Book Review: Linda Howard-Open Season

Image credit: tieury / 123RF Stock Photo

Linda Howard is one of my favorite authors of all time. I love a great romantic suspense story. This year, I’m going to review my top six favorites Linda Howard novels, starting with OPEN SEASON.

The main character, Daisy, wakes up on her birthday and decides her life is boring and it’s up to her to make the changes. She starts with a makeover. I love makeover stories. Not only does she change her looks, but also her habits, and attracts the attention of the new-in-town chief of police. That’s the romance, and it’s a great one.

The suspense comes in when ditzy Daisy, the town librarian, witnesses a murder. She doesn’t realize what she’s seen. There are plenty of twists and layers to the suspense plot, including crooked politicians, date rape drugs, international sex trafficking, and spousal abuse.

One of the things Howard does so well is show us the inner workings of her character’s minds. Daisy may come off as scatterbrained, but her once the reader follows how her thought process works, everything makes sense. Naive doesn’t mean stupid.

Howard also has a great sense of humor that doesn’t always show up in her books, but there are a couple of laugh-out-loud moments in OPEN SEASON.

I highly recommend this book.

 

MJ Monday-Meals: Produce

No recipe this month, but rather, an observation about food.

My local supermarket has a program where they’ll shop for you and deliver to your house. My main concern with concept has always been produce. I like to pick out my own.

I like fruits and most vegetables. However, I find vegetables a pain in the butt to cook. And fancying them all up with sauces and cheese and whatever tends to render the healthy aspect of eating them pointless.

But my biggest issue with produce is it’s propensity to go bad.

I food shop once a week. Maybe if I shopped daily, spoilage wouldn’t be an issue. When the children were small, my weekly menu was pretty much set in stone, with only a little room for deviation. Rotting food wasn’t a problem. Now that there are only the two of us living here and our lives are more flexible, me cooking a weeknight meal with the two of us sitting down together is a rare occurrence. So even though I know we should eat more fresh vegetables, I hesitate because I so often have to throw them away before I get an opportunity to cook them.

Yes, I know “they” are doing amazing things with frozen veggies these days, and yes, they are convenient. But some veggies simple don’t freeze well, no matter how amazing they are treated. Winter squashes come to mind. Greens are another.

I’m lucky. My supermarket sells fresh veggies that have been prepped: precut butternut squash, shredded Brussels spouts, chopped Asian “salad” (which is wonderful stir-fried). Doing the prep makes incorporating fresh vegetables into our diet easier.

Now if there was some way they’d stay fresh in the refrigerator.

 

 

 

 

 

Self Help Review: Made for More? Nope.

I’m switching things up a bit this year, trying to keep the blog fresh. I will review a self-help book, or in the case of January, a self-help movie, the first Thursday of every month. I’ve certainly read my share.

One thing you’re going to learn about me is my skepticism. You may think I am a negative person, but I’m really not. Positivity is my number four strength, according to the Clifton Stengthsfinder assessment. But I’m skeptical. Or maybe I should say I’m wary of being conned.

My then-manager showed the Rachel Hollis documentary Made for More to us as a team building exercise. Rachel Hollis, in case you didn’t know (and I didn’t), is a guru of self-help for women. Her book Girl, Wash your Face was a best seller. A friend recently told me there have been accusations of plagiarism, but I don’t really know enough about it to comment. What I do know is the first half of the movie. (I declined to watch the second half, which was shown in another team meeting).

The first thing that struck me about this movie was while Rachel was discussing how her organization is all about empowering women, the video showed her husband driving the family van with the caption: CEO of her company (The Hollis Company).  I thought an empowered woman would be empower other women. Making your husband CEO of your company seems contradictory.

Further into the movie Rachel tells us about her boob job. How she hated her breasts because after nursing four children they were like yogurt, so she decided to get a boob job to increase her self-esteem/body image/whatever.

After she has justified why she wanted a boob job, she went to a scene from one of her RISE sessions (3-day personal growth conferences) where she asked the attendees how they felt about their bodies. Everyone was in tears, because everyone hated something about their bodies. It was very moving. She went on and on about how awful it was that these women hated their bodies.

I had a problem with this–not with her having a boob job–but the mixed message (and her tears) she sent to that conference of crying women with body image issues. If I had been in the audience that day, I would have felt used.

In about 40 minutes of documentary, the woman managed to turn me off. Not every “method” of self-help works for every person. Rachel Hollis is not my guru.

 

 

 

MJ Monday: MJ’s Motivation-2020 Vision

It’s that time of year again, when people make their New Year’s resolutions. My friends and I continue to set goals for the coming year. How could I not play off the year and call my plan for the next twelve months my 2020 Vision?

Pulling together an action plan for the next year requires thought and reevaluation.  I study my successes from the previous year. I envision what I’d like to accomplish. I re-prioritize my weak spots. I have combined or deleted categories until I now have only four:

  • The Writing Life
  • It’s All About Me
  • Maintenance
  • Miscellaneous

Some things never go away: a monthly date with my husband, regular contact with my elderly parents, server maintenance.

Some things I simply stopped doing this year. Time became a precious commodity, and I was spreading myself too thin.

The Writing Life continues to be my largest category, because there are specific steps that need to be taken. I have definite ideas about what I want. I try to recognize my missteps and take action to correct them.

I have two new biggies for 2020:

  1. I want to transform my office/writing room into my own space. Yes, I have a room. But my husband has bookcases in there, eating wall space where there should be white boards and planning calendars.  Nothing has been painted since we first bought the house several decades ago. I’ve been making lists, then breaking the lists into steps I need to take. I plan to blog about my progress in months where there are five Mondays.
  2. I need to focus on professional development. I’ve already taken steps to implement this. I have taken one on-line class and have registered and paid for a second one starting in January.

Taking stock of my life matters to me. I think it helps me be a better person.

 

 

MJ’s Musings: The Next Phase

As the year draws to a close, I’m reflecting on what I have learned these past twelve months. The most important lesson was  QUESTION THE PREMISE.

Several author friends urged me to check out Becca Syme and her Quit Cast on YouTube.  Although the vids are geared toward writers, I think anyone can learn the basics and apply them to their own situation. I highly recommend the first episode where Becca talks about alignment and the third episode (Question the Premise, link above).  All of her videos are wonderful, but more geared toward writers.

I feel good about finishing the third book in the Service for Sanctuary series. It’s going to be a little later than originally planned, but it’s coming along nicely. I want it right, not fast.

After I finish the werewolf book, I plan to dip my toes into the cozy mystery genre. This is an idea I’ve tinkered with for years, making random notes and so one, but late this summer, the ideas have been pelting me, so I think it’s ready to be written. The note taking has become a flurry, and I’m compiling a list of people to talk to and places to visit as part of my research. I’m really excited about that.

I also have my currently-out-of-print baseball books (five of them) that I’d like to self-publish. I have a dystopian novel I want to pitch to a publisher. And then there’s a baseball-werewolf novella gathering dust while waiting for me to get my act together.

Right now, though, I’m going to make homemade soup.