Friday, March 5, 2021

Book Review: Through the Waters and the Wild


Through the Waters and the Wild by Greg Fields, ©2020, Köehlerbooks

Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand
For the world's more full of
Weeping than you can understand
~ William Butler Yeats

Through the Waters and the Wild

Somehow life has gotten away from Conor Finnegan. He's in an unhappy marriage, has a job below his capabilities, and no apparent substance to his days. High time to do something about it. So he walks away from it all and doesn't look back.

The only problem is, life doesn't get much better. 

Why is that? Like so many, Conor is stuck in the past. As a young man, he had opportunities, friends, the love of his life, and idealism by the bagful. After a knock to his ego and the loss of his first great love, it feels like everything is pointless. But he can't help going back to his grandfather, his life in Ireland during the Irish Civil War, and the lessons he gleaned along the way. There must be a way for Conor to emulate his late great kin. If Liam could escape and find a new path, why not himself too?

A journey to self-discovery is never easy though. Self reflection comes with a cost, which Greg Fields illustrates by delving into Liam's life story in Ireland and his subsequent reinvention on American soil. Fields jumps between Conor's and Liam's lives, uncovering love lost, relationships broken, and idealism smashed in both lands. While he paints youth in its precious throes, he also lays stark the insights that life inevitably lays upon one's door. Is love worth everything? Can right beget enough might to make the world a better place? And what sacrifices are you willing to make along the way?

Perhaps the trick is to listen, learn, and be open to what comes. A lesson many of us seek in our own paths in this world. Most importantly though, never forget to dream. For that is where the magic lies. That is when life begins anew. 

Spoiler alert; both Liam and Conor eventually find a way through...


If you are seeking clarity, or just want a trip away, a dip into 'Through the Waters and the Wild' by Greg Fields might be just the thing to sail into the spring with. It just might make you pause and contemplate what direction your own life is taking and whether that direction is truly what you want. Kind of timely, as we all re-evaluate life during the midst of a global pandemic. 

Monday, June 22, 2020

Kimber: An Out of this World Q&A and Giveaway

Haven't we all had enough of reality? Crazy Covid-19. Social distancing making you feel isolated and alone. Who hasn't turned to books to escape the chaos around us? The hard reality though is that sometimes that TBR pile at home finally reaches the bottom of the stack and needs replenishing. The HORROR!!!

I am here to help. Who needs a new book to read? How about something out of this world? In fact, let's leave the whole world behind and venture to another land. With the help of KIMBER, you can do exactly that! What is KIMBER? How about we find out a little more directly from the author, L.K. Hingey.


Thank you for joining us to talk about your new book. Tell us what KIMBER: Book One of The Elyrian Chronicles is all about:

L.K. Hingey: KIMBER is a dystopian young adult novel set in the year 2209 that takes readers from the depths of an underground city to the surface of a world scarred by war and ravaged solar winds. Kimber is one of 23 of a brand-new subspecies of humans called Auroras, secretly bred by the government with the genomes of Earth’s most radiation resistant animals. The book follows Kimber on her journey through the wasteland of post-World War III America in search of proof of the inhuman genetic experimentation that could free the Auroreans from a life of lies and servitude.

Sounds fantastic and definitely otherworldly. Who do you think is your audience? Who will love The Elyrian Chronicles?

Hingey: I think KIMBER and the subsequent books in the series to come will appeal to fans of The Hunger GamesDivergent, and The Maze Runner trilogies. Also, to the fans of the movie Avatar! Anyone who likes suspense, action, romance, immersive worlds, or becoming fiercely attached to characters, should definitely check out this fun new dystopian series!

Those are all amazing books! I'm sure you will hit the mark with plenty of people with it. Can you share where you draw your inspiration from when creating The Elyrian Chronicles?

Hingey: I draw inspiration from the amazing world around us. Life is full of beauty and wonder, love and friendship, and sometimes heartbreak and terror. After my spinal injury and separation from the military, I took five months to backpack the Appalachian Mountains. After years of hardship, it was the first time I could truly let my mind wander. Creativity blossomed as my husky, Colefax and I hiked over 1,800 miles. As we watched spring turn into summer, and summer turn into fall, the idea for KIMBER was born and has stuck with me ever since.

That sounds like an amazing adventure ripe for contemplation. No wonder your found inspiration. Can you tell us a little more about your book? What are some of the underlying themes that readers may pick up on in KIMBER?

Hingey: My favorite novels are the ones that not only have strong character development and immersive scenery but are layered with deeper meaning. I spent countless hours researching the science that is interwoven into Kimber’s story, and then did my best to lace a high degree of scientific plausibility with deeper themes: themes that prod and explore the complex world around us, such as government, social movements, and the institution of religion.

The question all readers will want to know once they read Kimber—What is next in The Elyrian Chronicles series?

Hingey: I am so excited to announce that I have not only begun working on books two and three of The Elyrian Chronicles but have laid out the stories for books one and two of The Elyrian PrequelsCHEYENNE: Book Two of The Elyrian Chronicles, is on schedule to debut around Christmas!

There are more books to come readers!!!! 

Now is the time to grab a copy of the first book and this is the best part. I can get YOU a copy of Kimber! Contest runs until June 28th. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

L.K. Hingey was born, raised, and enlisted into the U.S. Army out of Detroit, Michigan. She graduated from the University of North Dakota in 2012 as a private and commercial helicopter pilot with a Bachelor of Science in Aeronautics, before commissioning as a U.S. Army officer. She has since medically retired from the military and continues the Army lifestyle as an Active Duty spouse. She resides with her husband, Jonathon, who is U.S. Army Blackhawk pilot.

L.K.'s many interests include her dogs, fitness, backpacking, traveling, and writing.

Upcoming works include Books Two and Three of The Elyrian Chronicles, and Books One and Two of The Elyrian Prequels.

KIMBER is available on Amazon and through all major booksellers.

For more information, visit or connect with her on Instagram and Facebook.

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

The Wondrous and Tragic Life of Ivan and Ivana

The Wondrous and Tragic Life of Ivan and Ivana, by Maryse Condé, translated by Richard Philcox, ©2020, World Editions

Time for a trip into a wondrous life. Get ready for a look at a tragic life. Get them twinned together in one package as I jump into The Wondrous and Tragic Life of Ivan and Ivana by Maryse Condé, as translated by Richard Philcox. Not only do I have a book review for you, but today is publication day (in the US) for this Winner of the 2018 Alternative Nobel Prize in literature.

The Wondrous and Tragic Life of Ivan and Ivana

Ivan and Ivana are twins born in Guadeloupe. While all twins tend to have a preternatural bond, the link between Ivan and Ivana seems stronger than most. Joined in the womb, they struggle to separate in life, even as the world pushes them in different directions. 

Ivan is the first born, headstrong, and a rebel in their small town on the island nation. Ivana on the other hand is smart, kind, and loved by all. Their mother looks for ways to set them both on the best path, which isn't always easy. Her solution—to send them to their erstwhile father, whom they have never met, in faraway Mali. A solution that neither of the twins embraces, but finally acquiesces to, to please their mother. 

While life in Guadeloupe has its challenges—poverty, racism, classicism—it doesn't get any better on Mali's shores at their father's side. Their former experiences are mirrored in this new setting. Ivan is dropped into a corrupt military, and again finds himself friendless, but for his sister. In contrast, Ivana works in an orphanage helping the least fortunate, at the same time as building a strong bond with her father and others in their new community. While outsiders don't understand their deep bond, it remains unshakable. At times, almost illicit. 

As the narrator continues to spin the tale, we see brushes with terrorism, anti-immigration sentiments, and the struggle to escape ingrained poverty. Where Ivan and Ivana seem destined for different paths along these continuum, they remain inexplicably linked. They cannot live with each other, but cannot live apart, and time just seems to make this bond worse for both of them. Location doesn't seem to have a hope to change the outcome. 

Novel or Social Commentary?

So why does Condé use a third person narrative? It gives an omniscient feel to the events, as we oversee the struggles of the fated twins. In that voice, she has the ability to point out the bleak world that Ivan traverses and contrast it to the more hopeful Ivana. Can we have one without the other? The struggle we see the twins grapple with suggests the difficulty in that. The world still holds a tragic divide between the haves and have nots and that divide continues to have the power to destroy lives. 

Are the twins destined for destruction due to their entwined lives? Is the world? Can we separate these disparate halves to see one or the other survive or do we need to look closer at the reasons behind their struggles—the world's struggles—and work at resolving its woes for the better of all? It would seem so, but the question becomes how. 

There is a depth to the novel that Condé offers us. While it is a work of fiction, she has seen firsthand many of the scenes depicted in her book. Maybe we should take a moment to see how we can learn from her experiences. As the world suffers through a pandemic that is sweeping the globe and touching everyone, regardless of race, education, or economic class, perhaps now is the moment to break down some of those barriers. For aren't we all in this Wondrous and Tragic Life together?

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

One Good Reason

One Good Reason: A Memoir of Addiction and Recovery, Music and Love

Written by Séan McCann and Andrea Aragon, © 2019, Nimbus Publishing

One Good Reason

"I carried my heavy secret around for thirty years because I was ashamed of myself and afraid to tell my parents what happened. Over time this shame grew into anger and eventually into a sense of immense betrayal. Each year it took more and more booze and drugs to keep my hidden suffering at bay. My dark secret was slowly eating away at me from the inside, like a caged animal trying to get out." 

Séan McCann was sexually abused by a priest—a trusted member of his community and personal friend of his family—when he was 15 years old. He told no one, until standing in front of an audience in London, Ontario on September 26, 2014. That was nearly three years after he got sober, but was preceded by thirty years of hard drinking, excessive drug use, and the mental struggle to keep those memories at bay. It almost killed him. 

Andrea Aragon met him along the voyage, as Séan rocked out the tunes of Great Big Sea on a twenty-year-long party tour. She had her own demons, but the two of them clicked. Together, they made a life, but that life didn't erase the secrets or stop the drugs and alcohol from flowing. Somehow Andrea held onto the love that brought her and Séan together throughout many dark and confusing years. That love and a tribe of support buoyed her up and helped her remember the reason why she was there in the first place. Sometimes all it takes is one good reason.

And together they share their journey through addiction, abuse, music, recovery, and love with us.

My Reasons

Full disclosure. I have always been a big fan of Great Big Sea and love their rollicking party tunes. I saw them more than once on their constant tours and was always excited to be part of the joyous event. The energy in their music is intense, and their live shows never disappointed.

I even met Séan one evening during the Home County Music & Art Festival in London, shortly after he left Great Big Sea. He had just played a solo set on the main stage and was now part of the audience enjoying the next musicians to hit the stage. I noticed him standing behind my children and I.

"Do you know who this is?" I asked them excitedly. "It's Séan McCann. He was just onstage. And he was one of the lead singers of Great Big Sea!"

He smiled and said hello. We chatted briefly and then I thanked him for sharing his music with us. He was gracious and real, in a way I always appreciate in celebrities. Musicians might hold epic rock and roll status, but they are people with lives of their own, and stories that mirror anyone's.

Those stories are often the power behind their lyrics. The words get inside you and make you feel like the musician knows your intimate details. Ordinary Day was one such song for me after my husband's death.

"In this beautiful life, there's always some sorrow
And it's a double-edged knife, but there's always tomorrow
It's up to you now if you sink or swim,
Just keep the faith that your ship will come in.
It's not so bad...

I say way-hey-hey, it's just an ordinary day
And it's all your state of mind
At the end of the day,
You've just got to say... it's all right, it's all right"

~ lyrics form Ordinary Day by Great Big Sea

Yes, there was always tomorrow. And I learned to live with that double-edged knife, as awful as it felt in the moment. What I didn't realize though, was how double-edged that party was for Séan or how his story would mirror mine again later.

Séan was trying to drown his past; to forget it in a haze of drink and drugs. But life doesn't work that way. You can try to ignore past hurts, but they have a way of integrating themselves into every fibre of your being, and shaping everything. A friend recently revealed to me that he was sexually abused as a child. That revelation clarified and changed everything I knew about him. He too hid in plain sight, his pain so obvious to see, now that the secrets were cleared away. I am beginning to understand the many bad decisions he made—drinking, drugs, poor relationships, emotional detachment—in light of the trauma he went through. The journey to heal has only just begun and, in light of our current pandemic, seems harder to navigate. But as I turned the last few pages in One Good Reason, I have hope that like Séan, hopefully my friend too can heal.

Even more than that, I see a message to the wider world. Séan found healing through the power of music, but more importantly, through honest human connection. The journey isn't always easy. Sod that, it is damned hard! The whole world needs healing and connection right now. But hold faith that our ship will come in. It's not so bad...

But the book... Would I recommend it? Yes. I loved the reflection between Andrea and Séan. You see both sides of a life lived. We are offered more understanding in how the hurt and harm of secrets buried can radiate. But you also see the pure strength that can come from holding those secrets out and letting them go. It is far from easy and the road stretches farther than from where you can see. But you don't need to be alone. And that is reason enough to carry on.

Thank you for sharing your words, your music, and your love Séan and Andrea.

Monday, April 13, 2020

Conversations with Grace

Conversations with Grace by Julianne Haycox, ©2020, Köehlerbooks

Conversations with Grace

An Awakening

"We GO, GO, GO—chasing after the day, the night and the 'list'. The lists are all around us.

They are stuck to our planners, refrigerators, dashboards, phones and computers. They are everywhere. These lists take up prime, front-row space in our daily lives and keep us working into the night. Keep working out at the gym more than the next person. Keep buying everything that the 'it girl' is obsessing over. Keep doing what everyone else is doing and what others want us to do so we don't miss out. The words YOU ARE MISSING OUT should be stamped in bold, black ink across every list out there.

I realized that I was missing out when my life took a sharp turn..."
~ Julianne Haycox

Start the Conversation

Anyone relate to this? That you were missing out? That you needed to do more? That you weren't enough? This was so many of us a mere few weeks ago. Chasing lists. Running after our days. Feeling like we could never get ahead because there was always something to do, someone to impress, some task yet to master.

Well guess what? Life has definitely taken a sharp turn for everyone. Shopping malls are closed, as are gyms. The only place to go is the grocery store, but that now feels like a game of Russian roulette—has anyone touched these bananas, picked up this box, or coughed in my vicinity? You might welcome the change in scenery, but find yourself scampering back to the relative safety of your home to resume a vigil on what new drama the world is grappling with this hour. It is a scary time. And no one is immune to it.

But take heart.

There are others who have faced challenging times before, including Julianne Haycox. She is the author of Conversations with Grace and has learned a thing or two over the years. She has dealt with death, loss, and upheaval more than once, and has found grace through the process. And she shares some of that hope in her newest book.

How did she do that? Mostly through letting go of old constructs that no longer served her. She surrounded herself with people who sought to ease her suffering, and in this way found love once more. Love of self, love of life, and an embracing of the miracles that can be found each day, if we but only look for them. It is not necessarily an easy process, but Julianne understands the power found through the journey.

Right now we are all on a journey. Life looks different for each and every one of us across the globe. People are being asked to physically isolate themselves from others in order to protect our collective society. The beautiful part is that so many are going beyond to show their love for others in big and little ways. Governments are working together on all levels to coordinate responses, actions, and relief support. Businesses are changing their production to fill needs on local and nation-wide levels. And everyday people are checking in with friends, family, and neighbours in careful ways (video chats and phone calls help!) to make sure that we are all coping the best we can. It is heartening in a huge way and a reminder that we will all get through this together.

Life is always a journey, but today's course feels more powerful than most. If you find yourself struggling, don't be afraid to reach out to others for a little support. Turn to whatever means of solace helps you through this time, whether that be books, your favourite television shows, or hobbies you can do at home. Maybe now is the time to pick up your own pen and write the story of your journey through this difficult time? Sharing how you cope can be a balm and looking to those who have found a way through to grace in the past—like Julianne Haycox—serves as inspiration for us all.

Stay safe and healthy friends. 


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