February 28, 2014

Feature & Follow

Feature and Follow is a weekly post hosted by Parajunkee and Alison Can Read

"The goal is to increase blog followers and make new friends."

The Rules:

Follow the 2 hosts.

Follow the 2 features.

Hop around and follow others who are participating, leaving a comment to let them know.

Answer this week's question in your own blog post. 
Q:  Change the plot.  If you could, what book would you change the ending or a plot thread?
This was a very, very tough one for me because in general, I wouldn't want to change many books I've read over the years .   The books that I haven't cared for . . . well, normally I'd want to change it all.  So . . . after much thought, I'm selecting a book I read many, many moons ago and it's what turned me against Danielle Steel.  I hated, hated, hated Lightning for the ending.  The book itself wasn't bad - - your typical Danielle Steel novel in which the heroine is incredibly beautiful but humble, smart and must have a man.  Okay, fine.  Sometimes that's just what you want to read.  In this particular book the heroine is a smart and beautiful lawyer who finds out during a routine medical exam she has cancer.  Her husband, stellar guy that he is, decides he cannot possibly handle all this and leaves her.  Yes, the jerk leaves her and promptly takes up with a bimbo girlfriend.  So much for in sickness and in health.    As any Steel heroine does, she is not defeated and goes about getting through her illness and raising their child and manages to find support and romance (it is Danielle Steel, after all) from a younger coworker whose sister suffered through cancer.  Good, right?  No, Ms. Steel has to go and screw it up by having our heroine make it through chemo, on the road to recovery and then giving her decent and caring coworker the boot and take her cheating, lying jerk of a husband back.  Yes, that's really what she wrote.  What kind of example does that set?  Was that supposed to be romantic because it made me want to vomit. 

I hate to admit that not only did I throw this book across the room but I actually (don't hate me, readers) threw this book in the trash.  That's how much I hated it.  So I would change the ending to have the heroine make it through chemo for the better, tell her lying, cheating husband to take a flying leap and run off to a Caribbean island with her younger and much hotter coworker.  Viola! 

February 17, 2014

For Colette, Kimberley and Kristen

As I write this, it's hard to fathom that it's been forty-four years since Colette, Kimberley and Kristen MacDonald were murdered and closing in on thirty years since I was first introduced to this case.   Every February 17 I think of and remember these three precious people whose lives were ended by Jeffrey MacDonald and my mind is still filled with questions.  Why?  When?  How? 

What started the fateful argument in the master bedroom that night?  When did it begin? How could MacDonald have massacred his own little daughters?  Will MacDonald ever come clean and admit he lied about hippy intruders and he himself took a club, icepick and knife to his family?  And perhaps the biggest question of all - - how does MacDonald continue to gain supporters? 

If you know me or if you've followed this site for any length of time, you've heard or read about my bumpy road on this case, from feeling MacDonald was probably guilty to probably innocent to absolutely guilty.  This wasn't an easy journey and it took me well over 25 years to run the spectrum of guilt or innocence.  I too once believed that MacDonald could be innocent of these horrible crimes and suffering from the worst miscarriage of justice anyone could be subjected to. 

But then came the DNA test results and the internet.  For years the MacDonald camp had been avowing that once the blood covered hair found in Colette's hand had been analyzed, her true killer would be known and MacDonald would be cleared.  And they were right, partially.  The DNA results proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that the hair clenched in her death grip, the hair drenched in her blood, was that of Jeffrey MacDonald.  Her true killer. 

That should have been detrimental enough to the MacDonald supporters but I think the internet has been even more damaging.  If you have a strong stomach, search for crime scene photos on this case or autopsy photos.  Again, this is only if you have a strong stomach and won't be tormented by seeing these images because, trust me, they aren't easy to view.  It's one thing to read in cold medical terminology about stab wounds or broken bones and bludgeoning.  It's quite another to see with your own eyes the horrific brutality inflicted on Colette, Kimberley and Kristen.  When you look at that and you compare the damage done to a five year old and a two year old, supposedly sleeping at the time, to the nowhere near as threatening wounds on MacDonald, it does not compute.  This was a physically fit twenty-six year old Green Beret.  He could have fought back.  He could have identified anyone.  And yet the alleged intruders left him alive . . . and not barely alive, lucky to have escaped, but well enough to be enjoying dinner with Cold Duck the following evening at the hospital while his wife and two baby daughters were on a slab downstairs in the mortuary.  The grotesqueness is almost impossible to equate. 

There is no doubt that MacDonald was charming and intelligent.  He was the perfect poster boy to recruit supporters into his injustice camp.  And I think maybe he had like-minded supporters thirty or so years ago, before the internet, before DNA results, before forum boards filled up with questions, doubts and people willing to recount their own experiences with MacDonald's acerbic and narcissistic personality.  Who does he have now, besides a blonde wife who roughly the same age his daughter Kimberley would be today had she been allowed to live?  He does still manage to keep supporters and they appear to be as devout and dedicated as ever but they lack one key component to being successful . . . they have no real rebuttal for the claims against MacDonald.   They fervently hang on to the tale of knife/icepick/club-wielding intruders hellbent on destroying MacDonald and his family.   These intruders managed to enter the MacDonald home on a cold and rainy February evening without leaving so much as a footprint, fingerprint or mud and were kind enough to not break or move anything within the house other than to knock over a coffee table, were also inept enough to not bring a single weapon with them and leave alive the one person who could identify them.  Point that out to the MacDonald camp and you will be met with a veritable barrage of personal attacks about how you hate "Dr." MacDonald, how awful and horrible Brian Murtagh and James Blackburn are and were and given a grocery list of wildly exacerbated injuries MacDonald claimed to have suffered.  Ask these supporters for a medical record supporting these injuries and you will be met with silence or muddled claims that the truth was covered up by the government, by Freddy Kassab, by anyone by MacDonald himself.  Ask them about the fact that MacDonald was sitting up in his hospital bed enjoying dinner and Cold Duck less than twenty-four hours after his family was killed and there is no reply.  Because he was witnessed doing exactly that and by his own mother, no less. 

Don't you think that if MacDonald was truly maligned, if he was suffering from the most egregious miscarriage of justice possible, celebrities would be on this bandwagon?  Look at the West Memphis Three.  Those convicted gentlemen had celebrities planning benefits on their behalf (as well as physical evidence indicating they had nothing to do with the crimes in which they were convicted).  Heard of Ryan Ferguson?  He was recently released from prison after a decade of massive support and news coverage.   If MacDonald's account had any merit whatsoever I have no doubt that it would attract and keep the interest of persons who fight for the underdog, who thrill in immersing themselves in tales of conspiracy - - especially those plotted by the government.

In the end, for me, it comes down to two things. 

First, as mentioned above, is the sickening discrepancies between the injuries documented on MacDonald that evening and those inflicted on his family.  Nevermind the puzzlement that a Manson-like group of murderers would choose to carry out such a vicious mission armed only with a candle according to MacDonald's story, or that one participant would chant something as ridiculous and uncool as "Acid is groovy."  Nevermind that not a drop of MacDonald's blood was found in the very room in which he claimed to be fighting for his life.  Nevermind that this so-called "fight" lasted by MacDonald's own account no more than ten seconds and MacDonald went down after one, possibly two, taps to the head while Colette suffered many blows and broken bones (MacDonald suffered none) and still attempted to get to her children to protect them.  As was quoted in Fatal Vision, either MacDonald is lying or he's the biggest pussy on the planet.

Second, MacDonald's April 6, 1970 interview.  Go ahead; pull it up online and read it.  If you know about this case it's a fascinating read because it's so revealing about MacDonald and his warped personality.  The most chilling aspect of the entire interview is one statement MacDonald made about what he said to the telephone operator when he called for help.  His exact quote was "So I told him that I needed a doctor and an ambulance and that some people had been stabbed."

Some people.  Some people.  This was his family.  His wife and children, whom he claimed to love more than anything in the world.  Shouldn't he have been crying and saying something like "My wife has been stabbed!  My children, my girls are dying!  My family is hurt!"  Anything other than what he said because he used the same terminology - - "some people" - - to describe the intruders.  The same beings he claims that killed his family and robbed him of that happiness.  Some people.   It's chilling.

Colette, Kimberley and Kristen MacDonald haven't been just "some people" to me.  They have been a part of my emotions for almost thirty years and based on the many online groups and forums, they have remained in others' thoughts and prayers as well.  That, to me, is the silver lining in MacDonald's decades-long protestations of innocence and abuse of the legal system in his desperate attempts to keep this case alive and active.  Sure, it keeps MacDonald in the spotlight, and if you know anything about this case and/or have seen his appearance on The Dick Cavett Show, you know he adores the spotlight but it's also kept Colette, Kimberley and Kristen in focus as well and that's who should be the face, or faces, of this case.  Not their killer.

So this is for them.  If you remember them today, remember that Colette was a gentle and loving woman who adored being a mother more than anything in the world and who hoped to someday be a teacher; that sweet and ladylike Kimberley was studious and liked to read; that tomboy Kristen was a little tiger who loved birthday parties and slides.   Also remember the baby boy Colette was pregnant with when she died  - this unnamed and unseen child that never had the chance to take a first breath.  So long as their killer remains incarcerated and their memories live on, justice is being done. 

February 5, 2014


Warning: This book is for mature audiences only.

I love her, but I also love him.
She’s everything to me.
He sets my world on fire.
It's our dirty little secret, and it’s about to blow our record deal sky high.
I’m Tommy Blade, the Prince of Punk Rock, and this is our story.

    Tommy Blade is a man with a secret. It’s a secret he only shares with one person, Jessi Blade – and the men he surrenders to in the bedroom. Her only condition to their tumultuous sex life is that these men are one night stands. But when Angel Garcia enters his life, it’s like a match to gasoline.

Mega-talented punk rock singer Angel Garcia, with his smoldering ebony eyes, tight leather pants and unstoppable stage presence, is a man who’s used to getting what he wants. He has his eyes set on Tommy Blade as his new lead guitarist, and as his life partner.

Jessi Blade, sympathetic to her husband's bisexual needs, loves him enough to share him, but she never counted on Angel Garcia to test the threshold of her marriage. He makes her life hell . . . and heaven. He’s her damnation and her salvation. She wants to hate him. She wants to despise him. But, his charm and raw sex appeal are impossible to resist. Without warning, she finds herself falling in love with her husband's gay lover.

At the height of it all, their punk rock band catapults to stardom.

Their lives are marred by secrecy, deception and sacrifice. Feelings of betrayal, backlash from the sensationalistic media and threats of blackmail send them down a hard road filled with tough decisions.

They aren't your ordinary rock stars. They're radical rock stars. And they have a big story to tell.

Available March 1, 2014.

Author Website

Author Facebook Page

February 3, 2014


DescriptionWhen the concierge of The Alexander, a historic Atlanta apartment building, invites his fellow residents to join him for weekly screenings of Downton Abbey, four very different people find themselves connecting with the addictive drama, and—even more unexpectedly—with each other…

Samantha Davis married young and for the wrong reason: the security of old Atlanta money—for herself and for her orphaned brother and sister. She never expected her marriage to be complicated by love and compromised by a shattering family betrayal.

Claire Walker is now an empty nester and struggling author who left her home in the suburbs for the old world charm of The Alexander, and for a new and productive life. But she soon wonders if clinging to old dreams can be more destructive than having no dreams at all.

And then there’s Brooke MacKenzie, a woman in constant battle with her faithless ex-husband. She’s just starting to realize that it’s time to take a deep breath and come to terms with the fact that her life is not the fairy tale she thought it would be.

For Samantha, Claire, Brooke—and Edward, who arranges the weekly gatherings—it will be a season of surprises as they forge a bond that will sustain them through some of life’s hardest moments—all of it reflected in the unfolding drama, comedy, and convergent lives of Downton Abbey. 

My Thoughts on While We Were Watching Downton Abbey by Wendy Wax 

Having never heard of author Wendy Wax prior to this nifty little novel, I picked it up solely on the connection to Downton Abbey.  I'm a fan of the British period drama and figured that a connection to the show would make for at least a decent book.  Am I glad I did! 

While We Were Watching Downton Abbey is much more than a quick and dirty little book capitalizing on the connection to a beloved show.  While Downton Abbey is what brings the four major characters together, it's really a backdrop to the events and happenings in the lives of these four.

I was held captive by this book from the first page.  Ms. Wax's writing style is easy, flowing and designed to successfully draw the reader in.  She succeeds.  As a native Atlantan, I was thrilled to read a book centered in the heart of the South with many landmarks, cities and roads that I was easily able to recognize and identify.   It was evident from the writing that Ms. Wax is an Atlantan herself and quite proud of her city.  

It was also clearly evident that Ms. Wax watches Downton Abbey herself, with more than just a rudimentary knowledge of the characters and plotlines.  Reading about the show through the pages of her book was akin to watching the first season, in all its awe and spectacle, again and what a wonderful feeling!

I have found in my reading history that many books centering on several main characters tend to have one that isn't quite as fleshed out or that I fail to identify with.  Not here.  If anything, I could identify with Samantha, Brooke and Claire as if each woman had a personality trait or piece of me written in them.  When I was reading a chapter on one character, I didn't want it to end but was quickly entrenched within the dilemmas facing another character in the next chapter.  In case you're in doubt, this is what a "page turner" is all about.

Despite the title, this book is really about relationships.  Relationships the women have with their significant others and children and most especially with each other.  These three are from very different walks of life and in different places and yet they turn out to be support systems for each other.  I loved the message I picked up that friendships are friendships, period and that friends will always have your back.  And the little glimpse we got about karma worked for me as well. 

While Edward is somewhat on the outskirts of the relationships, seeing as how he's not one of the three women, I really enjoyed his character.  He could have been written as a very flat standby character but he wasn't.  Surely I'm not the only reader who heard his British accent, clear as day, while flipping the pages and could see him brilliantly in my mind? 

Perhaps some portions of the book were predictable but let's be truthful . . . those outcomes are what we wanted.  I picked up the book hoping to get the Downton Abbey connection, a great read and a happy and satisfied feeling at the end.  Mission quite well accomplished.

In the end, I loved, loved, loved this book and suffered from both jubilation and sadness to finish it.  I would treasure a sequel (hint, hint) and wouldn't hesitate to recommend While We Were Watching Downton Abbey to Downton fans or fans of literature in which women are celebrated, rewarded and lift each other up.  Bravo, Ms. Wax - - you are definitely on my "must read" list from this point forward. 


Author Website

FTC Disclosure:  This book was borrowed from my local public library.  I was neither compensated nor paid for this review.