Thursday, June 28, 2012

The Magic by Rhonda Byrne

The Magic by Rhonda Byrne

I always thought I was pretty good at saying thank you and being grateful for the many blessings in my life.  Life is good and happy and rewarding and I thank God for that every day.  Like most of us, I too am looking for something more. 

"Whoever has gratitude will be given more, and he or she will have abundance. Whoever does not have gratitude even what he or she has will be taken from him or her."

This quote is the cornerstone of The Magic.  At first pass it seems harsh and unfair.  Walk yourself through the 28 days of practicing the magic and all will become crystal clear.  I left this book on my nightstand and each night before I went to bed I read the next practice.  I counted my blessings and gave thanks for the best thing that happened that day.  You may think that finding one good thing each day is difficult especially if you've had a long day at work or an argument with your spouse or a dinner of fast food because you didn't feel like cooking.  If you are following the steps in The Magic, picking out that one thing will be hard.  Not because there are too few good things in your life but because there are so many!  

I've left this book on my nightstand and I intend to read it over again and again. I want to surpass pretty good and work my way up to truly amazing.  What comes after that, I'm not sure of the words to describe it but I want to experience it.

I am grateful for the air I breath, the food I eat, the beautiful home I live in.  I am grateful for family and friends who share their lives with me.  I am grateful for Richard and Ginger who add so much love and laughter to my life.  I am grateful for this blog and for all the people who graciously come to read it.  I am grateful for the abundance of blessings I experience each and every day. Find The Magic and abundance will find its way to you.

Thank you, thank you, thank you. 

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Bridge by Karen Kingsbury

The Bridge by Karen Kingsbury

I was fortunate enough to get an advance copy of The Bridge from Netgalley.  The Bridge is a bookstore in a small town in Tennessee run by Charlie Barton, a man who loves how the written word can impact a life.  He will give a book away whenever he sees a need which is often.  The store that holds memories for so many people can no longer continue when a flood rushes through town. 

Molly and Ryan who found love at the The Bridge while in college only to be torn apart by Molly's wealthy and determined father, are at the center of the story.  When Charlie has an accident and the fate of the store rests on the brink of closure, The Bridge truly lives up to its name.  People walked across the bridge and came together to save the place where they learned to dream of far away places with their nose in a book. 

The Bridge is a sweet and powerful story about the grace of God and how the simplest of kind gestures can spread like wild fire.  I found the story too predictable.  I knew how it would turn out very early on.  Whenever that happens I lose interest.  Sometimes however, a break from heavy duty literature I usually read is just what I need. 

The Bridge is filled with the love of God.  Often we need to sit back from our busy and hectic lives and be reminded of that.   I have to admit at one point I cried reading about the magic and strength of a simple act of kindness. But the power of love is what we need to be reminded of.   The Bridge did just that for me.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

The Lifeboat: A Novel by Charlotte Rogan

The Lifeboat: A Novel by Charlotte Rogan

Tension.  Nail biting, edge of the chair, nerve wracking tension.  From start to finish you won't want to put this book down. 

Two years after the sinking of the Titanic, the passengers aboard the Empress Alexandra faced the same disaster.  In the middle of the Atlantic Ocean the ship sank.  Lifeboats were deployed half empty or overloaded and still there were not enough boats to hold all the passengers and crew. Passengers in the water were beaten off the lifeboats with oars. 

Grace is a newlywed sailing from London back to New York to meet her in-laws. With little recollection of how she ended up in this particular boat and without Henry, her husband, she's ill equipped for the battle of survival she now faces. Day turns into night again and again and again with no sign of rescue.  Rations are depleted.  People die.  Their tongues swell from lack of water.  Their faces blister and peel in the relentless salt and sun.  They lose any ability to reason.

I couldn't stop reading.  The author had me in the boat rolling with the waves, hallucinating, starving and spending fourteen days aimlessly floating in the middle of the ocean.   The characters stayed true to themselves throughout.  And when these souls were finally plucked from the water, the pain and suffering failed to stop.   The Lifeboat begins with a prologue so the reader knows at least some of the outcome from the start.  Even that however, couldn't detract from the author's portrayal of their fight for survival.  It was anxious, tense and heart pounding.   You'll be hanging on for dear life.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Beneath The Shadows by Sara Foster

Beneath The Shadows by Sara Foster

I've read about the moors in northern England but I've never seen them in all of my travels.  They are usually described as wet, foggy, and soupy.  And the moors always seem to be associated with ghosts or some equally spooky mystery. Beneath The Shadows is set in December so it's also cold and snowy, making the perfect recipe for suspense.

Beneath The Shadows doesn't disappoint when it comes to the moors and mystery.  Grace's husband, Adam mysteriously disappeared from their cottage in a small village in the moors, leaving their baby daughter, Millie on the front doorstep.  The mystery of his disappearance lingered unsolved.

A year has passed and Grace desperately wants to move on with her life and decides to return to the family cottage to live with Millie.  Talk of ghosts seems to  permeate every conversation.  Adam's grandmother had written a well known book on the subject. When her sister, Anabelle comes to visit she gets Ben, a local to give her a ghost tour of the area.  Grace has dreams of a black dog.  And the neighbor, Meredith tells tales of Timmy, a child haunting her home. 

Slowly Grace unravels the secrets that have been kept by the village.  In doing so she finds what has happened to Adam but not without exposing many other lies.  The author did a great job of building the tension.  I like a novel when I can't figure out what happens in advance.  I often thought the pacing however was off, speeding up and then slowing down to a snail's pace.  That's a small price since the story was told with emotion and kept me wondering until the end.  A good combination.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Never Stop Learning

My struggle with writer's block is not yet over unfortunately for me.  But I think I'm inching forward which is much better than blankly staring at a brick wall.  And I have the kids I volunteer with to thank.  Again. 

Last week they made me feel so important, wanting my autograph.  This week they helped me take a big step into the twenty first century.  I walked into the classroom and the girls were gathered around the board playing a computer game.  Taking their seats, the teacher blanked out the screen from her computer.

"Write on the smart board if you want to, Linda," the teacher said. 

Now I'm not a total idiot when it comes to technology but I'd never seen this kind of set up before.  I picked up the black electronic pen and started to write.  I ended up with a bunch of squiggles. 

"Don't rest your hand on the board when you write," one of the girls shouted out.  "Erase it and start over."

I picked up the electronic eraser with my other hand and tried to erase my scribbles.  No such luck. 

"You can only use one instrument at a time.  Put down the pen."

"Don't you guys use a blackboard any more?"  I asked.  "Where's the chalk?"

The teacher shook her head no.

The girls giggled. "We have that," a student said pointing to the corner of the room.  There was a white board or what I would call a dry erase board.  An antique in their world.  I never saw a whiteboard until my working days in business.  I was starting to feel nostalgic for a piece of chalk and black erasers that had to be taken outside and clapped.

 I moved on.  We did some writing exercises and had a few more laughs. 

"What time is it?"  someone asked. 

I looked at my watch and said, "It's twenty to one."

Every face in the room scrunched up and looked at me like I had ten heads.  "It's twelve forty."

"Oh.  You tell digital time.  None of you own a watch do you?"  I pointed at the one on my wrist. 


I felt so old yet I felt young again.  Being around young people has a tendency to do that.  Without even knowing it, the girls helped me get my head out of my old, tired, habits.  Writing needs to be fresh, current, relevant.  If I'm still writing about characters that use a slide rule I might never be hip.  I left class feeling as if I'd climbed at least half way over that stubborn brick wall.  I went to the library and did some writing.  Only a little.  But it was writing. 

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant by Anne Tyler

Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant by Anne Tyler

Anne Tyler is a Pulitzer Prize winning author after all.  I love reading Pulitzer Prize winners.  I find them interesting, fascinating, deep and exciting.  Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant was not a winner of the prestigious award but a finalist.  I am still in awe of anyone that can achieve that with their writing.  As a writer I strive for the same.

I had read that this novel would be a great study in character development.  The author herself calls this her favorite novel.  I started reading with great anticipation.  After only a few chapters I started to wonder what I'd gotten myself into.

It's not that the writing isn't superb.  It is.  Pearl Tull has depth and detail as a troubled woman, wife and mother.  Her husband simply walks out the door one day and she tells the children he's away on a business trip.  Cody, the eldest child takes out his frustrations on Ezra, the middle and most loved child.  With her mother as her only role model, Jenny, the only girl, focuses strictly on not following in her mother's footsteps.

My issue with this story is that there is nothing about any of these characters that is likeable.  Nothing.  They are angry, mean, and spiteful toward each other.  I didn't see any of them grow and change over the course of the story in any way.  Cody remained jealous throughout.  Ezra always believed in the family as a unit even though they were never able to finish an entire meal together at his restaurant.  Jenny went through the motions, going through several marriages and never really appearing as having found any happiness.  And Pearl.  Pearl softened some as she aged. But even in death she never released her hold on lives of her children. The appearance of her husband, Beck, at her funeral did little to resolve years of pain.

Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant is wonderfully crafted and written.  The story and it's characters have great depth, and display a colorful palette of emotions.  As reader I just couldn't like them.  Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant didn't turn out to be an enjoyable experience for me.  It may be for you.  

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Feeling Famous

My case of writer's block is still hanging over me like a scratchy wool blanket.  I can't seem to shake it no matter what I try.  But I did find something that lifted my spirit in a very big way.

I volunteer at a school for at risk youths, teaching creative writing.  I have to say that what I've learned from these kids over the past few months is far more than what I taught them.  I'm sure of it.  Each class I hold has been eye opening and heart warming.  All of my kids are just brimming with talent, the kind of talent I have been working years to try to achieve.

The kids are in summer school now, and I was asked to help with some high school girls to do some creative writing.  I arrived at class to a room full of smiles.  My mood meter inched up.

"Hi.  My name is Linda and I'm a writer.  I've written a novel and I've been published in several Chicken Soup For the Soul books, " I told the girls.

"I love Chicken Soup books!"

"Can I have your autograph?"

"I'm writing a book.  Will you read it for me?"

The mood meter moved a bit more.  We did some writing exercises, created some interesting characters and talked like girls who love to talk.  Our time was up much too quickly and I wrapped up hoping they would want me to return for more next week.

"Miss Linda. Are you famous?  Do people stop you in the grocery store?" One of the students asked.

The dial on the mood meter shot up to the very top.

I laughed.  "No they don't.  But my plan is that someday they will. And you can say you knew me when."

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Genius in Cleveland

Richard and I went to St Petersburg, Florida over the weekend.  Basically we wanted to see a baseball game.  We are huge fans of the Tampa Bay Rays.  A few other sights were planned to round out our traveling experience.

Top on the list was the Salvidor Dali museum.  Yes, believe it or not St. Petersburg is home to the premier Salvidor Dali museum.  And what a fascinating place it is.  As usual I send Richard to the counter to buy two senior citizen admissions and the woman doesn't blink an eye when she wraps the wrist band around my arm.  Richard gets the elevator operator to believe he looks really good for 84 years old and that I'm his sister.  Surrealism in a surreal place full of surreal paintings.  Genius at work.

We decided to join the tour which starts with Dali's painting Daddy Long Legs.  It was the first painting acquired by the Morse's shortly before they were married.  The couple was from Cleveland, Ohio and first fell in love with Dali at an exhibition of his works in that city.  They collected his works over the years and became close friends with the artist.

Cleveland!  It seems that everywhere I go I find some connection.  People love to make fun of Cleveland but actually it is a very happening place.  I grew up there and had no idea of all the treasures it holds.  I had to grow up, move to Florida, marry Richard, become a baseball fan among other things to experience a gift traced back to Cleveland.  And the Dali museum is a gift.

The genius of Dali's paintings is extraordinary. The symbolism and interpretation of the world through his eyes is marvelous. Any description I give here would not do it justice.  It must be seen and even then will never be completely understood.  Being a writer, the works struck me for their creativity and attention telling the story.  Every detail visible with some that I had to hunt for.  But all told a story.  A fascinating story.  I learned something at the museum in Florida on the way to a baseball game, thanks to some intelligent and generous people.  From Cleveland.       

City of Thieves by David Benioff

City of Thieves by David Benioff It's World War II in Leningrad, Russia.  17 year old Lev elected to stay behind in the city when h...