Wednesday, April 16, 2014

A-Z Challenge: No Longer (Indie Chick Lit Prompt)

The movers are back today. Most of the big stuff went yesterday - the household furniture, the appliances, the patio furniture, the kids' trampoline. Today it's clothes, boxes and the decor.

I watch them as they move to and fro, coming and going. I make sure they are handling the hanging pictures with care. As much as they're getting paid I want to make sure they're doing it right. I don't want anything damaged. The things in this house made it a "home". A home where laughter and love dominated; where family meals were eaten at the table, the kids' art hung on the fridge with pride, where memories were made. This was a safe place. At least it was supposed to be safe. No longer is it safe.

The movers talk as they work, mostly about their lives - what happened at one kid's Little League game, how another one is doing in school; harmless, every day things. I want to brag on my kids, too, but I don't talk to them.

The kids are not here; they are with my parents for the time being until everything is settled. It's a lot for them to go through. Their lives will never be the same. I should be there with them, but I felt I should be watchful of the movers. They are in good hands with my parents, there really is no need to worry. But a mother always worries.

My husband comes in as the movers are finishing up. I feel a twinge as I see him. I know he was sitting in the car, waiting until the movers were nearly finished. He didn't want to be in the house any longer than he needed. He looks tired. So very tired. I know this has taken a real toll on him. Things like this are never easy. He goes through every room in the house to make sure nothing is forgotten. I hear him upstairs opening and closing doors and drawers, ensuring nothing is left behind. I watch him come down the stairs. He hasn't looked at me since the intruder. He repeats the same process downstairs.

"Sir? We've loaded everything up. Is there anything else?"

"No, no that should be everything. I will meet you there."

My husband stands at the kitchen island, across from me, crying silently. I want to tell him everything will be okay but can I really promise that? I walk with him to the front door, watch him lock it, and walk with him to the car. Sitting in the car he looks past me at the house. He sits that way for some time, crying.
Oh how I wish he could see me.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

A-Z Challenge: Matched Series

The Matched Series by Ally Condie

Cassia has always trusted the Society to make the right choices for her: what to read, what to watch, what to believe. So when Xander's face appears on-screen at her Matching ceremony, Cassia knows with complete certainty that he is her ideal mate... until she sees Ky Markham's face flash for an instant before the screen fades to black.

The Society tells her it's a glitch, a rare malfunction, and that she should focus on the happy life she's destined to lead with Xander. But Cassia can't stop thinking about Ky, and as they slowly fall in love, Cassia begins to doubt the Society's infallibility and is faced with an impossible choice: between Xander and Ky, between the only life she's known and a path that no one else has dared to follow. (excerpt from Matched)

I read this series earlier this year and enjoyed them.  In Cassia's world, everyone has a job. The Society makes sure that everyone's days are planned out. In Cassia's case, she's in school 5 or 6 days a week (hard to know for sure), they have "Free Rec" hours, and approved "leisure" activities. The Society matches kids at the age of 17 and have a "courting" ritual so that the matches can eventually get to know each other. There is no fluff in The Society - everyone has a purpose, They know everything, and your only choice is to be Matched or to remain Single. That's pretty much it. Also? No one lives past the age of 80 because The Society claimed that the quality of life deteriorates past 80. Everyone's meals are prepared and delivered to their home or school. No one has money, they aren't allowed trinkets, nothing. The Society also deemed that their ancestors (us) lead a cluttered life with too many choices, so they picked out the Hundred - the hundred best of everything. Anything else was destroyed. They don't save anything, they don't truly treasure where they came from. Cassia's world is just right until she watches the card on her Match, and someone else's face shows up instead. She starts to question what The Society Officials tell her and starts thinking for herself and falls in love. This is another dystopian society that's camouflaged as a utopia until you start getting in there and realizing how much control The Society has over its citizens. It was interesting to me to see how this "utopia" was set up - and how the story line played out.

Monday, April 14, 2014

A - Z Challenge: Look Again

Look Again by Lisa Scottoline

When reporter Ellen Gleeson gets a “Have You Seen This Child?” flyer in the mail, she almost throws it away. But something about it makes her look again, and her heart stops—the child in the photo is identical to her adopted son, Will. Her every instinct tells her to deny the similarity between the boys, because she knows her adoption was lawful. But she’s a journalist and won’t be able to stop thinking about the photo until she figures out the truth. And she can’t shake the question: if Will rightfully belongs to someone else, should she keep him or give him up? She investigates, uncovering clues no one was meant to discover, and when she digs too deep, she risks losing her own life—and that of the son she loves. 

Oh. My. God. This book was seriously AWESOME. A complete page turner all the way. I totally cried, more than once, and this story really tugs at your heart strings. More importantly, it makes you think about this kind of situation - what would you do in this kind of situation. Lisa Scottoline instantly became one of my favorite authors after reading this book (it was the first one I ever read by her). Seriously, read this book. I don't say that about every book I read. But this is just an awesome book.


Saturday, April 12, 2014

A-Z Challenge: (The) Key to Midnight

The Key to Midnight by Dean Koontz

Joanna Rand left the U.S. ten years ago to sing in a Japanese nightclub. Ever since, she's been plagued with nightmares of terror. There is only one man can help her -- Alex Hunter. Ten years ago he saw her picture in the papers -- as a senator's daughter who had disappeared. Now he has to bring her memories back to her, memories of a past more terrifying than they dreamed possible...

 I know, another Dean Koontz novel. But I did mention that I love his stuff.  We find Joanna in Japan, owner of her own nightclub. Alex, after meeting her, comes to believe she's the missing senator's daughter. He finds that she can freak out over absolutely nothing and has reocurring nightmares. I would say that while the Russian vs America thing is sitting in the wrong decade (although a side note, this book was originally written in the 70s under a pseudonym), but as of recent events, it may actually be relevant again. In order to find out the truth, the couple set off to England and later Switzerland. Which, is different because Koontz typically sets his novels in California. Another good one to enjoy by Koontz with mysteries everywhere you turn. 

Friday, April 11, 2014

A-Z Challenge: (The) Jane Austen Marriage Manual

The Jane Austen Marriage Manual

Katherine Shaw—Kate— is happy with her life. She has supportive friends, a glamorous magazine career, and a love of all things Jane Austen. But when she loses her job, her beloved grandmother falls ill and a financial disaster forces a sale on the family home, Kate finds herself facing a crisis that would test even the most stalwart of Austen heroines.

Friends rally round, connecting her to freelance gigs, and presenting her with a birthday gift— title to land in Scotland—that’s about to come in very handy. Turns out that Kate’s first freelance assignment is to test an Austen-inspired theory: in the toughest economic times is a wealthy man the only must-have accessory? What begins as an article turns into an opportunity as Kate—now Lady Kate—jet-sets to Palm Beach, St Moritz and London where, in keeping company with the elite, she meets prospects who make Mr. Darcy look like an amateur. But will rubbing shoulders with men of good fortune ever actually lead her to love? And will Kate be able to choose between Mr. Rich and Mr. Right?

Okay, so we all know of my love of Jane Austen's books and many of the "fan-fiction" spin-offs. So is it any surprise that at least one shows up here? No. No it's not. I thought it an interesting concept - a woman of the 21st Century attempting the same tactics as a 19th Century woman in making a "good match" in marriage or "marrying well" and above her class. When Kate basically loses everything, her job, her house, her grandmother; she takes her friends up on their freelance gigs. One of which lands her on a plane to and is suddenly known as Lady Kate (again thanks to her friends). Kate sets her sights on one man, 20 years her senior and has a terrible first impression with another guy. This is where it parallels Pride & Prejudice - terrible first impressions and misunderstandings. While Kate gallivants around the world trying to land one man, she seemingly misses other opportunities. It was a fun and entertaining read, and it is another that I will definitely read again.


Thursday, April 10, 2014

A-Z Challenge: Intensity

Intensity by Dean Koontz

Past midnight, Chyna Shepard, twenty-six, gazes out a moonlit window, unable to sleep on her first night in the Napa Valley home of her best friend's family. Instinct proves reliable. A murderous sociopath, Edgler Foreman Vess, has entered the house, intent on killing everyone inside. A self-proclaimed "homicidal adventurer," Vess lives only to satisfy all appetites as they arise, to immerse himself in sensation, to live without fear, remorse or limits, to live with "intensity." Chyna is trapped in his deadly orbit.
Chyna is a survivor, toughened by a lifelong struggle for safety and self-respect. Now she will be tested as never before. At first her sole aim is to get out alive--until, by chance, she learns the identity of Vess's next intended victim, a faraway innocent only she can save. Driven by a newly discovered thirst for meaning beyond mere self-preservation, Chyna musters every inner resource she has to save an endangered moment by moment, the terrifying threat of Edgler Foreman Vess intensifies.

The title of this book explains it all. And it is the best title for the book because it really doesn't let up. I am an avid Dean Koontz reader. I am always lying in wait for the next one to come out. This one came out quite some time ago, but now and again I pick it up and reread it. Just like any book I enjoy. And this one still freaks me out and makes me double check the locks on the doors and the windows are shut. Often Dean Koontz's novels include something supernatural or otherwise strange and bizarre, but this time he focuses on an everyday fear - a killer in the house. Dean Koontz breaks the narrative of the story so that it's told by Chyna, the survivor and Vess, the sociopathic killer. Because this book doesn't have a supernatural element to it, I think it makes it that much more intense and scary; the terror is caused solely by another person A select few of Dean Koontz's novels have story lines, characters, or villains that get to me, and this was one of those. His books are typically quick reads, but trust me when I say they are still enjoyable and worth the read. And this one? This is among his best work.


Wednesday, April 9, 2014

A-Z Challenge: (The) Hunger Games Series

The Hunger Games Series by Suzanne Collins

Winning will make you famous.
Losing means certain death.

In a dark vision of the near future, a terrifying reality TV show is taking place. Twelve boys and twelve girls are forced to appear in a live event called the Hunger Games. There is only one rule: kill or be killed.

When sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen steps forward to take her sister's place in the games, she sees it as a death sentence. But Katniss has been close to death before. For her, survival is second nature.

(Excerpt from The Hunger Games only)

Suzanne Collins created a terrifying dystopian world where the government, Panem, created a pageant they call The Hunger Games - where each district must offer up one boy and one girl between the ages of 12 and 18. All but one will perish; the victor will be bathed in riches. The government forces children to become killers on television. Live for the world and their families to see their triumphs and their deaths; often gruesome. The reason for this horrifying live television (mandatory viewing, by the way) show? District 13 lead an uprising that lead to a war. To remind everyone of what happened to District 13; to instill fear and control, the government randomly picks children from each district. There is no refusal. Katniss Everdeen is a strong-willed character and you don't always like her. She's very rough around the edges, but she's learned to guard herself and take care of herself and her family in world that doesn't give a rats ass about the quality of life in her district. She takes her sister's place to spare her life and inadvertently sets off a spark. The biggest spark of all is lit off at the end of the book where she challenges the rules of the Hunger Games. We learn about this world through the eyes of Katniss, how the Capitol trains children to kill and survive, feed them rich food, and spoil them in all kinds of luxuries before their demise. The Tributes, as the kids are called, are paraded in front of the Capitol. The citizens of the Capitol will eventually makes bets on the kids' lives, pick their favorites. It's not a world I would even like to visit with The Doctor and his Tardis. The world and characters Suzanne Collins created is absolutely terrifying. The books all had me crying at some point or another, and The Hunger Games had me crying by Chapter 2. That never happens. While Katniss can be wishy-washy and can't make up her mind, comes up with a hair brained scheme only to abandon it later and has evidently built the Great Wall of China around her heart when it comes to love, you can't help but admire her for her bravery, her (sometimes) stupidity, and the terror she goes through. If you haven't read it yet, do so. If you've seen the movie, you should still read the books, because they are effing awesome. I've read each one a dozen times. No joke. And I still love them just as much as when I first read them. And yes, I still cry.