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I missed my two fur babies while I was away, but they were safe at home with hubby. Fortunately, everywhere I went, pets were available to cuddle, play with and walk. My granddaughter has a menagerie of animals at her place. Here’s a few pictures of the pets I spent time with.

Lexi and Roni at my granddaughters place
Lexi, her first doggy
Lexi loves her pillow
Kisses for Roni
Roni and her favourite toy
Thumbelina with her aunty
Motorhead looking very handsome
Timothy, an elegant old man helping out in the office

She even has goats to play with.

Wiener
Bean
Goat love. Granddaughter with her goats.
Me with Pickle and Wiener
Lola the pug, my son’s cute family dog

I got to walk my friend’s granddogs too.

Panda
Walking the labyrinth with Panda
Beau
Charlie

But I was very happy to come home to my two girls.

Dot and Lia waiting for Mom to come home

You can imagine how excited I was when my friend suggested we take a drive to Banff, about an hour and a half from Calgary. The excitement grew as we drove through the picturesque foothills and came closer and closer to the majestic Rocky Mountains of Canada.

Foothills outside Calgary with Rocky Mountains in the distance
Getting closer
Wow! I had forgotten how incredibly amazing these mountains are.

We parked the car and went in search of a good place to have lunch when we encountered a gathering of Stony-Nakoda First Nations people preparing for a traditional dance performance. I am always amazed at my luck when ever I happen upon these cultural events. We were treated to an incredible performance by many members of the Chief’s family. This made my day!

Adorable in a jingle dance dress
Performing the jingle dance

I was delighted to see a jingle dance performance as I mention this dance in Amanda in Alberta: The Writing on the Stone

A gorgeous traditional dress with intricate bead work
An impressive performance by the Chief’s grandson
This splendid dance took my breath away
Another beautiful traditional dress
Some family members keeping the dance tradition alive for us to enjoy today.

The importance of family was highlighted when we were privileged to witness a baby naming ceremony for a great nephew, recently born.

A traditional baby naming ceremony
I was honoured to have a picture taken with the chief and his granddaughter in her jingle dance dress

Banff is Canada’s first national park, established in 1885. It is the most visited park with over three million visitors a year. The town of Banff has many wonderful museums, craft shops, and restaurants. We had a great lunch at Nourish Cafe. Although some say it has become too touristy, I feel Banff still retains its mountain village charm.

The town of Banff nestled in the mountains
We had coffee at the impressive Banff Springs Hotel
And visited the original Cave and Basin hot springs where hot water filled with minerals seeps from the rocks
Every where we went, we found incredible views.

And on the drive home, the mountains seen from another view.

Thanks so much Sheila for this wonderful day. A day to remember!

BFFs by the Bow Falls

After two long years, I finally made it back to Alberta, Canada. As I landed in Calgary and saw the prairies unfold below me, I burst into tears. It was so good to see my family and friends again. I was given comfy beds to sleep in, yummy meals, pets to snuggle and great conversations. Four generations of women spent valuable time together at my granddaughter´s place. We celebrated mom’s life at a local park by talking about her life and how much she meant to each of us, and by sharing food, conversation and laughter. She would have liked that. Here´s just a few photos of the trip.

Mom’s sister and brother along with my brother and I celebrating mom´s life
Three generations of amazing women, all mine!
Grandkids and grand dog. Love them to bits.
With number one daughter
With number one son
My excellent chauffeur in Medicine Hat, the youngest grandson with his first car.

And I woke up to goats outside my window!!

Goats on the prairie. Wiener, Pickle and Bean
With my grand goats

I did a book signing event at a wonderful bookstore in Medicine Hat, called Unlimited Characters.

A book signing at Unlimited Characters in Medicine Hat, Alberta. A great turn out.
It was so great to see the prairies

A good friend took me to Banff for a day trip. What a treat. I had forgotten how amazing those Rocky Mountains are. I will do another post just about Banff soon.

The road to Banff
With a good friend at Bow Falls, she treated me to a fabulous day in Banff.
Those Rocky Mountains make a great backdrop.

And I got to see cousins I hadn´t seen for a long time.

Cousins are the best!
A dear cousin in her lovely back yard. She gave me a place to sleep and drove me around Calgary.
And I found the most amazing outhouse! I need to put this in a story somewhere.

It was time well spent and I have all these wonderful memories to keep me going.

More to come…

Just when I thought life couldn´t get any better, I woke up to this fantastic review the other morning. I love when the reader gets what I try to do with these books; inspire a love of reading as well as provide some interesting facts about a place. Thanks, Toni.

Toni Pike

My book review this week is a five-star review for Amanda in Malta: The Sleeping Lady by Darlene Foster. This is the eighth book in the Amanda Travels series, mysteries ideal for children aged 9 – 12 years. If you’re looking for an exciting children’s adventure set in a fascinating country, then I can’t recommend this highly enough.

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While I was away, Marcia Meara featured me on her blog where I disclose ten things you may not know about me. There may be some surprises there. Check it out. There will be more about my trip home soon.

The Write Stuff

I hope you guys are enjoying this series as much as I am, because I don’t foresee it going away any time soon, especially with all the great guests we’ve had so far. And today is another list from a really super blogger and writer, Darlene Foster. I know you’ll enjoy it, so let’s get started. Take it away, Darlene!

(NOTE: Just heard from Darlene, who is traveling and can’t respond right now. She said she’s enjoyed reading all your comments and will be responding herself as soon as she’s home. That gal DOES do some serious traveling, as mentioned in her Ten Things List. 😁)

Ten Things You May Not Know About Me
by Darlene Foster

  1. I’m very short, barely graze 5 feet. What I lack in height, I make up for in enthusiasm and determination.
  2. I have worn glasses since I was in grade three. I feel…

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Please check out this amazing post about adulting, as well as an interview with me, a sort of adult. You can also listen to this article as a podcast! https://anchor.fm/depe9/episodes/Adulting–Why-Darlene-Foster-Writes-For-Children-e175nif

Happiness Between Tails by da-AL

What was the day you became an adult?

Young Adult (aka YA) is a major category when it comes to selling fiction, especially because people of all ages enjoy reading it. If I could swing it, I’d aim for that, rather than the harder sell of literary fiction, which the genre of the novels I’m working on.

Last week, I had the pleasure of seeing a couple of young people leave home to start college. In one case, friends were driving their son to begin university classes in San Jose, 400 miles north of Los Angeles. My husband and I flew to meet up with the parents and then the four of us enjoyed a leisurely drive back south.

Khashayar takes our photo as José and Alina look over his right shoulder. Our southbound cruise along Pacific Coast Highway included Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. Granted, it was a weekday, but it was still eerily quiet for peak summer season. Note the aerial ride is vacant, aside from a mannequin. Us, Dangerous Minds, Sudden Impact, Harold and Maude, and The Lost Boys, are some of the movies filmed there. Khashayar takes our photo as José and Alina look over his right shoulder. Our southbound cruise along Pacific Coast Highway included Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. Granted, it was a weekday…

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I finally got away for a few days! I was fortunate to visit the Isle of Arran, in Scotland. The island is a magical place with lovely beaches, manor houses, castles, old churches, standing stones, charming coffee shops, art galleries and lots of sheep. There is a story around every corner. I went to meet writer friends, do some writing and chill. I did all of that and more. I expected rain and got sunshine. Here are a few pictures to give you an idea of how wonderful Arran Island is.

The fabulous view every morning
The two hundred year old manor house I stayed in.
With many perfect places to write
Early morning beach walk
Castle Lochranza. Note the heather on the hills.
So many sheep. I love them!
So cuddly. I just wanted to hug them.
Old farm house on the moor
Machrie stone circle, the site of an ancient burial
You can’t be in Scotland and not search out some standing stones.
I was astounded when I came across these ancient standing stones
You know I had to touch them. Alas, I did not find myself in another century being rescued by a dashing Scot in a kilt.
Holy Isle in the background. An ancient spiritual heritage as far back as the 6th century. It is now a Buddist retreat.
There was cake, lots of cake!
And a very special dog. ❤

It was a wonderful getaway, just what I needed. I returned home inspired.

Now I’m getting ready to go back to Canada, to see my family after two long years.

Note: Most of the pictures are mine but a couple may or may not have been taken by a writer friend who knows I like sheep.

Delighted to see my short story featured on Sally Cronin´s blog. And super excited to see a fabulous review of Amanda in Malta by Georgia Rose. A good day all around. Thanks, Sally and Georgia.

Smorgasbord Blog Magazine

When I worked on radio in the south of Spain I presented and recorded four series of Authors in the Sun showcasing local writers and their short stories. I ran a series here on the blog in 2017 which was much enjoyed and showed off the skills of some amazing writers.

I would love to share your short stories here too this summer and details of how you can participate is at the end of the post.

Solar Eclipse
By
Darlene Foster

Christina rolled out of bed, looked out the window and decided this day would be her last. She saw no point in going on. Her life had become abysmal.

No one called except telemarketers and people taking surveys. As if her opinion counted.

No one ever stopped in for a visit either. Many of her friends were dead; the others had gradually disappeared from her life.

A dish…

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I am so excited to share this amazing 5-star review by Annika Perry. It made my heart dance to read this review and to see that the reader gets it! Annika, a published author of a series of short stories The Storyteller Speaks: Powerful Stories to Win Your Heart and a lovely picture book, Oskar’s Quest has a great blog you should check out.

Annika’s 5-Star review on Goodreads:

With a unique blend of adventure, friendship, history and travel Darlene Foster has hit upon a winning and inspirational combination for her children’s books Amanda Travels.

The series is aimed at middle grade (aged 9-12) children, although from reading her latest book I feel it would also be suited for adept readers of a younger age as well as reluctant readers.

Darlene Foster’s latest in the series, Book 8, takes the reader to Malta after Amanda receives a letter from her best friend Leah. To receive a letter alone sends concern to Amanda in the modern digital age of emails. Leah hints that something is wrong, but gives no detail and wants Amanda to join her.

Amanda would love to leave the cold wintry weather of Canada behind her for the warmth and sun of the Mediterranean island but would it even be possible?

As with all children’s books, a resolution is quickly found and Amanda joins her class mate and his parents on their holiday on the beautiful island.

Immediately the author captures the heavenly warmth of the landscape, limestone buildings and the history perfectly. In snippets, the reader is enveloped in the amazing historical elements of the island, some of which become central to the story whilst others act as a stunning backdrop to the action.

Any reservation I had that the historical might slow down the pace of the story proved unfounded as the plot is quickly propelled along. Although there are dramatic events such a brief kidnapping, ominous warnings, chases and unexplained killings of protected birds these are all pitched gently and safely for the younger reader.

Initially, Amanda cannot even find Leah and when she finds her it turns out that Leah’s aunt has become mixed up with crooks. Two criminals want Leah’s aunt, who is an archaeologist, to steal the 4000-year-old Sleeping Lady statue from the museum otherwise there will be consequences. Could Leah even be involved?

Luckily Amanda and Leah are not alone on their mission. Max is a helpful and able go-between and Caleb, the son of the family friend, provides many comic moments throughout the book, particularly with his strange phobia of fish and love of all things Popeye.

When finally they visit the famous Popeye Village he is ecstatic and his courage shines through as he has to rescue Leah!

I like how all the main characters are slightly flawed with their fears and how through working together they find courage, helping each other. The warmth and kindness is a beacon of hope!

Amanda in Malta is a hugely enjoyable book, the writing flows with ease and the plot had me eagerly turning the pages. The book took me back to my addictive reading of the Nancy Drew mysteries as young and I can see how readers will long to read and collect the whole series of Amanda Travels.

Although I have unfortunately not read any previous books within the series this is no way hampered my enjoyment or understanding of The Sleeping Lady. The author slips in enough backstory to ensure this book is an exciting and stand-alone book.

These reviews make all the hard work of writing and publishing a book worthwhile. Thanks Annika.

The year is more than half over so it might be a good time to see what we’ve read so far. I read about this book tag on There’s Something About KM’s blog

https://theressomethingaboutkm.com/blog/mid-year-freak-out-book-tag-2021/

I thought it would be fun to join in.

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Pexels.com

Best Book You’ve Read So Far in 2021

The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro

My review: “A wonderful story told from the point of view of a stiff, emotionally repressed English butler whose only goal in life was to provide perfect service to his employer. Even though his employer was a man of dubious character and misplaced allegiances. The author does a superb job of depicting a man devoted totally to his job, at the cost of friendship and romance. This is writing at its finest.”

Best Sequel You’ve Read so far in 2021

The Family Way by Laura Best

My review: This much-anticipated prequel to the popular Cammie stories did not disappoint. Even if you have not read the other books, this story stands alone very well. The fact that the story is based on a tragic part of Canada’s history, makes it even more intriguing. The writing is so engaging, I felt transported back to the days of the start of WWII.
Like Lucy Maude Montgomery, Laura Best knows how to write an awesome story from the point of view of a young person. Tulia May is a delightful character who tells it like it is. She is a twelve-year-old seeking independence, a young girl who wants to do what’s right. She is wise beyond her years, as is often the case of the youngest of a large family. She says, “I understand that sometimes you do things not because they’re the right thing to do, you do them because sometimes you have no other choice.” Tulia, I couldn’t agree more!

I loved Tulia May but there are many other appealing characters in this story as well like Tulia’s mother, a widow who raised a number of children and is struggling to make ends meet. And Finny Paul, a First Nations boy who faces overt racism. And the delightful Millie Turple, who arrives in a tizzy and takes the world on by storm. This book kept me guessing until the end, and then I wanted to read it all over again. I wish there were more than 5 stars for this book.

New Release You Haven’t Read Yet But Want To

The Gentleman’s Daughter by Bianca M. Schwarz

Biggest Disappointment

I haven’t been disappointed with any book I’ve read so far this year.

Biggest Surprise

Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly

My review: Wow! A terrific read. I couldn’t put it down. I needed to know what happens to Andy and Alex. History is skillfully woven into a story with contemporary themes. Present-day Andy is suffering badly. Not from your regular teenage angst but with serious issues. The reader feels her pain. A visit to Paris with her distant and estranged father, the discovery of a diary belonging to Alex, a young girl who lived during the French Revolution, and her connection to a mysterious musician from the past will either help her or drive her over the edge. Vivid descriptions of today’s Paris and the Paris of 1795 add to this engaging novel. 

Favorite New Author

Nancy Blodgett Klein

Newest Fictional Crush

Prince Larkin from Lava Red Feather Blue by Molly Ringle

My review: A gem for readers of fantasy. Ms Ringle has created an awesome world where humans and fae live together in somewhat harmony. When the Sleeping Prince is accidentally woken up, all hell breaks loose. (You read that right, it is not a Sleeping Princess). It is Merrick, half-human, half-fairy, who breaks a 250-year-old curse by waking up the handsome prince and now he has to pay for it. And pay for it he does as he enters forbidden and dangerous territory to find and stop Ula Kana before she destroys everything and everyone on his island. What he doesn’t plan on happening is falling for the handsome prince from the past, which complicates things. There is plenty of action, fabulous world-building and amazing characters. But this is more than a fantasy novel, this is a story about family and relationships. And ultimately it is a love story with a Fairytale/Lord of the Rings feel written with a humorous undertone. An enjoyable read even for those who don’t usually read fantasy.

Newest Favorite Character

Brody Cody from Brody Cody and the Haunted Vacation House by Toni Pike. I just love this kid.

My review: I fell in love with Brody Cody and his friends in the first book, Brody Cody and the Stepmother from Outer Space. I was pleased to learn there was a second book in the series. In this book, Brody learns he will be a brother soon and is not sure if this is a good thing. Then on a holiday in the Blue Mountains, Brody and his friends discover there is a ghost in the vacation house. They are determined to catch the ghost. This fun book is perfect for kids 6 to 9 as they will easily relate to the characters. The descriptions are vivid and clear with just the right amount of action and tension. I hope there will be more books in the series. 

Book That Made You Cry

Sword of Destiny by Sue Vincent. It made me cry because this wonderful author is no longer with us.

My review: Yorkshire is the perfect setting for this sublime adventure that includes ordinary mortals, ancient deities and Merlin! If you are a follower of Sue Vincent’s blogs and books, you will recognize her wise words and incredible wit. Merlin, one of my all-time favourite characters, echoes the writer’s wisdom, especially when he explains things like happiness, good and evil, light and dark. At one point the mage says, “We can bare far more than we think we can.” Another character says, “Yet by surrendering to beauty and joy, the darkness could find no hold on me anymore.” Pure Sue Vincent gold. The seriousness of the quest to find the sword of destiny is offset with clever humour. This from the ancient Merin had me laughing out loud, “It gets harder to stay up all night after the first millennium or so.” A readable fantasy with plenty of life lessons, humour, romance and gorgeous Yorkshire descriptions. I will never look at the moors the same way again without thinking of Sue Vincent and her amazing words.

Book That Made You Happy

Life Begins When The Kids Leave Home And The Dog Dies by Barb Taub

My review: I loved this book. A laugh-out-loud collection of stories based on the author’s life. Vacations with her mom, dad and nine siblings, as well as later vacations with her husband, four kids and a dog – what could possibly go wrong? The stories are written with heart, humour and truth. I found myself nodding as I recognized the frustrations of motherhood, smiling when the love of the author’s family shines through and choking on my tea at the hilarious episodes in Barb’s life. If you have read her blogs, you will know that Barb finds humour in most situations. This book does not disappoint but makes you want more of the same. My favourite chapters were about her dad, the WWII hero who fathered ten, a wizard at fixing cars long after their best before date, and saw that all his children got a good education. These are the heroes who have made our world so great. Thanks for the reminder, Barb, and for the giggles. 

Most Beautiful Book You’ve Bought This Year

The Mermaid Chair by Sue Monk Kidd (OK, I didn’t buy this book, it was on my mom’s bookshelf and now on mine. I love the cover and the beautiful words.)

My review: A profound story full of emotion, told by a master storyteller. The author states in the prologue, “They say you can bear anything if you can tell a story about it.” I believe this to be true. The story centres around Jessie, a woman in crisis. When her mother does something horrible, she returns to her island home to look after her and try to discover why she did such a thing. Immediately she is thrust back in time and besieged by memories of a much-loved father who died when she was very young. “The wind is spiked with the smell of my childhood.” Filled with interesting island characters and fascinating descriptions of the area, the story takes the reader along Jessie’s journey to find independence, answers and acceptance.

Books You Need to Read by the End of The Year

The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky I have recently joined a readathon where we read a chapter a day of this book. We will finish it on the 200th anniversary of the authors birth. A great way to read a classic that is a bit intimidating.

Of course, I read many other great books. This is just a sample.


Now into the first week of August, I tag you, my dear readers, to look back (and forward) at your 2021 reading up to this point. I’d love to hear your answers in the comments or on your own blog.


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