Rediscovering Lois Duncan

I vividly remember being in middle school and hoarding every Lois Duncan book that came through our school’s library. She was my favorite writer and I inhaled her books in a way that I hadn’t from anyone else.

When I was in my favorite secondhand book store recently, I found two Lois Duncan books that I hadn’t read (or at least at my old age of 27, don’t remember reading). One was Ransom and one was Locked in Time. Of course I bought both of them.

Locked in Time was my favorite of the two. It was unlike any other story I’ve read before. It has it all- murder, mystery, and fantasy. The story is of a girl named Nore trying to accept her new stepfamily. The catch though, is that they are strange and full of secrets. There are constant references to the step-mother Lisette, step-brother Gabe, and step-sister Josie being from a different time period.

Lisette’s goal from the start was for Nore to die, so that no one would come looking for Chuck, and that she would be free to murder him and take his money.  Lisette sends Gabe out to take care of Nore by having her drown in the swamp, but it does not work and Nore survives. Nore knows she is in danger, but she cannot convince her father.

The story takes place in Louisiana- home of weird magical happenings. Nore is correct and Lisette and her children are in fact from a different time period many years ago. Lisette struck a deal with her first husband’s mistress, and in turn Lisette and her children would never age. Nore finds the evidence for this, but is never able to produce the evidence for her father though. When Chuck leaves on a business trip, Lisette attempts to end Nore’s life, but with the help of Gabe, Josie,and Nore’s friend, she survives. Gabe drives off with his mother, leaving Josie behind, and gets into a wreck killing himself and Lisette. Josie goes on to live with Nore and Chuck back in New York, and they put off telling him about the non-ageing Josie, until he figures it out for himself.

I finished this book in two days. It was exciting and different. The book is an easy read, and I highly recommend it. She wrote it in 1985, and it won several awards. The one most notable to me though is the 1988 South Carolina Young Adult Book Award, since I am from South Carolina.

Ransom was also a good book, but I would be lying if I said that I enjoyed it like I enjoyed Locked in Time. It was written in 1966, and one thing I love about reading old books is immersing myself into the language and style of a different time period.

It is the story of five students held hostage while taking a bus home from school in New Mexico. There are three criminals, and they each play different roles; one in charge of phone calls and collecting ransom, one in charge of driving the students and getting them to the cabin where they are being held hostage, and one who plays the “motherly” role. The kids are all very different, one sociopathic all-american guy named Glenn and his brother Bruce, one loner named Dexter, one beautiful girl who has daddy-issues named Marianne, and one well-traveled, intelligent girl named Jesse.

While they are being ransomed for $15,000 each, the kids themselves are hatching a plan to escape. A couple of them are successful in escaping, and when one kidnapper comes after them in the car, he goes over a cliff, dying instantly. I call Glenn a sociopath, because throughout the book it is revealed to us that Glenn is not capable of loving anyone else, but he is capable of doing things like leaving a child to die after hitting him with his vehicle. Even Glenn’s parents have a moment between themselves in the book where they doubt Glenn would save the others if he could get himself out. (They were right).

The book shifts viewpoints between each of the hostage’s views, and the views of their parents. In the end, the same step-dad that Marianne has resented is the one who saves the day. It was a little predictable, but what makes this book so great is that this is such a chilling, realistic scenario. Lois Duncan does a great job at capturing a very real fear that most parents have when sending their kids to school, which is that something bad could happen to them.

The book was a bit rushed, especially at the beginning, but it was still a great read. I would definitely recommend it to anyone interested in Young Adult fiction or any young adult that loves reading.

I’m so glad I picked these two books up. They helped remind me why I’ve always wanted to write Young Adult fiction. I hope that one day far into the future, people will read my books with the same fondness that I have for Lois Duncan’s books.

Audiobook Reviews: Sadie and Camino Island

Happy Friday! I’ve listened to two new audiobooks recently, and I wanted to go ahead and review them for y’all!

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Sadie by Courtney Summers is a great young adult fiction book. I chose to forego the traditional read of this, and instead I went with the audiobook version through the app Overdrive. I am so happy that I chose to go with audiobook for this, because the way the book is written, it almost makes it better than to read it traditionally.

The book centers around a girl who goes missing while searching for her younger sister Maddie’s killer. The missing girl has a bad stutter, and the impact of it would not have been the same to just read it. The point of view shuffles between the missing girl and a man named West McCray, who is looking for her. West is a radio personality and was contacted by Sadie’s grandmother. He develops a podcast series about the girls Sadie and Maddie, and is always one to two steps behind Sadie in her quest. During the book, West hosts episodes of the podcast. I think I would have missed out on a lot by simply reading this book. It  was almost as if it was written with the specific intent to be listened to in audiobook version or to be made into a movie.  The story itself was great, it was full of emotion that tugs at your heart and makes you wonder what you would do if you found yourself in a similar situation with a sibling. Sadie is brave and a hero in her own, messed up way. The ending was abrupt, but I think it was supposed to be. The ending of Maddie’s life was abrupt, and whatever happened to Sadie should be seen as abrupt also. I would definitely recommend this to anyone who enjoys Young Adult Fiction, especially mystery.

John Grisham’s Camino Island is beautifully written, per usual for John Grisham. I like to always have an audiobook to listen to on my way to and from work. John Grisham is a writer I really respect, because I hope to follow a similar path in my writing and career.

In this book, a young novelist named Mercer is in a confusing time in her life not knowing what her next book will be about or how to pay for anything, is approached by a security team to help infiltrate the friendship circle of a group of writers that live on Camino Island, a beach where Mercer spent all of her summers growing up with her beloved grandmother Tessa. Mercer had not been back since her grandmother tragically died, and even more than just the money she is being paid for this operation, Mercer has benefited from being back at the beach. She does infiltrate the circle, and even gets romantically involved with the man she is trying to find out the real information on- a man named Bruce who not only owns the bookstore but also deals in rare, expensive books. The security team believes that Bruce has original manuscripts of books by F. Scott Fitzgerald, including The Great Gatsby, that were stolen from Princeton’s library. No one is expecting the danger that is headed to Camino Island, in the form of the original thieves of the manuscripts. Mercer is out of her league when it comes to solving this mystery, but she makes for a great heroine. The ending is great, because it isn’t what you’d imagine the tidy end to a mystery would be. It’s not tidy, but it’s brilliant. I really enjoyed this listen and would recommend it to anyone who a) loves John Grisham books and b) likes mysteries. He never fails to keep me at the edge of my seat.

 

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Smart Women- First Book Review of 2019

Good Morning!

I finished my first book of 2019 on Saturday, and I wanted to go ahead and write this while it was fresh on my mind.

Smart Women by Judy Blume was different from the only other adult appropriate book I have read by Judy Blume. Until I read, In the Unlikely Event (which I reviewed on here a while back), I only ever thought about Judy Blume being an other for children and pre-teens. I loved her books when I was little, so I was thrilled to learn she also writes books for adults.

Smart Women was definitely not a child’s book to put it mildly. It’s set in the early 1980s. There’s a lot of sex. At some times, I even thought it was a bit much. The book needs it though, because it is an integral part in how the characters progress.

There are several main characters, and each chapter comes from the perspective of a different person. The two main characters are Margo and B.B. They both are divorced and relocated to Colorado to start over. Their mutual friend Claire (on the verge of divorce throughout the whole book) is their mutual connection, but otherwise there isn’t much of a friendship between the two. B.B. (formerly Francine) has one living child, a preteen named Sara, and Margo has two teenagers Stuart and Michelle.

B.B. is a high-strung, type A personality who thinks everything is going perfect until her ex-husband moves to town and tosses her perfect world up in the air. B.B.’s world is not perfect, it hasn’t been; she is just good at pushing all of her emotions and the memory of her deceased son to the back of her mind. I mean, B.B. isn’t even her real name- that’s how far she’s gone to create a new life. In the end, it backfires on her and she ends up in a mental institution getting the help she desparately needs.

Margo is a loveable mess. She just wants to love and be loved, and she finds that in B.B.’s ex-husband Andrew. It is definitely a factor in B.B.’s eventual breakdown, but it certainly isn’t the reason. The two fall in love pretty quickly, and throughout the whole book I switched from being happy for her and sad for B.B.

The details aren’t as important as the theme of the book though, which is that in the end, a smart woman always knows what is good for her. The book revolves around love, divorce, and change. In the end, B.B. gets the help she needs, and Margo gets the love she deserves. Even the teenage girls go through lessons that require them to grow up sooner than necessary.

All in all, I thought it was a good book. I probably wouldn’t have read it if Judy Blume had not written it though. I don’t typically enjoy cheesy love stories, and while this had a lot of other themes, the main one was love and doing whatever was necessary to hold onto it. I think it felt a little cheesy because of when it was written more than anything, but even though it’s from the 1980s I think most women can still relate to the characters in the book.

I would recommend this if you’re looking for an easy read. It’s a fun book to relax with, and I’m glad I found it on the back of a shelf at my parent’s house.

NEW YEAR, NEW BOOKS

Happy New Year y’all!

I have made my “To Be Read List” for 2019, including the book I’m currently reading: Smart Women by Judy Blume. I’m planning to keep them next to my nightstand so that hopefully I can stay focused. I hope to finish these sixteen books well before the end of the year, so that I can add more to my list.

As y’all know my favorite types of books are mysteries/cozy mysteries but I did try to add a couple from other genres.

I’m excited for the New Year, and I’m especially excited for my new Bookstagram account!

 

Be a Friend of the Library!

Happy Saturday y’all!

I am so excited, because yesterday I joined Friends of the Library here in Charleston. I have been wanting to for a while, but I finally did it yesterday at one of their book sales they hold each year at a local library. It was just $20 to join, and it goes toward such a good cause. I even got a free book when I joined, which for me was already worth the $20.

It was an awesome day, because I got twenty books for just $52! I got a few novels I had been wanting to buy but just couldn’t pay full price for (books can get expensive) and I also got a few that I wouldn’t normally buy myself, like some kids’ Christmas books that are classics and some books that go along with the Harry Potter Series.

I love the local library; it has always been my happy place since I was a kid, and I hope that they never become a thing of the past. Groups like Charleston Friends of the Library help to promote the local library and the different programs it has. The goal is to enhance the programs and things the library has in place, by donating time and money.

If it’s something you’d be interested in but you live in a different area, you should definitely check to see if your local library has a similar program. And if you don’t have a library card, well you better go get one of those too!

Have a great day!

HAPPY ANNIVERSARY TO ME!

Until today, I had no idea about this, but today is apparently my five-year anniversary creating a blog with WordPress. So much has happened to me in five years, but the one thing that remains a constant is my love of writing.

I created this blog one month before I graduated college. So, in the five years since my first post: I have graduated college, graduated law school, and have been practicing law for a year and a half. I’ve fallen in love, and I’ve also met a lot of new friends. I have so many wonderful memories from the past five years.

I have loved writing down my thoughts and my stories here. This blog has been through different stages and names, but I think I have finally found one that I am happy with and that I have been consistent with over the last year.

I’m grateful for everyone who follows me and that has interacted with me over the last five years. Here’s to five more!

A Monday Two Octobers Ago

I write a lot of stories involving scary things on here, and especially since it is October people are watching and reading scary stories. Two Octobers ago though, I met the subject of many nightmares I’d have for the two years since then.

In October of 2016, a man followed me into an elevator at my law school and assaulted me. Today, I felt like writing it all down. It was mid morning, sunny and in the middle of a school building- not exactly a time where I felt like I needed to put my keys through my knuckles like a weapon. The man was arrested, but only after a camera got a view of him assaulting another woman a block away a couple of hours later. I remain very thankful that the City of Charleston’s officers worked quickly and that he was arrested the same night of the incident.

When he was sentenced, I learned that Bob Drayton, Jr. was a schizophrenic, homeless man who had suffered from fetal alcohol syndrome. Every time I think of this happening, I try to remind myself of those facts about him so that I am slow to anger. I try instead to think about if he had not been born into the conditions he was clearly born in, that maybe he would have had a chance to turn out differently. It’s not an excuse for him, but rather an attempt at understanding how a human being could be formed into what I can only describe as hollow.

Without going through every movement and every detail of the assault itself, the best way I can describe this was that it was mind altering. I grew up in a small town where I knew everyone and everyone knew me. I was never in a situation that I was worried for my safety, and I never wondered if I would be harmed or overpowered by a man. I understand how rare that feeling is, and how lucky I am to have lived in that bubble for so long.

Physically, I was fine after this. I was shaken, but as far as physical injuries go, there weren’t any thankfully. Mentally though, since that day I have not been the same person. I am a skeptical person now. I do not see the best in people initially like I once did, and I frankly don’t like being around new people who I don’t know in settings without other people around. It makes me incredibly uncomfortable, and I feel like I constantly have to keep my guard up. He shattered my trusting nature that had always come so naturally to me.

I do not go on elevators with men I do not know anymore. If someone isn’t with me that I know, I will wait until the next elevator comes or I will take the stairs. I’m not sure that this is something I will ever stop doing at this point.

For a long time I was angry at myself that I did not hit him or kick him or do something to stop him, so that at least he wouldn’t have done it to the next girl. I always thought that if I was ever in a situation like that, I would fight hard and that I would be able to defend myself. In actuality I froze, and I was unable to protect myself. My first instinct was flight, and as soon as the elevator doors opened, I ran. He got away because of me, or at least that’s what I told myself in the months following it. You truly don’t know what you’ll do in a situation like that. After learning about all of his mental illnesses, I started to forgive myself slowly, realizing that had I attacked him it was not out of the question he could have had a knife or any other weapon on him that he could have pulled on me.

My anger shifted more into just being thankful that it wasn’t nearly as bad as it could have been. The anger came back when he was sentenced. I wasn’t angry at the judge, or really even him- I was angry at the laws we have in place in South Carolina.

Ultimately, he was sentenced to three years in state prison, with credit for time served. When he was sentenced, he had been in custody for almost a year. When I spoke at his sentencing, where he plead guilty, I told the judge what happened and I asked that he be sentenced to the maximum amount he could be. The judge did sentence him to the maximum of three years, but first he expressed his annoyance that there was only a three-year maximum for this offense, when minor drug offenses carried much harsher minimum sentences. He implored me to try to make a change one day after I became a lawyer.

I have subsequently been pissed off since then at the lack of common sense sentencing guidelines. It is a slap in the face knowing that someone can steal your peace of mind and alter your view of the world you thought you lived in, and only have to serve two years of his three-year sentence. Our state needs to fix not only its mental health system, but many outdated laws and sentencing guidelines in our prison system.

I don’t know if I will ever be able to change the laws to make a physical/sexual assault worth more jail time. It seems like common sense to me, but quite frankly this isn’t an issue that men are prioritizing, because for them it doesn’t have to be a priority.

He is out roaming the streets of Charleston again now, because there is nothing to stop him from doing so. Since he had a record that was pages long before my incident, I assume there is no one helping him try to get his life in order by giving him the medicine he needs or keeping him out of trouble. He recently entered a store downtown that someone I know owns, and even though he isn’t allowed near the school again, I have no doubt that he frequents the bus stop right beside it. I also have no doubt that he will do this again to someone else.

Maybe one day I will get on an elevator again without immediately side-eyeing the person next to me, and maybe one day criminals in our state will at least serve their full sentence out, even if the sentence isn’t what it should be.