“The things that go unsaid are often the things that eat at you—whether because you didn't get to have your say, or because the other person never got to hear you and really wanted to.”
When Lydia’s body is found in the local lake, the delicate balancing act that has been keeping the Lee family together is destroyed, tumbling them into chaos. James, consumed by guilt, sets out on a reckless path that may destroy his marriage. Marilyn, devastated and vengeful, is determined to find a responsible party, no matter what the cost. Lydia’s older brother, Nathan, is certain that the neighborhood bad boy Jack is somehow involved. But it’s the youngest of the family—Hannah—who observes far more than anyone realizes and who may be the only one who knows the truth about what happened.
This book was a little difficult for me to get through. It's about a fragile family dynamic. The Lee family is Asian-American, and the story takes place in the 1970s in a small town in Ohio. There is a lot of discrimination against Asians, and the Lee family puts a lot of their focus into Lydia, their middle (and favorite child). Lydia is the favorite because of some deep-rooted childhood trauma and a promise she made to herself to always do everything her mother asked her to. Because she doesn't look as "oriental" as her siblings, her father favors her because she can be popular and well-liked in ways that he was unable to.
As a parent, it was difficult to see the parents basically discarding their other children while favoring Lydia so much. It did make me take a good, hard look at my own relationship with my two children and wonder if I could be causing some of those same issues in them. So while it was difficult, I guess it was a good way of examining some of the things we do ourselves.
It is well-written and the characters are developed. There is not huge "plot twist" or crazy revelation, but a pretty nuanced layering of the characters. It was emotional, but not thrilling, if that makes any sense.
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I've already talked about why I love reading so much, but I'm not sure I've mentioned just how much I love my Kindle. I have always been an avid reader, but when I would go on trips, I definitely did not enjoy the added baggage of books. For a few years, I used an iPad mini, but I hated the glare when I tried to read outside, and I felt it was so expensive for a reader. When Amazon came out with the Kindle Paperwhite, Eddie got me one and I haven't looked back since. I've had the same one since 2016, going on four years now. It still works perfectly, and it is in great shape. But you want to know why I love it?
I often get asked where I get my books from. A while back, I had someone tell me about Libby, an app through Overdrive, from the public library system. All you need is a library card, and you can borrow books from the app just like you do at the library. You can browse thousands upon thousands of books, including kids' books. You can browse new releases, popular books, and available books. Just like with physical books, the library has a set number of copies they loan out, so you may have to join waiting list and put a hold on your book. You can have holds on up to 10 books at a time, and you can have up to 10 loans at a time. When you borrow a book, you borrow it for 21 days. It is delivered to the device you choose, and will appear there for 21 days until your loan is up, or until you return your copy early.
It's completely free, and by using Libby, I have saved HUNDREDS of dollars on books in the last year. Friends, you cannot afford to not get this! I initially spent money on my Kindle, but over the long run, I have definitely saved money by using this app! If you go ahead and do this, let me know how you like it.
This is a sponsored post. As always, all opinions are my own.
At the beginning of quarantine, toilet paper and paper towels were in short supply. If I learned anything from that, it was to buy what I needed and not to be a hoarder. But I always like to have a few extra toilet paper rolls tucked away because kids, ya know (and thankfully these items are back in stock)? Coffee is another staple that we go through regularly, and it always seems like we need more! And although we haven’t been entertaining much these days, I always like to have some kind of crackers on hand for when we can finally have guests over (or have an at-home date night once the kids are in bed). And whether the kids are home for days on end or headed off to school, snacks are a major necessity around here!
When it comes to grocery shopping, I know we all love a good sale. But there’s nothing better than being rewarded for buying the things you need anyway - like all the items I mentioned above. After being away from home and with the start of school (hopefully) around the corner, we were running low on a few of our staple products. So, I headed to Publix and picked up some of the products that I know I can be rewarded for purchasing!
Publix Stocking Spree is a program where you can be rewarded JUST for buying the products we already know and love. All year long, you can receive a $10 Publix gift card every time* you purchase $50 of participating Stocking Spree products (*Up to 12 gift cards per household, per year). Plus, you can save even more at Publix with special offers on select Stocking Spree 365 products during the sale week from 8/6 – 8/12 (Some markets 8/5 – 8/11).
Taking part in the program is easy - the list of products is available on www.stockingspree.com, so you can check out the participating products before you head to Publix. Make your list and purchase your products. When you get home, take a photo of your receipt, log into the site and upload the photo of your receipt - I did it in under 5 minutes! Once your receipt is reviewed and you have spent $50 on participating products, you will be able to claim your $10 Publix gift card. You can opt for a physical gift card, which will be mailed to you, or a digital gift card that will be applied to your Publix Digital Wallet. I prefer the digital option as you can receive the gift card in 24 hours and have it in time for your next shopping trip!
See StockingSpree.com for a full list of participating products and to upload your receipts. Don’t miss out on this awesome chance to be rewarded for your Publix purchases!
Some links are affiliate links. Ole Henriksen gifted me the products from their line. All opinions are my own.
I've mentioned before how spending all this time at home during the pandemic, while frustrating, has given me a few things to be grateful for. One of them is a skincare routine! I have been really intentional about my skincare, and my skin has never been more grateful. I still get occasional breakouts, but they are mostly hormonal and no longer stress-induced.
I have a set morning routine and an evening routine, which I'll share int he coming days as well. I usually do my morning routine as soon as I get up from bed and let it absorb into my skin while we go about our morning routine. Once I get dressed, then I will apply my sunscreen and makeup - if I'm wearing any that day.
Once all of that is absorbed into my skin, I'll apply my sunscreen and makeup. Depending on the day, I may just apply sunscreen (I use Drunk Elephant Umbra Sheer Physical Daily Defense) or a tinted moisturizer with sunscreen (I use this one from Rodan & Fields).
I know it seems like a lot, but I have been building up to this routine for a while now. If you're looking to start out, make sure you have a good face wash, under eye cream, and moisturizer. Based on your needs, add on to that! And for specific skin needs, always talk to your dermatologist or aesthetician.
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.
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