July’s 2022 Playlist

The last couple of weeks in July, husband and I took a cruise vacation to Costa Maya and Cozumel, Mexico. It was a really nice and relaxing vacation. When we returned, we took a road trip to Silverton, CO, which is 6 hours from where we live. I’ll be sharing photos soon. Right now, let’s check out my playlist.

I’ve been editing a novel for Camp NaNoWriMo for July and am happy to say, I completed it! I was worried I wouldn’t be able to hit my word count because of the vacation and all but I did it. During the editing, I listened to the playlist I made for the novel but I also had Pandora.com on and listened to a lot of Enigma and Sarah Brightman. One song in particular came on and brought back memories of a dance I taught a few students at Catechism some fifteen or twenty years ago. This was the song:

The dance was only about 2 minutes long so the song was cropped just enough to fit. For some reason, I don’t now where that cropped version is. I wouldn’t be able to share it but I wanted to listen to it.

Often I’ll listen to epic compilations as background music and the one below (over an hour and a half long) was really nice. I was editing the sci-fi cyborg novel so the music really didn’t fit but for some reason just having the music low as “white noise” really got me going. I was able to edit over 60K words. My goal was 50K.

If you’re a writer, do you like having music in the background or do you write without any music/noise?

Book Review: Kingdom of the Wicked

Title: Kingdom of the Wicked
Author: Kerri Maniscalco
Genre: YA, Fantasy
Year Published: September 7, 2021

Date finished: July 6, 2022

This book was recommended to me by my daughter. She loved it and thought I should read it because it’s fantasy and there’s romance. The cover was very pretty too.

The story is about a girl named Emilia who is on the hunt for the person who killed her twin sister. Emilia comes from a family of witches and can cast spells, summon demons, and whatnot. She’s got some powerful gifts, but because she’s portrayed as young (even though she’s 18), her personality falls on the very naive side. At times she seems mature, but her decisions always seem non-thought-out, hasty.

Emilia summons a demon to help her find her sister’s killer. However, in her haste, she summons the demon (Wrath) whom she saw at the alter where her sister was slain. She thinks he was the one who killed her sister, but because the spell she used forged the two of them to be stuck together for a time, she holds back. The story continues on the path of Emilia’s quest to find the killer even though she’s aware Wrath could be it. She begins to form an attraction for him, and he to her as well. Later, he gets into an altercation where he is injured pretty badly and leaves earth. Emilia now has fallen hard for him and wants to find him.

I’m not sure what to think exactly about this book. I don’t not like it, but I don’t love it either. I am intrigued enough to read the next book. It’s written very simply so it’s easy to read. The plot is simple as well. It’s sort of murder-mystery with magic, and then there’s the young, innocent romance. The characters don’t feel fully thought out. There is a sense that Emilia wants to go in one direction (to find the murderer of her sister) and yet she’s leaning so far the other direction (her sudden love for Wrath). There is consistency with the storyline. Nothing is too far-fetched into any direction so it makes it safe for the really young readers.

Who should read this book: Those who enjoy young adult fantasy or fantasy with a gothic or dark feel such as Caraval, For the Wolf, and Gideon the Ninth where it feels like it’s always nighttime. However, the writing style is more so for young adults, unlike Gideon the Ninth where the writing is more mature, similar to Dune.

June’s Playlist 2022: Breakup Songs

Photo taken 10 years ago this month after a hail storm.

In June, I was listening to breakup songs to get the mood I want for the current story I’m getting ready to edit for this months’ Camp Nano. In a strangely funny way, I found two iconic songs that were extremely well done but are completely opposite of each other.

The first one is “Driver’s License” by Olivia Rodrigo. This song has a naive innocence that I’m pretty sure every teenage girl or young adult who has had their heart broken could relate too. Olivia’s writing skills is something else. She’s very talented.

The second song is “You Oughta Know” by Alanis Morrisette. This is the grown up version of a heartbreak song. You can just feel the betrayal.

I love both of these songs for their differences and similarities. Other breakup favorites I listened to were:

  • “Back to Black” by Amy Winehouse
  • “Apologize” by One Republic
  • “What Goes Around…Comes Around” by Justin Timberlake
  • “Somebody That I Used to Know” by Gotye
  • “It Must Have Been Love” by Roxette
  • “Dancing On My Own” by Robyn
  • “The Scientist” by Coldplay

Do you have a favorite breakup song you listen to?

Book Review: The Leadership Guide: Unleashing the Power Within and In Others

Title: The Leadership Guide: Unleashing the Power Within and In Others
Author: Dr. Srikanth Gaddam
Genre: Non-fiction; Education; Self-help
Year Published: November 11, 2021

Date finished: June 17, 2022

This is a book on how to be a better leader in the workforce and how to continuously work on leadership skills to stay on top. It focuses on techniques by looking at oneself and one’s goals and purpose. The book opens with an introduction providing insights into why the author wrote this book. It’s a really helpful section in that it helps you understand the purpose and importance of leadership. The chapters are executed with straight-forward descriptions using bullet points and bolded sections to make it easy to focus on each particular points. Each chapter ends with a chapter takeaway, a quick key-points of the chapter.

I have read other books on leadership in the past and this one is one of the best. I like that it talks about an individual’s abilities and to look within to find that leadership. The book is full of important methods and techniques in leadership. It explains why leadership matters and how to get to where you want to be. It also includes the different types of leadership styles, challenges to overcome, leading teams and organizations, organizational leadership, leadership during crisis, and more. It’s a very thorough book with excellent points.

The book is focused on leadership in the workforce, specifically larger companies, but it could also be applied to an individual or smaller businesses. If you’ve ever taken a Stephen Covey course, you’ll know that the skills you’ve learned can be applied to everyday life. This book works the same way. The difference with this book is that it’s to-the-point and can be used as a reference guide for years to come. There are no stories or examples of how to use these steps. It’s not meant for that. It’s rather about the inner self and how to grow one’s leadership skills by focusing within as well as paying attention to the changing world around. This book was extremely well executed.

Who should read this book: Everyone should read this book. Even if you’re already a leader or have years of experience in leadership, this book is a great reference resource for those moments you might question your own abilities.

Book Review: Life of Evil: A Reeves and Blake Thriller

Title: Life of Evil: A Reeves & Blake Thriller
Author: Robert Lalonde
Genre: Fiction, Detective Thriller
Year Published: June 25, 2021

Date finished: June 11, 2022

The is a detective thriller about a murderer who has a unique way of killing his victims. P.I. Frank Reeves is hard at work figuring out who the murderer is. His secretary, Sam who is working her way to become an investigator finds herself closer to the murderer than she imagined.

This was a pretty fast-paced read. The characters were thrown in almost all together, so it was hard to get into the story at first. I liked the idea of the story and how Sam worked her way to become an investigator. The murderer was hidden well. I couldn’t figure out who they were until the very end. That was done excellently.  Overall, this was a good read.

Who should read this book: If you’re into mystery thriller, detective, and psychological thrillers, this one is for you.

Book Review: The Combat Diaries: True Stories from the Frontlines of WWII

Title: The Combat Diaries: True Stories from the Frontlines of World War II
Author: Mike Guardia
Genre: Non-fiction; WWII; Anthology
Year Published: April 1, 2022

Date finished: June 9, 2022

This is the first time I’ve read a diary of sort about military men in war. It’s not so much a diary but stories—short memoirs—about a few individual service members during WWII. It lets us see (and just barely see) the horrendousness of war through the eyes of these brave men. The stories provide some backstory to how and where they grew up, and how and why they entered the military. Each story ends with what each of them did after the war and a photo or two of them either taken during the war and/or afterwards.

All the stories are well told and provide insights into the many ways these men dealt with survival, following orders, what they saw/experienced, and everything else. One of the stories took me by surprise. It was the one where the Lieutenant was introduced to an OSS agent named Julia McWilliams, whom after the war, married and became who we know as Julia Childs, the television chef. There were so many things I wasn’t aware of, like the POWs in the Philippines, the OSS (Office of Strategic Services) that eventually became the CIA, the concentration camp that contained not only Jews but everyone else that “didn’t belong,” etc. I don’t want to take away from each soldier’s story because it’s their story that reminds us what freedom looks like, but just wanted to point out that there’s so much to learn from this book.

This was one amazing read. I enjoyed every story and wanted more. What I found interesting was that even in this type of environment, the men were able to find humor. I wish there was a way to read as many of these stories as possible in this style. I don’t know why this isn’t done more often, but I can also understand, and respect, that some families might want to remain private. There were so many military servicemen that died, and their stories will never be heard. I find that so heartbreaking.

Who should read this book: I’d recommend everyone read it.

Book Review: The Peaceful Village

Title: The Peaceful Village
Author: Paulette Mahurin
Genre: Historical Fiction
Year Published: May 27, 2022

Date finished: June 5, 2022

This is a story that takes place in a small village in France called Oradour-sur-Glane. Marguerite is the main character. She’s an older woman and married. She lives a simple and quiet life with her family. As the story moves along, SS soldiers start showing up in the village. They’re a little rough and tough but the villagers don’t back down. They’re not afraid of these soldiers and fight back but fighting back created more anger from the soldiers. Marguerite just wants the soldiers to leave but she knows it wasn’t going to happen and she finds her way to help those who were injured, putting herself in danger.

Overall, this was a good story. I loved the writing and the opening description of this small village. I was surprised at what happened to the people in this village since they kept to themselves. It was unfortunate and sad. The story itself moved a little too fast pace with too much going on and with lots of characters thrown in that I felt a little confused as to who each character was. I would have liked to know more about Marguerite’s husband, their youngest daughter, and the priests. I think the tension buildup wasn’t very strong and thus it lost me a little, but it’s definitely a story to check out.

What I found unique about this story was that SS soldiers infiltrated a laid-back, peaceful, small village. When we think of WWII and what Hitler did, we tend to focus on the big cities. This was a great way to show that even small towns were attacked.

Who should read this book: If you’re into WWII historical fiction, this is a good read to add to your list.

Video Swatching Miya Gouache Set and Night Skies Paintings

As you know I thing for gouache. This is my third set. I’m still debating on reviewing the first set because the plastic odor was too strong so I haven’t been able to use it for awhile because I can’t handle the smell. I may just do a really quick review. I don’t know…still thinking about it.

This is the video swatching of the Miya Gouache.

To test the gouache out, I painted four 5×5 paintings. Two are of the Northern Lights and two are of the Milky Way. They were done on Arches 300 gsm/140 lb hot pressed watercolor paper (smooth). My first try on hot pressed paper was a mess and I didn’t finish it. I almost thought about switching to cold pressed paper (rough) because I painted with gouache on cold pressed before and was comfortable with it, but I’m glad I hung in there because I actually like the way the paintings turned out on the hot pressed better. These paintings were given away as birthday cards to my siblings.

May’s Playlist 2022 and Ramblings

Last weekend, went to grab donuts and coffee and couldn’t resist taking a photo of the clouds. Aren’t they something? If you’re curious as to why the road looks rough and uneven, it’s because they are repaving it. May usually feels like a forever month because of that extra day, but it pretty much flew by this year. I guess I should accept that as I/we get older, time starts to feel as though it’s moving faster. I remember wishing for the time to pass quickly. Now, I’m always aware that I only have so much time in a day to get things done, and there’s never enough time.

I was so busy with writing and trying to get my hands at doing more crafting that I didn’t get a chance to listen to anything different other than my default playlist of Enigma and writing music. Husband and I did go see the movie, Top Gun: Maverick and we both enjoyed it. The soundtrack was nostalgic and excellent. Afterward, I told him that returning to civilian life felt a bit slow and boring, but that I enjoyed it. The speed of those jets was a serious adrenaline rush and I don’t think that kind of life would ever be for me. It’s very different for sure, but you know, maybe it’s just the age thing.

Anyway, the one song I did listen to a few times was Meet Me Halfway but Kenny Loggins. He’s also the singer of the song Danger Zone, which was played in the 1986 Top Gun movie as well as the new movie release. Meet Me Halfway was a song played in the 1987 movie called Over the Top, which I haven’t seen yet.

My daughter is on summer break now. She finished 9th grade and will be starting 10th grade come fall. She’ll be taking classes for her driver’s permit this summer. Once she passes, she’ll be able to drive with me or her dad in the car with her. Then come her 16th birthday next year and she’ll be able to test for her driver’s license. Strangely, she doesn’t want to drive.

Hope you all enjoy your summer.

Book Review: When She Woke

Title: When She Woke
Author: Hillary Jordan
Genre: Sci-fi; Dystopian
Year Published: September 18, 2012

Date finished: May 22, 2022

This story is about a future America where religion is a political power and having an abortion is a crime. Hannah Payne, the main character, falls in love with a pastor and gets pregnant. She is then chromed red for her sin. People stare at her and judge her because her red skin speaks for her crime. She refuses to tell anyone who the father is or the doctor who performed the abortion. She escapes the last institution she’s put in and stumbles upon people who were willing to free her from this strict world.

This story started out interesting. I couldn’t put the book down because I love myself a good dystopian story. It’s been a while since I’ve stumbled upon a book I couldn’t put down. The opening really grabbed me and kept me reading. However, midway through, the story slowed down and went a different direction. The ending was just meh. I may have had such high hopes that I was left disappointed. I wanted some sort of victory for Hannah. I also wanted to know what happened to the pastor, her family, and her friend. They all just seemed to disappear. There wasn’t anything said about what happened to them.

Overall, this wasn’t a bad read. It had a lot of potential, but just didn’t hit the right spot for me.

Who should read this book: If you enjoy “The Handmaid’s Tale” and “The Testaments” by Margaret Atwood, you’ll probably like this one.