Book Review

My Favorite Scary Stories

My Favorite Scary Stories | Writing Between Pauses

Danny and I always say there is a shortage of good, horror novels. There are some out there in the world, but really good horror novels (that are on-par quality and writing wise with other novels) are so hard to find. As I was writing notes for this post, I kept asking him: have we read anything really scary in the last year?

Neither of us could think of anything that was really, really good. Or October-y. Or spooky.

But we did put together a list of novels that were straight up scary the first time we read them—while also being really well written. I wanted to share that list because these are the spookiest books I could think of to read this month.

1. It by Stephen King

I know! I know! This one’s easy, right? But It is one of my favorite books of all time (minus that one weird scene and you all know what I’m talking about). I’m generally not actually a huge Stephen King fan. I know that’s borderline sacrilegious, but I honestly just don’t like his writing style. Also, he has the bad habit of writing very badly about women like, 65% of the time. Case in point: the way child Beverly is described in this book is one of the most problematic parts of it, and that doesn’t include the infamous scene in the sewers. She’s 11? 12? Dude, calm down.

But problems aside, It is a good book: it’s good at building slow dread and describing the way fear permeates a town. It’s a massive book, and can be slightly slow, but god, it’s worth it.

2. Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll

This is one of the best books I read in 2017 and I stand by this: it’s scary as all hell. Luckiest Girl Alive is about a girl who went to a boarding school, survived a school shooting, and grows up to be a magazine columnist. Except, there’s more to the story. It is a harrowing story and the description of the shooting itself is one of the hardest chapters of a book I’ve ever read. The main character is simultaneously relatable (her obsession with her weight, her hard exterior, her desire to climb socially), but extremely unlikeable (for all the same reasons and more). The way she grows as a person throughout the story—both when she was younger and when she’s older—is great. It’s a fascinating, scary, well-written book. I actually just ordered a physical copy so I could read it again and make up the margins.

3. All the Missing Girls by Megan Miranda

I read All the Missing Girls in the Spring and loved it. I immediately thought, I’ll come back to this later. It’s a perfect murder mystery to read in the Fall. The way it’s written is probably the best part: it starts at the end and works its way backwards, then moves to the end again. I love a good small town murder mystery and this one is a great read. Twists, turns, small towns, repressed memories… it has it all.

4. I Am Watching You by Teresa Driscoll

This was another book I read in early 2018, I think, that I absolutely loved. It’s the story of a woman who overhears two girls on a train meeting two boys and agreeing to go party. When a few days later, one of the girls is reported missing, she tells what she knows to the police. Then, things begin to spiral. It’s a great, creepy store that, again, revolves around a mystery. This is another book I need to reread!

Tell me your favorite scary stories! Do you have a book that scared the pants off of you? A short story I need to read immediately?

My October Reading List

My October Reading List | Writing Between Pauses

It’s here: Blogtober! If you missed my post about Blogtober two weeks ago, you should still totally download my free Blogtober planning guide. It’s not too late to start your own Blogtober schedule.

Here’s the thing about Blogtober & me this year: I’m not going to be posting every single day (I just can’t commit to that alongside everything else), but I am planning to post 3+ times a week; some weeks, it will be 4, or 5. It just depends. I’m not putting a ton of pressure on myself, as I want to be fresh for NaNoWriMo.

My first Blogtober post, I wanted to share my reading list. I don’t often talk about the books I read on my blog; I have very strong opinions about books and I’ve never made friends with them (my Goodreads is a mess because I love writing funny reviews). The last book review I wrote lead to an email in my inbox from the author themselves, chewing me out for not getting it.

However, there’s nothing wrong with a reading list (book twitter has entered the chat), so I wanted to share.

Here’s what I’m reading this October.

1. Harry Potter & the Philosopher’s Stone, by, well, duh

Yeah, so my first book is actually one I’m doing as a buddy read with a few friends. I’m really excited to reread Harry Potter as I haven’t done a complete reread in a while. The first book is actually one of my least favorites (I’m surprised it hooked me enough to keep reading, that’s all I’ll say!), but I’m actually considering buying a new copy to take notes in.

2. Know My Name, by Chanel Miller & Over the Top, by Jonathan Van Ness

Ok, I am including these on my list (because they are in my picture), but the truth is I actually already read them in a total lack of self control. If you’d like full reviews of them, please let me know; I’m always willing to write a good review, because these were amazing books.

3. Gingerbread, by Helen Oyeyemi

I’ve been on the wait list for this book from the library for about 3 months so of course it downloaded three days ago. I’ve heard great things about this book; it’s magical realism (one of my favorites).

4. The Vine Witch, by Luanne G. Smith

I only needed one line of the synopsis for me to buy this book instantly: “A young witch emerges from a curse to find her world upended in this gripping fantasy of betrayal, vengeance, and self-discovery set in turn-of-the-century France.” Yes, yep, I want to read that… once I’m done with Harry Potter and Gingerbread.

What are you reading this October?

Monthly Wrap Up & Empties: September 2018

Monthly Wrap Up & Empties: September 2018 | Writing Between Pauses

Originally, I planned to do an Inspiration Sunday post for Blogtober today. But then I realized I had September empties to discuss and it felt more important to do this post. Well, maybe important isn’t the right word… rather, it just seemed to fit better!

September was a big month for us: we were super busy with back to school, Forrest’s birthday, and lots of stuff. And that trend isn’t letting up in October. I have Blogtober, of course, and my birthday on the 20th. Forrest and I are on a mommy-son trip this weekend (I’m writing this in advance, don’t worry!). Next weekend, we have Danny’s parents visiting. Then the last weekend of October will be our Halloween weekend. Then suddenly it will be November. Whew!

I have a lot to talk about for this wrap up, so let’s get started!

Empties: Everything I Used Up

Empties 1

1. OGX Coconut Miracle Oil Shampoo: I reviewed this shampoo here. I love this shampoo and it’s my current favorite. Of all the shampoos I’ve used, it’s the only one that really soothes my scalp and leaves my hair feeling nice. At this point, that’s all I ask!

2. Love Beauty & Planet Murumuru Butter & Rose Magic Masque: I used this mask to help repair my hair after a disastrous PR shampoo I received. (I’m not even reviewing it, it’s that bad!) But I loved this mask! It smells lightly of roses and was so thick and lovely. It immediately helped my damaged, dry hair. You can buy it here.

3. Bliss Drench & Quench Moisturizer: I reviewed this moisturizer here. It’s not my favorite moisturizer ever, but it wasn’t awful. It was mostly just very expensive! This little tub lasted about 6 weeks and cost $20. It’s not a repurchase, that’s for sure.

4. Rosehips Oil: I recently added rosehips oil to my routine to help my dehydrated skin. As you probably know, I sing the praises of jojoba oil for removing makeup and helping improve my skin. However, jojoba as a moisturizer can give me a lot of texture. So I added rosehips oil as a sealant after my moisturizer to help my skin absorb a bit more. It has helped a lot, but I don’t love this one; I suspect the orange oil it’s mixed with hasn’t been helping my skin much!

5. Coty Flawless Complexion Tinted SPF Moisturizer: I discussed this SPF moisturizer in my Ipsy bag review here. I love this SPF, which sucks because it was such a teeny tiny tube! But it is absolutely lovely, hasn’t made me break out, and wears great under make up.

What I’ve Been Up To

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Yes, that is the very rarely featured Remus. If you didn’t know (and most probably don’t), I have a beloved chocolate lab named Remus (as in Remus Lupin, the greatest werewolf). Despite playing second fiddle to Forrest, Remus remains my biggest baby. I don’t have any reason for this photo other than I took it while I was doing product photos for my Ipsy bag in September, Remus looked cute, and I can’t resist his big, golden eyes.

Anyway, I thought I’d share a few things I enjoyed from September here for your enjoyment!

1. Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger: I impulsively borrowed this book from the library because the jacket contained the words “Highgate Cemetery” and “Victorian.” For whatever reason, when I started it, I thought it would be set in Victorian times. It is absolutely not; it’s set in the early 2000s, which leads to some truly hilarious ensembles worn by the main characters (remember white denim skirts!?). That being said, I still really enjoyed it. Highly recommend! How’s that for a tiny review?

2. Dr. Death: I started listening to this podcast after it was recommended on My Favorite Murder. This was a tough podcast for me to get into, because as I’ve written before, my grandfather was paralyzed by a neck surgery. The center of this podcast is a neurosurgeon who performs bad, irresponsible, and devastating neck and spinal surgeries; he paralyzes multiple people and kills a few. That being said, I really enjoyed it.

3. Summer Wives by Beatriz Williams: I have been waiting for this book on digital hold from the library for weeks and finally, I got it! I was so excited to read it. It’s set on a fictional island off the coast of New York where wealthy families summer for years on end. It was so good and kept me captivated the entire time.

4. Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson: Another book I had waited for weeks on hold! I keep doing this thing where I put holds on books, they take ages, and by the time I get them, I’m not “in the mood” to read them. I had to force myself to read Truly Devious about 4 days before it was due and I am SO glad I did! It was excellent and I found myself so disappointed that the sequel isn’t out yet. If you like mysteries and murder podcasts (which play a surprisingly pivotal role!), you’ll love this book.


Oh yes, Fall is finally here! Gosh, it feels like time goes by so fast! I hope you’re having a great October and you’ve been loving all the cozy Blogtober content around lately.

Book Review: A Book That Takes Its Time

Book Review: A Book That Takes Its Time | Writing Between Pauses

Do you ever impulse buy something that turns out to be done of the best decisions you ever made? 

That's about how I feel about this book: A Book That Takes Its Time, by Irene Smit and Astrid van der Hulst. I bought this on impulse at Target in late March; it was on sale, it looked pretty, and I was intrigued by the mini notebook that the book opened to automatically. (They know how to sucker me in, honestly.) It was only when I got home that I realized this was more than a fun journaling book; it was a book dedicated to helping people learn mindfulness in a way that is creative and helps ease anxiety. 

Take time to breathe. Take time to create. Take time to reflect, take time to let go. A book that’s unique in the way it mixes reading and doing, A Book That Takes Its Time is like a mindfulness retreat between two covers.

Created in partnership with Flow, the groundbreaking international magazine that celebrates creativity, beautiful illustration, a love of paper, and life’s little pleasures, A Book That Takes Its Time mixes articles, inspiring quotes, and what the editors call “goodies”—bound-in cards, mini-journals, stickers, posters, blank papers for collaging, and more—giving it a distinctly handcrafted, collectible feeling.

Read about the benefits of not multitasking, then turn to “The Joy of One Thing at a Time Notebook” tucked into the pages. After a short piece on the power of slowing down, fill in the designed notecards for a Beautiful Moments jar. Make a personal timeline. Learn the art of hand-lettering. Dig into your Beginner’s Mind. Embrace the art of quitting. Take the writing cure. And always smile. Move slowly and with intention through A Book That Takes Its Time, and discover that sweet place where life can be both thoughtful and playful.

I've been pretty open about my mental health here on my blog (although there are certain things I am hesitant to share and I still wonder if my mental health story would be more full if I shared them--but c'est la vie, right now, I'm not sure if I want them as part of my public history). I've shared about my postpartum depression. I've shared the habits I've started to help reduce my anxiety, as well as tips to reduce stress. I've written about how staying creative helps me be a better mom. I've talked on Instagram about how I struggle with boredom (I get bored very easily, but with a toddler to manage, it's hard to actually dedicate myself to projects), as well as perfectionism and imposter syndrome. I feel like I always need to be busy in order to feel productive--and when I'm not productive, I turn to destructive behaviors, like stress eating and napping throughout the day, which only compounds my feelings of boredom and disappointment in myself. 

Millennial Culture

At the center of A Book That Takes Its Time is the idea that it is ok to slow down; it is ok to not be working every waking hour, even though it has been drilled into us (especially us millennials) that being productive matters more than anything else. That being busy is a competition and if you admit to not being busy, you have somehow failed. 

Each chapter walks you through a specific part of learning to be more mindful about the world around you. About letting yourself just sit in silence for a little while, instead of scrolling through your phone while watching TV. About learning to name the plants and animals you see outside your home, so you can more fully connect to the natural world. About learning hobbies, like lettering and collaging, that give you time to disconnect from the digital world and unwind. 

Mindfulness

Learning mindfulness, especially for someone like me who finds themselves thinking of 100 things every second of the day, can be a real challenge. But also at the heart of A Book That Takes Its Time is the idea that once you allow yourself to really relax and be mindful, you actually get more done in the time that you're working. That thought is somewhat revolutionary to me: I tend to think of work as a glass to fill up, that can never overflow. But if you're constantly overflowing, you never really fill the glass. 

I really enjoyed working on all the chapters and activities in this book. It has helped me to relax and really unwind in the evening (instead of lying in the bathtub pretending to relax, but really listening to a marketing podcast and answering emails at the same time). There are some activities I have skipped--like lettering, which is very labor intensive and sparks some feelings of perfectionism for me--but I've otherwise enjoyed just about everything, from learning the names of plants and animals to working on a 30-day writing journal. It has helped me to get back into bullet journaling and feeling passionate about art journaling in the evening. And as a bonus, I have gotten more done since then. 

I don't want to make a grand statement like, this book totally helped my anxiety! That's just not true. I'm still anxious most days. I still struggle with boredom during the day with Forrest and I've yet to find a good solution for that. However, I found reading this book very relaxing and gave me some methods to deal with my feelings of guilt surrounding being busy and working, as well as dealing with my anxiety.

If you're interested, this is a great book for those wanting to learn about being mindful, especially if you're a bit high strung (like me). You can find it on Amazon here

My Top 5 Books of 2017 (So Far)

Summer Goals.png

We're almost halfway through 2017. Considering I've shared a few book reviews recently instead of, you know, my normal content, I thought I'd share my favorite books of 2017 so far. 

I've been trying to get lots of reading in during the evenings. I've been working out regularly and to fill those long 45 minutes on the stair stepper, I find reading to be the thing that takes my mind away. So without further ado, here are my top 5 books I've read in 2017 so far.  Also, here's to being almost exactly 50% through my 2017 goal! 

1. The Lauras, by Sara Taylor. 

This is just a lovely book. If you're looking for a book with a diverse main character, an enigmatic, interesting, multifaceted mother, and a fun road trip based plot... this really is the one for you. I loved this book intensely and was just thinking of rereading it. 

2. The Night She Died, by Dorothy Simpson

When I first started reading this book, I felt very eye-rolly about it. I didn't think I would like it, but I was totally wrong. It's brilliant. It's just a fun mystery! I like that it seems realistic to police investigations. And of course, being set in the 1970s, it's quite fun. You can read my review on Goodreads here

3. If the Creek Don't Rise, by Leah Weiss

Another beautiful book. I love books set in Appalachia; I think it is both an underserved population and also an underrepresented part of the United States in literature. It has a diverse population, which we don't necessarily see in this book, but nothing is perfect, right? This book is beautiful to read. Pure and simple, it's just a beautiful book. 

4. The Fall of Lisa Bellow, by Susan Perabo 

Another gorgeous book. I've been very into crime-based novels the past few months (replacing my Scottish romance obsession in the winter) and this one is no exception. It's a book that is written in such a way that is so peculiar, but also so interesting; also, it's 100% how a 13-year-old girl would react to trauma. I do wish the ending was better, but the writing really makes up for it. 

5. No Slam Dancing, No Stage Diving, No Spikes: An Oral History of the Legendary City Gardens, by Amy Yates Wuelfing and Steven DiLodovico

This is my only read nerd moment. This book feels so esoteric because, while City Gardens is famous (TONS of bands have played there), ultimately this book is the recollection of, like, friends about being friends at a place they all went to as late teenagers in the late 1970s and early 1980s. It's in New Jersey; I know none of these people; I have never even been to New Jersey. And yet, I read this book because music culture in the late 1970s and early 1980s in New Jersey is a weird little fascination of mine. Anyway, it's a great book, if you like oral historical accounts of music (just like in Please Kill Me, that ultimate punk book). 

Book Review: A Merciful Death, by Kendra Elliot

merciful death book review

Another day, another book review. This one is much better than the last one (Camino Beach is honestly my worst read of 2017 so far).

The book this time is A Merciful Death by Kendra Elliot. It's available via Kindle Unlimited if you want to read it on a budget! 

Here's the blurb: 

FBI special agent Mercy Kilpatrick has been waiting her whole life for disaster to strike. A prepper since childhood, Mercy grew up living off the land—and off the grid—in rural Eagle’s Nest, Oregon. Until a shocking tragedy tore her family apart and forced her to leave home. Now a predator known as the cave man is targeting the survivalists in her hometown, murdering them in their homes, stealing huge numbers of weapons, and creating federal suspicion of a possible domestic terrorism event. But the crime scene details are eerily familiar to an unsolved mystery from Mercy’s past.

Sent by the FBI to assist local law enforcement, Mercy returns to Eagle’s Nest to face the family who shunned her while maintaining the facade of a law-abiding citizen. There, she meets police chief Truman Daly, whose uncle was the cave man’s latest victim. He sees the survivalist side of her that she desperately tries to hide, but if she lets him get close enough to learn her secret, she might not survive the fallout…

This book easily falls into the category of being one of the better FBI/procedural books I've read. Often times, you have to suspend disbelief at every step (especially when FBI agents end up solving their own cases or things like that) and, again, FBI agents would never be assigned to a case related to their own family. 

A lot of the reason I enjoyed this book is because it's set just outside Bend, Oregon. Hey, hello, I'm an Oregonian. I live in a small town not unlike Eagle's Nest. I know tons of people like those described in the book. 

Preppers. 

I know a TON of preppers and people who describe themselves as freemen. So on that level, I was really into this book. It does a good job of walking the line between calling preppers crazy (they're not, they just have super specific beliefs and ways of living) and being realistic in terms of what prepping is really about (dedicating your life to something hazy that may never happen). 

I really liked Mercy as a character. Although, there were a few odd moments in regards to food that I'm not 100% sure about. In restaurants, Mercy only orders salads. With no cheese. Is she a vegan? Preppers (and Mercy, spoiler alert, is a secret prepper still) definitely don't fall into the category of vegan, that's for sure; it's not sustainable lifestyle energy wise in the prepping community. She doesn't get dinner the first night in the hotel and instead eats celery, almond butter, and jerky out of a backpack. Is... Mercy ok? Does she have an eating disorder? Or is this an attempt, by the author, to suggest that Mercy is a delicate little lady flower who could not POSSIBLY eat a big, manly burger? Gasp! What would the menfolks think if an FBI agent ate PROTEIN? I started to get a little annoyed by it, because the lines were so stark: Mercy gets salads and apples and celery; the men get burgers and beer and casseroles.

A lot of Mercy's storyline centers around the treatment of women in the prepping community, so WHY would Mercy still be buying the idea that there are foods men eat and foods women eat? And if that's not the case, why doesn't Mercy order a burger or even just a sandwich once and a while? Maybe she just likes salads, but I'm sorry, no one likes eating warm celery, almond butter, and JERKY in a hotel room by themselves. NOBODY. Don't lie to me. It's just a strange characterization and I cannot see where it fits in within the story, especially given Mercy's other traits of preparedness, doggedness, and focus on physical strength and health. Anyone knows that eating a salad with just salsa, tortilla chips, and olives is not a well-rounded meal; there is no protein in that meal. 

Overall, I really enjoyed the plot. For the first time in a long time, the reveal of the "bad guy" felt like an actual surprise. I didn't guess it 1/4 of the way through like usual. I can't wait for the second in the series to come out on June 6. 

Book Review: Camino Beach, by Amanda Callendrier

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It's been a minute since I've posted a book review, but I think I'll be posting more in the future. You can always follow my colorful reviews on Goodreads here. Let's get started! 

This book is Camino Beach, by Amanda Callendrier. It's a debut novel and here's a teaser description: 

In this poignant debut loaded with humor, heartbreak, and Southern charm, old friends road-trip their way to solving a mystery and righting a long-ago wrong.

I was attracted purely because of this description, because I love Southern novels; I love road trip stories; and I love mysteries. 

Friends, this book was absolutely none of those things. Note: this review does contain spoilers to the entire nonexistent plot of this book. 

The setting was absolutely nonexistent. If you removed the specific town name, you could plop this novel down in any setting and it would be exactly the same, minus Myrtle Beach. And spoiler alert, they spend approximately 12 hours in Myrtle Beach in one of the most useless and rambling plot lines ever. 

Most importantly, do you want to read a book full of absolutely repulsive characters who have absolutely no conscience or self-awareness? This is the book for you then. 

TRIGGER WARNING: This book contains the sexual abuse of a teenager by a teacher. It is treated like said teenager "cheating" on his girlfriend. It never acknowledges that he was sexually abused by a teacher in a position of power. This is abhorrent. It happens near the end of the book; if it had been "revealed" earlier, I would have put it on my "do not finish" list. I just want to warn you. I didn't like the book before this was revealed, but it made me absolutely sick that I'd obligated myself to review it. 

In 1997, Sarah and Kristen were just two absolutely awful teenage girls in some vague Southern Town. They graduated high school, went on to college, graduated, and went onto equally disappointing lives: Sarah is divorced, lives in an apartment above the bookstore she owns, and routinely treats her next door neighbor/former classmate/best friend, Jack, like absolutely crap; on the opposite end of the spectrum, Kristen is a tiny, blonde former gymnast who married a big ol' slob named Chris (yes, they are both named Kris/Chris) and has three anonymous children that she never talks about except to complain about them. She works some kind of job, but otherwise, buys Jimmy Choos, lives in a McMansion, and drives a Rover. 

In high school, there was a third friend, Roxanne, the only likable one in the bunch. Roxanne was impulsive, self-destructive, and, most of all, fun. However, she disappeared before they graduated and while they did call local boarding schools after her mom (their gym teacher, inexplicably) told them she was sent to boarding school, they didn't do much to find her. 

Except when their 20 year high school reunion rolls around. 

Kristen decides it's time to bite the bullet and find Roxanne. Sarah, our primary narrator, is nervous because she did something "awful" that she is sure is the cause of Roxanne's disappearance. They go on a saga to buy an El Camino because Roxanne owned one. This takes up approximately 1/3 of the book. They buy an El Camino named Elvira. 

Jack decides to join them for the trip to Myrtle Beach, after Kristen's private investigator turns up an address for Roxanne there. We are treated to multiple unpleasant scenes were Sarah is an absolute nightmare of a human to her ex-husband. 

Ok, slight diversion from going over the plot: Sarah got divorced because... reasons? It's never fully explained, which is fine, but she treats her ex like absolute garbage. Why? Because Sarah is a garbage person. There, I said it. Take this character and throw her away; she is a self-centered, obnoxious, mean, vile human being. There is nothing redeemable about Sarah as a character. I do not understand why she has friends or why she received this characterization. She sucks. She divorced her husband because he was slightly resistant to her taking out a loan to buy a bookstore. Listen, do you know how much of a struggle it is to own an independent bookstore? It is NOT easy. I love bookstores and I'd be hesitant too! But this book apparently takes place in an alternate reality where people go to bookstores all the time. Her ex-husband is a professor, a fact that they make fun of every time he is mentioned. That's right, he's the only person in the book who uses his brain and they treat him like dirt. Cool. 

They head for Myrtle Beach. Along the way, they stop in Sarah's college down and Kristen, another garbage person, destroys a college students senior project. Seriously. 

They get to Myrtle Beach and find a hotel that is $60 a night, but also has a bar beside the pool. There are so many awful, useless parts to this book, but the road trip to Myrtle Beach (the only road trip) only takes up about 5 chapters, tops, and is super pointless. 

The next morning, they surprise drop into Roxanne's address. Surprise, it's not Roxanne. It's her mom, Mrs. Wilder, their mean gym teacher. She has no idea where Roxanne is. Cool! They leave, meet Jack's college roommate Bert for margaritas, get drunk in a Mexican restaurant, and then they all get into a massive fight. 

Then, they go home. There is no plot.

This is the part of the novel where I stopped caring. It was so anticlimactic. They literally just go home. Kristen gets a bug in her butt to go check school records; they do and guess what? The school has all their school records. Listen, a records room with your "official record" is a thing that literally doesn't exist. But whatever, in alternate reality where garbage people are allowed to flourish, it's real. It's so exhausting to have this scene. As if there is some giant room in every public school where they keep every piece of banal information about every kid that ever stepped in the building. 

Anyway, they end up finding a sticky note on the back of Roxanne's file with the number of a school that's in, you guessed it, Sarah's college town. They do no research and go. They find Roxanne. She's perfectly normal, living in a nice little house with her daughter, also named Sarah. She is pleasant and happy, but she's not the Roxanne they know. 

Ok, let's back up a minute: throughout all these scenes, we get treated to scenes from high school Sarah. HS Sarah is somehow 400x worse than present day Sarah; she is boring, mean, and absolutely obsessed with herself. So, the entire novel I thought the bad thing she did to Roxanne would be huge: she ratted out Roxanne about drugs or she actually murdered her or SOMETHING. No. Here's what she did: she signed a statement saying that Roxanne had been cheating off her homework to avoid getting her scholarship taken away. 

I'm sorry, but that's not awful. That's barely even bad. That's literally what every teenager would do if they were caught to be helping their friend cheat. Roxanne had been cheating off Sarah; Sarah admitted it; and...?

Anyway, in their meeting with Roxanne, it turns out that's NOT why Roxanne left school. She left because her mom had been messing around with Roxanne's boyfriend. So the principal helped her transfer schools and leave. Cool for Roxanne. She met her current husband, got pregnant, got married. She chilled. Never once does anyone say, "Holy crap, your mom sexually abused a student?" No, they act like her boyfriend Mark cheated on her. These. People. Are. Garbage. 

So, after all that time, the bad thing Sarah did didn't even matter. It's not even part of the story. The only person who cares about it is Sarah because she's obsessed with herself. 

Kristen and Sarah then leave.

Because Sarah is obsessed with her stupid self, she goes to visit the former principal to ask WHY he made her sign that statement. I'm not sure why. It's pretty obvious. They were busting Roxanne, rightfully, for cheating. The principal basically says he just did it to make a point and that it's ok that she signed it because all teenagers do selfish stuff. No kidding, the principal, even though we're supposed to see him as some kind of delusional mean guy, is the only intelligent character in this book; he looks Sarah dead in the face and is like, "people usually grow out of being so selfish, but whatever, you seem like a piece of work." 

Sarah feels enlightened and goes to Kristen's house. Kristen had spent tons of time complaining about her husband; however, when Sarah brings up this past conversation in relation to her talk with the principal, Kristen acts like Sarah is accusing her of something. Listen, Kristen, I know you're a few slices short of a whole pie, but follow along. Kristen ends up getting a new shower head and is suddenly in a better mood, proving that she's an absolutely repulsive, stupid character and Sarah isn't much better. 

So Sarah leaves, feeling pretty low. She calls Bert to ask him to go to the reunion with her and he says no, because Jack made it clear he likes Sarah. Jack is a pushover and while he is pretty obnoxious, he deserves better than Sarah, a woman who literally never thinks of anyone but herself. 

So Sarah goes to the reunion with Jack and proceeds to get drunk within, like, 5 minutes. Then Mark, Roxanne's high school boyfriend who was sexually abused by a teacher, comes up and asks about Roxanne. Sarah, who is awful, acts belligerent and causes a scene; then Jack punches a man who was sexually abused as a teenager by a teacher and they act like he's a hero. Wow, I'm so glad I read this book. 

Kristen and Roxanne then bust into the reunion, dressed to the nines. They all go outside and make the real Camino Beach and get even more drunk in the back of it. It turns out, Roxanne did name her daughter after Sarah (WHY) and apparently had watched Sarah a few times while she was at college because she literally lived in the same town. This is proof that Sarah is totally self-absorbed; Roxanne had been in this sandwich place once while Sarah was there and SARAH DIDN'T EVEN NOTICE. 

Eventually, Jack confesses that, actually, he really likes Sarah. They kiss. It's totally inexplicable why Jack likes her because, again, Sarah is an absolute garbage can of a human being. 

If you want to read a book about the most self-absorbed awful people in the entire universe, go ahead. Read it. I have no idea why it was written. A bunch of boring, mean white women going on an adventure to find the friend they treated like crap 20 years ago. Nothing redeemable. Nothing to learn. Awful people not getting their comeuppance.

Book Review: "If the Creek Don't Rise" by Leah Weiss

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Also, warning, this review DOES contain spoilers. 

Start to finish, this book was beautifully written. Leah Weiss deserves credit for weaving a beautifully told tale that captivates readers, allowing them to appreciate and sympathize with the people of Appalachia. 

However, there were a few parts of the novel that just felt a little... unnecessary. At the end of the copy I received, the story is framed as being about Sadie. And while that does feel true, there is a significant portion of the novel dedicated to Kate Shaw (the teacher), Eli (the preacher), and Prudence (Eli's sister who tries to get rid of Kate). This storyline, revolving around Eli falling in love with Kate, a woman who is in a relationship with another woman named Rachel, and Prudence using a letter from Rachel to try and get Kate run out of town. This story is never returned to; instead, Kate is roped back into Sadie's story when she loses the baby. That's fine and good... but what happens to Kate? What does Prudence do? Does Eli find out about Kate?

This is an entire plot line that is introduced, followed, and then promptly abandoned in favor of Sadie's much less interesting story. No offense, Sadie. On another note, we also get some amazing parts from Sadie's grandmother, but then, we also never hear from her again. It's disappointing to meet these great characters and then have them promptly abandoned.  

The end of the novel just felt too tidy. We get a story about Roy and Billy disposing of Darlene's body. Darlene is a sex worker in town who Roy falls in love with and starts paying attention to instead of beating Sadie, which is nice. However, he discovers that when he runs out of money, Darlene immediately starts seeing other men (because he apparently struggles with the concept of what a sex worker does and thought Darlene was in love with him), so he kills her. We then jump to Sadie deciding to finally kill Roy. She makes some hemlock poison, mixes it with Roy's moonshine, and then... it turns out Billy shoots Roy while they're hunting. Ok. Cool. That's...? Simple. It's just too tidy. The rest of the novel felt messy: Kate and the preacher, Kate and Rachel back home, the medicine woman, the violence of the entire area... and then, in the end, Sadie gets the job done for her by Billy. 

She then tells Billy to take Roy's moonshine, obviously with the intent to kill him. Again, that's cool, but it's just a little too easy, isn't it? Someone does the work for her, she then offs that person to make sure no one ever finds out (and also to prevent herself from having to fall in with Billy as, I don't know, a favor in return for killing Roy?), and the novel just ends. 

We don't find out about Kate and Rachel; we don't find out about Prudence and what she does; we don't find out about Eli. We never see Marris or Gladys again, or Birdie, or anyone else. These characters just disappear at the end of the novel and we're expected to believe that the story was only about Sadie all along. No, the story was about ALL of them, so all of the storylines need to be wrapped up. 

It's frustrating to get to the end of a novel that truly had me enraptured... only to find the last page is the last page and not everything is done. Sadie got her ending, but what about everyone else? What about the family that Sadie went to see in the store, whose son had been injured in a mine? What happened to him? There are so many pieces of information we are given that are never followed up on and from a reader's standpoint, that's just sloppy storytelling. 

The book is beautifully written, truly. The story was enchanting. But I feel in the end, Weiss perhaps lost steam and decided to end with Sadie. Which is her choice, ultimately, but it doesn't feel like the right one. I also suspect that a fair amount of editing whittled down the story and perhaps created the thread, via Eli, Prudence, and Kate, needed to get back to Sadie. It just feels abrupt for the reader though. Again, all that being said, a book I thoroughly enjoyed reading and would read again.