Ah, summertime, and my book stack is full of guilty pleasures to devour on audio or tablet. I don't look for heavy or depressing. Light and happy, please. A touch of romance. Well-written oozing with juicy characters. And the baddie? Just base enough for a rousing "Boo-Hiss!" and no flinging death across the universe.
I just finished four such books all published within the 12 months or so. Coincidentally, each is written by a woman. More coincidence, all are penned in first person point-of-view and alternate chapters between main characters, like a he/she ping-pong match.
Kiss Quotient is quite frisky.
Something in the Water is dark and twisty,
The Flatshare is fun quirky.
One Day in December is a feel-good you won’t want to end.
Read on to find the publisher's summary of each
and my spoiler-free reasons
why this quartet tops
my summer reading stack.
Kiss Quotient, by Helen Hoag
352 pages, Berkley
Why I like it
Caveat: I turned up the air conditioning, blushed, and was glad no one overheard the audio as I listened to this book in the car. I was okay with the content, but some might think Kiss Quotient is, well, too much kissing and not enough quotient. Beyond-bodice-ripping passages alert!
However, I adore Stella, the MC! She's portrayed brilliantly as a high-functioning Aspie through the lens of author Helen Hoang, who is also on the Spectrum. Stella’s perplexities over social situations ring true to the Aspies I supported as their college writing coach.
Minor characters shine in her orbit with smart dialogue. Some understand Stella. Others try. A few disrespect her. Best, the male protagonist, the extremely hot Michael Phan, learns from Stella’s goodness and honesty to grow in his own right.
There are a few #MeToo moments in Stella’s work place that crushed me, and I hoped the MC would’ve handled the situations differently. In retrospect, I believe the scenarios were true to the way an Aspie would react.
I give Kiss Quotient a Catly thumps up for its #inourownvoice character portrayal and the stamina the narrator had for performing so many blush-worthy scenes in the audiobook.
One Day in December, by Josie Silver
416 pages, Broadway Books
Why I like it
Don't be fooled by this winter-sounding title. Even at the beach in July, One Day in December is a perfect feel-good summertime tale....especially the audiobook that's alternately narrated by Poldark's Demelza (Eleanor Tomlinson) as Laurie and Charlie Anson performing as Jack. Yum! Their story spans several years, with detours and obstacles that keep them apart and make you want to scream.
I adore the sub-plot highlighting strong bonds between Laurie and her BFF, Sarah, who initially falls hard for Jack before Laurie can find him after glimpsing him afar from a bus. Every woman longs for a friendship like Laurie's and Sarah's that stands the tests of time ... and boyfriends!
Light. Breezy. Witty. Well-written. Makes the heart smile. Even though you won’t want the book to end, you’ll cross your fingers for Jack and Laurie until the very last page.
Something in the Water, by Catherine Steadman
352 pages, Ballantine Books
A Reese’s Book Club, Hello Sunshine book pick
Why I like it
The darkest of my summertime picks, Catherine Steadman's voice literally shines throughout this debut novel, a zinger of a psychological thriller.
Yep. Wary at first because Steadman also narrates this book, BUT what's not to love about an audiobook read and written by Lady Mable Lane Fox of Downtown Abbey, aka Catherine Steadman? Crackling good writer, actor, and narrator!
The book grabs you with its opening chapter. No spoiler here. Readers know up front that Erin, the female protagonist, is frantically burying her husband under cover of night. Yikes! Cue the chill bumps. Erin's anxiety jumps off the page as she tackles her gruesome task, and you'll feel it alongside her, too.
Here's the mystery: you don't know WHY or HOW Erin gets to this point. Erin doesn't tell you. Steadman subsequently drops clues like break crumbs with a backward telling of what leads up to this event.
From its claustrophobic ocean dive descending to 20 meters in the South Pacific to an explosive ending, the tale kept my earbuds buzzing. Is that final chapter a complete resolution? It's satisfying, but methinks Steadman is leading to a follow up novel. Or at least I hope so.
The Flatshare,by Beth O’Leary
400 pages, Quercus
Why I like it
FlatShare hits all my sweet spots. You root for Tiff and Leon because of their quirks and vulnerabilities. Minor characters in their circle sparkle, too, like the eccentric author of Crochet Your Way, who insists on having Tiff as her crochet model. You'll want Tiff’s awesome BFFs and Leon’s brother on your team, trust me!
Big fan here of plot devices that develop the MCs slow-moving relationship. Tiff and Leon scribble Post-it notes to each other! Super-cute messages become longer and more personal, eventually covering every surface in their shared space. You’re reading those Post-its as Tiff and Leon reveal themselves, and you’ll root for them on their bumpy road to self-awareness and growth.
Scripted like a screenplay written in present tense, Leon’s chapters intrigue me. They're like enhanced stage directions in a stream of consciousness without any “said” dialogue tags, as in this excerpt when Leo phones his mother as his night shift ends to deliver bad news:
Mam: Shall I call Sal? ****
Leon: No, no. I’m dealing with it.
Long miserable silence. We wallow in it.
Mam, with effort: Sorry, sweetheart, how are you?
Return home afterward to find pleasant surprise: home-baked oat bars on sideboard….I see the note beside the tray.
Hope you have a good day/night.
An excellent development. Will definitely endure high levels of clutter…and 350 pounds per month AND free food.
****Excerpt from The Flatshare, by Beth O'Leary
While Flatshare is a feel-good tale, it’s also laced with heavier themes. Leon’s nights with his hospice patients both uplift and sadden. No spoilers, but O’Leary sprinkles wrongful imprisonment and emotional abuse into the mix. She makes you think but never brings you down.
And that’s the essence of my perfect summer read.
Thanks learning about my beach read faves. Have you read any of my quartet? Any interest you (it's okay if not!)? What's on your TBR stack this summer? Please share in the comment section. Always looking for the next great book here.
btw....I'm on Goodreads. You? Would love to connect with you there and share more bookishness -:D.
July Fourth is right around the corner in my part of the world. To make the holiday crackle even more, I'm digging through decades-old family recipes, like Grandma Ethel's dandelion wine and Mama Marg's pineapple upside down cake. Read to find ingredients for summertime memories and happy tummies that will inspire you.
Hub and I begin celebrating the Fourth by decking out our porch. We're still perfecting the patriotic look for our new cottage, but memories from our old home guide us.
Much of our celebrating involves hosting or finding a cookout. It doesn't feel like a uniquely American holiday to us without clumps of folk chatting down over dogs, burgers, and brew ... nutritional values and calories all pushed aside for this day.
This year, we’ll join our new neighbors in a cul-de-sac cookout. We’re a mixed group of empty-nesters and young families, so I need to bring a dish to pass to satisfy a range of tastebuds.
My problem? Not a foodie here, even though I come from a long line of fab cooks and bakers. To get inspired, I sort through family recipes.
Grandma Ethel started collecting recipes in 1910 as part of a high-school project in Everett, Washington (Pacific Northwest, US). Grateful to my cousin, who made sure the grandchildren have copies of Grandma's hand-written notes.
The Dandelion Wine recipe surprises me. I don’t remember seeing it around when we spent summers on Grandma's farm as kids, but adults likely imbibed when we slept.
I realize wine needs time to ferment, but I am still gobsmacked at how my grand's Depression-era generation took *time* and care to prepare their food: Squeeze out blossoms and let toasted bread stand for 3 days and nights? Wow,
Guessing any dandelions we’d pick today would be swimming in chemicals. Passing on this recipe until I get a handle on organic dandelion blossoms and find a 10# pail for collecting them -:D
Poetry and Pineapple Upside Down Cake
On the other hand, I remember snorfing down Mama's to-die-for Pineapple Upside Down Cake as a kid like it was yesterday. But I can’t find her recipe (boo hoo). She was such an excellent baker, who likely made up the recipe as she went along.
Instead, I discover a similar concoction in a compilation of favorite recipes by Grandma Ethel's friends and neighbors at the Josephine Sunset Home Auxiliary in Stanwood, Washington. Published around 1976 (the USA's bicentennial birthday year), it's clear these women knew their way around kitchens.
Don't you love the added homey poetry sprinkled about in the book’s white spaces! And it's still relevant today.
I could tackle this recipe but, geez, Fumble Fingers here, wondering how I'd manage to invert the cake without smooshing it all over. Mama had the touch! She also garnished the top with pineapple slices that we kids snatched and ate when we thought she wasn't looking. Looking back, I think she knew what we were up to.
A Salad or Dessert?
I luck out recalling
one of Mama’s summertime picnic specials,
is more dessert
Do you know it?
It's super easy to throw together, refrigerate overnight, and serve the next day.
Even better topped with fresh blueberries. (Caveat…it has nuts for those with allergies.)
Only problem at our house:
Watergate Salad gets gone really FAST!!!!
Here's an easy dish even I can manage.
Berries morph into patriotic red-white-and-blues
when featured with just the right serving pieces.
What do you think about
chocolate dipping sauce
on the side
for that extra yum?
I’m off to market to stock up on Fourth Food for the 'hood cookout. What family recipes do you cherish? What's your never-fail summertime fare? Please share in the comment section.
Have a safe and happy Fourth y'all! Sending virtual hot dogs slathered with all the trimmings to everyone. And maybe a virtual cup of Grandma's wine, if I can master the dandelions by then <wink>.
My writerly pals and I are sharing breezy summer dreams and inspirations - what we’re currently loving, reading, wishing, watching, thinking about and more – in the C*U*R*R*E*N*T*L*Y Jumping into Summer 2019 Blog Hop.
Please have a read to discover how I'm finding my summertime bliss. Then visit the other #Gr8Blogs listed at the end of this post for more Jumping into Summer 2019 smiles.
Celebrating our 25th Wedding Anniversary
JM and I celebrated our silver wedding anniversary over brunch at the cafe where we had our first date in 1991. Cannot believe it has been 25 years since we eloped to Dillon, South Carolina! Same smiles and love in our hearts; majorly different hair styles -:D
Best-selling Authors' Newest Tales
faithfully delivers enjoyable summer tales,
and her newest, Winter in Paradise, is no exception.
Unlike the author's usual setting based on her Nantucket home,
this first of her new series takes place
in St. John, US Virgin Islands.
Paradise is a bit of mystery, family and romance
with a juicy tropical vibe.
Doing a book nerd happy dance here!
I even pre-ordered an autographed copy
of her 15th Inspector Gamache novel,
A Better Man.
You know what' I'll be reading this summer -:D
Bye-bye Big Bang, sniff-sniff
Hated seeing The Big Bang Theory series end after its 12-year run. What a sweet, totally satisfying wrap (unlike GoT’s, which imho, was underwhelming). I adore this circle of socially awkward nerds who forge lasting friendships with each other.
Co-writing with Rosie Russell
Writing is always better with friends, and I'm having a sweet ride co-writing a children's book with author Rosie Russell.
Our story for middle graders is set in rural America's heartland. Our main character, Olivia, is a socially awkward farm child. She's thrown into the choppy waters of tween social circles when a new girl moves to town from a nearby city. We're stirring in horses, baseball, crafting, mean girls, and perhaps a storm or two to twist Olivia around. Stay tuned!
MAKING ME HAPPY
Literary Classics Book Awards
I still cannot believe
Sweet T and the Turtle Team
scored gold - environment category – in the Literary Classics Book Awards for excellence in children’s literature.
JM and I had an amazing weekend in Rapid City, South Dakota, to mark the occasion with .....
author meet and greet
I was beyond excited to meet the Literary Classics Team and find friendship with other award-winning authors. The weekend was also an affirmation of my time on the writing road these past six years and a major dose of motivation for this Cat -:D.
Catch my comprehensive photo journey to a red carpet weekend in the American West on Cat's Corner HERE
SEEING IN MY CAMERA LENS
The American West
After the Literary Classics Awards, JM and I tagged on a 25th anniversary trip to Rocky Mountains National Park near Estes Park, Colorado. In total, it was a whirlwind 11-day, 1,500M/2415Km trip across four states in the American West in a rented Jeep Cherokee.
This was hub’s first time
being west of the Mississippi.
Although I visited as a child,
I appreciated the journey more
as an adult.
Endless prairie ...
Abundant wild life roaming up to your car ...
Snow-capped summertime peaks ...
Dazzling human-made and natural wonders ...
My Women’s Fiction WIP
To be honest, between travels, co-writing, and life in general, my first adult fiction has been percolating on the back burner. But I can't wait to toss my characters into the challenges of living together - or not! - as the Old South collides with the New South in the growing town of Corey, North Carolina.
But before you go,
find more inspiration and smiles
from these #Gr8Blogs
as YOU jump into summer -:D
I’ve been to bookish events before but never to a writing awards ceremony…until Sweet T and the Turtle Team scored gold for best children’s book, environment category, from the Literary Classics Book Awards.
Walking on air for months, here, dreaming about meeting other honorees and our weekend-long celebration in Rapid City, South Dakota.
Although I visited South Dakota as a child, hub JM had never been west of the Mississippi River. We decided to make the most of this literary opportunity AND experience the American West while celebrating our silver wedding anniversary.
Set your comfy chair in its upright and locked position, grab a brew, and join me for a photo walk of my journey to a red carpet weekend.
Getting to Rapid City
My North Carolina home is sunny and warm in May, with temps climbing to 90F/32C. I pack for my American West weekend with shorts, sandals, and sunscreen until I check the weather forecast.
Nope. Cold, rain and sleet at Denver Airport.
Toss summer gear from the suitcase.
Squash winter coat and boots inside instead.
After a long plane ride and safe landing at Denver International,
we are like excited kids
navigating back roads in a rented Jeep
to see more of the countryside.
Dodging sleet and rain during the 6-hour drive
across Nebraska and north to Rapid City ...
... we oooh and ahhh over unending stretches of prairie and grazing cattle.
Easy to imagine wagon trains and cowboys once crossing here, too.
Getting to Know You
Rapid City is a bustling center in northwest South Dakota.
It's nestled between two magnificent natural wonders,
the Badlands and Black Hills.
Wow, Rapid City is decked out to greet us!
The Literary Classics Team makes us feel right at home, too.
How to break the ice
with a group of mostly introverted authors,
who don’t know each other beyond the CLC’s private group Facebook page?
Wine tasting downtown at Firehouse Wine Cellar!
After wine, it's a get-to-know-you scavenger hunt.
Cool, fun questions:
How many books have you written?
Do you have an agent?
Is this your first time in Rapid City?
We are all old friends
by the time we leave the winery -:D
Author Roundtable, Writers' Conference
Friday morning is all about sharing ideas at a 90-minute author roundtable to kick off the writers’ conference. Such incredible talent in the room!
I come away with tons of ideas for authoring and motivation for my writerly life.
After lunch, JM and I dash away
on a 30-minute jaunt
Mt. Rushmore National Monument.
Book Fair and Bison
Despite 37F/2.8C temps, our tables are ready to go by 9 a.m. for GABfest, the Great American Book Festival, in Rapid City’s outdoor Main Street Square
High wind warnings that morning are no joke. The 50-mph/81-kph gusts knock down displays and threaten tents covering us. Then cue the hail and rain! Not to mention me spilling hot coffee all over my books and the once-pristine white tablecloth under them <rolls eyes and smacks head here>.
A few readers brave the elements.
But it is soooo cold and sooooo windy!
Later in the day,
we discover that bison
in nearby Custer State Park
don't mind inclement weather one bit!
SUNDAY - AFTERNOON
Choo-chooing away butterflies
The BIG DAY of the Award Ceremony is finally here!
I’ve never been on the red carpet before, and to be honest,
I fight butterflies in my stomach.
I’m way more comfortable behind the scenes instead of in front of them.
But we are free until the event that evening. No time to fret. So......
...on a perfect Sunday afternoon,
my sweet Trainiac Hub and I
motor a short distance
for grown-up play time in Hill City, SD.
than a happy hubby
enjoying bison burger for lunch (apologies to vegetarians)
in an historic, century-old log cabin
next to a train depot ....
... unless it's
chugging along on an old-timey steam train ride
through the South Dakota Black Hills.
Wow! I also have my first fan recognition!
As I wait at the depot,
an attendee from the author roundtable discussion
She walks up to say hello and ask about my books.
My grateful heart does the happy dance -:D.
SUNDAY - EVENING
Reception and Award Ceremony
The event begins
with a happy hour and photos on the Red Carpet.
Then comes the moment we've been waiting for:
The Literary Classics team calls my name.
I walk to the stage.
Face beaming, Pulse pounding.
I receive my medal for
Sweet T and the Turtle Team.
We clap and cheer the night away
for every awesome author
recognized for his or her brilliant achievement -:D!
And just like that,
We linger as long as we can.
Then we slip into the night.
Go our separate ways.
Back to earth
It's been a month
since my Literary Classics weekend.
Have I come down to earth?
I still feel the excitement.
Cherish connections made there
Best, I retain a huge dose of confidence
to brave the hard road
and keep writing.
Writing is hard.
It's just plain lonely.
And I’m beyond grateful to
for recognizing my work and reaffirming I am on the right track.
And as always,
I'm grateful to
for following my writing journey.
Here's to more happy tales ahead!
The thought of starting an online presence kept me up at night when I began my indie writing career in 2013. I knew social media was a brilliant platform for connecting people and discovering books. But where to start? And what if I embarrassed myself by saying something stupid in cyberspace? Plus, who’d want to hear from newbie me anyway?
I see you scratching your head just as I did. You’re wondering how creatives can build professional relationships in cyberspace with someone you’d never bump into at the corner Starbuck’s.
You can do it! (Yes, even you introverts looking skeptical and scared.)
You start by being RARE as you demonstrate–
If you’re an author, blogger, or small business owner, read on to discover 9 tips to help you build your RARE social media presence.
1. Start Slow to Go Fast
Be clear about your social media goals.
Everybody wants to find followers and be discovered. Do you also want support from others in your field. Advice on specialized topics like launching books or running google ads? Connections to niche groups, like how to care for your pet iguana?
Explore and research.
Start with keyword searches to identify groups in your niche, such as most successful romance writers, best websites for writers, or most popular children's books. Most will have social media links you can dig into.
Discover where your readers spend their time on social media by googling stats and demographics for different social media platforms. For instance:
* 150 billion Facebook stories viewed daily
* users by gender: 53% female and 47% male
72% of the 62% of online seniors are between ages of 50 and 64
* 88% of online users aged 18-29 are on Facebook Source
* 85% of Facebook's daily active users come from outside North America
* (source: omnicoreagency.com -2018 September)
My author page on Facebook is my go-to platform because it’s where purchasers of my children’s books spend time.
Facebook has hundreds of genre and sub-genre interest communities. Some are open groups, and others are closed, so commenting stays safe within the group. You must ask to join closed groups, but it shouldn’t be an issue if your interests match theirs. Start by being friendly and commenting. Nuke the self-promotions.
Is your head exploding? Mine was when I started! tbh, there are still days when it feels crazy.
Listen close to your Aunt Cat now....
To keep from being overwhelmed,
begin with a ...
single – one – uno – ein
platform where your customers hang out.
Start with friendly convo and comments of interest to the group.
Leave the marketing behind.
Let people get to know you as a 'person' first.
2. Go Pro
3. Honor Ground Rules
4. "ENGAGE!"–Captain Jean-Luc Picard
Clapping for you here! You researched and zeroed in on people and places. Time to engage.
5. Thou Shalt Not Spam
6. Offer Value, Thanks and Credit
Don’t shake your head wondering, What can I offer? Yes, there are a gazillion people in cyberspace, but no one is YOU.
7. Get Visual
Studies show that posts with visual images receive the most engagement.
8. EWWWWW…..Get Out of My Direct Messages
Repeat after me ...
"I will never
DM or pester my followers with a
or follow-me-on-Insert-*Social*Media *url"
Direct messaging with marketing slams is the cyber-equivalent of being badgered by a plaid-suited snake oil salesperson. Just last week, a newbie author posted to my personal facebook page a 3-paragraph pitch for buying his new book, complete with link to his sell site. When I get messages like this, I delete them in a heartbeat. In this case, I also followed up privately with a firm message to STOP!
Ditto when new friends ask me to like a page or link that is totally out of my niche (can't do R-rated anything to stay true to my children's book community). These actions show they really don't know a jot about me.
9. Slow Progress IS Progress!
Now you’re ready to tackle social media with confidence. People will follow you as they experience the RARE online voice that is Y*O*U as you demonstrate….
All the best for your journey building or strengthening your online new community! Let me know how you’re doing and what’s working for you. Hey, if we’re not connected in cyberspace, let’s make it happen and be RARE together -:D!
Background Photo: Sondra Robbins Rymer
Which of these 9 tips work for you? What other strategies can you add? Please share in the comment section.
Book Review: HIIT Your Limit by Dr. Len Kravitz Helps You Stay in Shape Inch by Inch with High-Intensity Interval Training
Lose weight. Stay in shape —My eternal quests! Yours, too?
That’s why I’m pumped to introduce you to a new fitness book by Dr. Len Kravitz to help you reach those goals, HITT Your Limit, High-Intensity Interval Training for Fat Loss, Cardio, and Full Body Health. Read on to preview the book, meet Dr. Len, read my review, and enter for your chance to win one of five copies of his book (US only…open until 3 May 2019). Good luck!
Book Title: HIIT Your Limit: High-Intensity Interval Training For Fat Loss, Cardio, and Full Body Health by Dr. Len Kravitz
Category: Adult Non-Fiction, 208 pages
Genre: Fitness and Wellness
Publisher: Apollo Publisher
Release date: October 19, 2018
Tour dates: April 15 to 26, 2019
Content Rating: G (The book is a workout manual. It contains no graphic language or images.)
Get lean, build muscle, and stay healthy in only ten minutes a day! A Fitness Hall of Fame inductee and world-famous exercise scientist explains the #1 new fitness trend and how to get and keep the body you’ve always wanted.
High-intensity interval training (HIIT) is an extraordinarily effective form of training that mixes high- and low-impact activities during periods ranging from seconds to eight minutes. In HIIT Your Limit, Dr. Len Kravitz, who has been inducted into the National Fitness Hall of Fame and been an internationally-renowned exercise scientist for the past thirty-six years, and sold nearly 100,0000 copies of his last fitness book, explains what HIIT is, how it effects your entire body (externally and internally), gives 50 workouts and a guaranteed plan to whip you into shape fast, and presents a wealth of nutritional and other advice to further its impact.
HIIT was recently rated the #1 new fitness trend by the American College of Sports Medicine and is the key to staying fit for celebrities like David Beckham, Britney Spears, Hugh Jackman, and Scarlett Johansson. In addition to fat loss, it’s been proven to have major health benefits on blood pressure, diabetes, and cholesterol. Through this groundbreaking volume you’ll learn why, and see how to get fit quick, and have a fun and a truly sustainable exercise program, no expensive personal trainer required.
Buy the Book:
About the Author:
Dr. Len Kravitz has thirty-six years of experience as a researcher, writer, and speaker on fitness, and is the coordinator of exercise science at the University of New Mexico. He is the author of Anybody’s Guide to Total Fitness (now in its eleventh edition with nearly 100,000 copies sold), and Essentials of Eccentric Training; has published more than 300 articles in dozens of health and fitness publications; and regularly travels the country as a speaker on fitness and health. Among other awards, he was inducted into the National Fitness Hall of Fame. Dr. Kravitz lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
This book’s subtitle, High-Intensity Interval Training for Fat Loss, Cardio, and Full Body Health, perfectly describes what HIIT Your Limit wants you to achieve. Divided into 3 sections, readers can dive in from start to finish or focus on a particular segment.
Need convincing to begin exercising? Part 1 is geared to skeptics and anyone reluctant to start. I provides rich background and motivation for achieving a healthier life style.
Want to eat healthier and drop pounds? Section two zeros on healthy eating and weight loss strategies. I especially liked its 50 common questions and their answers: “Are sweet potato fries healthier than regular French fries?” (Nope. Bummed out but good to know) or “Are nuts really that healthy?” (Yep. Hooray!). Researched-backed, on-point responses give you plenty to digest (pun intended) about changing your eating habits.
Personally, I couldn’t wait to dive into the third section on exercise strategies! Coming from a family of athletes and being a lifelong exercise enthusiast myself, I have been convinced about the need to be active and eat right. The final segment of this book covers pre-exercise fundamentals for newbies, like proper clothing and physician clearance. Then it moves on to the meat of the book for me: how to incorporate HIIT in my exercise routine.
I love how Dr. Len offers specific templates to incorporate interval training incrementally and at increasingly challenging levels. I always wondered HOW to do this, and now I’m confident I can add HIIT to my workout. The author also provides examples for warm ups and cool downs, something I rarely do but need to start.
Finally, extras at the back include a workout schedule and another of my favorite parts, 100 winning ways to cut calories eating out and at home. (Yippy! Good to know I can continue guilt-free eating 2 TBs of peanut butter at lunch because it’s chockfull of protein, healthy fats, and fiber.)
I highly recommend High-Intensity Interval (HIIT) for adults wanting to start an exercise regimen, notch up their workout, or eat healthier. The author convinces and encourages you with fun facts and a do-able process to make any reader come out a winner.
Disclosure: I was given an advance review copy of this book and wish to share an honest, unbiased opinion of my reading experience. - Cat Michaels, M.S., Ed.
Enter the Giveaway!
Ends May 3, 2019
I was in the pit of despair. My sweet 8-year-old friend, B, had been bullied at school by two other third-grade girls.
Really??? THIRD grade!!!
How to help B? Stop her harassers? Crush this ugly cycle of hurting others that has become an epidemic?
I felt powerless and sick at heart, especially living 500 miles away from B. Turning to experts and friends who'd seen this happen before, I discovered 5 ways to stop bullying now.
“I was bullied in 2nd grade by a group of kids.
I never forgot it. Later on in middle school,
another pair of bullies made my life miserable until we moved….”
~ H, friend who was bullied
Unlike H, I was lucky growing up. I had only minor brushes with bullying.
Don’t know how a painfully shy, awkward me escaped harassment during socially treacherous middle-school years. Sure, I was teased a bit about my done-at-home haircut and off-trend outfits. Hmm, was that bullying? But I learned to fade into the background and escape harm.
I might have been an upstander in elementary school, having leverage as a top broad jumper and runner who helped my class win school-wide sporting competitions. When a group of kids threatened to stop liking me if I kept my friendship with Susanne Rickles (a kid I now recognize as being on the high-functioning end of the Asperger’s spectrum), I ignored them without consequence.
The impact of bullying recently hit home when I learned my third-grade friend, B, was crying and anxious about school because two classmates were making her life miserable.
B’s parents and teacher were on top of the situation right away, but I wanted to do something, too. But what could I do living so far away?
I discovered five strategies from my social network and online experts to help stop bullying.
1. Boost Self-Confidence
"[Powerlessness] is one of the most damaging messages that children receive when they are experiencing bullying ... the feeling that they cannot help themselves and no one will help them. Shoring up her own self-confidence will be the greatest form of support she can receive right now."
- Marlene Dillon,
Proud2BNaturalMe and dynamo behind Facebook's #IMOVERBULLYING movement
2. Be Relentless
”Keep asking questions to the school, to the parents …. Don’t let this one slip through the cracks.”
~ T, former teacher
3. Act Swiftly with Your Village
"It takes the students, school, counselors, teachers, and parents to nip it [bullying] in the bud as fast as they can. The longer it goes on, the worse it will be for all of them."
~ R, former substitute teacher
4. Act Consistently
Experts confirmed my friends’ wise counsel. The website stopbullying.gov, an excellent online resource for kids, parents, teachers, and communities, pointed to fast, unfailing adult response:
"When adults respond quickly and consistently to bullying behavior they send the message that it is not acceptable. Research shows this can stop bullying behavior over time."
5. Find a Way YOU can Make a Difference to Stop Bullying
I struggled to come up with a way I could turn this advice into action. As a writer, I decided to pen a letter of encouragement to this sweet child. It wasn't much, but I didn't want to just stand by and do nothing.
B's story has a positive outcome so far.
Because she opened up to her parents, they worked with her teacher to take immediate action. The mean girls apologized to B and, hopefully, stopped harassing her. But damage has been done. While B tolerates school, she remains anxious. Her parents and teacher remain vigilant, too. My fingers are crossed, but I fret about what school challenges B may face in her future
What’s your experience with bullying? What resources or tips can you offer to stop it? Please share in the comment section.
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Powerful Non-Fiction: “I'm Your Daughter Julie" is a must-have roadmap WITH PRACTICAL TIPS, EMOTIONAL SURVIVAL ADVICE for dementia carers
A powerful new non-fiction reduced me to a puddle: Julie A. Gorges shares the moving story of caring for her mother in I’m Your Daughter, Julie: Caring for a Parent With Dementia.
Battling the same form of dementia as Robin Williams and Ted Turner, the author gives a raw, honest account of her mother’s decline in a poignant journey of crushing heartache and enduring love while offering practical tips for those caring for loved ones with dementia.
Read on to:
* Meet the author
* Read an interview with Julie A. Gorges
* Browse an excerpt from the book
* Find my review
* Enter a giveaway for a chance to win a signed copy of I’m Your Daughter, Julie by leaving a meaningful remark about this post in the comment section below. Giveaway ends at noon, ET, Monday March 25. Open to US only. Good luck!
About the Book
Title: I’m Your Daughter, Julie: Caring for a Parent with Dementia | Author: Julie A. Gorges| Publication: March 2019 | Publisher: I-Form Ink Publishing | Pages: 90 | Genre: Adult non-fiction, self-help
* AMAZON US *
I’m Your Daughter, Julie: Caring for a Parent with Dementia, is written by award-winning journalist and author, Julie A. Gorges, who was the primary caregiver for her mother suffering from Lewy Body dementia. Sharing her intimate story, Gorges provides a compassionate and supportive guidebook to help caregivers cope with challenges they face while caring for their own needs at the same time.
Excerpt from I'm Your Daughter, Julie
My mother suffered from Lewy body dementia (LBD), a cruel combination of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s symptoms that rendered her helpless both physically and mentally toward the end of her life.
LBD is known for tormenting its victims with vivid hallucinations, delusions, and night terrors. Sometimes my mother was in a complete state of panic because she thought a bear was in the laundry room, a tiger was swimming in the pool, or baby lions were squirming in the bottom of her bed.
One time, Mom became hysterical because she saw her long dead step-father – a former boxer who physically abused her mother – standing in the hallway.
Watching Mom slowly lose her mind became a normal part of my life as her full-time caregiver. Sacrificing part of my life to care for a parent with dementia who I loved dearly was one of the best things I’ve ever accomplished. Caregiving was also the most challenging, demanding, and heartbreaking task I’ve ever undertaken.
Dementia not only changed my mother forever, it changed me in profound ways too.
I had never heard of this brutal disease before Mom’s diagnosis. However, LBD is not rare. According to the Lewy Body Dementia Association (LBDA) and the Mayo Clinic, it is the second most common type of dementia after Alzheimer’s. Thankfully, more people have become aware of this disease after it was discovered that actor and comedian Robin Williams suffered from LBD at the time of his death. Recently, CNN founder Ted Turner was also diagnosed with this disease.
When I began this journey with my mother, I had no idea what ordeal lay ahead. Dementia starts out in a seemingly non-threatening way with some memory loss and confusion. Even as the disease progressed, Mom had some good days when she wasn’t as confused, shuffled and trembled less, held her head a bit higher, and was more lucid and alert. Sometimes she’d go days without any hallucinations. This is typical for people with LBD whose symptoms often fluctuate drastically from day to day.
As the disease took its inevitable path, I was often hit with that harsh reality. Mom knew who I was most the time. But then there would be days she thought I was a nurse or a professional caretaker and begin making friendly, polite small talk. One day she asked if I liked to sail.
“Yes, Mom,” I answered. “You know I love sailing. I’m your daughter, Julie.”
Our family has sailed for more than 30 years, so the question was unsettling. After she got sick, Mom would bravely maneuver down the docks with her walker and step into the boat flanked by family members on both sides until she was physically unable to do so. Everyone on the dock admired her for that.
“Oh yeah, I know you’re Julie,” she said, looking a little embarrassed.
A few moments later, she asked the name of my mother as if I were a stranger again. Trying to have a sense of humor, I said her name, Carmen Hacker. She looked confused and I felt bad.
“You’re my mother,” I explained sadly. “I’m your daughter, Julie.”
My Mom often told me about something I did in the past as if explaining an incident to a stranger.
“My Julie…” she’d begin the story and relate something that happened in my childhood. Or she would say, “My Julie takes good care of me.”
Her appreciation warmed my heart and made all the sacrifices seem worthwhile. At the same time, it broke my heart because my mother didn’t recognize me when she said it.
How long did it take you to write the book?
Three years. The subject was painful. Sometimes I had to put the manuscript aside for awhile before picking it up again.
How did to keep your creative energy and deal with sad memories that surfaced while writing?
What kept me going was the goal of helping other caregivers. Albeit, I had to step away from my memories sometimes. But I knew my pain could be used to help others learn how to cope with their emotions. I could help others learn from my mistakes. I could help others learn to move forward after heartbreaking circumstances. That kept me going.
What advice would you give families unable to care for patients with dementia? What facilities are best for their care?
In the end, we used in-home caregivers, and they were invaluable. Hospice was also a great help. I understand that sometimes it’s impossible to care for a parent at home, so my book also discusses assisted living facilities and nursing homes.
What was one of the most surprising things you learned about yourself in writing this book?
I am normally a private person, so I was surprised at my ability to bare my soul.
What's your next writing project?
I have several projects in different working stages - what they have in common is that all are aimed at the plus-50 age group.
First up, a book to help all those over 50 who are struggling to lose weight. This is for you if you've tried countless diets, but nothing seems to work anymore. If you're a baby boomer who's on a budget and can't afford to spend a lot of money on diet programs and fancy gyms.
I've discovered 10 tips that helped me finally lose the weight in my late 50's. No dangerous surgeries, expensive weight loss programs, or crazy fad diets. I'll discuss why it's so hard to lose weight as you age and what you can do about it. I'll share with you my personal struggles - let me tell you, I packed on some weight stress-eating while caregiving - and some of my favorite recipes.
I hope to have it written and ready to publish by the end of the year.
I’m Your Daughter, Julie: Caring for a Parent with Dementia is much more than a recounting of Julie A. Gorge's journey supporting her mother with Lewy body dementia. It's an essential roadmap for care-givers to guide them in all aspects of their journey.
Julie organizes her book into five sections that align with the stages of dementia, from early and diagnosis to final moments and grief. The author hones in on each stage, offering a mix of practical advice and emotional survival tips for carers gleaned from experiences with her mother. Julie frankly admits she learned many of these lessons from her own mistakes. Carers can jump to their most-pressing need or read through the book from start to finish.
Readers with a more casual interest in this journey will be drawn in by Julie’s powerful writing style and painful honesty. Her advice on incontinence and explanation of how to brush her mom’s teeth moved me to tears as I remembered my parent’s experience with activities of daily living as their physical health declined.
The author also devotes an entire section to the physical and emotional needs of carers, brilliant for those supporting a loved one with any type of medical condition.
Honestly, I could not read the final sections about dying and grieving because my emotions are still raw from the passing of my parents. I followed Julie suggests in her introduction, deciding I needed more time before tackling that part.
Superbly researched and written with honesty and hope, this book is a must-read for carers and highly recommended for everyone yearning for a powerful true story of enduring love.
Meet the Author
Julie A. Gorges has been writing professionally for more than 30 years.
She is the author of four books, written hundreds of articles and short stories for national and regional magazines, and won three journalism awards. She is also a blogger at Baby Boomer Bliss, which was recently recognized as one of the top 75 baby boomer blogs on the web.
Julie lives in southern California with her husband of 40 years, Scott, and has two grown sons and four grandchildren.
Only for Cat's readers and tribe! Enter for YOUR chance to win one (1) signed copy of I'm Your Daughter, Julie: Caring for a Parent With Dementia.
Leave a simple remark in the comment section of this blog by noon ET, 25 March 2019. to enter. Be sure to send your current email address to Cat Michaels, via Cat's website HERE, so the winner can be notified.
Winner to be selected by random drawing on 26 March. (See giveaway details below.)
How to Enter:
Never thought a rat could be sweet, but I changed my mind after meeting Maria Ritter's Wilhelm.
That's why I'm pleased to partner with iRead Book tour to introduce to you Wilhelm, who's featured in Ritter's new tale (tail -:D!) for middle graders, The Adventures of Wilhem, a Rat's Tale.
Read on to learn more about the book, meet the author, read my review, and enter by 5 April for a chance to win a print or digital copy of this book (open to US residents only).
Good luck and happy tales/tails!
Book Title: The Adventures of Wilhelm: A Rat’s Tale by Maria Ritter
Illustrator: Teri Rider
Category: Middle-grade Fiction, 210 pages
Genre: Children's Fantasy
Release date: August 2018
Tour dates: March 11 to 29, 2019
Content Rating: G (This is a clean children's book with no expletives, violence, sex or drugs.)
Young Wilhelm leaves home and travels the world. He not only discovers the value of different cultures and the importance of family and friendship, but he also overcomes obstacles with courage and cleverness. He returns home with deep respect for all creatures on this earth and a new sense of rat identity and purpose.
To follow the tour and read reviews, please visit Maria Ritter's page on iRead Book Tours.
Buy the Book:
About the Author:
Maria Ritter is a clinical psychologist and psychoanalyst in La Jolla, California. She is the author of Return to Dresden (2004), an autobiographical reflection on her childhood in Germany during and after World War II. It is a healing memoir that confronts national guilt for the Nazi past and weaves the broken pieces of loss and grief into a healing tapestry.
Connect with the author: Website
Maria Ritter’s adventure for middle-graders, The Adventures of Wilhelm, a Rat’s Tale, is a travelogue that follows young Wilhelm as he leaves home to explore the world rodent-style. On his way, he encounters characters ranging from scientists and gnomes in Sweden to opera rats singing at Oktoberfest in Germany and church mice on a tour bus meeting the Pope in Italy. Wow!
These and more comprise the ratly world Ritter brings to life, where garbage is good and trash is nice. Wilhelm gets into unique rodent predicaments at every stop on his journey. As a service rat in a Swedish hospital, he stuns doctors by diagnosing sick children by sniffing out sources of their ailments with his nose.
Wilhelm’s antics expand with every diverse culture he meets. Tongue-in-cheek travelogue snippets are a hoot, though not all kids might catch them. I couldn’t stop chuckling over Wilhelm’s grandmother, who is introduced as the ratriarch of his German rodent family.
The author provides a glossary after each chapter to explain vocabulary. She also adds discussion questions at the end of the book, so kids can reflect on what they’ve read.
Subtle themes help children rethink the meaning of “despised” creatures, who are symbols of society’s marginalized people. This is especially prominent as the Pope addresses Wil and other “despised and hated animals” visiting him in Rome:
"We are connected as creatures to live together on this planet,
and I will continue to help you all by preaching
... that we must share our gifts fairly among us all.
This way, you will not have to live in fear."
Some middle-graders may not make the cognitive leap from this cute fable to its real-life implications, yet children are still exposed to positive moral lessons. As an adult, I appreciate Ritter’s book as an allegorical novella about prejudice and the journey to acceptance.
Weighing in at 210 pages, I recommend The Adventures of Wilhelm to upper-elementary graders, who are strong readers interested in world culture. Wilhelm also appeals to adults who want a short travelogue that nudges assumptions about social inequities with humor and wisdom.
Disclosure: I was given an advance review digital copy of this book and wish to share an honest, unbiased opinion of my reading experience.
Enter the Giveaway!
Ends April 5, 2019
Stretching waaaay outside of my comfort zone here.
Cannot believe I'm taking on TWO books: co-authoring a middle-grade tale and going solo writing my first fiction for grown-ups.
I’m up for this challenge after taking time to grieve the loss of my parents and rightsize to a new space after two decades in our cherished home.
It's exciting and scary just thinking about penning two different genres at the same. But it feels right, so here I go!
WIP 1 : Fiction for Grown Ups
Fifteen years ago:
my writing workshop classmates told me
I had to develop the short story I submitted for our class project
into a full novel.
My first reaction?
Without expanding my draft,
I submitted it to a writing contest.
It scored an honorable mention.
Still not ready to take on a novel.
The content, disguised as fiction, was too tender and personal to write more then.
But times change.
What once felt too raw is now okay to explore.
Fast forward to 2019:
I submitted the old draft from workshop days
to my critique group.
And they liked it!
The novel takes place in a southern town (no surprise as penned by this North Carolina gal). It explores challenges between newcomers and the old South as characters come together (or not!) to save the town’s annual community choir presentation of Handel’s Messiah. (We write what we know: Guess whose 100-person member community choir has performed an annual "Messiah" concert every December for more than 40 years -:D.)
My book is more than a Christmas-time tale. There's love and hope, but it's not a true romance. Kind of like a cozy without a murder mystery. No violence or dysfunction. For now, I’m tagging it as general adult fiction with a touch of women's and southern fiction.
Honestly, my story might be the type the Hallmark Channel might select for a TV movie .....and I'd be over the moon if they did!....but I haven’t decided yet if every character will get a happily ever after. Stay tuned!
WIP 2 : Co-Writing a Middle-Grade Tale
Meanwhile, back in children’s book land……
friend and awesome picture book author/illustrator,
and I are co-writing a middle-grade adventure
for kids ages 8-12 featuring an 11-year-old girl who loves horses.
We didn’t set out to co-author a book,
but our ideas for this story
have been percolating for both of us since 2015.
Four years ago almost to this day!
We started when I uploaded a writing prompt to my author Facebook page and invited people to post a brief back story. Rosie jumped on it!
Months later, Rosie developed the prompt into a story and shared her draft with me. I loved it! However, the tale waited until my life settled after rightsizing and becoming an adult orphan.
Co-authoring a book is a huge learning challenge, but I'm lucky. Rosie Russell is the perfect co-write partner: enthusiastic, imaginative, hard-working and talented.
We connected through social media in 2014 and have been supporting each other’s writing journey ever since.
Even met in person once in 2017 … a marjorly rare treat for cyberpals! … when her family vacationed nearby my North Carolina home (in the US south).
Since Rosie lives more than 1,000 m/1.6 km away from me in Missouri (midwest US), we’re swapping ideas like mad via i-messages, emails and phone.
We started by organizing and agreeing on story development. We explore characters and plot by uploading inspiration photos and concepts to a shared drive.
There’s technical, headachy-to-me stuff to determine, too, like who/how to formate and distribute our book.
And we're figuring out how to pay Uncle Sam his taxes for book sales earned by two authors in two different states. No accountants here -:D.
Once we pull these pieces together, we’ll flesh out chapters and decide who’s authoring and editing what. Most important, we want to make sure our writing styles synch up to give young readers an exciting, flowing narrative. Plus, both my books will retain the same family-friendly vibes and focus on Small Town USA life that are found in my Sweet T Tales.
I'll be looking for ideas about titles, book covers, character struggles and more, and I'd be over the moon to have your company and feedback on this next stretch of my writing journey.
You'll find updates on my writing here on Cat's Corner (sign up below to send this blog to your email or newsfeed). You can also be first to know the latest by joining my tribe of readers and receiving occasional newsflashes in What’s Up (Join HERE or in the link below).
Thanks a ton!
What have you tackled that felt beyond your comfort zone? What helped you succeed? And if you successfully co-authored a book, let us know what you learned from the experience in the comment section.
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