Saturday, September 12, 2020

Review: The Murmur of Bees by Sofia Segovia

From a beguiling voice in Mexican fiction comes an astonishing novel—her first to be translated into English—about a mysterious child with the power to change a family’s history in a country on the verge of revolution.

From the day old Nana Reja found a baby abandoned under a bridge, the life of a small Mexican village forever changed. Disfigured and covered in a blanket of bees, little Simonopio is for some locals the stuff of superstition, a child kissed by the devil. But he is welcomed by landowners Francisco and Beatriz Morales, who adopt him and care for him as if he were their own. As he grows up, Simonopio becomes a cause for wonder to the Morales family, because when the uncannily gifted child closes his eyes, he can see what no one else can—visions of all that’s yet to come, both beautiful and dangerous. Followed by his protective swarm of bees and living to deliver his adoptive family from threats—both human and those of nature—Simonopio’s purpose in Linares will, in time, be divined.

Set against the backdrop of the Mexican Revolution and the devastating influenza of 1918, The Murmur of Bees captures both the fate of a country in flux and the destiny of one family that has put their love, faith, and future in the unbelievable.  

I am not a big fan of translated stories but since I cannot speak Mexican, I had to trust my gut about this book. It was recommended to me by Goodreads and thought why not. Let me expand my knowledge.
I was not disappointed.

Simonopio’s story is written with so much empathy and understanding that I simply could not put this book down. And I believe the translation was spot on because the essences of the story came through in each word and sentence and could I enjoy this historical read to the fullest. The author’s ability to capture my imagination by the amicable storytelling had me from page one.

It is storytelling at its best. As a reader, I was taken on a journey, back in time when Influenza played a huge role in the reshaping of the world.
At one stage, I wondered if the 2020 pandemic has influenced my thoughts, since the same changes are visible all around us. But this was worth every minute I spend within this book.

The relevance of the history and Simonopio's story, even today is heartfelt as you venture into this world of surviving everyday life with the unusual boy accompanied by bees. The relationship between man and bees is well-known but, in this story, it felt as if I could understand the hive and their reasons for protecting the boy. The delicate relationship of trust and determination between them added a subtle twist into the story. Knowing that something is about to happen but unsure.
The continual built up gives you glimpses of life on this farm and the people that lived there. The subtle nuances between landowner and workers became part of the suspense. Written in the third person, I had a good understanding of each character’s thoughts which enhanced the storyline greatly.

Simonopio’s character though was absolutely the best to follow. This boy could not speak a word but through the eyes of the author, this character felt like an old soul with so much wisdom that I was mesmerized. His actions are genuine and insightful as you tagged along.

Nana Reja’s character also filled me with curious wonder. Her tale just as unusual and fitting to the story.

Within all these events, evil loomed like dangerous cancer which only the bees were aware of. The bees and Simonopio. An evil with no name but growing in intensity. As his journey continues it grew while the world went off their lives as normal as always.

The trail always leading Simonopio onwards. Seasons come and goes and each time the intensity grows with the boy. Like a fever, it builds till that moment of revelation. The small breaks like the discovery of orange blossoms gave realism to the plot and you are plunged into time, progress and growth.

A book I can recommend to every reader that likes the delicate intricacies of a well-written tale.


Sunday, September 6, 2020

Review: The Farm: On Practical Wisdom by George Benda

The Farm, set in the second global energy crisis, juxtaposes Jack's high-flying energy career with his pursuit of an idyllic life with his new bride, Anna. Together with Jack's old philosophical friend, Ben, and Ben's wife, Rebecca, the couples explore a path to practical wisdom in the nuclear age. Jack and Ben, learning from their jobs and their marriages, distill out from the noise and tumult seven essential criteria in achieving happiness and a good life, the measure of practical wisdom in all ages and cultures.

“This pulls it together for me. The things that look like they cloud practical wisdom sort of gravitating to narcissism. I’m right; you’re wrong. I’m important; you’re not. My friends are like me; you’re not. Most of all, I want what I want, consequences are damned.”

This is a quote that brings this story together for me. The true meaning of the plot and what to expect.

Taken back to the late 70’s you step back in a world of faxes, pagers and cryptic messages where no one can be trusted. It’s the time of nuclear threats, Chernobyl, already lefts its mark on history and it’s a global fight about knowledge and power. Old lovers create interesting plots and couples tries to live an ordinary life while espionage and industrial terrorism threatens to bring it all to an end.

The Farm, On Practical Wisdom, is not a non-fictitious book as I thought at first. But a technical story that touches on Marx philosophy, Madame Curie’s death and nuclear disarmament as the group of scientists, and CIA agents rush against time to disarm another global energy disaster.

The delicate relationship between Russia and America cleverly weaved into the fabric of this growing plot that takes you across the borders into the heart of this crisis.

It is not my usual read and I feel a bit left out at times. As if the choppiness left me in a daze. The flow robotic and I miss the elegance a good story invokes. The exploration into the nuclear age practical wisdom gave it an interesting spiel. As the patterns reveal itself to us, we are left with thought-provoking points that are relevant for today. The book is one big dialogue that springs from one event to the next but strangely it works within the book’s genre. The unusual writing style left me hanging at times. I had no real connection with the characters, feeling one-dimensional. Like stick figures and then the author would surprise me with some good description to draw everything together.

The author comes right to the point with no-nonsense at the end.

George Benda grew up in the Chicago area. Born with a passion for the natural world and improving the environment, Benda studied first science, then politics, and ultimately philosophy to answer his burning question: how do we resolve the expanding conflict between human activity and the well-being of the planet on which we live?

Book clubs? Libraries? Academics? These are forums in which that burning question can be explored and answers formulated. Benda actively supports all of those pathways to a broader understanding. He offers free readers guides, Zoom sessions, and more. 

Check out some resources:

Benda started writing philosophical dialogues in 1977 while still a graduate student at the University of Chicago. He was inspired by Plato to experiment with dialectic styles. After multiple abandoned manuscripts, he found in Elmore Leonard a modern style of dialogue he could adapt to serious thinking -- propelling readers with strong storylines and action, as well. From this synthesis came the Jack Slack Shoebox Dialogue series.

The first in the series, The City, took nearly 40 years to mature. Those 40 years were filled with an active life and events which have inspired most of the dramatic plots of the Shoebox Dialogues -- fictionalized, of course, but a granular look at history. The action in the dialogues provides an intimate glimpse at the realities that lie behind the headlines and belie the history as told by the winners.

Benda started his career in government at age 18, working in natural areas preservation. He was Director of Energy Programs for the State of Illinois at age 27. Those years -- the late 1970s through the early 1980s -- proved to be the emergent years for today's global issues of both climate change and political turmoil fueled by an unending energy crisis.

Since leaving public service in 1983, Benda has been in the private sector, leading companies in sustainability, indoor environmental quality, and energy efficiency improvement. He has been the CEO of Chelsea Group, Ltd since 1990. Benda's company has won numerous awards for innovation in energy efficiency. Often a controversial figure in his industry, Benda has never escaped the universe of turmoil that enmeshed him in his early years.

Now residing on Molokai, a small island south and east of Honolulu, Benda still works diligently on environmental issues through his role as President of the Molokai Land Trust. Always engaged in both a life of action and a life of the mind, he continues to collect stories and plot lines, characters, and emotions that enliven his novels. Serious thinking has rarely been so much fun.

 “Reading Marx got me thinking about the nature of work. The work you and I do is advancing technology, reshaping the work,” Jack responded. 

“Isn’t all work like that? As you start building something, variations in materials… or changing goals… or altered aesthetics… or maybe an ah-ha moment of how to make things better, easier… any of those things can change at least the direction, sometimes the nature of the work.” “You need to take the longer view of what Marx says,” Ben argued. 

“Work is only part of it. Work, music, contemplation, socialization – it takes all of these and to do that takes balance. Achieve that balance and maybe you’re happy. Three areas for personal accomplishment and one shared area. Get something done and then talk about it. I know that sharing my accomplishments with others brings me that sense of wellbeing that I associate with happiness.”

“And accomplishment means what? Personal benefit? Societal benefit? Happiness – is that your personal happiness? Familial happiness? Societal happiness?” “I don’t think there is such a thing as societal happiness,” Ben said, eyebrows lifted. “Au contraire! Have you never heard of the tiny kingdom of Bhutan?” Jack, voice filled with glee. “They measure the prosperity of the country on its gross domestic happiness instead of its gross domestic product.” 

“Okay, okay, but stick to the argument here, Jack. Your question is a good one. We already answered it in part – we tied happiness to justice. Help your friends, harm no one. I believe practical wisdom also has to be anchored in something more positive, more beneficial, than justice alone. And I assert that the something we are looking for is happiness.” Jack nodded concurrence. Journal out, Jack again scribbled: Practical wisdom is the ability to build on good decisions and actions to make a good life, the standard for which is happiness.

Excerpt # 2

The car, Evie thought, was the perfect cover. 1956 Ford pick-up. Exterior beaten to crap, the guts beefed up and tuned to race-car perfection. Her blue jeans and plaid cotton shirt, tucked in, combined with her long blond hair, parted in the middle, made for a solid country look. She pulled up to the feed store – a combination of farm supplies, hardware, and a sort of snack bar that might elsewhere pass for a trendy coffee shop because of the authentic rocking chairs out front. Rural West Virginia – no place like it. Heads turned when she walked in – tall slender blond, new to town. Country boys filled the place. Lots of beards, plenty of bald spots covered with seed caps. Evie flashed them a warm smile and tossed out a casual “Hey.”

Evie walked up to the snack bar counter and asked for a cup of coffee. The young man behind the counter straightened and adjusted his cap to a jauntier angle. “My cousin Arlin lives up in one of the hollers, or at least that’s what he tells my pappy. You know him?” Evie asked the boy at the counter. “Uh, no ma’am. Don’t know no Arlin ‘round here.” 

“Maybe there’s a town records office? My pappy’s worried. Could be Arlin up and died and nobody knows…” Evie said. “Ma’am, it’s a quiet little town. Not kindly to strangers poking around. Can I help you find what you need?”

Evie smiled at the boy and smiled to herself. Her first field test complete. She recruited a source for information in a closed community. Her first operative. Mission accomplished. DDD “It was a hero’s welcome at the office today, and I owe it all to you!” Novovic exclaimed, popping a bottle of champagne in his Lake Shore Drive apartment. “That is so wonderful, my love,” Tanya crooned, thinking: two, maybe three more days. “How was your day, sweetheart?” he asked. “A good day,” she smiled. “No one died in my arms.”

“Excellent,” he said. “Do you think you could take some time off tomorrow and come meet the crew? I haven’t told them it was your idea, but I’d like to introduce you to my colleagues.” Her eyes darted.

Excerpt #3

Wednesday, 28 March 1979, about 4:00 am. Three Mile Island Nuclear Generating Station, near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Cycle 10,942 of Novovic’s optimization program. The control algorithm switched off the main feedwater pumps, which normally sent water to the steam generators that remove heat from the reactor core. “Sir,” the plant operator, a well-trained nuclear engineer, said to his floor supervisor. “Sir, we have an excursion in the feedwater pumps. I’m trying to override the software now.”

The plant’s turbine-generator, and then the reactor, automatically shut down. Immediately, the pressure in the primary cooling system for the nuclear reactors began to increase. “The system is not responding properly, sir.” Older safety algorithms kicked in to control that pressure, opening the relief valve at the top of the pressure vessel. The valve should have closed when the pressure fell to proper levels. It did not. “There it goes, sir, the pressure is dropping.” “Is the safety protocol working correctly now, Aaron?” asked the floor supervisor. “It looks correct for the data I see, sir.”

The new optimization software continued in its cycle, overriding the safety algorithm. It held the valve open. Instruments in the control room indicated to the plant staff that the valve was closed. The operator opened his emergency protocol manual and ran through a checklist. “Pressure is nominal, sir. I think the relief valve closed and the pumps should restart in their normal mode. Looks like everything is back under control.” Unaware that cooling water was pouring out of the stuck-open valve, the supervisor nodded to Aaron and went back to his crossword puzzle. Coolant continued to flow from the primary system through the valve. “Uh, sir, we have another excursion. Coolant pressure just alarmed.”

The supervisor threw aside the newspaper and shouted: “Everyone, check and report!”

The seven operators frantically checked every gauge. Shouts of “nominal” filled the room. Every instrument indicated that system parameters were normal. There was no sensor, no instrumentation, that showed how much water covered the core. The new sensors installed at Novovic’s direction, and his new software routines, all indicated that the pressurized water level was sufficient. All parameters appeared nominal. The core must have been properly covered with water. It was not. A new round of alarms rang, and warning lights flashed. A wide range of parameters was no longer nominal, but the patterns made no sense. Following the protocol books for each out-of-range parameter, operators adjusted controls and made incremental changes. Conditions worsened.

“Everyone remains calm,” the supervisor said above the rising din of operator panic. Stacks of operation manuals and incident protocol handbooks were pulled from desk drawers wedged into the ledges of the control panels. Books flopped open on the central table, normally used for reviews of operations reports. Shouts of commands disappeared in the cacophony of voices. “Get that coolant pressure down,” shouted the supervisor. “Open the reliefs.” The operators received no indication that the plant was experiencing a loss-of-coolant event. No action was taken to reverse the coolant loss.

TBR List / Amazon 

Monday, August 24, 2020

Interview with Marie Lavender

1. What makes you proud to be a writer from Indiana? 

Hmm…tough question. Being a Hoosier is a condition. We’re more grounded, yet somehow backward hicks at other times. LOL. For example, I heard a story once about someone who went Mardi Gras in New Orleans. Quite a few of the girls around the group were going topless, and when they were asked to do the same, they all said, “Nah, we’re from Indiana.” So, I rest my case. It’s a thing. We also tend to mispronounce words, which really drives me nuts as a writer. I catch myself doing it in conversation now and then. 

So, as for being proud of where I come from? There are disadvantages, but I guess one upside is that I can look at some crazy situations that are supposedly ‘normal’, and then wonder what’s wrong with people. And yet, I think I’m a little more openminded than most of my family, so it balances out. 

2. What or who inspired you to become a writer? 

It was probably a collective of experiences and my love of literature that first sparked my interest in it. Not to mention I couldn’t get the stories in my head to go away without writing them all down. 

3. When did you begin writing with the intention of becoming published? 

So early. From the age of nine, I knew this was what I wanted to do. I spent a lot of time researching the industry, while also honing my craft. However, I didn’t actually get published until 2010. 

4. Did your environment or upbringing play a significant role in your writing and did you use it to your advantage? 

Our close family ties have inspired me to funnel the same sense of ‘family’ in many of my book series. Diversely, I would have to say that being from a small town helped to open my mind to writing about worlds and cities I wasn’t familiar with. 

5. Do you come up with your title before or after you write the manuscript? 

It depends on the project. Sometimes I know what the title is in the beginning, but usually, I come up with a the temporary title just to save the document, and change it later. 

6. Please introduce your genre and why you prefer to write in that genre? 

I usually write in various subgenres of romance, but now and then, I have surprised myself with story ideas that venture further out. One of my latest books, Chasing Ginger, is a steamy romantic comedy. It’s actually the first time I’ve ever written a rom-com, though I’m familiar enough with those kinds of books and movies. 

7. What has been your most rewarding experience with your writing process? 

I think the most rewarding part of writing is knowing that you’ve honored your vision for the story, that you’ve held the life and tale of the character you’re writing about with capable hands. The knowledge that I did my best and then it’s time for someone else to see my work is both terrifying and exciting. 

8. Have you had a negative experience in your writing career? If so, please explain how it could have been avoided? 

There are often pitfalls in a writer’s career. I think the biggest mistake I made was to reach out to my favorite author in the genre and ask for a recommendation of my first traditionally published romance novel. Just a simple quote to put on the published book. I won’t name names here, but her response turned me off her work for life. She was unreasonably unkind. She only had to say no, she didn’t have the time, and I would’ve understood. Instead, that well-known author chose to not only try to read the book, but to tear every inch of it apart based on the first chapter alone, despite the fact that the book was already set to be published by a good company. It would’ve been different if I had asked for a real critique before I’d ever submitted the manuscript to anyone. 

So…I would say to others to be incredibly careful if you’re set to meet one of your idols. You may be disappointed in the experience. 

9. What has been the most rewarding experience in your publishing journey? 

Meeting new readers has been so much fun! Plus, it’s always nice to earn book awards, or to even garner good reviews. That makes you feel like maybe all the time and effort you put into writing the novel was really worth it. 

10. What one positive piece of advice would you give to other authors? 

Always come back to why you began this journey in the first place. Remember the reason you write stories. If it’s because you live for being ‘in the zone’, when the pen is flowing and the characters’ tales are unfolding before you on the page, then you got into this for the right reasons. Because doing it for a paycheck or any other monetary purpose won’t carry you too far for long. We all want to be able to survive financially, but you must also love writing with everything you are, or you’ll never find fulfillment. 

11. Who is your favourite author? 

Right now, it’s probably J.R. Ward. I love her paranormal romances. 

12. Which book title would you like featured in this interview? 

Chasing Ginger (Review will follow at a later stage.) 

13. If you are a multi-book author, please tell me three of your favourite book titles: 

Chasing Ginger 

Magick & Moonlight 

Blue Vision 

Published books with purchase links: 


Release date: March 2nd, 2014. Second edition release date: April 2, 2020. 


Release date: March 10th, 2020 

Universal reader link:


Release date: February 14th, 2017. Second edition release date: February 28, 2020. 

Universal reader link:


Release date: November 13, 2016. Second edition release date: December 1, 2019. 

Universal reader link:


Release date: May 30th, 2018 

Universal reader link:


Release date: July 25th, 2017 

Universal reader link:


Release date: October 19th, 2015 

*Always free on Amazon, B&N, Smashwords, Kobo and iTunes 


Release date: July 20th, 2015 

Universal reader link:


Release date: December 8, 2014 

Universal reader link:

Website Links: 

EMAIL LANDINGPAGE: Sign up for Marie’s Newsletter: 

Personal Questions: 

1. What is your favourite colour? 

Hot pink. 

2. Are you a sweet or savoury person? 

I’m pleasant with most people, but I can be salty when pushed enough. I guess savory. 

3. What time do you write best? 

Any time, but it flows better in the evenings, right before I go to sleep. 

4. Favourite music or song? 

Paramore or OneRepublic 

5. How do you manage writer’s block? 

I stay focused on a deadline. If I’m struggling, I’ll take a break for a while, or try writing exercises to try to get my motivation back. At other times, I must climb through the chaos of writer’s block to find my way back. Later on, I’ll realize I needed the space to figure out a plot problem. 

6. What social platform do you enjoy most and why? 

I think you can get to know people better on Facebook, but if I’m just posting about blogs or author news, it’s faster to do Twitter or Instagram. But if I had a choice, probably Facebook. 

7. What artist’s date do you do where no one else is allowed except writing? 

If you’re asking about NaNoWriMo, I don’t subscribe to confining myself to a certain date or time. However, if I am fully immersed in a project, I try to work on an aspect of the book every day, even if it’s just research. 

8. What is next on your To-Do List? I still need to finish up some final details on my romantic mystery collection before I start edits. 

9. Where do you like to go on holiday? 

I don’t take a lot of vacations, but I prefer coastal spots to get away when I can afford it.

To feature on this blog, contact me at for your book blast.

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

The Fourth Year Spell by Amanda Jeffery



Declan Devereaux is finally ready to complete his Fourth Year Spell so he can move on to the next year of studies. All that's left is one ingredient and he's ready to get it from the Mayor's Manor. Unbeknownst to Declan, the local Thieve's Guild also has plans to rob the Manor on the same night. When they meet mid-robbery, Declan casts a spell that sets the four of them on a path that may end at the gallows. 

Meet the author

Amanda Jeffery is an Author and Freelance Writer. She was born and raised in Alberta, Canada, where she resides with her husband, two children and family pets. When not writing, she can be found reading or working on her latest cross stitch project.

Amanda writes mainly in the fantasy genre and recently released a novelette. Her book, The Fourth Year Spell, is available on sale on Amazon. She also has a short story published in The Weak in the Knees Romance Anthology.

She started AJ Wordsmithing in 2020. Her niches include Pets, books, safety, parenting, and alternative health.


The fourth year spell is a short fantasy read that tags you along on an adventurous journey of magic.

The desire to complete his fourth year as a mage took Declan on a course of friendships in the most unlikely of places.

The story began with Declan casting a spell on a person which backfired on him. Captured, he came face to face with lowly thieves. Once he got to know them, he offered a solution for their mission while he set aside his quest. He came face to face with unexpected challenges that gave him a new perspective.

During a daring time, he had to put his own fears aside to release the hold of a cunning thieve over his newfound friends. His master allowing him to find his feet in a difficult situation.

Deceit and greed the supporting elements that made this a well-rounded story. The human responses very well described through the storytelling.

 Goodreads / Amazon / LibraryThing 


Sunday, July 19, 2020

Book review: Arcadia’s Children 3 : Pushley’s Escape is the third novel in the Arcadia’s Children series.

Arcadias’s Children 2 :The Fyfield Plantation.

The main characters remain the same. Mick Tarmy, Claire Hyndman and Nonie Tomio.

Ed Pushley is an archaeologist but his mind has been taken over by a spettro that Mick Tarmy dubbed as Irrelevant. (My name is Irrelevant, Mr Tarmy.)

Irrelevant and Pushley are now one. Following Irrelevant’s death their minds have fused. Kept captive by Alton Mygael, Pushley frantically tries to find a means of escape.  Damaging his isolation helmet during a moment of frustration, Pushley realises that with perseverance he can remove it, and can use Irrelevant’s immense psychic powers to gain his freedom. Once he does, what will he do to Mick Tarmy and his team?  Pushley is intent on revenge.

Goodreads / Amazon

It took me a few pages to pick up and get back into the action. Book 3 continues with the story and delves deeper into the world of Arcadia's Children. 
All the characters are back and ready for action. With many twists and adventure, you are whisked away as Pushley make life-changing decisions that brings you to a wonderful conclusion.
The author's writing style and visual imagery draws you in and its fast pace has an easy flow that makes this a quick read. 
A must-read for science fiction readers.

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Book release: Responsibility Rebellion by Kain Ramsay & Cinzia Dubois. An unconventional approach to personal empowerment.

Many of us crave more fulfillment in life, but we don't know how to find it. We try everything to feel better, from changing jobs and dating new people, to attending therapy and taking pills. We grasp at the superficial, and externally overcompensate for our internal voids and self-doubts. What we don't realize is that avoiding responsibility only postpones the inevitable—that nothing about our life changes until we change.

You will not become empowered until you choose to take responsibility for the role you've played in undermining yourself. Finding more fulfillment, satisfaction, and inner-peace is your responsibility because no one else cares.

In Responsibility Rebellion, author Kain Ramsay discusses why we often rely on easy steps and magical formulas to find fulfillment, only to come up short. He'll equip you with a structured roadmap for personal growth and progress—one that shows you how to be better, rather than feel better.

About the author

Based in Dunfermline, Scotland, Kain Ramsay is an impassioned social entrepreneur, coach, mentor and teacher. Kain is respected amidst the world’s top thinkers in the domain of modern applied psychology.

Partnering with some of today’s leading social innovators, Kain advises inspired entrepreneurs, social innovators, coaches and influencers as they further improve themselves, fill their potential and transform the world one person at a time.

Notable societal change begins with a social paradigm shift. Through his trademark manner of raw, passionate ‘preacher-like’ oration, Kain’s unique approach continues to evolve the fields of personal growth and applied psychology.

Kain originated his career in the British Army and has earned many credits in the social sciences, counselling, coaching, leadership and people management.

Kain lives in Scotland with his wife, Karen.

Goodreads Website 

Facebook live link 

Why the birdcage cover? ...Listen to the video.

Amazon Uk 

Saturday, July 11, 2020

Free to Download ... All books of Lynelle Clark FREE on Smashwords!

Download in the Format 
of your choice.

Tanya’s life was turned upside down when her son, Steve was attacked by renegades and she had to dig deep facing her worst fear to save them both.

It is the year 2048, 30 years after a devastating quake had changed Gauteng’s geographic features. The effects of the acid water, that covered most of the area, was visible to everyone but the government. The silent death crawling closer leaving devastation in its path. Nothing is excluded from the terror.
Tanya and Steve’s path of survival meet up with the rebels in their search for clean water and she had to face much more than just acid water to stay alive.
A thrilling story of courage and survival.   

Wiping the sweat away from her brow, Tanya peered straight into the scorching heat. Her face was covered by the wide-brimmed hat, her eyes protected by dark sunglasses ─ the heavy-duty kind that hardly allows any light to pass through. 
It was early November with no sign of rain in the sky. The previous day they had a few drops which splattered onto the dust-covered earth, but it had made no significant difference to the parched earth. They needed a downpour soaking the earth, and soon.
Death was around her in various forms, and it didn’t discriminate between the strong and the weak. It was as if the Grim Reaper had a license to kill and touched everything with robustness. Fires were a constant enemy due to the scorching heat, and with the dry winds, it ran rampant over the veld[1] destroying all in its path. At times she could swear she heard death laughing at their expense ─ he was a living being who had carte blanche on everything that had breath and he revelled in every minute of their anguish.
With a last glance over the dry veld, she turned her back on the vegetable garden and made for indoor cover. She tried to maintain the feeble veggies, but between the sun and the lack of water, it was impossible. Every drop of water that she could save was put in the ground, nursing the seedlings to yield a harvest: even if it was just enough for her and her son. She didn’t ask for much, but now and then help would be appreciated, she thought with some aggression.
Ma[2], what will we eat tonight?” Steve asked and drew her back from her morbid thoughts. Her boy has grown the last year. Again, she looked at him, fascinated, at her kid’s lanky body. Soon he would tower over her, she thought with a sad smile. Crouched in front of the fridge, he scanned the meagre contents of the icebox. She knew there was not much to look at.  Their options became slimmer by the day and it pained her. She had no idea what would they do once it was done.
In town the people were already fighting about the scarce food supply and she would rather stay far away from that commotion as possible. Violence was at the order of the day and no one was safe. Law enforcement was useless and would rather take part in the looting than protect the innocent. She tried to visit the town a week ago, but only got so far as the outskirts when gunshots were fired, and a bullet slammed into her car. The bullet’s trajectory ended up close to Steve’s head, leaving a burnt hole in the headrest of his seat. She knew she would not make that mistake again.
She brushed away the wisps of hair from her wet forehead, “I will have to open a few cans. Get some in the cellar.” she requested with a tired sigh.
She hung her hat on the doorknob, placing her spectacles on the shelf next to the now-empty spaghetti bottle. She could still remember a time when all the canisters on the shelves were filled with a variety of noodles, pasta and rice. It was her pride and joy, decorating the cheerful kitchen with all kinds of bric-a-brac. Now they were empty reminders of a past she could only vaguely recall.
 “Okay, Ma.” He ran outside, his thick blond hair rustling as he moved. He jumped over Brutus, who lay lazing in the scant shade.
The once-beautiful oak tree gave plenty of shade when it was younger. She could remember the countless times she played under it: Her, Etienne and Susan. Now there was barely enough shade left to cover the dog’s body. How things have changed over the years!

Two roads. One choice.

Anabella Anthony found she was alone in the world at eighteen. Early on, she made a choice; to live an ordinary life away from the lifestyle her parents preferred. However, they had plans for her; they wanted her to become a part of their choices.

All she wanted was a regular household, with normal day to day issues like her peers, parents she could respect, and who above anything else would accept her for the person she is. Torn between dreams that filled her mind with alluring effects and uncomfortable events which tried to sway her, she had to come to a resolution: find peace and stay true to her convictions.

Through it all, she excelled in her sport; a dedicated student who falls in love with a much older man. Will she give in to her body's desires, or will she remain steadfast in her own choices? Can she find the courage to stand amidst the turmoil wanting to drag her down? And most importantly, will she ever forgive those who meant to harm her?

Aldrich Hagin, a lawyer, is ready to settle down. After a tragic loss, he experienced right after university he is now, more than ever, ready to move on and start a family. And then he meets a young, energetic, lively woman who turns his life and heart around. Will he be willing to sacrifice his own desires and wait?  Can he help her and be the anchor she so desperately needs? Confronted with his own decisions, the choice is his as to whether he’ll stay or leave. What will he decide?

A love story filled with decisions both have to make; to stand against all odds and remain true to oneself.  

Anabella emerged from the swimming pool―the rippling water a clear aqua right to the tiled floor―wiping water from her eyes with a brush of her hands, and making sure her hair was neat. She had just swum twenty laps as part of her training program for her upcoming championship and felt good, energized, excited, and ready to compete. She had put in long hours, focused every effort to accomplish this one gold medal; her dream for many years. It would open doors for her future plans and was in reach―she could feel it. Anabella knew she was ready.
“How do you feel, Anabella?” asked Mr. Rhodes, her coach.
“Excellent! I’m not even tired. This was a good workout,” she answered.
“Are your parents bringing you to the venue, or should I pick you up?”
“They are out of town, so I would really appreciate it if you could pick me up.” Although she could easily drive herself to the championship, she preferred to go with someone. The tension and stiffness of sore muscles after a hard race brought numbness to her limbs, which made driving almost impossible.
“Then it is settled. I will pick you up at 7am, sharp. Don’t be late,” her coach said sternly.
“I won’t be, Mr. Rhodes.”
“Go and rest, relax this afternoon, and make sure you are in bed early. Don’t worry about anything; all will be fine. You have worked hard these past few months.”
“Yes, sir.” She knew she had worked hard. The sore muscles were evidence, as well as the fact that she had not spent much time with family or friends. She had enough confidence in her abilities not to be worried at all and loved the competitive side of the sport; racing against a good competitor, and the excitement of winning after giving it her all.
There was solitude once you dove into the water, only you and it, and the lane stretching ahead. Sounds of the crowd did not bother her. At moments like these, she could allow the water to enclose her and swim through the currents created by other swimmers. An unsurpassed sense of freedom and accomplishment ran through her veins, and the adrenaline rushed through her core, making her feel alive. Here, she felt whole, forgetting everything else. Here, she was in control of her surroundings and her own life. Here, she set the pace, overcoming all fears.
It was her home, the place she felt safe. Over the years, the swimming pool had been the only place she’d considered a safe haven in her otherwise dysfunctional life. How she had longed for a healthy family life, to wrap her arms around a loving father and a caring mother, to tell them about her day, to include them in her life. She sighed as she turned away from the pool, burying the negative thoughts wanting to rob her from her jovial mood.
Confidence radiated from her whole posture and she felt good, really good. She never let on what was taking place within her mind. She never allowed outsiders into her life. She was always the outsider, never part of the family concept. Her only confidence came from who she was, as well as her accomplishments in either sports or academics. However, it neither made her arrogant or self-absorbed.
While Mr. Rhodes was talking, she managed to dry herself and put her sweatpants and top on, ready to go to her house.
“Bye, sir. See you tomorrow at 7am, and thanks.” She respected her coach for his time and devotion where she was concerned. He had put in just as much time as she had the last couple of months during training. She had learned to trust him for all the advice and his continued motivation, and would miss him when she went off to varsity the following year. He had influenced her to study to be a physiotherapist as her passion was to work with people.
“Bye, Anabella. See you in the morning.”
“Goodbye, Mr. Rhodes.”
Once home, she went straight to the shower. The warm water was soothing to her sore muscles and she fully relaxed under the spray. She was all alone―for a change there weren’t a lot of people in the house. Her parents had gone to a business seminar for the weekend, and would only be back on Sunday evening.
Her two older brothers, Roy and Derek, were not back from work yet, not that she expected them because they would usually go straight to the pub, or a friend’s house. It was Friday night after all, and their parents weren’t there to arrange their weekend. How she wished they could be a real family. She loved her brothers, but living at home kept them apart and they did not spend time together.
It was not unfamiliar to Anabella to be on her own on a weekend. If her parents were there, they didn’t speak to her anyway, because they would be busy entertaining their friends. She wrinkled her nose in disgust.
A long time ago, Anabella had decided not to be part of their lifestyle and because of this, there was no relationship between them. She had learned to distance herself, choosing to rather throw her time and energy into her sport. At first, it was a way out of the house. Now it had become her life; a life she appreciated and cherished.
She had the shower all to herself for as long as she wanted.
Once in her room, she got dressed, brushing her hair until it shone. Music played softly from the radio and she sang along with the well-known song.
Suddenly her cell phone rang, disturbing the stillness, but she smiled. The Caller ID showed it was her best friend, Monica. Of all her friends, she was closest to her, and was the heart of the group with her sparkling personality; always busy arranging parties or schemes, especially where boys were concerned.
Anabella trusted her as she was the only one who knew what was really going on at her house. Not that she ever allowed her to come over. For that, she was too ashamed, but she knew enough and was always close. When things got really bad, she could always turn to her. Although Monica was a cheerful person and looked like a ‘dumb blond’, she had shown maturity in a lot of things over the years, something that was not well known in their group.
“Hi, Moni.”
“Hi, Bell! You in the mood for a party at my house tonight?”
She could hear Monica was excited―almost out of breath because of it―and she could see her, as if she was standing right in front of her. However, Anabella did need to rest. Her muscles were still stiff after the practice.
“Not tonight, Moni, I really need to rest. Tomorrow is a big day and I must be in top form,” she said with a sigh, smiling because of her friend’s anxiousness.
“Please, Bell, do come, please, even if it is only for an hour or so.” Monica sounded very eager, almost desperate.
What was she up to again? “Moni, I can’t come, please understand.”
Bell, pretty please, a hunk of a guy is here, a friend of my brother’s, and I want you to meet him. Please come.”
In the background, Anabella could hear a shout, as if someone was screaming at her.
“Please, Bell!” It was Monica’s brother, Tim. He was twelve years older than they were and a lawyer, working for a well-known law firm in the city. Again he shouted in a deep voice, laughing, “Please, Bell, come!”
Anabella smiled at this and then said, “All right, Moni, but only for an hour. I do need to have a good night’s rest.” Reluctantly, she gave in. She knew her friend would not stop until she said yes. Her friend’s family was like a real family to her. Over the years, she had learned what it was like to have parents, and many times she would find herself crying afterward, longing for parents like theirs.
“Great. I expect you at seven, and you can leave at nine. Will that be early enough?” There was relief in her voice.
“Yes, that’ll be fine. Thanks for the invite. See you later.”
With an hour to spare, she stood in front of her closet. She took out a light, cream-colored winter dress with three-quarter-length sleeves. It fell to just above her knees. There was still a chill in the air this late in September and she didn’t want to be cold. Long, dark-brown boots completed her outfit. Her long, straight, dark-brown hair hung loose over her shoulders. Even after the winter, she’d kept her tan, which was noticeable on her face, knees and forearms.
She left the house at ten to seven as Monica only lived fifteen blocks from her. It was already dark outside, and stars dotted the sky. A light breeze ruffled through her hair but it wasn’t freezing, which she was glad about. It had been a long time since she had seen her friends, and maybe it would be good to see them all again. She got into her silver Renault Clio, a gift from her parents on her eighteenth birthday. To say she had been stunned to find the car parked in the driveway the morning of her birthday would have been putting it mildly. She had not seen either of them for almost a week, so Roy and Derek handed her the keys.
She’d spent a great morning with them, driving them to the nearest Mugg and Bean, enjoying breakfast together. Like ordinary young people, they laughed about silly stuff. No one mentioned the always absent parents. They had spent the previous night with friends and didn’t return home until two days later. It was good to hear her brothers laugh and be the young handsome men they were. Normality was not a word which described them, but on that day they had come very close to it. They even took a few photos together, which had been framed and now hung in her room. They reminded her that if they tried hard enough, they could be a regular, happy family, the one thing she craved the most.
She had an air of confidence about her, but at the same time she was very humble and shy. Through life’s trials, she had learned not to boast in her own abilities but to stay in the background and do her own thing. She had been forced to learn to stand on her own two feet, and not depend on her parents. They never cared, or were interested in her life. Although they took great care of her material needs, they emotionally distanced themselves, which bordered on abuse. Their own life and lifestyle was all that mattered to them. Her brothers would protect her at times but only to some degree, before they would leave her alone to fight or fend for herself. She loved her brothers, and she knew there were a lot of sacrifices they had to make to adjust to their parents’ way of life, but she could never pay that price.
Her innocence was precious to her. It was a significant issue, or rather an embarrassment to them, especially her mother. They thought she was uptight. She was always proud of the fact that she could still be a lady, watching Mrs. Richter, who played a huge role in her life. Her example of grace and humbleness was the measure of a woman, which made Anabella determined to be similar. She wanted to be graceful, elegant and have respect for herself, with a husband who would adore her. From teachers and classmates she only received respect and admiration.
In less than two months, she would complete her schooling. She looked forward to the following year as she would be attending the University of Cape Town where she would study physiotherapy, with her main focus in sports. She had always loved sports; there wasn’t one she had not tried at one time or another. She liked the commitment, the discipline it brought into her life, and the joy of competing. When competing in a team sport or as an individual, she felt that she was accepted for who she was as a person. In the beginning, it was a way to escape her home life, but now it had become her lifestyle.

Copyright @LynelleClark
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