Review of The Remnant Chronicles, Books 1 & 2

KissofDeception  HeartofBetrayal

If you enjoy books that challenge notions of love, loyalty and truth, and then make you grapple with how to harmonize them, this series is for you!

Review of Books 1 & 2 in the Remnant Chronicles by Mary E. Pearson

Kiss of Deception (Book One)

SUMMARY FROM BACK: In a society steeped in tradition, Princess Lia’s life follows a preordained course. As First Daughter, she is expected to have the revered gift of sight–but she doesn’t–and she knows her parents are perpetrating a sham when they arrange her marriage to secure an alliance with a neighboring kingdom–to a prince she has never met.

On the morning of her wedding, Lia flees to a distant village. She settles into a new life, hopeful when two mysterious and handsome strangers arrive–and unaware that one is the jilted prince and the other an assassin sent to kill her. Deception abounds, and Lia finds herself on the brink of unlocking perilous secrets–even as she finds herself falling in love.

WHAT I THOUGHT

If you’re a hopeless romantic like me who believes one should marry for love and not obligation, this book is definitely for you! Bless her heart, Lia is a princess born into a life of obligation. Rather than settle for the life laid out for her, on her wedding day she disobeys tradition for the sake of finding true love. She disguises herself and becomes a barmaid for a tavern in a town far away from her responsibilities.

Hoping never to be found out, two strangers arrive in the tavern and she waits on both. Little does she know they have both sought her out for reasons of their own. One is the crown prince of the neighboring kingdom she unknowingly was to be wed to. The other is a paid assassin come to eliminate her by a warring kingdom. Needless to say, she falls for both of them forming a love triangle, for neither admit who they truly are. This was a fun read because it kept me guessing the whole time, trying to figure out which character was the assassin and which, the prince. The plot was different than so many for it twisted and turned in unexpected, but engaging and believable ways. Well done!

Buy Kiss of Deception (Book One) (Amazon)

NOTE: If you plan to read this book and you don’t want spoilers, DO NOT continue reading this review for it will give away much of what makes book one so special.

Heart of Betrayal (Book Two)

SUMMARY FROM BACK: Held captive in the barbarian kingdom of Venda, Lia and Rafe have little chance of escape . . . and even less of being together.

Desperate to save her life, Lia’s erstwhile assassin, Kaden, has told the Vendan Komisar that she has a magical gift, and the Komisar’s interest in Lia is greater than either Kaden or Lia foresaw.

Meanwhile, the foundations of Lia’s deeply-held beliefs are crumbling beneath her. Nothing is straightforward: there’s Rafe, who lied to her, but has sacrificed his freedom to protect her; Kaden, who meant to assassinate her but has now saved her life; and the Vendans, whom she always believed to be barbarians but whom she now realizes are people who have been terribly brutalized by the kingdoms of Dalbreck and Morrighan. Wrestling with her upbringing, her gift, and her very sense of self, Lia will have to make powerful choices that affect her country, her people . . . and her own destiny.

WHAT I THOUGHT

In book two, we see Rafe and Lia’s love deepen as they share in their imprisonment by the Vendans. They have a lot of time to think about their situations and each other. Rafe’s character is deepened considerably in this book and through it we see how much he really loves Lia to the point of sacrificing himself for her.

The author did a great job of world building as the imagery comes to life in a way that brings to story along.

I love how Lia is forced to confront long held, but unexamined beliefs about another culture. She had been taught the Vendans were nothing but low-lifes and assassins, but as she spends time in their prison, she discovers all she believes may not be true. I love how the author plants the idea of examining areas of our own lives, unexamined beliefs that may or may not help us produce the future we seek.

I also enjoyed Pearson’s treatment of Kaden who must find his way between his love for Lia and his loyalty for the Komizar, his boss. It’s an issue we must all face at some point in our lives and the struggle that played out did this conflict justice.

I will definitely be getting the third book in the series when it’s available…not soon enough 🙂

Buy Heart of Betrayal (Book Two) (Amazon)

My Review: 5 Stars to both book one and two!

PLEASE NOTE!  If you enjoyed this post, be sure to leave a comment to let me know what you think and then sign up to be notified the instant a new post goes live. Scroll back to top of this page and enter your email.

I also invite you to download the free ebooks of the Prequel and Book one in the Andy Smithson epic fantasy series. Links are along the right side of this page.

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Review of Queen of Shadows

QueenofShadows Queen of Shadows (Throne of Glass, Book 4) by Sarah J. Maas

Wow! How’d she do that? These seem the only words befitting this book…It’s that good. A true ride for the emotions…

SUMMARY FROM BACK: Everyone Celaena Sardothien loves has been taken from her. But she’s at last returned to the empire-for vengeance, to rescue her once-glorious kingdom, and to confront the shadows of her past…

She has embraced her identity as Aelin Galathynius, Queen of Terrasen. But before she can reclaim her throne, she must fight.

She will fight for her cousin, a warrior prepared to die just to see her again. She will fight for her friend, a young man trapped in an unspeakable prison. And she will fight for her people, enslaved to a brutal king and awaiting their lost queen’s triumphant return.

Celaena’s epic journey has captured the hearts and imaginations of millions across the globe. This fourth volume will hold readers rapt as Celaena’s story builds to a passionate, agonizing crescendo that might just shatter her world.

WHAT I THOUGHT

The first three books in the series have been excellent, but in this fourth installment of six, Sarah J. Maas steps up her character-development game for the characters grow and develop throughout the 600+ pages of this adventure in a masterful, believable way. The world-building that existed in the first three books continued and I was blown away as the characters became even more real, grappling with real problems in ways that are so human.

Aelin’s storyline revisits her painful past as she must once more face her master, Abromyn, the king of thieves, who has inflicted so much pain in her life. While I despised him for his cunning and scheming, he stoops to new lows. I have to say though that the very fact that I have such negative emotion for this man, speaks volumes to the artistry with which this character developed. Aelin confronts him once more and comes away stronger for it.

We again see Manon, the Blackbeak witch, whose character is forced to question militant authority and come to terms with the conflict between that and what she believes. While situations differ, her story is so relatable for most readers.

We also see Lysandra and Kaltain reappear, each woman coming to terms with and finally acting out of the inner strength we suspected they held. And a new female is introduced, Elide, who I suspect will be pivotal in the final book.

Love is also a central theme in this book.

Romantic passions ebb and flow between Aelan and Rowan, her fae prince, in such a way that I found myself routing for love to triumph and overwhelm as they resist and struggle at points. Oh, what a great romance continues.

Aelin’s relationships with both Chaol and Dorian change and grow as well, but way beyond passion. I loved how it deepened into strong and enduring friendships – friendships that are ‘to the death.’

One point I thought particularly well written: Love causes Aelin to save the life of a mortal enemy – What? Yes. It was a pivotal plot point and while I would not have thought it possible, it happened in a believable way. Because so many of Aelin’s loved ones have been killed (her family, Sam, Nemeniah) and because she has felt the irreparable pain of those losses, she has come to believe she must spare the life of someone, even an enemy, who is deeply loved by another. We see this when Aelin hears the gut-wrenching cry and sees the pain in the friend of her enemy, and without a second thought, Aelin throws herself in harms way so the friend of her enemy never has to know the pain of losing the one they so deeply love. So moving…

Setup to the next book – I loved the long denouement of this book for I wasn’t ready to be done and Maas didn’t make me. Longer than many, I appreciated the length for it allowed me to recover from so many emotionally charged experiences.The resolution for all the various characters was well done and set up the next book without giving anything away.

Overall, I found myself experiencing a rollercoaster of emotions. I shrieked at a few of the the plot twists, oohed at the play between Aelin and Rowen, and find myself a bit exhausted in the end. Well done!

Get Queen of Shadows (Amazon)

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I also invite you to download the free ebooks of the Prequel and Book one in the Andy Smithson epic fantasy series. Links are along the right side of this page.

My Review of Servant of the Crown

ServantoftheCrownServant of the Crown by Melissa McShane (The Crown of Tremontane Book 1)

If you loved Seraphina for the fantasy mixed with political intrigue, I recommend this book! While there are no dragons, the mix of a strong heroine, dynamic characters, and excellent writing is sure to satisfy.

SUMMARY from Back: Alison Quinn, Countess of Waxwold, is content with her bookish life—until she’s summoned to be a lady-in-waiting to the Queen of Tremontane’s mother for six months. Even the prospect of access to the Royal Library doesn’t seem enough to make up for her sacrifice, but Alison is prepared to do her service to the Crown. What she’s not prepared for is Prince Anthony North, Queen Zara’s playboy brother, who’s accustomed to getting what he wants—including the Countess of Waxwold.

When the fallout from an unfortunate public encounter throws the two of them together, Alison has no interest in becoming the Prince’s next conquest. But as the weeks pass, Alison discovers there’s more to Anthony than she—or he—realized, and their dislike becomes friendship, and then something more—until disaster drives Alison away, swearing never to return.

Then Alison is summoned by the Queen again, this time to serve as Royal Librarian. A threat to Tremontane’s government, with her treasured Library at stake, draws Alison into the conflict…and into contact with Anthony once more. Can they work together to save the Royal Library and Tremontane? And can she open her heart to love again?

WHAT I THOUGHT

Allison Quinn, Countess of Waxwold, is a smart, savvy business woman, working for her father’s publishing house. When she is summoned to be a lady in waiting for the Dowager (mother of the queen) for six months, loyal citizen that she is, she presents herself for duty. But it doesn’t take long to see her true bookworm-self revealed, for true to form, she insists on seeing the Royal Library and is frustrated by the Librarian who refuses to permit it–heresy!

Men had treated her as an object to possess rather than recognizing who she was so when she encounters the prince, Anthony, an arrogant chovanist, she dresses him down publically leading to all manner of wonderful plot twist.

I so enjoyed her enthusiasm when she is appointed Royal Librarian. Be still my heart (LOL!). But I knew we were in for a treat when by a third of the way through the book, Allison had already fallen in love and betrayal reared its ugly head.

The queen, Zara, daughter of the Dowager and sister of prince Anthony appears as another strong female character with political obstacles she must navigate to retain the power necessary for the crown to effectively manage society. I was impressed that the author fully developed her allowing us to see the complex struggles force and giving in to frustration would thwart.

What a sweet interplay between these three. A masterful job of weaving in so many emotional threads and giving the reader a satisfying conclusion.

The only thing not well developed in my opinion was the healing magic that society apparently shunned. This came more into play with the short story that followed the novel, but that detail was never expanded upon and it appears it becomes a significant plot element, at least going forward.

I can’t wait for the sequel, RIDER OF THE CROWN!

Get Servant of the Crown (at Amazon)

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I also invite you to download the free ebooks of the Prequel and Book one in the Andy Smithson epic fantasy series. Links are along the right side of this page.

Review of The Art of Racing in the Rain

RacingintheRainI know I’ve read a great book when I reflect on it after I close the cover, and even the day after. I believe I have a book hangover from this one…

Summary from back cover: Enzo knows he is different from other dogs: a philosopher with a nearly human soul (and an obsession with opposable thumbs), he has educated himself by watching television extensively, and by listening very closely to the words of his master, Denny Swift, an up-and-coming race car driver.

Through Denny, Enzo has gained tremendous insight into the human condition, and he sees that life, like racing, isn’t simply about going fast. Using the techniques needed on the race track, one can successfully navigate all of life’s ordeals.

On the eve of his death, Enzo takes stock of his life, recalling all that he and his family have been through: the sacrifices Denny has made to succeed professionally; the unexpected loss of Eve, Denny’s wife; the three-year battle over their daughter, Zoë, whose maternal grandparents pulled every string to gain custody. In the end, despite what he sees as his own limitations, Enzo comes through heroically to preserve the Swift family, holding in his heart the dream that Denny will become a racing champion with Zoë at his side. Having learned what it takes to be a compassionate and successful person, the wise canine can barely wait until his next lifetime, when he is sure he will return as a man.

WHAT I THOUGHT

A friend recommended this book to me when I told her about a YA fantasy book I’m currently writing. So while I began reading from a perspective to examine how the author constructed the book, I found myself completely absorbed with the stroyline in not-to-long. Stein does a masterful job at weaving in crap we face in life from the perspective of the family dog. And he does it in such a way that you can’t help but have your heartstrings drawn taut to the point of breaking several times. While there are many sad parts, just like in life, the reflections of mans best friend help convey what it truly means to be a friend and love another unconditionally…warts and all.

Stein mixes in just the right measure of humor to keep the story moving along lest we get too depressed with what’s actually happening to Denny, the dog’s master. Some of this shows in Enzo’s analysis of life using racing as the analogy–You can’t keep your hands too tightly grasping the steering wheel of you can’t react to new concerns, always act for what you anticipate will happen so when it does, you’re still in control and not taken unawares and more. All in all a great read that I recommend to anyone who loves a good tear jerker every once in a while.

Out of popular demand, Stein also created a kids version of this book known as Racing in the Rain, so if you have middle graders, this would be content appropriate for them.

Review: 5 stars

Get The Art of Racing in the Rain (Amazon)

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I also invite you to download the free ebooks of the Prequel and Book one in the Andy Smithson epic fantasy series. Links are along the right side of this page.

Review of Singularity Series Bks 1 & 2

Legacy Human    Duality Bridge

1) Will the blending of man and machine that’s happening today ever obsolete humanity as we know it? 2) If we reach singularity, what will the next step to our advancement be? If these questions have ever crossed your neurons The Singularity series by Susan Kaye Quinn might well tickle your synapses further.

The Legacy Human (Book One) Summary:

What would you give to live forever? Seventeen-year-old Elijah Brighton wants to become an ascender—a post-Singularity human/machine hybrid—after all, they’re smarter, more enlightened, more compassionate, and above all, achingly beautiful. But Eli is a legacy human, preserved and cherished for his unaltered genetic code, just like the rainforest he paints. When a fugue state possesses him and creates great art, Eli miraculously lands a sponsor for the creative Olympics. If he could just master the fugue, he could take the gold and win the right to ascend, bringing everything he’s yearned for within reach… including his beautiful ascender patron. But once Eli arrives at the Games, he finds the ascenders are playing games of their own. Everything he knows about the ascenders and the legacies they keep starts to unravel… until he’s running for his life and wondering who he truly is.

WHAT I THOUGHT

I read this book back in April this year and found it to be thought provoking. What does it mean to be human in a world filled with ascended humans who will live forever like the alchemists envisioned and legacy, unascended humans. I loved how when we meet Eli, he is drifting in unexamined narratives that ascending is the goal of legacy humans. Ascending is best. But as he hears a new, and opposite narrative for the first time, he is forced to consider it. I won’t give away what he chooses or why, but the author does an amazing job working the question of what it means to be human in the form of a YA novel with action and intrigue. Well done. I’ll definitely be reading the rest of the series!

Get The Legacy Human (Amazon)

The Duality Bridge (Book Two) Summary:

What does it mean to be human? Elijah Brighton is the face of the Human Resistance Movement. He’s the Olympic-level painter who refused an offer of immortality from the ascenders—the human/machine hybrids who run the world—in solidarity with the legacy humans who will never get a chance to live forever.

Too bad it’s all a complicated web of lies.

Worse, Eli’s not even entirely human. Few know about the ascenders’ genetic experiments that left him… different. Fewer know about the unearthly fugue state that creates his transcendent art—as well as a bridge that lets him speak to the dead. But the Resistance is the one place he can hide from the ascender who knows everything the fugue can do. Because if Marcus finds him, he’ll either use Eli for his own nefarious purposes… or destroy him once and for all.

WHAT I THOUGHT

I just finished reading book two in the series and it is as good as the first, examining not only what does it mean to be human, but what does it mean to access God. This book had me think of the ancient Hebrews constructing the tower of Babel to reach god. In this future reality, those who call themselves believers have their faith challenged and find their preconceived and most times unexamined narratives may be baseless. What does it mean to go beyond the bounds of human cognition? To access another dimension of existence and reality? This installment in the planned five book series had me thinking beyond my average read. Well done!

Get The Duality Bridge (Amazon)

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I also invite you to download the free ebooks of the Prequel and Book one in the Andy Smithson epic fantasy series. Links are along the right side of this page.

Review of The Paper Magicians Series

If you love origami and magic, The Paper Magician series by Charlie N. Holmberg is definitely for you! Let your expectations go and just enjoy this whimsical, imaginative, and sweet story.

PaperMagicianGlassMagician MasterMagician

The Paper Magician (Book One)

Summary from Backcover: Ceony Twill arrives at the cottage of Magician Emery Thane with a broken heart. Having graduated at the top of her class from the Tagis Praff School for the Magically Inclined, Ceony is assigned an apprenticeship in paper magic despite her dreams of bespelling metal. And once she’s bonded to paper, that will be her only magic…forever.

Yet the spells Ceony learns under the strange yet kind Thane turn out to be more marvelous than she could have ever imagined—animating paper creatures, bringing stories to life via ghostly images, even reading fortunes. But as she discovers these wonders, Ceony also learns of the extraordinary dangers of forbidden magic.

An Excisioner—a practitioner of dark, flesh magic—invades the cottage and rips Thane’s heart from his chest. To save her teacher’s life, Ceony must face the evil magician and embark on an unbelievable adventure that will take her into the chambers of Thane’s still-beating heart—and reveal the very soul of the man.

WHAT I THOUGHT

This was a good adventure to start a series. A coming-of-age plot has us begin with disappointment which we can all relate to followed immediately by discovery that disproves our ungrounded, and preconceived notions, to introduce a world of possibilities. The author certainly has a vivid imagination–not only does she go deep in inventing a whole world of magic possible with paper folding, but also having a good portion of this book take place within the heart of Magician Emery Thane. What a great way to weave in backstory to set up the rest of the books. Very ingenious and instructive. I’m looking forward to book 2.

Get The Paper Magician (at Amazon)

The Glass Magician (Book Two)

Summary from Backcover: Three months after returning Magician Emery Thane’s heart to his body, Ceony Twill is well on her way to becoming a Folder. Unfortunately, not all of Ceony’s thoughts have been focused on paper magic. Though she was promised romance by a fortuity box, Ceony still hasn’t broken the teacher-student barrier with Emery, despite their growing closeness.

When a magician with a penchant for revenge believes that Ceony possesses a secret, he vows to discover it…even if it tears apart the very fabric of their magical world. After a series of attacks target Ceony and catch those she holds most dear in the crossfire, Ceony knows she must find the true limits of her powers…and keep her knowledge from falling into wayward hands.

WHAT I THOUGHT

I enjoyed the Paper Magician, but this book is even better. In book two we get more background in the other types of materials that one can “bond” to, to do magic. I thought the author’s creativity shone as she went in depth to give color with other characters and their trials with these other materials. While the plot felt somewhat contrived at times, the execution of the various plot twists, vilians and the possibility of a budding romance made the resolution very satisfying.

Get The Glass Magician (at Amazon)

The Master Magician (Book Three)

Summary from Backcover: Throughout her studies, Ceony Twill has harbored a secret, one she’s kept from even her mentor, Emery Thane. She’s discovered how to practice forms of magic other than her own—an ability long thought impossible.

While all seems set for Ceony to complete her apprenticeship and pass her upcoming final magician’s exam, life quickly becomes complicated. To avoid favoritism, Emery sends her to another paper magician for testing, a Folder who despises Emery and cares even less for his apprentice. To make matters worse, a murderous criminal from Ceony’s past escapes imprisonment. Now she must track the power-hungry convict across England before he can take his revenge. With her life and loved ones hanging in the balance, Ceony must face a criminal who wields the one magic that she does not, and it may prove more powerful than all her skills combined.

WHAT I THOUGHT

What a great ending to this very creative story arc. While Ceony again falls into a very predictable trap based on her naivety (which you can see coming a mile away) I enjoyed the sweet romantic tension that the author took time to develop rather than the all-too-common hormonal lust/sex that fills many books these days. I loved the outcome of the adventure and especially the very end of the book including the epilogue. Well done 🙂

Get The Master Magician (at Amazon)

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I’m Adding My Book Reviews to the Blog!

I read an awful lot of books and it occurs to me, from comments folks have made about the reviews I post on Goodreads, that you all would probably enjoy hearing about books I think are mention-worthy. So, it is with that background I offer you the first of many reviews of books I’ve read. I hope you enjoy my thoughts and find them helpful in selecting your next great read.

QueenofSomeday  QueenofTomorrow

I’m going to start with a pair of books, the first two in the Stolen Empire series by Sherry Ficklin. This series is a fantastical telling of the life of Catherine the Great of Russia.

SUMMARY: Queen of Someday (from cover)

Before she can become the greatest empress in history, fifteen-year-old Sophie will have to survive her social-climbing mother’s quest to put her on the throne of Russia–at any cost.

Imperial Court holds dangers like nothing Sophie has ever faced before. In the heart of St. Petersburg, surviving means navigating the political, romantic, and religious demands of the bitter Empress Elizabeth and her handsome, but sadistic nephew, Peter. Determined to save her impoverished family–and herself–Sophie vows to do whatever is necessary to thrive in her new surroundings. But an attempt on her life and an unexpected attraction threatens to derail her plans.

Alone in a new and dangerous world, learning who to trust and who to charm may mean the difference between becoming queen and being sent home in shame to marry her lecherous uncle. With traitors and murderers lurking around every corner, her very life hangs in the balance. Betrothed to one man but falling in love with another, Sophie will need to decide how much she’s willing to sacrifice in order to become the empress she is destined to be.

In a battle for the soul of a nation, will love or destiny reign supreme?

WHAT I THOUGHT:

I did not realize this was a historical fantasy loosely based on historical events when I picked it up, but I have to say, Sherry did a great job at bringing to life plausible scenarios about what could have made Catherine the Great the person she became. Well done. I’ll definitely be reading the next installment.

Get Queen of Someday (Amazon)

SUMMARY: Queen of Tomorrow

Sophie—now Catherine, Grand Duchess of Russia—had a tough first year at Imperial Court. Married at sixteen to Grand Duke Peter, heir to the throne, and settled in their own palace, things start to look up. As a new day dawns, Catherine thinks only of securing her future, and the future of their country, during one of the greatest political upheavals of her time. Fighting desperately against forces that try to depose the Empress Elizabeth and put the young Prince Ivan on her throne, Catherine soon finds herself in the middle of a war brewing between her beloved Prussia and her new empire. While navigating the fragile political landscape, she quickly realizes that she has only begun to discover the tangled web of deceit and infidelity woven over the lavish court of Oranienbaum Palace.

When a strange and delicate alliance forms between the young couple, Catherine glimpses a future of happiness, only to see it vanish at the hands of those who still seek to end her life—and prevent her reign. Out of favor with the empress and running out of options, Catherine must sacrifice her own innocence on the altar of Russia if she is to save the nation and herself. To survive, she will have to do the unthinkable, betray those closest to her and become something greater and more dangerous than she ever imagined she could be… a queen.

WHAT I THOUGHT:

Conspiracy, deceit and intrigue… Life in the Russian court was anything but dull. While I understand Ficklin took literary license with many of the specifics, I think the overall story arc was probably close to reality. Certainly one place I would not want to be. I will definitely be reading the next installment in this gripping saga which is due out September 15th!

Get Queen of Tomorrow (Amazon)

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My Second Father

1949: The boy peered out from his hiding place as the soldiers grabbed Father and lead him away—every fiber of his being longed to cry out at the injustice, but he dared not. Father’s crime: graduating from an American university, St. John’s University in Shanghai, the Harvard of China. And now the Communists considered him a threat to their new power and they imprisoned folks like that. The boy knew what would happen now: his two brothers and three sisters would go to live with Grandpa and Grandma. He and Mother would flee to Taiwan for he was the eldest son, the one the family’s line depended upon.

So began the inspiring true life story of my father-in-law when he and his mother fled to Taiwan to escape the Communist’s takeover of mainland China. We hear many inspiring stories, but few have the opportunity to live beside someone who endured and overcome adversity as he did.

His story: Arriving in an unfamiliar country, he and Mother got along as best as they could on the money she had brought with her. But within a year, she started feeling sick and within two she died of cancer. The boy who was just starting his freshman year of high school, felt completely lost. Despair nearly won, but when things seemed darkest, one of his high school teachers reached out to a contact at the China Daily News and helped him get a job as a laborer. For a year the boy fetched tea, delivered messages and did all manner of tasks in the evenings, while keeping up his studies during the day. His efforts earned him enough to live on and helped him begin building a foundation for his future. As he started his sophomore year, his superiors promoted him to a proofreader.

Graduation brought with it the challenge of passing an exam in order to enroll in university. After much studying, he succeeded and began a two-year course in Journalism. At night he continued his work for the newspaper while pursuing coursework during the day. He graduated and the newspaper promoted him to Reporter. He covered all types of events for three years in Taiwan before they sent him to Kinmen, an island off Taiwan. While there, he covered one particular story in more depth than usual, for he had met a woman he took a liking to. At the end of a year when the newspaper called him back to Taiwan, he proposed marriage and she accepted.

Upon his return, the newspaper again promoted him, this time to editor. Seeking to improve their future, the young man again enrolled in college, this time to earn a degree in western literature in order to teach English to high school students. For three years he pursued his degree during the day and continued working for the newspaper in the evening. Upon graduation, he began work as a teacher while continuing his role as editor at night. Finally feeling he was enough ahead to support a wife, he and his beloved married.

Life seemed finally to have reached some measure of stability for the couple as they welcomed their first child two years later. But with the birth of a son, the young man’s ambitions grew. He longed to provide the opportunity for an even better life. Considering his options, he believed the United States was that possibility. But getting into the graduate school through which he could ultimately accomplish that, the School of International Law and Diplomacy, was extremely competitive. Only the top five finalists on the qualifying exam, out of several hundred applicants, would be admitted. After much studying, he sat for the exam and against long odds, he finished among the top five!

As the young man pursued his studies the couple welcomed their second child, a little girl. And with her arrival, the young man’s resolve to create greater opportunity deepened further. Just before he graduated, he sat for and passed the exam to become a career diplomat. Upon graduation, the Taiwanese government put him to work in the Foreign Affairs office where he worked until they sent him to be a representative to El Salvador.

The son and daughter, age five and three at the time, adapted to life in a strange country with a strange language and strange customs. Five years later, after the young man and his wife had saved enough to start over in the United States, he resigned from the Foreign Service and immigrated with his family to Kansas City.

DadStarting over was difficult, but the young man had done it before. And this time he was not alone. In order to immigrate, he had to enroll in college and pursue a degree, trading his diplomatic visa for a student visa which did not permit them to work. And so for two years, the family lived on savings that forbade luxuries. The son well remembers homemade clothes of remnant fabrics that begged ridicule from peers, no school supplies, and a lot of going without.

If graduations had become routine for the young man, this one was anything but, for with it he began a new career, a new life. And his children could at last flourish.

As a writer, I seek to create conflict and adversity for my characters that my readers can identify with and have their lives positively impacted from–the young man’s story is certainly that. While he did not know his ambition and choices would significantly impact my life, a WASP American, he has, for had he not worked and sacrificed all he did, my life would be nothing like it is. And so this Father’s Day, I salute my second father, Andrew Lee. Thank you for your sacrifices and your dedication to see your children prosper.

The Meaning of Mom…A Personal Story

The morning of January 5th dawned sunny. My son shouldered his backpack and headed to my car like so many times before. Despite the familiarity of the scene, I knew when he returned he would not be the same, nor would I.

An hour later, I parked and we made our way inside his Air Force recruiter’s office, the drop off point for his journey to Basic Training and the beginning of his career with the military. I was doing my best (I told myself) to be strong for him and not cry, but when his recruiter politely indicated it was time to say goodbye, a flood of emotions overwhelmed my resolve. I gave him a hug and a kiss and for the first or second time in his life, my son saw tears in my eyes.

How is it that the most significant events in life hide in the understated moments? A whirlwind of thoughts gusted through my mind: Austinthis was the culmination of nineteen years; he had grown up and was no longer a child; he was beginning the next phase of his life where my responsibility for him ended and he became responsible for himself; my role as nurturer and guardian to see him safely to this point in body, mind and emotions had ended. I found myself unprepared to let go of the familiar.

I had been the first to ever hold him when he was born – not even the doctor, but me. I well remember the moment I laid eyes on him…the awe and wonder at the miracle of new life my body had created…the embodiment of my husband’s and my love for each other. My thoughts had quickly moved to my hopes for what he might someday become. He had captured my heart in a way nothing else could, and I willingly surrendered.

I was the one who gave personalities and life to his stuffed animal buddies from whom he derived comfort when he hurt inside when he was little. I was the one who intervened when he and my husband didn’t see eye to eye, which seemed all too frequently, as he moved through his adolescent years. Yes, he vexed me plenty as he grew up, but under the busyness of daily living, I was deeply committed to his success out of my love for him.

So yes, I cried as I kissed him goodbye. While my rational mind knew this moment was healthy and certainly necessary, that simple Austin2gesture of giving him a kiss and a hug marked me letting go of the familiar and stepping into a new and evolving role as the mom of a grown son who lives on his own, who I am no longer responsible for.
He will still need comfort at times and will hopefully accept some guidance from me now and then, but he will have changed. This is a good thing, an inevitable thing, but it still brings tears.

I reflect on the first eighteen years we have with our children. Excitement surrounds the birth of a new baby and the issues you face immediately are manageable. As they grow, the challenges become more complex and you feel less and less equipped, but you figure things out the best you can and move on. Eventually, this moment arrives and no matter if you tremble wondering if they are really ready, it reveals the truth that we are now, and will forever be, powerless to control what happens in their lives. Little did I realize this is what I was signing up for when my children were born, but this truly is what it means to be Mom–to love another human being more than you ever thought possible, to be humbled by your lack of skill in raising them, to continually seek their best even when they don’t appreciate it, to hurt with and for them when they hurt, to cheer them on to realize their dreams,  and ultimately, whether you feel ready or not, to release them to be who you have helped them become.

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If you enjoyed this post, I invite you to download the eBook of book one in the Andy Smithson series for FREE at amzn.to/1Pj1hcr.

The Levity of Birds

While writing to my son who is at Air Force Basic Training, I decided to relate the latest news and happenings. The incident in question tickled my funny bone and morphed as I wrote and I thought you might enjoy.

On February 16th, I ambled into a deadly contest of wills that I was unaware existed in the world. Yes…naive, uninformed, peace-loving, little ol’ me.”What conflict are you talking about?” you ask. Oh, clearly one that has existed since the dawn of man and beast (well, maybe ‘flying beast’ would be more accurate). “And how did this conflict begin?” you ask. To answer I believe one must first answer the question of which came first, the bird or the egg? You can’t say? Well then, for purposes of this tale, let’s just say the conflict I find myself now fully engaged in, started at a subatomic level, when nature had a male bird take a liking to a female (And no, this is no tale of the bees, although it certainly does go where birds fancy one another…I digress).

The two did what, well…what they do…and the lady went and laid a nest full of eggs. Then one bright and sunny day (although it could have been cold and rainy), a little boy birdie emerged into the world after expending much energy breaking through his shell.

“A fine lad,” no doubt his mother chirped. “He’ll grow up to rule vast lands and territory.” And so, Red (we’ll call him), grew and one day left the nest.

Striking out on his own, he staked out territory unclaimed by any other of his kind. Four years, yea five, passed and he decided a bird new to the Hood (who stealithily appeared–‘ey rouge–only when he chanced to pass the posterior of a nearby house) would have to go.

“This territory ain’t big enough for the two of us!” he could be heard chirping at dawn.

It took perseverence and great diligence, but he showed the newcomer who was boss, he did. At every opportunity while the sun shone, Red threw himself at the foe. The adversary, while strangely quiet and flat, tempted to resist.

“Why that bird brain,” Red declared. “Doesn’t it know I’m king? I’ll show it yet!”

And so, to this very day, Red continues his fruitless quest to conquer the villian who mirrors his every move!

Isn’t it funny how levity helps us cope with situations in which we find ourselves frustrated by our lack of ability to change? This cardinal is unwilling to take the hint and there’s not a thing I can do to fix that for I’ve tried every online remedy (remove light from the window, use Glad Press ‘n Seal and more) to no avail. I’ve just attempted a last possibility of posting an 8″ x 10″ picture of my son when he was three in the window. “They” said a life size picture might scare the menace off. Alas, Red just buzzed the window once more 😦

The Life and Times of Author L. R. W. Lee