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Book Review: “From Zero to Four Kids in Thirty Seconds” by Amy L. Peterson

Amy is a 30-year-old woman who spent many years polishing an unapproachable outer shell and maintaining a long list of reasons why not to have children. She keeps a canoe on her front porch, a mountain bike in her kitchen and a balance in her checking account. Mark is an older, divorced man with four kids. He sleeps on an Army cot and eats out of pots and pans given to him by his therapist. He has a Ph.D. in stream ecology, a VW Rabbit with 285,000 miles on it and enough fishing tackle to sink a small boat.  Amy falls for Mark hook, line and hundreds of dollars in sinkers. (from Goodreads) 

I would like to thank Amy Peterson for giving me the opportunity to read and review her book.  Amy sent me her book free of cost, in exchange for an honest review.  “From Zero to Four Kids in Thirty Seconds” is Amy Peterson’s true story of adapting to life as wife and step-mother.

The book’s chapters chat about different events and stages in Amy’s life, as she moves from being a very independent single, to a still independent married.  The trick was to maintain her link to independent thinking, while being part of a six person think tank – with the two oldest members, Amy and her husband Mark, ruling the roost!  Even if the kids thought they ruled the roost! 

Within each chapter, Amy gives the readers tips on getting through each new adventure as it arises.  Sometimes it is tips on how not to do things!  Amy’s chapter topics range from falling in love, family vacations, and meeting her step-children, all the way through to handling married life – not necessarily in that order.  Amy’s tips range from knowing that all the family does not like her new love, to how to be grateful for holidays that only happen yearly, and how ‘old’ families and ‘new’ families need not vacation together…… 

Amy’s humour is good, clean fun.  While we all cannot identify with Amy’s roles, I think the general reader can find something to laugh with.  For today’s world of many styles of blended family living, I believe most of us have been in one, or a number, of Amy’s family situations.  For anyone, of any marital status, who has had to immerse themselves in a new family’s traditions, (and isn’t that most of us?), even if we don’t admit we are laughing, Amy’s stories will strike a familiar chord. 

For the most part, Amy’s stories run somewhat chronologically, and that is the way I read the book; but, this is also the type of literature that enables the reader to pick up the book, open to any page, and begin reading.  Sometimes, even a couple of paragraphs will be all that is needed to bring some laughter into our days. 

When Erma Bombeck started writing in 1967 about her family adventures, not everyone laughed.  But, at the time of her death in 1995, her books were read around the world.  Bombeck’s work was very similar to Amy Peterson’s style, although as a newcomer, Amy’s efforts may be a little rough around the edges.  Maybe one day, Peterson and Bombeck may be considered of the same genre and gift. 

I think most readers will find “From Zero to Four Kids in Thirty Seconds” a breath of fresh air, in a world where even pleasure reading can have a dark twist.  Do yourself a favour, and check it out! 

Well, we have reached the end of this written word post, and I ask “Where is the Joy?” in this reading.  If we want to relax a little, kick our shoes off, and put our feet up, this book may be the remedy we are looking for.  One thing that occurred to me as I read Amy’s story, was that reading these pages aloud with your spouse, may bring a taste of Joy into the room.  Maybe give it a try…… 

Choose Joy! 

Patricia

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Book Review: “Blind Sight: Through the Eyes of Aniela Dawson” by Eliabeth Hawthorne

A blind girl drawing is abnormal even on the magical island of Edaion where leaves brush themselves into piles in the middle of the night. As an immigrant, Leocardo is not biased by accepted rules of magic and determines that Odette’s drawings are premonitions. Aniela grew up with magic and knows premonitions are impossible. She determines Odette is a medium channeling voiceless spirits.
In this volume: While Aniela tries to escape a lifestyle where obligations take priority over friendships, she befriends Odette, a blind girl with the ability to draw. Almost immediately, concerns and questions arise as Aniela suspects that Odette’s gift is far stronger than any seen before.  In the middle of family turmoil and a complicated romantic relationship with Odette’s brother, Aniela faces the realization that helping her comatose friend means disobeying her mother, something she has never done before.  (from Goodreads)

So, here we are, moving forward with a book review of the second novel of “Blind Sight”.  (For additional information, please visit my blog post from yesterday, March 20, 2012).   As with the first novel, the author gifted me with a free copy, in exchange for an impartial review.  To briefly recap,  this novel actually consisted of two books, both entitled “Blind Sight”, but each told through the perspective of a different main character; “Through the Eyes of Leocardo Reyes” by Ermisenda Alvarez and “Through the Eyes of Aniela Dawson” by  Eliabeth Hawthorne.  A compilation effort of the two authors, combining even their names as:  Ermilia.  The plot line of both books is the same, the telling of the story written through the vision of different main characters.  Today’s book is written through the eyes of Aniela Dawson.

The first comment I will make is that these two books are very different.  I expected sameness, and most surprisingly, got difference – not necessarily a bad thing!   The authors mentioned that the order in which the books were to be read was “Reader’s Choice”.   I would not agree with that comment.  Had I read this book first, Aniela’s perspective, I would have been puzzled by the storyline.  If I had not read Leocardo’s perspective first, I may not have felt so positive about the mystery aspect.  Without Leocardo’s influence, Aniela herself seems a little lost.   The two storylines are quite divergent, sometimes leaving me knowing I had read the scene before….., but I could not quite recognize from where… In Aniela’s view, the role of secondary characters is much smaller than in Leocardo’s view.  And in Aniela’s story, the romance aspect gets more play.

author Eliabeth Hawthorne

Personally, I preferred Leocardo’s version of the plot line, and at times wished the two perspectives  – Leocardo’s and Aniela’s – were blended as one book.  This would give me immediate gratification of how both parties were feeling – but I did not have the forward thinking vision with which these two authors are gifted.

One comment on the third main character – Odette, Leocardo’s younger sister, the blind girl spoken of in the Goodreads book summation.  Odette does have a major role in this single plot line, and in both books joins Leocardo and Aniela together.  But, does  Odette’s character ‘need’ to be blind?  Maybe….. but, maybe not.  I am still mulling that concept over in my mind.  You will have to read both books, then give that some thought.  A great discussion looms on the horizon!

I encourage you to leave a comment on this post, as one random commenter will receive a $5.00 Visa Gift Card, from the authors, Ermisenda Alvarez and Eliabeth Hawthorne. 

So, readers, where is today’s Joy?  For me,  the Joy is found in the innovative thinking of these two novelists, who challenged themselves to tackle a new writing style.

Choose Joy! 

Patricia

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Book Review: “Blind Sight: Through the Eyes of Leocardo Reyes” by Ermisenda Alvarez

A blind girl drawing is abnormal even on the magical island of Edaion where leaves brush themselves into piles in the middle of the night. As an immigrant, Leocardo is not biased by accepted rules of magic and determines that Odette’s drawings are premonitions. Aniela grew up with magic and knows premonitions are impossible. She determines Odette is a medium channeling voiceless spirits.
In this volume: Snatched out of their life in Spain, Leocardo and his blind sister Odette find themselves on an island with no recollection of the trip. After foiled attempts to escape, Odette’s strange behavior gets worse. Even after learning the island has bestowed magic upon them both, Leocardo faces the possibility his sister is having a mental break down.  Just as he thinks he is settled in, job and romantic life stable, Odette disappears.  (from Goodreads)

My first introduction to “Blind Sight” indicated the novel could be considered as Paranormal, and was definitely a Fantasy/Urban Fantasy storyline.  As my regular readers know, this category is outside of my “normal range” for both reading and reviewing.  But, when I read the Goodreads’, and others’, synopsis, it seemed that it would be more like a Mystery Novel with a Fantasy edge.  So, with that in mind, I accepted Ermisenda Alvarez’s request to participate in the Book Blog Tour, and she kindly gifted me with a free copy, in exchange for an impartial review.  I then learned that this novel actually consisted of two books: both entitled “Blind Sight”, but each told through the perspective of a different main character; “Through the Eyes of Leocardo Reyes” and “Through the Eyes of Aniela Dawson”.   And, the Aniela Dawson perspective was written by a second author:  Eliabeth Hawthorne.  In fact, it was a compilation effort of the two authors, combining even their names as:  Ermilia.  Ok, now I was hooked.  I will not jump the gun, and say this never happened before, but it was certainly unique to me as a reader.  But, I am getting a little sidetracked, and will return to the matter at hand; and offer my review of “Blind Sight:  Through the Eyes of Leocardo Reyes”.

One of the great features of this book is the element of surprise.  This began in the Prologue, right through to the last chapter, in fact, to the last page.  As I read, I found myself frequently puzzled, and asking “How did we get here??”, or “Did I miss something?”, or simply “What? What happened?”.   For the most part this was a positive feature of the novel, and one of the reasons it could be classified as a Mystery Novel.  The author very cleverly keeps the reader’s full attention, and keeps the fast pace of the novel.  I was concerned that as a Fantasy Novel, the storyline would be bogged down by descriptions.  No need to worry about that – nothing that I got bogged down in!  However, I will qualify my comments by saying that at times a little more description would have been welcome, especially with respect to character description.  Minor characters sometimes arrived without filling the reader in on who they were.  This bothered me, until I realized that in some instances, these characters left as quickly as they had arrived.  Nevertheless, I did catch myself flipping pages back, (which is not an easy thing to do using an online eReader program!), trying to find out where characters had come from.  In most, if not all of the cases, I think it was just a case of missing information, not an intentional holding back by the author. 

author Ermisenda Alvarez

There is an element of romance in this novel, which I found brought a gentler focus to the overall storyline.  That gentler focus, coupled with the light fantasy plotline made this book much more enjoyable than I had expected.  My concern of facing a typical Young Adult Paranormal Fantasy was completely unfounded.  In fact, if anything, I would say that this novel left me wondering if other light fantasy novels were out there!  One of the aspects that appealed to me was the element of a sixth sense – rather than ‘fantastical’ elements.  This sixth sense tone also fitted in with the gentler focus of the overall storyline. 

The characters in the novel, both the main characters and the secondary ones, are all quite likeable.  Even those portrayed as having an edge, or being a little outside the law, were enjoyable to read about.  I think that is a sign of clever writing techniques, as well as who the character was within the story. 

The end of this book was……. Well, actually, you will need to find that out yourself….!! 

Tomorrow, I will post my review of the second book, told from the perspective of the character Aniela Dawson, and fit the two novels together as one. 

I encourage you to leave a comment on this post, as one random commenter will receive a $5.00 Visa Gift Card, from the authors, Ermisenda Alvarez and Eliabeth Hawthorne. 

So, readers, where will the Joy be found in this review?  Well, for me, the Joy awaits you at the end of the final chapter of “Blind Sight:  Through the Eyes of Leocardo Reyes”!!  The Joy of Surprise! 

Choose Joy! 

Patricia

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Book Review: J. Gunnar Grey’s: “Trophies (The Ellandun Wars)”

When his aunt is murdered, NATO Rapid Response officer Captain Charles Ellandun finds she’s left him a literal locked-room puzzle. Granted, Aunt Edith is the one who taught him to pick locks. But what he finds in her garret hauls their family’s past into the present and knocks his war-damaged brain even further askew.

Now more people than usual are trying to kill him and unless he wants to be the next one dead, he must figure out why she is—fast. But the hunt for her killer takes him and his team members to places he’d rather not visit—to the art gallery where she died, the police station where he’s a suspect, the past he’d thought safely locked away, the family he doesn’t want to love, and the memories of the war that he just can’t shake. 

(from Goodreads)

It has been a long time since I have found myself engrossed in a “modern” mystery.  The reason is simple:  I am not a fan.  With apologies to this author, J. Gunnar Grey, my favourite mystery writer is Agatha Christie.  I also enjoy Georges Simenon, Earl Stanley Gardner, Samuel Dashiell Hammett, Ross Macdonald, and their contemporaries.  I had about given up trying to find a modern mystery writer, who wrote to my taste, until I read J. Gunnar Grey’s: “Trophies (The Ellandun Wars)”. 

At last, I found an exciting new mystery author!  J. Gunnar Grey describes herself as ‘The 1940 Mystery Writer’ – maybe that’s why I appreciate her writing as much as I do!   

Whatever the reason, “Trophies” is an excellent  mystery novel.  And even though I know the ending, it deserves re-reading. 

The main character, Captain Charles Ellandun, is quite complex, and the novel is written through his eyes, delving into different stages in his life.  It is in the current time frame that is the home of the murder, the murder of Charles’ aging Aunt Edith.  An unbelievable murder from Charles’ standpoint.  Why anyone would want to kill the one woman, who glowed in Charles’ past and present life, became a mystery for Charles to solve, before he became the next victim. 

Charles, a war veteran, who is plagued with dark memories, vivid flashbacks, and at times finds himself back at war holding a gun.  These flashbacks can occur at any time, but are strongly triggered as Charles’ find himself at the centre of Aunt Edith’s murder.  The flashbacks take him completely out of the present time zone, becoming a short blackout occurring at any moment, which could prove to be somewhat dangerous. 

We are transported back to Charles’ youth, teenage years, and as a young adult.  But always coming back to the present, the murder, and Aunt Edith’s past.  Charles uncovers family secrets and treasures, that may have been better left undiscovered!  

This type of time travel must be skillfully written, so as not to confuse the reader, and keep the novel’s story line moving forward.  J. Gunnar Grey is skilled at transporting the reader through various stages of Charles’ life, using points of view that keep the reader focused, attentive, interested, and puzzled – in all the appropriate places! 

Charles’ character is surrounded by family, friends, and foes, who supply excitement, guidance, danger, protection, and a little romance – just like the 1940 era mystery novels! 

“Trophies” does not hand the reader easy clues or background information.  The reader must stay alert to follow the exciting trails in this novel – and it is well worth the effort!  Gunnar Grey does not disappoint the avid mystery reader. 

On a more personal note, two of the characteristics I appreciate in “Trophies” are:  a lack of descriptive violence and needless offensive language.  Neither are required attributes in the telling of a story, but often are inserted.  Without those characteristics, “Trophies” is a much better read, and one that can be read and enjoyed by general audiences.  

So, if you are a mystery fan you will want to add J. Gunnar Grey’s: “Trophies (The Ellandun Wars)” to your library. 

Read and Enjoy!! 

P.S.  This book cover includes a subtitle: “Book One of the Ellandun Wars”.   ‘Book One’!   That must mean there is another book on its way!  I will keep my eyes open and keep you informed!

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Book Review: Author: Eileen Flanagan “The Wisdom to Know the Difference – When to Make a Change–and When to Let Go”

From Powell’s Books:
God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can change; and wisdom to know the difference.
Millions of people have been moved by these famous last lines from the Serenity Prayer to make important and lasting changes in their lives. But how exactly can we know the difference? How can we acknowledge the real limits that we face without negating the possibility for dramatic change? In this wise book, Eileen Flanagan guides readers in determining what they can-or perhaps should- change in their lives, accepting what they cannot, and discovering the “wisdom to know the difference.”

I have a confession to make…….

I have had the book “The Wisdom to Know the Difference”, by Eileen Flanagan, for approximately three months, (maybe a little longer), and I have been reading it for approximately two months, (maybe a little longer). For someone who is generally a quick reader, this has seemed like a long time. Or has it?

A few weeks ago I emailed the author, explaining that the reason the book took me so long to read, was actually her fault!! (Nervy, right?). Well, I did not phrase it exactly that way – ‘her fault’. What I actually said was: “If the book was not so well written, I would have been finished reading it a long time ago!!” And what I actually meant was, had I not been so drawn into the book, its topic, and its effect on my life, I would have been finished reading it much sooner.

Yes, that’s my confession…. This book so impacted me on a personal level, I had to take it in slowly, digest it, and incorporate it into my life.

As a prayer, ‘The Serenity Prayer’, has not been a favourite of mine. My husband, on the other hand, has always had a deep connection with this prayer. As a result, he has tried to help me understand why this prayer is powerful. I always kind of fluffed him away. “Yah, yah, serenity, courage, wisdom – whatever…..”. I had my own favourite prayers.

At the end of May 2011, I read a post by Eileen Flanagan, looking for book reviewers. While writing book reviews was a new idea for me, reading books certainly was not! I replied to Eileen and a couple of weeks later the book arrived in my mail, sent free of charge, for my impartial review. The act itself was spur of the moment, and I spent the next few weeks furtively looking at this book, about this prayer that was not one of my favourites!! I must have been crazy to volunteer for this task! Toward the end of June 2011, I ventured into Eileen’s world, and began to learn a little more about this prayer, and how it has impacted a number of lives, (and not just my husband’s!).

Eileen does not simply go out into the world, ask people if they know the prayer, then ask their opinion of it. Rather, Eileen’s choice of people to write about, are clearly a small sampling of a much larger group interviewed for this book. We learn about these individuals, their life stories, and how the emotions of The Serenity Prayer have played out in their lives. One of Eileen’s literary devices is that throughout the book, some of these main characters reappear. It is not just a matter of them being introduced and described to us, but, at key intervals throughout the text, Eileen brings them back by reminding us of their stories, and how their stories continue to evolve – with The Serenity Prayer continuing to play an important role. In some cases, the individuals themselves are not necessarily aware they are living out the prayer. And that is one of my favourite portions of the book. People, who live according to their own values and characteristics, yet can be an example to me, the reader, of the impact of this powerful prayer. (Notice I now say “powerful prayer”….don’t mention that to my husband….!)
Eileen Flanagan has a knack of writing that I find particularly appealing – repetition. Now, don’t get me wrong, I do not mean simply stating the same thing over and over. What I mean is gently, without boredom, Eileen imprints key points for the reader. Making her points stronger over time, but in each telling and sharing, being done in new and informative ways. One of my favourite Christian writers – Ronald Rolheiser – has this same story-telling knack. Gentle – soft – peaceful. Bringing the reader to an “Ah-Ha” moment with skill and dexterity, without being the least bit repetitive or tedious. It is a tremendous way to learn new concepts and thought processes.
Through the reference to other Christian authorities, Eileen brings additional credibility to her own research, and a familiarity to her writings. And not only do we learn more about key characters, as we move forward in Eileen’s book, the author brings forward earlier concepts. Once again, bringing us to a deeper understanding of what Eileen’s focus is on.

The Serenity Prayer holds some big words: serenity, courage, wisdom. Eileen starts by narrowing down these words, to smaller, everyday expressions, phrases, and examples; and concludes the book by bringing them all together in the amazing words of the prayer itself. (Notice I now say “amazing words of the prayer”……do you think I need to share this with my husband?!)

My journey with this prayer, with this book, “The Wisdom to Know the Difference”, has been a very personal one, and this is not the place for review of my prayer journey. But, this is the place for a review of this book. And my opinion to you is that your own prayer journey will not be complete without spending some time with The Serenity Prayer, and definitely some significant time with Eileen Flanagan’s book: “The Wisdom to Know the Difference – When to Make a Change – and When to Let Go”.

P.S. I have since confessed all to my husband, and now, this book is on his reading list!

 

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