Thanksgiving 2020: A Holiday We Won’t Forget

This year has been rough. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it over and over again until it’s finally over. It has– by far– been one of the strangest and most difficult years for everyone I know. We’ve all had to adjust and flex and struggle our way through this. And it’s not even over yet!

We’re getting there, though, so that’s something! Maybe 2021 will be better! FINGERS CROSSED. I’m not superstitious, but I am a little bit stitious (only the best of people will get that one). So I’ll be knocking on wood and crossing my fingers and saying my prayers for the rest of the year. I don’t know how much more of this nonsense I can handle.

I hope you’ll bear with me as I steer away from my usual book review and writer musing on this special holiday. I love Thanksgiving. Holidays were hard growing up. We had a split family household, and most of my time was spent running back and forth on major holidays between my parents’ families houses, scarfing down food and scrambling to open presents and hug everyone I hadn’t seen in months. It was always “hurry, you’ve got to be at Dad’s/Mom’s by so-and-so o’clock.” I don’t blame my parents; I hold no grudges, really. It was just how it had to be, you know.

Thanksgiving was never like that, though. Most people say that Christmas is the slow holiday. You know– “You’re moving like Christmas!” Well, for me, Thanksgiving (or the week of, really) was when life really slowed down. We went to different houses, sure, but there was more time. I could sit down and really visit; I got to enjoy dinner AND dessert! No one was shoving presents in my faces. No one was rushing me. We were all so deep into a turkey-coma that life just moved in slow motion for once.

And I loved it.

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. And not just because I’m a foodie and just really love eating. I love the PREMISE of Thanksgiving. Truly enjoying each other’s company and dwelling for a day (or week!) on the things you’re thankful for. “Shouldn’t we do that all year long, Amy?” Yes! Yes, we should, but shouldn’t we also give each other small gifts throughout the year to show each other our love (Coming for you, Christmas)? YES!

This year– in true Covid-19 style– things are going to be different. We aren’t traveling to people’s houses. We aren’t hugging all our great-aunts and grandfathers; we aren’t piling into living rooms that smell like stuffing and pumpkin pies. We won’t be watching the parade with our nieces and nephews or scouring through the Wal-Mart Black Friday catalog for Christmas presents. No one will pass out on the couch thirty minutes after we’ve eaten or ask the lone single female of the family when she’s going to finally find herself a husband.

And I’m going to miss it.

I’m going to miss the boisterous laugher and the hilarious family stories (even if I hear the same one’s every year). I’m going to miss hugging my husband’s great-aunt and seeing my step-grandparents. I’m even going to miss my mother-in-law’s precious but huge dog who is always so painfully happy to see me. There’s so much I’m going to miss.

But here’s the thing: I’m not going to dwell on that.

This isn’t what I want to rant on about.

Instead, I want to redirect my attention to some things I’m thankful for. Let’s do that, okay? Some unconventional things, maybe. I’ll skip over the usual spouse-family-food-God spiel, but don’t get me wrong, I’m thankful for those things too.

  1. My students and their parents:
    I don’t tell my kids often enough how much I love them. This year is so hard. I’m a hugger by nature, and I can’t do that this year. So, having a room full of fifteen wonderful children that I love so much that I call them my kids and not being able to give each of them a hug at the end of the day is so hard. They constantly bring a smile to my face and never fail to make me laugh– even when it’s 8 am and I am a MESS. They always remind me to do attendance and apologize if they’re being a bit “too much.” They are so perceptive and forgiving and I don’t know what I would do if I didn’t have them in my life.

    And I owe just how wonderful they are to their parents. Or guardians or grandparents or aunts or uncles or WHOEVER loves them from home. Whoever makes sure they come back to me the next day. Thank you for the wonderful children you’ve raised. I know it can’t have been easy. Not in this day and age. I’m a parent, too, and I know how it feels to constantly worry if you’re making the right decision or pushing them too hard or not pushing them enough or… This list could go on forever.

    As parents, you’re often asked to push yourself aside and set them first. During this pandemic, classrooms all over the world have moved to your living room. Virtual teaching is a world/challenge all its own. I know it’s a lot to ask of you, parents. Just know that I see you, I sympathize with you, and I’m here for you. I know this is so hard, and you’re doing the absolute best you can in a bad situation. We all are. Thank you so much for all that you do. I couldn’t do my job without your support.
  2. My friends
    I won’t call any of you out by name, but you’ll know who you are if you’re reading this.

    My Mother Hen: Thank you for always being a listening ear when I needed you. Quarantine has been hard on you, I know, but you’ve never turned me away when I need to talk. You have no idea how much that means to me.

    My OG: You’ve had a really hard past few months. God really ran you through the wringer. I love you. More than you can ever possibly know. I’m thankful that you’ve allowed me to support you through this hard time. Any time you need to go get some bulgogi, holler at me. You know I’m always down.

    My Long-Distance: One day, I’ll actually meet you. Until then, thank you for texting me each. and. every. day. You’re an escape. A nice little haven where I can pretend life isn’t wild. Thank you.
  3. My Job
    “Yuck, Amy. Your job? Don’t you just dread going in every single day?”

    Um, no. I’m super lucky that I get to do a thing that I LOVE every single day. Not only do I work with the best kids ever, I also get to pass on my love of the English language to a new generation. I honestly have a passion for what I do. Other than writing, I can’t see myself doing anything else.

    I’m blessed to work with the best people under the most amazing principal. If you’re reading this, JP, I can’t even begin to tell you how thankful I am for your patience. I have met some of the most wonderful people at North Elementary. Wouldn’t trade you guys for the world.

    Maybe for retirement, but definitely not the world. 😉

I hope everyone has a magnificent Thanksgiving. Be safe. Be smart. Don’t spread Covid everywhere. I’d like to NOT teach virtually for another couple of months. If you can’t see your family, call your family. It’s better than nothing.

Lots of love,
Amy.

Book Review #9: Misericorde by Cynthia Morgan

In the year 2446, the world exists as a mere shell of what it used to be. The Great Catalyst tore the human race apart as the Horsemen rode. War, Pestilence, Famine… All that remains to ride is Death.

Archangel Tzadkiel, Angel of Mercy, had taken the task upon himself to find one human on the planet who understands what mercy is. Humans are a vile species, though, and as his journey nears its end, he fears he may never find that person. When he is captured by the soldiers of The Bastion, hope wanes even further.

A mere scullery maid, Lourdes hears screams from her room every night. They break her heart and haunt her nightmares, and even though she doesn’t even know who they come from, she swear to find him and help him.

When she does exactly that, though, Lourdes discovers she’s opened a door that she might regret and entered a world darker than she ever imagined.

Style/Length:
Let me just get this off my chest before we start.

OMG THIS BOOK Y’ALL GOOSEBUMPS REVOLUTIONARY STUNNING

*clears throat* I, um, really enjoyed this book, guys. Morgan’s style is absolutely breathtaking. It’s thick with descriptions of the world she has created (which is incredible) and the people who live in it. It reads like a fantasy in that way, because it seems like a brand new created world. In reality, it’s what’s left of ours.

It was a rather long read, and at first, I struggled to get into it. My kindle is set up to track my percentage through the book because that’s how I set my pace. So, I was about 30% of the way through and had been reading for DAYS. Thats a bit unusual for me, considering how fast I read. But the beginning was just so description heavy that I didn’t want to miss anything by hurrying.

But DUDE did it get good after 50%. I scarfed this book down like Tzadkiel eating oatmeal (you’d understand that if you read Misericorde 😂). One night y’all. ONE. NIGHT. When I say I stayed up till one am, I 100% mean it. Please tell me you’ve done that before. I was lying in bed, telling myself that I needed to stop. One more chapter. Just till the end of this one. Oh wait, I can’t possibly stop THERE. Okay, till the end of this part them. But apparently my eyes don’t listen to my brain. Because I kept on going.

And boy, did this leave me with a book hangover. That awful feeling of MAN, NO BOOK WILL EVER COMPARE.  ugh. This is a lot to say: It had a slow start, but once I got in, it was just perfect. Chef’s kiss.

Characters:
The two “main” characters are Lourdes and Tzadkiel. That’s obvious. I’ll talk about those for a bit and then touch on some secondary characters.

Lourdes is a scullery maid. She is the perfect submissive slave, doing what she has to without complaint or attracting attention. The author makes sure to describe her as beautiful, of course. But she is so much more than that. Lourdes is incredibly strong, kind, brave and just… a wonderful female lead. She’s my favorite female MC that I’ve read in a while. Now, Lourdes does go through a lot, and there were tears shed for her. I’ll have to go into detail about that later.

Next up is Tzadkiel. I don’t read a lot of books about Angels and such. My background knowledge about angels comes from out Trenchcoat King Castiel. 😂 So, the standards were REALLY high for Tzadkiel. And lord a’mercy, he did not disappoint. While being the typical strong, macho male character that you expect from him, you also get to see a really vulnerable side of him as demons attempt to bring him down. He’s far from perfect, and endures so much along his search that I just… ugh. I love him. Happily simping over here.

Now we’ve got some other characters. There’s Levesque, head of the Tower Obligar and man in charge of “controlling” Tzadkiel. I didn’t like Levesque to start off with but there was a quick change in his personality that somewhat redeemed him in my eyes. He got what was coming to him, though. Then, there’s Philippe who deserved every ounce of HATE I felt for him. Sauvage: the man who deserved TO BURN IN THE FIRES OF HADES *clears throat* sorry. He’s a, um, bad guy.

I had no issue with the characters! Nothing negative! There were a lot to juggle, but each one stuck out enough for me to be able to pluck them out of the story easily. I was never confused. So Kudos to the author for balancing them out so well.

Plot:
There’s actually a few things I want to talk about in terms of plot. The structure of this book is fascinating to me. There are only nine chapters (and you thought CAGED had long chapters 😬) but each one is cut up into different sections. The story jumps around in time quite a bit to build this world that the author is developing.

You have an omniscient and omnipresent narrator who seems to just oversee and explain the history, then you have Gabriel and Anna’s storyline (2060), Tzadkiel’s arrest storyline (2445), and then Lourdes and Tzadkiel’s combined storyline (2446). Each storyline is very clearly marked at the start by telling you what year and era the part is taking place, like below.


I only mention this to show to complex the story really is. It was a bit off putting at first because I wasn’t used to it, but as I grew familiar with the style of jumping, it didn’t cause any problems at all. Just make sure you pay attention to the headings!

One suggestion I would make here would be to make each section its own chapter. Readers like me would want one chapter at a time, but these chapters were LOTS of pages at a time. The sections were only a few! I think I’d rather have more short chapters, just for pacing myself better as I read.

Other than what I’ve said before, I think this plot was exceptionally well done. It’s complex, beautifully wound together, logical throughout, and intense.

**Please note: This next paragraph has some sensitive topics. Read carefully.**
Last note about the plot: Morgan (the author) might consider adding a trigger warning. The book does contain a few short instances of rape as Lourdes faces some particularly despicable guards. It wasn’t an issue for me personally, but some readers might be thrown off guard. Maybe it’s because I’ve spent so much time on Wattpad that I’m used to these trigger warnings. I think it’s customary most of the time on larger, sensitive issues. Rape is a large enough issue that I thinks it’s necessary.

All in all, I would give this book a heaping 10/10. If I could, I’d give it 11/10. Buy it here!

My book hangover says I need to give it a 3/10 because OOF. 😂 That’s how you know it’s good.

You can follow Cynthia Morgan at the following links:
Website: https://www.cynthiaamorganauthor.com/
WordPress: https://booknvolume.com/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/morganbc728?s=21
Amazon: Author.to/CAMorganAuthor

I’m ready for my next book. I need something light and funny. 😂


Book Review #8: Cells by Julia Cowan

When James Hall wakes up in a dark, doorless, concrete box with no clue of how he got there or where “there” is, he has no idea that this is just the beginning of his problems. The truth unravels itself slowly: this is an unofficial, covert prison designed by two twisted minds to remove offenders off the streets and cleanse their neighborhood.

Surviving the cells is just step one. James will be forced to make impossible decisions, and in the end, it may just ruin him and everyone around him.

Image taken from Amazon.


Style and Length:

Cowan’s style is IMPECCABLE. It’s simple enough that I wasn’t bogged down by language, but at the same time, it was incredibly eloquent. The descriptions were very well-written and the emotion was very clear with each twist and turn of the story.

It’s an average length book. I started earlier in the week but didn’t really have a chance to start reading until Saturday morning.

I finished in a day, y’all. That’s how fantastic this book was. I was absolutely blown away.

I did have a slight issue with some of the POVs. I was thrown off when we starting jumping from one character’s POV to the next because James, the main character, seems to have a variety of nicknames. His father calls him Jim, Jimbo, and James. So, in some chapters, I struggled to know who was talking. It didn’t last forever, though. I cleared myself up pretty fast. So, this issue might be chalked up to me just being an occasional idiot.

Whatcha gunna do about that?


Character Development:

Cells has a fair amount of characters! There’s James (the main character and inmate of our “prison”), David and Joseph (the creators of the prison), Craig, Chris, Simon, Emily, Jill, Sally… The list goes on. Normally, I wouldn’t have an issue juggling characters. But this is a FAST read– chalk it up to the action of the story. I did have to slow down sometimes and really think about who was who. Again, we can blame that on the SPEED which I read this book.

I really liked the development of James through out the book and how well he handled all of the issues thrown his way! He’s a phenomenal main character. I’m glad the end worked out the way it did for him.

The two antagonists– David and Joseph– are also very well written. The balance between powerful David and meeker Joe works out good for the dynamic of the story. I don’t know what it is with me reading books with villains I sympathize with, but I can’t seem to avoid them here lately. I genuinely felt bad for these two men! Surprisingly enough, I felt more for David! Please, note: I don’t condone making a torture prison for anyone.

I did have one issue with the characters, though. Joe/Joseph started out as a follower: shy and submissive. He stays this way throughout the first half of the story, but after a certain event I won’t spoil, he seems to… stop being scared of David? It’s a bit sudden. The dynamic changes between them, and I really didn’t like it. Joseph starts giving the orders. I’m not really 100% why it didn’t sit well with me, but it didn’t.


Plot:

THIS PLOT. Ugh!

I am a huge Saw fan– you know, the movie franchise. I love the intertwining story plots, the torture prisons, the gore, the “justified villain” aspect, ALL OF IT.

Cells reminds me of Saw! I could see myself reading this book over and over just for fun. It’s also the first story I started taking notes on while I was reading! I was on the edge of my seat, audibly gasping, stopping to tell my husband what I thought would happen, complaining about my mistaken predictions…. I loved every bit of it. Honestly. I have nothing negative about the plot, y’all. It was just…

You can buy Cells by Julia Cowan here! I’m giving it a big ole 9.5 out of 10.

Book Review #7: The Sensorians: Awakening by Brigitte Starkenburg

*taps mic* Does this thing still work? I mean, it’s been dead silent for…. two weeks?

Let me just say: YIKES. Last week was rough, y’all. Between worrying about this election and work and life and UGH. It was too much.

I have been hard at work on the next Idyllic book, which I’ll start doing bits of reveals for here soon. Then, I did some reading. Which leads me to today’s review!

Ready?

Eliza had a rough enough childhood as it was. Between her father abandoning her and being diagnosed as schizophrenic, she did her best to muddle through and come out the other end. Things don’t get better when the mysterious Zack shows up in her life. He says he knows where her father is and that he needs her. In order to help anyone, Eliza will have to face challenges that will test her to the core.

Will she come out the other side a better person or be forever bent by the Sensorian way of life?

Picture taken from Amazon.

Style and Length:

Starkenburg’s style is very simplistic. Normally when we talk about someone being simple, it’s an insult. Don’t take it as that here. What I mean is, it flowed really easily and wasn’t overly complicated in vocabulary or grammar or side plots or anything like that. It was not a challenging read in any way whatsoever.


And I prefer that! It was an average length read, sitting at 232 Kindle pages. I started on Thursday (or maybe Friday) and got finished on Tuesday. The majority of the book I read over the weekend! Instantly it hooked me, and I was super eager to keep going.
One complain I do have (because I’m trying to do better about being constructive) is that sometimes the dialogue throughout the story was confusing. This is an issue in formatting and super easy to fix.

Above, you’ll see a snippet of conversation from the very beginning of the book. No spoilers this early in the review. 😂 I’m used to the start of a new paragraph (aka, drop down a line and indent) meaning that someone new is speaking. So, I read it as Kas-Eliza-Kas-Eliza. In reality, it’s supposed to be Kas-Kas-Eliza-Eliza. Like I said, an easy fix!! All Starkenburg would need to do is backspace where those conversations have been unnecessarily indented.


I’ll also go out of my way to say that in NO WAY does this affect the quality of the story. Once I got used to it, not a problem. It just boggled me at first.

Character Development:

I’ll start off this section by saying that I love these freaking characters. 😂 Starkenburg does a magnificent job at making sure her two POVs are different enough that a reader can tell. Plus, every single character is different! It’s truly phenomenal. Even I struggle with that.
Let’s start with Eliza. A fireball, for sure. Her personality is very strong, and she resists being oppressed throughout the book. I love how she developed into a understanding and much more sensible girl when it came to the Sensorian’s ways. I was caught a bit off guard by how much I liked her to be honest.


Next, Zack. My favorite!! Zack is an authoritative leader, taking control of many a situations. He struggles with figuring out his feelings for Eliza without compromising his job at the same time. I LOVE this character. He’s a bit of a swearer, but that doesn’t even take away. I really, really, really hope he gets a chance to finish what he and Eliza started. *winkwink*

There are other minor characters, each of which are very developed. I hesitate to even call them minor. Zaphyre, Zack’s sister, is the temptress of the story. I’m not a huge Zaphy fan (only because I’m Team Zack lol). Then there’s Markus and Laura (heads of the Sensorians), Kasper, Eliza’s boyfriend (*boos erupt all around*), Sam and Ned (Zack’s friends), and even Alice (Eliza’s mom). It wasn’t such a big cast that I couldn’t keep up, so I appreciate that from the author.


Plot:

First of all, this story moves along SO. FAST. The beginning was an absolute blur. In my opinion, I would have slowed down quite considerably. Zack and Eliza meet one day and then she’s leaving with him the next. I know the mission is important and time-sensitive but it really felt a bit rushed. I would have made the entire first quarter it’s own book, probably, developing their relationship and letting Zack convince her of who and what she is.

Now, it does slow down after the initial meet. Training and then the mission was much more developed in my opinion. I have no complaints or questions about how the main plot points unravelled. I am definitely excited to see what happens next, though!
You can count on me to read Book 2 when it comes out.😉


I’d give this book a big ole 9.5 outta 10. I’ll definitely be recommending. Might even ask Starkenburg to do an author interview for me.

You can buy The Sensorians on Amazon here.


Follow Brigitte Starkenburg on the following platforms:
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/brigitte__books
Facebook: https://facebook.com/brigittewritesbooks
Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/BrigitteMorseS1