in daring and duration as we aged.

Fast forward 25 years from those first independent forays into the wilderness: I married my husband, a man from Atlantic City, New Jersey. A city kid willing to brave country living for the sake of love. And, his encounters with wildlife make for endless comedy.

A few examples:

1 – Turtles. I’ve never seen a man run so fast as the first time he came across a big turtle on our hiking path. It was the size of a dinner plate. I pointed it out to him, mostly so he wouldn’t step on it. “Wow, look at that turtle.” He shrieked, hands flew up, and he ran down the trail in the opposite direction.

2 – Bugs. Tornado Boy was over last weekend, and he was expressing a lot of concern about spiders and bees. I called my daughter, “Are you and his dad teaching him to be afraid of bugs?” She denied any role in that behavior. Then I looked out the window and saw Grampy sprinting across the deck, swatting at an imaginary swarm of killer bees. “Never mind,” I told her.

3 – Snakes. We have lots and lots of little garter snakes around here. They’re about two feet long and not much thicker than a pencil (mostly). I try not to leave the doors of the house open because the hummingbirds fly in and can’t find their way out without help, which involves ladders.

A tiny thing that eats slugs, worms and insects.

But yesterday, I was gardening and left the door open for about 15 minutes. My husband came tearing out of the house in a panic because two snakes decided to take up residence. I found the smallest one quickly as it slithered away from me. I picked it up and let it go in the bushes. The second one was hiding.

After a short hunt, I dragged it out from behind the furniture and held it for him to see from where he stood thirty feet away in the front yard in case he needed to run. I let it go and twenty minutes it was back trying to get in the house again. No luck, the door stays closed.

Other Oregon wildlife to be scared of if you’re from the city: Slugs, bats, coyotes, salamanders, and large frogs. But that’s another story.

Monster – A Children’s Story

My writing break is busy with little projects, and new book ideas are happily simmering. The rain lingered through most of May, so I spent a couple weeks playing at other kinds of creativity. I thought I’d try to illustrate one of my children’s stories. Here are the first six pages. A  couple still need some work, but it’s a start. The verse is hard to see at this mini size, so I added it below.

Monster

In a dim and distant galaxy
Due east of dusty Mars
Spins a tiny greenish planet
Nestled in a spray of stars.

Its rivers teem with fishes
Its fields grow golden wheat
And fireflies light its lanterns
Along every nighttime street.

The sun smiles at its dawning
Rain only drips at night.
Even prickly woodland beasties
Hardly ever raise a fright.

“Life is grand in Alderdoof,”
The elders often say.
“Could a soul in all the village
Want it any other way?”

Yet, inside a shingled cottage
At the end of Grabble Lane
Lives a gloomy, grouchy creature
Ana Goblyn is her name.

She’s sour, dour, and cranky
Her lips droop in a frown.
She’s bored with every place and person
In her friendly town.

She snuffs and snorts her crabbiness
At doting mom and dad
Who shake their heads in weariness.
“It’s really not so bad.”

“Your chums skip in the daffydils.
Why not go out and play?”
Ana grunts and glowers grumpily
And yearns to run away!

“My life is oh so commonplace
My chores are never fair.
My mates think I’m quite ordinary
And I hate my curly hair.”

“Why can’t I live where everyone
Adores a prize like me?
Amongst a band of monsters
Where I’ll do just as I please?”

“A fine idea,” her father shouts.
“Let’s build a shiny ship!
We’ll add two booster rockets
To give you lots of zip.”

They toil in the garden
For an endless, grueling week.
Her ship peeks over rooftops
Its metal smooth and sleek.

(23 more stanzas in case you’re eager to read the rest!)

At last, the craft is finished.
Eager Ana packs her sack.
She scrambles up the ladder
Not a single wee glance back.

To Alderdoof she bids farewell
And to her mom and dad.
Yet, oh, one watery tear does fall
Her parting a morsel sad.

The spaceship flies past pearly moons
And girds a sparkling star.
Now all alone, she wonders why
She’s traveled quite this far.

Then on a sodden planet
She spies a foggy shantytown
Pulls on the spaceship’s landing gear
And gently sets her down.

From a bank of fog with eerie grace
Emerge her curious hosts.
They look like leggy lizards
With bodies as wispy as ghosts.

Their scaly skin is slimy
Much greener than a fish.
And long hooked tails like fire-pokers
Flick and flop and swish.

The only hair upon their heads
Sticks out from twitching ears.
And yellow eyes, flecked with red,
Blink as the monsters near.

They click their claws in unison
And sway from side to side
While Ana wonders if it’s wiser
To spend her days inside.

Around her shiny metal hull
The monsters plod and prowl.
Then bare their pointy yellow teeth
From snouts bent in a scowl.

Those ghastly, ghostly monster-frowns
Make Ana shout with glee.
“These grumpy, lumpy lizard things
Are grouchy just like me!”

Without a thought, she pops a pout
And opens up the hatch.
She clambers down the ladder
To a soggy, grassy patch.

The creatures wince in horror.
They cringe at the fearsome sight.
The thing climbing from its tinny can
Is twice their size in height!

It has no tail or claws or fangs
Its teeth shine white as bones.
Two legs, not four, lumber
Across the weathered seaside stones.

Centered in its oval face
Is a point with two round holes.
Its blue orbs look like drowning pools
That plan to steal their souls.

Atop the creatures head twists
A tangle of coiling curls.
The monster can only be the dreaded
Spoiled human girl!

The ghostly, scaly lizards squawk
Turn hooked tails and flee.
They scuttle and scramble and dive headfirst
Into their foggy sea.

That rude reception draws a sniff
Her welcome disappointing.
Ana boards her lonely ship
Head hung low and moping.

“I suppose I might fly onward
To another flaming sun.
But this journey hasn’t turned out
As I hoped when it begun.”

Ana dawdles in her silent ship
While wondering what to do.
Perhaps she’s learned a precious lesson
And grown up a day or two.

Maybe chores aren’t quite so vexing
Her parents more than fair.
Perhaps her chums are a tad bit fun
And there’s worse than curly hair.

The cozy town of Alderdoof
Seems such a kindly place
Far away from where she waffles
In the starry void of space.

A sudden thought bubbles up.
Could it be that she’d been wrong?
Could her cranky, crabby crossness
Be the problem all along?

With nary a grousing rumble
Not a gripe or grumbling groan
But with a happy smile, Ana turns her dials
And sets her sights on home.