Book Review: Then She Was Gone

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It isn’t often that I come across a character who is shown to have very specific thoughts about life in general rather than just thoughts that pertain to the story.  The characterization of the grieving mother was well-done, though it seemed strange that she would fixate on a man she just met after having been celibate for so long.  The status of her daughter’s disappearance had not yet been determined, so it didn’t make sense to show her moving on before that. 

I liked Laurel, even though her judgment (e.g. jumping in the sack on the second date) was questionable.

The author tells us (through another character) why Hanna was the way she was towards her mother, but we aren’t shown the interaction needed to substantiate this.  Also, the mystery of Hanna’s boyfriend wasn’t fully explored.

There needed to be more to Noelle’s story–like why she was the way she was; however, the characters of Kate and Sara-Jade Virtue were extraneous. 

Even though I always knew whose “turn” it was, I was so deeply engrossed in Laurel’s POV, I found it rather jarring when another character decided to tell their story; as it turned out, each character’s story was equally engrossing.

I’m glad that the perpetrator got their just desserts, and I felt for the strange little girl that Poppy was–wanting to drink champagne and talking (rather matter-of-factly) about how other kids thought she’s a bitch.  Her lack of emotional intelligence at such a young age made me feel sorry for her, but at least we were privy to her backstory (unlike Noelle’s). 

I’m glad that the wrap-up didn’t have the perp’s and the vic’s families keeping in touch or worse, becoming friends (I’ve always found that a little distasteful), even though the perp’s family were good people. 

The plot was intricate, though I didn’t feel that the perp’s motives with Ellie were strong enough;  then again, people have done more for less. 

What made me sad was that it seemed like Laurel was the only one who was affected by Ellie’s disappearance for Ellie’s sake, rather than just for how it affected them.  

Floyd’s swan song at the denouement brought it all together, though Ellie’s letter could’ve used a pinch more poignancy.

What sets this book apart from other mystery/suspense novels were the truths that were woven into it in the form of memorable quotes:

p. 20:  Neither of them were setting the world alight but then whose children did?  All those hopes and dreams and talk of ballerinas and pop stars, concert pianists and boundary-breaking scientists.  They all ended up in an office. All of them.

p. 131:  And then her child had died and she had found that somehow, incredibly, she could live without her, that she had woken every morning for a hundred days, a thousand days, three thousand days and she had lived without her.

p. 225:  “You won’t understand how much I love you until you’re a mother yourself.”

Then She Was Gone is primarily a thriller but with a strong focus on a mother and the daughter who was left behind, as well as the mother’s mother who is waiting for her child to be happy again (sadly, it seems this can only happen with finding romantic love).  The romance angle left me cold, especially with the way Floyd was so fixated on ten-year-old Poppy, seeing her as more his creation than his child–like a broken toy he had tinkered with for years until she was finally working properly–a toy good enough to give back to its rightful owner as atonement for someone else’s sins.

 

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#Micropoetry Monday: The Fault of their Stars

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He was a logical astronomer,
she, an astrologer who was
a certified space cadet.
For years, he’d studied the heavens,
only to make contact with this celestial body
who would take him there
at the speed of sound.

He studied the planets,
to learn more about his own.
She studied her ancestors,
to learn more about herself.
When he learned that Earth
was his adopted home,
it changed nothing,
but when she learned that
her family
was her adoptive family,
it changed everything.

He lived amongst the stars,
who weren’t so bright without their scripts,
whereas she lived under
another kind of star—
the ones that would outlive every last one,
& needed no words to amaze them all.

Book Review: Black Bird, Yellow Sun

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As part of my Post-K Summer Reading Boot Camp: https://sarahleastories.com/2019/06/08/post-k-summer-reading-boot-camp-2019/

Black Bird, Yellow Sun, is like a poor-man’s Eric Carle. This is down there with Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, which is one of the worst kids books ever–in words and pictures. I try to keep in mind that I can’t expect (nor should I expect) a striking narrative for an early board book. However, the words are large and contain repetitions of blends (e.g. bl for black, sn for snake, etc)–great for early readers. That said, the illustrations are quite bad–the rocks don’t even look like rocks but gray blobs. The bird isn’t a character but rather, just some random bird who coexists with a worm (also random). If you don’t like this (and even if you do), I highly recommend Little Owl’s Day and Little Owl’s Night (https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/20307476-little-owl-s-day?from_search=true). The Owl books are the charming, narrative versions of the stark bullet points of Black Bird.

BBYS is one of those books you’d give to your child to play with and look at but not add to your library where they might actually last for the grandchildren.

Suggested activity: Use this book as a scavenger hunt guide (i.e. have your child look for pink flowers, gray rocks, et cetera).

Summer Writing Mini-Workshop: Writing Truths

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Remember that colleges ask for essays, not equations, when it comes to admissions. Numbers matter, but in cases like these, words matter more.

Imitation is a form of admiration; plagiarism is not.

Behind every image, there is a story, but a picture doesn’t always have to equal 1000 words. https://sarahleastories.com/2015/11/17/poem-a-day-writers-digest-challenge-14-theme-ekphrastic-poem/

Sensory details don’t just inform the person but take them there.

We can perceive the same thing, seven different ways, at seven different times in our lives. https://sarahleastories.com/2017/11/01/november-poem-a-day-2017-writers-digest-challenge-1-theme-new-day/

Write what you know, but don’t write about everything you know.

As mothers, we always wonder, even as our children are filled with it. https://sarahleastories.com/2017/11/06/writers-digest-november-poem-a-day-2017-challenge-6-theme-praise/

Conciseness breeds clarity.

Life is many things. https://sarahleastories.com/2017/11/19/writers-digest-november-poem-a-day-2017-challenge-19-theme-abundance/

All writing matters. If the language arts didn’t matter in mathematics, then there would be no word problems.

#Fiction Friday: #Novelines from the Book

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A playground was a spooky place this time of night.  The ponies on springs looked baleful & clown-like, the spiral slide menacing as it loomed like a large serpent.

The cacophony of shattering glass & smoke blitzed me like a thousand points of light in a thick fog. 

David brought his spirit with him, & I luxuriated in the essence that was his.  He was like a wise man, bearing gifts of comfort & joy, but those were the mere gifts—the true gift was the man himself.

Though I’d always been awed at the beauty of the ceremony & tradition, I was looking forward to the sweet simplicity of a LDS Christmas program that I was to be a part of. 

I’d never had an extended family, but in its place, I’d been given a Church family.  My mother had chosen them, & by default, they had chosen me.

Those days leading up to Christmas in the year of 1999 were the happiest of my life.  Though I hadn’t been “born in the covenant,” I felt I had found the Church that I had been made for.

I accepted that Elder Roberts & I weren’t meant to be, simply because the Church said so.  I found it was easier to live without questioning everything, even though I felt a little part of me die each time I did not.

I wanted to believe so much that in a way I almost did, yet at the time, I had thought that good feeling was the Spirit telling me that what I was seeing, hearing & feeling was true.

For one night, my mother & I were more alike than me & David.  We wanted to be a forever family, not because we loved one another but because we both loved David.

Book Review: The Fox on the Swing

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As part of my Post-K Summer Reading Boot Camp: https://sarahleastories.com/2019/06/08/post-k-summer-reading-boot-camp-2019/

I’m not sure if it’s because this coming-of-age book for young children was written by someone from a different culture (i.e. Lithuanian) and has been translated to English, but the story didn’t make any sense, or rather, the theme of the story:  “Happiness is a fox.”  I tried googling for “foxes in Lithuanian folklore” but came up empty.  

I don’t believe the fox was real but rather, the fox was symbolic of something else–an imaginary friend who serves a purpose but for what purpose, I don’t know.  

However, the illustrations, layout, and font are fantastic, except that the main boy, Paul, looks like a tomboyish girl.  The illustrations are busy, but I didn’t mind because the story didn’t capture me at all.  Some of the quotes just didn’t jive, like “having a fox as your friend is the same thing as swinging on a swing.”

Though the relationship between the boy and the fox was solid, I thought the fox was a greedy pig when he guilted Paul into giving him his roll when it would’ve been better if the Paul (or the fox) had simply split it in half.  Sharing is not the same thing as giving it all away.  Overall, the fox seemed a bit too serious and not playful enough–more wise than whimsical.  

The fox tells Paul that when he moves away, he’ll stay behind, yet shows up again in Paul’s new city–that kind of inconsistency is confusing to a young child.  The boy is too co-dependent upon the fox and can’t seem to move on in the “even bigger city” without his presence.  If the fox is so wise, why isn’t the fox encouraging Paul to make human friends?  Even though Paul’s parents seem eccentric, most kids would probably think it’s cool to live in a treehouse like the Berenstain bears.  

Some of my favorite illustrations were the fox book titles (e.g. “Long Tales from a Short Fox,” “Wise Old Tales by a Strange Old Fox,” et cetera) and the fox and his boy gazing at the constellations of happy things (like swiss rolls and giant peaches).    

The Fox on the Swing was basically a litany of lessons, like when the fox mentions “that everything depends on your point of view.  Things can change.  Depending on whether you look at them from up above or down below, from the left or from the right.  So ask me again when you’ve looked at the problem from all sides.”  I get that, but this is when the teaching gets in the way of the telling and was just too didactic for my tastes.

Suggested activity:  I have always been a fan of Aesop’s Fables, and foxes are prevalent characters in them.  These simple tales are far more memorable than “The Fox on the Swing.”  https://aesopsfables.org/C18_aesops_fables_about_foxes.html

 

Writer’s Digest Wednesday Poetry Prompt #488: Walking

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John and Mary

Her lunchtime walks in Newbury Park
did not go unnoticed by the collegiate-clad young man
who watched her from his studio apartment,
sipping a chai latte on his balcony,
typing his thesis on his cell.
Every day, he saw the woman of his dreams
meeting the man of any woman’s dreams,
sharing a sandwich (never submarine)
but the diagonal kind made of shelf-stable bread and always served cold–
the stuff brown-bagged lunches were made of.
The man’s coffee was always hot,
hers, iced,
no matter the season,
their wedding bands shining–
butter yellow in the spring,
starburst yellow in the summer,
pallid yellow in the fall.
Were they birds or bears,
going further south
or hibernating for the winter?
But then,
one frosty night that turned his cheeks cherub,
he saw the man and woman
reading side by side on a bench
in the public library–
she, fiction
he, nonfiction.
He would learn that they had nowhere else to go,
for they could be there and not have to buy anything.
Then came the day that he no longer saw them
where kids used outside voices and books were free for a limited time,
where squirrels frolicked,
making arcs on the sidewalk,
where tables were set up with jigsaw puzzles
for the dodgy old men whose wives were dead or troublesome,
where the magenta buds of the crepe myrtles
hovered like feathers in the heat shimmer,
and where educated young mothers corralled their toddlers during storytime.
When he returned to college that last semester,
he saw the man and woman not as students
but as teachers–
teaching about the ideas and ideals
that had gotten them through
those long months of joblessness
that sometimes begat hopelessness
in a society that undervalued those
who wanted to do nothing more than teach.