Every year, I face the difficult task of choosing only ten books from the many I’ve read to go on this list. I think this year was the hardest so far, as I read so many great books. But, here we go. I’ve included purchase links in case one grabs your attention.
This month we have 11 awesome writers on tour, showcasing their writing ability via short snippets of their never-before-seen written works of art. Each day, one author will be profiled on multiple blogs until the next day, when it will be another author’s turn to shine in our spotlight.
We invite you to check out each piece, no matter which blog you find them on, and then let the author know what you thought of their work via the comments sections. After enjoying the piece, we ask that you visit the author’s RWISA Profile Page here on the RWISA site, where you will find more of their work to enjoy.
Today, we are featuring Maura Beth Brennan!
CHRISTMAS WITH AUNT ALICE AND THE PINEAPPLE
By Maura Beth Brennan
You could say the trajectory to that strange Christmas Eve began on the Saturday before, when Mother and Father took us to Wanamaker’s in Philadelphia. There were five of us, counting my two little brothers and me, and we were there on our yearly trek to see the renowned Wanamaker’s Christmas tree and hear Christmas music played by a live orchestra.
After the concert, we wandered around the store, admiring the decorations. Mother was especially taken by the centerpiece on one of the tables in the furniture department. There, a pineapple, resplendent in a coating of golden spray paint, nestled on a platter filled with fresh pine boughs and sparkling ornaments.
“Oh, isn’t that lovely,” exclaimed Mother.
“I think it’s stupid,” said Father. Father was usually a cheerful person, full of jokes and funny stories, but that day he was grumpy, facing the prospect of having to eat lunch in Wanamaker’s Mezzanine Restaurant, where, as he put it, “They only have lady food.”
Mother rolled her eyes at me like she did sometimes, now that I was thirteen, and apparently had been admitted into the Sisterhood of Aren’t Men Silly. I rolled my eyes back at her, straightened my shoulders, and stood straight and proud.
Mother worked feverishly all that week to prepare for the holiday and finally, on the afternoon of Christmas Eve, we all decorated the tree. In those days in our house, the tree was brought into the house on Christmas Eve and not a day before. Father would spend hours groaning, shouting, and trying not to curse as he secured the tree to the walls. You read that correctly. Father was sure that the tree would escape its confines when left to its own devices, wreaking havoc, and so would place it in a corner and tether it to each wall with nails and the thickest string he could find. Only then could our tree, safely restrained, be adorned.
The tradition was that we would listen to Christmas carols as we all performed our assigned decorating duties. Finally, Father would finish with gobs of silver tinsel and, with a flourish, turn on the lights. After the “oohs” and “aahs” died down, we would head to the dining room for Christmas Eve dinner.
That’s how things usually went. On this particular Christmas Eve, though, as we were filing into the dining room, a loud shriek emanated from the direction of the kitchen.
Mother shot Father a look. “Aunt Alice.” she said.
I should have mentioned that my Great Aunt Alice was visiting. She was extremely old and, on holidays, came to stay with us. We kids loved Aunt Alice. She was funny, though not always intentionally so, told us fabulous stories which she made up herself, and she loved to curse. This was a great learning experience as I saw it. However, my parents had recently had a discussion with Aunt Alice about this behavior. I listened in, rooting for Aunt Alice, and it went like this:
Father said, “There are children here, Aunt Alice. Think of the children.”
“But you curse, and you’re my favorite nephew,” Aunt Alice replied.
Father countered with, “Look, Aunt Alice, that’s different. I’m a man, and I was in the Navy during the War.”
Aunt Alice, voice rising, shot back, “Oh, come on. What a crock of—”
“Stop!” yelled Father.
“POOP,” Aunt Alice screamed. “I was going to say POOP.”
Mother chimed in, “That was better, Alice. Crude, but better.” Then she swooped in for the finish. “Alice, Dear, you are so creative! Why, all those stories you tell, I’m sure you will have no trouble coming up with interesting things to say when you’re upset. If you want to keep coming here to be with us and the children, that is. It’s completely up to you.”
“Dag blig it,” said Aunt Alice.
So on that night, hearing that strange cry, Father rushed in the direction of the sound and we all followed. I, for one, hoped it meant a ship was visible from our kitchen window, though we lived nowhere near a body of water. That would have been a treat.
But there was Aunt Alice in the kitchen, crawling along one of the counters and opening and closing the cabinets, a fairly tricky situation. Father caught her just as she was tumbling from the counter, having been pushed off by the cabinet door she was trying to open.
“Aunt Alice, what are you doing?” Father shouted. “You could have broken your hip.”
“Forget my bleeping hip,” Aunt Alice shouted back. “Where did you people hide my flipping glasses?”
Father pointed to the glasses dangling from the ribbon around her neck.
“Oh,” she said. “Well, it’s about frogging time.”
Finally at the table, all proceeded well, although Mother seemed distracted. She cleared the dishes and started toward the table with our desert, at which point Aunt Alice laid her head on the table and moaned, “Oh, why won’t they let me have a beer?”
“You know why, Aunt Alice,” Father said. “You’re on that new heart medication and the doctor said you can’t drink.”
“But you’re drinking,” she said, pointing to Father’s glass of wine.
“Now, look Aunt Alice,” Father began, but Mother interrupted him.
“Don’t worry, dear, I’ll get you something,” she said, patting Aunt Alice on the shoulder, and winking at Father. She signaled to me to follow her into the kitchen.
“She’s been so good, with the non-cursing,” Mother said. “I better come up with something. Do you think we could fool her with some grape juice?”
I was honored to be included in this weighty decision and offered my solution. “Let’s add vinegar,” I said. That will make it taste like wine, I bet.”
“Hmmm,” said Mother. “Well, I don’t drink, because I think it tastes terrible, so I’m not sure . . .”
She filled a crystal goblet with grape juice and topped it off with a splash of white vinegar. She handed the glass to me. “How does it taste?” she asked.
I took a sip and immediately spit it out. “Yuck!” I said. “It tastes terrible.”
“Well then, that should do,” said Mother.
She took the glass to the dining room and handed it to Aunt Alice, who brightened up and took a sip.
“Ah,” she said. “Now that’s more like it.”
After we settled again, I noticed that Mother still seemed distracted, which I attributed to all the work she had been doing the past week. But suddenly, after desert, she threw her hands to her face and cried out, “Oh, no! I forgot to spray a pineapple!”
Father sat back, threw his napkin on the table, and burst into hearty guffaws. “Oh, Mary,” he said, “now that’s a good one. A pineapple! Heh, heh, heh, like that silly thing we saw last week?” He shook his head. “Mary, I have to say, every once and a while you come out with a good one.” He wiped his eyes and grinned in Mother’s direction, then stopped cold when he saw her face. “You were kidding, Mary, right? Kidding about that funny pineapple thing? Mary? Sweetheart?”
But Mother rushed from the room and we could hear the sounds of things being thrown around in our pantry closet—pots clanging, wrappers rustling, cans and boxes colliding. Before long, Mother emerged, a look of relief on her face, displaying the elusive fruit—one glorious pineapple. We all applauded, and Father sprang from his chair to escort her back into the room. But Mother glared at him. “I have things to do,” she said.
Father looked like he wanted to go after her, but Aunt Alice tugged on his sleeve. “Can I have more of this wine?” she asked. “It’s delicious.”
I washed and dried the dishes, and soon it was time for my brothers and me to go to bed. I heard Father call to Mother once, asking if he could help, but she shouted back, “You just leave me a-lone.” I imagine after that he kept what is known as a low profile.
On Christmas morning everyone jumped out of bed, eyes shining, faces bright with smiles, even Mother.
And what a beautiful sight lay before us. The Christmas tree glimmered in the darkened living room, surrounded by gaily wrapped gifts. And visible through the archway was the dining room table, draped with a golden cloth and graced with an arrangement of fragrant pine boughs and glittering gold Christmas ornaments. Nestled in the greenery sat the singular, spectacular, gilded pineapple.
“Oh, Mary,” said Father. His face flushed and his eyes looked a little watery. “It looks beautiful.”
“Well, I’ll be a son of a—,” began Aunt Alice, but Mother grabbed her elbow.
“Don’t even think it,” she whispered. Then she smiled her lovely smile and said, “Let’s all just wish each other” and we all chimed in—
Thank you for supporting this member along the WATCH “RWISA” WRITE Showcase Tour today! We ask that if you have enjoyed this member’s writing, please visit their Author Profile on the RWISA site, where you can find more of their writing, along with their contact and social media links, if they’ve turned you into a fan.
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It has been a while since I took the time to post some reviews for books I’ve read recently, so here we go!
If you want to hop over and purchase a copy of any of these books, simply click on the titles.
From the super talented author, Mae Clair – “In Search Of McDoogal.”
Quirky and Entertaining!
This short read from Mae Clair is funny and filled with quirky characters. When Brady mistakenly sells his girlfriend’s painting, her talisman, her treasure, (or so he is led to believe) he will move heaven and earth to get it back. He grabs his best friend, Declan, and the two set out to retrieve the painting before the girlfriend returns from out of town. The search almost reads like a “who’s on first” scenario, as they met dead-end after dead-end in a small town four hours away. The characters come to life and jump off the pages, from the love-struck Brady to the star-struck Dorie and a confused sheriff. I loved everything about this story. It is well-written, a quick easy read, and will make you laugh out loud! But my favorite part of Brady’s quest was his own discovery of how much he’d come to care for (no fall in love with) Vanessa. While the quest was to retrieve the dreadful painting, it accomplished so much more. If you’re looking for a lighthearted escape from life, this is a perfect choice! It is well-written and shows the diverse talent of this author! I highly recommend it!
From Author, S. Burke, “The Reckoning Squad.”
Full of Action!
This story gripped me and drew me in from the first sentence on the first page. Unimaginable tragedy strikes a young girl, Chastity, crippling her mentally for a long time. When she has to shoot and kill another classmate to save lives, she struggles to recover. Her desire to see justice served to those who deserve it send her on a path of becoming an FBI Agent once she graduates college. But, the unexpected offer to join an elite team appeals to her even more.
As the story unfolds, we see her bond strongly with her teammates as they face arduous training, with only a handful completing the training. But the bond cements itself as they begin to work cases and bring about justice in whatever way it takes.
When they’re assigned to an extremely high profile case and there is a breach, causing great loss of lives, things move into overdrive for Chaz (the name she shortened Chastity to after the school shooting) and other team members. The intricate web of deceit, murder, and high finance proves to be a challenge beyond anything they’ve imagined. These characters come to life at the hand of this talented author. I particularly loved the characters, Chaz and Zach, and the romantic tension between them. This story has everything any reader could want. It is a definite page-turner. I couldn’t wait to see the outcome. If you are a fan of fast-paced, deep stories, you’ll love this one! This story deserves to be made into a movie and I hope Ms. Burke has more in store for the characters going forward.
Suzanne Burke is a member of the RAVE REVIEWS BOOK CLUB!
From author Teagan Geneviene, “Brother Love – a Crossroad.”
An Imaginative Tale At a Crossroads!
This author serialized this story on her blog before publishing it, and I enjoyed following along then. But reading the story from start to finish was an entirely different experience. There are several things I love about this story. A girl who is ostracized because she happens to live in a house that sits at the crossroads and believed to be evil. A magpie, Jinx who can talk and sing is another aspect of the story I loved, But the tent revival setting and shenanigans that occurred captured me the most. This author took word prompts from her blog followers to include in each chapter of the story and that is such a unique idea. She also included some fun facts or educational information at the end of each chapter. This story is well-written. The only criticism I have for it is the way it ended abruptly. I would like to have had a more satisfying conclusion. Great story with an imagination that knows no bounds!
Teagan Geneviene is a member of the RAVE REVIEWS BOOK CLUB!
From Maura Beth Brennan, “Stardust.”
So Many Different Levels of Goodness!
I thoroughly enjoyed this short story. Maeve is a retired librarian and the children in the small town adore her. As a ritual, each year at Halloween, when the trick-or-treating is over, many children along with their parents gather in Maeve’s living room for stories and refreshments. Maeve is beloved by everyone despite her eccentricities such as riding her bicycle all over town. But, when she ventures out of her safety zone to visit a new supermarket, tragedy strikes in the most horrific way. Maeve is mugged by a group of thugs and would have met her death without the intervention of a young boy, Eddie. The two become best of friends as she helps him with his school lessons. That is until his older brother finds out, and makes threats he is known to carry out. Maeve is drawn to a chest left to her by her great-grandmother, where inside, she finds a shawl that she remembers being told was woven from stardust. That starts a series of magical events. I will not leave a spoiler for this story, but will say it is very well written and compelling with many different levels and layers of goodness! I highly recommend it.
Maura Beth Brennan is a member of the RAVE REVIEWS BOOK CLUB!
From author, Sam Polakoff – “Shaman.”
A Reincarnation Journey!
Dan Alston has spent a lifetime building a reputation – that of the last clean politician. He’s now serving in the U.S. Senate and represents his constituents with honesty and integrity. But things are not all rosy for the Senator. As his life starts to unravel, more and more strange occurrences – visions – voices and mystical possibilities unfold. This book gets off to a slow start and I was almost at 50% before the story grabbed me and wouldn’t let me rest until I reached the end. There are dual timelines and souls intertwined and reincarnated to learn lessons and for some, to seek revenge. The ultimate revenge to bring down the Senator and destroy the world at the same time is a huge undertaking for Maritza Coya and her accomplice. I won’t tell you what happens, as I do not want this review to be a spoiler. I’ll just say this is a journey from start to finish. While I am a believer in reincarnation, some parts of the scenario I found to be a bit unbelievable, but still entertaining. The last scene in the book left me confused. A wedding in Peru with both living and deceased people in attendance left me scratching my head. However, after contacting the author, it all became clear. The story came to a satisfying conclusion. If you are intrigued by reincarnation or mysticism, you will enjoy this book.
Sam Polakoff is a member of the RAVE REVIEWS BOOK CLUB!
I hope you enjoyed my thoughts on these books. If any grabbed you, click on the title to purchase. I’m now reading a book by an author new to me, Linda Trout, and the title is “Tangled Promises.”
I’ll share my thoughts on this book later. What are you reading?
Today, I welcome a new RWISA member, Maura Beth Brennan to my blog.
MEMORIES OF MOM
By Maura Beth Brennan
I miss my Mom’s quirks. Her superstitions, for instance.
“Don’t you dare put your shoes on that table,” she would say. She wasn’t talking about putting shoe-clad feet on the coffee table. She didn’t want anyone putting a shoebox containing new shoes on a table—any table. Such an action could have dire consequences. That box must be placed on the floor. Period.
No one in our house would have dared leave a wet umbrella open to dry inside the house. That would have, according to Mom, invited disaster. And if you left the house by the front door, you had better return that way. If not, who knew what tragedy might befall you?
Now, when I walk my dog through the woods and take a shortcut home, I double around the house to reenter through the same door. I can still hear her voice, warning me. I leave that dripping umbrella on the porch. I place that shoebox on the floor. Because my mother—she’s a deep, tenacious part of me.
I miss so many things about her—her funny remarks, her kindnesses, her soft voice. I say things to my daughter and think, there is my mother talking. She blurted the funniest things sometimes, and Dad, my brothers, and I sometimes teased her about it. One source of our amusement was her habit of mixing up common clichés. “Sit down, let’s chew the breeze,” my mom would say. Or, “It’s six of one, a dozen of the other.” When we’d laugh, she’d look confused until she realized what she had said. Then, she’d laugh along. She was the inspiration for the mother in two of my short stories, where the mother’s sayings always came out wrong.
I miss having Mom to lean on. One difficult year, I had to take a leave of absence from work. A new house, a demanding job, a young daughter, night school to earn a degree—it was suddenly all too much for me, and I couldn’t seem to stop crying. One morning, as I sat feeling sorry for myself, I heard a knock at my door. There was Mom, smiling, bearing homemade muffins for us to share. She settled me at the kitchen table. “Now, don’t you cry anymore,” she said. “It will all work out.” She made me a cup of tea and brought it to me. “This is nice,” she said. “Isn’t it? Just us girls.”
What I would give to have a cup of tea with her now. To let her know how much that meant to me.
Mom was a shy and quiet woman, but she had courage and a steely spine when it came to her family. Her courage showed when, during World War II, she packed a suitcase and took her baby daughter (me) three-thousand miles across the country, by train and bus, to be with my father while he was stationed on the west coast. She stayed there, making a home for us until the war was over.
She showed that courage when she won her first battle with cancer. She never told either of my recently married brothers how ill she was, not wanting to worry them. She told them she had “a little procedure.” When her health returned, it was as if it never happened. She never spoke of it.
But cancer struck again, a different one this time, more deadly.
And this is the memory that breaks my heart. She was in the hospital after exploratory surgery and a terrible prognosis. I went to visit, pulling my chair close to her bed to hear her quiet voice. Her eyes stretched wide and she grasped my hand in hers.
“I’m so scared,” she said.
She died nine months later. That January, the doctors had “given” her three months to live. But she was determined to live until her fortieth wedding anniversary on September 20th.
The afternoon she died, my father, my brothers and I were gathered around her bedside. She asked my father, “Bud, is today our anniversary?” She was suffering and my father couldn’t bear to watch it go on. It was September 19th, a day too early.
He pulled her close and embraced her for the last time. He knew what he had to do.
“Yes, sweetheart,” he said. “It is.”
Please take a moment to visit Maura Beth’s RWISA Author Page and take a look at her work!
Thank you for supporting today’s RWISA author along the RWISA “RISE-UP” Blog Tour! To follow along with the rest of the tour, please visit the main RWISA”RISE-UP” Blog Tour page on the RWISA site. For a chance to win a bundle of 15 e-books along with a $5 Amazon gift card, please leave a comment on the main RWISA”RISE-UP” Blog Tour page! Once you’re there, it would be nice to also leave the author a personal note on their dedicated tour page, as well. Thank you, and good luck!