The Cream in My Coffee-by Laura the Book Enthusiast

After my return from Hawaii, which was glorious to say the least, I had some bad luck. Not that I believe in luck, good or bad, because sometimes bad things happen, and yet, when we are going through the bad times, it’s so easy to forget the good ones. Not to say we can’t have a bad day. I believe bad days are just our way of working our way through the clouds, so we can find the sun again. What’s with the philosophical metaphors, you ask? Well, I wasn’t just having a bad day, I was having a bad month. I will not drag you down with this information, however, I want to share with you an experience involving my own personal vice, coffee.

Our local coffee shop was having a $1 drink special. Coffee is a girl’s best friend, so I couldn’t miss out on it. Unfortunately, the hours this offer was going on was while I was working. Of course, I couldn’t let that stop me, so, I decided I would sacrifice my reading time, and go on my break. The coffee shop is just a few blocks down from my job, so I figured I could make it back in time. Well, I figured wrong.

Apparently, my fellow coffee goers have telepathic powers, and conspired against me by all going for coffee at the same time. Cars lined up around the block to the drive-up window. Of course, it wasn’t much better inside. Guaranteed my fellow coffee drinkers would stampede if startled. Already half of my break time was up, and I hadn’t even ordered. I know, I shouldn’t have been surprised that so many people had shown up for cheap coffee, but you must remember, I wasn’t in my right mind. The obvious wasn’t so clear to me.

I made it to the coffee hole, I mean register, and ordered my drink. I held back tears as I asked if my drink could be expedited, because I would be late for work otherwise. The barista told me that would be fine. I nearly gushed at her in appreciation and thanks! While waiting, I overheard her talking to the barista making the drinks. The latter’s reply, “She will have to wait.” Her words seemed to echo in the noisy room. That really got my coffee boiling, and it was hard to swallow.

Then, I heard the barista that helped me reply, “I can make if for her.” In that instant, I saw a halo appear over my angel’s head. That’s it! From now on I will my coffee savior, “Angel”. Angel got me, she understood. Within minutes, I was out the door with my coffee, and arrived back at work on time.

In all seriousness, I am somewhat of a people pleaser. I was concerned I had gotten Angel in trouble. I was pretty sure the barista in charge of the drinks that day was  management. I made up my mind to call the coffee shop when I got home.

Caffeinated, and content, I made the call right when I walked in the door. Who answered the phone, but the coffee tyrant herself, the manager? Okay, she really wasn’t that bad, although, I may not hold that opinion if I hadn’t gotten my coffee. I digress, so, anyway, I began to tell her how pleased I was with the service provided me that day. I identified the barista who helped me, and told the manager that Angel had made my day. I expressed how bad my month had been, and that act of good customer service really lifted me up. I thanked the manager, and asked her to pass on the message to Angel.

The manager, who I will call Sally, then told me how happy she was to hear a compliment, rather than a complaint. Sally admitted originally, she hadn’t agreed with what Angel had done, but after it was explained to her, Sally understood. Sally then told me she was happy the experience made my day, and was sure it would make Angel’s day as well.

After we hung up, I pondered why moments like this should be so special. Shouldn’t acts of kindness be the norm, not the unusual? By my reaction to the good customer service, and the manager’s positive reaction to me, it goes to show how important kindness is for humanity. It’s sad that kindness is often looked upon as a weakness, rather than a strength. Isn’t it amazing how the smallest things make the biggest impact? A bitter cup of coffee, can become sweet with a little cream and sugar. After all, this experience happened to me nearly three months ago, and it still resonates.

What do you think? Have you had similar experiences? How important do you think small acts of kindness is in the grand scheme of things? I would love to hear your thoughts!

P.S. Once again, a big thanks to all following and liking my blog.  You guys make my day!

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The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving by Jonathan Evison

Hello Everyone!  I wasn’t sure if I would be posting a review for this particular book, but the deeper into the story I dug, the more engrossed I became.  Allow me to express myself regarding The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving.

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The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving by Jonathan Evison

Book Review by Laura the Book Enthusiast

Gerald Jampolsky once said, “Forgiveness means letting go of the past.” A simple philosophy to have, but very difficult in its execution.  In The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving, Jonathan Evison weaves together a thematic story about life, death, loss, and letting go.  Ultimately, the idea of forgiveness is at the heart of this touching novel.  The best part of it is, it’s all done in humor.  It’s one of those stories where you can laugh and cry all within a few pages.  Evison balances emotions beautifully, allowing us to smile even despite the tragedy that befalls Benjamin Benjamin.

No, the above is not a typo, the protagonist’s name is Ben Benjamin.  From the moment you meet Ben, you know that he is a good man, but something has broken him.  He is a man on the verge of divorce, with Stay at Home Dad being the steadiest job he can add to his resume.  Ben decides to become a caregiver, which is how he meets Trev, a young man with muscle dystrophy.   A close friendship develops between the two, and Ben comes to find that he needs Trev just as much as Trev needs Ben.  Benjamin and Trevor decide to embark on a road trip, unaware of the self-discovery that awaits them.

I will admit, this story was a little slow going the first few chapters, but, as the road trip progressed, I found myself more and more engrossed.  Watching the broken Ben begin to heal, and seeing the disabled Trev begin to truly live, made the wait for the action worth it.  We get to meet Dot, and Peaches, two young women on journeys of their own, who end up at the same fork in the road as Ben and Trev, pun intended.  While the character’s destinations may be different, they will find their way together.

Caregiving is full of heart, of laughs, of tears, of contemplation.  If tragedy befalls us, is that it?  Are we stuck in this never-ending feeling of hopelessness, despair, and even guilt?  Can we learn to let go?  Can we forgive the most difficult person to forgive, ourselves?  Will Benjamin Benjamin achieve this end?  You will have to read Evison’s novel to find out.

Pick up a copy of The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving at your local library or bookstore.  Better yet, pick up the audiobook version, and take it on a road trip; Ben and Trev would approve.

Some Kind of Courage-By Dan Gemeinhart

Another thank you to all who are following my blog, and liking my posts.  It means a lot to this newbie.  It makes me feel so at home, which takes me into my review.

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Some Kind of Courage, By Dan Gemeinhart

Review-By Laura the Book Enthusiast

Do you remember the old saying about a boy and his dog?  Well, how about a boy and his horse? This is the very principle that Dan Gemeinhart pens in Some Kind of Courage.  I listened to the audiobook version of this story, and I must say, it made the narrative even more touching, voiced by actor Andrew Eiden.  Both writer and voice actor made the protagonist, Joseph Johnson, so appealing.  I have always believed characters should drive the plot, not vice versa.  A character can make or break a good plot, but great characters can make an average plot exceptional.  Gemeinhart uses this tactic in his historical fiction novel.  The setting is in Washington State, just before the turn of the century.  From the outset, this novel very much plays out like a bluegrass country song.  The protagonist lost both his parents and sister in death, and is now living with an abusive guardian.  To make matters worse, Joseph’s guardian sold the boy’s beloved horse, Sarah.  Sarah, is the only family Joseph has left, and he is determined to get her back.  This is where his journey begins.

Joseph meets plenty of kindred spirits along the way, as Anne Shirley (L.M. Montgomery) would affectionately call them.  One such friend, is Ah-Kee, a Chinese boy who is as lost, but as brave as Joseph is.  Courage, this a trait that is emphasized throughout this novel.  Joseph, a child no more than twelve years old, sets out on a daring mission across the Eastern Washington Wilderness, not only where he must brave a rough terrain, but also not the most honorable of people.  Then we have a Chinese boy, named Ah-Kee, with no way of verbally communicating with the people around him, accompany an American boy he doesn’t know, on a journey with an unknown destination.  These two boys are simply searching for their families, and despite the language barriers, Joseph and Ah-Kee are bonded through a common goal.  A goal that binds all of humanity, to find a place to call home.

Join Joseph as he fights with all his power to get his “sweet Sarah” back.  Cheer for him as he takes on shifty business men, and even an outlaw.  Cry with him as he grieves over the loss of his family.  Laugh with Ah-Kee when Joseph takes on a bear (you’ll see).  Allow Joseph and Ah-Kee to inspire you, as they display loyalty, compassion, and yes, courage.  I nod my head in agreement to Joseph’s words, “Mama said that if someone’s putting ugliness into the world, you can’t be ugly back; you gotta put a little bit of sunshine into the world to even things out.”  Amen, Joseph.  Amen.

Take it from someone who is not normally a fan of historical westerns.  I absolutely loved Some Kind of Courage.  The characters, the setting, the plot, and the themes resound with everyone; no matter one’s age, culture, race, or gender.  So, saddle up your horse, gallop to your local library or bookstore, and pick up a copy of this enchanting novel.  No worries, you can always go home again.

The Love Killings-Content

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I know some readers are a little more sensitive than others, so I felt it important to mention some scenes in this novel that are quite unsettling.  I imagine the mention of serial killings in my last review is telling that this novel will feature violence.  Myself, I prefer suspense thrillers with minimal violence, and minimal graphic detail.  I find these are just as scary as more graphic thrillers, if not more so, because our own imaginations can come up with something far more horrific than what’s on the printed page.  That being said, I enjoyed this novel immensely, but it was more graphic than what I prefer.  The actual violence is no worse than what you would see in a PG13 film, but the aftermath pushes it into an R rating.  Just a warning to more sensitive readers, the crime scenes are graphic.  Forced incestual relations, and mass murder are shown in the aftermath.  These murders are not acted out on the page.  Two characters, a mother and (adult) son, are shown to have an incestual relationship.  It is hinted that this has not always been consensual, and that the mother no doubt molested him when he was a young teenager.  There aren’t any graphic scenes of this relationship, and the scenes that are shown fade to black.

Another downside, not upsetting, just disappointing, it that the females presented are rather one dimensional, and all three of them turn out to be antagonists.  Perhaps if Ellis had written a female “good guy”, it wouldn’t have been so noticeable.  I have only read the Matt Jones series, but I am aware he has written books with female protagonists.  I will have to read these to compare.  Perhaps he normally writes female characters quite well, especially when they are heavily featured, as the women written in The Love Killings were not.

As I mentioned before, I consider myself quite sensitive to graphic violence, so you, dear reader, may do just fine.  For those who are still unsure after reading this post, you may want to tread carefully while reading this novel.  For those of you who think that this novel sounds tame in comparison to other books you have read, I say go for it!  As far as the minor annoyance about the female characters, ladies (and gentleman), don’t let it discourage you from reading this book.  I’m glad I didn’t.

The Love Killings Book Review

Firstly, I would like to thank the bloggers who liked my last post, and those of you who are following my blog.  It means a lot to this rookie blogger, and motivates me to continue in my blogging endeavor.  You are always welcome to leave your thoughts in comments section as well.  Thanks again, and happy blogging!

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The Love Killings – By Robert Ellis

Book Review – By Laura the Book Enthusiast

A detective sits on his back deck, watching the wildfire consume the hills surrounding his neighborhood.  The burning flames match the burning pain of his healing bullet wounds.  One wound was not healing; a wound much deeper than the holes in his body.  There was only one way to heal that wound, he must kill his father.  Not to worry, this isn’t a spoiler, for all this information is found on the very first page of Robert Ellis’, The Love Killings. 

The Love Killings is a sequel to Ellis’ first novel, City of Echoes.  While the sequel can be read on its own without confusion, it broaches into plot points found in the first novel, allowing us more insight into the protagonist, and his motivations.  Detective Matt Jones is an intriguing character, layered, and relatable.  One does not have to be a detective to understand Jones’ thought processes.  While Jones has seen a lot of violence in his work, the emotional turmoil he experiences due to his current case, gives us a glimpse of what our men and women in law enforcement undergo on a regular basis.  Throw in the creativity of a writer, and the story becomes a roller coaster of thrilling suspense.

Just weeks after recovering from bullet wounds, Detective Matt Jones is hired by the FBI to work as a US Marshal on a new serial killer case.  While the serials may be new, the killer is not.  The suspect is Doctor George Baylor, a serial killer that Jones has had close contact with (Doctor Baylor is featured in City of Echoes).  It seems Baylor’s MO has changed into an even more disturbing pattern.  It’s up to Detective Jones to apprehend Baylor, and bring him to justice.  What Matt doesn’t know is he’s more closely linked to Baylor than he realizes.  With crooked FBI agents on his tail, and a gossip reporter digging into his past, Jones isn’t as alone as he thinks.  It doesn’t take long for the detective to suspect that Baylor is not the Love Killer.  What Matt Jones doesn’t know is that he has a fan, a dangerous one; and that fan is the key to the Love Killings.

The Love Killings kept me in anticipation the entire time. The novel reminded me a bit of The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris.  In fact, Baylor reminded me somewhat of Doctor Hannibal Lector.  That is probably why Baylor is my favorite character, as I love layered villains.  Matt is a great Clarice to Baylor’s Lector.  The two characters are opposite sides of the same coin, which makes their scenes fun to read.  This quote from the doctor sums up their relationship well:

“Isn’t it remarkable that the two of us can coexist in the same world, Matthew?  That we coexist and thrive in our own professions?”

You can probably guess Matt’s reaction to this twisted statement, but I will leave that for you to discover.

How are Baylor and Jones connected?  Who is really responsible for the love killings?  Does Matt Jones go through with killing his father?  Read, The Love Killings to find the answer.  You will just love it to death.  Too dark a pun?

Stay tuned for a short post on some personal thoughts regarding this novel.

 

Heartless By: Marissa Meyers

Heartless By: Marissa Meyer

Book Review By: Laura the Book Enthusiast

Why is a raven like a writing desk?  The answer can be found not only in Lewis Carroll’s, Alice in Wonderland, but in Marissa Meyer’s, Heartless.

Cath is the daughter of nobles, who long for their daughter to marry the King of Hearts; Catherine, however, has other ideas.  Cath dreams of owning her own bakery with her maid and dear friend, Maryanne.  She is even willing to use her own dowry for her aspirations.  Cath’s fears of never achieving her dream are only heightened as her parents continue to push her toward marriage with the king. One night at the king’s ball, she met the court jester, an event which, unbeknownst to her, would trigger a series of events that would seal her fate.  One would never think pumpkins would cause so much trouble, but as this is a spoiler free review, I will refrain from mentioning the role they play in the plot of Meyer’s novel.  Allow me to just say, after reading Heartless, you will never look at pumpkins the same way again.

When I opened to the first chapter of Heartless, I was pleased to see Meyer placed us right in the middle of our protagonist’s heart, the kitchen.  Yes, Cath was baking.  There is an air of excitement on these pages, one that continues throughout the novel.  It’s hard to imagine that the Queen of Hearts once had stars in her eyes; a girl who once believed in “six impossible things before breakfast”.  I found myself rooting for her, and wanting her to succeed.  She was not to have her fate be that of a heartless queen obsessed with beheadings, no!  I could imagine her living happily ever after with the man she loves, and working with her best friend in their very own bakery.  Alas, fate can be cruel.  Hope can be a dreadful thing if one already knows the outcome, and Meyer does a wonderful job inspiring hope in a hopeless situation.  This idea is well illustrated with a profound statement made by, of all characters, the Cheshire Cat.  “But, hoping, is how the impossible can be possible after all.”  Words of wisdom from a feline.

The characterizations are unique, fun, and somewhat stereotypical.  Don’t get me wrong, personality stereotypes are hallmark to storytelling, because it enables us to categorize characters, and pinpoint who is who in the plot.  In Heartless, we have the dreamer, the brain, the fool, the trickster, the brooder, the eccentric, and the list goes on and on.  Points for those who can identify who is who in this narrative.  With so many interesting characters, it’s hard to choose my favorite.  If I had to choose one, I would have to say, Jest.  There is more to his character that meets the eye.  We, the readers, get to see what’s beneath the jester hat.  The hat is quite symbolic, at least to me.  The hat holds many secrets, and so does Jest.

I recommend this novel to anyone who loves fairytales, or a different vision of an old fairytale, watching a villain’s journey from good to evil, or someone who simply wants to escape the real world and enter Wonderland.  Or perhaps you would like to know why the Queen of Hearts hates white roses, who the White Rabbit’s maid is, or why the hatter went mad.  Do yourself a favor, and pick up a copy of Heartless at your local library or bookstore. You will just lose your head.

 

I may be writing a spoiler infused review of Heartless below this post. I will be sure to warn off anyone who has not read the novel, and does not wish to be spoiled.  Thanks to everyone who reads and follows my blog.  This means a lot for a newbie!

 

 

 

The Shallows Film Review

 

The Shallows

Directed By Jaume Collet-Serra

Starring Blake Lively

Movie Review By Laura the Book Enthusiast

This film was so good, I needed to write at least a blurb about it.  You could say this is just a reimagining of the Jaws world, but it is so much more than that.  The Shallows is about a young woman by the name of Nancy.  She had gone to medical school, but didn’t complete her degree before she ran away.  Her reasons for escaping to Mexico are revealed, and it isn’t much of a spoiler, but I will leave it for you to discover.  She travels to a secluded beach, which has a secret name that even the locals won’t reveal.  She begins to surf the killer waves, not realizing something is lurking more dangerous than the waves.  Nancy finds herself stranded in the ocean alone, with a homicidal shark; Steven the Seagull her only companion.  Injured and losing blood, she must find a way to survive.  She vows to fight for her life, not only for herself, but the ones she holds dear.

The Shallows features a strong female character, whose actress rivals Tom Hanks’ performance in Cast Away.  Cast Away is an amazing film, and I am not suggesting Tom Hanks isn’t equally amazing, but Blake Lively shows potential to match his talent if nourished.  The Shallows is very intense, and does not leave you much time to cry with the protagonist like we did for Chuck of Cast Away, but we find ourselves rooting for her to make it.  We feel her fears, her pain, her guilt, and her hopelessness.  This woman is alone in a vast ocean, and she must rely entirely on her wits and will to live.

The character is not only smart, but she is vulnerable.  She portrays a realistic woman, a person with good qualities and flaws as well.  I love good characterizations in both films and novels, in fact, I think characters can make or break a story.  The character of Nancy makes hers.  I highly recommend this film.  The movie itself is only an hour and a half, so its short, but effective.  The Shallows could be described as a thriller, but at its heart, it’s about the strength of the human will.  This is a must see, unless you have a fear of sharks that is.  So, come on in, the water is fine.  Cue Jaws theme, now.