Book Review│The Companion by Kim Taylor Blakemore

the companionIn the same vein as Margaret Atwood’s Alias Grace, we meet a young woman, accused of a horrible crime, but even when she begins to tell us her story, we can only help but wonder just how innocent and truthful she really is. Kim Taylor Blakemore delivers with The Companion. Set in 1855 New Hampshire, The Companion, follows Lucy Blunt as she is set to hang for a double murder. However, as readers, we are kept in the dark as to who she is actually accused of killing and the events the led up to the murders.

Instead, we spend the novel feeling tense and isolated as the story of Lucy Blunt unfolds. She is a sheltered servant who is spending a winter at a remote estate– the Burton mansion– which is almost as cold and isolating as the winter. Lucy arrives at the estate with a fake letter of reference in pursuit of employment. She is taken in by the Burtons and quickly develops a close bond with Eugenie Burton, the lady of the house who is also blind and hyper-aware of her surroundings. This happens in part because her companion, Rebecca, a rather insufferable woman, falls ill early on. When she recovers, there is a clear jealousy between the two women over the affection of Eugenie. This is further fueled by the ideas of class and placement in society– Lucy is just the kitchen help, who is she to be favored by the lady of the house?

The tension is further fueled by the nuances of a lesbian relationship that begins to unfold in the house. The sex scenes are there and they are not graphic or out of the blue. They align with the overall gothic feel of the book and lend to the tension and bleak excitement of the story. Overall, a solid read that will keep you guessing and immersed in the world of 1855 New Hampshire and the gray winter that surrounds and lends to the emotions of much of the novel.

Book Information

The Companion by Kim Taylor Blakemore was released on January 14, 2020 from Lake Union Publishing with ISBN 9781542006392. This review corresponds to an advanced electronic galley that was supplied by the publisher in exchange for this review.

Has New Jersey Become a Nazi State?

The following is the e-mail that I sent off to my district senator and assemblymen on Friday. I am just so disgusted. I urge you to do the same between now and Monday which is when they will be voting on this bill and these disgusting amendments:

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Dear Senators and Assemblymen,
I am a resident of [the Jersey shore] as well as a mother and a public school teacher. I hold a doctorate in education. I am writing to you today because I am absolutely disgusted by what is going on in Trenton concerning S2173. Many years ago, my family came to this country to escape the tyranny, but yet, here were are in 2020 being told that I will have to comply with outdated science and allow the government to dictate to me what goes into my child’s body so that he may attend a public school that I help fund through my property taxes. This is insane to me. Are we Nazis? As an educator am I going to be expected to follow the ways of the Gestapo and single out unvaccinated and vaccinated children in my school? This amendment is beyond ridiculous– posting on a school building the number of unvaccinated children? What is next? Also sharing how many kids with Hepatitis and HIV we educate? This is a gross violation of student and family privacy and has no place in public education.
This bill in its entirety is a gross example of government overreach. It is taking away rights of our citizens and of parents to make the best decisions for their children and their families. To allow this to pass will be a gross miscarriage of justice and will result in many families pulling their children out of schools all together. This will be large enough where school funding will be hit hard.
As Americans, we are entitled to practice our religion freely and our kids are entitled to a FREE PUBLIC EDUCATION that is FREE OF DISCRIMMINATION– all this bill will do is create an “US” and a “THEM.” Hitler rose to power in a very similar way– he was welcomed by the masses who slowly began to believe in the “US” and “THEM.” By removing children from public education that is funded by their parent’s property taxes and forcing them to pay for private school is just modern day segregation and also not a reality for most New Jersey families. Further, black males are the population who have shown the highest risk of vaccine injury and are often highly represented in high poverty communities. They will be forced to vaccinate because there is no way that students living in high poverty will ever be able to afford a private education. How is this not modern day segregation and enslavement??
I implore you Senator, to do the right thing and stand with the people of NJ and their God-given rights to practice their religion and their approaches to parenting in how they see fit.
Sincerely,
Dr. Katherine Kuzma-Beck Hart

The Hart Home│New Jersey Parents Won the Battle of Religious Freedom

It was 2004 when I really began working with children. I was fresh out of high school and I had began doing summer camp before I went off to college. I remember that part of my life very vividly because it was the beginning of my thinking about becoming a teacher, but more so, I remember thinking how different these kids were compared to the ones that I had only baby sat 4 years ago.

I had kids with peanut allergies so severe that they had to sit at peanut free tables and one kid, had to have an epi pen near him at all times just in case he so much as breathed a speck of peanut dust. It was mind blowing me to me and even though I was only 17 at the time, I did wonder what was causing all of this because it just wasn’t normal. Something had to be causing this whether it was in utero or something else that they were being exposed to.

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I never questioned vaccines. And that summer I also had to get vaccinated for meningitis so that I could live in a dorm.

Years later, I was a new teacher and went to the doctors to have blood work done. They did a full work up including blood panels and later called me to tell me that I had “waning immunity to meningitis and needed to get the shot again.” I remember being scared–how did I make it through living in a dorm and not getting meningitis? I had gotten the shot, how could it not have worked? Vaccines work! And I stupidly made an appointment and I got a double shot of meningitis.

That was the year I got sick with every little thing that was around me and at the time, I chalked it up to teaching, but I had been teaching for several years at that point, you’re usually not getting everything after three years of exposure to all kinds of kid germs.

When my son was born, I really went down the rabbit hole because I wanted to really know exactly what I was giving him. And it blew my mind. It scared me what we do to kids because we think we’re protecting them. We’re not. We’re injecting them with all kinds of junk that causes so many other autoimmune disorders and yes, even mental disorders. As a teacher who works with special education students, I have seen it grow worse. Kids who can not control their body, their words, their impulses…the list goes on and on. We are slamming their growing and developing brains and bodies with aborted fetal DNA, animal DNA and a host of known neurotoxins from the time they are growing in our bodies to they are adults themselves.

However, in this entire debate, what shocks me the most is how you have so many people (most aren’t even parents) that think that they have a right to berate you for so much as even questioning vaccines. I remember when my journey began with my son, a woman that I had grown up with and who I haven’t spoken to outside of likes on Facebook for many years, commented that I should “focus on my PhD in education and let real doctors research the science.” I laughed and it only fueled my journey more. We all need to come together and agree at the heart of either side of this, are parents that love their children and want what is best for them. We also really need to look at these liability free products that are manufactured by the same Big Pharma companies that gave us the opioid epidemic and wonder why it is that after they were granted immunity from the law, that they haven’t done a safety study like they were supposed to over the last 30 years? And it’s not because these products are safe. In fact, the supreme court has even ruled that vaccines are unavoidably unsafe.

So, knowing all of this, why do we have state officials thinking they have any right to our bodies or those of our children? If you watched the proceedings yesterday in Trenton, you witnessed how Steve Sweeney, an uneducated, unintelligent, puppet of the Big Pharma companies try to bully and strong arm this bill through because he has taken over $100,000 in campaign money from these very same companies. He was shaken and sweating last night as the state house shook with the chants of 6,000 parents outside who were not going to let this political thug come between themselves, their children, their pediatrician and their God.

As parents in this state, we need to repeat what we did in Trenton yesterday and make our voice heard loud and clear: our bodies are not governments to buy and sell and neither are those of our children’s. Laws like S2173 violate our constitutional rights to freedom of religion and they also violate federal law which states that everyone is entitled to a free, public education that is free of discrimination.

Pulling kids out of schools to homeschool is not the solution because they’ll just come for them next. And for those people who support these bills and think that that is the only solution, I then ask, will families who do not support vaccination then get a full refund of the property taxes allocated to schools since they are barred from entering them themselves?

S2173 will appear again in January and we parents need to fight for our rights to raise our children as, we their parents, see fit…not big government, not Steve Sweeney and not Big Pharma.

Thank you to the senators who stood on their moral ground and said no to the bullies in Trenton yesterday. Thank you Senators Joe Lagana, Mike Testa, and Vin Gopal. We appreciate what you did for us and it will be remembered in next year’s elections.

The Hart Home│Religious Freedom is Under Attack in NJ

This Thursday, December 12th, the assembly in NJ will be making a decision concerning religious exemptions in New Jersey for families who do not vaccinate their children due to deeply held religious beliefs but send them to public school. Until now, we have had the freedoms to make the choice to protect our religious beliefs by not vaccinating our children and we were able to send out children to public schools. Schools that we fund with our ever-growing property taxes.

Now, NJ democrats are trying to get this in around the holidays hoping that people will be too distracted to notice that they want 35,000 of NJ families who are currently using a religious exemption (about 2.5% of the population in NJ) to have their children removed from public education.

This disgusts me on so may levels. First, as a public educator, it is my job to ensure that my students receive an education that is free from discrimination. However, this will not be the case for many families who refuse to vaccinate their children. They will be forced to home school, but I am sure, much like California, once this passes they will be moving towards forcing even homeschoolers to vaccinate and submit documentation.

As a catholic woman, this further disgusts me because I live in the United States of America where I have constitutional rights to practice my religion freely. Further, as a catholic I am completely pro-life and I do not believe in the killing of anyone, but in this instance I do not believe it is God’s law that babies are aborted, killed, so that these scientists can get immortal cell lines to grow these vaccines to then inject my son with fragmented DNA from dead children. This violates God’s law in that he shall not murder and it also violates his word that we must keep our blood pure. Vaccines are biologics. You are injecting your children with much more than just a weakened infection.

And as a mother, this disgusts me because it makes big government dictate to me how I am to raise the child that God has given me. It violates my deeply held beliefs and seeks to put me against my God. It is disgusting that NJ government can even entertain the idea that they have any right to do so.

This bill is just the beginning of what they want to do to New Jersey. Up next? A bill that would mandate the HPV vaccine which is killing, paralyzing and sterilizing kids for NINE YEAR OLDS. Why does a 9-year-old need to be vaccinated for a disease that is only spread through sex? There is no logic behind it and I could go on about the deep seeded corruption in government and how their hands are deep in the Big Pharma pockets, but I won’t because this week, that is not at issue.

This week is about how NJ wants to strip me and my son of our constitutional rights to practice our religion freely and to not inject ourselves with DNA from dead babies. By doing so we are complicit to the murder of innocent lives and we are not right with our God. I am praying hard for NJ.

Call to Action:

IF you are just as appalled by all of this, like I am, you need to contact your senator and really, any NJ senator and express your concerns about your religious freedoms. You need to show up at the state house annex in Trenton on Thursday and express your disgust for this totalitarian bill. YOU need to FIGHT for YOUR RIGHTS. You can not be complicit. This is not about being pro or anti, it’s about keeping YOUR RIGHTS to YOUR KIDS.

Sponsored: Lucy Darling BOGO Wall Art

Lucy Darling is a website that markets itself as “simple keepsakes and gifts for busy moms.” Their stuff is super cute! They have things for girls, boys and special gifts such as memory books, wall art, children’s books and even adorable loveys. This link will take you to their BOGO wall art sale and if you haven’t already, you can sign up with your email to get an additional 10% off on your first order!

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Sponsored: Harry Potter Look and See Box

I am just about winding down Christmas shopping for our little man. Toynk Toys has a great selection of fun and nerdy gifts and it’s where I found a few things to order for my husband to geek out to while our son losing his mind on Christmas Eve.

You can snag your box of Harry Potter goodies here —>
Harry Potter Slytherin House LookSee Box Contains 7 Harry Potter Themed Gifts

Each box comes with SEVEN THEMED items that are house specific. I definitely won’t complain if a Ravenclaw box finds me this Christmas….;)

Book Review│The Dead Girls Club by Damien Angelica Walters

cover165462-medium I recently got really into Marianne on Netflix. I binged the entire series in a weekend and was superbly creeped out the entire time. I loved the idea of a centuries old demonic witch having controlled a young writer into telling the world of her stories so that she could use the magic of influence to continue to kill and mame through brutal accidents each time the woman wrote a book. It was really well done and if you have a weekend where you just want to binge something creepy, I highly recommend it.

Similarly, Damien Angelica Walters takes us on a journey through the past and present to bring to life the story of a decades old murder and the tale of The Red Lady. Years ago, Heather was part of a club with her friends. They called it The Dead Girls Club because they would sit around and tell stories about death, the macabre and serial killers. Somewhere along the line, one of the girls, Becca, introduces the story of The Red Lady, who is a witch that was killed centuries ago.

After the story is shared, strange things start happening to the girls and ultimately tragedy strikes that summer when one of the girls is killed. Was it really The Red Lady or was it just hysteria among a group of 12-year-old girls? Years later, Heather is bent on finding the answer as she takes us back through her story and we weave into the past and present trying to put the pieces together. As Heather gets closer to the truth, mysterious threats and clues arrive, bringing Heather into a panic…who could really know what happened that summer? Who would know and why are they coming forward now? Heather becomes lost in a sea of time and regret, unable to distinguish between what is real and what is not, leaving us readers in just as panicked a state as we try to reach our own conclusions on whether or not Heather had killed Becca 30 years ago or if The Red Lady is, in fact, very real.

The Dead Girls Club by Damien Angelica Walters is the kind of horror thriller that will keep you reading until the early hours of the morning. This is a book that will keep you on your toes and won’t let you go until it’s done. Walters crafted a solid plot that immediately pulls you in and drives you through a roller coaster of events and moments before reaching it’s inevitable end. Just be sure to read this one with your lights on and your husband near by because you will feel the hairs on the back of your neck stand up and little noises will send  your book flying across the room– a wonderfully written thriller.

Book Information

The Dead Girls Club by Damien Angelica Walters is scheduled to be released on December 10, 2019, from Crooked Lane Books with ISBN 9781643851631. This review corresponds to an advanced electronic galley that was supplied by the publisher in exchange for this review.

Book Review│The Third Rainbow Girl by Emma Copley Eisenberg

cover163695-mediumDid you ever find that you have something that constantly pops into your life? For me, that is West Virginia. When I was little, my dad’s company would often send him to WV for work and those were the longest weeks, waiting for him to come home. When I got older, my first real-world love was from West Virginia and ironically, worked for that same company. Now, I have to laugh when our new principal talks about her life growing up in West Virginia and our other vice principal walks around the halls with a WVU alumni mug. Last week, I had one of my students tell me that he was going to be missing class this afternoon because he was leaving to head on down to…West Virginia…to see the WVU game. West Virginia…I feel like it finds me everywhere.

When I was offered the chance to review Emma Copley Eisenberg’s The Third Rainbow Girl: The Long Life of a Double Murder in Appalachia I knew that it was kismet and therefore, had to be reviewed here on my blog. Because? Well, West Virginia of course!

“Misogny is in the groundwater of every American city and every American town, but for me, it was done here.”

– Emma Copley Eisenberg

If you aren’t familiar with Eisenberg’s book, then you should know that it is a true crime novel centered around the events that occurred on the evening of June 25, 1980 when three girls were traveling to the Rainbow Gathering in Pocahontas County, West Virginia. Two of the women, Vicki Durian, 26, and Nancy Santomero, 19 were killed in a clearing while the third woman lived. In 1993, a local farmer was convicted of the crimes, but was ultimately cleared of the charges when a known serial killer and diagnosed schizophrenic named Joseph Paul Franklin claimed responsibility.

West Virginia is a mixed bag of extremely rural, mountains and small city life once you edge into Charleston or to Morgantown. Where the murders occurred, the area is still extremely rural and most view it as being an area filled with people who are poor, uneducated and backward– capable of extreme measures.

Eisenberg lived in Pocahontas County for a few years and the novel that she writes weaves together pieces of her memoir, facts about the case and the uniting thread that brings together the ideas about the case with a way through the haze of the passage and time and grief that has seemingly buried this cold case into local lore. Eisenberg takes facts from documentaries, local accounts and documents which do become lost and almost overwhelmed by her own opinions and thoughts on the murders and her views on life overall.

At points in the novel, I felt as though I was reading an extremely condescending view of West Virginia and everything that transpired because there was such a focus on the writer being “woke” as opposed to focusing on what the novel was ultimately about: true crime and the murder of these two women in a clearing. I would be interested to read more from Eisenberg as she finds her voice as a true crime writer. What really could not allow me to pick my own jaw off the floor as I read, was the pervading misogyny throughout the investigation and evidence files that Eisenberg presented. I couldn’t believe how many hands that were involved in this felt in some way that the two women almost deserved what they got because of the hippie lifestyle that they chose to live. Overall, a very interesting case and a solid start for an emerging new true crime writer.

Book Information

The Third Rainbow Girl: The Long Life of a Double Murder in Appalachia by Emma Copley Eisenberg is a true crime novel that is scheduled to be released on January 21, 2020 from Hachette Books with ISBN 9780316449236. This review corresponds to an advanced electronic galley that was supplied by the publisher in exchange for this review.

Book Review│Raven Lane by Amber Cowie

raven laneI originally requested a galley of this novel because I was most interested in the author. Amber Cowie has most definitely lived the writerly life. She has worked as a smalltown newspaper reporter, as a front desk person for a remote hotel between England and France and served hot chocolate in Scotland’s only ski resort. It’s safe to say she has many more stories to tell us. What I also loved so much about her is that she is also a wife and a mother now which gave me hope, especially after my last post.

I found the premise of the book to be interesting, in that, so many of us leave the flightly world of being young for the more settled version of life on a cul-de-sac with our partners and families. For some of us, that life is idyllic and it means that we have made it. For others like,  Esme Werner, she struggles with life on the cul-de-sac. She is haunted by old ghosts, including the fact that she had been raped and she still questions the paternity of the daughter that she loves so much. This also leads her to question her love or lack of love for her husband, Benedict.  Everything begins to culminate when Torn, the street’s omni-sexual and local best-selling author, is the victim of a hit and run. His voice continues throughout the book as there is also a story within a story as we are taken through the events juxtaposed with Torn’s book, The Call.

Through the use of Torn’s novel, we get a deeper look at the monsters that are fictionalized within the story and those “real-world” monsters that are living every day on Raven Lane. Benedict and Esme had been celebrating Benedict’s new contract at work, sharing some wine and enjoying each other’s company when he decides to go to the liquor store for more wine. While backing out of his driveway, he hits and kills Torn. At first, this looks like a horrible accident, but upon further investigation, the police uncover that not only had Benedict been drinking, but that there were also drugs in his system. This propels the novel forward, creating a rich narrative that takes us from past and present and unleashes many of the dark secrets that Esme and Benedict held as well as the secrets that suburbia overall likes to hide behind white picket fences.

In the same breath as Big, Little Lies, Cowie’s Raven Lane takes the reader on a spiral down past the glittery images of suburbia and deep into the lives and lies of the people who live on the cul-de-sac. Overall, a quick and enjoyable read that will leave you with a few surprises and an understandable ending–a solid weekend kind of read.

Book Information

Raven Lane by Amber Cowie is scheduled to be released on November 12, 2019, from Lake Union Publishing with ISBN 9781542003728. This review corresponds to an advanced electronic galley that was supplied by the publisher in exchange for this review.

 

Book Review│Don’t Keep Your Day Job by Cathy Heller

day jobI am in a really weird phase of my life. I have a job that I have loved for years, but now I had my doctorate and the job that I do have really only requires a bachelors. I find myself growing bored with my day to day life and I feel resentment building when it comes to being unable to stay home with my son and write books all day and teach college classes. It’s a sore spot in my marriage lately and we both feel my overall frustration in feeling stuck in a job that in many ways I have mastered. I am stuck between wanting more and less at the same time.

It’s a weird phase in my life like I said. I also feel really stifled creatively and sometimes when I daydream lately I find myself thinking back to that time in my life when I was newly graduated from college and maybe if I hadn’t pursued this life, maybe if I had just struggled even harder than I did, maybe I would be doing something more along the lines of writing full time and teaching college part-time. I don’t know for sure and I definitely don’t regret the life I have built, but I think I am just at a point where I want to see a change in my professional life that would allow me to be home with my baby more and would challenge me in new ways than teaching hs been lately.

I was excited to receive a galley of Don’t Keep Your Day Job because I thought that it might give me some great advice or some great push towards pursuing something new and exciting in my life. However, there was no great secret to how the author got to where they were and I also found that there was a profound lack of gratitude for the luck and support she received in abandoning the every day 9 to 5 life for the creative life.

I think many of us would like to quit our jobs today and pursue a life that we are passionate about, but with real-life responsibilities like kids, families, mortgages and paying for health insurance…I just didn’t see how I would ever be able to take that leap like so many described in this book. It’s a well-written book and if you like her podcast, this would seem to be a new way to look at it, but for me, I was just disappointed that there wasn’t some magical answer about how I could change my life today. Unlike those that have been able to make careers out of their passions, I do not have a support system…I am my own support system nor do I have the funds to pin together finances while I fight to make a living like I do through teaching. The basis of the book, seemed completely unrealistic to me unless you were someone much younger with access to parents who could financially help you and few to none responsbilities.

Which, I suppose, is more reflective of me than it is of this book. Overall, though, I will stick to listening to the podcast.

Book Information

Don’t Keep Your Day Jobs by Cathy Heller will be released on November 12, 2019, from St. Martin’s Press with ISBN  9781250193605. This review corresponds to an advanced electronic galley that was supplied by the publisher in exchange for this review.