From Left to Write: Can You Keep a Secret?

I struggled with choosing a topic or theme to write about for The Mill River Redemption, not only because there were so many to choose from but also because several of my options made me really uncomfortable. I could have written about my relationships with my mother or my sister, but we are all in the midst of a difficult time right now and talking about them publicly could damage those relationships. We all drive each other completely crazy at times, but they’re my blood and their ties are valuable to me. I could have written about love, but I’ve already done a lot of that on the blog.

I haven’t written much about secrets, though…and secrets sure are a big theme in the book.

I keep a lot of secrets for a lot of people. I’ve become a confidant, willing or not, for quite a few loved ones, and that doesn’t account for those secrets of my own that I keep. Some secrets are inconsequential, while others are potentially life-changing. I’m usually pretty good at keeping quiet watch over everyone’s confidences, but fairly recently I failed to keep the gates locked on a really big one. It was a huge secret, one that would change lives for the worse once revealed. I promised that the secret would be safe, but my conscience took hold and shook me until my foundation started to crack.

There was not a chance in Hell that I’d be able to keep silent about this person’s infidelity, especially because it affected me and several people very close to me…and so I opened my mouth and spilled everything. The relationship between the cheater and their partner, as you’ve probably guessed, is in shambles.

Should I have kept my mouth shut and allowed the cheating to continue? How much longer would it have gone on had I not said anything? How many more people would have been affected? How much more damage would have been done? So many questions I didn’t have the answers to…that I didn’t want the answers to.

I know that keeping a promise is an honorable thing to do, and it’s unfortunate that I’ve likely lost the friendship and trust of the person whose secret I’d promised to keep, but in the long run I think my actions were worth it. It was simply too big to keep a lid on and my conscience is clear with the knowledge that I refused to play the silent accomplice in hurting someone I care about. Sure, confessing was painful for all parties involved, but I think that allowing the infidelity to continue would have hurt a hell of a lot more.

Lesson learned? Sometimes, it’s just better to share a secret than it is to keep it.

Have you been entrusted with a huge secret? Were you able to keep it or did you end up telling?

This post was inspired by the novel The Mill River Redemption by Darcie Chan, about two estranged sisters who are forced to work together in order to uncover the hidden inheritance by their mother. Join From Left to Write on December 2nd as we discuss The Mill River Redemption and enter to win a copy of the novel. As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.

From Left to Write: A Letter to My Dog

When I received my copy of this wonderful little book from the From Left to Write book club, I immediately found myself remembering how much I love cats; if they didn’t make my husband’s body forget how to breathe, I think we’d have one. Though I can’t personally speak to the joys of cat ownership, I do have a canine furbaby of my own who basically co-rules our little roost with Joshua. So for this edition of From Left to Write, I’d like to share a letter to my sweet Frankie!

**Gratuitous cute puppy-dog pictures ahead!! You have been warned!**

Hi, Frankie Face.

I just wanted to write — even though you can’t read — and tell you how much I love you. There’s one problem, though: I don’t simply love you. I absolutely adore you! You have Daddy and me wrapped around your big, furry paws! I loved you when you tore the stuffing out of our couch cushions while Daddy and I were at work (and boy, do I wish I had a picture of that mess). I loved you when you thought baby Joshua was one of your toys, and you tried to bite him like a stuffed animal while Joshua was suffering through tummy time. I even loved you when you threw up all over my pillow, and just missed my head, at 3 in the morning! No matter what happened, I’ve always had a heart full of love for you.

I always wanted a dog of my own, but I never realized how badly I needed one until you came home with us. You’re my sanity when Joshua and Landon get too crazy. You’re my vacuum, picking up whatever scraps of food hit the floor while we’re cooking or eating. You’re my favorite living, breathing “stuffed animal”, always up for a cuddle when I need one. You’re my personal security guard, barking at everything that could potentially harm us (squirrels, leaves, sirens, and the wind being the prime suspects). You’re my foot warmer, settling down by my toes in bed (regardless of whether they’re actually cold). You’re my trickster, offering pawsies and high-fives for your favorite mint sticks. And the best one of all? You’re my reading buddy!

There will never be words strong enough to truly describe how much you’ve meant to me these last five years, and how much darker and sadder my life would be without you in it. They say that dog is man’s best friend; I have human best friends, but you really are my BFF. I love you so much, and I’m forever grateful to Daddy for letting me take you home. Now let’s go snuggle in bed with a book — my feet are cold!

Giving you all the love and kisses,

P.S. Just so you know, I will never, ever stop taking pictures of you while you’re sleeping. That’s something you’re just going to have to keep dealing with. You’re just that photogenic!

So how about you — do you have any pets? If you were asked to write them a letter, what would you say?

This post was inspired by A Letter to My Cat: Notes to Our Best Friends by Lisa Erspamer, a collection of letters penned by celebrities to their furry friend. Join From Left to Write on November 10th as we discuss A Letter to My Cat, and be sure to check out the website! As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.

A Letter to My Baby Boy on His Third Birthday

My sweetest Joshua,

Just like that — as though I merely snapped my fingers — you, my tiny miracle, sprouted from this…

…to this.

I keep asking myself where the time went. I keep asking myself what I could ever have done to deserve the gift that you are. I keep asking myself how one tiny human being could possibly bring so much light, laughter, and love to so many people. I keep asking myself how you went from a completely helpless newborn, needing mommy and daddy to do everything for you, to getting mad at us for trying to help you cook scrambled eggs. And I ask myself every single day if there is anything, anything at all, that I could have done to slow down time and keep you this small for a little while longer.

And then I tell myself that you, my beautiful, sweet, funny, rambunctious, messy, increasingly independent little boy, are still the same you, only better. Once upon a time, you loved taking baths (and I have the pictures to prove it!) and now you scream when water touches your hair; you’re still wearing diapers 24/7 because you just aren’t ready to potty-train yet; and your temper tantrums could give coddled, spoiled celebrities or politicians in Washington a run for their money…but these things won’t last forever. One day you’ll figure out that, if you just close your eyes and tilt your head back, water and shampoo will avoid your eyes. You’ll eventually realize that you don’t like feeling wet and you’ll shun diapers like you do vegetables, and then going potty will become as routine as asking for your “min and milk” in the mornings.

As for the temper tantrums? Well…I hope you outgrow them eventually. (Fingers crossed nice and tight on that one.)

Right now — literally, the very minute this letter publishes — three years ago, I was lying on an operating table, scared and excited and anticipating your first cry, and desperately trying to hold myself together when that beautiful sound made its grand debut. Today, that’s been replaced with joyous shrieking and giggling, lots of quiet singing, and discussion about when you’ll get to ride a school bus. (For the record, I am not looking forward to that day.) You have filled my days with the world’s most beautiful music, prettier even than the greatest symphony, and I would have it no other way. I’m so thankful to your daddy for finding a way to let me stay home with you; I think we’ve learned a great deal from each other already, and that will only continue as we draw closer to kindergarten.

But today isn’t about learning. It’s about celebrating you! You’ll get to pick what we have for lunch, and we’ll get you a cupcake at your favorite bookstore. Daddy and I know you’ve loved playing with the new toys you got at your birthday party over the weekend, and today’s about picking out some more things you love and bringing them home. That yellow dump truck you’ve been asking Daddy to get for you? Today, it’s yours. And the red Tonka monster truck you wanted? We’ll buy it today. Maybe I’ll even be able to talk Daddy into letting you get the fire truck that matches the police car and ambulance that you got from Grandma at your party! And that’s just the “red store” — the big goal for the toy store is to pick up all the Cars vehicles you don’t have yet (because I know that the six you already have just aren’t enough and that you need the whole set from Radiator Springs)! And of course, as boring as it probably is for you, we’ll buy you some new clothes, because you just can’t seem to stop growing! You’re going to come home today with lots of new stuff and I can’t wait to see you smile as all the toys you’ve coveted for so long will finally make it out to the car with us!

We love you so very much and we couldn’t be even the tiniest bit prouder of the boy you’re becoming. We know you’re three now, and that means you’re a big boy. We know you’re not going to want to hold our hands forever, so we’re taking full advantage now while we still can…but remember, if you ever need a hand to squeeze, Mommy’s and Daddy’s are always available for you.

Happy third birthday, Baby Bear!

Mommy, Daddy, and “Frankie Face”

The Friday 52: The Shoemaker’s Wife, by Adriana Trigiani

[This review is based on the NOOK book digital edition published by HarperCollins Publishers in 2012.]

The single-sentence synopsis:
The Shoemaker’s Wife tells the sweeping, epic love story of Ciro Lazzari and Enza Ravanelli across two continents and several decades.

Judging the cover:
I don’t really get it — what does a woman in a fancy red dress have to do with a shoemaker or his wife? — but I hope to understand when I close the book!

First thought I had after I finished reading:
You know how all the YA fans and bloggers talk about book boyfriends? Well, I thought I loved Four, and Peeta, and Gus…forget all of them. They’re children. Ciro Lazzari is the man for me! (Sorry, Hubs!)

And here’s why:
Ciro and Enza meet under unforunately tragic circumstances and, though neither will admit it at the time, it’s clear that it’s love at first sight for both of them. A scandalous event separates them and Ciro is forced to move to the United States without informing Enza, but fate intervenes when their paths cross again in New York City. A series of near-misses leads to a ridiculously romantic encounter between them that changes the course of their lives and their relationship…and I found myself so completely jealous of Enza because of Ciro’s relentless-yet-heartfelt pursuit. (Do all Italians make grand romantic gestures like this?!) Each of them brings a great deal of love, support, and talent to the relationship, and the shoemaker and his wife find great success in life and work together. However, their greatest accomplishment is their only child, Antonio, who is intelligent, thoughtful, and athletic, and who develops a surprising and brilliant connection with an unexpected character late in the novel. He helps to bring their story full circle in a most beautiful way!

I’m split on the supporting characters in the book, but not because of the way Ms. Trigiani drew them out. Rather, there were several whom I found particularly endearing and others that I wanted to chase away from Ciro and Enza with a flyswatter. To name a few, Enza’s best friend Laura is wonderfully sassy and creative (and she’s Irish to boot, yay!), while Luigi evolves from Ciro’s Ellis Island acquaintance to trusted friend and business partner. I appreciated the deep love and respect between Ciro, his brother Eduardo, and the sisters of the convent, and between Enza and her parents as well. Meanwhile, if I could have I would have steered Ciro clear of Felicita and kept Enza far from the horrible Signora Buffa and her ungrateful daughters-in-law (which, by the way, reminded me very much of Cinderella). Like them or not, though, all of these characters (and more) shape Ciro and Enza into the individuals and the couple they grow into, and for that I thank each and every one of them.

The Shoemaker’s Wife serves as a vivid reminder of how difficult life was for immigrants. Ms. Trigiani takes what we know of the immigrant experience from high school history and breathes new life into it, along with the beauty of Italy, the bustle of Manhattan, and the rough newness of Minnesota. It’s truly a step back in time, perfect for a historical fiction buff like myself. I had a lot of trouble putting this book down and couldn’t wait for my next opportunity to pick it up! I hope it has the same effect on you!

(Oh, and by the way — the cover image? I figured out its significance while I was reading. Without spoiling anything, I’ll just tell you that it’s related to Enza. Read and learn!)

On a scale of 1-5, I would give it a…
5!! If you’re unfamiliar with Adriana Trigiani’s work like I was, The Shoemaker’s Wife serves as a fabulous introduction!

Follow Adriana Trigiani on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Goodreads, and don’t forget to check out her website!

Click here to order The Shoemaker’s Wife via Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or IndieBound!

The Friday 52: Branded, by Abi Ketner and Missy Kalicicki

[This review is based on the ARC (Advance Reader Copy) digital edition published by Month9Books in 2014, and provided by NetGalley.]

The single-sentence synopsis:
In a dystopian future, Lexi Hamilton is falsely accused of committing one of the seven deadly sins (which are criminal in this new society), is forcibly branded with a blue band (representing Lust) around her neck, and must learn to live in the Hole under the constant watch of her guard, Cole.

Judging the cover:
Simply gorgeous! Pretty girl — beautiful eyes — interesting, lacy choker-looking thing around her neck. Is that her brand? It looks painted on…no way that’s possible, because being branded has always been associated with pain. They couldn’t have burned this into her neck, could they?!

First thought I had after I finished reading:
I’m so happy I picked up this book…and I hate that I have to wait for the sequel, Hunted!

And here’s why:
As I mentioned in my Divergent-themed Sunday Selections post two weeks ago, I stumbled upon Branded one day while I was scanning my Instagram feed. The cover immediately spoke to me, and Abi Ketner and Missy Kalicicki were regramming posts from readers who’d hailed the book, making it kind of unavoidable. I knew I’d inevitably read it at some point and was pleasantly surprised when I was approved to read it through NetGalley. Once I finished all of my work related to I Shall Be Near to You, I dove right into this!

I’m buried six feet under, and no one hears my screams.

Abi and Missy, you have my undivided attention! Branded opened with this line and carried this level of dark intensity throughout. It was certainly a great way to suck in readers!

I was hoping for an interesting story and relatable characters, and Abi and Missy made my wish come true! (Yay!) Lexi gets thrown into a terrifying situation, living among a combination of scum (pardon my language) and other innocents. As it turns out, she was accused by someone very close to her, but the reasons behind the accusation are not as cut-and-dried as they initially seem. Once in the Hole, it’s easily to believe that a pretty girl like Lexi — someone physically desirable — could be capable of committing such a sin, despite the medical proof that she’s still a virgin. The whole idea of being branded for committing one of the seven sins left me with a scary thought: If we actually lived under this type of system, there’d be way more people, branded and suffering, in the Hole than living freely outside of it! It brings a whole new level of meaning, and fear, to the “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone” quote, right?

Cole…oh, Cole. I knew from the moment that he and Lexi had to share an apartment (if you’d call it that) that there would be some kind of chemistry developing between them. What begins as orders to protect her, without knowing the truth behind why he has to protect her, gradually becomes just as much about Cole’s willingness to look after Lexi, especially when he discovers that she was in fact wrongfully branded. The moment where he truly shines, however, comes when he offers to attend a dinner “date” with a dying girl in the hospital, at Lexi’s behest. You’d think Cole would oblige her begrudgingly, but later on we learn that he came to care about the girl just as much as Lexi has. It’s a really sweet little development, and it provides deeper insight into Cole’s tough-guy character than I’d expected. I was truly thrilled by that.

The back half of the story takes on a very girl-power, tough-chick kind of vibe. I didn’t think I’d like it — I’ve already read many stories with similar plotlines and worried that I’d be bored with it here, but Abi and Missy take it to a completely new level. Not only does Lexi find herself participating in war (full gear and everything!), but she maintains equal parts girly-girl and hardened soldier throughout the big battle. I worried with her about Cole’s beloved dog, Zeus, and whether he’d survived the gunfights and explosions; I cheered her on as she pulled the trigger on the horrible guards without stopping to wonder if she’d messed up her hair or broken a nail. She’s my kind of heroine, exactly the kind of girl I can relate to!

The biggest shock of the book came with the revelation of the Commander’s identity, and their ties with Lexi and one of her closest allies. I’m so happy that douche is dead. I know it’s a terrible thing to say and a strange word to use to describe someone, but when you read the book and learn about just how horrible this person was to Lexi, you’ll agree with me. Trust me on that. I’m so happy that Cole stepped up to the plate in her stead. I literally sat there after I’d finished reading, just shaking my head and saying wow over and over again!

Just don’t let Lexi’s accuser turn out to be the new Commander, please?!

On a scale of 1-5, I would give it a…

Follow Abi Ketner and Missy Kalicicki on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Goodreads (Abi and Missy), and don’t forget to check out their website!

Click here to order Branded via Barnes and Noble, Amazon, or IndieBound!