Spring has sprung, the robins are hopping about our yard in search of food and nesting materials and the lawn is beginning to green and grow. That means I’ll soon have to pull the lawn mower from winter hibernation. I love this time of year, a time of new beginnings.
Speaking of which, as of late, I’ve been delving into the genre of romance, something I’ve never done before.
Today, I present my review of Hanging Stars on Big Willow Creek, by Sarah Hill.
Here’s what Amazon says:
Rylie Johnson is living her dream as a best-selling author in New York with her husband, Spencer and their imaginative little boy, Alex. As she prepares for the release of her newest book and upcoming book tour, her world is turned upside down when she receives a phone call from home. She must return to Idaho, the place she left twenty years ago and help care for the woman who raised her. Rylie comes face to face with the past she worked so hard to forget and learns things aren’t always as they seem.
The story speaks volumes about the human condition. How we perceive our world, based on childhood experiences.
Sarah does an excellent job of creating characters that are realistically human and are easy to become emotionally invested in. There are no true villains in this book, but that makes them all the more relatable.
Rylie grows up in a home that is both materially and emotionally impoverished. The object of ridicule and bullying, she understandably grows defensive and cynical of those she deems to be, ‘one of them.’
This story speaks to anyone who’s ever felt isolated, unworthy, and unloved. It reminds the reader that there are still good and caring souls out there and that everyone has potential, despite their circumstance.
A gently rolling plot, with a down home feeling, that will appeal to those who enjoy a good heart tugging read.
I give this, FOUR STARS!
SARAH HILL, lives in Idaho with her husband, 3 dogs and cat. When she isn’t feeding, playing or doctoring one of her fur babies, you can find her watching a chick flick or favorite Hallmark movie, hanging with family and friends, reading or taking pictures (because photos are important!) Some of her favorite things include the world of Harry Potter, Mexican food, camping, playing pranks, laughing and kissing her husband.
Sarah is also the author of Call of the Blue Heron, her debut novel, which was published in November of 2019. She continues to listen to the characters who find her and whisper their stories in her ear and plans to get their stories out to the world.
As the dawn sheds light on a new day, I find myself reflecting on yesterday’s celebration of Canada’s birthday.
Canada is many things, including a beautiful land of diversity, both in landscape and people. We’re far from perfect and face our own struggles, but overall, we are blessed.
However, Canada is but one country, and sparsely populated in relation to land mass. At just over 37 million, we’re a drop in the bucket.
What about this club thing in the title, Bierman? And what’s with the handshake photo? Don’t you know it’s dangerous nowadays? I’ll get to that, soon, I promise. First, I’m going to give you a quick bio about myself, so that you have a gist about who’s extending this invitation.
Here goes: I’m a white, middle class, Christian man, with a nuclear family. I have over twenty years’ experience as a Correctional Officer. I’m the son of immigrants who arrived as children, from Holland. I am proud of who I am, my heritage, my country, and my family.
I hope you are proud of who you are too. You have every right to be.
You see, this club is not exclusive, it’s open to everyone, regardless of race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, political leanings, and occupation.
There are some rules, however:
You must have a pulse.
You agree to behave in a respectful manner to all. Do not mock or belittle anyone because you think their ideas, religion, beliefs, interests, what have you, are foolish.
You agree to disagree, refrain from assigning unfair labels to someone, simply because their opinions do not coincide with your own.
You agree to inform yourself and question what you see and hear on the news. That goes for social media, too. You are intelligent and have free will. Please do your research before you make assumptions. I’m sorry, I know real issues exist, but this particular item is gasoline on an inferno. Blue Lives Murder T Shirt on Amazon . So every police officer is a murderer? I don’t think so. I’m using this one because it hits a bit close to home. I don’t know what you do for a living but think about possible stereotypes for your profession. Are they true for all who work in that field?
Honest questions are encouraged and even polite debate, but do not expect a conversion to your way of thinking. Oh, by the way, might be wise to leave the thesaurus at home. Sophisticated or uncommon words that are meant to demonstrate superior “intelligence” often do the opposite. More importantly, they do not foster amicable relations.
We all have trauma and scars from the past. Yes, even the rich and famous. So many things shape us into what we are today. I think it’s important to remember that we are all one footstep away from being someone else.
So, what is this club? Well, I guess I’ll call it, The Club of Humanity. The invitation has no expiry date. All that is required is to follow these simple rules and check any bitterness, anger, and prejudice at the door. If you’d like, I can leave a bin of glasses at the entrance to wear, so that members can see others through a new lens.
Thank you for reading this. I hope to see you there!
Today I’m privileged to host, once again, nineteen-year-old singer/song writer Thomas Mastin. Some of you may recognize the name from a previous interview we did back in December of 2018. Please click on the link, if you want to read that one. Please note, that some of the links on that post are no longer available or relevant. His current social links and some videos can be found at the end of this short interview.
Thomas and I go a few years back, I remember a time when he needed two hands to swing one drumstick. Ok, maybe not that long, but it’s been a pleasure watching him grow from a young kid playing his heart out at church, into the talented musician he is today.
I’m offering you a brief glimpse into his journey. A tale of struggles, perseverance, Faith, life detours, and lessons. Thomas’s ‘can do’ spirit is an inspiration!
Me: You’re not a shiny penny to the music industry. You’re young, but you’ve already had a significant amount of experiences. Can you share some of those?
Thomas: Two summers ago, I was a drummer in a band called Arbour Season. We played a lot of venues in Florida including Busch Gardens, Splitsville in Disney Springs, and Mother’s Restaurant in Tampa. We’ve also done House Shows, which are exactly what they sound like. The band would do their gig at a residence either indoors or out.
Me: There’s been some ‘bumps in the road’ since those sunny Florida days. Can you share what’s happened and how the course of your career has changed?
Thomas: Well, as things go, we parted ways and I charted a course for a solo career, however, I’m a social guy and decided it wasn’t for me. I met Nathan Hardy, an amazing guitar player and fellow song writer. We formed Hello July. The name came to us one day, when we were in Nashville. I saw a poster for a band called Goodbye June. I jokingly mentioned Hello July. The agency that signed us, Brave Enough Agencies, supported it.
We began singing Blues, but our genre has evolved into a mixed style of rock and pop. It almost sounds a bit like Cold Play, and U2.
Thomas Mastin & Nathan Hardy
I’ve gone through an issue with my voice. As it turns out, I was straining my vocals, making them inflamed and they bled at times. Someone who knows more about singing than me, said to be careful, or there could be permanent damage. I’m taking some lessons and going a bit easier. I’m also learning certain diets that can help or harm your voice.
Me: I hope coffee’s okay!
Thomas: (laughs) “Oh yeah. I couldn’t do without it. I also couldn’t do without the ton of people reaching out to me right now. I didn’t expect that. It’s incredible! People have offered free lessons, I’ll have to choose which offer to take.
Pastor Dusty (Parkway Church, Amherstview, Ontario) has also been a huge inspiration. When I was eight, he told me, “If you can’t sing for five people, you can’t sing for 5,000.”
I’ve never forgotten that saying, even put it in the notebook that I use to write music. Those words remind me to be humble and with the trials of the past year, I’ve lost an arrogance. I’m no longer that high schooler who expects everything to fall into place.
Me: I think people can relate to struggles. We all have them and there’s an appreciation for an artist who is open about their challenges. They realize they’re not alone. Listening to music is often an emotional experience for most people. It can soothe, recall distant memories, and bring joy. You’ve been given a special gift.
Thomas: Yes, and now I’m in a place where people can relate to me better. This past year has taught me who I really am and that I sing, not for fame, but for God and to inspire listeners. It’s been hard for some to wrap their heads around the fact that I’m not pursuing a Christian music career, exclusively. I understand that, really, because when you grow up in the church and you say that you’re pursuing a music career, they expect Christian only. But I want to reach those who are struggling, both Christian and non. The band, NeedToBreathe, does this. They play worship songs on Sunday mornings, but festivals throughout the week.
We are planning a tour of Canada first, before eventually heading to America. We’re hoping to start with a few local House Shows. I’m willing to travel to the Toronto to Ottawa areas, and beyond. We have one booked, a couple from our church, they want to be the first.
Thomas in action!
Me: Does Hello July have any videos?
Thomas: We’ve made four. Speaking of a humbling experience, one day I was in a line-up at the grocery store and a woman behind me recognized me from a video. I asked her how she liked it, expecting a positive answer.
“It’s a good thing you’re pretty!” she said.
(laughs) I was surprised but answered, “Well, I’m glad I’m pretty, at least.”
Me: We all get those. They’re great reminders that not everyone appreciates your work. Most of the time it’s a matter of personal tastes. Personally, I don’t pay much attention unless a particular issue is mentioned by several different people.
Check out Hello July singing Coldplay’s song, Yellow.
If you attempt to rise from the chalk line that many have drawn around you, there will always be those who snicker behind your back. They will fail to believe it is possible, despite all evidence to the contrary. Cast aside, any notion of changing their minds and do not waste an ounce of energy in the attempt.
Focus instead, on those who support and applaud your efforts, for their encouragement is fuel for the body and mind. They are your people, and you must remain fiercely loyal and equally supportive. In this age of a shrinking world, they could be across the table, or across the ocean. You will never find them until you step boldly outside those imaginary limits you and others have set.
Life is short. Today I challenge you to sweep away that antiquated outline made of dust and follow your dream. Do not let the fear, self-doubt, or the criticism of the pessimists’ chip away your resolve. Celebrate every accomplishment, no matter how small. Remember that cathedrals were built by many stones stacked one upon another.