Book Review – The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

Book Cover: A Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

I was challenged by Stephanie, my cohort in the Book Club for Complicated House Plants, to read her favorite book and then we’d watch the movie together. Then my daughter Xe (pronounced: zay) came to stay with me for a few months. Upon learning I was reading The Glass Castle, she got really really excited because it is also one of her favorite books. She was unaware there was a movie, so we invited her along to be part of this adventure with us.

Movie Poster for the feature film based off of the book A Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

The Glass Castle is a memoir by Jeannette Walls that details her life growing up with her siblings, Brian, Lori, & Maureen and her parents Rose Mary and Rex Walls. It tells the story of their life growing up in the deserts of California, Arizona, and Texas before moving East to West Virginia. With parents who are always a little out of touch with reality, the kids grow up a little out of the normal parameters that we think of today. Struggling to make ends meet and almost consistently wondering where their next meal will come from, it takes a toll on the children.

An excerpt from the book A Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls.

Book Club for Complicated House Plants

Book Club for Complicated House Plants

Rex and Rose Mary Walls were unconventional parents, but were they abusive? Why or why not?
S: Does it have to be a yes or no question? Can it be both? Were they abusive? I would say no. They never struck their children, but did they put them in situations that required them to find different solutions? Yes. They taught them to fend for themselves; survival of the fittest. But are they also traumatized from their childhood? Yes, there’s some PTSD going on. But all in all it made them stronger adults.
A: Yes. Mostly because they were neglectful at the very least. They wanted what was best for their kids, but refused to do anything that would actually better them. Always on the road toward the next adventure, regardless of whether or not the kids had exactly what they needed. Though the kids were smart, they lacked the basic necessities on regular occasions.
X: Oh, yes. There’s not even a question about that cause how do you let your child burn making hot dogs when they’re three? Your three year old shouldn’t be anywhere near the stove. And when they’re visiting Rex’s mom, the scene with the brother [Brian] there was certainly some abuse there. He let his kids stay with her?

Why does Jeannette see more ambiguity in her upbringing than her siblings do?
S: I think because she had the closest relationship with their Dad. Seeing all the things he did and loving him through his addiction, and wanting to do better in her adult life. But even as an adult she still didn’t know how to do that.
A: I think it’s because she tried to see the best in her parents, instead of focusing solely on what they lacked. It gave her a bit more perspective when it came to her parents, but I agree, she struggled with that into adulthood.
X: She was very close with her dad, she saw more of the good side of him than her siblings did. Her relationship with her mom wasn’t as close as the one with her dad, but even then I think she was very understanding when her parents did do stuff wrong.

Many children grow up in poverty and have parents that abuse substances. Why were the Walls children able to rise out of their circumstances?
S: Because living through situations like that as a child teaches you how not to be. It makes you want to better your life so you don’t have to live the same way or you don’t have to put your children through the things that you encountered.
A: I think they saw their parents as a beautiful example of what not to do. That’s how I did it when it came to my dad’s drinking.
X: I think they were able to rise out of their circumstances because they saw their dad drinking a lot and didn’t like it. So they knew what not to do when they got older. They always stuck together too.

How do you think you would have reacted to being raised like a Walls? How would it change your perspective or approach to life?
S: I don’t think it would change so much seeing as how I grew up similarly to them. I wasn’t as nomadic, but at the same time to be on the poverty level that they were on, it makes me a little more grateful for the things that I have today.
A: I think I’d value things like running water, food whenever I wanted it, and a comfortable bed a lot more. Especially indoor plumbing. I think the reaction of Lori and Jeannette when they first get the apartment in New York is perfectly described as a paradise to them where as we might see it as sub-par from our own perspectives.
X: I don’t even know. I can’t imagine if my life had been like that. I probably would have felt bad about myself, even if that was selfish. I would definitely appreciate things more because I feel like I take a lot of things for granted.

Why did the parents follow their children to New York? Why did the children keep seeing them?
S: Because they’re a family and families stick together no matter how messed up they may be. Rex and Rose Mary love their kids and wanted to know that they were okay as adults as well.
A: I think that they just wanted to be with their kids. I agree that they’re a family, and family sticks together. Once all the kids were in New York, it was only a matter of time before they burned out their connections in Welch and joined them in New York.
X: I feel like just as much as the kids needed them when they were younger, they needed them as well. They obviously love their kids, and even though they abused them when they were younger, a parent loves their kids. I think that they wanted to support their kids.

Discuss Rose Mary Walls. What did you think about her description of herself as an “excitement addict”?
S: I don’t think she’s so much an excitement addict as she was selfish with her own wants. And that did portray her as an adventurous person, but I feel like that adventure was forced by Rex not keeping a job and her not working and them being forced to Skedaddle all the time.
A: I don’t think that she was an excitement addict so much as she loved her husband. It was one of those things she told herself so that she could continue being positive.
X: I think it’s not as much excitement, as she liked the adrenaline. You could see it when her and Rex would get into these big arguments that right after they’d be in love again.

How did the new scenes of Jeannette as an adult square with your read of her from the book?
S: Her portrayal between the book and the movie was not equal in any way. I think she was more sheltered and reluctant and not as eager to claim her parents as hers. I think in the movie maybe the people she was around influenced her feelings about her parents than in the book.
A: I felt like they were slightly disjointed. Like they didn’t quite fit. Like the target version of something versus the Walmart version. You have to look closely to find the difference but it’s there. She was quieter in the book, kept her head down and worked her way out of her situation through the determination of sheer will.
X: In the book I feel like she’s not as outgoing as the movie makes it out. I feel like she’s a little more reserved. And I think in the book it shows when she first sees her mom digging in the dumpster that she’s embarrassed of her parents.

How did the scenes of Jeannette as an adult change your perspective of her or her relationship with her family? Did it work for you? Why or why not?
S: It did to a certain extent. I feel like in the book her and her siblings were a lot closer than they were in the movie. They at least communicated more than they appeared to in the movie.
A: The movie made her seem a little more stuck up than in the book. You could see she felt affection toward her family, but the book explains it so much better. It was different.
X: Like Steph said, they were definitely a lot closer in the book and you saw how their relationship from childhood to adult hood grew and it was probably even bigger because they share that trauma. I feel like the movie showed them as separated and they hardly saw each other. I wish they had showed the relationship with the kids more than the relationship with the dad because the relationship with her siblings was a lot bigger.

The movie centers on Jeannette’s relationship with her father in particular. Why did they have a special relationship?
S: I feel like because she was the only one out of the kids that he gave a Nickname too they were closer and being a middle child, she definitely understood his addictions. She believed in him, and the glass castle, longer than everyone else.
A: He was closer to her than to her siblings. I think he loved them all equally, but if he had a favorite, it was Jeannette and her relationship with her father shaped her entire life.
X: I think the question he asked a lot throughout both the book and movie was “do you still believe in your dad” and she always said yes when he asked. They had more intimate conversations than he did with the other siblings.

How did Naomi Watts’ version of Rose Mary compare with Rose Mary in the book? Was she abused by Rex? Was she as good a parent as Rex?
S: I think they were equally shitty parents. I feel like she was portrayed in the book as a slightly more caring parent than in the movie. Only because in the book her and the children had more meaningful conversations about Rex’s addiction. I don’t feel like he technically abused her, because she knew about the situation at hand and did nothing to better herself or her children even though she had several opportunities to do so.
A: I felt like they left too much out of the movie for the character to pop. She came off more like someone who didn’t care in the movie, where as in the book we see that she does care about her children a lot, she’s just not a great mother. She’s the kind of person who would make an interesting friend, but not a good mother. The movie also didn’t show too much about how she struggled with depression and wrestled with doing the right thing.
X: I feel like they romanticized her as a mother more in the movie. In the books you could see she was as equally neglectful as Rex. When you watch the movie you think she’s just stuck but really she kept herself there. Naomi Watts’ version was terrible. I feel like they should have shown more interactions between the parents because they put a lot more in the book that showed Rex’s more abusive side.

What was your favorite part?
S: My favorite part of the movie was Christmas when they had nothing to give the children, and Rex took them out and gave them each a star (or planet if you’ll have it) because that’s something that couldn’t be taken away from them. And he was actually a smart man, so he was informative in telling them about the star or planet they chose.
A: When he gifted the kids the stars. That was smart, they may not have had much, but he gave them something that no one could take, and that was something they remembered fondly about their dad. He encouraged their adventures and reading. That was the greatest part. Despite everything they tried to teach the kids and they were all very intelligent, which probably made everything so much worse somehow.
X: My favorite part, which they didn’t add in the movie, was the tinker bell doll, because when she was trying to see her pretty face in the fire she melted. And even though her doll melted, she still loved it.

Any last comments about the book or movie?
S: Hands down best book I’ve read, I’ve related to it more than any book I’ve ever read.
A: It was a good book, I enjoyed it a lot. I can see why it’s Steph and Xe’s favorite book.
X: Pretty much what Steph said, it’s the best book ever, it’s my favorite book. The movie was nice but it did not stand to my expectations.

The Walls family

Ratings:

Stephanie: Five stars for the book hands down. Five stars for Woody Harrelson playing Rex Walls in the movie. And 2.5 stars, 3 if you’re lucky, because it was considerably inconsistent with the book.

Stephanie’s Rating: 5 Stars

Amber: I gave the book four stars, because it was really really good. I would actually give it 4.5, but I didn’t make graphics for half stars. Sorry. It was a good read, I don’t read memoirs often, and this kept me intrigued. I can see why Steph liked it, and Xe also. I loved it and I would read it again. The movie get’s three stars. Maybe. Woody Harrelson get’s five stars.

Amber’s Rating: 4.5 Stars

Xe: The book is five stars, immaculate, a masterpiece, the holy grail. But for the movie, I’ll give it a three. It’s only at a three because of Woody Harrelson’s immaculate portrayal of Rex.

Xe’s Rating: 5 stars

Well, that’s it for now. This is the first non-fiction book for the Book Club, so let us know what you think. What’s your favorite book? Alright my friends, I’m off. Be safe, drink your water, don’t eat yellow snow, and have an adventure.

Xe: Woody Harrelson should have played all the characters.
Steph: I concur. Except for Jeannette, who the child actor was Mountain Goat all the way.
Amber: *Shakes head fondly*

Bye Bye Butterfly

The Arkane World

Okay folks, it’s occurred to me that though I am now working on the third book for the Bluebird Chronicles, and I’ve told you quite a bit about different settings and characters, I haven’t told you much about the Arkane world. Even the setting for Port Shadeau (My Short Story Saturday series) is in the Arkane world and the rules aren’t exactly explained. I aim to rectify that in the future. Not only am I running out of settings that I can tell you about, not settings that exist mind you, but settings that I can reveal right now, but I want to start letting you in on more of the Arkane world than I can conceivably convey in just one series.

The Arkane world is vast. Made up of six Arkane Alliances that span several countries and continents, sometimes completely ignoring the boundary lines that we know on our own maps. The Alliances are made up of Territories, each of which is ruled over by the Crone of that Territory. There are thirty-three Crones in all, throughout the entire world. Serving under the Crones, and charged with keeping the peace between the Elentori (Magical Creatures like Vampires, Werewolves, etc.), the Arkane (Humans with abilities that pertain to one of the six elements), and the Karhu (Non-magical humans) are the sixty-six Sages, and the sixty-six Lords or Ladies. There are two of each per Territory. The Sages are primarily in charge of the Elentori population, where as the Lords and Ladies are in charge of the Arkane population within their specific Territory.

For example, Baxter Vartlett is the Crone in charge of Territory Three of the North American Arkane Alliance (NAAA). Working for him are the Sages, Atlas Rivers (Eldritch Demon), and Ivy Herrick (Vampire). They are in charge of the entire Elentori population residing within the borders of the Midwest Territory. Velvela Dewbrook and Antonella Havendale are the Ladies in charge of the Arkane population. The Karhu are regulated by their own governmental bodies.

If the Crones are equivalent to the President, the Sages and Lords/Ladies are the governors. It helps keep crime to a minimum, and peace between the three groups of people. There are members of the Karhu governments that do know about the Arkane world, though the number is limited.

The Arkane world boasts sixty-six schools designed to teach the Arkane children. They don’t start school until they turn sixteen and do not finish until they are twenty or twenty-one, depending on where their birthday falls. Some schools are smaller, but there are several larger ones that teach speciality information that isn’t as common. Arkane schools teach the Arkane children how to control their abilities as they correspond to the six elements: Earth, Air, Water, Fire, Metal, and Wood. As Arkane children hit puberty, their abilities start to manifest. They can be as mundane as helping plants to grow, like Cedar Wolfendale, or manifesting and controlling air currents in small areas, like Izara Sutton, who regularly floats six inches off the floor while wearing ballet Pointe shoes because she can. Then there are people like Keita Hayes, who when upset can burn the surrounding flora in a one-hundred foot radius from the inside out, or Rowan Alderton, who can manipulate emotions. There are also some abilities that are completely useless, and others that are dangerous, so training is very important.

In addition to the Elentori and Arkane populations, there are also magical creatures and other such things that exist as part of the Arkane world. I plan to get into all of them a little more deeply as the weeks go on, because explaining the Arkane world, that took me over a decade to create, with quite a bit of help, cannot be summed up in one blog post. This is just the introduction to a very long series. Come along for a ride and learn about the world that The Bluebird Chronicles and the next couple of series are based in. I can’t wait to show you everything.

Jackelope’s are just one of the many magical creatures that exist in the Arkane World.

So my friends, thanks for reading thus far. As always, be safe, drink your water, don’t eat yellow snow, and have a wonderful adventure this weekend my loves. Ta ta!

Bye Bye Butterfly!

Book Review – A Ruin of Roses by KF Breene

Still from Disney’s Animated Beauty and the Beast

Do I really have to tell you guys how much I love beauty and the beast? Like every single version of it. All the time. Beauty and the Beast is amazing to me. Like almost every girl I know, it was the library for me.

Anyway, so when I ran across A Ruin of Roses and heard that it was a retelling of Beauty and the Beast…but with dragons. You guys, I jumped over to Amazon and downloaded it onto my Kindle app really quick. I had to finish a couple of other stories before I could read it, but I was so excited. (And now that I’m done, I’ve downloaded the second one and you guys, can I just tell you how excited I am?) So, without further ado, let’s get into it shall we?

A Ruin of Roses by K.F. Breene cover

So like in the version of Beauty and the Beast that we all know and love, this story has a tragic sort of backstory, this one makes about as much sense as the one in the movie too. So, the kingdom is split into different parts based on the type of shifter that you are. Though by the time we get to the story, no one has that ability anymore and the entire kingdom is closed off and we’ll get to why in a second. So the Prince of the Dragon Shifter portion of the kingdom is rumored to have been married off to someone in one of the neighboring kingdom, and has been gone for years. The Queen died a long time ago, and the King makes a deal with the Demon King and a curse falls over the kingdom. The castle is surrounded by a creepy forest, you can’t travel out of town anymore, it’s all a big mess.

Fast forward a decade or so and we catch up with Finley who is attempting to take care of her family after her mother gets sick and dies and her father is now sick. So, she’s a bit busy. Part of what is causing everyone to get sick is a side effect of this curse that’s been handed down by the Demon King. The only thing that helps them is a drink made from the leaves from a very specific plant that is only found in the forest. (Of course it is….) So Finley sneaks into the woods, past the briars and heedless of the beasts that roam the forest at night and have already killed more than one villager.

She is successful the first time she goes into the woods, but the next time she goes back, after an interaction with our Gaston type character, and she actually gets caught, and it isn’t pretty. It’s the “Beast” that catches her and after an interaction he drags her back to the castle to be his prisoner and we walk into a whole world of crazy. Seriously, I cannot even tell how much I wasn’t prepared for what happens.

NOT FOR PEARL CLUTCHERS. Look, if you don’t like a lot of raunchy sex (for seemingly no reason), though this is a series and it did set the stage for some interesting developments. It’s an enemies to lovers, raunchy, story that is good. I loved it, I did.

Book Club for Complicated House Plants

What genre is this book?
This book, while a re-telling of a fairy tale, is labeled as the following genres: Fantasy Fiction, Erotic literature, Romantic fantasy, Paranormal fiction.

Did you race to the end or did it take you a little while?
I really wanted to race through this book, but I had to put it down quite a bit. The writing style was a little off my taste but I was able to put it aside and make it work. The story is good, if you can get past the readability of it. That was the biggest challenge I had, which happens sometimes.

Are there lingering questions from the book you’re still thinking about?
It ends on a cliffhanger, so I have some questions about that. Meaning that I’ll probably read the next one just to figure out what happens next. That’s usually why I keep reading something, unanswered questions, and if the storytelling is good. I’m a sucker for a good story. I also want to know about the rest of the kingdom, what happened exactly and how did we get to this point?

Which characters did you like best?
I actually rather like Nyfain. And Finley’s older brother, Hannon. I felt he had a firm grip on their reality and was doing the best he could do since he was in charge of their family now that their father was sick. Nyfain was a great representation of the beast. He’s got a lot of layers and he truly seemed to care for Finley. I’m interested to see what happens next.

Did the plot proceed in a way that felt natural? Or did you feel manipulated by the storyline?
I felt like I knew where it was going, at least on some level because it was a re-telling. However, I was always relatively surprised when something new happened. I thought there were places where the storyline seemed a little contrived and that there were movements where things seemed gratuitous. They didn’t need to be there and the story would have been the same, and yet, they were there anyway, maybe for shock value, who knows?

Would you fall for either of the leads?
Honestly, no. I don’t think that I would. Which is weird for a romance novel. I mean, I want to see them together, and I want them to be able to fix the kingdom, no matter what it costs, but I personally wouldn’t be attracted to either of them. Now, Finley’s brother Hannon, a man who stands up and takes responsibility for his family no matter the personal cost, that’s a guy I could fall for. Maybe because I’m older, I don’t know.

If it’s part of a series, did this book compel you to read the next one?
I do want to read the next one. I want to know what happens to Nyfain. I want to know what Finley is going to do to help. I want to know how they’re going to fix the kingdom, which I said already I know, but I need to know what happened. Contrived as some of this book may be, I will most likely finish the series because I want to know what happened. The cliffhanger at the end serves it’s purpose perfectly. It’s not exactly a happy for now end, and certainly not a happily ever after ending, but I need to know what’s going on.

Did you like the heat level of this book?
Though at times unnecessary, I did actually enjoy the heat level of this one. But it was more the connection between Nyfain and Finley. The growing heat between them as they progress, was fantastic. I enjoyed it.

Was the couple’s connection believable?
I think so. It’s clear that there is something there, on a soul level that they’re both drawn to, but I like that they don’t just give in to it and allow it to dictate their actions. Instead the relationship between Finley and Nyfain grows because they want it to, not because of whatever cosmic connection they have. In fact Finley actively tries to avoid it. I love that aspect of their relationship.

Did the book strike you as original?
I think that knowing it was a re-telling of something else before you read it, you’d be likely to think it wouldn’t be original. Despite the mixed reviews of the way it was written, or what you think of the amount of sex and the language used, the concept for this story is amazing. It’s an original idea that follows the framework for a tale as old as time. And I loved the idea of that concept before I even read it. It’s easy to forget it’s a retelling of a favorite story if you let yourself get lost in it.

A Ruin of Roses Aesthetic

Rating

Four Stars

I gave this story four stars. I liked the story, I was able to overlook the writing style, which again is just a personal thing. I did like this story a lot more than it probably sounds like I did. That said, dealing with the writing style, the parts that just seemed unnecessary, caused me to rate it below a five. (I’ve never said this, but if anything ever gets a 3.5 or lower, I just won’t review it here. As a writer, I know how much negative reviews can kill the motivation and muse, so I won’t review anything lower than a 3.5)

Four Flames

This book got a four on the heat level again, simply because I feel like the use of smut or scenes that depict intimate relationships should be done so with a mind to the needs of the story. I have written everything from closed door/fade to black to incredibly detailed erotica. I use whichever would be best for the story at the time. I think that on certain occasions, this heat didn’t fit what the story needed. Again though, the heat was good so I didn’t knock it down any farther than four flames.

So, that’s all for today’s review. If you like this kind of story, go read it. You’ll either love it or hate it, but you won’t forget it. I’m out for now. As always, be safe, drink your water, don’t eat yellow snow, and have an amazing adventure!

Bye Bye Butterfly

My Summer Reading List – Summer 2022

Amber Marie’s Summer Reading List Graphic

This summer I am going to read a lot of books. My goal is 12, but I’m sure there will be more! Between the Summer Solstice and the Fall Equinox there are exactly 12 weeks. My current TBR list…it’s over fifty books long. So there are a lot of choices. In the past I’ve decided what order I was going to read in, not this time. Several of these books don’t even come out at different points in the summer. Some of them are already out, or came out recently. I’m excited about it. So without further ado, here’s the list. Read with me if you want. Or feel free to suggest more books that you think I should read.

Amber Marie’s 2k22 Summer Reading List
(In order of publication date)

Temptation by Ivy Smoak – published April 8, 2015
Suddenly Dirty by JA Law – published April 1, 2016
Mr. Perfect by JA Huss – published April 27, 2016
It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover – published August 2, 2016
Firefighter Griffin by Zoe Chant – published December 3, 2016

Greed by Lana Pecherczyk – published July 8, 2019
Bad Prince by Lilian Monroe – published October 1, 2019
The Longing of Lone Wolves by Lana Pecherczyk – published June 8, 2020
Curvy Girls Can’t Date Quarterbacks by Kelsie Stelting – published July 31, 2020
Promises and Pomegranates by Sav R. Miller – published August 10, 2021

Reborn by Anne K. Whelan & Liz Cain – published August 13, 2021
Hooked by Emily McIntyre – published September 7, 2021
A Throne of Ruin by K.F. Breene – published November 12, 2021
Things We Never Got Over by Lucy Score – published January 13, 2022
Shattered Altar by Nicole Fox – published April 28, 2022

The Wild Side by Cassie-Ann L. Miller – published May 12, 2022
Filthy Rich Vampire by Genova Lee Albin – published May 24, 2022
Phoebe by Minerva Spencer – published May 31, 2022
A Frankness of Character by Pemberly Darcy and A. Lady – published June 3, 2022
Filthy by Tia Louise – published June 9, 2022

Hell Gate by Veronica Eden – published June 9, 2022
Rowan by Robin D. Mahle – published June 9, 2022
Alpha’s Redemption by Skye Wilson – published June 13, 2022
An Unpleasant Sort of Man by Michelle D’Arcy – published June 14, 2022
Blind Side by Kandi Steiner – published June 15, 2022

(These titles not yet published)
On Thin Ice by Kat Obie – published June 23, 2022
Not a Vampire by Auryn Hadley – June 24, 2022
Tangle of Dragons by Jane Darkspire – published June 27, 2022
The Dead Romantics by Ashley Poston – published June 28, 2022
Yellow by N.M. Burns – published June 29, 2022

Click the Bell to Subscribe by N. M. Burns – published June 29, 2022
Captured by Billionaires by Drusilla Swan – published June 30, 2022
The Phoenix Prophecy: Nova by Cara Clare – published July 1, 2022
Deucalion Academy: Pawn of the Gods by Ruby Vincent – published July 2, 2022
Audrey by Elle Lincoln – published July 5, 2022

The Sedition of Sophie Covey by Tana Rose – published July 5, 2022
Blood and Vows by K. Easton & Amanda Richardson – published July 7, 2022
Amp by Sybur Phyre – published July 11, 2022
Noire by Anna Fury – published July 12, 2022
Demons So Dark by Alessa Allure – published July 22, 2022

Midnight Sin by Morgan Elliott – published July 26, 2022
Silenced by Jayce Carter – published July 26, 2022
A Vampire in Rosings Park by Penelope Talbot & A. Lady – published July 30, 2022
Invoking the Blood by Kalista Neith – published August 2, 2022
A History of Vampires: A New Queen by Amanda Lewis – August 8, 2022

Ruthless by Gena Showalter – published August 9, 2022
Consort by Ada Dart – published August 14, 2022
Dawn of the Dark Ice by Grady P. Brown -published August 21, 2022
Small Town, Big Magic by Hazel Beck – published August 23, 2022
Numinous by Victoria Woods – published August 23, 2022

Sanctuary by Holly Hanzo – published August 26, 2022
Pack of Lies by Charlie Adhara – published August 30, 2022
Wolf Found by Kaylin Peyerk – published August 31, 2022
Vamps: Fresh Blood by Nicole Arend – published September 1, 2022
The Siren and the Water Witch by Cameron Allie – September 16, 2022
Fated to be King by Skye Alder – published September 16, 2022

That’s the list. I hope you enjoy it. If you decide to read along with me, let me know which ones you pick and what you think of it! You never know, I could just invite you to help out with a Book Review for Complicated Houseplants! Well, that’s it for now my loves, as always, be safe, drink your water, don’t eat yellow snow, and have a wonderful adventure!

Bye Bye Butterfly

Working with an Editor

Editor Aesthetic Picture

Before I got signed with Clan Whelan Publishing for The Bluebird Chronicles, it was called The Ashes and Stars Series. Back when the first book was called Noctivagus and I had finally finished the first draft of it, I sent it over to an editor friend of mine named Erika over at The Word Nerd. She’d never edited fiction so we worked out a deal, and she did a Manuscript Evaluation for me. Took her about a month to get back to me, and while she loved the story, there was a lot that needed to be fixed. While she had that I started working on the second book in the series.

When I got the eval back, I was a bit of a mess. My mom had just died and it was a lot for me. It was the first time anything of mine had really be critiqued and I felt some type of way about it. After a couple of weeks, I sat down and really read the feedback Erika had provided. Turned out to be really good. She pointed out several things that I could change and several creative ways to do it. Overall, the feedback really helped form the second draft of the story and though it took almost a year, I was able to rewrite the story, and it was better the second time around. It was the version I submitted to Clan Whelan that got me the publishing contract in the first place.

The Werd Nerd logo

Throughout the difficult rewrite process, Erika was patient and didn’t mind scheduling several meetings with me as I worked through the information and tried my best to incorporate it into something that was a feasible story. In fact, it was scheduled to go back to her in May of this year, but I signed with Clan Whelan Publishing in February instead.

When I was in the beginning meetings with the publishing company I now call home, I told Erika about it and she checked with her multiple resources, like I had my own, to ensure they were a legitimate company. When the contract came, she was one of the people I had look it over for me. Then we had a conversation about what I should ask them in reference to several aspects of working with them. She was extremely helpful when it came to completing my journey, and one of my biggest supporters.

A sneak peek at Erika’s book cover. She’s so proud of this. And so am I.

Erika and I have known each other a number of years and we were friends before she ever edited a word for me. I was so excited to work with her. She helped more than I can convey in words. She helped me refine everything I needed to. I can’t wait for her to be able to read the version of this story that actually gets published. She has a book of her own coming out soon and I cannot wait to own it. It’s a dicktionary or expletives for editors. As an author, I plan to pick it up so I can write my expletives correctly and save my editors some work. I’m so proud of her. She’s amazing.

Find her over on her website, or her Facebook page. Give her a shoutout and if you’re looking for an editor, she’s amazing and comes highly recommended. That’s it for me today my lovelies. As always, be safe, drink your water, don’t eat yellow snow, and have an amazing adventure!

Bye Bye Butterfly

Nora Kate Whitley

It’s that time again! It’s time for another character profile, this time it’s Nora. Nora, as you learned last week is dating Penelope’s cousin Rich Cunningham. They’ve been together almost a decade at this point, and while they eventually plan to get married, but they just haven’t done any planning for it yet. Nora is one of the people Penelope considers family at this point, even if for some reason her and Rich break up, she would stay Penelope’s friend.

Emilia Clarke – Face Claim for Nora Whitley

Nora grew up in London with her parents. She took a job at a local pub after college and that’s where she met Rich. She and Rich got along so well that they started dating. It didn’t take long for them to move in together, or for her to settle into her life with him. Though they’ve been engaged several years, they have made no plans to get married yet. She prefers to stay home while Rich travels the world, and since they don’t really need the money, she’s content to continue working at the pub, which she loves. She’s now been made a manager there, and she loves it.

Face Claims (L-R): Bailey, Penelope, Nora, and Callie

Nora met Penelope when she flew to Rome with Rich and Noah. They were going on vacation and Rich invited Penelope to join them if she could. She was able to get a few days away and it didn’t take long for Nora and Penelope to become friends. Nora came to visit her and Callie in La Maddalena a couple of months later, and the three of them get along like a house on fire.

When Penelope and Callie were transferred back to the US, Nora stayed friends with them, being added to the group chat and at one point coming out for a week without Rich, since he and Noah were busy. She was introduced to Bailey then and the friendship between them, that had started in the group chat already, blossomed into something real.

As much as Nora is friends with Penelope and Bailey, her best friend on the planet is actually Callie Gracen. For all of Callie’s sarcastic boldness, Nora is quiet and sweet…to most people. The two of them initially bonded in Italy with their love of the same drink. Which then grew into their love of the same books and movies. Despite the geographical distance between them, they are ride or die for one another.

Face Claims: Aiden Cunningham (L): Kit Harrington; Paisley Cunningham (R): Rose Leslee

Aside from Penelope, Bailey, and Callie, Nora does have other friends. She’s been engaged to Rich so long that she’s not sure they’ll ever actually get married and she’s okay with that. She isn’t in a rush to get to the alter, which is unlike most women her age. She’s confident in her relationship and she knows that they can survive anything. He is always there for her and never lets her down. She couldn’t hope for a better man.

Rich’s family has also been quite welcoming. She gets along well with his sister in law, Paisley Cunningham, and his brother, Aiden Cunningham. The girls hang out quite often, whether Rich is home or not. Nora likes that the Cunningham family has completely embraced her, since her own family is small and quite cold from time to time. Rich’s family is not, and she is always invited to every family event, with or without her fiancé.

Paisley Cunningham (L) & Nora Whitley (R)

Nora is one of my favorite tertiary characters. She’d be secondary, except she isn’t a large part of this story, though she is important to it. The friendship that she has with everyone draws everyone together. She helps keep the balance between the crazy life that Rich leads and the real world. It’s important for him to come home to her for that balance and love. I hope you enjoy this character as much as I do.

As for me, we’re done for now. Have a great day everyone! Don’t forget to be safe, drink your water, don’t eat yellow snow, and have amazing adventures!

Bye Bye Butterfly!

Bailey Stills-Parker’s House

There are so many settings that help shape The Bluebird Chronicles stories. One of the major ones is Bailey’s house. It’s the center of Penelope’s life in Illinois. She has her own room there, sort of like an in-law sweet. Complete with her own entrance and exit to the house. It’s Bailey’s oasis, the one place she loves, and Penelope loves coming home to it.

Bailey’s House in Southern Illinois.

When the Sawyer family moved to Michigan, they kept Penelope’s Grandmother’s house. She had no need of it after moving back to England and while they used it until Penelope and Cohen left for school. Cohen had initially wanted it, but after his death, they planned to sell it. Bailey was looking to move out of her parents house, and was interested in the property. The Sawyer’s cut her a deal, way below market value, since they really didn’t need to make a profit on it, they owned it outright. With help from her parents, she was able to purchase the house and still have enough left over to renovate the entire inside. She made the floor plan a little more open, took out one of the upstairs bedrooms and added in a small living room feature just outside the master bedroom. It was then that the basement was finished and Penelope’s suite was included as well. She’s still paying on the house, but her payments aren’t that much, which allows her a little bit of freedom when it comes to her life.

Kitchen (L), Living Room (C), and back deck (R).

Her first act of business was to renovate the first floor, allowing the kitchen and living room to feel a little more open. It created a bigger feel to the room and after finishing the space with the deck outside, she loved the way it looks. The laundry room is also on the same floor, along with a nice pantry. The stairs upstairs and the stairs to the basement are near the kitchen and they’re wide enough that moving furniture up and down are not a problem.

Bailey’s closet, bedroom, and master bathroom.

The next thing she worked on was the upstairs. First she started with her own bedroom. She made it spacious, and added a walk-closet, making the bathroom a little smaller than it could have been and taking out one of the guest rooms to make room for the closet and the small living room that sits outside her door at the top of the stairs. Bailey decorated with burnt oranges and colors that felt homey and warm. She wanted to make it lively, and feel happy, even if she’d had a rough day.

Guest Room One (L), Guest Room Two (C), Sitting Room (R)

Once she’d finished her room, she moved on to the guest rooms upstairs. Though basic in theme, she wanted any potential guests to feel comfortable. The decor matches that ideal and looks well. The small sitting room outside her bedroom is decorated in the same theme as her room, or close to it. Moving the colors out and blending them so that the guest rooms, the bathroom, and the hall all came together beautifully.

Bailey spends a lot of time in the sitting room. She has a desk in the corner where she does her school work or looks over cases she brought home from work. She’s amassing a small law library on the shelf next to her desk in the corner, but she’s happy with it. In the evenings when she doesn’t have class, she’s apt to sit at her desk while Asher sits on the couch playing video games until they’re both ready for bed. She finds the entire thing domestic and wonderful.

Penelope’s bedroom (L), Living Room (C), and Bathroom (R).

The last thing she worked on was Penelope’s basement suite. Once everything else was done, Bailey was able to move into the house and they worked on Penelope’s space downstairs with a lot of input from Penelope. The room is smaller, barely bigger than the queen sized bed and night stands that Penelope chose for the room. There is a small reach in closet on the same wall as the door and other than that, it isn’t large. The living room is full of soft and comfortable furniture. Penelope enjoys her space as much as she can. She has a desk off to the left of the living room, a small office, not much more than the desk and book case next to it. It’s sufficient if she has to work from there, but not as nice as her office at home. The bathroom is comfortable, but like everything, it’s smaller than what she has at home. It was never designed to be permanent, just comfortable for her when she’s on vacation. She loves that she has a door that leads directly outside so she can come and go as she pleases, which is helpful if she arrives late at night.

Laundry Room (L), Stairs to the upstairs and the door to Penelope’s suite (C), Penelope’s outside entrance (R).

Bailey’s house is comfortable and is one of the major settings throughout the series. I’m hoping that you enjoyed this look into her sanctuary. It’s a beautiful thing that Bailey has created and it’s good that everyone feels comfortable hanging out there.

Well, until next time my friends, you know the drill. Be safe, drink your water, don’t eat yellow snow, and have an adventure.

Bye Bye Butterfly ❤

Book Review – The Spark by Vi Keeland

So I read The Spark by Vi Keeland, and as you know, Vi Keeland is one of my new favorite authors. This book was awesome. I loved the Male Main Character, Donovan, he’s dreamy and the perfect guy, as far as I’m concerned. So read on and get to know not only Donovan but Autumn as well.

The Spark by Vi Keeland (2021)

Book Club for Complicated House Plants

Donovan Decker is a lawyer with a complicated past. He accidentally swaps luggage with Autumn Wilde and when they go to switch it back, they end up spending the weekend together. Though they don’t have sex during these couple of days, it’s quite intense for both of them. When Autumn disappears at the end of the weekend without giving Donovan any clue of how to find her.

The story then skips almost 10 months and Donovan’s boss asks him to take a pro-bono case. Since he’s trying to make partner, he begrudgingly accepts the case. When he gets to the precinct, he’s sitting and waiting for the social worker before he can meet with his underage client. When the social worker arrives, it’s Autumn. He’s excited to see her, but not so excited when he finds out that she’s casually seeing his boss.

Graphic made by @TotalBookAddicts and stolen from Pinterest by me

What was your favorite part of the book?
I really enjoyed Donovan. He’s a good guy and I absolutely loved how much he was willing to not only help Storm, his underage client, but actually put him on the right path with resources and by introducing him to Bud, Donovan’s mentor from when he was Storm’s age.

What was your least favorite part?
I kind of hated the pseudo relationship with Donovan’s boss. The guy was kind of an ass and clearly wanted more than Autumn did out of the relationship. It was irritating.

How does this books title work in relation to the books contents?
I think it’s appropriate to the relationship between Donovan and Autumn and their initial weekend together. There is a spark and though Autumn tries to hide from it, she can’t deny it in the end either.

Which characters did you like best? Which did you like least?
My absolutely favorite character is Donovan. The man had a complicated upbringing that you would think make him hard and a little jaded, but it didn’t. He is the sweetest guy, who fights for what he wants, and not in a bad way. He isn’t afraid of having emotions, and though he sounds like the perfect dude, he has some flaws. I even love the quirk that he steals the smaller travel size products that hotels have in their rooms, even though he’s a successful lawyer and doesn’t need them. It’s a throw back to his childhood that he just can’t quite shake.
My least favorite character is Autumn’s ex-boyfriend. I don’t want to go into too much detail about this character, but I got bad vibes from them immediately. There are notes in the margins of my book that detail that I’m having some issues with this character.

What are your thoughts on the books structure? Did it serve the book well?
The book is set up in dual POV, changing with the chapters, though it isn’t always a consistent back and forth. There are sixteen (16) chapters from Autumn’s perspective versus the nineteen (19) from Donovan’s. This structure works great for the story that’s being told. Each chapter is told from first person, which works great to get the emotion of this story, which really makes it.

Are there any character you’d like to deliver a lecture to? If so, who? What would you say?
Autumn’s father. How dare he. How dare he not have his daughter’s back in favor of other people? There’s more I’d want to say to him, but that will be spoilers and I don’t want to do that.
Also Donovan, control your temper darling. While that was heroic, it wasn’t the smartest move. Though I love you for it.

Did you like the heat level of this book?
I did actually. It was steamy for the little bits that we got. I absolutely loved it. Very hot. Especially when read by a fire.

Was the couple’s connection believable?
Look, I believed that they instantly hit it off. I also believe that Autumn is a fool to walk off without a word. Though I get it, I do, but girl. Get it together. You can’t be afraid of the possibility of love forever. Come on. I believe that Donovan is head over heels for the girl that got away, and that once they reconnect, he’s driven by the what could be. The more he finds out about her, the deeper he falls. Autumn, girl. Get it together, he’s amazing.

Would you ever fall for either of the leads?
If you haven’t figured it out yet, yes. I would love a guy like Donovan. He’s amazing for a thousand reasons. And hot dude. Like….my single self would say yes in a moment. For sure.

What is your favorite quote from the book?
“Do you think a kiss can be better than sex?” – Donovan Decker.

Aesthetic Picture from Pinterest for “The Spark” by Vi Keeland


I really liked this book. Steph read it with me, but she never got a chance to finish it, because life. I loved this book. It was easy to read and a fun little romance. If you haven’t read it yet, it’s a good read for by the pool or for late nights or whatever. It’s good and worth it, at least to me.

Star Rating: 4 stars

I gave this book four stars. I loved it, don’t get me wrong, but some of it seemed to drag. Though Donovan was a great character with a great backstory, he deserved a little better. Autumn still had a lot of stuff to work through with her therapist, and maybe should have been doing a little more to work on herself instead of hiding in relationships that would never go anywhere. It’s a self-protection thing, which I get, but girl. Do better.

Heat Rating: 4 Flames

The heat level is only a 4 as well. There weren’t a lot of graphic scenes, since Autumn spends most of the book dating Donovan’s boss. But dude. That kiss at the party….ooo….I had to fan myself. It was hot. Every time they do have a moment like that, it’s just as steamy. It deserves this rating. If there had been more, it would have gotten more, but what was there, worked for the story.

Aesthetic Picture for The Spark by Vi Keeland stolen from Pinterest.

Well, that’s all we have for today. Check out The Spark by Vi Keeland and tune in next week for another book review from the Book Club for Complicated House Plants. <3.

As always, be safe, drink your water, don’t eat yellow snow, and have amazing adventures!

Bye Bye Butterfly!

Happy Birthday to ME!!

June is my birthday month. When I was a kid, I loved that my birthday was six months from Christmas. Presents every six months. The perfect set up when I was a kid. With back to school time and easter falling somewhere in the middle, I got stuff every six months. Which mostly meant new books for me, because I am a giant book dragon. Or, if it wasn’t new books, it was new music. Or movies. All three were my go to presents. Until I started writing, then all I wanted were notebooks and pens. It works out great for me.

As an adult, I value the time I get to spend with my friends and family more than physical items. Now when my birthday rolls around, I spend some time reflecting on the previous year. The personal wins, the personal losses. I flip through them like a memory book, and decide what I will and what I won’t go into the next year with. I let go of emotions that do not support the goals that I plan to achieve in the coming months. This year was no different. When my birthday hit on the seventh, I took stock of my life. Of the past twelve months and did what I always do. So here, is my manifesto for the next year.

Amber Marie, Age 37

This year, I will not be putting up with things that do not serve me. I will not tolerate Racism, Homophobia, Transphobia, or anything that you want to call a phobia but isn’t because you aren’t really afraid of it. I will not tolerate negligent and purposeful stupidity. I want to level up. I want to surround myself better, both in mind and in body.

I’ve been going to the doctor, I’m going to physical therapy for my knees. Next will be for my back. I’m only 37, I’d like to be able to play with my grandson as he gets older. I have an appointment at the VA to see how bad my carpal tunnel, ulner tunnel and my tendonitis has gotten, and take the steps necessary to fix it if I can. I’m seeing specialists to see why I get dizzy when I’m sitting down. It’s all a little scary, but I’m doing what I can to get it figured out. I’m drinking my water, taking my vitamins, and doing my yoga. I’ve started a low-impact boxing regimen from home with Dribble Up boxing gloves (which I absolutely love by the way).

In addition to all of those changes, I’ve made the decision to go back on my ADHD meds. It’s been chaos around here and I need to focus up a little better. So back on the meds we go until I can get the coping mechanisms readjusted. Which isn’t something I’ve ever shied away from, nor will I ever. My neurodivergence will never, ever go away. I made my peace with that a long time ago. So, now we go through the cycle of coping mechanisms, and medication as is needed. It’s fine with me. I don’t mind. It helps.

Theo, the newest addition to our little family.

In addition to the mental and physical health stuff, I have goals. By the time I turn 38, I will have all five of The Bluebird Chronicles books written and turned in. At least the first drafts. Two down, three to go. I’ve outlined the third book, and have started writing it. I just have to finish it, and the next two. It’s an achievable goal if I keep working like I have been.

I also have other ideas that need to be fleshed out and edited. No Ordinary Love is in the midst of a re-write, turning it from Third person to First person. Reworking it so that both Ember and Mason have an equal voice in the story. I think it will strengthen it and make it better. Then I think I’m going to shop it around a bit. Once that’s finished, there’s a few more projects I’m going to work on. Starting with It Could Be Monsters and Black Balloon. The goal is to get these published, whether I do that with self-publishing or finding a traditional publisher like I did for The Bluebird Chronicles, that’s yet to be determined. My goal is simply to finish them.

Me and My Grandson. He’s 3 months old and amazing.

In addition to my personal writing goals, I’ve made some professional ones. I like my job, don’t get me wrong. That picture there, that’s in my home work office. Different from where I create, it’s where I do my job. I get a lot of downtime some days while I work. I like it, don’t get me wrong, but it doesn’t make me happy. It pays the bills and I get to help people. It is fulfilling, it’s a fabulous opportunity, yes, but I don’t want to do this forever. So, I’m making some changes. I’ve reworked my resume, found a way to add my writing experience into it. I would like to write for a living. I’ve signed up to do some ghost writing through a company, and while it might not pay enough to quit my job, but it’s enough for a side hustle. At least until I can get my feet wet in that kind of industry. But being able to write all day, everyday, that my friends is the new dream.

I once said that I wouldn’t want to write for a living. I wouldn’t want to take something I love so much and turn it into something I didn’t want to do at the end of the day. I’ve grown, I want to write. So, I’m going to make that a reality. If I can’t be writing full time by the time my next birthday rolls around, well, I hope I have some more professional work to make my resume shine. Even if all it does is help pad my professional Freelance career. Here’s to hoping it works.

Theo, helping me write. Or so he thinks. He’s not very good at it, but he tries.

Speaking of side hustles, I’m working on a few other things that would help with my passive income. Help me build a little more than I currently have. I keep joking that I’m building an empire, but that really is what I’m trying to do, just on a small level. I want to be able to live a happy and free life, doing what I love. These are just the first steps. Hopefully by next year, I’ll be ready for phase two, or phase three. Cross your fingers.

I’m not taking anyone, or anything into the next year that doesn’t help help me achieve these goals. I have two kids turning eighteen before my next birthday. Another one right behind them. All but one of my kids are high schoolers now. Two freshman, one Junior, and two Seniors. It’s insane that it’s happened so fast. I blinked, so don’t do that. I swear. Don’t. Before I know it, my grandson will be walking and talking and I don’t know what to do with that.

My Cousin Stephanie and I at the Halsey concert she bought me tickets to for my birthday. Was an amazing show! I will never forget it!

So, happy June everyone. I hope your summers are amazing and fun and full of adventure. I hope you create memories that you cannot forget. I hope that everything you want to happen this summer, happens for you.

Until next time my wonderful friends, drink your water, don’t eat yellow snow, and have an adventure. ❤

Friends Forever?

Face claims for Bailey (L), Penelope (C), and Callie (R)

One of the primary things that holds The Bluebird Chronicles characters together is the friendships that have before the story starts, and the ones they make along the way as well. While I like writing romantic stories, my favorite ones are always those that have something more going on than just a romance. I hope that I can do that as well. As most of us know, there isn’t always just one thing going on in our lives, when romance hits. It’s never just that. There’s always something else as well.

I hope that by sharing some of these friendships, everyone can get a deeper understanding of these characters before you get to meet them on the page. I’m so excited for it. So, this first one is probably the most important. Penelope being the main character and all, it’s important to know where she comes from. Who her people are. Perhaps the most important people that she has, are her best friends.

Katie McGrath: Penelope’s Face claim

Penelope Sawyer was four years old when she met Bailey Stills-Parker. They were kind of thrown together while their family’s spent time together. Penelope, for her part was overjoyed to finally have a new friend to hang out with instead of just her brother Cohen, and his friend Micah. Micah, was finally happy to have a baby sister of his own, just like Cohen. It didn’t take long for Bailey and Penelope to form a fast friendship that couldn’t be severed, no matter what.

Melissa Benoit: Bailey’s Face Claim

By the time they were in high school, they were more like sisters, along with their brother’s, the four of them spent most of their time together. By the time that Cohen and Penelope left Illinois to move to Michigan, even the distance couldn’t dampen the friendships they shared and they continued on into adulthood unfettered.

Chyler Leigh: Callie’s Face claim

When Penelope joined the military after high school, she met Callie Gracen. They’ve became fast friends and that hasn’t changed. Through Penelope, Callie met Cohen and after a few meetings, the two began dating. They were about to get engaged when the unthinkable happened. Penelope and Callie were both due to get out of the military and while Penelope did, Callie didn’t. That change did nothing to dampen their friendship.

Photo by APG Graphics on Pexels.com

Penelope introduced Bailey and Callie and the rest is history. The three get on like a house on fire. Though the distance between them is vast, the advent of technology and group chats has made everything easier. The girls regularly talk in the group chat they’ve created. Though they don’t get together often, when they do it’s always chaos. There is drinking and adventure and they renew their bonds of friendship in the oldest ways.

Emilia Clarke: Nora’s Face Claim

Though not as close Bailey or Callie as Penelope is, Nora Whitley is the fourth member of their little group. She is dating Penelope’s cousin Rich, and has been for a number of years. She’s met Bailey, and Callie at different points, and though they don’t get a chance to hang out as often as they’d like, with Nora living in London, when they do it’s always special. She rounds out the group. Bailey and Penelope are ride or die for one another. Callie and Nora are the same. For some reason the two developed an immediate bond and that doesn’t ever diminish. The four remain fast friends.

Photo by vjapratama on Pexels.com

As a writer, I had a lot of fun creating these characters. Though they might have been defined by events out of their own control, they have a lot of fun together and show that it really doesn’t matter what life throws their way, the four of them will face it together. In spirit if not standing back to back. Everyone deserves a friend like that. A friend that is ride or die, and always has your back. I hope that everyone who reads The Bluebird Chronicles thinks of their best friend when they see how the four of them interact. I hope that everyone has at least one friend as good as these four are to one another.

I’ll see you guys next time. As always, be safe, drink your water, and don’t eat yellow snow.