A Reader Opines: Mira in the Present Tense by Sita Brahmachari

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Mira in the Present Tense by Sita Brahmachari
Publication: September 1st 2013 by Albert Whitman & Company (first published May 3rd 2011 in the UK by Macmillan Children’s Books as Artichoke hearts)
Genre: Young Adult | Coming of Age | Realistic Fiction
My Rating: 4 of 5 stars

Some books are just lovely. Even if they make you cry, they are lovely. Mira in the Present Tense is one such book. I picked it up from the library on a whim and am very pleased with my choice.

Summary taken from Goodreads:
Twelve-year-old Mira comes from a chaotic, artistic and outspoken family where it’s not always easy to be heard. As her beloved Nana Josie’s health declines, Mira begins to discover the secrets of those around her, and also starts to keep some of her own. She is drawn to mysterious Jidé, a boy who is clearly hiding a troubled past and has grown hardened layers – like those of an artichoke – around his heart. As Mira is experiencing grief for the first time, she is also discovering the wondrous and often mystical world around her.

Brahmachari has created memorable characters and released them into the real world. Mira is a complex twelve-year-old dealing with pressures both common and rare and she does so beautifully. Nana Josie is one of those grandmothers that could easily embarrass her grandchildren, but her eccentricities are such that said grandchildren accept her proudly. Both characters are fully developed and I longed to meet both of them.

The story is wonderfully complex and elegantly simplistic. Mira experiences the angst of crossing thresholds such as getting her first period, opening her heart to a boy and discovering the ugly extremes of our world. At the same time, her Nana Josie is dying from cancer. Mira walks the path with her Nana by helping her paint the coffin she will be cremated in, joining her on a pilgrimage to say goodbye to places and people and simply sitting with her when she’s too tired to do anything else.

I found this book to be an emotional journey that wrung tears from my eyes and filled my heart to bursting. Mira reminded me of my youth and the anxiety that goes with growing up; she made me see the death of my father (who I watched die of cancer) from another perspective. The story shed light on the Rwandan Genocide and the heartache of its survivors. So much emotion filled the pages of Mira in the Present Tense that I’ll not soon forget it.

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Warrior Wednesday: Marine Staff Sgt. Marcus A. Golczynski #NeverForgotten

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Marine Staff Sgt. Marcus A. Golczynski

March 16, 1977 to March 27, 2007

Photo provided by Elizabeth Reed & Find A Grave

Photo provided by Elizabeth Reed & Find A Grave

Golczynski, who had been a Marine reservist for 12 years, was shot March 27 by enemy fire while on patrol in Anbar province, where he was stationed on his second tour of duty in Iraq. He was assigned to the Marine Forces Reserve’s Third Battalion, 24th Marine Regiment, Fourth Marine Division, in Nashville. Golczynski received the Purple Heart.

Just days before he left for his second tour, Marc sent a letter to his family that would be his epitaph.

“Due to our deep desire to finish the job we started, we fight and sometimes die so that our families don’t have to. Stand beside us because we would do it for you. Because it is our unity that’s enabled us to prosper the nation,” Marc wrote. Source

Golczynski’s funeral produced one of the most iconic wartime photos, that of his son Christian receiving the American flag that had draped the coffin:

April 5, 2007 photograph of young Christian Golczynski accepting the American flag from Marine Lt. Col. Ric Thompson.

April 5, 2007 photograph of young Christian Golczynski accepting the American flag from Marine Lt. Col. Ric Thompson.

If any of the information I’ve shared is incorrect or you have something to add, please comment or contact me through the link in the top menu or button on the bottom right of your screen. Verification of facts are always welcome.

The protagonist of my WIP is a physical therapist who works with wounded vets. Through my research I’ve discovered patriots that leave me awe-filled, many of whom gave their life for their country. If I’ve learned only one thing, it is that these soldiers don’t do what they do for notoriety, they love their job, their country and their brothers (and sisters) in arms. I encourage you to do a bit of research on these warriors, but keep in mind that initial media reports often contain unverified information and for security reasons many details of operations are never revealed.

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Offensive Words: Literal Meaning or Connotations

So many people are offended by words, specific words, words considered profane, vulgar or obscene. I’ve always been baffled by the concept. As children we are taught (at least my generation was) that “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.”

I remember when one of my nephews was around eleven or twelve we had a discussion about ‘cussing’. He thought it was a sin to say words that had been deemed curses. I explained to him that simply wasn’t the case. There are no specific words in the Old or New Testament that are sinful. It is however a sin to take the Lord’s name in vain (that includes God bless you if you don’t mean it), to speak against the Lord and to swear by heaven or earth. There are words that offend people and I suggested he should take that into consideration before adding them to his everyday vocabulary.

Photo provided by stillsearc & freeimages.com

Photo provided by stillsearc & freeimages.com

Connotations are usually the culprit when someone is offended, and humans are responsible for attaching the connotations making them good or bad. For example: why is it okay to say poo or poop but not okay to say shit? All three words refer to excrement. If you are offended by talk of bodily functions, all three words should be taboo.

Now here is the biggy. The F word. Yes I mean fuck. There are many theories about the origin of this word, most notably that it derived from Fornication Under Consent of King or For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge. Most likely, “it came into English in the 15th century from something like Low German, Frisian or Dutch.[...] it typically meant ‘to strike’.” Source One could speculate that it’s connected to the act of sexual intercourse because it’s a kind of hitting. Yes, crude. Keep in mind that the word sex, even to identify gender, wasn’t used in conversation until modern times.

So, should I be offended by words that refer to bodily functions? Should I forget the origin of words and take offense to their modern connotations?

I’m not exactly sure any words offend me, but there are a few that startle me into a negative state. One in particular might surprise you.

Sexy: When I hear this word I think of objectification, provocation. In truth, the word’s origins confirm my thoughts. “adj. 1905, from sex (n.) + -y (2). Originally “engrossed in sex;” sense of “sexually attractive” is 1923, first in reference to Valentino. An earlier word in this sense was sexful (1898).” Another definition of sexy is, “being erotically attractive to another.”

Although the word is now used to mean ‘excitingly appealing; glamorous’ and tacked onto objects like cars and jewelry it makes me a bit uncomfortable. I’m a ‘less is more’ kind of gal and the fact that sex sells saddens me.

So, what words offend you or make you uncomfortable? Are you offended by their connotations or their meanings?

“sexy.” Online Etymology Dictionary. Douglas Harper, Historian. 09 Oct. 2014. .

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A Reader Opines: Hello From the Gillespies by Monica McInerney #review #books

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Hello From the Gillespies by Monica McInerney
Expected Publication: November 4th 2014 by NAL
Genre: Women’s Fiction | Contemporary | Mainstream
My Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
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You could say I’m an epic fail when it comes to reviewing books for Netgalley. Too often I request a book, get approved and end up not reading said book or begin reading and can’t bring myself to finish. It is with a happy heart that I tell you, I requested, was approved and read Hello From the Gillespies by Monica McInerney.

Summary taken from Goodreads:
For the past thirty-three years, Angela Gillespie has sent to friends and family around the world an end-of-the-year letter titled “Hello from the Gillespies.” It’s always been cheery and full of good news. This year, Angela surprises herself—she tells the truth….

The Gillespies are far from the perfect family that Angela has made them out to be. Her husband is coping badly with retirement. Her thirty-two-year-old twins are having career meltdowns. Her third daughter, badly in debt, can’t stop crying. And her ten-year-old son spends more time talking to his imaginary friend than to real ones.

Without Angela, the family would fall apart. But when Angela is taken away from them in a most unexpected manner, the Gillespies pull together—and pull themselves together—in wonderfully surprising ways…

Where do I start? There are so many things about this book that I loved that it’s difficult to contain my excitement and give you an unbiased assessment.

Hello From the Gillespies is marketed as a contemporary women’s fiction novel, but in my opinion it leans more toward mainstream simply because it contains the point of view of a man. The majority of the book is told from and relates to the life experiences of women, however the inclusion of Nick Gillespies’ thoughts and experiences adds another dimension to the overall story.

McInerney has expertly weaved a tale of family dynamics and human failings. Using multiple points of view, the story unfolds with eloquence, like a flower emerging from a bud into fullness, each petal contributing to the overall beauty. Plot points and pinch points were revealed with finesse. The major ones were unexpected, but some of the minor ones were easily foreseen.

The characters are credible and flawed. It didn’t take long for me to forget they were characters and see them as living, breathing people. They frustrated me, inspired me, made me laugh and cry but never once did they bore me.

My favorite aspect of this book is the atmosphere. McInerney transports the reader with unobtrusive descriptions, dialogue and internalization. When forced to close the book to attend to real world chores, it took a while to remember my place on earth, like when you move into a new house and you have to adjust to the changes. The Australian Outback clung to me, enticing and seductive.

The only reason I didn’t give this book five stars is because I did anticipate some of the twists. That seems a bit narrow-minded of me, but I’m stingy with those five stars because I’m a writer. It makes one more critical of the stories we read. Don’t let that stop you from reading Hello From the Gillespies. It is manna for book lovers.

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Warrior Wednesday: Marine Sgt. Yadir G. Reynoso #NeverForgotten

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Marine Sgt. Yadir G. Reynoso

Dec. 16, 1976 to Aug. 5, 2004

Photo provided by Elizabeth Reed and Find A Grave.

Photo provided by Elizabeth Reed and Find A Grave.

A one-time high school wrestler whose body was lean and heavily tattooed, Yadir G. Reynoso was anything but dangerous. He would take money out of his pocket to pay the grocery bills of a stranger at the checkout counter. Reynoso, 27, of Wapato, Wash., died Aug. 5 in a firefight with Iraqi insurgents in Najaf. He was based at Camp Pendleton, Calif. “He was the kind of person who loved challenges,” said his sister Patty. “My brother always knew the strength he needed to do anything. He knew he would serve honorably no matter what he did.” Reynoso was an eight-year veteran of the Marine Corps, which he joined shortly after graduating from high school in 1997. At school, he was active in sports, especially the wrestling team. “When he came home after he graduated from boot camp, my mother remembers when he looked in a mirror at himself in his uniform and said, ”I used to be a boy; now I can confirm I’ve become a man,'” Patty Reynoso said.

REYNOSO, YADIR G. (KIA)
Citation:
The President of the United States takes pride in presenting the Silver Star Medal (Posthumously) to Yadir G. Reynoso, Sergeant, U.S. Marine Corps, for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action against the enemy as 3d Squad Leader, 81 millimeter Mortar Platoon, Weapons Company, Battalion Landing Team 1/4, Eleventh Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable), I Marine Expeditionary Force, U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Central Command, in support of Operation IRAQI FREEDOM on 5 August 2004. Ordered to clear a 200-meter section of An Najaf cemetery, Sergeant Reynoso’s squad engaged a reinforced platoon-sized enemy unit at ranges of 10 to 30 meters and was immediately pinned down by a heavy volume of rocket-propelled grenade and AK-47 fire. Sergeant Reynoso responded by throwing a fragmentation grenade that eliminated three insurgents. He then directed the fires of an AT-4 rocket team on a pocket of four insurgents, destroying their position and all personnel. While providing suppressive fire against the enemy to enable his squad to withdraw from its position and maneuver against the enemy, Sergeant Reynoso was mortally wounded. Sergeant Reynoso’s bold leadership, wise judgment, and unyielding dedication to duty reflected great credit upon him and were in keeping with the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the United States Naval Service.
Home Town: Wapato, Washington
Personal Awards: Silver Star (War on Terrorism), Purple Heart

If any of the information I’ve shared is incorrect or you have something to add, please comment or contact me through the link in the top menu or button on the bottom right of your screen. Verification of facts are always welcome.

The protagonist of my WIP is a physical therapist who works with wounded vets. Through my research I’ve discovered patriots that leave me awe-filled, many of whom gave their life for their country. If I’ve learned only one thing, it is that these soldiers don’t do what they do for notoriety, they love their job, their country and their brothers (and sisters) in arms. I encourage you to do a bit of research on these warriors, but keep in mind that initial media reports often contain unverified information and for security reasons many details of operations are never revealed.

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Halloween Candy for the Troops! @OpGratitude #military

happy-halloween-picTrick or Treat?

So, Halloween is approaching and that means CANDY! If you’re like me you don’t need the extra calories hanging around. Tempting. Tantalizing. Fortunately, there is a way to get rid of the leftovers.

Send Treats to the Troops

If you decide to donate your candy, here are a few important links: Donation Form must be included in each box you send. Follow these shipping guides.

As per Operation Gratitude’s website here are some important “Do’s and Don’ts”!

DO’s:

  • DO ship your candy NO LATER THAN November 15 to:
    Operation Gratitude
    17330 Victory Boulevard
    Van Nuys, CA 91406-5438
    ATTN: Halloween Candy/Angel Cuevas
  • DO separate chocolate and non-chocolate candy.
  • DO include donations of individually-packaged toothbrushes, dental floss and toothpaste — we need to keep smiles on the troops’ faces all shiny, bright and healthy!
  • DO fill out the Donation Form and include the number of pounds of candy, number of toothbrushes, etc., you are shipping.

DON’Ts:

  • DON’T ship the candy to any other Operation Gratitude address than the Victory Boulevard address.
  • DON’T buy candy at the 1/2-off sales the day after Halloween — please consider making a financial donation instead.
  • DON’T use boxes any larger than 24″x 24″x 20,” please.
  • DON’T send Pixy Stix – unfortunately, they make a mess for the troops.

Please ship or deliver your donations by NO LATER THAN NOVEMBER 15. Oh, and consider asking your dentist if he participates in the Halloween Candy Buy Back.

Check out the Operation Gratitude blog for specifics.

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A Reader Opines: Flawless by Jan Moran

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Flawless by Jan Moran
Published: August 2014 by Briarcliffe Press
Genre: Women’s Fiction | Contemporary | Romance
Series: A Hostile Beauty #1
My Rating: 2 of 5 stars

When an author asks me to review their book I’m always flattered. It also takes a bit of the fun out of reading because you really, really want to like the work in which you’ve been entrusted. Flawless is such a book and while I’d like to give it high marks, to remain honest I must say it was just okay.

Summary taken from Goodreads:
Verena Valent is at the helm of her family’s legendary Swiss skincare company, which caters to a glamorous clientele in the heart of Beverly Hills. After her parents are killed in an automobile accident, she becomes the sole provider for her younger twin sisters and her grandmother. Instead of attending college with her friends as planned, she rises to the challenge to guide and expand her family’s business. She is in the midst of a critical international expansion into Asia when her carefully organized life begins to unravel.
Verena is shaken to discover that her fiance, Derrick, who is a venture capitalist, might be behind a scheme to take over her growing company. While she struggles to save the business that means everything to her, she meets Lance, an executive chef at the Beverly Hills Hotel. She encounters this intriguing man again while on a business trip to Paris, and soon gains a new perspective on relationships.
When the unthinkable occurs and Verena’s world collapses, her friends rally around her, among them Scarlett Sandoval, a top intellectual property attorney; Dahlia DuBois, a perfumer from an esteemed line of French perfumers; and Fianna Fitzgerald, a fashion designer with her own trendy boutique.
Ultimately, Verena learns that truth, family, friendship, and love are the unshakable pillars of life. But will she get a second chance in business, or in love?

My knowledge base doesn’t include the beauty industry and I found the passion Verena feels for her family business refreshing. Moran includes details that enhance the dynamics of the trade. However, when it came to the financial and legal jargon my attention wanted to move on to something else. The story is solid, but the plot didn’t unfold organically. The characters didn’t live up to their potential. You like the protagonist, her friends and family and you dislike the antagonist and his minions.

Most people root for the underdog and Verena is certainly that. She had been thrust into the business at a young age, making all the right decisions until we, the reader, begin to bear witness to her life. It takes intelligence, strength and savvy to achieve the success she has. Knowing this made some of her decisions seem out of character, most of them actually.

On the surface, Flawless is detailed to the highest degree. Not only do we get a feel for the physical characteristics of the players and their surroundings, we get detailed descriptions of everything, including the hotel’s wallpaper. If the internalization of the characters had been more detailed it might have made the cause and effect more believable.

Upon reflection, Flawless resembles a puzzle that has been completed, but some of the pieces were forced into places they didn’t quite fit.

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