Eating Frogs, Making Sh*t Happen & the Motivation to Reach your Concrete Goals

Challenges and Warriors

The Crazy Frog Goal Style Method- Doing Whatever it takes, even if it's crazy or scary

What is the thing that challenges you the most? What do you really care about? What is one thing you want to change?

In honor of the new year, I will post about a couple of inspirational books I have read or people I have heard about.

Many people may be fed up with any mention of New Year’s resolutions or change by  now. This might be because they didn’t follow through after the first day or because they didn’t see a need to make a resolution this year at all. Like a jaded warrior, you may run the other way or pull out your sword and start slashing wildly when you hear any talk of resolutions or goals. Why the fear? (Or violence?)

Here’s a quote that might give a possible answer.  “In order to change we must be sick and tired of being sick and tired.” ~ Anon.

This quote could describe how some people may feel if they constantly face failure or not following through on their goals. This is how I sometimes feel, but I am ready to dive in and make the changes that I need to in my life. Jenny Blake, motivator and awesome life coach I just found out about, may have some answers as well. She quit Google to pursue her dreams that included writing a book and she speaks about the importance of taking little steps towards your goals and not just having an all or nothing mentality on following your goals in her web conference here about how to Make Sh*t happen.  She is also the author of Life After College: The Complete Guide to Getting What You Want, a book I just discovered that may be very helpful for anyone graduating, recently graduated, or feeling like they should have done something more after this so-called graduation into real life. It is also helpful for anyone wishing to make changes in their life and turn things around.

Samurai Style Method: Facing your Fears to carry out your goals (and not stabbing blindly at them)

I have also been reading called Eat That Frog!: 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time by Brian Tracy.  Don’t turn away yet, as this book is powerful and packs a punch that goes straight to the core of what you need to do to change your habits that bring you nowhere. You need to take the right steps and this cuts right to the bone of the issue. There is so much you can take away from this book, but a few helpful tips it suggests are:

  • Do something, whatever it is and however small it is, RIGHT NOW towards your goal. Taking the first step is always very difficult and just starting can really be a great motivation for you to keep going.
  • It also lets you know how important it is to develop the right habits, as they can determine how successful you are. This is important because what you spend your time doing, or what you are used to doing can determine what opportunities you open yourself up for and what you miss out on because your habits or ways of doing things get in the way.
  • The importance of Visualization and seeing yourself successful and as the person you would like to be. This is similar to Jenny Blake’s method of Act As If.
  • The super importance of writing your goals down. This allows you to see your goals in concrete form, or rather, on paper I should say. Or Concrete Paper? Check out Papercrete here- recycling paper into concrete
  • I won’t say anymore about what the book advises you, just that it is awesome advice presented in a way that allows you to apply it to your life right away to make true changes.

Other Inspirational people who really blew me away

Alicia Kozakiewicz  is someone who survived being kidnapped and exploited for human trafficking. She was rescued by a FBI team and now has goals to prevent others from experiencing the trauma that she did. She is currently going to school to reach her dreams of being on a FBI team herself.

“I’d like,” she says, “to ultimately become the person who rescues the child, and then helps to recover that child’s soul.” 

Find out more about her at the Alicia Project

Someone else who has touched my heart ever since I heard about her is Elizabeth Smart. I was glued to the TV and scoured the internet trying to find out more about her and praying that she would return home safely and soon. Elizabeth and Alicia created a video on how everyone can help to rescue children who have been kidnapped and held in horrible conditions against their wills, just like they were. Everyone can be a hero and it starts with taking a single step, a single click of your mouse. Check out their video here, called Not One More Child and determine today how many more children should have to be stuck in slavery.

Issues like this really touch my heart and set it on fire. I will make a difference for these children, many who have nobody out there fighting for them. And EVERYBODY  can make a difference for the causes they believe in. The Wikipedia Blackout has shown us this. Where there is a fire, there is a way, a solution to that fire. You have to spread the fire to get to the solution. What are the causes that you believe in, that you are wildly passionate about? Please share below, I would love to hear!

Advertisements

Are you ready for WIRED?

When reading a good book, you would think that you need to truly relate to and care for the characters. But every so often, a great book comes along that makes you cringe and not feel any sense of empathy for the characters. This is how I felt at the beginning of Wired. The characters are people we all might recognize: so full of flaws that they cannot ever be redeemed. But this does not stop you from getting wired into this book.

The two main characters are both quite unloving, even though some may prefer one over the other (depending on gender, world view and part of the novel you are at). Mary Elizabeth and Charlie, married for years and even high school sweethearts, are polar opposites: Not just in the opposites attract way either, but more like the this is the end quality that usually comes right before a divorce. They seem to be almost torn to shreds in regards to how their relationship is holding up. And it gets even worse.

At first I hated the characters. I did not think I would come to feel for them or like them, but the author did a truly amazing job of showing how the hero and heroine can be human beings with many faults that others might not like them for (and might even hate them for) in real life. But this allows an authentic portrait to be shared with the reader.

This novel explores it all: what love and loss and betrayals and the breakdown of a relationship looks like. What fear and hate and hiding things and lying can do to a person.

It shows that even when there seems to be no more hope, that the characters still find strength from somewhere to hang on to and courage to keep going and to make the right choices, even if they are the hardest choices of all.

Real life is never easy and the novel does not take the easy way out either. It shows that in order for love and truth to win out, you have to be brutally honest, even if it hurts and you cannot let go of the ones you love. Sometimes you will push away the ones you love. You will do horrible things. But the fight cannot be taken out of these characters. They win you over with their raw humanity, their weaknesses and their ultimate strengths that bring about healing and before you know it, you are somehow rooting for them. Because they are human.

Nothing is tied into a neat pretty bow, so to speak, in that everything is real and given to you straight, no punches held back. There are resolutions made that are satisfying, yet realistic and leave you with the glow that maybe something good came out of everything after all, just as you hope it does in real life.

This is a novel that showcases raw honesty and real humanity including the flaws, evil and all. But it also holds the hope of coming to terms with your life, making the right choices for yourself, and learning to be honest even when it hurts. This is a must read for all fans of suspense, intrigue, murder mysteries, action, and real relationship portrayals with some romance thrown in too. But it also has characters that you might not like at first but who come to the front of everything standing strong and beating all odds in their own way. Characters that you will not forget.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Tour Notes:

Enter to win 1 of 3 free paperback copies of this novel on the official Wired blog tour page. The winner of the give-away will be announced on Wednesday, October 26 – be sure to enter before then! Just can’t wait to read Wired? Pick up your copy in the Kindle, Nook, or iTunes stores or visit Smashwords with the coupon code AK95A to receive a discounted price (just $2)!

Don’t forget to vote for my blog, BookwormCastle in the traffic-breaker poll for this tour. The blogger with the most votes wins an Amazon gift card and a special winner’s badge. I want that to be me! You can vote in the poll by visiting the official Wired blog tour page and scrolling all the way to the bottom.

Learn more about this author by visiting her website, Facebook or GoodReads pages or by connecting with her on Twitter. You’ll definitely want to check out Martha’s Mystery Blog–each week a new short thriller is serialized Monday through Friday. The entries are nice and short, easy to read via smart phone or tablet. It’s all at www.MarthaCarr.com.

Mile 81: A stretch of highway full of Pure Terror that you will Love

Your last rest stop: Will you survive Mile 81?

Review: Mile 81 By Stephen King

Blurb from my Stephen King page (written as I was reading Mile 81) Read below italics for the Mile 81 review if you dare!

 My first King book I read was Carrie, quickly followed by Firestarter and I loved both of them. But the one that really grabbed me and made me fall in love with Stephen King and horror was The Girl who Loved Tom Gordon. The main character was a normal girl like me (who lived by the woods, no less) who got thrown into the scariest situation that I didn’t know if she could get out of.

I was hooked.

 The character, Rachel, in Mile 81, reminds me of this Girl. She seems to be made of the same stuff that the Girl was. That stuff that fights in order to survive and is forced to let go of her little girl status in a heartbeat. And Mile 81 will also leave you wondering if anyone will get out of this alive.

 If you have not been to Mile 81, you need to go now

Right after you read this, of course. (Don’t worry, no spoilers!)

Yes, it is arguably the scariest stop you will ever make on the highway, but you do not want to pass by this rest area. And be sure to know, you will get no rest until you have experienced the full Mile.

If you enjoyed Christine, you will definitely love Mile 81, as you will see that Mile 81 could be one of the places that Christine would have called home. But I will focus on the pure rush of adrenaline and terror that you will feel from the Mile.

Once the horror of the Mile pulls you in, you will not be able to leave this stretch of highway until the ride is over. The characters are fully sketched out and are very believable and you are made to care about them and hence to fear for their lives in typical King fashion (in which nothing is typical).

Hang on tight and hold your breath: no safety bar on this ride

But you fear that no one will be able to make it out alive on this ride and you hold your breath for the characters who you hope just might make it and you are not able to let go. You hold onto that bar that is supposed to keep you safe on the ride and it seems dangerously loose.

Completely taken in and horrified for the characters, the tension was past the tipping point.  I definitely felt my emotions building up for these characters. The “safety” bar will keep slipping open, leaving you flirting with death. You definitely are kept on a hairline edge between life and death and just when you think you are home free, the safety bar will be wildly torn completely off.

It is as if it is your life on the line or your best friends’, your loved ones,  or your children’s lives. The ones you hold most dear. These characters will stay with you.

Some of it is told in that way I love (and fear) when you know something is way off and something is going to happen that will terrify you, have no doubts about it. That adds more layers to the tension as you don’t know if anyone will come out alive and you hope against hope that they will. And that at least some of the characters will come through for each other.

There is amusing humor dispersed throughout but you will still feel the complete rush of the spine-tingling chills and nail-biting panic (make that the-complete-ripping-off-of-the-entire-nail-and sticking needles-in-your-cuticles-type of panic).

There is no way to fully describe the deliciously dreadful state of mind you will be in- (and may have gotten a taste of if you were following me on Twitter as I read and posted my live reaction) so all I can say is get off the highway now, don’t wait any longer and don’t let the fear deter you! I can only say that I hope you survive it. This is not for the weak of heart and even people used to King’s rides of terror will still have their breath taken away on this one.

I didn’t know if I could keep holding on as it really whips you around and I was holding on so tight that I was numb from the apprehension. (If being numb from horror is possible?  Would like to hear your take on this.) But of course I had to keep going and find out what was ahead for the characters.

The only part I didn’t like was that, like the scariest and faster roller coasters, it was over very fast and I wanted more. But there is no shortage of King and I would definitely go to this Mile again (and other stretches of his haunts and highways). I can only hope there will be more of the monstrosity that was Mile 81.

After reading, I was still too much in a state of shocked horror and the adrenaline had not worn off yet, (it still totally hasn’t!) that I could not make sense of writing the review yet (add to that the fact that I had to go to work in a small number of hours and so needed to sleep).

I am glad that I documented my reaction as I read  Mile 81 and so I will leave you with that to give you just a taste and hopefully you are not pushed too far over the edge of the divider. I wouldn’t want you getting stuck at Mile 81, now would I?

(Note:  The following quotes are my live reaction from reading Mile 81, but may be slightly changed from the original twitter version posted, so that you can get the full idea.)

“White knuckles, tense, holding my breath.”

“Heart racing, chills down my spine, have to read on, but I’m so scared for them, I don’t know if I can face the horror and what is going to happen.”

“Eyes scrunched tight, want to hide under the table, but won’t be safe there either!”

Quote from Stephen King’s Mile 81: “Had to fight every instinct in my brain and my body to keep from running.” My version- “HAD TO FIGHT every instinct to keep from dropping the book and running away in terror, but could not STOP reading!”

Have you read it? Please share with me your reaction from reading!

What other King novels do you love? What was the one that you first read or that made you fall in love with King and the horror genre?

And if you have an answer to my question above, please answer in the comments: Is being numb from horror possible?

(And would love to hear your live reaction as well if you are/will be reading it-  talk to me about Mile 81 and all things King on twitter @Bookwormcastle)

To hear more and to join the Mile 81/Stephen King discussion on my blog, please visit my Stephen King page

 

Boyfriend from Hell: When it all seems too perfect (Or fiery teenage rebellion from the not-so-good girl)

Review: Boyfriend from Hell by E. Van Lowe

This book defies the traditions of the paranormal romance realm and delves into the deep end. With shocking twists at every turn, the main character, Megan feels like she doesn’t know who is who anymore or what is going on, as her life totally changes once her mom starts dating. The man seems perfect, almost too good to be true, (in her mom’s eyes, at least) until she digs up some serious dirt on him. Not your average dirt either. But no one believes her, because it sounds too crazy. Who would believe a teenage girl saying that her mom’s new love interest is from hell?

What she doesn’t know will hurt her

So many changes are going on in Megan’s life that she responds at first in the usual teenage way. She breaks her tradition of being the good girl who is known for following the rules and starts to do what she wants. Rules be damned! Things get more serious when she is in danger and has to break some rules, this time for a reason- she has to protect her mother and cannot tell her what is really going on.

The relationships are what drive the book forward with an ever increasing momentum. Just as she doesn’t know who she truly is at times,  she now doesn’t feel she really knows everyone around her, let alone if she can trust them any longer.

As far as love interests go, as the title does say boyfriend– Megan does have a new love interest. And when her two best friends start dating, this throws a whole new dynamic to her friendships. Along with her mom’s new boyfriend situation, Megan does not know who she can really trust or love, let along if they are really there to protect her or hurt her. This definitely adds layers of tension and mystery to the already fast paced story. The complexity of the relationships alone is a great reason to check out the book to see how her relationships fare and how this affects the story, as well as her very chances of survival.

The ending pulls you so completely in that you need to know what happens next. Just enough is revealed so that it leaves you craving more to see what happens next between the characters that you come to love (or hate/fear, depending on who we are talking about). It’s all about the dynamics and this book nails them down.

Megan has to fight to protect her best friends, loved ones and her mom, who she loves more than anything. But who will fight for her? And what if the ones she fights for turn their backs on her?

For information on the author, visit here.

Now is also the perfect time to get your e-copy. The E-book sale is from now until August 31st, check it out here!

Boyfriend From Hell is the first book of the saga, which is great, as it definitely leaves you looking forward to the next one, Earth Angel!

 

In Leah’s Wake Social Media Whirlwind Tour

Announcing the In Leah’s Wake Social Media Whirlwind Tour—WooHoo!

As part of this special promotional extravaganza sponsored by Novel Publicity, the price of the In Leah’s Wake Kindle edition has dropped to just 99 cents this week.

What’s more, by purchasing this fantastic book at an incredibly low price, you can enter to win many awesome prizes, including a Kindle, 5 autographed copies of the book, and multiple Amazon gift cards (1 for $100, 3 for $25, 5 for $10, and 10 for $5 – 19 in all)! Be sure to enter before the end of the day on Friday, August 26th, so you don’t miss out.

To win the prizes:

  1. Purchase your copy of In Leah’s Wake for just 99 cents
  2. Fill-out the form on the author’s site to enter for prizes
  3. Visit today’s featured event; you may win an autographed copy of the book!

And I can win $100 too if you vote for my blog over on the author’s website. The blog host that gets the most votes in this traffic-breaker polls wins, so please cast yours right after purchasing In Leah’s Wake and entering the contests!

The featured events include:

Monday, Blogaganza on Novel Publicity! We’re kicking-off on the Novel Publicity Free Advice blog. We’ll ask the writer 5 fun and random questions to get everyone talking. Leave a comment or question in response to the post, and you may win an autographed copy of In Leah’s Wake. Don’t forget to visit the author’s blog to enter for the other prizes!

Tuesday, Twitter chat with the author! Tweet with us between 4 and 5 PM Eastern Time, using the hashtag #emlyn. We’ll be talking with the author about her favorite books and best writing advice. Bring your questions about In Leah’s Wake and don’t forget to use #emlyn or to follow Terri @tglong. By joining in the tweet chat at the designated time, you may win an autographed copy of In Leah’s Wake. Don’t forget to visit the author’s blog to enter for the other prizes!

Wednesday, Google+ video chat with the author! Join our hangout between 12 and 3 PM Eastern Time to talk with the author and us via video chat. We’ll be gabbing about great books including In Leah’s Wake and about writing. Did you know that Terri is a creative writing instructor at Boston College? She’s got tons of good advice for aspiring writers. By joining in the Google+ video chat at the designated time, you may win an autographed copy of In Leah’s Wake. Don’t forget to visit the author’s blog to enter for the other prizes!

Thursday, Facebook interview with the author! Stop by Novel Publicity’s Facebook page and ask Terri questions. She’s chosen three of her favorite topics to talk about: writing, parenting, and gourmet cooking. Of course, you’re welcome to ask about In Leah’s Wake too. Leave a comment or question as part of the thread, and you may win an autographed copy of In Leah’s Wake. Don’t forget tolike Terri’s Facebook page or to visit her blog to enter for the other prizes!

Friday, Fun & games based on the book! We want to close this whirlwind social media tour with a gigantic bang, which is why we’ve set-up two interactive book-themed features on the author’s blog. You can take the official Facebook quiz to find out which In Leah’s Wake character is most like you and learn how that character ties into the story. Then try out our crossroads story game. Throughout the course of the narrative, you’ll have several decisions to make. What you choose will affect the outcome of the story. Play as either rebellious teenager Leah or the trampled peacemaker and mother Zoe. Leave a comment or question on any of Terri’s blog entries, and you may win an autographed copy of In Leah’s Wake. Don’t forget to check out the other give-away contests while you’re on Terri’s blog!

About In Leah’s Wake: The Tyler family had the perfect life – until sixteen-year-old Leah decided she didn’t want to be perfect anymore. While Zoe and Will fight to save their daughter from destroying her brilliant future, Leah’s younger sister, Justine, must cope with the damage her out-of-control sibling leaves in her wake. Will this family survive? What happens when love just isn’t enough? Jodi Picoult fans will love this beautifully written and absorbing novel.


An excerpt from In Leah’s Wake

The prologue and first chapter

. . . little heart of mine, believe me, everyone is really responsible to all men for all men and for everything. I dont know how to explain it to you, but I feel it is so, painfully even. And how is it we went on living, getting angry and not knowing?

Fyodor Dostoevsky

The Grand Inquisitor

Prologue

March

Justine strikes a pose before the full-length mirror hanging on her closet door. Chin up, hands by her sides. She draws a breath. “My dear. . .” she begins, and stops mid-sentence. Wrinkles her nose. She’s got it all wrong. She’s too—Too stiff. Too grownup. Toosomething.

She rakes her fingers over her short dark hair, sweeping the bangs out of her eyes, tugs at the hem of her pink baby-doll pajamas. She’s scheduled to deliver the candidates’ address at her Confirmation Mass this afternoon. When she learned, six months ago, that she had been selected speaker, Justine was ecstatic. Now, the very idea of standing in front of the whole congregation, telling hundreds, maybe thousands, of people how she’s learned from her own family what it means to be part of God’s larger family makes her sick to her stomach.

She has no choice. She made a commitment.

She folds her hands primly, setting them at chest height on her imaginary podium, glances at her cheat sheet, rolls her lower face into a smile, and begins again. “My fellow Confirmation candidates,” she says this time. Justine crumples the paper, tosses it onto her bed. My fellow Confirmation candidates. What a dork. She sounds about twenty, instead of thirteen.

She screws up her face. “I can’t do this,” she says, wagging a finger at the girl watching her from the mirror. She would feel like a hypocrite.

Justine plods to the bathroom, pees, pads back to her bedroom. The forecasters are predicting snow, starting later today. A dismal gray stratus hangs over her skylight. Her room is dark, the air raw. Her sister’s blue and gold Cortland High sweatshirt lies in a heap at the foot of her bed. Justine pulls the sweatshirt over her head, retrieves the balled-up paper. With the back of her hand, she flattens it out, and returns to the mirror to practice.

As always, on first glance, the girl in the mirror takes Justine by surprise. She’s grown two inches since Christmas, isn’t chubby anymore, her belly flat, the clavicle bones visible now at the base of her throat. She pushes her bangs out of her pale, darkly fringed eyes. With her fingertips, she touches her cheeks. Her features have matured, her nose long and straight, like her mother’s, her cheekbones defined. She curls and uncurls her toes. She wears a size six shoe, a size and a half smaller than Leah. Her toes are long and slim, the nails painted blue.

Justine crushes the sheet of paper, tosses it in the trash, strolls to her window, raises the honeycomb shade. Spring feels a long way away, the yard empty, the trees bare. A rush of cold air streams in, under the sash. The air smells of snow. Justine presses her hand against the cool glass, the way she and her sister used to do on the windshield of their father’s car, when they were small. Stop, their father would scold. Youre making a mess. She smiles, remembering how Leah loved egging him on. She pulls her hand away from the glass, watches her prints disappear.

Justine wishes, sometimes, that she could disappear, too. Poof, just like the handprint.

Poof, just like her sister.

Chapter One: Just Do It

September

Zoe and Will Tyler sat at the dining room table, playing poker. The table, a nineteenth-century, hand-carved mahogany, faced the bay window overlooking their sprawling front yard. Husband and wife sat facing one another, a bowl of Tostitos and a half-empty bottle of port positioned between them. Their favorite Van Morrison disc—Tupelo Honey—spun on the player in the family room, the music drifting out of speakers built into the dining room walls.

Dog, their old yellow Lab, lay on a ratty pink baby blanket, under the window.

Zoe plucked the Queen of Hearts from the outside of her hand, and tucked it center. She was holding a straight. If she laid it down, she would win the hand, third in a row, and her husband would quit. If she didn’t, she would be cheating herself.

The moon was full tonight, its light casting a ghostly shadow across the yard. The full moon made Zoe anxious. For one of her internships in grad school, she’d worked on the psych ward at City Hospital, in Boston. On nights when the moon was full, the floor erupted, the patients noisy, agitated. Zoe’s superiors had pooh-poohed the lunar effect, chalked it up to irrationality, superstition. But Zoe had witnessed the flaring tempers, seen the commotion with her own two eyes, and found the effect impossible to deny—and nearly all the nurses concurred.

“Full moon,” she said. “I hadn’t noticed. No wonder I had trouble sleeping last night.”

Will set his empty glass on the table. With his fingers, he drummed an impatient tattoo. “You planning to take your turn any time soon? Be nice if we ended this game before midnight.”

“For Pete’s sake, Will.” Her husband had the attention span of a titmouse. He reminded her of Mick, a six year-old ADD patient she counseled—sweet kid, when he wasn’t ransacking her office, tossing the sand out of the turtle-shaped box, tweaking her African violets.

“What’s so funny?” he asked, sulking.

She shook her head—nothing, Mick—and forced a straight face.

“You’re laughing at me.”

“Don’t be silly. Why would I be laughing at you?”

He peered at his reflection in the window. Smirking, he finger-combed his baby-fine hair, pale, graying at the temples, carving a mini-pyramid at his crown.

“Nice do. Could use a little more gel,” she said, feeling mean-spirited the instant the words slipped out of her mouth. The poor guy was exhausted. He’d spent the week in California, on business, had flown into Logan this morning, on the red-eye. Though he had yet to fill her in on the details, it was obvious to her that his trip had not gone well. “Sorry,” she said. “Just kidding.” She fanned out her cards, hesitated for an instant, and laid down the straight.

“Congratulations.” Scowling, he pushed away from the table. “You win again.”

“Way to go, grumpy. Quit.”

“I’m getting water,” he said, tamping his hair. “Want some?”

Dog lifted her head, her gaze following Will to the door, yawned, and settled back down.

Her husband stomped across the kitchen, his footfall moving in the direction of the family room. The music stopped abruptly, and the opening chords of a Robbie Robertson tune belted out of the speakers. Zoe loved Robbie Robertson, “Showdown at Big Sky” one of her favorite songs. That didn’t mean that the entire state of Massachusetts wanted to hear it.

“Will,” she said, gesturing from the kitchen. “Turn it down. You’ll wake Justine.”

She waited a few seconds, caught his eye, gestured again. The third time was the charm.

Exasperated, she returned to the dining room, bundled the cards, put them away in the sideboard, and gathered the dishes. The toilet flushed in the half-bath off the back hall. Seconds later, she heard her husband rattling around the kitchen, slamming the cabinet doors. Last spring, Will had won a major contract for his company, North American Construction. Since then, he’d been back and forth nonstop to the West Coast, spending two weeks a month in San Francisco, servicing the client. Zoe hadn’t minded his traveling, at first. Over the past two years, with the glut of office and manufacturing space in the northeast, construction starts had dropped, and his sales had taken a serious hit, his commissions steadily dwindling. To compensate, initially they’d relied on their savings. In January, they’d remortgaged the house. When the California job arose, Will had jumped on the opportunity. He had no choice, especially with Leah headed to college next year. But the situation, lately, was brutal. Will hated traveling, hated flying, hated living out of a suitcase. And he resented missing Leah’s soccer games. Last November, as a sophomore, their daughter had been named Player of the Year on theBoston Globe All-Scholastic team. A week later, in his year-end summary, the sports reporter from the Cortland Gazette had called Leah the “best soccer player in the state.” The head coaches from the top colleges in the area—Harvard, Dartmouth, Boston College, BU—had sent congratulatory letters, expressing their interest. Will wanted to be home to guide her, meet the prospective coaches, help her sort through her options. Zoe didn’t blame her husband a bit. But it didn’t seem to occur to Will that his traveling disrupted her life, too. Last year, she’d developed a motivational seminar, called “Success Skills for Women on the Move.” Now that the girls were practically grown, the workshops were her babies. The extra workload at home, added to the demands of her fulltime job at the counseling center, left her with no time for marketing or promotion, and the workshops had stagnated. Zoe understood her husband’s frustration. It irked her when he minimized hers.

Will appeared in the doorway, a few minutes later, empty-handed. Will was tall, a hair shy of six-one. He’d played football in college, and, at forty-five, still had the broad shoulders and narrow waist of an athlete. Amazing, really: after eighteen years of marriage, she still found him achingly sexy. Crow’s feet creased the corners of his intelligent blue eyes and fine lines etched his cheekbones, giving his boyish features a look of intensity and purpose, qualities Zoe had recognized from the start but that only now, as he was aging, showed on his face.

After work, he’d changed into a pair of stonewashed jeans and a gray sweatshirt, worn soft, the words “Harvard Soccer Camp” screened in maroon lettering across the chest. Absently, he pushed up his sleeves, and peered around the room as though looking for something. “Zoe—” Normally, he called her Honey or Zo.

“I put the cards away.” She thumbed the sideboard. “You quit, remember?”

“Do you have any idea what time it is?”

She glanced at the cuckoo clock on the far wall. “Ten past eleven. So?”

“Where’s Leah?”

At the football game, with Cissy. “They’ve been going every week. Did you forget?”

“She ought to be home by now.”

“She’s only ten minutes late.” Their daughter was a junior in high school. They’d agreed, before school started this year, to extend her weekend curfew to eleven. “She’ll be here soon.”

Will stalked to the window, grumbling. Dog rose, and pressed her nose to the glass.

Their driveway, half the length of a soccer field, sloped down from the cul-de-sac, arced around the lawn, and straightened, ending in a turnaround at the foot of their three-car garage. In summer, the oak and birch trees bordering the property obscured their view. Now that most of the leaves had fallen, the headlights were visible as vehicles entered the circle.

“She has a game in the morning.” Will stretched his neck . His upper back had been bothering him lately, residual pain from an old football injury he’d suffered in college.

Zoe came up behind him, pushing Dog’s blanket aside with her foot, and squeezed his shoulders. “You’re tight.”

He dropped his chin. “From sleeping on the plane. Got to get one of those donut pillows.”

“You know Leah. She has no sense of time. I’ll bet they stopped for something to eat.”

“I can’t see why Hillary won’t set a curfew. Every other coach has one.”

“Relax, Will. It’s not that late. You’re blowing this out of proportion. Don’t you think?”

A flash of headlights caught their attention. An SUV entered the cul-de-sac, rounded the circle, its lights sweeping over the drive and across their lawn, and headed down the street.

Bending, Will ruffled Dog’s ears. “Reardon’s coming tomorrow, specifically to watch her. She plays like crap when she’s tired.”

The Harvard coach. She should have known. “So she doesn’t go to Harvard,” she said, a tired remark, fully aware of the comeback her words would elicit, “she’ll go someplace else.”

“There is no place else.”

No place that would give her the opportunities, the connections… blah, blah, blah. They’d been over this a million times. If their daughter had the slightest aspiration of going to Harvard, Zoe would do everything in her power to support her. As far as she could tell, the name Harvard had never graced Leah’s wish-list. It was a moot point, anyway. For the last two terms, Leah’s grades had been dropping. If she did apply for admission, she would probably be denied.

“Reardon has pull,” he offered, a weak rebuttal in Zoe’s opinion. “He’s been talking to Hillary about her. She can’t afford to blow this opportunity.”

Opportunity? What opportunity? “Face it, Will. She doesn’t want to go to Harvard.”

“If she plays her cards right, she can probably get a boat.”

Zoe opened her mouth, ready to blast him. He’d received a full football scholarship from Penn State, and dropped out of college. Was that what he wanted? A college drop-out in a couple years? Noticing the purple rings under his eyes, she held back. “You’re exhausted.” His plane had barely touched ground at Logan Airport when he was ordered to NAC’s corporate office in Waltham, for a marketing meeting. He hadn’t had time to stop home to change his clothes, never mind take a short nap. “Why don’t you go to bed? I’ll wait up.”

The look he returned implied that she’d lost it. “You think I could sleep?”

“For all we know, they had a flat.”

“She would have called.”

“So call her.” Duh.

“I did. I got voice mail.”

Shoot. “You know Leah. Her battery probably died.” She was grasping at straws. Leah was sixteen years old. That phone was her lifeline. Still, it could be true. It was possible. Right?

Leah had totally lost track of time. She and Todd had been hanging out at the water tower for hours, perched on the hood of Todd’s Jeep, drinking Vodka and OJ, admiring the beautiful night. This place was perfect, the most perfect place in the universe, maybe. Big sky, lots of trees. From here, they could see the whole town, just about—the river, the railroad tracks. An orchard. In the valley, lights began to blink out. Leaning back on her elbows, she gazed up at the heavens. “Look,” she said, mesmerized by the inky black sky, the billions and billions of stars. “The Big Dipper.” As she stared into space, time fell away, the past merging seamlessly with the future, this moment, up here, with Todd, the only reality there ever was or ever could be.

Todd took her hand, drawing her close, so close she could smell the spicy deodorant under his armpits. Just being with Todd Corbett made her feel dizzy all over. Todd was, by far, the most beautiful boy she had ever laid eyes on. His hair was long on top, short on the sides. He had full lips, and the most fabulous blue eyes, like, like crystals or something. A Romanesque nose, the exact nose she’d once told Cissy she’d die for, only now that she’d seen it on Todd, she realized that that particular nose was meant for a boy. Best of all, he had this incredible aura, all purple and blue, like James Dean or Curt Cobain.

She curled her legs under her, laid her head on Todd’s chest.

They met at a party, the Friday before school started. Todd had been on tour for the past two years, working as a roadie for a heavy metal band called “Cobra.” Leah knew he was back—that was all anybody was talking about—had recognized him instantly, from all the descriptions.

She couldn’t believe her luck. Todd Corbett! And alone! She’d heard he was hot. He was even better looking in person. Looking back, she couldn’t believe she’d been so brazen. She left Cissy in the lurch, sashayed right over to him, took a seat beside him, on the living room floor.

The movie he was watching was stupid. People clopping across a field like zombies, their arms outstretched. They reminded her of herself and Justine when they were little, playing blind. Even the makeup looked phony.

“What are you watching?” she asked.

Night of the Living Dead. Flick’s a classic. Hey, haven’t I seen you someplace before?”

Maybe, though she couldn’t imagine where. Todd couldn’t possibly have remembered her from high school. She was only a freshman when he dropped out.

“Leah Tyler, right? You’re that soccer chick.”

The wind swished through the trees. Leah shivered and Todd shrugged out of his worn leather bomber, draped his jacket over her shoulders. He reached into the pocket of his jeans, retrieved a small plastic bag half-full of weed, began rolling a joint. He licked the edge of the paper, lit the joint, inhaling deeply, and handed it to her, the smell rich and exotic and sweet.

Leah had never smoked marijuana until she met Todd. She used to be scared, which was dumb: weed was totally harmless. (The first few times she smoked, she had to admit, she’d been disappointed.) She pulled, her chest searing, struggled to hold the ice-hot smoke in her lungs.

Suddenly, she was coughing, waving her arms.

“You OK, babe?” Todd rescued the joint. With the other hand, he patted her back.

Once she was breathing easily again, he laughed, a sweet laugh that left her feeling dignified, rather than cheesy or stupid. He pinched the joint between his index finger and thumb, took a hit to demonstrate, and brought it to her lips, holding it for her. “That’s it, babe. Good.”

They smoked the joint to its stub, and he showed her how to fashion a roach clip from twigs. Afterward, he offered to drive her home. “Don’t want you getting in trouble or nothing.”

“That’s OK,” Leah said dreamily. “I don’t have to go yet.”

Todd hopped off the hood of the Jeep, pulled a flannel blanket from the back of the truck, and spread the blanket on the grass, under a giant oak tree. Leah watched him smooth it out, his hands dancing, the whole world intensely colored, brilliantly alive. She heard the lonely trill of a cricket, calling from deep in the valley, smelled the damp autumn earth, felt the cool blue breeze on her face. Todd was gliding toward her now, floating on air. He scooped her into his arms, lifting her from the hood of his Jeep, and laid her on the blanket. And kissed her.

At eleven thirty, Zoe dialed Leah’s cell phone again. When Leah didn’t pick up, she tried Cissy, both times reaching voice mail. “I don’t believe those two,” Zoe said, infuriated. “I’ll bet they changed their ringers. The little devils probably know it’s us.”

“That’s your daughter for you,” Will huffed.

“She’s my daughter now?”

By eleven forty-five, Zoe was chewing her cuticles. And Will was pacing.

“This is it,” Will announced. “I’m calling the cops.”

“You can’t be serious. What do you plan to tell them?”

He opened his cell phone. “I can’t sit here, doing nothing.” He glared at the screen.

“You can’t call the cops. She’s forty-five minutes late. They’ll think we’re crazy.”

He clicked his cell shut, dug his keys out of his pocket. “Fine. I’ll find her myself.”

Find her? Where on earth did he plan to look?

“I’ll start at the high school.”

“The game was over hours ago.”

“I’ll drive by the Hanson’s.” He headed for the garage, Dog at his heels.

“And do what?” Cissy’s mom, a nurse, worked the early shift at St. John’s. Judi was probably in bed by now. He would frighten her if he knocked on the door. “Will? Answer me.”

He swiveled to face her. “Look for the car,” he snapped, and ushered Dog out the door.

Zoe stood in the mudroom, at a loss, staring blankly at the door her husband had closed. The house, she realized when she came to, was an icebox. She rooted through the hall closet, found a fleece jacket of Will’s, and pulled it on, kicked off her shoes, the ceramic tile cool under her bare feet, went to the bathroom, crossed the hall to the laundry, tossed a load of clean clothes into the dryer, and wandered back to the kitchen. She poured a glass of water, gathered the dishes they’d left on the dining room table, and emptied the uneaten chips into the compactor. She loaded the dishwasher. After she finished washing the counter, she flung the rag into the sink, and grabbed the cordless phone, so she would have a phone handy if Will or Leah tried to call.

A family portrait, commissioned last year, hung over the stone fireplace in the family room. For the photograph, the four of them had dressed in blue; their blue period, they’d joked when the photographer showed them the proofs. In the photo, Zoe is sitting on a stool, leaning toward the camera, Will standing behind her, flanked by the girls. Looking at the portrait, you’d never guess how hard it had been for the photographer to capture the shot, the kids squabbling, Will impatient, Zoe frustrated, both parents clenching their teeth. Restless, Zoe stepped down into the family room, sank into the oversized chair next to the fireplace, and curled her legs under her, clutching the phone.

Waiting, she tried to think positive thoughts. Leah’s responsible. She can handle herself. If the girls had been in a car accident, the police would have contacted them by now. As usual, her effort to avoid negative thoughts conjured them up. Something wasn’t right. Leah had been late a few times before, never like this. A half hour was one thing. Zoe often lost track of time herself. She would be at her office, transcribing her notes, look up, notice the clock, and realize she was supposed to have picked up one of the girls—at school, at the mall, at a friend’s—fifteen, twenty minutes before. She would rush around her office in a tizzy, collecting her folders and purse, cursing herself for being a neglectful mother, and drive like a madwoman to her destination. But an hour? She checked her watch. And fifteen minutes? This wasn’t like Leah.

She wondered if she had missed something. A signal. A hint. This morning, Leah, out of bed by seven, had moseyed into the kitchen, rubbing her eyes. Spotting the sauce pan on the front burner, she’d whined about having to eat oatmeal again. But she always whined when Zoe made oatmeal, which on certain days she found “revolting,” on others “disgusting” or “gross.” Zoe set the bowl in front of her. “Quit bellyaching,” she said. “Oatmeal is good for you.”

They were running late. So the girls wouldn’t have to rush to catch the bus, Zoe offered to drive them to school. Justine rode shotgun, while Leah dozed in the backseat. At two, Leah called Zoe at work to remind her that she and Cissy planned to go to the game. She was headed directly home after practice, Leah had said; she would fix dinner. At six thirty, when Zoe opened the back door, she smelled Leah’s spicy, cumin-laced chili. On the island counter, Zoe found place settings for her, for Will, for Justine, three glasses filled with ice water and lemon. Justine was upstairs in her room, doing her geometry homework. Leah had already left for the game.

Zoe closed her eyes, breathing deeply, attempting to center herself, and, counting backward from ten. . . eight, seven, six. . . summoned an image of her daughter. Leah’s face materialized, and her body slowly came into focus. Directing her energy outward, Zoe enclosed her daughter in a protective circle of light. Be safe, baby, she whispered. Be safe.

Will drove along country roads canopied by the boughs of towering oak trees, the winding streets bordered by stone walls erected in the late 1700’s, by the farmers who’d settled the town. In those days, the stone walls served as boundary markers, the average farm occupying fifty acres of land, most of it orchards. It was a hard life, Will thought, working eighteen hours a day, building walls, cultivating the land. He reached for Dog, on the passenger seat, ruffled her ears. “What do you say, Girl?” Dog cocked her head. “Was life harder then? Or harder today?”

The Hansons lived a mile outside the center, on a corner lot in a modest sub-division, built in the late-eighties, a neighborhood of center-entry colonials, garrisons, expanded Capes, set on cramped one-acre lots. Will slowed as they approached the Hanson’s newly remodeled Salt Box, he and Dog rubber-necking together. Onion lamps flanked the entrance and the garage doors; matching pole lights lined the drive. The house was dark, the driveway empty. Will turned left, onto the adjacent street, hoping to find a light on in the back of the house, in which case he would knock on the door. Nothing, not even a porch lamp. Frustrated, he rounded the block, passed by the front of the property again, in case he had somehow managed to miss Cissy’s car the first time, and headed for the high school, on the off-chance that the girls were still there.

The parking lot was dark when Will pulled in, the lights extinguished hours ago. He pulled down the sloping driveway behind the school, passing the rubberized track, where the soccer players practiced their sprints. He swung by the service entrance, then by the gym, doubled back, and circled the deserted lot, scanning the playing fields. At the ticket booth by football stadium, he parked, and just sat, thinking, Dog curled beside him on the passenger seat.

They’d had no idea, he and Zoe, how easy they’d had it when the girls were young. In their eyes, every little thing seemed like a crisis. They would glance at the window, catch three- year-old Leah zooming down the drive on her Big-Wheel, her legs outstretched, little hands reaching for the sky. In a panic, they would tear out of the house, always an instant too late, too far from their daughter to do anything except cross their fingers and watch. “Leah—” Will would holler, his stomach churning, “hold on.” And Zoe would cover her eyes, both parents envisioning the worst, the Big-Wheel rocketing off course, crashing into a tree. Later, the rope swing he’d hung by their deck replaced the Big-Wheel as the most obvious threat. They’d worried about random accidents, obsessed over tragedies they watched on News Center 5 or read about in the Globe: that the girls would fall into the hidden shaft of a well or drown in a neighbor’s backyard pool, that a stranger would kidnap one of their daughters when she was outside playing or taking a walk. It was tough being a parent, the welfare of their children utterly dependent on them, yet as long as they were vigilant, as long as they did their job, kept a trained eye on their daughters, their children would be safe. Now that she was older, they had no way of keeping tabs on their daughter. Once the car she was riding in rolled out of the drive, her fate was out of their hands. She could be anywhere, doing anything, with anyone. They had no way to protect her.

“What do you say, girl?” he said finally. “Doesn’t look like she’s here, does it?”

In a last ditch effort, he took another run by the Hanson’s place.

Zoe had fallen asleep clutching the portable phone, her head resting on the wing of her chair. He brushed a curl out of her face, touched her shoulder gently, so he wouldn’t startle her.

His wife blinked up at him. “Did you find her?”

He shook his head, dejected.

Dog nuzzled Zoe’s leg. Yawning, she scratched the dog’s head. “What time is it?”

“Close to one.”

“My God.” She pulled herself to an upright position. “What do you think is going on?”

Hard to say at this point, he told her. “She didn’t call, did she?”

Zoe shook her head in alarm. “You don’t think anything’s happened, do you?”

“We’d have heard by now.”

“I’m worried, Will. This isn’t like her.”

Will rubbed his neck, squeezing the trapezius muscles, hoping to release some of the tension. “I don’t know where else to look. Figured it’d be stupid to keep driving in circles.”

His wife attempted to stifle a yawn.

“You look beat,” he said. “Why don’t you go to bed? I’ll wait up.”

“You’re as tired as I am.”

“Go. I can sleep in. You’ve got to get up in the morning.”

“Maybe I should,” she said, shifting position. “Have to be up at six. Had to—” She paused, her glazed eyes fixed on the palladium window at the far end of the room. “Sorry.” She blinked. “I had to shift my schedule around. Workshop Sunday. Wake me when she comes in? You won’t forget?”

“I won’t forget.”

Will helped his wife out of her chair, walked her to the front staircase, kissed her, and told her to sleep well. From the foot of the staircase, he watched her climb the stairs and wander down the hall to their bedroom. When she closed the door, he went to the kitchen, filled a glass with spring water, brought the glass to the living room, sat on his leather recliner by the window, adjusted the back, and put up his feet. Dog lay on the floor, next to his chair. In ten minutes, she was snoring. He plucked an old issue of Sports Illustrated out of the pleated leather pocket on the side of his chair, flipped through. Unable to focus, he tossed it on the floor.

On the windowsill, in front of an eight-by-ten studio portrait of the girls, taken when Justine was a toddler, sat a framed snapshot of Leah. He picked up the photo. They’d been in Cortland for about a year when he snapped the shot. Leah was not quite seven, the youngest child on the under-ten team. Her uniform was two sizes too big, her baggie blue T-shirt skimming the hem of her shorts. The team was in the midst of a game, Leah racing to the net, blond ponytail flying, the ball jouncing in front of her, her tiny face focused, intense.

His daughter was an exceptional player, fast, agile, fiercely competitive, the best player from Massachusetts ever, some coaches said. Since she was a child, Will had been grooming her, encouraging her, fostering her talent. Youth soccer, traveling teams. Scholarship to Harvard—that was their plan. They’d practiced, strategized, prepared. Through the rain, the snow, he’d been right there with her. All in service to the crimson uniform she would one day wear. That was her dream, wasn’t it? She hoped to play pro. But Harvard first. Time and again, they’d discussed the importance of a good education, the one thing in life that can never be taken away.

Will pushed her, he knew. He wanted the best for his kids. He would do whatever it took to help them succeed, prevent them from repeating the mistakes he’d made. In the spring of his junior year, he’d left Penn State, surrendering a full scholarship, trading his education for a long shot at a music career. In one hour, the time it took to inform his dean he was quitting, walk to the registrar’s office and sign a couple of forms, he’d managed to screw up his life. Look at him: forty-five-years-old, stuck in a dead-end job, kissing the asses of people who ought to be working for him. He refused to sit back, watch Leah throw her life away. Kids needed guidance, a motivational coach to push them, keep them focused, drive them when they didn’t feel like practicing, pump them up when they lost confidence, spur them on when they wanted to quit.

Will closed his eyes. God help him. Tell him he hadn’t pushed her away.

Hollowland: A new type of thrill: no roller coasters, only zombies

Hollowland: A new type of thrill: no roller coasters,
only zombies

Review:
Hollowland by Amanda Hocking

“This the way the world ends – not with a bang or a
whimper, but with zombies breaking down the back door.”

This opening line promises an exceptional out-of- this-world story. And on that, it more than delivers. There is something that is so great about an opening line that really pulls you into the story, making you tense up for the next punch.  That is the way it should be and that is what Hocking gives us.

The pace and nonstop action of the story demands that you keep walking (and running) along to see what happens as you join Remy and her companions on this journey through what is left of the world after zombies take over. There are corpses in the streets (if the zombies didn’t eat them yet) and zombies are not the only things you have to worry about. Oh, and of course you cannot step outside without the risk of becoming a corpse yourself. And what happens when it seems that the zombies can be capable of some type of rational thought and planning? It makes for a very unpredictable new type of horror, I can tell you that.

From the outset, it is clear that Remy is fiercely independent and outrageously brave even though this newZombieland without the amusement parks scares the hell out of her. It is inspiring and makes for a thrilling, edge of your seat story to see a young woman who fights without stopping for what matters most to her.

No admittance: Ride out of order (or: Ride at your
own risk)

Remy was in quarantine when the story starts, along with a bunch of other young girls placed there for their safety once the zombie apocalypse started. They are living in what is supposed to be a safe place for them, but it soon becomes a death chamber as the zombies break in, killing off the last of the soldiers that were there to protect them and, it seems, on the verge of killing everyone else there as well.

Remy was not about to lock herself in, even though all the other girls did, as they were taught to protect themselves in this way (and only this way) from zombies. She leaves “the safe place” (which at that point was quite safe…for about 5 minutes) to venture out to find her little brother. He had been at the same place as her and he was evacuated because he was sick, which raises some questions about wh they didn’t evacuate all the healthy people as well. She vows to find him and protect him, and two other girls go with her.

After fighting zombies, acquiring an unlikely pet, and meeting a rock star, she is well on the way to finding her brother; at least this is her hope. This is her mission and she will let nothing get in her way.

Zombies with brains?

It is very interesting how the zombies are portrayed in this story, as mentioned before. They seem to be smarter than your averag zombie and can actually communicate with each other in some way- all for the purpose of eating you quicker, my dear. This is definitely not your normal fairy tale zombie story and that, along with the great characterization, tense action and the magnetic pull of what the fight is really for, is what keeps you running to catch up with Remy. Definitely makes me want to learn more about the zombies that Hocking has created.

Dark side of town

The darker side of humanity is also explored in the book. People kill other people without reason and just for the thrill of it and dangerous run ins with cults make for some very scary what if questions. It is interesting to think about how easily some people could lose their so called “humanity”. Then, of course, there are those who have already lost it that Remy must face. She also deals with questioning herself on if she is doing the right thing for everyone around her in her attempt to save her little brother and try to protect her friends.

It is important to realize that no one has all the time in the world and when Remy realizes this, this is what makes her fight her hardest for what is most important and to not waste any of her time.

Title talk: Not so Hollow after all?

Remy can be said to be seen as hollow, emotion wise, at least in how she connects to others. Not that she doesn’t care about them, but her issue is that she does, and wants to protect them. She fears she won’t be able to and so she shuts them out.

She doesn’t want anything to get in the way of her reaching her brother. Nor does she want to get too attached to anyone in this world of death, where it is very likely that you have to leave your best friend or kill them before they kill you if they are bitten or infected by a zombie.

Love in Hollowland?

Nothing to fear for the weak at heart when it comes to love stories, as Remy, as discussed before, does not allow love get in the way of what she is trying to do. There is nothing that is love at first sight, it is a believable relationship that is allowed to develop naturally (as naturally as it can in a world of zombies) and it definitely is not the focus of the story.

In regards to her love interest, she does shut him out as she doesn’t see this as an option with the world the way it is as well as her goal to find and help her brother.

At the end of the novel, she makes a very difficult choice. No one who loves her will be happy with this decision, but it is what she feel she must do. Readers may cry out in protest, as they find themselves loving Remy as well.

This decision also allows her to open her heart to love again, as she confesses how she feels to her love interest. But this may not make much of a difference, after all.

 End of the ride? (Or: those who
survived, exit to the left, those who didn’t, stay on)

The end will leave you hungering for the coming sequel, Hollowmen, (coming out this Fall) in which everything might change again for Remy, but there is no way to tell if these will be welcome changes or not. Be sure to look for my review on the sequel!

Hello world!

Welcome to my new blog– BookwormCastle

dedicated to my love of books and reading! In this castle, you will discover
many rooms and many different bookshelves in the various genres of libraries.

You could find yourself
battling dragons or vampires in one or travelling back in time in another.

You will find out what the latest books are, what are good “classics” and what is a good read!

Feel free to add in the
comments what book reviews you would like to see next as well as any
ideas/suggestions for features for the site.

More to come- many
bookshelves and libraries to build and then fill!