Change/An Update

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I was told, change is good
So to avoid it, I never should
I was told, change is inevitable
It is the only way to truly grow
So change, I will say
I’m letting go of the past, yesterday
So change, come my way
I will welcome what is to be
In future days
No change, I won’t fear
No change, I won’t shed a tear
Cause change is what we must eventually face
In order to see a better day…

It’s been very long since I posted an update on myself or anything related to my writing goals. If you read my author bio, one thing you will know is that I’m a writer who wants to be a published author.

For some time—a few years, I’ve stalled in achieving that goal. I guess working and paying debts became an unfortunate distraction. However, in my dissatisfaction with life, and realizing I was never going to be content spending most of my time away from writing, my dream was renewed. I started following writers and indie authors, reading their stories and discovering how they were able to get back to doing what mattered to them—writing.

So in the past year, I jumped back into my writing. I’ve attended conferences, joined a writer’s group, read more about the industry from self publishing to traditional publishing, and many other things. I decided I was going to pursue a career as a hybrid author, self publishing and traditional publishing. Currently, I’m working on an author’s website.

My author’s website will primarily focus on my stories, the novels I seek to share, but also valuable and helpful information for writers wanting to be authors. That will include recommendations for book cover designers and book formatters, different types of editors and determining which one is best for your story, why I believe every writer should self publish even if they seek traditional publishing, and more.

What will happen to this blog?

Nothing! I will still post my poetry and book reviews, as well as updates and other relevant information. But if you’re interested in learning more about my stories, I will have an author website up in the coming months, which I will announce here in a future post.

Thank you all for your support and sticking around. I look forward to sharing my work with you, hopefully, inspiring you to press forward with your goals and dreams as well ☺

Book Review: Little Fires Everywhere By Celeste Ng

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Blurb:

In Shaker Heights, a placid, progressive suburb of Cleveland, everything is planned – from the layout of the winding roads, to the colors of the houses, to the successful lives its residents will go on to lead. And no one embodies this spirit more than Elena Richardson, whose guiding principle is playing by the rules.

Enter Mia Warren – an enigmatic artist and single mother – who arrives in this idyllic bubble with her teenaged daughter Pearl, and rents a house from the Richardsons. Soon Mia and Pearl become more than tenants: all four Richardson children are drawn to the mother-daughter pair. But Mia carries with her a mysterious past and a disregard for the status quo that threatens to upend this carefully ordered community.

When old family friends of the Richardsons attempt to adopt a Chinese-American baby, a custody battle erupts that dramatically divides the town–and puts Mia and Elena on opposing sides.  Suspicious of Mia and her motives, Elena is determined to uncover the secrets in Mia’s past. But her obsession will come at unexpected and devastating costs.  

General Thoughts:

This story sat in the middle of the road for me. There were some things that I liked about it, but some things that I didn’t. I will just get to it.

I think the author has the potential to be a good storyteller. She has a hauntingly detailed way of telling a story, of making the characters come to life and immersing the reader into their minds and thought processes. As I read the story, I had a strong sense of who all the main characters were from the inside, understanding the actions they took in the story fully.

Though the story was full of layered plots, they all came together in the end. Each character’s story met up with another leading to an interesting ending, which the author reveals in the first chapter. I think she used this effectively to keep my interest by creating a sense of mystery and intrigue to why things ended the way it did.

One weakness was the author muddied the story a bit with so many points of views (POVs). The POVs were mixed up within most of the chapters, and as a reader, I had to read ahead to sometimes understand who the writer was referring to, who was thinking, sometimes who was even talking. I think section breaks or even creating new chapters, possibly having things explained through dialogue, would have helped with clarity.

There was also a lot of telling instead of showing. It seemed like the author wanted to reader to understand every single thing or doubted the reader’s ability to understand some things. The over explanation things, especially concerning Mia’s past, dulled the story and dragged it to a boring level.

Lastly, I found none of the characters likeable, even relatable. They were very much cliché’s of teenagers, mothers, etc. from the ‘90s. Although I don’t mind the use of clichés as there can sometimes be a bit of truth to them, it offered nothing of interest or insight that I often look for in stories and characters. The characters seemed to be the worse versions of themselves, not learning or growing in any positive way. The only one who was remotely relatable in terms of her frustration with the other characters was Izzy, who was unfortunately too much of a rebel for her own good.

Recommendation:

I don’t know if I would recommend this book, so I guess I’ll say no. Its not so much due to the plot that’s the problem, it’s the frustrating characters and the fact that the writing style is a little messy with multiple POVs mixed in one scene, over explanation of character backstories, thoughts, and actions, things that slow down the pace.

Rating:

3 out of 5 stars. The story was slow moving and had a lot of information that could have been omitted or rewritten to propel the story forward. Also there were multiple POVs that took place in a scene that made the story confusing to read at times.

Book Review: A Light On The Hill By Connilyn Cossette

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Blurb:

Seven years ago, Moriyah was taken captive in Jericho and branded with the mark of the Canaanite gods. Now the Israelites are experiencing peace in their new land, but Moriyah has yet to find her own peace. Because of the shameful mark on her face, she hides behind her veil at all times and the disdain of the townspeople keeps her from socializing. And marriage prospects were out of the question . . . until now.

Her father has found someone to marry her, and she hopes to use her love of cooking to impress the man and his motherless sons. But when things go horribly wrong, Moriyah is forced to flee. Seeking safety at one of the newly-established Levitical cities of refuge, she is wildly unprepared for the dangers she will face, and the enemies–and unexpected allies–she will encounter on her way.

General Thoughts:

The message of this book stuck with me and it still does as I write this review. I honestly believe that this story will mean something to all who decide to read it. Having read 2 books previously from this author, I know she has the ability to write in ways that make the reader think and consider how what they just read can apply to their life. She does this in unassuming ways, woven deeply in the character’s story.

Moriyah, the main character of the story, was a sympathetic and highly relatable character. Though this is a standalone story and doesn’t require you read any of the author’s previous books, she is introduced in Wings Of The Wind (which I reviewed also—click here to read). If you read that book, it will give you a stronger sense of who Moriyah was before the tragedy she faced and how that transformed her afterwards. In short, she lived like one whose spirit was stolen.

I like how Moriyah’s self consciousness served like a universal problem that many people struggle with some time in their lives. It wasn’t until she was forced to leave her hidden world and step outside into the greater, that she had to face her insecurities and accept her flaws.

Moriyah went through a great deal in this story. Having to flee her safe confines and go on a long journey, just to have a chance to spare her life, Darek, another primarily character and unexpected ally, helped her realize who she was inside—the value she held inside. That she was more than what she looked like on the outside, or even her scar. From there, the old Moriyah started to return a bit, once she realized that though she may still face judgement, there were many others who saw the beauty that lived inside of her and radiated out.

Recommendation:

For readers who love biblical historical fiction, they will love this story, but I am challenged to say that those who struggle with external and internal scars of whatever kind will find a connection to this story. It was an easy read and I think that’s due to the writer’s powerful voice and use of intrigue and suspense. There was a lot of adventure and action that was woven throughout as well.

Rating:

5 out of 5 stars. As I read this story, I couldn’t find areas that I struggled with. It was paced well, there was enough action going on to keep me turning the pages and the main character, Moriyah was so relatable that I instantly loved her and was rooting for her throughout the book.

***This book was given to me by Bethany House for an honest review.***

I Can See

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I Can See

I can see
A bright light in this world
It’s right in front of me
I now know
Stories told long ago
Were not fables or lies
But truths that refused to die

I am the one
Who now can see
I am the one
Who’s free to dream
I am the one
Who’s no longer scared
I am the one
Who will do it, I dare

I can feel
A warm gentle breeze
Wash over me
I feel it, in the night
In the chill of wintertime
What once I thought of as dread
I only see its beauty
All that it has to offer instead

Cause I am the one
Who now can see
I am the one
Who’s free to dream
I am the one
Who’s no longer scared
I am the one
Who will do it, I dare

I will take all the years of fear
Hiding behind a facade
Drowning in tears
I will take it all
And throw it away
I will choose to live a dream
I will dare to be brave

Cause I am the one
Who now can see
I am the one
Who believes
I am the one
I am the one
I am the one
My story’s not done
It’s just begun…

©2018 C.A. Barens

Happy

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Happy

She says,

Are you happy
Why are you happy
Are you pretending
Are you fake
You can’t be happy
No one’s that happy
No one’s life
Is ever that great

I say,

Go away
Sappy soul
Go away
Don’t come back
Until you’re whole
My happiness
Lives in me
It’s who I am
It’s what I believe

Though for now I sit on mountains
Caving in
I walk in valleys
Bitter with the wind
There are no friends
Rounding at my door
No treasure chests
Covering up my floor
The happiness in me
Allows me to keep fighting
And I’ll keep trying
Until I soar

So of course, sappy soul
I’m so happy, so much I can’t be more
Maybe if you left your lie of reality
Then you could be free
To feel as happy as me
Even when life takes you down
To the deep blue sea

©2018 C.A. Barnes

Together

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Together

Let’s take it all
The burden of years under the cloak of night
Let’s take them all
And throw them into the fire
Then we’ll walk into the light

Let’s gather the storms
Let’s gather the stones
The sticks and thorns
All the things they said
Would break our bones

We’ll throw them away
Then have a party, celebrate
The end of days
That we’ll never live again

Together
We will leave behind
All that things that burdened
Our minds
The past will no longer matter
Cause together we’ll see it’s end
The end of broken dreams
And low self-esteem
And discover a long forgotten friend
The was buried deep in you and me

©2018 C.A. Barnes

Relentless

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Relentless

If all it took was one more day
Would it give you the strength
To try again
If all that was needed
Was a minute more
Would you stand in the bitter rain
Deal with the wind and stinging pain
Wait for that open door

Why can’t you believe like this
Why can’t you see things like that
Why can’t you be just a little fearless
Why can’t you live relentless

If all it took was another night
Would you fight
To change your life
If all that was asked
Was to be brave
You can’t lose now
Someone has paved the way
For you, the only thing left to do
Is to choose if you want to win or lose

Why can’t you believe like this
Why can’t you see things like that
Why can’t you be just a little fearless
Why can’t you live relentless

Why can’t we see
That we were created
Created, created, created
To be, to do anything
If we believe this
We can be relentless

©2018 C.A. Barnes

No More

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No More

I let them go
No more
I don’t know
No more
Maybe far away
They’re out there
Calling my name
Begging for some answer
Why they couldn’t stay
No more

I let them go
No more
And yes I do know
The time had finally come
To take the past
And let it be done
There is something out there
For me
So I had to let them go
So I could see
Who I truly am
When I’m stripped of everything

No more
They had to go
No more
No more
No more

©2018 C.A. Barnes

Book Review: To Wager Her Heart By Tamera Alexander

Blurb:

Sylas Rutledge, the new owner of the Northeast Line Railroad, invests everything he has into this venture, partly for the sake of the challenge. But mostly to clear his father’s name. One man holds the key to Sy’s success–General William Giles Harding of Nashville’s Belle Meade Plantation. But Harding is champagne and thoroughbreds, and Sy Rutledge is beer and bullocks.

Seeking justice . . . 

Sy needs someone to help him maneuver his way through Nashville’s society, and when he meets Alexandra Jamison, he quickly decides he’s found his tutor. Only, he soon discovers that the very train accident his father is blamed for causing is what killed Alexandra Jamison’s fiancé–and has shattered her world.

Struggling to restore honor . . . 

Spurning an arranged marriage by her father, Alexandra instead pursues her passion for teaching at Fisk University, the first freedmen’s university in the United States. But family–and Nashville society–do not approve, and she soon finds herself cast out from both.

Through connections with the Harding family, Alexandra and Sy become unlikely allies. And despite her first impressions, Alexandra gradually finds herself coming to respect, and even care for this man. But how can she, when her heart is still spoken for? And when Sy’s roguish qualities and adventuresome spirit smack more of recklessness than responsibility and honor?

Sylas Rutledge will risk everything to win over the woman he loves. What he doesn’t count on is having to wager her heart to do it.

General Thoughts:

I’ve read so many books from this author and she’s never failed to tell a story that is genuine, moving, and makes the reader (I, at least) feel instantly connected to the characters. This story really spoke to me mainly because of the challenges that the main character, Alexandra, went through. She struggled to pursue a vocation that was important to her, despite the lack of support her social circle and family had for it: teaching at a Freedmen’s school. She essentially lost everything, her family especially, by accepting a position at Fisk University.

Not only was she dealing with that challenge and the sort of isolation it created for her, but she was still trying to overcome the loss of her fiancé due to a tragic train accident that happened the year before, which she luckily survived. But it was the introduction of Sylas, who helped alleviate her challenges and slowly turned things around for her.

Sylas was sort of an antagonist to Alexandra at first, in that, she blamed him for the death of her fiancé, since it was his father who drove the train which later crashed, killing nearly everyone, including the father. Sylas had his own struggle in accepting that his father would deliberately crash the train, so he set out to investigate the truth on his own—what really happened. Through this, he wanted to clear his father’s name, but deep down, he wanted Alexandra to see him in a better light and hopefully win her heart, since the more time he spent with her, the more he realized he loved her.

In all, I enjoyed how Sylas and Alexandra’s relationship grew more and more meaningful. I especially enjoyed seeing the transformation in Alexandra’s heart and mind. Sylas helped her overcome her fear of trains and Alexandra learned to accept things as they are and understand people for who they are. Though, as in reality, everything didn’t end the way Alexandra and Sylas would have hoped, the author, as always, was able to weave a meaningful message in the story, which left me, once again, smiling and believing a little more about the dream I wish to pursue.

Recommendation:

Yes, I would recommend this story, not only to those who like historical fiction, but those who are looking for stories that will make them think and consider how they want to live life. In short, stories that have to power to change.

Rating:

5 out of 5 stars. I couldn’t find a real flaw to the story. The plot moved at an even paced and the characters, especially Alexandra and Sylas, were endearing. There were hints of suspense in the story that made me anxious to get to the end, which was unpredictable.

Book Review: Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine By Gail Honeyman

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Blurb:

No one’s ever told Eleanor that life should be better than fine. 
Meet Eleanor Oliphant: She struggles with appropriate social skills and tends to say exactly what she’s thinking. Nothing is missing in her carefully timetabled life of avoiding social interactions, where weekends are punctuated by frozen pizza, vodka, and phone chats with Mummy.

But everything changes when Eleanor meets Raymond, the bumbling and deeply unhygienic IT guy from her office. When she and Raymond together save Sammy, an elderly gentleman who has fallen on the sidewalk, the three become the kinds of friends who rescue one another from the lives of isolation they have each been living. And it is Raymond’s big heart that will ultimately help Eleanor find the way to repair her own profoundly damaged one.

Smart, warm, uplifting, Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine is the story of an out-of-the-ordinary heroine whose deadpan weirdness and unconscious wit make for an irresistible journey as she realizes. . .

The only way to survive is to open your heart. 

General Thoughts:

I want to start by saying that I loved this story. Read the very first page, the first two paragraphs, and you’ll have everything you need to completely know who the main character, Eleanor is, and the tone of the story. I was instantly captured when I read the first page.

Written in first person, I was given a front row seat to Eleanor’s unfiltered mind, which was too honest to be mad at. I felt the things she thought about people, and basically modern day life, was what many people probably think. Many times her bluntness, her unfiltered mind, would escape her mouth and I found it most humorous when that happened. The author did a great job illustrating people’s reactions and responses to Eleanor’s innocent honesty—I could tell that the author was an avid observer of life, which as a writer is valuable if you want to write an authentic story.

Despite Eleanor’s insensitivity by being too honest, I found her to be likeable and sympathetic, maybe empathetic at times. I think with all the issues Eleanor struggled with, there was something within her issues that many can relate to, everyone—I would dare say, at some point in life. Her struggle with loneliness, self-esteem, relating to people or finding like-minded friends, made me feel her pain. There were several parts in the story, where the author powerfully described the many feelings she faced, using examples, stories, comparisons, and observations. It was very difficult to not feel the way Eleanor was feeling, even if I wasn’t experiencing what she was at the time.

But the shining light of the story is seeing Eleanor’s transformation. As she transformed, I felt challenged to transform as well. Another thing I have to give kudos to the author was the big I didn’t see it coming surprise at the end of the story. I will say, this story had some bits of mystery, especially surrounding her mother and past, but what was revealed at the end, I don’t think anyone could have known. And that’s what I call a good story.

Recommendation:

Yes, I would recommend this story to everyone. I think there was so much going on that it will appeal to many and maybe even surprise those who tend to lean towards genre fiction. The story kept moving, the blunt humor was constantly there, and there was an air of mystery to Eleanor’s life that I believe would stir one’s curiosity to see how things end.

Rating:

4.5 out of 5 stars. Really, why not make it five stars since I probably only said positive things about it? This is my personal preference, but this story did contain some offensive language, although I will not say it was excessive, and I think the story would have still been as powerful without it.