The world has expectations of you, of how you are to shoulder your burdens with grace, of the role you play, and as soon as you don’t live up to those expectations, it’s easier for others to cast you aside rather than change how they view the world. We are defined by what we do for others, by our relationships, by what we have to offer.
This book is fitting, seeing as we were just under the threat of a tropical storm/hurricane. I read Cleeton’s previous novels, Next Year in Havana and When We Left Cuba last year. I really enjoy her books because they are familiar. The culture, the settings - it all feels like I’m reading about my own family or home state. The Last Train to Key West was no different. While the Keys are very different from neighboring Miami, I’ve been there enough times to know what the landscape is like. Reading about it before it was fully developed, in post-Depression America was really interesting. One of the reasons I love historical fiction is that I always learn something new from historical novels. Until I read this book, I had no idea that veterans were sent to camps in the Keys when they returned from World War I (and I would bet that a lot of people out there didn't know that, either). The Great Labor Day Hurricane of 1935 was a historic storm - one of only four category 5 storms to ever hit the United States. It is, to date, the third most intense Atlantic hurricane on record and is tied for first with Hurricane Dorian as the strongest landfalling hurricane.
The story centers around three women who cross paths in Key West over Labor Day weekend in 1935, and find themselves faced with a bevy of problems as a hurricane barrels towards the Florida Keys. Helen is a Key West native who feels trapped in her current situation - pregnant and with an abusive husband. Mirta is a young woman from Cuba whose family's status changed after the Cuban Revolution of 1933. She has been married in an arranged marriage and is trying to find her footing with her new husband. Elizabeth is a young woman whose family has been heavily affected by the Great Depression. Her trip to Key West is a last ditch effort to save her family. The women's paths all cross unexpectedly, and the way they withstand all the storms in their lives is a testament to the resilience of women everywhere - especially in that time period, when so much of what a woman did was for duty and what was expected of her.
The novel’s climax is the landfall of this intense hurricane, and having been through a couple of them myself, I could feel all the emotions that the characters were experiencing. While some of the details don’t seem plausible, when you’ve actually been through a hurricane, they very much are. There’s romance, history, and suspense tied in, and the book reads easily. I really enjoyed it and it was an easy read. I probably wouldn't read it if a hurricane is headed toward us, but this week would probably be a good time to check it out!
Also, several of you asked me if it was part of her other two books, and while it can be read as a standalone book, it does tie back to Next Year in Havana and When We Left Cuba. This is from Cleeton's website:
How is The Last Train to Key West related to your first two books?
The Last Train to Key West is set in 1935, over two decades before the events in Next Year in Havana and When We Left Cuba. It can be read as a standalone, so if you haven’t picked up my first two books, it’s a great place to jump in. The novel features three heroines with two recognizable last names. One of the heroines is related to Nick Preston from When We Left Cuba and another one of the heroines is a Perez and is Beatriz and Elisa’s aunt (their father’s sister). I’m loving writing about the Perez family and for my next few books we’ll go back in history a bit and meet some of the Perez ancestors.
Over the last month, I have been taking part in a consistency challenge with Mattie James. The challenge was to write a blog post every week day from July 6-31, adding up to a total of 2o blog posts for the month.
To be totally honest, I started it but definitely did not think I would finish it. I knew we would be on vacation two weeks out of the month, and with my birthday yesterday, I wasn’t sure how I would realistically get it all done.
I decided to do the challenge for several reasons. The first was because my word for 2020 is consistency. The second is because I had gotten lazy with posting on my website. I was posting once a week or once every two weeks, and that definitely was not working out in driving traffic to my blog. You see, the way Mattie explained it, when you focus on social media, you’re focused on what is essentially rented space. Someone else owns your social media space. If Instagram gets shut down tomorrow (not likely but absolutely plausible - remember Vine?), where can your audience still find you? And are you still providing value there?
I wasn’t thinking of all those things, and my posting had gotten way too sporadic. I was coming up with every excuse under the sun to not post and I was claiming “writer’s block” wasn’t letting me come up with content. The truth is, I was getting in my own way. I wasn’t setting aside time to write and it showed. During the last month, I planned ahead, I wrote several posts at a time, and I scheduled blog posts in advance when I knew I would be tied up. They didn’t take nearly as long as I had built them up to in my head, and I’m grateful that I decided to take part!
While I don’t plan to continue to post every single day, Ido plan to post on a much more consistent schedule. And in any case, I'm proud of myself for getting through the month of July!
If you are new to blogging (even if you’re not) and haven’t been consistent with posting, I challenge you to come up with your own consistency challenge and stick to it. Let me know how it goes!
Happy Friday, friends!
Today, I turn 35. I remember being 15 and thinking 35 was old. When I was 15, my parents were only 38! Most days, I still feel like I'm pretending at this whole "adulting" thing.
And the older I get, the more I realize that I will continue learning every single day. This year in particular I feel has been a very enlightening year, and I've learned (or re-learned) so much.
I've learned that...
You can love people and not always agree with them.
Friends might be forever, but they might also just be for a season, and that's okay .
There is no substitute for fresh air.
How much I put in will determine how much I get out.
Time is valuable, and MY time is worth something.
Tuning out the outside noise is not just good, it's necessary sometimes.
If I surround myself with negativity, I will become negative. The same goes for the opposite.
There is no greater confidence booster than realizing you were perfectly made by God.
But mostly, I've learned that I am the only person who is responsible for myself. The way I wake up, the way I spend my free time, the people with whom I surround myself, and the information I take in all affect me and my outlook. In 2019, I decided to simplify, and it was such a release for me to start saying "no" to events, to activities, and to things I didn't want to do. And this year, I have truly simplified (as have many of us since it was forced on us with the pandemic). I have turned inward often, in prayer, in reflection, and I have reminded myself often that the choices that I make are what is best for me and for my family. I have come to the realization that I will never be able to control anyone else's actions - my friends, my children, my husband - but I can control my REACTION. I can control my own actions, and that has been a lesson more valuable to me this year than anything else.
Cheers to growing, learning, and living each day in faith and in positivity.
If there is one thing I am grateful for when it comes to social media, it's all the amazing women I have been able to connect with. I have found so many moms who in one way or another I can relate to and who make me feel a little less alone when it comes to motherhood. I'm linking all their Instagram pages, but most of them have really incredible blogs with tons of information on there.
@themattiejames aka Mattie James
Mattie is the ultimate blogging boss mom. She puts out such amazing information, her campaigns are so well done, and she has a really great way of showing her audience the behind-the-scenes of blogging. She also has some incredible courses, and if you're a new blogger, you should definitely be following her.
@thoughtfullyorganized aka Jessica DeSiato
I never knew how much help I needed in organizing until I met my friend (and neighbor) Jessica, the mind behind Thoughtfully Organized. She is truly thoughtful about the way she organizes everything and she makes organization seem achievable. Follow her for some incredible tips!
@whineandcheezits aka Rachel Sobel
If you want to laugh, you need to be following Rachel. She's brutally honest, and her tweets will make you think that she has been reading your mind.
@JoyfullyGreen aka Joy Green
I met Joy in New York when we were there for a Johnson's event in 2018. She really is a joy and her Instagram is a whimsical dream. Think balloon arches, rainbows, and flowers. Her little ones are too cute, and her personality is infectious.
@BambinaDiaries aka Krystal and Maddy
Two Miami natives who are in Orlando and Atlanta, respectively. They have some great resources and share all kinds of awesome products and local finds for moms.
@adventuresoflawyermom aka Jazmine
Jazmine and I co-hosted an event at Ann Taylor in December, and all I could think when I met her was "This woman has it all." She's gorgeous, and she's smart. She has great style, and her posts are very informative.
@drschellcares aka Dr. Jennifer Schell
Jenny is an ob-gyn who started a postpartum concierge service. She answers women's gynecological questions on IG (it's not medical advice, relax), and I have seen how much good she has been able to do.
@stephaniejimenezmiami aka Stephanie Jimenez
Funny story... Stephanie and I actually went to high school together and I used to drive her home after school! She is a badass mom of two who has battled with binge eating. She is very vocal about her journey to healthier living and about how she manages her emotions to prevent binges. Her stories are really entertaining, too!
Go give these super moms a follow if you aren't already. I promise you won't be disappointed!
After a couple of really heavy reads back to back, I was in desperate need of a good, light summer read. Enter Kevin Kwan's Sex & Vanity. I picked it up because Kelly Saks and Maria Tettamanti both mentioned it in the span of a few days (consider me influenced). Once I realized that Kwan is the same author of Crazy Rich Asians, I was even more excited to read it - I never read the Crazy Rich Asians series but I did love the movie, and I might even read those books in the future, too.
I really enjoyed Sex & Vanity, and it one hundred percent made me wish I could take a trip to Capri soon! After the heartbreaker that was American Dirt, this lighthearted read which pokes fun at the uber and nouveau riche was exactly what I needed.
Lucie Churchill is a girl caught between two worlds - born to a blue blooded New England socialite and an American-born Chinese daughter - she has always pushed down her Chinese side to fit into the high society of New York. While she is in Capri for a wedding under the watchful eye of her older cousin Charlotte, she meets George Zao. She hates everything about him, until she doesn't. At the wedding, her cousin Charlotte catches them in a heated romantic exchange, and she makes it known that she does not approve. Lucie puts George out of her mind, until years later, when she is newly engaged and their paths cross again in New York.
And while it was light and funny, it was also a really important commentary on how culture plays a huge role in our lives and how being of a mixed heritage can really affect how someone is treated even within their own family, especially when one of those backgrounds is deemed as "less sophisticated." It's probably not award-winning literature, but a good summer read nonetheless.
I truly enjoyed reading Sex & Vanity, and I think you will, too!
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