Lowcountry Bribe: A Book Review

Lowcountry BribeLowcountry Bribe by C. Hope Clark is the perfect fall read. It is the kind of book you curl up with for a weekend along with your coffee and a warm blanket. But be warned! It is hard to put down once you start reading. I finished it in two sittings. Lowcountry Bribe is a fast-paced mystery with an amazing protagonist, Carolina Slade. First, I love her name! Second, she is a great protagonist. She is not Ms. Perfect.  She is flawed in her own unique ways and that is refreshing. She makes mistakes and poor judgments (as we all do) and we get to witness the consequences for the choices that she makes.  Carolina Slade isn’t the only loveable character. There is also Wayne, the hunky but somewhat troubled investigator who often butts heads with Carolina Slade, and Carolina’s quirky and energetic best friend Savvy. In addition to these loveable characters, C. Hope Clark gives us plenty of unlikeable and suspicious characters, enough to make us wonder who the guilty party really is all the way until the end.

Besides the great cast of characters, I also loved the fast pace of Lowcountry Bribe and how C. Hope Clark ended each chapter in such a way that it was nearly impossible to put the book down without reading just…one…more…chapter. The development of the characters was done really well, too. Even though I feel like I was given a satisfactory ending to the book, I can’t wait to read the next two books in the Carolina Slade Mystery series (Tidewater Murder and  Palmetto Poison) and  to see where she takes the characters. And if that isn’t enough, C. Hope Clark has a new mystery series, The Edisto Island Mysteries, and has just released the first book, Murder on Edisto.


I love the rain, its muffled sounds through the glass pane in the morning before the sun glows above the rooftops and spills into the room one slat space at a time. I love the practice of opening blinds each morning flooding life into empty rooms. Rain gives shape to the air, animates the motionless gray of the streets. It is the tiny cold tips of needles tapping my skin with a temporary chill, then sliding away as if it had never existed. Yet the sensation is still there – lingering – like the ghost of a discarded lover. It is the permission I need to let go as it washes away the to do to do to do, sweeping it away to rest in someone else’s yard, where they can pick it up and carry on.

What I Learned From Jane: A Guest Post by Mollie Player

Today I have a guest post by Mollie Player of www.storiesandtruth.com. In it, she shares with us an excerpt from her book, “What I Learned From Jane.” This portion takes place in the days following the death of her child, Baby Jane, in which she tries to find meaning in the experience.

That night was hard, but Friday night, two nights later, was even harder. I could not sleep and as I lay in bed I thought about all of the things I didn’t do that I should have done.

I should have held her more, I thought. I should have stayed with her at the hospital every night.

“It was too short,” I kept saying to David as I cried. “It was too short.”

The following Sunday, I went to church for the first time in a long time. It was a non-traditional church where people believe things like karma and reincarnation—and Jesus, too.

I liked it a lot.

During the service, I cried a little. Then, after the service, I prayed with someone and cried a lot more. The minister saw me and came over to talk. I told her what happened and said through my tears, “I want to know where she is.”

“Why do you ask that?” she said. “Why is it so important for you to know?”

“I don’t want to believe she’s in heaven,” I said. “I don’t think she is. I think she is still with me.”

The minister said that she believed I could be right; Jane could still be here.

“I don’t believe in heaven,” she said. “I believe that those that pass on are still with us, but they’re on a different level, one that we can’t see right now.”

“Can I talk to her, then?” I asked.

“Yes,” she said. “You can talk to her, even out loud, and I think she will hear you.”

That helped . . .

. . . And that, my friend, is the story of what I learned from Jane.

Now, I still don’t have a religion. I probably never will again. But I have something else, and it is, as I said before, something big.

Something much bigger than any one thing can be on its own.

I feel more now. I love people more. But more important than all that: I have, once again, learned to expect miracles.

I don’t know what the miracles will be, of course. Right now, I don’t even have a guess. But I am going somewhere that I wasn’t going before, and my life is larger than it used to be: larger than my own happiness and larger, even, than the happiness I can bring to others.

It is as large as my soul.

Of course, I am not always full of faith, even now.

The truth is, I only have this kind of faith part of the time. The rest of the time, there is nothing—only emptiness, and when I see Jane’s picture, I just see what could have been, not what is, still, somewhere, wanting me and waiting for me to be with her again.

The truth is, most of the time I have very little faith or none at all.

But I want more.

Maybe someday I will have it.

Maybe that will be my miracle.

To read true stories every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 8 a.m. about how the law of attraction and spirituality changes people’s lives, visit Player’s blog at www.storiesandtruth.com.

What If?: A Book Review

When I first started reading What If?, I got quite irritated (as the author warns that you will). I sat it down for a while and then came back to it. I’m glad I did. Eldon Taylor argues for and against some of our most ingrained personal beliefs – such as capital punishment, abortion, and taxes. He takes us through “thought experiments” – some real and some imagined – to bring us to question what we think to be true. Then he follows each thought experiment with tough, thought-provoking questions.

One of the most thought-provoking questions for me was, “If this were true, would you behave any differently?” To put it into perspective, one example where this question was asked was in the discussion of the existence of an afterlife. Taylor gives several different sides of the afterlife debate, and at the end of each he asks if you would behave any differently if that particular belief was true.

What Taylor does so well is to show that there really is no certainty in the beliefs that we hold. A belief we may cling to for years can one day be completely obliterated in favor of a new belief based on knowledge we have gained. Taylor goes through much of why we believe what we believe and the manipulation that takes place in order to get us to believe one way or another. He suggests that, rather than ever taking someone’s word for something, we investigate it ourselves and come to our own conclusion based on the facts, not propaganda. I have seen this in my own life. Just in the last seven years my life has changed dramatically – mostly from personal experience and exposure to things I thought I understood but did not. My beliefs are unrecognizable in comparison to the beliefs I held seven years ago.

What If? is a challenging book, and one that will leave many of us feeling unsettled – in a good way. Through the emotions that Taylor’s questioning evokes, we learn where we hold rigid beliefs and in turn where to begin to open our mind to other possibilities. Taylor doesn’t give answers to the questions he posits, though he does offer some personal opinions in some of the scenarios. His purpose for writing What If? is to get us to answer the questions for ourselves so we can better understand who we are and why. Many of us are mindlessly walking through life as followers and never quite understand the underlying reasons why we believe what we do. If we were challenged on our beliefs, many of us would be hard-pressed to come up with a fact-based, non-emotional response to our challenger. What If? is a great way to start on the journey towards self-awareness so that we can better understand ourselves, speak confidently about what we believe and why we believe it, and take action based on those beliefs rather than standing on the sidelines waiting for someone else to do it.

One last question from Taylor to leave you with: “What was your last truly original thought?”

Jackie After O: A Book Review

Every once in a while I come across a book that grabs my attention and doesn’t let go. Jackie After O is one of those books. Tina Cassidy does a fantastic job of presenting the facts about Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis’ life in 1975 in an engaging way. She provides us with important background information that helps us better understand the scope of what Jackie endured and what she ultimately accomplished. Cassidy captures the era in which Jackie lived and the expectations of women at that time through Jackie’s experiences. Though Jackie was extremely intelligent, she hid that intelligence and instead portrayed the expectations set upon her by others – the quiet, demure, supportive wife who was only interested in homemaking and her husband. We learn about the true Jackie who was a great journalist, editor, and preservationist; a voracious reader of the classics; and a woman with a level of tenacity rarely seen. Jackie did the majority of her important work behind the scenes and always credited others for her accomplishments. Cassidy provides amazing contrast between the true Jackie and the superficial Jackie everyone believed her to be. She provides examples of the outside perceptions of Jackie through headlines and personal comments of others and then provides examples of what was actually going on in Jackie’s life at those moments. There are many examples of personal commentary by those who met Jackie that exemplify the stark contrast between how Jackie was perceived by outsiders and the media and the person she truly was behind the façade imposed upon her.

Jackie After O is so important in helping us understand that what we see in the headlines and how we perceive others to be is not always true. Those thrust into the spotlight often take on a public persona that shields their own vulnerabilities and perceived flaws. The most haunting example of this is the photos Cassidy provides us. In nearly every photo, Jackie has on her picture-perfect-plastic smile for the cameras even though many of them were taken when she was experiencing unimaginable devastation in her life. What Cassidy captures so well is the humanness behind the iconic figure that Jackie was. Jackie made mistakes, as well all do, but her mistakes were paraded in front of her and in front of the entire world. And yet, she continued to improve herself despite the ridicule she faced; she continued to evolve as a woman in an era when women were not supposed to aspire to anything beyond being good wives and mothers; and she continued to make the best of every situation in which she found herself. Jackie was a woman of action and we can all learn from her bravery and courage in the face of life experiences many of us will never endure.

Bloom: Finding Beauty in the Unexpected – A Book Review

Bloom emerged from a blog author Kelle Hampton began shortly after her first daughter, Lainey’s, birth. Through her blog, Enjoying the Small Things, Hampton wanted to share with others the simple joys of motherhood she was experiencing.  She could not have foreseen how the birth of her second daughter, Nella, would challenge her so vigorously to continue to find a way to enjoy the small things. Bloom chronicles Hampton’s coming to terms with having a child with Down syndrome, her grieving process over her expectations of what could have been, and her resolve to take the situation that was handed to her and make the best of it. Bloom is by far the most visually beautiful memoir I have seen. The photographs included are stunning and bring Hampton’s experiences to life for the reader. One of the most wrenching photos is on page 7. Family and friends are toasting Nella’s birth and in the background, behind the half-full glasses of champagne, you can see Hampton’s face and it is clear from her expression that she already knows something is not right with her daughter.

Bloom is so much more than just Hampton’s experience learning that her daughter has Down syndrome. It is a testament to the miraculous healing power of family, friendships, women, and forgiveness – not just forgiving others, but forgiving ourselves as well. When I started reading, I thought this was another memoir that sugar-coated the process that a mother goes through when they find out their child has a special need. Being a mother with a child on the autism spectrum, I needed to see how someone else handled learning their child has special needs and how they came to terms with it. I needed the good, but I also needed the downright ugly. It was so refreshing to see that in Bloom. Oftentimes, when I read a memoir that only highlights the rainbows and butterflies and skips over the tornadoes and hurricanes, I feel like a horrible person, like somehow I should be able to make every day full of rainbows and butterflies. I needed to read something I could relate to, something that showed what it’s really like to find out your child is different from what you had expected and Bloom filled that need. I love the authenticity Kelle Hampton exemplifies; the courage she shows through her willingness to bring us fully into the ugly. It is ugly, this awakening. It is an awakening to our own selfishness in our expectations for others and our prejudices towards those we don’t perceive as perfect. It is an awakening to just how much we define ourselves by what other’s think of us and it brings us to a place where we question our beliefs about ourselves, our world, and God. As we see in Bloom, though, the beauty far outweighs the ugliness, and if we choose to let it, that beauty can transform the ugly from a raging wildfire into a tiny flicker.

Bloom spans the first year of Nella’s life and I love how Hampton shows that the fears, the questions, and the journey itself, does not stop just because we’ve learned to accept what we have been given. It continues and the ugliness can creep back in if we do not make a conscious choice each day to keep it at bay by focusing on the good that surrounds us no matter how small. Hampton’s journey to find the beauty in the unexpected and her truth on how she got to that point will help so many others start searching for and find the beauty hidden in the ugliness of their situations too.

Hampton addresses in Bloom how her positive outlook about Nella’s diagnosis caused uproar with some of her blog readers. She was told that she was in denial and to wait until Nella got older and her services ran out and she’d have to fight to get the care her daughter needs. Then she would fully understand the awfulness of her situation. I am there now, and yes, it is hell, but I don’t believe keeping a positive attitude about your situation is ever a bad thing. It is beneficial to warn others what might be up ahead, but not beneficial to scold them for enjoying the time they have right now. I think it is wonderful that Hampton has the blessed opportunity to enjoy her daughter at a time when every need she has is being met and that she has the mindset to enjoy it instead of focusing on what might happen years from now. It is one thing to be prepared for what might happen and quite another to be so worried about it that you don’t enjoy what is happening right now.

This is a wonderful book for anyone who is facing a crisis that has led them to question everything they thought they knew about themselves and about life. It is an uplifting, transformative memoir. We are witnesses to the shattering of Hampton’s tough outer shell in the midst of tremendous heartbreak and the emergence of her true, authentic, beautiful self that had been patiently waiting for the right moment to be revealed.

The Moment: A Review

The Moment is a collection of short essays from 125 writers and artists that focuses on a particular moment in time that significantly changed each author’s life. The collection comes to us from the creators of the Six-Word Memoir series and Not Quite What I Was PlanningSmith Magazine. There is such a wide variety of essays in this collection that it will appeal to almost everyone. I actually brought the book to my writing residency and shared several of the essays I thought were relevant to some of my peers and their struggles with writing and life. It includes essays from Dave Eggers, Diane Ackerman, Elizabeth Gilbert, Bill Ayers, Jennifer Egan, A. J. Jacobs, Judy Collins and many more. This is a book you will want to come back to again and again especially when you need inspiration on those days when you believe everything is going wrong in your life. Below is a brief description of just a few of my favorites.

John B. Carnett, in his brief essay “Birth,” discusses the moment he realized he was using his camera as a buffer between himself and the life unfolding in front of him. It brings forth the question: What do we use as a buffer to distance ourselves from what is happening around us? This might seem odd, but sometimes I feel like my glasses provide a buffer between me and others.

Diane Ackerman has a beautiful essay entitled “Love in a Time of Illness” about her husband’s stroke and his slow recovery and the skills he developed to compensate for what he’d lost. It is heartbreaking and at the same time so hopeful and inspiring.

In “Momento Mori,” Adam Theron-Lee Rensch takes us on a haunting journey into how he believes he accidentally killed his father by rearranging the furniture in his father’s apartment in an attempt to keep his father from getting hurt should he wake up drunk and fall.

Another haunting essay is “Forgiven” by Jennifer Thompson. In the essay, Thompson takes us through her experience watching a man be convicted of her rape, finding out eleven years later that he is innocent, and the beautiful aftermath of what should have been an unthinkably horrific experience.

These are only a few brief descriptions of what you will encounter in The Moment. It is a book that will have you reflecting on your own life and the moments you’ve experienced that changed everything and will serve as a reminder that even the worst of experiences can turn out better than you ever expected.