Monday, March 20, 2017

Love you forever, sweet Panda Pooch.

Last week, we had to say goodbye to our precious pooch. She came into our lives 10 years ago, a rescue who undoubtedly rescued us. I told people she was my fit of rebellion. I wanted a dog, and my husband agreed, but I didn't bring home the creature he had envisioned. Instead of a small to mid-sized spaniel mix, Panda was a purebred mutt of gigantic proportions. She was my mid-life crisis Ferrari, only she turned out to be the most dependable Toyota.

The shelter told me she was about a year old and fully grown, but within a few months of her joining our family, she grew a couple inches taller and gained ten pounds... possibly the result of too much love and spoiling. Her nose easily crested the top of the kitchen table, where she happily snagged anything within her reach... birthday cakes, entire hams, and apples... she really loved apples.

The shelter volunteers had named her Dot, but my older kids were going through a Yu-Gi-Oh phase and decided she needed a Japanese name, so they tossed around a number of unpronounceable options from their favourite Manga shows. In the end, the youngest suggested "Panda" because she looked like one, and pandas are from Japan. It was cute, different, and appropriate - so who were we to correct a five-year-old on the origins of pandas?

Over the years, she was my constant companion. I said we got her for the kids, but she always was my girl. After getting the kids safely to school, we settled into a cozy routine. I'd write, edit or format, and she'd snore softly at my feet. She rarely barked to announce visitors, occasionally howled if she was feeling vocal, and she groaned like an old man when forced to move or do something she didn't want to. If we had unexpected company, usually of the animal type, she'd growl low and menacing, ready to protect her people, but we never knew her to be aggressive.

When my husband took work in another province, spending weeks at a time away, she promptly filled his space on the bed, keeping me warm, letting me know we were safe. Stoic, dependable, and sensitive, she supported us all through some pretty rocky times.

She'll always be part of our family, her soul is embedded in my heart, and her energy continues to filter into every corner of our lives. It's only been a week, and I know time will soften the sharp edges of grief, but today, with the kids back at school, my husband at work, and the silence of the day surrounding me... I miss her.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

"Victoria" by Daisy Goodwin - Review

As a fictionalized history, "Victoria", by Daisy Goodwin, touches on everything from Victoria’s precarious relationship with her mother, to her childish infatuation with Lord Melbourne, to her love for Prince Albert. Her immaturity shines through in her continued dependence on Lehzen who was once her governess, but continues to care for her charge by taking on the role of lady-in-waiting. Victoria is often described as flighty, inconsistent, and emotional, which is expected of a teenager, but not of a queen. Her lack of socialization as a young child has left her friendless and suspicious, so it’s only natural she bonds with the dynamic Lord Melbourne, the current Prime Minister. Not only does she rely on his advice in matters of state, but she also depends on him for guidance in her personal life and relationships. This reliance quickly turns into infatuation, which, of course, cannot be publicly acknowledged. When Prince Albert, her Coburg cousin, is introduced, he comes across as being awkward, formal, and unyielding. Despite his faults, Victoria sets aside her disapproval of him and falls in love.

Overall, this is an easy and engaging read that combines historical fact with speculative prose to bring to life the Victorian era. Small details such as the red boxes, Victoria’s love and care of Dash, and fashion and hair styles create a realistic setting, illustrating what life might have been like for these fictionalized personalities who lived in the 1800’s. I would have liked to see more of the relationship between Prince Albert and Victoria, as her change of heart from Lord Melbourne felt abrupt. Even though this wasn’t a love story as much as a coming of age story, there’s a jump from flighty, infatuated child to confident engaged woman that feels incomplete.

I received a pre-release copy of "Victoria" by Daisy Goodwin via Netgalley for an honest review. 

Thursday, October 27, 2016

"The Whole Town's Talking" by Fannie Flagg - Review

Written with simplicity, "The Whole Town's Talking" by Fannie Flagg chronicles the birth, life, and death of a small town in Missouri. Flagg introduces an extensive cast of characters through a series of vignettes that highlight the development of the town while providing snippets of the inhabitants' lives.

Based on the title and description, I expected something of a mystery with an element of the supernatural, but this book is a straightforward social commentary on the growth and development of mid-western life in the US. Nothing strange or unusual happens, as promised in the book blurb, however, Flagg takes the lives of ordinary people and writes them into something extraordinary.

The opening remarks about the crow and the closing epilogue feel forced--dropped into the text like an afterthought to allow the book to come full-circle. Halfway through the novel, Flagg births a character who becomes a central figure in Elmwood Springs. Although her life touches most of the other characters, much of it is exposed via gossip and speculation. Her death, while not a mystery to the reader, causes a stir when her will upsets the entire ebb and flow of the town's life. In effect, her demise results on the death of the town. The epilogue provides an explanation for all that occurred, but it feels more like a gimmick, and I believe no direct explanation was necessary. With the revelation of what happens to the disappearing residents of Still Meadows, the reader could have figured out the rest.

Additionally, after forging a book steeped in history and tradition, with believable characters and events, and carefully crafted to retain interest, the revelation of the crow detracts from the excellent realism and story-telling that comes before. Crows are smart, but there are some things they can't physically do, regardless of knowledge and intelligence.

Overall, this is a pleasant book that's easy to read with engaging characters. I enjoyed the relaxed cadence of the story, reading about the townspeople of Elmwood Springs, and following their histories.

I received a pre-release copy of "The Whole Town's Talking" via Netgalley for an honest review.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

New NaNoWriMo Adventure for 2016

I've participated in NaNoWriMo every year since 2009. I don't always "win" the 50 000 words in 30 days challenge, but I believe it has helped me grow as a writer and a person.

NaNo isn't about writing a publishable project. It's about pulling together a community of writers who live around the world. We cheer each other on in real life and online. We encourage, we share, and we write about anything we want.

This year, I'm taking things a step further and am a Municipal Liaison for the "Ontario: Elsewhere" region. This group encompasses all the smaller areas throughout Ontario who don't yet have enough participants to be declared their own region.

I fully believe everyone has a story in them. You don't have to call yourself "a writer" to write. During NaNo, anything goes. Keep a journal. Write your memoirs. Write the kind of story you'd like to read. Try nonfiction or creative-nonfiction. Finish a project you already started or challenge yourself with something new. In the end, it doesn't matter if you reach the 50 000 word goal. What matters is that you tried, you challenged yourself, you exercised your brain, and you met a lot of amazing people along the way.

If you're located in or near Northumberland County (Ontario, Canada), check out our in-person meet-ups. We'll have writing prompts, snacks, friendly ears, and limitless encouragement.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Alice-Angel of Time by E. Graziani: Editor's Review

Everyone loves a happy ending—especially when it comes to young adult romance. Unfortunately, Alice of the Rocks by E. Graziani didn’t give us what we expected. The love story was sweet, the characters memorable, but there was only one ending Ms. Graziani could have written to maintain the integrity of the novel, and that’s what she gave us.

Lucky for us, a sequel was in the works, ensuring that readers wouldn’t be left disappointed, especially since they had been left wanting more after the first book. In Alice–Angel of Time, Ms. Graziani brings the Tuscan countryside of Italy back to life, along with her memorable cast of characters, including Alice, Claudio, and Leonardo da Vinci, to bring the story to its true conclusion.

Written with warmth and elegance, detailing a landscape lush in beauty, Alice–Angel of Time is everything a sequel needs to be and possibly more. While the characters remained the same, their dilemmas changed, forcing them to think beyond their immediate needs and resources. When Alice couldn’t conceive of a viable way to safely return to the past, the intervention of plausible future science propelled both her and the plot forward. When Claudio needed to find a way to escape Renaissance Italy… well, I won’t give away spoilers, but suffice to say, it happened in the least expected way.

Ms. Graziani has a knack for creating perfectly imperfect characters who take up space and make themselves at home in your mind. Alice is smart, determined, and resourceful, yet stubborn and selfish enough to be believable. Claudio, who on the surface is the perfect book boyfriend, also carries his flaws alongside his strengths, making him all the more desirable.

This two-part series is what Disney movies are made of: feisty characters, troubled villains, and unexpected heroes set against a scenic background of beauty and elegance. Suitable for most ages, this series will captivate any reader who is a fan of romance, history, and strong female characters.

Below, you'll find the book blurbs and covers for both books, but first, don't forget to check out the rest of the blog tour stops; they're a virtual tour of Alice and Claudio's adventures in Italy. The complete list of stops can be found on the Writerly Yours website. The next, and last, stop on the tour is a return to E. Graziani's blog for a recap of this amazing journey. 

Alice of the Rocks by E. Graziani

Born in 1495 and raised in 2012, Alice Ferro’s life has been anything but normal. The only problem is, she doesn’t know it. As a 17-year-old in 2029, she has an ideal life, complete with loving parents, the latest technical gadgets, and a summer vacation in Italy. Upon arriving in Florence, sensations of surreal memories begin to surface, leaving her puzzled and confused.

Knowing that reconnecting with his lost love could be dangerous for both of them, but willing to take the risk, Claudio Moro seeks out Alice in her new world. His very existence in 1512 is at stake! Having been accused of both treason and murder, he needs Alice to help clear his name and redeem his family’s honour. The question is, will Alice remember their love and care enough to leave her perfect future to redirect his doomed past?

*Available for Kindle, Kobo, and in print.

Alice-Angel of Time by E. Graziani

The dramatic conclusion to Alice of the Rocks!

Their love transcends time, space, and conflict.

Alice Ferro did not travel 500 years into the past to save her soulmate from persecution only to discover her journey had been in vain! Forced to return from 1512 Italy to 2029 Canada without him, she cannot focus on family, school, or friends as thoughts of Claudio constantly flood her mind. When she discovers her love’s future is dire, Alice decides she must return to the past to save him once and for all.

With some help, a bit of deceit, and a lot of determination, Alice sets off to rescue Claudio. Unfortunately, she hadn’t planned on things going so terribly wrong, and she soon finds her own life in peril.

Written with charm and intelligence, the sequel to Alice of the Rocks encompasses everything you could want in a young adult, time-travel romance. Adventure, true love, intrigue, and dynamic characters fill the pages alongside the elegant landscape of Renaissance Italy.

*Available for Kindle, Kobo, and in print.

Friday, August 19, 2016

The Spawning Grounds by Gail Anderson-Dargatz - Reader Review

We're all connected. As biological, emotional, and spiritual organisms living on this planet, everything we do creates ripples that reach beyond our perceived borders. The Spawning Grounds, by Gail Anderson-Dargatz, does more than highlight the connection between cultures, legends, and nature: it weaves together all the nuances and struggles of being human within the complicated framework of spirituality.

Raised by their grandfather on land settled by his English ancestors, Hannah and Brandon haven't had the easiest family life. With an absent father, mental illness, and a troublesome history shadowing their childhoods, they strive to find their places in the world, even if it means forging their own paths. Unfortunately, Brandon's life is threatened after nearly drowning in the river. Physically, his body heals, but mentally, he isn't the same boy who fell into the water. Determined to save both her brother and the river, Hannah delves deeper into the past so she can change the outcome of the future.

Anderson-Dargatz delicately entwines First Nations' beliefs with white settler skepticism using her unique brand of story-telling. As the histories of the Shuswap and white settlers unfold through stories told to Hannah, more than "the mystery" of the river is unveiled. We're introduced to the possibilities of a world that can only filter into the consciousness if you're willing to suspend disbelief and simply believe.

I entered a Goodreads Giveaway and was fortunate enough to be gifted with a pre-release copy of The Spawning Grounds by Gail Anderson-Dargatz.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Shadow Shifts Blog Tour Wrap-Up

Blog tours are tricky little things. There's so much organization that goes into them before and during the event, and that's not including interviews and guest posts that need to be written up. Scheduling posts, creating new content, keeping things consistent, and promoting the tour make for a full-time job. Luckily, I had Priya from Writerly Yours PR to help keep things under control.

I've had a lot of fun travelling the virtual globe and sharing tidbits about writing and Shadow Shifts (Liminal Series, Book Two). Meeting new bloggers and reconnecting with familiar friends makes the tour that much better. On Chantel DaCosta's blog, I  talked about the importance of community, and blog tours help to create that in the virtual writing world.

If I had to choose a favourite post, I'd be stumped. The interview questions from both Jorie Loves a Story and the Bemused Bookworm really made me think about my craft, the Liminal Series, and the message I send to readers. Talking about creating Urban Fantasy on L. Lombard's blog and writing for young adults on Chantel DaCosta's blog had me considering what readers need in comparison to what I want to write. Stepping outside of my comfort zone, I did a little research on fairies around the world for The Big To Do List and was surprised by both the similarities and differences to be found. The Crafty Angels showcased the adorable fairy lanterns I created for the Shadow Shifts launch in April, and even Tissa, a Liminal creature, had a chance to have her say on the Late Night Reveries blog. The posts were rounded off by a stunning review from MADD World that reminded me of why I write.

All in all, I'd say it was a successful tour that reached around the world from Canada to the US to Jamaica to India... maybe someday, I'll get to do a real tour of the world and meet these fabulous bloggers in person!

In case you missed it, here is the blog tour schedule. The giveaway has ended, but the books are always in stock via Amazon and Kobo. If you're looking for print books, Liminal Lights and Shadow Shifts are available through Amazon and various other online outlets.

May 15: Official Tour Launch—Writerly Yours:
May 16: Writing Urban Fantasy—Lisette Lombard:
May 17: Interview/Excerpt—Jorie Loves a Story:
May 18: The Difference Between Writing for Middle Grade and Adults—Chantel DaCosta:
May 19: Interview—Bemused Bookworm—
May 21: Book Review—MADD World—
May 22: Fairies around the world—The Big To Do List:
May 23: Community is vital for writing—Chantel DaCosta:
May 24: Fairy Lantern Tutorial—The Crafty Angels:
May 25: Tissa Has Her Say—Amrita—
May 26: Closing blog—Jennifer Bogart:

Thanks for stopping by... and remember... beware of things that go bump in the night...