Toni Pike: Linda’s Midlife Crisis

I am used to associating Toni Pike’s writing with crime and thrillers, not this delightful modern feel-good women’s fiction and so it was a surprise for me to see it on her post.  

The first part of the novel is about Linda’s marriage to Ron, a horrible man.

He was the sort of person who brought joy whenever he departed, a feeling of peace and freedom that lasted until the moment of his return.

Ron is constantly criticizing Linda, especially her weight, treats her like his servant and is often going out at night coming home smelling of alcohol. Linda stays in the marriage because she doesn’t know what else to do and likes her home when her husband is at work or playing golf. As much as Linda is the glass half full type of person Ron is eternally pessimistic.

Aside from her marriage, Linda also hates teaching although there was a time when it was her passion but things have changed.

She had once been a great teacher, popular with students and respected by other staff members. Every year, a little gloss had been wiped away and now only a dull, rusted undercoat was left. It was so hard to look forward to a day at school when a riot could break out at any moment and every lesson was like trying to tame a herd of wild beasts.

Linda has a breakdown (or perhaps a breakthrough). She spends a great deal of her time in bed eating chocolates and gaining weight something which Ron doesn’t let her forget.  

If you’re not better tomorrow, then I’m leaving. I’m not taking care of an invalid for the rest of my life. There’s nothing wrong with you, apart from being too fat and too lazy to go to work.

When Linda doesn’t change Ron asks for a divorce and off Linda goes gaining enthusiasm, energy and the will to take care of herself.

The remainder of the novel is sweet and reminiscent of the Television show I used to watch as a kid: Leave it to Beaver. It has that kind, family feel to it. Beneath her submission towards Ron, Linda is a very astute woman who isn’t afraid to speak her mind. Her character adds a fun, easy relaxing and pleasant read.

We see Linda thrive through the obligations of life: getting a house ready to sell. Finding an apartment. Moving to a different city, closer to her sister. Quitting her job. Finding work in fashion. Taking care of herself. Embarking on a new and loving relationship and writing.

Linda was an English teacher who once loved to write, but life with Ron had dulled her inspiration and melted the muse.

The book also contains some heartwarming sentences:

… your heart matches your lovely face. Said by new boyfriend, Dennis.

Linda uses her struggles with weight to write inspiring articles for The Canberra News Magazine which motivates her in setting goals for her own weight loss program.

She loved trying to write with clarity, transposing the thoughts in her brain to paper and then polishing them carefully.

As the stain of verbal and psychological abuse fades, Linda becomes more confident and someone you’d love to hang out with.

It’s an upbeat novel and Pike shows that there are happy endings even for those in mid-life.

An enjoyable read that is bound to take you out of any morose mood you might be in.

How’s your New Years Resolution coming along?

Many new years resolutions have to do with getting in shape – exercising more and eating properly. But studies show that 64% abandon their new year’s resolution within a month.

Ellie Marrandette’s book will help you get back on track and re-energize you to maintain good eating habits.

Combining her career as a nutritional counsellor and her New Creation Ministries series, this book addresses the “intricate mind, body and spiritual aspects to optimum and sensible health.”

Whether your goal is to lose weight the end point is to be healthy and Ellie Marrandette offers expert advice and tips on doing so. It’s not about dieting but about introducing into your life healthy eating habits.

Being healthy improves one’s looks, energy level, longevity and self-esteem.

Critiquing every fad diet out there she explains why they don’t work and suggests that the only diet that works is feeding your body with the proteins, minerals and vitamins it needs to function at maximum health and to ward of illnesses such as cancer and diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and joint problems.

Be mindful of harmful habits when reaching for food when you are not even hungry.

She explains the role enzymes play in regulating different parts of our body, including regulating our appetite. Much of the book is on quality nutrients necessary for the proper functioning of our bodies (liver, intestines, skin, brain, bones et) and which foods contain them.

The book includes chapters on the benefits of detoxification and emotional eating and the importance of fiber and foods to incorporate in your daily intake for a good night’s sleep or for battling dark circles under the eyes as well as foods that protect sun damage. The benefits of eating nutritious mini-meals throughout the day to maintain stable blood sugar levels.

Add to this our personalities, our attitudes and the importance of gratitude in maintaining a stable health plan.

Although this book targets Christian groups, her knowledge on health and nutrition is universal. This is not a book to read in one reading. There is too much information and it is more of a reference book.

If you find that you are having difficulty sticking to your new year’s goals of becoming healthier this book might just be the boost you need to motivate you to get over that slump.

 We are the only ones who live in our bodies. Choose wisely.

Two Books to Warm Your Heart

It’s been freezing cold here and so it was the perfect weather to bundle up with a warm sweater, a pair of woolen socks, a blanket and a couple of books from some blogger friends. One a mystery, the other a contemporary romance.  

Lauren is tired of living with her in laws, especially her dominating mother-in-law and can hardly wait to be able to move out with her husband, Ben, and have the privacy and liberty she craves.

Her desires to escape her current situation make her the perfect target for falling for a get rich quick scam. By doing so, she practically loses all her and her husband’s life savings and in the process is destroying her marriage.

There is more to this novel besides the scam which places it above the white color crime genre and into the mystery crime novel.

This was an easy read and one that anybody who is thinking of embarking in a get rich scheme ought to read this book. It’s bound to make you think twice about giving your well earned money away.

SCAM is a fast paced novel with well developed characters. It is a story about forgiveness, mistakes and the power of love.

It’s short enough to be read in one sitting which I did not because of its length but because I couldn’t put it down. All in all a fun read.

SEARCHING FOR HOME takes place in a small village in Whispering Slopes in the Shenandoah Valley. Meg is both a physical therapist and runs a B&B which her sister left her along with a set of five-year-old triplets. Life is running along smoothly enough for Meg until Luke, an old boyfriend who dumped her, walks back into her life.

Cowboy Luke, as the triplets call him, is a famous bull rider who not only wants to win back Meg’s heart but sees the triplets as an opportunity to have the family he always craved for. He is especially drawn to little Tucker who has a chip on his shoulder for having been abandoned by his parents – something Luke can well understand and identify with. He himself has had a difficult past  – an unwanted child and always seeking but never getting his father’s approval. So he understand the little boy’s anger at his father abandoning him.

Romance novels, at least for me, make me relax and forget about any problems or duties awaiting me. Jill’s novels are comfort food for the soul. As all of Jill Weatherholt’s novels, this is a feel-good book. It’s also sweet proving that not all sweets are bad for you.

Two Books for The New Year

Ana Linden is a blogger I’ve been following for some time and an insightful writer. If you haven’t read any of her books I highly recommend her. In her latest post she was kind enough to review my book along with Charlie Robinson’s book – an author I was unfamiliar with until I read Ana’s review and which I now want to read. Stop by Ana’s blog. You’re in for a treat. Besides her insightful writing she is also a fabulous photographer. Thank you, Ana, for your review of my book. I am very grateful. ❤

Ana Linden

The Siege of Mr Kahn’s Curry Shop– by Charlie Robinson

“How do you live a life when you don’t have a past? I need to know – for me.”

I was already familiar with Charlie Robinson’s storytelling, thoroughly enjoying his sense of humour and witty writing style on his blog. I already knew he was working on his first novel – two decades in the making, as he put it. Then, once I saw the cover, the title and the synopsis, I instantly wanted to read The Siege of Mr Kahn’s Curry Shop as I had a feeling it wouldn’t disappoint.

“This is life – sometimes we make a success of things and sometimes we don’t. More often than not, we don’t, but we carry on and we need to carry on without bearing a grudge.”

Well, I was right. I may have mentioned this before, I don’t…

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Yaa Gyasi: Transcendent Kingdom

Gifty (and what an appropriate name for this gentle soul) appears in different stages of her life: as a young child with memories of her wonderful Ghanaian family living in Alabama; as an eleven-year-old living with her depressed and anhedonia mother and her older brother whom she adores. Then, if having her father return to Ghana wasn’t enough another type of tragedy strikes and we see Gifty doing research in a university lab in Southern California on the addictive behavior of rats while she is confronted with her brother fighting his own addiction as she documents what it is like to live with an addict and a depressed mother.

There is no mystery regarding the plot. One has simply to read the jacket cover to know the entire plot. Rather, this is a character driven novel and a mixture of fiction versus non-fiction – a cross between storytelling and neurological research on addiction. 

Gifty offers the readers the rawness of her truth that we find sometimes difficult to accept about ourselves.

For example, her thoughts about her brother’s addiction to heroin:


“Forget for a moment what he looked like on paper, and instead see him as he was in all of his glory, in all of his beauty. It’s true that for years before he died, I would look at his face and think, What a pity, what a waste. But the waste was my own, the waste was what I missed out on whenever I looked at him and saw just his addiction.”

The book is full of such insights be they about race, immigration, mother/daughter relationship, religion versus science, and grief.

It also contains some beautifully written sentences:

I, too, have spent years creating my little moat of good deeds in an attempt to protect the castle of myself.

A beautifully literary novel that made me understand a bit more what it is like to be Black in America and a sneak look into Ghanaian culture. A book that, I think, is bound to transcend you.

Sara Nisha Adams: The Reading List

Reading this stunning debut novel made me think of friends in my past whom I hadn’t thought of in years. It made me think of places I had visited; trips I had taken and experiences I’d had that I’d forgotten about. The novel brought me back to many of the books on the list that I had read giving me a glimpse into my past and a dream of my future.

A mysterious person has left Just in case you need it a list of eight books to read in: library books, at the bus stop, at the yoga studio, in the supermarket, the community garden and other places. The novel centers around two main characters. Seventeen-year-old, Aleisha who has a summer job working in a library and who lives with her older brother and her mother who suffers from severe depression. The other main character is Mukesh, a man in his seventies who is grieving the death of his loving wife and trying to cope with his loss. A friendship evolves between these two characters as Aleisha recommends books (from a list left in a novel) to Mukesh. As they discuss these novels their reflections comfort them on their grief.  

This is a novel about how books have the power to heal. It is a novel about the injustices in the world, about terror, guilt and regret. It is about the magic of books to enhance lives and bring a community together.

The Reading List is a vivid and beautifully written story with unforgettable characters that will crush your heart.

 As an added bonus to this book, I would recommend it to anyone who must write a synopsis of their own novel for it succinctly illustrates how the author captures the essence of each of the novels on the list.    

Ellie Marrandette: A Place to Belong

Most of us at one point in our lives struggle to find our purpose in life. A Place to Belong is Katerine LeVay Cunningham’s (Kate) personal battle in search for her purpose in her life.

It is not enough that she is married to a wealthy movie producer who adores her and that her marriage is one full of romance and tenderness. Following her husband on his movie shoots does not satisfy her personal needs for fulfillment.  

A Place to Belong is the third of a trilogy (although it can also standalone) and when we meet Kate she is in NYC with her loving British husband, Robert, who is directing a movie on the American Revolution. Throughout the novel the relationship between Kate and Robert is a romantic, tender one.

However, Kate is haunted by her past and until she puts to rest the secret, perfect crime which she has committed there will be no peace for Kate.

But before Kate gets to this peaceful place the novel veers towards her newly found relationship with Casey, her daughter, a pro golfer champion who was abducted when she was five. There is also the discovery of a brother Kate did not know she had.

The novel has revenge, success, Christian values, a wedding in a hospital, close friendships, adultery, courage, an entertaining wake and a surprising explanation for her deceitful and womanizing first husband’s death.  

There are several settings which the author does an excellent job taking us through such interesting places as: Boston, NYC, Charleston, Sorrento, Italy and Ayrshire, Scotland.

The prose is smooth and the dialogue is authentic while the entire novel flows at a fast pace.

I was a Beta reader for this novel and when I read it again in its final version, I was even more captivated by the story and marveled at Ellie’s strong story telling talent.

There are several memorable characters in the novel. It is refreshing to read a novel filled with good people with strong family values.

Carrie Rubin: The Bone Elixir

Are you looking to get in the mood for a really scary, macabre novel to read this Halloween season? A novel that, although it will frighten you, you won’t be able to stop reading it.

Carrie Rubin’s rational minded orthopedic surgery resident Benjamin Oris (and the protagonist of her last two novels) has just inherited an inn in Massachusetts. Trouble is that the inn is haunted and Benjamin doesn’t believe all that hocus-pocus stuff. Until he visits the inn and stays in it alone for a week as he waits for his girlfriend Laurette along with her sixth sense to join him.

In the meantime, Ben is confronted with secret passages, doors that creek open in the middle of the night, lights that turn on and off and a basement pit that raises the hair on his neck.

Benjamin is designated to become the heir of the inn by taking part in one of the spookiest ceremonies I’ve ever read. He must drive away the evil spirits inhabiting the house along with its promise of immortality and eternally free from sickness – which, by the way, is pretty enticing for a medical doctor.

Once Laurette arrives, there are Ouija boards, crystals, levitations, a manuscript describing people disappearing after visiting the inn, remnants of an insane asylum, people murdered, ghosts and lingering spirits.

This is not the genre of book that I usually read but Carrie’s usage of suspense kept me turning the pages wanting to know the next thing that Ben would be confronted with and how he would handle it.

Besides the spooky part of the novel there is lots of very interesting writing. For example. “Come morning, he (Benjamin) felt about as rested as a squirrel on crack.”

If you’re thinking of getting into the Halloween mood of haunted houses, gravestones and divinations this is certainly the book for you.

Well done, Carrie!  

Robyn Harding: The Arrangement

It was a pleasure to read Robyn Harding’s the Arrangement. I was immediately hooked into this novel.

The first half of the novel reads like a romantic novel where poor girl finds her prince charming (put aside the sugar daddy and sugar baby dynamics). What woman wouldn’t want the kind of attention and love which Gabe showered so generously on Nat? Think Pretty Woman.

Through Robyn Harding’s intensive research on sugar babies, (which she describes in her Acknowledgements), we get a good glance into this dark and tightly controlled world.

Natalie, a young art student in New York City, is struggling to pay her bills when a friend makes a suggestion: Why not go online and find a sugar daddy—a wealthy, older man who will pay her for dates and even give her a monthly allowance? Lots of girls do it, Nat learns. All that’s required is to look pretty and hang on his every word. Sexual favors are optional.

Though more than thirty years her senior, Gabe, a handsome corporate finance attorney, seems like the perfect candidate, and within a month, they are madly in love. At least, Nat is…Gabe already has a family, whom he has no intention of leaving. *

The second half of the novel is a mystery/court case/crime novel.

So when he abruptly ends things, Nat can’t let go. But Gabe’s not about to let his sugar baby destroy his perfect life. What was supposed to be a mutually beneficial arrangement devolves into a nightmare of deception, obsession, and, when a body is found near Gabe’s posh Upper East Side apartment, murder. *

I was surprised that one of the categories in the product description was kidnapping thriller, which I did not find pertinent to this novel. Unless I’m missing something.

The ending was satisfactory and somewhat unexpected; it had a comfortable feel to it and the novel moved at a relatively fast pace. It was a rather long book but well worth my time.

* Italic text is from the book description on Amazon.

Ten Tips On Writing Mysteries

First off, these writing tips are not just for mystery writers. Gail Bowen is the author of the Joanne Kilbourn mysteries. She’s written 16 of them so far and if you’re a fan of Joanne Kilbourne you’ll learn a lot about her in this book. Secondly, the tips aren’t just for writers of series although quite a long section in a chapter titled Creating a Robust Series is devoted to that.

  1. When writing take breaks. Well, this is hardly new advice but the author suggests writing for twenty-five minutes and then take five-minute breaks. I’ve tried it and set my timer for twenty-five minutes which works marvelously well and am always surprised at how quickly the time goes by and how I get into my writing although my five-minute breaks tend to be much longer.
  2. Write early in the morning. She gets up at five am to write claiming that two hours of writing in the mourning is worth four hours of writing later in the day. I’m with her on that although not that early!  
  3. Select brief but telling details about weather and its effect on character in order to create a mood to draw the reader into the story.
  4. Make your characters deeply flawed so that your reader will be able to identify and connect with them.
  5. Use minor characters to lighten the mood while still keeping the plot moving.
  6. Give your first draft a rigorous edit before sending it off. Rigorous being the operative word.
  7. Try to give your book a title as early in the process as possible. This will guide you in keeping to the theme of your novel.  
  8. Almost every piece of writing can be improved if you cut it by a third (ouch!)
  9. Your first obligation as a writer is to offer a powerful human story.
  10. If you can’t imagine your life without writing, then you’re a real writer. Stay the course.