Saturday, July 22, 2017

Short Story

Hi there!

Thank you for stopping by my blog. It has been awhile. Life happened. I am in the process of redoing my blog and updating it. Lately I have been just posting my book reviews here. I will be adding to that occasionally. Like today. I'm going to share a short story I wrote. I like Pinterest...okay maybe like is a weak word. I think most of us can get sucked into that site and need help to leave. It just is an amazing wealth of sharing information and ideas. One of the things I love are all the writing ideas. This story was written off of one of the writing prompts. Some friends and I tossed out challenges we found on there. This was mine. I hope you like it. It has not been edited. Sorry. First time sharing my writing with the public so I am truly nervous. I really do hope you find something of value in it.

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. 

It's Okay. You Don't Have To Love Me.

  “It's okay. You don't have to love me.” The thought kept blasting through her mind. She wanted to shout it out loud. She wanted to scream it. To whisper it. Anything to take the gun away. How did things get to this point?

  She was a single mother. The struggle was real. With three kids you'd think she couldn't possibly be lonely. But there it was. Not just at night, when the kids were tucked into bed, sleeping soundly. The loneliness was there in the morning when she drank her coffee, smoking the first cigarette of the day. She would wake the children up to get them dressed, fed, and ready for the walk to school. She sat at the table with the children, feeding the baby and thinking about being alone. She would imagine the conversation they could have.

 How he would put his hand on her oldest daughter's head and ruffle her hair, saying, “Good morning”. He would drop a kiss on the head of the baby and tweak the cheek of the toddler. Then he would kiss her and look into her eyes, “Good morning Baby”. She would get him a cup of coffee and his breakfast. They would talk about nothing or possibly everything, before each left to finish their day. He would go off to work, kissing everyone goodbye, of course. She would put the baby in a car seat, the toddler in a booster and the oldest in the seat between them. She would drive to the school dropping off one and then do all the things moms lucky enough to stay home do.  The fantasy could go one forever except that the baby wanted down, the toddler wanted to play, the oldest wasn't sure she finished all her homework and she had an hour to get them all ready and out the door in order to be at work on time. She wouldn't be able to get in another smoke until after she dropped the kids off, either. Bubble burst, time to move it.

 She enjoyed the walk to work. She loved her children, but the walk to and from work were her time. She smoked another cigarette and enjoyed the feeling of freedom. That ended in about 15 minutes when she entered the store to punch in. She really was grateful for the job. It was close to home and the hours worked for the children. Most of all it paid the bills, though she still had to rely on food stamps to feed those children. She  dreamed of the day when she would be able to pay for the groceries, too. It didn't matter to her that almost everyone who passed through her checkout used food stamps. It still embarrassed her to use them, like she was admitting she was too stupid to feed her own children.

 It was while she was checking out the cat lady when she first saw him. She was half listening to the cat lady drone on about what finicky eaters her cats were, passing the food tins over the scanner when she noticed him in the lane over. He wasn't anything truly special when you thought about it.

 Average height, he had a bit of a tummy on him. Not really fat, you could just tell he wasn't doing any sit ups. Dark hair, dark eyes, and dazzling white teeth. She only noticed him because he was someone new. He looked over and quickly changed lanes. She figured it was because she was handing cat lady her receipt. In her mind, even Average Joe's were out of her league.

 “Hi,” she said. “Thank you for shopping the Mercado. Did you find everything?”

 He hit her with a smile that lit up the store. “I have now.” he flirted with her.

 She smiled and blushed, not sure what to say back. Flirting was something that came easy only in fantasies.

 He looked at her name tag and said, “Blue? Is that a nickname?”

 She hated her name. Her mom use to tell people it was either her love of blue eyes or her love of the blues that made her name her only daughter Blue. Since she did not have blue eyes and the blues were, in her opinion, what you listened to when your troubles overwhelmed you, neither explanation helped her self esteem. Figuring the blues story would elicit less sympathy she went with it.

 “No. My mom loved the blues so she named me Blue.”

 “It fits you because if you say no to a date, I'll have the blues.”

 Even though she hated when men said similar things, she giggled at him. Somehow it was acceptable from him. She tried to think of something to say. Something clever that would let him know she was interested even as she turned him down. There was no way she could afford a babysitter. With no choices she could see, she sighed.

 “I'm sorry.”

 He smiled a sad smile and said, “I figured a pretty girl like you would be taken. I had to chance it though.”

 Blue laughed. He made her feel so good.

 “I'm only taken by children,” she said.

 “Really? Well it will have to be a family date then. When is your day off?”

 Blue couldn't believe what she was hearing. But then a scary thought entered her mind. What if he was one of those kind of men? You know. The ones who “like” children too much. How do you tell? She smiled a nervous smile and said she didn't even know his name. Taking his groceries, he told her his name was Rey and that he would be back every day until she said yes.

 He was true to his word.

 Six months later they married. Six months and one day marked the first time he was so sorry for hitting her.

 It wouldn't have happened if she didn't make him jealous talking to men in her checkout line. Nine months and she got her fantasy of being a stay at home mom. The only thing was it turned out to be nothing like her fantasy. A year went by and she couldn't tell you how she came to be in the position she was in, much less come up with a safe way out.

 Then came the day she was downstairs doing laundry. Jacelyn was napping in her bed and Justin had fallen asleep on the couch. She had left him there. She knew better than to wake a sleeping toddler. She heard someone walk across the floor and hurried upstairs. An anger she didn't know she possessed rose up even as she had never felt so sick in her life. In all the times he had struck her, she never imagined he would lift a hand to her children. Yet there he was, with his hand over her terrified son's mouth and nose, his other hand pressing down on his little chest. He didn't seem to notice Justin's tiny hands and feet beating at him as he tried to breathe. He also didn't seem to notice Blue as she raced at him, with the skillet she had grabbed from the stove as she ran past. She hit him as hard as she could. It was enough to make him let go of Justin. She snatched him up screaming for Rey to get the fuck out. Amazingly, Rey thought he was going to talk his way out of it. He started off telling her it wasn't what she thought. He loved the kids. She just kept commanding. “Get the fuck out!” until he did.

 After making sure both Justin and Jacelyn were fine, Blue looked up a number for battered women. There was no way he was coming back. She no longer cared about being lonely. She had discovered there were far worse things you could be. She called the number and made an appointment for the next morning with an attorney who worked with them. The woman she spoke with strongly suggested Blue call the police to make a report. Blue hung up and noticed it was time to pick up JoAnna from school.

 Walking to and from the school, Blue kept going over everything that had happened. She kept thinking that if she called the police she would be blamed for not protecting her children. In the end though, she was more terrified he would return. So sucking up all her fears, she called the police and made the report. Sitting in the ER while the doctors made sure the children were okay and the police took photos of the bruises that were forming, Blue blamed herself. That guilt and fear stayed with her far longer than her anger, insuring she did not back out of court dates.

 Filing for the divorce turned out to be easier than she ever imagined.

 That brought her and the children to where they now were, sitting in the kitchen with a gun pointed at them.

 They had just returned from attending a Christmas party at the women and children's center. Kay, who had driven them home, had just left. Blue was in Justin's room taking off his snowsuit, when she heard the knock. She heard JoAnna call out that Kay was back. She walked out in time to see JoAnna scrambling back from the open door that Rey was walking through. Rey holding a gun and telling JoAnna to take Jacelyn into the kitchen. Rey holding a gun and telling Blue to sit on the kitchen chair with Justin. Rey throwing the papers at her. Blue watching the divorce papers hit the floor, noting the order of protection on top.

 She thought to herself, no protection now. On top of that thought was, I did this. She watched as he unloaded the gun and showed them all the bullets he was replacing were real. She wanted to do something, anything, to get her children out of there but couldn't figure out how.

 Her daughters were frozen with fear. She knew, even if she were able to tell them to run, they wouldn't be able to. The thought that she did this kept repeating in her mind. She prayed, making deals with a God she wasn't sure was listening. She promised if they lived she would live lonely the rest of her life, happily. It was a stupid deal, she knew, but the only one she could think of. All the while Rey was softly, but deadly serious, saying, “no divorce. I love you.” when she finally focused on what he was saying, she wanted to scream back, “It's okay! You don't have to love me!”

 Terror kept her quiet, though. Then the gun filling her mouth left no room for words. Rey told her to leave Justin on the floor and get up. With no options open, she did as she was told. He walked Blue to the bedroom, telling the children, “Go to bed!” Blue prayed, thanking God her children would not have to see her die and begging Him to save them.

 In the bedroom, Rey told her to get on her knees. He kept the gun in her mouth, crouching down in front of her. Softly, he kept telling her that he loved her. He told her this was all her fault, He gave her all his love and she refused it, trying to get a divorce. The soft way he was speaking somehow sounding more menacing than if he were yelling at her.

 Hours went by with no change. The sun was rising and Blue couldn't handle it anymore.

 She cried, “Just pull the trigger! Just do it.”

 Rey looked into her eyes for several minutes. Blue looked back through her tears, meaning, in that moment, every word she said. Rey sighed and removed the gun from her mouth. He caressed her cheek with the barrel and then turned and walked out. 

 Blue flew to the bedroom door, intent on finding her children. She didn't have far to go. The three of them sat next to the door.

 JoAnna, dry-eyed but red-faced from crying, tracks streaking her face, said, “He's gone. We waited for the gun to go off.”

 Blue collapsed on the floor, wrapping her arms and legs around her babies, kept repeating, “I'm so sorry.” After a moment she picked up the phone and called 911. Then she called Kay. She knew they had a long road ahead of them.


Friday, July 21, 2017

Review: Max and Menna

Max and Menna Max and Menna by Shauna Kelley
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I came across this book through BookTasters. I am so happy I chose to read it!

This book destroyed that good way that only a phenomenal book can. I am not going to lie. It is not your average teen issue but happy ending book. It has heavy topics and the ending? I'll leave that up to you.

Max and Menna are 11 years old twins. They live in poverty in a small southern town with their alcoholic mom and older sister. This is their coming of age story told from each of their viewpoints. There is so much that I want to say; that I want to discuss. But I don't do spoilers. And honestly, it has been 7 hours since I finished it and I still cry. Very few books touch me this deeply. I love Max, Menna and Nick. My heart just breaks for them and a few other characters.

The story is deep and, for me, feels real. I spent my childhood between small town southern life and big city life where the white supremacists had headquarters not far from my home. My city, Chicago, had a fence that divided a portion of the city; white on one side, black on the other. I can remember walking with a girlfriend and some boys. I remember the looks. I remember them having to cross the street, for their safety, and then a few blocks away, returning to us. Ironically, they were walking with us to make sure we got home safely. The story is not an easy read. You will read of abuse, neglect, alcoholism, bullies, racism, violence against girls and rape. It is an important story. When we look the other way we make a decision. When we ignore history we make a decision. When we choose words carefully, changing them, we make a decision. All decisions have consequences, good or bad. Books like this one have power. They have power to show how far we have come and how far we still have to go.

I have read books that I said were the best of the year. This is the first time I have read a book that I would call the best in a decade. In my opinion, this is a book for teens and up. Preteens if an adult buddy reads so they can discuss the issues. I think this is an excellent book for classroom and teen book clubs.

*I did receive an ecopy for review purposes. The actual book may or may not vary from my copy.

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Thursday, July 20, 2017

Review: Max and Menna

Max and Menna Max and Menna by Shauna Kelley
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Review coming. I have to process. I have to stop crying. I have to think along with feel. For now I leave you with this: I have read books that I said were the best of the year. This is the first time I have read a book that I would call the best in a decade.

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Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Review: White

White White by Angelina J. Steffort
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I haven't read many angel/demon-human romances. This, perhaps, keeps it fresh for me when I come across one.

I was captivated by the story. I liked Adam a lot. Claire, not as much. She was immature, especially for the experiences she had gone through. She acted and made decisions that I would expect from someone younger or one who had been sheltered from life. I thought she accepted the angel/demon part too easily for one never exposed to it. Perhaps, it will come out in another part of the trilogy that she had some prior talks about angels with her parents or something. That would explain the ease of her not being alarmed by wings sprouting out of nowhere. The other people in the book are well written as is the setting. The plot was really interesting. I'm curious to see what happens next. The story could have wrapped up on its own, except for the final chapter. There are a few hints that there is more to come before the final chapter but nothing that would prevent it as being a stand alone. The last chapter about Edward, though, really opens up the for the sequel. If you hate cliffhangers, don't read the last chapter about Edward, until the next book is released.

I like that this is a trilogy. It means it will wrap up quickly. These series with 25+ books kill me. I do think there may be potential for spin off books, depending on where the next two books take us. Spin offs I like much more than endless series. Don't get me wrong. I read a few of those 25+ series. I enjoy a very few of them greatly. It just is more likely that I get bored or think to myself, good lord what is going on in that small town! Are there any people left? Haha.

This is a clean YA fantasy. I would have no problem gifting it to teenagers. I would recommend it to friends who like fantasy. I think it would make a good selection for a teen book club.

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Review: The Girl Before

The Girl Before The Girl Before by J.P. Delaney
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I really enjoyed the psychological aspect of this book. So much of it made me stop and think. Who was the villain? Was anyone innocent? Do the things we go through in life makes us bad or good? How do they contribute to how we react to the house? How long we we last in a house like this one? Is a house like this one a good or bad one? Is it a possibility for the future? Was the reason to build it a true one or is it just a way to control someone? What are the positives and negatives and which outweighs the other? What could be the political and societal effects? I think too much, apparently.

The story kept me reading, thinking and guessing. Just when I thought I had Emma, Jane or Edward figured out, a twist would be tossed out. I would love to see this in movie form. Usually I'm against books going to movies. Hollywood just ruins them more often than not. However with all the remakes going on now, something fresh would be welcome. The plot in this has the potential to be an awesome thriller.

Answering the questions from the rental questionnaire was truly interesting. I just wonder what my answers say about me. Haha!

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Monday, July 10, 2017

Review: Behind Closed Doors

Behind Closed Doors Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I listened to the Audible version.

I found the story interesting. It definitely held my attention. I really enjoyed Georgia Maguire's performance. Perhaps it was her narration that kept me glued. I really liked her interpretation of the characters.

I listened to it from beginning to end. Normally, unless it is a novella, I take breaks the same as I do with paper or Kindle books. Yes, I did find a few things predictable but I also was surprised at times. In my opinion, that balanced out. The plot had my imagination going. I have had experience with a "perfect, oh so not, marriage". I did imagine and wonder what would I have chosen to do in Grace's position.

I am not the type of reader who has to have the story ring true to life. I read for enjoyment. I read to be entertained. For me, this book entertained me. I had no problem with whether or not the plot could or has happened exactly as written. If I want a book that mirrors life stories, I will turn to non fiction. If I want to read a true to life thriller, I look at true crime books. I would recommend the book to my friends.

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Sunday, July 9, 2017

Review: On The Road To Villisca: The Hunt For The Midwest Axemen

On The Road To Villisca: The Hunt For The Midwest Axemen On The Road To Villisca: The Hunt For The Midwest Axemen by Hank Brewster
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I heard of the Villisca murders a few years ago and they stayed with me. I just couldn't get the facts of this case from puzzling my mind. Eight people, 6 children, murdered in their beds with only one showing signs of being woken up. This despite being in a shared room or even the same bed. How does that happen? As far as I have been able to tell, no sign of a drug being administered to prevent them waking. No struggle. No running away. No screams. It is a scary puzzle that gets scarier when you realize there were several murders that happened the same way around the same time. My heart cries for justice for these victims.
What I liked about this book was the use of the newspaper articles to tell the story. It was fascinating to read them. Newspapers told so much more back then. The coverage of the trial was amazing.
I know the author was trying to present things as they happened and in keeping with the language/spelling of the time. With so many newspaper articles and so many different cases, I think he did a good job. I learned things I didn't know. If he omitted or changed things, he stated it. I didn't agree with everything he did, but I understand his reasoning.
I don't think this is the best book out there regarding these murders but it is a book worth reading if you are interested in them. The author gives his opinion on who he believes did it. That does come out strongly towards the end. I'm not saying he is right or wrong about it; just letting you know his opinion is there.
I know the house in Villisca can be visited. It would have been interesting to know if he went there. To restore the home accurately and be able to provide tours, the current owners must have researched greatly. Perhaps, being from Villisca, they have something more to contribute. It would have been interesting to know if the author contacted them.
Would I recommend this book? Yes.

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Saturday, July 8, 2017

Review: Intercepted by Love: Part 2

Intercepted by Love: Part 2 Intercepted by Love: Part 2 by Rachelle Ayala
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Holey smokes! It's hot inside the book! Before I get started, though, let me say this is the second book in the series. You definitely need to read these in order. The first book ended on a cliffhanger as does this one. Normally I dislike cliffhangers but all the books are out in this series. Since I don't have to wait for a new book to come out I am fine with the cliffhanger.

I don't want to go into what the cliffhangers are in either book. My opinion on them though is they are some doozies! They definitely left me wanting to get on with the story. Andie and Cade are back with their dogs, Gollie and Red. We find out more about Roxanne and there is a new character introduced. I am enjoying getting to know Andie and Cade. They seem like a good couple but each has issues that need to be worked on. Huge issues. Will their searing hot passion be able to surmount those issues?

This series is considered spicy romance and is intended for mature audiences. It is definitely not for everyone. Those who object to explicit language and/or sex without marriage would enjoy a different book.

Chris Abell is back as the narrator. I enjoy his performance and am happy that he is continuing his role. Having the same narrator will be a bonus when I go back and listen to the series in its entirety.

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Monday, July 3, 2017

Review: Wooed by You

Wooed by You Wooed by You by Sophia Knightly
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I enjoyed this romance by Sophia Knightly. I read it over the busy weekend before the Fourth of July. I found myself eagerly returning to it each time I had to put it down. I liked the setup for the story. I did keep waiting for something awful to happen but was okay with it not. I did not much care for Isabel. I was a single mom so I definitely understood her need to protect Suzie. I just thought she came off as more the fearful women pretending to be strong for attention type. I really don't care for those dramatic type women, in books and real life. I hated her inconsistency and her lack of respect toward Linc. There was a pivotal scene and it infuriated me the total disregard she had for him. I don't want to go into it as it may spoil the book for you. I did like the rest of the characters though. I wish that the author had given an update on Isabel's mother in the epilogue. She was in much of the book and then just disappeared in the epilogue. I love the Cuban references, especially learning about noche buena. That was awesome though it did make me decidedly hungry.
This is a spicy romance so there is sexual activity. The book is easy to read and I imagine a number of you just flying through the pages.

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Review: Inheriting Murder: A Bobwhite Mountain Cozy Mystery

Inheriting Murder: A Bobwhite Mountain Cozy Mystery by Jamie Rutland Gillespie My rating: 5 of 5 stars ...