Book Review 10

The Red Queen

redqueen

By Victoria Aveyard

In The Red Queen, Mare Barrow is the quintessential bad-*** capable of taking out both Katniss Everdeen and Tris Prior without breaking a sweat.

This was a book set in an incredibly messed up world that was filled with surprises around every corner. One of the biggest surprises to me was the fact that I actually liked this book! Now, don’t get me wrong, I loved the other two hit dystopian works mentioned above. Luckily I got involved in those series before I was “dystopianed” out. The Red Queen took this somewhat played out genre and breathed some life back into it, making it a subject that I ended up really enjoying.

The book takes place in the future of the world we know today. The Silver Blooded people group that exhibit god like abilities rules this government. These men and women are simply called Silvers and all have some variation of a gift or special skill. Some are extraordinarily powerful and can do things like control other peoples’ minds, summon fire, or heal the sick and injured.   In this world, it is the Silvers who rule over their non-Silver counterparts, known as the Reds, who bleed the same as you or I.

Mare, a Red and the heroine of the story meets a Silver man who arranges for her to be employed into the service of the king instead of being drafted to fight in a war that has raged for as long as she can remember.

After she begins serving at an event known as the Queenstrial (basically a show of Silver women who feel they are worthy to wed the heir of the throne) Mare displays powers she never before knew existed within her Red blooded body. As the entire royal court bears witness to the powers of Mare, the King and Queen find themselves in an unusual predicament. Under normal circumstances, they would have her killed, and yet they can’t; now that the whole world knows the truth of what Mare is and what she is capable of. Acting as if she were Silver being raised by the Reds, they instead opt to take her in and give her a back-story along with a betrothal to the second prince in line for the throne one day.

Mare learns how to control her powers with the help of Julian, a man with a rather sordid past in the royal court. As Julian guides her through this chaotic new world, Mare learns how to best be the Silver girl she must now become while hiding her secret Red heritage. Mare’s relationship to her betrothed prince blossoms into a true romance, but the love doesn’t stop there. Mare also finds a connection to the first heir to the throne, who turns out to be the Silver man who got her the job at the palace in the first place!

In the end, this book is a strong first showing in a continuing story that does include additional books. It really has the makings of a fantastic series. Mare is never a woman that needs to be rescued and she certainly carries an edge to her personality that makes her extremely likable.

The story line takes some exhilarating twists and turns that I didn’t foresee. Yet, it answers questions as I wait to read the next book. All and all, this is a book I would recommend to anyone who loves an action packed YA adventure. It would especially lend itself to anyone looking to find a strong female lead to talk to your teenage daughter about. It sure helped me to find something new to talk to my own daughter about and that in of itself is worth the cover price!

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Big Little Lies Book/Mini-Series Review

 

Let me start this review by declaring that I am a huge fan of author Liane Moriarty. She has a way of weaving certain words and details into her stories with a technique that leaves me awestruck every time. I read her book Big Little Lies last summer and was excited when the mini-series with Reese Witherspoon was announced for February 2017!

After reading the book and watching the miniseries, I decided to do a comparison between the book and the mini-series to see which one I liked more. Please be aware that this, unlike my other book reviews, will contain spoilers towards the end. Proceed with caution if you are intending to read this book, which I highly recommend you do!

First off, this was probably my favorite book by Liane Moriarty to date. I will say that the ending left me mad, but only because I didn’t figure out the plot twist on my own. Looking back once it was done, I started to see the subtle clues left by Moriarty all throughout the book. She really is a master storyteller with an incredible talent for keeping you hooked until the absolute end of the book.

A plot summary of the book may help a bit to get things started. (No spoilers just yet) The book is based around three women. The first is Madeline Mackenzie, a strong woman with no filter. She speaks her mind at every opportunity and is a force to be reckoned with. She and her first husband (Nathan) are divorced, though Nathan happens to live in the same town with his much younger free spirited wife (Bonnie) and their child (Skye). Madeline is also remarried to Ed and together they have had two children, one being the same age as Skye.

Madeline carries a lot of rage towards Nathan. In her mind, he abandoned Madeline and the daughter they share, Abigail, because he claimed being a parent was just too hard. Later on when he marries the much younger Bonnie and starts a family with her, Madeline is faced with many of the same emotions she failed to work out previously. It certainly doesn’t help matters when Abigail forms a bond with Bonnie. This bond causes Madeline to fear that her emotional grasp on Abigail may be slipping right out of her own hands. Ed, Madeline’s current husband, does his very best to understand the emotion turmoil his wife finds herself in. He knows that Madeline’s feelings range from cheerful to rage and that they can swing as the wind blows, but this is just how Madeline is and he wouldn’t have it any other way.

Celeste, the next central female lead in this story, is far different from the brash and bold Madeline. Celeste is far more reserved and, for lack of a better term, tends to space out at times. In the book, Madeline and Celeste become close friends when a near drowning brings them together. Celeste had taken her twin sons to swimming lessons and was off in her own world when one of the boys happens to wander away during the lesson and nearly drowns. Madeline, dressed as stylish as ever, doesn’t hesitate and jumps in fully clothed to save Celeste’s son. From that point on, a friendship blossoms and they become thick as thieves. No matter Celeste’s comfort level with Madeline, she never reveals a secret she has become very good at hiding.

Jane, the third in our trio of female leads, is new to the small coastal Australian town. She’s a young single mother who is often mistakenly thought of as a nanny and not mother to her son. Her son, Ziggy, is her world and she makes it clear that raising him is her mission alone since Ziggy’s father has never been a part of his life.

The story begins as the three women prepare for their children’s’ kindergarten orientation in December. (Schools start in January in Australia due to their seasons being opposite ours.) On Orientation day, an encounter with a bully leads to a confrontation between parents. There was an attempt to choke a sweet little girl by the name of Amabella (and that is not a typo; the name is French as indicated in the book). Ambella’s mother, Renata, happens to be as fierce as Madeline is and understandably wants to know who was responsible for this attack. When the little girl, Amabella, points to Ziggy, Jane’s son, lines are immediately drawn in the sand. Madeline takes sides with Jane, pulling Celeste in with her, while Renata vows vengeance for her daughter. Tensions further rise when Ziggy, questioned about the incident with Amabella, denies ever hurting her and Jane doesn’t make him apologize for something he didn’t do.

When school starts the following January, both mothers and their children don’t allow the incident to rest. Renata does all she can to makes sure Ziggy is singled out. When invitations for Amabella’s birthday party are handed out, everyone receives one except Ziggy.

Madeline is outraged by Renata’s actions and decides to take matters into her own hands. She soon organizes an outing to Disney on Ice for the entire kindergarten class, which happens to fall on the very same day as Amabella’s birthday party! This leads Renata and Madeline into a stand off that continues throughout the book.

(Now, if you haven’t read the book and want to, I suggest you stop reading at this point!)

Big-Little-Lies-Miniseries-Cast

The character of Madeline Mackenzie was described in the book as a taller woman with brown hair. That is a far cry from Reese Witherspoon, who played the dynamic character of Madeline. However, after watching the show, I can’t imagine anyone else playing Madeline. Reese was phenomenal and every bit the sassy character that Madeline Mackenzie is portrayed as in the book.

Another difference I noticed with the portrayal of Madeline was that in the book, she and her current husband Ed share two children, a boy and a girl, together.  The character of Chloe, Madeline’s daughter with Ed, is in the same class as Ziggy and they end up becoming good friends.   The son Madeline shares with Ed was not included in the HBO mini-series. Frankly, he wasn’t that necessary for the story line of the show, so it didn’t surprise me that his character was cut.

Nicole Kidman portrayed Celeste and, at first, this was hard for me to imagine. In the book, Celeste is painted as a younger, more naive woman who falls victim to her abusive husband. The idea of a younger character made more sense when trying to understand how someone would allow herself to become a victim. (More on that later.) The choice to use Kidman in this role did work within the plot of show and it lead to some very steamy scenes in the mini-series.

Jane was the one character who in my mind was represented by the actress I pictured, Shailene Woodley. This was by far the most accurate character representations based on the details from the author. In the book, Jane’s parents were vital characters in her life since she was such a young mother. Jane begins a kindred relationship with Madeline, as Madeline understands what it is like to be a single mother at a young age. (A big difference here is that in the book we learn that Madeline promise Jane’s mother, Mrs. Chapman that she will look out for Jane.)

HBO’s version follows the plot at the beginning of the book fairly closely. The major difference at the onset is that the show takes place in Monterey, California whereas the book takes place in Australia.

There aren’t too many differences in the book/show for the first half of the mini series. After the third of seven episodes, fans of the book should start to become aware of some majors differences. Madeline works at the local community theatre and the production she has been working on side by side with the director is in fear of being shut down due to its content. This detail is not in the book, but it is a fun twist given that Renata is the one pulling the strings behind the scenes to make life for Madeline all the more challenging. Celeste, a non-practicing lawyer, is asked to represent the play at Madeline’s request. This causes a great divide between Celeste and Perry because Perry is controlling and doesn’t want his wife to work. The mini-series also includes an affair between Madeline and the director of the production, though she remains faithful throughout the book to Ed.

Jane reveals to Madeline both in the show and book that a man previously sexually assaulted her when she was younger. The product of that night is Ziggy. Jane immediately becomes fearful when Ziggy is accused of hurting Amabella. Her concern is that violence runs through her son’s veins because of his father’s actions.

In the book, Madeline learns that Jane’s attacker’s name is Saxon Banks. When Madeline shares this information with Celeste, she is outraged because this is the name of Perry’s cousin who happens to also be Perry’s best friend.   The name of the attacker in the show was changed to Saxon Baker and there was never any inclination of him being related to Perry.

Abigail, Madeline’s daughter from her first marriage to Nathan, is working on a secret project in both the book and the show.  Due to Bonnie’s influence and her bohemian ways, Abigail makes the decision to auction off her virginity to the highest bidder in an attempt to raise money for Amnesty International. That was just as shocking in the book as it was in the show!

Madeline’s reaction was just as extreme and as humorous as you’d expect (the same reaction I’m sure most people would have!). Due to the way Madeline’s character is portrayed, I couldn’t’ help but laugh at her take on this serious issue. Obviously the idea is beyond ludicrous, yet it somehow manages to convey a very serious undertone regarding the character of Abigail. On the show, Abigail shuts the site down on her own but in the book it is only shut down once a man from the United States offers Amnesty International one hundred thousand dollars to have the auction terminated before the intended completion. Abigail ends up raising a substantial amount of money for her cause and still keeps her virginity intact, much to the delight of Madeline.   However, the person behind this large donation is closer to Madeline than anyone suspects.  (The anonymous donor is another tidbit of information not found in the mini-series.)

Coming back to the lives of Amabella and Skye in which there is continued abuse occurring to both girls as the school year moves along. Both girls are still being bullied and everyone is quick to jump to the conclusion that Ziggy is still behind it all. (Both shown in the show and book.)  Ziggy soon becomes the target of a petition to have him expelled, though there are never any eyewitness accounts to support the accusation that he is the one hurting the girls. What is most shocking of all is the fact that Ziggy and Amabella, against all odds, have become good friends and Amabella continues to refuse to identify who is hurting her.

Another commonality between both the book and the mini-series is an annual school fundraiser hosted by the PTA. The event might closely relate a dance or a ball and this year’s theme happens to be Elvis Presley and Audrey Hepburn. Parents are encouraged come dressed as either of these two figures but I have never seen an event quite as spectacular as described in the book and portrayed in the mini-series. Of course the city of Monterey exudes money, thus being the reason the event is over the top.

As everyone begins to arrive at the ball, Perry and Celeste are shown having an epic fight at home in both the book and the show. It is not uncommon for their fights to become physical. Celeste is abused throughout the book and series. She does all she can to fight back, though she often does so only in self-defense. She never fears for her life until later on when it is revealed the actual bully who has been targeting the girls is one of Celeste’s twin sons.

Celeste is quick to make the connection between her son’s behavior and that of her husband’s and knows that she needs to get her children away from their father as soon as possible. It is after she has secured an apartment that Perry happens to answer her cell and learns of Celeste’s plan to leave him. All of this is happening as both the book and the mini-series continue to steamroll their way to the fundraiser being attended by the entire town.

On the night of the fundraiser, Perry confronts Celeste and begs her to give him one more chance. We know the same as Celeste that they have already tried counseling and even their current counselor is in favor of Celeste’s plans to leave Perry.

(The following is from the book)

When they arrive at the fundraiser, (in the book) Perry is upset but keeps his emotions at bay. Celeste finds Renata and Bonnie to apologize for her son’s behavior towards their daughters, vowing to get him help and to break the cycle of abuse. Soon everyone is on the balcony together, including Renata, Celeste, Jane, Madeline, Bonnie along with Perry, Nathan and Ed. Here, Celeste reveals to Madeline that she is the one who donated one hundred thousand dollars to Amnesty International in order to have Abigail’s site shut down. Nathan thanks Celeste and Perry for their generosity, not knowing that Perry is a controlling and abusive jerk who would not be happy to have his money spent like that without his knowledge or permission.

Once Perry fully grasps what Celeste has done, he makes a jab at her about how she likes to keep secrets like the apartment she just acquired. Celeste does all she can to keep this occasion civil and tries to introduce him to the people on the balcony he has never met before. As Perry continues to argue with Celeste, Jane approaches the couple.

It is in the moment, Jane says, “I already know you.” That is all Jane needs to say before Celeste comes to a bombshell of a conclusion regarding her husband. Celeste now realizes that Perry really was Saxon Banks, the man that had assaulted Jane earlier on. This also makes him the actual father of Ziggy! As Celeste puts two and two together, she then begins to realize that Perry had given his cousin’s name to Jane on the night of the assault and had probably done the same to an untold number of other women in the past. Celeste, in that moment, understands his abuse was not merely a private detail they shared together, though these encounters often led very passionate sex. She always assumed his abuse that manifested itself into hot and fervent sex was something they shared together and was just part of their relationship.

Perry knows he’s been busted, but he claims he doesn’t understand why Celeste is so upset. This is when she realizes that Perry is far sicker than she’d ever imagined. Perry says they will talk about all of this at home, but, after she says something to him, he backhands her in front of the others around them. As Ed comes to her defense, Renata picks up her phone to call the cops. Bonnie completely flips out on Perry and accuses him of being the actual reason his son is hurting innocent girls.   As she draws closer to him, Bonnie unintentionally pushes Perry off the balcony. The fall is just enough that Perry ultimately dies from the impact.

Renata tries to cover up Bonnie’s role in Perry’s death. Ed wants to tell the cops the truth of what occurred, but Madeline goes along with the idea of protecting her ex husband and his wife.   Ed is livid and feels betrayed that Madeline chooses to protect Nathan over what her own husband wants her to do. (The scene that shows the hurt that this causes Ed in the book is pinnacle to the story line the book follows and is quite dramatic.)

This is when it is revealed that Bonnie’s father had abused her earlier in life. This is what caused her to lose it when she realized Perry was the reason that his son was abusing and bullying her daughter. The guilt of what Bonnie’s done doesn’t take long to become too great and she eventually confesses to killing Perry.

Celeste later leaves town with her sons to start over and take another chance at life. Before she leaves, she sets up a trust for Ziggy since he was in actuality Perry’s son. Jane begins a romance and Madeline is forgiven by her husband for siding with Nathan over him.

(This is from the Mini-Series)

With the mini-series, when the showdown started on the balcony, it was just Renata, Celeste, Jane and Madeline. When Perry started to beat Celeste, Bonnie saw what was going on and came to Celeste’s rescue. Instead of falling off the balcony, Bonnie shoves Perry down the stairs. She never confesses to the murder and all the women covered up the death together. The mini-series ends with all the ladies, including Renata and Bonnie, on the beach playing with their children.

As for which version was better, I’d have to go with the book. It’s no secret that a book nearly always contains a great deal of information that was left out of the film adaptation. However, with that being said, the mini-series did a great job bringing the characters to life. Though the book lends its way to the imagination of a few steamy love scenes, the show reveals a very R-rated production. I absolutely loved the opening credits and the theme song was so catchy that I continued to hum it to myself long after the seventh episode had finished. I just wish that the ending of the series were true to form with that of the book. If you have a chance, please share any differences that I may have left out. I hope you check out the book and the mini-series. It is time that won’t be wasted!

 

 

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.)

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.

FNM

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