☕ Book Break ☕ | The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen

 

“That was the thing. You never got used to it, the idea of someone being gone. Just when you think it’s reconciled, accepted, someone points it out to you, and it just hits you all over again, that shocking.”

The Truth About Forever

Macy recently lost her father and is trying to recover from her loss and the associated trauma. She attempts to do this by controlling her environment. Then she takes a job with a chaotic catering crew and makes new friends.  

What I loved.

❤️

Characters

Macy had my complete sympathy. 

Her new friends with the catering company were so enjoyable to read about, from the bubbly, flamboyant Kristy to the monosyllabic Monica. 

❤️

Storyline

A mix of grief, love, and life lessons. Complex, though the story moved along quickly for me and felt like an easy read. I love books that tackle the emotional journey and end with growth and the characters coming to terms with each other.

❤️

Tone

The sweetness of this story, perfect. 

❤️

Family

The grief the family experiences complicates their relationships, but they love each other. Well developed characters. The way they interacted was realistic, although in one part I got frustrated with the mom. 

❤️

Emotional

A touching story, beautifully done. The development of the romance was slow and perfect for this character. 

❤️

Art!

One of the important characters, Wade, makes sculptures from found materials. He tends toward angels and hands with a heart in the palm, which I would really like to see now.

I love Sara Dressen’s style.

 

Mentions of teenagers using alcohol. A little language. 

☕ Book Break ☕ | The Downstairs Girl by Stacey Lee

I can’t recommend this historical young adult novel enough.

A 17-year-old Chinese American girl who works as a lady’s maid, moonlights as a columnist, Miss Sweetie, speaking her mind about the issues of the day. I absolutely adored Jo Kuan. She’s a complicated girl living in complicated times. 

The writing is elegant, although the tense and point of view took me a little while to get into.

If you’re looking for historicals to enrich your impressions of American culture, this is one to check out.

All the stars.

Sunflowers on a Windy Day~ Jory Sherman Short Story Contest Honorable Mention

 

Monday morning, early, while he sleeps, I enter the field to cut an armful of sunflowers. The doctors said surround him with familiar things. What could be more familiar? The house with its heavy front door, handmade by my daddy? The cracked linoleum in front of the sink? Me? We were childhood neighbors. He spent more time at our house than his own. For the last five years, since Daddy passed and I came back home, Pierce has been my plus one. Long ago, Daddy nicknamed him P.S. because he hung around so much. A tag along. But his name is Pierson Ansel Stevens the Third. And apparently, last.

I squint into the sky. The misty haze could be predawn, or a harbinger of showers. The forecast is fifty fifty for the morning. He doesn’t do well with storms. The rain would come, but later would be better. My arms ache as I cut the thick stems. I’d forgotten gloves. My fingernails bite the tender stalks’ skin. The sharp green of summer wafts into the new day’s air, mixes with the good dirt smell my clumsy feet stir up. Wind slaps at me. I forgot to tie my hair and it thrashes my cheek, gets stuck in between my squeezed shut eyelids. I bow my head and blink it clear. The hem of the old cotton housecoat I’d thrown on whips around my legs. A gust caught the big sunflower faces, tried to kite them away into the cloud strewn gray expanse. I have to hang on or lose the whole bunch. Contrary, nature stills, pausing in her tirade, and lets me catch my breath.

At least the wind cleaned out any bugs for me.

The kitchen door bangs shut behind me. It settles wonky. The loose hinge needs tightening. I hold the sunflowers close and they scratch the tender skin of my neck. I deposit them on the counter, dig in the cabinet beneath, and fetch out my vases, line them in a row. They’d grown dusty already. Pierce used to bring me flowers, so many they filled the house. He claimed to be making up for lost time. I have a lot of vases.

When he’d first started to forget things, I’d thought he was cheating on me.

 

On laundry day, an orange scrap of paper rested in my hand. I’d fished it out of the pocket of his coveralls.

My ears throbbed with each pulse beat of my heart.

Don’t be stupid. Pierce loves you.

The clink of his tea glass as he set it on the table brought me into the kitchen. “Whose number is this?”

Pierce unlaced his boot, let it drop to the floor. “What number?”

My hands shook the tiniest bit as I handed it to him. Pierce’s face went blank, another indication of guilt, I thought.

He studied the numbers, the small V of an almost scowl marked the space above his eyes. Eyes gone dark-cloudy, he crumpled the paper in his fist. “It’s nothing.”

But it hadn’t been nothing. I was right to be terrified, for he’d been stolen, that was certain.

It shames me now, to think I imagined he’d  go willingly.

 

I focus on the task at hand and rinse the four biggest vases one by one. Water beads on the blue and green and yellow, waiting for my dishtowel to wipe away drops that streak and puddle. The vases don’t match, but that’s all right. Under the tap they go. At the half mark, I stop filling.

My gathering had been messy. The shears neaten raw ends to a forty-five degree angle. The vase sits ready. I divide and arrange the flowers. Perhaps those big cheery faces will push back the gloom settling into the corners of the house like untended dust bunnies left to breed and multiply.

Generous bouquets fill three vases. The fourth waits, empty. There are plenty more blooms in the field, but the sun is coming on soon. It’s always good to leave some for tomorrow. I tip out the forlorn, forsaken receptacle and watch the water swirl down the drain. I dry the outside of the vase and set it back in the cabinet. One arrangement goes on the kitchen table, the second on the top of the old wooden writing desk in the corner and the final in front of the window. After breakfast, I’ll move them to the T.V. room.

A series of thumps from upstairs catches my attention and I hold my breath. No fussing. No calling out. Just him coming down.

Please God, let it be a good day.

I pluck at my collar and dip my face into my cotton blouse, pat my eyes and cheeks.

Pierce comes into the kitchen, his robe tied askew. His hair sticks out like he’d been through a windstorm. I should trim it later if the morning goes well. We would see. After I got him to shave. I bought an electric shaver, but he hates it.

His favorite blue cup hangs on the mug tree and I unhook it, cradle it in my palm. “Would you like coffee?”

He nods and shuffles over to a chair.

Hot, dark liquid from the carafe streams out as I pour, and wisps of fragrant steam fog the air above his cup. I dollop it good with cold milk and a heaping spoonful of sugar. For a second, my hand hesitates near the can of protein powder. Not yet. Wait. Coffee first. If he refuses the drink, he might not take in anything all day.

I set the mug down in front of him. My own cupful had grown tepid, but I pick it up and sit down, scooting over to get closer. In case. Pierce’s coffee was cooled considerably by the milk, but still.

He leans back a little, not so slumped as some days.

Ignoring the cup before him, he reaches out and with one finger traces the bright petals on the smallest flower in the arrangement centered on the table.

His gaze lingers on the yellow bloom. “I went to China for you.”

“You did.”

He did. I’d run away from him and he’d chased me. To China.

“I’d go to China a thousand times for you.”

The dry, empty places in my body and soul rush with blood and water. He takes my hand, turns it palm up, kisses the sweet, tender center. The morning sun slants in. A beam strides boldy across the table, dips into our coffee.

“P.S.” My voice is so calm and regular, part of me marvels. “I love you.” My hand, palm open, waiting to snatch whatever gifts the day gave, stays in his grip.

He smiles at me. “P.S. loves you, too.”

I curl my fingers around his. We drink our cold coffee and watch the sun kiss the faces of the flowers.

 

 

 

☕ Book Break ☕ | Princess Academy by Shannon Hale

This book wasn’t what I was expecting from the title. There is a prince, and there’s a love story, but there’s also danger, family loyalty, and friendships.

I loved this story. It had a wonderful fairytale vibe, but felt very grounded. The main character is a spunky, smart, resourceful girl. I love all the positive messages in this book. It was very entertaining. Magical.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and would not hesitate to recommend it for all ages.

A great read. Newbery book.

 

Interesting Setting 

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

 

Wonderful Ending 

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

 

Hint of “Magic”

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

 

Coming of Age

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

 

Positive Messages 

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

LSUS Exhibit Art and Writing Collaboration

 

My flash fiction piece, One of the Team, was paired with art in a collaboration with The Shreveport Art Club for an exhibition. The display will be open to the public for viewing in the LSUS University Center Gallery in Shreveport until February 28th.

The painting is by Joan Cole.

 

One of the Team

by Donna Jo Stone

 

His sweaty hands grasp the bat. The band of his cap itches. He ignores it and concentrates on the ball.

He swings.

Whack.

It’s a hit!

His eyes widen as he tracks the ball’s arc. The bat slides from his grip, the gentle landing thump lost in the rush filling his ears with each beat of his red-blooded heart.

Run to first base.

He hears nothing, sees nothing but the white triangle. No one tags him. Should he stop? His feet keep running and the rest of him follows.

Pound, pound, pound.

A cloud of fine red dirt rises up to baptize his virgin white cross-trainers. Dust flies. So does he.

Safe!

At home plate he leans over, hands on knees, panting.

All at once, the volume comes back on. The yelling is not happy.

“Wrong way!” a boy shouts. “You went the wrong way!”

It’s hard to tell which teammate he is. They all wear red shirts. The boy’s mouth and eyebrows are mad.

Coach comes near, saying something.

“Look at me.”

He tries to make eye contact, but the angry face pushes him away. He looks hard at Coach’s middle.

“Look,” Coach says.

Look?

“First base is that way.” Coach points. “You should know that by now.”

The team clusters on the sideline, distancing themselves from the loser.

Game over.

In his room, he sits on the floor. There is a file box in his mind where he keeps all the facts. These are today’s facts.

Fact #1 He went the wrong way.

Fact #2 First base is to the right.

Fact #3 He should know this.

When the mother finds him, he is rhythmically banging his head against the wall, repeating a mantra.

Stupid. Stupid. Stupid.

Beside him, on the floor, lays a dirty red baseball cap.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

☕ Book Break ☕ | The Silence Between Us by Alison Gervais

The Silence Between Us

by Alison Gervais

This was a quick read for me. 

Be forewarned! This is a hard book to put down. 

Deaf teenager Maya is starting a new school. It’s the first time she’s gone to a hearing school. She must adjust to this new environment. 

I chose this one because I was looking for a clean, young adult romance. This novel has a romantic element, but it’s also a coming of age. Maya is challenged to consider her identity and her attitudes. 

I love this story. 

Go get it!

Good Storytelling 

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Satisfying Ending

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Engaging 

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Great Character

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

 

☕ Book Break ☕ | Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata

Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata

Keiko Furukura, a socially awkward 36 year old woman, has worked at her local convenience store for years. Keiko struggles with social interaction, but at the store, she thrives on the rules, procedures, and structure. She studies the interactions and becomes adept at being an exemplary employee. Here is a world she can understand and succeed in, but her family feels she is wasting her life and education. They pressure her to find a romantic partner and to do something better with her life. Keiko’s story is told with deadpan humor. Translated from Japanese. 

What a great read! It was weirdly engrossing and different in a good way.

Quirky and funny.

I LOVED the book, but was left slightly off balance by two instances of dark humor.

I didn’t see the end coming, but it makes perfect sense and is the perfect resolution for this story.

Easy to read. Recommended. 

 

 

Book Treasures, Classics Challenge, and What I’m Reading

I am super excited to have come across this book today.

Janet McNally’s style shows her past as a poet. Music seems to play a large part in her writing, and I suspect she enjoys the play of words as much as the unfolding of the story.

I can’t wait to dig into this one. Interestingly, it’s about a ballet dancer, as is one of my (still unpublished because I’m looking for an agent) young adult books.

I’m a few pages in and hope I like it as much as I enjoyed her previous book, Girls in the Moon.

I just finished reading My Antonia by Willa Cather as part of the #2020classics reading challenge. I found it completely engrossing. If you are hesitant to read classics because you think they are boring or hard to understand, give this one a try. It was easy to read and rich with history and emotion.

I’m also rereading The Screwtape Letters, trying to stick to a chapter a day and think about the topics.

What book treasures, old or new, have you discovered (or rediscovered) lately?

 

 

☕ Book Break ☕ | The Thing With Feathers by McCall Hoyle

The Thing With Feathers by McCall Hoyle

“Some people see the liquid and think half full. Others only see the air and think half empty. Sometimes I get the sense Chatham sees it all, which is kind of terrifying. I don’t know if I want him to see me–the real me.”

This book caught my eye because I love the Emily Dickinson quote and I loved the cover. It’s been on my list for quite some time.

Emilie is struggling with the loss of her father, who died from a terminal illness four years ago. She also has epilepsy.

I had loads of sympathy for the main character and liked her right away. It is an easy to read, sweet, heartwarming type story. Emilie must navigate a new environment and learns that she has been wrong about many of her assumptions. It has a bit of romance, a bit of mother/daughter relationship (y’all know I love a good mother/daughter story), and, of course, it is a hopeful book as the title indicates. I love a book that is about hope.

I will confess, I got a little teary sometimes. I found myself chuckling every now and then, as well.

Emily Dickinson is given quite a few nods, which I appreciate. I learned something about her that I did not know. 

The story ties everything together nicely.

I liked it.