Take a ride to The Other Side of Midnight

22467404The Other Side of Midnight by Simone St. James takes the reader into the world of psychics in London during 1925.  Ellie Winter finds lost items for people.  She can touch a person, have them think of the item they have lost and can tell them where the item is located.  She can also touch an item from someone or a person and see things about that person’s past.

Ellie’s friend, Gloria Sutter, is a psychic who helps people contact their loved ones who were killed in the war.  Gloria is found murdered while on location conducting a séance.  Gloria’s brother George soon arrives with a note from Gloria asking Ellie to find her on the other side.  He asks Ellie to help him find Gloria’s killer.

Soon Ellie is teamed up with James Hawley who works for the New Society, a company that tries to debunk psychics.  Several years ago, James tested Ellie’s Mom to prove she was a fake.  Gloria deliberately ruined Ellie’s Mom’s reputation when she encouraged her to participate in the test.  His report said she failed and was a fake, which was shared publicly.  Shortly afterwards Ellie’s Mom died and then Ellie and Gloria’s relationship fell apart.  Once Ellie’s Mom died, Ellie took over the business as being The Fantastique.

Ellie soon finds herself being followed by a strange man, and feels that her life could be in danger as more people turn up dead after she talks to them.  Ellie was reluctant at first to help George but soon her curiosity gets the better of her.

St. James does a wonderful job of making Ellie an intelligent and brave women who doesn’t back down even when she feels her life is in danger.  This book is filled with lots of action, suspense and twists and turns.  The question is “who really killed Gloria and why.”  And why did she go on location to conduct a séance when that was against her policy.  I highly recommend this book if you want to be entertained.

Book description:

London, 1925.  Glamorous medium Gloria Sutter made her fortune helping the bereaved contact loved ones killed during the Great War.  Now she’s been murdered at one of her own séances, after leaving a message requesting the help of her former friend and sole rival, Ellie Winter.

Ellie doesn’t contact the dead—at least, not anymore. She specializes in miraculously finding lost items.  Still, she can’t refuse the final request of the only other true psychic she has known.  Now Ellie must delve into Gloria’s secrets and plunge back into the world of hucksters, lowlifes, and fakes.  Worse, she cannot shake the attentions of handsome James Hawley, a damaged war veteran who has dedicated himself to debunking psychics.

As Ellie and James uncover the sinister mysteries of Gloria’s life and death, Ellie is tormented by nightmarish visions that herald the grisly murders of those in Gloria’s circle.  And as Ellie’s uneasy partnership with James turns dangerously intimate, an insidious evil force begins to undermine their quest for clues, a force determined to bury the truth, and whoever seeks to expose it.

Until next time…enjoy the view from your passenger seat

Miles Arthur is a character young adults will love

MilesArthurcoverMiles Arthur and the Quest for the King’s Scabbard is C.E. Zyburo’s first book.  Mr. Z to his middle school students, believes “education has become so tunnel visioned that children are no longer allowed to explore their creativity.”  According to his Kickstarter campaign, Zyburo will use the book and subsequent series as a platform to promote creativity and literacy for children.

Nothing speaks more to me than a teacher, or any adult who believes in encouraging the creativity and imagination in children.  Books were an important part of my childhood and continue to be a major component in my life.  So anyone who encourages children to read and develop a love of books receives 100% of my support.

Miles Arthur and the Quest for the King’s Scabbard is a very enjoyable story that pulls the reader right next to Miles and his friends as they go on their quest.  Miles is not the strongest kid at his school but his foster Dad, who is a secret service agent/former Navy SEAL is trying to change that.  Miles is required to work out every day and “fight” with his foster brother Kay, who is way stronger than him and is the quarterback of the football team. They live in a fortress of a house called Bedgrayne, which is made of stone and has top-of-the-line security.

Author C.E. Zyburo

Author C.E. Zyburo

Miles likes Gwen and wants to ask her to the State Fair.  But when he trips at school and accidentally kisses Leanie, who likes him, he accepts her invitation instead.  At the State Fair, Leanie goes off with her friends and Miles spots Gwen, who is sitting alone.  They go into the Fun House to get away from Kay and his football friends who are following them.  While hurrying through the maze, Miles and Gwen come out the back end of the Fun House to meet a strange man with a silver beard.  He has an old game called Sword in the Stone.

Just when Miles goes to swing the sledgehammer to the game, Kay grabs it out of his hands and tries the game himself to show Miles how it’s done.  Nothing happens.  The sword doesn’t move.  Miles tries and rings the bell.  Miles hits it over and over and the same thing happens, the sword hits the bell.  This produces the Excalibur that is handed to Miles.  The old man, Merlin, informs Miles that he is King Arthur reincarnated after 1,000 years.  Once Miles has the sword, everything changes in his life.  He has two weeks to find the Scabbard, give it to his foster father to save his father’s life.

Miles isn’t sure he believes Merlin until his father checks out his story going to the fair and there is nothing behind the Fun House where there are only two passages instead of three and none exit to the back of the building.  Miles decides he must find the Scabbard and save his father and Gwen decides to go with him since she knows how to drive.  The night before Miles and Gwen are to head out, all hell breaks loose and there is no turning back or denying who Miles really is.

This is a modern-day fantasy story that will take you on a fun-filled ride.  It reminds me of the Percy Jackson stories where a teenager finds out he/she really isn’t who they think they are and pretty much right away believes they are from another time.  Zyburo does a great job of bringing the reader into the story, making them cheer for Miles to win.  There are plenty of funny parts as Miles is a little clumsy and Baldwin, who also goes on the quest, is a goofy sidekick.  There are exciting parts when the trio are fighting those trying to stop them along the way.  There are also touching moments with Gwen or Guinevere, as they get to know each other better.

If you like Young Adult books and like a little fantasy and adventure, you won’t be disappointed with this one.  It will entertain you and make you lose track of time.  If you have a young adult in your life give this as a gift.  When I wasn’t reading about Miles and his friends, I was itching to get back to joining the story.

Book Description:

Miles Arthur considers himself a lucky kid – he gets three square meals a day, goes to a nice high school, and lives in a mansion. Problem is, no matter what he eats he remains undersized, he has no friends and is picked on at school, and his foster father runs the huge estate where he lives like a boot camp. His foster brother, Kay, is older, stronger, and gets treated like a prince while Miles suffers silently. But soon, the hand of fate seems to start favoring Miles and when one unexpected victory is followed by another, he quickly finds himself on the adventure of a lifetime! Join Miles Arthur on his quest as he encounters dark knights, dragons, and other surprises while also discovering himself.

“There is more magic in this world than you or even I dare to imagine.” – Merlin

Until next time…enjoy the view from your passenger seat

Inside the O’Briens shines a light on Huntington’s Disease

There are many diseases in the world and many in the media so much they become 22716194common knowledge.  Last year the ice bucket challenge gave worldwide attention to ALS, which probably a lot of people didn’t know ALS even existed.  It’s a disease that affects roughly 30,000 Americans at any given time.  ALS can strike anyone, it is not hereditary.

Then there is Huntington’s Disease.  It’s different than ALS in many ways except that it affects a small number of people.  Huntington’s Disease is an inherited condition in which nerve cells in the brain break down over time.  This is a hereditary disease that affects 20,000-200,000 Americans a year and the symptoms can start just past the age of 30.

In Lisa Genova’s new book Inside the O’Briens, she takes on Huntington’s Disease.  Joe O’Brien is one of Boston’s finest.  He’s been on the force for over 20 years and is married to Rose and they have four adult children.  Now forty-four, Joe is dropping things, having a hard time concentrating, can’t seem to keep his body still and his temper has been getting worse for the past six years.  Rosie finally convinces him to see a doctor.  Joe thinks the doctor will say he needs knee surgery because he has been falling.  Instead he hears the words Huntington’s Disease.  He also finds out that his kids could have it and that his mother didn’t drink herself to death even though that is what he was told when he was a boy.

At first Joe has a hard time processing this information.  Then he embraces the disease.  The four children need to decide if they want to find out if they test positive for the gene or stay ignorant.  Their son JJ and his wife have recently found out they are going to have a baby.  If JJ has the disease, will it be passed to the baby?

The other family member that is followed closely is Joe and Rosie’s youngest daughter Katie.  She really struggles with deciding if she should find out if she is gene positive or not.  If she isn’t, how is she going to deal with knowing her professional dancing sister, Meghan, is positive?  Someone who loves to move.  Katie also struggles with how to tell her family she is in love but not an Irish-Catholic from the neighborhood.  The struggles Katie goes through trying to decide if she should find out and the struggles with wanting to live her life away from her family sometimes frustrated me because I would want to know.  She is almost stuck in limbo not knowing what she wants to do or what she should do.

This book is a heartbreaker to read.  The O’Brien family are very close.  In fact they live in the same house, but on different floors.  While reading, I kept thinking would I want to know if I had the disease.  I think so, I would want to be able to prepare.  I would want to do as much as possible to be healthy and prolong my life.  I would want to know so I could not have any biological children but maybe adopt.  I would want to know so I could prepare for the future so my loved ones wouldn’t be stuck cleaning up any messes.  And I would want to know so I could see as much of the world as possible and live the fullest life I possibly could.

If you are a fan of Still Alice, which is another heartbreaking book by Genova, then you need to pick up Inside the O’Briens.  A beautifully written book that will take you on a ride that will sadden you, make you care for the O’Brien family and smile at the courage Joe shows through some of the darkest times of his life.  I will say I was very frustrated with the ending and hope if this ever becomes a movie they change the ending.  If you read the book you will know what I mean when I say it was a little rude to end it that way.

Book description:

From award-winning, New York Times bestselling author and neuroscientist Lisa Genova comes a powerful new novel that does for Huntington’s Disease what her debut Still Alice did for Alzheimer’s.

Joe O’Brien is a forty-four-year-old police officer from the Irish Catholic neighborhood of Charlestown, Massachusetts. A devoted husband, proud father of four children in their twenties, and respected officer, Joe begins experiencing bouts of disorganized thinking, uncharacteristic temper outbursts, and strange, involuntary movements. He initially attributes these episodes to the stress of his job, but as these symptoms worsen, he agrees to see a neurologist and is handed a diagnosis that will change his and his family’s lives forever: Huntington’s Disease.

Huntington’s is a lethal neurodegenerative disease with no treatment and no cure. Each of Joe’s four children has a 50 percent chance of inheriting their father’s disease, and a simple blood test can reveal their genetic fate. While watching her potential future in her father’s escalating symptoms, twenty-one-year-old daughter Katie struggles with the questions this test imposes on her young adult life. Does she want to know? What if she’s gene positive? Can she live with the constant anxiety of not knowing?

As Joe’s symptoms worsen and he’s eventually stripped of his badge and more, Joe struggles to maintain hope and a sense of purpose, while Katie and her siblings must find the courage to either live a life “at risk” or learn their fate.

Praised for writing that “explores the resilience of the human spirit” (The San Francisco Chronicle), Lisa Genova has once again delivered a novel as powerful and unforgettable as the human insights at its core.

Until next time…enjoy the view from your passenger seat

This fan will be Forever Royal

Last year I had the pleasure of attending the American League Wild Card game.

Standing outside Kauffman Stadium before World Series Game 6.

Standing outside Kauffman Stadium before World Series Game 6.

The crazy game where the Kansas City Royals were down 3-7 and came back to win in the 12th inning 9-8.  This is also the game where I lost my voice and the game where I fell hard for baseball, again.  The day I became a Forever Royal.

I’ve been a baseball fan since I was a little kid.  The atmosphere of the stadium, walking through the tunnel and getting your first glimpse of the field with the pristine green grass.  The crack of the bat, the players diving for catches, the triple plays and even off-the-field activities like vendors throwing peanuts a long distance to someone who passes their money down a row or high-fiving the strangers around you after a great play.

Baseball stadiums are like going to a family reunion.  You might not know the people around you, but you are all there for one thing, to have a good time.  I also like to people watch as much as I like to watch the game.  It’s fun to see the little kids smacking their fist in a glove just hoping for a foul ball.  The look on their face says they know that ball is coming to them and they will catch it.

Photo courtesy of KC Star.

Photo courtesy of KC Star.

I’m sure this summer, little boys and girls are going to be out on the field in Little League imagining themselves making that sliding dive in the outfield just like Alex Gordon or Lorenzo Cain.  Or sacrificing their bodies into the visitor’s dugout like Mike Moustakas did into the third base field suite.

Over the last few years, I knew a handful of the Royals players’ names but not very many.  After attending the AL Wild Card game, I started paying attention to the Royals stats.  I carried on conversations about the Royals with strangers while standing in line at the grocery store.  I actually watched the games on TV.  I haven’t watched an entire baseball game on TV since I was probably 12.

Then I got a call from my husband that I thought I would never receive.  A call that took me back to my childhood.  A call that allowed me to check an item off my bucket list. “Do you want to go to Game Six of the World Series?”  Did I want to go?  Did that even have to be asked?

I’ve always wanted to attend the World Series and to have four games in Kansas City made it even more special.  Just to attend one game and a game where the Royals won 10-0 to stay in the chase for the title, made it that much better.

World-Series-Royals-FieldThis is what I like about the Kansas City Royals:  The players don’t act like superstars that fans can’t approach.  The players have embraced their fans and the City of Kansas City.  That was obvious when some of them showed up at the Power & Light District after a game and paid for drinks.  They tweet about their favorite places for breakfast while eating.  They are active in the community by coaching their child’s sports team and leading Sunday school lessons at their local church.

Then there is Salvador Perez.  I follow Perez on Instagram and all the videos he posts with his teammates, especially Cain, humanize the team.  It shows how they are a family and how much they get along.  It shows their personalities.  It shows how they are a bunch of young guys doing what they love, playing baseball.

As opening day (April 6) draws closer, I look forward to attending a game or two or three or four.  I know lots of fans, like me, can’t wait for the 2015 season to begin.  It’s apparent by the record amount of season tickets that have been purchased.  I hope the Royals have a successful 2015 season and at least make it to the playoffs.  And if they don’t, that’s okay, I will enjoy watching a team doing something they love and I will always be a Forever Royals fan.

Until next time…enjoy the view from your passenger seat

Both sides of the race

I’ve been a runner since 2000.  Not very long, but when you have an older sister who has

Me and my sister Michele in 2003 at the Walt Disney Marathon

Me and my sister Michele in 2003 at the Walt Disney Marathon

been a runner since middle school, you eventually catch the bug.  So at 34, I became a runner.  Not a fast runner, but a runner.  Once I experienced how great I felt after running, I decided to be just like my big sister and run a marathon.

Even though my sister lives in Omaha, she became my coach.  She taught me how to increase mileage without getting injured.  She listened when I complained about different aches and pains and when it was hard to get outside in the winter.  Once the temperature goes below 40, you won’t find me running outside.

I’ve been a Disney fan all my life so of course my one and only full marathon had to be the Walt Disney World Marathon in 2003 and of course my sister traveled with me.  It was a wonderful experience running through the parks, high fiving with the characters and coming around the corner towards the finish line seeing my sister crying and cheering.  She’s a lot faster than me and finished almost 2 hours faster.

Part of my training was running the 2002 Humana half marathon on November 2.  This was the Waddell & Reed Kansas City Marathon before the Kansas City Sports Commission took it over.  The finish line was uphill on 12th Street from Main ending at Barney Allis Plaza.  Brutal for any fitness level.  If you don’t know the street, go drive 12th Street from Main to Wyandotte and let me know what you think about the current finish line.

Now I’m on the other side of a marathon, the planning side.  I’ve worked at the Kansas City Sports Commission (KCSC) for the past eight years and have experienced marathon weekend change and grow.  Does anyone remember the finish line ending in the parking lot at Fiorella’s Jack Stack/Lydia’s in the Freight House District?  Does anyone remember the wedding party driving right through the finish line festival for their reception at Lydia’s?

There is a lot that goes into planning marathon weekend.  When I joined KCSC in 2007, there was one full-time events staff member and now we have a department of four.  In 2007 there were a total of 4,558 participants.  Last year 8,780 crossed the finish line.

Separating trash, recycling and compost items at the WIN for KC Triathlon in 2011

Separating trash, recycling and compost items at the WIN for KC Triathlon in 2011

Working for an event planning organization has really opened my eyes, especially an event this size.  It never crossed my mind the blood, sweat and tears that go into planning a race.  And yes, there are tears from stress, frustration and sometimes tears of joy that the weekend is over.

First you need a steering committee made up of volunteers who bring all kinds of experience to the table.  Some are runners, some are not.  Some like sports and some just like to volunteer.  You also need a lot of volunteers throughout the three-day event.  And I’m talking A LOT.  Over the past eight years we have never needed fewer than 1,200 volunteers and up to 1,800.  These volunteers are very important, especially course monitors.  If there are not enough course monitors along the course, the race cannot happen.

The Events Department works on marathon weekend year-round.  There is designing brochures, logo, medals, email headers, participant T-shirts, volunteer T-shirts, pacer T-shirts, banners, magnets, advertisements and signs.  The staff visits with different businesses to become sponsors.  There are financial sponsors and in-kind sponsors.  You have to make sure water, food, medals all arrive in time and on the correct day.

Then there is securing bands, police, vendors, permits, medical team, security, clean-up team and timing company.  There is securing fencing, port-a-potties, tents, and rental trucks.  Several of our staff sleep very little the week of the marathon and from Friday-Saturday several staff members and volunteers stay up all night setting up the start and finish line.

Our staff at the WIN for KC Triathlon in 2014. I'm in the middle in the hat.

Our staff at the WIN for KC Triathlon in 2014. I’m in the middle in the hat.

The Waddell & Reed Kansas City Marathon with Ivy Funds is also a green event.  There is a lot more than collecting old running shoes and having bins for trash, recycling and compost.  Missouri Organic does a fantastic job collecting the bins and then they have to go through it all and make sure everything was placed in the correct bin.  At our WIN for KC Women’s Triathlon at the end of July, it is our staff, interns and volunteers who go through the bags.  I have been on the green team many years and you have to empty every bag, go through it and separate everything.  There have been years it’s so hot our rubber gloves filled with sweat.  It’s a less desirable task and I admire organizations like Missouri Organic who try to make our planet healthier.

Our entire staff is comprised of athletes.  Some have participated in races and some currently participate.  So know, even though we are exhausted, sleep deprived and a little loopy, we are celebrating your accomplishment when you cross the finish line as well as reaching our own finish line when everything is packed up and in the trucks Saturday afternoon.

Until next time…enjoy the view from your passenger seat

Canary takes you into the world of drugs and undercover work

Canary by Duane Swierczynski is a nail biting, action packed story.  Throughout the book 22500980college freshman honor student Sarie writes a letter to her Mom who has died.  In these letters, Sadie tells her Mom what is going on in her life.  This is a great concept for a book and is used in a really great way for some revelations.

The book starts out with Sarie telling her Mom about a party she is attending.  Usually at parties, Sarie acts like she is drinking but nurses a beer all night.  She also always passes up on drugs.  But at this party she decides to actually inhale when the bong goes around.  That is when she notices Drew “D” Pike, fellow honors student watching her.  He is someone she likes but doesn’t know very well.

D asks Sarie to drive him to the south side of Philadelphia, which is out of her way.  Since she likes him she says why not.  What she doesn’t know is that D is a drug dealer needing to pick up drugs and that the drug house is being watched by Detective Wildey.  Wildey arrests Sarie and D gets away.

Swierczynski does a great job of fleshing out the characters so you really get to know them.  You get to know Sarie, her father and brother, her friend Tamara Pleece, Detective Wiley and some of the drug dealers.  I have to say one thing that made me mad, what 19-year-old honors student in college covers for a guy she doesn’t really know risking being arrested.  Sarie is probably too smart for her own good.

I really enjoyed this book and found myself wanting to avoid working so I could continue reading.  I don’t think I would ever want to deal with the drug world, it is too scary.

If you tend to look at the end of a book before you are done.  Don’t because the last two paragraphs are a shocker.

Book description:

Honors student Sarie Holland is busted by the local police while doing a favor for her boyfriend.  Unwilling to betray him but desperate to avoid destroying her future, Sarie has no choice but to become a “CI”–a confidential informant.  Philly narcotics cop Ben Wildey is hungry for a career-making bust.  The detective thinks he’s found the key in Sarie: her boyfriend scores from a mid-level dealer with alleged ties to the major drug gangs.

Sarie turns out to be the perfect CI: a quick study with a shockingly keen understanding of the criminal mind. But Wildey, desperate for results, pushes too hard and inadvertently sends the nineteen-year-old into a death trap, leaving Sarie hunted by crooked cops and killers alike with nothing to save her–except what she’s learned during her harrowing weeks as an informant, which is bad news for the police and the underworld.  Because when it comes to payback, CI #137 turns out to be a very quick study.

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The Moon Dwellers is a fantastic dystopia story

The Moon Dwellers by David Estes is a wonderful young adult dystopian story.  Hundreds The Moon Dwellersof years in the future, humans have done enough damage to Earth that civilization is now living underground in the Tri-Realms.  The privileged live on the Sun Realm, which is the closest to the surface.  There is also the Moon Realm and Star Realm.  The Sun Realm takes most of the power generated and leaves almost nothing for the other Realms so they are very dark and dank.

The story starts out with Adele who has been put into the Pen because of parent’s crimes of treason.  As she is sitting watching a parade go by that includes the President’s son, two people she doesn’t know sit down with her.  Tawni and Cole immediately make friends with Adele.  In the parade, the President’s son Tristan is waving at the crowd when he and Adele lock eyes making them both experience a searing pain and feel sick.  Something neither one of them has ever experienced before.

As a war breaks out, Adele, Tawni and Cole are able to break out of the Pen and go on the run.  Adele is determined to rescue her sister from a horrible orphanage and her parents from their confinements.  While the three of them are on the run, Tristan has decided to find out who Adele is and find her.  He goes out into the Moon Realm to find Adele because he feels a connection and wants to find out why they have a connection.  He also doesn’t agree with how his father runs the Tri-Realms.

There is lots of action and danger throughout the story.  Multiple times you can’t imagine any of them will survive.  David Estes is a great storyteller who pulls the reader along for the ride with his characters.  He makes you care for them and you want the characters to succeed.  The point of view of the book goes back and forth between Tristan and Adele, which was nice to see the different perspectives.  You get to see what each of them goes through as Adele looks for her family and Tristan looks for Adele.

I could…not…put…this…down!  I need the next installment and I need it now!  Do I recommend this book, you bet!  Will you be entertained, you bet!  Will you want more, you bet!  Well done David!  Now, time for me to devour everything else he’s ever written.

Book description:

In a desperate attempt to escape destruction decades earlier, humankind was forced underground, into the depths of the earth, creating a new society called the Tri-Realms.  After her parents and sister are abducted by the Enforcers, seventeen-year-old Adele, a member of the middle-class moon dwellers, is unjustly sentenced to life in prison for her parents’ crimes of treason.

Against all odds, Adele must escape from the Pen and find her family, while being hunted by a deranged, killing machine named Rivet, who works for the President.  She is helped by two other inmates, Tawni and Cole, each of whom have dark secrets that are better left undiscovered.  Other than her friends, the only thing she has going for her is a wicked roundhouse kick and two fists that have been well-trained for combat by her father.

At the other end of the social spectrum is Tristan, the son of the President and a sun dweller.  His mother is gone.  He hates his father.  Backed by only his servant and best friend, Roc, he leaves his lavish lifestyle in the Sun Realm, seeking to make something good out of his troubled life.

When a war breaks out within the Tri-Realms, Tristan is thrust into the middle of a conflict that seems to mysteriously follow Adele as she seeks to find her family and uncover her parents true past.  In their world, someone must die.

Until next time…enjoy the view from your passenger set