Slice of Life Tuesday


Today is Slice of Life Tuesday – the weekly writing challenge hosted at “Two Writing Teachers”.

Last week I read an interesting article by Kathy Ewing that had me looking back to my early years. She wrote “Remembering My Parents’ Bookshelf” and it definitely brought back memories of the banker’s bookcases we had while I was growing up. These glass-encased shelves held a special place in our home and housed the hundreds of books my father had (and all of which he had read.).
My dad was a reader, my mother not so much. Dad would rather read than entertain. Often times he would settle in his recliner to read while Mom talked to company.
I remember books by Churchill, books on WWII, Pierre Burton’s books on Canada, and even many classics gracing the shelves. Dad belonged to the Book of the Month club and it was a special day when a new book arrived.
I still have several of my Dad’s books on my own shelves, most with his signature inside the books. I wish I had been able to keep one of the banker’s shelves. I loved how the glass door swung up and back. (This was as close as I could remember the bookcase – although Dad’s were dark wood and had four shelves)



From him I received my love of reading and books. Now my own shelves are overflowing. At least now I have time to read every day.


Review of “The Vines We Planted” by Joanell Serra

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I was excited to have an opportunity to read and review “The Vines We Planted” by Joanell Serra, as as part of the WOW! Women of Writing Blog Tour.

(I received an advance copy to read and review.)


My Review:

Joanell Serra has crafted a poignant novel that reveals an extended family’s complicated lives. She expertly weaves together several story lines, from Amanda and Uriel to Elena and Jim to Gloria and Lourdes, with other interesting characters intersecting with them as well.

It was a fascinating read – from the lovely setting of wine country in Sonoma, to the tangled webs of lies that affects everyone in different ways.

It is like a puzzle, at times, that we piece together, story by story, until all the lies are exposed and the truths are revealed, even though these truths are so painful.

I would highly recommend this book – once started it was hard to put down. I wanted to know how each of the characters, especially the women, would react to the unmasking of the lies.


The Vines We Planted Cover.jpg


Publication Information:

In the heart of the California wine country, secrets seem to grow on the vines that Uriel Macon’s family have tended for generations.

Uriel, the winery’s young widower, steers clear of complicated relationships. He prefers the lonely comfort of his vineyard and his horses, until he is reminded of his love affair with Amanda Scanlon; a relationship that ended when she abruptly left the country years ago under a cloud of mystery.

When Amanda returns to Sonoma because of a family crisis, she tries to mend the broken relationships she left behind. In addition, she seeks the truth about her parents’ complicated history and her own parentage.

But Amanda’s unveiling of the past has devastating consequences. In the midst of California’s beautiful Sonoma Valley, the Scanlon family struggles to overcome harsh realities with dignity and grace.

Both Amanda and Uriel stretch to take care of their families, which are facing immigration issues, marital crises, and loss. While navigating these challenges, the couple must decide if they trust themselves to love again, or to finally let each other go.

A Sonoma local, author Joanell Serra’s debut novel is captivating, poignant, and uplifting, demonstrating how seeds planted long ago continue to grow. Sometimes into a strangling weed, sometimes offering a bountiful harvest.

” …the story of a family facing struggles…delicately and expertly woven together in a saga set in California around Uriel’s family vineyards, where each relationship appears to have a bearing on others… the plot is credible and surprising at the same time, and yet it all blends together well and combines to make an exciting and believable novel. The characters are so good that they could easily continue in a sequel.  ” –Jane Finch for Readers’ Favorite


About the Author

Joanell Serra Head Shot.jpg

Joanell Serra, MFT lives with her growing children, husband and dogs in the lovely Sonoma Valley. After years of publishing short stories, essays and plays, The Vines We Planted is her debut novel.  She can be found polishing her second novel at a coffee shop, sipping a perfect Cabernet in a Sonoma winery or at her website:

Find Joanell Online:


———-Blog Tour Dates


Monday, April 30th @ The Muffin

Author Interview & Giveaway


Tuesday, May 1st @ Word Nerd

Elizabeth at Word Nerd reviews “The Vines We Planted” by Joanell Serra and interviews this popular author about her latest work!


Wednesday, May 2nd @ World of My Imagination

Nicole reviews Joanell Serra’s “The Vines We Planted” for readers at World of My Imagination. Don’t miss the opportunity to find out more about this fast paced novel!


Thursday, May 3rd @ Phytallic

Don’t miss today’s review of “The Vines We Planted” by Joanell Serra. Readers at Phytallic will be delighted and intrigued!


Friday, May 4th @ Write Happy

Catherine Brown shares her review of “The Vines We Planted” with readers at Write Happy. You won’t want to miss this opportunity to learn more about author Joanell Serra and her latest work!


Saturday, May 5th @ The Muffin

Crystal Otto reviews “The Vines We Planted” by Joanell Serra.


Monday, May 7th @ Beverley Baird

Beverley Baird reviews Joanell Serra’s latest work “The Vines We Planted” and shares her thoughts with readers at Beverley A Baird.


Tuesday, May 8th @ Lisa Haselton

Lisa Haselton interviews Joanell Serra about her writing and her latest novel “The Vines We Planted”. Don’t miss today’s informative and encouraging author interview!


Wednesday, May 9th @ The Constant Story

Fellow author David Berner reviews “The Vines We Planted” by Joanell Serra. Readers at The Constant Story will delight in learning about this beautifully written novel published by Wido Publishing.


 Thursday, May 10th @ Coffee with Lacey

Readers at Coffee With Lacey learn more about the beautiful “The Vines We Planted” as Lacey reviews Joanell Serra’s latest novel.


Monday, May 14th @ Choices

Joanell Serra is today’s guest blogger at Choices. Her article about Mental health is one you won’t want to miss. Learn about this and find out about Serra’s novel “The Vines We Planted”.


Thursday, May 24th @ Memoir Writer’s Journey

Joanell Serra pens today’s guest post with Kathleen Pooler – don’t miss Serra’s insight about mother/daughter relationships and find out more about her new book “The Vines We Planted”.


Friday, May 25th @ BookWorm

Anjanette Potter reviews Joanell Serra’s “The Vines We Planted” and shares her thoughts with readers at BookWorm!


Tuesday Slice of Life


Today is Tuesday Slice of Life – the weekly writing challenge hosted at “Two Writing Teacher”.

I almost didn’t participate, but then saw a post by Paula Kaye called “Currently” and thought it perfect for my lack of focus.

Currently this First Day of May

Outside the Window
All day it has been lovely –warm and bright. A day for shorts and sandals. The flowers have started to bloom. Tonight though, the street outside is quiet and darkness has settle in.

I’m wondering how we can make changes to our meals so that my husband won’t snack so much at night. The diabetic nurse gave us some suggestions when we met today.

Right now the news is on – I am a news junkie. Earlier though, we watched “The Voice” – my favourite show.

I’m reading several books now:
A MG novel I am critiquing for a friend
The Secrets of Solace – the second book in a fantasy series by Jaleigh Johnson
The Last of August – the second of a mystery series by Brittany Cavallaro
Birds Art Life – a memoir by Kyo Maclear

I am taking part in several challenges – both art and writing:
Miniature May – creating a 5×5 collage each day in May

NaPiBoWriWee – National Picture Book Writing Week – I wrote my first very rough draft of a pb – hopefully I will write one a day this week
Story a Day – I am once again using “The Encyclopedia of Me” to write an entry a day, as a tribute to Amy Krouse Rosenthal.

I am learning new strength and balance activities through the Fitness programme my hubby and I are taking through the Y (2 days a week for 3 months – we are into our fourth week)

At the beginning of each month, I write out the plans for the month that I hope to accomplish – from projects, to tasks, to books I plan to read (to meet the reading challenges I have joined).
I keep this journal all year – to record monthly goals, challenges, quotes, information from books I have read and lists of different things.

What’s in the Kitchen
Tonight I made homemade spaghetti sauce (ground turnkey, mushrooms, peppers, onions, garlic) and served it over cooked spaghetti sauce.

A Quote to Share:
I read this post ( visit here) and loved it. I discovered this quote by Alexandra Franzen there:
Toss your pebble into the water and watch the ripple go, go, go, expanding outward into unexpected possibilities, opportunities, and invitations. There’s no telling where the ripple might lead.

April Reading Round-Up

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Time once again to share what I have been reading this past month – it does help with being accountable for the reading challenges I am taking part in.

This past month the total read was 39, with the following breakdown:
Fantasy/scifi -3
Middle grade/YA novels –1
Non-fiction – 1
Picture books – 8
Romance – 21
Women’s Fiction -2
Mystery – 2
Diverse- 1
Ebooks – 16
Poetry – 2

I read these books for the Reading Challenges I’ve joined:

Beyond the Bookends.
The theme for April was to read a middle grade novel. I read The Trouble with Chickens by Doreen Cronin, a cute early MG mystery novel.

Monthly Key Word Challenge
The key word I chose this month was “cross” and the book I read was a YA/fantasy book – Crossing the Line by Ellen Valladares.   (I wrote a review for the book – it can be found here.)

Modern Mrs. Darcy Challenge
I read a book of poetry:  And Still I Rise by Maya Angelou

52 Books in 52 Weeks
I read:
Somewhere with You by Debra Clopton – letter Y in Title

The Education of Augie Merasty by Augie Merasty with David Carpenter – an historical NF, giving a searing account of his stay in a residential school)

This book also counts for Writers Write Reading Challenge and. Monthly Motif (the theme was “Read locally”)

Swords and Stars Reading Challenge.
I read A Cinderella Story – a story inspired by a fairy tale

For March, my top 5 books were:
Just Breathe by Susan Wiggs
Vintage by Susan Gloss
The Last Chance Matinee by Mariah Stewart
Crossing the Line by Ellen Valladares
The Education of Augie Merasty by Augie Merasty with David Carpenter

My goals for May are to continue to read more books on my TBR pile, as well as to read in different genres –mg/ya, a mystery, several memoirs, more diverse books/authors.


Linking with:

It's Monday! What Are You Reading (1)

Book Date

2018-Monthly-Wrap-Up-Round-Up400 (1)

Feeding Your Fiction Addiction

Review for “Crossing The Line”

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I was excited to have an opportunity to read and review “crossing the Line” by Ellen Valladares as part of the WOW! Women of Writing Blog Tour.

My Review:
The premise of this book – a paranormal mystery – intrigued me and as I read it, I was quickly drawn into the unfolding story.
The book is told in alternating chapters – Rebecca in the present, and Laura – a spirit who gives us flashbacks to her former life and interacts with Rebecca’s wor4ld.
From the beginning, when Rebecca and her two friends use an Ouija board to get questions answered, through the gradual discovery of what really happened to Laura and Katie, you are caught in a very compelling story.
All of the characters have unique voices and we get a close look into their lives, their problems, their concerns.
Valladares has created an afterlife, with the Academy, that is imaginative yet fascinating. How wonderful for our world if we could be so helped.

The other part of this story important is the focus on the damage rumours and bullying can do to so many and the ramifications it can have. The comparison of Laura’s and Rebecca’s lives forces one to see just how challenging it is for young people to navigate relationships, depression, fear, bullying, hate. Love and friendships can save lives.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and highly recommend it.


Publication Information


Laura, who died thirty years ago, enlists the help of a tenacious high school reporter named Rebecca, who is very much alive. Rebecca, although skeptical and conflicted by her supposed encounters with a spirit, determines to learn the truth about Laura’s tragic death. As the clues unravel and their worlds collide, Rebecca finds herself at a dangerous crossroads.

Laura, now pulled back into everything she left behind when she died – her old high school and memories of her life and death—has been in training for this exact moment. And nothing means more to her than succeeding at her assignment.

It is her one chance to make sure that what happened to her does not happen to anyone else, and especially not to her new friend, Rebecca.

Paperback:  300  pages

Genre:  Fiction / Young Adult Novel
Publisher:    WiDO (March 2018)
ISBN-13:    978-1-937178-99-4

Amazon Link:


About the Author

Ellen Portrait_1 (1)

Ellen Wolfson Valladares is an award-winning writer/author, workshop facilitator, community volunteer, and mother. A native Floridian, she grew up in St. Petersburg and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism from the University of Florida. She has worked as an editor, public relations professional, and freelance writer. Her first book, a children’s novel entitled Jonathan’s Journey to Mount Miapu, received several awards, including a Mom’s Choice Gold Award and the 2009 Coalition of Visionary Resources Visionary Awards Book of the Year award. She also has a meditation CD, entitled “Healing and Manifestation with the Archangels.”
Today, Valladares continues to work as a freelance writer. She also enjoys coaching high school students working on their college essays and helping other writers realize their dreams. She has been married to her husband, Manny, for 30 years and they have two sons, Gabriel and Michael, two dogs, Flash and Chili Pepper, and a crazy cat named Zelda. They live in Weston, Fla.

Find Ellen Online:


Twitter: @ValladaresEllen

FB: @EllenValladares444 (link:



The blog tour continues here:

Monday, April 16th   @ The Muffin

Join us at the Muffin for an author interview and book giveaway for the fictional young adult novel by Ellen Valladares,  Crossing the Line.

 Tuesday, April 17th @ World of My Imagination

Nicole Pyles reads and reviews “Crossing the Line” by Ellen Valladares. This is a fun young adult novel that readers will be sure to delight in!

Wednesday, April 18th  @  Beverley Baird

Beverley Baird reviews “Crossing the Line” by Ellen Valladares. Readers won’t want to miss this fast paced young adult novel!


Thursday, April 19th @ Memoir Writer’s Journey

Ellen Valladares pens today’s guest post at Kathleen Pooler’s Memoir Writer’s Journey. Don’t miss this great post titled “Your Writer’s Purpose — how creating your purpose/vision can keep you on target” and learn more about Valladares latest novel “Crossing the Line”.

Thursday, April 19th @ Write Like Crazy

Mary Jo reads Ellen Valladares “Crossing the Line” and shares her thoughts with readers at Write Like Crazy.


 Friday, April 20th @ BookWorm

Anjanette Potter delights readers at Bookworm with her review of the YA Novel “Crossing the Line” by Ellen Valladares.

Saturday, April 21st @ Spark the Wizard

Brandi at Spark the Wizard shares her thoughts in a review of Ellen Valladares novel “Crossing the Line”.

 Monday, April 23rd  @ Bring on Lemons with Cathy Hansen

Wisconsin entrepreneur and school teacher reviews the latest novel by Ellen Valladares. Don’t miss this opportunity to find out more about the YA Novel “Crossing the Line”.


Tuesday, April 24th   @ Finished Pages

Today, at Finished Pages, readers have an opportunity to learn more about “Crossing the Line”the latest novel by Ellen Valladares. Don’t miss Renee’s review of this YA Novel!


Wednesday, April 25th  @ Reviews by Deb

Deborah Blanchard shares her thoughts after reading “Crossing the Line” by accomplished author and journalist Ellen Valladares.


Thursday, April 26th @ Digging with the Worms

Eric Trant reviews the latest novel by Ellen Valladares. See what Eric thinks of “Crossing the Line” and find out more about this great book and accomplished author.

Thursday, April 26th @ Phy Tallic

Phy reviews the delightful YA Novel “Crossing the Line” by Ellen Valladares.


 Friday, April 27th @ Write Happy

Today at Write Happy, Cathy Brown will be interviewing Ellen Valladares about her latest novel“Crossing the Line”. Don’t miss this opportunity to learn more about this YA Novel  as well as hear some tips from the accomplished journalist and author Ellen Valladares.


Monday, April 30th @ Ellen Valladares

Crystal J. Casavant-Otto from WOW! Women on Writing reviews “Crossing the Line” by Ellen Valladares and shares her thoughts with readers at Valladares blog.


Tuesday, May 1st @ I Just Want to Finish My…

Brittany shares her thoughts after reading “Crossing the Line” by Ellen Valladares. Don’t miss this insightful blog stop for this delightful Young Adult Novel!

Wednesday, May 2nd @ Hott Books

Don’t miss today’s guest post at Hott Books! Distinguished author Ellen Valladares shares her post titled: ‘The Inspiration Behind Crossing the Line’. You’ll want to learn more about this delightful YA Novel!

  Friday, May 4th @ Frasers Fun House

Melanie at Frasers Fun House reviews “Crossing the Line” by Ellen Valladares.

 Monday, May 7th @ Word Nerd Media

Elizabeth at Word Nerd reviews the latest novel by Ellen Valladares. You won’t want to miss a minute of this captivating YA Novel “Crossing the Line”.

Tuesday SOL


Today is the Tuesday Slice of Life – the weekly writing challenge host”Two Writing Teachers”.


This has been an incredibly sad time in Canada the past few days. You probably heard about  the tragic accident that occurred in Saskatchewan on Friday evening. Although the exact cause has not been ruled yet, a westbound transport truck struck the northbound bus carrying 29 members of the Humboldt Broncos team. 15 lives lost, 14 hospitalized.

Canada is a hockey nation and this hit so many of us, especially those of us who have/ had children who travel to attend sports games. It is unimaginable the pain and suffering of so many.

Brian Munz, a broadcaster, shared a photo of a hockey stick – with the message “the boys might need it – wherever they are.” And so was born #PutYourStickOut. I finally found one and put ours out. Hope there is a rousing hockey game in heaven.



There was an event today that brought a smile and had us sling to find a place to get some pictures of the final taping of “The Handmaid’s Tale” here in Cambridge.  A bit exciting for sure.




SOL Tuesday


Today is Slice of Life Tuesday – the weekly writing challenge hosted at “Two Writing Teachers”. After a month of writing, the weekly challenge has returned.

I may be crazy, but I have started another month-long challenge. This one is the “A to Z April Blogging Challenge” and well over a thousand people usually take part.

There are so many themes to choose from – I chose Art.

I have missed carving stamps, so I am carving a stamp a day. With the stamp, I am then creating an art tag, with a quote. Here’s a link to today’s (C is for Circles)



As I created the art tag, the quote I chose made me think about what is happening in the world today. Too often people are turning insular, closing off anyone who is different from themselves. It is a scary time, because it means prejudice and racism are once again flourishing, with tragic results.

We need to be open to new people, new experiences, new places. We can’t let a few trying to live in Gilead stop progress, change, multiculturalism. The world is becoming smaller, and neighbours now can be from anywhere. Easter should have taught us that love rules – not hate.

March Reading Round-Up

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This past month the total read was 89, with the following breakdown:
Fantasy/scifi – 4
Middle grade/YA novels –3 (not including the above 4 SFF books)
Non-fiction – 1
Picture books – 62
Romance – 13
Diverse- 5
Ebooks – 12
TBR – 3
As you can see, I read a huge number of picture books this month – all part of the ReFoReMo study month. So many excellent books. I read more YA books this month as well.

I read these books for the Reading Challenges I’ve joined:

Beyond the Bookends.
The theme for February was “Learn a new skill from a book”. The only non-fiction book I read was a writing ebook by Larry Brooks – a very short read The 6 Great Epiphanies of  Successful Writers. There were a few good points about writing that I will incorporate into my writing.

This book also worked for the Monthly Key Word Challenge – the word I chose was “great”.

52 Books in 52 Weeks
I read:
Mark of the Dragonfly by Jaleigh Johnson”, chosen solely for the cover.
Tin Star by Cecil Castellucci” – a Scifi novel
Stone in the Sky by Cecil Castellucci – with non-human characters

Swords and Stars Reading Challenge.
For #3 (SFF novella) – Alejandro’s Sorceress by Alyssa Day
For #13 (Star on cover or in Title)– Tin Star
For #16 (A sequel) – Stone in the Sky
For #18 (your choice) – Magic of the Dragonfly

Writers Write Reading Challenge.
I read a couple of books that were recommended by librarians:
Ban This Book by Alan Gratz
The Hidden Memory of Objects by Danielle Mages Amato

For Monthly Motif the theme was “Travel the World”
I read A Model Bride, an ebook romance, taking place in England and Scotland.

For March, my top 6 books (all were MG/YA books!) were:
The Hidden Memory of Objects by Danielle Mages Amato
Mark of the Dragonfly by Jaleigh Johnson
Tin Star and Stone in the Sky by Cecil Castellucci
A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro
Ban This Book by Alan Gratz

My goals for April are to continue to read more books on my TBR pile, as well as to read in different genres –mg/ya, a mystery, several memoirs, more diverse books/authors and an historical fiction.
April is Poetry Month, so I hope to read more poetry – at least one poem a day.


Day 31 – March SOL


Today is Day 31 – the last day! – of the March Slice of Life – the daily writing challenge hosted at “Two Writing Teachers”.
The theme for today from the photo challenge I am using for inspiration is “Oh my”.

I did it! 31 days – 31 slices! Oh my!

At the beginning of the month, I wasn’t too confident that I’d complete it this year. That’s partly why I chose another challenge – a photo one – to help inspire m this year. And it worked.
Each day’s slice added to the success – reinforcing my determination to write daily and to keep going.
March SOL has become a necessity, especially when I feel blocked in my writing. It does help to kick start more writing in the months to follow.
I also enjoy reading other slicers’ work. There is so much talent and inspiring writing each day.
Congratulations to all of us. We have triumphed.
Happy Easter as well!

Day 30 – March SOL


Today is Day 30 of the March Slice of Life – the daily writing challenge hosted at “Two Writing Teachers”.
The theme for today from the photo challenge I am using for inspiration is “Apple”.

As I thought about the prompt for today, I couldn’t help think of some quotes:

An apple a day keeps the doctor away.

You’re the apple of my eye.

The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

And even – An apple for the teacher.

I collect a number of different things – birds, heart boxes, angels, elephants. I also collect apples – perfect really for a teacher. I didn’t think I had that many until I started looking. I have more than in the photo and there are also some apple shaped dishes, which I use in the fall.

One in particular sits in our china cabinet and is a definite keepsake. It is red glass apple, quite heavy, that was presented to me by my union when I retired. (it is the middle of the photo, to the right). It reminds me of all those years of teaching and my love for my profession.

Keepsakes have a power to remind of us of special people, special events, special places. Our china cabinet is definitely that – full of gifts, memories and precious to us objects.