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Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Happy Holiday Reading!

I'm not a librarian and a writer for nothing. I love books. So it's only natural that I want to share the very best books with my friends and family. (That would be you!)

As I'm looking longingly at my TBR pile as the Christmas break approaches, I thought I'd share a few titles that would make excellent last minute holiday gifts for the readers in your life, or just good ones for you to cuddle up during these snowy days and nights.

One my absolute faves
First, I see that alternate realities are having a moment in both adult and YA fiction right now. I love alternate realities but nobody captured my imagination better than Michael Lawrence and his Withern Rise trilogy, beginning with A Crack in the Line. It's only available as a Kindle ebook now, but the entire trilogy is amazing and I can't recommend it enough. It tells the story of Alaric and Naia Underwood who discover alternate realities of their own lives, accidentally. Besides being a fun concept, it provides a lot of food for thought. You'll wonder about the power of your own decisions after reading this book. Seriously, do yourself a favor and look into it! These books can easily be enjoyed by teens and adults alike.

And this cover is just GORGEOUS!

It's Christmastime, so what better time to dive into a book that takes place during Christmastime, on a Christmas tree farm? Jay Asher's brand new book, What Light is an unusual and uplifting story about love, forgiveness, growth, and healing. It's a beautifully written story with moving characters in a setting you won't soon forget. Make yourself a mug of hot chocolate and curl up with this delightful book. Definitely geared toward teens, but adults can get something out of this book as well. And that cover!

This cover grabbed me first
Wandering through Barnes and Noble spending my end of the year budget for my library, I took a walk through the poetry section and my eye landed on a pink volume called The Universe of Us by Lang Leav. I liked the look of the cover and when I turned it over to see what the back said, I found this, and only this: "He and I collided like two predestined stars and in that brief moment I felt what it was like to be immortal." I was hooked! From the cover, the introduction, to the last page, this book completely blew me away. The poems look deceptively simple, but they are rich with deep emotion and raw truth. I read the library's copy and bought my own immediately. I'm not one to select a volume of poetry for my pleasure reading, but I will be coming back to this book again and again. This is another that should appeal to both teens and adults.

Another stand out is Beyond the Red by Ava Jae. The world building in this book is phenomenal. It takes place on another planet covered by scarlet red sand. There are alien beings, humans, and half bloods. Normally, that isn't my cup of tea, but this book sucked me right in from page one. It has political intrigue, action, romance, family dynamics, betrayal, and hope. I didn't expect to get sucked into the world as much as I was, which is a testament to the skill of the author. It's also the first book in a trilogy. The second book is coming out in Fall 2017. Another great crossover for teens and adults!

Finally, a book that came out this spring, Please Pardon My Dust, I'm Under Construction by Monica R. Sholar. This book is 100% pure inspiration. It details the struggles of 25 Michigan women who faced the lowest points in their lives and worked their way up to success. I love that this book doesn't define success the way our society does - fame and fortune. These women made personal goals and worked toward their own dreams. Whether those dreams were finding a way to provide for their families, start a clothing line, open a bakery, or write a book, these women share their stories to inspire and uplift us all. This is an excellent book to read before/during the new year to help motivate you to work toward your own goals this year.

I really loved each of these books and I hope at least one of them is calling out to you too. It's always fun to share the book love. If there's a title you're dying to recommend to everyone in sight, please add it in the comments. Also, if you agree with any of these recommends I've made, please say so too. I love to bond with readers over excellent books.

Happy holidays and best wishes for a happy and prosperous 2017!

Monday, July 18, 2016


It's not okay.

Even if you don't watch the news or read newspapers, you know that terrible things are going on in our world every day. It seems like an endless litany of shootings every time we turn around. And it's terrible, but more than these evil actions, I am seriously concerned and unnerved by the level of blatant hatred that's circulating these days. Social media is a horrifying wake up call to what's happening to our citizens. (And by "our" I mean the world's.) It seems that with all of us, with our own tiny social media platforms, we suddenly believe that our personal viewpoints are more valid than anyone else's and that it's okay to spew violence and hatred on anyone who dares to have a different opinion. It's very disturbing to me the level of cruelty that people give in to over these viewpoint clashes. God forbid a person support Hillary Clinton and another support Donald Trump. I see people actually proclaiming that the person supporting a different candidate than them does not deserve to live. Did you catch that? If people's political ideologies don't align, then the other person's life has no value. Folks, this is bone chillingly not okay.  This kind of devaluing of the lives of others seems to be rampant in modern society. And the lives of "others" are meaningless based on many criteria. Wrong religion, wrong country of origin, wrong sexual preferences, wrong sexual identity, wrong political allegiance, wrong gender, wrong dietary patterns, wrong parenting practices, wrong skin color and so on.

Anyone questioning the value of someone's life because of their skin color is so inherently wrong and ridiculous, this shouldn't even be a topic of conversation. And yet it is. The fact that it is 2016 and we have a campaign called #BlackLivesMatter is not okay.

I, like many of us, have been hearing news reports with an increasingly heavy heart. How many people have to die? How many people have to suffer violence? I know we want things to change. We don't want to hear these stories anymore. We call for gun reform. We call for mental health reform. We call for something to happen. But what is happening? It seems like just more violence. And we shake our heads and hope someone will do something to stop it. We feel powerless to do anything that can tackle these seemingly insurmountable problems in our world. I know that's how I've been feeling. And then something changed.

A friend's post showed up in my Facebook newsfeed:

"I’m working in these streets so any protesters, officers, friends, family or whoever, if you see me and need a hug or want to say a prayer. I got you.”
Officer Montrell L. Jackson, 
Facebook post 7/8/16
killed today in Baton Rouge

And that was the last straw for me. Something in me finally changed. I can't sit here and wait for something to change anymore. You know why? Because it isn't going to. Sitting around being impotently outraged behind our computer screens isn't going to change anything. I spent all morning thinking about what I can do about it. I can't make terrorists stop attacking people. I can't make people stop rioting. I can't stop crooked cops from profiling African Americans. But you know what I can do? I can actively try to spread love instead of hate. And you can too. 

St. Francis's Peace Prayer as been on my mind lately. I'd like to share it with you:

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace;
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love;
for it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.

What strikes me about this is the selflessness. My opinion is not the center of the world. What I think is right is secondary to how I can be a blessing to someone else. That is in direct opposition to the message from today's media, where my happiness is the only thing that matters, no matter the cost. 

I've also been struck by a line from a Passenger song, Scare Away the Dark. (There are some F bombs.) "Well, sing, sing at the top of your voice / Love without fear in your heart / Feel, feel like you still have a choice / If we all light up we can scare away the dark"  

I decided the singer is right. If more of us would just light up, there would be fewer places for the darkness to hide. 

That's what spurred this uncharacteristic blog post. It's the outlet I have and I'm using it to voice how unhappy I am with the world our children are inheriting. I want kids to know that we aren't powerless. We don't have to be sad about the news and wait for someone to do something about it. We don't even have to do something huge and far-reaching. We can only do our own part, no matter how small, and at least know that we are trying to be the solution. 

So, I have a proposition for everyone. I'd like to create the hashtag #HealTheWorld to inspire each other. To invigorate people who might need a little nudge to do something different. It doesn't have to be huge, but I'd like to suggest that we all start spreading kindness and inclusion. Similar to random acts of kindness, I want to propose a different kind of "random." I'd like to replace the randomness with purpose driven kindness. I'd like for all of us to actively approach people who make us uncomfortable. Who we have prejudices toward. Who we don't agree with. Who don't look like us. And light up for that person. You don't have to spend money. You don't have to be their best friend. Heck, I think it'd be great if we just wrote out little slips of paper that said, "I'm glad you're here." Think about what that would mean to you if you're hurting. I mean it. Think about that right now. 
What if a young black man walked up to an elderly white woman and handed her a little note that says, "I'm glad you're here." 
What if a middle class white man walked up to a man in a turban and said, "Good to see you today. How's it going?" 
What if an overwhelmed mother in the grocery store was approached by a teenager with a mohawk and sincerely asked if there was anything they could help with.
What if you smiled at someone you would normally turn away from? 
What if someone stopped focusing on what annoys them or scares them about you and reached out to a part they liked?  

It might just be idealism, but I like to think it would help change hearts. Like it might just jar us out of our comfortable routine and make us really see the people around us. Not as stereotypes, not as "other" but human beings. 

So, I'm proposing this little movement. Let's challenge ourselves to do better. To interact positively with people we judge without understanding. To stop letting the hurtful and scared parts of ourselves have control. Let's do what Passenger says. "Love without fear in your heart." Let's do what St. Francis prayed, "not so much seek to be consoled as to console." We have to do something. It isn't okay to keep locking everyone out. It isn't okay to say that people who look or behave differently than us or who disagree with us don't matter. That's a lie. We're all here and we all matter. And it's time we all start acting like it.  

Monday, February 8, 2016

Susanna Leonard Hill's Valentiny Contest

I read about Susanna Leonard Hill's Valentiny Contest and it sounded like a fun challenge to write a Valentine story with a grumpy character in only 214 words! ( 2/14 for Valentine's Day off course!) So here is my humble entry in this contest. It was a lot of fun to write and difficult to keep under 214 words! Thanks for the opportunity and for the nice little writing challenge. Coming in at exactly 214 words, I submit:

Captain Salty's Valentine

Captain Salty was in a mood. Nothing could make him smile. Not stomping his peg leg. Not feeding crackers to his parrot. Not telling jokes to First Mate Moe. In fact, where was Moe? Captain Salty couldn’t make the ship run smoothly without Moe! Oh dear. It didn’t look good.

Captain Salty searched all the places he could think of: the galley, the crow’s nest. the poop deck. He even checked to make sure Moe hadn’t gone for a nap. No sign of him!

Just when Captain Salty was about to order all hands on deck, First Mate Moe appeared with a big smile on his face and his hands behind his back.

“Blimey!” Exclaimed Captain Salty. “Where has ye been?”

“I’ve been workin’ on a little something fer ye, Cap’n.” Moe replied.

“Fer me?” asked the Captain.

“Yes,” exclaimed Moe. “Tis a special day today.”

By now, the other crew members were gathered around.

“Today?” The Captain scratched his head.

“We admire the cut o’ yer jib, Cap’n,” Moe said. “And we want to wish ye a Happy Valentine’s Day.” Moe pulled a giant paper heart out from behind his back, signed by the whole crew.

The captain was so touched he made a rare declaration.

“Doubloons for all!”

“Hooray! Happy Valentine’s Day!”