Category Archives: Modern culture

Robin’s Reviews

Shatter Me Series, Book 1

shatter-me-new-eye-co1a459Having told JSI readers last week that I was reading the Shatter Me series by author Tahereh Mafi, I felt compelled to review the books for you. I may even make reviewing a regular part of my blogging. With that in mind, my reviews will reflect the way I like to be reviewed myself, knowing what the reviewer liked and what she could have done without. In addition, I will avoid reviewing books in the JAFF genre unless I can comfortably give the author 5 stars.

I don’t know exactly what I was expecting when I began reading the series, but this wasn’t it. Consequently, my first thoughts of Shatter Me, Book 1, were rather negative. The writing is sometimes difficult to read, because it’s nearly all stream of consciousness from the heroine’s point of view, and she’s a mess. But she’s a really hot mess, according to every man who looks at her. She wouldn’t know since she hasn’t looked in a mirror in three years.

Our protagonists, Juliette and Adam, are not normal. I expected that, knowing that the books were Dystopian Young Adult.


Tris, Peeta, and Gail (The Hunger Games)  are the most pedestrian of all the DYA heroes I’ve read. Their abnormalities lie in their strength of character, physical abilities, and compassion. In short, they are very believable. I read the books around four times.

Edward and Bella are both supernatural. Edward is a vampire. (I hope I didn’t spoil The Twilight Saga for you. Is there anyone on the planet who hasn’t heard that Edward is a vampire?) He can read minds. Bella is a shield. I read the series at least ten times. (The books are YA, but not Dystopian.)


Divergent features Tris, who is divergent – a mixture of all the factions, and Four, who appears to be the same, but really isn’t. I never quite grasped why, for he embodied all of them, but for the plot to work, Tris had to be the only true divergent one on the planet. Hence, poor Four, who has already suffered enough, loses his divergent status. I read the books three or four times. Are you sensing a trend? divergent-series

Shatter Me opens with Juliette in an asylum.  She has a supernatural gift (think Rogue in X Men), and she is traumatized beyond endurance. Adam (Bella in The Twilight Saga) is placed in the cell with her. She has had no human contact in more than three years. She can’t touch anyone without killing them, so she’s reverted to a nearly feral state. The books are all from her point of view. Once I understood her difficulties, I was more impressed with the author’s writing. It works for Juliette, though it grated on my English teacher’s nerves. Another thing I didn’t care for, Juliette whined constantly. I began to lose all sympathy for her.

Also, I need to say that there is a good bit of touching and sensuality in Shatter Me, though body parts aren’t named, and they are constantly interrupted before they can do very much physically. They never get past touching, much to Juliette’s frustration. Her inner dialog is quite loud about what she’s experiencing, but not specific. To me, that isn’t erotica, and it didn’t offend me, but it might offend you. I can understand how a person who could never touch anyone in her entire seventeen years without killing them could be carried away if she finally finds an unusually handsome, well-built, kind young man (eighteen years old) who can touch her and not die. Juliette is starving for physical contact.

All of the main good guy characters have supernatural gifts, and I could identify nearly all of them from X Men, The Fantastic Four, and The Avengers.


The first book in the series, Shatter Me, deals with Juliette’s discovery of more ways to use her gift and revelations about the other supernatural characters. Mafi sets up the next two books, setting the stage for us to hate the antagonist, Warner (another aspect of Rogue in X Men), and The Reestablishment. Every good DYA features an evil government which must be battled. The Reestablishment serves quite nicely.

If you think I didn’t like Shatter Me, think again. I’m rereading the series. If I weren’t caught up in the story, I wouldn’t reread it. Now that I’m reading it with a better understanding of the characters, I’m enjoying it more.

Any book that gets a reread from me deserves 5 stars.

Come back next week for a review of Unravel Me, the second book in the series.


Do it anyway.

Opposing points of view

A very kind lady I know from Discovery School (where I teach music on Mondays and Fridays) posted this quote from Mother Teresa in the restroom. I’ve read it many times, and each time I’m struck by the wisdom of this philosophy. The version below was written on the wall of Mother Teresa’s room in her home for children in Calcutta, India, and is widely attributed to her.  It appears to be a rewrite of a composition by Kent Keith, but much of the second half has been re-written to reflect Mother Teresa’s spirituality.


              People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered.  Forgive them anyway.

            If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives.  Be kind anyway.

            If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies.  Succeed anyway.

           If you are honest and sincere people may deceive you.  Be honest and sincere anyway.

            What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight.  Create anyway.

            If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous.  Be happy anyway.

            The good you do today, will often be forgotten.  Do good anyway.

         Give the best you have, and it will never be enough.  Give your best anyway.

         In the final analysis, it is between you and God.  It was never between you and them anyway.



Look at Mother Teresa’s face. Would you say she was beautiful? According to the world’s standards, she was not. However, I imagine she was beautiful in God’s sight. Man looks on the outward appearance, but God looks on the heart.



Our words come from our hearts, and her heart was beautiful.

Contrast the first few lines of Mother Teresa’s quote with George Bernard Shaw’s. I think he probably viewed himself as unreasonable. I might be viewed the same way. Shaw chooses to make being unreasonable a positive character trait. I cannot agree, though I am often that way myself.

To be unreasonable is a type of conceit. I think I’m right because I see myself as intelligent and logical. Therefore, if something seems right to me, I often think the matter is settled. It isn’t.

How would you like to be remembered? I’m 62, and I think of this a great deal now. I would choose to be remembered kindly, as Mother Teresa is.

After all, who changed the world more in their lifetime?  Mother Teresa or George Bernard Shaw?

Would Miss Austen approve?

There is much discussion lately about Jane Austen’s works and the variations written of them by people like me. I try to be very careful when I work with Miss Austen’s characters. My main objective is to avoid having her main characters say or do anything that goes against the way she wrote them. Canva Guardian Cover

I have written both modern and Regency books using the characters from Pride and Prejudice, but in my view, I have never had them do anything that would be objectionable to Miss Austen. The most controversial thing in my work is having Darcy be an angel in the Guardian Trilogy. He is separated from Elizabeth by the difference in their stations. According to the Bible, angels are higher in creation than are humans. Though Xander Darcy is not proud, he is commanding and reserved. He often holds himself aloof. Guarding Elizabeth causes him to change and loving her makes him willing to give up everything he is to marry her. He is a being of high principles. In that respect, I follow the plot line of Pride and Prejudice. There is a time when Darcy loves Elizabeth, but she doesn’t love him because she doesn’t really know him. After she becomes aware of him, there is a “Hunsford” which separates them and nearly destroys her. There is a reconciliation as well.

They do not sleep together before they are wed, and they don’t use foul language. I will never write a dark Darcy, though I have read a few variations with dark Darcys, and I’ve enjoyed them when they were written in good taste. I don’t write Elizabeths who are promiscuous, either.

That’s just me. I have to live with myself and my conscience. I am constrained by my personal beliefs.

I do realize that this blog post sounds judgmental, and heaven forbid we should state an opinion that someone else might not like. There was a day, not so very long ago, that most people would have agreed with me. Now, I’m an outlier. That being said, I haven’t given any bad reviews or heckled anyone who wrote more erotic Austen. Authors have the right to write whatever suits them.

I would hope that I would be allowed the same freedom.



Missing Toby

Family & dogsI took this picture of my family over two years ago, just after they finished playing volleyball. My husband Larry is holding our daughter Mandy’s dog, Kess, and, Mandy (second from the right) is holding Larry’s dog, Toby. Toby and Kess are brother and sister, now eleven years old. Our younger daughter, Melanie, is holding her dog, Chloe, and Mandy’s husband, Jon, far right, is holding his dog, Rocko. Melanie has since married Dylan, the tall fellow in the back.  Dylan and I are the only ones who don’t have our own dogs.

I thought I didn’t want a dog, though I have enjoyed living with Toby, Kess, and Chloe. I have changed my mind.  Kess and Chloe have moved away with their “moms,” and the house is too quiet.A Dogs 0002_resized

More than two weeks ago, I let Toby out to relieve himself as I always have. When he hadn’t come back after an hour, I phoned Larry. He came home and called and whistled for Toby, but he never came. Later, Larry scoured the woods and roads around our house, stopped and talked to the neighbors, called the humane society, and let me put Toby’s picture up in several places on Facebook. We have concluded that either someone picked him up, or he went off to die. He had kidney stones, and we knew that eventually his condition would deteriorate and we would have to have him put to sleep.

We keep calling him and looking for him, but we have accepted that he’s not coming back. We miss him. I still check his water and food dishes. Larry still listens for Toby’s excited barking when he comes home. Both of us are careful about where we step when we get up from our computers. We are used to watching out for Toby, and he always lay beside us, sometimes right on our feet.

I want Larry to have another dog, but he isn’t agreeing to the idea, so Saturday, I told him I want a dog. I’d like another Yorkie Poo or a Maltese like Chloe.

One day, I want to write a series of books about those four dogs, but until then, I think I’ll just write him into the story I’m now working on – Understanding Elizabeth.

Sometimes you don’t miss what you have until it’s gone.


Cyberdating, Austen Style

Following Laura’s lead on cyberdating, I looked up some advice from Kimberly Novosel on Hello Giggles. Here’s Kimberly’s advice on how to select a man on a cyberdating site.

Any man who posts a picture of himself doing bicep curls: Ignore.

Any man who’s opening line to you is, “What were you for Halloween, a hottie?” ignore.

Run your own sort of IQ test. First portion: Writing skills. If his emails are casual or informal, that’s one thing, but if he uses run on sentences, incorrect grammar, or uses the phrase “hangin’ with ladies,” then that’s beyond informal. That’s uninformed. Test Two: If you ask his favorite book and he can’t even name a book, he’s out.

Watch out for the template. Make sure that the guy actually references your profile by looking for details. If he doesn’t, he’s giving you a stock answer because he’s usually rejected.

Using Kimberly’s advice, I’ve decided to have some Austen men write dating profiles and see if they pass the smell test. Can you guess which Austen characters these men are?

Austen actors

Bachelor #1

Hi, Babe. Today is your lucky day! Check out my workout video. How would you like to spend an evening hangin’ with my six-pack? We could watch the NFL channel while I tell you about my plans to open a line of gyms to help other men look as great as me. If I like you, I’ll let you invest in my business. Be sure to wear something hot and tiny. I don’t like to waste time unwrapping my presents. Oh, and bring dinner for two.

Bachelor #2

Madam, I am most anxious to meet a young woman interested in running my household. She must be lovely, industrious, intelligent, modest, frugal, soft-spoken, and willing to bow down to my employer in order to advance my career. If my employer dislikes you, I fear we shall not be able to pursue any sort of a relationship. If my employer approves, we shall marry quickly. I am tired of sleeping alone.

Bachelor #3

I am not looking for a wife, nor do I seek companionship. However, if you have sufficient money, social status, beauty, and intelligence, I may condescend to meet you. Please provide proof of all of the above in your response.

Well, ladies? Name the bachelors.




Numbering the days

Here I sit, typing on my brand new Hewlett Packard notebook, having relegated my eight-year-old Acer laptop to the land of outdated, worn out technology. I don’t miss the sound of the Acer’s fan, which has been warning me of its impending demise for several years now. I don’t even miss its extra two inches of screen, because my new laptop’s screen is touch-sensitive . I don’t miss the Acer’s slow navigation of the internet, or its small memory capacity.

HP notebook


But when I first bought the Acer, I thought it was wonderful. It was a huge upgrade from my PC with its gigantic monitor – so much faster, smaller, brighter, convenient. And now it sits beside me on the floor, waiting until I’m sure I have everything from it that I need before I discard it completely. I don’t want to risk finding that I didn’t get all my files copied to the new laptop.

After all, I wrote six books on that Acer, and I paid two hundred dollars more for it than I did for the HP. Technology gets smaller and cheaper the longer we have it. Remember those old eight tracks and the tube TVs?


Sometimes, I feel a little like that Acer. I look back at pictures of my youthful self, and I remember looking at old people, thinking that I would never be like that. When did I stop looking like the me I expect to see in the mirror? Where did all those years go? Now I’m careful when I climb steps, and sometimes my knees hurt. I forget things.

But I’m also free from the incessant concern about whether or not I look pretty. Aging is liberating. I wear comfortable clothes and shoes that are good for my feet. I don’t hold myself to the impossible standard of remembering everything. I admit that I’m not as sharp as I was ten years ago. I now think in terms of the time I have left, and I want it to be meaningful. I still have books to write, music to play, and grandchildren to welcome. And I’m wiser now than I was. I don’t want to waste the remaining years of productivity.

I’ve already outlived Jane Austen by twenty years. She wrote in longhand, while I have this wonderful laptop. She never married and didn’t own a home. Her health suffered due to the primitive state of medicine during her lifetime. I have every advantage, and I refuse to accomplish less than she did.

“So teach us to number our days that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.” Psalm 90:12


Jane Austen is my chocolate.

Last week was our week of doctors. Every teacher knows what I mean. As the beginning of the school year approaches, we run around finishing up everything that we won’t have time to do for the next nine months. Included in that list are doctors’ appointments.

Without going into great detail, let me say only that I had a rather unpleasant medical test done last Monday which required a most disagreeable preparation last Sunday. Because I was unable to do much of anything to comfort myself, I turned to my favorite past time – watching Austen movies. I began with Pride and Prejudice and proceeded to watch Sense and Sensibility, Persuasion, Emma (two versions), and Northanger Abbey. It occurred to me that Austen calms me. In other words, her stories are my chocolate.



With that in mind, I searched for literal Austen chocolate. I found this Austen quotable chocolate bar in an online store.

Austen chocolates were available at the Jane Austen Gift Shop in the U. K.

Austen chocolate 1

For those determined to do the right thing and avoid confections, there is this lovely Barbie dressed in an
Austen Chocolate Winter Dress.

Austen Barbie 2

I’m one of those people who thinks there can never be too much Austen.