The Shared Truth of Pearls and Wounded People

Everyone has pain, and most of us will have some life-changing horror in our past — sometimes more than a single event — that changes everything.

It has been observed by a number of friends and acquaintances that I’m more outspoken in recent days, years. Instead of tears and rolling onto my belly the way a submissive animal does, the way I always used to do, I show teeth. I turn my back on someone used to commanding attention. I shut doors quietly but solidly. I’m less patient, more likely to speak out when something pings my “this is wrong” radar. I’m more likely to engage, to show people who I am, to call people out on things that cross a line.

I often do not recognize it while it’s happening. It just feels necessary. I’m more tuned into my inner voice, even if it’s argumentative.

Things that endure frequently require tempering, time, heat and/or pressure, and thought. Tempering involves work, or discomfort, or even pain (putting me in mind of pearls, where something has to die in order for you to find the treasure inside). You need experience. You need trial and error. Mostly trial. That’s because taking the measure of something often means discarding more than you need, or dipping deeper to get the full scoop.

If I had a nickel for every time someone’s told me, “You’ve changed,” I’d have enough to buy a venti Starbucks white mocha (they aren’t cheap, and nickels don’t go as far as they once did). I have changed. I’m harder, and also softer. I’m fresh pink skin where a wound was made and left to heal slowly, exposed and breathing. And it’s not going to be okay with everyone, but it’s where I’m at, and I’m okay with it.

“I don’t like this you.”

“You aren’t the sweet Kimmy I used to know.”

“You’re a lot more outspoken.”

“You’re a different person and I don’t know how to relate to you anymore.”

Yes, I am. And I’m not overly bothered about it. I earned it. I earned the scars, and their lessons.

We don’t ask for pain, and we don’t always deserve the gut punches. They will happen to most of us at some point. What we do with it is entirely up to us.


Comments Off on The Shared Truth of Pearls and Wounded People

Filed under Uncategorized

On Judging Books and Covers (But Not in a Literary Sense)

When I was in school, from elementary all the way through high school, I suspect most people thought I was not very bright and didn’t deserve a second thought, unless it was pity or scorn or, sometimes, a kind of fascinated curiosity (children and adults). MomsPics-Kim809073I was sickly and odd, and had stuff going on at home, and there were lots of things happening that no one really bothered to ask about. I had no talents or skills of particular note, and was not a pretty child, or a charismatic one. I wasn’t athletic, or clever, or well socialized. I didn’t wear the right clothes or have money to spend. My classmates, if they spared me a second thought, only seemed to remember me when I drew attention to myself, through something I did or said or how I dressed.

I read a lot. I drew a lot. That was my escape. I felt so alone most of the time, and like I had no future. No one took an interest in me or seemed to care what I did. Adults didn’t seem to like me but appreciated that I wouldn’t be the one who got into trouble. I kept my head down as best I could.

KimYearbookPicCroppedTo be fair, I didn’t have much interest in me, either. I didn’t even apply for scholarships, or to any colleges. No one asked me what I wanted to do or where I wanted to go. I was just… there. Kind of a tall, strange girl who stood out, but was also easily dismissed. Zero impact, but benign for all of that. Funny, because while I don’t think I’ve changed much, I think others’ impressions of me have. Sometimes old acquaintances are surprised by the person I am and don’t quite know what to make of it. Always an odd thing when it happens — it’s like they’re seeing me for the first time and they thought they knew me so well. People who meet me now would probably have a difficult time reconciling the two Kims.

If I ever do anything right as a parent or friend, it will be, hopefully, that I don’t dismiss people. That I don’t skim the surface and look no deeper than that. That I value people for who they are, and not the package presented to me. And, most importantly, that I get to know the people I care most about, and what drives them, moves them, makes them who they are.

At most stages in my life, I thought I was trying my best to keep it together. I never bothered doing more than that. Call it lack of confidence or a thousand other things, but IMG_0435it worked, and passed the time, and gave me room to breathe. I applied to the local community college because I had to do *something* as an answer to receiving a diploma. I had no direction, though, and could not even imagine being around in another decade, much less have an inkling what I might want to do. School was kind of the default, and I worked my way through it — literally. I stumbled through.

It was awkward and painful most of the time, and I had little in the way of street smarts or an understanding of human behavior or motivations. And I was a good employee and an excellent student who worked hard. That’s probably the best thing I can say. I did well, got very good grades, but never stretched myself. Got a Bachelor’s degree a few years later. Hated the field I was in. Made the decision to go back to school and become a teacher. Done and done. Got married, quit my teaching job and became a mom. FINALLY found my calling with that last adventure. It was the first time in my life I felt like I was doing something good and right, and getting it done well, even if I was the only person in the world who thought so. Time will tell. ‚̧

Comments Off on On Judging Books and Covers (But Not in a Literary Sense)

Filed under Uncategorized

**NOT Participating in Blog Hop**

I think I’m on a blog hop list somewhere, but that’s an odd thing — it’s news to me. Probably an old list that’s making the rounds.

I’ve been getting lots of traffic here in the past couple of hours… which is odd, as I haven’t done any bloggish promotion for years. I just don’t have time to maintain the blog with any regularity and, as such, it sort of sits here. It’s all over the place, kind of an online journal. It’s not monetized, and that’s simply because I’m too scattered to focus on any one topic enough to make anything of it.

That being said, I wish luck and success to everyone doing whatever the hop of the moment is. I don’t think anyone’s indicated in their comments how they found the blog, but I’m still plugging through them.

Again, wishing luck to those who are doing the thing right and well, and a plague of digital locusts on those who are using whatever lists are out there to spam unsuspecting, unwary bloggers. ūüėČ

Comments Off on **NOT Participating in Blog Hop**

Filed under Uncategorized

Taking in the Cold Reign by Faith Hunter: A Review Of Jane Yellowrock (11)

Depth and breadth matter. Scope and focus give a thing shape. Cheat or pad any of these overly much and a writer can kill a novel. I’m so glad there are a few who know how to balance it out. ¬†Faith Hunter’s latest, Cold Reign, is a good example of the kind of novel that gets the math right.

Some books drive me nuts because the protagonist is the prime mover of everything in his/her universe and beyond. They grate. Others drive me nuts because the protagonist is forever a victim and cannot see through the fog of choices made, or the book is constructed such that victory means simply surviving all the horrible things inflicted upon him/her (I’m calling out Solzhenitsyn here, but then, Russian labor camps and Russian writing in general is almost unavoidably governed by this dictate).

Choices are what life is about. Conversely, books that impact me are those that deal with free will, introspection, options, hard decisions, and the consequences and/or rewards that result. And then, more introspection, or what’s the point?cold-reign

Which leads us again to Jane Yellowrock, the brain child of Faith Hunter. I’ve written about her books before, and I’m going to discuss this installment, too — not because I’m part of a blog hop (I’m not) or because I received an ARC (I didn’t). I just really need to get some thoughts down about this book while they are still fresh and have teeth and are whizzing through my brain. I saved the last hour or so of reading for its own separate day, because I knew there had to be some resolution forthcoming that would be heady, frightening, illuminating, celebratory, and even a bit sad.

Had to be, based on where Hunter had taken me with this story.

There couldn’t be any other kind of wrap-up if questions were to be answered and the plot arc satisfyingly punctuated.

And since I hate spoilers, you won’t get them — just generalities that also outline the Big Ideas here.

1) The tone of this book is quite different from other JY books. The bones are all still there, the core of the main characters is the same… but I think you’ll only appreciate the changes if, a) you’re familiar with the rest of the series, and b) you’ve also read the Soulwood series, a secondary story line with a few overlapping characters but a different primary protagonist.

[Going to dig a bit here and wax Former AP Lit and Comp Teacher, not because I’m being pedantic, but because this is really how I look at books all the damn time, and it’s my blog. So there. Stay with me and you’ll be glad you did.]

The reason for the change in tone: the perspective of the main players is skewed¬†by choice and circumstance. ¬†Imagine looking at a familiar landscape, one you see every day, and then seeing the same view after someone’s dropped a pair of tinted glasses over your eyes. Hunter draws on a theme of renewal and rediscovery — interpersonal and personal — and she’s very adept at introducing this with established characters with histories closely enmeshed with past story arcs. That’s a tricky thing to do and not come off like you’re recreating or rewriting their histories. It works because Hunter knows her characters inside and out and has worked out these many issues from an empathic perspective. In doing so, we get new language, new attitudes, and a different view than we formerly had of Jane and other key players, but not irrespective of their past. It’s at once familiar and fresh, but it adds a depth I think only contributes to the series overall.

2) It bothers me that so many of the issues Jane’s dealt with come from external forces imposing their will on her, forcing life-changing conditions, and causing chaos and misery, with little or no question of will. People with large egos and lots of power frequently do this — I was waiting for something to cause Jane to wake up and say, “No, I reject this, and you can’t change ME against my will. Nothing you do to me will stick unless I allow it.” Which, naturally, would go against the way most of the supernaturals work in this series; they have power and they force literal change. They control life and death. I always liked the idea that you could repel evil by saying, “I disallow you in my life, my home, and my head space. Get out now.” There’s a difference between dealing with the crap that rolls downhill and putting up boundaries that keep it out of your garden (not very English-teacher-y, but there you go).

And, finally, Jane gets it. About darn time, girl.

And, because I’m quite fond of the sister series Soulwood and its protagonist, I cannot help but think, “Nell got there first.” Folks in her world¬†think Jane Yellowrock is a scary, super-wise, dangerous woman who has it all figured out. They’d be partly accurate.

But the truth is…

3) Jane knows, and she makes it abundantly clear in Cold Reign, that she’s still a child in so many ways. She’s old, but not world-wise. She’s powerful, but she really only just learns her true strength in little illuminated bursts of insight that occur at really humble moments — any parent knows this feeling, but Jane has little-to-no experience like this from which to draw her insights.

Still, truth is truth, and will out. You watch your child sleep and suddenly the weight of Understanding hits you out of the blue. On another day, you get a sudden emotional shock and some truth about the importance of relationships spells itself out in the pause between the news and your response to it. ¬†A simple gesture translates into layers and layers of meaning that don’t translate to things as mundane as words.

Jane learns not to see others in terms of black and white, but, more importantly, she stops seeing herself in those terms. We’re none of us linear and easily defined by algorithms.

And, while this is an entirely separate point…

4) Synesthesia abounds in this book — which is unrelated to Jane’s character development, but… yay! Kind of a big thing with me. *cough*

Life is short. Read the books.


Filed under Book Review, Books

Viking River Cruise Reflections

It’s been about two weeks since our most recent Viking River Cruise. This time, we chose the Grand European Tour. Having taken two river cruises almost a year apart to the date, I think I’m in a good position to discuss them, and will put together a few posts about the following issues: how to pack for a river cruise in April, what to expect at mealtimes, and traveling on a Viking River Cruise if you have a disability or mobility issues.

One subject I wanted to broach was the difference between two cruises with similar itineraries, and how much difference a year can make… we had the same room on a different ship, and both cruises were taken in early April, but both left me with distinctly singular experiences. Most — but not all — of it was positive.


I’m making up a list of topics I researched prior to both cruises, and this should provide a good basis for comparison.

Between the two trips, I took thousands of photos and made notes about some of the more interesting locales and tours, but I’m going to focus on what you’ll need to know about your cruise, and about what the brochures won’t tell you.

I’m headed back to the Danube for a Christmas markets tour this December with my mother. I will no doubt have much to write about soon thereafter.

Is there anything you’d like to know about the process of booking a Viking River Cruise in Europe? Let me know in the comments.

Comments Off on Viking River Cruise Reflections

Filed under Travel, Uncategorized

Excerpt and Giveaway: “On Angels and Rabbit Holes

It’s taken the better part of four years, but this week marks the release of my debut novel, On Angels and Rabbit Holes. I’m so excited, and have so much to share about this book. The odd thing is, I’ve talked about other authors and promoted them extensively, but haven’t done much to promote my own book. It seems I’m better at plugging for others… but this deserves recognition, and I will crow about it, because it’s the kind of book that sticks with you… for all the right reasons. ¬†OnAngelsandRabbitHolesCover

The novel is best described as “magical realism” — there’s a mystical, almost supernatural twist to the goings-on inside the brain of the protagonist, Corrie Weber. It’s a love story, and a book about the complexity of relationships. It’s about the depth and breadth of conviction, and understanding one’s strengths. It’s about forgiveness and loss. More than anything else, it’s about growth.

It’s also about chronic illness… in this case, Temporal Lobe Epilepsy, migraine, Alice in Wonderland Syndrome, and synesthesia. As someone who’s lived with these conditions, I made sure not to pull punches: you’ll get a heavy dose of what it’s like to experience them. You won’t see it coming — you’ll just get pulled in, the way it happens in real life. I’ve been told by others who’ve been diagnosed with one or more of these neurological “disorders”¬†that the prose is highly evocative and transportive… even somewhat uncomfortable. It’s about as close to experiencing it for yourself as you can get and still sit safely in your favorite reading spot.

Here’s an excerpt:

It’s going to be an orange night. Orange makes it hard to breathe. Orange nights are thick like itchy winter blankets, and always scary.

Briefly, Corrie’s thoughts revert to normalcy and she realizes she‚Äôs having another nightmare, the kind that happen when she‚Äôs awake and sleepy. In a way, they’re worse than the other kind, the ones where she wakes up in a sweat and calling for her mom because she’s frightened by some unnamed terrible thing. The angels play a different game.

Corrie wonders briefly where the sheep went. She sees them then, orange and dense, making her left arm ache. Her face hurts from the thought of the sheep, the weight pushing down on her arm and making her head feel heavy. The woolly orange sheep bleat a sound like laughter, at once both distant and oppressively close.

The laughter issuing from her father’s television show is long and slow, a mockery of real laughter. Stretched out like this, it sounds like a threat, like a bad clown, its smile turned sticky and dangerous.

Corrie’s eyes are open but her bedroom isn’t what it was; her sheets suffocate her and her bed swallows her. She opens her mouth and releases her terror out into the night. It might be a scream or a laugh, or it might be something¬†like the bleating of sheep. It is weightless, meaningless.

The uncounted sheep that wandered away have returned, and now they’re painful and orange, their cries like the echoing, dissonant, watery sound of her own voice under water. She tastes the sound of it. She sees the feeling of it. The opaque, slow movement of its turbulence leaves a palpable wake in her mind as it passes.

It doesn’t make sense, and she can’t stop it. Being awake does nothing to keep these waking dreams away. They warp everything she knows, and leave her disoriented, exhausted and confused. They’re wrong. They turn reality widdershins.

She distantly remembers that colors aren‚Äôt felt. Sounds aren‚Äôt seen. Angels are soft, pretty, glowing things. They smile. They make you safe. Except for here, in this place in her head. Sometimes the door opens and she falls in, or they fall out. In the space of a heartbeat, sometimes things right themselves, and Corrie remembers things as they ought to be. A beat later, her open-eyed dream carries her away again, and it doesn’t surprise her. She walks a familiar path¬†every time, and never sees the next step until she takes it.Quote about Balance

Corrie takes another intentionally shallow breath, trying to keep from flying off the bed, afraid it will happen anyhow. Each breath is ballast, the thing that keeps her balanced and steady. Right now, it’s the difference between a hand that rocks a cradle and one that tips it over. The moment impresses itself upon her heavily, insistently. It’s a television show that‚Äôs always at precisely the same point, every time the set’s turned on. She knows what‚Äôs going to happen next; nothing really changes with the waking nightmare in her head.

She tries not to move. She feels the motion anyhow.

Her head rewrites the rules. She is afraid she will become lost and never find her way back home. She searches for the memory of her mother’s face. It’s slippery, but Corrie grasps for it as desperately as a tether in a storm.

Based on the feedback I’ve received so far, it’s being well-received. I read extensively, and confess that this book really is beautiful. There’s also a paperback copy of it up for grabs at Goodreads — enter now! The giveaway lasts only a week!

Giveaway dates:Mar 11 – Mar 19, 2017

Countries available:US, CA, GB and AU

Format:Print Book

On Angels and Rabbit Holes is available at Amazon in both paperback and Kindle — it’s a great read, and one worth sharing.

Quote about Nightmares

Comments Off on Excerpt and Giveaway: “On Angels and Rabbit Holes

Filed under Uncategorized

Review: Curse on the Land, by Faith Hunter

Curse on the Land¬†is all about soul: the souls who are lost, the ones who save themselves, the ones in conflict, the alien nature of the soul, and the soul of the land. ¬†It’s the common thread that ties the elements of the second installment in the Soulwood series by Faith Hunter together.

Hunter doesn’t bash you over the head with it… it’s a theme that weaves itself gently throughout the storyline, much as ivy will work its way from its roots and weave itself into a pattern over anything it grabs. ¬†Its subtlety is part of what makes it so lovely.

At the core of this story is the emergence of the protagonist Nell Ingram into mainstream society… but she does it in a truly roundabout way. ¬†Her induction into this world is ushered in through her involvement with PsyLED (a magical law enforcement agency) and recent graduation from Spook School. ¬†It’s a highly exclusive club whose members are anything but average.

Just as Nell is anything but average. ¬†Here’s a sample of the goodies:curseontheland

‚ÄúT. Laine?‚ÄĚ I said again. She took another step. And another. I called her name, louder. When she didn‚Äôt turn, training took over. I rushed her. Dropped. Tackled her at the hips. One hand ripping the gun away from her. And to my feet.
She came up swearing, fists swinging, and she shouted,. ‚ÄúWhat the holy hell do you think you‚Äôre doing? Gimme me my gun!‚ÄĚ
I held the weapon at her, centered on her chest.
T. Laine‚Äôs face underwent a series of changes. ‚ÄúWhat the holy hell. Nell?‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúAre you back in your right mind?‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúWho is president of the US? Who is the leader of Unit Eighteen?‚ÄĚ
She answered both questions, her expression shifting from anger to bewilderment. ‚ÄúWhat happened?‚ÄĚ
I lowered the weapon. Uncurled my finger from the trigger and placed it along the slide. Dropped my shoulders, which had hunched up at the stress of watching T. Laine fall under some weird kind of compulsion.

She doesn’t even rate “average” among those whose standards include tails, magic slinging and mind reading abilities. ¬†Nell is a square peg in a set of ovals. ¬†But this isn’t to say that Nell’s a superstar. ¬†She’s delightfully awkward, flawed, naive and child-like, despite her depths.

She’s a fascinating¬†heroine, one who’s admirable in both her strengths and her weaknesses. ¬†If you’re going to fall in love with a character¬†(as have I), she’s a magificent example of a strong female who’s believable, likable and compelling… and for a paranormal book that’s saying something.

Bonus for word junkies — the prose in this book can be absolutely haunting:

I was met with a feeling of warmth, of welcome, as if the land was awake now and waiting for me.  As if it had expanded, unfolded, yawned and reached out to welcome me.

Just gorgeous. This is what happens when an author knows how to build emotion through the careful use of sentence structure and word choice. ¬†That’s art.

Do yourself a favor and check out this novel. ¬†It’s¬†the shot in the literary arm paranormal fiction needs.

I received Curse on the Land¬†as an ARC but I’m buying it on audio since I love the performances of Khristine Hvam, and especially loved her delivery on the first Soulwood novel, “Blood of the Earth” (you can find it at Audible here).


Filed under Book Review, Books, Uncategorized

Why the Kerfuffle About “Pecuilar Children” is Absurd

If you’ve read the Ransom Riggs series upon which the Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children movie was based (and I have), you’d know that it’s set in WWII-era England, and it’s based on sensational, somewhat scary, “freak show”-style photographs written into the storyline. It’s a best-selling fantasy series targeted at Young Adults but has also been eagerly devoured by adult fans of the genre.

That doesn’t mean it’s an easy trilogy to get through. ¬†It’s quite disturbing and challenging, in its own way.

The Big Racial Diversity Issue, and Why It Doesn’t Apply Here

It’s fair to say that Hollywood has a lot of changes to make in order to more fairly represent the demographics of this country in film. ¬†That’s not to say that it’s always appropriate or even sensible to do it just for the sake of doing it. ¬†Make the right film with the right actors, and do it the right way and you’ll be helping balance those scales.

If critics contend that the movie lacks ethnic diversity, it might be helpful to consider this: it does offer something perhaps equally accessible in terms of message, and, certainly, is quite fitting for the genre.  The labels that define us are seen for the restrictive and artificial constructs they really are.  And you will most certainly find diversity (read: unique peculiarities, hence the title) in the books.  It underscores many sad and beautiful truths by laying them bare, but it does so slantwise.

It’s not about race at all,¬†but it very much expounds on the value of individuals who must work together to survive and prosper. ¬†At its core, it’s about what brings us together, and why we must see our differences as strengths, and not something to divide us. ¬†It is about¬†the protection of a threatened and diverse group of people who are often exploited, but rise above it.

Fantasy is a wonderful way to introduce abstract concepts to a young audience without Spelling It Out In Capital Letters.

And I can see why Burton wanted it so. ¬†It’s macabre, dark, and it still celebrates the beauty in little things, and the precious core of what makes us all human. ¬†So, he got that right.

The story¬†is terrifying and really quite nightmarish at times…at least, the books are. I read lots of grimdark fantasy (in truth, I’m not a huge fan of that sub-genre descriptor, but it is accurate, if a bit corny…but I digress). ¬†Peculiar Children¬†still unnerved me at points. This series is about children — a diverse group from all walks of life in Britain. They come together, first to hide, and then to fight their exploitation and persecution using their talents, which some see as a blessing, and others, a curse, but they all contribute. Burton’s a celebrity and clearly either doesn’t care or isn’t thinking about what he says in response to the criticisms, but as far as this film adaptation goes, it’s not likely a valid point at all.

The books are beautiful and terrifying, even as they were written as Young Adult fantasy, and that’s what Burton adapted for the screen. To criticize the film because of its lack of ethnic diversity is, frankly, stupid. It’s a valid criticism in other films, perhaps, but in this case, it seems rather like people searching for bones to pick.

Tim Burton is not my favorite director. I like some of his work, but I’m not a huge fan. However, this kerfuffle seems to me just a lot of noise about something that really isn’t an issue. I’ve seen his comments on the lack of racial and ethnic representation in his films,¬†and he’s entitled to his opinion, but I’m not going to knock this¬†film for it. ¬†If you dish it out for this film, you must do the same for the novels. ¬†And I’m not going to do that. ¬†Dictating to authors what they should or shouldn’t write on the grounds that fiction should necessarily promote social order and fairness is called censorship. Again, not a fan.

When all else fails… read the book.

Comments Off on Why the Kerfuffle About “Pecuilar Children” is Absurd

Filed under Uncategorized

Review: “Blood of the Earth” (Soulwood #1)

Before I say anything else, understand that I’m a huge fan of Faith Hunter‘s work. ¬†I love her voice, the care with which she develops her settings, the evocative imagery and language, and — most of all — I love her character development. ¬†That she gives urban fantasy a shot in the arm with each new novel and short story only adds to my appreciation.

Frankly, I was concerned that her new series Soulwood wouldn’t be able to deliver the same rich, beautiful mix of elements, painted with the hand of a poet, I have come to admire.

My only complaint is that I fell in love at the onset with Blood of the Earth, and now have to wait until November (THREE WHOLE MONTHS!!!) for the release of its sequel, Curse on the Land.

If you’re familiar with her Jane Yellowrock books, you’ll recognize some significant recurring characters. ¬†This is a spinoff novel that has enough depth and chops to hold its own… and, quite honestly, that also describes the book’s heroine and protagonist, Nell Ingram. ¬†She’s more than plucky… she’s fiercely independent, but also lonely. ¬†She’s fragile, but unyielding. ¬†Her world view is viewed as limited by others, but her mental and emotional flexibility is one of her more appealing traits.

Without giving too much away, she’s a woman making a life for herself outside the church/cult (depending on your perspective) of her childhood. ¬†She’s forced to deal with situations and people out of her comfort zone, and the conflicts this causes in her life ripple out with ever-broadening revelations… about herself, her world, her family, and everything she thinks she knows to be true. ¬†Don’t think that makes it¬†“chick lit” — although you will likely find this an enjoyable read if that’s a genre you keep on your bookshelves.

Nell isn’t human. ¬†She’s something entirely new and different, which, combined with elements taken from the Jane Yellowrock world, satisfies those who, like me, love urban fantasy but long for something different to spice up the genre. ¬†“What” she is is spooled out over the course of this novel, and hinted at in “Off the Grid” (a short story in the Blood in Her Veins Yellowrock anthology). ¬†I’m waiting for the next Soulwood installment to explore this further, as it’s really a fascinating twist on the usual paranormal fare. ¬†It’s at once deeply spiritual and nightmarish… you’ll have to read it to understand.

You still get a bit of romance here, and I’m delighted it’s not the depraved, bodice-ripping sort. There’s a place for that, but I like my books light on the sex and heavy on rich plots and complex character development. ¬†Check, and check.Soulwood1BloodoftheEarth

I will say this: ¬†I read voraciously, daily. ¬†But for me to review a book on my blog or leave more than a starred review on Goodreads, I must have very strong feelings about it. ¬†This review is done not out of a sense of solidarity or support for an author whose work I enjoy (and I most certainly do admire¬†her and her work), but because something about this book sticks with me and I cannot shake it. ¬†I don’t want to shake it. ¬†I want more of it.

At one part of this story, I was actually moved to tears. ¬†This was due in no small part to the phenomenal work of voice actor Khristine Hvam, who delivered a completely soulful audio performance of this novel. ¬†I loved this particular scene¬†so much, I listened to it twice… the second time, with my eyes closed and tears welling. ¬†I hate spoilers in reviews but I will say it happened during a point at which¬†Nell has a profoundly personal experience in the woods. ¬†Her understanding of it unfolds and evokes the most raw, real emotion in the reader… in me.


I’m an INFJ and made this a few years ago. The message applies to me and to Nell. ‚̧

Nature is an important part of this book, as is the way different people view the land and work with or against it. ¬†It makes for an interesting sidelong discussion that will prick at you long afterward. ¬†You’ll likely look at your garden or the closest forested area in a new light. ¬†And that’s well and good in any case. ¬†It’s kind of Nell’s “thing.”

Nell and I would get along very well, I think. ¬†She’s an introvert and empathetic almost to a fault. ¬†She loves her solitude but also longs for connection. ¬†Superficial things don’t interest her. ¬†Meaningful things do. ¬†If you were to work out her MBTI personality type, I’d peg her as an INFJ. ¬†Takes one to know one.

And she loves to read.  Oh, my soul sister has an entire book series!

If you’re longing for a truly wonderful new heroine, check out this series. ¬†You’ll thank me for it.


Filed under Uncategorized

Viking Cruise? Absolutely!

At almost-46, I’m not exactly a spring chicken. ¬†I’m not saying I’m ready for golf carts and senior discounts yet, but I’m certainly past the age of wanting to party all night, sleep 4 hours and repeat the next day. ¬†If I’m being honest — and you know I will — I was never much for that even as a college student, unless working 3 jobs and a late dinner at Denny’s at 2 a.m. counts as partying.

That being said, I’m more than ready to embrace the slower, quieter, more thoughtful pace of a Viking river cruise. ¬†I know this because I enjoyed one such cruise in April, and already I’m wishing I could go back and repeat the experience.

I was the youngest person aboard. ¬†This makes for a decidedly novel experience, when I consider my white hair and the use of a cane (I have severe rheumatoid arthritis). ¬†Even if I didn’t have RA, though, I appreciated the good food, slower pace, tour itinerary, and not being kept awake by inebriated neighbors stumbling into their rooms at 3 in the morning after drinking all night at a club. ¬†While that might be the ideal way for lots of people to enjoy a vacation, it has never EVER ranked on my to-do list.

I hadn’t been on a vacation without my kids in over 15 years. ¬†I’d been going through a very rough time personally, and I needed the diversion more than I could possibly have known. ¬†Quiet time, relaxation, and allowing myself to be pampered and led was exactly what worked to get my groove back.


Postcards from Paris, Trier, and Heidelberg, from our Rhine Rhapsody Viking cruise.  I miss you, Europe! 

Our only irritating companion was the cold, steady drizzle of the rain along the Rhine and Moselle rivers in Germany. ¬†That’s easily conquered with some hot coffee, a good umbrella, and intoxicating scenery…. the latter of which we had in spades.

We got a cabin with a balcony at water-level. ¬†Here’s what you get to do with that: ¬†on a good day (which is most days, rain or no), you open the sliding glass door and sit on the veranda with a book and a beverage. ¬†The vineyards slip by. ¬†There’s very little noise and when the boat is underway, you don’t even feel the motion… it’s smoother and more relaxing than sitting in a car with the windows down on a scenic drive. ¬†You can smell the fresh earth, new growth on trees, and even see the occasional person out walking their dog along the banks of the river. ¬†On a less-than-stellar day, open the door and take in the same view from the comfort of the bed.

I did that on most days.  It was HEAVENLY.

The food was wonderful, if not a bit limited in variety. ¬†For our 10-day trip (8 of which were spent aboard), we had no complaints about the food. ¬†As for the ports of call, my issue was that you spend so little time at each location, there’s no time to explore on your own. ¬†Honestly, 40 minutes after the end of a guided tour to see whatever you can squeeze in and then get back to the bus or be left behind is pushing it a bit. ¬†I would have loved an entire day in Trier, for example. ¬†There was simply no time to see the Imperial baths, which appeared remarkably well-preserved as we sped past them on our bus tour toward the old city center and Black Gate. ¬†I also would have loved more time in Heidelberg, but if I ever return to the area, I probably won’t limit myself to the Viking tours. ¬†That’s not to say that our tour guides for both cities weren’t amazing… just that I’d like to see more.

The fact is, you’re on rather a tight schedule with Viking cruises. ¬†The ships have to be at the locks at certain times, and if you irritate the lockmaster, you risk getting booted to the end of the line to wait your turn through the lock… and that puts everything else off schedule.

It’s somewhat unnerving to be on the boat anywhere near a window when it’s passing through a lock, by the way. ¬†The sides are so close! ¬†It’s not for the faint of heart or claustrophobic.

Viking has flooded my inbox and mailbox with at least a hundred messages and brochures in the three months since we returned from our trip. ¬†When I saw their 2-for-1 deal (no airfare, either), I decided to investigate. ¬†Down the hole I fell! ¬†Honestly, if it wasn’t so darned expensive even with the discounts, I’d have booked another cruise this week. ¬†Alas, 10K for 2 weeks is too steep a price for our budget. ¬†Should they make the Grand European Tour priced within reach, expect another cruise update soon.

I could do with a repeat adventure.

Comments Off on Viking Cruise? Absolutely!

Filed under Uncategorized