The Christmas Star by Ace Collins (Review)

Robert Reed gave his life for his country in the early days of World War II. His sacrifice was honored when his widow and son were presented with the Congressional Medal of Honor. Each Christmas the final decoration Madge Reed hangs on the family’s tree is that medal. Rather than being a symbol of honor for young Jimmy Reed that shining star represents loss, pain, and suffering.

Yet a letter delivered by one of Robert’s fellow soldiers and a mystery posed in that letter put a father’s sacrifice and faith into perspective and bring new meaning to not just the star hanging on the Christmas tree but the events of the very first Christmas. Then, when least expected, a Christmas miracle turns a final bit of holiday sadness into a joy that the boy has never known.

The Author:

Ace Collins is the best-selling and award-winning author of more than 60 titles, including The Stories Behind The Best-Loved Songs of Christmas, Darkness Before Dawn, and Lassie: A Dog’s Life. Ace frequently speaks across the country and on radio and has appeared on national television shows, including Good Morning America, The Today Show, CNN, Fox and Friends, Entertainment Tonight, The Early Show and more. When not writing, he works as a magazine editor and graphic designer, as well as host for a charity organization radio and television broadcast. Ace and his wife, Kathy, are based in Arkadelphia, Arkansas.

Review:

First, the cover of THE CHRISTMAS STAR caught my eye. It is a beautiful cover and accurately sets up the time period of the book as well as setting the mood.

I enjoyed the story of Jimmy and his mom and their struggles, both with grief and for Jimmy, learning to cope with the loss of his father and then making decisions between right and wrong, and finally deciding his path in life. It is an endearing story and a perfect story for this time of year.

At times, the story lagged due to the descriptive narration the author used. I tend to enjoy a book more when I can use my imagination rather than read an in dept description of an object or scene. I like when an author sets the scene and moves on with the story. A story takes on a different meaning for the individual reading the book and describing conversations in detail (tones, emotions) does not allow the reader that option.

I think it is a good book and one many will enjoy. I am giving THE CHRISTMAS STAR four stars.

Purchase on Amazon: The Christmas Star

 

The Eighth Wonder by Kimberly S. Young (Review, Guest Post, Excerpt)

the Eighth WonderA modern Bridges of Madison County, Nicole Benson, 35, is an ambitious college professor with dreams of teaching at an Ivy-League school until she meets Tom Ryan, 44, married 23 years and shattered after his daughter’s death from leukemia. A first-generation in her family to go to college,  Nicole is a self-made woman. She put herself through school, sacrificing marriage and children for her career. In the summer of 1997, she finally graduates with a Ph.D. from NYU, but her life is thrust into chaos when her father is diagnosed with terminal cancer. Abandoned by her mother as a girl, her father is all she has. After fifteen years in New York City, Nicole leaves everything and everyone she knows to teach for a year in rural Bradford, Pennsylvania to be close to him in nearby Buffalo. Now, trapped in tiny Bradford, she has never felt more alone in her life…until she meets Tom Ryan. At 44, Tom represents what Nicole longs to be: settled, secure, and clear about his purpose and direction in life. Emotionally scarred, he and his wife are empty nesters with an older son away at college and struggle to grieve together after the death of their daughter. Tom and Nicole’s story begins as a journey of self-discovery for both of them but turns to bittersweet romance when their friendship becomes love. Nicole risks offering what she has never given before, her heart; and Tom has never felt happier or more conflicted when he falls in love for the second time in his life. 

 


Dr. Kimberly Young

Image of Kimberly S. YoungDr. Kimberly Young is a psychologist and an internationally known expert on Internet addiction and online behavior. Dr. Young founded the Center for Internet Addiction Recovery in 1995 (site at Netaddiction.com) and is a nationally-known speaker on the impact of the Internet. Her work has been featured in hundreds of media outlets such as The New York TimesThe Wall Street Journal, The London TimesUSA Today, Newsweek, Time, CNN, CBS News, Fox News, Good Morning America, and ABC’s World News Tonight. She has received several awards for her research such as the Psychology in the Media Award from the Pennsylvania Psychological Association and the Alumni Ambassador Award for Outstanding Achievement from Indiana University at Pennsylvania. She is an expert on Addicted.com and GoodTherapy.org. She has served as an expert on the Child Online Protection Act Congressional Commission and serves on the editorial board of CyberPsychology & Behavior, the American Journal of Family Therapy, and the International Journal of Cyber Crime and Criminal Justice. She has dabbled in creative writing since she was eight-years-old. THE EIGHTH WONDER is her first novel. To learn more visit her blog at KimberlyYoung.net or on her research at Netaddiction.com

 

From the author (via Amazon)


I started writing The Eighth Wonder while I was recovering from retina re-attachment surgery. This was very serious. I had surgery in both eyes. I was homebound for several months and the surgeon was not sure if I would see again out of my left eye. All he could say was that it was “in God’s hands now”. I was scared. I made an entire career from reading and writing, so the idea of potentially being blind was difficult for me. During my recovery, I could not drive, bend, or even poop too hard for fear of my retinas becoming dislodged. I felt pain in my eyes, something I had never experienced, both were full of blood and I looked like I was punched in the face several times. I felt embarrassed for anyone to see me. 


The first weeks of recovery, I laid on the couch thinking about my life. During those reflections, I remembered how lost I felt when I first moved to Bradford after graduating with my doctorate in clinical psychology. I had moved to Bradford to be near my father who was dying of cancer. Like Nicole, my dad was the only anchor in my life. It was very life-changing when he died. It was only a few weeks before I was diagnosed with retina detachments and had my surgery, so the experience was still fresh in my mind. This began the journey into Nicole’s character. I started making notes, some by hand and some on the computer. My surgeon said that using my eyes was good — they were muscles in need of exercise is how he put it. I had long hours alone after my husband went to work so writing gave me something to do. It took my mind off my eyes.

 

As I wrote more about Nicole, a story popped out, and four months later I had the novel written. It was written in first person, focusing on Nicole. I sent the manuscript out to several agents. Several rejections later, I started to re-examine the novel. I realized that I had not talked about Tom. For him, a devoted family man, I needed to dig into his character much deeper than I had. He was the one making harder choices after all. I remember that the more I wrote about Tom, the more I reflected how different it was to fall in love at mid-life. A pivotal moment in the novel comes when Tom says “falling in love at this age is much deeper”. It is fairly easy to fall in love when we in our 20s with our lives ahead of us. It is a different experience in our 40s or 50s (or beyond). After our expectations for relationships have evolved, falling in love takes on an entirely different meaning. Writing became my therapy during a difficult time in my life, I enjoyed writing the novel. I did not know how much it was impact me personally unlike anything I have written before. I only hope that others enjoy reading it!

 

 

I had an opportunity to ask the author one question. My question was “What drew you to write about this topic and this genre”. Here is what the author had to say.  

 

A modern Bridges of Madison County, Nicole Benson, 35, is an ambitious college professor with dreams of teaching at an Ivy-league university until she falls in love with Tom Ryan, 44, married 23 years and shattered by his daughter’s death from leukemia.

 

As a psychologist, I have counseled men and women struggling with extramarital attractions and understand the emotional conflicts those endure who deeply value fidelity but still feel the pull of falling in love with another, even when one party or the other appears to be happily married. These experiences led me to write The Eighth Wonder.

 

I was homebound for almost five months recovering from retina re-attachment surgery. This was very serious. I had surgery in both eyes.  All the surgeon could say was that it was “in God’s hands now” because my left retina almost completely fell off before it was detected. I was scared. As a professor, I made an entire career from reading and writing, so the idea of potentially being blind was difficult. During my recovery, I could not drive, bend, or even poop too hard for fear of my retinas becoming dislodged. I felt pain in my eyes, something I had never experienced, both were full of blood and I looked like I was punched in the face several times. I felt embarrassed for anyone to see me.

 

I had always wanted to write a novel. During this time, I thought of my father who had just died. This began the journey into Nicole’s character. I started making notes, some by hand and some on the computer.

 

Like Nicole, I was the first generation in my family to go to college and I found Bradford, Pa when I took a faculty position at the local college to be near my father, who lived in Buffalo and was ill with pancreatic cancer.  Using my own experience on how I came to Bradford seemed like a good place to start my novel.

 

As I wrote more about Nicole, a story popped out. As I wrote more about Tom, he reminded me of many men that I met in life, middle-aged, content in their lives and marriages yet longing for something more.

 

 Tom was not looking to have an affair. He loved his wife, Rose, and the life that they made together. When Tom meets Nicole, something very deep stirs within him.

 

He was a devoted family man crushed by the death of his daughter. Nicole was the only person who could heal him from his grief and loss. He becomes whole again and can help her with the loss of her father. In this process, they fall in love and the story becomes bittersweet.

 

Like the Bridges of Madison County, they have a difficult choice to make. I wanted The Eighth Wonder to capture that feeling of how difficult it is to fall in love when you are older. That difference of falling in love at an age when love is much deeper and more difficult to do. It is fairly easy to fall in love in our 20s with our lives ahead of us. It is a different experience in our 40s or 50s (or beyond). After our expectations for relationships have evolved, falling in love takes on an entirely different meaning.

 

EXCERPT:

“He couldn’t remember a time without Rose in his life. He had dated a few women before Rose, but he was young and could hardly remember any of them. He figured the number of women he had been with was low compared to other men, but most men were not married so young. It was just what you did back then, the path he chose. Grow up, go to college, get married, and start a family. It was what everyone did.

 

He felt so young at the time, like a child himself, the first time he held his new son. He was only twenty-one and Rose only twenty. They had no clue how to raise a child, and they lived in a one-bedroom apartment—they had nothing but were happy. Tom was working at his first job out of college, and yet, as he held his son, his whole life seemed to be set, his path predestined.

 

He stacked another layer of wood alongside the porch wall. His gloves were thick and the baseball cap he wore kept his head warm, but he felt the wind pick up and the air turn cold. He grabbed another log to stack and wondered what he should do when Nicole arrived. What would they do to pass the time? This wasn’t like The Friendship Table with other people around and tasks to complete. This wasn’t like being alone when they were at the bridge. 

 

Then he didn’t know Nicole very well and didn’t think about her all the time. Then he didn’t have feelings for her. What was he doing? Like a shot through his heart, he felt fear. Again, the question: what was he doing?

 

The panic bubbled up and he couldn’t stop it. The feelings kept flooding over him. He wasn’t sure if he was infatuated. He hadn’t really felt like this before. Was he falling in love with Nicole?

 

He shuddered at the implications. What about Rose? The guilt swept over him like a tidal wave. How could he even have feelings for another woman? He loved Rose and they had a good life together. They had gone through so much together. What could he possibly be thinking? He could never hurt Rose like that. But he was getting ahead of himself. Nicole could be coming just to get away, just to go on a hike, to get away from the academic grind. 

 

Maybe what he was feeling had nothing to do with her, and yet, he had an intuition that it had everything to do with her. She was beautiful and smart, and she had made him feel alive again.

 

He stacked the last of the wood. He wondered what a young, attractive woman like Nicole could possibly see in him, and he decided it was probably safe to have her come for a hike. They would talk and that would be about all. There was no way anything more could happen. Nicole could never be interested in him, not in any romantic way. She had too many other choices in her life. Yet, for a moment, just a moment, Tom wondered what he would do if she had feelings for him too.”

 

 

 

Book Trailer can be viewed here:

The Eighth Wonder by Kimberly S. Young

 

My Review:


If I were to be honest with myself, I would have to admit that when I first began the book, I was not at all intrigue. I even thought that this was going to be a s-l-o-w read. I quickly had to rethink my position, because the more I read, the more I couldn’t put the book down. As the story unfolded, so did the wonder of life and all of the tricks that it plays on us.


The Eighth Wonder is a quiet love story between a lonely woman (Nicole) searching for a place to belong and a heartbroken man (Tom) looking to feel alive after his young daughter’s death. The Kinzua Bridge in Bradford, Pennsylvania plays a pivotal part in the story and the author included the fascinating history of the bridge in the book. It was this bridge, after seeing it on both the cover of the book, and in the author’s photo, that kept coming to mind as I read the book. 


This book is a story about life, love, loss, heartbreak, and moving forward. How we sometimes sleepwalk through life focused on superficial goals rather than out hearts desire; and how we sometimes find love and comfort in the most unlikeliness of places.


The characters were well developed and the story line was unique. I found no errors and when you finish the very last word on the very last page, you feel as though life has completed its circle.

In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer. Albert Camus

 

 

We have a giveaway! And, it’s international (e-book)! You can enter here:

The Eighth Wonder by Kimberly S. Young

 

 

Two rare blood disorders?

 Can you be diagnosed with two rare blood disorders?

Apparently, you can.

On Tuesday of this week, I had a doctor’s appointment with my oncologist. Just the fact that I now call him “my” oncologist is a little unnerving.

     He added a second rare blood disorder to my original diagnosis of Essential Thrombocythemia. He attached Polycythemia Vera to my blood disorders.
     Essential Thrombocythemia causes the bone marrow to produce too many blood platelets. Polycythemia Vera is an elevated red blood cell count. One of first courses of treatment for PV is to have the person give blood to lower the red cell count. I cannot give blood because my blood platelets would think they were losing some of their friends and scurrying around finding (making) more. He called it a “double-edged sword”. Doc will also be monitoring my blood every three months for the immediate future.
     Hubby made the comment on the drive home that it probably had something to do with my menopause and as soon as that cleared up, everything would straighten itself out. I was thinking – but not saying – I’ll let you and the oncologist talk about that one ‘cuz I’m not touching that with a ten foot pole. Then, I thought, could he be in a larger state of denial that I am. Probably.
     Then, as I was sitting down typing, trying to wrap my thoughts around all of this new information, I looked at my arms – which happen to be the extremities that I can see as I sit here typing – and this picture show began playing in my head. I could see the bone in my arm and the little blood marrow elves were working so diligently at producing blood platelets that they are exhausted. I want to tell them to slow down and rest.
     This brings me to one of the symptoms – tiredness. I have been extremely, unexplainably tired for the last couple of years, so much so, that I began taking a B-12 vitamin and then a multi-B vitamin – to no avail. I take enough Vitamin B to give an elephant ADD. I’ve been so tired that when I actually wake up and feel rested, I want to sit up and say, “Wow! I don’t feel tired!” I am just tired of being tired. AsJeff Foxworthy would say, “Here’s your sign.”
     Then, another picture flashes through my mind of the little Keebler elvespulling on the icing bag and making huge, beautiful, red blood cells and them joining the already overloaded blood cells cursing around in my veins. Remember the Keebler cookie commercial where the elves pull down on the chocolate icing bag and chocolate icing plops down onto the cookies? Now you can understand why I don’t watch scary movies. My imagination has a life of its own.
     The doctor also told me that within the year, he would probably have to take a sample of my bone marrow and bone to analyze. He was also adamant about us NOT going home and watching a video of it on the internet. He does not know me very well. I cannot look at a cut without losing my lunch. Besides that, someone already told me about their experience having bone marrow extracted. It wasn’t a pretty sight. I do not need to watch a video of it. My mind is a terrible place to be on its own – without the extra help. Apparently, they are having a problem with people going home and watching videos of procedures and then they are hard to calm down. I asked him how much Valium they give. He made it a point of telling me that they use a local. So much for visiting Happy Land.

Hubby, not being privy to the conversation I had about the bone marrow extraction, asked Doc to explain the procedure. Doc then asked me to sit forward and he poked me in the behind on my pelvic bone. My response was a loud yelp. He poked in the exact spot that I have had a pain for a few weeks. I explained what happened. As if that wasn’t bad enough, he said okay, and did the same thing on the other hip. He then proceeded to tell Hubby about the procedure (holding pressure on my nerve the entire time). Hubby – one thing – payback’s a bitch! That hurt.

     While we were sitting in the waiting room, a woman sat down next to us and proceeded (without prompting) to tell us her life story. She did not even introduce herself. I guess she needed to talk to someone. She told us about her diagnosis and treatment, and a lot more. Actually, more than I needed to know. Maybe she doesn’t have anyone to talk to. She did say something that I had not voiced. She said that she was angry and her husband did not understand why. She tried to explain to him that she was angry that her body was betraying her with the cancer. I could understand that.
     I feel the same way at times. I look at my arms or my legs and it is as though I can see my body at war with itself; and I get angry. I don’t act on it and I don’t tell anyone, but the feeling is there. Then, I just step back and tell God it is in his hands. I want it to go away, but His will be done.
     That is about all I have to ramble about today; other than, I finally organized all of the books that I have to review. They are all neatly placed on shelves with a sticky note with a number to coordinate them to my spreadsheet. I feel so accomplished! And, my sister dropped by and I unloaded most of my donate box to her. As she was leaving, she made the comment that she felt like a bag lady. I decided that my addiction to bags had finally come to the point where I needed to gift someone with those that I no longer use. Even though the bags are used, they have all been carefully chosen and lovingly cared for and, they are like new and therefore, are like gifts.
     I even did something I normally do not do. I actually gave away a few books! It is also fig season and I have been busy canning figs. There is a bird nest in my tree and for some odd reason; the momma bird thinks the tree belongs to her. She may be finally realizing that I mean no harm to her or her babies because she hasn’t done a fly-by lately. That was a little unnerving the first time it happened. I even managed a few pictures after I parted a bunch of leaves and the little birds opened their mouths thinking I had dinner for them. I hope you enjoy them.