Sunday, December 31, 2017

Goal for 2018: Be Boring

In the past two days I managed to tear down a huge wall of writer's block. This sucker was beefy and cost me several months of writing (though looking at my word count, we're probably talking closer to a year). The culprit, I think, has been all of the life changes my family has gone through. Not only have these changes been distracting (and even derailing), they've also been entertaining. Walls to paint, rooms to decorate, new places in my neighborhood to visit...I guess it sounds like a good thing, huh? I mean, a lot of people believe that the key to writing a lot is living an interesting and varied life. The thing is, I disagree. I think the key to writing a lot is stability, and even boredom. When I first started teaching, it was my dream to write a book, but I couldn't get anything down on paper. Teaching was too new, and it was taking every ounce of creative energy I possessed to create lessons. The job turned my life upside-down, and I was perpetually drained. It wasn't until 2011, after I had been teaching for 4 or 5 years, that I was settled enough in my job to finally write a book. Three years later, my novel was finally finished.
~ Gustave Flaubert

Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon devotes an entire chapter to this principle. The first paragraph sums up his argument nicely:
I'm a boring guy with a nine-to-five job who lives in a quiet neighborhood with his wife and his dog. That whole romantic image of the creative genius...running played out. It's for the superhuman and the people who want to die young. The thing is: It takes a lot of energy to be creative. You don't have that energy if you waste it on other stuff (Kleon 119).
I think that's the key. I need to get to a place of consistency again. I need my life to take on a sort of dull harmony, so that boredom can set in, and I can take all of that pent up creative energy and purge it onto pages on my screen.

Thus, my New Year's Resolution for 2018 is to be bored.

(For the record, I think this resolution is better than the one I made in 2015, in which I vowed to be a hermit crab stuffed into a broken piece of bottle).

Seriously, 2017 was too exciting. And too unsettling. Boredom sounds amazing. Can I get me some of that, please?

Happy New Year, and may yours be more exciting than mine!

Saturday, December 9, 2017

New Everything

I feel like we just did some kind of life swap. It's exciting, but also unnerving. I get a little spooked when life throws too many changes at me, and even good stress is stress. I started mentally cataloguing the things that have changed in our lives recently, and taking smaller things out of the equation (such as the renovations we're making on our house, Trinity learning how to drive, etc.), here's what I'm trying to adjust to:

New Career: Not for me, but for Clint. He went from being a train conductor and engineer to a 7th grade math/science teacher. Though this has been a mostly positive change for our family, it has come with it's share of stress (having him buried in school work, his exhaustion as he copes with his new position, etc.).

New Home: You already know about this one. But one thing worth mentioning is that though we moved only 29 miles away, 9 miles of it is straight up a mountain, which means our new house is in an entirely new climate.

New Car: Because of the above-mentioned new climate, we need a smaller vehicle with more maneuverability for narrow, curvy roads, yet something that can get us through the snow. I wanted a Jeep Wrangler Unlimited. I adore Wranglers. There's just something so classic and timeless about them. Unfortunately the crash rating for the Unlimited is only a 2 out of 5 for the passenger (3 out of 5 for the driver). This was an instant deal breaker. So we ended up with this:

This is a 2017 Jeep Renegade Trailhawk (crash rating 4 out of 5). It has everything on our wish list. It's a 4-wheel drive with a tight turn radius and has special settings for the snow. And yes, we got it in hyper green! I'm not a silver or beige car-person. Best part is we never had to go to a dealership. We found everything we wanted online, and the dealership came to us! We signed all of the paperwork at my work and they delivered us our car. It was pretty crazy showing up to work in a minivan and leaving in a brand new Renegade.

New Dog: This is Gus.

When we moved to the mountains, George (our German Shorthair Pointer) became an absolute terror. Clint's dad has always had a soft spot for George, so he decided to take him. Giving up George left us with only one dog, and Beans gets pretty lonely while we're at work. So we got Gus. It was Clint's idea to go with a Corgi again because of how much we loved Cricket (our old girl who died last year). So far Gus is too adorable for words.

New Diet: I haven't eaten meat since June 22. In less than two weeks I'll be at the half-year mark. I really want to tell you all the cliches such as "Becoming a vegetarian has changed my life!" and "I have more energy than I've ever had before!" but the latter is simply not true, and mostly I just miss meat. Trying to cope with all of these life changes without any comfort food kinda sucks. I've decided to give myself one cheat a month now for fish only, but this doesn't help much when what I really want is a McDonald's double cheeseburger.

New Perspective: I've touched upon this on past blog entries. Ever since the accident the idealist in me has been chipped away a little, and I view the world through a more cautious lens. It's not a bad thing, it's just different.

I think that covers the major "new" things. I did buy a new set of pajamas that I really like, but that's probably not worth its own heading.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Strawberry Flats

It's only the second day of December but I've already been bitten by the Christmas Bug. (That's a thing). I think it's this place. These cozy curving streets and towering trees, the chill in the air and the scent of smoke and pine, all of the festive lights...I love the mountains to a degree that's got to be annoying to others because the wonder of living here is all I want to talk about. But recognizing I have a problem is the first step to curing it, right? (Do I want to cure it?)

Here is our home, decorated for the first time. Well, decorated for the first time by us, at least.

Today Trinity baked chocolate-chip cookies and wrapped them in cellophane wrap with ribbon, while I made Christmas cards. We're going to give them to our neighbors tomorrow. Attack of the Christmas Bug.

Oh, our Amazon purchases are a wee bit out of control too.

So speaking of my obsession with the mountains, last weekend I went to our local library to research the history of our town, and discovered these pictures:

It turns out our town used to be known as "Strawberry Flats", due to berries that were grown in the surprisingly wide/open areas of the community in 1865, along with a successful strawberry farm homestead run by a Mr. Smithson from the 1870s-80s. Twenty-five weekend cabins were constructed in 1914, bringing in an influx of visitors. According to the article "Best Kept Secrets in the Mountain," there were finally enough full-time residents by 1916 to apply for a post office and their own zip-code. Residents requested the name "Strawberry" or "Strawberry Flats" for their town, but the name was rejected because another community in California was already using it. Strawberry residents were forced to accept their second choice, "Twin Peaks," named after two prominent peaks nearby. These peaks are still known today as "Strawberry Peak" and "Little Strawberry." The post office pictured above would have been the very first building to display the town's new official name of "Twin Peaks." It had to feel strange to the locals, calling their home by one name their whole lives, then having to switch to another.

Every town/city has a history, so I'm not sure why I'm so intrigued by this one. When I lived in Oak Creek (WI) for 18 months, I never cared about the town's history. Even my beloved desert hometown, though it's backstory is mildly interesting, has never captured my attention quite like Twin Peaks. Maybe it's the size of the town that makes a difference. My desert hometown has a growing population of over 90,000 residents, and is constantly blooming with yet another chain, whether it be a Von's or a Starbucks. There's nothing quaint or cozy about it; nothing that makes a person want to dig for a story. But Twin Peaks has only 1,500 residents (with very little room for growth due to its geography). That's about the same population as the middle-school I work for. Our local grocery store is family-owned and has been around since 1940. 

When you're living in a town this small, history seems to resonate from every corner, and somehow your presence there feels so much bigger.

Maybe eventually small-town living will get on my nerves. But for now I feel pretty dang grateful to live in this sweet little slice of mountain. I feel very certain that, someday, one of my novels will feature a small foggy town in the mountains...a town called "Strawberry Flats".

Sunday, November 19, 2017

One Thousand Paper Cranes

It's been exactly one month since the accident. We finally got our truck back from the shop on Friday. It's shocking how much damage one motorcycle can do to a 2500 4x4 Dodge Ram. Now the truck looks all shiny and new. Doesn't matter. I still see it the way it was before, with the Harley mangled and twisted into it; with the crushed-in metal and black marks where Kaleena's helmet hit the hood. It's hard for me to look at our truck. It's hard for me to sit in the passenger side, where I see Kaleena's body flying into the air again and again. If we had been driving our minivan that day, the Harley would have crashed through our windshield. I'd be dead. Trinity, right behind me, would have been severely injured. But luckily we were in a truck that was tall enough to take that enormous impact without hurting me or my family. "Luckily." Ha. These are things I should feel thankful about. Why can't I feel thankful about them? 

But it is getting better. I know I sound bitter. Maybe I'll always have these little seeds of resentment that pop up their ugly heads when I'm writing about it, but I really am getting better. I've felt the difference this week. And I've realized three things:

  1. I can be normal again. Life does go on. I can be happy.
  2. The fact that I get to keep living (when Kaleena doesn't) might always fuel embers of guilt inside of me. But maybe I need that. Guilt is the least I can do for her.
  3. Even though life goes on, even though I'm starting to find happy/silly-me again, I'm different inside. Kaleena's death did something to me, something I can't un-do. I've accepted this.
In memory of Kaleena, I've decided to make hundreds of paper cranes. 498 to be exact. Here are the details I posted on Facebook:

I didn't give context for this post. It was too personal. Regardless, several people expressed they wanted to help us reach our goal (I say "us" because once Trin found out I wanted to do this, she was vehement that she needed to do it too). So we came up with our plan. Trin and I, and others who've decided to help us, will simply make paper cranes in honor of people in the country whose lives were cut short by tragedy, being sure to write each person's name on the inside of the crane. On October 19, 2018, the one year anniversary of Kaleena's death, my family will set up a small memorial at the crash site with all of our cranes. At this time, the 1000th crane will be created and dedicated to the memory of Kaleena Porter.

I'm keeping this project on the quiet-side. I don't want this to be about me, I want it to be about her.

This will be the last post I write about Kaleena for a long while. I'm ready to start writing about normal things again. I started to write "normal, shallow things", but my heart just isn't into self-deprecating my life right now. Even if things seem stupid and unimportant, it's life. I'm lucky to have it.

Friday, November 10, 2017

When Everything Changes

For the record, everything below the dandelions was written a couple of weeks ago. I was in a bad place. I'm still struggling, but it's tempered compared to how I was feeling then. On the plus side, my family has been so amazing. The night this happened, I insisted that I didn't want to be around anyone. Yet my parents drove all the way up the mountain and showed up on my doorstep with my sister. They wrapped their arms around me and let me break down and cry. Shannon made everyone hot tea and they stayed until midnight. By the end of it all, they even managed to make me laugh. It's incredible how brightly light can shine in those dark moments. I love my family so much.

Comments are closed on this post.

Thursday evening, at about 4:45, I held a young woman's hand while she bled out onto the roadside. A woman who had crossed over onto oncoming traffic and was struck by our truck.

Here is the article in our local newspaper: Motorcyclist Killed in Head-on Hwy 173 Crash. An objective piece that gives the facts. What it doesn't say is how hard me and two kindhearted drivers tried to save her. It doesn't tell you how we pounded her chest with compressions, how we prayed over her, how we begged her to live. It doesn't tell you how her pulse was strong in the beginning, and her eyes flickered every time I yelled at her "Kaleena, fight! You can do this. FIGHT." Or how when we finally pulled off her helmet under the directions of the 911 operator, her brains spilled out onto the cold ground. It doesn't say how she never really had a chance, even though at the time, we thought she did. It doesn't tell you how we foolishly clung onto so much hope.

The article, in its mere 171 words, doesn't tell you that my daughter sat on a rock nearby as this was happening, huddled around her little brother, keeping his head under a blanket so he wouldn't see.  It doesn't tell you about the good samaritan who directed traffic for two hours straight and kept bringing us bottles of water. It doesn't tell you about the dozen other motorcyclists who were riding alongside Kaleena--beautiful woman with even more beautiful souls, who clung to her as she took her dying breaths and clung to each other when she died, who set aside their own remorse to hug me and Clint and the kids over and over again, taking my face into their hands and saying "It's not your fault. It's not your fault." Even though there were a dozen selfish decisions I made that led to us being in that exact place at that exact time. It doesn't tell you that my family had to sit in the desert with Kaleena's broken body for over four hours. It doesn't tell you that my 17 year old daughter is now deathly afraid to drive. Or that I can't see a motorcyclist on the road now without losing my breath.

Kaleena was a young woman who simply made a mistake. One small miscalculation cost her her life. Did you know that, for every casualty that happens on the roads, there's someone on the other end of it? There's the person whose life was cut short, and there's the person who took it. It seems so obvious, but I never knew that. I never fucking knew.

The article doesn't tell you, as it gives its list of facts, that in one moment, everything changes. Everything. Changes.

"Kindness" - The last thing posted on Kaleena's blog.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Cover Reveal: Winter's Siren

We're all moved into our new home! Well, minus our farm animals. Poor chickens are still living in the desert until we can find time to build them their new coop. Anyway, sometime in the next few days weeks oh who the hell knows, I'll write a post about our demonic escrow and our grueling move. 

Until then, how about a short and sweet cover reveal by none other than Krystal Jane Ruin? I have to say, this one is stunning.

Back of the Book Blurb

For the last five years, Fawn has been the star soprano of a secluded opera house, forced to sing for her kidnapper.

His daughter, Devi, waits patiently in the shadows, hiding a face so horrible that no one who’s seen it will look at it again.

As Fawn plots her escape, whispers spread through the shaded corridors of dark sorcery, warning her that she must flee by the next opening night.

But when Fawn draws close to the exit, it’s Devi who’s standing in her way, leading Fawn to suspect that Devi has something to gain if she fails.

A dark reimagining of Swan Lake

November 1 

Wanna take a sneak peak? Click HERE to read Chapter One.

And don't forget to click HERE to add to Goodreads.

Cover design by the amazing Najla Qamber

Didn't I tell you this one is gorgeous? I can't wait to dive in! If you have yet to read a novel written by Krystal, be sure you check out her other novel No Rest for the Wicked while you're waiting for this little sweetheart to be released.

About the Author

Krystal Jane Ruin is an author of supernatural and paranormal fiction living in the Tennessee Valley. She's a lover of crossword puzzles, chai tea, Hello Kitty, pandas of all kinds, and Sudoku. She's also a full time crazy person and a proud member of House Slytherin. For updates from Krystal, visit here:

Sunday, July 16, 2017

My Happy Place

I can't believe I'm posting this. It's still so surreal to me.

I'm moving! It has been my dream for years now to live in the mountains. Lucky for me this has been a shared dream; Clint has always wanted this too. We've done things in these last few years to make our lives in the desert more tolerable, like upgrading the interior of our home, putting in the pool, and so on, but in the end it all feels like putting lipstick on a pig. No matter how pretty we make this place, we still live in the desert, with scorching temperatures and blowing dust and people who simply don't take pride in their community. 

Don't get me wrong, I have no regrets over the work we've put into our house. The pool especially, because it has given us a reprieve from the oppressive desert heat for three summers now, and it's going to be a huge selling feature for our house. Likewise everything else we've added will increase our home's value. And honestly, we've had happy lives here. I grew up in the desert and it will always feel like home to me. But, for lack of a less corny way of saying it, my heart is happiest in the forest. I can't even describe the level of calm I feel when I'm nestled into trees. It's weird, right?...the different settings that bring serenity to different people? Your happy place might be the beach, the calming waves of the ocean. Or maybe it's open pastures...a rambling farm house with wide green spaces reaching for the horizon. In the same way, mine is the mountains, and no matter how much work I put into my current home, I just can't shake the desire for towering trees and fresh piney fragrances. So Clint and I decided to finally get serious about looking for a property up there (other factors played into this decision, but I'll just leave it at this for now). We ended up spending the first half of summer looking at land--even putting an offer on one parcel--thinking we'd build a home. But it turns out that the cost to build a home in the mountains is so astronomical that we'd be upside-down on our mortgage before we even moved into our new home. I always thought building a house was cheaper than buying, but I couldn't have been more wrong.

So after spending a month haggling and dreaming, we decided we just couldn't do it. This brought us to option #2, purchasing an already existing home. The tricky part of this plan is that mountain homes are...well, downright weird. Most are three stories with very compartmentalized rooms and bizarre floor plans. For example, one house we walked into had a front door that went straight into the kitchen. There was one other front door entrance on the lower level that went through the master bedroom. So for guests, I'd have a choice: Do I want them to see my dirty dishes or my dirty underwear? (Not that mine are dirty, of course, because anything coming out of me is pure sugar and sunshine). Hmmm. *scratches head*. Another house was loaded with mysterious stairs going into dark places with lots of crevices and was like the Winchester House spawned an evil little lovechild. Some of the more "normal" floor plans in the mountains feature split levels, where you walk into a little platform and have to immediately decide whether you're going upstairs or down. I can't even entertain houses like this. It's like getting ready to enter an elevator and being greeted with, well, half the elevator. (I am the analogy queen!). 

No one is at fault for these bizarre floor plans, it's just that you're dealing with homes that are either built into the mountain or hanging off a cliff, so home-builders are forced to get super creative with their floor plans and utilize every bit of space they have available. And honestly, it turns out that looking at quirky mountain homes is a ton of fun. House hunting in the desert is pretty boring. "Here's another ranch...yep, another track home...oh look at that, another ranch...). But in the mountains, you never know what to expect when you walk through the front door. The exclamations from my kids ranged anywhere from "There's for sure a dead body buried over here" to "I call dibs on that dark basement room from the pits of hell!" (May have tweaked their wording a little). Needless to say, I made my peace with the fact that there was no way we were going to get a "normal" home. So our goal was simply to find as close to normal as possible. 

Enter: This house. It was love at first sight.

Front patio

Side-view of house

Street-view - One driveway goes to the carport, the other to the garage

Street view #2


Side-view of garage and studio apartment

My future writing lair and art studio! Or as Clint calls it, my she-shed.

Two car garage (rare in the mountains) with studio apartment above.
Apartment has one bedroom, a kitchenette, and a bathroom.
So there you have it. I'm sure I'll be posting more in the coming weeks, if I have time to breathe. Everything is happening so fast. Clint and I will be scrambling this month to get our current house cleaned out, repairs made, etc., so we can put it on the market. I guess I'm supposed to be packing too, but I just can't. While I have no problem imagining moving into the new house, I can't picture myself moving out of this house. So I need to wait a little longer for all of this to sink in before I can get my butt packing.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Freshly Mowed Grass Diet

Trying to support my hubby who--for health reasons--must drastically cut back his meat intake, I watched a few clips from a documentary last week called Forks over Knives. Even though I saw only a smidgen of the film, I decided I can never eat meat again.

Then I watched a documentary called What the Health. Afterwards I determined I can never eat eggs or dairy again.

Then I watched a documentary called That Sugar Film, and determined that I can never eat refined sugars again.

So this leaves...grass. I am now on the Freshly Mowed Grass Diet. Maybe I can throw some wood chips in there too when I need some extra bulk.

When it comes to all of the existing research out there regarding food, I can't possibly listen to it all. I'll either A) Starve, or B) Eat what I want but feel like I'm slowly killing myself. So I have to determine which pieces of information regarding food speak to me the most. And for me, it's the inhumane treatment and unethical processing of animals. It's like something from a dystopian horror flick. I won't get on that soap box right now, I'll just sum up by saying I can't get myself to support the American meat industry anymore.

So I've decided to give up meat. RIP, extra crispy KFC. Goodbye, barbecue ribs on the 4th of July. *cries*. For health reasons I'm also drastically cutting down on dairy too.

So I guess I'm vegetarian with a sprinkle of vegan?


Anyway, other than one craving for pepperoni that hit me last Friday night and massive dairy withdrawals, it's going well so far! I haven't cheated even once. *knocks on wood*. Clint's embracing all of this too and preparing a lot of our meals, which makes it easier to stick with.

I'm sharing this decision here because it helps keep me grounded, but otherwise I plan to keep it on the down-low as much as possible. Mainly because I've been perpetually annoyed by vegetarians and vegans in the past who are really 'loud' about their lifestyle choice and constantly expect special accommodations made for them. There's no way I will do that. I've already been out to eat with family several times and it was easy to find meat-free options on the menu without creating a hoopla over it. 

But my other motive for being quiet about the whole thing is I come from an extended family of hearty meat-eaters that really have no use for vegetarians, so there's sort of a stigma attached to that word. Shoot, I myself own a hunting dog (well technically George is Clint's dog, but you get my point). I'm not the kind of person you would associate with vegetarianism. Eventually the people in my world will find out--it's not my intention to keep it a secret--I simply have no desire to advertise it.

Okay, I'm off to make some steamed veggies and roasted sadness for dinner.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Shorter Posts?

And mine is one of them. I need to write in this thing. This used to be my little online journal. I loved writing here. I'm trying to remember when that feeling went away, when the impulse to record things fled. 

Maybe I'll try shorter entries, just to get back into the habit again. I need to figure this out, because my URL is up for renewal and I can't justify repurchasing it when I'm leaving this poor blog out in the cold and rain. 

So in the spirit of this idea, I'm going to end this blog post now.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Chasing Echoes: Coming Soon to a Classroom Near You (or at Least Near Me)

Fact: The longer a person goes without writing a blog post, the harder it gets to write a dang post. 

That being said, here are some updates!

I haven't written anything worth mentioning in...forever. I did add a new chapter to Black Lilies, but I ended up scrapping half of it. So my "Why I'm not Writing a Sequel" post is still very much in effect. 

I still teach middle-school, by the way. And it still leaves me feeling like Soggy everyday. 

But I haven't been completely stagnant. I just finished creating a literature unit for Chasing Echoes. And it's beautiful! Here it is:

It's not the outside that's beautiful, it's the inside. Just like an ideal human being. Or a book that wasn't judged by its cover., back to the literature guide. I originally started creating it because an 8th grade teacher on my campus purchased a class set of my novel with grant money she received, and asked me for curriculum. But now my school just purchased a class set of my novel (40 books) for ME. Long story short, I get to teach my own book next year! This sort of propelled me to finishing this curriculum. It's now available on Amazon for $5.38 for those who want the "nice" workbook, but I've decided to have the PDF available for free. It seems silly to try to profit from learning material related to my novel.

Oh, another cool update: My daughter and I created a children's book titled Jacob Jax and the Watermelon first (and likely only) children's book. I'll write more about that in a future post. For now I'll just say that it's all finished, we're just in the throes of publishing-insanity with this one. There are a lot more hoops to jump through for children's lit than YA. This book has been both a sweet little delight and a stinging bull thorn in my heel (I'm trying to avoid saying 'pain in my ass'). 

That's it for project updates. Unless art counts? If so, here's my latest:

Cheshire Cat for Mom
Charcoal/Pastel on 18x24 charcoal paper

This is the look I have plastered on my face during a typical workday. A grin frozen somewhere between bewilderment and mania.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Dragon Rose

Dragon Rose (Tales of the Latter Kingdoms, #1)Dragon Rose by Christine Pope
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I enjoyed Dragon Rose, but I did come out of it feeling like I was a little led-on by a synopsis that sounded darker and more exciting than the story actually turned out to be. The blurb on the back isn't misleading at all, it's just that the meat of the story doesn't really start happening until the last 15-20% of the novel. The first 80% features an optimistic Rhyanne adjusting to her new life at Black's Keep.

Between Pope's beautiful world building and an irresistibly compelling storyline, I struggled to put down the novel in the beginning. But after awhile, the story started to get a little tedious and repetitive. Every day seemed to feature the same events for Rhyanne: Wake up, choose in detail what dress to wear, eat breakfast, paint, eat lunch, paint some more, eat dinner with Theron, experience disturbing dreams at night, rinse and repeat. If there was some progression between her and Theron, either emotionally or physically, that would have lent itself to a more engrossing story. But she and her cursed husband never move forward in their relationship until the very end. I'm a huge fan of slow-burning romances, but when it's this agonizingly slow it's not much more exciting than watching grass grow.

I was really craving more from Theron. In some ways I liked his gentleness, but he was almost too mild-mannered and passive. I felt like Pope was playing it too safe with his character. Sometimes Theron's politeness bordered on dull indifference. (view spoiler) Plus his lack of involvement in Rhyanne's daily activities made for a lot of missed opportunities from the reader's point of view. It would have been awesome to have Theron find Rhyanne at the graveyard and witness that whole volatile exchange. Or for Theron to follow Rhyanne to the previous bride's chamber and flounder to explain why that bride wrote down such chilling words. Shoot, it would have been awesome to have Theron burst into Rhyanne's chamber even once in the story just because he couldn't stop thinking about her. By the end of the novel it's clear why Theron kept Rhyanne at bay, but it's still frustrating, and in my opinion, unnecessary. The tension in the novel would have been much more heightened if Rhyanne had brought out the selfish parts of Theron. He was already "nice" with his other brides, Rhyanne should have been the one to drive him to madness and make him forego his altruistic motives. He should have demanded to spend more time with her and constantly tried to be closer to her, and then, knowing the costs, been tormented by his obsession. Ultimately, Theron does such a good job pretending not to care about Rhyanne that even now, having finished the book, I'm still convinced that he isn't overly interested in her.

Pope does a wonderful (though rushed) job of tying all loose ends by the end of the novel, which is something I greatly appreciate. And I really love Rhyanne's character, and Theron's, when you take out the mild-manneredness aspect. Overall I enjoyed the book a lot, hence the four stars and way-too-long-review (I only ramble like this when a book has left an impression on me). I just feel like the author missed some great opportunities to turn this novel from a good little read to an unforgettable one.