A Heartwarming Texas Love Story with a Bonus: It’s True!

jansikes

There is only one thing better than a good love story and that’s a love story that’s true, which is the case with this endearing tale. Clearly, the title alone is a spoiler alert, and while it is definitely a tear-jerker at the end, what leads up to it is an inspiring, heart-warming chronicle of the love and devotion between two very special people.

If you’re a music fan, more specifically a country music fan, you’ll enjoy it even more as it recounts the journey of someone who’d been a star in the past making a comeback and bringing his wife and daughters along for the ride, their talents developing and blossoming as well.

The story is pure Texas, which I particularly enjoyed because I live there as well. So much of the culture of the Lone Star State is captured, including parties were anyone who shows up is welcome as well as the vast distances that often lie between where a person lives and the services they need.  A fifty mile drive is often required, which in smaller, more condensed states or many metropolitan areas, would be incomprehensible.  For example, from one end of Houston to the other is also fifty miles and that is how far I live from a full-size shopping center with the usual big stores, with it even farther to an actual mall. A fifty mile drive is almost what you could call “business as usual” in this state.

I loved this heartwarming story. It shows that there are some couples in the real world who truly do love each other, come what may. Unfortunately, it seems that often such pairs must endure many heart-wrenching hardships. Life is truly filled with opposition, but sharing the burden with someone you truly love only makes the bond stronger. The photos bring the story even more to life, even though the names in the book are different from their real-life counterparts, the reason for which the author explains.

I highly recommend this story to anyone who needs a reminder that true love does happen and is something to celebrate. Its rarity makes it all the more precious. Note, also, that this is only part of their story. Be sure to check out the story’s prequels, perhaps in order, though this is a standalone book that doesn’t require that. Any stories or books by this talented author are outstanding.

You can pick up your copy on Amazon here.

Advertisements

Today’s Writing Tip

desk- copy

If you’re an author and get a good review, it makes your day. Suddenly all your effort transforming your creativity into a story is worth it. However, they do little to improve your work. I have learned more from poor reviews than good ones. Some have improved my writing and others have simply helped me understand who likes my work and who doesn’t, which helps with marketing strategies. No matter how good your story may be, trust me when I say that not everyone will like it.

Reviews are subjective. In most cases they’re only one person’s opinion. Okay, if the average of all your reviews is three stars or less, then there may be more of a problem. However, bear in mind that publishers supposedly don’t take your collection of reviews seriously unless there are a few really bad ones in there. Why? Because they figure they’re all from friends and relatives, even if this isn’t the case.

All this considered, if you leave a bad review, do the author and explain why. Few stories please everyone once they get past Winnie the Pooh. If it’s simply not your kind of story, say so as well as why. I recently didn’t finish a book yet left it a four-star review. Why? Because it was well-written, just simply wasn’t my kind of story or what I expected. To me it was too much action and too little plot, but for someone who thrives on taskforce action it would probably be one of their favorites.

So if you leave a bad review, explain why. If it’s technical, e.g. too many typos, say so, giving the author a chance to fix it. You may not like it when you get a bad review, but pay attention. Unless it’s a troll, there is something to be learned. And even if it’s a troll, consider your work is good enough to be considered a threat to someone.

“Shadowed by Death” Another Excellent Historical Novel from Mary Adler

shadowedbydeath

Mary Adler has done it again, sweeping me away to another time and place with this second book of her Oliver Wright mystery series. Like the first one, it’s set in the San Francisco Bay Area in the early 40s, while the country was in the throes of WWII. Again I experienced the culture in that locale during that era as well as the prejudice and suspicion that prevailed against immigrants.

Of course the fact we were at war with some of the counties from which these people hailed, to say nothing of all sorts of intrigue in progress due to the convoluted political situation in Europe, nothing was simple. While the majority of these immigrants came to the USA to escape oppression as well as possible annihilation, it’s not surprising that their motives could be questioned. These interactions and the history behind it, most of which few of us know, made the story that started out as a murder mystery all the more interesting.

The characters were engaging and well-drawn, including Oliver’s awesome German Shepherd, Harley. Relationships are believable and convincingly complex, both interpersonal and familial as well as between ethnic group. The plot is gripping, loaded with historical information, and full of suspense and surprises. Mary Adler is one of my favorite authors with her smooth, imagery-rich style, historical value, and authentic cultural context. All in all, an outstanding read.

You can pick up your copy on Amazon here.

“The Making of a Healer” by Russell FourEagles

makingofhealer

5stars

I hardly know where to start expressing my impressions of this book. Let’s just say that it is clearly in my list of the Top Ten Most Influential Books I’ve ever read. I was actually sad when I finished it, yet know this is one of the few books that I will read many times.

Probably the most powerful message I received was the highly spiritual nature of indigenous American teachings. Interestingly enough, it comprised everything included in my own beliefs, which I’ve collected from various sources. These include organized religions, my own experiences, scientific research, meditation, as well as the teachings of various yogis and motivational speakers. It was clearly a revelation to find my own belief system, which I’ve assembled over a lifetime, expressed in a single book.

The philosophies expressed are nothing short of profound and beautiful. The respect for Mother Earth and all her creatures, including those of other cultures, is such a powerful concept that has been blatantly ignored by western cultures. Living in harmony is essential to our health and well-being. The concept of the “heart box” where we store and build up the various hurts, disappointments, and traumas of our lifetime rang true. The Oneida Fire Ceremony used to clear those issues is one I’d heard variations of before and it works.

Bottom line, we must live with an attitude of love, not fear. The author’s personal experiences illustrate these principles in a humble and powerful way, from being taught these things by his grandmother, to being a soldier in Vietnam, to becoming an inspired healer.

If you’re looking for some genuine inspiration that dates back hundreds, possibly thousands of years, then read this book. If you need to know what actions you can take to rid yourself of old issues lurking in your subconscious that you want to release, then read this book. If you want a touch of wisdom that has been lost, yet is exactly what the world needs today, then read this book.

I can’t praise it highly enough. If you’re looking for answers, it’s highly likely you will find them here.

You can pick up your copy on Amazon here.

 

“State of Fear” by Michael Crichton

StateofFear

I always enjoy a good Michael Crichton book. While this one wasn’t my favorite, considering some of his other titles such as Jurassic Park or Timeline, it was nonetheless excellent. This hardback had been sitting on my shelf for literally years; given the book’s copyright is 2004, no telling how many. I live in a house that was once my family’s vacation home, so I have no idea who may have left it here. One day recently, its dust-covered binding caught my eye from its position on the bottom shelf and I decided to read it.

It’s rather amazing how the story and premise really haven’t gone out of date in fifteen years. Essentially, it’s an exposé of the science (or lack thereof) of global warming. We’re still obviously hearing about this today. It has changed names a few times, now currently referred to as “climate change”, but it’s one and the same. Clearly, Crichton was expressing strong, well-substantiated opinions regarding how science and politics are a very bad combination, which he presents in the form of a gripping, conspiracy techno-thriller.

One thing that really irritates me as a reader is when an author doesn’t do his or her homework as far as research is concerned. When I encounter scientific inaccuracies in a story they are a major turnoff. They throw me out of the story immediately and scream “amateur” on the part of the author, who clearly didn’t respect his readers enough to do the research. No one can ever accuse Crichton of this faux pas. This book took three years to research and, believe it or not, has twenty pages worth of bibliographic material as well as footnotes to scientific journals throughout that are real. I’m afraid that few readers appreciate that as much as I do, which is a shame.

Even though this book has been around for a decade and a half, it’s still worth reading. I suspect that little has changed scientifically. It should be read with an open mind, considering all sides. Crichton’s opinions regarding the volatile mix of science and politics are definitely worth noting; nothing has changed there, either. I, for one, have grown weary of everything being about money and corporate profits.

I want to point out that I am not “Red” or “Blue” in a political sense, but rather some shade of purple; there are elements of both platforms with which I agree. I don’t believe in blatant handouts at the expense of hardworking people, but I also believe in treating Mother Earth and all her creatures with respect. I also believe people’s health and well-being are more important than greedy corporate giants who place whomever they want in political office with their campaign contributions to assure maximum profits.

I love a novel that not only entertains, but informs and educates the reader, something Crichton did in spades. I am so sorry he is no longer with us, turning out these well-written, well-researched page-turners. I suppose in some ways this story is overshadowed by the issues it exposes, making some conversations a bit pedantic. However, 20 pages of bibliography deserves considerable respect. This is a very thought-provoking story that highlights an issue that is as relevant today as it was in 2004. Whichever side of the argument you may espouse, you should read it. The bibliographic material–count it, 20 pages worth–speaks for itself.

Nano Surveillance by Mark Donovan

nanosurveillance

This story was well-developed as far as the conspiracy thriller plot and technology were concerned. The author clearly knows his stuff about a variety of topics including flying and surveillance technology where the details enhanced the story’s credibility and imagery. While this expands into the realm of science fiction (at least for now) it was believable, which is required of good fiction–even fantasy needs to be believable to work.

The political intrigue was right out of the headlines and well developed as well, but leans heavily toward the conservative, so bear that in mind, too. In other words, if you lean to the left you probably won’t like it, period. The plot is loaded with suspense, kept moving, and would make an excellent action movie.

However, there were a few things that kept it from being great, primarily the desperate need for editing. The story demonstrated imagination and knowledge of technology,  but strong writing skills are necessary to engage the reader. I found the lack of flow made it awkward, even  painful to read. While, to the author’s credit, there were only one or two typos, there was far too much reliance on prepositional phrases. There were also numerous instances of homonym misuse and incorrect punctuation, particularly in the dialog. When the style (or lack thereof) throws the reader out of the story on a regular basis, it’s distracting as well as disappointing.

I want to stress there was nothing grammatically “wrong” with the writing. It simply didn’t employ the complex sentence structure that demonstrates strong writing skills. If it had, this thriller could have been a five-star read; as it stands, I’d give it three stars. In other words, by investing in editorial help or some advanced writing classes, this author could produce an outstanding story, perhaps even a best seller.

Tequila Rose Virginity Blues by Wendy Jayne

TequilaRoseVB

If you’re a regular here at my blog you’ve probably noticed my lack of book reviews for quite a while now. This is because I’ve been writing a novel with most of my reading research which has occupied my time and brain. However, it’s time for me to take care of a backlog of reviews, which you’ll see over the next few days.

This particular one is a short story that I finished in less than an hour. It was a total hoot that had the best descriptions of a hangover I’ve ever read. It practically gave me a headache, LOL. Not only is it an entertaining story of someone who had a few too many and can’t remember what happened, it’s also an outstanding study in the effective use of similes. Thus, if you read my Writer’s Tips, saw the one on similes, and need some help understanding what they are, then by all means read this cute story. Along with general outstanding writing, this author has similes down to a science.

Set in a small town in New Zealand, the pictures of this quaint place the author included in the back were a nice bonus. In fact, you might want to look at them before you read the story to further enhance the imagery. This is a great beach read or when you need a light, humorous dose of one woman’s experience with too much booze and meeting the mystery man of her dreams.

You can pick up a copy on Amazon here. If you have Kindle Unlimited, read for free.

Today’s Writing Tip

design-space-copy

Another remedy for “writer’s block” is to read a book about writing. I recently read “Emotional Beats” by author Nicholas Rossis. While it didn’t necessarily help move my story forward, it gave me a plethora of ideas for polishing what I already had. In the process of doing that, I got back my momentum and was able to move forward with the story.

This book particularly focuses on capturing emotion. This is where “showing” and not “telling” really counts. If you have trouble with this, which can be particularly challenging for new writers, I highly recommend Rossis’ book. There’s also an excellent section on analogies as well as a few parts that are loaded with useful synonyms for over-used words like walking.

You can find it on Amazon here.

“Flipping” by Eichin Chang-Lim: An Unforgettable Story in a Class by Itself

5stars

flippingcover

5stars

This is, by far, one of the greatest books I’ve read in a long time. I’ve read numerous “good” books that I thoroughly enjoyed and awarded 5-stars, but this one went so far beyond that as to stand out in a class by itself. It truly is, as its subtitle states, “An Uplifting Novel of Love.” I wish there were a category above 5-stars because it deserves to be in that class. And that is why you see 10 stars above!

The story encompasses the multi-generational saga of two families whose destinies eventually become intertwined. It starts out in Taiwan where a young couple in love defy family wishes and flee to the United States, where they work hard “flipping” houses in California at a time when such an endeavor was very profitable.

Change scenes to another family who, as they prepare to welcome their first child into the world, wind up in a situation where they adopt the child of a woman who had been a Chinese foreign exchange student in their home years before. While the first couple defied tradition and family, this young girl honors it and gives up her “mistake” to the family she knows will give her child a loving home, after which she returns to her homeland, her secret intact. The couple’s natural born daughter, Christa, and adopted daughter, Jadelynne, are six months apart in age, and very different, yet close, loving sisters.

The developmental stages of the two toddlers contrast sharply, leading the parents to discover that their natural child, Christa, is deaf.  They proceed to get her a cochlear implant, which uses electronics to simulate the nerve and replicate hearing.

As it turns out, Christa has a natural talent and love for gymnastics. This is her sanctuary and escape, her determination taking her to great heights of achievement in competitions, and providing another perspective on “flipping.” The girls grow, eventually in high school, sharing friends, in particular a young man named Wynson. Who just happens to be the son of the couple we met in part one.

I don’t want to get into spoiler territory, so will stop there. The strength and beauty of this story lies in the underlying currents of love throughout and how it helps the various characters deal with the adversity in their lives and ultimately drive their decisions. And I must say, in this story, that’s Adversity, with a capital “A”. Yet the characters confront and ultimately prevail over the many unfortunate circumstances thrust their way.

The characters in this story were so well-developed as to virtually come alive. The prose was smooth, beckoning you into the story without undue distraction, showing the exceptionally strong writing skills of the author. This feat is one often unattained by even experienced authors, but considering that English is the author’s second language is absolutely mind-boggling!

Another dimension that made this story so real is the incredible amount of research involved regarding both the medical issues as well as the particulars of gymnastics competitions. These details provided authenticity, making it read more like a biography than a novel. Such facts were integrated in such a way as to increase the story’s credibility, but never slowed it down or felt cumbersome. The clever title is the coup de grace of this incredible story.

I found this story nothing short of a masterpiece demonstrating exceptional writing skill, creativity, impeccable character and plot development, as well as research. It has already won one award, but I hope the author submits this great story to the various other contest venues available, because it is deserving of additional honors which I know it can win effortlessly.

If you want to see what an exceptional, unforgettable story is all about, don’t miss it. In a word: Wow!

I was fortunate enough to be gifted a copy of this book, which in no way influenced my review. I would buy this book in a heartbeat. You can pick up a copy on Amazon here.

 

 

Review of “Half Life” by Scott Skipper

HalfLifeCvr

The premise of this story is that a brutal earthquake and tsunami, similar to what happened to Japan a few years back, strikes California, causing a meltdown at a decommissioned nuclear plant. Due to various political stalemates, the fuel rods had been left on-site rather than being transported to a permanent storage location, causing considerable havoc as radiation saturates the populated area around Los Angeles. The credibility of such an occurrence is so high, that I can’t help but wonder how much of this book will turn out to be prophetic.

The story takes place during a gubernatorial election year and the political issues associated with this disaster are paramount. One thing potential readers need to know about Scott’s books is that they are extremely political incorrect. If telling it like it is bothers you, then don’t even try reading one of his books. It will just piss you off, you’ll miss the entire point, and then you’ll give him an abysmal review, which will be totally undeserved. Why? Because his books are well written, witty, boast clever plots, are populated with convincing characters, and don’t shy away from some of the political issues in the news today. Personally, I find them hilarious, albeit painfully true.

This complex tale not only covers the political and conspiratorial aspects of such a preventable catastrophe, but its impact on the main characters, the agendas of those running for political office, and those trying to clean up the mess. The technical details were absolutely outstanding. As a science geek myself, I ate them up, because I’m one of those weird types who loves to see science tightly woven into a plot. It lends authenticity, and when well done, is instructional. Obviously, he did his homework researching such a mess and what it would take to clean it up.

Scott Skipper is one of my favorite authors, especially his “Alien Affairs” series, which I love. This story isn’t quite as enchanting and took a while to get rolling. The “travel-log” chapters near the beginning moved pretty slowly, even though I could understand he was trying to demonstrate the frustration and complexity of Eric and Jamie’s convoluted  trip home, which required a jaunt through Mexico to skirt the “hot zone” left by the power plant meltdown. If you get stuck somewhere in Mexico, somewhere around Guadalajara, skip ahead–you won’t miss much and the rest of the story is well-worth it.

About a third of the way through the story it really took off in typical Scott Skipper style with the sarcastic humor and snarky characters I love. One secretary, Enid, served as great comic relief with her British slang and often racist and bigoted remarks. This story would make a fantastic movie, the main problem being that the political leanings of those in Hollywood wouldn’t touch this story if they were wearing a hazmat suit and wielding an insulated barge pole.

Since I think the story could use a bit of tightening of those early travel-log chapters and would like to see a more sophisticated cover worthy of what is really a great story, I can’t quite give this story five starts, but certainly 4.5. Just be warned, if you’re easily offended, don’t even bother, unless you’re open-minded enough to recognize the many truths embedded in this thought-provoking, cautionary tale.

You can pick up a copy on Amazon here.