Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Book Review: Quick Tips on Vegetable Gardening, Starting Your Garden by J. Q. Rose

by M. J. Joachim

As an avid gardener, I found this book to be very well written and helpful. While I’m familiar with many of the tips in this book, and can thereby vouch for them, I learned a few things too. Who knew planting beets could be so easy? No spoilers here. You’ll just have to go get the book and read it for yourself. Did I mention it’s free for the next couple of days? Better hurry, so you can prepare for spring gardening season this year.

Oh, and if you like to garden, you might be interested in the “Plant a Row for the Hungry” program. More information is in the book. “The royalties from the sales of the Vegetable Gardening Series will be donated to local food pantries.” It seems J. Q. and Gardener Ted aren’t just interested in sharing their gardening knowledge with us. They also want to help feed the hungry in some very special ways.

This book is wonderful for anyone who likes to garden. It would also make a great gift. I know Mother’s Day and Father’s Day are coming up, and I’ll bet you have a few birthdays to celebrate this spring and summer too.

Thanks so much for checking out my latest review about a great gardening book. I spent some time in my own garden today, so it was only fitting that I read this little book and shared this review with all of you.

M. J.

©2015 All Rights Reserved

Poetry Analysis: Empties Coming Back by Angelo de Ponciano

by M. J. Joachim

have you ever sat by the railroad track
and watched the emptys cuming back?
lumbering along with a groan and a whine,-
smoke strung out in a long gray line
belched from the panting injun’s stack
-just emptys coming back.

i have - and to me emptys seem
like dreams i sometimes dream-
of a girl - or munney - or maybe fame-
my dreams have all returned the same,
swinging along the homebound track
-just the emptys cuming back


Vivid descriptions make this poem come alive as Ponciano easily make me feel as if I’m there, watching trains on the tracks. His transitioning metaphor into the land of dreams is smooth and easy to understand. The spelling and grammar play a vital role in this poem, beckoning readers to sit up and take notice.

I really enjoyed this poem and hope you did too. Thanks so much for stopping by!

M. J.

©2015 All Rights Reserved Photo credit: Sean Lamb, BNSF 5350 20040808 Prairie du Chien WI, CCA-SA 2.0 Generic License

Poetry Analysis: A Wise Old Owl by Edward Hersey Richards

by M. J. Joachim
Updated 11/04/15

A wise old owl lived in an oak;
The more he saw the less he spoke;
The less he spoke the more he heard:
Why can’t we all be like that bird?


I grew up hearing, “You have two ears and one mouth. Now why do you think that is? Because if you are wise, you understand you need to listen twice as much as you speak.”

And so it goes. There’s a lot to be said for observation. There’s even more to be said of not speaking too much.

I’ll bet that wise old owl heard a lot of gossip, so it’s just as well he didn’t repeat any of it!

I’m so glad you stopped in for a visit today!

M. J.

©2015 All Rights Reserved Photo credit: Athene cuniculariaa, CCA-SA 2.0 Generic License

Book Review: Cat & the Dreamer by Annalisa Crawford

by M. J. Joachim
Updated 11/13/15

Yes, we really are all crazy, if only in our minds. Those voices, they’re real, especially when we once knew the person speaking. Cat & the Dreamer validates the human spirit, helping it grow with each turning page. We can’t do anything about the past. The future is often terrifying, and the present sometimes needs to be changed - for the better, of course.

Addressing issues like teen suicide, over-protective parents and being strong enough to stand on one’s own two feet, Crawford gives us valuable insights into a rather eerie world that takes place in Julia’s mind and adult life, a life she too often lives in the past; filled with guilt and ever so slowly healing from things that happened so very long ago, Cat & Julia fight it out in the pages of this wonderfully expressive book, a book that will send shivers up your spine, make the hairs on your neck stand on end and cause you to think more than you probably realize or want to. But you must, because this book is more than worth reading, especially if you have teenagers, or are one, though anyone will find it satisfying.

It’s one of those books that will stick with me for quite a while, and I hope you pick up a copy and read it too.

Thanks so much for visiting Writing Tips today. Have you read Cat & the Dreamer? Do you listen to the voices in your head, or do you tune them out, refusing to acknowledge them and hoping they’ll go away?

M. J.

©2015 All Rights Reserved

Monday, March 30, 2015

Poetry Analysis: A Very Minor Poet Speaks by Isabel Valle

by M. J. Joachim

A glowworm in a garden prayed:
I cannot glow! God, thou hast made
Me with an ache to glow; Thy stamp
Is on my kin; each has a lamp,
Which, as Thou breathest through the night,
Goes down and up; I have no light.
Unless thyself within him burn,
How should Thy crawling creature learn
To trace his circle in the sand
Cast rayless from thy ray-filled hand-
A thing not worth the Maker’s mark?
Who builds a temple leaves it dark-
Forgets the candle in the shrine?
God! Set me glowing! Let me shine!


~the silly version first~

I saw the word, “glowworm” and thought this would be a playful poem to analyze - not too deep, not too thoughtful, more fun and carefree, which is what I was in the mood for today. Further down I giggled when I saw the words, “Maker’s mark.” I thought to myself, “ I drink that whiskey and it’s pretty darn good!”

Obviously this poem is not about a silly glowworm that drinks Maker’s Mark whiskey.

It is actually much more profound. My thoughts wandered to those with disabilities and those who have lost use of their limbs and/or senses.

“Do they shine any less than anyone else?” I thought. “Do our flaws, disabilities, ailments etc. prevent us from shining any brighter than others?”

I smiled as I thought about how brightly this little glowworm without light shines because of its faith and loyalty to its Maker. This little glowworm doesn’t take shining for granted, and if it ever does get its lamp lit, it will likely appreciate it with so much gratitude and praise for the one who created it.

There is no sense of bitterness or resentment by this little glowworm, for not having a light to shine. On the contrary, there is merely a prayer of earnest request, with a query in an effort to understand why it is different. There is simply an acknowledgment of one’s higher power and a prayer to shine in the darkness, which I believe it does whether its lamp is lit or not.

Thanks so much for visiting me and considering this poem today. I appreciate it more than you know.

M. J.

©2015 All Rights Reserved Photo credit: Timo Newton-Syms, glowworm, CCA-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License

Short Story: Mastering the Heart by M. J. Joachim

They never really told Elise she was dying. She simply woke up one morning and knew. As she made her way to the bathroom to wash her face and brush her teeth, she sensed something was different. When she took her shower, she saw it, the mark of death imprinted on her breast.

“Why hadn’t they told her?” she wondered out loud as she looked in the mirror. The medical staff always made a point to prepare their subjects for death. It was part of the experiment process, to see how they handled stress, finality and change. The preparation cycle was necessary for personal closure, saying final greetings to friends and loved ones and making final arrangements to distribute one’s possessions. It was a time to come to terms with spirituality, leaving all longing for physical belongings in the past.

The small heart on her breast burned deep into the tissue, a burn that reached far beneath the surface, touching her actual heart and singeing it; this was in effect a notification to begin shutting down the rest of her organs by depriving them of blood. As her heartbeat lessened, she felt weak throughout her body, desiring only to lie down and rest until her final departure.

“The experiment is a success,” Nurse Natalie said to Dr. Bales. Preparation cycles can be eliminated. Our test subjects confirm that knowing one is dying is not necessary for final peace at the time of one’s death.

As Elise released her soul, her spirit reached out and touched her mom, dad, siblings and nieces and nephews, despite her body’s inability to move. The medical staff entered her home to collect her body. Dr. Bales was the first to speak. “I don’t understand,” he said. “We didn’t tell her she was dying.”

“No,” said her mother. “You didn’t. We knew somehow just the same, as if she whispered quietly to our hearts. When we all realized we’d received the same message, we knew we couldn’t let her die alone.”

“The experiment is a failure, Nurse Natalie,” said Dr. Bales completely confounded by the presence of Elise’s family. “Tangible possessions aside, we simply haven’t figured out how to master the heart or how it communicates in love.”

I’m so glad you stopped by today. I hope you’ll take a moment to share some of your thoughts about this story or your feelings about death and dying in the comments.

Do you think it’s necessary and important to prepare for death? Does the thought of sudden death scare you, or do you think it’s an easier way to die, than to receive news of a terminal illness that could drag on for months? Are you afraid to die?

M. J.

©2015 All Rights Reserved Photo credit: CCO-Public Domain

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Movie Review: Still Mine

by M. J. Joachim

I can only hope that my husband and I will grow old like the wonderful couple that grew old together in Still Mine. They listened to and protected each other. They were kind and stood as one, even as age began to take their toll on them. They were best friends and loved in the way that only 60+ years of marriage lends itself too.

Add in seven adult kids always looking out for their best interest, and one government employee hell-bent on putting the screws to them, and this movie had me laughing, crying and dreaming of a future where old people have rights and are perfectly capable of taking care of their needs, albeit in sometimes creative and eccentric ways.

No law is greater than love and history. It’s a teaser, because this movie put a little bit of sense into the common of law. Sometimes laws need to be challenged, especially when they don’t have any flexibility or leeway in them. This movie tugs at the heart, gives food for thought and is very enjoyable to watch.

Have you ever challenged a law you knew was wrong? What are your thoughts on growing old? Do you think the elderly deserve to grow old the way they want, adapting their lives to their needs as necessary? How do you feel about nursing and private care homes for the elderly?

Best of Sunday to you,

M. J.

©2015 All Rights Reserved Photo credit: CCO - Public Domain

Movie Review: God’s Not Dead

by M. J. Joachim

Some important issues come to light and are addressed in the film, God’s Not Dead. I’m thoroughly convinced literary license was taken when telling the story, offering extreme examples after compiling a broad survey from Christian groups at colleges, to see if they are discriminated against. I doubt if any of this was done scientifically, with all precautions to make sure that exact data with limited variables was taken into consideration, thus rendering the film more loosely based on fiction than fact. That’s not to fault it for bringing to light that some professors are intimidating enough to make their students believe what they say without question.

I had one of those in college, and his anger at me for being too young to be in his class is something I will never forget. It was one of my very first college courses, English 101. During the first week of class he asked, “Who here is going to vote in the upcoming election?” I didn’t raise my hand and he came unglued, went on a rampage about why it is so important to vote, humiliated and embarrassed me in front of the entire class and then asked me if I changed my mind. I quietly slid deeper into my chair and said, “No.” He came over to my desk and stared at me with those cold, cruel eyes of his. “Why aren’t you going to vote?!” he demanded. I looked up in fear, fighting back the tears, “Because I’m not old enough,” I said. “I’m only 17.” He looked at me with disdain, “Well, then you’re not old enough to be in college or my class,” he yelled.

I digress, but only to prove a point. Some professors really are that mean and demanding. They take on the role of authoritarian and determine who does and doesn’t succeed, based on nothing more than their desire to be in charge. Thank God that isn’t the norm though, and thank God the word gets out about which professors make one’s life and experience easier, and which ones to definitely avoid.

God’s Not Dead was easy to watch, gave me quite a few things to think about and made some very good points. It addressed an important issue that doesn’t get a whole lot of attention, and made some interesting points about a number of spiritually related topics, most of which I will take with a grain of salt, btw. I haven’t read the book for this one, and having seen the movie, I’m not inclined to make time to do so. I know the story now. It was good and made its point.

Have you seen this movie or read the book? Please share your thoughts, stories about college professors and whatever else you’d like in the comments.

Thanks again for stopping by,

M. J.

©2015 All Rights Reserved Photo credit: CCO Public Domain

Book Review: Coda to Murder by J. Q. Rose

by M. J. Joachim

J. Q. Rose wrote a very fun and entertaining mystery novel. Coda to Murder is a light story and a quick read. Set in a church with the Reverend and main character being the prime suspect for the murder that takes place in her church early on, Coda to Murder has a bit of fun with the Reverend and her bff sleuthing to solve the crime. (She also prays a lot, sending up “Oh help me God’s” as befitting to a reverend of a church.) A playful romance develops as the prime investigator gets slightly irritated over their less than helpful tactics to find the real murderer.

Take into account all the interesting and intriguing characters you find at any church, and you’ll have more than your share of fun reading Coda to Murder. It’s the type of story that lets you take your mind off things, provides you with a few very silly things to giggle about and gives you the escape you need to relax and enjoy your reading time.

I’m so glad you stopped in for a visit today. Please feel free to leave a comment sending kind wishes to J. Q. for success with her novel, and sharing anything else you might like to say to me.

Happy Sunday,

M. J.

©2015 All Rights Reserved

Friday, March 27, 2015

Movie Review: Cinderella (2015 film)

by M. J. Joachim
I had a wonderful time exploring the famous fairy tale, given a new twist and perspective when watching this film recently. For the most part, the story remains the same, however there were some subtle changes taken which made the movie quite entertaining and thoughtful, in my opinion. In a word or two, the film was modernized just enough to make it come to life in today’s times. The director, Kenneth Branagh, did a wonderful job, and the costume design by Sandy Powell was delightful. I enjoyed the new script most of all, but I also liked the way the mice and other critters came to life. However, I missed Bruno.

It must be challenging taking such a time honored classic as Cinderella and turning it into something new and exciting for future generations. However, this particular film mastered the art beautifully. As much as the characters remained the same, their differences were truly remarkable, making it easy to identify with them in today’s times, while still being true to the original story. Cinderella (2015 film) gets a big thumbs up from me!

Thanks so much for visiting Writing Tips today. Please let me know your thoughts about anything Cinderella related in the comments.

M. J.

©2015 All Rights Reserved Photo credit: Old, Old Fairy Tales: “Cinderella,” Anne Anderson (1874 - 1930), PD-US

Poetry Analysis: Sonnet from the Portuguese by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

by M. J. Joachim

First time he kiss’d me, he but only kiss’d
The fingers of this hand wherewith I write; 
And ever since, it grew more clean and white,
Slow to world-greetings, quick with its “Oh, list,”
When angels speak. A ring of amethyst
I could not wear here, plainer to my sight,
Than that first kiss. The second pass’d in height
The first, and sought the forehead, and half miss’d
Half falling on the hair. Oh, beyond meed!
That was the chrism of love, which love’s own crown, 
With sanctifying sweetness, did precede.
The third upon my lips was folded down
In perfect, purple state; since when, indeed, 
I have been proud, and said, “My love, my own!”


Courtship, anticipation, flirtation, devotion and love transcend the Sonnet from the Portuguese by Elizabeth Barrett Browning. Three kisses, each more intense than the last capture the woman’s heart.

This is poem of society, culture and proper etiquette. Ladies are treated delicately and with the utmost respect. Gentlemen pursue a woman’s countenance. Hers is to respond with favor and perhaps a bit of gratitude, or not.

In this poem, the lady is swept away into the world of love, breathless and dreamy, waiting patiently for love to be fulfilled.

The lady no longer wears amethyst jewels on the hand that was kiss’d. Symbolically, I think, of royalty, because of the color purple and its gem. The second kiss was its own reward, an anointing of love. Indeed, she was chosen and chooses this developing bond. The third kiss is perfection, again a royal hue, and it is this amazing kiss that fully steals her heart, allowing her to declare her love in return.

Thank you so much for visiting Writing Tips today. Please share your thoughts about my analysis, your own analogy or anything else you’d like to say in the comments.

M. J.

©2015 All Rights Reserved Photo credit: Tacuina sanitation (XIV century), PD-US

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Movie Review: Divergent

by M. J. Joachim

Truly, I had to separate the book from the movie for this one. Without doing that, I’m afraid the comparisons might have driven me crazy. As with all books turned into movies, the book was much better, probably because my own visualization and imagination made it so.

Taken strictly as a movie, Divergent was good. I can understand why they made some of the changes from the book, which ultimately made the movie better in some places. That said, I’m not sure why they omitted some of the details in the book that I found to be real page turners.

However, I get it, and Divergent the movie stands alone. Anyone who hasn’t read the book can see the movie and not feel like they entered in the middle of some conversation where they can’t quite figure out what’s going on. The screenplay is well written and the book was comfortably adapted to the big screen.

I’m glad the movie didn’t drag on and on. Writers kept it fast paced, with lively action scenes to keep viewers interested. They didn’t try to copy the book word for word, scene for scene, which is definitely a plus. Looking back on it, I don’t know how they would have done so anyway, so I’m glad they took creative license this way.

Now that I’ve read the book and seen the movie, I like the book better. If I had just read the book or seen the movie, there’d be no cause to complain. If you’re wondering what all the excitement is about, check out one or both and I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. Just remember, the movie is purposely different from the book, so it’s best to avoid comparing the two.

Thanks so much for visiting Writing Tips today. I’d love to read your thoughts on Divergent, either the movie, book or both in the comments.

M. J.

©2015 All Rights Reserved Photo credit: Willis Tower, enwiki, No rights claimed or reserved

Book Review: Mama Cried by Talia Haven

by M. J. Joachim

Such sensitive and emotional subject matter could not be better represented than in the short story Mama Cried by, Talia Haven. I cried too; I also felt the pangs of being torn and empathizing with the little girl and Mama in this story. Stories like this are heartfelt, as the dig into the depths of one’s soul.

People often search for answers and truth, especially when so little of life makes sense. We also seek forgiveness, justice and peace. Mama Cried is a journey exploring all of these things, when life is hard, doesn’t provide answers and can’t make sense. Mama Cried ultimately satisfies, though not the way one might expect.

It’s a good story, one I don’t want to spoil with too many details in this review. When you read it, you’ll understand. While I wouldn’t recommend this story for very young or even young children, I do believe older kids will enjoy it, as well as adults.

Thanks so much for visiting Writing Tips today. I look forward to seeing you again soon.

M. J.

©2015 All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Ebooks vs. Blog Posts - Choosing the Best Publishing Platform

by M. J. Joachim

Lots of Crochet Stitches hit one million page views earlier this month, or maybe in the last few days of February. I was so busy with two kids moving in and out of here, that everything sort of blurred together, and one day I looked only to find that there were over a million page views on my blog. Late last year I was writing teasers on this blog about the new book I was writing, the one I hoped to publish before the end of last year.

It’s a crochet tutorial book, thus no characters, except now that Lots of Crochet Stitches has so many page views, I’m a little bit torn. I’d plan to make several theme oriented crochet books for my followers. Now, with the first one still unfinished, I’m more inclined to put my original patterns on my blog, skip the book intro, background, stitch guide, cover etc., most of which I haven’t even written yet. I do have several original patterns that have been tested, so my inclination is to thank my viewers by putting each of these on my blog instead.

When is a book not really a book, but multiple blog posts that will be just as pleasing, if not more so to one’s audience? That’s the big question I’m asking myself, and at this junction I’m leaning toward putting it out there, knowing I have some amazing blog followers who truly enjoy and appreciate my posts. It’s true, they’d probably enjoy my crochet books too, but I’m not sure I see the point of venturing into something new with my crochet work anymore. It’s working very well, so I’m not sure it’s necessary to mess with a good thing.

Any thoughts on this? Have you ever started writing a book you turned into blog posts? Have you ever had second thoughts and weighed the pros and cons of changing direction midstream? How did it turn out for you? Was it worth it when all was said and done, or do you have regrets about your decision?

I’m so glad you stopped by to visit Writing Tips today,

M. J.

©2015 All Rights Reserved Photo Credit: GNU Free Documentation License; crochet in round shape, flora

Book Review: Alphabet Anatomy Series by Linda Ann Jones

by M. J. Joachim

This series was a little bit lost on me. Rather than write three less than stellar reviews, I’m just going to write one explaining some of the things that didn’t quite work for me in this series, partly because I taught early childhood education for many, many years, and partly because with so many alphabet books to choose from, if I were browsing in a store or online, these wouldn’t have made it into my basket.

I get the concept and I applaud any group of people working to teach young children, however they decide to do it. Unfortunately, there was a lack of cohesiveness in many of the rhymes for me. Some of the language was way too advanced for any child trying to learn the alphabet and even though the books were bright, cheery and beautifully illustrated, the story itself didn’t make a whole lot of sense to me. In some instances, the pictures of the letters were puzzling as well.

Creativity and imagination are positive and wonderful things. So is simplicity, especially when the goal is to teach young children about the alphabet. This series overreached in my opinion, and the result is confusion. Alphabet books intending to teach young children the alphabet should make a point to have all the letters look like they are supposed to. Rhymes about the alphabet should make sense, not leave adults scratching their heads wondering how the author came up with them. The whole thing simply didn’t seem that well planned or thought out. Consequently, it won’t get a thumbs up from me.

Thanks so much for visiting Writing Tips today,

M. J.

©2015 All Rights Reserved Photo credit: Alphabet, PD-US

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Book Review: Divergent by Veronica Roth

by M. J. Joachim

We may be late to the party, but my daughters and I are hooked now. Divergent is positively hard to put down and quite the page turner indeed! Psychologically and philosophically speaking, my thoughts went to some dark places, wondering if things like this could really happen several decades from now. The world as we know it divided and conquered, while politics remain status quo.

Okay, so I’m reaching a little. But seriously, this book made me think and brought out my very outside the box creative side when doing so. We see things like this on a smaller scale all the time. Organization at its best, only in Divergent, people are the organizers, not the organized, and they did it to themselves willingly and without protest.

Ah the mind games it plays on individuals in the story! Prejudice didn’t disappear; it became worse in many instances because power and control are such necessary survival skills.

Oh, and the story has the most vile villain, the strangest heroes - if you can still call them that after reading the last chapter. The ending was full, ripe and complete, yet still lending toward curiosity for the next book in the series. We already own it and yes, it’s on the must read list for my daughters and me.

Thanks so much for visiting Writing Tips today,

M. J.

©2015 All Rights Reserved Photo credit: CTA Loop Junction, GNU Free Documentation License

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Sedona Cathedral Hideaway - A Review of Sorts

by M. J. Joachim

Valentine’s weekend was the weekend before my daughter and granddaughter moved in with us this year. The baby is sleeping, so I have a few minutes to blog today. It was also the weekend after my big 50 birthday; my husband surprised me with a wonderful getaway in Sedona, Arizona. We stayed at the Sedona Cathedral Hideaway Bed & Breakfast, a picturesque home with two grand and delightful suites for guests.

Our room was perfect for old fashioned romance. There was a small kitchenette, a huge jacuzzi tub, a fireplace and a view that was to die for. There was also a comfortable porch and patio perfect for our Arizona outdoor lifestyle.

Sedona scenery has long been hailed as some of the most beautiful to be seen. Popular for its bright red rock and spiritual rock formations, we were only minutes away from Red Rock State Park, as well as downtown Sedona. We weren’t far from Slide Rock State Park either. The reason I mention this is because as we drove through Old Town Sedona (looking for a place to park, but not really, we continued on through the crowds of Valentine and President's Day weekend and chose to enjoy the scenery of Slide Rock instead. Truly, when it comes to nature’s beauty, this is one place everyone should definitely see!

Back to our first experience staying at a bed & breakfast now…

It was da bomb, and I can’t wait to do it again!

We were spoiled rotten, with some of the most amazing breakfasts you could ever imagine! At the Sedona Cathedral Hideaway, you order the night before. Then the owners go and pick up fresh ingredients for your meal and make it to be ready at your specified time in the morning. Special orders, diets etc., no problem. I had Eggs Benedict for the first time in years - it’s not easy to get when you have celiac and are gluten free. But Kathy figured out a way to make it for me, and boy was it ever a treat!

Truly, if you are ever in the Sedona area, I highly recommend staying at the Sedona Cathedral Hideaway. Personally, I wish we’d had a few more days, because there were so many more trails to explore, sights to see and things to do. Below are a few pictures of from our weekend.

I can’t thank you enough for hanging in there with me, while I take my time adjusting to our new home environment. It’s lovely having my daughter and granddaughter home again. The baby is 5 months old now. She’s trying her best to roll over and move around on her own. She also is starting to hold and play with toys. Of course, my favorite part of being a grandma is when she lights up and smiles all the time. She truly is a very happy and easy going baby, and I couldn’t be more thrilled to be her grandma!

I’ll do my best to catch up with you all again before too long. I’ve a couple of book reviews I’m working on, and I’d really like to get them posted sooner rather than later.

Best to all,

M. J. 

©2015 All Rights Reserved Photo credit: M. J. Joachim, ©2015 All Rights Reserved