I have a stack of books waiting to be read at home, a typed list of books to consider, and a large Kindle library I downloaded for free or purchased. I am often asked by other authors to read and review their books. It is a daunting and impossible task to get to them all, but I do what I can to put a dent in the madness. After all, I love a good book. I carry one with me whenever I go.
With so many choices, how do I select the right one? Sometimes I choose a book just going by the author’s name, someone I’ve read before and enjoyed. But there are many authors out there without celebrity status like Stephen King or J. K. Rollins. A nice cover can catch my eye. If I like the title and the cover, I go a step further and read the summary. If that sounds good, I take a sneak peek inside. I love that Amazon Books has the “Look Inside” feature. I go to the first paragraph and read the first line.
The big deciding factor for me is the first sentence of a book. It is the HOOK. It is what reels me in. If I take the bait, I read on through the first paragraph and then maybe the second. If there was nothing there for me to explore, question, or make me want to read on, I stop. It might be a waste of my time to go further.
I like a story to be engaging and have tension. It should have likable characters, but flawed characters I can relate to because I, too, am flawed. Each scene must build on the plot, propelling me forward, letting me come to some conclusions and get answers to questions.
A good book is a puzzle. The reader fits the pieces together until the whole picture becomes clear. If by the end of the story, you don’t see the complete picture, then the author has failed you.
I like the books I read and the ones I write to have closure. But that will not always happen with a series or sequel and you get the “to be continued” type ending. For the first time ever, I have started my first ever series. I am almost finish with the first draft of Book One. I promise you this: There will be satisfying ending, but I will send the main character, Detective Colt Jessep, on a new case and a new adventure. Stay tuned for my upcoming suspense novel, ROCK BOTTOM. I can’t wait for you to meet this guy.

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Moonscape courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

My mother traveled the world and had one adventure after another, all while sitting in her recliner in her small room. Then the unthinkable happened. Without any clear medical reasoning that made sense, her eyesight left her almost overnight. Without the ability to read, she could no longer open a book and delve into past eras, different cultures, mysteries, romance, war, loss, pain, joy. Her world, her love gone in a flash. She became depressed, proclaiming that she had lost the one thing she had left.
Ninety-nine years of life had served her well. She was blessed with five daughters, a forty-seven-year marriage to a wonderful man before his death in 1987, eleven grandchildren, twenty-two great-grandchildren, and one great-great grandson. She lived through the Great Depression, World War II, man on the moon, technology she never understood, and too many changes and events to mention.
The loss of her vision was quickly followed by a decline in her health. Many days before she entered the hospital on the day after Christmas, she predicted she would die on January 19. I found her revelation shocking but had no reason to doubt it. She missed it by ten days. She died peacefully at home on January 9.
She read approximately one book a week. In recent years the book which seemed to impact her the most was Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand. I begged her not to tell me the story because I planned to read it, but she couldn’t help herself. From beginning to end, I learned every aspect of the book. Christmas 2019, I gave her fruitcake (her favorite holiday treat) and the best-selling novel, Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens. Although she told me virtually the whole story, including the ending, I am now reading it in her honor.
While she dances with the angels and sings God’s praises, I will think of her every time I read a book. Since I am an author, I hope others find the same joy in reading the way my mom did.

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  1. “I never thought it was such a bad little tree. It’s not bad at all really. Maybe it just needs a little love.”—Linus in “A Charlie Brown Christmas”
  2. “Oh, Christmas isn’t just a day, it’s a frame of mind and that’s what’s been changing. That’s why I’m glad I’m here, maybe I can do something about it.” Kris Kringle in Miracle on 34th Street
  3. “You’ll shoot your eye out, kid.” —Santa Claus in A Christmas Story
  4. “What if Christmas, he thought, didn’t come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, was a little bit more.” — Narrator from Dr. Suess’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas
  5. “Every time a bell rings an angel gets its wings.” Zuzu Bailey in It’s a Wonderful Life
  6. “Business? Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence were all my business.” The ghost of Marley in A Christmas Carol
  7. “Can you please tell Santa that instead of presents this year, I just want my family back.” —Kevin in Home Alone
  8. “I passed through the seven levels of the candy cane forest, through the sea of swirly-twirly gum drops, and then I walked through the Lincoln Tunnel.” —Buddy in Elf
  9. “I know we could both go on with our separate lives and we’d be just fine, but I’ve seen what we can be together, and I choose us.” – Jack Campbell in Family Man
  10. “Sometimes, the most real things in the world are the things we can’t see.” – The Conductor in The Polar Express

What are some of your favorite quotes? Feel free to tell us by responding in “Comments” below.

Happy holidays to all of you!

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Photo courtesy of Bruce Mars. Visit him at https://instagram.com/andreapiacquadio_/

This is a guest post by Monika Teixeira, owner of Stumptown Herbals, an alternative and holistic health service. Learn more by visiting Stumptown Herbals Facebook page.

Know your enemy. Unlike strep throat, the common colds you catch in winter are viral. It is why you cannot simply go to the doctor and get antibiotics to “treat” a cold. It just won’t work. As you can imagine, cells exploding with viruses is not so great for your health. Thankfully, your body has a well-tuned plan in the immune system to attack, destroy and clean up virus “machines.” It is helpful if the things you do help facilitate the immune system’s ability to 1.) Recognize and attack the right thing 2.) Destroy that thing 3.) Clean up that thing.
First you need a well-supported immune system. The irony of the Holidays is that though they are fun, they are also stressful. This long-term stress, called chronic stress, causes our immune system to become suppressed, decreasing our ability to fight off germs that we are exposed to. (Ref.) So, you need to be addressing that stress head on. Sometimes, it is unavoidable, but that does not mean that there is nothing you can do. Getting as much sleep as possible is your #1 biggest tool to support your immune system and decrease stress. Food is important too. Taking a moment and enjoying a simple cup of chamomile tea with a bit of raw honey and lemon would not only reduce your stress, it would improve your digestion, introduced bioflavonoids (powerful antioxidants that promote cellular health), increase wound healing speed (who hasn’t gotten at least one oven burn over the holidays?), give you a boost of B vitamins from the honey and much needed Vitamin C from the lemon.(ref) Speaking of Vitamin C, your immune system thrives in the presence of ample Vitamin C. It is also helpful in shortening the duration of a cold. More about that later. Turkey, blueberries, avocados, pomegranates, bananas, even oatmeal can also not only nourish your body, but actively reduce levels of stress in your body.
Helping your body recognize and destroy the viral targets begins by supporting a healthy immune response. Ginger is a super food that you need in your life! It has very powerful anti-inflammatory actions, is a digestive stimulant (making for easier digestion) and it is anti-viral. “Wait a minute” you might ask, “I’ve had plenty of gingerbread this winter and I still got a cold.” There is a reason for that. Dried ginger, such as what you would use in gingerbread, and FRESH ginger, meaning the actual root still full of juice, have very different actions. The drying process releases volatile oils that have specific anti-viral actions in ginger. So, when you use the dried herb, you are not getting the same thing as fresh ginger. You need to use fresh ginger root. You can easily find it in most grocery stores in the produce section. Wash it and thoroughly dry it before use. Begin by peeling away the outer dried skin. It will reveal a cream to yellow colored core underneath. The easiest way to prepare ginger is to simply grate it. For one person, about 1 inch of ginger, freshly grated works fine. Place the ginger in a tea ball, strainer, or directly in your mug if you are feeling bold. Add a dollop of fresh, raw honey, a squeeze of lemon and hot water. Let steep for 5-8 minutes then enjoy. You can eat the grated ginger directly and it is a WONDERFUL digestive stimulant as well as full of fiber. This simple tea is a powerful anti-viral and is safe enough to take daily to support a healthy immune response as well as to keep your digestion in top shape, another way to support your immune system. If you have an active cold, I encourage you to drink this tea at least 3-4 times a day while sick, or more if you like it. You will notice almost immediately after drinking the tea that you feel better. In order to keep this good feeling going strong, you need to periodically “reload” your immune system with the compounds found in fresh ginger, thus the need to drink more of it when sick.
Another important immune system supporter is Vitamin C. It not only supports a healthy “attack” on viral infections, it helps your body detox from the aftereffects of a cold or flu and to repair the damage that the viruses did to your cells. Things like lemons, red and green peppers, cantaloupe, kiwi, cranberries, broccoli, Brussel sprouts and pomegranates all contain both Vitamin C and beautiful, lovely bioflavonoids, other antioxidants, as well as complex molecules that your immune system thrives with. Unfortunately, oranges contain slightly inflammatory compounds in them, that can make a cold get worse. Ever have a stuffy nose and notice after drinking a glass of orange juice that it gets stuffier? Thankfully, lemons do not do this, and they are an ideal food to use in ample measure before, during and after a cold. Daily intake is a great idea!

The holidays are busy, and often getting enough Vitamin C is the last thing that you want to have to worry about. Thankfully, most Vitamin C supplements are absorbed just fine by your body. Did you know that when you are sick, your body uses considerably more Vitamin C than when you are healthy?(ref) So, supplementing extra Vitamin C when you think you may have been exposed to an illness and if you develop that illness is quite beneficial. Some studies have suggested that increased Vitamin C consumption leads to a shorter duration of illness. Since it is so important to immune health, it is no wonder why! Your body can handle larger doses of Vitamin C and puts it to good use.
You have by now heard me mention raw honey a few times, but I have not yet mentioned a BIG winner, Garlic. Garlic has demonstrated that it not only is great at preventing colds and flu infections from taking root, but it can help you fight one off faster, and helps the body detox after a cold or flu as well. Now, you could just peel and chew a clove of garlic and call it a day, and that works, but folks may not want to be lingering near you under the mistletoe if you do. A delicious way to prepare garlic for eating that uses raw honey is the following: 1. Peel 3-4 heads of garlic. 2. Place in a clean jar. 3. Cover with RAW honey. It is important that you use raw honey or this will not work. There should be about ¼-1/2 inch of extra honey on top. 4. Screw a jar lid loosely on the honey/garlic and put on the counter, away from sunlight. 5. Wait. 6. In about 4 weeks the garlic/ honey will be ready. You can eat the garlic and honey outright, (again, mistletoe time may not happen this way), smear it on a cracker with some jam or cheese, add it to stir fry, bruschetta, pizza, salad dressing, homemade stuffing, the sky is really the limit. Just make sure to have at least one clove a day. Here is a fun video of folks trying to make this for the first time! It shows what to do and demonstrates that you are not the only one who thinks that this could be a weird idea!
These are simple suggestions for enabling your body to use its immune powers to prevent or fight off a cold. There are plenty of other cool things you can do, such as eating elderberries, trying fire cider, or taking echinacea, but the things we have talked about here, use simple staples almost anyone can get their hands on. Here’s hoping these Holidays find you Merry and Bright!

One more thing…Did you know that chamomile tea is also an old-fashioned remedy for indigestion and upset stomach? Try it this holiday, brewed strong, if you stuff away a bit TOO much of granny’s pecan pie after the meal and begin to feel a bit ill. Chances are high it will calm your tummy down quickly.

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