Sunday, October 22, 2017

Review: Starboard Secrets

Starboard Secrets Starboard Secrets by Hope Callaghan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I really had fun with this book. I thought it was humorous. I really like Millie. No. I think I love her. She has so many good qualities including a fantastic sense of humor. I did wish she would stop saying her name is Mildred but call me Millie. Fair warning: this is another cozy where it may not be for you, if you aren't willing to suspend reality. I can easily do that and so I had fun. I'm looking forward to reading more!

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Review: Final Sentence

Final Sentence Final Sentence by Daryl Wood Gerber
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I enjoyed it but there were things that bothered me. I would actually rate this a 3.5 because of them. I didn't really understand the how and why of some scenes. I don't want to give away anything but there were 2 things that happened that needed better explanations. One involved Jenna's husband and the other her dad. Little by little I did understand it more but I think it started too vague.
I enjoy cooking and love cookbooks. This book has a lot of references to them. That was fun for me. I enjoyed trying to match mine with those mentioned. I thought it was funny that Jenna really has no idea about cooking. It just goes to show that partners in a business may have different roles and experience to offer in making a business successful. If you are the type of reader who wants their story absolutely grounded in reality, this might not be the best fit. I suspended reality and just enjoyed the story. I can't say if I really like Jenna or not. I think she needs a bit more development. However I love Aunt Vera who I thought was fun. I am looking forward to seeing this series develop. I liked the concept of the cookbook shop and the culinary classes. I enjoyed the references to the entertainment industry. That was fun to see. I had an enjoyable night with it.
I won a copy of this book in a giveaway on Facebook. A review was not required or requested.

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Review: The House that Death Built

The House that Death Built The House that Death Built by John Llewellyn Probert
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It wasn't what I was expecting but I did enjoy it a lot. I was expecting it to be a bit scarier, though I did find it scary. I wasn't expecting how funny it was. The dialogue was truly awesome. Perhaps that is what kept it from being too scary for me. If you are looking for a haunted house to spend a chilly, dreary day in, get this book. I read it on a windy night and the howling wind just made the atmosphere perfect!

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Review: Haunted Inside Passage: Ghosts, Legends, and Mysteries of Southeast Alaska

Haunted Inside Passage: Ghosts, Legends, and Mysteries of Southeast Alaska Haunted Inside Passage: Ghosts, Legends, and Mysteries of Southeast Alaska by Bjorn Dihle
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Interesting book about hauntings in Alaska's Inside Passage which includes Juneau, where I live. I was very happy to read the stories told by Renee Hughes, a Juneau local. All the stories were fun to read. Some I had heard of but did not know the full story. I loved reading the history about the sightings and the areas. Definitely a book you want to read if you are interested in ghost sighting and folklore in Southeast Alaska. I would recommend it!

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Thursday, October 19, 2017

Review: Good Naked: Reflections on How to Write More, Write Better, and Be Happier

Good Naked: Reflections on How to Write More, Write Better, and Be Happier Good Naked: Reflections on How to Write More, Write Better, and Be Happier by Joni B. Cole
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I have wanted to write since I was a child in school. It seems like there was always another world going on in my head. I wrote out some stories in school. As life went on I continued to write but not sharing. I never thought I was good enough or knew enough to truly write. This book was perfect for me! I used an entire pad of sticky notes. Page after page have little pink squares on them. There is a wealth of information in between the covers. The best part? It is written so you understand and are encouraged. You are encouraged to take the writing class. You are encouraged to write. You are encouraged to share what you write. You are told not everyone will like it. You are told you probably won't be great. You are told to write anyway. The author is herself a writing instructor as well as author. She truly gives a solid look at writing. More important she gives a solid look at being happy writing. It is the most motivational and helpful writing book, I have read. You come away encouraged and ready to start writing. You may have already started by doing the exercises in the book. I did which is why it took so long to finish the book. In honesty, I am not done with it. I don't think I will ever be done with it. I keep going back and over things and doing the exercises mentioned, this way then that way. If you write, want to write, are intimidated to write, buy this book. You will grow from it and will probably use it over and over.
I was offered this book for review purposes. Thank you to Joni B. Cole for providing a copy of it for an honest review. I am giving copies for Christmas to a my son and a few others who want to write but aren't confident. I know they will find it to be a writer's treasure.

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Review: Strange Weather

Strange Weather Strange Weather by Joe Hill
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I have enjoyed Joe Hill books before. He does horror very well.
Strange Weather is a collection of four short stories. My favorite was Loaded. All of the stories were good creepy reads. Not the horror I was expecting but I enjoyed the book the same. The stories are the kind of scary that creeps up on you. You know something is wrong. Then, 'bam!' there it is. Different from what you expected so you are surprised at the turn of events. I truly enjoyed that.
The stories are not connected so you can read them in whatever order you choose. All of them will offer you an escape into another place, not necessarily away from reality though. I don't do spoilers and, with short stories, I'd rather you read them. Especially these. Grab the book and settle in. If your on a plane, you might choose 'Aloft'. I think that would be heart stopping.
Thank you to William Morrow Books for the giveaway. I am so excited to have won this amazing book!

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Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Review: Ax To Grind

Ax To Grind Ax To Grind by Tonya Kappes
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

As I was reading this book it occurred to me that I get excited by Tonya Kappes coming out with a new book because the characters really feel like old friends or family. The Kenni Lowry Mysteries are no different. Ax to Grind is the third book in the series.

Kenni Lowry is sheriff of Cottonwood. Her grandfather, "Poppa," is her helper from the other side and Finn Vincent is the hunky deputy from Chicago, (who is also the love interest). The budding romance works so well because Momma trying to marry Kenni off and have her be a proper Southern wife is funny, (and truly kind of real -I'm constantly hearing about that. There is a lot I relate to in Tonya's books.). In book three we have a murder mystery that revolves around an author and her final tell all manuscript. There are enough potential suspects and curves to keep you guessing until the end.

The book does close with a final ending making it easy to read as a stand alone or out of order, (though for the flow of the romance, I would suggest reading them in order). The book is clean making it fine for listening on audio. I received an arc from Net Galley for review purposes but have also purchased the book. I highly recommend this book, (and series). Tonya Kappes books are addictive and best enjoyed with coffee and a brownie.



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Thursday, September 14, 2017

Cooking Made Easy With Hamilton Beach

Today I would like to talk about cooking. I love being in the kitchen. Living in Alaska, we get fall temperatures faster than the Lower 48 and nothing says fall is here like good smells coming from the kitchen. Soups, stews, roasts, casseroles, breads, cake. They all smell so enticing as they heat up the house. Prepping though can really tie you down. Let's face it, as much as I love being in the kitchen and cooking, I do have other things to do. Like reading. Ha ha. Okay, other things that need my attention, too. Our days can seem endless when we have so many things that need to be done. I'm getting older, too. With that comes more joy than you can imagine as it brings aches and pains out of the blue. I always thought my grandparents could tell the weather by the sky or the way tree leaves look. Now I know. It was their bodies. We are more accurate than the nightly weather person. Honestly, need to know this week's forecast, ask an older adult how they feel.

Products that help me manage time are great. Ones that help me with time and my aches are phenomenal. That is why I turn to Hamilton Beach. They have a variety of products that help me in the kitchen, both with time and my needs. Recently they sent me a food processor to try. I am not paid for my review though I do keep the item. My review is honest and based on the following things that I look for in products I buy. 

Is it easy to put together?
Is it easy to use?
Can it be easily stored?
If it has to sit on my counter, does it take up a lot of space? 
If it is on my counter, does it look good?
Does it perform well?
Is it easy to clean?
Is it durable?
How does it improve my life?
If I need parts replaced, is it possible?
What is the company reputation for customer service?

I received the Hamilton Beach® Professional 14 Cup Dicing Food Processor. It is amazing although a bit intimidating to look at. It came with a storage container for all the blades. It is a beauty! As intimidating as it looks, I was happily surprised at how easy it was to put together! Everything just fits easily in place and then you raise the arm to lock it in place. Easy peasy. (Yes that is Hamilton Beach's Breakfast Burrito Maker in the background. If you need a delicious yet nutritious breakfast, fast, the breakfast sandwich maker is the appliance to have. I use it every weekday.) 




 I have used it in a variety of ways. I have made egg salad, sliced potatoes for a casserole, diced carrots and onion for soup, mixed a cake, kneaded rolls and made the Salted Peanut Cookie recipe from the product guide book. It is amazingly easy to use. I absolutely love it!


 Check out the potato slices! Perfect for my casserole, fried potatoes or potato chips. So much healthier than buying a bag of chips. Less expensive too! I found this to be an amazing help for drying potato slices. I sliced a whole bowl in seconds and had them in the dehydrator in no time.



 The blades lock on. If you can't easy lock it in place, it is the wrong side.



I diced carrots and onions. This was an amazing help in making my vegetables for soups and for dehydrating purposes. If you dehydrate food, or cook for holiday parties or large families,  this is a food processor you want.






 I love this tool! What is it, you ask? It is the dicing cleaning tool. It will push through any food left in the blade after chopping and then you can use it when you wash the dicing grid. It is super awesome. No more cut fingers.



This is my egg salad. I usually roughly chop  the eggs, onion and celery. I was making the sandwiches, though, for some older friends. Some of them have trouble eating. I decided to put everything in the bowl and mix it in there. It came out perfect for making smooth, easy to eat sandwiches.


This is one of my soups. It is super tasty. I had a little pork, a can of green enchilada sauce, hominy and some fresh veggies. I decided to toss it in my Instant Pot and see what happens. I used my food processor to chop all my vegetables. It was in my pot and 20 minutes later it was ready to serve. Recipe below, though I honestly do not measure things. I am one of those people who learned to cook by eye, smell and taste.



So to answer my buying questions:

Yes to both easy to put together and use. I found it very easy to clean. The biggest problem was the dicing grid with onions. Other than that clean up was almost as fast as using it.

I have mixed feelings regarding easy storage. The food processor is big, so no room in my cabinets. If you have a large kitchen or pantry, this may not be a problem for you. The storage container is a YES. All the blades are safely stored inside it and I could put it in my cabinet out of the way of small, curious hands.

The food processor is impressive and I like it on my counter. It makes it easy for me to use. However, you do need open space or it may hit the bottom of upper cabinets. It does take up a bit of space on the counter. I'm okay with that. It definitely looks good on my counter and I hear compliments on it.

Performance is exceptional. Easy to use. It is way safer than my old food processor. I have used it almost daily and it has not overheated or broken down. Everything looks well made. If you need to replace something, on their web site you can find a section titled parts and accessories. It comes with a 5 year warranty so you can call the company with any problems. I have used Hamilton Beach products for years. My mom used Hamilton Beach. I did not need to call customer service so I did not try speaking with them. Their reputation with me is solid from 40 years experience.

The instruction guidebook has detailed instructions, troubleshooting advice, tips, charts, care and cleaning instructions, processing times with which blade is best, and a few recipes. The booklet comes in English, French and Spanish. This booklet also contains your warranty information.

My verdict on this is if space is an issue you may want something smaller. Otherwise, I would recommend the Hamilton Beach® Professional 14 Cup Dicing Food Processor. I can't wait for holiday cooking! I am already planning my menu and delighting in how easy it is going to be!

Hearty Pork Soup

1 pound boneless pork, cubed
2 cups diced potatoes, 
1 cup diced carrots
1 diced onion
1 can, drained, hominy 
1 packet dry soup mix (I used onion)
1 can green enchilada sauce
water

I put all this together in my instant pot, adding enough water to cover it all. then hit soup. While it was cooking I took my left over fresh vegetables and chopped them. I had cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower,carrots and a little spinach. I threw it all in the processor and chopped it. When the soup was finished I topped each bowl with the fresh vegetable mix. It was filling and tasty, tasty. 
No, I did not use any additional salt. I did sprinkle some pepper on the soup of those who like pepper. 

Thank you for stopping by today. If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below. I will answer them to the best of my ability. 






Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Review: Cozy Mysteries Cookbook: Recipes from Hope Callaghan's Cozy Mystery Books

Cozy Mysteries Cookbook: Recipes from Hope Callaghan's Cozy Mystery Books Cozy Mysteries Cookbook: Recipes from Hope Callaghan's Cozy Mystery Books by Hope Callaghan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I adore this recipe book! I admit that while I have several books by the author in my tbr and my Kindle, I haven't gotten around to reading them. That has changed. I am making it a point to include at least one this month.

I received an email from the author telling me about the cookbook. Being a cookbook hoarder and lover of all things in the kitchen, I immediately purchased the book. I figured it would have a few recipes, and then try to sell me books. It does. However, I was surprised by the number of recipes there were. Not only that but these were all recipes I would have very little issue with making! Holy cow! The recipes all look good, sound easy peasy to make, have ingredients that are relatively easy to find and they are reasonably priced ingredients. Winner, winner! Chicken Dinner! (Appropriate because there are several delicious chicken recipes in the book). Don't think that is all because it gets even better. Hard to believe but it's true. Along with the chicken recipes there are recipes to cover just about anything you can think of, including homemade dog biscuits you can feel good giving your pet. Zoey, (my shih tzu reading companion), is as exited as I am.
As if that isn't enough we come to the sales pitch. Normally I roll my eyes at the amount of advertising in books of this type. Yes, I know. The author is trying to interest you in their books. I understand that. I am just one of those readers who doesn't want to hear what publisher's or professional reviewers have to say. They are all paid or have some type of investment in the book/author. I do like to hear what everyday people, like my friends, have to say. Their investment is having a good story or feeling like the author gave them a good deal for their money. I am digressing. Sorry. Pet peeve.

The author gives an introduction to her mystery solving main characters at the beginning of the book. That was ideal for me. I liked her covers, which show these characters. They looked like fun people, so I bought the books. But I haven't read them. The introduction provided me with the information that I would like these characters. Then, instead of half a book of professional praise, the author provided snippets from her books. I have seen that in a few author cookbooks. Usually it is the first couple of pages. This author, though, provided snippets where the characters were talking about the recipes! How fun is that! I absolutely loved this idea. Not only did it get me excited about the recipe, it got me excited about the books.

I am always wary of new authors and first chapter peeks. The first chapter is the lure. Everyone dresses up their first chapter and makes certain it is the best it can be. Occasionally, though, they get lost in the middle or, even worse, the end, and lose steam. Then you have to make the dreaded decision, do I muddle through hoping the author gets back on track or do I shelf it as DNF? Or you are just angry that all was good and the ending fizzled out with no hope of redemption. Another pet peeve.

Hope Callaghan provides snippets that are likely found all over her books. They were chosen because they mention a recipe in the cookbook. This gives me a much better look at Ms. Callaghan's writing. It allows me to determine if her characters are who I thought they are. It gives me an opportunity to see if the story is truly interesting. Then, because both of those were positives for me, it got me excited about the books sitting in my tbr. So I will be making a shopping list and dedicating at least one day this month to cooking from this book while reading the books that contain the references to the recipes.

I would recommend this cookbook to everyone who enjoys cozy mysteries and likes to eat. Most of the recipes are easy enough for a beginning cook. The snippets have nothing in them to worry about a young teen reading them. It is a cookbook that is fun as well as functional. If you are thinking of getting it, I would tell you to give it a try. If you have specific dietary needs, please use the sample to see if you would find the recipes useful or easily adaptable. Otherwise, go get it.

Oh! the author does provide links, at the end, to her books on sale, to her books divided up by series and the order of them and to her newsletter where you can get free books along with information she shares with her readers.

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Sunday, September 10, 2017

Review: Do Not Become Alarmed

Do Not Become Alarmed Do Not Become Alarmed by Maile Meloy
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a difficult book to review. I gave it 4 stars as it kept me up, listening, until 5 am. Then I had to take a break to sleep but immediately picked it back up to finish. I had to know about the children. This sounds like an easy peasy 5 star, right? No. Wrong.
The story does ensnare you in its trap. I didn't find myself really liking nearly everyone, including most of the children. Some parts were difficult to read/hear. Some parts didn't make a lot of sense, (behaviors of some adults and even the children). At one point I rooted for the kidnappers! (I can handle whiny kids but at this particular point, I felt it would have been justified. If you choose to read this book, you will immediately recognize that point). It left a bad taste in my mouth after the ending settled and I sat down to write this.
Would I recommend this book? Yes, but to carefully selected individuals. It is a gripping story. It is interesting. It is one where you could find plenty to discuss. But it is not for everyone. I suspect this book might end up being placed on a lot of DNF shelves.
There is a rape scene, involving one of the older children. It was very difficult to get through. If you want to read the book but not this part, when two of the kidnappers are drinking and playing cards, jump a few pages or fast forward a couple minutes. This book is definitely intended for a mature audience.

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Saturday, September 9, 2017

Review: Deck the Hearts

Deck the Hearts Deck the Hearts by Rachelle Ayala
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Deck the Hearts takes us to Christmas Creek where we find Holly decorating a mansion for the Christmas gala. The woman who owned the mansion has passed away and willed it to her nephew, Gordon. When it comes to Christmas, Gordon could be described as the grinch. What will be the outcome when Gordon shows up in Christmas Creek?

I enjoyed this short story. I totally identify with Holly. As a matter of fact, though it is September, I had on my Christmas jammies, Christmas lights up and on, I made sugar cookies with hot chocolate and settled in my Christmas blanket to listen to it on Audible. My other half, however, identifies with grinch, (especially if it is not December). Grumpy, grumpy. A plate of cookies kept him from complaining too much. I settled in and was enjoying myself while he was playing Sheltered on Steam. All of a sudden he tells me to stop the story. I start to get slightly huffy, after all it is around 2 hours to read. He stops me again, (must be playing the game that has him so brave - haha), and then tells me he needs to use the bathroom so don't resume until he gets back. Well, that certainly shut my mouth. He not only was listening, he was invested in the story! That is big news as when he is gaming I could dance naked with the seven dwarfs and he would just ask for the plate of cookies. That was the moment I knew it just wasn't my love of all things Christmas but the story was really good. So take it from the gamer guy and read this story. He actually said to listen to it but I'll leave that up to you.

We listened to this on Audible. The narrator, Kate Marcin, was awesome. She is a favorite narrator of mine. I especially love hearing her sing snatches of the Christmas Carols mentioned in the story.

Another winner from author, Rachelle Ayala. Ms Ayala can really write a story! She researches enough to have them realistic yet still take you away. Her words draws you into the story and by the end, you feel like the characters are friends or family. If you haven't read anything by her, take a chance.

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Review: A Pet For Christmas

A Pet For Christmas A Pet For Christmas by Rachelle Ayala
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I love this series! This is the second book of three. In the first we met Kelly and her daughter Bree. Bree asks Santa for a father and we are introduced to Tyler, a veteran with deep issues. In this book Tyler has gone to Afghanistan. Kelly is pregnant and Bree has decided to ask Santa for a dog. That is the easy and brief description. There is way more going on in this heart wrenching story but I would rather let you discover it on your own. I love Bree. She is adorable and has an unshakable belief that everything will be fine. As with real life, the deepest believers are small children. We could learn something there. I like Tyler but Kelly I haven't ever been a fan of. I know too many people like her. The characters are realistic. You may or may not like them but will probably recognize them. In my opinion, they make a good couple. They can balance each other and each has something to learn from the other.

I would recommend this book to romance readers who want a deeply intelligent story to go with the romance. This book,in my opinion, is a clean read. It does deal with mature issues. In my opinion Rachelle Ayala is not an author who shies away from contemporary issues. Instead she researches them and then puts them on display in a very real way.



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Wednesday, September 6, 2017

A Poet's Diary 1 Book Blast







Publication Date: May 30, 2017
Publisher: Xlibris
Formats: Ebook
Pages: 58
Genre: Poetry
Tour Dates: September 4 - 15

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A Poet's Diary 1 is a collection of thought-provoking poems such as, "It Doesn't Stop Me from Being Happy," "When I Think of Love," "Police State," and "God's Recipe for Love. " As his poetic words flow, thought-provoking observations and experiences will have the reader mentally and emotionally stimulated.

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Review: This Dying World: The End Begins

This Dying World: The End Begins This Dying World: The End Begins by James D. Dean
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was an intense read. I moved to Alaska from Chicago so I was really interested in the fact that the story starts in Chicago and continues through areas I know. My problem was that while I was pulled into the story I kept going, "oh my gosh, my family is still there". Haha.

This story is mainly about Dan and his family getting to his brothers farm. We are along for a pretty scary ride. I liked most of the characters. I really loved how Dan and Abby loved each other: the fights, the defenses of each other, the sarcastic banter, the care, concern and the way they relied on each other. It was beautiful and realistic. We meet some scary people along the way and they weren't dead. I think that is pretty realistic whenever an area of the world is in a crisis. One of the things I was really impressed with was the author being willing to explore the psychological/moral changes of main characters. I have seen it in other books but not as fully developed, in many of them, as I saw here.

I read a lot of zbooks and I think it is difficult to come up with fresh ideas while remaining true to the genre. There has been an explosion of zbooks in the past few years. The author, however, did come up with a few things that I hadn't read already. I'm really happy that the next book in this series is available. I have it on the list for upcoming book purchases.

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Sunday, September 3, 2017

Review: A Stranger in the House

A Stranger in the House A Stranger in the House by Shari Lapena
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Oh my gosh! I loved this book! Even when I thought I knew where the twists were going, I did not want to put it down. The end dropped my jaw.

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Review: Christmas Stray

Christmas Stray Christmas Stray by Rachelle Ayala
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Oh my goodness! Be sure to have a box of Kleenex handy...maybe two boxes. This story started me out crying and had me crying, happy tears, at the end. What a beautiful story!

Juliet and Gabe are married but things have not been well for them since they lost their son.They go away for a Christmas that Juliet can't bear to celebrate. At the cabin they find a child and a dog that change their lives.

I don't want to give away the entire story so I am being vague. This is a beautiful Christmas story of heartbreak, grief, healing and hope that makes it heartwarming.

I listened to this on Audible. I really loved Kate Marcin as the narrator. I loved her as Patrick and was so pleasantly surprised by her singing voice. I wish she could have sang an entire Christmas Carol.

It is a Christmas story you definitely want to have for winding down on a cold December day.If you are like me and enjoy Christmas anytime of the year, this is a book that will bring you the magic of Christmas, regardless of the time of the year.

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Saturday, September 2, 2017

Review: Pumpkintown Perils Volume 3: Journey into Jagged Wood

Pumpkintown Perils Volume 3: Journey into Jagged Wood Pumpkintown Perils Volume 3: Journey into Jagged Wood by Aubrey Law
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really enjoy this series! It is a guaranteed laugh out loud read. Witch Wanda, her cat Jinxy and her sisters, Alice and Amber are back. They have teamed up with Leprechaun Sam and the gnomes to find a giant and a werewolf, one of whom is their father, (is this a good or bad thing? Is everyone on the same side?). As always when this crazy cast of characters get together there are outlandishly zany things happening, along with some dangerous, possibly deadly, things. Readers of this book, (series), should expect anything to pop up. The stories remind me of Lewis Carroll. You open the book and are instantly transported to a fantasy land where you are kept off balanced and are rarely certain who is really on your side. You may not survive but you will definitely enjoy the ride.
If you are looking for manic craziness and a fast read this book is probably a good fit for you. It does contain sexual references and adult language, for those who want that information. Things do wrap up nicely but with the opening for further adventures, (thank you!), to look forward to.

*I normally would have finished this book in a day, or at most over a weekend. However, I had some medical issues going on then Harvey hit. With family in Houston my concern and attention was focused there. Happily my family is fine, including Baby Jax who was born during the worst of the flooding. I ended up stopping and starting several times then just re-reading it. I would like to thank the author who provided an ecopy of this book for review purposes.*

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Friday, September 1, 2017

Review: Taking Charge of Cancer: What You Need to Know to Get the Best Treatment

Taking Charge of Cancer: What You Need to Know to Get the Best Treatment Taking Charge of Cancer: What You Need to Know to Get the Best Treatment by David Palma
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book is a must have if you, or a loved one, have been diagnosed, (or there is a possibility of it), with cancer. The language used was easy to understand with the author taking pains to explain new terms and medical terms. The author walks you through everything from the first visit where you find out the diagnosis to the end of treatment and beyond. He writes about clinical trials and myths. Honestly, I was amazed by how much I learned. I am not a person who usually writes in books but this one is highlighted, written in and even has sticky notes on some pages! It may become one of the most useful books you own. Being told you have cancer is one the most devastating things you may hear. It can leave you reeling with a variety of emotions. Taking Charge of Cancer gives you the feeling of power and hope. You will know what questions to ask, what steps to take and be able to make decisions based on knowledge instead of panic. As cancer is so prevalent in today's world, I would recommend this book be in every home. The more you know, the earlier in treatment, the better your chances are.
A huge thank to Goodreads for offering this book in one of their giveaways! I'm so grateful I won it. It has been hugely helpful for me.

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Review: Noelle: A Sweet American Historical Romance

Noelle: A Sweet American Historical Romance Noelle: A Sweet American Historical Romance by Josephine Blake
My rating: 0 of 5 stars

Noelle is my first book by author Josephine Blake. This book is part of the series, The Brittler Sisters. It is the fifth book but I was able to enjoy it as a stand alone. There are references to the prior books, especially Dianna, book one. The references only made me curious about that book.

Noelle is the youngest sister in a well off family. She is a very likable character. She dreams of finding a man she loves, one who her parents approve of. I'm not certain I like her mother yet. I think she has dealt with a lot during the series. I will hold my judgement on her until I have read the other books. Most of the other characters are likable. There is a twist that I didn't see coming that was very interesting.

This is a clean story. I would have no problem sharing it with pre-teens and up.

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Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Review: Summer Love Puppy

Summer Love Puppy Summer Love Puppy by Rachelle Ayala
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is another awesome book in the Have a Hart Series by Rachelle Ayala. This book tells the story of Linx and Grady. It is a bit darker then the other books in the series. Every family has some darkness. Reading it reminded me of the saying, if the eyes shed no tears, the heart would have no rainbows. Linx never had an easy life. Grady did but, even in the best families, things go wrong. I think Grady proves that every child is different and that it is not only our home that shapes us as people. This is a roller coaster story. It will have you feeling so many emotions. Most likely you will go through parts where you like them, you don't like them but then you love them.
I enjoyed reading Linx and Grady's story, which holds a bit of mystery in it. I hope you pick it up and enjoy it too! The Have A Hart Series is clean romance.

Thank you to the author for providing an advanced review copy. The final book may have slight differences.

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Review: Bloodborne

Bloodborne Bloodborne by Sidney Wood
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book came to my attention through BookTasters. I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it.

The book centers around Jen, a teenager who is visiting the Middle East with her father. While there she gets kidnapped and is held prisoner. At this point I thought the book was about the current slave trade market. It is and it is more. The author did an awesome job with bringing the horror of the slave trade to light and he did it without being overly graphic. Kudos to him! The story was terrifying to read and I was very invested in whether or not Jen was going to get to go home. Then the author took a sudden left turn. The book turned into one of my favorite genres. Woohoo! And I wasn't thinking it could get any better. I don't want to give out the details as there isn't any reason to read the book then. I want you to read it. It is excellent as a thriller and is shaping up to be an excellent zbook series.
I certainly cannot wait to read book 2. I'm still rooting for Jen.

This book does deal with a mature topic. It is not overly graphic in my opinion. I would let a mature teen read this. It does end on a cliffhanger, so be aware of that. It might be a good idea to pick up Reborn the same time you get Bloodborne.

Thank you to BookTasters and the author who provided an ecopy for review purposes.

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Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Review: When Love Returns Star Lake #1

When Love Returns Star Lake #1 When Love Returns Star Lake #1 by Lorana Hoopes (LL Hoopes)
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When Love Returns is the second book I have read by this author. I was provided an ecopy of the book, before publishing, for review purposes. The final version may contain slight differences.

I love Christmas books. There is just something magical about the Christmas season that makes anything possible. Even a second chance love that never had the chance to bloom the first time.

I adore this story so much. First, if you put children and Christmas in the mix you have my attention. Second add in first love coming back and you have guaranteed I will read your book. Who doesn't remember their first love? Who has never wondered, what if things were different and we met again? I will be honest and admit I clearly remember him, (I can still recall exactly what he was wearing and doing the first time I saw him). I do dream about a second chance with him. So you have my attention, you have your book in my hands. This better be good because I am not about shattered dreams when thinking about my first love or Christmas.

I had no need to worry. The story grabbed me from the start. I love the majority of characters. Joy is adorable! I really enjoyed having the custodial parent being the dad. Usually it is a single mom I am reading about. It was a nice change for me. It was also a realistic one. I know quite a number of Dad's in real life who have stepped up. I also enjoyed the fact that there were minor stories going on around them that weren't romantic set ups for future books. Yes that was in there, too, but there were ordinary things going on that were a part of the story. Just like life. People were flawed. There were choices to make. There were misunderstandings and hurts to work out. And there was Joy. Little Joy, who you just want to have the best Christmas and happiest life. Will she get either?

The author writes clean books with a leaning towards Christianity. This book did not overwhelm you with it. It was just a sweet, clean romance. It is a quick read. If you are reading it during the holiday season, this is perfect for relaxing with after a crazy, busy day. You don't have to wait for the Christmas season, though, to enjoy this story. The magic of Christmas is something the world needs on any given day. We all need the hope, the love and the kindness that has represented the Christmas season for decades. The commercialism, eh, not so much. If you need a little sugar in your day to sweeten it, pick up this book.




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Monday, August 14, 2017

Review: A Killer's Grace

A Killer's Grace A Killer's Grace by Ronald Chapman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I came across this book through BookTasters. The author provided an ecopy for review purposes.

This book was a surprise for me. It was what I expected yet not what I expected. It opens with a letter from a criminal to a journalist. The letter was not proclaiming innocence though. The criminal admits to the crime but blames mental illness. In reality, this is not uncommon, in my opinion. I have heard many times, it was because he/she was mentally ill. Or abused. Or another excuse. From the opening I expected a story that explores that. I was right but wrong.

The book unfolds with Pitcairn, trying to decide if he should write something or not. It then goes where I didn't expect. Into Pitcairn's life. We learn that while under the influence Pitcairn did something devastating. Something he can't ever change. He can't even truly talk about it, though his AA sponsor and his wife know what happened. He had no way to make amends with this incident. Now, he believes he may have a chance at it. The story then goes on with Pitcairn. We are left with witnessing his journey.But we are not just silent witnesses. With each step he takes we are pulled along, examining our belief about alcoholism, mental illness and more. It is a book that you want to hurry through because you want to know more. But what you want and what you need are at war. You need to go slower. You need to think about a scene. You need to question or examine something. Make sure you have given yourself plenty of time when you begin. I wish I had this book in hard copy. It is one that I imagine would hold a treasure of my musings in the margins. I rarely write in a book but when I do, it is because it touched me deeply. Would I recommend this book? Yes.

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Review: Ken

Ken Ken by Rachelle Ayala
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I enjoyed listening to this story. I found it to be funnier than I expected. When I picked it up, I was expecting a steamy romance. I got that. This story is definitely steamy. I was also expecting it to be a bit more on the serious or depressing side. Being stood up at the altar doesn't make for happy times. Yet that is what Rachelle Ayala gave us. The "honeymoon" was hilarious! The story also held a sweet surprise for me. That twist made it more interesting. The return of the groom made for some tense reading and a what would you do daydream. Yes. Depending on the story and the skill of the narrator, I can daydream myself into the story. I like Chris Abell. He brings the story to life and draws my imagination in. The twist in this story resonated with me and made it easy to put myself in the story. I had a good time. I will probably be listening to this again during the long cold winter days. I recommend the book to romance lovers who like a story with some heat to it.

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Review: Playing the Rookie

Playing the Rookie Playing the Rookie by Rachelle Ayala
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I listened to this book on Audible.

This is a quick read from a baseball themed series. I have read two others in the series. I'm normally not into sports themed books but I have truly enjoyed this series. The players tend to make cameos in each others books which enhances my investment in the series.

This story involves Jessica, a spring training intern, and Jay. who has come to the US as a rookie to start spring training. There is a spark but will it ignite love or just passion?

I connected more with Jessica. I loved her inner goddess scenes.I liked Jay but just couldn't get into him as much. At first I thought it was because he is a male character. However I have read a few books by this author and this was the first time I had difficulty. Then it dawned on me it was the point of view. I think because each of them had their own narrator, Jay being written in third person was what threw me off. I don't believe I would have noticed as much if I were reading it on my Kindle.I enjoy the look into Asian culture. One of my favorite things about Ms Ayala's books is that I learn something while I am being entertained. She has a way of combining humor with respect in teaching us about different cultures and situations. It is a wonderful gift that helps bring harmony to a battered world.

This book is for mature readers. It is a heated romance that uses mild but somewhat explicit wording. I was listening and had the gardener hooked. I have a small Sitka Rose bush outside my window. He took over 2 hours to trim it, normally he is done in 15 minutes. I guess that is proof this book can be enjoyed by both women and men. Ha!

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Thursday, August 10, 2017

My Writing - JoAnna

A few weeks ago, I decided to share a short story I had written. After writing about Blue I was a bit haunted by her daughter, JoAnna. I wrote her story as a separate yet connected piece. I don't know if I should continue this or just let it end here. Maybe I should just pick another prompt and move on. If you would like to help me decide, please leave a comment, (approval needed due to spam - sorry), tweet one, (@AlaskanBookCafe), or shoot me an email at alaskanbookcafe@gmail.com with the subject short story. Please be advised that the story deals with a mature theme that may be difficult. It is a story of domestic violence, family violence, child abuse. Domestic violence is usually thought of as being a couple issue. In my eyes, domestic is another word for home and home can consist of more than just a couple. For me, domestic violence is a family issue.You are fooling yourself if you believe only the adults are involved. 

If you are in a domestic violence situation, I urge you to call the hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE or go to 
The National Domestic Violence Hotline website where a chat is available along with information. (thehotline.org I cannot link it so please type it in your browser). Leaving is difficult and dangerous. Please talk to someone who can help you. 

Warning: It is not an easy topic nor is it meant for children. There is violence. There may be domestic violence triggers. 

The following story is owned entirely by Alaskan Book Cafe. I am the sole writer of this story. 

JoAnna's Story
My name is JoAnna. I am twenty five. I have brown hair and green eyes. My hair is curly but I take the time to straighten it. It falls to just past my shoulders when curly but nearly to my waist when straight. I am 5'5 and weigh 135 pounds. I watch what I eat and exercise but I am not obsessed. I have gone to college. I was a high school cheerleader. I was a babysitter, a cashier at McDonald's and throughout college, I was a waitress at Cracker Barrel. I now work for Children's Services. I like to dance, hike, and ride horses. I drive a jeep so I can go muddin' in it. I collect fairies. I wish upon stars and birthday candles. I have a boyfriend. He wants to marry me. I have a mom, a brother and a sister. I never really got to know my father. I had a stepfather. Now you know who I am. This is my story.

 I don't have a lot of memories of my dad. He was there when I was little. He went away after Justin was born. When I was little I didn't know why. I do now. My dad wasn't really into kids. He liked them best when they belonged to another family. Don't take that wrong. He loved me when I was little. He just didn't think he should have a bunch of kids he would either work hard to support and never know or know them and watch them grow up poor. My mom, though, she thought having kids made a family. There more kids there were, the less chance anybody could walk away. I guess that came from her mom. My grandma had two kids when my grandpa found someone with no kids and left. I'm pretty sure it wasn't really like that. Honestly though, the only part that matters is how my mom perceived it to be. That perception was what influenced her. My mom was pregnant with me when they married. I have wondered if my dad would have married her if she wasn't.

 I have been told my dad was happy when I was born. That he loved me and was proud to be a dad. My Aunt Margie said I was the only one he wanted.

 “If only your mother would have listened to him and just had you, your father would be here today,” Aunt Margie would start.

 She always made sure to say that she loved Jacelyn and Justin. I suppose she did. It's possible though she just loved Jacelyn and me.

 “It was what happened with Justin. That was why we lost your daddy!” She would cry then.

 She was usually drunk at this point. She was mad at my mom because when my dad left us, he left everyone. Her and her parents were included in that everyone. Her drinking and crying would loosen her tongue up. I was ten, when I learned Justin had a different daddy. I also knew that my dad knew that. The way Aunt Margie told it, my dad wasn't about to have another child after Jacelyn was born. He wasn't ready for her.

 After I was a year old my mom started hinting that she was ready to give me a brother. My dad, so the story goes, kept telling her to wait until things were better. He wanted job security and a home he owned. Mom wanted a baby and husband security. Neither one really won that war.


 So they had Jacelyn. Aunt Margie said my dad was proud and loving again. Unfortunately he was also worried about the future and all of us depending on him. When Jace was a year old, Mom started the hinting again. Dad told her no way. Then, without telling anybody, my dad took care of things himself.
He went to the doctor had a vasectomy done. Aunt Margie said when he came home, he told everyone he came down with a stomach virus at work and needed to go lie down. He took a couple sick days and then life returned to normal. He went to work and my mom kept seeking another baby.

  Aunt Margie said the day mom told him she was pregnant was the darkest day in that marriage. Mom had left Jace and me downstairs with my dad's mom to go to the doctor. When she got back she was glowing and excited.

  “Iris, could you keep the girls over tonight? I have some real happy news for Jackson. I'd like to make him a special dinner and have some alone time, please. Please, Iris? Just for tonight okay?” Mom pleaded.

  Grandma was reluctant but gave in, “Fine Blue. But you come get the girls as soon as Jackson goes to work in the morning.” 

  Mom went upstairs. We could hear her in the kitchen. Grandma looked at Aunt Margie. “That gal is crazy! There's not going to be any happiness in that house tonight!”  No one suspected just how bad the news was going to be though.

 We were sitting at the dinner table eating a special dinner my grandma made us; fish sticks, macaroni and cheese and peas with carrots. Grandma even made biscuits. It was my favorite. Jace liked it too.

 “Might as well make the girls a special meal too,” Grandma had told Aunt Margie. “If the news is what I think it is, no telling when things will settle down for them.” Aunt Margie replied, “I guess a peach cobbler would be nice. It will stretch that little bit of ice cream we have so that everybody can get some.” I don't think anyone got to eat that.

 We were just getting ready for dessert when a roar like you can't imagine came through the ceiling. It was followed by breaking glass and a loud thud. Turned out the loud thud was the table hitting the floor. My dad turned it over when my mom gave him the happy news that somebody was going to be a daddy. I'll say this for her, she didn't lie. Somebody was, just not my dad.

  Aunt Margie, eyes wide, asked my grandpa, “should we go up there?”

 “Nope. Blue knew Jackson didn't want any more children. What the hell was that woman thinking?” Grandpa was a great believer in folks settling their own problems.

 We could hear the yelling getting louder. Grandma was crying. She kept repeating, “Lord watch over my son. Help him accept this new baby.” I guess by then they knew what my mom's news was even though she didn't get to tell them. I guess, too, she should have been praying for my mom. Maybe grandma just figured Mom has her own mom to say prayers. We heard some more thuds, like Daddy was hitting the walls. Then there was running feet and screaming. The door upstairs opened but slammed shut right after. Then things went real quiet and everybody was looking at the ceiling. It's weird how you think you can determine what is happening by looking at a ceiling.

 “I'm going up there!”, Aunt Margie insisted.

 Grandma took us girls and knelt in front of the couch. “We need to pray real hard, girls, so God will hear us.” I don't know. Maybe God was busy or just mad at my mom.

  The next thing we heard Aunt Margie scream to call an ambulance and Grandpa was yelling. I'm not sure at who. I don't even know what he was yelling. I just remember being scared there was a monster upstairs.

  When the ambulance came they took my mom to the hospital and the police took my dad to jail. That was the last time I saw him.

  The next day, Aunt Margie took Jace and me to my other grandmother's house. That was the last time I saw my dad's parents. Aunt Margie would come visit us but always alone.

 Life moved along after we moved to my other grandma's house. It wasn't long until my mom and her mom started getting into arguments. After Justin was born, mom got a job at The Mercado and we moved to,”The Little Village”. I started school . We were poor but so was everyone else in the neighborhood. Then Mom met Rey and our lives changed again.

 It seems like one moment it was Mom and us kids and the next we were, “the happy family.” Even after Rey began hitting Mom, she kept calling us the, “happy family.” It was like she believed we weren't a family if there wasn't a man. I guess that is really why I never told her about Rey. Oh, he definitely scared me. He would come in to use the bathroom when I was in the tub. The first time he did it, he just used the bathroom and then left. Before he opened the door he stopped a moment.

 “I really had to pee, JoAnna. You know how it is when you can't wait.” He winked at me. “Don't go telling your mom. If she gets upset, I'll have to spank her.” Rey could spank pretty hard.

 The next time he came in, he peed and then stood there. After a minute I heard him.

 “Want to see what Daddies look like? I don't want you to be scared when you get married. It would upset your Mom if you were”

 I thought quickly about that. I knew I was suppose to get married. That was the most important thing about being a mommy. I didn't want to be scared and I definitely didn't want Mom upset,so I said okay.

 Things just got worse from there. Rey never did more than having some touching going on but it made me feel sick. I didn't understand why Rey wanted this. If all daddies did that, like he said, then why couldn't I talk about it? Why would Mom be upset? Why wouldn't we be a “happy family” anymore?

 I know now that I should have told her. We ended up not being a “happy family” after all. Even today, as an adult with an education in child abuse, I still felt, deep down, it was my fault. Rey hurt Justin and Mom saw it. For a long time I thought he did to Justin what he did to me. I guess that is where the guilt comes from. Mom kicked Rey out and filed for divorce. Then Rey came back.
 
 We had gone to the Christmas party at the shelter for battered women and children. It was so much fun. Since Rey left we went to the shelter a couple nights a week. Mom went into a room with other mom's. On Tuesday night Jace and I went into a room with art supplies and long tables. Justin went into a room filled with toys. Both rooms had other kids in them. Thursdays we went into a room with toys but it was just us three with a lady who watched us play. Sometimes she asked what we were playing. Sometimes she joined us. All the time she watched us. The party was different. It was like Tuesday night but better.

 The art room was decorated with lights and a Christmas tree. There was a big chair by the tree. The long tables had red and green tablecloths and were laden with all kinds of food. I remember there was a big disposable pan filled with macaroni and cheese. It made me think about the last time I saw my dad. Mom asked if I wanted some but I said no. I haven't eaten mac and cheese, or fish sticks, since that day. I still don't. There was plenty of other food though. Things like ham slices, potatoes, candied carrots, sweet potatoes with a crunchy sweet topping, rolls and fun stuff, like pizza and hot dogs. One of the tables held nothing but cookies! I had never seen so many different cookies before. Mom fixed us all plates and then we went to sit with Kay.
 
 Kay was one of the art teachers. I liked her a lot. She always had fun ideas and liked everyone's art work. She had given us a ride to the party and would take us home. We ate. We played. We ate cookies. Then the big moment came. Santa! He was there with a couple of bags of gifts. I couldn't believe it! We weren't even asleep! We sang songs with Santa and then everyone got a gift, even the mom's. After that we went home. We were only there a minute when there was a knock.

 “Kay!” I screamed, running for the door. “Kay's back!”

 I saw my mom coming out of the bedroom but I didn't wait for her. I flung open the door and there was Rey. He had a gun like cowboys use and he pointed it at me.

 “Let's go in the house,” he said, calmly.

 I was afraid to turn around so I backed into the room. I kept staring at that gun. I knew this was bad.

 “Get Jacelyn. We're going in the kitchen with your mom.”

 Mommy was in the kitchen standing with Justin. She was crying but I don't know if she knew it. She never wiped her eyes or her cheeks. I wondered if I was crying like that.

 “Sit down.” Rey told Mommy pointing the gun at her and Justin. He waved the gun at me and Jace. “Stand next to your mom.” I didn't understand it. He was talking so softly, like he wasn't even mad. Except he had the gun. He threw a bunch of paper on the floor in front of Mommy.

 “No divorce. I love you. I love the kids. We're a happy family.” Rey kept saying that over and over. He said it softly, with no anger. He said while he emptied the gun and then showed us each bullet.

 “Blue.” One bullet in. “JoAnna.” Two bullets in. “Jacelyn.” “Justin.” Three and four. “Rey.” Five. “Just in case.” The remaining ones. “I love you, Blue.” “We're a happy family.” The gun went in Mommy's mouth.

 “Please God. Please” I didn't know what else to say. Save us? Save Mommy? Don't let me puke? Don't let me pee? He might get mad. That's it! “Please God. Don't let him get mad.” He didn't sound mad. Maybe he needed to be mad to pull the trigger. “Oh God. What do I do? Help us. I'll be good. He can touch me God. All he wants. I'll never say no. I promise. I'll be a good girl. I'll never be a problem to anyone. I won't fight. I'll be quiet. I promise you God. I'll be the best.” Wait! What happened? Why is Mommy putting Justin on the floor?

 “Go to bed. Take Justin and Jacelyn with you.” Rey is looking at me but Mommy is standing and he still has the gun in her mouth. What's happening now? Rey pushes Mommy toward her room.

“Let's go Blue. The kids are going to bed.” Rey tells Mommy like it is any normal night.

 Except it's not. He isn't suppose to be here. Kay said he couldn't come back. What happened? Where are the police? Kay said the police would come. But they aren't here and Mommy is going to die. I don't know what to do. 'I want my Mommy, God. I told you I'll be a good girl'”

 I can't leave Mommy alone. “Mommy will die if I leave. I have to be a big girl now. It's all my fault. I should have been a good girl. I'll be good now, God. I promise.”

 I sit down next to Mommy's door. I put Justin in my lap and pull Jacelyn as close as I can.

 “If we sit here quietly, then Mommy won't die.” I keep repeating it to them even though I know I'm lying. There is going to be a big boom and Mommy will be dead. Then we will die, too. I guess Rey will go last even though I wish he would go first. But I keep repeating it to Jace and Justin like a mantra of safety. We wait to hear the gun. I don't cry because I'm a big girl. I think I am though. My face feels hot and wet like when I get hurt and I cry. Please don't let us die. I'll never cry again. I'll be good. I'll do whatever he says. I won't cry. I'll be a good girl. I don't want to hear the gun, God.

 I still don't know how my mouth can say one thing while my mind pleads another.

 It feels like forever since I saw Mommy. I wonder if she is still alive. Did I miss the gun sound?  It's getting light out.

  Oh God! Oh God! Oh God! Help us! The door is opening! Please be Mommy!

 Rey comes out of the bedroom. He still has the gun but not my mommy! He doesn't even look at us. Maybe he thinks we are in bed? I watch him leave out the front door. I want to go see Mommy but I'm scared she will be bloody and asleep. Please God. Please God.

 My mommy comes out the door! She isn't dead! Oh Thank You! Thank you! I remember. I'll be good.

 “He's gone. We waited for the gun to go off.” I tell Mommy.

 Mommy is holding us. It feels so good. I never want her to let go.

 “I'm so sorry. I'm so sorry. I'm so sorry,” Now Mommy is repeating. Maybe she made a promise with God too.

 “JoAnna, wash your face Honey. Mommy has to make some calls.”

I wash my face. The police come. So does Kay.

After that happened, it was always just Mom, Jace, Justin and me. If my mom had a boyfriend we never met him. We went to school, to art class and to play at the shelter. Time passed and we grew up. I never told Mom about Rey and me. I never told anyone until I told you. Jace, Justin and I never talk about that night. I don't know if Jace remembers. I am pretty sure Justin was too young.

 I remember the promises I made that night. I keep them. I hold them tight. I am afraid that if I don't God will not keep us safe.

 I am a good girl. I do what I'm told. If someone wants to touch me, I don't stop them. I don't feel it. I don't tell. I never say no.  I don't cry. I don't argue. I don't fight. I keep us all safe.

 I have a boyfriend. He wants to marry me. He doesn't know how damaged I am.

 I want to tell him, “It's okay. You don't have to love me. I prefer that you don't.”

  Softly, I say, “yes.”


fin

Review: Starboard Secrets

Starboard Secrets by Hope Callaghan My rating: 5 of 5 stars I really had fun with this book. I thought i...