Book Review: Freedom's Child by Jax Miller

Last week I was sent Freedom's Child by Jax Miller to review and I raced through it in days. It's been a while since I've read something so gripping and addictive. The sort of book that you stay up way later than you should do on a work night to finish because it's 100% worth the 'book hangover' the next day. This was definitely one of those books.

The story centers around Freedom Oliver - once known as Nessa Delaney - who has been living in a dead end town in Oregon as a protected witness for the past eighteen years after framing her brother-in-law, Matthew, for her husband's murder. Freedom gave up her two young children for adoption to a religious couple, Virgil and Carol Paul, believing they'd be safer that way. But it's a decision that haunts her everyday and has led to her life spiraling into alcoholism, crime, depression and even plans to commit suicide.

She keeps tabs on her, now grown up, kids from afar and when she finds that her daughter Rebekah has gone missing she heads off to Kentucky (where her kids were raised) to try and track her down. But there are some dark and dangerous secrets surrounding the Paul family waiting for her and to make matters worse, Matthew Delaney has just been released from prison and is hell bent on getting revenge. Can Freedom find Rebekah or will Matthew get to her first?

When people asked me what I thought of this book, the best adjective I could think of was 'gritty'. It is dark, harrowing and pretty brutal in places. With themes of rape, murder, addiction, religion, prostitution and corruption running throughout, it is a crime thriller that probably isn't for the faint hearted but it does have an underlying feel of redemption which is quite uplifting too. The characters are all superbly and richly written; from the all-American 'good cop' James Mattley to the sadistic Delaney brothers and their grotesque matriarch mother, Lynn - each has depth and a back story of their own.

Freedom herself is the best female protagonist I've read about in a long time. I kind of pictured her as a Beatrix Kiddo type character from Kill Bill - flawed, feisty and willing to risk everything for her kids. With her strength, determination and humour she is the sort of character I was rooting for from the start.

This is a book that will stay with me for a long time after finishing it and I honestly can't recommend it enough. If this is the standard of Jax Miller's debut novel then I can't wait to read her next one!

Thank you to Mumsnet and HarperCollins for sending me this book to review.

See what other Mumsnet Bloggers thought here


When Good Kids Go Bad

Of course, I was under no illusions. I may not have known much about motherhood but I knew that the chubby-legged, gurgling, happy baby who loved me with every fiber of his tiny being wouldn't stay that way forever. I knew there would come a time when the foundations of our house would shake under the slamming of bedroom doors and my ears would ring from bellows of 'I HATE YOU!'

I just didn't think it would be so soon.

At two there were plenty of tantrums but they were mostly whiny and cry-y. The type of sulky defiance that has an 'it's not faaaaiiiiirrrr' vibe to it but doesn't really go anywhere. At three the tantrums are apoplectic, furious and have more of an 'I WANT YOUR HEAD ON A STICK, MOTHER' vibe to them. Wild eyed, red faced, flailing, shrieking, flinging, thrashing, violent, fury that often erupts from something as simple as being told 'no, you can't put that expensive, battery operated toy in the bath' or 'please don't stand on the cat'.

Truthfully, it's an eyeopener. Sometimes I'm horrified and other times I just stand there agog, stunned by the drastic change in my usually placid, loving, well mannered son. It's like he's a different boy. Not one that has been raised by me - a (mostly) civilised human - in a rural farming village. But one that has been raised by wolves in the deepest, darkest depths of the jungle. Sent out into the wild to test his strength of character like on the film 300 and returned to me as an absolute savage.

While I joke, it's actually not that funny when you have a stocky three year old flailing his limbs in your direction, bellowing inaudible fury into your face and throwing objects at your head (lesson 1,323,434 of parenting: a plastic tractor to the eye socket hurts...bad). And if I'm honest, I still don't really know how to handle it. I'm not a believer in hitting back. If I shout at him, he shouts back and we both get angrier. Mostly I try to ignore it but it's really quite difficult to ignore those sort of decibels. I find myself wondering what Supernanny would do but I really don't feel that getting down on his level and telling him 'his behaviour is unacceptable' will cut it when he's thrashing about his bedroom floor like a rabid weasel.

Thankfully the rages don't last long. Within minutes he'll calm down and sidle up to me sheepishly, offering a half hearted apology. I'll explain that what he did was wrong and we'll go about our day. It'll be a while before the Hulk will raise his ugly, green head again and the rest of the time I'm blessed with a lovely, happy little boy. But the rages bother me. I can't help but wonder what can possibly make a three year old so angry? Why is it always directed at me? Does he really, properly hate me? I've read up on it and apparently these sort of tantrums are common in kids his age - hormones and all that. But still...

I'd love to know how you handle your children's tantrums. Especially ones that turn particularly savage. Time out? Smacking? Ignore it? Or hide under your bed until it's over?

My Kid Doesn't Poop Rainbows

The Magic of the movies: Surviving the cinema with toddlers

Last week I took Jack to the cinema for the first time which was, in my opinion, a fairly monumental milestone. As a child, going to the 'pictures' was one of my favourite treats. If you grew up in Scunthorpe pre-2003 the chances are you might have enjoyed the delights of the Majestic Cinema as well. With it's heavy velvet curtains, low ceilings and ever so slightly itchy seats I think it's fair to assume that the place probably hadn't had a refurb since it's 1930's opening and was, to all intents and purposes, a bit of a shit hole. But still, it was a place where dreams were made, hearts were broken (if you got stood up on the steps when you were 15 *sniff*) and many a happy Saturday afternoon was spent whooping along to Bring It On or sobbing at Titanic with friends.

Sadly the Majestic was demolished in the early 2000's and replaced with a shiny, new complex where there are no little old men who come in mid screening with trays and torches to sell ice cream, but there is a Ben & Jerry's counter where you can buy customised milkshakes if you're willing to take out a small bank loan beforehand. And while it may lack some of the charm of it's predecessor, I thought it was about time that Jack experienced the magic of the movies. After all, what could possibly go wrong?!

A lot, actually. I wasn't expecting him to be engulfed in sheer terror as we took our seats in screen 4. And I certainly hadn't bargained on him bolting towards the door shouting 'NOT LIKE BIG TELLY, WANT TO GO HOME NOW!' at the top of his lungs. But thankfully after some gentle persuasion he calmed down and seemed to enjoy the film. And as with most new, toddler-related experiences it was a learning curve for me too. Here's what I learnt about surviving the cinema with toddlers in tow.

Ticket price
For some reason I had this crazy idea in my head that as a grown up taking a child to watch a U-rated film, I might get some sort of concession based on the fact that not many grown adults would actually go and see Thomas and Friends: Sodor's Legend of the Lost Treasure out of choice. Two full price tickets later I learnt that this was a false assumption. It didn't make a difference that it was 10am on a Friday morning and that I would get no personal enjoyment whatsoever from watching Thomas dick about with his pals, there would still be no discount. However you CAN save money on...

Take your own. Seriously. Smuggle those Fruit Shoots in like your mortgage depends on it. Fluorescent slush puppies and mammoth pick 'n' mix counters are like beacons to small people but if you don't want to spend the equivalent of a week's shop on sugary snacks then you better come armed with a cheaper alternative stashed in your mum coat. Oh, and remember to tell them that popcorn is exploded sweetcorn; this isn't technically a lie and the mere mention of vegetables will put them right off, saving you a few quid in the process *evil cackle*

God bless you, Space Raiders!

Timing is everything
I learnt to my cost that arriving too early is a big mistake. Something about an empty cinema is actually quite eerie and Jack only really relaxed when other children started arriving. Not only that, but by arriving early you're wasting precious concentration time. Children's films are usually mercifully short but if they've already sat through half an hour of adverts and trailers, you might find that their attention span will run out and the fidgets will set in way before the end of the film.

Pick your seats
Don't be fooled into thinking you'll get a full hour of peace sitting in this darkened room because you know and I know that you'll probably spend most of the film traipsing to and from the toilet. So pick your seats accordingly - preferably somewhere near the bottom and at the end of an aisle to avoid disturbing the whole row, being heckled by toddlers then scrambling down several stairs in near blackness.

Enjoy it!
Even now I still think there is something magical about the cinema with it's smells and sounds and spine tingling opening credits. And taking Jack for the first time only made it more special. Seeing his eyes widen as the screen came to life was precious and as the end credits rolled to Thomas the Tank Engine singing a catchy tune, he got up and danced in the aisle with some other little boys and I knew that it had been time and money well spent.

Belly flashing good times!