The Other Family: A Book Review

Ally Anderson’s daughter needs her help, especially after a peanut scare at school. But is Ally ready for all that comes her way when the doctor requests genetic testing?

The Other Family by Loretta Nyhan is book number six for this author! Nyhan’s books range from middle-age coming-of-age stories to paranormal-witchy stories. Like me, she admits to not living well without chocolate. And really, can you blame her? She also loves green tea and her Brady-Bunch family that she’s raising in the Chicago area.

My Thoughts on The Other Family

I chose to read Nyhan’s most recent novel after realizing it deals with similar topics as I NOT David. A skeptical spouse and a child with a medical condition in the same genre as my book? Yes, please! I wanted to see how her characters handled situations and familiarize myself with her writing style.

What’s the basics of the story?

The Other Family deals with main character Ally Anderson and her life as she tries to deal with her daughter’s autoimmune problems and allergies. But that’s not all she has on her plate. Her soon-to-be-ex throws a few kinks in her direction. Moreover, her daughter’s latest doctor thinks genetic testing would help narrow down the possible diagnoses. However, Ally is adopted, and her mom has never spoken of her birth family. And, of course, Ally meets some relatives and then can’t figure out how to tell her mom.

The Good

This book, written in first person, has several quirky events and characters to add just the right amount of humor. Its current Amazon rankings, which are above the top 15 books in both women’s humorous fiction and humorous literary fiction, easily prove that point.

For me, the main character’s newly found family, best described as lovingly eccentric, balances Ally’s serious mother well. But, occasionally, they seem a little over the top. Still, they know how to love life even when hardship strikes. They also understand what’s most important in life. Those things say a lot, and I’d probably invite them into my home for a short period of time.

The Not Bad

Ally, on the other hand, is one high-strung character who doesn’t give up. Many mothers of children with health conditions find themselves in similar positions. Ally takes on the world from every direction. She sets some important things on the back burner because the rest of life exhausts her. And she finds herself in a few pickles because of it. In many ways, she’s realistic.

She drives me crazy–batty.

We generally love books with characters we can relate to. Those who make us cry, laugh, and smile. Ally made me want to scream. She’s the mother who does everything for her child by running around like a chicken with its head cut off. It’s her weakness. Nyhan did a great job building her weakness. Ally knows what she wants. She’s determined to get there. But she takes some asinine steps along the way.

None of that makes her a bad character. She’s just not a character for me. I didn’t relate to any of the characters like I wanted to. So you’ll understand why The Other Family isn’t my favorite book of all time. But it could still be yours.

Clean factors

The Other Family contains a spattering of moderate curse words as well as separated-but-still-married characters who contemplate dating others. The book is clean of sexual discussion but does have one slightly funny moment of accidental nudity. The scene is harmless, but I mention it for those who might feel differently. While a book I consider clean enough for older teenagers, its subject matter is for adults.

The Official Blurb

With a dissolving marriage, strained finances, and her life in flux, Ally Anderson longs for normal. Her greatest concerns, though, are the health problems of her young daughter, Kylie. Symptoms point to a compromised immune system, but every doctor they’ve seen has a different theory. Then comes hope for some clarity.

It’s possible that Kylie’s illness is genetic, but Ally is adopted. A DNA test opens up an entirely new path. And where it leads is a surprise: to an aunt Ally never knew existed. She’s a little wild, very welcoming, and ready to share more of the family history than Ally ever imagined.

Coping with a skeptical soon-to-be-ex husband, weathering the cautions of her own resistant mother, and getting maddeningly close to the healing Kylie needs, Ally is determined to regain control of her life. This is her chance to embrace uncertainty and the beauty of family—both the one she was born into and the one she chose.

Other Info

Purchase your copy of The Other Family on Amazon.

Follow Loretta Nyhan on Facebook, Twitter, and her webpage.

I received no compensation or free merchandise for this review. All opinions are honest and my own.

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Fish Kisses

When Rebecca can’t bring herself to swim in the pond, Grammy tells her about fish kisses.

The morning sun touched the top of Rebecca’s feet even as the cool of the night coursed through her from the old wooden pier, sending a shiver up her spine. Slowly padding to the end, she stood in her ruffled swimsuit with hugs and kisses splattered across it and glared past the golden glimmers of the pond’s surface into the dark enigma below.

Only water, they’d said the day before. Like swimming in a pool.

She narrowed her eyes. “I’ve drunk water my whole life. Been in a pool too. Water’s see-through. Not woodland soup.”

The mutter left her lips as she sank to her knees and studied the underneath closer. The murky water wasn’t brown. Lots of ponds were. Not here though. Gramps had dug the stream’s bank out and planted watercress to slow the flow before it got to the pond. That did something or another.

Stretching her arm out, Rebecca slowly pushed her hand through the glimmering surface. A few inches is all it took before it faded into the unknown.

No, no, no! Nope. Not gonna happen. She yanked her hand out of the water, and wet drops flew to the plank beside her. Jumping to her feet, she scrambled toward the shore, her hands flitting at the ends of her arms as hasty breaths dried her tongue.

“Wasn’t easy for me the first time either.”

Rebecca searched for the voice, and her face crumpled at the sight of Grammy’s comforting smile.

“No reason to cry, doll. Come over here and sit on my thinkin’ rock with me.”

With a sniff, Rebecca dragged her feet through the dry dirt, watching as it slid between her toes and puffed at her heels until she reached the soft green grass. Slumped on the rock, she leaned into the well-cushioned side of her best friend. “They laughed at me.”

“Who did?” Grammy asked. “Those boys?”

“And Lucy.”

“Well, those kids grew up here. They’ve been swimming in ponds since the first time their daddy bounced them on his knee.”

Rebecca shrugged. “I know how to swim. But they didn’t believe me.”

“I know that. Your Mama made sure you could float on your back before you were two. I used to watch you in the tub—floating and giggling. You had the biggest brown eyes and the cutest wide grin.”

“I like swimming when I can see my feet.” Rebecca shoved her toes deeper into the grass.

Grammy laughed. That is nice, but until you’ve had a fish nibble at your toe jam, you haven’t—”

“Eww, Grammy, that’s gross!”

Grammy’s eyes widened as she turned to Rebecca. “It sounds gross. But it feels great! First, you have to get the little ones to come over. That’s the tricky part.”

Rebecca looked out at the pond. The water rippled gently with the breeze, and with the sun climbing higher in the sky, the glimmers winked at her like tiny bright stars.

She wanted to swim in the pond. She really, really did, but anything could be in that water. Jimmy told her he’d found a dead skunk in there—floating and bloated with slimy limp fur. If dead skunks floated on top, what was underneath?

“Did Jimmy really find a dead skunk in the water?”

“That boy! Always telling stories. Critters around here prefer drinking from the stream.”

“What about dead people?”

“Dead people? Where? In the pond?” Grammy eyed her suspiciously. “Have you been sneaking television when I’m not looking?”

Rebecca hid her face. “I couldn’t sleep.”

“Couldn’t sleep.” Grammy chuckled as she shifted on the rock. “Never mind that. Did you know the first time I tried to swim in the pond, I ran all the way back to the house and hid in a closet.”

“You did?”

“I did. I was thirty-five years old. Couldn’t swim a stroke when Gramps and I bought this place.”

“How come?”

“My mama lost her daddy in an old farming ditch when she was twelve. He slipped and fell in somehow, probably hit his head. Since then, she wanted nothing to do with swimming. I was only allowed to play in clear water up to my waist. And could only go knee-deep anywhere else.”

“Even when you grew up?”

“Even when I grew up. Besides, by that point, going deeper scared me too.”

Rebecca studied her fingernails, picking at the rough spots. Everyone knew learning to swim made things safer. Not learning seemed silly.

“I did learn to swim eventually. Wanna know how?”

Grammy nudged her and she nodded.

“Gramps came and got me from the closet, kept sputtering, trying not to laugh at me. The goober.” Grammy chortled. “I squeezed his hand tight as we walked to the end of the pier. When we got there, he gently pulled me down until we were seated at the end. Then he put his feet in.”

“That’s it?”

“No, but it was a start. It’s also the first step in inviting those little fish over. Come on. I’ll show you.”

Rebecca’s heart beat in her ears, and she shook her head. “Can’t.”

“Sure you can. I’ll be right there with you, holding your hand the whole way. We’ll take it slow, and I won’t force anything.”

With a deep breath, Rebecca lifted herself off the rock and slipped her hand into Grammy’s. Together they walked across the old planked pier, Rebecca squinting at the brightness of the sun. Jitters lurched in her stomach, and she grabbed at it with her free hand. Then she stopped.

“One step at a time. That’s all it takes,” Grammy said.

“One step at a time.” Only puffs of air left her lips as she muttered the repeated words.

The old woman’s wrinkled feet dipped into the water seconds later, and she sighed as she closed her eyes and smiled. “Water’s the perfect temperature. Nice and cool, but not cold.”

Rebecca’s knees pulled closer to her chest.

“Take your time. As slow as you need.”

The longer Rebecca sat there, the nicer the water looked. Maybe it wasn’t so much a woodland soup as a… a what?

“I like to think of this as God’s garden. Not Eden. But close enough. Don’t you think?”

“I guess.”

That didn’t feel right either, but she lowered her feet one at a time. Each leg disappeared below as the refreshing touch of the water rose to the middle of her shin.

Grammy leaned back, supported by her arms, and lifted her face to the sun. Rebecca decided old people shouldn’t sit like that, but she didn’t mind joining.

“Hold your feel still. The fish are here. Mmm, that feels great!”

“What do I do to get them to come?”

“Just hold real still, and when you feel their little lips touch you, don’t move. Moving is the mistake people make.”

A little tickle, almost like a heavy feather, glanced Rebecca’s left pinky toe, and without warning, a jolt of energy shot up her back and she giggled. Another tickle zinged her third toe, and she resisted the urge to jump. “They’re kissing me!”

“Fish kisses. That’s the perfect way to describe it. Nice, isn’t it?”

“Yeah,” Rebecca said, grinning.

“There’s not much more in the pond. Bigger fish in the deep water, but not around here. In fact, these little guys will leave the second we move.”

“How deep is it?”

“Here? Maybe four feet. That way you can touch, but you don’t have to.”

“What’s on the bottom?”

“Mostly dirt. There’s some algae on the pier supports and a bit on any rock you might find at the bottom.”

“Sounds slimy.”

Grammy smiled as she leaned closer. “It is. But you don’t have to worry about anything pulling you under except your cousins. And guess what? I won’t let them do that.”

A second later, Grammy dropped a rope ladder with three PVC pipes for rungs into the water, and the tiny fish disappeared. Then Grammy slid off the edge of the pier—her shirt billowing at the sleeves.

“Grammy, your clothes!”

The old woman splashed a little water at Rebecca’s legs. “This is my swimming suit. No one wants to see any more of me than this.” Lowering her head, she disappeared and then surfaced several feet away. “Come on, that sun’s hot.”

“Did you touch the bottom?”

“Nope. I never do. But you can!”

Rebecca stood up, her feet forming prints as she paced the pier. One step at a time. Her hands flitted at the ends of her arms, and she dashed forward, clenching her eyes shut as her feet left the warm wood and entered the cool water. One stroke at a time. Sunlight touched her face, and she swam toward Grammy, an earthy fragrance surrounding her.

Treading next to Grammy, she chanced a look down. The middle of her bathing suit faded into obscurity a little deeper than her hand and feet had by the pier. “I can see where my belly button is.”

“That’s pretty good for a pond.”

Rebecca giggled. “Yeah.”

“How are your feet?”

“Fine.” She dismissed Grammy and her fears with a wave. “It’s like swimming in a pool.”

“Is it? I’ve never done that.”

“Grammy!” she said. “Don’t worry, I’ll show you how.”

Image by Randall Chancellor.

Enjoy more flash fiction by Kameo Monson on the blog.
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New Release: I NOT David

I NOT David is now live on Amazon.

I NOT David News

Release day is finally here, and I could not be more excited! I NOT David: Finding Me Book One has everything I always want in a book. I hope you feel the same.

If you don’t know, my seventeen-year-old son has autism, and I used him as my muse for this series; however, he and Joey are not identical. Joey struggles more with eye contact and allows Kat to sleep more (and she doesn’t sleep much). Still, you can count on I NOT David to be strikingly realistic when it comes to the day-to-day with autism.

I NOT Buddy: Finding Me Book Two is already in the beta-testing stage, and it is doing very well. Yay! Until it comes out, don’t forget to download I Daddy for free straight from the website. The Finding Me interlude is best read after I NOT David. You can handle the $.99. It’s like buy one get one free, but better because it’s full-length novels!

I NOT David Official Blurb

When three-year-old Joey is diagnosed with autism, Kat’s heart sinks. With a single phone number and a few suggested therapies, she and her husband Derek are left to wade through the unknown abyss of ASD. Derek assures Kat their son will grow out of it, but she has done enough research. That never happens. Still, Joey can improve, and Kat vows to make his life better any way she can.

Jumping feet first into the depths of therapies and developmental preschool, Kat gives it her all. Everything should get easier. But Derek still can’t handle Joey’s meltdowns, and now he only wants to spend time with her. What happens if his attitude doesn’t change?

As Kat’s world continues to crumble around her, she finds something in herself that she didn’t know was missing.

I Not David: Finding Me Book One is a character-driven, women’s fiction novel that evokes emotion as it twists and turns through silly smiles and torturous tantrums, love and loneliness, and everything in between.

Christmas is coming

Did you know Amazon allows you to give ebooks as gifts? You can, if you follow these instructions. But if you prefer the smell and feel of paper in your recipient’s hand (or your own), don’t worry. I NOT David will be available in paperback on November 26, 2019.

Links you need

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Pining Picnic

After Noelle loses her husband to war, Gran takes her on a picnic.

Noelle held the flag to her chest, pleading with herself to not cry. Not again. Months had passed since Dave had returned home in a box draped by the flag in her arms. His dream of serving the nation through military service had been realized. So had her greatest fear. Now she spent her days wishing his arms still wrapped around her.

A knock on her bedroom door brought her glassy-eyed gaze into focus. “Come in.”

As the door swung toward the wall, Gran peeked from behind it. “I thought I’d find you in here.”

Noelle pulled her knees to her chest and folded her arms around them—the flag ensconced by her body.

“Why don’t we go visit our men?”

Eyeing her grandmother, Noelle shook her head.

“Come on, I’ve got a special day planned.”

Gran held out her hand, and Noelle eased hers into it. “Can we pick up some flowers?”

“They’re waiting for us in the car.”

Shuffling outside, Noelle slipped into the passenger’s seat and stared out the window. She’d knelt at Dave’s grave several times, but words always refused to come. Why would they? It wasn’t like Dave listened. What purpose was there in visiting a grave and whispering to someone who couldn’t hear? Still, she kept trying. Hoping.

“What a beautiful day to remember our husbands,” Gran said as they drove to the cemetery. “I married your grandfather before Vietnam started. A private first class in the army. He was so proud of his enlistment, wanted to serve the country he loved.” Gran smiled wanly. “We had two children by the time the conflict bubbled over. Vietnam brought nothing but ugliness. And the day they told me he’d died, I did too.”

Noelle turned toward Gran without making a sound.

“Dave joined for the same reason, didn’t he?” Gran asked.

“Yeah.”

“Except the business in the Middle East was already full-blown.” Gran raised a brow. “Not much of a question he’d end up there.”

Noelle looked at Gran. “None.”

Gran nodded. “They both protected us and this nation. Same as all the others.

“My father spent his time in France after being drafted during World War II.” Gran tightened her grip on the steering wheel.

“Why do people do this?” Noelle asked as she glared Gran. “Join the military to die?”

“They never join to die. They join to serve and protect.”

“I’m not sure that’s what’s going on now.”

“Maybe not, but that doesn’t change their sacrifice.”

Noelle took a deep breath as they pulled up to the cemetery. Clasping her hands together, she begged her heart to quiet and the pins to stop pricking her lungs. Neither did.

As she stepped out of the car, she turned to help Gran, who shoved a blanket into her arms.

“What’s this for?”

“Our picnic.”

Noelle’s eyes widened.

“It’s an old tradition my mother taught me, used to be a fairly common practice. Some cemeteries don’t allow it anymore.”

“Wonder why?” Noelle’s voice dripped with sarcasm, and she tried again. “So, we go sit on the graves and eat?”

“Something like that,” Gran said with a smile as she smelled the flowers.

The walk from the car to the gravesites invited the sun to burn Noelle’s shoulders. A picnic on a grave in the heat—fun. At least Grandpa had a tree next to him that shaded both headstones.

As Gran set the flowers on top of Grandpa’s tall marker, Noelle dropped the blanket to the ground.

“Spread it out, would you?” the older woman asked.

Gran started dividing the flowers between the two graves. Red, white, and blue carnations. The blanket flicked to the ground with a flourish, just in time for Noelle to see her grandmother post a small flag next to each of their loved ones’ graves. The older woman whispered soft words Noelle couldn’t hear as she traced the edge of Grandpa’s headstone with her fingers. Tears gathered at the edges of her creased eyes, worn from years as a single woman. Noelle startled as Gran broke out into a peal of laughter.

How could she laugh? Pain like this never subsides, it couldn’t, could it?

A moment later, Gran lowered herself to the blanket, her knees popping on the way down. “I can get down, but you might have to help me up later.”

Gran studied her husband’s headstone, then patted her knees and faced Noelle. “Your grandpa wasn’t one of those poster-child soldiers. ”

She paused and smiled at what must have been a memory.

I remember one day he showed up at home with his uniform ripped in several places, buttons missing, mud covering him from the top of his head to the end of his boots, and the biggest dumb grin on his face I’d ever seen. After I pushed him into the backyard and told him to strip down before coming in my house again, he took the hose and sprayed it right at my backside.

Next thing I knew, we were wrestling for control of the hose. In the end, he wrapped his arms around me, his shirt off and his pants dripping with water, and told me he’d fought the grizzly and won.

“What do you mean, you fought the grizzly?” I asked.

His deep voice thundered next to my ear. “You don’t know about the grizzly?”

I’d heard about a lot a different antics with the boys, but nothing about fighting a grizzly, so I shook my head.

“Well, let me tell you, it’s the scariest bear you’ve never seen. The boys took me up the mountain, blindfolded me, and set me in the middle of a field. Next thing I knew, a claw swiped across my back. Tore my shirt, right there.”

He held up his shirt, his fingers wiggling through four sharp-cut slits in the back. I whipped him around fast, but he just threw his head back and hooted, “It doesn’t hurt.”

Four shallow scratches lined his back. I searched the rest of his torso and arms. Little pricks appeared on his forearms, and he had a decent scratch along one of his hands.

“No bear did this.” I eyed him until he slowly shook his head.

“Not a bear. Three men with razors attached to broom handles.”

“What?” The scream left my mouth before I could reign it in. I smacked his arm. “How do you get involved with this stupidity?”

“There was no harm. Only I was blindfolded, and they were careful.”

“Careful?” I huffed. “Those scratches and your sliced uniform say different.”

“Nah, it’s just an initiation of sorts.”

“Into what?”

“The squad. I’m the new guy, remember?”

“Hazing.”

“Hazing or not,” he said as he sidled back up to me, “I took that grizzly down faster than anyone else. Beat the record.”

Gran shook her head, laughing as she stared at the headstone. “Crazy coot!”

Noelle leaned her head back. The sunlight spread over her face as her body filled with laughter too.

“Dave’s squad dropped him two miles from base with a gallon of water and a pink camo T-shirt they’d picked up from who knows where.” Noelle rubbed her hand across her husband’s headstone. “Luckily, he ran into a 24-hour-fast-food joint and talked some soldier-smitten girl into letting him call me. When I picked him up, he turned my angry glare into a fit of giggles.”

She turned and patted the grass below her. “You always knew how to make me smile.”

Tears ran down her face, and she rolled to her belly, facing his headstone, but away from Gran. “I miss you. You whisked me off my feet and then left me alone. I love you for who you were and hate you for dying.” She brushed the dirt away from his name. “I’ll get over that last part.”

She sniffed and let out a little giggle. “I found all those notes you left me. The one behind the toilet—it’s a good thing I love you.”

Her words continued, and as they did, the tension that had roiled through her muscles and stiffened her joints eased.

She picked up the sandwich Gran had set next to her and ate it as she talked about her life. The way people at work looked at her and stopped talking when she walked by. The old women at church who took her hand and held it while studying her with sad eyes before shuffling away in silence. She mentioned crying herself to sleep. Then she told him how his squad members stopped by one at a time.

“They loved you.”

Stories of their past together slipped from her lips as she ate the apple pie Gran had packed. These she shared with Gran, and Gran shared others with her.

Decades that had once divided the two widows collided. Styles changed, technology advanced, but grief and loss seemed to transcend time.

The day slipped by, as they walked, cried, hugged, and shared. Soon, the sun dipped in the western sky, and Noelle exhaled peacefully, a smile reflecting nothing but tranquility on her face. “Thanks, Gran.”

Gran clutched her hand. “It won’t go away—the pain. Tears return. But holding it inside yourself only hurts more.” She nodded toward Dave’s grave. “He’s stronger now than he ever was. Let him carry it with Christ. You can do that, right?”

Noelle wrapped her arms around Gran. “Next time I’ll pack the lunch.”

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Book Review: The Rift Between Us

When Dad died. Maria, Lauren, and Avery figured they’d never see each other again. Why would they? They hadn’t spoken to each other in two years. But even from the grave, Dad plans to see them become a family again, in The Rift Between Us.

Rebecca L. Marsh, author of When the Storm Ends, now gives fans a second novel: The Rift Between Us. Another wonderful women’s fiction piece, none of my followers will want to miss this great story, filled with life-like characters and real-life problems.

My Thoughts on The Rift Between Us

We look across the auditoriums, restaurants, and church pews at all the people who have life figured out and wonder what’s wrong with us. We’ve gained so much weight our shoes don’t fit, our kids fight nonstop, and the dog has yet to find the patch of grass in the backyard. When is it our turn? When do we get to live a perfect life? And with each question we ask, we refuse to let anyone in on our secrets. After all, what would they think if they knew the truth?

The preface isn’t new. If anything it’s timeless. We listen and enjoy stories with such themes because no matter how much we try to remind ourselves that no one has a perfect life, we forget.

Marsh takes this simple theme and builds her story around it. A widowed father of three daughters raised them into adulthood. Unfortunately, as adults, the secrets they keep from each other are too heavy for any one of them to carry alone. They need sisters, but only Dad knows it.

When trying to bring his girls back together in life fails, this dad gives it one more shot after death. If they want their lofty inheritances, they have to fulfill a difficult task.

The climax of The Rift Between Us comes earlier than in most books, and Marsh spends a good amount of time wrapping up the resolution. In most stories, I find a long resolution boring. However, this wasn’t the case this time around. It’s during the resolution that the characters grow, similar to how we grow in real life. And considering the genre, I find this acceptable and even necessary for this story.

Readers of The Rift Between Us follows the points of view of sisters Maria, Lauren, and Avery. Marsh’s exceptional writing brings depth to each woman, as we experience their anger, fears, and passions. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself with tears in your eyes searching for a box of tissues. These characters are sure to touch your heart. They sure touched mine.

Official Blurb

After a family dinner turns into a bitter fight, sisters Maria, Lauren, and Avery decide to go their separate ways. Their father warns them that someday they will need one another. When he dies suddenly, they learn that he intends to make sure that they do. He’s left them a substantial inheritance, far more than any of them ever imagined.

There’s just one catch. If they want the money, they will have to spend two weeks together at a secluded lake house and follow all of their father’s instructions—no matter how strange.

Their task seems simple enough, but each one is holding onto painful secrets and old grudges the others know nothing about. But if they can learn to trust each other again, they might be able to mend the rift between them and give their father his dying wish.

More Info:

Watch Amazon for The Rift Between Us. Coming July 2019

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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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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.

More Information:

Purchase your copy on Amazon
Visit Patritus LLC

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Stort Story Review: Elsie

Short story review: Everything in Elsie’s life is changing, yet once again, she finds herself listening to her sons and giving up one of her most precious possessions.

Everything in Elsie's life is changing, yet once again, she finds herself listening to her sons and giving up one of her most precious possessions.

Author of the Homecoming Short Story Series, Jessica Marie Holt, shares the wonderful women's fiction story of Elsie in her first fully-published series of three short stories.  The warmth of the South will fill your heart right from page one as you experience grief and joy alongside the main character.

My Thoughts about Elsie:

Holt introduced me to Elsie through beautiful writing that immediately dropped me into Elsie's emotional mindset. As memories of the porcelain teacup in her hand came forward, I experienced the love of a mother, a grandmother, and a husband. Life through Elsie's eyes continued as I viewed what she saw in explicit detail that didn't detract from the story. When she made a friend, I hoped for her and laughed with her. When her heart broke, mine did too.

Many of today's stories dwell within easy, emotional boxes. We feel sadness or anger for a short time only to move on to blissful love. In this short story, which takes less than forty minutes to read, I experienced a range of emotions usually left for much longer stories. And I enjoyed every second of it!

The style of this story, the way the author adds just the right amount of detail and just the right amount of characterization, held my attention captive. There is no doubt in my mind that if you decide to read Elsie, you will love it as much as I do!

The Official Blurb:

After the sudden death of her husband, Elsie is finally learning to enjoy life again. When her well-meaning, but overbearing sons convince her to turn her world upside-down, will she cling defiantly to the past, or find a way to move forward? A short story about grief, second chances, and finding hope in unlikely places.

More Info...

Purchase Elsie, by Jessica Marie Holt on Amazon for $o.99.
Follow Jessica Marie Holt on Facebook   &  Goodreads

Read more reviews and flash fiction at kameomonson.com, where you can download your free version of Sometimes a Bird has to Fly.
I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a review. All opinions are my own.

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Book Review: ZARA by Aureola

Young childhood as a refugee, human trafficking, and drugs wreak havoc in Aisha’s life. Human kindness and love come only small doses, leaving her with a soul tormented by abuses. But an end to suffering awaits if she can overcome the hardships driving her life.

Book Review: Zara by Aureola

Author, Aureola, takes us on a journey most of us cannot fathom. Those who can, wish they couldn’t. Her novel, ZARA, explores a world where abuse by one’s spouse isn’t only commonplace, but legal, where refugees run from criminals and their abusers, and young children are sold as slaves.

My Thoughts About ZARA:

Understanding the depths of terror that abound in the world can only come as we experience it ourselves. But a glimpse through a fictional story can help us recognize atrocities, hopefully, so we can change them. Just as Uncle Tom’s Cabin helped loosen the bonds of slavery in the United States, ZARA works to loosen the bonds placed on women and children by those who seek power over them. Aureola does this by highlighting the atrocities of spousal abuse and human trafficking.

Much of the story takes place through the eyes of Aisha, a young girl who lives through the cycle of abuse time and time again. The love of those in her same position carries her through the very torments of hell. Though she wishes to escape, as is true for many, escape isn’t always possible. There are pockets of happiness and hope, but much of the book shows how Aisha survives. The survival that comes through her strength and the hands of others causes readers to cheer from the bottom of their hearts.

This story is not written by an American, so you can expect some differences in spelling and punctuation—specifically when it comes to commas and periods found outside quotation marks, which is considered correct in British English. There are also some formatting issues in the ebook that the author is currently working to fix, as well as minor grammatical errors. Some confusion may arise as the author switches from one character’s point of view to another.

I, personally, feel the author handled such volatile subjects well. Though dark subjects line each page, gruesome violence and unnecessary descriptions do not, neither does nudity, sexual acts, or other inappropriate expressions. I struggle some with the end of the book, though it is a happy ending, how happiness is discovered, leaves me disconcerted. However, I do believe the ending to be realistic.

Overall, I cautiously recommend this book. It has the propensity to help readers understand some of the complexities women and children in the world may experience and will open eyes to harsh realities while shielding them from debilitating anguish.

Official Blurb:

“I am Zara… and I know what it means to live in terror for my life…”

Born into an existence in which life and death walk hand in hand, abuse and an impending war throw Zara into a fight for survival in a dystopian society ravaged by insurgents and run by drug lords, arms dealers as well as prostitution rings. With her innocence destroyed, she survives by building a façade that sells a lie to the world. But when this is stripped away, she is left with one choice: a final end, a final silence… even at the cost of her life.

More Info:

Purchase your copy of ZARA on Amazon.

Follow Aureola on Goodreads.

Read more reviews, flash fiction, and fun at KameoMonson.com, and don’t forget to grab your FREE downloadable copy of Sometimes A Bird Has to Fly!

I received a free copy of this book for review. All opinions are my own.

 

 

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Book Review: Spinning Silk by T. Cook

T. Cook weaves Japanese mythology and women’s fiction together, creating one exquisite piece of literature in her debut novel Spinning Silk.

T Cook

Spinning Silk, written by T. Cook, transports readers back to a time of the Samurai when only nobles wore silk and peasants became slaves. Then, in a flash of fantasy so well-formed through mythology and the written word, reader’s find themselves believing the unreal to be true. Filled with the emotional gamut found in T. Cook’s novel, I found myself enamored and unable to put Spinning Silk down.

About Spinning Silk:

Furi lives anything but an easy life. Perhaps the most adept and creative silk weaver in all of Japan, she finds herself treated as a slave by her adoptive mother and then sold as a slave to a cruel woman who exploits her weaving talents to the brim. Though the beatings make life miserable, the pull of the loom keeps Furi creating for herself as much as for anyone else. Seven years she spends sprawled for punishment befitting the very masters who wield the whip, until Shin, a humble yet strange slave, comes as a gardener. Soon, illnesses and death surround Furi as much as Shin’s mysterious healing. When Furi finds herself alone, Madame Sato teaches her to live the life of nobility only to suddenly introduce Furi as her dead daughter. Searching for the truth of her existence, and hoping for love, Furi travels through the best and worst of emotions, creating and growing along the way.

My Thoughts:

T. Cook pulled me into her creation immediately with incredible prose and perfectly-written imagery. As a fan of fantasy, I know I can be pulled into other worlds but was uncertain about being pulled into Feudal Japan, and I hoped my limited knowledge of Japanese history wouldn’t distract from the story. My fears were unwarranted, as Cook painted an amazing picture. To help those who want more, she included explanations of the terms (found in italics) at the back of the book.

Not everyone loves fantasy, but I emphatically recommend Spinning Silk to readers of women’s fiction and romance novels, including those who don’t usually read fantasy. The fantasy is not overt, and life shines through more than mythical creatures, magic, or the like. Sorry, fantasy lovers, you won’t find a mage, and the dwarves stayed home with Snow White, but I promise you’ll love this incredible book anyway.

Spinning Silk does have some typos, and they are typos, not problems with word choice or lack of writing skills. They do not detract from the story at all. The novel is a clean read without the need for a disclaimer. It has immediately won a home in my library as a definite read-again-and-again. I can’t wait for the release of the second book, Shin.

More Info:

Purchase your copy of Spinning Silk on Amazon.
Follow T. Cook on Facebook and Twitter
Visit her website: www.tcookbooks.com

Learn more about me and download your free copy of Sometimes a Bird Has to Fly by visiting my website: kameomonson.com

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for this review. All opinions are my own.
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