Bright Side by Kim Holden ~ Book Review

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RATING OVERVIEW 4.75 STARS

Writing: ★★★★★
Story: ★★★★
Characters: ★★★★★
Appearance: ★★★★★

AMAZON DESCRIPTION:

Secrets.
Everyone has one.
Some are bigger than others.
And when secrets are revealed,
Some will heal you …
And some will end you.

Kate Sedgwick’s life has been anything but typical. She’s endured hardship and tragedy, but throughout it all she remains happy and optimistic (there’s a reason her best friend Gus calls her Bright Side). Kate is strong-willed, funny, smart, and musically gifted. She’s also never believed in love. So when Kate leaves San Diego to attend college in the small town of Grant, Minnesota, the last thing she expects is to fall in love with Keller Banks.

They both feel it.
But they each have a reason to fight it.
They each have a secret.

And when secrets are revealed,
Some will heal you …
And some will end you.

MY 2 CENTS / THE CRITICAL POINTS:

WOW… I ate this book up, binge reading it in just a couple of days. It is a super-fast read with so much amazing detail.

WRITING (★★★★★): Kim Holden draws you right in with her playful dialogue between life long friends Kate and Gus. Immediately we feel their connection and realize that these two friends have just been separated as Kate left for college and Gus is still home in southern California following his dream of being a Rockstar.

The way Kim tells the story, each chapter from one character’s perspective, really pulled me into the book. It makes you, as a reader, feel more involved and it gives the story an overarching personal feeling that telling it from third person just wouldn’t have accomplished.

STORY (★★★★): This story takes you on a rollercoaster of emotions. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll get pissed… but, if you’re like me, you’ll love every minute of it.

A little warning though, this one is for mature audiences. Topics covered in Bright Side include loss, disease, eating disorders, homosexuality, sex, drinking, and SO MUCH MORE!!!

CHARACTERS (★★★★★): As an author, Kim Holden understands character development. She has to be one of my top 5 authors for character development. She had me emotionally connected, not only to the main character Kate but also with Gus, Keller, and everyone else. Seriously, even Kate’s college roommate, who is kind of a jerk, is written in a way that makes her misunderstood… I found myself wanting to know more about her. Who knows, maybe Kim will write a book for her at some point too.

Kate, also known as Bright Side, is a beautiful person inside and out. She is optimistic in every sense of the word and sadly, life has just not been kind to her. She has been dealt a terrible hand, but she doesn’t let it get her down. With every line… even when she is saying Dude every other word, we get a sense of who she is. That is the magic of good character development.

APPEARANCE (★★★★★): Simple… Intriguing… and totally Bright Side! The cover made me smile even before I opened the pages to meet Bright Side!  

FAVORITE QUOTES:

“Today, my life is awesome. I don’t want to think about tomorrow. Or the day after that. So I repeat to myself: Today, my life is awesome.”

“Don’t judge each other. We all have our own shit. Keep your eyes on yours and your nose out of everyone else’s unless you’re invited in. And when you get the invitation, help, don’t judge.”

“Imagine for a moment that you were free of all the expectations in your life. What would you do? How would you live your life with no one watching? What would your future look like?”

“Do Epic.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Kim lives in what she calls the greatest city in the world: Denver, Colorado. Some of her favorite things: reading, writing, her husband and her son, her bicycle, Facebook, iced coffee, and music. She also loves dreaming. Her advice to anyone reading this, or any of her books… follow your dreams. It’s never too late. Get started today … heck get started RIGHT NOW! Make your dreams reality.
She loves to hear from fellow readers. So, if you want to reach out, find her on Goodreads at author/show/7445352.Kim_Holden

Check out my YouTube channel and the video review below… and make sure you hit subscribe so you never miss a video.

Also by Kim Holden

GUS (Bright Side Book 2)

This is the story of Gus.
Losing himself.
Finding himself.
And healing along the way.

“ … but the honest-to-God truth is I don’t even know how to function anymore. Bright Side wasn’t only my best friend; she was like my other half … the other half of my brain, the other half of my conscience, the other half of my sense of humor, the other half of my creativity, the other half of my heart. How do you go back to doing what you did before, when half of you is gone forever?”

Note from the author: Due to strong language and sexual content, this book is recommended for mature audiences.

FRANCO (Bright Side Book 3)

Franco Genovese is the drummer for world renowned American rock band, Rook. He’s got it all. A killer smile. Tattoos. Talent. Razor sharp wit and humor. And a heart as big, and generous, as they come.
Life is good. Steady. Uncomplicated. Just the way he likes things.
Until one night at an unassuming L.A. bar changes everything.
Enter Gemma Hendricks.
She’s a successful young architect from Northern England with an adorable smile, sarcasm for days, and an unparalleled trusting heart.
The attraction is instant.
So is their friendship.
It’s also temporary because they’ll both be heading home, thousands of miles apart from each other, in a few days.
Or is it?
There’s something Gemma wants more than anything else.
And when Franco propositions her to provide what she’s looking for, everything changes.
Will it transform friendship into love, or will it be their ruin?

THE OTHER SIDE

There are two sides to every story.
The surface reality that’s presented to the world…
And then there’s the other side.
The real one.
The one that matters.
Seventeen-year-old, self-proclaimed asshole, Toby Page, is alone.
No friends.
No family.
He trades maintenance work in exchange for room and board.
Every day he fights demons no one else can see.
Every day he wants to give up.
But he can’t.
Not yet.
When Alice Eliot moves in downstairs, she offers Toby some light in his dark world.
At a crossroads and barely hanging on, it’s hard to have perspective.
It’s difficult to see your own worth when you’re the villain in your story.
Luckily for Toby, Alice brings things out in him that no one else ever has.
As the two sides of Toby’s story are revealed, and the full reality comes into view, truth is gained, unlikely heroes emerge, and improbable alliances prove that kindness is fundamentally human.
The question is, Will it all be enough to save him?

ALL OF IT

Seventeen-year-old VERONICA SMITH has it all: a loving family, a funky car named Jezebel, and a plan to go to college after graduation. On the first day of senior year, she meets DIMITRI GLENN–a mysterious transfer student with gray eyes and a mischievous smile who seems determined to win her heart. But there’s something odd about Dimitri, leading Veronica to wonder if there’s more to him than meets the eye. Before long she finds herself in a whirlwind romance that seems too good to be true–until a series of devastating events leaves her questioning everything. It’s not until she chooses to think with her heart instead of her mind that she can rise from the ashes to learn the truth of their connection.

SO MUCH MORE

This is a glimpse into divorce: the lead-up, the aftermath, and the redemption that follows.
Love is strange. It comes out of nowhere. There’s no logic to it. It’s not methodical. It’s not scientific. It’s pure emotion and passion. And emotion and passion can be dangerous because they fuel love…and hate.
I’m now a reluctant connoisseur of both—an expert through immersion. I know them intimately.

When I fell in love with Miranda, it was swift and blind. She was the person I’d elevated to mythical status in my head, in my dreams.
Here’s the thing about dreams, they’re smoke.
They’re spun as thoughts until they become something we think we want. Something we think we need.

That was Miranda. She was smoke.

I thought I wanted her. I thought I needed her.

Over time reality crept in and slowly dissected and disemboweled my dreams like a predator, leaving behind a rotting carcass.

Reality can be a fierce bitch.
So can Miranda.

And I can be a fool…
who believes in dreams.

And people.


Stalking Jack The Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco ~ Book Review

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  • Title: Stalking Jack the Ripper
  • Author: Kerri Maniscalco

RATING OVERVIEW: 4.25 STARS
Writing: ★★★★
Story: ★★★★
Characters: ★★★★
Appearance: ★★★★★

AMAZON DESCRIPTION:

Seventeen-year-old Audrey Rose Wadsworth was born a lord’s daughter, with a life of wealth and privilege stretched out before her. But between the social teas and silk dress fittings, she leads a forbidden secret life.

Against her stern father’s wishes and society’s expectations, Audrey often slips away to her uncle’s laboratory to study the gruesome practice of forensic medicine. When her work on a string of savagely killed corpses drags Audrey into the investigation of a serial murderer, her search for answers brings her close to her own sheltered world.

The story’s shocking twists and turns, augmented with real, sinister period photos, will make this #1 New York Times bestselling debut from author Kerri Maniscalco impossible to forget.

MY 2 CENTS / THE CRITICAL POINTS:

I’ve always been fascinated with the minds of serial killers. Not in a creepy way, but in a ‘how could anyone possible do that’ sort of way. My mind tries to understand that which cannot be understood… With that said, I’ve read a number of books about Jack the Ripper and I’ve even played his final victim in the play, The Belles of Whitechapel by Wayne Miller. So, when someone asked me to read and review this book, I jumped at the opportunity.

WRITING (★★★★): Maniscalco’s writing style is detailed and fluid. I love how easily I was swept away to the late 1800’s while Jack the Ripper was roaming the streets. Although, at times, the story seemed to drag, bogged down by unnecessary scenes, it didn’t distract me from the over all story. I loved Maniscalco’s style and am eager to read more.

STORY (★★★★): Audrey Rose, our heroine, is a member of high society expected to attend tea, brunch with the ladies, and accept her place in society as an uneducated woman. However, Audrey Rose doesn’t accept that. She has a passion for knowledge and a curiosity for forensic science. Sneaking behind her father’s back, she studies under the tutelage of her uncle, spending many days elbow deep in the viscera of the latest cadaver.

The author leads us down a few paths, making the reader question who the killer, Jack the Ripper, really is. I’ll admit, I made a couple wrong guesses, but I got it right on my third try about half way through the book. If you pay attention, the clues are there.

CHARACTERS (★★★★): The book has a small cast of primary characters, the two main characters being Audrey Rose and Thomas Cresswell. We’re also introduced to Audrey’s Uncle Jonathan, her brother Nathaniel, her father Lord Edmund Wadsworth, her Aunt Amelia, and her cousin Liza with a few other thrown in throughout the story.

Audrey Rose isn’t your typical 1800’s lady, but I found her to be fun, feisty, and all around relatable. Like many teenagers, she often acts without thinking, she jumps to conclusions, and she puts herself in dangerous positions. She is strong willed and brave. It’s that bravery and courage that I enjoyed the most about her character. The way she didn’t care about blending in… fitting in… she was who she was and she didn’t care what other people thought about her.

Thomas Cresswell, who fancies Audrey Rose from just about the moment he spots her is the devilishly handsome, smooth talking, bad boy. Or at least that’s what he wants you to believe. I loved the way that he and Audrey play off each other. There is chemistry between them from the start, but back in the 1800’s it wasn’t proper to act on emotions so there is also a lot of restraint. That push and pull of emotions is fun to read.

APPEARANCE (★★★★★): The cover is beautiful. We have a clear image of what Audrey Rose looks like, although, I’ll admit she isn’t the girl I was picturing as I read the book. We also get a visual of her world, the dark streets of Victorian-era London. I think the cover artist did a beautiful job.

FAVORITE QUOTES:

“Roses have both petals and thorns, my dark flower. You needn’t believe something weak because it appears delicate. Show the world your bravery.”

“Fear is a hungry beast. The more you feed it, the more it grows.”

“In my spare time I flay open bodies of the deceased. Two of whom were victims of leather Apron. The scent that hung in the room would drop a man to his knees, and I aided my uncle during the postmortems while standing in gelled blood. Whatever you have to show us won’t be too much for my stomach to handle, I assure you.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Kerri Maniscalco grew up in a semi-haunted house outside NYC where her fascination with gothic settings began. In her spare time she reads everything she can get her hands on, cooks all kinds of food with her family and friends, and drinks entirely too much tea while discussing life’s finer points with her cats.

Check out my YouTube channel and the video review below… and make sure you hit subscribe so you never miss a video.

Also by Kerri Maniscalco

Becoming the Dark Prince

In this irresistibly-priced short story, catch a glimpse of the inner struggles and triumphs that drive Stalking Jack the Ripper‘s endearing but troubled hero.
Enigmatic, brooding, and darkly handsome, Thomas Cresswell has always been the one mystery Audrey Rose has never been able to fully solve. As brilliant partners in crime investigation, they understand each other perfectly…

but as young lovers, their passionate natures have led to both euphoria and heartbreak throughout the Stalking Jack the Ripper series.
This novella features a collection of scenes that takes place during and after the pair’s horrifying Atlantic voyage in Escaping From Houdini. Experience new and familiar scenes from Thomas’s unique point of view, including an intensely personal look into his plea for Audrey Rose’s hand in marriage.
With a romance for the ages, Audrey Rose and Thomas reach the conclusion to their epic, irresistible partnership in their final adventure, Capturing the Devil.


Hunting Prince Dracula

In this New York Times bestselling thriller, bizarre murders are discovered in the castle of Prince Vlad the Impaler, otherwise known as Dracula. Could it be a copycat killer…or has the depraved prince been brought back to life? FEATURES BONUS CONTENT EXCLUSIVE TO THIS PAPERBACK EDITION!

Following the grief and horror of her discovery of Jack the Ripper’s true identity, Audrey Rose Wadsworth has no choice but to flee London and its memories. Together with the arrogant yet charming Thomas Cresswell, she journeys to the dark heart of Romania, home to one of Europe’s best schools of forensic medicine…and to another notorious killer, Vlad the Impaler, whose thirst for blood became legend.

But her life’s dream is soon tainted by blood-soaked discoveries in the halls of the school’s forbidding castle, and Audrey Rose is compelled to investigate the strangely familiar murders. What she finds brings all her terrifying fears to life once again.


Escaping From Houdini

Audrey Rose and Thomas Cresswell find themselves aboard a luxurious ocean liner that becomes a floating prison of horror when passengers are murdered one by one…with nowhere to run from the killer.

The #1 bestselling series that started with Stalking Jack the Ripper and Hunting Prince Dracula continues its streak in this third bloody installment…. Embarking on a week-long voyage across the Atlantic on the opulent RMS Etruria, Audrey Rose

Wadsworth and her partner-in-crime-investigation, Thomas Cresswell, are delighted to discover a traveling troupe of circus performers, fortune tellers, and a certain charismatic young escape artist entertaining the first-class passengers nightly.

But privileged young women begin to go missing without explanation, and a series of brutal slayings shocks the entire ship. The strange and disturbing influence of the Moonlight Carnival pervades the decks as the murders grow more and more bizarre. It’s up to Audrey Rose and Thomas to piece together the gruesome investigation before more passengers die before reaching their destination. But with clues to the next victim pointing to someone she loves, can Audrey Rose unravel the mystery before the killer’s horrifying finale?


Capturing the Devil

In the shocking finale to the bestselling series that began with Stalking Jack the Ripper, Audrey Rose and Thomas are on the hunt for the depraved, elusive killer known as the White City Devil. A deadly game of cat-and-mouse has them fighting to stay one step ahead of the brilliant serial killer—or see their fateful romance cut short by unspeakable tragedy.

Audrey Rose Wadsworth and Thomas Cresswell have landed in America, a bold, brash land unlike the genteel streets of London.

But like London, the city of Chicago hides its dark secrets well. When the two attend the spectacular World’s Fair, they find the once-in-a-lifetime event tainted with reports of missing people and unsolved murders.

Determined to help, Audrey Rose and Thomas begin their investigations, only to find themselves facing a serial killer unlike any they’ve encountered before. Identifying him is one thing, but capturing him—and getting dangerously lost in the infamous Murder Hotel he constructed as a terrifying torture device—is another.

Will Audrey Rose and Thomas see their last mystery to the end—together and in love—or will their fortunes finally run out when their most depraved adversary makes one final, devastating kill?


Author Interview ~ Matt Nagin

One thing I love to do is interview other authors. Not only does it introduce me to potential books I can add to my ‘to read’ list, but it also helps spread the indie-author love to other readers. Marketing is hard and if I can help a fellow author, I’m happy to do it. With that in mind, I’d like to welcome Matt Nagin, author of Feast of Sapphires, to my blog.

Matt Nagin, author of Feast of Sapphires, AKA Bart Schumacher (Standup Comedian)

What is your name and do you write under a pen name? My name is Matt Nagin. I do not use a pen name, but I do have a comedy alter ego, a standup comedy character, if you will, named Bart Schumacher.

Where do you call home? I live in New York City. 

Obviously, we know you are an author, but some writers have other jobs as well. Do you have another occupation? Do you believe you’re any good at it? Do you like what you do? I am an actor, a comedian, and, when I can find the work, a college professor. Yes. I believe I became a better actor and educator over time. I enjoy very much the areas in which I work since I am passionate about them and they are connected to my overall artistic orientation.

What is your family like? I have a large family; four brothers, a nephew, thirteen cousins, many uncles and aunts etc. In addition to my parents, I’m fortunate enough to have a 99 year old grandma who turns 100 in January.

Do you have any hobbies, other than writing? What do you enjoy doing? I love watching films, particularly classic films and/or films that in some way tell an innovative story. I also enjoy traveling, since it expands your understanding of your own little area of residence, helps you get a better grasp of your particular social and cultural predilections, and occasionally even inspires creative work.

What is your greatest dream? To make a living as a writer by completing works others find meaningful.

What kind of person do you wish you could be? What is stopping you? I would like to be working creatively at a higher level than I am now. By this I mean I would, ideally, like to be more productive. What is stopping me, I suppose, is I get distracted easily and I have a million little obligations that keep me from focusing and completing work. I’m also a bit of a perfectionist, which, at times, can be a hindrance.

Not to pry too much, but do you remember your first love? Yes. Lasted a year and a half. Unfortunately, she became a lesbian. It broke my heart at the time. Now it seems vaguely humorous.

What is the most terrible thing that ever happened to you? Getting hit by a speeding car while walking across the street in a construction zone with an obstructed view was one of the worst things that ever happened to me. More than twenty stitches in my wrist. Glass in my arm. Ten herniated discs in my back. A number of ongoing issues with my knees. There have been a few others. A plane nearly crashing–the gas masks coming down. A boat nearly going under during a storm. Three surgeries for Crohn’s disease. The point is it has been a struggle, at times, just to persevere.

And how long have you been writing? I have been writing around 25 years, but the first five years I did not work with any level of seriousness. There have been periods where I didn’t write at all, but, eventually, I always came back to it. Of late I’ve been trying to maintain a regular schedule.

What was your dream growing up? Did you achieve that dream? If so, in what ways was it not what you expected? If you never achieved the dream, why not? To be a writer/actor/filmmaker etc. To a certain extent, I achieved my dream. This is because in pretty much all the fields I’ve pursued I’ve had at least a few accomplishments. All that being said, I still feel I have a long way to go.

Who is your role model? Most of my role models are artists with an uncompromising yet powerful vision. Examples include Stanley Kubrick, Charles Bukowski, Phillip K. Dick, Emily Dickinson, William Blake and Salvador Dali.

Do you prefer e-books, paperbacks, hard-covers or audio-books? Paperbacks. The presentation is generally the best. I also think the idea of a book as something really special and unique is lost when you read it on a Kindle.

What is your opinion of novellas? Novellas are a great form. I enjoy the unusual length very much. I also think it is a great way to develop characters, setting, and a compelling plot without dragging a story on endlessly. Finally, in the age of social media, where readers have very little free time, novellas make a whole lot of sense.

What is your favorite film based on a book? Barry Lyndon. It’s based on a Thackeray novel.

What is your favorite book genre at the moment? Satire/Humor.

What books have made it onto your wish list recently? And why? Stephen King’s “The Stand.” I have read many King books, but never actually got to “The Stand.” I’m looking forward to reading this classic.

What book are you reading at the moment? And in what format? I’m reading the book of a friend, David Voice, “The Can Man: My Five Cents Worth,” that I’m enjoying. Kindle format. I generally don’t read much on my Kindle, but, since this is a relatively short book, it made sense.

Let’s shift somewhat and talk about your latest story.

What is the name of your most recent book and if you had to sum it up in 20 or fewer words, what would you say? My book is ‘Feast of Sapphires.’ It is a poetry collection that aims to be illuminating in a variety of ways. I take daily experiences, or interesting phrases, or magnetic ideas, and use them as a springboard for poetic exploration.

FEAST OF SAPPHIRES

“Feast of Sapphires,” is a compendium of poems covering topics both timely and universal. There are poems of psychic revolution, poems on social media and gun control, poems about MRI’s, gambling, and mystical storms of all varieties; then, too, on a deeper level, more than a few of these poems are about the desire to surmount the collective facade in search of a kind of truth that cannot be hyperlinked.

Located from Costa Rica to the LIRR,  this metaphysical cartography of anticipation and despair is perfect for those seeking answers in the bottom of the tea, in the resonance of a thunder storm, or, even, in the ethereal high of a linguistic flight of fancy. From comedic monologues to existential reflections, from angry rants to countercultural analysis, from wily narratives to verbal pyrotechnics, this is a book that strives, in new ways, to be illuminating… CONTINUE READING

Is the above book part of a series? No. That said, it is a follow-up to my first poetry book, “Butterflies Lost Within The Crooked Moonlight,” which  did fairly well on Amazon.

BUTTERFLIES LOST WITHIN THE CROOKED MOONLIGHT

This highly-accessible, dynamic collection offers existential ponderings, comic situations, poetic meditations on death, musical riffs, political commentary, striking imagery and more. The 45 poems in this collection represent a range of styles and subject matter. 18 of these poems were previously published in such journals as Antigonish Review, Grain Magazine, Arsenic Lobster, Dash, Spillway, The Charles Carter, Downtown Brooklyn, and many, many more. This debut collection of poetry from Matt Nagin is sure to, as the title suggests, comment on the way even the most delicate and majestic of us tend to be drawn, willy-nilly, towards the crooked moonlight.

How did you come up with the cover? Who designed the cover of your book(s)?Julia Noel Goodman designed the cover. We reviewed the concept together and went through a number of iterations of it till we settled on one we thought best.

How did you come up with the title for your book(s)? I pick a bunch of different possible titles and go with what sounds best. I also ask friends/associates for input.

Do you have a book trailer? If so, where can we watch it? I created a trailer for my first book, ‘Butterflies Lost Within The Crooked Moonlight.’ Watch it below:

Also, I have videos of readings of individual poems from ‘Feast of Sapphires,’ set to imagery. One of these, ‘Regret,’ is available below:

Let’s talk now about your writing process.

What is your writing style like? Are you a pantser or a plotter? I am a pantser. I go with what inspires me–allowing it to lead the way. Then I go back and edit. At times this editing is extensive. At others very little is required. It totally depends on the state of the first draft. I sometimes edit immediately after I complete the writing portion. At other times, I like to wait a few weeks till I return to the work, since I often can then see it much more clearly.

Have you come across any specific challenges in writing or publishing? What would you do differently the next time? The biggest challenge I’ve encountered with publishing is properly formatting poetry for Kindle on KDP…something that sounds easier than it is. The second biggest challenge is acquiring new readers in an oversaturated marketplace.

What’s the best advice that you have been given when it comes to writing? Not sure if I was ever specifically given this advice, but it is what I always tell others: keep at it! This is the key to success in any field, but particularly with writing a high level of self-discipline is required. 

Where can your readers follow you? Please list links to any applicable websites and/or social media accounts.

FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/mattnaginwriter/

GOODREADS: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/17008526.Matt_Nagin

AMAZON: https://www.amazon.com/Matt-Nagin/e/B01M6ZZV3J

INSTAGRAM: https://www.instagram.com/naginplease/

Where do you see yourself in five years? I hope to have several other books published by then. Right now I have a humor book coming out in the next few months with an indie publisher, and, after that, I am looking to publish a short story collection. There are a few more books, as well, I’m at work on, so I am really hoping to get a lot of work out into the world soon.

Any last thoughts about your overall journey? It’s been a wild ride–these last few years–and I have really enjoyed expressing myself creatively and reaching out to others with my creative ideas. I’m also grateful to be doing something I’m passionate about, something that fills me with a sense of purpose. What can I say? I’m very lucky!

CALL TO ACTION: If you have questions for Matt that weren’t addressed in this interview, I invite you to comment below and he will respond here!

Wonder by R.J. Palacio

Would you prefer to watch the video, instead of reading the review? CLICK HERE

wonderTITLE: Wonder
AUTHOR: R.J. Palacio

RATING OVERVIEW
Writing: ★★★★★
Story: ★★★★★
Characters: ★★★★★
Appearance: ★★★★★
Overall: ★★★★★ (5)

GOODREADS DESCRIPTION:
NOW A MAJOR MOTION PICTURE STARRING JULIA ROBERTS, OWEN WILSON, AND JACOB TREMBLAY!

Over 6 million people have read the #1 New York Times bestseller WONDER and have fallen in love with Auggie Pullman, an ordinary boy with an extraordinary face.

The book that inspired the Choose Kind movement.

I won’t describe what I look like. Whatever you’re thinking, it’s probably worse.

August Pullman was born with a facial difference that, up until now, has prevented him from going to a mainstream school. Starting 5th grade at Beecher Prep, he wants nothing more than to be treated as an ordinary kid—but his new classmates can’t get past Auggie’s extraordinary face. WONDER, now a #1 New York Times bestseller and included on the Texas Bluebonnet Award master list, begins from Auggie’s point of view, but soon switches to include his classmates, his sister, her boyfriend, and others. These perspectives converge in a portrait of one community’s struggle with empathy, compassion, and acceptance.

“Wonder is the best kids’ book of the year,” said Emily Bazelon, senior editor at Slate.com and author of Sticks and Stones: Defeating the Culture of Bullying and Rediscovering the Power of Character and Empathy. In a world where bullying among young people is an epidemic, this is a refreshing new narrative full of heart and hope. R.J. Palacio has called her debut novel “a meditation on kindness” —indeed, every reader will come away with a greater appreciation for the simple courage of friendship. Auggie is a hero to root for, a diamond in the rough who proves that you can’t blend in when you were born to stand out.

Buy the book HERE

MY 2 CENTS:

WRITING (★★★★★): I LOVED THIS BOOK!!! It is a truly amazing story with a profoundly important message – Choose Kindness!

I read this book because my son wanted to see the movie and I suggested we read the story first. Within the first couple of chapters, I was hooked. It took us only a few days to finish the book and we were both on the edges of our seats the whole time.

I cried… a lot!

Palacio has a beautiful way of capturing the emotion in what’s happening throughout the story. Her writing style is fluid. Wonder can be easily read by young children and still enjoyed by adults. Not an easy task for a children’s author to manage, but Palacio pulled it off seamlessly.

STORY (★★★★★): Wonder is the story of August (Auggie) Pullman, a young boy who has a congenital facial abnormality. Do to his unusual appearance, he has had to deal with a range of reactions from people he meets and others who just noticing him passing by. Kids he encounters, as well as many adults, are cruel. They use hateful, hurtful language, often displaying their disgust without trying to hide it. However, it is important to know – if you are letting your child read this book – that goodness does win in the end. Readers will learn a valuable lesson on choosing kindness and should find Auggie’s story to be both inspiring and emotionally moving.

It is hard to read a story about suffering, especially the suffering of a child. The way the character of Auggie Pullman has suffered all his “life” is devastating. Yet, he keeps a positive attitude in the face of bullying, ridicule, pain, loss, and humiliation. There are days that I wish I was as strong as he is.

This story started the Choose Kind movement and honestly, I believe it should be required reading in all elementary and middle schools across the country and around the world. We could all learn something from Auggie Pullman.

CHARACTERS (★★★★★): Auggie Pullman is the epitome of kind-hearted and selfless. Not only do I feel that the author gave us a completely fleshed out lead character, she successfully brought to life Auggie’s parents, sister, and the school staff and other children around him. There wasn’t a single character that I didn’t feel I got to know, understand, and relate to.

APPEARANCE (★★★★★): The cover of Wonder is simple and powerful at the same time. I’m not sure who designed it, but the minimalist illustration of August (Auggie) Pullman’s face on the cover is perfect.

FAVORITE QUOTES:

“I think there should be a rule that everyone in the world should get a standing ovation at least once in their lives.”

“Courage. Kindness. Friendship. Character. These are the qualities that define us as human beings, and propel us, on occasion, to greatness.”

“Kinder than is necessary. Because it’s not enough to be kind. One should be kinder than needed.”

“When given the choice between being right or being kind, choose kind.”

* * * * *

Check out my YouTube channel and the video review below… and make sure you hit subscribe so you never miss a video.

You can check out the Movie Trailer here:

https://youtu.be/Ob7fPOzbmzE

Origin by Dan Brown

OriginTITLE: Origin
AUTHOR: Dan Brown

RATING OVERVIEW
Writing: ★★★★★
Story: ★★★★
Characters: ★★★★★
Appearance: ★★★★
Overall: ★★★★★ (4.5)

AMAZON DESCRIPTION:
Robert Langdon, Harvard professor of symbology, arrives at the ultramodern Guggenheim Museum Bilbao to attend the unveiling of a discovery that “will change the face of science forever.” The evening’s host is Edmond Kirsch, a forty-year-old billionaire and futurist, and one of Langdon’s first students.

But the meticulously orchestrated evening suddenly erupts into chaos, and Kirsch’s precious discovery teeters on the brink of being lost forever. Facing an imminent threat, Langdon is forced to flee. With him is Ambra Vidal, the elegant museum director who worked with Kirsch. They travel to Barcelona on a perilous quest to locate a cryptic password that will unlock Kirsch’s secret.

Navigating the dark corridors of hidden history and extreme re¬ligion, Langdon and Vidal must evade an enemy whose all-knowing power seems to emanate from Spain’s Royal Palace. They uncover clues that ultimately bring them face-to-face with Kirsch’s shocking discovery…and the breathtaking truth that has long eluded us.

Buy it HERE on Amazon!

THE CRITICAL POINTS

WRITING: The only other Dan Brown book I’ve read was The Da Vinci Code, which I loved. This one was even better! You only have to look at the thousands of 5-star amazon reviews to know that Brown is a world-renowned author and that Origin was named the #1 worldwide bestseller for a reason.

STORY: Origin asks the questions we’ve all wondered… Where do we come from and, where are we going? Diving deep into such philosophical questions, Brown analyzes both creationism and science. Origin is masterfully written and thought provoking, making you question your own beliefs and reasoning. It is fast-paced, action packed, and will keep you on the edge of your seat as you quickly turn page after page to find out what will happen next.

CHARACTERS: As in The Da Vinci Code, and I’m sure all the other books in the series, Professor Robert Langdon, Brown’s lead character, is fleshed out to the point that you feel like you could reach into the book and shake his hand. Brown has not only given the character of Langdon purpose and a mission, he has breathed life into him. Reading a Brown book is like taking a master class on character development. There isn’t anything you feel you don’t know about his characters. From Langdon to Edmond to Ambra and especially Winston, Brown’s characters are unique and special.

APPEARANCE: The cover of Origin is beautifully simple and the circular staircase representation in the middle is surprisingly appropriate once you’ve read deep enough into the book.

Check out my YouTube channel and the video review here… and make sure you hit subscribe so you never miss a video.

 

2015 – New Year’s Resolutions!

2015

OK, let me start by saying I am excellent at making New Year’s resolutions! I should also say that I’m not very good at keeping them, at least not passed a month or two. Like most people my New Year’s resolutions are usually filled with things like exercise more, eat healthier, give up sweets, and learn to cook! Well, this year I am doing something a little different. I read an article Your TED-inspired New Year’s resolutions and it got me VERY inspired. If you haven’t read this list yet – DO IT! You can click on the article title and it will take you directly to the website. You can also review my list below… I have adapted, to fit my needs, many of the resolutions from the TEDBlog list and added a few of my own.

So, without further ado – here are my 2015 New Year’s Resolutions:

  • Make time to WRITE! 

As an aspiring author (indie-Author) making time to write shouldn’t be that hard. I mean… it is what I want to do right?! Well, in reality, I have a family and two beautiful (ENERGETIC) children, work a full-time job, participate in community theatre, and of course wear the hat of wife, mom, cook, maid, chef, and so many other parts. So, finding a few quiet minutes to relax and write isn’t always easy. BUT I WILL DO BETTER! In 2015 I am committing myself to the following:

  1. Spending 15 minutes per weekday (minimum) writing/reviewing/editing/rewriting my latest novel (whatever that might be at the time) – EXCEPT while on vacations!
  2. Publishing no less than 1 blog post per week!
  • Walk MORE, sit LESS!

I’m not much of a walker, I actually prefer to run, but this resolution is just to represent that I plan to make more of an effort to get out of my chair and be more active. Walking/Running has always been a great time for me to think through story ideas and work through writers’ block – So, this year I will use it as a preventative instead of a cure!

  • Practice gratefulness EVERY day!

To often I feel that I don’t say thank you enough, or show people how truly grateful I am. This year I plan to reach out and show my thanks more throughout the day not only for the big things in life but the little things that are all to often forgotten.

  • Practice patience EVERY day!

This is a big one for me. When I am stressed it tends to bleed over into my family life. I am promising myself, my children, and my husband that I will practice patience at home. I won’t allow my stress at work or with my writing to affect how I interact with my family.

  • Set realistic goals and allow myself time to meet them!

Like many of you I have lots of goals in life, some are realistic and others are pipe dreams. Instead of chasing the pipe dreams, this year I will focus on the realistic goals. By setting both long-term and short-term goals I hope to have a more productive and fulfilling year. I plan to post my list of goals in a separate post.

  • Allow my stress to work FOR me not AGAINST me!

When I was in college I thrived on deadlines. Even in the business world, when I was working outside of the house, I LOVED deadlines. With my current job I don’t get a lot of that. Now my work is pretty much self-motivated and self-created, except for the rare time when a proposal has to be created and turned around within days. Other than that deadlines are never very pressing. This year, by setting deadlines for my goals (to be posted later) I will allow the hustle and bustle of ‘deadline stress’ to work FOR me not AGAINST me!

  • Make time to READ!

I LOVE to read! In 2013 I read 17 books and in 2014 I read 23 books. I know that might sound like a lot to many people, but it really isn’t – not for me! This year, I will watch less television and read more. Reading sparks creativity and keeps your brain active. So, in 2015 my goal is to read 30 books. It isn’t that much higher than this year, but I’m taking baby steps.

  • Take regular breaks from the digital world!

It is my personal opinion that the digital world (cell phones, tablets, computers, laptops, video games, etc.) have taken control of to much of our time. So, I am putting time limits on myself. I use my cell phone, laptop, and iPad for work – that means while I’m working I have to be “plugged in.” However, I don’t have to be plugged in 24/7. So, I am committing to turn off all electronic devises at 5:00 every night. The only exceptions would be if I am not at home, my kids aren’t at home, or my husband isn’t home – In those cases I will keep my cell phone on so that we can stay in contact. Besides, we have a house line so if there was an emergency family can reach me there!

 

OK, there you have it – my 2015 New Year’s resolutions! What are yours? Please share them below and help to inspire those people who maybe haven’t figured out theirs yet.