Book Review: The Good Daughter by Karin Slaughter

Now I’m a self-confessed Karin Slaughter fan who has recently picked up her books again after a long break, only to question why I chose to take that break at all. I love her work, and have been with Jeffery and Lena and Will since the very beginning. But this book – wow!

Samantha and Charlotte Quinn are sisters whose lives are brutally changed one day when armed intruders walk into their home, killing their mother Gamma and leaving Samantha for dead in a shallow grave. Charlotte, managing to get free and run for help, is left traumatised by the terrible event and the ensuing secrets, and the family is torn apart irrevocably.

28 years later, eighteen year-old Kelly Wilson walks into her middle school with a revolver and shoots dead a teacher and a child.

Rusty Quinn, notorious defence attorney for the guilty, takes on her case and is soon convinced of her innocence. When he is stabbed by an unknown assailant, his daughters Sam and Charlie, both damaged after the attack at their home 28 years earlier, are reluctantly reunited and the past decides to rear its ugly head.

For those of you who are familiar with KS’s work, this is a stand-alone novel and in no way related to her hugely popular Grant County series. Quite often, when you have fallen in love with a series of books and familiar characters, it is difficult to attempt a novel about strangers. Don’t let that deter you.

This book was amazing and shocking and emotional all rolled into one. I was devastated when Gamma was shot. I cried when I read Charlotte’s story. I was jubilant when the sisters finally repaired their relationship. It was a rollercoaster ride of emotions, and I really warmed to the characters, all of who were broken or flawed in some way.

An easy five stars. Can’t wait to read the prequel.

New Year, New… Something?

I have to admit, I haven’t made a New Year’s resolution since my early twenties, as there didn’t appear to be anything I felt committed enough about to change. I never worried about my weight. I refused to give up cigarettes or alcohol. I couldn’t imagine anything worse than attending a gym or investing in an exercise regime that I had no intention of continuing.

In all honesty, this is the way I have meandered through my life so far. Rarely, if ever, taking charge and making changes. Embracing a laidback, drama-free approach to all of the things I don’t earn a wage for.

In 2018, all of this needs to change.

Yes, drama-free is hugely beneficial to my emotional health, so this is something I will attempt to continue with. Laidback, however, is not going to cut it anymore.

How many times have I let things go too easily because it seemed too difficult to achieve? When am I ever going to learn not to let self-doubt and a lack of confidence prevent me from going for the very things I want?

The only problem is, trying to force big changes on myself will just not work. I am far too stubborn for that, and will argue with my organised self over something my laidback self does not want to do.

My laidback self always wins. An easy life is so seductively inviting, whereas big changes mean that I will have to step out of my comfort zone.

I like my comfort zone, here with my books, and my cats, and my tea, and my wine. I’m in complete control here, and nothing happens to ruffle my feathers.

Of course, I could continue like this forever, but I won’t achieve any of my life goals that way. And I’m not 30 anymore. There isn’t a great deal of time left to be coasting along. I’m very nearly middle-aged, and I’m working as a part time payroll administrator for bosses who are younger than I am, and have far less managerial skills.

In short, I have settled for mediocre.

I can’t really complain. I am more than content; I love my life. But I don’t love my working life. And that’s a big deal for me. At home, I’m lazy and content. At work, I am hard-working, dynamic and ambitious, and am used to excelling at whatever I turn my hand to. Not being big-headed, but it’s true, and it uses up a lot of my energy. I love being a go-getter when I’m at work. Yet I’m wasting my abilities in a mediocre position working for a mediocre company.

Now, for those of you who are familiar with my blog, you will have heard my complaints about my job on many an occasion, so I apologise now. I’m like a stuck record that can’t quite find a way to skip out of that rut. I realise that only I can change that.

So, what steps can I take to improve my situation?

As I discussed earlier, big changes are something I am averse to. I tend to drag my feet at any level of change, so we are going to have to start with baby steps. I need to change my whole outlook on life, but one small step at a time. I need to motivate myself, and get rid of my self-doubt, but I need to do it little by little.

I’ve been inspired by the above quote by Albert Einstein to do something differently.

Rather than make a single resolution that I will discard within a week because it looks too daunting, I’m going to look at making small, achievable changes to my life and routine. And I’m going to make them fun, because I really am like a truculent child when it comes to disrupting my routine.

I’ll be back soon, once I’ve compiled my list. In the meantime, what are your New Years resolutions?

Coping with Depression at Christmas

Christmas is a time for family, for giving and receiving and celebrating with those closest to you. Christmas can also be an extremely stressful time of the year, when purse strings are stretched to the limit and there is pressure to make things perfect for the people you love.

I can certainly emphasise, especially this year.

I have touched briefly on my struggle with depression in previous posts. I am no stranger to the black dog nipping at my heels. I teetered on the edge of darkness throughout my childhood, with many moments of deep despair. After leaving home at 18, my late teenage years were spent partying and drinking heavily in an attempt to fit in somewhere, anywhere, and for a while I lost myself in a social whirl. Eventually though, my darkness caught up with me, and at 21 I had a breakdown.

I can’t even begin to explain what I went through back then. I was a mess, and not even a beautiful one. I’m not even sure what that is, a beautiful mess. If you are as broken as I was, still am.. you feel anything but beautiful. You’re just a useless mess.

I gave up my job and was prescribed a heavy dosage of anti-depressants. I remember being unhappy all of the time and wishing I didn’t exist. My family didn’t know how to interact with me. I spent much of my time talking about how bad I felt, how I wanted to disappear, blink out like a burnt-out lightbulb. I guess they were scared by how unhinged I was, and how precarious I appeared to be. They didn’t understand. Eventually, I stopped telling them and learnt to keep it bottled up, to save people the embarrassment of having to listen to me.

As I said, I was a mess.

After two and a half years of deep depression, I decided that things couldn’t continue as they were, and I went out and got myself a job as a kitchen porter in a hotel kitchen. Not the most desirable of jobs, but I loved it. It got me out of the flat and provided me with a semblance of normality, a routine I had been missing. It gave me a reason to be somebody other than the sad person I had become. I look back on that job nostalgically, and with a degree of gratitude. I excelled at it, and it gave my self-esteem a massive boost when I eventually moved on to pastures new, and they asked me to stay. At last, I had made a difference, if only washing pots and emptying bins.

Years later, those long days of depression are a memory I like to keep distant, but every now and again the black dog will sneak up and whisper sibilantly in my ear, with a warning of how easy it can be to slip back into those depths of despair.

It is different these days. I guess I’m more aware of my responsibilities. I can’t break all over again, for the sake of my son, my job, my home, my family. I feel more in control these days.

It doesn’t stop those black thoughts though, and the feeling that I’m never really good enough.

Although Christmas is a time for celebration, please remember that for some, it is difficult to see the joy in the festivities when you are surrounded by such darkness. Some days, it is difficult just to get out of bed and face the day. Depression is an illness, not a choice, and those that push you away are generally the ones who need you the most. Let them know that you’re there for them this Christmas.

If you are the one suffering from depression, please don’t suffer in silence. Reach out to friends and loved ones. Often, people won’t know there is anything wrong if you don’t tell them. Be honest about money worries. Focus on the positive things about Christmas and try to avoid time alone, ruminating on life and perceived failures. If your depression is more serious, seek the help of a qualified mental health professional. You are never alone, no matter how isolated you may feel. There is always someone who wants to help if you would only give them the chance.

Merry Christmas. 💙

Book Review: We Need To Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver

I have had this book in my TBR pile for a fair few years now and, after reading it, I’m not sure why I waited so long. Yes, I’m aware that there is a film adaptation, which I thought is watched but can’t for the life of me remember. The book is always better though, right? I’m not really sure a movie could do this book true justice.

The book is made up of a series of letters written by Eva Khatchadourian to her absent husband Franklin, mainly about their son Kevin. Kevin, or KK as he is known to the world, is currently residing in prison after turning up at school with a crossbow and shooting nine of his classmates, a teacher and a caretaker in a bloody massacre.

Throughout her letters, Eva struggles to come to terms with Kevin’s actions and rehashes her life as a mother, documenting her pregnancy, her failure to bond with her baby, and her reluctance to give up her job to become a more hands-on mother. Kevin is a difficult child to raise, sullen, angry and manipulative, but Eva’s thoughts and actions are hardly perfect either. In contrast, Franklin’s response to fatherhood is over-indulgent and really quite ridiculous, which creates a gulf between him and Eva. But are his parents glaringly obvious faults the reason behind Kevin’s carefully planned and executed school massacre?

Now to tell you anything more would surely ruin the twists in the tale, which I don’t want to do. This was one of the best book I have read in a while. Granted, the characters aren’t particularly likeable. Eva, independent, spirited, contemptuous of American life, is often scathing and a touch bitter. The owner and creator of A Wing and A Prayer, a highly successful travel guidebook franchise, she doesn’t want a child, doesn’t want to curb her freedom to travel. Franklin, on the other hand, wants desperately to recreate the “American Dream”, with a family and a white picket fence, and is willing to brush any faults along the way firmly under the carpet. But things don’t go according to plan.

The first half of this book is a little long-winded, but persevere. It will be worth it.

Five stars on Goodreads.

Nearly Christmas! #WeekendCoffeeShare

[Photo Credit: loretoidas on Flickr]

If we were having coffee today, I would offer you a nice cup of Nescafé Fine Blend, as its all I have in at the moment. Other than that, I have Yorkshire Tea, which as you may recall I prefer to drink. I’m not much of a coffee drinker, although I have been meaning to try a few different blends in an attempt to find something that suits me. Coffee does seem like a hobby I have missed out on, and one that would suit me down to the ground.

I haven’t been around much recently, which does happen more often than I’d like to admit. I tend to get distracted by thoughts in my head, which I could in fact jot down in my blog in an effort to organise my mind. I’ve always been the same though, and like to keep things in my head, where I mull it over for days, even weeks, without uttering a word. I don’t tend to confide in people, and I have never had much luck with a journal. I lose interest very quickly in writing my thoughts and feelings down in a book where it could be found by all and sundry, and tend to log it all in my head instead. Probably why I get burnt out so easily and need so much time alone. My New Years resolution will be to begin a journal and to take it seriously, for once. I need room for others in my head and in my life as I am becoming far too solitary.

Work has been pretty meh recently. Nothing much to write home about. It is so monotonous that nothing ever really changes. Some days I get on with it, other days I am bored out of my mind. I do like to be challenged at work and this rarely happens. However, things may be about to change. Our office manager is pregnant, due to give birth in April, and she is currently sorting out her affairs and putting cover in place to pick up certain jobs when she goes off on maternity leave. I have been asked to attend a meeting next Friday with her and the payroll manager to discuss duties, which is interesting. I’m not really sure why I am included in the meeting. As a part time payroll administrator, up until recently I was treated as a spare hand and it took my full-time co-worker leaving for them to realise who had been doing the bulk of the work. How the times have changed! I’ll be interested to discover what extra tasks I am being entrusted with. Might shake things up a bit.

In other work-related news, we had our Christmas lunch on Thursday, which made a nice change from a Twix and a packet of crisps (I know, I’m so healthy!) There was even wine, which always goes down well in any situation. Our Financial Director sat with myself and my co-worker Jane, and downed a full bottle of red on his own, in an hour. A man after my own heart! Of course, I’m well-behaved these days and stuck to one (large) glass. I was driving, after all, plus I’m not really comfortable enough with the team just yet to be getting sozzled and shouty.

I only have one more week and a day left in work before I finish until the new year, which is exciting. I have never before worked for an establishment that actually closes at Christmas, so this is all very new. I do have to work on the 27th but that’s it until January 2nd. Bonus! Maybe I don’t hate this job so much after all!

In other news, I have completed my Christmas present shopping and now just need to shop for cards, wrap gifts, and do a food shop when I get paid next Friday as I am hosting Christmas at mine this year. This is worrying in itself, and I’m not really sure what I need to buy, or even how to cook it. I’m no domestic goddess after all. Hopefully, everyone will live to tell the tale!

Well that was my week in a tidbit. I hope you enjoyed your Fine Blend. You never know, next time I may be drinking coffee with you instead of my habitual cup of tea.

Book Review: The One by John Marrs

This book was recommended to me by a number of people after I recently read The Good Samaritan, which I enjoyed immensely. Unfortunately, The One did not live up to my high expectations.

After reading so many five star reviews and listening to the various people who extolled the virtues of this book, I jumped at the chance to read it when it became available on Amazon for 99p. I was really looking forward to starting it, and was certain I would enjoy it as much as The Good Samaritan, if not more so. Right from the start however, I was disappointed.

The story centres around six main characters who have taken part in the Match My DNA questionnaire, and each received their Matches. At the beginning, it was pretty confusing as the story jumped from person to person, a chapter a-piece. None of the six characters stories intersected at all throughout the book, and so in essence you are reading six short stories in a jumbled up mish-mash. That is certainly what it felt like anyway.

After a while, I got used to each of the stories, but I found them really hard going and not particularly interesting. The only character who intrigued me was Christopher, a serial killer, but after a while he became as boring as the other nondescript characters, who each allowed themselves to be swept along with the whole DNA craze with little or no say in their own lives. Maybe there was a moral to the story, but I was too bored to see it.

I am sorry to be giving such a negative review as I had such high hopes. I have no doubt that others may love this book judging by the number of rave reviews I’ve seen. I do wonder if we have read the same book though as I couldn’t gel with it at all. I pretty much skim-read the last few chapters because I just wanted to get it out of the way and move onto something better.

I’ve given it a generous 3 stars on Goodreads because I loved The Good Samaritan so much, and I will definitely read more of his work at a later date, despite this disappointment.

Monthly Overview: November

I can hardly believe that it is December already. Wow, November has flown by! I am über excited for Christmas now, but where has the year gone?

I am thankful for fast weeks and chilled weekends, but the days are passing so quickly and they are days that I don’t particularly enjoy. I spend the week wishing for the weekend, wishing my life away, which isn’t good. Hopefully 2018 will bring some big changes.

Anyway, here we are again, in a round-up of my recent achievements and goals for the month ahead. Again, I don’t believe that I have achieved much, but let’s see as I wrack my brain for things to list. My life is not particularly eventful right now, but I quite like my quiet existence.

My recent achievements

  • I have been writing far more, poetry-wise anyway, although as I have mentioned before, I don’t really class my writing as ‘poetry’. I post most of it to my Facebook page, Fragments of my Mind, as well as my blog of the same name. I am considering looking into getting a book of poetry published, but the self-doubt always raises its ugly head.
  • My Christmas decorations are up! Yeah, I know that isn’t a November achievement, but it will be pretty pointless including it in my December overview, which I’ll be posting in January. After all, I generally take the decs down on New Year’s Day.

  • I tidied my kitchen to make it more Christmas-friendly. I am hosting Christmas this year for myself, my son, my brother and nephew, and I want to put in an effort to make the house look festive. My son and I rarely use the kitchen table and, up until recently, it was pushed up against the wall and the chairs were being used to house paperwork and magazines and general clutter. However, that’s all changed now! Clutter has been removed and distributed to the relevant places, and the table has been pulled out and cleared of junk. The kitchen definitely looks more welcoming.
  • I have settled into my job and am trying to take it day by day instead of constantly moaning and job hunting. To be honest, it isn’t any more enjoyable, and I find it a total waste of a day, but I’m definitely not the only person to feel this way. Also, I’ve just been given a pay rise, so I’ve decided to stick at it for now.
  • I am doing pretty well with my Christmas shopping, and only have a couple of bits and pieces to pick up. I’m ahead of the game for once, but no doubt I will panic last minute as per usual and buy more than I needed to.
  • I am continuing as admin of the Facebook group that I mentioned last time, and the group is improving in leaps and bounds. It’s a real shame that it isn’t a paid job, because I would far rather play about managing pages on Facebook than doing payroll!

This month has passed so quickly that it has been a challenge to achieve anything more than the above. I am purely motivated by Christmas at the moment, and anything else can wait until the new year.

Goals for December

  1. Finish my Christmas shopping. Nearly finished anyway, but it would be good to be in a position where I don’t feel I need to overcompensate. My son’s father is extremely money-orientated and it is so easy to be dragged into a present-buying competition. I refuse to this year, mainly because I can’t afford it, but also because why should I. I can’t win every time, after all! 😉
  2. Learn how to cook a roast dinner. As I mentioned above, I will be hosting Christmas which includes cooking a roast dinner. I’ve never done this before, and I’ve asked my mum to do a trial run with me. I’m 41 and have never cooked a roast dinner before. Yep, that’s right. It’s probably about time I learned.
  3. Post Christmas cards to my penpals. Yes, I am old school, and still write snail mail letters to people around the world, which I enjoy. I have five penpals at the moment, which isn’t that many. They live in New Zealand, Italy, Canada, Germany and England, and I like to send out Christmas cards early to ensure delivery in time. As I prefer low maintenance friendships where they don’t expect too much of me, I probably exchange 2-3 letters a year with each of them, which is mutually agreed upon. Although it is lovely to receive letters through the post, real life can often kill your writing mojo, and my friends understand and share this view. That’s why they are my friends. 🙂
  4. Send out a birthday card and gift to my best friend. Michelle lives in a different county altogether to me, and we only generally meet up twice a year. It is her birthday on the 7th and therefore I need to get a card and gift to her as I am unlikely to be able to hand it to her personally. It would be nice to meet up with her, but life has been so busy for her recently and I haven’t seen her in a while. Still, I am sure I can show my appreciation of her friendship from afar.

So that is it for now. Let’s see what December brings! Have a good one. 💜