Music is so important, in movies and in books.

Music is so important, in books and movies. Ever watch a movie without the music playing? It changes the scene, and even though there can be great dialogue and fantastic acting, it's not the same.
Unfortunately, this is not possible for books to have certain songs playing in the background as you read over the scenes. If it were, I'd have a variety built in.
There are certain songs though, that when I hear them, I think of certain books as it matches the themes.

For Run Away Charlotte, one song always stops me in my tracks when I hear it. I see Charlotte talking to Andrew, laying it all out as the communication shuts down between the two of them and how in that moment, she breaks and makes the worst decision of her life. A Great Big World's "Say Something" wrecks me, as I figured Charlotte was in that heartbreaking moment.

"And I will swallow my pride
You're the one that I love
And I'm saying goodbye"
-- A Great Big World

For the novel Ask Me Again no song seemed to convey Charlotte's desire and longing to escape her demons and run into the safety of true love better than Chantal Kreviazuk's Home. This song would be the song playing as you read into the final chapters. 

"If you knew how lonely my life has been
And how long I've been so alone
If you knew how I wanted someone to come along
And change my life the way you've done
-- Chantal Kreviazuk 

For Duly Noted, the theme song for the book came while I was driving around singing to an older CD I'd popped in. Suddenly, a scratchy version of Garth Brooks' "When You Come Back to Me Again" and those first few notes hit me. Yes! This was Aurora's struggle. She didn't think anyone believed in her and she was a lonely ship at the mercy of the sea. Until she meets Nate. To me, it was the whole novel condensed into a few minutes of good ole Garth Brooks. I can't send you to his official link as he didn't make a video for this, but there are several covers on youTube.

"'Cause there's a lighthouse, in a harbor
Shining faithfully
Pouring its light out, across the water
For this sinking soul to see
That someone out there still believes in me"
-- Garth Brooks

Of course, the music changed a little when Aurora meets Nate's little brother, Lucas, and the two of them hit it off becoming best friends, at least to Aurora, in That Summer. Lucas on the other hand... well, James Arthur's "Say You Won't Let Go" sums it up perfectly and it carries over beautifully into the final book of the trilogy. 

 "I knew I loved you then
But you'd never know
'Cause I played it cool when I was scared of letting go
I know I needed you
But I never showed"
-- James Arthur

For that final installment in the Aurora MacIntyre trilogy, the last book If You Say Yes, there was a whole playlist involved, songs that would be playing in the background if it were a movie starring... well that's a blog post for another day.

When I started the Ladies of Westside series, the music was a little trickier, but only in the sense that I didn't know what each character was going through until it was written. The music didn't come suddenly or seem to match any song. It took a long while to find the right one. 

For Serving Up Innocence, there was Collin Raye's "Not That Different". It hit home as the family-centric, play-by-the-rules Shayne is quite a bit different than the bohemian and carefree Korey who captures her heart. And for a bit, they wonder if they are strong enough to make the best of their differences.

"She said we're much too different
We're from two separate worlds
And he admitted she was partly right
But in his heart's defense he told her
What they had in common
Was strong enough to bond them for life"
-- Collin Raye

Serving Up Devotion, is still a struggle and I'm actually still trying to find a general theme song for this one. I haven't yet heard one that captures all the emotions and soul of the book. Its tough when you're dealing with a head-strong orphaned heroine who's sole purpose is to give her brother a better life. Love just isn't on the do-to list. However I'm all game to hear any suggestions. When I wrote this book, there wasn't anything playing in the background aside from classical show tunes. 

Serving Up Secrecy is a story about withholding information from another, and one song hits that on the head - Shania Twain's "No One Needs to Know". Just the like the main character, Josephine, she has no immediate need to share with her one-night stand the baby she's kept hidden from him, even though she finds herself falling in love with the man who never wants children. 

"I got my heart set, my feet wet

And he don't even know it yet
But no one needs to know right now
I'll tell him someday some way somehow
But I'm gonna keep it a secret for now"
-- Shania Twain

For Serving Up Hope, the song that most captures the essence of Meghan being invited to her former fiance's wedding and finding the perfect date to accompany her, and finding herself falling for the guy who writes the most amazing letters is "You Could've Been Anyone" by Carole King. 

"Funny how I feel more myself with you
Than anybody else that I ever knew
I hear it in your voice, see it in your face
You've become the memory I can't erase"
-- Carole King

Do you have a favourite song? One that you'd say was your theme song?

The 2019 Junior YRCAs and who I think should win.

For those of you who don't know, I work PT in an elementary school (grades preschool - grade six) and over the summer, I read all the junior level YRCAs (Young Readers Choice Award) to better assist my students. This summer I was successful, and have rated the books from my least favourite to my absolute favourite.

There are 8 junior level reads vying for top prize and the voting ended April 15th.

Here are my thoughts on the books.

#8 - The Inn Between by Marina Cohen

The Shining meets "Hotel California" in this supremely creepy middle grade novel about the bizarre things that happen to two girls stranded at a desert inn.
Eleven-year-old Quinn has had some bad experiences lately. She was caught cheating in school, and then one day, her little sister Emma disappeared while walking home from school. She never returned
When Quinn's best friend Kara has to move away, she goes on one last trip with Kara and her family. They stop over at the first hotel they see, a Victorian inn that instantly gives Quinn the creeps, and she begins to notice strange things happening around them. When Kara's parents and then brother disappear without a trace, the girls are stranded in a hotel full of strange guests, hallways that twist back in on themselves, and a particularly nasty surprise lurking beneath the floorboards. Will the girls be able to solve the mystery of what happened to Kara's family before it's too late? 

Of the eight, this was not my favourite, and in fact I found myself skimming over it just to get to the end. It was a little weird for my liking, and I could see some parts being a little scary for the sensitive reader. I'd classify it into the HORROR genre. The characters were okay, and it was well-written, just not my cup of tea.

#7 - It Ain’t so Awful Falafel by Firoozeh Dumas

33503562Zomorod (Cindy) Yousefzadeh is the new kid on the block . . . for the fourth time. California’s Newport Beach is her family’s latest perch, and she’s determined to shuck her brainy loner persona and start afresh with a new Brady Bunch name—Cindy. It’s the late 1970s, and fitting in becomes more difficult as Iran makes U.S. headlines with protests, revolution, and finally the taking of American hostages. Even mood rings and puka shell necklaces can't distract Cindy from the anti-Iran sentiments that creep way too close to home. A poignant yet lighthearted middle grade debut from the author of the best-selling Funny in Farsi. 

I started off really enjoying this story, especially since it pre-dates cell phones and social media, it gives the young readers of today a view of the world their parents lived in. The characters were great and fleshed out, but when it got quite political, I lost interest. It was a little over the top in that respect, and I think if it were scaled back, it would be higher on my list. Otherwise, Cindy's going ons as the new kid were pretty funny. 

#6 - Dog Man by Dav Pilkey

28691896New from the creator of Captain Underpants, it's Dog Man, the #1 New York Times bestselling, crime-biting canine who is part dog, part man, and ALL HERO!

George and Harold have created a new hero who digs into deception, claws after crooks, and rolls over robbers. When Greg the police dog and his cop companion are injured on the job, a life-saving surgery changes the course of history, and Dog Man is born. With the head of a dog and the body of a human, this heroic hound has a real nose for justice. But can he resist the call of the wild to answer the call of duty? 

I'm not a fan of comic book/graphic novels, but I can see the huge appeal. It was a cute story and easy to read. Having met Mr. Dav Pilkey, I know why he has the bad spelling and grammar, but it bugs me to the end of the earth to have it in a kids book, especially those learning to spell correctly. I wouldn't be surprised if this book was voted #1 by the kids at my school, and won the award. 

#5 - Pax by Sara Pennypacker

22098550Pax was only a kit when his family was killed, and “his boy” Peter rescued him from abandonment and certain death. Now the war front approaches, and when Peter’s father enlists, Peter has to move in with his grandpa. Far worse than being forced to leave home is the fact that Pax can’t go. Peter listens to his stern father—as he usually does—and throws Pax’s favorite toy soldier into the woods. When the fox runs to retrieve it, Peter and his dad get back in the car and leave him there—alone. But before Peter makes it through even one night under his grandfather’s roof, regret and duty spur him to action; he packs for a trek to get his best friend back and sneaks into the night. This is the story of Peter, Pax, and their independent struggles to return to one another against all odds. Told from the alternating viewpoints of Peter and Pax. 

I enjoyed this book right up to the ending. The ending tainted the whole story, although I had to suspend some reality (Peter runs away from home and is gone for so long and yet no one goes looking for him?) The alternating view points were cute, and I did enjoy reading from Pax's POV. Overall, it was cute, but not the heart-warming story I was expecting. 

#4 - The Key to Extraordinary by Natalie Lloyd

25152641Everyone in Emma's family is special. Her ancestors include Revolutionary War spies, brilliant scientists, and famous musicians--every single one of which learned of their extraordinary destiny through a dream.

For Emma, her own dream can't come soon enough. Right before her mother died, Emma promised that she'd do whatever it took to fulfill her destiny, and she doesn't want to let her mother down.

But when Emma's dream finally arrives, it points her toward an impossible task--finding a legendary treasure hidden in her town's cemetery. If Emma fails, she'll let down generations of extraordinary ancestors . . . including her own mother. But how can she find something that's been missing for centuries and might be protected by a mysterious singing ghost?

With her signature blend of lyrical writing, quirky humor, and unforgettable characters, Natalie Lloyd's The Key to Extraordinarycements her status as one of the most original voices writing for children today. 

It took me a bit to get into this, but once I did, I couldn't put it down. It was exceptionally engaging and I really enjoyed Emma and her quest. I loved the setting (a house that backs onto a cemetary) and the mysteries of the Deep South. It's not a scary read at all, but very magical. 

#3 - The Wild Robot by Peter Brown

26030734When robot Roz opens her eyes for the first time, she discovers that she is alone on a remote, wild island. Why is she there? Where did she come from? And, most important, how will she survive in her harsh surroundings? Roz's only hope is to learn from the island's hostile animal inhabitants. When she tries to care for an orphaned gosling, the other animals finally decide to help, and the island starts to feel like home. Until one day, the robot's mysterious past comes back to haunt her.... 

I was hesitant to read this one, but I'm so glad I picked it up. The illustrations were adorable and the story as a whole was easy to get into. I loved how the robot Roz grew as a character. The only drawback is I wish it had a definitive ending - instead it leads to the start of book 2. 

#1 - It's a TIE! 

The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill 

28110852Every year, the people of the Protectorate leave a baby as an offering to the witch who lives in the forest. They hope this sacrifice will keep her from terrorizing their town. But the witch in the forest, Xan, is kind and gentle. She shares her home with a wise Swamp Monster named Glerk and a Perfectly Tiny Dragon, Fyrian. Xan rescues the abandoned children and delivers them to welcoming families on the other side of the forest, nourishing the babies with starlight on the journey. 

One year, Xan accidentally feeds a baby moonlight instead of starlight, filling the ordinary child with extraordinary magic. Xan decides she must raise this enmagicked girl, whom she calls Luna, as her own. To keep young Luna safe from her own unwieldy power, Xan locks her magic deep inside her. When Luna approaches her thirteenth birthday, her magic begins to emerge on schedule -- but Xan is far away. Meanwhile, a young man from the Protectorate is determined to free his people by killing the witch. Soon, it is up to Luna to protect those who have protected her -- even if it means the end of the loving, safe world she’s always known.

The acclaimed author of The Witch’s Boy has created another epic coming-of-age fairy tale destined to become a modern classic. 

OMG - I just loved this book. It was a fantasy book that I became totally immersed in - the writing was so crisp and detailed, I could picture every scene with ease. The characters were amazing (I loved them all, but really liked Fyrain the Perfectly Tiny Dragon). I was rooting for the Xan and the ending was the best. Five stars all the way. 

Ms. Bixby’s Last Day by John David Anderson

27064348Everyone knows there are different kinds of teachers. The good ones. The not-so-good ones. The boring ones, the mean ones, the ones who try too hard. The ones you’ll never remember, and the ones you want to forget. But Ms. Bixby is none of these. She’s the sort of teacher who makes you feel like the indignity of school is worthwhile. Who makes the idea of growing up less terrifying. Who you never want to disappoint. What Ms. Bixby is, is one of a kind.

Topher, Brand, and Steve know this better than anyone. And so when Ms. Bixby unexpectedly announces that she is very sick and won’t be able to finish the school year, they come up with a plan. Through the three very different stories they tell, we begin to understand just what Ms. Bixby means to Topher, Brand, and Steve—and what they are willing to go to such great lengths to tell her.

John David Anderson, the acclaimed author of Sidekicked, returns with a story of three kids, a very special teacher, and one day that none of them will ever forget.

I loved how three boys go on an adventure of sorts, and we get a very interesting story as they are three unique boys from three different backgrounds. It's written so well, and I couldn't put it down. I became so invested in the story and their quest, that the ending had me bawling. I haven't read a MG book that affected me so much since I was a child reading Charlotte's Web. Everyone (I hope) has had a teacher as amazing as Ms. Bixby, and if so, they will fall in love with all the stories with the story. 

After an engaging 6 months of student reading, I tallied their votes today and gave them percentages.

It Ain't So Awful Falafel - 0%
The Key to Extraordinary - 0%
Pax - 2.5%
Ms. Bixby's Last Day - 5%
The Wild Robot - 12.5%
The Inn Between - 20%
Girl Who Drank the Moon - 22.5%
Dog Man - 37.5% <- WINNER at our school, and likely the winner overall.

We shall see in May when all the votes are calculated and the winner is crowned.

Big City Scavenger Hunt - My Review

Back in April, I spotted a Groupon that sounded like so much fun - A Big City Scavenger Hunt for Edmonton. With the Groupon pricing, and some sort of deal of the day discount, I secured 4 tickets for $33.20, and since it had to be used by August 10, I added it to our #summerbucketlist.

As the expiry date rolled closer, we decided to head out on a cloudy Saturday afternoon to make use of it. It took a bit to get it set up (for whatever reason, my phone wouldn't go past the login screen, so hubs used his and then became the group leader).
We got it all set up, and because my youngest doesn't have a phone, he tagged off of my phone.

The four of us got our 'roles'; the Leader, the Art Major, the Architect and the Photographer, and with extra battery packs for the phones headed to our starting point - downtown at the Legislative Grounds.

Assignments were sent to each phone (two to mine as our youngest doesn't have a phone), and you completed them. Some were photo challenges (as in take a picture meeting certain criteria), and some were to read various signs and answer a multiple choice question (which the leader got). I was expecting puzzle challenges and the like, and was sadly disappointed to not get those. Maybe that comes with a larger group?

We moved from point to point seeing buildings and parks that we would've never explored as I, for one, do not venture downtown. So on that point, it was really neat to take in some historical places.

According to the website, it's estimated that you'll walk about 2.18 miles (3.5 km). No problem, we all wore good walking shoes. The truth was it's much more than that. MUCH more. To the end point. That doesn't include the distance back to the starting point.

It's estimated it will take you about 2 hours. This was pretty accurate.

Enjoyability factor - about 3.5 stars out of 5.
Ease of use - it took a bit to get signed in, but after that, was pretty easy. We each received between 6-7 challenges texted to our phones.
Would I recommend? - yes. It was neat to see the historic buildings and the sights I'd never noticed.
Would I do it again? - no. It's only one option.
Value for the price? I got a discounted price, thanks to Groupon, so it was decent. No way would I have paid the regular $20 per person price otherwise.

~~~~~~ warning - from here on in are spoilers about the locations we went to ~~~~~~~~~

One of our stops, after two challenges at the Legislature, was to walk to this location. A very cool building built in 1904 and the site for the Legislature until the main one was built. 

One of the photographer's challenges was to take a photo of something beautiful. I thought the tree was really neat. BTW - you get 5 minutes to perform the challenge. Usually, more than enough time. 

As we headed north, find the Recycle was one of our stops and two challenges were achieved here. This park (Beaver Hill Park) I've driven by a few times, so it was neat to stop and check it all out. All the bicycles in the center are constructed out of other materials. They reused them for another purpose. 

Heading further north, near Roger's Place, is the Neon Sign Museum - another site to complete a challenge. I'm sure it's much nicer at night, and I've seen this as I've gone to concerts and games at the arena, but never actually stopped and checked out the signs. One sign had the same name as my husband, so he posed under it (picture not shown). 

Heading east, we checked out City Hall, and looked for the name of the clock tower. Since we couldn't find the name (likely due to construction, we guessed on that challenge, and --yay-- guessed correctly.) It was called the Friendship Tower. 

The Lunchman was another challenge. We had to describe the object he's holding in his hands. My kids thought it was a hot dog without a bun (LOL) but it's not. I won't give this one away. ;) 
The challenges mentioned how we're getting to the end, but we are still a long ways away from our car. Hmm... we'll keep going. Maybe it will start taking us westward.
The Pyramids at the Muttart are NOT one of the challenges. 

Nope. We followed directions south and east over to 95 A street and 101 ave and spotted our final 'check point' if you will, and descended into Louise McKinney Riverfront Park. We completed our final challenge! Yahoo! 

Only thing is now we are roughly 2.3 km away from our vehicle. 
And I have a very tired 10 year old.

So we walked along the river front and caught the Funicular up to the Fairmont Hotel MacDonald area, and then took the LRT back to our car. Wasn't expecting that. We'd all been hoping that the Hunt would make a nice loop back instead of ending quite a ways away. That put a damper on our experience. Plus it would've been nice to have more stops along the way. Not necessarily challenges, but a little info and history since the app was tracking us to send us the challenges at the right time.

This is a rough walking outline of where we went and where we ended. 5.1 km for the Scavenger Hunt (not 3.5, and we even took some shortcuts!), plus the return distance. 

Verdict - the challenges weren't as exciting as I'd hoped, or was lead to believe. One challenge was to take a picture of one of our teammates jumping. Hmm... different and not related at all to the area we were in. But it scored us 50 points, so yay? IDK.

But the scavenger hunt was neat to do it ONCE. Maybe if they had another option, we'd try it again and park a car at the end point (groupon reviewers had mentioned this, as I read after! Dang!) However, we did see some new areas of Edmonton so that was cool. Overall 3 stars out of 5 (averaged from the four of us). 

Our Journey Down the North Saskatchewan

Last year we sailed down the North Saskatchew with Edmonton Canoe on their leisure Sunday PM canoe ride. If you're curious about our last years trip, click here. It was so much fun, that we booked again for this summer. Same company, same Sunday afternoon event. 

Date selected, we eagerly watched the weather. Unless it's storming, it's a go. Thankfully for us that Sunday, it was a beautiful 30C, and we had a light breeze on the water. 

Our starting point was Capilano Park, where we parked our vehicle and received some quick instructions from the leader of Edmonton Canoe. We boarded the bus and headed to our starting destination. This year, due to construction on the Groat Rode bridge, we were unable to start at Emily Murphy park. Instead, as a bonus, we got to start further upstream at Sir Wilfred Laurier Park. 

Leaving Sir Wilfred Laurier Park - the Hawrelak Park-Laurier Park Bridge in the distance. 

 As we paddled down the river, we passed Government Hill park on the left and came within sight of the High Level Bridge, which just happened to have a Streetcar crossing on the top. The LRT bridge is just below.

The High Level Bridge. At night, it lights up and is quite the sight. 

 We paddled more downstream, enjoying the fresh air, the laughs, the views and the heat. We approached Edmonton's newest bridge - the Walterdale - a true beauty to be seen. 

It was quite warm, so we 'docked' underneath the Walterdale in the shade and had a late lunch. There are year markers underside the bridge. One was 1985 and the other was 1915. We speculated that these might be how high the river was on those years, but we could be wrong. Anyone know?

Looking to the north side of Walterdale. 

Continuing on, we passed this quaint little wooden bridge. 
It's somewhere in the Irene Parlby park area. 

Yay! As luck would have it the Edmonton Queen was heading upstream with a group of party-goers. We floated on by and waved! A few guests even waved back. Adding this to my #summerbucketlist

Approaching the 98 ave Bridge, with Downtown in the background. 

This is a magnificent view of the Hotel MacDonald, the Funicular Viewpoint, the Courtyard by Marriot, Canada Place and the Shaw Conference Centre (on the far right)

Accidental Beach

We passed by Accidental Beach, and looked westward at downtown. Lots of construction going on in the core of our city, as you can see by the cranes. Accidental beach wasn't as appealing as we thought or hoped. However, it could be because the water levels are still high because the beach are wasn't that expanse? 

The Rowland Road Bridge. We're approaching the end, and because it's been such a lovely and peaceful trek, we're not wanting it to end. So we lifted our paddles and simply floated downstream. 

Here I am!
I travelled with my two children and two other adults. 
We split the five of us into two canoes (so we bought the additional seat for the canoe). 
It was an enjoyable ride. Already my kids are asking when we're going to go next year. 
We couldn't have asked for better weather and better travelling companions. 

According to my estimate, it was about 16 km worth of river we paddled down. 
Edmonton Canoe was waiting for us as we 'landed' at Capilano and they took care of loading the canoe onto the trailer. They had also unloaded them at Laurier Park boat launch, so everything was ready to go. 
Life jackets are provided, and they have kid sizes, but I brought my kids' anyway as I know they fit properly. They provide you with a dry bag to keep your personal effects in, but I used a baggie and carabiner clip to secure it to my lifejacket. Trust me, you'll want to take a lot of pictures and won't want to fiddle with wrapping/rewrapping the dry bag. I didn't post the pictures that had our faces in it but between the 3 adults, we took over 100 pictures. 
The trip itself took us just over three hours. 
Enjoyability factor - HIGH! Everyone wants to do it again. 
Five stars all the way!

For Readers of Duly Noted - a Bonus Chapter

Hey Readers!
The following chapter was cut during revisions. It’s still raw, and may contain spelling or grammar errors. It was supposed to be Chapter 27 in Duly Noted, but in consultation with my editor and beta readers, it added a whole other range of issues to explore, and the word count was already creeping up, so it needed to be cut. But it explores a bit of what Nate thought of Aurora's PTSD.

Copyright 2016 -- H.M. Shander
No portion of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopied, recorded or otherwise without express written permission from the author.  

                         DULY NOTED – BONUS CHAPTER

Nate had to chuckle to himself as Aurora sang way off tune to a song on the radio. He knew this was a side to the medication, even if he never told her. Cole knew it too and had warned him. But it was very amusing listening to her belt out “Summer of 69” as if she were Bryan Adams.

She’d been very relaxed getting into the car, and he knew his time was limited. The last pill didn’t give him nearly enough time, but he was confident that he’d make it this time. The roads were much quieter being late into the night, so he drove a little quicker than normal too. He wanted her in her apartment before the pill wore off, he wanted her to come to in a place that was warm and familiar.

They made good time and he was about ten minutes from her house when he saw the flashing lights in his rear view mirror.

“Oh no,” he thought. “Please let it be for someone else.” A glance at his speedometer told him he was at least 15 kms over the speed limit. Hoping for another vehicle, he searched fruitlessly and pulled over. “How do I get through this, and get her home before it wears off?” He worried. “You doing okay?” he asked Aurora who suddenly went stone faced.

After an agonizingly long minute with the police cruiser parked behind him, the police officer finally made his way over.

Hoping politeness would speed things along, Nate rolled his window down. “Good evening, Officer.”

“Know why I pulled you over?”

“Yes, sir, I was speeding. But I can explain.” His voice was shaky and if he knew it, surely the police officer did as well. A flashlight beam searched his face. “My girlfriend has PTSD and takes a special pill to help her travel in cars. Her family was killed in a car wreck, see, so being in a vehicle terrifies the hell out of her.” Nate glanced over to Aurora whose expression had morphed into a terror stricken one. “And I need to get her home before the pill wears off and she realises where she is.”

The police officer shined the light over to her and back onto his face. “License and registration please.”

Nate pulled out his wallet and produced the information but kept his focus on Aurora. He touched her leg. “You still okay?”

There was no response and he knew he was in trouble. He knew she was starting to process, she’d explained it to him. How things slowly started coming together. Panic built up in him at an impressive speed. If she came out of it now, he had no idea how he’d get her home. He glanced in the rear view mirror. The cop was just getting into the cruiser. Oh shit, she’d for sure be out of it before he finished.

“Aurora?” he asked. The silence was deafening. He smacked the steering wheel. “Think, think, think!” he pleaded with himself. A lightbulb moment, he thought of his sister, but wondered if she’d be home already. “Couldn’t hurt anyways,” he thought as texted her, explaining what was happening and what he expected to happen. She texted back that she was on her way and she’d bring Max too. A little relief dripped on him. He looked back in the rear view – the cop was still in there.

Aurora looked worse. Her lips trembled and as if the curtains opened, her focus became laser sharp. “Nate?” she said, her voice matching the shaking of her lips. “Why are we stopped?”

“I got pulled over for speeding.”

“Nate?” she said in an almost whisper. “No! No! No!” she exclaimed covering her head. “Please no.” Her voice dropped, and she started shaking.

It was horrifying to watch. She started moaning, a deep painful moan. “What do I do?”

The Aurora he knew was no longer there and he knew it. Her eyes tightly closed, her hands in fists. First came the scream that rocked him to his core, its sound so painful and desperate. He jumped out of his side and ran over to the passenger door. No matter what he did he was royally screwed. Leave her in there and he worried she’d give herself a heart attack. Pull her out, and he had no way to get her back into a vehicle to get her home safely.

By time he opened her door, the police officer was charging over. “What the hell are you doing?”

“The pill’s wearing off, and she’s freaking out.”

Both men looked over at Aurora in the passenger seat, moaning and tears rolling down her cheeks. The police officer nodded and with a swift step, Nate extracted her from the vehicle and she went limp in his arms. “Aurora? Aurora…” He shook her.

The officer called in for an ambulance as Nate placed her on the ground. He checked for her breathing – it was there, just deep and long like she was in a deep sleep. He checked for a pulse and was happy to feeling little pulses beneath his fingers. He sat beside her on the ground, holding her jelly-like hand. No smelling salts to bring her back, he just had to wait.

A car passed by slowly and braked, pulling in front of Nate’s car. Chris rushed over first, with Max right behind.

Nate caught them up as the officer stood over them. The wailing of a siren in the distance was music to his ears. He couldn’t remember a time he’d been happier to see the red and white lights of the ambulance. Max had moved his car further up the road to give the ambulance room to pull in.

The paramedics jumped out and came over, Max relaying info to them. Nate stood up as a gurney arrived and they lifted her onto it, pushing it back into the ambulance.

They worked over her, while Nate watched from the road, his hands running through his hair, pulling on it hard. He looked at his sister, just a few steps away. “I can’t do this, Chris.” He shook his head and stepped back to lean against his car. “I can’t wonder if every time we get into a vehicle if this will happen. This isn’t normal.”

“You’re right, it’s not.” He felt her arm on his shoulder.

“So how do I get through this? How can I do this?” He felt like he was going to crack and fought the urge to lash out. “Everything was going so well.”

Max yelled out the back. “What did you give her to fog her memory?”

Nate walked closer. “Her dad calls them Isa’s but I don’t know the full name.” The looks between the paramedics did not escape his view. “Why?”

“We just need to know what’s in her system, so we don’t give her anything harmful,” said one of the paramedics hanging up a bag of fluid.

“Why isn’t she waking up?” Nate asked, but no one in the ambulance answered.

Her sister’s voice beside him answered. “Her mind has shut down everything. It’s the brain’s defence mechanism. And it’s doing a good job. Really, it’s quite amazing.”

“Amazing? Are you for real?” Nate said with disgust. “There's nothing amazing about this.”

“Clinical speaking, I mean. As her boyfriend, I can imagine it’s quite different.”

“You’re damn straight.” His gaze never left Aurora. “When will she wake up?”

“That’s up to her.” Chris looked sympathetic.

“We’re ready to transport. She’s not responsive, so we’re taking her in.” The paramedic told Nate, as he hopped out and closed the door.

He watched as the ambulance pulled out and drove away, taking his heart with him.

“Come on we’ll follow them in,” Chris said to him, but his feet were glued to the ground.

The police officer handed him back his licence and registration but he couldn’t move.

“C’mon, Nate,” she urged.

He shook his head. “I can’t.”

The Ladies of WestSide

What's cooking in the Westside kitchen? 

Four brand new standalone stories; each focusing on one of the staff members at Westside, however, they also make minor appearances in the other stories.

Watch for a surprise appearance from a beloved character or two from past books.

Meet the staff at Westside Eatery: 

Jade/Shayne - server
Jasper - server
Evanora/Audrina - server
Niall - manager
Joy/Josephine - server
Robin - server
Celeste - server
Meghan - manager

Click on each book below to be taken to the its own page, with cover and sneak peek (coming soon), and links to pre-order.

Serving Up Innocence - Book One - October 3rd
Serving Up Devotion - Book Two - November 21st
Serving Up Secrecy - Book Three - January 2nd
Serving Up Hope - Book Four - February 13th

Check out all the books on Goodreads, and add the Ladies of Westside series to your must read pile. 

My 2018 Read list

This is a running list of the books I've read each month, with a copy of the cover as my favourite of the month - which turns out to be 34! WOW! I am not including any of the manuscripts I have worked on for my author friends, as sometimes they had no working title when I received it, or the author has decided to withhold it from the public as it's being queried out, but there are likely a dozen or two I'd add to the list.

It's definitely been a nice variety as our book club switches genres each month. That's fun - it's nice to read something a little different. 


Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
The Half-Stitched Amish Quilting Club by Wanda Brunstetter
Bera the One-Headed Troll by Eric Orchard
Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins


A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Husseini
Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins


The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce
Wonder by R.J. Palacio
Love Connection by Camilla Isley
Cinder by Marissa Meyer
Landing Luck by Tracy Krimmer
Caraval by Stephanie Garber (re-read)


Bird Box by Josh Mailerman


The Forgotten Beasts of Eld by Patricia McKillip
Spelled by Betsy Schow


The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
The Girl Who Drank The Moon by Kelly Barnhill


Pax by Sarah Pennypacker
Weird Things Customers Said in Bookstores by Jen Campbell
They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera
It Ain't So Awful, Falafel by Firoozeh Dumas
Mrs. Bixby's Last Day by John David Anderson
Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh


The Key to Extraordinary by Natalie Lloyd
The Inn Between by Marina Cohen
Bridget Jones's Diary by Helen Fielding
Exit, Pursued by a Bear by E.K. Johnson


The Shape of Water by Guillermo del Toro
Blackheart by Nicole Castroman

Image result for the shape of water


Along for the Ride by Sarah Dessen

Image result for along for the ride


Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz
The Whispering Magpies by J. Huet
Tales of the Peculiar by Ransom Riggs


My Life as a Country Album by LJ Evans

my life as a country album (my life as an album Book 1) by [Evans, LJ]

Serving Up Hope

Serving Up Hope - Book Four

Single male needed for former fiance's wedding.
Must pretend to be my boyfriend for the day.
Steady employment necessary, must look great in a suit and be between the ages of 25 - 40.
Bonus points if similar in nature to a Disney prince.

Meghan Carter, the owner of Westside, is blindsided when she receives an invitation to her ex's
wedding; the one who left her at the altar four years ago. Whatever the motive behind the invite, she needs to show up and prove she's better off without him. On the arm of the perfect man would be the best kind of revenge.

The workaholic reluctantly sets up a dating profile and through the slush pile, four potential candidates seem acceptable. However, there's one she feels a connection with as he understands the motivation behind needing the fake date and is willing to be her arm candy.

She didn't join the dating site to be jerked around, and she didn't join it to find an everlasting love, but feelings start blossoming. Is the attraction real, or is someone saying everything she's desperate to hear? Because she just crawled out of the dark hole and she doesn't want to fall back in. Ever again. 

And for fun, here is Meghan's dating profile and the other acceptable candidates. 

releasing February 13, 2019

Pre-order for $0.99
Amazon <-link coming soon

Add to your Goodreads Want to Read list today. 

Others in the Series: 

Serving Up Innocence - Book One - October 3rd
Serving Up Devotion - Book Two - November 21st
Serving Up Secrecy - Book Three - January 2nd