Thursday, December 31, 2020

Elsewhere by Dean Koontz – Book Review



They have a key to open doors that no one else can see. It's the “Key to Everything”


As is now almost expected from a story by Dean Koontz, a best-selling master of suspense, this is a novel of wonder; this is a novel of terror!


Synopsis


Jeffy Coltrane lives a quiet life in Suavidad Beach, CA where he works at maintaining a normal life for himself and his 11-year-old daughter Amity since his wife, Michelle, left seven years ago.  Life is simple for the pair of them. Jeffy is a dreamer who wishes he had lived in the era of the 1930s when Big Bands like Benny Goodman performed. Or in worlds that never were and never can be. He admits he's all about Big Bands and Hobbits. Amity shares his love of Science Fiction and Fantasy. They share a small house and a simple life where Amity is home-schooled and Jeffy repairs and restores Bakelite radios and collects and sells vintage posters and other Art-Deco articles from past times. 


Then, a local eccentric they call 'Spooky Ed” shows up on their doorstep.  Ed insists that Jeffy hide a strange and dangerous object that “he must never use”


The next morning, a group of ominous men visit and search their house. Jeffy & Amity have hidden the 'object' from the subsequent search these supposedly government agents make. Later, they accidentally activate the object Ed had called “the key to everything”, where they discover an extraordinary truth. The device allows them to jump between parallel planes both familiar and bizarre, wondrous and terrifying.  And they wonder if the key could help them find Michelle. 


But Jeffy and Amity soon find that others are interested in the device, including a man determined to use the key's grand potential for profound evil. Unless Amity and Jeffy can outwit him, the place they call home may never be safe again. 


Author Dean Koontz


*Image of Dean Koontz - "424471817_e337d8f8ec_o"  by  jeremyvaught  is licensed under  CC BY-NC 2.0 


Dean Koontz has written more than 100 books, 14 of which have hit the top spot on the New York Times Best Seller list. He has sold over 500 million copies. He lives in Southern California with his wife, Gerda, and their current Golden Retriever, Elsa. Koontz has a deep love for Goldens and has included them in several stories.


Summary


ELSEWHERE by Dean Koontz

Elsewhere is suspenseful, sometimes terrifying, often humorous and a delightful read consistent with what readers and fans expect from Dean Koontz. 


Book Review of ELSEWHERE by Dean Koontz written by (c) Wednesday Elf






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Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Charleston South Carolina Historic Vacation Reviewed

South Carolina Folley Beach Pier
South Carolina Folly Beach Pier

 If you're planning a vacation in the new year and you love history, or maybe you just like to relax on you're vacation, consider Charleston South Carolina.

We’re lucky enough to have family living in Charleston. If we didn’t have family living there I don’t know if we would have ever have considered taking a vacation there. What a mistake that would be, as we’ve traveled there many times to visit and every time there is something new to see and do.

As you know this is where the Civil War started, when confederate soldiers fired on Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor, which was occupied by Union forces. This was known as the first shot fired in the Civil War. Okay, enough history; you can read this anywhere online. What I want to tell you are some of the fun things that we like to do when we visit Charleston.

Folley Beach

Folly Beach is on James Island, we always make it a point to visit this beach in the morning. We walked to the beach and collected some beautiful seashells. We’ll later use these seashells to do some crafts with our grandchildren.

The beach is so very peaceful in the morning, and if you can get there early enough to see the sunrise it’s a beautiful sight. Although we didn’t do this every day, come on, I’m on vacation right. If you miss the sunrise, the sunsets on Folly Beach are epic.

Charleston the downtown market

Baskets in the maket place

Take a day to visit the huge outside market in downtown Charleston, we like walking through and stopping to see the many vendors and their wares. You’ll find everything here from fine art to the smallest trinket to take home as a keepsake. There are some very talented people, who hand weave these baskets. Well, it’s hard to see the people in this photo, but I really wanted you to see the baskets.

As you walk through, you’ll see people throughout the market crafting and weaving their baskets. We have purchased several; after all, you can never have enough baskets, right? Some of them are a bit pricey, but most time the vendors a willing to make a deal.

Carriage Tours

Once you're downtown take some time to check out the carriage ride guided tours of the city. These tours have so many different routes around the city, and you can take a different one every time. It’s a beautiful ride through the streets of Old Charleston, the tour guides are well versed in the history of the city, and the horses are very friendly too. If you’re going to visit Charleston, put this on your things-to-do list, you won’t be sorry.

 This is the tour that we have taken a couple of times. The Palmetto Carriage Tour is an hour-long carriage ride through the city. I love the history on these tours, I learn something new every time.

Plantation
Walk around the city just to enjoy the beauty and architecture. Soak in the history of Old Charleston. 

Walking along the Battery off in the distance, you can see Fort Sumter. Very often you can see dolphins jumping around the shoreline.

As I walk through the streets of this historic city. I can’t help but think of all the generations that have lived in these homes. Homes that have been here for hundreds of years, the history just pours out of them. After the war, Charleston didn’t have a lot of money to rebuild so they restored and restored, keeping the old buildings for us to enjoy.

This is my favorite thing to do as I see something new every time we take a walk around the city. These are some of the things we like to do when we visit Charleston. There is so much more to enjoy here, with so many wonderful restaurants and parks to visit.

Charleston Where History Lives

Find more Travel Reviews here: ReviewThisTravel.com

Charleston! Charleston!: The History of a Southern CityCharleston! Charleston!: The History of a Southern City

 




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Tuesday, December 29, 2020

6 Ways To Help Wildlife In The Year Ahead

 

Butterfly On Wild Flowers By Raintree Annie

If one of the things you would like to do in the New Year is to do more to help our precious and often at-risk wildlife here are six easy ideas reviewed.

Even if we do just one of these we will be helping wildlife and nature. Do all six and your garden could be transformed into a wildlife haven in less than a year! 

In our gardens, balconies and patios we can all do one thing for wildlife and make such a huge difference. Some of these ideas are very easy indeed while others require a little more thought and time but all are fun and not difficult for most people to achieve. You may well find children enjoy being involved in many of these activities as well.

 

1. What To Do With The Old Christmas Tree 

I hope you had a lovely time at Christmas and an attractive, decorated Christmas tree.

We will keep ours up in the house for a little while longer but now is the time to think about what to do with it once the time comes to take it down.

I find it quite depressing to see all the Christmas trees outside people's houses ready to be taken away by the refuse collectors, of no more use to the neighbourhood. 

I do not like waste and feel there is a better way to recycle our old Christmas trees long after they have given us so much happiness. 

Making a woodpile with the chopped branches, creating a stumpery, shredding it and using the shreddings for mulch or even just laying it down in an undisturbed area of the garden for habitat and shelter all help our gardens and our wildlife.

What Do You Do With The Old Christmas Tree discusses more uses for our old Christmas trees.  

 

2. Don't Be So Tidy in The Garden! 

This may be an easy one to follow! However, I understand many of us like to have a neat and tidy garden, all edges carefully trimmed, leaves gathered up and all weeds eradicated. There is something very pleasing about a neat and tidy garden. However for nature, for wildlife they need us to be a little messier in our gardens.

Wildlife view our gardens as s source of food, warmth, shelter and breeding sites so they look for leaves, woodpiles, shrubs, water and long grass to name a few. 

There is a way to have a mainly neat and tidy garden and to help wildlife though. Messy does not have to mean ugly.

A small log pile can be made attractive to us and useful for wildlife, leaves left in borders or in a small pile out of the way are an invaluable source of shelter and food and just leaving things a little less manicured can be a boon to nature generally. 

We can easily designate a small area of the garden where we allow it to be a little wilder. In fact, I think a garden that aims to attract wildlife is especially beautiful and full of sound and sights and life. 


Diary Of a Wild Country Garden. Are we Too Tidy In Our Gardens? Raiintree Annie 


If you decide to do this you will reap the benefits in terms of seeing more birds, butterflies and bugs and attracting more insect and bird predators to your garden to help you with the pests and diseases all gardens have to deal with. For more ideas please see Are We Too Tidy In Our Gardens? 


3. Provide Water For The Birds 

Perhaps the most important thing we can do for birds is to provide water. Birds need water to drink and clean their feathers. This is vital for their health and wellbeing.

It is also something that fewer homes provide. Many people think about feeding the birds but less think about the need for water and bathing. Do You Have A Bird Bath In Your Garden? discusses this further with tips to help our beautiful birds. 

As long as the water is clean and fresh and ideally we need to change it every day or every few days, it does not matter too much what the container is. 

However, many of us choose to have a lovely looking birdbath or a cute novelty birdbath to make our gardens look gorgeous while assisting the birds. You can find beautiful examples here Reviewing Basalt Birdbaths 

In addition to beautiful birdbaths, I  also use plastic saucers on the ground on our patio to help the smaller birds like these gorgeous sparrows in my garden. I know other wildlife like hedgehogs and squirrels visit the water as well. 

 

Sparrows Bathing by Raintree Annie

One of the main pleasures to us of having a birdbath is to watch and photograph the gorgeous, beautiful, fascinating birds every day from the comfort of our own home.

I like a variety of birdbaths around the garden and so we have several beautiful birdbaths and these ordinary saucers placed around the garden so that the birds do not have to compete for water and bathing rights! 



4.Leave An Area Of Long Grass 

This is an easy one to fulfill if you have a garden with a lawn. Simply designate one area of the lawn and do not mow it all. 

Rather than taking action to help wildlife, this one is all about inaction! Do nothing and wait and see what happens to that small patch of long grass.

It will be interesting to see if you grow any wildflowers or clover. See how liberating it can be to grow daisies and dandelions and how insects love them! Watch out to see if your long grass attracts bees, butterflies or hoverflies. 

It's easy, free and a very simple way to help wildlife especially insects. It does not need to be a big area, just what you feel you can allow to grow a little wild.  

If you do want to take it a step further and grow some wildflower seeds, you will need to take up some of your grass as grass will generally out-compete the wildflower seeds. 

Simply strip the grass away, rake the soil into fine tilth, sow the seeds according to the seed packet and wait for them to grow. The only work you will need to do then is to cut back the wildflowers in autumn.


5. Grow A Window Box For Wildlife

We do not all have big gardens and lawns and may wonder what can we do to help wildlife when we live in a flat or apartment or a house with a hard landscaped yard.

However, if we have a balcony, room for a hanging basket, a window box or a small patio area for pots we can undoubtedly attract and help wildlife. For more ideas on how to attract wildlife in a smaller space, please see Can You Attract Wildlife If You Only Have A Patio Garden Or Window Box

It is amazing how butterflies, bees, lacewings, hoverflies and ladybugs will find their way to your window box given the right flowers and conditions. 

 Depending on where you live you may need to protect the container in winter. If you are gardening on a balcony, always bear in mind the weight of any containers when filled with soil and plants does not exceed what the structure can take. 

A simple container is all we need. You can fill your window box with flowers both perennial and annual or decide to grow vegetables, it is up to you. 

Some flowers are better for wildlife than others, but really as long as the plants have some flowers the insects and bees will find them. 

Flowers I have found successful in window boxes and hanging baskets and troughs include bright cheerful Marigolds along with Nasturtiums and evergreen Ivy for trailing. Verbena, Fuchsia in a bigger pot and Heather are lovely. 

You do need to give Heather acid or ericaceous soil so it will need to be mixed with other acid-tolerant flowers. I also like to put in a few dwarf yellow daffodil bulbs to cheer up the containers.

If you like you can grow wildflowers in a pot and I have done this for several years. You do just need to make sure that the soil is very poor as wildflowers, in general, need poor soil. I use old compost and lots of grit in my wildflower containers. Bees and all manner of insects adore these wildflower pots! 

I love to grow herbs such as Rosemary and Lavender and Chives do well also in containers. I would give most herbs a try in pots. Good for us to eat and great for wildlife. Bees seem to always love my Chives!



Your container can easily look good for you and be good for wildlife. You will want some evergreens like Rosemary or Heather there and other summer flowering perennial and annual flowers for interest and nectar for as long as possible.

For ideas on making a healthy balcony garden please see Totally Natural Healthy Ways to Increase Your Garden's Growth - A Garden Review


 


6.Give Nature A Home 

One lovely way to attract and help wildlife is to give them a home to live in and raise young. Whether it is a Bird Box, a Bee House, Insect House or a home for hedgehogs it is possible for everyone with any outdoor space, however small to contribute. Here is an idea for a lovely Birdhouse For Eastern Bluebirds 

Over the years many habitats that our birds and insects require to live and breed have been lost. Houses are built without space for birds to nest, grass that is artificial is useless for wildlife and there are fewer places left for bees and bugs to live, hibernate and breed. 

However, if we all do a little we can help to reverse this and give our valuable wildlife a home. 


 


If you love nature and know adults and children who would like to do more for wildlife you may wish to buy nature-related gifts for Birthdays, housewarmings and special events this coming year. For ideas please see Wildlife Gift Ideas Reviewed






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Monday, December 28, 2020

Book Review: Craving London by Jessica Stone

When I read Jessica's introduction I immediately thought of the infamous "You Had Me At Hello..." scene in Jerry Maguire. Why? And how does Tom Cruise and Rene Zellweger relate to this book? Because my immediate thought after reading the introduction to Craving London was "You Had Me At the Introduction..."

What a great way to begin the journey into Jessica Stone's Craving London! A delightful romantic memoir of Jessica moving from New York to London with no predefined plan and the intertwining of discovering London through its' food, culture and of course romance. 

This book is a memoir of the journey of love, life and alot of laughs in a new country. Easy to summarize in a sentence, but not so easy to navigate as reality.  Admire her guts and tenacity navigating London without a safety net and then add her Cuban heritage and a dash of Paris for a full menu of diverse stories and recipes all can enjoy.

Foodies And The Recipes

Craving London is not a cookbook. But with delight for all foodies are recipes sprinkled throughout the book cohesively interwoven with Jessica's love affair with London. 

I love old school tried and true recipes. Each recipe has a backstory which are part of the charm; however, even more charming is that the recipes are for cooks. Not chefs, not fancy ingredients one cannot find or afford, but recipes across the food spectrum you will immediately say, "I can make that." Or more importantly, "I can't wait to make that!" Which brings us to my favorite chapter title...

Who Moved My Grilled Cheese?

This is a chapter after my own love affair with grilled cheese sandwiches. It's rare for me to meet a grilled cheese sandwich I do not like. While Jessica trained in patisserie at Le Cordon Bleu,  I appreciate her sharing the recipes throughout her London travels and trust me, this is a grilled cheese recipe you will want to try. 

The Ending?

Does Jessica find love? Is there a happy ending? Of course I cannot spoil the journey, but just as authentic is Jessica's life journey, the ending of this book is just as authentic.

Recommendation

I highly recommend Craving London. If you are a fan of memoirs with a sense of humor, recipes with a sense of purpose and navigating the twists and turns of romance then this is a book for you. If you have ever thought, dreamed, considered or are on the fence about changing up your life without knowing exactly where you will land enjoy the trials and tribulations of Jessica's journey from the comfort of your home - laugh, live, love vicariously through her journey while you are considering your own.

I received this book from the Publisher in exchange for an unbiased review.





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Sunday, December 27, 2020

What is Faith? As Seen Through a Personal Life Journey

What is Faith? As Seen Through a Life Review

Challenges, endless challenges, or so it seems. Then without warning, there it is, light.

This article isn't meant to be preachy. My life is as imperfect as everyone else's. What's different now is the feeling that my soul is on track, on the right road to home. It doesn't mean life is always easy, although I'll take that if it happens, only that living in the light helps to make sense of it all. I actually wrote a video poem about that very thing; Living in Light.

My family's challenges and what I've had to witness as a mother, wife, daughter, and friend should have broken me. When I reflect back, I see clearly, that instead, it made me. 

Each of us has our own bridge to peace, to inner calm. What I've learned along the way is that faith means many things throughout life.

FAITH - The Long Road Home - What is Faith? 

  • Faith is the belief that, in the end, everything WILL be ok: I believe that to the core of my being, I know this to be the absolute truth as sure as I breathe.
  • Faith is losing it all and having to start over again, and you do.
  • Faith is holding on when your heart has been torn to shreds, and you realize, even with that terrible pain, you've kept the most sacred thing you have safe in your heart. Love. You still love, you still can love. That horrible pain didn't steal anything from you - you discovered it couldn't.
  • Faith is being able to let go and forgive when you've been betrayed and disrespected. You're still able to look beyond your own pain and assess the situation from the other person's perspective and flaws. You don't forgive for brownie-points; you do so because it's the only road to peace for all parties concerned. You hold on to the faith that the person who hurt you will grow, for their own betterment, not for yours. Whether they do or not, you love them anyway.
  • Faith is a thousand prayers you've repeated in your heart and mind for your children. You watch them grow, and your heart fills with incredible worry for them until faith steps in to remind you that 'in the end, everything WILL be ok.'
  • Faith is watching someone you love step back from the edge of addiction, and save themselves. The hardest thing in the world is bearing witness to something you have no control over. Along with a shoulder and helping hand, the only thing you ultimately can have is faith.
  • Faith is watching your child drive away into their future endeavors. Your heart goes with them, and faith keeps you strong.
  • Faith is working your way through a life long disease and still believing that 'everything will be ok.'
  • Faith is when your children, even as adults, deal with sickness, and you still find faith, even through helplessness and tears.
  • Faith is watching your friends battle cancer. Knowing you can't take away their pain, you pray, and you keep the faith for them.
  • Faith is creating something, never knowing if anything will come of it, but you do it anyway.
  • Faith is seeing your father's face in the casket and knowing, within the depths of your being, that he isn't in there. That his body was truly a temporary home. That he is standing beside you as you cry. That he hasn't left. Faith is the gift of total understanding that we live on. My father sealed that faith. I was raised with the belief in an afterlife and always had that belief. However, when I saw my dad's face in his casket, it was as though a bright light of knowledge filled my heart. I knew for certain that he was still here, that his body was just that, a body. His soul was still very much alive. I felt it. I still feel it.
  • Faith is holding on so tight to your mother as she ages and lives without your dad. Your heart belongs to her in a way that nobody can truly understand. It's personal between you and her, and you love her so much that the only thing that erases worry is prayer and faith. I wrote this for mom a long time ago, and it's still how I feel.
  • Faith is losing your parents' wedding rings that were gifted to you and praying so hard for their return: Then five months later, you're in your mother's room changing her bedsheets, asking that when you go back into your own room to "please let me find those rings." You know they can't possibly be there because you and your brother lifted that mattress right up and off the bed months ago, and nothing was there. Plus, you searched your room for months only to conclude that there is no way on God's green earth they can be there. However, because of faith, you prayed again the day you were changing those sheets. You didn't expect to find the rings, but you prayed anyway. When you got to your room, you peeked under one side of the bed's mattress, laughed to yourself, and nope, they weren't there. You were about to leave the room, and something compelled you to lift the mattress again on the other side of the bed. You were expecting nothing, but a miracle was delivered, and yes, both those rings were laying neatly just under the top mattress, one slightly overlapping the other!! You gasped! Almost fainted! You were gifted another powerful moment to keep in your heart for life. This is a moment in my life I'll never ever forget. I'm still shocked by it!
Every time I begin to lose faith, I remember my parent's rings miraculously showing up under my mattress. I didn't expect that prayer to be answered in such a magical way. What an amazing gift that was. Finding those rings is my 'Faith-Reminder.' Every single time I begin to stress or worry about something - my parent's rings appear to me. As the lyrics in the beautiful song below say, "you will find your way if you keep believing, I've seen miracles just happen, silent prayers get answered, broken hearts become brand new - that's what faith can do." If you're viewing via mobile, the video is here.


I've learned that faith is something that needs to be nurtured; to feed our soul, just as we feed our body. 

For 2021 I'm holding onto faith that humanity will find its way back into balance; body, mind, and spirit. If all of humanity is too big of a goal, I hope my friends and family can find or maintain that balance. 

"We Will Have Morning Smiles" - 50 Years of Poetry by Me - Available on Amazon.





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Saturday, December 26, 2020

Reviewing A Splendid Ruin by Megan Chance

 If you embrace the saying, revenge is a dish best served cold then you will love this historical novel by Megan Chance.

A Recommended Read

Although this author has many titles to her name this is the first novel of hers I have read and I loved it.   The novel is divided into 3 parts.   The first part introduces us to May Kimble who has been living in Brooklyn, New York until after her mother's death.   She receives a letter from her mother's sister of whom she had no idea even existed and is welcomed into the arms of her newfound family in San Francisco in 1904.

She has lots of questions, but receives no answers to them and is unfortunately too naive to realise that she is being manipulated.   She suspects things are amiss, but doesn't act on her instincts or her laudanum addled aunt's ravings at her to go home.

Part one culminates in the death of her aunt and the ultimate betrayal from her family and May realises just how she's been played.

Part two is terrifying as May learns how to survive in a place that her mother hadn't even thought to prepare her for.   She learns her lessons quickly and uses her knowledge to improve her conditions while thinking of her revenge.   Why do I call it terrifying?  It's certainly not a scary, horror book, but it's terrifying as to how easy it was in 1904 for this to happen and it's something that I have read about in other historical books and novels alike.

Part Three is called Retribution and begins on April 18th, 1906.  For any American history buffs out there you may recall that this is the date of the great San Francisco earthquake.   The earthquake gives May a chance to escape where she was and she takes advantage of that.

May proves to be very resourceful and brave.  You really see how she has grown since arriving in California.   She plots her revenge and also falls in love (well, I believe the seeds for falling in love were planted in part one, but now she is ready).

The ultimate revenge doesn't come in the way that May and her paramour planned, but was the perfect moment and absolutely embodied the saying, revenge is a dish best served cold.

I really enjoyed this historical novel and a little glimpse into San Francisco's turn of the century society and also how the earthquake was dealt with by the people on the ground - the author portrayed the confusion that would have been about really well.

I recommend this read for anyone that enjoys historical fiction with a strong heroine (although she was frustratingly naive in the first part, she certainly grew into a strong heroine).  I will certainly be reading other books from this author.

This book was available as part of Amazon Prime - I love Amazon Prime as not only does it have Kindle books, it has a number of television series that I enjoy on it and also gives me free shipping when I purchase anything - find out more about it here.

It is also available as part of Kindle Unlimited which is great if you enjoy reading, I started with a free trial and am now in my second month of it.   Definitely worth the free trial, especially over these holidays when there aren't as many get together as usual - more time for reading!




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Friday, December 25, 2020

Merry Christmas!

Christmas is such a beautiful day of the year regardless of the weather! For a brief moment in time, we cease normal daily activities and concentrate on love, family, and friends.  We focus on the meaning of Christmas.

Many of us are blessed to spend Christmas with the people we love the most.  When our loved ones can't be with us, we call them, Zoom or Skype with them so we can still share that day with them.  We stay connected with them while we open gifts, sing Christmas carols together, or even eat our separate meals together.  

We also reflect on memories of Christmas's past and the loved ones who are no longer with us.  The memory of them is a tremendous treasure even when our hearts are still breaking.  This reality, perhaps more than any other, prompts us to embrace the loved ones still here with us, hold on a little tighter, and remember to say "I love you!"  

Christmas is also a time for forgiveness and reconciliation.  After all, the real reason for Christmas is the celebration of the gift of redemption and salvation. 

"And the angel said to them, 'Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of the great joy which shall be for all the people: for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord'."  Luke 2:10-11  


On this Christmas day, may you and your family be blessed and your hearts touched by the Creator who loves you with a love that surpasses all understanding.

 

We Wish You All A 

Very Merry Christmas! 

 

 

 




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Thursday, December 24, 2020

Review of Christmas Season 2020


 Christmas 2020 will soon be "Christmas past" and it certainly has been one for the books.  We will remember it as the year of the pandemic, the year without large family gatherings, the year of wearing masks, the year without Christmas parties, and the year of live stream church services.  And yet....it has not been a year without joy for me.  I may have had to look a bit to find it in other activities but as this Christmas season draws to a close I find  that I feel peace even in these crazy times.

Photographing our Decorations

I thoroughly enjoy my photography hobby and this year has given me a lot of time to take classes on photography and Photoshop.  I used some of my new found skills to photograph our holiday decorations.  Here are a few of my favorites. The first two are our tree and the outside of the house.  On both of them I used some new filters I learned how to use on a Photoshop online class.



The next two photos were made for a photography challenge on a group that gives us a weekly theme and we come up with creative ideas.  The theme for this week was "bubble wrap".



Watching Christmas Movies New and Old

I have enjoyed watching movies I have not watched for sometime and also I've found a few new Christmas movies to enjoy.  Last week fellow reviewer Sam Monaco wrote a review on Bing Crosby and White Christmas and it inspired me to rewatch that classic Christmas movie.  Here is a link to Sam's review. Bing Crosby

I also watched a movie that was new to me, although it came out in 2013.  It is called The Christmas Candle and has a delightful story of a minister who comes to a church in a small English village.  

The True Meaning of Christmas


The photo above depicts one of our Christmas decorations.  It is one of my favorites.  It is a cross that holds within it the scenes from the first Christmas.  As in every Christmas it is important to keep our hearts on the seasons true meaning.  

Luke 2:11

“For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.”

King James Version (KJV)

May you and your family experience Peace and Joy during this Christmas and throughout the coming year! 



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Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Hope for a New Year, Sunflowers Plant of the Year for 2021 A Garden Review

Everyone I know has had enough of 2020, so even though Christmas is still a day or two away, it's time to look forward! 

There seems to be many authorities on Plant of the Year for 2021 and I know we all need something to look forward to, so I'm going with the authorities at the Winnipeg Free Press!  They (and I agree with them) have dubbed 2021 the Year of the Sunflower!


There is so much about sunflowers that I just love and I'm going to fill you in on just a few of them.

  1. They are easy to grow from seeds.
  2. They will grow without any help from you.  No fertilizers, no need to baby them!
  3. By summertime, you will have a beautiful stalk of bright yellow flowers (or some other cultivar).
  4. They are beautiful cut flowers that last a long time.
  5. The bees will love you!  as well as butterflies, ladybugs, dragonflies, and other insects that all feed on the nectars they produce.
  6. The flowers are interesting not only for their colors (and there are many) but also for the seeds they are producing.
  7. If you are into "mathematics", they love working the Fibonacci Sequencing with the seed heads as they are revealed in growth patterns in nature.
  8. The seed heads are food for birds, squirrels, chipmunks, field mice and more.
  9. You can bake the seeds for human consumption too!  But you can also eat them raw.
  10. You can have a variety of sunflowers growing together.  They will delight you in so many ways.
So when you think of sunflowers are you just thinking of the big yellow multi petalled flower?  There are so many more varieties of sunflowers than the traditional yellow.  

Sunflower "Elf" is probably the shortest growing at stems of 16 inches or so in height.  Then there is one called Sunforest Mix which can grow up to 10 feet tall.  The seed heads can measure almost 12 inches across!  As it's name implies, if you plant a bunch of these you will have a "Sunflower Forest" growing.  What could be more beautiful?  The bees, birds and small wildlife will thank you!

Did you know that Sunflowers are also yellow with orange centers, or white?  Some varieties have just a few layers of petals around the seed head, while others are so full of petals that they look fuzzy!  

One thing that they all have in common is that they will surely bring a smile to your face!


Ripening Seed heads! Just one sunflower can produce hundreds of seeds.  That will feed a lot of birds!

            This bird can hardly wait for the seeds to ripen on this seed head and he's helping himself to a delicious snack!

Seed heads are easy to harvest.  Just grab a sharp knife (be careful) and cut the seed head off.  You don't need to remove the seeds from the rest of the flower head, unless you want to.  Turn the heads upside down and suspend them with some string and the birds will come for them.  If you have lots of seed heads, you might want to ration them out a head at a time, so that as winter sets in you still have some heads for the birds.  Sunflower seeds are a great source of food for the birds in the winter months.  They are loaded with oils that birds need for energy during the coldest months of the year.  

If you want to get an idea about how many colors and sizes of Sunflowers there are, here is a link to HGTV's 13 Crazy and Colorful Sunflowers!  

I think I would love to have a few acres that I could plant with sunflowers of all types, can you just imagine the riot of color that would be seen? 

As we lead up to Christmas, I won't fill your minds with too much more than beautiful pictures of the Sunflowers that hopefully will grace your gardens in 2021.  In the language of flowers, sunflowers mean Adoration, Loyalty, and Longevity!  We( all the writers) at Review This Reviews, adore our fans and readers.  We will loyally bring you a variety of reviews that you will enjoy and we want to be with you and have you visit us often.   A very fitting flower for us, for this time of year and the year to come.  


Decorate your life with a little sunshine that lasts and lasts.  Sunflowers are just one of the cheeriest flowers and so charming in their own way!





I can't think of a flower that would make me smile bigger and longer than the sight of a bright yellow or red sunflower!



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Tuesday, December 22, 2020

James Patterson's The Christmas Mystery Book Review and Book List

James Patterson The Christmas Mystery Book Review

Christmas 2020 was not going to be the best Christmas ever and so I went looking for a Christmas-themed book that wasn't romantic in nature or particularly Hallmark in style though don't get me wrong, I enjoy Hallmark Christmas movies. A little bit of romance would have been okay but that should not be central to the story.

I wound up searching for some of my favorite writers, looking to see if they had written any Christmas stories but striving to avoid jumping into the middle of an established series. I found a few when I searched for James Patterson. Five to be exact and here is the list:

THE CHRISTMAS WEDDING


First, there was The Christmas Wedding by Patterson and Richard DiLallo. It was suitably Christmas-y but seemed at first glance to be way too romantic to meet my needs at the moment. I would, however, like to read it some day.

MERRY CHRISTMAS, ALEX CROSS


Second up was Merry Christmas, Alex Cross, which sounds good. However, it is number 19 in a series of 28 books featuring Detective Alex Cross. I have read some of that series and am reminded to go back and read more but picking up number 19 because it was Christmas in theme would have been, at least in my mind, wrong.

THE 19TH CHRISTMAS


Third was the 19th Christmas by Patterson and Maxine Paetro. It is book 19 of a 21 book series featuring the Women's Murder Club. I'd love to read the series sometime so starting with book 19, even if it is a Christmas story, would have been as I said a moment ago, wrong.

THE CANDIES SAVE CHRISTMAS


Fourth and really an outlier was The Candies Save Christmas. It was definitely not what I was looking for though the idea of the book actually made me smile. It sounds like an sweet book though one aimed at a slightly different age group than I represent. "No sugar, no fat. C’mon, take a look! The best Candies ever . . . Candies in a book!" In a children's board book that premise seems somewhat adult but in any case it was not what I was looking for.

THE CHRISTMAS MYSTERY


Finally, I stumbled on The Christmas Mystery: A Detective Luc Moncrief Mystery by Patterson and Richard DiLallo. It turned out to be a part of a series, too, but this time it is the middle of a three story series of short novels or 'bookshots' as Patterson calls them.

Since I was having a bit of a time finding a Christmas-themed book that appealed to me, I decided that a bookshot, which is intended to be devoured in a few hours and supposed to be un-put-downable, was what I was going to read. So I did.

Within the pages of The Christmas Mystery, I was introduced to Detective Luc Moncrief. Moncrief is from France but is solving crime in New York City, which is a bonus for me. I visited New York City last year and loved it. Revisiting the city through a book, a puzzle or a movie is a fun outing of sorts in this time of staying home and staying safe. 

In the first section of this book, Detective Moncrief and his partner hunt for art thieves who have stolen priceless pieces of art on Park Avenue. The second section takes them to France providing yet another chance for the reader to partake in some armchair travel. The cases in this 160-page book are simpler than you would find in a full-fledged crime novel and were solved fairly easily. 

James Patterson Christmas Mystery Book Review List

WOULD I RECOMMEND IT?


The Christmas Mystery was far, far from James Patterson's best work and the reviews on Amazon are lukewarm. It was a simple, easy read with a hint of Christmas, lots of shopping and some humor.  It was not as exciting or as well developed as a full novel but I think that should be expected of a shorter book. The book suited my needs at the moment and I would recommend it for someone looking for exactly that - a simple story that they could breeze through fairly quickly. 

Find your copy of all three of the Detective Luc Moncrief bookshots on Amazon by clicking right here. You will find all three from the series available individually or as a set and yes, they are available in your favorite format be that paperback, Kindle or audiobook.

What Christmas books are you cozying up with this year?

See you at 
the book store!
Brenda
Treasures By Brenda

P.S. The next book I picked up was Miracle on 5th Avenue by Sarah Morgan. It was totally a love story though I did not see that coming. I was hooked by the promise of yet another book set in New York City and missed that the pages were going to be filled with romance. It was good with a lot of humor and lots of tension, including sexual suspense and eventually actual sex between the two main characters. Learn more about Miracle on 5th Avenue on Amazon by clicking here.

More James Patterson Reading:

James Patterson's The Golf Trilogy Reviewed.







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Monday, December 21, 2020

Book Review: Nickel's Luck by S.L. Matthews

Nickel's Luck is the debut novel by S.L. Matthews. I overlooked this book because westerns are not my preferred genre. However, I did eventually download it to my Kindle and devoured the story of Ryder Wheeler, a sailor named Old Joly, a cowboy named Bannack, and the beautiful gulf coast town of Indianola, Texas set in the late 1800s. This is a western slash historical fiction slash coming of age slash story that I hope to someday see as a television mini-series. I enjoyed getting lost in this story.

Book Review: Nickel's Luck by S.L. Matthews on ReviewThisReviews

Ten year old Ryder is an adventurous, charming child who cannot turn down any dare. He has rejected his family name and calls himself Ryder because he claims to be able to ride anything, and has proven this to be true until the day he could not ride the dolphins because the waves drug him out to sea before he could catch up to them. His best friend, Les, calls him "Nickel" because Ryder is lucky; unnervingly lucky at times. Nickel becomes the town's golden child and everyone adores him.

Everyone except his father and an older brother. Oren Wheeler is a drinking, smoking, angry man who produces many children that he isn't very concerned about providing for. He is a fisherman, like many residents of Indianola, but his family often goes hungry. Alastor, an older brother, seems to be following in Oren's footsteps. Ryder literally sleeps with his eyes open due to Alastor's malintent.

Part way into the book, and with tears streaming, I paused to do an internet search to see if Indianola, Texas was an entirely fictional place. Surely, this had to be a figment of the author's creative imagination. I was stunned to find that the town had indeed existed. Indianola was a gulf coast town in the 1800s. A bustling port where business was booming and life revolved around the sea and fishing. People like Old Joly, a sailor, lived life on and next to the water. That way of life is described; the myths, sea monsters, tattoos, fishing, and floods. I felt I was there with my toes in the sand and listening to the waves on the shore. 

Bannack is the type of cowboy I tend to imagine when I think about westerns. The lone, dark stranger and his horse. Complete with hat and jingling spurs, fists and gun. Bannack knows nothing of the sea life or those who live it. Les and Ryder loved dime store novels. Loved is probably not the correct word. They obsessed over dime store novel heros. And Mustang Grey, pony express rider, was their favorite. Les had re-read these books to Ryder repeatedly. They had all of the details of Mustang Grey's life or death ride memorized. Les and Ryder are quickly suspicious that Bannack is Mustang Grey. I am not adept at writing reviews and I am concerned that any more I say about Bannack will create spoilers. So I will stop here. 

Despite his luck, Ryder is in danger many times from age 10 into his adolescent years. Old Joly saves his life immediately and Bannack sets out to save him long term. The residents of Indianola are superstitious and love their lucky golden child. Girls line up, vying for his attention. Ryder's nickname sticks as the residents believe that if you give him a nickel, you can buy some of his luck. Through the book, and through the years of Ryder's life (experiencing abuse, love, trauma, and loss) I began to wonder if he had sold all of his luck.

Nickel's Luck is a wonderful peek into two very different worlds (sailor and cowboy, seaport and ranch). The superstitions and myths believed of those who live on the water was intriguing. The rootin', tootin' and shootin' of the wild, old west was intense. 

I thought I had guessed how the story would end. But I was wrong. While I raced to the ending (quite frankly, to see if anyone would survive) I was sad when I reached the last page. This was a gritty, sometimes violent and heart-breaking novel that kept me turning pages late into the night. 


Related Link:

S.L Matthews is a multi-talented and interesting soul. She is a photographer and living history reenactor. Over the years I have enjoyed her photographs on social media. I completely relate to her statement that her favorite smells are "horse sweat, saddle leather, and campfire smoke. These are prioritized even over the aroma of chocolate." To learn more about her, visit her author page here. 

Author S.L. Matthews

For the purpose of transparency: I had met the author and family once when they lived in my area. Via social media and mutual internet friends, I was aware that the author was in the process of writing and publishing a book. Westerns are not my go-to reading genre (although, I do enjoy Westerns in the movie form) so I had no intention of reading this novel. But between the down time created by the current socially-distant environment and comments by mutual friends who enjoyed reading Nickel's Luck, I decided to give it a try. I feel this is an honest review and I did not receive a copy for review. Over time, I have seen how much the author enjoys all things related to the 18th and 19th centuries; especially the Old West and that love and familiarity clearly shines through in her writing.

*Images used with the permission of the author. 





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Sunday, December 20, 2020

Home Decor Color Inspiration with Pantone's Color Choices for 2021

Check Out & Review Pantone's Color Picks for 2021

Choosing our home decor colors based on Pantone's yearly pick isn't normally the way we select our hues. However, you may be inspired to include shades or versions of their choices based upon the inspirational messages behind why Pantone selected them.

Ultimate Gray & Illuminating Yellow - Welcome to 2021

Most of us know that gray and yellow are lovely for home decor. Including these two colors in your space will add a touch of modern with a touch of yesterday. I like to think of yellow as a bright beacon from years gone by and gray as a way to move forward.

I'm not sure whether Pantone sees it the way I do; however, color triggers something unique in each of us, and this color combination has always reminded me of the old with the new. But hey, I'm not saying yellow is "old"; just that it was a popular color choice in our home decor back in the 1960s and 1970s. 

Did You Know This About Yellow and Gray?

Yellow is the color of intelligence. Yes, that's right. You're not only honoring your family color memories, but you're also enhancing minds. 
"Did you know that yellow is said to be the color of the thinker versus the dreamer"

Gray is known to be the color of compromise as well as intellect. You'll find a great deal of gray in modern home decor pieces and paint. I've personally felt gray on its own was never enough - for me, there needs to be a bright color offset. Pantone's choice of vibrant yellow with gray ties two sides of a coin together. 

Why Pantone Selected Ultimate Gray & Illuminating Yellow for 2021

If you've ever visited the Pantone website, you already know that there is an inspirational purpose behind their annual color picks. They aim to capture the mood of us mere humans and build upon it with hope through color. 

Here's a brief summary by Pantone about their 2021 color picks:

"A message of happiness supported by fortitude, the combination of PANTONE 17-5104 Ultimate Gray + PANTONE 13-0647 Illuminating is aspirational and gives us hope. We need to feel that everything is going to get brighter – this is essential to the human spirit."

Take a minute to read the entire reason for Pantone's pick for 2021. It's always fun and inspirational. Again, their website is here.

Here's a handy tip; the Hex Codes for each color's website references are - Yellow #F8D948, and Gray is #959A9C.

Here Are Some Lovely Home Decor Pieces For You - Featured in Yellows and Grays




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