Book Review # 5

The Woman in Cabin Ten

By Ruth Ware

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The name of this book detoured me from picking it up for months. I’d continually see it displayed at Costco, but I simply didn’t want to read about a woman in a cabin in the woods.  The only reason I ever actually looked into this book was when, a few months later, this book was selected as the next read for my book club. I grew more excited about the book after I actually read the synopsis. I could get behind a book that took place on the water. Somehow I got the vibe of Girl on a Train meets the water. Before I’d finished the first chapter, I was hooked and the author did her job of reeling me in like a fish on her line.

Right away Lo, the heroine, is thrown into a dangerous world when her flat becomes a target of a burglary. She is locked in her bedroom and hurt but is eventually able to pick the lock and get to her neighbor’s flat downstairs and call the police.

Needless to say, the attack leaves Lo petrified of the world around her. She decides to leave her flat for the seeming safety and anonymity of her boyfriend’s place. Awoken in the middle of the night by Judah, her boyfriend, she lashes out in a bid to defend her and winds up breaking his nose. The burglary and assault she suffered has truly rattled her more than she could ever expect or articulate and acts as the driving force for the premise of the book.

Fast forward a couple days and Lo, a journalist by trade, finds herself on a ship headed in search of her next story. An unintended result of the burglary is that with the loss of her purse, Lo has also lost a number of items that she has trouble piecing together.   Needing mascara, Lo goes to the cabin next to her own and asks the young woman there if she can borrow her mascara. (That in itself seemed weird. There are just some things you don’t borrow. Borrowing mascara is worse than borrowing someone’s underwear!). This woman resides in the Cabin Ten from the title. After their brief encounter, Lo leaves and doesn’t see the woman again for the rest of the night.

Later, after Lo recounts that she has had too much to drink, (something she often says she won’t do the again) she hears a splash from the side of the boat. Looking over the rail, Lo sees the woman from Cabin Ten sinking to her death. Lo notifies the security team on the lavish boat of what she saw, but they are quick to inform her that no one is registered to Cabin Ten. As a result of this revelation, Lo conducts her own investigation leading to questions no one wants to answer.

Lo, as a main character, is a relatable person that feels real at many points. Her personality has its blemishes, but Lo is able to work beyond her limitations to make her a life successful. Openly suffering from depression and anxiety is just one of the many marks of Lo’s character that many readers may find relatable.  I would say depending on the reader, she is either likable or not likable.

This book rivals others such as Gone Girl and Girl on the Train. I liked this book so much more than I initially expected I would. I did feel it missed a couple marks and didn’t really touch on or take advantage of the suspense that was built during the opening burglary scene. This detail was somehow never tied in with the rest of the book. I really enjoyed this book and it kept me guessing until the end, however, I’m starting to feel that this genre of “girls meets disaster” is becoming a bit over played. As far as The Woman in Cabin Ten goes, I would give it 4 out of 5 stars. It was not the most obvious of choice for my next book, but certainly turned out to be a great “who done it?” read.

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Proud to be called a Veteran

 

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If you have ever read my blog or know me personally, you know one of my proudest accomplishments is that I get to share every day of my life with my amazing children and the man of my dreams. Seconded only to this, my most rewarding achievement is having served in the military.

Although I only served for a touch less than five years, this is one triumph that really helped to shape my life. You see, the service taught me to grow up. Sure, at eighteen I thought I was an adult and was ready to conquer the world. Oh, how wrong I was! Life really changed for me the day I landed in Florida and had my first real encounter with humidity. This West Coast gal had no idea what humidity was and it only took two days of choking on the air before I was sick and on bed rest.

After I got “classed up” with a company, I realized my company commander (they are called DI’s now) was the hardest of hard Asses in all of boot camp. She wasn’t known for her subtlety and pointed out every misstep we made along with way.

However, I made it through boot camp with just a few bumps and bruises. When I finished the final run, I ran with the men in our brother company and her exact words were, “Snook, you actually can do something right!” I can look back at those nine weeks as a defining factor in how I lead my life today.

I then made my way to Charleston, South Carolina, and loved it. (Funny how eighteen years later my family happened to move to the same city and spent an additional five years there.) I had thought I would finish my remaining time in Charleston, however the naval base in Charleston was shut down during the Clinton Administration. Next thing I knew I was given orders to ship out to La Maddalena, Italy.

The thought of going over seas was both awesome and scary. Within two months I was dating a guy that I would later refer to as the Hubs. Being stationed in Italy was by far a highlight of my life and an experience I wouldn’t change for the world.

I met some of my best friends while in the Navy. These people were my family, especially when I was stationed overseas. We spent holidays, birthdays, and all our free time together. Thanks to Facebook, catching up with most of these people made it seem like we had never been apart. Whenever we get the chance to catch up face to face, it feels like we just saw each other yesterday.

I have a respect beyond measure for those that serve their country. Military members and their spouses are put through the ringer and are forced to make a lot of sacrifices daily. An active duty member often misses holidays, the birth of their children, and about a hundred other occasions that the normal civilian takes for granted. Don’t even get me started on the pay that an active duty member makes! They risk their lives for a menial paycheck that barely helps them get by. It is a very selfless job and I appreciate more than I can express what they do for our country.

I only served a short amount of time compared to other veterans. However, the military will always be in my bones. It is a part of my being and I am a better person for the time I spent in the Navy. I can only offer my thanks to everyone who has served or is currently serving and hold a special place in my heart for those families out there that have had to bear the ultimate sacrifice.

 

Face Book Give Away

For any of my blog followers that are not on This Mama Writes and Reads Face Book page:

I now have 100 followers on Face Book.  If you want to enter, go to my Face Book Page and comment below on This Mama Writes and Reads:

Thanks to everyone! In honor of those following me, I have a give away for you all! It is my favorite thing too! On my blog is a list of all the book reviews I have written. (All of them are listed under the book review tab-I will even include the next three books I plan to review) Pick a book from that list and comment below what book you would like to win and why. The winner will be picked at random on Monday the 27th. 

Understanding Melanoma

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You know the saying, “What doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger”? Well, I feel like my middle name should be freaking Super Girl after undergoing the year of hell that I have. It all happened two years ago when, out of the blue, the hubs had a mole removed from the back of his knee. That was the day my world was turned upside down. The usual procedures that happen every time you have a mole removed was done, but this time the doctors came back and uttered the C word to us. I remember this like it was yesterday and still carry the same fear with me today that I was blanketed with then.

The surgery was much harder than you would think necessary to remove a mole and so we thought we were in the clear. The surgeon initially thought it was benign stating he had seen similar moles like this before. When the pathology came back and the mole was found to be cancerous, there was now cause for concern. A CAT scan showed that the cancer was not necessarily in the body, but the surgeon stated that he needed to remove a few lymph nodes to determine if the cancer had spread further.

The news following the next surgery was not what we wanted to hear at all. I was out of town at the time and had decided to take the kids to a children’s museum to pass the time. I had a friend take the older kids to another part of the museum, when she recognized that I was going to need a little time alone. I took the one-year-old Mister Monster to the ball pit and sat and cried. I’m pretty sure I scared off the other parents that day! All I could think to do was to call my mom because that is what you do when you are sad, scared, and unsure of what you should do next. Even at thirty-nine years old, this made me feel better. I was out of town and wasn’t sure how I was going to break this news to the hubs since the doctor had called me instead of him.

After removing all the targeted lymph nodes, the hubs started an anti-viral protocol that is standard with a diagnosis of melanoma. It was not traditional chemotherapy, but it is a tough treatment all the same.

This was my reality. All too soon, I had become the wife of a cancer patient. I was not the first one that was scared to death of losing her husband and unfortunately I won’t be the last either.

This whole thing made me think about having to grow old without the man I married. It made me think further, “Will my husband be there to walk our three girls down the aisle? Will he be there to teach our son how to play baseball?” The idea of my children not having their father in their lives was more than I could take.

 

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(Pictured above) Our kids were confused.  They knew that their dad was different and though the older ones understood, it still scared them.  They spent many nights on the couch snuggling with him for peace of mind. 

Our first trip to the oncologist was a nightmare. We sat there in disbelief as the doctor informed us of our options. None of them seemed all that great and I was stunned to hear that his cancer had been diagnosed at stage three. The doctor continued to shatter our world when he said that, in all likelihood, it wasn’t uncommon that even with treatment, cancer like this had a good chance of coming back.

After all, your skin is your largest organ. It isn’t possible that a cancer like this can be cut out and life can go back to normal. Melanoma is one of the deadliest cancers out there. I soon learned more than I ever wanted to know about skin cancer. Melanoma is just as serious as any other cancer. People think it is just a topical cancer. It can be “cut” out, but it is still one of the leading killers in the world of cancers. Not only that, once it gets into the blood stream, it metastasizes quickly. The doctor said once it was in the blood, it was hard to cure.

My husband was prescribed a month’s worth of this drug and had to take it every day. It drained him and made him feel as if he had the flu. On top of that, he also had to receive shots from me (Yes, I gave him shots!) three times a week.

It was probably one of the hardest times in my life seeing my strong husband weak and struggling like he was. I felt like a single parent for that year, as he was down and out. On top of raising the kids and taking care of the house, I was also responsible for all of his care. Please know I am not complaining, but rather painting a picture of how bad it truly was. (Anyone that watched me through that year knew I was a certifiable nut job!)

I have learned over the past two years we must live in the here and now and treasure what we are given. I urge anyone who is reading this to protect your skin. Protect your children’s skin. Be careful in the sun. Please go to your dermatologist for scheduled skin checks.

My husband was just forty when he was diagnosed with this and thankfully has had successful results from the treatments. This last year has taught me to live without regret. We are never guaranteed tomorrow, but we can prepare to expect it.

 

(Pictured below) I made him this shirt after a year of Chemo.  His doctor said he was the first under his doctor’s care to finish an entire year of this particular treatment.

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Book Review

The Professor (McMurtrie and Drake Legal Thriller Book 1)

By Robert Baily

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This is certainly a must read for anyone with a love for Alabama Football or the University in general. Thomas McMurtrie was a graduate of both the University of Alabama and the Alabama Law School while also playing football for the famous Bear Bryant. After only a few years out of law school, Coach Bryant, referred to as the Man by McMurtrie, recruited the young lawyer back to the University to work as a law professor. Feeling honored by the request, Tom readily accepted the offer as a personal favor to his old coach.

Forty years later, Tom still works as a professor at the University and has written a highly respected book concerning evidence. This is a book nearly every lawyer has used in case evidence at one time or another throughout their career. When a new Dean of Law decides to set his sights on the older professors, Professor McMurtrie, by now known as simply the Professor, finds himself on the Dean’s list of potential targets.

The Dean’s confidence is first bolstered by an altercation he witnesses between the Professor and one of his students. When it is caught on video and uploaded to You Tube, the Dean finally feels he has the evidence he needs to push McMurtrie into retirement. The Dean enlists one of the Professor’s former students as lead council to force the Professor out of the University for good.

Feeling as if he caused the young law student, Rick Drake, whom he’d had the altercation with to lose out on several lucrative offers; Tom reaches out to Drake to give him a case. An old friend has asked Tom personally to take this wrong death case but for health reasons, Tom refers the case to Rick Drake. After the Professor promises to stay our of Rick’s way, Tom soon realizes what Rick is really up against and secretly sends his former assistant, Dawn, to assist Rick in any way she can.

As the case takes off it becomes one that incorporates dangerous elements and threatens both Rick and Dawn. Before long Rick comes face to face with the former famous lawyer who had stabbed the Professor in the back and was working alongside the Dean to force the Professor out of his job at the University.  Rick is in the case of his life and working against the best attorney in the state of Alabama and operating with only a fraction of the resources he needs.

If you like a suspenseful thriller with a tender-hearted edge to it, this is a great choice to add to your reading list. This book showcases that second chances sometimes become the stuff that dreams are made of.

This is only the first book in the series and the second book, Between Black and White, works to expand the story further by taking a minor character from Robert Baily’s first book and giving him the spotlight. I enjoyed The Professor quite a bit. It was well written and used easy to understand legal jargon that made it sound very official and kept me guessing throughout the entire story.

Charleston SC is a place everyone should visit

          Fun In Charleston

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Recently we moved away from Charleston, a place we’d called home the previous five years. It’s funny to think that I somehow found myself calling Charleston home again. Previously, I’d spent two years in the early 90’s stationed at the Naval Station in Charleston. Back then I wasn’t much older than my oldest child is today!

I was excited at the prospect of moving back to Charleston after so many years away. With only a little effort, I found I was able to pick right back up where I had left off.   Many of the places I wanted to re-visit were still there and area’s I had never been to were full of exciting new opportunities.

This return to Charleston allowed me to have two different experiences in the same city at two different times in my life. I found a lot of my favorites from earlier in life were still my favorites now. I was also able to add more favorite places things to my list that I’d never had the chance to experience before.

Reflecting on my two different experiences living in Charleston gives me a pretty good perspective on what the city has to offer. What I’ve done is put together a list of some of things I miss most dearly now that I no longer live there. I’ve tried to highlight portions of life in Charleston and the surrounding area that make any visit worth the trip.

 

       1.  Boone Hall Plantation

Located in Mount Pleasant, this is the definitive old school southern mansion from the old days. As you approach the home, you are given a picturesque view of large oaks lining the drive up to the plantation. However, the beauty doesn’t stop there. An all-inclusive fee gives you the chance to tour the house, gardens, and even the slave quarters. The entire estate is spread out over several acres and is easy to explore thanks to the plantation’s open-air tour bus.

 

 

         2.  Kiawah Island

This is a barrier island that boasts a cute little town with both private and public beaches. The public beach is known as Beach Walkers and is my favorite beach in the whole Charleston area. The beach is about a forty-five minute drive from Charleston and totally worth the time spent getting there. Apart from the pristine beaches and the beautiful little downtown area, Kiawah has several miles of bike paths perfect for exploring with family and friend.

 

 

       3.  Cypress Gardens

Located in Monk’s Corner, thirty minutes outside of Charleston, this garden preserve contains a large variety of attractions perfect for the entire family. The largest appeal of Cypress Gardens is the black water swamp, which is the pride and joy of the attraction. Every visitor has the chance to enjoy a boat ride on the swamp along with a visit to both the butterfly and reptile houses. There are also a number of walking paths that surround the swamp. You are certain to catch a glimpse of a few alligators while also taking in the beauty of this attraction. Famous movies like The Patriot and The Notebook were filmed at this location due to its incredible scenery.536170_4086740366819_394234533_n

 

 

         4. Charlestown Landing

The first permanent settlement of the English in Charleston, this preserve hosts a replica ship from the 1600’s, an animal forest that houses native North Carolina animals, colonial houses and gardens. The walking and biking trails weave throughout the property and give a bird’s eye view of the river intertwining the history of the site with the beauty of the area.

 

 

        5.  Mt. Pleasant

Mt. Pleasant is my favorite town in the entire Charleston area. It’s simply adorable and has that small town feel while still maintaining all the comforts of a larger town. The shopping centers are amazing and the park near the sound is a real treasure. And best of all, it is only a five minute drive to the closest beach, the Isle of the Palms.

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       6.  Open Air Market

No trip to Charleston is complete without a visit to the open-air market. This piece of land was first stipulated as the city’s market back in 1788 and has remained the same ever since. It is an eclectic collection of vendors from almost any industry a person could ask for.

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       7.  Patriot’s Point

Home to the USS Yorktown, this vessel houses a maritime museum and the Medal of Honor museum. Located on the Cooper River in Mt. Pleasant, Patriot’s Point is more than just a large aircraft carrier though. Visitors can visit a destroyer, a submarine, and get a feel for what the Vietnam experience was like. It is certainly a must see for anyone to pay homage to those that have served and paid the ultimate sacrifice and to get a glimpse into the life of a veteran.403896_2987488486209_801898379_n

 

       8.  Rose’s Fine Food and Cocktails

I had to include our family’s favorite place to eat on this list. Only a couple miles from Charlestown Landing, this restaurant serves all the comfort foods of the South with an elegant twist. A fabulous brunch is served on Sundays. The prices are reasonable and the food is better than you’d ever imagined.

 

 

       9.  Waterfront and Battery

I combined these two areas though they are actually two different landmarks. The Battery is the seawall defense that runs the length of downtown Charleston. The Waterfront is a twelve-acre park that over looks the Cooper River and the scary as hell Ravenel Bridge that connects Charleston to Mt. Pleasant. This is home to a large Pineapple fountain, indicative to South Carolina. Both areas are both beautiful and peaceful and have some really captivating views.

 

 

       10.  Charleston Museum

This eccentric museum is the oldest museum in the United States. Along with admission to the museum, membership includes the ability to access the Hayward-Washington House whose owner signed the Declaration of Independence and housed George Washington when he visited Charleston. The Joseph Manigault house is a prestigious piece of history in Charleston that showcases a Federalist style home.

 

 

 11.  The South Carolina Aquarium

This is a family favorite. The exhibits often change so even frequent guests can enjoy a different experience each time they visit. Some of the highlights of this aquarium include a 385,000 gallon, two-story ocean tank that houses a two hundred plus pound sea turtle who goes by the name Caretta. With daily dive shows and exhibits that showcase the geography of South Carolina, the aquarium is by far a must see for any family.

 

 

       12.  Morris Island Light Houseina

Located on Folley Island, the half mile walk out to this light house will give you time to really take in the surroundings the beauty the beach offers. I have several pictures of us at Morris Island Light House that are some of my absolute favorites. You need to be aware that there is absolutely no swimming permitted here due to the rip tides.

 

 

           13.  Rainbow Row

This historic site boasts thirteen row houses, the longest consecutive cluster. It is located on Tradd Street (anyone who is a fan of Karen White books will recognize that famous street from the book The House on Tradd Street).

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As I look back on the last five years my family had called Charleston home and add in the two years I lived there previously while in the Navy, I know I was lucky. Charleston is a beautiful city rich with history and if you get a chance to visit, please do. Do yourself a favor and make a stop by Summerville (the town we called home) on your way out of Charleston, which is the birthplace of sweet tea then enjoy a hot dog at Perfectly Franks, for me.

The Issue of Self-Image for Girls

Things Boys Should Know About a Girl’s Body Image

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One of my daughters was the recent target of a bully. Dealing with bullies is one of those tough things that all kids have to work through, though it can be a major challenge for even the most confident individual. In my daughter’s case, this person used one of those horrid words to describe my little girl and it hurt her deeply.

As a mother, I immediately wanted to comfort my daughter and reassure her that everything would be ok. At the same moment, I wanted the little brat that hurt my girl to pay.

While my actions may be limited to a phone call to the school or a visit to the boy’s parents and a lot of comforting words for my crying child, I can still make this sad moment a lesson capable of improving the future for my children. What I realized was that this was the perfect moment to teach my own son about girls.

I think it is entirely appropriate for me to begin by saying that a woman’s self-image can be a very delicate subject. So much emphasis is put on physical beauty that anyone who looks a bit off can become an instant target for all the bullies of the world. And this doesn’t just apply to all the kids who are still going through those awkward growth spurts and that dreaded puberty. It applies just as much to adults too.

As a woman, we compare ourselves to others every time we look in the mirror. Sadly, many of us are never quite happy or satisfied with what we see staring back at us.

This is a list I have created to share with my son as we teach him how to become a gentleman who always treats women with respect.

  1. Words hurt

“Sticks and stones can break my bones but words will never hurt me.” There has never been a more untrue phrase than this. I can’t stress how deeply words can wound another person. Just as words can lift a person up, they can easily tear them back down.

  1. Magazines and pictures don’t truly depict real women.

Whenever I look at pictures of celebrities from the 1960’s, I am struck by how different they appear compared with the celebrities today. Celebrities today all fit into a near cookie cutter image of one another. Everyone is a size two with perfect hair and incredible makeup. This is not real life. Women come in all different shapes and sizes. The celebrities of years gone by showcased a wide range of differences, and that is what made many of them into celebrities. It is our differences that make us special and unique. We forget that at times.

  1. Image matters

It is easy to say that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but that is just untrue.   If hurtful words are said in front of others, embarrassment almost follows.   Self-esteem impacts every portion of a person’s life and hurtful words can damage a person’s confidence in ways that can last long into the future.

  1. Being a Gentleman is Important!

Teaching your son to be gentleman around women is one of the most valuable lessons they should learn, no matter their age! My son has several older sisters and a mama who all expect him to be a gentleman at all times of the day. Even at his young age, he knows the importance of this. Respect is something that everyone deserves.

These are just a couple small areas of emphasis I will continue to place on my son as he gets older. The list will probably become larger as my daughters are exposed to the hurt of others.  Simple common decency can go along way in life whether you are a male or female. Showing other people respect is never bad advice and something we all should strive to teach our children.

I would love to hear if you can expand on this list.  Be sure to comment below if you have something you feel a boy should know about how girls perceive themselves.

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