Book Review – Bittersweet by Miranda Beverly-Whittemore

bittersweetHappy book review Friday and Happy Halloween!! Before you all go off trick-or-treating,  I’d like to share another book review with you.

Bittersweet is a story about Mabel Dagmar, an unprivileged, plain girl and her college roommate, Generva Winslow, the self-centered, beautiful, wild, privileged girl. Generva or ‘Ev’ as she refers to herself invites Mabel along to her family cottage in Vermont for the summer. On the land Ev’s family has owed for over a century, each family member owes a rundown cottage individually named after plants or trees; Ev’s cottage is called Bittersweet hence the book title. Mabel jumps at the chance to enter the world of this rich, secretive family for the summer, but definitely doesn’t get all that she bargained for. Ev’s outcast Aunt convinces Mabel to go spying on the other family members and searching through piles of old papers in search of a deep dark secret that will expose the family and take them down. Mabel agrees to find this mystery envelope which is said to hold all the answers and in exchange for finding it, the Aunt promises Mabel her cottage. As the story develops, more family twists and turns are revealed and Mabel finds herself in a mess of terrible discoveries. 

The synopsis of the book really intrigued me and I couldn’t wait to read it; however, the beginning chapters of this novel have a lot of descriptive narrative, which at times I found difficult to get through. There was so much detail written of the land, the cottages, the lake, etc that my mind was overwhelmed with images and couldn’t focus enough to get a clear picture. I actually skipped over quite a bit to start, but the author seemed to tone down the description as the characters and the story began to develop. I have to admit I was hooked on the story chapter by chapter thereafter waiting to find out what Mabel was going to discover in the Winslow’s dark past. The author did a pretty good job of keeping the suspense throughout the novel though some of the twists were a bit far-fetched. Nevertheless this was an excellent beach read for me as I lounged on the beaches of Maui for 11 days a few weeks ago. 

I will give Bittersweet 4 out of 5 stars because of the overuse of description and the lack of character depth. I would still recommend it as a good read if you can read it lightheartedly and not take it too serious. You suspense story lovers out there should enjoy this one as a quick read.

As always, thank you for reading my review. If you happen to pick up this book, please let me know what your thoughts are and if there’s a book out there you think I should read, let me know. 🙂 Until next week! Have a happy weekend and happy Halloween!

❤ Melissa

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Whistler Readers and Writers Festival

slider-festivalHappy Friday! Hope you all have had a good week. I have had an amazing couple weeks. At the beginning of October we spent eleven days in Maui relaxing on the beach then last weekend I spent in Whistler enjoying the Writers Festival.

This was my first writer’s festival and I didn’t really know what to expect, but I had my notebook ready in my hand and my mind open to learn. I started at 6am Friday morning driving up the treacherous Sea to Sky Highway. It was pitch black dark and pouring rain the whole drive up, but slowly I made it. My first seminar was The A to Z of Self Publishing with Martin Crosbie. After having his book turned down over one hundred and thirty times, he self-published his first novel and subsequently became an Amazon bestseller. The seminar was all about Crosbie sharing his tips and tricks on self publishing. He shared a lot of the things that he did wrong when he first went to self published his first novel; basically the what to do and not to do’s of self publishing. It was all day seminar which he mentioned he normally teaches in a weekend, so my head was overrun with great information. He provided great tips on using Amazon as your distributor. I’m still not sure if I’m going the self publishing route when I complete my novel but I definitely feel like I have a great head start on how to do it if I decide to.

On the Saturday my first seminar was writing descriptive prose with Steven Galloway, the director of the University of BC’s Creative Writing Program. He captured my attention with whole two hours with his advice on writing prose. He was funny, interesting and according to many people in the audience a brilliant writer. I, myself, haven’t read his work, but I did send one of his book’s to my Kindle to find out. My second seminar was ‘Good Writing is Rewriting’ with Charles Foran and I was looking forward to tips on editing and maybe some advice on how to appreciate it because I loathe doing it. (That’s a blog for another day.) I didn’t really get what I was hoping to from his lecture which was disappointing, but the one thing I took away from the class was I’m not the only one starts editing only to get frustrated and then quickly ends the editing session.

The last seminar for the day was a reading by four Canadian authors: Vincent Lam, Denise Roig, Kim Moritsugu, Ian Weir. They all read from their currents book and I have to say Vincent Lam was my favorite. His book, “The Headmaster’s Wager” really grabbed my attention and I actually downloaded the book because he left me wanting more.  I really enjoyed hearing the stories from the authors themselves because they brought the story to life with their love for the characters as they read it aloud.

Overall I had an amazing experience in Whistler. I have renewed inspiration to keep going with my writing. Maybe one day they’ll ask me to read from my story. One can only dream. Somehow listening to what everyone had to say over the weekend really concreted the fact that I am on the right track and now all I need to do is finish this book. And I will.

Thanks for taking time to read my words again. I hope you find inspiration during this weekend to encourage you to write or do whatever makes you happy. Until next week.

Stay tuned for my next book review next week and more detail blogs about the inspiration I got from the Whistler Writer’s Festival.

❤ Melissa

 *To find out more about any of the people I wrote about today, click on their names to visit their websites.

Poetry Friday Is Back

It’s that time again.. happy poetry Friday! Hope you all have been inspired to write some really great poems.

As you read this I will be up in Whistler at the Whistler Reader and Writer’s Festival well into my first seminar about self publishing. I am so excited to learn and make new connections with fellow writers and readers. I will blog next week about my experiences from this weekend. 

For now, it’s all about the return of Poetry Friday. A few weeks ago I was feeling a darkness in my heart and needed to exorcise it. No better way than reaching in deep and letting that black pour out. I consider myself a very happy go-lucky lady, but I am not afraid of exploring the sadness inside me once in a while. It’s healthy to let it out and for me the best way to do that is write it. It’s entitled “Demon” which is also kind of fitting as we gear up for Halloween coming in a couple of weeks. This piece is inspired by that devil on your shoulder telling you can’t/won’t/don’t/etc. But you can see what you get out of reading it. Enjoy!

❤ Melissa

Demon

I compel my body,
command it to shift.
It stands, resistant.
The voices near.

My sense are acute
his presence near.
My ears pound,
blood flooding,
surging.
The voice here.

His wicked surrounds me,
lips poison my thoughts.
I am weak.
I am failure.
I am powerless.

His tentacles close in
around my body,
my breath shallow.
His stinger injects me,
the poison thick.
I collapse in the weight.

My limp body
dragged deeper
in his black world.

My heart clings to
the last crevasse of light.
Fading…
Fading…
Faded…
Fated.

The Time Seems To Be The Key

Hi everyone, hope you are doing well. This week’s post is about time. Time.time quote 2I don’t know if anyone has noticed but starting the week I published my blog post A Poetic Post , I posted at 11:08am. It sounds like a strange number but it just so happened that’s the time I finished it that day. By the end of that weekend I had increased the flow of traffic to my website by almost double. It might have been my excellent poetry, but I also consider that maybe 11:08am was a lucky time for me. I know in Chinese culture 8 is a very lucky number. It also is for me. On August 8th, 2008, my then boyfriend proposed to me. We have been together for 13 years, 4 of those we have been happily married for. We got married on August 6th, 2010. Another 8. I was born in 19…. never mind… the year isn’t important… what I’m getting at is 8 might have some magic in my life, so I decided every week from then I would schedule my posts to go live on every Friday at 11:08.

I think it might be working. I have many more amazing people visiting my page, which might also be in HUGE part to some amazing friends I have met on Twitter. Like Bill Cunningham who so graciously keeps mentioning my blog to his followers. Thank you!

So call me superstitious or ridiculous, that’s fine. I will keep on posting my blogs at my magic time and keep wishing for good fortune to come my way. Some times our lives can be controlled by time way too much, not enough, too much- whatever it may be. If for that one minute every Friday I can put out good thoughts into this world, so much the better.

So… here’s to 11:08am, may it be as lucky a minute for you as it is for me and may the moments to follow be even greater. Just because I like a little food for thought every now and again, I leave you for a few quotes about time.


 

Time is what we want most, but what we use worst. – William Penn


 

It’s being here now that’s important. There’s no past and there’s no future. Time is a very misleading thing.

All there is ever, is the now. We can gain experience from the past, but we can’t relive it; and we can hope for the future,

but we don’t know if there is one. ― George Harrison


 

Time is a created thing. To say ‘I don’t have time,’ is like saying, ‘I don’t want to.’ ― Lao Tzu


 

❤ Melissa 

Charlotte Kitley’s Final Words

Happy Friday again. Hope you are doing well. This week I’d like to dedicate this blog to Charlotte Kitley, a writer for the Huffington Post UK and blogger of  http://lifeasasemi-colon.blogspot.co.uk/.

If I am being perfectly honest, I hadn’t heard about Charlotte or read any of her work until after she passed away a few weeks ago. I actually happened to be scrolling through status updates on Facebook when I stumbled upon a Huffington Post recommendation to read the last article she wrote; well more accurately, her husband posted her last words after she passed away. You can find her last post in its entirety here http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/charlotte-kitley/bowel-cancer-charlotte-kitley_b_5836238.html

Something about the title, “And so there must come an end”, grabbed hold on my attention and refused to let go until I read it. Her words were so beautiful, so tragic. I was crushed and inspired by what she said all at the same time. The first thing that struck me was the fact she was 36, had a husband and 2 children and was diagnosed with stage 4 bowel cancer. 36, she was 36! Only a few years older than I am right now. She faced the horrible truth that most of us couldn’t bare to think about happening to us; she was told she was going to die. As a mother, I couldn’t imagine the devastation I would feel knowing I would never see my son grow up.  “And so I leave a gaping, unjust, cruel and pointless hole… I have so much life I still want to live, but know I won’t have that.”, are her words from the last post she wrote before she passed. By this point in her post, I was already crying, yet sadness was not the message she wanted to portray. Hope and a love of life was her message. “So, in my absence, please, please, enjoy life.  Take it by both hands, grab it, shake it and believe in every second of it… Life has a lot of grey and sadness – look for that rainbow and frame it. There is beauty in everything, sometimes you just have to look a little harder to see it.”

I didn’t know this woman before at all, but I found her words inspiring and so brave. Her final thought, besides obviously her love of her family was to remind all the rest of us that life is frail, precious and to never take it for-granted. I am tearing up just thinking about it right now. I am in awe that she didn’t say, ‘why me, why now’ and be angry and resentful- all the emotions I certainly would not fault her for. It is senseless for anyone young and with so much life still yet to live to be taken from this world all too soon. Instead of being bitter, she ended her blog post with humor, “And when you close your curtains tonight, look out for a star, it will be me, looking down, sipping a pina colada, enjoying a box of (very expensive) chocolates.”

I didn’t know her, but her story and her words touched me deeply and for that I felt I had to share her story to spread her message of living and loving life as hard as you can while you can. I hope you will go to her website http://lifeasasemi-colon.blogspot.co.uk/, read her words and maybe they will remind you as they did for me that life is short, most of the time against our will, too short. Never ever, take a single breath for-granted. I treasure every second of this difficult yet profound life. It truly is a gift.

Thank you Charlotte Kitley for sharing your story with me and for your encouraging words. I promise to hold my son a little tighter, a little longer and as often as I can. My thoughts will be with your family and I wish them strength in this very difficult time.

If you want to know more about Charlotte, her bio  can be found here- http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/charlotte-kitley/

Thank you for reading and connecting with me again this week. I wish you a very happy weekend, spent with your loved ones, embracing life for all it’s worth.

Until next week.

❤ Melissa