16 December 2019

The Ash Family, by Molly Dektar

It's been quite a while since I've devoured a book with such gusto, but in a slow and deliberate manner. I took my time reading The Ash Family, by Molly Dektar, and each section had me contemplating the actions and choices made by Berie, the main character. I was dumbfounded to realize that I wasn't shocked one bit with how simple it was for her to fall down the wrong hole in life. 

There are 1264 ratings on Goodreads as of this writing, but only a 3 and 1/2 star review and I was stunned by some thoughts because I think this story is that good. I don't often post reviews on this little corner of the blogosphere nowadays, but I had to for this one. Maybe it's the fall season when I read it and I was ready for a disturbing tale; maybe it was because I happened to be traveling through the Great Smoky Mountains of Western North Carolina at the exact time I was reading this book that helped me feel the atmosphere even more so, but I started reading this before my vacation and I live in Puerto Rico. While it might sound a bit corny, I was sitting in Puerto Rico with all of its heat and humidity and the sweat of everyday life, and I was seriously swept away into the cold of the Ash Family's world. I was so excited to join into reading reviews of this book and relishing on shared similar responses by other readers, but alas, I will resign myself to the realization that this will be a sleeper hit, that in a few more years we'll all be wishing we had read it sooner or with a different perspective.

The Ash Family is a quiet story about Berie, a nineteen-year-old who feels passionately about living, but not exactly certain how to fit herself into it all. She's out of step with others, not ever feeling a tie to her own mother or her boyfriend, Isaac. It's in Isaac that Berie may have learned some foundational element of defying authority, which interests her, but instead of fighting it from the outside, Isaac chooses to do so from the inside, by being part of that traditional and conventional life and that decision is significant for her, and it destroys her hero worship view of him. It disappoints her greatly, and you could question why she feels compelled to live her life through others and their choices, but it circles right back to how Berie wants to be led by someone else. She's afraid to make the big decisions, she's never genuinely felt at home in anything, and she's listlessly living that conventional life where her very next step after high school and a broken relationship is the traditional next jaunt of going to college. Instead, Berie skips the flight and takes a bus to anywhere and meets a random man named Bay, so different from anyone she's ever known. Somehow, Bay meets her initial needs of security, comfort and being led. She's perfect to bring home to the Ash family.

The explanation of her decision to stay either "three days or the rest of her life" magnifies the intensity of the stress Berie feels to belong to something. Anything. Even this quiet and bizarre group of people who live off the land, who feed their sheep, who slaughter the animals and grow their vegetables, who values each item so preciously that a member can be punished for the accidental break of a glass jar. It's all so different from the very different and privileged living Berie had before heading off to college. And then before she fully realizes it all, she's now actually in so deep to what isn't a family, but very much so is a cult.

No, there isn't strong and signifiant action and rolling moments to move you through each page; instead it is a story of how easy it is to feel a sense of connection to something, to want to belong with others, to someone and how simply it can just become that way. We can all make fun of teenagers nowadays not knowing how easy they have it, but this is exactly the reason why some can unknowingly fall into the "wrong crowd." But truly, you don't have to be young, old, or have a terrible life - you can quite easily be led astray by the simplest of methods that can take a long amount of time or a quick amount, depending on the victim - which is exactly what brainwashing is, and what Berie experiences.

It is frightening how simple one can be led astray and I will spoil one thing for you - there isn't a big moment that significantly clarifies the choice she makes to live differently - as it is with anyone. There isn't always a momentous identified event that helps to distinguish life before and life after anything; there isn't always a "something.". Life is a natural progression of day in and day out decisions, and then before you know it, you're comfortable. It's home. It's your life. It's the family. Which is actually a cult, but I, as the reader, didn't feel it at first, I didn't realize it was all a cult, I felt comfortable with how Berie becomes part of it. There are characters who move in and out and it's completely dreamlike and terribly sad to feel how deeply embedded into this lifestyle she is ultimately drowning in.

But this happens. This is how cults are born, how innocent communities go astray and become different because of who might be leading them; it's so easy for someone like that to charm a young person who is unsure or insecure about their life and lead them down a different path. Berie is like that. She's unsure and confused about where she belongs, but she is also a little bit confident about wanting to do something different and she wants to earn her spot with the family, with Bay, with the main leader, Dice. She wants to be part of something else with them, more of whatever "action" it is they work on without her inclusion.

So when she meets Bay at the bus station, a strong and big and engaging man who seems like someone she should go with, she just does. She has nowhere else to go. She becomes part of the Ash Family, led by Dice, who gives her the new name of Harmony, and gives her tasks that make her grow callouses on her hands and slowly becomes entrenched in all of her decisions that she simply can't be sure what to do next without his guidance. She always wonders when she'll be trusted enough to be part of the "action." She is always working for that hope and feeling for someone to believe in her, and ultimately it is clear that if she just believed in herself, none of this ever would have happened. It is a frightening example of how anyone can so easily be pulled into a world which cuts them off to everything and everyone they know.

People might shake their heads when they watch documentaries on cults and I don't understand that - I can watch a film on a cult and feel the same but deep down, I am puzzled on what the difference is between a cult and anything else we so gleefully follow. In Corporate America, we faithfully follow our boss and their decisions whether we agree with them or not, we all say the same "company line." Of course, we obviously should choose to not cross the line with anything illegal, but seriously. It's not that hard to imagine how someone gets caught up in the wrong decisions. This is a powerfully told story of insecurity and the blind willingness to belong to anything at all.

I loved this story. I will be giving this 5 stars on Goodreads.

Disclosure: I downloaded this book for free from my library's Libby app.

About the Author (from her website)
Molly Dektar is from North Carolina and lives in Brooklyn. She received her MFA from Brooklyn 
College, where she was awarded the Himan Brown Award and the Brooklyn College Scholarship for Fiction. She is a graduate of Harvard College and was the recipient of the Louis Begley Fiction Prize. The Ash Family is her first novel.

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06 September 2019

The Sea of Japan, by Keita Nagano (book tour stop!)

Thank you to PR by the Book for sending me this advanced reader's copy of Keita Nagano's book tour for his novel, The Sea of Japan. (Fingers crossed this is the cover chosen for the final printed copy - it's gorgeous!)

After fleeing a disastrous teaching job (and a bad gambling habit) in Boston, Lindsey starts teaching English in Hime, a small fishing town in Japan. One morning, while trying to snap the perfect ocean sunrise photo for her mother, she slips off a rock at the edge of Toyama Bay, hits her head, and plunges into the sea—and in doing so, sets off an unexpected chain of events.

When Lindsey comes to in the hospital, she learns that she owes her life to a young man named Ichiro—a local fisherman who also happens to be the older brother of one of her students. She begins to spend time with her lifesaver, and in the ensuing months, she becomes increasingly enmeshed in her new life: when she is not busy teaching, she splits her time between an apprenticeship with the local master sushi chef and going out fishing with Ichiro. As she and Ichiro grow closer, however, she also learns that not all is well in Hime, and she is drawn into a war to stop the town next door from overfishing their shared bay. Soon, she, Ichiro, and her pastrami-obsessed best friend, Judy—the New Yorker, who talked Lindsey into coming to Japan in the first place—are spending all their free time working together to rescue the town. But when their efforts backfire, Hime gets closer to falling apart—putting Lindsey’s friends, her budding relationship with Ichiro, and her career in jeopardy. To save Hime, Lindsey realizes, she’ll have to become a true American fisherwoman and fight for her new home with everything she has.

The buzz is...

Love, survival, conflict…Lindsey runs wild in the Sea of Japan. When her loved ones are attacked, her American spirit stands tall. When her friends are in danger, her Japanese fans get united. The Hollywood-like climax where Lindsey competes in a fishing duel will leave you hanging on the edge of your seat.
—Tetsu Fujimura, Executive producer of Ghost in the Shell (Starring Scarlett Johansson)

Keita Nagano has created a fascinating tale blending the best of two literary worlds, the American and the Japanese. It is a story of friendship, transformation, and journey for the meaning of life. What's really marvelous about this novel is the unique style with its apparent simplicity and deep meaning. A true Japanese delight.
—Elvira Baryakina, author of Russian Treasures series

Win or lose. Sports are loved by Americans because they're tough and challenging, just like this story. At the climax of the book, the readers are on Lindsey’s fishing competition boat with her, watching her struggle to save the people she loves and get justice for her adopted town. Imagine you are standing on the 10-meter high diving board. The tension is just that, on the beautiful Sea of Japan
—Thomas Gompf, 1964 Tokyo Olympic Medalist & Former President of the United States Aquatic Sports.

Disclosure: I received the book from PR by the Book, published by Spark Press.

About the Author
Keita Nagano is an award-winning Japanese author who has lived almost equally in Nevada and Tokyo—more than twenty years in each place—and reflects the difference of the two cultures in his novels. He has a bachelor’s degree in economics from Keio University in Japan, as well as an MBA in global business and Ph.D. in management from Walden University in Minnesota. The pursuit of the authentic American experience is his hobby: he has been to all fifty states, all thirty major league ballparks, and the top sixty big cities in America. He has published seventeen business nonfiction and eight fiction books in Japan. In 2013, he received a Nikkei (Japanese Wall Street Journal) Award for Contemporary Novel for his missing-child thriller, Kamikakushi. He is also an official weekly columnist for Forbes Japan. Nagano lives in Henderson, Nevada, with his wife and Welsh corgi, and their teenage daughter is currently studying in Tennessee.

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26 May 2019

Be Love. Travel. Embrace the Hippie Life.

Working in Puerto Rico. Sticker on my computer is by artist Documented Journey

Disclaimer: This is a very long post. Sorry. But not quite. Thanks for reading it all. 

You never really think about truly having that thing called wisdom from life's experiences until you've gone through crap. You don't have to be ninety-years-old. The only requirement is just REAL experiences. In other words, honest-to-goodness shit you wouldn't wish on anyone else.

And we've had it. Our most recent years included Stage 3 breast cancer. That alone is enough, right? But life already had our adorable seven-month-old baby and suddenly we had to manage the cancer terror with our little guy at our side, then moving back to Florida after a few years in Virginia, then a double mastectomy, harsh chemo where I lost so much of my hair, I just decided to shave it off because it actually hurts when it's loosening and then falling out.

Twenty-five daily sessions of radiation followed, two reconstructions, and then after that, being separated from my husband for almost a year as he trained for his new job that finally brought us to this island paradise of Puerto Rico. Can I be dramatic for a second, though? I still remember walking into our new house in Florida after I had been diagnosed, with my little baby in my arms, and I couldn't even acknowledge how pretty the house was. All I thought was, "Is this the house I'm going to die in?" Dramatic? Maybe. Real and true feeling? Yes.

The cancer journey was the most terrifying, as you can imagine. And just a life's lesson for everyone: it is NOT a free boob job. It most certainly is RECONSTRUCTION (at least for me). As a result of all of that shit, the mind-numbing effects of depression, fear, and anxiety were added to the road, and sometimes it feels like it's just been one thing after another. (I'm happy and thankful to God to report that cancer remains in my rear-view mirror, but read on if you'd like to send good thoughts, vibes, and prayers my father's way.)

Like many other bloggers who start their site focusing on one thing and are consistent and active, life  suddenly steers us in other places. We love our blog, have made friends here, and yet we can't seem to post or engage as regularly as we used to, so we feel reluctant to let it disappear into that ether of the interwebz, to be forgotten about. We think, "should I write about other stuff, or will it annoy my readers, or should I post a review of a book even if it's been months in-between?" The struggle to figure that out amidst our new hobbies and changing experiences shifted so many times for me. I probably made that thought process more complicated, but it's how I felt. And I still don't know what to post here. Reading is always my favorite hobby, but I don't read as often, or have the sudden urge to write a review like I used to.

Instead, Instagram has been my happy place. While I don't fit into the world of Bookstagram (I don't have the right socks for it - book bloggers will get that joke), I do try. I post short reviews, thoughts on life, hobbies (journaling, podcasts, Netflix, and more), and this mini/micro-blogging format has suited me. And I've met more people there as well! People who, in my opinion, are great and grand artists who create such beautiful artwork and handcrafted items, and the world hasn't fully recognized them yet. But I know them! It makes me feel blessed. I forget about this little blog when I'm enraptured with Instagram.

But I still like coming back home here, to my little corner of the blogging universe I started 11 years ago. This really is home. And I thank you all for reading with me, and living life with me.

So enough of all that. Let's do some updates, shall we?

Putting together a KiwiCrate subscription science project and eating cheese and grapes and apples on our balcony.

Family Life - My son is now five and a half years old! What? Wait! Almost SIX? He is a future rock star/guitar player, so you should probably purchase your tickets now...
Guitar tucked into his backpack while at the airport in Puerto Rico.
We moved to Puerto Rico for my husband's job and I'm now a stay-at-home mom after 16 years in corporate America. We felt it was a deserved time for me, what with that whole "f-cancer chapter" part. And I love it here. I am also now helping my in-laws' private yacht chartering business in Boston Harbor with Night Rider Charters (two luxury yachts, so gorgeous). The role fits me well for now. After all, my family and my husband's family has always been connected to the water in some way (Coast Guard, Navy, large supply boats supporting the East Coast or in the Gulf, and now my husband's current job in Puerto Rico where he is again, on the water). So while the boating season is incredibly busy during the season, and I miss my mom life time, ultimately it supports the whole family.

And I LOVE living in Puerto Rico. I love the people I've met and I crave the community and the feeling of being one with it. It's funny, I never liked meeting new people as I got older, but now, I try to meet new people all the time (in broken Spanish, of course). I love buying locally from artists and the farmers' market. We love it so much that my husband and I were just talking about how we can't picture ourselves moving in a couple of years, and that we likely will opt for longer.

Let's be real, though - it was a difficult adjustment at first. We live on a mountain and the mosquitoes are never kind to me. At one point, I whined on my Instagram-stories that I had at least 75 mosquito bites. We had a 6-foot boa constrictor on our balcony that we captured ourselves and then released back into a remote area of the jungle. Flying ants are a thing and they are disgusting. I was likely bitten by a brown recluse spider and ended up in the emergency room. Our beloved and (dog-like) cat appropriately named Puppy the Cat passed away at eleven-years-old after a prolonged kidney disease he had beaten five years ago resurfaced and he passed away in my arms on a terrible Friday morning, and it was SO FREAKING HARD. My husband and I cried so much at the loss. Our other cat and our dog suffered that depression right along with us. We miss that damn cat so damn much.

I get challenged every single day here but then that life experience thing just happens. I realized I'm actually a hell of a lot tougher than I ever thought I was. How many years have I wasted not doing something physical because I didn't think I could do it?

And you would think, you would imagine more than anything else, that Stage 3 cancer would have taught me that lesson, but it was honestly a whirlwind I never like to think about. The "right now" of this life, right here and now, as I sweat to clean the house because there is no a/c in the living room, while I climb a wall to feed the stray kittens or climb another part of the yard I mention later in this post, is much more of a lesson for me, and I sweat and I try and I do it again, and I try and I get mad about things at times, but I'm feeling HAPPINESS as I'm experiencing it. So cancer just taught me that life can suck really bad. You don't feel happiness going through cancer. You pretty much feel shit all the time, and you plaster that happiness face on to the world because can they really deal with your true feelings when you can't? That you had 29 out of 53 lymph nodes infected with it, so you're always afraid of recurrence? Or that you barely look at yourself because yes, you are grateful for living, but damn, that reconstruction is just downright horrible? Or that there are other people out there who are dealing with their own diagnosis and you can only sit on the sidelines for them, and you feel like you have to earn every single minute of your own life because they might not be able to?

So I put the damn smile on and pretend like I'm fine. It's not happy and it's not fun. Since I can barely handle dealing with the anxiety and the fear, why should anyone else have to hear about it? Instead, I work hard at this mountain house, making homemade things and learning how to compost and journaling and writing and making some art. This is how I've learned life's lessons and felt that happiness at the same time. Only here.

I grew up overseas (born in the Philippines and raised there, than in Greece, Venezuela, and more) and while Puerto Rico is an American territory, it's still unique enough that I know my son will have memories of this part of our lives, and I want to keep that going. I vividly remember all of my early traveling and I'm grateful I was born to parents who recognized the value in that. (My only regret? I didn't travel alone when I was young and single and could just pack a backpack and go! So do it, if you can! Now, with family, it's still wildly fun but there's just a whole lot more planning and list-checking.)

I want my son to have that knowledge and comfort of travel from us, I think about how often he's been on a plane in his five and a half years, and I am so proud of him. We are a nomadic and traveling family lately, and we will soon head back to Florida for at least a month, where my son will be at a summer camp and I'll work in the daytime and be right across the street from my father to help him anytime he needs me. But I like how we have become this adventuring family, and that we can head to different places around the world, that we can hop on a flight to the mainland to see family and friends and my son is used to it. I want him to grow up knowing there is more than just his house, his street, his neighborhood, his town. There is so much more in this world to try, to decide what you do and don't like. I want him to learn that lesson even earlier than I did. I want him to know what it's like without power sometimes, and how to get a generator going, that central air conditioning is a LUXURY.

Reading Life - I read all. the. time. It just takes me forever lately to finish a book. I still need to review Amor Towles' Rules of Civility, everything since last summer by Meg Wolitzer (short updates for both - all were incredible, and more). Right now, I'm reading Please Look After Mom by South Korean author Shin Kyung-sook and it is AMAZING. I usually hate it when books are written in the second-person (wait, I wrote part of this blog post in the second-person, sorry), but my goodness. This book is unbelievable. I love everything about it. You have to read it. And then call your family or friends and take care of them and notice them. NOTICE THEM. (I am reading it on my Libby app on my phone.)
Sojourner folio made by Sojourner USA, artwork pictured in the pocket by Little Raven Ink
Creative Life - I adore journaling and art and writing and will never stop. I have always journaled but became ferociously when I was diagnosed, fearing I would not be alive and that my son would only have my journals, because Lord knows I didn't want to just let him have Instagram and Facebook feeds to scroll through. Now, I journal and plan all the time, and I love my analog life. I love to collage, I love to paint, I love to draw. I am horrible at all of them, but I adore the process. Bullet Journaling has become my favorite way to combine work and home life, when I used to have one notebook to plan work life in and one notebook to plan personal activities - now I've combined them this year and adore it.
And I write. I have a story I'm writing. It's pretty fun. I read the intro to my husband, and he asked me, "Well, wait. So then what happens?" And that was the most thrilling part of it all!

Yes, it's Young Living. No, I will not pressure you into signing up. It will be okay.
Hippie Life - My favorite new quote: "Be an open skeptic."

At the age I'm at now, I realize that I'm truly a hippie at heart. I am conservative in so many things, but I love my new life in Puerto Rico, and I love taking mangos from my own backyard and making mango jam. I love how I had to scale the wall to our house to get to the backyard when the power was out, getting muddy and dirty and filthy to lug the diesel gas tank up to fill up our generator and hack cobwebs away; I love it all. I love my short nails and my silver rings and the essential oils I use.

I mean, let's really talk about this. I made MANGO JAM. USing mangos from MY OWN BACKYARD. I did it. It was easy. And now I can use it on toast, in a chicken and cheese tortilla burrito, or in a marinade for fish. I made that mango jam, and my husband and I were talking about this - people here in Puerto Rico regularly stop on the street and pick the mangos up that have fallen on the road. Why not? They don't take the ones that have gotten older, they take the ones that are perfect and ready for eating. We don't do that in the States because why? We have become so brainwashed that buying it at a store is the "safest" way. I've used the mangos in my backyard, and have picked up other fruit on the roadside as well and eaten them and they are incredible. And guess what - no chemicals! No preservatives on them!

So back to the first thing. (Although again, look at how perfectly I made that jam, it was just the right amount to fill up this old coconut oil glass jar! It was SO SATISFYING when that happened.)

Yes, I signed up with Young Living; wait, please don't freak out, I will not pop up in your inbox asking you to sign up. I had a membership 2 years ago and then let it go inactive. No one pressured me to stay enrolled. And that's how I am. I moved to Puerto Rico and started learning about essential oils and how to make my own products that were plant-based, not chemically-based, and so I reactivated my account. I got my starter kit and then started learning more and now I order every month. But I didn't have to do anything. I buy shampoos and soaps and home cleaning products that have zero chemicals in it. The money I used to spend on Tide or Dawn or some fancy shampoo and skincare is now transferred to what I purchase with plant-based products through Young Living. I'm okay with that. I got rid of all of the synthetic candles and plug-ins that I inhaled and now I smell fresh and clean rooms filled with a diffuser with pure, therapeutic-grade oils. I love my natural soaps, natural everything. (I still shave, though, in case you're wondering. I'm learning how to be natural with many things, but I'll always shave.)

You can click on my link here to enroll or you can just message me on Instagram if you have questions. I use the concentrated Thieves laundry soap in my washing machine and use wool dryer balls with a few drops of oil on it. Remember, you can buy oils in a health food store, but don't just trust the label that reads 100% pure. Really check it out and look at it. If you find Young Living or doTerra on Etsy or eBay or Amazon for very inexpensive prices - it's been diluted and someone is reselling them. Just be careful and do your research on everything. And biggest piece of advice? Turn your favorite products over to see what's listed in the ingredients - if you see "fragrance," toss it out. Fragrance is the heading major corporations use to tuck in all the icky things that are "synthetic" and they write it off as trade secrets. But "trace elements" of the same synthetic item used in your make-up (formaldehyde, for example) can change your body and NOT in a good way. So try to embrace the natural stuff, the earthy stuff. You can still be conservative and still embrace the gifts on this earth and not put chemicals on your body. If you have questions, ask me. I will not pressure you.

My Netflix Recommendations 
Watch Stink, The C-Word, The Bleeding Edge, and Heal. It will make you rethink how things are "regulated." How we trust things so blindly just because someone in "authority" said it was okay. Remember: "Be an open skeptic."

Faith Life
- My father was diagnosed with Stage IVB esophageal cancer, and that has consumed my thoughts and my heart. I am actively praying and I do not care what the doctors say. I will be a witness to the miracle that my Dad will have no evidence of cancer soon. I can see it. I believe it. I had the honor to deliver my father's speech at his veterans' reunion last month, and I'm proud to be his daughter. I embedded the video for you here, in case you have 20 more minutes to spare on my life. My father is a veteran of the Korean War, and was an underage veteran. And he created VUMS, the Veterans of Underage Military Service, so many years ago to get these underage veterans to connect and share stories. My Dad is an American hero, who once only had an 8th grade education, entered into the service, and then got out and went to college, and eventually got himself to Vanderbilt University. He never whined. He's a hero. (Care to sign my petition to the TSA about the treatment he experienced at the Reno Airport? Click here for that.) And side note, he hates all the hippie things and I thought he wouldn't go for the Young Living stuff, but now he absolutely loves his diffusers and refuses to be in either his living room or his bedroom without peppermint in his diffuser going full blast. (He will try other oils, but peppermint is his favorite, along with Panaway and Copaiba mixed with a carrier oil to massage onto his skin, into any pain he might have.)
Pray for this guy right here, my Dad
I hope I haven't lost you all, but perhaps you've moved onto other things. If so, but still want to connect, the best place to find me is on Instagram - so click here or find me on other sites through Linktree by clicking here.

Thanks for reading all of this. Tell me what you're up to lately. Would love to reconnect with you all again.


11 February 2019

In Cold Blood, by Truman Capote

Finally. I finally settled down with this tragic true crime story and it's one I won't soon forget. While there were pieces here and there I didn't care for, In Cold Blood is simplistic and terrifying, sharing an alarming and unsettling story set amidst cornfields and blue sky America in the late 1950s. Perhaps this is when the phrase "it could happen here, it could happen anywhere" was first born.

In a small section of rural America, a prominent family, the Clutters, well-known and liked in Holcomb, Kansas were brutally cut down and murdered in their own home. Two killers used a shotgun and killed all four of the family members one night in 1959, and left with almost no trace.

Within the first few pages, it's clear why this book is a classic in the true crime category - while in some moments there is a small sense of pomp and glorified grandeur similar to other books in its genre, it feels like it's only on the top. Deep below that, the dark story of a ruthless crime steers left and right, bringing you immediately to whom the killers are and to the officers following the trail to capture them. It is an unbelievable story, and so beautifully written.

Capote maintains this sincere polish of writing, so pure and thorough that the contents of it all, the meaningless act, the victims, sat with me for weeks. It is a disturbing night, truly harrowing final hours for this family and what happens after: the difficult attempts to understand just why they were so remorselessly executed, the search for the killers, the killers' backgrounds, and more.

This is unquestionably one of the premiere and integral books to set the stage for the true crime genre. And I loved the way Capote told the tale, I do. I simply wanted more about the Clutter family, equal amounts of the sweet and strong husband, the ailing wife, the young Nancy at sixteen-years-old who loved animals and had a high school sweetheart who worshiped the ground she walked on, and just as young Kenyon, at only fifteen-years-old who was making a chest for one of his older sisters as a present. While I am as fascinated as any other true crime reader on exactly what compels a murderer and why they ultimately conduct the act, In Cold Blood lacked in its tender and loving detail and description of the Clutter family. It felt almost, dare I say, obligatory, the inserted sections of Herb, Bonnie, Nancy, and Kenyon. I found myself sickeningly sad for the two murderers at one point. Of course, each criminal usually has a severely horrible upbringing, but I was upset that I was reading in slight empathy for the criminals, when I felt an almost absent connection to the Clutters. It took me Googling away to uncover more of the details of the family, the older sisters, or Nancy's boyfriend, to find the pieces that made them the whole of who they were together, and it was then that I felt the respect for the loving family, more than the book offered. I did read that there will be a Netflix documentary soon entitled Cold Blooded, and it is supposed to fill that gap on Capote's family insight. Another article I read alluded to the Clutter family not being very welcoming to Capote, finding him to be jumping on the story just to make money. It's understandable why they would feel that way. I would imagine it might not have felt very decent for the older sisters to discuss their family, so soon after the tragedy. Instead, Capote focused on the killers, which was detailed, shocking, saddening, and thoughtfully written. There might never be a true understanding on why the killers did what they did, but Capote was able to address the very real issue that there is a reason why some grow up to do what they do. It is frightening how easily led a person can be, and how easily corrupted a person can become.

Without a doubt, this will be one of my top favorite true crime stories. It's so extraordinarily written, a story told so well, that it's no surprise that after almost fifty years since its publication, it understandably known as the best true crime book of all time.

About the Author (from Wikipedia)
Truman Capote was an American novelist, short story writer, screenwriter, playwright, and actor. Breakfast at Tiffany's (1958) and the true crime novel In Cold Blood (1966), which he labeled a "nonfiction novel". At least 20 films and television dramas have been produced from his work. Several of his short stories, novels, and plays have been praised as literary classics, including the novella


16 January 2019

I cannot believe I forgot to post a review on this, especially now when I'm trying so hard to be more frequent! Prepare for more "I forgot" blog posts as I read quite a bit in 2018 but I only wrote occasionally here. I didn't even post on Goodreads, I just read books and never reviewed or kept track of them. Me! Someone who likes to track everything and loves Bullet Journaling!

That was a side note. Anywho.

Sky in the Deep written by Adrienne Young was a phenomenal story narrated by the incomparable Khristine Hvam. I should have recognized this narrator's voice as I loved her for the Daughter of Smoke and Bone series (I still have book 3 to listen to on Audible - these are the problems of a supposedly voracious book reader. There is just never enough time).

In this Viking tale, Eelyn is a loyal warrior of her clan who rivals with another clan centuries old, but when she sees her brother alive and fighting side-by-side with the rival clan on a battlefield five years after his supposed death, everything she once knew as the truth has been turned upside down.

This is a solid and exciting story of a very strong young lady who has to come to some acceptance that her brother is still alive, and with their rival clan. The betrayal she feels that he was always alive is palpable and heartfelt, and since she has to live with them during an impossibly difficult time to travel back to her own Viking clan, she also has to somehow live side-by-side with her sworn enemies. During this time, she comes to learn even more, and especially from her brother's best friend, Fiske. I was swept up in this story and especially loved how satisfyingly tough Eelyn was, without being overbearing and impossible to believe. Adrienne Young's writing has me looking forward to the companion novel.

And another side note: It's so refreshing to read these young adult stories nowadays with such strong female lead characters, and I know I would have enjoyed this when I was younger, considering I really wanted to be Luke Skywalker. What would the world be like today if stronger female representation was more consistent and natural in books, and other media, thirty years ago? Who knows, right?

About the Author (from her website)
Adrienne Young is the New York Times Bestselling author of Sky in the Deep and the upcoming The Girl the Sea Gave Back. A born and bred Texan turned California girl, she is a foodie with a deep love of history and travel and a shameless addiction to coffee. When she’s not writing, you can find her on her yoga mat, scouring antique fairs for old books, sipping wine over long dinners, or disappearing into her favorite art museums. She lives with her documentary filmmaker husband and their four little wildlings beneath the West Coast sun.

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