The Kingdom of Oceana

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Five centuries ago, on the island now called Hawaii, there was a kingdom filled with adventure, beauty, and magic. 

When 16-year-old Prince Ailani and his brother Nahoa trespass on a forbidden burial ground and uncover an ancient tiki mask, they unleash a thousand-year-old curse that threatens to descroy their tropical paradise.

As warring factions collide for control of Oceana, it sparks an age-old conflict between rival sorcerors that threatns to erupt – just like Mauna Kea, the towering volcano.

With the help of his ancestral spirit animals, his shape shifting sidekick, and a beautiful princess, Prince Ailani must overcome his own insecurities, a lifetime of sibling rivalry, and a plague of cursed sea creatures brought forth by the tiki’s spell.

Can peace be restored to the kingdom? Can Prince Ailani claim his rightful place as the future king of Oceana?

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a huge Disney fan. I try to go see every Disney movie that comes out in theaters. When I heard that the newest one was Moana, I knew I wanted to see it. Typical me, though…I haven’t. However, when I saw this book, I knew it would fill the Moana void. I don’t want you to think that this is a straight-out Moana story. The Kingdom of Oceana is a totally great story. Right after I finished the first chapter, I knew I needed to read this as fast as possible; I needed to know what happened to everyone!

The Kingdom of Oceana is a sibling story at its core. I like reading about siblings because I like to imagine what’s it like to have them. I feel like Mitchell Charles did a great job creating that relationship. Ailani is always trying to measure up to his older brother Nahoa, and Nahoa likes to remind Ailani that he is the little brother. I really enjoyed the character development throughout the story. I feel that Ailani grew up not only because of necessity, but because he was starting to see his potential.

As a new mom, I feel like I pay more attention to parent-child relationships in stories. As I was reading, I found that I most wanted to be like Father and definitely not like Mother. Father tries to do right by his family and his people, even if that means making decisions that he might not think are great. He always tries to teach boys lessons, not just about how to become the next leaders of their people, but also about being good people in general. I hated how Mother played favorites. If I ever have more than one child, I want to be able to love them equally.

When I was in college, I took a Mythology course. When I first signed up for it, I thought it would be only about Greco-Roman mythology. Boy, was I wrong! I was learning about Celtic, Chinese, Native American…and Hawaiian. As I was reading, I was recognizing some of the terms used throughout the book (just in case, Charles includes footnotes, which I think is an added bonus to the story). I was trying to think of why things sounded familiar, and I remembered back to my Mythology class. If anyone wants to check out my textbook, I highly recommend it!

Speaking of class, since The Kingdom of Oceana is geared toward younger readers (think middle school age), there are educational materials that go along with it! As a former ELA teacher and new mom, I think it’s awesome that there are pre-made materials that enhance the reading experience. I can’t wait ’til my son is a little older and I can teach him about this book. There is a glossary of Hawaiian words and two study guides focused on earth science and humanities. If there are any ELA teachers out there who read my blog, contact me and I might be able to hook you up!

The Kingdom of Oceana is a fast-paced, fun read that gets you interested right from the beginning. I’m really hoping Charles is working on a sequel, because I need to know what happens next!

Go Google Yourself!

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Have you ever done an internet search and thought, “I wonder what would happen if I typed my own name into the search bar? What would I find?” If not, it might be time to do that, and not just for curiosity’s sake.

Let me tell you a story…

In high school, I had this friend, and she went through a breakup. Her ex showed interest in me, and I in him. I went to my friend and told her what was happening, and she gave her blessing for us to date. Years went by, and I had learned in college that searching yourself online might be beneficial because potential employers might look for your online profiles. I typed my name, and I was scrolling through the search results I found my name in someone’s Xanga post (yes, I’m dating myself here). Turns out it was this girl talking trash about me and calling me names. I was horrified. First off, because I thought she was my friend and didn’t think she would say those things about me. Second, because that information is out there on the Internet, and what happens online stays online.

Nowadays, people’s online identity is so important. You hear on the news all the time about people losing their jobs because they posted something that was deemed inappropriate by their employer. At my current job, someone lost their job because they took a selfie at work and posted it to Facebook…unaware that the picture included private client information. In a 2012 study, 92% of US companies look for new employees through social media.

When I was sending out job applications after graduation, I was also cleaning up my social media accounts. I made sure I didn’t have any pictures of myself in compromising positions. I deleted some potentially inappropriate posts and status updates. I tried to present myself as best as I could. Now, as a more regular blogger and mom, I want to make sure that my readers and my son will see the best (and more honest) side of me.

I know all of this might be scary, but there are some things you can do to help your online self.

  • Check your search results periodically. Make sure you search all names you’re known by. For example, if I were to search myself right now, I’d check my legal birth name, my married name, and both last names with my nickname. That’s 4 separate searches!
  • Don’t just use Google. There are other search engines, like Yahoo and Bing, that might have different results.
  • Check your social media accounts. Look at old posts on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram and see if you posted any embarrassing or inappropriate. If you wouldn’t show your mom, you might want to take it down.
  • Look at how many results are about you. Just because you might only have a couple hits doesn’t always mean a good thing. Some people might think you have something to hide…plus something unsavory might creep up to the front of the results page.
  • Ask a friend. Have someone you trust take a look at your online persona. They will more than likely tell it to you like it is and be honest about those Spring Break pictures.

Online Reputation Management, a company that caters toward protecting your online identity, created this handy-dandy cheat sheet to help you search for yourself correctly. Take a look!

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Remember: if a problem ever goes viral or a situation arises that’s too much to handle on your own, there are crisis management services that can help!

Tell me: did you Google yourself already? What did you find?

Final Exam

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The Society Agent series examines human society a few thousand years hence as people expand through our galaxy. In this future, there is no dystopian dictatorship, no cyber-menace overlord, and no inter-species warfare. Humanity faces its historic enemy, humankind, but under different skies. Even as civility and civilization advances through the millennia, greed, gangs and human malice remain as wolves chasing down the weak and vulnerable.

Final Exam begins the series, written in the classic sci-fi style of Asimov and Heinlein. The series protagonist, Shane O’Ryan, is an idealistic, rich kid, and a recent graduate of an elite college that trains special agents for the Society, a quasi-judicial galactic power. Shane and his secret fraternity investigate infractions of the colonization charter that protects vulnerable intelligent species and their planets. They risk their lives to make sure that the tragic aftermath of 1492 in the Americas never happens again anywhere humans go.

In Final Exam, Shane and his student partner visit a snowy vacation planet to solve a mystery—how could a sub-intelligent species leap 50,000 years in evolution in months to harness fire and develop a language. Their investigation leads them into deadly conflict with a sophisticated gang trying to gain control of the planet for its mineral riches. Shane’s instructor also challenged him to lose his virginity as soon as possible, leading to some awkward and comical moments.

It had been a pretty long time since I read something that was truly sci-fi. I think the closest might be The Lunar Chronicles series (which I still haven’t finished!), so when I read the description for Final Exam, I knew this would be a good change for me.

Shane O’Ryan is about to graduate from a secret special agent college. He has to complete one very important mission before he graduates: learn about the native population on a nearby moon and figure out why they’re evolving more quickly than they should. Oh, his side mission is to lose his virginity, but I’ll talk about that later.

Shane and his mission partner, the very pretty and exotic Alana, learn about the planet Goldilocks and its three moons: Papa Bear, Mama Bear, and Baby Bear. Shane and Alana are to go to Mama Bear and learn about the indigenous people. After the last survey fifty years prior, they’re close to cavemen; no real language or society. Now, they have a full language and learning skills they shouldn’t be yet. That seems kinda fishy to the government. Shane and Alana pose as a newlywed couple while discovering what’s really going on. There’s a lot of action and awkward humor (which is a good thing), and it was a fun read.

I couldn’t help but think that Final Exam is kinda similar to Ender’s Game. Kids going to school, learning fighting and espionage skills, going into an intense final battle…I don’t mind the similarities. I really enjoyed the pop culture humor (like Goldilocks); it was fun and unexpected.

What I didn’t like was the major push to have Shane lose his virginity. I feel that was really unnecessary. It also made me feel a touch uncomfortable (you’ll understand more at the end). I also didn’t like how short it was. I wasn’t expecting it to be a novella. The ending seemed rushed to me, and I wonder if McLaughlin would have made some changes if he decided to write a full novel.

Final Exam is the beginning of a series, and I’ll be on the lookout for the rest of it. If you’re into sci fi, definitely give this one a chance!

Breaking the Glass Slipper

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Sex, love and happily ever after. This is one woman’s search for the fairy tale.

This is a true story.

I am a baby boomer raised to believe that love always won, sex and love were interchangeable, and sharing both lead to the much desired happily ever after. In my childhood, every prince claimed a princess, every femme fatale got her man, and every sexual encounter promised love.

I discovered how wrong I was before I left home and I went wild. Disillusioned, the next twenty-five years overflowed with misadventures, failed marriages, and sexual exploits. The lessons I learned were life altering, filled with disappointments, often with painfully funny results. I cut my life’s teeth on the shards of my shattered glass slipper dreams.

Until one day, my fairy godmother decided I’d suffered enough.

My life became an honest-to-goodness love story complete with a real glass slipper.

Happily ever after is possible. Take a lesson or two from me.

I’ll be honest with you: when I first saw this book and read the back blurb, I really thought this would be about a princess. I was hardcore hoping this would be a new take on a traditional princess story. While this book is not what I had originally thought, I still had fun reading it.

Breaking the Glass Slipper is marketed as a “fictional memoir”, although author Sherry Rentschler says the events are real. For simplicity’s sake, I’m going to refer to the narrator of the story as the main character.

Our main character is growing up in 1960’s and 1970’s America, and she’s heavily influenced by the music of her time. I really enjoyed trying to figure out all the song references (and I was especially proud of myself when I did figure it out). She’s going to school, making friends, and learning just how much she wants a boyfriend. She craves the fairy tale, femme fatale romances. As she goes through middle and high school, she’s not finding what she wants. She’s wanting to find her identity with any boy that will give her attention, and later that will become her downfall.

Fast forward to post-high school. She has a grown up job, she has a place of her own, and she’s engaged to her sweetheart. Things are looking up, right? Rentschler throws a wrench into the fairy tale when she introduces the boss’s son…who ALSO proposes to her! Talk about too much to handle! We follow the main character through her marriage, affairs, dates, romps, and learn that she really really really likes sex. 🙂

I was not very happy with her personality throughout the book. I thought she was somewhat shallow, not remorseful, and had her head in the clouds. Granted, I understand that having that background allows a character to grow and the metamorphosis has much more of an impact, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it! In the end, she learns (albeit very late) to look towards herself to find what she really wants.

Overall, I didn’t hate the book. Is this something that I’m going to pick up and read again? Probably not. Will I read more of Rentschler’s books? Totally. I really liked her writing style and how she used pop culture of the time to add more meaning to the story. I’m curious to see if she does something like that in her other books.

My Daddy, The Serial Killer

Katelyn Deason was young, naive, and innocent at six years old.

That is, until she made the mistake of descending those cellar steps and viewing the first of many horrors down below.

You see, her father wasn’t who she thought he was. He wasn’t the loving and “normal” daddy that all the other kids had. He was very different.

She soon realizes how different as the years pass and unspeakable things begin to happen.

Will Katelyn be able to cling to her sanity after witnessing all of Daddy’s horrors?

*WARNING: This book, as well as the review, contain explicit content that includes graphic violence, abuse, suicide, and sex. Reader discretion is advised.*

I love some scary crime stories. I think you can tell that from my podcast choices. So when I first got this book, my first thought was “Man, this could be interesting! A serial killer book told from a kid’s perspective!” I was slightly right; while this is from a kid’s (Katelyn) perspective, it’s written in 3rd person narrative. However, the author (Cindy Kovacik) does a really great job of getting into Katelyn’s head and using her voice throughout the story.

As I was reading, all I kept thinking was Poor, poor Katelyn. This girl has the worst luck ever when it comes to a home life. The book opens with Daddy (that’s how you know him throughout the book) brutally murdering a woman in their cellar. Katelyn watches the whole thing, horrified…and Daddy beats her. That’s the recurring plot point throughout the book: Daddy kills a woman, Katelyn sees a part of it, and Daddy beats Katelyn. This is not an uplifting read.

The murder-witness-beating pattern continues as Katelyn tries to plan her escape. It always seems as though she fails. She tries to run away, and Daddy catches her. She tries to kill herself, and Daddy saves her. As Daddy says, she can’t do anything right. There is a silver lining at the end of this book, albeit an untraditional one..but it’s better than nothing.

I had some issues with this book, besides being horrified by parts of it.

  • Katelyn’s character development: I’ve seen this trope a few too many times…the child growing up and rebelling against her family. Granted, this is done out of survival, and the rebellion is a bit extreme, but it’s the same idea.
  • Daddy’s lack of character development: I hate that I have no idea why Daddy was doing it. There was no explanation about how he started killing women, and that really frustrates me.
  • Oblivious adults: Katelyn gets beaten repeatedly. Why don’t her teachers notice? Whenever she goes to the hospital, why don’t the doctors say anything about it?
  • Lack of background: We find out early on that Katelyn’s mother died when she was little. How did she die? Did Daddy kill her? Did she escape from him?

Overall, I think this is an ok book. If you’re in the mood for a severely messed up book, then this is the one for you.

 

Money Saving Tips and Tricks


One of my goals this year is to save more money. My savings was pretty much depleted when my son was born, and I’d really love a monetary safety net again. I now seem to have an issue buying LuLaRoe clothes (post on that later), and I really need to stop that! I even have a page in my planner dedicated to my savings account.

It’s planner official, so it’s legit.

I have a few ideas for trying to save more. Maybe they’ll help some of you out too!

Use cash only

I’m really bad with this. I use my card for everything. Using cash would make me stop and think about what I’m buying, and it would force me to budget more.

Put change in a jar

This goes hand in hand with using cash. The change I would have would go into a jar (I’m thinking a big ol’ Mason jar, because I’m a Southern girl) and I would use it for a fun purchase when I filled it up. Or it would go into my savings account, if I were a responsible adult…

Auto draft money into savings account

I love and hate this idea at the same time. I think it’s mainly trying to set an amount to have auto draft. What amount won’t I miss from my paycheck? I do love that it would be automatic and I wouldn’t have to think about saving money…it’s being done for me!

Sell items to secondhand store

Where I live, we have a store called Plato’s Closet where you can sell your gently used clothes and accessories. I’ve already done a big closet purge and donated a lot of clothes, but I need to find my more trendy clothes and try to sell them there.

Eat in more

I think I mentioned this in a previous post, but my husband and I used to go out to eat a lot. I think we would save money overall if we limited our restaurant time to maybe a couple times a month as opposed to once a week.

Don’t drink soda

This would be a great habit to cut just for my health, but I know not buying soda would also save about $20 a week. That’s a win-win in my book (and my wallet and my scale)!

 

What suggestions do you have for saving money?

Burn Out


I don’t know about you, but I’m tired.

There seems to be so much going on recently that I feel like I can’t catch up.

Work is going a mile a minute, which is good and bad at the same time. Good because there’s always something to do. Bad because there’s always something to do. Sometimes I feel overwhelmed, which makes me get in my head, which makes the overwhelmed feeling worse, which makes my head worse…it’s a terrible cycle.

Noah is getting so big! It makes me happy and sad at the same time. I love that he’s growing up and learning new things, but at the same time I miss my little boy.


I feel like my cup is very empty. I’m neglecting myself. I’m not caring for myself. It’s hard to justify by myself time when I have so many other things to do.

Any suggestions on how to not get burned out? Or how not to feel guilty about self care?