• ARC's,  Book Reviews

    Little Darlings – blog tour & review

    Author: Melanie Golding

    Publisher: Crooked Lane

    Publish Date: April 30, 2019

    Blurb:

    “Mother knows best” takes on a sinister new meaning in this unsettling thriller perfect for fans of Neil Gaiman and Grimms’ Fairy Tales.Everyone says Lauren Tranter is exhausted, that she needs rest. And they’re right; with newborn twins, Morgan and Riley, she’s never been more tired in her life. But she knows what she saw: that night, in her hospital room, a woman tried to take her babies and replace them with her own…creatures. Yet when the police arrived, they saw no one. Everyone, from her doctor to her husband, thinks she’s imagining things.

    A month passes. And one bright summer morning, the babies disappear from Lauren’s side in a park. But when they’re found, something is different about them. The infants look like Morgan and Riley―to everyone else. But to Lauren, something is off. As everyone around her celebrates their return, Lauren begins to scream, These are not my babies.

    Determined to bring her true infant sons home, Lauren will risk the unthinkable. But if she’s wrong about what she saw…she’ll be making the biggest mistake of her life.

    Compulsive, creepy, and inspired by some of our darkest fairy tales, Little Darlings will have you checking―and rechecking―your own little ones. Just to be sure. Just to be safe.

     
    My Review:
     
     
    What a page-turner! I read this book in two evenings. It’s a thriller, mystery, and dark fairytale, with a dash of the paranormal, all rolled into one book.
     
     
    In this debut novel, Melanie Golding perfectly captures the fog of postpartum and maternal instinct. She took me back 15 years, to my early days with my newborn daughter. This made the main character, Lauren,  immediately relatable.
     
     
    New mothers are often on the receiving end of well-meant, unsolicited advice and Lauren was no exception.
     
     
    After a terrifying night in the hospital where a filthy woman tries to exchange Lauren’s twins with her own creature-like twins, Lauren is told she is imagining things and the incident is dismissed as exhaustion. Video footage confirms that nothing happened and soon enough Lauren and her irritating husband Patrick are heading home with their newborn twins.
     
     
    Lauren’s fears and terror continue yet she cannot convince those around her that something isn’t right. As a mother, I could put myself in that situation and that’s what made this a page-turner.
     
     
    I had to know what happened next.
     
     
    What I liked:
     
     
    The writing was well done, Lauren’s character was well developed and easy to empathize with.
     
    I love a good changeling story. And changeling twins? Even better.
     
    I also appreciated the presentation of a postpartum mother, suffering from terrible worry and fear, without turning her into an unreliable narrator. I never felt the need to question Lauren’s fears.
     
     
    What I didn’t like:
     
     
    UGH the husband, Patrick. I’m sure that is a universal feeling from anyone who has read this book. Sometimes his clueless demeanor bordered on cruel, making him feel a bit overdeveloped. But I do believe that helped strengthen Lauren’s character and story.
     
    Harper, the detective – I wish her back story had been expanded more. She was right on the cusp of being an interesting and well-developed character.
     
     
    Overall:
     
     
    4.5/5
     
     
    If you enjoy a good thriller without extreme violence and terror – this happens to be me – and if you enjoy dark fairy tales and books like The Hazel Wood and Once Upon a River, Little Darlings should be added to your TBR list today!
     
     
    Want to win a copy? Head over to my Instagram to enter! I have three copies to give away, courtesy of Crooked Lane Books.

     
     
    Thank you to Netgalley and Crooked Lane Books for a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
  • Writing

    Wednesday Words: authenticity

    I will write about you.

    To be specific, I will write about how my experiences with you influenced me as a person.

    Same goes for dragons. If one showed up in my back yard it would be a safe bet that I’d be writing about dragons.

    Experiences with humans and dragons – both great things to write about.

    •    •    •    •    •

    I enjoy reading the author bio on the inside of a book jacket where it gives a few interesting facts about the author. Often the setting of the book is near or where the author lives.

    The streets they drive on, the coffee shop they stop at, the people they know –  all parts of their story. So why would it not influence their work?

    If they have found their authentic writing voice, you can count on an author drawing from their life experiences to tell their own story.

    In our home, we talk a good deal about our stories. Everyone has a story to tell and they own that story – no one else. For example, I will never write about a family member’s struggle with depression.

    But I will write about what it’s like to parent in that situation. That is my perspective and unique experience.

    •    •    •    •    •

    Lately, I have struggled with writing. In an attempt to suppress feelings and experiences so that they did not make an appearance in my words, I lost the authenticity that makes the words flow onto a page.

    But as I write this, I am moving past that obstacle. If someone chooses to take my writing and make the words about them, perhaps they need to make an appointment with their conscience.

    Their guilt is calling.

    There is also a good chance that I’m not writing about a specific situation or person but rather a collective pile of emotions. I am not willing to give a single person that kind of power over my life or my writing. Unless you’re a dragon, of course.

    And if so, let’s talk.

    I write for myself and for the shared experiences of others. If one person reads and feels less alone, acknowledged, encouraged, or amused then my writing has fulfilled my intent.

    So I will write about you – for the sake of authenticity.

    Until the dragon shows up. Then everyone will be off the hook because it will be all dragons all the time.

  • Book Reviews

    Maid: a book review

    No two persons ever read the same book. – Edmund Wilson

    4.5/5

    Have you ever read the reviews of a recent book you read/listened to and wondered if those readers read the same book or even read the entire book?

    Maid falls into this category for me. So many of the reviews missed the entire point of the book. As a matter of fact, they underscored just how deep our views of poverty and the working poor run.

    •    •    •    •

    Stephanie Land is a young single mother who found herself pregnant and in an abusive relationship with the child’s father. The book opens with her watching her daughter, Mia, take her first steps – in a homeless shelter.

    After 90 days, the maximum amount of time allowed to live in the shelter, Stephanie and Mia are moved into transitional housing which doubled as a halfway house. In a very uncomfortable scene, Stephanie’s mother and husband – visiting from Europe – help her move her belongings. The comments, the questions, and finally the expectation for Stephanie to pay for her own meal when she had $10 to her name, illustrated just how little of a support system she had.

    Stephanie found a job working as a maid, earning minimum wage minus gas money to travel from house to house. Between multiple government assistance plans, minimal child support, her jobs, and her side jobs, she barely scraped by every month. She was one emergency expense away from losing what little she had.

    More than once she was told “you’re welcome” by people in the grocery store line watching her use food stamps to pay for her groceries.

    Cue the reviewer comments criticizing her for never saying “thank you” and acting entitled.

    Have we really devolved that much? Where we expect a single parent to turn around in the checkout line and thank us after using government assistance to pay for groceries. How sad and ignorant.

    In the book Land did express her gratitude multiple times for the assistance they received, despite how often she was shamed and stigmatized. She wholeheartedly acknowledged that they would not have survived without the programs.

    •    •    •    •

    This memoir chronicles her struggles and tackles head-on, the stigmas of living in poverty and receiving government assistance. Her writing is excellent and if readers are willing to set aside their own opinions, it is very easy to slip into her shoes. My one critique would be the timeline – at times it was difficult to follow.

    I am glad for the help that Stephanie received. This book would not exist without it and the stigmas would continue. We need more books like Maid.

    And of course this book wasn’t all sadness and struggle – there were interesting and amusing parts as well. She pulled back the curtain and gave the reader a look into the world of house cleaning from a maid’s perspective. I know that I am going to be a better host for our cleaning service. Stephanie wrote about feeling invisible to her clients, despite the dirty work she did, and I never want someone feeling like that when they are in my own home.

    I also don’t want to end up in one of their memoirs. 

    Who would I recommend this book to? If you enjoyed Educated, Heavy, or Where the Crawdads Sing, you will enjoy Stephanie’s writing, strength, and resilience.

  • Uncategorized

    Wednesday Words: Turning the Page

    I am a planner – a complimentary way of referring to myself as a control freak. And I will own it because it is a good quality to have in certain situations.

    Financial planning using data and analysis – yes.

    Life – no.

    2018 was The Year of Perpetual Rug Pulling Out From Under Us. One thing after another in the form of trauma, loss, depression, anxiety, grief, betrayal, injustice, and finally acceptance.

    Oh, acceptance – as in I don’t even have an Ikea bathmat left to stand on – that’s a big one for a control freak. But that is where I arrived after a heart to heart with Steve one late night after Christmas.

    •    •    •    •

    Note: If you are fortunate enough to find a partner in life who tells you every evening before they make you a drink that you are their “favorite sound in the world”, you have something pretty awesome.

    But if you are fortunate enough to find a partner in life who will tell you the hard things that you need to hear and still tell you that you are their favorite sound, you have something rare.

    Steve is both awesome and rare.

    •    •    •    •

    I woke up the next morning with a new sense of peace. I went about my business, threw a New Year’s Eve party for Chaney and her theater friends – it was very dramatic and fun – kissed Steve at midnight, and fell into bed at 2 AM when the boys went home.

    The next few weeks were a whirlwind. Steve is incredibly talented and because of his hard work and reputation, the job opportunity of a lifetime appeared almost out of nowhere. Practically overnight everything changed.

    I knew and even wrote last year that it was time for a change in the direction of my own career and life. Steve and I talked about it but had no idea how we were going to make it happen.

    Then it happened last week and my first writing assignment was to help Steve compose his resignation letter. He didn’t need help because we were on the exact same page full of mixed emotions, gratefulness, and excitement about the future.

    Yesterday I closed the book on a 20-year career in finance. I will miss my clients and will cherish the stories, lessons, and life experiences they shared with me. I have held hands with widows, shared with adult children how much I enjoyed working with their parents, and I will miss the clients who dropped in for nothing more than coffee, conversation, and a hug.

    So what’s my plan now? 

    We joke that it’s whatever I want and here’s what I want – more time with family, time to read and write, time to continue my Book Oblivion courses, and most importantly the time to support Steve and Chaney in their dreams and next chapters.

    In the fall my plan is to begin a low-residency MFA program in creative writing.

    But in the meantime, outside of the above, you can find me here compulsively cleaning the house, finding my fitness groove again, managing a home remodel, and making peace with two beagles who love me but don’t love to mind me.

    Here’s to turning the page.

  • Bookish,  Himalayas of Literature

    2019 Reading Goals: the super-nerdy book reading schedule

    When I decided to read more books in 2018, I had no plan other than to read a book a week. That worked out well and I felt like I read a decent variety of books. But it was very haphazard; most book selections came from glowing reviews on Goodreads or Instagram.

    Late last year I joined the Himalayas of Literature group through Book Oblivion. The experience thus far has been exceptional. So when I had the opportunity to enroll in the How to Read More course series in combination with their Critical Theory & Philosophy course, I jumped in with both feet.

    These two courses fit perfect with what I was looking to accomplish in 2019: read more and read more books covering a deeper subject matter. Plus the added bonus of great instruction and a community of like-minded readers.

    The first assignment for the How to Read More course was to create my super-nerdy book reading schedule – yes, it’s really called that and it is the perfect description of what you’re about to see. Super nerdy.

    Broken into months and then seven reading categories, I was able to plot out my entire year of books.

    For the first six months these are my categories:

    • Himalayas of Literature assigned book
    • Critical Theory & Philosophy assigned book
    • Book Club for Introverts monthly pick
    • Female Written Fiction
    • Person of Color Author
    • Poetry or Essay
    • On Writing

    For the last six months of the year here are my categories (the first three are the same as above):

    • Feminist Fiction or Nonfiction
    • Classic Lit
    • Short Story or Poetry
    • Research

    From there I went to the books I already own and filled as many monthly categories as possible. Another one of my reading goals was to read the books I already have because I might have a few that bookstagram made me buy. If you’re on Instagram, I know you are nodding in agreement right now.

    Don’t worry, I won’t tell your significant other if you don’t tell my husband. 

    I filled in the remaining categories with books that are on my to-be-read list on Goodreads.

    This exercise took all of 30 minutes to complete and I am thrilled to know what I’m reading each month. Maybe it’s just me but I used to get overwhelmed wanting to read all the good books and struggling to choose. I know, I have problems. If that’s not just me then you don’t have problems and neither do I.

    Win/Win

    I did not include audiobooks in this schedule as those are going to be my free picks so I don’t feel completely left out of the latest and greatest book releases.

    This was a nerdy but fun exercise and I can see this being a part of future years as well.

    What are your plans for reading this year? Do you have any particular goals set beyond the number of books you want to read?

     

     

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