Book Review #70: “Bonfire”

Bonfire

Image Credit: Goodreads

I bought this book from Barnes & Noble for two reasons: (1) The cover, and (2) The author! Known recently as Marvel’s Jessica Jones, I admire Krysten Ritter in many respects. I wanted to see how she wrote a book!

To be completely honest, I nearly DNFed this book around the 50-page mark. It was a good story, but I felt it was moving really slowly. The world-building was good, the characters were good, but it felt like it was moving at a snail’s pace.

One of the things that kept me going was Ritter’s use and creation of fantastic, realistic imagery and scenery. Wow! I felt like I had been dropped straight into Barrens, Indiana, and walking beside Abby Williams, the MC.

I’m glad I stuck with the book, though. It got better. I can’t exactly pinpoint when it got better, but the pace did pick up, and it felt like a rush after that. This book is part mystery, part legal thriller, part psychological thriller. I wasn’t expecting all of that when I started the book!

In terms of characters, Abby reminded me so much of Erin Brockovich, but where she is returning home to investigate the seemingly-stellar company that’s put her hometown on the map and revitalized everything. Seeing her attempt to navigate past relationships with her father, and former classmates, was really interesting.

There wasn’t a huge twist, per se, but I know I didn’t see it coming. I audibly gasped when it struck me between the eyes, as I was reading it on the page. Ritter weaved several story lines together so well, and entangled multiple characters.

I felt Abby was slightly gaslighted, in a way, because she started to believe she was truly crazy, and couldn’t tell fact from fiction. It was tough for me to keep up with and navigate the stories of 10 years prior and her present, but I feel like Ritter did a good job, overall. I was hooked, and couldn’t put the book down at the very end. She also divided the chapters really well, and the flow was great.

It’s not my favorite book in the whole world, but I’m glad I read it. It’s going on my bookshelf. I look forward to see what she writes next.

3 1/2 out of 5 stars.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Writing Prompt #193: “Tell The Story Challenge” (Round 2)

I saw this on Kristian’s amazing blog, Life Lessons Around The Dinner Table!

Here’s the link to Kristian’s post:


This is the photo Kristian chose for others who wanted to participate:

Tell The Story Challenge - Round 2

“Dancing Shadows”

As the sun set behind the shoreline of Nags Head, North Carolina, Brett sighed, lost in thought. Seeing his lone shadow on the sand made him misty. His mind was filled with thoughts and memories of her – Lisa.

Brett was transported back to 1993. That summer was glorious. Fresh off his sophomore year of college, he’d landed a job at one of the Nags Head hotels for the summer. Brett was giddy – He loved the beach, and what better place to earn some money and gain some hospitality and tourism management skills for his degree? Plus, he was turning 21 that summer. Even better. He couldn’t wait to work a little, party hard, and possibly meet a girl or two along the way.

Five weeks passed quickly, and Brett was surprisingly miserable. That summer was not typical – Tons of rain, and several nasty hurricanes had barely missed the Outer Banks. He was grateful to still have his job at The Carolinian. The staff got along great, but the crazy weather was not helping anyone’s mood. Even the tourists were uncharacteristically rude, curt, and horrible tippers.

Finally, the weather improved after the 4th of July. The fireworks spectacular was canceled, and everyone was ready to let off some pent-up steam. Brett, Connor, Andrew, and Rhea were not only co-workers, but became fast friends. Brett shared a house with Andrew, a fellow college student working for the summer, and Connor and Rhea were locals. They’d passed around the idea of having a huge bonfire on the beach for weeks, and the weather was finally right for it.

Connor and Rhea left The Carolinian early to gather supplies. They were a few years older, and the manager had some sympathy. Brett and Andrew’s moods were lighter, and so were the tourists’, for once. It felt like the first time all summer anyone was making decent money.

Fifteen minutes before their shift ended, Andrew whistled loudly as he cleared a vacant table. Brett nearly dropped the clean glass he was polishing, but knew Andrew was signaling something important.

Brett carefully set the glass on the bar and looked in the direction of the lounge entrance. Two girls, with a third slightly behind them, traipsed in. Brett fought back the urge to stare – Everything was in slow motion. One, a brunette with blonde highlights, was tan, and sporting a gingham bikini top and white shorts. The other two were blonde, and looked like sisters with their matching tans, tube tops, and overall shorts.

Andrew opened his mouth, but quickly shut it.

Brett swallowed as the girls headed in his general direction.

“Hey, buddy, where can we get some drinks around here?”

Brett tried to not roll his eyes. “Hey, ladies. Drinks can be found here, as long as you’re the proper age, that is. I’ll need to check your IDs, please.”

The brunette, identified as Jennifer, kept smacking her gum and making eyes at Andrew. The sisters, who weren’t actually sisters, were Kimberly and Lisa. All three were giggling madly. Brett doubted, briefly, their IDs were real.

“What’ll it be, ladies?” Brett gingerly, but confidently, flipped a glass in his hand, end over end, and caught it deftly. All six eyes widened as the girls gasped. Brett grinned, and Andrew shook his head. He’d already paid for six glasses that way. But, he was improving. Even Andrew had to admit that.

Kimberly and Jennifer, in unison, said, “I’ll have a Long Island Iced Tea, please.” More giggling.

Lisa looked at Brett straight, and smiled. “I’ll have a Shirley Temple, please.”

Brett smiled back, happy to find at least one girl visiting Nags Head who didn’t want to get drunk right away. Andrew popped over to ask them about food. Kimberly and Jennifer declined. Although it was obvious the other two were pressuring Lisa to go along with them, she asked for a menu. After studying it for a few minutes, Lisa ordered a cheeseburger and asked for piping hot fries. Andrew mock saluted and headed toward the kitchen.

“Hey, Lisa, you’re gonna get fat.”

Lisa rolled her eyes. “Who cares? I’m hungry. And I’m not drinking. Not yet, anyway. Did you hear about the bonfire on the beach tonight?”

Brett’s ears perked up, but just smiled to himself and listened. The girls chattered away, excited. He could feel Kimberly eyeing him as she stirred her straw round and round.

“Hey – Kimberly? You’re making me uncomfortable.” The words tumbled out of his mouth before he could stop.

“Who, me? No way. As if!”

“No, seriously. Stop staring at me. I tend to drop glasses if someone keeps staring like that. It gives me the creeps.”

Brett’s eyes met Kimberly’s, now full of anger and disgust. “You just lost your tip, whatever your name is. Besides, you’re just a bartender. Come on, Jennifer. Come on, Lisa. Let’s go. He’s a loser.”

Jennifer started to stand, but hesitated. “I want to finish my drink, Kim. Please?”

Kimberly wasn’t having any of it. Brett knew a mean girl when he saw it. “No, Jen. Come on. I want to get ready for the bonfire. Now.”

Jen looked at Lisa, but Lisa turned away. Instead of staring at Brett, she stared at the shoreline.

Kimberly slapped some crumpled, wet bills on the bar, and several coins rolled in different directions. “Here, barkeep, that’s a mess for you to clean up.”

Jen smiled sympathetically as she held out her credit card. Without a word, Brett ran it through. He just nodded as Jen gave a tip for her drink, as well as Kim’s. She left the lounge without a word, but then started calling Kim’s name about ten steps down the hall.

Lisa sighed. She sounded exhausted. Neither of them wanted to speak. Brett silently thanked Jen, and carefully collected Kim’s bills and coins.

“They’re not my true friends, you know. We’re sorority sisters. Ugh. I can’t wait to be done with college.”

Brett smiled slightly. “I can’t wait to be done, too. Sort of. I’ve had fun this summer.”

Lisa focused on him. “Here? At The Carolinian?”

Brett nodded, smiling wider. “It’s rained, sure, but it’s been nice to earn some money and have a little fun. I’ll be sad to head back to the mountains.”

Lisa glanced around, and then leaned in closer. “Who’s idea was the bonfire?”

Brett raised his hand. “Mine. And – Some others. We’ve been planning it for weeks. You’re coming, right?”

Lisa smiled, her green eyes sparkling. “You bet. I’m excited to get away from Kim and Jen. They’ll be there, but I think they’ll be plenty distracted.” She tilted her head in Andrew’s direction, and Brett smiled.

“Yeah, he’s been pretty popular here. He looks like a surfer.”

“Does he? Surf?”

Brett laughed. “No. I don’t think he’s ever been on a board. He takes great pride in his hair.”

Both Brett and Lisa laughed harder as they pictured Andrew on a surfboard, trying to avoid getting wet.

“Do you surf?”

Brett chuckled. “I’ve learned a few things here. But – I love something else.”

Lisa leaned in. “What’s that?”

“Dancing.”

“Really?”

“Yep. There’s a ballroom dance club at school. I could – show you some moves later. If you want.”

Lisa’s eyes danced. “I’m a bit clumsy.”

“No worries. That’s my job – To catch you if you fall.”

The bonfire was roaring and huge. Brett’s stomach was flipping and flopping. He hadn’t spotted any of the three girls yet. His watch read 10:52. Still early, but not if someone was already drunk.

The squeals of delight from the southwest corner of the fire made everyone’s heads swivel. Kim and Jen were holding on to each other, and Lisa was holding their shoes. Brett smiled sadly and shook his head. Lisa looked miserable.

Kim, clearly drunk and possibly high, was struggling to stay upright. “Jen! Look at this! The fire – It’s so big!”

Jen wasn’t much better. “Ooooh! I bet it’s really, really hot!”

Andrew had been strumming his guitar, but quickly set it aside to make sure Kim and Jen were settled, and, moreover, safe. Someone else offered them beers, and they gratefully accepted them after plopping into lawn chairs. They bobbed their heads to Andrew’s soft music. Rhea rolled her eyes, then waved Lisa over.

“Hi! You must be Lisa. I’m Rhea. Welcome!”

Lisa smiled, grateful for the opportunity to drop Kim and Jen’s shoes in a heap. “Thanks. I’m happy to be here.”

Brett let Lisa and Rhea talk for a bit as Rhea nursed a beer. Brett had a bottle of water, and offered one to Lisa.

“Sure. Thanks! I’m parched.”

She took a few swigs and eyes Kim and Jen. “I already told Brett – We’re sorority sisters. Not necessarily friends.”

Rhea raised her beer and touched Lisa’s water bottle. “Here, here.”

About twenty minutes later, Rhea offered to go check on Kim and Jen, and see if anybody else needed something. Lisa dug her bare feet in the sand. Brett carefully moved his chair over, with just enough space in between.

“They made quite a scene earlier, didn’t they?”

Lisa shrugged. “Can we not talk about it?”

Brett dropped it. “Happy to talk about anything else. What do you like to do in school?”

Lisa liked Brett. She wasn’t necessarily attracted to him, but liked how thoughtful he was. He’d called out Kim because she’d made him uncomfortable – A clear first for a guy.

Brett felt attracted to Lisa, but wanted it to feel like a slow burn. Taking its time, soaking up all the energy. He was becoming captivated by her – Her passions for writing and the environment. She was not your typical blonde.

As the fire started to wind down, Rhea and Andrew ended up taking care of Kim and Jen. They had to fireman-carry Kim back to The Carolinian, and Brett and Lisa both cringed as they heard the unmistakable sound of vomit splashing on concrete.

Lisa sighed, turning back to enjoy the moment. “Oh! You told me about ballroom dancing. I’m still clumsy, but I’d love it if you’d have me a partner.”

Brett smiled, and took her hand. The fire slowly died away as something inside of them sparked. Lisa took in every sense, wanting to hold on to this moment forever.

For the rest of her week-long vacation, Lisa and Brett met up every night. Bonfire or not, they danced in the sand. Lisa became less and less clumsy, and Brett learned a few things, too.

The last day came quickly. Brett was forlorn. He hastily wrote his parents’ number on the back of her last receipt, where she’d ordered a Shirley Temple, a cheeseburger, and piping hot fries.

Two weeks later, Brett’s mom called the beach house. She left a message on the state-of-the-art answering machine, “Hi, Brett. I know you’re wrapping up work and all, but I wanted to let you know – Lisa called. More than once.”

Daily phone calls turned into making plans to visit each other every month or so at their schools. Brett was at Virginia Tech, and Lisa was at Washington & Lee.

The day before Lisa’s college graduation in 1995, Brett proposed in front of her entire family. She gleefully accepted. They knew immediately where they wanted to marry – The Carolinian. Complete with a bonfire on the beach.

In 1998, Lisa became pregnant with their first child. At 27 weeks, Lisa went into premature labor. Their baby boy came into the world a fighter.

Two years later, Bradley’s sister arrived. Slightly premature at 34 weeks, the doctors cautioned against another pregnancy.

During Memorial Day Weekend 2002, while on vacation at The Carolinian, Lisa took another pregnancy test. It was positive. Brett was worried, but also thrilled. They danced again on the beach.

On Halloween, Lisa woke up screaming from an afternoon nap. She frantically called Brett at work. “I think I’m in labor!”

They knew it was twins, very likely a boy and a girl. Brett squeezed her hand as she headed for the operating room. “Think of us dancing, sweetheart.”

Just before midnight, two cries arose from the room. “Congratulations, it’s a boy and a girl!”

Lisa looked up at Brett, with tears in their eyes. “We were dancing on the beach, sweetheart. We are dancing.”

Six weeks after Brandon and Lauren came home from the NICU, Brett found Lisa on the bathroom floor. He held Lisa close as the ambulance rushed to their home, just ten miles from The Carolinian.

Lisa was the definition of a miracle. She’d made it through three difficult pregnancies, three premature births, and watched four children fight for their lives. But, a pulmonary embolism was the ultimate match, and winner.

Brett struggled with being alone. He had tons of help and support with the kids, but Lisa was his dance partner. Partner in life.

Still, he came to The Carolinian to remember and reflect.

As he watched his shadow dance in the breeze with the setting sun, four other shadows appeared, two on either side. Brett was grateful he’d taught Bradley, Lilly, Brandon, and Lauren to dance. Bradley was becoming quite the ballroom dancer, and Lilly had a passion for ballet. Brandon and Lauren were just starting dance classes, but they loved it as much as their older brother and sister.

As Brett sighed and wiped away a tear, three-year-old Lauren tugged on his shorts.

“Daddy?”

“Yes, baby girl?”

“Are you thinking of Mommy?”

“Yes, Lauren. Mommy loved this place. She loved to dance. Just like you.”

“Do you still like dancing, Daddy?”

Brett nodded. “Yes, Lauren. I do. May I have this dance?”


Anyone who got this far – I nominate you!

Here is your photo, should you decide to participate:

pexels-photo-132037


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Book Review #69: “All The Missing Girls”

All The Missing Girls

Image Credit: Amazon

It took a long time to get to this place, let me tell you!

This book was originally a Christmas gift from Al in 2017. I first started reading it in the summer of 2018, and then abandoned it about halfway through.

However, abandoning it started to bother me several months later, so I committed to pick it back up. Finally, after about a month of effort, I finished it!

Part of the reason I abandoned it at first was due to the story structure. Told in reverse, Miranda presents quite a complex set of characters, all trying to piece together the reasons why certain events occurred ten years prior.

The main character, Nicolette, known as Nic, was hard for me to grasp at first. She appears likeable, but as you get deeper into the story, it gets muddled and messy. Almost all of the characters have darkness in their pasts. Some, in their present, too.

On the surface, it’s a mystery story. Everyone in Cooley Ridge, or mostly everyone, is trying to find out what exactly happened to Corinne Prescott ten years earlier. Is she dead? Is she still missing? What the hell happened to her?

Then, just as mysteriously, Annaleise Carter vanishes off the face of the Earth. Everyone is a suspect. And Nicolette is at the center of it all.

This was not my favorite book in the world. It was a good idea, a decent mystery. Once I finished reading it, I started to better understand why I originally abandoned it. Nicolette was a tough main character for me, and it was almost too much trying to keep up with everyone else in her world. There were too many people involved in the story, and it got muddled and confusing from the first chapter. And maybe that was part of the point? To make it confusing to add to the story.

However, I’m glad I stuck with it. Miranda did a good job building the world of Cooley Ridge, and made the past and present blend together well. At the same time, I feel like she tried to accomplish too much in one novel, her debut for adults. I felt exhausted after just 1-2 chapters in a night, and struggled to read more than that in one sitting.

If you’re a fan of suspense and solving mysteries, this is a good read to try when you’re on vacation, or wanting a different book to read. Other than that, it’s a challenge for me to recommend it higher.

3 1/2 out of 5 stars.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Tag #71: A to Z Book Tag!

a to z book tag

Image Credit: Howling Libraries

I saw this tag on Destiny’s blog, Howling Libraries!

The tag was was originally created by The Perpetual Page Turner.

Here’s the link to Destiny’s post:


a | author you’ve read the most books from:

  • Ann M. Martin. More than 150 books between The Baby-Sitters Club series, Baby-Sitters Little Sister series, Mysteries, Super Mysteries, and a few others! I also had the Baby-Sitters Club Friendship Kit computer software in the mid-1990s.

b | best sequel ever:

catching_fire

c | currently reading:

Image result for all the missing girls book

d | drink of choice while reading:

  • Nothing. I don’t want to spill anything on my books.

e | e-reader or physical book:

  • My heart lies with physical books! However, I’m not against e-books.

f | fictional character you would’ve dated in high school:

  • Either Ron or Neville from Harry Potter.

g | glad you gave this book a chance:

  • WHO KNEW? … Reflections on Vietnam, J. Holley Watts. A powerful book / memoir of a woman’s service in Vietnam with the Supplemental Recreation Activities Organization (SRAO) program of the American Red Cross.

h | hidden gem book:

Image result for story of a girl book

  • Story of a Girl, Sara Zarr. I was assigned to read this in my Young Adult Literature class in the spring of 2011, and I fell in love with it. If I don’t have that copy at this point, I need to buy another one. I want to re-read it and review it here.

i | important moment in your reading life:

Image result for harry potter and the deathly hallows book

  • Finishing Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows during the summer of 2008. I wasn’t interested in the series originally, even though a lot of my friends and classmates devoured them the minute the new book came out. However, I caught on quickly, and enjoyed all seven books. Finishing Deathly Hallows was really hard, and I clearly remember not picking up a new book for nearly two weeks that summer. I needed to heal first.

j | just finished:

evicted

k | kind of books you won’t read:

  • Anything that is truly horror, or glorifies abuse (Fifty Shades of Grey, for example).

l | longest book you’ve read:

  • The Bible.

m | major book hangover because of:

  • I don’t think this has happened to me in years. See the letter I for more context.

n | number of bookcases you own:

  • In my house, just one! It’s six-feet-tall, and I love it.

o | one book you’ve read multiple times:

The Great Gatsby - Complex

p | preferred place to read:

  • In bed before going to sleep, or a comfortable couch/chair if I’m reading during the day.

q | quote that inspires you/gave you all the feels from a book:

  • “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view … Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.” ~ Harper Lee, To Kill A Mockingbird

r | reading regret:

  • I can’t think of one.

s | series you’ve started and need to finish (all books are out):

t | three of your all time favorite books:

Image result for harry potter and the order of the phoenix book

A Walk to Remember (Hardcover).jpg

  1. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, J.K. Rowling
  2. Looking for Alaska, John Green
  3. A Walk to Remember, Nicholas Sparks

u | unapologetic fangirl for:

Pleasant Company Catalogue Holiday 1991

The Smugglers Treasure Cover

  • All of the American Girl books. I started reading them as soon as I could, and I learned a lot about history through these characters. I’ve re-built my childhood collection (Samantha, Felicity, and Kirsten), and added plenty more. I’m also on a quest to own all 22 History Mysteries. Also, I highly recommend The Care and Keeping of You series for girls. There’s a book for boys, too!

v | very excited for this release:

Image result for parkland book

w | worst bookish habits:

  • I buy more books before reading my current stack. I can’t let a good book pass by me.

x | x marks the spot! start at the top left of your bookshelf and pick the 27th book:

The Lady's Slipper

y | your latest book purchase:

Image result for janesville an american story

Image result for mosquitoland book

Image result for the hate u give book

Image result for a sky for us alonebook

  • Last week, I bought four books from Barnes & Noble with a generous gift card from my mom for my birthday last year:
  1. Janesville: An American Story, Amy Goldstein
  2. Mosquitoland, David Arnold
  3. The Hate U Give, Angie Thomas
  4. A Sky for Us Alone, Kristin Russell

z | zzz-snatcher book—last book that kept you up way too late:

  • Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City, Matthew Desmond.

Tag – You’re It!


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Writing Prompt #161: “Tell The Story Challenge”

mystery

I was challenged by Kristian at Life Lessons Around The Dinner Table!

Here’s the post where I was challenged:


Kristian gave her nominees a photo to use for the challenge, and asked us to be as creative as possible and then nominate at least three more bloggers to keep the challenge going.

“The Polka-Dot Umbrella”

I received the polka-dot umbrella, with matching rain boots, for my seventh birthday. I was obsessed with polka-dots for years, and my whole family knew it. It was all I wanted on my clothes, my shoes, and even my room. So far, I’d scored two shirts, an Easter dress, and a fun comforter for my bed. I was already angling for a polka-dot backpack when school started again.

I remember fawning over the American Girl catalog when McKenna was the Girl of the Year, or GOTY, in 2012. I was only three then, and Mom told me I wasn’t quite ready for a doll that cost $115. I circled the umbrella and rain boots a bunch of times, wishing and hoping that American Girl made a girl-sized version. They had a lot of other matching doll-girl things! I was really mad for a while, but learned to enjoy what I had.

It rained the day after my seventh birthday party, and I was so excited. Still hopped up on cake, ice cream, and seeing family, I probably begged Mom twenty times to go outside. She finally relented, but only “when I’d straightened my room and found places for all of my birthday gifts.” I promised to knock out my birthday thank-you notes after playing in the rain, too. That made her smile, and nod. I dashed off to my room. What normally took me an hour, that day it was 20 minutes flat.

Mom stopped doing the dishes, followed me to inspect my room, and then knelt down to me in the hallway.

“Good job, Sarah. I’m impressed. You’re growing up. Seven is a big age, you know.”

“Why’s that, Mom?”

Mom thought for a minute. “Well, you’re starting second grade, and you’re learning new things every day. And, you’ve been such a good help to me with Jackson. I know your dad and I are hard on you sometimes, with straightening your room, and chores, but we’re always proud of you.”

Jackson was my three-year-old brother. He had “special needs” that I didn’t really understand. He could walk with his walker, and was slowly learning to talk. Mom was really worried, a lot, but she always appreciated me helping her. Daddy was really busy with his job, and I heard both of them talking a lot, at night, over “bills” and lots of big numbers and other things. They didn’t yell, but I would hear Mom crying. It made me sad. One time, after Daddy went to bed, I silently went downstairs and just gave Mom a hug. She was at the kitchen table, with papers covering the whole thing. She smiled, wiped her eyes, and whispered, “Thank you, Sarah. I love you. Back to bed, now, okay?”

Mom put a hand on my shoulder. I came back to the real world. “Sarah? Are you okay, honey?”

I hadn’t noticed that my eyes were full of tears. I smiled, put on my brave face, and swallowed the tears. “Yes, Mom. Thank you. I’m happy. I can’t wait to use my new umbrella and rain boots! Polka-dots are so fun!”

Mom straightened and nodded. “Put on your raincoat, too. Okay? You can go up and down the block for a while. I’ll call for you when it’s time to come inside. Got it?”

I nodded, dashing for the hall closet. Jackson was in his play area near the kitchen, where Mom could keep an eye on him. He cooed and laughed as I put on the purple raincoat, perfect polka-dot rain boots, and got my matching umbrella ready.

“Bye, Mom! Bye, Jackson! I love you!”

“I love you, too, Sarah.”

The rain had slackened, but still drizzling. And it was foggy. I was learning about weather, and how something called temperature helped make fog, and snow, and sleet. A few other people were on the sidewalk. Mrs. Perkins was walking her dog, and I saw my babysitter and her boyfriend under another umbrella.

It made me happy. I loved to play in the rain. A lot of my friends didn’t. They didn’t like getting wet, and especially not muddy. Daddy called me a “diva tomboy,” and I always giggled. I loved everything polka-dots, and unicorns, and glitter, but I also loved getting dirty and running around.

I turned right and skipped down the block, trying to stay on the sidewalk. I loved the puddles, but thought about what Mom always said. “Always look both ways for cars, bikes, and people.”

There was one huge puddle near the corner, where I needed to turn around. I looked both ways first. A car zoomed past. I’m glad I waited. Once it was safe, I splashed as hard as I could. I think all the neighbors could hear my squeal of delight.

My jeans were wet, my new boots were really muddy, and I loved it. I felt free. It was hard to feel that way in the house, a lot. Mom and Daddy were busy, Jackson needed a lot of attention, and I was alone. By myself. I felt left out.

Mom didn’t know that I wanted McKenna so badly, the 2012 Girl of the Year, because I wanted a friend to play with at home. Sure, I had friends, but most of them couldn’t come over to play with me because of Jackson. At least, that’s what they’d said at school.

While I was skipping, splashing, and singing, Mom watched me from the window. She finished the dishes, checked on Jackson, and then rummaged through the top shelf of the hall closet. The one place I couldn’t reach.

She smiled, smoothed the polka-dot birthday wrapping paper on the stack of boxes, and sighed. Sarah earned this gift, she thought.

I was still singing “Fight Song” when Mom heard me squeak inside. For once, I put my new polka-dot umbrella in the stand, took off my new polka-dot boots on the rug with the other shoes, and hung up my wet raincoat on the lowest hook of the coat stand. I felt important now that I was seven. I locked the door, and padded down the hall. I said hi to Jackson, who laughed at my wet hair and jeans, and was saying hi to Mom when I spotted the polka-dot wrapping paper.

“Mom?”

“Hi, honey. Oh, look, there’s another birthday present. Do you want to open it?”

My eyes were as wide as saucers. I had no clue what it could be.

Mom silently cried as I unwrapped McKenna, beautiful, perfect McKenna, and most of her clothes. The last box held the precious umbrella and rain boots, just like mine. I just stared at the kitchen table for what seemed like a really, really long time.

Mom wiped her tears, and hugged my shoulders. “Happy Birthday, Sarah.”

I was in awe. I couldn’t speak. I think my mouth was a big, wide O shape. “This was the best birthday ever, Mom. Thank you. I love you.”

She sighed, trying not to cry again. “You’re welcome, sweetheart. I hope you enjoy McKenna. I know how much you’ve wanted a doll like her.”

I think I was still in shock. “Can I – take McKenna outside?”

Mom smiled, happy to see her oldest child so thrilled. “As long as both of have your polka-dot umbrellas open and polka-dot rain boots on your feet, yes.”

“Yippee! Thank you!”

The last tears sliding down her cheeks, Mom watched as I carefully put McKenna’s boots on, opened her umbrella, and then re-dressed myself in my raincoat, boots, and bigger umbrella. I carefully shuffled my new umbrella in my left hand, and gingerly carried McKenna under my right arm. “Come on, McKenna, let’s go play in the rain! Do you know the words to “Fight Song”? Let’s sing it together!”

Mom picked up Jackson and held him close as she pointed to me and my new friend. He smiled a big smile, and clapped his hands.

He giggled. “Sarah.”

“Jackson? What did you say?”

“Sarah.” He pointed to the window. “And – doll.”

Mom hugged him. “Oh, Jackson, sweet boy. You’re talking! Yes, that’s Sarah and her new doll! What a smart boy!”

“Sarah. Doll. Happy.”

Mom started crying again, overjoyed. She couldn’t wait to share the good news. I had a new friend, and Jackson was finally talking.

The girl-sized polka-dot boots and umbrella are too small for me now. But, they proudly sit on top of my dresser, right next to McKenna. I don’t “play” with her much any more, but I still have everything from my seventh birthday. It’s one birthday I know I’ll remember forever.


Thank you so much for the nomination, Kristian! I really enjoyed this challenge!


Nominees:

  1. Didi Oviatt
  2. Jenna at Bookmark Your Thoughts
  3. Destiny at Howling Libraries

Here is your photo:

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Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Book Review #67: “Small Town”

I found this book at a thrift store in Florida in May of this year, for $1.50. Why it took me so long to read it, and finish it, I don’t know. But, overall, I enjoyed this book. Lawrence Block was a new name to me, but what captured my attention was the setting – New York City. I’m a sucker for books set in the Big Apple!

Originally, it took me a while to read more than two chapters per night. Block’s writing is so incredibly detailed, and the cast of characters is extensive. His chapters are meaty, but mighty. I told a group on Facebook that this is a good thriller, but if you’re not a fan of sex, violence, and profanity, I would avoid this book. Those three things are very prevalent in this one!

I liked this book, for the most part. It’s not my favorite thriller in the whole world, but I liked the structure of the story, and how the title is so fitting. Despite several heavy subject matters – It’s set in 2002, so that gives you an idea of the circumstances in New York City – the characters were constantly engaging. Each character was unique. Also, one of the main focuses is on a published author, and seeing the process of a book deal in a fictional story was really cool to see. I enjoyed following the author’s story, and the saga he’s involved with.

I could have seen less graphic sex, and the violence was definitely unsettling. But, it’s a thriller. And Block accomplished that with his writing.

3 1/2 out of 5 stars.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂