Nervous Nellies and the Puppers: Animal Antics South of the Border

The animal hijinks continue in Animal Antics South of the Border book two. Ride along with the Flores family as they wrangle goats, sheep, horses, chickens, cats, dogs, and rabbits during the 2020 pandemic lockdown in central Mexico. From keeping the Grim at bay to raising Elvis’ love children, what could possibly go wrong on the ol’ homestead?

Immigrant Secrets: The Search for my Grandparents by John Mancini

Immigrant Secrets: The Search for my Grandparents by John Mancini is a lovely tale of one man’s family history quest. The factual research done, including long-lost pictures, medical files, and official documents, is interspersed with imaginative scenes of what might have happened.

After the author’s father’s death, the author and his siblings began looking into the past. With nothing more than some tentative dates and names, the search started and what they found shocked them. The story of two struggling Italian immigrants and their disappearance was, sadly, a common one.

This story resonated with me, being the great-grandchild of immigrants myself. In fact, not only did my ancestors arrive through Ellis Island more or less the same time as the author’s grandparents, but they also settled near New York City, in Hunktown, Connecticut. The places named were therefore familiar to me. My mother did extensive research about my father’s immigrant origins, but the farthest back she could go was the ship manifest for Jan and Maria, who became John and Mary. 

The author’s writing style draws the reader in as each clue to the past is discovered, researched, and analyzed. Unfortunately, not everything was made clear. However, there was enough for the author to recreate plausible scenarios and well-researched commentary. The pictures of relevant buildings and documents made the story come alive. Immigrants Secrets is not the first story origin memoir I’ve read, but it was one of the most enjoyable.

There were a few instances where the information seemed redundant since the fictional sections and actual research process ran parallel, but nothing detracted from the story. There was also some allusion to a family friend who knew about his father’s family and married his father’s widow, the author’s mother, but the reader is never given more on that tangled story and the mystery is set aside.

On the whole, Immigrant Secrets: The Search for my Grandparents by John Mancini was a captivating read about the discovery of one family origin that anyone who has ever found a clue to themselves in the faces of the past will enjoy.

I received an ARC from Reedsy Discovery. You can read my review here.

New Cover and General Improvements for Wascally Wabbits and Zombie Babies

Wascally Wabbits and Zombie Babies: Animal Antics South of the Border was my first self-published book and it was in serious need of some editing. So that happened during the course of 2021 and a new book cover to boot!

These fascinating animal exploits begin when an ordinary family of three moves from the suburban U.S. to rural Mexico and buys a donkey. Over the course of a decade, their animal kingdom experienced oodles of triumphs and adversities. Who knew bananas, red rags, and phases of the moon have so much to do with livestock success? 

Reading Challenge 2022

I’m just not sure how much travel will be happening in my world in 2022. First, finances are a bit tight. And then, no one is quite sure what’s going on with the Covid pandemic. Is it safe? Is it not?

Regardless, I’m going to enjoy my year and to that end set up yet another reading challenge for myself. Looking over the categories, what would you suggest?

Calamity by Sam Winter

SWAT Officer Derrick Hart and his brother-in-arms Army Ranger Brandon Armstrong have taken on quite a task, keeping their wives and some stray tag-a-longs alive. The southern United States has been overrun by teeth-gnashing, super-fast, rabid zombies (or some such creature). Along the way, they meet up with the vice-president’s pregnant daughter and her bodyguards. They also come across Sharon, a mother separated from her family in the mad dash to safety, subject of government medical testing, and kidnapped by the radical Prepper group Sons of Liberty. How this ends is anyone’s guess!

Honestly, this book was so intense that I had to stop reading for short periods. I mean, constantly running from the zombie horde, evading military capture, and beating back the desperate masses, well, there’s only so much of that a girl can take at once. But, on the other hand, the intertwining plots made for exciting reading. You couldn’t help but put yourself in their dire situations and wonder what actions you’d take to keep body and soul together. 

Typically, my post-apocalyptic reading preference is for stories that begin after the calamity (pun intended), so this book was a new experience for me. It was maybe a little testosterone-heavy for me. I mean, Derrick and Brandon were the Rambos that would get the ordinary, unfit-for survival rag-tag band through to the promised land, right? So it was only natural there was some grunting, fist-fights, and shoot-em-ups. However, as a book that will keep you on the edge of your seat, this one takes the cake.

So if you are looking for post-apocalyptic science fiction non-stop action this holiday season, then Calamity by Sam Winter is the book for you!

The author provided an ARC for this review.

Living Through Alchemy: A transformational journey to freedom by Vi Vi Thai

Vi Vi Thai creatively illustrates her inner transformation in Living Through Alchemy: A transformational journey to freedom by Vi Vi Thai. In this book, the author shared her life from her birth in Vietnam through her Master’s degree in Bio-Medical Engineering at Cornell University as the backdrop to her personal transformation. Her real growth occurred after she started a new life in Canada as a van dweller. In addition to Vi Vi Thai’s personal story, the author includes journal prompts to aid the reader in their own transformation and a bonus chapter about her travel companion, Marco, the dog.  

This book might not be an effective medium for encouraging personal growth for individuals unfamiliar with tarot cards, which introduce each development period. For instance, chapter 4 began with card number 9 in the Rider-Waite tarot deck, the Hermit. There was a brief description of the card highlighting how to interpret it when it appears in a reading. Then the author talked about a period in her life that corresponded to this card, in this case, her return to Vietnam in shame resulting in social isolation. 

There were some misused phrases and terms resulting from the fact that the author’s first language is not English, but they were minor and did not detract from the understanding. The first few chapters are a bit repetitive. However, the author smoothes the storytelling out as the book progresses. 

There was a lot of information in the first chapter. In what is supposed to be an overview of alchemy, Thai discussed the definition of alchemy, the seven chakras, the caduceus, the eye of Horus and the Pineal gland, and the Hero’s Journey. This section might have been better focused on just the tarot cards and how they relate to the Hero’s Journey since there was little mention of the seven chakras, the caduceus, or the eye of Horus and the Pineal gland in the rest of the book. 

The transformational story Vi Vi Thai shares with the reader in Living Through Alchemy: A transformational journey to freedom was compelling. Marco’s story was sweet as well. It’s a great book to start the new year!

I received an ARC from Reedsy Discovery. You can read my review here.

Oona Out of Order by Margarita Montimore

One of my 2020 readings goals that I didn’t meet was to read a book published in the decade that I was born in. It’s not that I didn’t do research on books that came out in the 70s, nor that I hadn’t read any of the books on that list, I just wasn’t drawn to any of them.

So since it was my list, I decided to bend the rules a bit. I choose Oona Out of Order by Margarita Montimore which was published in 2020 but had a storyline that traveled through all the decades I’d been alive. 

Oona Lockhart leaps from year to year at the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve beginning in 1982. Each leap lasts a year, either forward or backward through the decads of Oona’s life. She tries to prevent her future selves from mistakes and heartache, but in the end, finds that “everything has its time” even if lived out of order.

Although this story seems like a mash-up of The Midnight Library by Matt Haig and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button by F. Scott Fitzgerald with a bit of modern-day The Outlander by Diana Gabaldon, it was surprisingly thought-provoking and refreshing.

If you are looking for a fun read this holiday season that entertains but reminds you to cherish the moment, then Oona Out of Order by Margarita Montimore is perfect for you!

Great on Kindle Status Earned!!!

In other herb news, my book, Exploring Traditional Herbal Remedies in Mexico: An Introduction to Natural Healing was inducted into the Great On Kindle Program. It’s by Amazon invitation only and quite an honor for little ol’ me.

What it means is that when you buy the kindle version of this book, you get credit towards another book purchase from the Great On Kindle Program, which are all high-quality non-fiction.

Don’t forget to check out The Mexican Apothecary: Traditional Cold and Flu Herbal Remedies as you hunt for great holiday gifts. Either of these herb books would make great gifts, for yourself or another health-minded loved one!

Mr. Dickens and His Carol by Samantha Silva

If you are looking for a sweet, holiday read, then you can’t go wrong with Mr. Dickens and His Carol by Samantha Silva

Imagine if you will, a prominent writer of his day, recovering from a ill-received work, newly minted father of 6, hounded by charities, publishers, and children dealing with the newfangled idea of a Christmas tree and the resurgence of carols at every corner. Being commissioned to write a Christmas story just weeks before the blessed day is the final straw. He bah humbugs himself back to his bachelor’s quarters, donns a disguise and fails miserably at evoking any sense of Christmas in the story he’s written.

Faithful readers, friends, a crew of ragamuffins headed by David Copperfield, and a mysterious theater seamstress in a purple cloak haunt his every step. Walk along with Mr. Dickens as he rediscovers the joys of Christmas and finally gets that blasted Christmas story written. A prickly writer with an eye for the ladies, laboriously described scenes and characters, and the interweaving of other works by Dickens make this a worthy read this holiday season. In fact, it’s so rich you may need to read it twice just to savor the decadent details.