Welcome!

Hello, and welcome to my blog! SharaLee Reads is all about books and literature and story. I love them and I want to share that love (or hate, as the case may be) with all of you! Feel free to leave comments and suggestions and ask questions. I also sometimes post book-related videos from my YouTube channel (also called SharaLee Reads), found here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCb6USCZxfUl_30eYn1RWSqQ

Some books I review are sent to me by the authors and some are my own. Read and enjoy!

– SharaLee

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Hello From the Other Side

Hello, again!

Since the last time I posted, my hubby & daughter & cat & I have moved to a new place in an area of Winnipeg that we just love. It has beautiful trees everywhere, old character houses, we’re close to the Assiniboine River, and a library and a thrift store, and delicious restaurants (Charisma of India has amazing Indian food, Decadence Chocolates has the best handmade chocolate (and spicy chocolate-covered salted hazelnuts & almonds!) I have tasted in the entire city, and we live just around the corner from Boon Burger, an all-vegan burger restaurant we are dying to try).

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Left to Right: ??? chocolate which turned out to be filled with Chai ganache & Coffee-flavoured chocolate from Decadence Chocolates

I am a huge supporter of small businesses, and that is especially easy to do in a neighbourhood with so much talent, so much flavour, so much care to the excellence of whatever craft it is that someone decides to pursue. Another place I recommend, that I really want to visit more, is Hollow Reed, where natural ingredients and remedies are not only sold, but actively harvested. This place also offers classes on recognizing and harvesting the healing crops native to our province, and how to use them, something I am very interested in investing in in the future.

It’s a great neighbourhood to be in, and I’m so glad Ivy can grow up somewhere safer and with less crime and noise pollution than one of our previous neighbourhoods. This is it for now, but I just thought I’d update on some of the more interesting places in our neighbourhood. Oh, and best yet: our front yard is a Pokestop. So all in all, I’d say this move was good for us.

What are some of your favourite places around where you live? Please let me know in the comments! Have a great day!❤🙂

 – SharaLee


‘Hawthorne Cottage’ by R.L. McCallum

Hawthorne Cottage

I shall broach unto thee a dark farewell

If not ye heed this ghastly knell –

Henceforth beware where time is keeping

The dead abroad who are not sleeping…

Summary

Thus begins R.L. McCallum’s Victorian gothic tale of Professor Alexander Greystone, a writer from London who moves to a haunted cottage in Hampshire, England for a more peaceful, simple life. Little does he suspect the terror that awaits there in the form of the seven Hawthorne sisters, former tenants of the cottage who haunt the house and whose contact with the living is rife with terror and violence. The novel follows Greystone’s investigations into the root of paranormal activities at Hawthorne Cottage, bringing the reader through a gamut of close calls, near-death and (full-death!) experiences, a haunted painting, and ignorant curious bystanders until it comes to its conclusion and the reader finds out whodunit.

The plot was imaginative and enjoyable, the perfect story for a rainy day, and I finished this book in less than a week, which is always a good thing. It holds the attention of the reader in most places, but I did find it to drag too slowly in several instances. The author claimed to have purposely used Victorian vernacular in writing this piece, but I found a few anachronisms, and  at times the character voices were not very distinguishable from one another, especially those of Professor Greystone and Constable Kingsley. Other than that, however, the description was excellent and the dialogue between Greystone and Woodruff was especially good.

Plot

I enjoyed the classic elements of the gothic novel, the rain, the ruined cottage, the hauntings, a few deaths. I was slightly disappointed that the nature of Mrs. Parmby’s relationship to the Hawthorne sisters was not further explored, and I felt Miss Farnsworth was not prominent enough a character to be included as she is in the synopsis of the book. I also wondered why, if Anastasia Hawthorne were pregnant when she died, was there no baby among the hauntings at Hawthorne Cottage? The conclusion had promise, and then fell short. The mystery of the killer of the Hawthorne sisters was solved, but Abigail Hawthorne had not been helped to the other side, nor did Greystone discover where she had been laid to rest. The reader, however, is told in what feels like an aside, of how Abigail is brought to peace and where her body had been hidden all along. It felt untrue to Alexander’s character that he would muscle through so many near-death escapes at Hawthorne Cottage to get to the bottom of the mystery, all for the sake of writing his book, which is a very strong motive, and then not give himself the satisfaction of tying up the loose ends for himself and his readers, especially when the other spirits were no longer causing trouble in the house to distract him. I also felt that the death of Cora McKenna was unnecessary, unless the trend of women dying in whom Alexander is interested is to continue in further Professor Greystone novels, as was hinted at in several places throughout the book.

‘The Gothic’ – Check out this link for an explanation of the genre of gothic literature

Grammar & Punctuation

I found there to be several small grammar and punctuation errors, but nothing that hindered the actual progression of the book, and all in all I quite enjoyed this spooky story.

Star Rating

For an excellent ghost story (but because of a few too many hitches) I give this book a resounding 3.5 stars out of 5 and recommend it as a satisfying read for a rainy day or a weekend at the cabin.

Further Reading

R.L. McCallum has a great voice and other works by him can be found on Amazon or at his website.


Love Life Goals


*shirt can be found here.
Love. So passionate, so deep. Turn on some R. Kelly and go back to the days when a love song was a love song. Us before ourselves. Love is a lot of things more, but it’s not easy. Passion and forgiveness make it worth all the hard times. 💜


Day 1

Have decided to more actively take care of myself. 

This includes a more concerted effort toward:

  • Hygiene 
  • Exercise
  • Eating Better
  • Daily Meditation/Mindfulness
  • Exploring my Spirituality
  • Forgiving Myself
  • Practicing Gratitude
  • Financial Responsibility

Ivy was up at 2 am last night, crying and then running around like a Wild Thing. I got her down after a diaper change and some water. This happened repeatedly until the early waking hours of today. Graham finally got her down at I don’t know what time with a bottle of milk, and we were all shocked to wake up after 11 am. (Ivy usually gets us up by 8-8:30 at the latest). She must be going through another developmental leap. In two weeks she’ll either be another clothing size or be speaking full sentences.

I caught up on notifications, Graham made coffee. I had it with cream but no sugar, as usual.

Checked my phone for any missed messages from my doctor’s office. There were none. He is moving his office at the moment, and all messages will only be checked periodically until he settles in at the new office on June 30, so I wasn’t surprised. I’m still not particularly fond of waiting, but there’s nothing I else I can do at the moment. C’est la vie, I suppose.

Had ordered some underwear online, and it arrived today. Ivy was thrilled and ran around with panties on her head for a good half hour. Tried them on – no luck, too small. I ordered the biggest size, but I’m a big-boned girl of partial German ancestry with extra weight besides, and the website is based in Asia. It was a gamble to begin with. At least Ivy got something out of them. Ordered earrings too and they at least look good, so I didn’t feel too terrible.


However, Underwear Situation pushed me to make a decision. Am going to return to ‘flexitarian’ ways. It’s the best and most accessible way I know to eat healthier and make sure I get my fruits & veggies. If I’m at my parents’ house or something and they have no other options, I’ll eat what is served to be polite. But I am going to try to stick to non-meat options and also do crunches, see if I can’t lose some of that medication/bad food/inactivity weight. After all, I’ve got a pair of red silky panties to fit into! 

Had an apple and Ivy’s leftover cheesy scrambled eggs for breakfast.

Had to flick Lestat away from taking actual bites out of the egg carton while cooking Ivy’s eggs. He was under the influence of catnip, so that could explain it. But still. I love that dumb cat so much it’s stupid.


Book Review – *Picaflor* by Jessica Talbot

picaflor

This book was truly a pleasure to read. Talbot has a way of using simplicity to approach the most complex of emotional subjects, including the wake of a suicide, a complicated childhood, the wonder and fear of starting fresh in a new place, the guilt and nostalgia of homesickness, and the satisfying though tentative steps one takes from desolation to confidence, healing and self-actualization. Based on the author’s own life, this book rings true without being trite or bitter or overdramatic. Talbot is succinct and graceful in her use of description, private yet open when sharing her inner thoughts. Picaflor is a gem to come across, a breath of fresh air, depicting the hummingbird in each of us, trying to find home. 5 out of 5 stars.


EEG Jitters

Net_Application_BrainRepair_02

This is going to be me in like an hour. I’m probably stressing over nothing, but all the weird suction things and being in a hospital period are starting to freak me out. I’m sure it will go just fine, and I will, as usual, be overreacting, but at the moment I’m very very glad my husband is coming with me to help me find Diagnostics Clinic H and hold my hand.❤


Today Was Better

Today was better than yesterday.
Last night Ivy slept.

Today I accomplished my goal of the day – phoning Meghan the social worker to help us get back on our feet with housing, with respite, and with therapy.

Going to be going for an EEG on April 5, slightly tempted to shave my head before I do so. Resisting temptation until it can be done by skilled hands.

Starting ‘Self-Concept & Communication’ outpatient therapy group at Grace Hospital April 18. Have intake assessment meeting with Michelle in Psychiatric Ambulatory Services on April 11.

Becoming weary of struggling to survive all the time, and yet invigorated when viewing my goals for each day as survival mechanisms. So many people don’t, but dammit, I’m going to be a survivor.

Following the adventures of someone I met in Tulita who is now in New Zealand. Inspired by this woman’s love of life and beauty inside & out. Blessed to have met her in person.

Have been sleeping a lot lately, and feeling sick to my stomach. Difficult to tell if this is stress-induced or viral. Doesn’t feel bad enough to be viral. Possibly stress. Having a conversion disorder has proved if anything that I apparently have no clue how to deal with actual problems.

What I really want to do with my life: go back to school, finish my B.A., eventually get doctorate and teach English Literature. I want to travel more and I want to raise Ivy to be a successful, happy, independent woman. I want to get a tattoo. I specifically want to travel to England to search out family roots. I want to learn more about herbs and crystals. I want to make Graham happy. I want to make at least one other person happy too. Is this attainable? Who knows? But it’s what’s in my heart.


Book Review – Cycling to Asylum by Su J. Sokol

I have just spent a few months finishing up reading Cycling to Asylum by Su J. Sokol, and today I finally finished it. I have to say, the title seemed to provoke more interest and intrigue than the content provided. I enjoyed the character of Laek, a free-thinking teacher from New York in what could conceivably be called a near-future dystopian period, but I absolutely disliked his wife and his two children, basically because Sokol stops at crucial junctions in the story to do a chapter on every single person in the family and their point of view on the same event, which could have been consolidated instead of making the reader read laboriously through the same event four times. If each character was to have his or her own chapter, I would have preferred for that chapter to carry the story a little further, but in this book that just simply didn’t happen. The parents moved much of the story along, the sister a little bit, and the youngest child’s chapters were all completely unnecessary.

That said, I do enjoy a certain sense of national pride when I read this book – that Canada is where people go to find hope and a new life (this publishing house publishes several Canadian-based works, so I expected nothing less from them). They leave New York to get away from violence and terrorist groups to find a new life and hope in Montreal. I enjoyed Sokol’s accurate use of the intermix of English and French that characterizes much Canadian speech, especially in Quebec, and I thought the mood of a Canadian city in winter was captured best of all. Also, I enjoyed the sexual/relational freedom Laek and his wife Janie enjoy in their marriage, as their relationship with Philip seems to represent a bridge between the bad parts of the U.S. they are leaving behind and the good memories they made there.

All in all, I give this book a solid 3 out of 5 stars, for an interesting storyline, but no more than 3, for taking too long to reach a climax and the staunch formulaic nature of the manuscript.


Flotsam & Jetsam

Hello everybody! It’s been a little while since my last entry, so I thought it was about high time I updated!

This might be a bit choppy because I still can’t concentrate very long. But, how have I been, you ask?

Honestly, I’m starting to feel well again. I’ve been put on an antipsychotic and the voices in my head have quieted and I finally feel like my thoughts are mine and mine alone again.

I’m still in hospital on the psychiatric ward until my lithium and valproate serum levels normalize, but I’m hopeful that in the psychiatric medicinal side of things, this new medication I’m taking called risperidone will continue to bring such positive results.

I only had one mini-seizure yesterday, and before that I hadn’t had one for nearly a week, so that’s good. My doc thinks they are probably caused by stress, which I didn’t know was even a thing. Just to make sure and be thorough, I’m scheduled for an EEG on April 5 at HSC, and to be honest, I’m pretty scared. Anyone wanna volunteer to come hold my hand while I get wires strapped all over my head? After that, they give the results of the EEG to a neurologist and he/she decides whether or not I need a CT scan. My hunch is that it will be fine and I won’t need to go that far.

Currently Reading:

  NIV Archaeological Study Bible

Cycling to Asylum by Su J. Sokol

Marie Antoinette: The Last Queen of France by Évelyne Lever

Sexy Origins and Intimate Things: The Rites and Rituals of Straights, Gays, Bis, Drags, Trans, Virgins and Others by Charles Panati

8 Legs Up by C.W. Clark

Foucault’s Pendulum by Umberto Eco

A History of Byzantium  by Timothy E. Gregory

Saga, Volume 5 by Brian K. Vaughan

Grimm Fairy Tales Vol. 1 by Ralph Tedesco

Quite a mindful! But I switch to a different book after every chapter, so I can read a lot of books at the same time.

Today I’m grateful for:

  1. The lovely dinner/bookstore date my husband took me on today
  2. Lestat is fitting in so well with the other cats here.
  3. McDonald’s double cheeseburgers. Not a lie. They’re like crack burgers when you come back south from being on the 63rd Latitude after 4 months lol

hero_pdt_double_cheeseburger

How did your day go, guys? What are you reading? I love comments so feel free to leave some below! Peace out.

– SharaLee


Update – Back in Winnipeg

My last post found my family and I still in the Northwest Territories, and now we are back in Manitoba. It’s been a long tough journey and it’s not over yet. I was given too much lithium by the doctors up north and suffered the effects of lithium toxicity, and I also started having seizures. I was having seizures every night to every other night, and it got to the point where my husband was afraid to go to work or leave me alone with Ivy for my safety, so he asked his work if we could have a 3-month leave of absence to go back home where I could get proper medical care, which they granted us.

I’m still having seizures even though my lithium dose is now down to 600 mg (it was up to 1500 mg before!!!), so I’ve been put on the wait list for the psych ward at Grace Hospital so I can get the tests I need (CT scans etc that they didn’t do in NWT), but also the psychiatric care I need (I have bipolar disorder, and this crazy fluctuation in lithium needs to be closely monitored for my own safety, as well as the possibility that these seizures are probably psychogenic since they are non-epileptic, so I will probably need some further analysis/exploration in that area). This is a really tough time for myself and my family. I hate knowing that something I am sick with is taking my husband away from a job he loves, and I hate not being able to control my own body (a few days ago I had a seizure in front of my father-in-law and brother-in-law; they were good about it, but it’s embarrassing all the same).

I’m still trying to read as much as I can, but it’s been really hard lately. I’m really sorry to any authors who were really counting on a speedy review, but I am very sick right now, and I just can’t read the way I used to. My head is full of a lot of noise all the time, and it’s like I can hear all sounds all at once at the same time. I also feel like something about my personality has changed since I started having seizures, but I don’t know what exactly. I have a very strong sense of paranoia almost constantly that I’ve never had before. Things are scary.

I might not be using this blog to post about books only as much as my own personal journey. I need somewhere to vent and my pen-and-paper journal just can’t keep up with my thoughts as fast as my fingers on the keyboard can. I’m sorry for those of you who followed me expecting literary reviews only (as this blog was meant to be originally), but I feel it has evolved somewhat, so I want to include some more personal things too. Thank you everyone who reads/likes me. Your support means a lot to me. This might sound completely pathetic, but sometimes, I forget that I actually exist, so knowing people read this helps remind me that I do. It makes no philosophical sense but I think it might be part of all the depersonalizing that has been occurring lately.

Anyway, so that’s what has been going on with me. We are currently staying with Graham’s parents, and Ivy is having an amazing time. Our black cat, Lestat, has bonded well with the other cats, especially Abbey (my in-laws’ youngest cat). Here is a picture of Abbey grooming Lestat:

2016-03-01 14.10.23


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