#ThursdayPhotoThoughts #Haiku ‘Infinite Rituals’ #January2021 @Pixabay

An apple a day

A simple, delicious treat

The taste of childhood.

****

There was an apple tree in my garden when I lived in Harrow, over forty years ago, so apples were a staple part of my diet. My mother made apple crumble, apple pie, baked apples with cream or custard, and countless other types of cooked apple recipes. We also ate plenty of raw apples. I have no idea how my mother managed to keep them, but we ate apples from our tree all year round!

I still enjoy eating apples and usually eat an apple a day. In fact, apples are the most constant thing in my life. I ate them as a child and still do so, even though I now live in Spain, where oranges are the queen of all fruits. I also have oranges every day, usually as juice, but apples have always been there and I can’t imagine not eating apples for the rest of my life. It’s not about the taste, smell, texture, vitamins or fibre. Every time I eat an apple, my past present and future merge into a timeless and boundless ritual. So simple and so real.

****

Image by ejausburg on Pixabay

I’ve noticed I get an email from Pixabay on Thursdays with an image. Pixabay is a wonderful site where many generous amateur and professional photographers offer their photos at no cost (there are also photos you have to pay for).

Thursday is a good day for thinking. In fact, it’s the exact middle of the week. Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday have flown by, probably full of work, obligations and general business, but Friday, Saturday and Sunday are days we anticipate with joy, because they hold the promise of some free time for relaxation, friendship, family and hobbies. Thursday is an ideal day to stop and reflect on the past three days and prepare for the three days to come, or write about anything the image suggests. I’m not planning on stream-of-consciousness, because although it’s an unplanned post based on a random picture, I’ll edit my thoughts and words.

I don’t need a reason to write, in fact I have to force myself to stop writing at regular intervals, just to move my limbs, and interact with the rest of the world! But I do need a reason to stop and reflect for a few minutes, so the middle of the week and a random Pixabay photo are the ideal combination.

Feel free to join in! Grab the hashtag, photo and share your post in the comments. I’d love to read your thoughts.

What do apples mean to you? Which childhood food do you still love and eat regularly?

#Tuesdaybookblog ‘The House on the Water’ by Margot Hunt #BookReview #Whodunit #Mystery #Suspense @Audible

Today I’m reviewing The House on the Water, a thriller and mystery novella by Margot Hunt, and narrated by Taylor Schilling

The House on the Water Audiobook By Margot Hunt cover art

From the blurb

Every year, Caroline Reed takes a trip with her best friend, Esme Lamont. They’re usually accompanied by their spouses—but this year, everything’s changed. Esme has just gone through a bitter divorce, and Caroline is wondering if her own marriage is reaching its breaking point, as she and her husband John cope with the discovery that their nineteen-year-old son has been abusing drugs. Still, the inseparable duo books a week-long stay at a beach-front home in Shoreham, Florida, inviting Esme’s brother, Nick, and his new husband, Ford, hoping the additional guests will help lighten the mood.

After a blissful first night in the vacation home, tragedy strikes, and one of the houseguests is found dead. While it’s assumed at first to be a horrific accident, it quickly becomes clear that there’s something more sinister at play, and over the course of this fast-paced, deeply chilling novella, the potential motives of each guest are revealed—until a shocking conclusion is reached.

My Review

I don’t listen to many novellas, but I read the blurb and thought I’d take a chance with The House on the Water, and I was pleasantly surprised. Although it is described as a mystery and thriller, which it is, it is also a ‘whodunit’ in the traditional sense of the ‘Agatha Christie’ way! A group of friends in a house, a murder and everyone is suspect, because everyone had a powerful reason and the opportunity to commit the crime.

It could have been any of them, and I had fun wondering who it was, guessing and changing my mind, until the culprit owns up at the very end, but there’s another little twist… 

It was a light, easy and satisfying read. I love listening to audiobooks while I exercise, go for a walk or do the cooking, and it was great for that. For such a short read, the characters were mostly engaging and well-rounded, the suspense built up gradually, and the plot was cleverly thought out. 

The one narrator, Taylor Schilling, was very good with all the different voices. I’ll be listening to some more of the author and narrator’s novels and novellas which are included in my monthly subscription, so they’re great value.

By the way, there are plenty of similar novellas, which last between one and three hours, on audible. They’re great for a short listening break! 

Carrot Ranch #FlashFiction Challenge #99Words ‘Wish upon a star’

This 99-word flash fiction piece was written in response to Charli Mills’ weekly challenge at Carrot Ranch. Thanks Charli for the prompt!

January 21, 2021, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that rephrases “light at the end of the tunnel.” Think of how the cliche replacement communicates a hopeful ending and aligns with your character or story. Go where the prompt leads!

Wish Upon a Star

We were trapped.
Heavy snow covered the city, jamming doors and roads.
Soon it would reach our windows and block our view of the static sea.
“Mum, why did the moon disappear?”
Thirty, twelve-hour days had passed since the moon exploded and vanished.
 “I want to go home.”
Asteroids were crashing all over the planet, causing tidal waves and earthquakes.   
Archie pointed to the gigantic stars lighting up the sky. “I wish one of them would come and be our moon!”
“Who needs a moon when hundreds of stars are shining brighter than ever?” I said, hugging my son.
 *****

Well, that’s where ‘the light at the end of the tunnel’ took me.

In this case, mother and son are hoping a gigantic star will take over the Moon’s vital role as the Earth’s satellite so they can recover their lives, but the outcome is uncertain, in spite of the brightness of the light or the stars.

I haven’t taken part in this challenge for over a year, in fact, I haven’t written much flash fiction in the same amount of time.

I enjoy the challenge of writing flash fiction, and I think it’s helped me improve my writing as I explained in this post, so I’ll be gradually getting back into the routine.

Hope you’re having a creative Monday!

#MondayMotivation ‘Atomic Habits’ by James Clear #MondayBlogs #PersonalGrowth #Goals #TimeManagement

Over the past months, I’ve been reading a great number of motivational and inspiring books on personal growth. I’ve also been listening to podcasts and watching videos on YouTube. This interest has sprung from a combination of factors as I’ve recently reached a few significant milestones in my life; I retired and turned sixty, and I have five grandchildren between the ages of three months and nine years. I am concerned with aging, health, and emotional wellbeing, as well as my children’s and grandchildren’s future challenges. I have more time to reflect and more things to reflect on, so I’ve found these books, podcasts and videos very helpful, especially in these uncertain and volatile times in which we can take nothing for granted. I’ll be sharing my thoughts with you on Mondays.

This Monday I’m featuring ATOMIC HABITS, written by James Clear. Atomic habits deals with how we can gradually incorporate small habits into our lives, which will make a great impact.

In order to change bad habits or introduce new ones, we must believe it is worthwhile and possible and accept our personal responsibility in bringing this about.

Throughout the book, he insists on the importance of small changes. For example, if we improve by 1% each day, the accumulative effect in the long term will be considerable, and he gives ample proof of this in the book.

He links this thought to what he calls the two-minute rule, which is one simple and effective way to establish new habits.

This reminds me of Feel Better in Five by Rangan Chatterjee, which makes the same claims. Start small to get big results in the medium and long term.

Instead of starting by going to the gym for an hour, start by doing some exercises a few minutes a day at home and gradually build it up. Instead of giving up sugar completely, start with not adding sugar to your tea or coffee.

In this eight-minute talk, he explains the essence of his proposals.

James Clear tells us that our aim in changing habits is ultimately to change our lives and be the person we want to be.

If you want to ‘be’ someone, a writer, a doctor, a student, you need to build a habit or repeatedly do the actions of the person you want to become.

For example, if you want to be a writer you have to do something about it, which would be to write, because the habit of writing makes you a writer, just as the habit of studying makes you a student, or the habit of running makes you a runner, and so on.

Once we have decided which habit or habits we want to build in order to be the person we want to be, he suggests certain steps or conditions which will help us create this habit as part of our daily routine.

First, start small and make objectives clear and specific.

I’ll give you an example. If I want to be more healthy and decide I want to do more exercise, I could to start with 5 minutes a day and add one minute more a week, so in three months I should be doing at least twenty minutes a day.

The next stage is to make it as easy as possible, which he calls ‘the path of least resistance‘. That is to have the equipment, materials you need available and in sight. For example, I have my exercise bike in my bedroom, so I see it when I get up or go to bed and every time I use my en-suite bathroom. This makes it easier for me to actually use it. If I decide to use the bike for five minutes every time I brush my teeth, I’d pedal 15 minutes a day, which will make a difference and more importantly, build a habit.

Another requirement is to make it attractive. It can be boring to pedal on your bike looking at your bedroom wall, so you can place the bike by the window, or do something you enjoy while you’re doing it. For example, listen to an audiobook, watch a video on YouTube, or listen to your favourite song, etc. My trick is to phone a friend or one of my daughters, time flies!

Finally, we should reward ourselves for accomplishing our habits. One suggestion is to make a pact with yourself. For example, if you complete your week’s objectives, you can treat yourself to something, such as doing an activity you enjoy.

He makes many other useful suggestions such as, joining a group, because it’s useful to find support in other people who share our values or intentions, reading about the habit we want to create, to increase motivation, sleeping and eating well, for emotional strength, and choosing the ideal time and place for our habits, among other tips.

Atomic Habits gives us valuable reasons for building up good habits and tips to help us create these habits in order to improve our lives.

James Clear has a great blog and free newsletter you can sign up for.

Here’s the link if you’d like to read my other posts on #PersonalGrowth

#Haiku ‘Resilience’ #ThursdayPhotoThoughts #January2021

Photo from Pixabay

I received this image as a recommendation from Pixabay, which is a wonderful site where many generous amateur and professional photographers offer their photos at no cost (there are also photos you have to pay for).

The image immediately brought words and thoughts to my mind, which I’ve captured and made into a haiku.

January has always been a tough month for me for many reasons, mainly the anticlimax after the Christmas and New Year Holidays, the return to work, the cold temperatures, and this year there is the added challenge because of covid restrictions and worries.

Fortunately, there are only ten more days to get to February, a nice, short month which leads on to March and the promise of spring. So hang on in there!

This January I’m giving myself time to plan. I’m still organising the year ahead, trying to establish and follow a blog and writing schedule, as well as a daily routine that works for me. But it’s an ongoing process because there’s a lot on my plate; a new novel in my Eyre Hall series and a box set, new blog features, looking into traditionally publishing a contemporary romantic thriller I finished last year, and so on.

I’m sowing seeds, despite the snow. Who knows which ones will grow and when? But life’s like that, nothing is guaranteed and yet everything is possible. That’s January for you!

How is your January going?

#WWWBlogs ’10 Lies Edward Rochester told Jane Eyre’

Before I discuss the ten lies Mr. Rochester told Jane in Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte, I’d like to summarize some key aspects about the nature of lies.

According to Neuroscientist, Sam Harris in his concise and brilliant book Lying, ‘To lie is to intentionally mislead others when they expect honest communication. People lie so that others will form beliefs that are not true.’

Lying by [Sam Harris, Annaka Harris]

Most people consider there are degrees to lying, from lying out of what we consider kindness, or white lies, to malicious reasons, or black lies, but Harris considers that both types of lies are equally harmful, because the liar is consciously creating a false reality for their victim, the person who is tricked or duped.

Harris claims lies of any color are harmful. Moreover, he reminds us that an ethically superior, noble person does not lie. He affirms that lies cause irreparable damage to our relationships, sacrificing our honesty, and giving up the possibility of deep and meaningful bonds with the people we interact with.

The value of integrity by far outweighs any short-term benefits of lying. A person who lies lacks moral principles, and the victim will lose faith and trust in this person.

By denying reality and lying to ourselves and others, we also make it impossible to face reality or develop meaningful relationships based on honesty and mutual trust.

Now let’s identify Mr. Rochester’s lies to Jane Eyre.

First a warning: this post is not suitable for unconditional fans of Mr. Rochester.

Where to start with the gentleman’s lies? I could organize them according to the severity or the type of lie, but I’m going to take a chronological approach. I’ll identify his lies in the order in which they appear in the novel. I’ll describe Rochester’s lie, identify the intention, and discuss the consequences.

  1. The first time Rochester met Jane was when his horse slipped on the ice on the causeway. On this occasion, he pretended to be someone else, although he didn’t say he was someone else, he asked about Mr. Rochester, as if he didn’t know this person. He doesn’t actually say he is not Rochester, but he leads her to believe he is not Mr. Rochester. The intention is unclear. I’d say he enjoys being condescending and playing with Jane by leaving her in the dark. He found out who she was, but refused to reveal his own identity, to benefit his amusement, because there was nothing to gain. The consequences were that Jane was surprised and mortified when she discovered his identity.
  2. Later, he accused Jane of bewitching his horse, which was a downright lie because he was not a superstitious man. His intention in this case was to cover up his mistake. He didn’t want to admit that he was not a perfect horseman who had slipped because he was riding too fast, and perhaps once again, he enjoyed teasing her. He may also have wanted her to feel responsible for his accident. The consequence was that Jane let him know she wasn’t superstitious, and she was not willing to agree with everything he said.
  3. He said Adele’s mother claimed he was her father, and he denied it. But why else would such a selfish and unloving man take in a little girl as his ward? His intention was to convince Jane that Adele was not his daughter, and the consequence was that Jane felt sorry for him and considered him a victim.
  4. He pretended to be interested in marrying Blanche Ingram, but he was simply using her to make Jane jealous. That was a double lie, which was disrespectful to both women. The consequence was that Jane handed in her notice, and Rochester confessed he loved her and proposed.
  5. He pretended to be a gypsy fortune-teller during the party at his house, and although that was a game, ironically, it was the only lie she caught him out on at once.
  6. He did not disclose the nature of his relationship with Richard Mason, who was his brother-in-law. Neither did he tell Jane that Mr. Mason had come to visit his sister in the attic. He led Jane to believe Mason was dangerous, while in fact it was Rochester who had imprisoned his sister. Although it was not considered a criminal act at the time, he knew it was morally wrong to lock your wife in the attic, which was why he didn’t want Jane to know what he had done.
  7. He led Jane to believe that Grace Pool was responsible for attacking Mr. Mason the night while he stayed at Thornfield (it was Bertha). This is a lie by omission and commission, because although Jane made the suggestion out of innocence, he repeated the lie maliciously.
  8. He asked Jane to marry him, although he was already married. He led her to the altar, knowing the marriage would be annulled. He must have realized the bigamy would eventually have been discovered, after his wedding night and honeymoon, ruining Jane’s prospects in the long term.
  9. When the wedding was interrupted by a lawyer, Mr. Briggs and Mr. Mason, he still denied it all inside the church. He finally admitted he was married and took them to visit his wife, whom he had kept in the attic in a deplorable condition. Even so, he continued to defend his actions. He insisted on the marriage because he considered himself above both divine and man-made laws. The consequence was that Jane left him.
  10. When the marriage was definitely canceled, he offered Jane a villa in France where she could live as his ‘friend’. He was obviously asking her to be his mistress, although he denied it. He even forcefully tried to persuade her, which was why she escaped from Thornfield at daybreak.

There are two more very serious lies, but there is no explicit proof in the novel.

11 and 12. Perhaps Bertha didn’t start the fire or fall off the battlements. Perhaps he started the fire and/or pushed her. I find it hard to believe Mr. Rochester would go up to the roof to save his mad wife’s life, risking his own, when he could be finally rid of her.

But he wasn’t the only person to lie to Jane Eyre. Here is another post I wrote called Liars in Jane Eyre  with a few more liars.

And here are some more posts on Jane Eyre.

Finally, Mr. Rochester promised eternal love, but would they have lived happily ever after?

I have no doubt that Mr. Rochester was in love, or perhaps infatuated by Adele’s young governess, but how long would their honeymoon period have lasted? Bearing in mind his irascible and selfish character and Jane’s generosity, kindness and independence, I doubt it would have lasted longer than her first childbirth.

And that’s the premise of The Eyre Hall Trilogy.

The Eyre Hall Trilogy

 

 

 

#Tuesdaybookblog ‘Layla’ by Colleen Hoover #BookReview #ParanormalRomance #Audible

Today I’m reviewing Layla, a paranormal romance by Colleen Hoover. I bought the kindle version and the audible narration was a two-dollar option, so I added it, because I love listening to audiobooks and Brian Pallino is a great narrator. The audiobook is so good that I read it over two afternoons. I would recommend the audio version instead of the kindle version because although it was a compelling story, it’s told from the point of view of the main male character, Leeds, and at times it was a bit repetitive, so I sped it up to 1.5 (I usually listen at 1.25)    

It was published in December and is number 1 in the following categories on Amazon: 

Layla Audiobook By Colleen Hoover cover art

From the blurb

When Leeds meets Layla, he’s convinced he’ll spend the rest of his life with her – until an unexpected attack leaves Layla fighting for her life. After weeks in the hospital, Layla recovers physically, but the emotional and mental scarring has altered the woman Leeds fell in love with. In order to put their relationship back on track, Leeds whisks Layla away to the bed-and-breakfast where they first met. Once they arrive, Layla’s behavior takes a bizarre turn. And that’s just one of many inexplicable occurrences.

Feeling distant from Layla, Leeds soon finds solace in Willow – another guest of the B&B with whom he forms a connection through their shared concerns. As his curiosity for Willow grows, his decision to help her find answers puts him in direct conflict with Layla’s well-being. Leeds soon realizes he has to make a choice because he can’t help both of them. But if he makes the wrong choice, it could be detrimental for all of them.

My Review

The blurb is slightly misleading, because it doesn’t mention any ghosts, but as it’s labelled as a ‘paranormal romance’ it’s no spoiler to say that there is more than one ghost in the story. 

There are four characters in the novel, a detective who is talking to Leeds, Willow and Layla, and three of the four are not who they appear to be, or say they are. This may sound confusing, but as the story unfolds, it’s more intriguing than confusing. The reader has to wait patiently for Leeds to tell his story, and let the mystery unfold gradually until in the last chapters, when it all comes together, very neatly.   

Basically, it’s a paranormal love triangle, which makes it unusual, and stretches the limits of credibility, so the reader has to remember that it’s classified as a paranormal romance, and willingly suspend disbelief, more than once. It’s fiction, and the reader knows it is a ghost story when they start reading, so it’s not fair to complain by saying, ‘I don’t believe in ghosts,’ if you’ve purchased a ghost story.

It’s not a traditional ghost story in the gothic, chilling sense of scary, which was probably what I was expecting. I found it more distressing than frightening. 

I think the Collen Hoover was brave to write this novel, because the situations and themes differ greatly from her previous novels, but it seems to have paid off as it has 84% of 4 and 5 star reviews and it’s number 1 on three Amazon Bestseller Lists.

Colleen is a talented writer, because she hooks the reader and doesn’t let them go until the end of the novel, and her plots are suspensefully woven to entice the reader. However, I wouldn’t say it’s her best novel. 

Verity by [Colleen Hoover]

My main problem with Layla is that I have enjoyed Colleen Hoover’s earlier novels so much more, because they were grounded in more realistic situations which I could relate to. I had some difficulties connecting with the characters in Layla, but I’m sure I’m a minority, so it’s probably me.

I’d like to tell you about her other novels which I enjoyed, such as Verity, which is a dark romantic suspense, with some chilling, not paranormal, elements. I’ve just realised I didn’t post my review, so I’ll have to get around to that.

I also enjoyed It Ends With Us, a heart-wrenching domestic drama, which I mentioned in one of my posts, as one of my favourite books of 2018. I also enjoyed Ugly Love and All Your Perfects, which are intense, contemporary romances, including complex moral issues related to love, marriage, abuse, divorce, loyalty and honesty.

It Ends with Us: A Novel by [Colleen Hoover]

I think Colleen Hoover is a talented writer, and I do recommend you check out her books. Read the blurbs and the first pages before you decide which one to pick first. 

#MondayMotivation ‘Design Your Day’ by Clair Diaz Ortiz #MondayBlogs #PersonalGrowth #Goals #TimeManagement

Over the past months, I’ve been reading a great number of motivational and inspiring books on personal growth. I’ve also been listening to podcasts and watching videos on YouTube. This interest has sprung from a combination of factors as I’ve recently reached a few significant milestones in my life; I retired and turned sixty, and I have five grandchildren between the ages of three months and nine years. I am concerned with aging, health, and emotional wellbeing, as well as my children’s and grandchildren’s future challenges. I have more time to reflect and more things to reflect on, so I’ve found these books, podcasts and videos very helpful, especially in these uncertain and volatile times in which we can take nothing for granted. I’ll be sharing my thoughts with you on Mondays.

This Monday I’m featuring Design Your Day, written by Claire Diaz Ortiz, a book which has the advantage of presenting a synthesis and discussion of many other books on time management as well as her own contribution to the discussion, the DO LESS method. She proposes strategies to achieve goals in less time by enhanced time management skills, leading to maximum efficiency.

In this enlightening book, she uses acronyms to put forward her suggestions for best time management skills.

Listen to her talk about her proposals in this podcast.

The first acronym is DO LESS:

Decide what you want or need to do for a time frame.

Organise what you will do.

Limit to the essential. Make sure it’s all necessary.

Edit your time. Define your limits and stick to them.

Streamline or reduce your work time based on the 4 hour week principles.

Stop. Take time to pause, relax, detox and unwind.

She proposes a morning routine, because she firmly believes that doing as much as possible as early as possible can make your day more successful, and the acronym is PRESENT:

Pray or meditate to connect with your inner self.

Read something inspirational.

Express yourself by means of journaling.

Schedule your day by careful planning.

Exercise to energise your body and feel better.

Nourish by doing something for yourself, such as a treat or a hobby.

Tracking which she refers to as checking your routine.

She proposes using SMART goal setting to break down your strategies to achieving objectives, and focussing on the following life categories: God, Family, Health, Personal, Work and Money.

She discusses Pareto’s 80/20 rule and the 4-Hour Week as well as Parkinson’s Law which states that work expands to fill the available time for completion. So the longer you plan to do something the longer it will take.

Essentialism: A Conversation on Setting Human-Centric Goals With Grace for the Season Ahead - with Claire Diaz-Ortiz, Author, Speaker and Innovation Advisor - Rank & File Magazine

This books’ advantage is that it is unpretentious, short, practical and clear. It includes ideas put forward in many other personal growth books which she discusses.

The main new idea she proposes is to aim to do less by planning more efficiently and delegating where necessary.

Here’s the link if you’d like to read my other posts on #PersonalGrowth