Book Review: Not In the Plans

Jackson and Emory learn a special lesson this Christmas. Sometimes it’s not the giving but the receiving that matters.

What’s Christmas without a new Christmas story filled with holiday giving and romance? Some may say nothing, but this year, I prefer how Jessica Marie Holt explores the other side of giving–that of receiving in Not in the Plans: A Christmas Novella.

My Thoughts on Not in the Plans

One of the beautiful attributes of Holt’s writing is her ability to tell more than a story. Each one of her books and short stories leaves you with a little bit to ponder. Which character are you like? Have you felt the sting of rebuke? The angst of loss? The pull from something unexpected?

Not in the Plans is more than a story about two lonely people coming together at the hands of a darling little boy. And he is darling. Inside its few pages comes a story about two people desiring to be loved for who they are, willing to give everything, but who are still learning to recognize love and receive it graciously.

How many times do we need help? I’m not talking about those days when we want help and a little cheering up. Though those days can certainly be applied with this concept. I’m talking about those times when we cannot function because our water heater blew up our house, and then the hotel provided to us afterward floods. I mean those times when our choices are losing nearly everything or accepting help.

Do you dig in your feet, like I do, and continue to on a path you deem the only acceptable way? When someone gives too much, do you thank them, or do you say ‘it’s too much’ and question the reason why they attempted such a grandiose gift?

But it’s more than that… Do we let a little bit of ourselves go in order to accept the differences of others? Isn’t that a part of receiving?

Not in the Plans still brings two beautiful and truly charming people together. And the pure love of a child leads the way, but when you read Not in the Plans this week, be sure to consider the act of receiving. It can be as important as the act of giving.

The official Blurb

Two neighbors, on a quiet street, in a cozy Southern town. Jackson is a once-jilted bachelor looking for a way to patch up his broken dreams. Emory is a struggling single mom determined to hold things together on her own.

When Emory’s little boy brings them together unexpectedly, they find a new source of hope in each other, just in time for Christmas.

But then Emory’s past threatens to derail her little family’s future, and her new relationship with Jackson. Will hope be enough to save them?

More Info:

Purchase your copy of Not in the Plans on Amazon

Follow Jessica Marie Holt on Facebook   &  Goodreads & Twitter

I received a copy of Not in the Plans for free in exchange for this review. All opinions are honest and my own.
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Grayson’s Christmas Cookies

Grayson can’t wait to eat his warm chocolate chip cookies, but his mom’s and sister’s sadness make doing so difficult.

Sturdy legs pumped underneath Grayson as he rushed home from school. Swerving around the other laughing children, he ran harder. Nothing could keep him from getting home first. If he didn’t beat his sister home, Mom would make him share his treat, and warm chocolate chip cookies were his favorite.

The scrumptious treat cradled carefully in his backpack were the last two remaining cookies from his class Christmas party. Missy’s mom brought them in hot and wrapped in foil. Maybe if they were cold, he’d share, but no way would he share warm cookies. Not even with Mom, and she was his favorite person in the whole world.

Cutting through his yard and bounding down the path through the hedge that lined the walkway to the front door, he threw the door open. It thudded against the wall, but he barely noticed, leaving it open. He stopped. Mom slumped in a chair, leaning against the dining room table with her hand covering her face.

“Mom?”

“Hi, honey. How was school? Did you enjoy your Christmas party?”

Mom’s voice sounded weird. Her eyes, which normal sparkled, dulled, accenting the reddened skin around them. Grayson closed the door.

“Yeah. Missy’s mom brought hot chocolate chip cookies!”

“That’s wonderful.”

His hands landed on the top of the table. Why wasn’t mom smiling? Mom’s were supposed to smile. The aroma of the cookies in his backpack caught up to him. Warm chocolate chips dotted each one. They were baked to perfection—a chewy middle and crisped edges. It almost seemed to touch his tongue. He paused, then reached up and patted Mom’s shoulder. “Why are you sad?”

“Oh, it’s nothing you need to worry about.” She gathered the half-empty mug in front of her and made her way to the kitchen.

Grayson watched as she placed the mug in the sink. She lifted her hand and wiped at her face. Every minute he waited to eat the cookies they cooled down. Waiting much longer and the chocolate would harden. He glanced back at Mom. “But you’re crying.”

“It’s just been a hard day. I’m okay, sweetheart, you go play.”

Hard days made Grayson cry too. The last hard day he had, Dad took away his Mega Nerf Blaster because he kept shooting his sister. But he only shot her like that because she took the TV remote. He cried a lot that day.

Following his mom to the living room, Grayson gazed at the Christmas tree lights. White lights reflected of shiny ornaments. His eyes fell to the nativity on the table next to it.

Sunday School usually meant an hour of sitting in a metal chair kicking his feet and being told to stop talking. But in the back of his mind, Grayson seemed to remember Sister Ross saying the baby Jesus suffered for everyone’s pain.

Grayson walked to the nativity and picked up the baby Jesus. “Mom, why doesn’t Jesus make you happy?”

After helping Grayson remove his backpack, she placed her hands on his shoulders. “He does. But he also lets us feel some sadness so we can know what happiness is.”

“Oh. Don’t you know what happiness is?”

“You make me happy.”

The front door rammed into the wall harder than it had when Grayson got home, interrupting their conversation.

“Mom, I hate school and boys!” Kayla stomped into the room, throwing her bag to the floor and herself onto the cushy chair.

He wouldn’t fight her for it today. He wasn’t getting himself beat up.

Mom’s shoulders dipped a bit lower. “I like some boys.”

She winked at Grayson, but her eyes still looked sad.

“I like school.” He did, but he was glad for the two-week break, too. Telling Kayla that seemed like a waste.

His sister rolled her teary eyes at him. “Go away. Mom, make him leave.”

“I don’t want to leave.” He picked up the remote and turned on the TV then stuck his tongue out at Kayla when Mom wasn’t looking.

Mom reached over and shut the TV off. “Grayson, can you take your backpack to your room and play in there for a little while?”

Cookies!

How had he forgotten so quickly? Lunging for his backpack, he ran to his room. The zipper screeched as he opened the bag, and the air filled with the aroma of freshly baked cookies. The outside of the foil warmed his fingertips, raising the corners of Grayson’s lips. Missy’s mom wrapped them real good. Cookies never stayed warm that long.

As he started to unwrap the delectable treat, he heard Kayla scream at her mom. “He said that in front of the whole class! That I’m dumb!”

Grayson frowned. A lot of times, Kayla made him angry, but she still took care of him, and she wasn’t dumb. She cooked all his favorite foods, and sometimes she helped him with his homework. Dumb people couldn’t do his homework—it was hard! He wondered when Jesus would take away Kayla’s pain. Mom probably still hurt too.

Unwrapping the cookies, he lifted the first one to his mouth, but couldn’t take a bite. Kayla and Mom like cookies too. If Jesus wasn’t going to help them be happy, maybe the cookies would.

He stared at the gooey desserts, each one perfectly round and perfectly golden. Soft in the middle, crispy on the edges, and the chocolate shined. All the other kids ate at the party, but he hadn’t.

Jacob had fallen at recess, and Grayson talked to him about the scratches he’d had after his own fall. After that, there wasn’t time to eat the cookies.

Chocolate chip cookies.

Giving away snickerdoodles or oatmeal raisin never hurt, but chocolate chip was his favorite.

The door creaked as he cracked it open to see where Mom and his sister were. Music from Kayla’s stereo filled the hall. She liked it loud. He knocked.

“Go away!”

He blew out his breath and inhaled courageously. “I have something for you.”

“What?”

“Open the door.”

She swung the door open. “What?”

Grayson offered Kayla the cookie.

“Where’d you get that?”

“School.”

She shifted on her feet before taking the treat. “Thanks.”

“You’re not dumb.”

Kayla rolled her eyes, but smiled. “Yeah, neither are you.”

The door closed and Grayson’s feet shuffled down the tiled hall to the kitchen, but Mom wasn’t there. Turning around, he headed back to her bedroom. Walking through the open door, he saw her leaning over one of her favorite blouses, which now had a large hole where a pocket had been.

“Mom?”

“What do you need Grayson?”

“Nothing, I just figured if Jesus won’t help you be happy, maybe this cookie will.”

Mom grinned and started crying again. “It certainly smells good.” She took the cookie and broke it in half, handing some back to Grayson. “You should have some too.”

“Thanks.”

Mom pulled him against her side. “Grayson, today you helped Jesus make me happy.”

“I did?” He scrunched up his nose and looked at Mom.

“Yup. Most of the time, Jesus makes us happy through the actions of others.”

“He does?”

“He does. Not every miracle comes with lightning flashes. Most come in everyday ways.”

Grayson grinned. “Like sharing my cookie?”

Mom gathered Grayson into her arms and planted a kiss on top of his head. “Like sharing your cookie.”

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Book Review: Love Is a Wistful Song

Aryen has her life planned: attend the most prestigious conservatory, then marry the man of her dreams. But Grandfather has other plans in Love Is a Wistful Song.

Ava S. Quill calls herself an aspiring author, claiming there is always plenty more to learn. If that’s the case, and it usually is, I can’t wait to read her ‘professional works,’ because her most recent book, Love Is a Wistful Song, captured my heart the same way How to Train Your Dragon’s and Band of Brother’s soundtracks sent blissful shivers up my spine.

My thoughts:

Before meeting my husband, music was my life. My parents loved me a lot. I know because they rarely asked me to stop singing or playing the piano as I worked on whatever I’d chosen for that day. They also rarely complained when I sang as we walked in public places or on the boat or in the tent or on a peaceful trail.

I had all kinds of little things I did to take care of my voice. For instance, I didn’t eat or drink dairy before a performance so I wouldn’t coat my throat. I also refused to make certain noises in order to avoid voice nodules, something I really wasn’t in any danger of getting in the first place.

It wasn’t that I wanted to be famous. Not at all. To this day, I love the feel of the keys under my fingers and the delight I get from singing. And in case you are wondering, yes, I still sing under my breath as I walk through public places, and I am not bothered by it in the least. My kids, on the other hand, are.

in Love Is a Wistful Song, none of Aryen’s family is embarrassed by her skill on the violin. After all, she takes an old, inexpensive violin and makes it sing in a way most people can’t make the most precious of instruments trill. In fact, even though most girls in their family get married by eighteen, often through arranged marriages, they support her dream of attending the most prestigious conservatory.

When she’s ripped away from the man she privately dreams about, her music turns upside down. Being promised to his cousin twists her strings into knots until they snap.

Saying Love Is a Wistful Song kept my attention would be a bit of an understatement. I found myself wanting extra time to read and stealing it from those precious hours of sleep that I beg for every night.

The story takes the hearts of two people and wraps their melodies together as their world tries to rip them apart. The well-rounded characters made me happy and angry. I found myself with flared nostrils as anger flitted through my veins several times. That is not something I’ve experienced in a long time. The editing, grammar, storyline, and excellent writing took this indie book to a professional level every indie author should reach before publishing.

Some books we treasure because they are entertaining reads that we can finish on the beach without worry of the underlying melodies. Other literary treasures require us to make it through the heavy ballad before we can appreciate the harmonies, while only a few treasures, like Love Is a Wistful Song, entwine melody and counter-melody with harmonies to create a beautiful concerto we want to listen to again and again.

Clean, beautiful, and thought-provoking. I absolutely recommend Love Is a Wistful Song.

The Official Blurb:

Music-obsessed Aryen dreams of attending a prestigious conservatory and, sometimes, about her childhood friend Ryan. But when her dream to study with the masters comes true, it demands a high price—Aryen must agree to an arranged marriage with Ryan’s popular cousin Blaine. When she protests the arrangement, her grandfather threatens to destroy Ryan’s already challenging prospects, forcing Aryen to choose whether to pursue her feelings and sacrifice her lifelong dream or give up Ryan in order to protect him.

More Info:

Purchase your copy of Love Is a Wistful Song on Amazon

Visit Ava S. Quill at www.inkedkeyboard.com
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Book Review: The Stationmaster’s Cottage

When Christie Ryan attends her Gran’s funeral against her fiance’s wishes, she’s suddenly faced with an unexpected inheritance in The Stationmaster’s Cottage by Phillipa Nefri Clark.

Phillipa Nefri Clark, an Australian author of women’s fiction, released a new edition of The Stationmaster’s Cottage in April. Newly edited, this novel from the River’s End series stands alone with ease and brings to life characters from two generations with overlapping love stories.

My Thoughts on The Stationmaster’s Cottage

We look at our families and their histories and wonder at our ancestors’ lives. How did they live? Were they happy? Are there aunts or uncles we know nothing about? What about cousins? As we dive into boxes left behind and find pictures, documents, and keepsakes we know nothing about, mysteries unfold before our eyes. Can we put aside those mysteries? When I discovered my own family history mystery, I couldn’t, and neither can Christie.

Christie Ryan finds her own family history mystery, and it’s a doozy! Moreover, it seems to include the moody artist that lives on the beach. Add to that a fiance that asks her to spend more time with him, and then seems interested in everything but her, and the story of the stationmaster’s cottage lines up.

It sounds like a romance, but there is plenty more to this novel. Christie struggles to find herself and determine what she really wants in life. She also finds herself yearning for more information about the great-aunt no one told her about. In the meantime, she deals with contradicting emotions over Gran’s death.

This book is written exceptionally well. The characters come to life and draw you in. Where one-dimensional characters are often used by authors, Clark adds just the right amount of dimension.

The Stationmaster’s Cottage is easy to recommend and is a book you’re sure to love.

Official Blurb

“There are secrets in that cottage. Questions needing answers.”

Those words gave Christie Ryan a reason to stay in River’s End, when she should have gone home after Gran’s funeral. Inheriting a rundown cottage, far from her jet-setting life, she is drawn into a fifty-year-old mystery.
Who wrote the letters hidden in the attic, an outpouring of love to a woman Christie suspects she is related to? What is the significance of a damaged painting kept by Gran but clearly painted in this seaside town?

Local artist Martin Blake may have the answers she seeks, but refuses to help. His dog adores Christie, but Martin keeps his feelings locked away.

As Christie faces difficult decisions about her own future, will the consequences of righting old wrongs be too high a price to pay?

More Info

Purchase your copy of The Stationmaster’s Cottage on Amazon.

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The Bond Without Borders

As Dottie prepares to visit her estranged father, who’s in hospice care, memories flood her mind. Can she find peace?

As the light flicked on, the turquoise stone, set in sterling silver, sent a piercing gleam from its polished surface back into the room. The silver had once shone just as much, but years of wear followed by years of neglect had clouded the tarnished metal many times over. Given as a gift to twelve-year-old Dottie by her father, it probably had never been intended to last as long as it had. But even as a child, Dottie considered what items she would keep for a lifetime. The teddy bears and notes from friends had disappeared long ago; the necklace hadn’t.

An adult woman now, she reached into the sparse jewelry box, with its broken drawers and dusty ring cushion, to where the single chain hung from the long-ago-bent revolving hooks. The cool silver caressed her warm fingertips as she slipped it off the wrung to look closer at the pendant. Memories floated to the surface, and her mind clutched one, unwilling to let it pass.

“Over here!”

Dottie sprinted to the next wooden grave marker, then waved to her dad, trying to hurry him along.

He let out a soft whistle. “Would you look at that?”

“Do you know who he was?

Her hand rested on her hip as she stared at the words ‘hung by mistake.’

“No idea, but I don’t think 1882 was George’s year.”

After years of begging her dad to visit the old west, he finally conceded and booked a weekend for them in legendary Tombstone.

The courthouse museum, with all the old pictures and artifacts, had kept Dottie’s attention for the ten minutes it took her to run through the rooms. But her dad finagled an additional ten minutes with promises of a carriage ride and ice cream cones. Spring break’s weather, still cooler than summer, left the dusty-road travelers feeling a little warm under the collar. Or it would have, if they’d worn collars instead of T-shirts. Either way, the breeze was hot enough to enjoy an ice cream in the shade. Wild West Days, an annual Tombstone celebration of the armed forces, entertained them with a parade and plenty of people in period costumes.

But Dottie spent much of her time staring into an antique store’s jewelry case. She couldn’t help it. The small blue-green stone held her gaze, mesmerizing her. And every time they walked past the shop, she tugged on her dad’s arm until he followed her inside, shook his head no, and thanked the shop owner. The morning they were leaving, she convinced him, one last time, to walk the dusty trail to the store. But when she hurried to the case, ready to begin her final pleas, she stopped short. It was gone. Crestfallen, she exited the building and traipsed away, her dad following behind. Ten minutes later, convinced by her father, Dottie shuffled into the Boothill Cemetery.

Unimpressed by the lack of trees and grass, she scanned over the piles of rock interspersed with prickly pear and barrel cacti. Then one of the markers caught her attention, and she burst out laughing. ‘Lester Moore Shot by Four Slugs from A-44, NO LES NO MORE.’ After that, she darted from one to another, stopping only at the more interesting grave sites. Her dad smiled at her each time.

Afterward, as they approached the truck, Dottie’s father handed her a bottle of water. “I’ve got to look at your seat for a minute. I noticed it squeaking.”

“It doesn’t squeak.”

“Are you sure about that?”

She gave him an incredulous look. “Yeah.”

“I think you’re losing your hearing,” he said, shaking his finger at her as he walked toward the passenger side.

“I am not.”

Giving up, she leaned against the truck and twisted off the water bottle lid, enjoying her respite from the sun in the sliver of shade made by the cab.

When her dad called her, she climbed in, still grinning.

“So, did you have fun?” he asked.

“Yes.”

Three short bounces on the seat confirmed her answer.

“Me too, I think we should have more vacations like this, don’t you?”

“I keep telling you that!”

He chortled as he ruffled the top of her head.

It wasn’t until they were almost home, that Dottie looked up at the rearview mirror to see what kept flashing light into her eyes. She must have looked past it a billion times. And as she stared at it, her eyes widened.

“Dad?”

“Hmm?”

“You bought it!” She pounded the seat as she tried to reach for the necklace. “You let me think someone else did.”

“Well, I wanted it to be a surprise.” His eyes twinkled as he gave her sideways glances.

She rubbed her thumb across the stone, then gently began removing the tarnish from the silver. No matter how many times she considered selling the necklace, which would bring in a fair amount of cash, she couldn’t do it. The money may have helped some, and although she’d refused to talk to her father…

Tears welled in her eyes, and she blinked lightly to keep them from falling. Whether she reined in the tears or not barely mattered. She couldn’t relieve the tension wrapped around her lungs and heart, thousands of rubber bands winding tighter and tighter. Gasping for air, the dam in her mind broke, and she leaned against the counter from the force of the memory.

“No! You don’t have a say in what I do with my life. Not anymore!”

“I’m not trying to control you, Dot.”

“Then what do you call it? You refuse to let him in the house; you give him dirty looks every time you see him. Then there’s the way you talk to me about how terrible he is and why I need to re-think my choice.”

Her dad hung his head and stared at the ground, his hands in his back pockets.

“I just don’t see how you can want to be with someone like that.”

“Like what, Dad? A guy that loves me and takes care of me?

“Is that what you call it?”

She slammed her school books down on the table. “Yes. That’s what I call it.”

“Psychology, huh?”

Dottie scowled at him. “You’re changing the subject.”

He shook his head. “Just wondering if that book has anything in it about manipulation. Thought it might help you see what that boy is doing to you.”

Hot breath seared her lips. “Him? Manipulative? Have you looked at yourself recently? I’m done. If you can’t support me and the guy I’m going to marry, then—”

She stomped out of the house, letting the thought hang there. Then what?

That night she’d ripped the chain from her neck and threw it across her bedroom where it landed in the corner. It lay there for a month. Phone calls, emails, late night and early morning knocks at the door all went ignored. She’d refused to allow him an apology.

Tears now flooded the counter. How could she have gone so long without seeing her father? Even after the divorce, she’d refused. She’d never told him he was right. Mental anguish kept her from admitting the abusive power of her ex-husband’s manipulation. Pride kept her from calling home.

With the silver polished and as shiny as it would get, she undid the tiny, gold safety pin she’d used to hold the chain together in the jewelry box and began the process of replacing the broken clasp. A few minutes later, she sank into the driver’s seat of her car.

The worn building needed a facelift, and Dottie wondered what kind of place she’d relegated her father to. When the social worker called, Dottie had refused to see him but agreed to take responsibility for his care. After three years in a home, they recommended he move to hospice. Hospice. Why did she allow herself to hang onto such anger? The hate he must feel for her… Painful surges coursed through her limbs as the bands tightened around her chest again. How could she have hated him for so long?

“Right this way.”

A nurse escorted her toward a dark room. Her dad lay in a bed, able to view a TV with little volume or a generic print of a clay flower pot. Though a few monitors beeped, no other support was provided. The sight of withered skin and a frail body that bore some resemblance to her dad brought her to her knees next to the bed. She picked up his cold hand and brought it to her lips before placing it on her cheek.

“Daddy?”

His thin eyelids, more ashen than she remembered, fluttered, and tiny slits opened.

“Dot.” Her name croaked from between his dried lips.

Her chin trembled. “I’m sorry, Daddy.”

“What for?” Gentle pressure from his fingertips told her he was trying to squeeze her hand.

“Staying away. I miss you.”

A wash of emotion flooded her system. She’d missed him. The whole time. Years of missing him. It’s why she didn’t get rid of the necklace. But anger had taken control.

“I was so mad,” she said. “Then I—”

Sobs stopped her from speaking, but she took a rag and, while shaking, gently wiped his mouth and nose.

“Scared.”

The single word stopped her fidgeting.

“I didn’t mean to scare you.”

He shook his head. “You were scared.”

The words slipped between his shallow breaths.

“Yes,” she whispered. “I was.”

“I was never…” the words hung for a moment as he caught his breath, “angry.”

“You weren’t?”

His head moved left and right again.

“But I was so mean, and I ignored you for so long?”

“You are… my child.” His eyes opened just a little more. “I love you.”

“I love you too.”

He nodded. “I know.”

“How?”

“I’m your dad.”

She sat by his side every night and every weekend for three weeks. His inability to speak much meant she shared the stories. Stories of abuse and divorce followed by stories of finished education and success in the work place.

“I teach first grade and adore my students,” she told him.

As the stories continued, she switched to memories she had of them together. Of course, she mentioned Tombstone. He pointed at the necklace and tried to speak, but she patted his hand and told him to rest.

A week later, she pulled out the cardboard box hospice had given her. With the funeral in a few days, she wanted to find the picture of her and her dad that she’d placed next to his bed. On top of the framed photo, lay a worn leather-bound journal. Her fingers traced the pattern on the outside.

T-O-M-B-S-T-O-N-E.

Opening the journal, Dottie found only a few pages filled.

Took Dottie to Tombstone. She begged so much for a vacation, I was certain she’d die if we didn’t go somewhere. I picked up this journal thinking I’d start keeping track of other vacations we take.

Dottie keeps me on my toes, but I can’t help but love her. It’s hard not to laugh, even when she breaks the rules. I suppose I wouldn’t laugh if she got hurt for not following them though.

We did all kinds of things. I enjoyed the courthouse, but Dot has a way of pulling me on to greater things. She bounced all over the carriage during our ride, and I’ve never seen a twelve-year-old enjoy ice cream quite the way she did. Biting the bottom of the cone first and catching the drips from underneath and above. She’s one talented girl!

She must have dragged me into the same store five different times. Had her eye on this turquoise necklace. Never in my life did I think turquoise would be so expensive. With just the two of us, purchasing it without her noticing was nearly impossible. But I slipped a note to the owner with the money and told her we’d be back the next day. Somehow, I knew Dot would have me back in there. I put up a bit of a fight for show. The owner managed to give me the necklace as Dottie searched the case for the missing thing. Can’t believe I pulled it off.

As I was placing the necklace for her to find, I realized the tiny pendant was a locket, the latch is hidden as a button next to the stone. Knowing it would be a long time before Dottie figured that out, I scratched out a note for her. So if you notice the last page missing here, that’s where it went.
I sure do love that girl.

Dropping the journal, Dottie fumbled with the clasp to remove the necklace and examine the pendant. Even as she cleaned it, she hadn’t found any button or seam indicating it was a locket. A small round of silver held the set stone, and she examined the several decorative posts that stood against a darkened etching. Two larger posts stood slightly taller than the others. Pushing her thumbnail against the one on the right, nothing happened, but when she pushed the one on the left, a popping noise sounded.

As she lifted the top, she realized the smaller bottom rested inside of it. A tiny scrap of paper fell into her palm.

I love you even when you screw up. Love yourself just as much. Dad

Dottie bit her lip, then kissed the scrap of paper, placing it back in the locket. “Love you too, Dad.”

Three days later, Dottie stood next to her father’s casket as the only one left in the room. Blotting her tears away with a tissue, she whispered a few private words, then slipped a note under his hand and added a pin to his lapel. The tiny turquoise stone was all she could afford, but she knew he’d understand. Before leaving, she placed two fingers to her lips and then touched his cheek. “I love you.”

My love has no bounds. Our bond has no borders. Dot


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Novella Review: The Visitor

Waiting at home for her husband to return on Christmas Eve, Old Mrs. Langstrum soon finds herself visited by a stranger in The Visitor by Ti Ca.

Waiting at home for her husband to return on Christmas Eve, Old Mrs. Langstrum soon finds herself visited by a stranger in The Visitor by Ti Ca.

Published by Patritus LLC., The Visitor is written by Ti Ca, an author I would love to introduce you to, but whose Amazon biography runs more like an ad for her publisher. The Patritus website states they represent authors who prefer their privacy. Though unusual, I hope both publisher and author the best.

My Thoughts on The Visitor:

At the beginning of The Visitor, we meet Mrs. Langstrum, an old woman who waits for her husband to return from the store with food on Christmas Eve. Through her eyes, we learn the heat is out, probably because of the breaker, and the cabinets are bare. In time, she pulls out a worn note written by her husband instructing her to take two pink pills when she’s hungry. She does so.

At this point, I found myself wondering if I was reading a science fiction novella or if Mrs. Langstrum struggled with some sort of a condition. The Visitor isn’t science fiction.

Mrs. Langstrum opens the door, after hearing a knock, and finds a stranger on her porch. Allowing him in to wait for her husband, the two begin to talk and share their stories.

Much of the book is written in first-person as the characters share various stories but switches to third-person when they are together in the present. Often times, the stories, which overlap throughout the book, come at the start of a chapter and, if you’ve stopped reading for a time, you may struggle to remember who is speaking. This can make the overlapping stories confusing.

The stories deal with several related topics: father and son, husband and wife, depression, uneducated to educated, as well as Mrs. Langstrum and the visiting stranger. Each story leaves you wanting to hear more until they all come together.

I found myself trying to understand the ending, and I’m not sure I got there. Though I like books that make me think, this one left me feeling similarly to how I felt after watching the last episode of LOST.

Still, the writing, vocabulary, and editing are impeccable. I’ve read many indie books that do not come close to Ti Ca’s perfection in these areas.

My suggestion to those interested in reading this novella is to read it in one sitting. Doing so will give you a better shot at following the various storylines.

The official Blurb:

It’s Christmas Eve but the furnace has gone out, the breaker needs to be reset, and the cupboards are empty. As Mrs. Langstrum shivers in her cold, dark house, waiting for her husband to arrive from his quick trip to the store, an impending snowstorm descends in earnest. Realizing her precarious situation, Mrs. Langstrum decides to get help. But who should she ask? Neither the Millners nor the Wylers appear to be home, either caught by the storm or other unforeseen events. Just as she determines to make her way into the town, a knock arrives at her door. It’s a visitor. He’s a stranger, likely a salesman. But before she can shoo him away, he tells her that he has news of her husband.

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A Memoir to Remember: Danny Boy

Melinda Turner remembers what growing up with her special needs brother Danny brought to her life in Danny Boy: The Boy Who Raised His Family.

In a world where people would rather take care of themselves instead of others, Danny Boy shows the joy that comes through ultimate service to the ones we love.

When you grow up in a house with typical siblings, imaging what it’s like in a home with a special needs brother leaves out half the angst and nearly all the happiness. Melinda Turner remembers what growing up with her special needs brother Danny brought to her life in Danny Boy: The Boy Who Raised His Family.

My Thoughts on Danny Boy:

Melinda and I have a few things in common. We both grew up in homes with a sibling that needed extra care, we share the same beliefs, and our families both know how to have a lot of fun. Unlike Melinda, my sibling’s needs came from a car accident and the injury has always had a plethora of information and treatments available. I also relate to Melinda’s parents as a mother of a child with a developmental disability, Unlike both Melinda and her mother, I stopped having to clean up someone else’s poop long ago.

Born at a time when doctors could not diagnose him, Danny started life with a feeding tube. Later he became the best escape artist in the history of children and helped his family laugh until they cried.

Melinda covers the ins and outs of despising and absolutely loving a brother with needs that required the help of every member of the family. Something I have no experience with. Her honesty is refreshing, as is her family’s wonderful sense of humor. We might need to become best friends.

Whether I laughed or cried, Danny Boy kept my heart warm. Well-written and worth the read, I recommend Danny Boy, especially if you love biographies or memoirs.

The Official Blurb:

I was not quite eight years old when Danny was born. Even at that young age I can remember the exact moment I knew my life, my family’s lives, everything we had known up to that point had changed forever.

​It was evening in early summer. I walked to my parents’ bedroom at the end of the upstairs hallway wearing a soft summer nightgown and lurked silently, just inside the doorway. Mom and Dad stood side-by-side, arms around each other with their backs to me, looking down on their newborn son as he lay under the bilirubin lights in his crib. I don’t remember any words being spoken—only that I think mom was crying. Or maybe the baby was. What I do remember as the scene was forever stamped on my consciousness was that I knew something was wrong. Maybe not even wrong. Just different. This baby was different. And somehow, I knew that nothing would ever be the same again. And it never has been.”

At times hilarious, at times heart-wrenching; full of wit and wisdom, “Danny Boy” is a must-read for anyone struggling to care for a special needs child.

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