Monday, December 31, 2012

Christmas, love, and some darned good books!

Well, dear readers o’ my blog, I’ve enjoyed some much needed down time.

Christmastime is the best, isn’t it! The smells, the decorations, family and friends, and most of all celebrating Christ’s birth. It reminds me of an Avalon song telling us “don’t save it all for Christmas Day…show a little love everyday…”

I’ve been sharing the love with family and friends and now it’s time to pass along a helping or two for the authors of books I’ve recently read. If you’re hankering for some real romance mixed with turmoil, heart ache and the unexpected, The Picture will fill you up. If you enjoy suspense and saving the day in unique but plausible ways, A Collie Rescue will do the trick.


Stephanie Taylor’s The Picture (144 pages on Kindle; Astraea Press)  is almost a two-fer;  friendly enough for the YA reader with just the right dose of spice, struggles and romance for the adult reader. I fell in love right along with Sophie and Nicholas. And if it is possible to get an actual visual image, I am seeing Nicholas as one hot man! He’s a bit flawed (a common trait among men who are used to having women fall all over them) and Sophie has her own baggage but the turmoil of their pasts seem to set the stage for what might become a possible happily ever after.  Does it? Well, I can’t tell you that. But I will say that you’ll feel some aching in your heart and a tissue or two wouldn’t be bad thing to have handy. Would I change anything? Hmm. Maybe give a little more story toward the end. It ends amazingly well but I found myself with a few questions—or maybe I was just depressed over having to turn the last page (equals leaving Nicholas!).

When you’re done with The Picture, you might want to delve right into A Collie Rescue (Emily Dahill CID series) by Lindsay Downs (90 pages on Kindle, Astraea Press). Okay. Let me tell you. At first I wasn’t so sure. The cover and the collie give mixed ideas of what this book entails, not to mention its listing under animal categories in some places (not an uncommon error with Amazon and other online retailers). Do not be fooled! Do. Not. Downs knows how to portray realistic characters, especially given the fact that the protagonist is a soldier-turned-homeless-vet. Even more appealing is Downs’ decision to transcend the expected and make the protagonist a woman—a rare subject among stories depicting former soldiers must less those that end up living on the streets. Kudos! Collectively, there isn’t a lot I can get into without giving away the story. I will say, however, that if you think a collie and a homeless vet aren’t interesting story companions, think again. Any complaints, you wonder? Only that I’d like to have seen a little more fleshing out of the central bad guy and a couple of the good guys, but nothing that is a turn off—just my opinion. Overall, Downs has succeeded in pulling me into the story, showing me the heart wrenching side of what  some vets face after war, and how compassion works wonders in the healing process. To boot, there’s a well-balanced helping of suspense and intrigue and a collie who never ceases to amaze!

Both The Picture and A Collie Rescue are available through the publisher’s website and through major online retailers. For more books by Stephanie Taylor and Lindsay Downs, visit Astraea Press.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Book Review: Outside That Door (Jennifer Robins)

When planning reviews for October, I had a title planned for Halloween but schedules and events tend to throw things out of whack sometimes. Then again, sometimes changes come about through… fate.

Initially, I was going to skim through the first chapter of Jennifer Robins’ Outside That Door with plans to complete the book for a November review. The problem? I could NOT stop reading.

When I read through the Prologue and the first chapter, I planned to read just one more chapter until next week. I’ll stop then. Well, maybe one more chapter. Oh man, I have to read the next chapter to know what’s happening. I can’t stop here. I have to see where they’re going. Okay, really, just this chapter and then I’ll really stop.

Before I knew it, I had read the entire book -in two hours!

I immediately connected with Carl and Beth. Jennifer has succeeded in crafting well-rounded, believable characters, which is not easy in novels that involved two periods. Shift periods, you ask?

Outside That Door introduces the everyday married couple, Carl and Beth, who are thrown back in time. (Yep, they’re having a hard time believing it, too!) Imagine being thrown back in time to a period that you’ve only read about in books. Now imagine that you can’t get back to the present. It that’s not stressful alone, you are forced to wander in the midst of the Revolutionary War with no idea of how or when you will get help.

It can be difficult for an author to make such changes visual enough to be believable. Kudos to Jennifer!  I felt like I was along for the ride when Carl and Beth headed out for a weekend in the Catskills and I was just as bewildered and scared when “we” were lost in time during the Revolutionary War. And Indians? Yes, there were Indians. Fighting. Guns. Scalping. You just don’t know what “we” have been through! Thank God for Thomas and Helen…

I can’t tell you much more than that without giving away spoilers, but I can say that if you are looking for a great read, this is worth your time and a few bucks.

If there is one thing I would change, it would be to expand the last chapter just a bit. Otherwise, Jennifer has knocked this one outta the ballpark!

I recommend Outside That Door for men and women of all ages. It has just enough of everything to appeal to both.

My rating:
5 stars (4.9 if you count my “one thing I would change” comment)

Summary description:

Who would have known a simple weekend vacation to the resort in the Catskill Mountains would end up being smack dab in the middle of the revolutionary war? Carl and Beth never thought such a thing could happen until they stepped outside the side door of their little get-away cottage to find nothing but wilderness and nothing around but the wild life. They search for help only to find soldiers, and Indians. Can they ever get back to the present? Or will they be forced to live among the settlers [and Indians] for the rest of their lives?

Where to buy:

Amazon | | Astraea Press

Connect with Jennifer Robins

Shapely Girls Fitness: Week 4 Day 22

I’m excited. Yes, still!

I can’t say that I’ve lost a lot; in fact, I’ve not lost much at all (about 2.5 pounds). So why am I excited?

I feel better! I am more active and being active makes us want to keep moving.

I’ve used other exercise/fitness DVDs (e.g. Jillian Michaels) in the past but Debra Mazda’s Let’s Get Moving 2 has been the one that has been fun to continue. I’m not knocking Jillian’s program. But the truth is… Jillian. kicked. my. butt!

With Debra, I don’t feel so much that I am doing a fitness routine but that I am meeting a friend each day where we commit to being active and healthy. To me, that’s the start of a lasting fitness goal!

Since starting Shapely Girl Fitness on October 1, I have actually been more active than I have in-  Heck! I don’t know when I was this active. Maybe 10 years ago!?

You’ll never believe what my oldest daughter and I did last week. Can’t guess? We washed the outside of the house. Yes! I am serious! Of course, it was a little more tedious than planned.

I sent her to town to buy a sprayer. FYI…specify what you mean by “sprayer.” She returned with a spray bottle.

Okay. I’ll go with it! We concocted our mixture of bleach and water in the spray bottle and got to work. About 3 hours later, the exterior of the house looked like NEW! Yay us!

So, what does bleaching the exterior of my house have to do with Shapely Girl Fitness?

Energy. Motivation. Accountability. Fun. Commitment.

There’s a commercial that says a body in motion stays in motion…

This is true. This is Shapely Girl Fitness and I am in love with it!

Give me another month and I might be ready to kick Jillian’s butt –for a change!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Shapely Girl Fitness; Week 3, Day 15

Well, I must say that I am more motivated this week.

Knowing that the 0.40 pound I added last week is gone and has taken another pound with it is encouraging.

I’ve found, however, that the best part of Shapely Girl is that I feel like I am working out with Debra! Combine that with the actual support and motivation, and I am really enjoying the program. I enjoy it so much that the past week has been more about the fun and less about focusing on weight.

To me, that’s progress.

I am feeling better and that means I’ll be looking better!

I am sort of dreading November because I don’t want this to end. Of course, I will continue with the program, but the whole group involvement has been amazing!

The CWA Review Crew is packed with wonderful women who truly care about each other. I am blessed to be a part of the crew and this challenge!

Now…I gotta go hang out with Debra and the crew some more!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Book Review: Peaceful Passage (Kim West PhD)

As I began reading Kim West’s Peaceful Passage I have to admit I was emotionally transported to the past.

The full title of Kim’s book is what lured me to want –no have- to read it; even before I had read the summary.

PeacefulPassagebyKimWest Peaceful Passage: The essential guide to navigating the emotional storms and daily logistics of an at-home end-of-life journey.

Peaceful Passage.

In the corner of my mind, where the best and worst of memories are neatly tucked, Kim’s words rang loudly. With each word I relived my mother’s own end-of-life journey in 2006, all the while wishing that I had had Kim’s book during those heart-wrenching days.  Sadly, my sister and I (and our combined seven children) were not able to share a the end-of-life journey as depicted in Kim’s book. After years battling the evil cancer and enjoying almost a year being cancer-free, my mother received the horrible news: the cancer had returned.

The following week chemo treatments began –again. On the third day of the first week, her experience with the chemo and the horrendous pain tore our hearts out. Massive doses of morphine did nothing to even slightly ease the pain. The fourth day of the first week as a fairly good day. She ate (something she rarely wanted to or could do). The fifth day was a nightmare. The pain was back, a full vengeance against her body --and her will.

I remember her saying aloud, “Lord, if it is going to get worse than this, I won’t be able to take it.”

Later that same day (the fifth day) my sister and I were told that she “might” have eight months. She died almost two hours later.  While my family was with her throughout her battle, we were not able to experience the end-of-life journey in the same sense as what one expects with a hospice setting. Still, so many of the struggles and trials Kim writes about are similar to what we experienced.

Whether you have a loved one who is currently in the last stages of life, or even if you’ve already had to say goodbye, Peaceful Passage is more than a helpful read. Sure, it opened some emotions that I thought were already resolved, but I found that by the end of the book I had experienced the emotions that lead to a real, lasting healing process that I seemed to have been deprived six years ago.

Readers will appreciate Kim’s sharing of her personal experience with her mother’s at-home end-of-life journey. I know I did. I also found the resource listing and journal areas beneficial –even today.

Terminal illness takes so much out of the patient and the family. Having access to resources such as Peaceful Passage gives insight and fosters strength in times when even the slightest ounce of strength seems out of reach. I can see this book as a source for individual and their families, but it also has everything needed to become a trusted and recommended resource by doctors, therapists, and hospice organizations.

About the author: Kim WestKim West holds a PhD in Clinical Pastoral Counseling and a M.Div. in Counseling and Family, but when her own mother became ill with terminal cancer she found that she had no hands-on knowledge of how to take care of her.

As a counselor she knew to journal her own experience to help her process her grief at losing her mother and she knew how to help her mother finish her life well and be prepared for the life to come. But the day-to-day of taking care of her mother as she died would require learning a whole new set of caring skills. And learn she did.

After completing her own journey with her mother she knew she had to help others who would travel this same path. Peaceful Passage is a merging of her years of counseling experience and the new skills she learned caring for her mother combined with her heart to help and to heal.

Learn more about Kim at:
Kim's website:
Kim on Facebook:

Book Details:Paperback: 240 pages
Publisher: New Heart Publishing; 1st edition (September 10, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0984052666
ISBN-13: 978-0984052660

Where to buy the book:
Amazon or direct from the author/publisher.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Shapely Girl Fitness: Week 2, Day 8

This is the first day of the second week (I count Sunday as the first day, but we're going with Monday here) and we're supposed to discuss our challenges and obstacles. I can do that --and then some.

Debra Mazda's Shapely Girl Fitness is great! No complaints at all. It's me that's having issues.

Apparently, the more you exercise the hungrier you become.

When I did my weigh-in this morning, I've gained 0.4 pounds. I know that could be clothing, etc. I weighed first thing this morning with an empty bladder (that just sounds so personal when seeing it typed out). I'm not really fretting too much since it's not even a pound, but I do know that I've got to manage the munchies that come after a workout!

I have to confess that my attendance at a family get-together this weekend probably didn't help! I live in the South and our gatherings always include some type of food. I'm generally not one to eat much in the way of sweets but there was homemade egg custard pie. Homemade! I had one small piece after the meal...and another one before I left.

I know. I know. Have you tried egg custard pie? If you have, then you know how irresistable it is! I'm a novice at this whole eating healthy thing. Before the thyroid issue, I could eat what I wanted, when I wanted, and never gained an ounce. Yep, I know. That is the past --obviously.

At any rate, I remain committed to being a healthly and fit Shapely Girl. Thank God for the CWA Review Crew and their endless support and prayers.

Do you have suggestions for managing the urge to eat after a workout? I want to hear them (pretty please).

Monday, October 1, 2012

Shapely Girls–Week One, Day One

It’s official. Today is the first day of my Shapely Girls Fitness 30-day challenge.

Actually, the challenge became “official” for me several days ago. As someone who hasn’t been very active (in the past 10 years) I knew I would need to start slow. Snail-pace slow.

A few days ago, I started doing warm ups. You know, to get my body used to movement. Nothing major. Some stretches and jumping jacks. It’s been interesting for sure. Just ask my dog!

I’ll make it through, and I am ready for the real fun to begin. Today.

So, I will make this initial post my “goals” post (ha! an unintentional pun that fits with the current football season!). So that you know where my goals come from, be sure to read the entry on my Shapely Girl Fitness page.

Okay. My goals. (See the little ticker to the left…that’s my red-headed self riding the graphic bike!)

My current BMI is 31.03. Normal BMI for my height (5’4”) is 18.5-24.99. So, obviously there is a need for change. I am NOT going to list my current weight but I will say that my goal is 40.8 pounds. While one of my goals is to lose weight, my main objective is to become healthier through activity, healthy eating habits, and to love me. That is exactly what Shapely Girl Fitness is about.

I will be posting occasionally throughout each week as time permits, but I will definitely post every Friday through November 2, 2012 with updates on my progress, etc. In-between Friday posts, you can expect to “hear” my short-breathed rants and even some first hand witness account from Doggebone.

I’d love to hear from readers. And, lastly, encouragement welcomed!