Gaston Arts Council’s Art in the Park

In early June 2017, I had the privilege of meeting loads of authors as part of Gaston Arts Council’s Arts in the Park event. Enjoy this video full of amazing talent and lots of book options. And check out other ways to connect with Gaston Arts Council here.

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Arden Reviews: Soulmated by Shaila Patel

img_1824Book: Soutmated

Author: Shaila Patel

Genre: Young adult, paranormal

Basic Description: Two souls. One Fate.

Eighteen-year-old Liam Whelan, an Irish royal empath, has been searching for his elusive soulmate. The rare union will cement his family’s standing in empath politics and afford the couple legendary powers, while also making them targets of those seeking to oust them.

Laxshmi Kapadia, an Indian-American high school student from a traditional family, faces her mother’s ultimatum: graduate early and go to medical school, or commit to an arranged marriage.

When Liam moves next door to Laxshmi, he’s immediately and inexplicably drawn to her. In Liam, Laxshmi envisions a future with the freedom to follow her heart.

Liam’s father isn’t convinced Laxshmi is “The One” and Laxshmi’s mother won’t even let her talk to their handsome new neighbor. Will Liam and Laxshmi defy expectations and embrace a shared destiny? Or is the risk of choosing one’s own fate too great a price for the soulmated?

Arden’s Thoughts: I have a special place in my heart for young adult fiction. My first memories of really having relationships with books revolve around young adult books. From Superfudge to Are You There, God? It’s Me. Margaret. Judy Blume taught me so. many. lessons. The Sweet Valley Twins and Babysitters Club made me want a twin sister and made babysitting seem cool. Young adult books lead many of us through our teen years in ways our friends and family cannot.

I’m rather protective of young adult books. I believe in their power to define their readers.

So, when I came across Patel’s first novel, SoulmatedI was excited… and nervous. I wanted to really like it because I know what it’s like to pour yourself into words and await the world’s reaction.

Y’all. I not only liked her story; I loved it. I’m not normally into paranormal fiction but I loved the ease in which Patel weaves the mystery of Liam and Laxshmi’s supernatural gifts into the foray of young love. Are the tingles magic or hormones? Isn’t first love a little like magic? And, why can’t anyone just let the kids figure out what works for them?

The issues of controlling parents, unknown futures, and confusing adult issues allow a variety of readers to find an area in which they can relate to each character. To me, that’s key to engaging our most finicky of audiences: teenagers. The writing needs to be smart and the story needs to have purpose.

Soulmated easily has both smarts and purpose. It’s the first in a series and I’m already anxiously awaiting the next chapter in the lives of Liam and Lucky. Get this one now, folks. You’ll be glad you did.

WBTV Segment from Monday, Feb. 6

I love watching first time authors blow up their scene. I got to feature a few of them in this segment on WBTV. Please go purchase their books (links below) and show these great authors some major love!

Soulmated (Joining of Souls) by Shaila Patel

Closer Than Close: Awakening the Freedom of Your Union with Christ by Dave Hickman

The Fifth Avenue Artists Society by Joy Callaway

Arden Recommends: Volunteering

Poverty. Of adults with the lowest literacy levels, 43 percent live in poverty, and 70% of adult welfare recipients have low literacy levels. There is a clear correlation between more education and higher earnings, and between higher educational scores and higher earnings.Adult Literacy Facts

img_9693-jpgI first became aware of how low literacy cripples a person in 2004 when I began volunteering for an organization called Charlotte Reads.

I later became the director of this organization. Through it, I helped bring awareness of how important literacy is to a community’s overall health for years.

Many folks reached out to me for ways to plug into the effort. One of those people was Tonia Lyon. At the time, she worked at WBTV and volunteered for an up-and-coming church called Elevation.

She and I sat down at a local bookstore, she shared her story, the story of Elevation, and asked if Charlotte Reads would be willing to accept a donation from the church.

I said, “Of course!”

I didn’t realize to what I agreed. Within months I was at table with the leader of this church, Steven Furtick, and hearing his vision for giving to the Charlotte community. A few months after that I stood on a stage and accepted a check from the church on behalf of Charlotte Reads. I remember leaving the service early (I had to rush back to my home church because I was serving on the pastor search committee at the time) and thinking… that was pretty cool. I hope they make it.

Elevation Church is now one of the fastest growing churches in the world and Pastor Steven Furtick’s vision has led to million upon millions accepting Jesus as their Savior and constantly volunteering their time to communities across our nation.

You’d think, with the vastness of this church, there would be little time for the little guy; or little school as it were. But, Tonia and her beating heart of compassion wants to impact one school to help its students increase their reading levels. To be fair, her leadership impacts millions, but for some reason it’s the seemingly simpleness of this project that has captured my heart.

And I want it to capture yours too. I’d like to invite any of you who can, to serve as a volunteer for Blakeney READS.

Blakeney READS is an Elevation Outreach initiative to help Quail Hollow Middle School students succeed. More than 400 students at the Title One school in South Charlotte are behind in reading comprehension. Without support, these students are more likely to fail in other subjects like math, history, and science. Volunteers get paired up with a student serve just one hour per week for 14-weeks.

Please consider volunteering. Please share this post. In the coming months, I hope to find additional ways for us to support Blakeney READS. In the meantime, if you cannot volunteer your time, but would like to donate to it, please click here and I’ll make sure all the money gets to the church.

Let’s make Arden’s Book Club more than a great place to get book reviews for our own reading pleasure. Let’s be people of action and ensure all who want to read, can read.