Book Club: Meghan March

I have a little secret. I love romance novels. Like, really, really love reading them. I’ve even written one (in the form of fanfiction) before. I rarely talk about this obsession of mine though because it can put people off. Those types of books really do seem to be “love them or hate them,” and a lot of the adult themes aren’t things I’m necessarily comfortable talking about in general life. But yeah… I love them. And have been reading a lot of them lately! Today I want to introduce you to my current favorite author, Meghan March.

Meghan March used to be a corporate lawyer, but she gave that up for writing a few years back. She now has over 30 books and is a NYT bestselling author. I found her books quite by accident; I was out on my own one day and decided to hit up the Overdrive app (digital library for ebooks and audio books) for an audio book to listen to while I drove. (I hate listening to music, especially in the car. Audio books are much more my jam.) I have no idea how or why Dirty Billionaire turned up on my recs, because I hadn’t read a romance novel in a few years, and certainly hadn’t checked one out on the app before. But it caught my eye, and I borrowed it to listen to. And let’s just say I’ve been hooked on Meghan March’s books ever since!

Ms. March’s books are primarily duets or trilogies. She also works her novels in “worlds,” meaning that even though one particular trilogy focuses on a specific couple, just because their story has ended doesn’t mean you won’t see them again in someone else’s story. I have really loved seeing familiar characters show up in other books as I work my way through her library. Her books (as many as I’ve read, anyway) are usually set in either New York City or New Orleans, and depending on which city you’re entering, that’s the world you’ll be seeing and the characters you can expect to meet. You won’t find Creighton Karas (the “dirty billionaire”) in a NOLA book, just like you won’t find Lachlan Mount in a NY book. But you’re likely (though not guaranteed) to find each of them in any book set in their own town.

In addition to worlds organized by setting, Ms. March also does spinoffs to her own books – another way to revisit those characters you love so much after their stories are over. For example, the audio book I’m currently listening to is all about Creighton’s little sister, Greer. When I finish the book I’m reading (the end of the Legend trilogy), I’ll be diving into the Savage trilogy, which focuses on Temperance, who was a background character in the Mount trilogy. Lots of interconnectedness, and I love it.

If you like erotic romance, I can’t recommend Meghan March enough. You can “buy” the first of each of her trilogies absolutely free to try out. Be prepared to buy their sequels almost right away, though! She doesn’t call herself the “Cliffhanger Queen” for nothing. And if you follow her on Instagram and interact with her, you’re very likely to get responses too. She’s very fan-centric, which is nice. I’ve had a couple of short conversations with her on that platform, and it makes you feel good to have a “celebrity” respond to your comments and posts!

What’s your favorite genre of book to read?


Book Club: The Host

One of my favorite books is The Host by Stephenie Meyer. The first time I read it, many years ago, it took me a long time. The first 70 pages or so just didn’t make any sense at all. The character names were weird (Fords Deep Waters, for example), and I really struggled with it. Add to the strange character names the fact that the main character is actually two characters (I’ll explain that in a minute, when I get to the plot summary), and I just couldn’t follow it at all.

But then I got past that 70th page, and things started to fall into place for me. From that point on, I devoured the book. And now it’s one of my favorites. I recently reread it after having not in a few years, so I’m going to discuss it today for Book Club.


The world has been taken over by “souls,” creatures from space that can’t live on their own. They travel to various planets, inserting themselves into the bodies of the creatures who already live on those planets – the hosts. Now, they’ve come to Earth. Most of the humans have been taken over by these souls, and very few have “survived.” Their bodies are alive, yes, but their minds are completely gone. Only the memories of the soul remain. But there are a few who fight back. Melanie Stryder is one such fighter.

The soul assigned to Melanie is called Wanderer. She’s tasked with not only becoming Melanie, but with digging into her memories and finding out where the pocket of resistors (Melanie’s family) are hiding. When Wanderer finds them, will she report them to the “proper” authorities? Or will she develop relationships with the humans that have successfully resisted?


As I mentioned before, I love this book. It was Stephenie Meyer’s first foray into adult fiction, and I think it was a resounding success. A lot of people don’t like it (likely because of those first 70 confusing pages), but I think it deserves more love than it gets. I like how the two-characters-in-one-body start off so volatile toward one another but slowly develop a friendship. I enjoyed watching the relationships develop between Wanda (as the humans shorten Wanderer’s name to) and Jared (Melanie’s boyfriend) and Ian (a human in the cave who takes an interest in Wanda). It was fascinating to “see” how the other characters slowly come around to Wanda. Reading about the other made-up planets Stephenie Meyer created for Wanda to have inhabited was so neat – I could see all of the details in my mind’s eye as I read. I also liked how she didn’t spare the characters – some of the humans died, some of the souls were killed, and one of the main characters nearly died. There was a lot of emotion poured into this book. As a reader, you go through everything with the characters – love, pain, joy, betrayal… it was really well written (the exact kind of book that makes me want to write another novel).


The Host was turned into a movie starring Saoirse Ronan and William Hurt in 2013. It captured a lot of the main plot points of the book, but lacked most of the character depth of the novel. The movie felt like it just sped through the storyline with very little reason to care about the characters. It wasn’t a bad film, but it certainly didn’t compare to the book. At all. If you’re interested in the story but don’t want to commit to reading a 650-page book, it’s a decent substitution. And if you like the film, then you should definitely pick up the book.

Have you ever read The Host? Seen the movie?


Book Club: Sooley

I love basketball, and I love John Grisham books. So when I found out that his new book this year was a stray from his normal legal thriller into the world of “hoops,” I was intrigued. I’m not normally a fan of his non-legal books, but because, well, basketball, I wanted to read Sooley anyway.

This post contains major spoilers for the book Sooley by John Grisham.

Samuel Sooleymon is the oldest child of four living in a small village in South Sudan with his parents and three  younger siblings (two brothers and a sister). He loves playing basketball, but in the poor nation he can only play on a dirt court. When he is recruited for a summer league to represent his country against other teams as they play in America, he is thrilled – and apprehensive – to go. But go he does because he wants the opportunity to play his favorite game against other good players. He and the team from South Sudan don’t do so well, and most of the team is sent home after the tournament having won nothing.

While Samuel and the rest of the South Sudanese team is playing in the summer league, his parents’ village is ransacked by militant rebel soldiers. His father is killed and his sister is kidnapped. The family never finds her again, and doesn’t know whether she’s been sold as a slave or killed. His mother and two brothers walk from their home country to the neighboring nation of Uganda. When they make it to the refugee camp, they are finally safe.

Samuel’s coach in the summer league learns about his village and has the difficult discussion with Samuel, letting him know what happened and imploring him not to go back. He promises to help him come up with a way to stay in America. This is accomplished through an emergency refugee/student visa, and his coach convinces a college coach to give Samuel a scholarship so that he can honor the terms of his visa and stay in the country. Grudgingly, Coach Lonnie Britt of NC Central in Durham, North Carolina, awards the scholarship. After seeing Samuel in practice (he’s terrible – barely made the summer league team), he decides to “redshirt” him, meaning he gives him a spot on the team to keep his scholarship but he doesn’t let him play. He gets to practice and will join the team more fully the following year.

As the year progresses, Samuel practices basketball every single day, even on the team’s off days. He shoots and shoots and shoots, eventually shifting his percentage from well below 50 to above it. As Lonnie sees the improvement in Samuel, now called Sooley by his teammates, he takes a chance on him and lets him play in a game. Sooley blows the socks off everyone, becoming the star of the game.

He continues to practice and is rewarded with more game time. He quickly becomes the star of the team, playing almost every minute of every game and scoring upwards of 40 points per game. He ultimately leads his team, always a national underdog, to the college championships – clear up to the Final Four.

Unfortunately, they lose their first game in the Final Four and are eliminated. But Sooley had such an amazing season that he is encouraged by his coaches to enter the NBA draft, and he is taken in the first round by the Indiana Pacers and then immediately traded to the Washington Wizards. He’s thrilled with this because it means he’ll be close to his North Carolina family. The NBA money means he can come up with a plan to bring his family to America, out of the refugee camp they’ve been living in for over a year.

A party in the Bahamas turns tragic when Samuel ODs on Ecstasy. He never makes it to the NBA. He never gets to sponsor his mother and brothers for immigration to the US. It’s a tragic story.

But Murray, Sooley’s college roommate (and part of the “NC Family” I mentioned before) turns the tragedy into something beautiful. He starts a foundation in Samuel’s name and within days it raises millions of dollars. He uses some of the money to finish Sooley’s work of bringing his family over. The rest goes into a scholarship fund in Samuel’s name for future Central basketball players.

I loved this book. I was floored when Sooley is killed near the end, and from that moment on I couldn’t put it down until I discovered how Grisham would turn the tragedy around in just under 10% of the book. It’s so rare to see an author kill the main character of a book, and frankly I’m not sure I liked it. But it worked. It’s been a few days since I finished reading it, and I still feel a little raw when I think back on the story.

As for the writing, I thought it was very well done. I don’t follow college ball, but I found each of the games exciting. They were well described, and I could see all the moves in my head as I read the words. I did find the phrase “behind the arc” to be a bit overused to describe 3-pointers, but that’s literally my only complaint. Now that my library loan for this book has ended, I want to get a copy of my own to have for rereading at the drop of a hat.

Sooley gets 5 stars from me.

Do you like sports, or sports books and/or movies? What’s your favorite sport?


Defending Twilight

Twilight is one of my favorite book series. I’ve read the books probably 10 times each, listened to the audio books a few times, and seen all of the movies countless times. It seems that people either love it or hate it, though, and there’s not really any in-between. Today I want to talk for a few minutes about my thoughts on the saga, and more specifically about the things most people seem to have a problem with.

(In case you’re not familiar, Twilight is a series of 4 books that were adapted into 5 movies. They tell the story of a human girl who falls in love with a vampire.)

Bella is a flat, boring character

Twilight centers on the story of Bella Swan, a teenager who’s spent her entire life living with her mother in Phoenix after her parents divorced when she was a baby. Her father lives in northern Washington. She visits him annually, and we’re dropped into her story as she’s on her way to move in with him permanently. Her mother has recently remarried, and she decides to give the newlyweds some space, hence the big move. This alone is something that I would argue is anything but “flat” and “boring.” It takes courage to move across the country, especially as a young person leaving behind everything you’ve ever known (including your own mother). The books are told from her first-person perspective, so we as readers are privy to her every thought and action. She might come across as a little bit vapid, especially when she gets her first glimpse of the Cullens (the vampire family in the story) – she cares more about how beautiful they are than really anything else. But because we’ve been inside her head for a few chapters already at this point, we know that this is because she doesn’t have the best self-esteem (and who can’t relate to that?). She doesn’t view herself as exceptionally beautiful, so she’s fascinated by people who are – especially since there are 5 of them all together who are. And besides that, she’s a 17-year-old girl; that particular species is vapid (I say, as someone who used to be one). So while she may not be the most exciting character on the planet, I don’t think Bella deserves half the criticism she gets online.

Bella and Edward’s relationship is “toxic”

This is the biggest problem most people have with the series, and I can boil down every single issue people have with it down to one main cultural failing we have in America (and the West in general): lack of proper roles. I know that this is an unpopular opinion (very unpopular), but it’s one I sincerely hold. If we adhered to proper biblical roles in our society, we wouldn’t be offended by any of the things people have serious issues with. Allow me to explain a bit.

Edward is creepy because he watches Bella sleep. This is perhaps the only one on this list that’s a little weird, but that’s only because we live in a human world where everyone sleeps. Edward, the vampire in the relationship, doesn’t need to sleep so he spends his nights watching Bella. So again, weird but not automatically problematic.

Edward is an abusive jerk for preventing Bella from seeing Jacob. In proper biblical roles, Edward – as the man – has a right to determine and demand things from Bella. While Jacob was a good friend in New Moon (the second book in the series, when Edward left Bella in an attempt to protect her from the vampire world), he takes advantage of that friendship in later books. He knows that Edward is back, and that Bella chooses Edward over him, and yet he still pushes a relationship (not just a friendship). But even ignoring Jacob’s behavior, it bears repeating: so long as Bella and Edward are together, he has the right to make certain decisions on her behalf. That’s just how it works in a proper relationship, whether you like it or not. (And believe me, it’s not always easy to be a fully submissive wife, but that doesn’t mean it’s not the right thing to do or that my husband doesn’t have the right to tell me what to do.)

So, in short, yes, their relationship is toxic if you view from a Western, feminist mindset. If you look at it from a traditional, biblical perspective, it’s not.

Jacob and Renesmee

(Renesmee is Bella and Edward’s half-human-half-vampire daughter.)

This is one aspect that I’m unsure of. The main criticism of this “relationship” is that it’s considered grooming. This young child – quite literally a newborn – has a 17-year-old man in love with her. Jacob’s defense is that it’s not “love,” but more a protective relationship. He wants nothing more than to keep her safe. Critics say, “Yes, but only until she’s old enough to become your girlfriend, and by then she’ll be so used to having you around that she won’t realize she has the choice to say no.”

It seems a bit strange to have chosen for Jacob to “imprint” on Renesmee. In fact, because of that, it seems as though the entire pregnancy plotline of the last book was put into place for no reason except to separate Jacob and Bella. It was a tidy way to get Jacob to give up on Bella, when really he should have done that the moment Bella and Edward got married (whether he was happy about it or not). When I read the books the first time, over ten years ago, it didn’t seem that strange to me. It was just the way the story went, and who was I to judge the way an author chose to tell their story? But now, as I exercise my critical thinking skills more and more, I can recognize that this plot device was nothing more than an “ex machina” (a plot point that exists for no reason but because there’s not other way for the characters to get out of their current situation). The entire character of Renesmee is an ex machina, and that’s a bigger “problem” than Jacob’s imprinting on her. I wonder how the finale of the series would have gone if Bella hadn’t gotten pregnant?

These are just three of the many issues people complain about in Twilight, and there are many others. I might explore more of these issues in the future, but that’s all I’ve got for now. And the second one, regarding the “toxic” relationship (which I don’t think was toxic at all) was what I really wanted to put out there.


Book Club: The Guardians

For the second month in a row, I seem to have chosen a book club question with no discussion questions available online. This time, it’s The Guardians by John Grisham, and I’m quite surprised to be unable to find some questions considering the novel was a mainstream release by a popular author. But what are you going to do? So let me just ramble a bit about this novel for this month’s edition of Book Club.


The Guardians is the story of Cullen Post and his ragtag law firm (some of Grisham’s favorites), who spend their time taking on the unwinnable cases. The cases in question: men and women in prison for the crimes of other people – the innocents. Cullen (or as he’s more commonly called, Post) is the main lawyer in the firm, though his colleague actually founded it, is a former minister who regularly relies on those good graces in his cases. His firm, Guardian Ministries, has successfully exonerated 8 former inmates (one of whom now works for them). The novel focuses on their ninth and tenth cases.

Quincy Miller is a black man convicted of murdering a white lawyer in a small Florida town called Seabrook. His supposed crime and trial were committed nearly a quarter century before the events of the book. After spending 22 years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit, his case is picked up by Post and Guardians. The search for the lawyer’s real killer and proof of Quincy’s innocence takes Post on a wild chase all across the South and even as far away as Idaho and the Caribbean.

My Thoughts

It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of John Grisham’s, but I’m going to be honest here… this wasn’t my favorite book. I didn’t hate it, and I liked it better than some of his non-legal-thrillers (I’m thinking specifically of A Painted House). But I found it a bit sloppy. Allow me to explain.

The novel is written in first person, that of Cullen Post – mostly. There are a few chapters where it was necessary for the story to deviate from Post’s POV, so the novel reverted to a third person narrative occasionally. I’ve written first person novels before, so I know from experience that it can be frustrating and problematic when you want to tell part of the story that isn’t directly related to your narrator. But you shouldn’t do that. A tighter story will find a way to get that expository into the book through the “proper” point of view rather than just ignoring the world you created – specifically that which is seen through the eyes of your main character.

Also, I found a lot of the conspiracy behind Quincy’s conviction a bit far fetched for my taste. I can get behind “the mob did it and framed this guy,” but some of the side stories related to that main plot point were just too much. For example, I’m not entirely sure how it mattered to the case that Quincy’s original lawyer was kidnapped and forced to literally watch two other men get eaten alive by alligators and then threatened to be shoved into the swamp himself. Especially since after spending a reasonable amount of time following this lawyer and his story, Post is told by him to “never contact me again.” So Grisham ignores him for the rest of the novel, too.

The concept behind the story is good, but like I said, it wasn’t my favorite Grisham novel. If you want a story that’s about the “good guys” fighting for someone who really deserves it, I recommend The Street Lawyer instead.


Book Club: Troublemaker

During my drives to and from the gym, I like to listen to audio books. (I hate listening to music in the car. I find it oppressive.) I recently finished Troublemaker: Surviving Hollywood and Scientology by Leah Remini. I’d heard of the book years ago, and was a low-key fan of Remini’s (I remember her from her Saved by the Bell days, and my husband and I used to watch The King of Queens regularly). I remember her explosive separation from the Scientology religion in 2013. And last year (earlier this year? I don’t remember exactly) I watched the A&E show on Netflix that she and Mike Rinder (another former high-end, though not celebrity, Scientologist) did together. So I was interested in reading/listening to the book. I wasn’t able to find any “book club questions” for this book, so I’m just going to ramble about it for a little while.

The audiobook is read by Remini herself, and as I mentioned before I’m already familiar with her and some of her work, so I wasn’t distracted or surprised by her thick New York accent. I enjoyed hearing her tell her own account of her life, especially some of the more “explosive” Hollywood stories. But let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves here.

Leah Remini was born and raised in New York. Her parents divorced when she was young, and she spent time with each of her parents separately. When her mother got remarried (to a Scientologist), she swept Leah and her sister into the church with her. They quickly moved through the lower ranks, eventually landing themselves in the “Sea Org.” Even after watching three seasons of the show and listening to this book, I don’t have a super clear understanding of the Sea Org, but I’ll do my best here. The Sea Org is one of the highest levels of “clergy” (though that’s not quite the right word) that civilian members of Scientology can reach. Members are recruited, and when they’re brought in to be offered a spot they are expected to sign a billion-year contract. You read that right; it’s not urban legend. Adults and children (Scientology views children as “adults in young bodies”) are required to sign a contract promising a billion years of servitude to become members of the Sea Org. Remini became a member at (if I remember correctly) age 13. Her sister was one year older, and her mother also signed at the same time.

The following chapters, covering her time in the Sea Org, are full of horrors. There were two stories that stood out to me the most. Both took place long before she was a legal adult.

In the first story, she tells of how she was put in charge of a battalion (not the right word, but it conveys the right idea) of other Sea Org members. She was a young teenager at this time in charge of a group of other teens and adults (remember, children are considered small adults) and given a job. She figured that the main goal of the job was to get the job done, so she motivated her team and they finished early. Because they had time to spare, Leah – in her teenage wisdom – gave her team permission to lounge by the pool. (She and her family were living in Clearwater, Florida, the home of Scientology, by this time.) They were caught by a higher ranking Sea Org member, and he took her and her entire team out to sea on a raft. This man insisted that she apologize to him and call him “sir.” She struggled with this; even though it was a fairly simple and painless way for her to get out of trouble, she just couldn’t bring herself to call him Sir. She’d been trained by her religion that all members were equal – she was just as important as he was, so why should she be forced to call him Sir? When she refused time and time again, he eventually threw her overboard. She almost drowned in the water that day.

The second story from that time that struck me was the time Leah was checking in on the nursery. As a teenager, like most teen girls, she had a heart for the babies. The fact that she had a new sister in that nursery (her mother and stepfather had a baby after the family moved to FL) didn’t hurt. She went in to check on her baby sister and found the conditions horrendous. Babies were left in cribs for hours on end with no care. There was a teenager in the room, but that person didn’t do anything to care for the children – no feeding, no diaper changes, no playing. Nothing. Hearing that story made my heart so sad.

After her time in the Sea Org, we get into some of the more interesting (to me) parts of Remini’s life: her time in Hollywood. I enjoyed hearing about her acting auditions, her (many) shows that had varying levels of success (but mostly failure). The jobs she took after the Sea Org but before she “hit it big” were also interesting – waitressing, becoming a secretary and then personal assistant for someone she knew, and others. I enjoyed hearing her tell her own stories with her very unique sense of humor. She can definitely make fun of herself! I found it interesting to learn that she took the Saved by the Bell job because she literally needed to pay the rent on her family’s apartment. Before long, she landed The King of Queens, though. (I say “before long,” but that’s really just in terms of the book. I’m sure it was many years, and a whole lot of frustration on her end.) I wish she’d spent more time talking about her time on that show, but I was glad to hear the parts she was willing to share. It was lovely to hear that her co-star, Kevin James, was as nice as he seems to be.

Near the end of her time on The King of Queens, we entered 2006. If you follow Hollywood really at all, you might remember that as the year Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes got married. Their wedding in Italy was the beginning of the end for Remini and Scientology. I’m already getting pretty high on my word count, so I’m not going to go into very many details here. But let’s quickly summarize a few of the main events from that trip.

  • Tom and Katie’s infant daughter was left to cry on the kitchen floor. She needed a bottle, but no one was willing to give her one. Instead, they all chastised her as though she were an adult. (She was 7 months old at the time.)
  • Leah and her husband seemed to be “reluctant” invitees. They were invited, but mostly because some of their friends were “more important” than they were and Tom Cruise and the church of Scientology needed them there (Jennifer Lopez and Marc Antony).
  • On the way back to the airport to fly home after the event, Leah and her husband rode with Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman’s children. A tense conversation in that shuttle van confirmed suspicions that Nicole had been labeled an “SP” (suppressive person) in the church. Now that Katie Holmes is no longer married to Tom Cruise, she has that label as well. And since her falling out and subsequent years of “tattling,” Remini is also a suppressive person.

There is so much to this book, and I couldn’t possibly talk about it all here. If you’re interested in Hollywood, or Scientology, or how one goes about escaping from a cult, I recommend this book. I found it very engaging.

Next month in Book Club, I’ll be talking about The Guardians by John Grisham.


Book Club: Water for Elephants

Sara Gruen is one of my favorite authors. In fact, having read her 2015 novel At the Water’s Edge is what inspired me to start the book club series on my blog.

But that’s not what inspired me to read Water for Elephants the first time.

When I first heard of the book back in 2011, it was already five years old. But it was getting the movie treatment right in the midst of the Twilight craze, and back then I was a crazy Twilight fan. How are the two related, you wonder? The male lead in Twilight, Robert Pattinson, was one of the stars of Water for Elephants. Because he was slated to be in the film, I wanted to read the book and then see the movie when it came out. So I got it on Audible and listened to it while making cloth diapers for Grasshopper before he was born. And now I’ve just read it (really read it, not listened) for the first time. I also rewatched the movie (with Scorpion, who’d never seen it).

And I loved both. Such a great story!

the official "water for elephants" book cover. a man is walking into a circus tent, and the title of the book is overlaid atop the image.

The remainder of this post contains spoilers for the novel and movie Water for Elephants.

My plan for this post, at least in part, is to answer some of the book club questions from my e-book, but first I want to spend a little bit of time comparing the book and the movie.

The story is the same, but there are a few big differences. First, the Uncle Al character in the book didn’t make it to the film. Instead, movie-August encompasses both roles. I don’t think this took away from the story at all. In fact, as I was reading I found Uncle Al almost distracting because he didn’t really seem to add much (despite being the owner of the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth circus). I liked having August take care of both roles. The fact that he was played by the amazing Christoph Waltz was just icing on the cake.

In the book, we hear from “Old Jacob” about every third chapter. In the film, he appears only at the very beginning at the very end. I think both ways actually work pretty well, but the film version just ekes out the win for me here. It feels more like Old Jacob is actually telling the story from start to finish in the film rather than fighting not to forget his past due to his old age in the book.

Here’s a good article describing more of the differences between the book and the film if you’re interested. But now, on to some book discussion questions.

In connection with Jacob’s formal dinner with August and Marlena in their stateroom, Jacob remarks, “August is gracious, charming, and mischievous.” To what extent is this an adequate characterization of August?

This seemed like a pivotal moment in the story to me. It marks the exact time that August first sees Jacob as something of an equal. But Jacob wasn’t fooled by August, at least not fully. He can spot the graciousness, the charm. But that mischievous nature is always there, just underneath the surface of August’s demeanor. You can never trust him, and in the end that proves more true than anyone realizes.

In his Carnival of the Animals, Ogden Nash wrote, “Elephants are useful friends.” In what ways is Rosie a “useful” friend?

I would love to have an elephant for a friend, wouldn’t you? They are my absolute favorite animal. And Rosie is a special elephant, for sure. She helps Jacob to survive the Benzini Brothers fiasco (and I don’t just mean the stampede at the end). She becomes his best friend, outside of Marlena, and personally I found it a lovely relationship – vet and animal. I’m not sure Jacob would have made it through the ordeal of August, Uncle Al, and his forbidden affair with Marlena (August’s wife) without her. That makes for a very useful character, I think.

After Jacob successfully coaches August in Polish commands for Rosie, he observes, “It’s only when I catch Rosie actually purring under August’s loving ministrations that my conviction starts to crumble. And what I’m left looking at in its place is a terrible thing.” What is Jacob left “looking at,” and what makes it a “terrible thing”?

This goes back to the first question, doesn’t it? That mischievous nature of August’s, which slowly morphs and shifts to pure evil by the end of the novel. He’s able to perform when needed. He hates Rosie – that’s clear from the very beginning of their relationship – but through a careful recitation of words that Rosie can actually understand, he’s able to appear to care for her. And that difference – caring vs performing – is a very dangerous thing.

That’s all I’ve got for my book club today. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading my thoughts on Water for Elephants. Have you ever read the novel? Seen the film? What did you think?


Book Club: A Time for Mercy

A few months ago, Will bought me a copy of John Grisham’s (then) most recent book, A Time for Mercy. I had skipped the past few Grisham novels (nothing wrong with them, I’m sure, but he had been venturing away from legal thrillers, which are my favorites from him). I was excited to read this one, though, because it was to be a sequel to his first novel, A Time to Kill. I had read that book years ago, but had recently rewatched the movie version starring Samuel L. Jackson and Matthew McConaughey.

This post contains spoilers of the book A Time For Mercy.


Even though I was in the middle of another book when Will presented me with this one, I dove in right away anyway. The story starts quite dramatically, with a young family (mom Josie and two young teens, Keira and Drew) terrified in their home. They live with the mother’s boyfriend, Stuart, and they can hear him coming in, drunk from his night out. This isn’t a new thing for Stu, and he often beats the family when he comes home like this. If they had anywhere else to go, they would. This night, he takes things much farther than he ever has before. Drew and Keira hear him beating Josie, but they lock themselves in Keira’s room out of sheer terror. When the noise from downstairs ceases, and the kids are fairly sure Stu has gone somewhere else for a while, they sneak down to the kitchen. The sight before them is nothing any child should ever have to see: their mother’s boyfriend has literally beaten her to death. Drew, age 16, makes his way to Stuart’s room and finds his gun, then shoots the man who killed his mother.

Keira calls 911 and the police and ambulance arrive at the residence. It turns out Josie isn’t dead after all, but Stuart certainly is. This, combined with the fact that Stu had already fallen into bed asleep, makes Drew’s assumption of self-defense a lot stickier. To make matters worse, Stuart Kofer was a well-respected sheriff’s deputy in town. Drew was unknown. So the dead man has a lot more friends than his killer, and in small town Mississippi, something like that can make or break a case.

No lawyer in the entirety of Ford County will touch the case with a 10-foot-pole. The judge finally forcibly assigns it to none other than Jake Brigance, the hero lawyer of A Time to Kill. After having been promised over and over again by the judge that the assignment is only temporary – just until he can get another lawyer to take the case – Jake reluctantly agrees. But of course, being the type of case it is (automatic death-penalty due to the fact that the victim was a cop), no one ever steps forward and Jake is stuck with it all the way through trial. After many twists and turns, including definitive proof that Stuart wasn’t the upstanding citizen he was assumed to have been, the case ends in a mistrial. This means that in some future, unwritten novel, young Drew will be forced to stand trial for this murder again.

My Thoughts

I was enthralled by this book from the very first page. I was so excited to have a fresh legal thriller from John Grisham that I had trouble putting the book down at night, no matter how tired I got. I was excited to see how that “definitive proof” I mentioned before (Stuart had been raping Keira and she was pregnant with his child) landed with the jury. As I read the book, I tried to see things from both sides, to be a juror on that case myself, and figure out how I’d vote. It was impossible.

And then I got to the end. The jurors in the novel agreed with me: it was impossible to decide whether to convict young Drew or not. On the one hand, he absolutely killed Stuart, a cop – mandatory death penalty. There was no question about that. On the other hand, it wasn’t like Stuart was innocent himself. But, as the prosecutors pointed out, Stuart wasn’t the one on trial. Drew was. But that didn’t persuade all of the jurors. They simply couldn’t agree, and the hung jury meant a mistrial. While I’m confident that was probably an accurate representation of what would have/could have happened if this was based on reality, I found it immensely unsatisfying in a novel. I wanted a more solid conclusion than that.

Despite that, I think Grisham stayed very true to his fictional Ford County, and it was good to see so many familiar characters seamlessly woven in with the new ones. If you don’t mind reading a book now that you know all the twists, I highly recommend A Time for Mercy.


Book Club: Waiting for Rachel

Book Club with Lori

Lori and I read a fun, easy book for December called Waiting for Rachel. It’s book one in the “Those Karlsson Boys” series by Kimberly Rae Jordan, and one I’ve had sitting on my Kindle for a long time. When circumstances pushed me to read instead of watching YouTube videos (lol) back in November, this is the one I picked. It was a delightful read!

66D90916-4A8B-494E-B97C-0FACC5F8545APastor Damian Karlsson is ready to start a family, and he’s been interested in Rachel Perkins for months. The only problem is that she, while interested in Damian too, is unwilling to start a relationship with him because of demons from her past. She’s convinced herself that she can never be the woman Damian really wants, no matter what he says. Will Rachel ever be able to make peace with her past? Can she tell Damian the truth about why she can’t be in a relationship with him? Will that truth change his mind, or will Damian and Rachel find a way to be together after all?

As I mentioned before, I really enjoyed this book. It was the first time in a long time that I found myself reading during the daytime instead of just in bed before falling asleep. I enjoyed the banter between Rachel and Damian, and I was definitely surprised by part of Rachel’s secret (though not all of it – the main part was obvious without needing to be said, but the cause behind it was unexpected). The final catalyst that pushed Rachel to finally share her secret was heartbreaking, and never fully resolved in this book. I definitely plan to get the two sequels to this novel in the coming weeks.

I will admit that Rachel’s stubbornness in not offering the truth sooner was a bit annoying, but not enough to keep me from reading the book, and I did enjoy it despite that.

Make sure to head over to Lori’s blog and read her thoughts on this book. And if you want to get your very own copy (which I highly recommend doing), it’s available as a free Kindle book on Amazon.


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Book Club: An Invisible Thread

Book Club with Lori

I’m so bummed out that I wasn’t able to read this book; it was on my “really want to read” list, and one that I suggested for Book Club. Unfortunately, the library didn’t have any copies available in time for me to get my hands on one – not even in the Overdrive Digital Library. Head on over to Lori’s blog, though, and read her thoughts.

This month we’re reading Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand. It tells the true story of Louis Zamperini, an Olympian turned WWII soldier. I’ve already got the audio book downloaded to my phone, so it shouldn’t be a problem getting my post up in December. See you then!


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