Books Read in 2017

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Here is a list of books I have read this year so far with a small synopsis of each book.

Five Stars *****

Pretty Girls– Karin Slaughter (Most graphic suspense novel with a wild ending that had me on edge through the last half of the book.  I couldn’t put it down.)

Summit Lake– Charlie Donlea (First novel by this author.  I loved it and it had an unexpected ending that left me unable to sleep.)

Bad Mommy– Tarryn Fisher  (Story about an unbalanced woman that has her sights set on another family that has what she can’t.)

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time -Mark Haddon (One of my all time favorites books.  This fictional novel gives the reader a look into the world of Autism that explains this disorder better than any non-fiction book could.)

Voices in the Summer– Rosamunde Pilcher (I love everything by this author.  This is a look at a woman that finally finds love and gets a family she has only dreamed of.)

Pretty Baby– Mary Kubica (A wonderfully suspenseful story about a girl who is abused and found on the streets of Chicago.  The woman that takes her in falls in love with the young girl’s infant child.  When the older woman and the young girls path collide, it takes the reader on a wild ride.)

Four Stars ****

Behind Closed Doors– B.A. Paris (A man that looks perfect and the a woman that feels the role of the dutifully wife, live a life that most would envy.  But she they envy the couple because on they know what happens behind closed doors.)

Singe– Aly Martinez (A wonderfully suspenseful romantic novel that follows a man and a woman that have a connection after surviving a horrible fire that causes more damage to them both than the visible burns they both have.)

Commonwealth– Ann Patchett (A literary novel that takes place over five decades and follows the children of a couple that start an affair on the day of the woman’s daughter’s christening party.  As the two families become one, the reader gets to see what happens due to the decisions of the parents over fifty years earlier.)

Queen Sugar– Natalie Braszile (When Charley comes back to Louisiana to take over her fathers sugar cane fields, she is met with hostility since she is an African-American woman both farming and managing the land.)

Retrieval– Aly Martinez (After the loss of Elisabeth and Roman’s son, they lose each other in their grief.  After they are given a second chance at their family, they find comfort in each other again.)

A Spool of Blue Thread– Anne Tyler (A story depicting a family through the onset of the matriarch’s dementia.)

The Secrets She Carried– Barbara Davis (Leslie is haunted by the past at her Grandmother’s tobacco farm.  After her grandmother dies, she leaves her only half the farm to Leslie’s disbelief to manage with her business partner.  As she tries to manage the farm with a man she butts heads with at every turn, she also discovers a secret that has haunted by her grandmother.  Leslie is given just enough information to start digging and has this need to find out the truth.)

Healing Jacob– Nicole Stewart (This is a very steamy novel about a young man that is left hurt by his family finds love in the most unexpected way.)

Worth The Risk– Jamie Beck (This is the third book in the St. James Series.  After Jackson has been left devastated by the choice of his ex-girlfriend when she aborts his child, he is left a mess.  His actions have caused problems to others in his wake and his drinking is out of hand.  As he tries to find a way to cope, he meets a single mom that changes his outlook on life.)

The Spiral Up– Aly Martinez (A country sing all star has it all but has not found love and is scared to.  This is a steamy romance about a man that is scared about letting his heart go.)

Three Stars ***

Forever in the Worst Ling Time– Camille Pagan (A man that is trying to find his way in the world, falls in love with his best friend’s finance.  Throughout the book that ranges twenty years, his life is chronicled as he tries to follow his dream.)

Taking Chances– Molly McAdams (A coming of age book about a girl that falls in love with two men.)

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A Year Later

It is my hope that this re-post on the anniversary of a difficult day for my family will bring someone comfort.

The Club I Never Wanted to Join

Losing someone you love dearly is one of the greatest tragedies we all eventually face. In my case, this loss represents a gaping hole in my life that simply will never be filled again.

A couple months ago, I was unfortunate enough to lose my mother. This loss has put me through a gambit of emotions. I doubt there are even names for each of the emotions I have found myself wading through. Even though I was fortunate enough to have my mom for forty-one years of my life, I simply feel too young to be motherless.

This is the one true piece of reality I keep traveling back to. Being a mother myself, I feel robbed of my inability to share the magical moments with her that she shared with me. I find it a hard pill to swallow honestly. Existing in a world where the eternal and unconditional love of my mom is no longer a part of my daily life seems slightly hollower than it once did. I can recognize that I was able to have my mother be a part of my life far longer than other friends and I can look back now with gratitude at all the time I was able to share with her.

Coupled with this understanding is the fact that I still have my dad in my life. Many of my friends, both younger and older, have lost both set of parents by this stage in their life. To add to that blessing, that father of mine is as wonderful as they come and I adore him beyond measure. I know I must be grateful for what I have, but it doesn’t lessen my desire to have my mother’s love back in my life once more.

This is what I have learned so far on my short journey through grief. This road will continue to become a longer and longer one to navigate as the first year without my mom will soon turn into two, and then five and ten and so on.

  1. Regardless of the type of relationship, losing your mom is hard.

I had a great relationship with my mother. It was not always perfect because at times I could be a real pain the ass, but our bond transformed into one of friendship. As I got older and a little more mature, I realized the importance of being less self-absorbed. It was then that our relationship turned into a connection from which I have very few regrets. In talking to friends who have lost their parents, I have come to realize something very important. Regardless of the relationship you share with your mother and whether you spoke to her daily (like me) or once a year, the loss you feel over her death is not invalidated. It is a real entity and you are entitled to grieve.

  1. Milestones are hard, especially that first year.

The first milestones without her have felt as if I am missing a major part of my body. I have already been through the first Mother’s Day without her. I dreaded this day and was full of sadness as I watched it grow closer on the calendar, though I knew I couldn’t just wallow in my own feelings of loss and remorse. Just like her, I am a mother as well and I knew that I had children who were counting on their mother that day. So what did I do? I got my rear in gear and looked after their wellbeing. That is what being a mom is all about. You put your kids before yourself. Always.

What I didn’t expect to affect me so awful was the first of my children’s birthday without her. It was something I always shared with my mom. She was there with me for each one of them and without thinking, we would always drift back and reminisces about each of my children’s births. After all, my children along with my sister’s children were her pride and joy.

  1. Other people miss her too.

I am not the only one missing her. I have children that miss her immensely every day. Even though geography was against us, my kids saw their grandmother quite often considering the distance between us. My children also knew that whenever they wanted to talk to Grandma, she was just a phone call away. My sister misses her too. So do her kids. My dad misses her most of all. I can’t even begin to explain how he feels. The list doesn’t just stop there either. There are countless others whose lives she touched and who miss her as well. I mean, for crying out loud, it was standing room only at her funeral! Many people loved her! I need to remember that I am not the only one grieving.

  1. Grief is different for everyone.

The process of grief is as diverse as each individual who experiences it. I remember the day of the funeral and my sister and dad being so overcome with emotions of loss and sadness. I barely shed a tear, which is odd considering I am someone who is extremely emotional in my own right. But we all process grief differently. I thought something was wrong with me, as if I didn’t miss her as much as my sister did. I’ve learned as time has gone by that it has become far harder for me than it was when I was in the midst the funeral. Regardless of the how you grieve, grief is grief and it sucks rotten eggs.

  1. You will forget she is gone at times.

It doesn’t matter if your mom has been gone one day or ten years, you will inadvertently pick up the phone to call her or say something along the lines of, “Oh, mom would get a kick out of this.” I remember as we were preparing for her funeral, my sister was after a specific picture of the three of us together at the beach. It was my mom’s favorite place on this earth. My sister was down stairs looking for it, and in her mind she immediately thought, Oh, I will just go up and ask mom, she will know where it is. She shared that with me later on and I confessed that I too had similar moments that overwhelmed me without warning. I was always one to pick up the phone when my kids did something outlandish. My mom and I would laugh over even the littlest things concerning her grandkids. I miss that, more than I thought I would. There are going to be triggers and moments that bring back painful memories. I keep telling myself to be prepared for them, but unless you have gone through this yourself, you simply can’t fathom the emotional distress that will fill you when they occur.

  1. Watching interactions with mothers and their adult children will fill you with sadness.

You can’t help but feel a degree of despair when you see other adult children and mothers out spending time with one another. It fills me with both jealousy and thankfulness. Obviously, the jealousy part is self-explanatory. I want my mom here with me doing the things those other people are. The thankfulness part is two fold. First, it made thankful and blessed to have had my mom as long as I had. But on top of that, I am glad for those friends that still have their moms because I know how much I miss mine. For my friends that still have their moms on this earth, I am glad they haven’t had to feel the pain of loss I have.

  1. It is all right to ask for help from those who have traveled this same road previously

The last thing I can share concerns those that still have their moms with them in this world along with anyone who has recently lost their mother. I was thankful my friends reached out to me, cried with me, and sat vigil with me as I spent her final days on Earth by her bedside. As much as my friends who sill have their moms hurt for me, they don’t fully understand the extent of my mourning because they simply have not traveled this same road. I was fortunate enough to have some friends who were able to pick me up emotionally and helped carry me through the process of loss. They themselves had already experienced the heartache I was so new to. One day, I will be that steady hand for a friend who has recently lost their mom. I know it will be in this moment that I will understand that all this pain was not in vain and I can help comfort those that are totally lost in their grief.

Maybe not all these ideas pertain to you. If you indeed have joined the same club I never wanted to belong in, you will find a tall list of absolutes that come with a loss so deep. In closing, I will leave you with one memory I have of my mom pertaining to her death. As a child, we attended a funeral where a mom was saying good-bye to her child for the very last time. It is an image I will never forget and it made a lasting impact on my mother as well. Shortly after, she sat my sister and I down and told us that no mother should ever have to bury a child. Being a mother now, I agree whole-heartedly with that statement. She continued to explain to the two of us that there was a natural progression to life and, although I hate this natural progression, I know this is what she would have wanted. She would have wanted her children to out live her. She would want us to carry on and keep her memory alive. I know she would have been proud to know that we are still trying like hell to make that happen.

 

 

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Pictured above is one of the last pictures I have with my mom.  Being from the Pacific Northwest, this sign amused her.

Below, in the first image, my father and I sprinkling her ashes in the ocean as was her desire. Although we are smiling, it was a hard day for us.  But this is what she wanted and in that way, it made us happy.  In the middle is the last family picture we have, just the four of us.  The last picture is my mom and dad with my kiddos.  Again, I am so thankful my mom insisted on this picture.  I miss you Mom!

The Fear of Pictures

For those who know me, understand I become a little unhinged at the idea of family pictures. This may be the reason we don’t have any family pictures (all six of us done) since 2013. However, I was raised with the mindset from my mother that family pictures are important. (I might as well give my own family notice that pictures are happening this year.)

The reason they are important is that they are a physical timeline of your life. It is just not family pictures but the process of creating the pictures that really construct the memories. If we are being real, or at least maybe I am the only one that will admit to the cacophony that takes place behind the scenes of all the smiling faces. It is normally a mad and crazed mom, an unhappy dad and screaming kids but we got one good picture so lets call that a win for the family.

If I am being honest and I can speak for a lot of women my age, I absolutely hate my picture taken. I still in my mind envision the woman twenty years ago before four pregnancies. Then I look at myself and dread invades me. (I know this is not limited to just women either.) However, having these pictures and memories might be what my children are left with one day as I am called home and earth is no longer my dwelling place. Having recently lost my mother, I was overjoyed at how she chronicled her life through pictures. It was a comfort in the midst of grief.

I have seen many different postings through social media concerning the fear women undertake at the idea of pictures. I may not be a model but I am a mother of four kids. I am also a daughter of a wonderful father who took care of me, the wife to a man that deals with the plethora of idiosyncrasies of mine, and friends who for one reason or another love me the way I am. We are never promised tomorrow but the keepsakes of photos with those we love, may just comfort someone, like it did for me, if for some reason, we wake up to find that tomorrow isn’t here for us.

Looking to the Future

Hey everyone!  I wanted to take a few minutes to give you all some information on the future of this blog and a few other things I’m working on behind the scenes.

First, let me say that writing this blog has been such a great experience and I’m really enjoying all that I am doing with it.  I love that I get to share my passion for writing with all those following me. Putting pen to paper and sharing my thoughts with you on the things that matter most to me continues to be a tremendous rush and I wouldn’t give it up for the world.  I am humbled that you have chosen to follow along with me as I continue my journey as a writer.    Thank you again for your time and for the feedback you are able to provide.

Looking to the future, I still plan to continue sharing my stories, book reviews, and reflections on the lessons life has taught me so far.  The only thing that is going to change a bit is that I am planning to pull back a little on the amount of content I post each week.  You can still expect to be entertained weekly, but for now it will be limited to just two to three postings a week.

I will continue to post as frequently as I can in the continuation of my Julia story.  This piece has a special place in my heart as it deals with some of the hardships many of us are forced endure. I drew deeply from my own struggles watching my husband fight cancer. My muse was one born from suffering and one that brought healing to me when I was in need of it most.

I am also getting ready to self-publish my very first book very soon!  It was an extremely fun story to write, but be warned that it is not the same as what I normally write.  The title of the book is No Apologies from the Front Porch.  You should know in advance that this piece is a little closer to a PG-13 type movie.

The lead character is a feisty late thirties divorcee having to relearn how to live her life following a hurtful divorce.  She has no qualms acknowledging the difficult person she knows she can be and makes no apologies for telling it like it is.  I’ll keep you up to date with more information as the time for publication approaches.

I’ve also recently gotten an offer from a publication house that I am currently milling over.  It has always been a goal of mine to become a traditionally published author working with a large publishing house with an agent to handle all the details.  The trouble is that life doesn’t always work like you’d want and I’m just not at that spot yet.  I am very happy with the offer and will continue all I can to fulfill my dream.

I am also pursuing publications of several of my short stories, though this style of writing is really not in my wheelhouse.  Those that truly know me know that I am just too wordy to put everything I need in only a few pages.

Apart from all of this, the past six weeks have seen me traveling to Atlanta for a writer’s conference and to Mississippi for a visit with my best friend.  It is nice to have breaks like these every once in a while.  This mama needed a vacation in a bad way!

With that, I am going to continue doing what I know and love most including being a mom to these crazy kids.  Be on the lookout for some truly frightening and hilarious stories, as I will soon be teaching my sixteen year old how to drive.

Again, a huge thank-you to everyone who follows my blog!  I appreciate your support and love the feedback I am getting from all of you.  Take care! Talk to you soon!
Leigh

Book Review # 8

The Things We Wished Were True

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Marybeth Whalen

Author Marybeth Whalen holds nothing back as she masterfully weaves concepts such as a scorned lover, an accidental drowning, intense moments of stalking, a torrid love triangle, and a kidnapping in wonderful story that truly has everything. The Things We Wished Were True is a melting pot that reveals a story that is a suspenseful page-turner. The cover of this book barely contains the plot twists as readers are immediately thrown into the many story lines that balance out so well within this book. Normally, I would say that this large amount of layers within one story would be too much for a writer to fully explore, but Whalen makes it all work out.

The novel presents a number of colorful characters with personalities so precise and well defined that you’d swear the author was describing someone you know. First, there is Zel. Zel’s an empty nester who loves to be in the midst of everyone’s business. She means no harm and she isn’t wanting to be as intrusive as she lets on. In Zel’s mind, she’s being useful. But is she really?

Next is Bryte. Bryte is guilty of having stolen her best friend’s boyfriend year’s prior. Drama unfolds as she does all she can to avoid the subject resurfacings of infertility within their marriage. With Bryte becoming pregnant once already, her husband feels they need to try again yet Bryte knows it was not that easy, as she had let on.

Jency is just returning to town after years away. Her homecoming is saddened by her feelings of being broken and alone in the world with the betrayal of her husband. Now, with him in prison and the prestigious life she once lived over, she has to put her two young girls first as she moves home for the support from her parents.

Luke, a single father whose wife has walked out on him, struggles to care for his two children. Even though she left him, he is trying to make it work and not sure if he willing to give up on his marriage, quite yet.

Caylee, an eleven-year-old girl, is tasked with watching her little brother for the summer. However Caylee is only a kid herself and is forced with the consequences that her mother places on her to act more like a parent than a kid.

These neighbors all find themselves spending a hot summer day together at the neighborhood pool. When a little boy nearly drowns, the neighbors soon discover that their lives are far more intertwined than they had ever believed before. As the summer marches on, each person ultimately comes to recognize that the smallest circumstances can in fact matter the most in life.

This book had me guessing from start to finish. The author did a complete job in including each character in the book’s many twists and turns, while also keeping a few surprises just for select characters. In the end, I loved how Marybeth Whalen took a cast of seemingly unconnected people who happened to live in the same neighborhood and weaved them into a tapestry of interdependence and showcased just how connected everyone truly is.   The author’s added descriptions of summer smells and sounds helped me feel at home in the neighborhood she created before me. In the end, I would give this five stars and highly recommend it.

Talk to Text Funnies

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Chances are pretty darn good that if you find yourself among those that I frequently text, then you have received some real gems from me over the years. Let me first clarify by saying that I have a bad habit of going from talk to text on my phone without proofreading.  Anyone who knows me knows that I am on the go 24/7 so it should be no wonder that I never take the time to reread my texts before sending them out. Thanks to this habit, I have sent quite a few memorable texts to my friends. (Please note that due to fact that these are funny text messages, there are words used that I normally would not post on my blog!)

Using the talk to text function on my cell is just easier for me. My friends constantly beg me not to use it, but it is just part of who I am. This is especially true since many of my texts are long. (Yes, even in a text message, you can tell I am writer. Details are important, people!)

One year, I was hosting brunch for Cinco de Mayo. A friend had texted me from the store seeing if I needed anything. What I meant to text was Hormel Bacon Bits. What my friend received was a request for a whore named Mel. Shortly thereafter, when my friend handed me the Hormel Bacon bits I thought I requested, she made sure to add, “I know these aren’t the whore named Mel you asked for, but I hope they’ll do.” Yes, my friends have learned how to decipher my texts over the years.

The best text so far would be one I sent to a friend I had just visited. When I hadn’t texted her to tell her I got home safely, she sent me a quick message to check on me.  I had stopped to grab a bite to eat for the trip and thought I’d sufficiently explained it with this message, “I stopped at that restaurant I love and got me one of those a large focaccia sandwiches.” To my horror, when I reread what I had actually sent, I saw that it actually said, “I stopped and got a large cock sandwich.”

My face could not have been redder. I sent her another message immediately saying, “Don’t look at that last text! That isn’t what I meant to text you at all!” Of course, that just makes someone more curious.  It wasn’t long before she called me laughing her butt off and said, “Oh, that just made my day.” I am glad she got a kick out of my embarrassment.  (And her being exposed to my craziness strengthened our friendship!)

Last year, a friend posted something really frustrating he was dealing with on Facebook and I replied, “That freaking sucks.” When the Hubs got home that night, I asked him if he saw our friend’s Facebook posting.

His reply was simply, “Yes, and it does suck. But did you really have to drop the “F” bomb on Facebook like that?”

Again, to my horror, I said, “I know I said freaking.” However, I was wrong and the talk to text feature failed me, again.

Here is a screen shot of the most recent text I sent to the Hubs that was certainly not what I meant to say. It was supposed to ask him to pick our youngest up from gymnastics. This is what was sent instead and no-my youngest daughter’s name is not beer.  (May I add that we don’t make it a habit to take alcohol to our kid’s sporting events).

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I know I am not alone out there in having this happen. Thinking back on my focaccia sandwich and Hormel Bacon Bits fiascos, I can’t help but laugh. Feel free to share some of your most memorable talk to text bloopers below. I can’t wait to see if anyone can outdo me for most embarrassing text of all time!

 

Book Review 7

Summit Lake

By Charlie Donlea

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If you have a need for a murder mystery that will get your heart racing and your blood pumping, then I’ve got the right book for you! Charlie Donlea’s debut novel, Summit Lake, checks every box in what a great suspenseful book needs. I would highly recommend Summit Lake for anyone who loves an exciting murder mystery.

The book opens with the brutal murder of Becca Eckersley, a young woman in the prime of her life. To say this is an intense scene would be an understatement. The detail Donlea uses to paint this setting goes far beyond simple words on a page. This particular backdrop, like many others in the book, becomes an experience that does nothing less than draws readers in further.
It is easy to become invested in this story. Through the use of creative flashbacks, Becca Eckersley’s life is weaved seamlessly within the life of an investigative reporter, Kelsey Castle. The story itself takes place in a little mountain town nestled deeply within North Carolina.

As the story of Becca’s romantic life unfolds, Castle is able to learn that Becca’s perpetual need for male attention is a potential driving force in her investigation. As Kelsey continues to review the case, a connection between herself and the late Becca makes it urgent that Kelsey do all she can to bring justice to the young woman killed in the prime of her life. As if this story needed any further intrigue, it isn’t long before we learn that Kelsey too is running from a troubled past and her involvement in the Eckersley case has become more than just a story to her.

What I loved about Summit Lake was the detailed imagery Donlea used to paint the scenery of North Carolina. Those near and dear to this area (as I am) are always overly critical of its description, and Donlea’s effort really does the state justice. I sometimes find that the overuse of flashbacks and the use of multiple timelines can get repetitive and confusing. That certainly wasn’t the case here! Most of all, this story was not predictable by any means. If I say anymore, I know I’ll start giving away too many important details, so take my word for it and grab this book today.

The next book by Mr. Donlea is set to be released in late April, and I for one am excited about what sort of anxiety he has in store for readers next. As mark of a true mystery writer, Donlea delivers readers countless hours of restless sleep as we come down from the ending of a masterful thriller.

FNM

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