Fawkes by Nadine Brandes

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Fawkes is an historical fiction novel by Nadine Brandes. It is about a plot against parliament, which is an event in history, but Ms. Brandes has added a fictional fantasy story line which is about the power of colors. She has also included the plague in the story because the plague was really happening during the time period of this story. However, she has chosen to put an interesting twist on the plague as well.

I must say that if it wasn’t for my interest in the main character, Thomas, the son of Guy Fawkes, an actual historical character involved in the plot against parliament, I’m not sure I would have continued reading this book beyond the first few chapters. There was so much emphasis on color power and masks in the first part of the book, that I found it to drag on and on. I didn’t actually get really interested in the book until the second half.

I suppose part of the reason I didn’t fully enjoy the story is because I didn’t fully understand the battle between the Keepers and Igniters, and though I thought the White Light was supposed to represent God, I didn’t think it was an accurate representation.

The story began to pick up when Thomas discovered his friend, Emma’s secret, which had a profound effect on their relationship, and from there Thomas began to search for answers pertaining to the color powers and the truth behind them. He had never been comfortable with the constant fighting between Keepers and Igniters and the killing of innocent people. He also wasn’t comfortable with the plot his father and his friends were planning against parliament. He had some difficult decisions to make, and he’d been infected by the plague twice.

As Thomas fought his own internal struggles and the plot against parliament began to be put into action, the story finally hooked me, and during the last third of the book, it definitely kept me turning pages. I was very pleased with the ending as it was realistic and satisfying.

I must say that Ms. Brandes did an excellent job with writing this story. It is very well-written and I found no mistakes that should have been caught in the editorial process, which tells me that Ms. Brandes had a good editor, maybe more than one, so there were no grammatical or typographical errors.

The thing I am most thankful for is that Ms. Brandes included a section in the back, “What’s True and What’s Not”, where she explained what was historically true and where she received her information, and what she chose to add to write a full-length historical fiction novel about an historical event. I had never heard of Guy Fawkes or that particular plot against parliament (apparently, there were several).

This was the first book I’ve read that is a Fantasy Historical Fiction, and as I am a new Fantasy reader, maybe that was part of my problem with this book as well, because I love Historical Romance stories. I think the Fantasy part of this story just didn’t appeal to me. I know many people who read it and loved it, so I know my lack of interest is due to my own opinions and not anything Ms. Brandes wrote, and as I said, I did really enjoy the last third of the book, and was invested in Thomas Fawkes, the main character, from the beginning. Therefore, I hope, if you are considering reading Fawkes, you will give it a try, especially if you’re a big Fantasy fan because you might really like it.

Flash Fiction Friday: At Home in Your Arms

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Photo by Ryan Young on Unsplash

At Home in Your Arms
by Kelly F. Barr

There was something about him. Something about the way he watched me.

I’d felt his eyes on me for several minutes and guarded my gaze by peeking through my lashes. He was breathtakingly handsome with cerulean eyes and a cleft chin, thick wavy blond hair that caused my fingertips to tingle with the desire to run through those waves. Muscles rippled down his golden tan arms and across his chest in his snug orange t-shirt. My heart pounded in my chest, but I couldn’t tell if he was interested in me, or if I should be concerned that he was some kind of creepy stalker guy.

I raised my head from the magazine I’d been reading and let my eyes meet his. He smiled at me, revealing bright white perfect teeth and deep dimples in his cheeks.

I smiled back. He rose to his feet and began closing the short distance between our tables. My heart pounded in my ears and drowned out the noise of the cappuccino machine behind the counter.

“May I buy you a coffee?” He towered above me.

I picked up my empty cup, gave it a little shake, and set it back down. “I’m fine, thanks.”

“Well, in that case, may I join you?”

“Okay.”

He pulled out the chair next to mine, closing the gap between us farther, sat down, and pulled himself up to the table. “Do you come here often?”

“Everyday. Can’t live without my coffee. How ‘bout you?”

“I just moved to town, so this is my first visit. I’m Randy McDaniels.”

“I’m Holly Applegate. I was born and raised here.” I retained eye contact with Randy. His eyes pulled me in like a couple magnets. “What brought you to town?”

“I got tired of the big city and the fast-paced lifestyle. I was raised on a farm and spent summers swimming in the creek.”

“Why did you go to the big city in the first place?”

“Oh you know, when you’re young you always think you’ll find something better, more exciting, than where you are.” He paused and stared into my eyes for a minute. “You have large eyes. They’re beautiful and I could look into them all day long.”

Heat crept into my cheeks and I shifted in my seat. “Um, thanks. So what are you plans for living in our small town?”

He leaned closer and lowered his voice. “Right now, I just want to get to know you better. Would you be able to spend the day with me tomorrow, show me around, and give me a taste of what it’s like to live in this quaint little town?”

My heart skipped a beat, and I cleared my throat. “Sure, I could do that. I’ll see you tomorrow.” I gathered my purse and my empty cup and rose from my seat. “I’ll meet you here at 8 a.m. You know, I gotta have my coffee.”

He grinned and nodded, and I made my exit.

The next day the sun was shining and a cool breeze teased some of the tendrils of my hair. I met Randy at the café. We grabbed coffee and a couple scones.

We visited all my favorite places in town and I introduced Randy to many of the locals. We ate lunch at Dee Dee’s Diner, laughing and talking between mouthfuls.

We went bowling, roller skating, and took in a movie. It was a romantic comedy that caused me to wonder what it would be like to hold his hand or have him put his arm around me.

I drove to the beach a half-hour outside of town. We had dinner at my favorite seafood restaurant overlooking the ocean.

After dinner, Randy looked at me as we stepped out of the restaurant. “Would you like to take a walk on the beach?”

I nodded. When my feet hit the sand, I paused and slipped my sandals off.

Randy took his socks and sneakers off, stuffed his socks into his shoes, tied the laces together, and hung them from one shoulder. Then he reached over and took my hand in his. It was a perfect fit.

We walked in silence for a while, then Randy stopped and turned toward me, letting his shoes fall to the sand. He lifted an arm, and with his fingers brushed hair back from one side of my face. Then he placed his hand on my cheek. “I had a great time today. You are fun to be with, and you are beautiful.”

He leaned toward me and I held my breath.

Then his lips were on mine. He tasted of butter and garlic, and I wrapped my arms around his neck and entangled my fingers in his hair. He encircled me in his arms and drew me closer. When the kiss ended, he continued to hold me and I put my head on his shoulder. I inhaled the scent of him—coconut and a touch of musk. His arms felt like home.

He pulled back just a bit and placed his forehead against mine. “This is what I came to this town for—the love of a good woman. You feel so right in my arms, and there seemed to be something between us as soon as our eyes met. Do you feel it?”

I nodded, raised up on tiptoes, and touched my lips to his.

When that kiss ended, he looked into my eyes. “I feel like I’m home.”

I smiled. “Me too.”

Tea and Poetry Tuesday

Today’s Tea Tidbit:
“Ecstasy is a glass full of tea and a piece of sugar in the mouth.”
— Alexander Puskin

Character Driven

by Kelly F. Barr

They introduce themselves to my mind–
Men, women, children.
We need you to tell our stories.
Their histories, backgrounds, and circumstances unwind.
Notes spill from my pen and a story begins
As my fingers tap, tap upon my laptop keys.
Sentences, paragraphs, pages, and chapters flow;
A plot of conflict and romance weaves.
Nearing the end, and someone new arrives
Upending circumstances, challenging romances.
I thought I knew where this was going; now unsure–
My mind spins as this new person drives.
As the climax hits and the story begins to dive;
A gradual grade descending;
One broken–healed; One rejected–accepted; One lost–redeemed,
Bringing it all to a satisfying ending.

Flash Fiction Friday: Riley’s Hero

molly-belle-a-xEUwYSPLw-unsplashPhoto by Molly Belle on Unsplash

Riley’s Hero

by Kelly F. Barr

Tyler tilted Riley’s chin up to get a better look at her face and gritted his teeth at the evidence of a fight. Using his thumb, he delicately wiped away a streak of blood near her mouth, saying nothing as he examined her for a split lip or missing teeth.

After a brief pause, Riley’s heart skipped a nervous beat as Tyler looked directly into her eyes.

His voice, quiet and tense, his anger barely restrained. “Who did this to you?”

Riley turned away and hung her head. “It’s not your concern. I’m all right.”

“All right! Your lip is swollen and bleeding and you have the beginning of a black eye … and what do you mean … it’s not my concern?” He stepped around in front of her, waited until she met his gaze. Then he placed a hand on the side of her face. “I love you. It’s my job to protect you. Now tell me … who did this to you?”

“My dad came home drunk again last night. When he backhanded my mom so hard she flew across the room, I moved in and punched him in the jaw. I told him if he ever hit Mom again I’d kill him. That drew his anger toward me. He said I was too big for my britches and he’d show me I wasn’t so tough, but I showed him I’m resourceful. His first strike was a backhand to my mouth. When his fist connected with my eye, I landed on the floor. I spotted my old baseball bat within reach, so I grabbed it, got to my feet, and swung it. I hit him in the head … not hard enough to kill him … but it knocked him out cold. Then I got Mom out of that house … took her to a shelter.”

Tyler wrapped Riley in his embrace. “Do you think she’ll stay in the shelter … not go back to your dad?” He said the word as if the taste of it was vile in his mouth.

She shrugged. “I hope so. It really upset her to see him hit me. She’s always taken the hits before. I hope that’s enough to motivate her to make a change—to get away from him for good.”

Tyler held her tighter. “You’re not going back there … not ever again.”

Riley looked up at him.

“Marry me, Riley. Then you can live with me and I can always protect you. No woman deserves to be beaten like … this.” He ran a thumb over her swollen lip, so gentle.

The love she saw in his eyes enveloped her with warmth. “I know you love me and … I love you, but I still have two years of high school, and you’re supposed to go to college, get your degree.”

“Look, I already have my own apartment and a good job in the field I want to study anyway. I can talk to my boss … maybe the company will help with my degree … maybe online classes, and you can still finish high school.”

“I can’t marry without a parent’s consent and a judge’s approval. I’m underage.”

“Then move in with my parents. They know I plan to marry you—that you’re the love of my life. I’m sure they’d be supportive.” He took her hand and stepped toward the door. “We can go talk to them now. I need to know you’ll never be near that monster again.”

“Tyler.” She reached up and placed the cool palm of her hand upon his cheek. “I don’t know what I ever did to deserve a hero like you, and words could never express how much I love you.” Then she stretched up on tiptoes and kissed his lips.

The kiss was light as a feather, but Tyler’s heart turned over in his chest and he drew Riley into his embrace once again. He’d do whatever it took … whatever it took to never let her go.

Why and How I Choose to Eat Healthy

A little about my background — I have struggled with weight issues since I was in high school. About ten years ago, I was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes and put on oral medications. Four or five years ago, I had my gall bladder removed. You would think because of all these things, I would have been committed to a more healthy lifestyle a long time ago. So, why wasn’t I?

Here are some of the reasons: 1) during my high school years, whenever I wanted to try dieting to lose weight, my mom wanted to support and encourage me, but another family member made a habit of sabotaging us; 2) born and raised in Pennsylvania Dutch Country, the land of whoopie pies, shoo-fly pie, chicken pot pie (not baked in a pie shell), and many other high carb high sugar foods, unhealthy eating is a normal way of life; and 3) as a mom, I am much better at taking care of others than I am at taking care of myself because I always put others first.

So, if you look at the above photo, you will see the third book from the left is the most recently published THM (Trim Healthy Mama) cookbook. Three years ago, a friend encouraged me to try THM and I did, and with that friend’s constant encouragement, I succeeded in sticking to the THM healthy eating way of life for an entire year and lost fifty pounds. Then two years ago, right before Christmas, our oldest son had to have major jaw surgery, and his poor face was so swollen and bruised when he first came home, and he couldn’t really eat anything. So I committed to taking care of making sure he was getting enough nourishment in the few items (smoothies, broths, liquids) he could receive, then gradually graduating to soft foods, before slowly being able to begin incorporating normal foods back into his diet. So, because I focused all my energy on caring for him, I fell back into eating the way I had been raised to eat–the Pennsylvania Dutch way. Amazingly, though I did gain some weight back, I did not gain all fifty pounds back, even though I continued on this path for just about two years.

Then, July 10th of this year, I went to the ER with chest pains. I was given and EKG, chest x-rays, and bloodwork — all came back normal. I then realized the pain was similar to what I’d had before having my gall bladder removed, and I told the doctor, who told me that just because I didn’t have a gall bladder anymore didn’t mean I couldn’t still get gall stones. So he decided to check the ducts in my body, so I was given an ultrasound, which they had a difficult time with because my stomach was filled with gas. However, my pain was completely gone after the completion of that test. Then I began to wonder if it was all due to my bad eating habits. Well, the doctor order one more round of bloodwork, and the only thing he found was that my liver enzymes were extremely high. He decided to send me home with the stipulation that within the following three days, (this was a Wednesday), I would call my family doctor, have him order the bloodwork again, then see my family doctor. I did that, with the same conclusion. My family doctor sent me home with orders to get the bloodwork redone in a week and to get back to healthy eating, then I may or may not have to see a gastroenterologist. I went home with a new determinate to commit to the THM plan for the rest of my life because I knew it worked for me in the past for a whole year.

I returned to eating according to the THM way that very evening and haven’t looked back since and don’t plan to, because the following week’s bloodwork came back with my sugar level lower and my liver enzyme count back to normal. No trip to the gastroenterologist.

So, what is the THM way to eat, you may ask. Well, I struggle to understand the entire plan, but in a nutshell, it’s eating high protein, low-carb, and no white bread, no white sugar, and no white potatoes. It’s also eating healthy fats, but separates fats and carbs to allow the metabolism to function at its best. It’s focus is low-glycemic.

My biggest problem with the plan, in the past, is all the prep work for many of the recipes. I don’t have a lot of time to spend in the kitchen, nor do I really want to spend a lot of time in the kitchen. That’s why you see the other two cookbooks in the above photo. The internet is full of women who eat the THM way and who enjoy creating their own THM friendly recipes. My favorite is Brianna Thomas. I’ve been following her blog since I started THM, and she has created two cookbooks of her THM friendly recipes, and she uses simple, everyday ingredients, and because she’s from a similar background to the Amish and Mennonite community in my area, many of her recipes are healthy versions of foods my family is used to eating, and the majority of her recipes are not time-consuming.

Now, I’ll just touch on the four products you can see in the above photo: the little green bottle is liquid stevia. Stevia is a natural, plant-based sweetener, not a chemical, and I love to use this liquid version in my THM drink recipes, especially the cold ones, because I don’t have to struggle to get it to dissolve. The little bag next to it is Pyure, which is a stevia/erythritol blend (natural sweetener) which I like to use in my baking. The box of 100% pure Oolong tea is a staple in the THM shrinker drink, which helps in the aid of weightloss. The final product is THM’s brand of whey protein (non-flavored) that can be added to smoothies and baking products and shakes to boost the protein, and I like that it doesn’t have a flavor that will affect the taste of the final product.

In conclusion, I am back on track with the THM plan and it wasn’t hard to get back on board, and I am committed to sticking with it for life so that I can remain healthy and live as long as possible to be here for my family and to continue writing good stories, especially since the first one is almost ready for publication. This really plan does keep my sugars and weight under control.

Sorry for the long post! I hope you found it interesting, informative, and helpful. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to post in the comments section.