Maybe if I cradle myself in this rocking chair, back and forth, and tell myself that I am the first and best Audrina, I will capture her special gifts. My hollow brain will fill with her memories and then my family will love me like they loved her. These thoughts aren’t my own, but of the main character in My Sweet Audrina, written by the master of frightening family sagas: V. C. Andrews.

My V.C. Andrews shelf

My V.C. Andrews shelf

My Sweet Audrina is the latest V.C. Andrews novel to be transformed into film. In January 2014, the Lifetime channel aired a new version of Flowers in the Attic, the first novel in the Dollanganger series, and I couldn’t wait to watch it. I put it on my calendar and set my DVR, even though I watched it while it recorded. Three more movies in the series followed.

When I first learned that these movies were being filmed, I was ecstatic. These were books that I have loved and read over and over for years and finally, they were coming to life on screen. Characters whose voices I’ve only heard in my head would now have a face. V.C. Andrews fans have heard this all before: some company is considering producing a movie or a series based on her novels, but the project is never picked up. There have so many rumors and failed attempts in the past.

I can see why. Her work isn’t your standard horror fiction. Each novel features strong women that find their own way, their own destinies, despite the obstacles. There are family secrets and devastating truths, betrayal, and more often than not — forbidden family relationships (you know, the “I” word).

My Sweet Audrina is one of the more twisted tales, one that never fails to give me nightmares whenever I re-read it. Andrews’ first standalone novel is a concentrated version of her series. Audrina is a little girl that yearns to become like her older sister, the first and best Audrina, the one who mysteriously died in the woods just outside her house, nine years earlier. The “second and worst” Audrina is forced into a rocking chair every night by her grieving father, who wants her to capture the gifts that her dead sister no longer needs. She is isolated in a home where all the clocks are set at different times, there are no current magazines or calendars and when each day seems like a week has gone by. There’s something suspicious going on and Audrina is determined to uncover the secret.

The cast of characters includes: Audrina’s mother, Aunt Ellsbeth and her illegitimate daughter, Vera, and the tenants, a former championship figure skater turned amputee and her hardworking son.

According to The Complete V.C. Andrews, the latest news is that My Sweet Audrina is in the editing stage. Lifetime might air the movie as early as this fall! It’s a good time to be a V.C. Andrews fan.

Meet Johanna Morrigan: 14 and English, with her family dependent on the benefits. Johanna is just trying to find herself. Who is she? Goth? Poet? Everyday teenager growing up in the 1990s? Aware that she is an overweight, loser bookworm from an uncultured, working-class town, Johanna is ready to change all that. How to Build a Girl by Caitlin Moran is about Johanna’s transition from friend-less virgin to sex goddess and ultimate rock and roll critic.

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Grab yourself a nice hot drink, a blanket, and make yourself cozy because you’re going to want to read this mystery in one sitting.

Bless Her Dead Little Heart by Miranda James is the story of two prominent, elderly sisters in the small town of Athena, Mississippi. The sisters are cat-sitting a Maine Coon, affectionately named Diesel, for their librarian friend, Charlie Harris, when they receive an unexpected visitor. Their afternoon turns to chaos when old acquaintance, Rosabelle Sultan, barges in, hysterical that someone is trying to kill her, and not just anyone, but a member of her own family.

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It’s 7:44 p.m. and people are crowding into the cafe. I try to identify what brings them here and where they are going later by their clothes, shoes, and accessories. Tonight is a night for people watching and for chatting with friends, a night when people actually talk to each other rather than stare into their phones.

Here at the Coffee Klatch, the atmosphere inside is cozy: squishy chairs and a couch, local art on the walls, and the earthy smell of coffee. A group of us meet to relax, sketch, and drink…lattes. This is Sketch Night.

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In his Newbery Medal Acceptance speech for The Graveyard Book, Neil Gaiman discussed that there wasn’t a difference in what he read, whether books were considered good or bad. To him, there were no bad books or stories, just stories that he liked. I want to agree with Mr. Gaiman, however, there are some books I just can’t get through. It’s not the length of the book that prevents me from finishing the story, but the content.

My bookshelf contains a balance of classic American and British Literature (stories published from the regency period through the early 1960s) and Gothic family sagas, young adult, and an undeniable amount of books with or about cats. Below is a list of books that will not be taking up space on my bookshelves.

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I may have been overambitious setting such a high standard for myself. In my first blog post, Wednesday Weekend,  I discussed my goal to read 50 books by the end of the year. It’s been nearly four months since I challenged myself (on January 7, 2015) and I am progressing steadily, but according to Goodreads.com, I am falling behind.

goodreads graph

I was on a steady reading route until I started reading books I didn’t enjoy.

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“There’s a hamburger head shark!”

This shout came from a child in awe and surprise as he watched a hammerhead shark swish its body and swim around the giant tank.

I was on the second floor of the Open Sea Exhibit at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Below me, a group of children and adults lined the floors sitting crossed-legged, ready for the feeding. After a disappointing visit to the Slough and not seeing a single ray, I was ready to see some sea animals.  Here at the Open Sea Exhibit stingrays, tuna and sharks were hanging out together.

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It was Monday and not all of the animals in the exhibit get fed everyday, so only the turtles and the sardines were dining today. A sea turtle munched on some lettuce and bell peppers at the top of the tank. A school of shiny sardines whirled up from the narrow bottom of the pool to get their share of fish flakes. However, the sardines weren’t the only hungry fish in the tank that day. The Mahi Mahi snapped at the tornado-like school in an attempt to secure a snack. How do all these animals co-exist and not eat the wrong food? The presenter explained that the animals at this exhibit have been “target trained” to recognize a specific visual whenever their food is coming, essentially a “visual dinner bell.”

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It was evening when Joey and I walked along a dock of Moss Landing to get a better view of the seals resting on the shore in the marina. In the distance we heard the distinctive arf-arf of some sea lions, but much closer we heard knocking. Knock-knock-knock came again from under the dock. Something was under there. A family was laying on the dock, stomachs down and squealing. Even their dog knew something exciting was happening by the way he whined and pulled on his leash. Joey and I leaned over the dock to get a closer look at the water and out popped an otter!

I have never been this close to an otter in real life without a glass window between us. It was magnificent and terrifying to see such a creature up close. I watched it swim around in circles and continue to pull shellfish from under the dock and use the dock to crack open its treats. I was surprised that this one otter was approaching the dock with people and a dog standing on it, but it didn’t seem to bother the otter at all. The dog wanted to sniff it. I wanted to touch its fur, but its clawed paws changed my mind. Moss Landing wasn’t on our itinerary and yet it was one of the most astonishing places we visited on this trip. I had started the day anxious to catch some rays and splash waves. It was the perfect ending to my Beach Day.

Otter at Moss Landing

Otter at Moss Landing

 

 

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For our first wedding anniversary (03/14/2015), Joey and I decided to celebrate by going on a short vacation. Since I’m still not back at work full-time, we didn’t feel right splurging on going somewhere exotic, international, or, really, anywhere that needed a plane ticket to get there. Instead, we chose a destination that would take less than a day of driving: a road trip to Monterey, CA, one of my favorite places to visit. Monterey is very exciting for literature nerds like myself, but our first stop on our vacation was actually 50 miles outside of the city at Pinnacles National Park.

 

Pinnacles National Park Entrance

Pinnacles National Park Entrance

Day 1: Pinnacles National Park

My first visit to Pinnacles was in 2012, when the national park was still only a national monument. We visited the west side then, the less popular side of the park. It was also July, so that may have added to the emptiness of the park. Then, Joey and I climbed through pitch-black caves, the only light we had came from a cheap LED flashlight I kept in the car for emergencies. The caves inside were cool, but the air outside was overwhelming and the heat made our already out-of-shape bodies struggle through the hike. This time, we visited the eastern side of the park. I anticipated more of the same cave climbs, but was disappointed.

 

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