Reading Challenge 2022

Oh yes. I’m back at it! Adding one more book this year to the challenge! Erp!

Lesson Learned (Already): One thing I’ve noticed with reading challenges, this being my second one, is that you’re so busy trying to get through all the books before the year ends, that you really lose sight of the original goal: read more books, expand your horizons, get lost in a great book, discover a new author, find your new favorite author, just love reading because it’s so fun.

Because I’m flying through one book to the next, I am not able to really slow down and savor the words or the story like I normally would. In turn, that may have some bearing on the enjoyment I’ve found from reading some of these books. (So take my thoughts and impressions with a grain of salt, is what I’m saying.) I find myself constantly checking the % of how much I have read. So I’m thinking next year, rather than put the weight and stress of a number on my shoulders, I’ll just jot down the books I read instead and see if that makes a difference. Stay tuned in 2023.

Reading Goal: 22 books

The Last Wish (Andrzej Sapkowski)

Book 0.5 of The Witcher series. I’ve played the newest version of the game on Xbox (not yet finished because I restarted after so much time away), we’ve been watching the Netflix series, and so I thought, “Well, why not see what all the hub bub is about?” Good book, an easy read, and I get moments of, “Oh right. I remember this from the game / show.”

Sword of Destiny (Andrzej Sapkowski)

Book 0.7 of The Witcher series. I inhaled the first book and breezed right into the second. The chapters remind me a little of Sherlock Holmes in that while chronologically they are in order on a global scale, they’re like little mini adventures, not necessarily attached to each other. I could see myself wasting my whole reading challenge by just reading these so I decided to stop at this book and do something different for a while.

Jayber Crow (Wendell Barry)

This one came as a recommendation to me by my friend and coworker, Bob Hostetler. What a glorious book! It was so beautiful it made my heart ache. Hard to explain it and do it justice. So I’m not going to try. But think of a place where you are from (in this case a small town in Kentucky) as being so important with the landscape, your memories, and the history and community that it takes on a life of its own. Almost it’s own character.

Adorning the Dark: Thoughts on Community, Calling, and the Mystery of Making (Andrew Peterson)

This also came highly recommended by (and was a present from) a coworker, Thomas Henshell. Andrew Peterson is a singer, songwriter, author and likely a host of other impressive titles who writes about chasing your passion as a follower of Christ. His writing is honest, humble, and wise. He’s gone through ups and downs, failed, pushed through doubts and fears, and along the way has made significant impact in his field, his community of believers, and in his work. Great book.

The Screwtape Letters (C.S. Lewis)

I’d read this some time before, but had forgotten all about it so I picked it up again. Written from the perspective of fallen angels an uncle and his nephew try to “snare” a human and the book follows a bunch of letters from Screwtape to Wormwood. Enjoyable and convicting at the same time.

When Narcissism Comes to Church: Healing Your Community From Emotional and Spiritual Abuse (Chuck DeGroat)

Another recommendation from a coworker. Not something I’d normally read, but I figured I’d try it out. It was very informative and instructional and – in many ways – sad. That will make sense if you read it. But there are answers on how to handle the situation if ever you’re in the situation where you’re in a church or ministry where there is an issue of narcissism.

Blood of Elves (Andrzej Sapkowski)

Book 1 of The Witcher Series. It’s always a good time to follow Geralt of Rivia, Yennefer, and Ciri in their lives and adventures. I’ve since read ANOTHER Witcher book, so I can’t even remember what this one was about. Suffice to say, Ciri is a handful, headstrong and talented, Yennefer has a love/hate relationship with Geralt, and Geralt goes where the monsters and money is. Always an easy read.

The Convenient Marriage (Georgette Heyer)

This was yet another recommendation from a coworker, so even though I had sworn off regency romances, when I found out it wasn’t buried in sex, I decided to try it out. After I’d read it, I found out it was actually written in the early 1900s so it was the novel that inspired a genre! Funnest fact? The heroine of the book had a stutter.

The Time of Contempt (Andrzej Sapkowski)

Book 2 in The Witcher series. This one I feel like should have been retitled, “Ciri’s time in the desert” because, frankly, that’s the only thing I remember about that book. Oh. And a unicorn. And a major war started and everyone gets sucked into it. After having played the game, and watched the Netflix series, it’s so interesting to see some names and places originated within the fiction.

Golden Age (The Shifting Tides, #1) (James Maxwell)

Is it bad that I’d forgotten this one and I just finished it in June? Not much to tell on this one (obviously, since I’d forgotten it and had to look it up) but the story was pretty interesting. Fantasy. Some themes that are vaguely reminiscent of religious themes but I’ll let you determine if you find them oddly or aptly used.

Baptism of Fire (Andrzej Sapkowski)

Book 3 of The Witcher series. I feel this one is “the time Geralt went to find Ciri” and then it lasts forever. Oh, “and his adventures along the way”. I think I should have paced myself a bit more, but the writing is good and the shenanigans he gets into are always interesting.

The Tower of Swallows (Andrzej Sapkowski)

Book 4 of The Witcher series and now I’m starting to seriously lose track of where I’m at because some of these are more about Ciri than Geralt and I feel like this is one of them.

The Lady of the Lake (Andrzej Sapkowski)

Book 5 of The Witcher series. You see I’ve put myself on a mission and ignored my original plan of doing a classic read with a modern read. Oh well, reading is where plans go to die. I will say that I do like how Sapkowski threads fairytales into his books — it’s always interesting to see how he spins it. Very clever. Also this really wraps up the series very well.

The Season of Storms (Andrzej Sapkowski)

I’m actually not sure where, in the timeline, this happens because it’s after he breaks up with Yennefer and before he meets Ciri. A bit unexpected but actually kind of nice to see Geralt on an adventure with Dandelion and some other characters. Also…in this one, I was very mad at mages. Just sayin’. Some spots very hard to read, to be honest. But there is justice. Always justice with Geralt. Take that to the bank.

The Forgotten Home Child. (Genevieve Graham)

Yep. I finished The Witcher series so it was nice to take on a new book. This one was recommended to me by my mother-in-law and it’s about all the orphans shipped from England to families in Canada to help on farms, etc. As with all good intentions, there’s always people who will exploit and this book is no different. It is written in a fictional style but based on a true event. The writing was just okay for me, but the story reminded me a lot of The Orphan Train, which was also heartbreaking. An interesting read and a sad time in Canada’s history.

The Long Day’s Journey Into Night (Eugene O’Neil)

I’m actually in Act 3 of this 4-act play and, other than Alice in Wonderland, I don’t typically read plays. And only then because I didn’t realize that Alice in Wonderland was originally written as a play. Anyway…I’m still reading this one, but from what I understand this is an autobiographical play published (on express direction from the writer) posthumously. It’s a tragedy and kind of a bummer, but it was on the list of 1,000 Books to Read Before You Die and I’d heard the title before, so I thought, “What the heck.” The dialogue is dated, until you remember that this was written in the late 30s / early 40s then it’s spot on. I don’t really like the read but knowing it’s history in some way makes it more compelling for me. The play received a Tony Award for Best Play in 1956 so the fact that I’m not falling all over myself in love with it tells me maybe I’m a boob or I just don’t appreciate things like I should.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (Roal Dahl)

Aw man, now this one brings me back. You’ve probably seen the Johnny Depp version of this tale, but have you seen the Gene Wilder version? If you haven’t, you’ve probably seen the meme, at least. Trust me on this one. Okay, but these movies stem from a quietly adorable and amusing book that I read in elementary school when I was knee high to a grasshopper. So I thought, after some of the heavy reading I’d done recently, I’d go back in time and re-read an old favorite. Did not disappoint, if you can have reading deja vu, I had it. Even the pictures I remembered. Highly recommend, even as an adult.

1984 (George Orwell)

Wow, just haaaad to jump back into the dystopian depressing future, didn’t you, Melissa? Yes. Yes apparently, I did. It’s a classic, how could I not read it? Had no idea how it ended and now I know and kind of right until the last, very last, minute thought it would end differently. (To be fair, I thought the same thing when I watched Logan. So, there you have it. Perpetually disappointed optimist.) Still, spooky how much stuff Orwell got right, considering the book was published in 1949!! Fun fact: Apparently, he wanted to call the book 1980. So glad he went with 1984. Rolls off the tongue better.

The Great Gatsby (F. Scott Fitzgerald)

You know, catching up on all these classics, it’s a lot of work! From the “another ending I did not anticipate” comes, The Great Gatsby. Nope, haven’t seen the movie, but I will at some point check out the Leonardo DiCaprio version. But the book was good. Gatsby, he just tried so hard. And mostly everyone else is atrocious and leechy. Except his neighbor. So, there you have it. My take in less than a sentence.

Neuromancer (William Gibson)

I’m not sure why I got it in my head to do all these dystopian future books. Especially back-to-nearly-back. BUT I did, so it is what it is. The book I understand is probably where it all, in some form or another, started for Cyberpunk and everything along the way. There were so many terms in there that I understood to be legit glossary terminology or, frankly, trademarked company names that I was slightly stunned. So did I love the book, knowing now what I didn’t know then? The foresight was impressive, the world was dark, and people were – frankly – terrible to each other, more or less. The writing, while, insanely creative and visionary, was just ok for me. And I got lost more often than not. Maybe I was too fatigued over the 1984 terms, but it was hard to keep them all straight, honestly. Still, worth the read to be able to say I read it. And to see “where it all started.”

For Whom the Bell Tolls (Ernest Hemingway)

So we went from jumping forward in time to jumping backwards. Didn’t realize Hemingway was a soldier and that he was a journalist in the Spanish Civil War (1936 – 1939). Didn’t realize a lot of things. But I found his writing style so refreshing and clean and easy to read (also found out he called it the iceberg theory) and while this is a long book, and honestly, doesn’t span that long in time, it’s quite a read. I can’t decide if I’m enjoying it or if I’m bored because it really does take its time, but I am definitely seeing how he showcases his characters and it’s quite interesting to me. Fun fact: the entire book, as seemingly long as it was, pretty much encompasses three days in the story.

A Christmas Carol (Charles Dickens)

Wow, talk about cutting it close to the wire! I was thinking about how I could manage to bust out an entire book in just a few days, but I really wanted to read A Christmas Carol since, well, Christmas. Duh! And then as I start reading, I’m watching my Kindle completion percentage going up quickly and I realize, “Oh wait, this is a novella!” and all my problems were solved. Such a great book. Honestly, I thought of Dickens as a little dour and this one provided a lightness that was really a nice way to wrap up 2022.

Everyday Heroes – Inspiration Behind the Novel

I always get so excited when I finish something.  When I wrote Real Life, I wanted to do something fun and light with lots of humor and (admittedly) some pretty ridiculous situations.  Still, I love a happy ending so all’s well that ends well, right?

The idea for Everyday Heroes actually came from a ridiculous (what is up with me and ridiculous?) story I told my girlfriends on a sleepover at my friend’s house when I was in high school.  I’m sure none of them remember it.  It had something to do with the heroine saving a guy freezing in the woods in some winter wonderland. She drags him back to her cabin, hops in a sleeping bag naked with him, and saves his life.  (And stuff.)

This is NOT that story!!!

Having said that (loudly), the idea of saving a life without even thinking about the repercussions is interesting to me.  I also had a few goals in mind.  I wanted to:

  • Write a book about a woman who has faith.  I didn’t want to get all preachy and annoying about it, I just wanted it to be a natural extension of who the character is.  Kind of like me.  (Except she’s a doctor.)
  • Write about people who, on the surface, seem to have the perfect life, but behind the smile, are secrets.  No one’s life is perfect.  Ever.  At all.  Ever.
  • Have a subtle heroic theme throughout.

Maybe it’s because I worked on a game about heroes (and villains – trust me, there is one).  I think people who work in service to others (military, medicine, teaching, etc.) are already heroes.   There were many people I met while I was working on City of Heroes who had some pretty rough challenges (medical, personal, you name it) thrown their way and that made a mark on me.  I wanted to say thank you in a small way.

Also, since my experience working in hospice, I have come to the realization that the average person cannot survive in this challenging field.  It’s too hard.  Only a special person made of unique awesomeness, who is willing to look deeper than a terminal diagnosis and all the challenges that come with it (physical, mental, spiritual, social)  – and still perform their job with excellence and genuine compassion day in and day out – can.  I’m so proud of them, I can’t even tell you.


I decided to make Grace a doctor.  And a bit of a Doogie Howser.  Look it up if that name is meaningless to you.  She’s kind of awkward. over-achiever.  Imagine, if you will, that this woman who has succeeded at her career so wonderfully and so quickly (years ahead of most), rushes into a marriage with (she thinks) “the perfect guy”.  Except he’s not.  She spends the next 20 years a victim of physical and verbal abuse.  The book actually starts after she’s left that situation and is trying to get on with her life.

Wait!  What the heck happened to that cabin in the woods with the snow and the hypothermia?!  Yeah, sorry about that.


Okay, now we have John.  He comes from a great family, a military background, and over the years has worked his way up the military ladder.  Tragedy strikes.  He loses his memory and he loses his voice.  He goes from being a man defined by his career to coming home (in his mind) “broken.”  Rather than face these challenges, he runs away from his family, friends, and the world in general.  I’m not a military expert or a medical expert, but I did want to look at how the world just kind of moves on without you if you let it.

So I take two lives of people who serve so magnificently in their careers and they both get punched in the gut.  Thankfully, that’s just where the story starts…  Challenge and heartbreak is where heroes are forged.  They push through, they fall, they slide, but eventually they get back up, and push some more.  I love that notion.  Strength and character.  Integrity.  Honor.

This book’s subject matter is definitely a darker path than the popcorn and bubblegum of Real Life.  Of course there is still humor and silliness, this is a romance novel after all, not a documentary.

I really hope you enjoy it.


P.S.  My next book isn’t even a Romance.  It’ll be something completely different.  Stretch out those horizons!

My First Novel – “Stranded” (12 Years Old)

So, this particular story was a project for my grade 7 class.  I have left the story in its original form, leaving in all grammar, spelling, and my own 12-year old word-smithing.  I will have you know that I drew and coloured every single one of these pictures.  Enjoy!


Stranded - Me

Lynn Valley Elementary School
Copyright January 1981 by Melissa C. Brouwers

Stranded - Map

We were flying around Mt. St. Frederick when suddenly we lost a propellor from the left wing of our plane.  We were going in circles and circles.  Suddenly we crashed…  Right then and there the teacher was killed and Beverly broke her leg.  When we finally came to, we decided that we had to have a leader.  We decided that it would be Jimmy since he was our student council rep.  I jumped out of the plane and found we had landed on a volcano.  With the help of Danielle and Suzie we took Beverly out of the plane.

Stranded - Crash

The first thing we did was get all the important things out of the plane.  We walked down the Volcano and stood at the bottom waiting for the other kids to bring down Beverly and the equipment.  Then we waited, we knew that if we didn’t co-operate that we would surely die!  We split up into groups.  Some people went to find food, some shelter, and some people water.  After we split up and found the things that we needed we went back to the bottom of the volcano.  Later on we went back to finding things for our stay.

I looked behind me as I went to collect some food and I saw Jimmy and Ian lying down under a tree.  I asked them what they were doing there and they said that they did not want to work!  So I said, “If you don’t want to work then you can’t eat our food, sleep in our caves, and drink our water!  In fact if you don’t help we will just leave you here to starve!!!”  Just then they said “We’re helping, we’re helping.”  That was the last time we had trouble with them.  “Thank god!”

When everybody started complaining about the groups they were in.  We decided that we would pick a partner.  Well everybody liked that idea so we went along with it.  The system worked like this, nine people would go for water, eight for food and nine for accessories.  After we got organized we started to plan our rescue.  A couple of people suggested that we light a fire and we thought that it was a good idea so we used it.  We started the fire with the package of matches we found in the plane.  We put four logs in a square angle, put a little gasoline (from our plane) on the logs.  Then we lit fire to them….  Was it ever bright!  Later on we decided that Suzie would stay by the fire so that it didn’t go out.  The majority won and poor Suzie was either collecting wood or watching the fire.  She did that all night.  The next day she started complaining.  She wanted to take turns with someone.  We voted again, this time Marisa was picked.  She was the day shift because she wasn’t so brave, and Suzie was brave.  They liked that idea so that was their job.

That night we were all thinking about the day of the plane crash, our parents, things like that.  Soon, after ten minutes of thinking, Kevin, Jimmy, Kathy, Jayson, Craig, Yvonne and Beverly fell asleep.  Everybody else was either stories or falling asleep very quickly.  I couldn’t so I just lay there on the ground staring up into the sky.  The reason why I could do this was that I was right by the cave door.  So I just kept staring.  Soon everybody fell asleep.  About ten to twenty minutes went by, I was just about to fall asleep when I heard a noise it was a helicopter!!  I woke up everybody and we ran down just to find Suzie snoring!!  By the time we woke her up the helicopter had already left.  Everybody was so depressed! except Suzie, she was still snoring.  We went back up to the cave and went to bed…

Stranded - Fishing

The next morning I woke up early (which is very unusual for me because I normally wake up at 12:00 in the afternoon).  Then I walked down to where Suzie was to go get something to eat.  (what I wouldn’t do for some shreddies right now)  Just then I heard three boys argueing.  It was it was Nicko, Tim and Jim, what a racquet!  Jimmy was very edgy.  He didn’t like giving out orders.  He thought that we thought that he was too snobby and pushy.  So we ran into our normal pattern again.  We took a vote.  We started by making ballots just as soon as everybody was awake.  (which wasn’t hard everybody was already awake)  Then we told them our plan and started to get ready.  When we had finally finished, the candidates, Marisa and Mehboob made up their speeches.  That day, Khadija, Danielle, Amber and I made supper.

When supper was finished we began the campaign.  Marisa won by three ballots, mainly because we trusted her more than Mehboob.  She promised that the more work you did the more privileges, and also that the boys and girls are equal they had to do the same amount of work.  Mehboob made promises such as the boys don’t have to work past 3:00 p.m.  The girls had to get food, water, clean the caves things like that.

Everything went okay with our new leader.  One hot afternoon Robert said to Marisa, “How do you expect us to kill the wild animals?  With our bare hands?!”  “You are very right.  Sooner or later I knew that you were going to ask me this so I have devised a plan.  We’ll make blades out of volcanic glass and then we will use very strong sticks.”  She divided us up into groups and off we went.  About an hour later we came back with all of the equipment.  Marisa then said “What we are going to do is make weapons with the things I asked all of you to collect.”  She split us up into our groups and we went to work.  For three hours we worked.  We were all finally finished.  I thought I did a pretty good job myself.  When we settled down she looked at every spear, knife, and axe.  Then she stood up and said that they were great!!

As time passed I decided that I needed a quiet place to think.  I missed my mom, my sister (believe it or not) and all my friends.  I went walking in the woods and soon found a tall, curved tree which looked very comfortable.  I climbed up the tree and lay down on the curved branch on the tree.  I just laid there thinking and resting.

After a couple of hours of thinking and resting I got up and went back to the campground.  I found Suzie, Amber, and Dana and we went for a walk.  In a way you could call it exploring.  They all agreed so we left.  Dana saw a baby cub, Amber saw an eagle.  We kept walking.  I opened a big bush and  I saw a ceremonial ground.  I ran back to the others and then we went back.  It had at least six stumps, three coconut trees around it and a sacrificing stone.  At first I got the shivers but I soon calmed down.

Suddenly something came out of the bush, We ran so fast that a puma couldn’t even catch us.  We were out of there in three seconds flat.  Later on we found out that it was only the little bear cub that Dana saw earlier.  When we got back to camp we saw Marisa making decorations.  “What are you doing?” I asked.  “We’re having a party.” “What kind of party?”  “An arrival party.”  Once we heard that we got right to work.  At six o’clock we had the party.

An hour went by and then Marisa silenced everyone.  She heard something.  It was a plane!  Not an ordinary plane, a rescue plane!!  Everyone did what they had to.  Even Suzie!  Then it landed.  We are going back to civilization.  “Civilization, here I come!”

Stranded - Rescue

Real Life – available online!

Real Life

Real Life


I checked Amazon late last night and there it was, my book.  It’s pretty surreal that something I wrote has gone from closet gathering dust to, but I’m excited.  Really excited!

I’m oddly nervous, too.  Are people going to find it funny?  Or amusing?  Or just plain stupid?  Are they even going to know it’s there?  This marketing stuff is a lot of work.  I had no idea!

You can find my book on Amazon here.

Now I have to send emails to every friend I know and get them to buy a copy.  😀

Waiting is Hard…

So I’m waiting for my book to appear on   They said one to two weeks, but it feels like forever.  I should be patient, but it’s not one of my strong suits. 

You’d think after 5 years of letting the manuscript sit in my closet that I wouldn’t care.  Well, now that it’s print-ready,  I CARE!

It’s available on but is a much more recognized website so I don’t want to do anything until it’s on there.  I should be updating my website (I have the new layout for it and everything), but I ended up making post after post on my blog until after midnight last night.

Not my fault.  It was FUN.

I’ve done two searches three times today:  “melissa bianco” (a wine book keeps coming up) and “real life” (the movie Dan in Real Life keeps popping up, along with some music CDs).  So nothing yet, but I’ll let you know.