"No one can be lonely who has a book for company." ~ Nelle Reagan

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Reading is that Fruitful Miracle .....





I found this image on Facebook today and had to share it.  I just love it.

"Reading is that fruitful miracle of a communication in the midst of solitude."

Marcel Proust
digital art; Alex Colmedo

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Now Reading: Harper Lee's "Go Set a Watchman"


Review to follow shortly

Second Life by S.J. Watson (TLC Book Review)

Second Life
Author:  S.J. Watson
Published:  June 2015
Publisher:  Harper
Pages:
Genre:  Fiction/Suspense
Source:  a complimentary copy was provided by TLC Book Tours and the publisher in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.

From the New York Times bestselling author of Before I Go to Sleep, a sensational new psychological thriller about a woman with a secret identity that threatens to destroy her.
How well can you really know another person? How far would you go to find the truth about someone you love?
When Julia learns that her sister has been violently murdered, she must uncover why. But Julia’s quest quickly evolves into an alluring exploration of own darkest sensual desires. Becoming involved with a dangerous stranger online, she’s losing herself . . . losing control . . . perhaps losing everything. Her search for answers will jeopardize her marriage, her family, and her life.
A tense and unrelenting novel that explores the secret lives people lead; and the dark places in which they can find themselves Second Life is a masterwork of suspense from the acclaimed S. J. Watson.
Julia has a loving husband and son, a career as a photographer and a secret.  Jayne has a lover, likes playing games, taking risks...within reason.  Jayne also has a husband and a son and is Julia's secret.  Jayne is Julia's alternate - the person she becomes in her determination to find her sister's killer and if that means taking on an alternate lifestyle, she's willing.  She'll play the games ... have an affair.  But then she begins to have feelings for Lukas.  Lukas has secrets too.  There's a side of him that seems sinister but then he can explain or make her think she's misjudged him.  He's playing the mind games and because she doesn't follow her gut, doesn't question him until it's too late, she's trapped.
Worried her husband will find out and she may lose her son, Julia is thrown deeper into a life of betrayal, of sinister mysteries, of life and death and she can't get out.  Not without betraying herself.  It may be too late... too late for her marriage and too late for herself.  
Before I Go To Sleep was a spell-binding, page turner that was, incredibly, S.J. Watson's first novel.  Now he has returned with Second Life, another that is truly "unrelenting" in its narrative and plot.  It's hard to put down.  The antagonist is well-hidden and the reader may guess the identity of the killer and yet, you wonder.  There's an odd clue here and there, hidden...almost unseen.  It's not until the very end, the last three pages in fact, that real truths are revealed.  
Though at times I could have yelled Julia for being so daft; there are times I understand her and feel compassion for her situation.  Watson has developed Julia with keen attention to the frailties of humanity.  Her strengths and weaknesses are imbalanced, just as anyone in crisis can be, so her actions and reactions appear viable.  Her priorities become out of whack, the deeper she delves into her deception. Her husband Hugh can see the lack, he calls her on it more than once but he has no idea, no inkling of what is really going on at all. At the end, he is just as surprised as anyone how the plot unfolds.  Second Life is another testament to Watson's ability to develop a good supporting cast in a plot that twists and conceals and shocks at its final reveal.
For suspense, mystery and psychological thriller lovers; Second Life should be the next book on your TBR list.
Warning:  explicit language and sexual situations
Meet the Author:
S. J. Watson was born in the Midlands and lives in London. His first novel was the award-winning Before I Go to Sleep, which has sold over four million copies in more than forty languages around the world. It was recently adapted into a major motion picture starring Nicole Kidman, Colin Firth, and Mark Strong.
Find out more about S.J. at his website, and follow him on Facebook and Twitter.



Wednesday, June 10, 2015

The American Wife by Taya Kyle (TLC Book Tours review)


The American Wife
Author:  Taya Kyle
Published:  May 2015
Publisher:  William Morrow
Pages:  304
Genre:  memoir
Source:  a complimentary copy was provided by the publisher and TLC Book Tours in exchange for an honest review.



The widow of “American Sniper” Chris Kyle shares her private story: an unforgettable testament to the power of love and faith in the face of war and unimaginable loss--and a moving tribute to a man whose true heroism ran even deeper than the legend.

In early 2013, Taya Kyle and her husband Chris were the happiest they ever had been. Their decade-long marriage had survived years of war that took Chris, a U.S. Navy SEAL, away from Taya and their two children for agonizingly long stretches while he put his life on the line in nearly every major battle of the Iraq War. After struggling to readjust to life out of the military, Chris had found new purpose in redirecting his lifelong dedication to service to supporting veterans and their families. Their love had deepened, and, most special of all, their family was whole, finally.

Then, the unthinkable. On February 2, 2013, Chris was killed while attempting to help a troubled vet. The life they fought so hard to build together was shattered. In an instant, Taya became a single parent of two. A widow. A young woman facing the rest of her life without the man she loved.

Chris and Taya’s remarkable story has captivated millions through Clint Eastwood’s blockbuster, Academy Award-nominated film American Sniper, starring Bradley Cooper as Chris and Sienna Miller as Taya, and because of Chris’s bestselling memoir, in which Taya contributed passages that formed the book’s emotional core. Now, with trusted collaborator Jim DeFelice, Taya writes in never-before-told detail about the hours, days, and months after his shocking death when grief threatened to overwhelm her. Then there were wearying battles to protect her husband’s legacy and reputation.

And yet throughout, friendship, family, and a deepening faith were lifelines that sustained her and the kids when the sorrow became too much. Two years after her husband’s death, Taya has found renewed meaning and connection to Chris by advancing their shared mission of “serving those who serve others,” particularly military and first-responder families. She and the children now are embracing a new future, one that honors the past but also looks forward with hope, gratitude, and joy.

American Wife is one of the most remarkable memoirs of the year -- a universal chronicle of love and heartbreak, service and sacrifice, faith and purpose that will inspire every reader.
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First there was the bestseller American Sniper written by Chris Kyle.  Chris Kyle served as a sniper in the U.S Navy Seals.  He earned a reputation for being cool under fire and for his incredible marksmanship.  Tragically, Chris was killed by a fellow returned vet at a gun range.  His legacy lives on with his wife and two children.  The American Wife is Chris' wife Taya's story.

The American Wife, written with the assistance of Jim DeFelice, chronicles Taya's and Chris' life together as a married couple madly in love.  Taya shares the days of their courtship, marriage and parenthood.  The struggles of being the one left at home while her spouse served overseas are real and relatable.  Through two pregnancies for which Chris miraculously was home to support her through childbirth, Taya writes of months being home alone.  Pregnancy, raising children alone for months at a time, all unfathomable to me but Taya, like so many other military wives, did it.  

Chris rarely spoke about his missions to Taya while he was serving in the Seals.  The horrors he faced, the lives he defended, the people he saved were things he kept to himself while he was gone.  It wasn't until he left the Navy Seals that Taya learned what it was really like out there.  Of course he wasn't alone as a returned "soldier of war" and this is where Chris found a new purpose at home, serving other returned vets.  Sadly, one day one of those vets would be so scarred, not only from war, that he took Chris' life at a gun range.

Left alone, a widow and mother of two, Taya struggled to live on.  The love of her life had ironically lost his life at home while trying to help another vet.  Taya shares her sorrows, her grief, and the road to learning to live her new life without Chris.  The pain is palpable, and the reader feels it keenly as we share her experiences.  Her struggle back to living and finding a new purpose is encouraging and courageous and certainly an example of strength and perseverance.  

Taya's story is one of love and faith and endurance.   She is a modern day example of strength under adversity. American Wife is an encouraging read for women everywhere.

About the author:

Taya Kyle founded the Chris Kyle Frog Foundation in honor of her late husband Chris Kyle, legendary U.S. Navy SEAL and author of the bestsellers American Sniper and American Gun. The foundation is devoted to strengthening the marriages of veterans and first responders. An active public speaker, Taya Kyle makes frequent appearances at fund-raisers and other events, inspiring others to find strength and persevere through struggles. She and her two children live in Texas.




Friday, May 8, 2015

Finding Jake by Bryan Reardon (TLC book review)

Finding Jake
Author:  Bryan Reardon
Published: February 2015
Publisher:  William Morrow
Pages: 272
Genre:  psychological suspense
Source:  A copy was provided by the publisher in coordination with TLC Book Tours in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.


A heart-wrenching yet ultimately uplifting story of psychological suspense in which a parent is forced to confront what he does—and does not—know about his teenage son.

For sixteen years, Simon Connelly's successful wife has gone to her law office each day, while he has stayed home to raise their children. Though Simon has loved taking care of Jake and Laney, it has cost him a part of himself, and has made him an anomaly in his pretty, suburban neighborhood—the only stay-at-home dad among a tight circle of mothers.

Shepherding them through childhood, the angst-ridden father has tried to do the best for the kids, even if he often second-guesses his choices. For sunny, outgoing Laney, it's been easy. But quiet Jakehas always preferred the company of his books or his sister to playdates and organized sports. Now that they are in high school, Simon should feel more relaxed, but he doesn't. He's seen the statistics, read the headlines.

Then, on a warm November day, he receives a text: There has been a shooting at the high school.

Racing to the rendezvous point, Simon is forced to wait with scores of other anxious fathers and tearful mothers, overwhelmed by the disturbing questions running through his head. How many victims were there? Why did this happen? One by one, parents are reunited with their children. Their numbers dwindle, until Simon is alone. Laney has gone home with her mom. Jake is the only child missing.

As his worst nightmare unfolds, Simon begins to obsess over the past, searching for answers, for hope, for the memory of the boy he raised, for the mistakes he must have made, for the reason everything came to this. Where is Jake? What happened in those final moments? Is it possible he doesn't really know his son? Or he knows him better than he thought? Jake could not have done this—or could he?

As rumors begin to ricochet, amplified by an invasive media, Simon must find answers. But there is only one way to understand what has happened . . . he must find Jake.

A story of faith and conviction, strength and courage, love and doubt that is harrowing and heartbreaking, surprisingly healing and redemptive, Finding Jake asks us to consider how well we know ourselves . . . and those we love.

My Thoughts:

"Shots have been fired at the high school.  Calmly report to St. Michael's across Route 5."

This is the text every parent received.  Even more horrific, was word that Jake, Simon and Rachel's son, was not among the students accounted for.  Could he have been involved or had he been killed?

The author slips back in time, recounting Simon's memories of the birth and childhood of his son.  His mind searching, probing, questioning... was there any hint that Jake could have done something like this?  As Simon recounts memories of the often quiet and shy child, he begins to wonder what went wrong.  He began to question the innocence he hoped for.  

As a parent I could feel Simon's pain, his questions were the same I know I would ask myself.  What went wrong?  Was Jake capable of murder?  Did his friendship with the boy who shot himself also mean he was involved?  Did he try to stop him?  Did he run away and was in hiding?

As the details begin to unfold, the truth becomes clear. Finding Jake's plot is a psychological suspense that begs the reader to question how well do we really know our children, our spouse, our neighbours?  Can you trust your own instincts?

I will not soon forget Finding Jake.  Reardon makes you think, feel and question.  It's an amazing and emotional read which I highly recommend!




Meet the author:

Bryan Reardon is a freelance writer specializing in medical communications. He co-wrote Ready, Set, Play with retired NFL player and ESPN analyst Mark Schlereth and Cruel Harvest. Prior to becoming a full-time writer, Bryan worked for the State of Delaware for over a decade, starting in the Office of the Governor. He holds a BA in psychology from the University of Notre Dame and lives in West Chester, Pennsylvania, with his wife, kids, and rescue dog, Simon.
Connect with Bryan on Facebook.

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Wednesday, May 6, 2015

The Dead Key by D.M. Pulley (TLC Book Review)

The Dead Key
Author:  D. M. Pulley
Published:  March 1, 2015
Publisher:  Thomas and Mercer
Pages:  477
Genre:  mystery
Source:  a copy was provided by the publisher in coordination with TLC book tours in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.

It’s 1998, and for years the old First Bank of Cleveland has sat abandoned, perfectly preserved, its secrets only speculated on by the outside world.
Twenty years before, amid strange staff disappearances and allegations of fraud, panicked investors sold Cleveland’s largest bank in the middle of the night, locking out customers and employees, and thwarting a looming federal investigation. In the confusion that followed, the keys to the vault’s safe-deposit boxes were lost.
In the years since, Cleveland’s wealthy businessmen kept the truth buried in the abandoned high-rise. The ransacked offices and forgotten safe-deposit boxes remain locked in time, until young engineer Iris Latch stumbles upon them during a renovation survey. What begins as a welcome break from her cubicle becomes an obsession as Iris unravels the bank’s sordid past. With each haunting revelation, Iris follows the looming shadow of the past deeper into the vault—and soon realizes that the key to the mystery comes at an astonishing price.

My thoughts:
Finally I've had some time to sit and read and it looks like The Dead Key was just waiting for me.  I couldn't be more pleased to have picked up this debut novel to hunker down with.  It was difficult to put it down after breaks at work were done and the chapters flew by.  Finally got a day off due to bad weather; it's snowing!!
The Dead Key is a fascinating story of two women, in different time periods and how their lives intersect.  1978 the Cleveland bank shut down without explanation.  Staff were locked out and customers were not allowed access.  There's a huge secret hidden in those walls of solid wood, tin ceilings and marble executive bathrooms.  When Iris Catch is given the assignment to draw out the floor plans for the abandoned bank, she uncovers some oddities and can't control her curiosity.  Hidden rooms, a safety deposit key, missing records.... all beg her attention.  Dangerously so....
The Dead Key is one of those hard to put down novels that captivates you and has you turning the chapters late into the night.  I love a book that draws you in so close you lose track of time and the outside world.  Good thing, considering the outside world is white and cold today. Having just finished, I must recommend this book!  Treachery, lies, forbidden attraction....need I say more?

Meet the Author:  D. M. Pulley


D. M. Pulley’s first novel, The Dead Key, was inspired by her work as a structural engineer in Cleveland, Ohio. During a survey of an abandoned building, she discovered a basement vault full of unclaimed safe deposit boxes. The mystery behind the vault haunted her for years, until she put down her calculator and started writing. The Dead Key was the 2014 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award grand prize winner. Pulley continues to work as a private consultant and forensic engineer, investigating building failures and designing renovations. She lives in northeast Ohio with her husband and two children, and she is currently at work on her second novel.


Sunday, April 26, 2015

"We Can Get Kids Reading"

http://www.jamespatterson.com/about_we-can-get-kids-reading.php#.VT0PILqZszI

Is literacy important to you and your family?  Are you having trouble getting your kids to read or finding books that engage them?  Author James Patterson, whose books have sold over 300,000,000 copies during his career as a writer, has some advice for parents regarding getting your kids to read.




Patterson is a staunch supporter of this segment of the arts, giving away $1000000 to independent bookstores in the states.  He also rallied behind school libraries, giving $1.25 million dollars to school libraries via grants in association with Scholastic Reading Club.  Libraries may request funds for repairs or new projects, according to a news release March 9, 2015.




The message, the more your kids read, the better readers they will be.  Reading opens doors to better schools, careers, etc.  Here are a few sites that will help you entice your child to read, to find that book that hooks them into a lifetime of reading joy.  


In Canada: Indigo Books and Chapters has a Love of Reading Program which supports in need school libraries through a grant.  Schools across Canada may apply to be considered for a grant. Learn more  here.  

Here are a few sites in Canada that support building literacy:  

"For a child, the more time spent with a parent reading aloud increases his or her level of attachment, enhances a sense of security, and imparts the knowledge that their parent feels they are worthwhile people with whom to spend time." (How to Raise a Reader, 1987).  

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Very Good Lives by J.K. Rowling (book review)

Very Good Lives
Author:  J.K.Rowling
Published:  April 2015
Publisher:  Little, Brown and Company (Hachette Book Group)
Source:  Purchased
ISBN:  9780316369152


J.K. Rowling, one of the world's most inspiring writers, shares her wisdom and advice. 


In 2008, J.K. Rowling delivered a deeply affecting commencement speech at Harvard University. Now published for the first time in book form, VERY GOOD LIVES presents J.K. Rowling's words of wisdom for anyone at a turning point in life. How can we embrace failure? And how can we use our imagination to better both ourselves and others?

Drawing from stories of her own post-graduate years, the world famous author addresses some of life's most important questions with acuity and emotional force.

Sales of VERY GOOD LIVES will benefit both Lumos, a non-profit international organization founded by J.K. Rowling, which works to end the institutionalization of children around the world, and university-wide financial aid at Harvard University. 

"We do not need magic to transform our world:  we carry all the power we need inside ourselves already."

My thoughts:


Whether graduating or facing a change in your life, Very Good Lives is the perfect pick-me-up piece of advice one could hope to receive.  Failure is a friend, not a foe and imagination can better the world.  

J.K. Rowling's Harvard Commencement speech is now in hardcover for all to benefit from. Drawing from her personal life experiences and the teachings of such as the Greek author Plutarch, Rowling engages the reader with encouragement and enlightenment, sharing her own personal failure and struggles. Rowling outlines what made her who she is today, from writing in diners to working with a human aide organization and the horrific things she learned about those less fortunate.  Her anecdotes encourage the reader/listener to not give up nor give in.  


"As is a tale, so is life:  not how long it is, but how good it is, is what matters." ~ J.K. Rowling

Highly recommended for those changing their lives.



Note from the publisher:
- J.K. Rowling’s Harvard commencement speech can be viewed online: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UibfDUPJAEU

- Click here for more information about Lumos.


Language is Powerful: Share Reading With Your Children




Friday, April 24, 2015

Grit in Your Craw by Robert Luckadoo (book review)

Grit in Grit in Your Craw
The 8 Strengths You Need to Succeed in Business and in Life
Author:  Robert Luckadoo
Publisher:  Southern Flair Communications
Published:  2015
Genre:  self-help/business
Source:  a copy was provided by Cadence Group Marketing in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.
ISBN:  9780990785606
Available http://www.amazon.com/Grit-Your-Craw-Strengths-Business/dp/0990785602/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8


Do you have confidence, discipline and a sense of purpose?  Are you diligent, resilient, tenacious, optimistic and flexible?  We all do, and we all have what it takes to succeed.  All that¹s required is a willingness to dig deep and a personal commitment to achieving your highest goals.  And of course, a little "grit in your craw" as they say in the south. 
 You¹ll be enlightened and entertained as author Robert Luckadoo¹s life stories tug at your heartstrings and inspire you to dig deep inside yourself to find the eight strengths you need to succeed in your personal and professional life.  This book will leave you with a tear in your eye, a big southern smile in your heart, and a recharged desire to be your best and find your true purpose in life.
My Thoughts:
Lately I have been enjoyed a few business and self-help books and you'll be seeing some of the reviews here.  The latest read was Grit in Your Craw by Robert Luckadoo.  It's a quick read which reiterates a lot of what you already know but in context which makes you realize how important diligence, optimism and/or resilience (for example) really is in your personal and business life.
Luckadoo teaches there are eight strengths you can't succeed without.  He doesn't believe in luck, good or bad.  He believes you can create your own fortune and he explains how he did it using eight essential qualities: diligence, tenacity, optimism, flexibility discipline, resilience, confidence and purpose.  Luckadoo has strong Christian values that come through in his writing; but don't worry, he's not preaching to you. These values are the foundation for his success.
His mother is his first example of a role model who taught him diligence, tenacity, and perseverance...she embodied all the traits he adapted for success in his own life.  When he was still in school his father died of a sudden heart attack and his mother, who had stayed at home with the kids, went to school and got her teaching degree.  She went further and got her master's for education.  She continued on as a "postgraduate student in the WCU education administration program."  She taught her children to persevere through the trials and triumphs of life and to focus on their blessings.
A private pilot who learned how to land a Cessna without barrel rolling, even in a cross-wind; a basketball coach; former insurance sales person; geophysicist and racing cars for fun; Luckadoo has worn many hats and has overcome and accomplished a lot.  
"Carry your vision with great pride and enthusiasm.  Go into every day with an optimistic outlook, and always check your troubles at the door to your office....bring lots of energy with you."  - One of his best pieces of advice.
This isn't rocket science, in fact some of it is common to human nature.  All of it can be learned behaviour which makes this book a universal resource. Whether you are looking to succeed in business or in life, Grit in Your Craw is worth the read.






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