Wednesday, January 5, 2022

IWSG: Writing Career Regrets?

"The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Post your thoughts on your own blog. Talk about your doubts and the fears you have conquered. Discuss your struggles and triumphs. Offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling."


 

This Month's Question: What's the one thing about your writing career you regret the most? Were you able to overcome it?

My Answer: Oh. Boy. This question made me stop and scroll back through my memories. As a general rule, I resist dwelling on regrets, because I cannot go back and change the past. However, I can move forward and make different decisions if I choose. But. To answer the question, my one writing career regret is that I waited until later in life to start. I wish I'd began pursuing this goal back in college. I knew as a young child that I wanted to be a writer, but various life pressures pushed my feet down a different path, and I pursued a business degree instead of an English degree. The second part of the question, "Were you able to overcome it?" Hmm. To a point, relatively speaking I was. I am a published author. But sometimes I wonder where my "career" would be if I had started all those years back in college. As I mentioned, instead of dwelling on the past and what could have been, I prefer to keep my eyes forward and make decisions to enhance my life now.

What about you? What are your thoughts on the topic?

Saturday, November 20, 2021

Book Review: THREADS OF YOGA by Pamela Seelig

As an occasional yoga participant, I was thrilled to be offered a copy of this book to read and review, hoping it would reignite my passion and commitment to practicing yoga regularly. Scroll down for my complete review.

THREADS OF YOGA
by Pamela Seelig
Published by Shambhala
Publication Date: September 28, 2021
ISBN: 978-1611808797

Description from Publisher: Deepen and enliven your yoga practice with 30 themes based on Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras that can inspire on and off the mat. Yoga draws many practitioners because of its physical benefits, but it is often the experience of peace that people return for. Threads of Yoga supports those seeking to learn more about yoga’s deeper spiritual teachings. Each short chapter introduces a foundational yogic theme, such as letting go, the breath, the yamas and the niyamas, and the chakra system. Each theme is accompanied by practices, including meditation, complementary poses, breath work, or quotes to contemplate. It is an ideal guide for both practitioners and teachers who want to connect with the spiritual wisdom of yoga, deepen their personal practice, or develop and support a theme for yoga class.

About the Author: Pamela Seelig is a yoga teacher based in New Jersey. She began her yoga and meditation journey in 1991 when an illness interrupted her Wall Street career. Along with helping recovery, the impact of her meditation led to a lifelong pursuit of perceiving and sharing yogic wisdom through practice, teaching, and writing.


My Review:

During the pandemic, at a time when I most needed yoga, I neglected my practice. When I heard of this book, I selfishly hoped that something within the pages would reignite my desire to hit the mat again. It did, and I am so thankful.

I loved reading this book. I devoured every chapter, page, paragraph, sentence, and word. 

THREADS OF YOGA by Pamela Seelig is packed full of ancient wisdom and presented in a digestible manner for today’s average person. To quote from page two: “Threads of Yoga relies on ancient texts, such as Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, but it isn’t religious or scholarly.”

As with every nonfiction book I read, I started this one by scanning the table of contents, flipping through the pages, and reading the author’s credentials. The table of contents is concise and easy to process. It gives a clear picture of what to expect within the pages of the book. I love that. Flipping through the pages, I noticed there were no pictures or diagrams, but the end of each chapter consistently features practices to explore and consider during your own daily rituals. These contain tips for meditation, physical practice, relaxation, and quotes to contemplate. I look forward to returning to these pages to explore in depth the suggested practices. Regarding the author’s credentials, at first I was concerned, wondering what a former Wall Street career woman could sincerely offer on this topic of yoga, especially when she writes in the introduction: “the present-day perception of yoga is often of a purely physical practice with its associated clothing and accessories.” That rubbed me a bit wrong, thinking that is a mindset for the rich and affluent but not your average yoga practitioner. Who knows? Maybe I’m wrong. But the fact of the matter is that regardless of Seelig’s background and former career on Wall Street, she has put in the time (many years) studying and researching “ancient yogic wisdom.” She is a talented writer, and her knowledge is evident on every page. 

This is definitely a book I will read again, and again, utilizing it as a resource manual, a daily meditative guide, and reminder to check myself. Where am I on my path? I’m I heading intentionally in the direction I want? Am I being kind to myself? Do I need to realign and balance myself?

My only criticism of the book is I wish it had pictures and diagrams. I am not an expert at yoga, and so pictures of poses would have been helpful. Likewise, pictures of the mudras would make it easier to practice them. While I am familiar with chakras, diagrams would help drive home the relevance of the content.

There are so many valuable nuggets within this book, I suggest buying your own personal copy and mark it up as you read – mark it with Post-it flags, highlighters, and penciled-in notes. Then read it again.

If you have friends you practice yoga (on any level) this book would make a perfect Christmas present.



[I received a copy of this book from FSB Associates in exchange for an honest review. This in no way influenced my opinion.]



Thursday, November 18, 2021

Book Review: GREAT AMERICAN ROAD TRIPS - NATIONAL PARKS

Reader's Digest has outdone themselves, again! Last time, it was Scenic Drives. This time, they're featuring National Parks. Scroll down for my complete review.



GREAT AMERICAN ROAD TRIPS - NATIONAL PARKS


Compiled & Published by: Reader's Digest

Publication Date: 10/19/21

ISBN: 978-1621457305


Description from Publisher: 

First-person accounts and gorgeous landscape photos paired with practical information and tips to help travelers make the most of their journeys through more than 40 national parks.

National parks are America’s most-beloved treasures. The editors of Reader’s Digest magazine reveal first-person accounts and gorgeous landscape photos paired with practical information and tips to help travelers make the most of their journeys through these unique areas.

Included you’ll find information on more than 40 national parks and incredible images from readers. Plus:

• A historical introduction along with a national park timeline.

• An illustrated map of each state for each national park story, pointing out the location of the park within the state with a marker.

• Inspirational and gorgeous photos in gallery sections for each region to make this a terrific coffee table book or gift for travelers.

• Then and now comparison photos of national parks.

• Helpful added information, including possible rest stops, can’t-miss area hot spots, fun facts, handy advice for planning ahead, possible side trips and nearby attractions.

Whether you’re an armchair traveler or ready to pack and roll, Great American Road Trips: National Parks has everything that you are looking for.



My Review:

Christmas is just around the corner, and this book would make an excellent gift for anyone and everyone on your list! The photos are amazing, the descriptions and narratives are intriguing, and the history is fascinating.

My only complaint is the book seems to favor some states over others. I would have loved to see a more balanced representation of the entire nation. According to www.nationalparks.org "The National Park System encompasses 423 national park sites in the United States. They span across more than 84 million acres, with parks in each state and extending into the territories, including parks in Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, American Samoa, and Guam." This reinforces my criticism that while California garners coverage of six National Parks, Idaho is not featured at all in the book. But that is my only complaint. Otherwise, it's a terrific book, deserving space on everyone's shelves.

The editors have also included throughout the book interesting nuggets of information about the various locations, including "Not to be Missed" features, "Words to the Wise" advice, and "Nearby Attractions."

I highly recommend this book as another addition to your personal library.





[I received a copy from FSB Associates in exchange for an honest review. This in no way influenced my opinion.]


Wednesday, November 3, 2021

IWSG: Blurb or Title - Which is Harder to Create?

What is the Insecure Writer's Support Group

"On September 7, 2011, Alex J. Cavanaugh launched the monthly blog posting of the IWSG and it has been going strong ever since. On the first Wednesday of every month we share of thoughts about writing on our blogs. We also have an optional monthly question to assist with member's posts, which can be found on the Sign-Up page."


November's Question: What's harder, coming up with your book title or writing the blurb?

My Answer: At first glance, I thought the answer was definitely the blurb! However, after a minute of consideration, I realized it depends upon the book. With Who R U Really?, the blurb was simple to write, but the title took years and countless variations before the final one was decided. I had changed it myself multiple times during the writing process. Then while querying it, prospective agents suggested changes. Once I secured an agent, she, too, thought it needed a change yet again. Finally, the editor at the publishing house said the title would not work. She and I brainstormed via emails for quite a while before landing on the final title. On the flip side, with Unlocked, the title came to me instantly when I was developing the story idea. The blurb, however, was nearly impossible to write because the story is so complicated. I have since learned to write the blurb before I begin working on the first draft of the story. It can always be revised later, but by writing the blurb first, it gives me a sense of direction throughout drafting, and it makes the process of blurb-writing so much easier.


How about you? Do you think one is harder to come up with than the other?


Tuesday, September 7, 2021

Book Review: GREAT AMERICAN ROAD TRIPS - SCENIC DRIVES by Reader's Digest

 This is beautiful book - both in pictures and prose. Scroll down for my complete review.


GREAT AMERICAN ROAD TRIPS - SCENIC DRIVES

Compiled & Published by: Reader's Digest
Publication Date: 2/2/21
ISBN: 978-1621455240

Description from Publisher: 
Let the natural beauty of America’s most scenic drives inspire the travel bug within you and get you exploring the wide-open spaces and breathtaking vistas in our country. Absorb the best America has to offer from the slow lane! This collection of scenic drives, broken out by region, features breathtaking road trips, both long and short. Highlighted by over 140 gorgeous photos, each trip also includes helpful info to help you plan your trip. Inspirational  photos showcase why these well known drives are worth the drive. Many of the drives are described in the first person by people who have made the trip, taken the photos and visited the cool places along the way.


My Review:

If you're looking to plot your next trip or if you're needing a gift for the adventure seekers in your life - this is the book for you!

GREAT AMERICAN ROAD TRIPS - SCENIC DRIVES offers up amazing photos and fascinating narratives from a variety of photographers and travel writers.

At first, I enjoyed scanning through the entire book, looking for destinations and scenic drives I was familiar with. Then, I started back at the beginning of the book and enjoyed reading the descriptions for each of the trips in the book. Much of the writing is colorful and engaging, but there are a few passages that are dryer and a bit boring to read. One of my favorite passages, written by Cathy and Gordon Illg, describes part of  Mount Evans Scenic Byway in Colorado: "At the edge of the timberline, the road passes through a grove of bristlecone pines. They are the oldest living things in the state. One of the patriarchs of the grove sprouted as the Roman Empire was falling into decline, and their gnarled branches seem to wave goodbye as you leave the trees behind" (page 24).

In addition to the first-hand accounts of the drives, the editors have also included interesting nuggets of information about the various drives, and they've sprinkled terrific quotes throughout the book, such as, "Another glorious day, the air as delicious to the lungs as nectar to the tongue -- John Muir" (page 55).

Whether you enjoy taking road trips or not, I highly recommend this book. It makes a great guide for adventurers, a great coffee table book, and a great book for waiting rooms at doctor's offices.



[I received an early copy from FSB Associates in exchange for an honest review. This in no way influenced my opinion.]

Monday, September 6, 2021

Book Review: NEVER SAW ME COMING by Vera Kurian

 

Never Saw Me ComingNever Saw Me Coming by Vera Kurian
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Oh, the premise! What a great plot for a murder mystery/thriller! Vera Kurian's storytelling in NEVER SAW ME COMING had me intrigued from page one.

I've noticed many reviewers on Goodreads have commented that this book reads like it was intended for young adults (YA). To be clear, this book is not for the young adult audience. There are certain rules that apply to books written for a young adult audience, and this book steps outside those rules. This is definitely an adult book. Just because a narrative voice sounds similar to those you may find in young adult books does not make it one.

A few of the things I loved about this book:
1. The first chapter sucked me right into the story.
2. The internal exploration of psychopaths was fascinating.
3. The reunion (no spoilers) of a character and his family at the end actually choked me up with tears! Nice surprise there.


While I loved the premise of this book, there were multiple elements that kept me from giving it a five-star review:

1. I was overwhelmed by the large cast of characters. At first I thought this was a storytelling device to keep the reader guessing about the serial killer, and who knows, maybe it was, but when the killer was revealed, no spoilers here, I was disappointed. Instead of having such a large cast of characters, I wish Kurian would have developed the three main characters more.
2. Personal pet peeves: lots of crude language and unnecessary sex scenes
3. The changes in points-of-view were constant and confusing.
4. The referrals to pop-culture, including social-media hashtags and brand names, were tiring.

My favorite passage from the story:

"Charles was too curious about meeting another psychopath to be annoyed. But Emma didn't fit the bill of what he thought they were supposed to be. He thought psychopaths were supposed to be ... well, like him. Charming and charismatic and able to get what they wanted from people. She seemed more like someone had taken a mouse and dipped it into warm water to make tea."


NEVER SAW ME COMING by Vera Kurian was a fascinating page-turner with an insightful exploration of psychopathy.





[I received an advance copy of this book for free from the publisher via NetGalley. This in no way influenced my opinion.]

View all my reviews

Wednesday, September 1, 2021

IWSG: Defining Success

 The first Wednesday of the month is Insecure Writer’s Support Group day!



This Month's Question: How do you define success as a writer? Is it holding your book in your hand? Having a short story published? Making a certain amount of income from your writing?


My Answer: I have different definitions of success for different things in my life. For the publication of WHO R U REALLY?, I had defined success as helping at least one teenager stay safer online. I’m thrilled to say I’ve received multiple emails from teenagers telling me that after reading the book they cleaned out their “friends” lists online. That’s a huge success. For other aspects of my writing life, I set different goals or "success" identifiers such as meeting a deadline, hitting a word count, and/or reading a certain number of books. Since there are so many aspects of publishing that are beyond my control, I have found that utilizing the tools from THE ARTIST'S WAY, I am able to strive for a satisfying sense of success within my control. If you haven't read THE ARTIST'S WAY, I highly recommend it.


What about you? How do you define success as a writer?


Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Book Review: WHERE I LEFT HER by Amber Garza

 As a fan of Amber Garza, I jumped at the opportunity to read her newest book, WHERE I LEFT HER. Scroll down for my complete review.


Where I Left Her

by Amber Garza

Published by MIRA

Publication Date: August 24, 2021

ISBN: 9780778332060


Description from the Publisher: 

From the author of When I Was You comes a spine-tingling new thriller about a mother’s worst nightmare come true, when her teenage daughter goes to a sleepover and doesn’t come back.

Whitney had some misgivings when she dropped her increasingly moody teenage daughter, Amelia, off at Lauren’s house. She’d never met the parents, and usually she’d go in, but Amelia clearly wasn’t going to let something so humiliating happen, so instead Whitney waved to her daughter before pulling away from the little house with the roses in front.

But when she goes back the next day, an elderly couple answers the door—Amelia and Lauren aren’t there, and this couple swears they never were, that she’s at the wrong house. As Whitney searches for Amelia, she uncovers a trail of lies her daughter has told her—from the Finsta account to rumors of a secret relationship. Does she really even know this girl she’s raised? And Amelia’s not the only one with secrets. Could Whitney’s own demons have something to do with her daughter’s disappearance, and can Whitney find her before it’s too late?


About the Author: 

Amber Garza has had a passion for the written word since she was a child making books out of notebook paper and staples. Her hobbies include reading and singing. Coffee and wine are her drinks of choice (not necessarily in that order). She writes while blaring music, and talks about her characters like they're real people. 


My Review:

Without even reading the description, I knew I wanted to read this book, because I LOVED Garza’s previous book, When I Was You.

Filled with twists and turns, creepy subtext, and multiple points-of-view, Where I Left Her by Amber Garza does the thriller genre proud. Garza’s writing and storytelling certainly exceeded my expectations.

Admittedly, I was concerned when I discovered the story would be told in a non-linear timeline, because that is always a challenge for me personally, but I trusted the author would guide me through it all. There are a lot of flashbacks told in italics, which can be hard to read in excess, but the story is worth the effort.

I wanted to read the entire book in one sitting, but had to pause halfway through because of life responsibilities, but I eagerly finished the second half without stopping once, because I needed to find out how the story was going to end. 

Where I Left Her was a terrific mystery with plenty of clues to help solve the mystery and uncover the true villain along with the characters in the story.

I look forward to reading more from Garza -- a great storyteller.


[I received an early copy of this book for free from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This in no way influenced my opinion.]


Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Book Review: STEEL FEAR by Webb & Mann

 

Steel FearSteel Fear by Brandon Webb
My rating: 4 of 5 stars



I loved this book!



BUT there were several things that confused me:

1. The story opened with a female character, when I'd thought the book was about a male Navy SEAL. So I did a quick switch in my brain, thinking: Okay, cool, multiple main characters. But no. Finn, the SEAL, was the main character, and the majority of the chapters were told from his point-of-view.

2. And there was a lot of head hopping with the story constantly switching to different characters and their perspectives. It was a challenge to keep track of all the characters.

3. The reason a lone SEAL would be sent home on an aircraft carrier instead of flown directly to the states was never justified. A reader needs to buy into that concept, otherwise, it's a story problem that is hard to overlook.

Those were the only reasons I gave the story 4 stars instead of 5. Otherwise, I loved it.


I loved the writing, the character development, the setting, and the mystery. Usually, I'm pretty good at solving the mystery before it's revealed, but not this time. The story was well told and well executed.

This was the first time I've read a novel by these authors, and I look forward to reading more.


Some of my favorite lines from the story:

"But Papa Doc frowned on too much chatter. On his watch, flights tended to be less like sitting around a campfire and more like going to church."

"A carrier flight deck was one gigantic blot-action sniper rifle, three and a half football fields long, only instead of firing steel-tipped 10-gram rounds it shot 25-ton fighter jets, firing and reloading at the rate of one every twenty-five seconds. Finn thought about the jet pilots strapped into their multimillion-dollar machines, being shot off the deck into the dark like bullets."

"When he roamed the Abe's passageways Jackson moved like an Abrams tank that had taken a few semesters of ballet."



[I received an early copy for free from the publisher via NetGalley, which in no way influenced my opinion.]

View all my reviews

Wednesday, July 7, 2021

IWSG: Quit Writing?!

The purpose of the Insecure Writer's Support Group is to "share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!"

For more information visit: https://www.insecurewriterssupportgroup.com/


This Month's Question: What would make you quit writing?


My Answer: I've thought about this topic often during my time as a published author. Interestingly, the question never occurred to me before I was published. Before then, I was determined and confident and tenacious. Once published, my perspective changed. I saw behind the curtain of the publishing world and was surprised by how it all works . . . and doesn't work. Now, I'm more of a realist, and I know the publishing world won't always work in my favor, won't always greet me with open arms, won't always pave the road before me. And yet, I still want to create stories, imagine worlds, and develop characters. I've decided I will never quit writing, because I am a writer. 


How about you? Is there anything that would make you quit writing?