Book Review #2: “Luna Morba: What A Wonderful World”

Remember in my last post that I started a second book right after finishing “The Paris Wife?” Now the time has come to explain.

It all started with Al. He was hired, on a freelance basis, to work as a graphic designer for this Virginia Beach-based company – Empress World Publishing.

After Al’s first team meeting, the owner & CEO Sirrico Whitfield (a.k.a. Rico) gave him several of the books that they have published. You can read Rico’s bio here. One of them was a novel that Rico wrote called “Luna Morba: What A Wonderful World.”


Let’s back up for a hot second. I’m a realist. I’ve never really been into fantasy, sci-fi, or horror. However, the description of Luna Morba reeled me in:

In Sirrico’s first young adult novel, Cameron Dewitt, who is fresh out of college, has the world at his feet. No longer chasing the love of his life that cheated on him, Cameron accepts a teaching job in Virginia in hopes that he can gain a fresh start at life. But when he stops at the I-55 North rest stop just across the Tennessee state line he doesn’t realize it will change his life forever. After a night full of events that he can scarcely remember, he wakes up in a local hospital, where he is told he was in a terrible car accident. The pieces will soon fall into place as Cameron meets Valena. He quickly learns that nothing could have prepared him for her. Their meeting will lead to Cameron being forced to choose between his past or embracing his future as he is thrown into a feud he has nothing to do with. An unexpected romance and unavoidable changes push him further into an unknown world where he learns many things about himself and his purpose in life.

Expect the unexpected as everything is not what it seems.

Al handed me the book and within minutes, I was hooked. Cameron’s character was as real as it got – and someone that I could relate to, in a way. I’ve never cheated, but I knew how it felt to graduate and start exploring an unknown world.

Long story short, I read through 7/8 of the book in just over two hours. It was so good! It was a great mix of tragedy and comedy. There’s a lot of love and loss, and plenty of plot twists.

As I mentioned in “The Paris Wife” review, I enjoy books best when I can see characters or scenes when I put the book down. “Luna Morba” went an extra step – Rico didn’t go overboard with physical descriptions/depictions of the characters – so it was surprisingly easy to picture the characters when I put the book down.

I was pleasantly surprised that I was so taken with this “supernatural thriller.” I look forward to reading more of Rico’s work – I hope he writes more novels!

I highly recommend this book – It has a little something for everyone!

5 out of 5 stars.

Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Book Review #1: “The Paris Wife”

I love reading. It’s an escape for me. However, I’ve been so busy (and tired) recently that it’s been hard to keep a regular reading schedule.

One of the 14 goals I set for 2014 was to read 5 new books. I promised myself that after reading each book, I’d write a short book review for the blog.

In one weekend, I managed to finally finish the subject of this post, plus knock out 7/8 of my second book. That post will come later this week, I hope.

To the review!

I first heard about The Paris Wife at one of my PEO sisterhood meetings. For each meeting, there is some sort of program. One of our sisters, Kay, had read the book and decided to give a book review as a program. It was a fascinating review and I knew I wanted to read it. The cover is below.


I never buy anything full-price anymore, so I decided to wait it out. The libraries I frequented either didn’t have a copy or they were always checked out with a waiting list.

Then last summer, through the magic of Facebook, a girl in Portsmouth was advertising some books for sale and I saw a copy in her pictures. She only wanted $10 for it, so I jumped on it. Nice hardcover copy, practically brand-new. Sold.

With setting my 14 goals, I started reading it around the beginning of January – A chapter here, three chapters there, and so on. I was only about 1/4 of the way through it as March ended. I was frustrated because it was a really good book so far, but life was getting in the way. I normally do a lot of my reading at night before I go to bed, but cable TV is so distracting!

Fortunately, the first weekend in April, Al and I had the opportunity to drive his dad’s Mustang convertible out to his parents’ newly-acquired property, about 3 hours due west of Chesapeake. I brought the book with me, on the off chance that I’d be able to sit in solitude and read.

I read about two chapters that Saturday. Finally, Sunday morning, Al’s parents drove us back to Chesapeake. It finally got quiet about an hour into the trip, so I took it out and went to town. I declared the book finished just before we got home, and it felt great!

The story is a novelization of Ernest Hemingway’s first marriage. Her name is Hadley. Her character undergoes so many changes as she meet Ernest and embarks on a worldwide journey with him. It also gives a great image of Ernest himself, into his writing. They go from the U.S., to Paris, to Spain, to Toronto, and back to Paris in just a few years.

I’m a visual reader – That means, for me, a good book is when I can put it down and literally see the scenes in front of me, before reality sets back in. The author, Paula McLain, is so vividly visual with her writing. For example – There are several chapters set in Switzerland with the Alps as a stunning backdrop. While reading those, I felt like I had been transported across the Atlantic to their chalet. I could almost feel the sweater Hadley was wearing and the warmth of the fire, and hear the wind whip the snow across the mountainous landscape.

The other thing that made this book awesome was it was set primarily in Paris, along with several chapters occurring in Barcelona and Madrid. I’ve been to all three of those cities – So reading those passages took me back to 2005 and 2008. All those memories washed over me as I read.

I also love 20th century history, so it was really neat to see a novelization of these American expatriates who lived and wrote in Paris during the early 1900s. To name a few – Sherwood Anderson, Ezra Pound, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and James Joyce.

McLain’s novel makes me want to read more of her work. She did an immaculate job of capturing history in the context of a novel. I only hope that if I ever write publish a historical novel one day that I researched as much as she did.

4 1/2 out of 5 stars.

Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Beautiful Birthdays

I’m starting a new series of posts. I want to highlight the birthdays of special people in my life, with the goal of publishing each post on the person’s actual birthday 🙂


I’m kicking off the series with not one, but TWO people who were born on April 3rd!

April’s birthstone is the Diamond. The Zodiac signs are Aries (March 21 – April 19) and Taurus (April 20 – May 20).

Today, these two share a birthday with writer Washington Irving, actress Jan Stirling, astronaut Virgil Grissom, Jane Goodall, President Obama, Eddie Murphy, Alec Baldwin, skier Picabo Street, and Amanda Bynes, to name a few.


First and foremost, is the man who loved me first – my Daddy!


Can you guess when and where this picture may have been taken? 😉

My dad’s the best. He’s been a major role model for me. Here’s 10 of the best things about him:

1. We have an awesome relationship. He’s always made me feel loved and appreciated. He’s definitely taught me hard lessons, but every minute has been worth it. The title of this blog comes from him – He started calling me “Hot Shot” forever ago. We have no idea how it started, but it’s stuck and I love it. It’s our nickname, so to speak.

2. I can call him at any time. He’s always willing to listen and offer non-emotional advice to me, even if I’m having a meltdown at 12:30 a.m.

3. Dad made me consider (stressing the word consider) the military as a career. I’m so proud to have been a Coast Guard brat.

4. Dad taught me how to do handy things – I watched him change the oil in our station wagon for the first time when I was in elementary school and that’s what started it all. I now change the oil in my Camry like clockwork, I know how to change a tire on a car and a truck, I’m decent at driving a stick, etc. And it’s not limited to just cars – I know how to change window screens, clean gutters, build a proper fire, use a chainsaw and a ton of other power tools, paint a room, and even a little bit of plumbing.

5. Dad is mission-oriented. I have seen him give so much time and effort to both local and international organizations for over 20 years. When we joined our Methodist Church in 1992, that’s one of the first things he got involved with, and he’s never left. Everything from feeding the homeless, to wrapping Christmas gifts for kids that have incarcerated parents, to blood drives, to mission trips; it never ends.

6.  Dad has an awesome talent for music. Growing up, he dabbled in the trumpet, drums, percussion. He was in the high school marching band and I’m sure he did something musical at the USCGA. Now, he’s been one of four men in the church handbell choir for the last 15 years and loves it!

7. Dad was my inspiration to start volunteering at blood drives and start giving blood. This is one of our shared passions. First, he gave blood for me when I was born at 25 weeks – That’ll be 26 years in a few months. He’s kept a folded piece of paper in his wallet that lists the date and location of every blood donations he’s given, and that’s been since the early 70s! Fast forward to the late 90s – Dad saw a need for a blood drive and thought our church could fill it. One of our church members had been diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma in 1999 and we held a joint blood / bone marrow drive for her. That was in April 2000. We went from two drives in 2000 to our clockwork drives – The second Saturday of every even-numbered month (six times per year). We’ll celebrate our 14th anniversary drive in about a week – April 12th – and we are closing in on reaching 5,000 total units collected. We average around 55-60 units per drive, so we hope to celebrate 5,000 in June or August 🙂

8. Dad’s an amazing husband to my mom. They’ve been married for 32 years!

9. Dad was my savior when it came to math (until college, anyway – I was on my own for Honors Statistics). Mom was all thumbs after I got to middle school. Plus, being an engineer by trade certainly doesn’t hurt in this department. Some of my funniest memories were when we did my homework over multiple lines of communication. Example – He had to move to Florida for a work contract when I was in 7th grade; he was gone for almost 10 months. When I brought home my Pre-Algebra work, I’d finish it to the best of my ability, scan it, and email it to him. He’d review it, and then fax it back to me at home with any corrections (or suggestions as he likes to say). One of us would call the other and we’d discuss it until everything seemed right in the math world! We repeated this process when I was in high school Geometry and he was on the West Coast for work for a couple of months. It was certainly interesting!

10. Dad was / is a great role model for keeping me active. It started in the pool. He took me water-skiing when I was 6. We rode bikes all over the neighborhood with my mom. When I started rollerblading, he and Mom would ride their bikes and when I started to slow down, he’d throw me a tow rope and he’d pull me all the way home at breakneck speed. I played rec soccer for 7 years, so there were lots of pick-up games in the backyard. I played rec softball for one season, but Dad worked with me for a couple years before that to help condition me. We played catch in New York’s Central Park. When we flew to Florida to visit my grandparents, we packed a bat, gloves, and this crazy contraption of a softball on a fiberglass pole that tremendously improved my hitting. You get the picture. Dad also learned to ride a unicycle years ago – and we still have it in the garage.

I love you, Dad!


The second amazing person is Michaela Leigh D’Angelo!


This is her and her sweet doggie!

10 fun facts:

1. She has an older sister, Karen. Karen’s a year older than I am and Michaela Leigh is two years younger than me, so we’re tight. We three have been friends for literally forever – This is what happens when your moms are literal best friends that met through teaching 30+ years ago!

2. She’s an assistant at a local marina. It all started with an opportunity to sail on a couple’s yacht a couple summers ago. Apparently you can’t take the boat out of her now.

3. She loves dogs – particularly dachshunds. Her family had sweet Sadie for almost 15 years until recently. But she has Ruby now and she’s just precious!

4. She’s gone back and forth between her first name and middle name. For years, it was Michaela. For a couple more years, it was Leigh. I’m starting to abbreviate to ML now 🙂

5. She studied French language and literature in college. I’m almost certain she’s fluent too. I would call her a linguist!

6. She studied abroad in France. I was so jealous of her the entire time she was overseas!

7. She dressed up as Rosie the Riveter one year for Halloween – That’s awesome. To this day, that still is one of the most BAMF costumes that I have ever seen.

8. Her makeup is always perfect, and she’s known for her signature red lipstick.

9. She and Karen both have had the most beautiful long hair (Karen’s kept it short for a long time, but ML’s left it long and it’s awesome!). Again, I’m jealous – My hair gets weird if it grows past a certain length. But their hair – On point.

10. She learned the cello early on and was amazing at it!


Well, there you go. First birthday post. I don’t think that I’ll do 10 fun facts every time, but I’ll learn as I do more of these. Many more to come!

Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂