Book Review 7

Summit Lake

By Charlie Donlea


If you have a need for a murder mystery that will get your heart racing and your blood pumping, then I’ve got the right book for you! Charlie Donlea’s debut novel, Summit Lake, checks every box in what a great suspenseful book needs. I would highly recommend Summit Lake for anyone who loves an exciting murder mystery.

The book opens with the brutal murder of Becca Eckersley, a young woman in the prime of her life. To say this is an intense scene would be an understatement. The detail Donlea uses to paint this setting goes far beyond simple words on a page. This particular backdrop, like many others in the book, becomes an experience that does nothing less than draws readers in further.
It is easy to become invested in this story. Through the use of creative flashbacks, Becca Eckersley’s life is weaved seamlessly within the life of an investigative reporter, Kelsey Castle. The story itself takes place in a little mountain town nestled deeply within North Carolina.

As the story of Becca’s romantic life unfolds, Castle is able to learn that Becca’s perpetual need for male attention is a potential driving force in her investigation. As Kelsey continues to review the case, a connection between herself and the late Becca makes it urgent that Kelsey do all she can to bring justice to the young woman killed in the prime of her life. As if this story needed any further intrigue, it isn’t long before we learn that Kelsey too is running from a troubled past and her involvement in the Eckersley case has become more than just a story to her.

What I loved about Summit Lake was the detailed imagery Donlea used to paint the scenery of North Carolina. Those near and dear to this area (as I am) are always overly critical of its description, and Donlea’s effort really does the state justice. I sometimes find that the overuse of flashbacks and the use of multiple timelines can get repetitive and confusing. That certainly wasn’t the case here! Most of all, this story was not predictable by any means. If I say anymore, I know I’ll start giving away too many important details, so take my word for it and grab this book today.

The next book by Mr. Donlea is set to be released in late April, and I for one am excited about what sort of anxiety he has in store for readers next. As mark of a true mystery writer, Donlea delivers readers countless hours of restless sleep as we come down from the ending of a masterful thriller.


If it was anything but a Country Song

I grew up an hour north of Seattle during the heyday of the infamous grunge scene. Years later when I joined the service and would identify being from Seattle, I often was asked if I had ever seen any of the more renowned bands such as Pearl Jam or Nirvana before they made it big.

That answer would be a big NO! While I identified as being from Seattle, in actuality I grew up in a little hick town that no one had ever heard of. It was just easier to say Seattle and move on with my day.

The music that most impacted my life at that time comes from a band with roots located far from the small town in Washington where I once called home. The first time I was introduced to the band Alabama I knew I had finally found the music I had been searching for my entire life. “Mountain Music” by this iconic country group was my jam and took hold of me like no song before it ever had.


Now the hubs still likes to tease me about my indifference to growing up in such close proximity to one of the greatest musical revolutions of all time. I was so close to the groundbreaking history of alternative music giants such as Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Alice in Chains. The trouble was their songs never seemed to speak to me even the slightest. Don’t get me wrong. I love grunge music along with classic rock and other genres, but I will always return to my favorite country music classics without fail.

One day while driving around, Blue Eyes, at the age of eleven sang the last lyrics of song that ended, “You only kiss me when you’re drunk.” I had to laugh because those are lyrics that I can clearly identify as classic country. There aren’t too many songs that get away with lyrics like this, but many in the country world get a pass simply because they are country! Being an avid fan, here is my list of some of these songs lyrics that can only be true country:

  • Alan Jackson: “Chattahoochee”


The song begins, “Way down yonder on the Chattahoochee, it gets hotter than a hoochie coochie.” That phrase in itself is classic country. I love Alan Jackson and know all his songs by heart. He is as country as country can be, but can you imagine Snoop Dog singing those lyrics? Me neither.


  • Billy Currington: “God is Great, Beer is Good and People are Crazy”


This song cracked up the hubs, a die-hard grunge fan, so much that he actually went out of his way and learned it. He even mentioned that no other genre could get away with this song and lyrics. By the end of the song, the main character, which only meets this mysterious man once in a bar as they bond over the phrase coined in the song’s title, ends being replaced in this man’s will instead over his own kids. The man is now rich, drinking a beer in honor of his gracious benefactor.  Now, if that is not country, I don’t know what is!


  • Dixie Chicks- “Good-Bye Earl”


Although this song has a serious message speaking out against domestic violence, it shows that country music is anything but transparent. No other genre could boast, “Mary Anne and Wanda were the best of friends, all through their high school days, both member’s of the 4-H club, both active in the FFA.”   Later on, especially if you are able to watch the video, you will see that they poison the man who was about to kill Wanda with black-eyed peas. Unless you are Fergie and have a band named that, only country music can get away with using this southern delicacy as the perfect murder weapon.


  • Garth Brooks – “Papa Loved Mama”


This list could not be complete without a Garth Brooks song. He is indicative of Country Music and the vibe that follows it. This was my sixteen year olds pick for this category. She felt that only in an upbeat country song could the retelling Mama’s untimely death at Papa’s hands be so accepted. Throw in the fact that Papa carried out the deed via his truck and this song fits just perfectly with good country standing.


  • Reba McEntyre- “The Night that the lights went out in Georgia”


Just like “Papa Loved Mama”, the upbeat music that accompanies the serious topic at the heart of this song makes its inclusion on my list of song with lyrics that could only be country. All the lyrics are great, but the best part is the line, “A big bellied sheriff grabbed his gun and said why’d you do it?” If that doesn’t give you a clear visual of a fat country boy, I don’t know what would. The next part continues, “A judge said guilty on a make believe trial, slapped the sheriff on the back with a smile and said supper is waiting at home and I gotta get to it.” Now, Country draws us back to the basics of good living and remembering what is important to life in general. The fact that food takes precedence to justice is just so fitting.


  • Brooks and Dunn- “Boot Scootin Boogie”

Of course we have to include a song with its own dance. “I fire up my pick-up truck and watch the horses run.” I would like to see Eddie Vedder sing those lyrics and get away with it.


  • Morgan Wallen- “The Way I Talk”


A newer song for the list, I feel this one just screams out to the Deep South and the home of many country music lovers. “I sound a little like my daddy, I don’t cuss around my mama, got some words you never heard unless you down yonder, the man up stairs get’s it, so I ain’t trying to fix it.” Now, here in the first part of the chorus of this song, Morgan Wallen has included everything country in here, Mama and Daddy and God. The only thing missing is his truck and an old hound dog!


  • Charlie Daniels Band- “The Devil Went down to Georgia”


Just the title of the song, “The Devil Went down to Georgia” tells you what you need to know about the song.


  • George Straight- “All My Exes live in Texas”

The merits of country music reign heavily in love and the lack of love at times. In this fun song, George Straight sings that’s why he lays his head in Tennessee. Only country music could get by with that sort of verse. I don’t see Bon Jovi fitting Tennessee into one of his songs and if for some reason he did, it could never be like King George!


  • Dolly Parton- “Jolene”


This is the ultimate cheating song. Before Carrie Underwood’s and Taylor Swift’s ballads that crooned heartbreak, is this classic. Dolly Parton’s hit was based on a red haired bank teller that flirted with her husband early on in their marriage. Cheating is indicative of so many country songs and this song has remained popular for over forty years for that very reason.


There are many more songs that could be added to this list. If you are an avid country listener and any of these rang true with you, please leave a comment on my page. If you have your own to add, I would love to hear from you.

Book Review # 6

Bad Mommy

Tarryn Fisher


If you ever want to take a ride on the crazy train then be prepared as Tarryn Fisher’s Bad Mommy has everything you’ll ever need. With a dynamic central character whose mental health is forever in question and a setting so real it feels like it could be happening down your block, Bad Mommy is a psychological thrill ride sure to grab you right from the start.

Fig Coxbury, the central character of the work, is an egomaniacal fiend who is only out to get what she feels is rightfully hers. Trouble arises when what she feels she is due is only a thought born from her twisted view of the world around her.

Ms. Fisher gives depth to the thoughts and actions of Fig by providing the alternate voices of Jolene and Darius Avery, the unfortunate family whose lives are the focus of Fig’s devilish desires.

Everything starts out innocently enough when Fig first notices a young girl playing in a park. This seemingly normal scene quickly spirals into one of insanity as Fig becomes fully convinced that this is the same child she unfortunately lost to a miscarriage a couple years earlier.

After thoroughly stalking the little girl and her mother, Jolene Avery, Fig acts on her urges and impulsively purchases a neighboring home to the Avery family. Before long, Fig intertwines herself deeply into the lives of this unsuspecting family with the intention of getting back the life she feels she’s owed.

Jolene, dubbed Bab Mommy by Fig, has no clue that this newfound friend who always seems to be there for her is in reality working against her at every turn. Darius, Jolene’s husband, is not safe from the actions of Fig either as he too soon becomes a target of Fig’s every growing desires.  Darius, is center stage to this story as the reader soon finds out not everything is as wonderful in his life as the fairytale Fig constructs for herself of the handsome Mr. Avery.

Readers are treated to the varying voices of all three characters as the story unfolds. This refreshing approach helps to fully understand just how crafty and unhinged Fig truly is in her quest for return of the life she never rightly had in the first place.

Tarryn Fisher’s creation of Fig Coxbury is a masterpiece of psychological torment and jealousy. She is the perfect character for anyone who guiltily enjoys watching as another’s life self-destructs before their eyes. From beginning to end, readers are taken on a journey of fascination as Fig’s seemingly innocent story unfolds to one of selfish madness with the ultimate goal of replacing the life of another with her own.

I love a great story that showcases the troubling psychological wellbeing of others.   This is a definite issue around all of us in today’s society.  Mental health is looked upon as a mere afterthought.  Fig is a great example of this.

Fig is a train wreck of a character that I loved to hate. The first portion of the book provide Fig’s point of view regarding her inability to have children making her desires and wants totally understandable.  This is something so many of us can relate to. However, when the author starts bringing in the perspective of the other characters, you can finally begin to comprehend just how insane Fig really is.

The ending of this book left me speechless. To say I didn’t expect what I found on the last page would be an understatement to say the very least. Tarryn Fisher’s Bad Mommy is a psychological study and glimpse into the world of an absolute psychopath who has no qualms about ruining the lives of everyone around her so long as she has her own needs met. This is a true page-turner worth your time!

A Funny Story from the Writer’s Conference

This past weekend, I was lucky enough to attend a writers’ conference in Atlanta. I filled my brain with a wealth of information that was particularly useful concerning my future as a writer. See, I have graduated from considering myself an aspiring writer to a full-fledged author even though I haven’t been officially published yet because I am constantly working on my craft. Though, let me assure you, it would be amazing to finally get published. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and so I trudge on, slowly erecting my legacy. Before I continue, I want to express a truly special thank you to Chuck Sambuchino and all of the agents, speakers, and editors in attendance at the Atlanta Writers Conference this weekend who have been expert architects in helping me build my Rome. These conferences are invaluable to all of us whose goal is to be published one day.

I promised everyone a funny story from my trip to Atlanta – and boy, can I deliver. I had my eye on a particular shirt, one absolutely perfect for the occasion, and picked it up on my way out of town Friday. I finally arrived in Atlanta, feeling a surge of confidence as I switched roles from “mom” to “author.” I grabbed my chic new shirt to lay it out for the next day, but staring back at me was the glaring, hideous plastic security tag. I was disappointed but determined to strut my stuff in that shirt the next day. Fortunately, any problem can be solved by a good old YouTube video. That magical website once again pulled through, so off I went to my host for the weekend, a good friend in Atlanta. When I off-handedly asked her for a knife and lighter, her eyebrows just about raised enough to touch her hairline as she confoundedly replied, “Well, I guess it depends what you need it for.” Maybe I should have phrased that a bit more eloquently, but hey, hindsight is 20/20.

As I reflected on that question, I had to laugh. I explained my plight and she graciously went to retrieve my contraband items. Now I am equipped with the indispensable knowledge of how to remove a security tag. Disclaimer: I will only be using this for items I purchase – I am not a criminal. If you too find yourself in this predicament, I have graciously included the YouTube video that helped me out of this weekend’s predicament.

A New Name-Same Site

Due to technical issues, I have changed the name of my blog to Writing With A Side Of Life and you can find me at however you can still reach me at too.

My Facebook page has been changed but if you are already following it, no changes need to be made for Facebook or blog followers!  Thanks everyone!


Book Review # 5

The Woman in Cabin Ten

By Ruth Ware


The name of this book detoured me from picking it up for months. I’d continually see it displayed at Costco, but I simply didn’t want to read about a woman in a cabin in the woods.  The only reason I ever actually looked into this book was when, a few months later, this book was selected as the next read for my book club. I grew more excited about the book after I actually read the synopsis. I could get behind a book that took place on the water. Somehow I got the vibe of Girl on a Train meets the water. Before I’d finished the first chapter, I was hooked and the author did her job of reeling me in like a fish on her line.

Right away Lo, the heroine, is thrown into a dangerous world when her flat becomes a target of a burglary. She is locked in her bedroom and hurt but is eventually able to pick the lock and get to her neighbor’s flat downstairs and call the police.

Needless to say, the attack leaves Lo petrified of the world around her. She decides to leave her flat for the seeming safety and anonymity of her boyfriend’s place. Awoken in the middle of the night by Judah, her boyfriend, she lashes out in a bid to defend her and winds up breaking his nose. The burglary and assault she suffered has truly rattled her more than she could ever expect or articulate and acts as the driving force for the premise of the book.

Fast forward a couple days and Lo, a journalist by trade, finds herself on a ship headed in search of her next story. An unintended result of the burglary is that with the loss of her purse, Lo has also lost a number of items that she has trouble piecing together.   Needing mascara, Lo goes to the cabin next to her own and asks the young woman there if she can borrow her mascara. (That in itself seemed weird. There are just some things you don’t borrow. Borrowing mascara is worse than borrowing someone’s underwear!). This woman resides in the Cabin Ten from the title. After their brief encounter, Lo leaves and doesn’t see the woman again for the rest of the night.

Later, after Lo recounts that she has had too much to drink, (something she often says she won’t do the again) she hears a splash from the side of the boat. Looking over the rail, Lo sees the woman from Cabin Ten sinking to her death. Lo notifies the security team on the lavish boat of what she saw, but they are quick to inform her that no one is registered to Cabin Ten. As a result of this revelation, Lo conducts her own investigation leading to questions no one wants to answer.

Lo, as a main character, is a relatable person that feels real at many points. Her personality has its blemishes, but Lo is able to work beyond her limitations to make her a life successful. Openly suffering from depression and anxiety is just one of the many marks of Lo’s character that many readers may find relatable.  I would say depending on the reader, she is either likable or not likable.

This book rivals others such as Gone Girl and Girl on the Train. I liked this book so much more than I initially expected I would. I did feel it missed a couple marks and didn’t really touch on or take advantage of the suspense that was built during the opening burglary scene. This detail was somehow never tied in with the rest of the book. I really enjoyed this book and it kept me guessing until the end, however, I’m starting to feel that this genre of “girls meets disaster” is becoming a bit over played. As far as The Woman in Cabin Ten goes, I would give it 4 out of 5 stars. It was not the most obvious of choice for my next book, but certainly turned out to be a great “who done it?” read.

Proud to be called a Veteran



If you have ever read my blog or know me personally, you know one of my proudest accomplishments is that I get to share every day of my life with my amazing children and the man of my dreams. Seconded only to this, my most rewarding achievement is having served in the military.

Although I only served for a touch less than five years, this is one triumph that really helped to shape my life. You see, the service taught me to grow up. Sure, at eighteen I thought I was an adult and was ready to conquer the world. Oh, how wrong I was! Life really changed for me the day I landed in Florida and had my first real encounter with humidity. This West Coast gal had no idea what humidity was and it only took two days of choking on the air before I was sick and on bed rest.

After I got “classed up” with a company, I realized my company commander (they are called DI’s now) was the hardest of hard Asses in all of boot camp. She wasn’t known for her subtlety and pointed out every misstep we made along with way.

However, I made it through boot camp with just a few bumps and bruises. When I finished the final run, I ran with the men in our brother company and her exact words were, “Snook, you actually can do something right!” I can look back at those nine weeks as a defining factor in how I lead my life today.

I then made my way to Charleston, South Carolina, and loved it. (Funny how eighteen years later my family happened to move to the same city and spent an additional five years there.) I had thought I would finish my remaining time in Charleston, however the naval base in Charleston was shut down during the Clinton Administration. Next thing I knew I was given orders to ship out to La Maddalena, Italy.

The thought of going over seas was both awesome and scary. Within two months I was dating a guy that I would later refer to as the Hubs. Being stationed in Italy was by far a highlight of my life and an experience I wouldn’t change for the world.

I met some of my best friends while in the Navy. These people were my family, especially when I was stationed overseas. We spent holidays, birthdays, and all our free time together. Thanks to Facebook, catching up with most of these people made it seem like we had never been apart. Whenever we get the chance to catch up face to face, it feels like we just saw each other yesterday.

I have a respect beyond measure for those that serve their country. Military members and their spouses are put through the ringer and are forced to make a lot of sacrifices daily. An active duty member often misses holidays, the birth of their children, and about a hundred other occasions that the normal civilian takes for granted. Don’t even get me started on the pay that an active duty member makes! They risk their lives for a menial paycheck that barely helps them get by. It is a very selfless job and I appreciate more than I can express what they do for our country.

I only served a short amount of time compared to other veterans. However, the military will always be in my bones. It is a part of my being and I am a better person for the time I spent in the Navy. I can only offer my thanks to everyone who has served or is currently serving and hold a special place in my heart for those families out there that have had to bear the ultimate sacrifice.


The Magic of True Love

By Diana Rose, YA Fantasy Romance Published Author


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