Posted in books, parenting, special needs parenting

Just a mom + CRM review: “All Our Wrong Todays” by Elan Mastai

I’m a mother. Many people would call me a special needs mom. But I don’t think of myself that way. I’m a swim mom, a dance mom, a music mom, a girl’s mom. But not a special needs mom.
When my younger daughter was born with Down syndrome, it was difficult to wrap my head around initially, but it didn’t take me long to figure out what that meant to me as a mother. There were many aha moments that happened in first six months, but one that really defined how I was going to approach this whole, unplanned journey.
When she was born, I was a teacher. I was familiar with IEPS and 504 plans. I had also worked with Special Olympics and other programs and knew children with all sorts of disabilities. But it was the teacher part (and the fact that I had worked with children most of my life) that really helped me figure it all out. It was when I went back to teaching, and I looked at everyone of these kids in my classes. That moment when I realized that each of these kids had special needs, needs that were different and special to each of them!  The difference was that I had an idea of what my daughter was going to need from birth.
It’s still my belief. EVERY kid has their own needs. That kid can’t stay organized, that kid has trouble with handwriting. Another kid might need to go to the bathroom more than others because he needs time by himself. And another kid might just need to go to the bathroom a lot.
One kid may have trouble studying for a variety of reasons. One may have trouble sitting still. Still another may rarely get enough sleep. Another may NEVER have a pencil. Still another is too shy to speak in class.
See–each student has at least one special need. Any need you or I or anyone has, a real need, is special to you. Almost every individual need is special.
I’m the mother of two girls. That’s it. They’re my two girls. They’re difficult and funny, each in their own way.  I’m trying to meet all of their varied and different needs, as a mother. Their both have special and specific needs, and I don’t hold one of their needs higher than the other (although I’m pretty sure they would each argue with that statement).
The older of my daughters is nearly 14, nearly a freshman, nearly in high school. She’s steady and silly and quiet and loud. She’s reliable and gets her homework done without ANY prodding from me, loves swimming and singing and hanging with her various and assorted friends. She’s a teen and she’s difficult to read. She’s pulling away a bit (although she still seems to need her mom quite a bit as well), she’s snarky and pissy and then sweet as sugar. She makes my head spin and sometimes makes me question EVERYTHING about my life and my parenting skills
.She wants her privacy and she want to be noticed. She wants attention, but she doesn’t want to be the center of attention. She wants her mom, but she doesn’t want to tell me she wants me. She needs me, and she needs specific things from me. I try to come through for her.
My younger daughter  is 12. The two girls are 15 months apart, although they’re three years apart in school. Thank goodness.
Because of her can’t-stop-won’t-stop personality, my 12 year-old is the complete opposite of her sister. She believes she is the cherry on top of the sundae, the bow on the present, the star on the Christmas tree. She has the kind of confidence we all wish we had. But, as the mother of such a child, I can tell you it’s tough to reign in that kind of confidence.  And it’s also very tough for your other, older daughter.
She’s completely honest, holding nothing back in her search for spreading the truth. She loves unconditionally and largely, and she loves EVERYone. The hardest thing is that she thinks she knows everyone, and that everyone knows her (she seriously believes she is famous). She’s an emotional roller-coaster, crying at the drop of a hat. She sticks up for those she loves with a fierceness that’s sometimes scary. And she will work her hardest to get you to love her, if she thinks you’re worth it.
She’s easily bored, but just as easily amused. She’s a slightly picky eater, but eats the things she loves with gusto. She doesn’t make a fuss when I serve food she doesn’t like; she doesn’t throw a fit and whine about me making something else (maybe she’s learned that’s not happening). She just won’t eat it (but may asks for ice cream later).
She’s exhausting and endearing, unyielding in her desire for the things she loves, including her family. She doesn’t stop talking until she gets what she wants. Usually I don’t know whether to pull my hair out or laugh. Most often I split the difference, I smile and shake my head.
It doesn’t really matter to me that one of my daughters has Down syndrome. I’m their mom and have to fulfill both of their many, many needs in so many areas of their lives. My two girls are completely different, as they should be. I’m sure every mom can say this about their children. And they both need me, and their father, in different ways. They both have their special needs.
Many would qualify me as a ‘special needs’ mom. I don’t see my self that way. I’m the mother of a teenager and a tween. I’m the mother of a swimmer, and of a dancer, and of a singer. I’m the mother of a child who wants to tell me nothing, and the mother of a daughter who wants to tell me everything. I’m the mother of a daughter with a lot of self-motivation, and also the mother of a daughter with a lot of self-confidence.
I’m the mother of daughters.
I’m a mother trying to figure out what each of my daughters needs.
I’m just a mother.


I felt like a runner who discovers he is not, in fact, racing in a marathon — it’s a triathlon, and not only did he forget to bring his bicycle but he never learned to swim.

Elan Mastai, All Our Wrong Todays

The Premise

stolen from the book blurb, because they explain it really well!

You know the future that people in the 1950s imagined we’d have? Well, it happened. In Tom Barren’s 2016, humanity thrives in a techno-utopian paradise of flying cars, moving sidewalks, and moon bases, where avocados never go bad and punk rock never existed…because it wasn’t necessary.

Except Tom just can’t seem to find his place in this dazzling, idealistic world, and that’s before his life gets turned upside down. Utterly blindsided by an accident of fate, Tom makes a rash decision that drastically changes not only his own life but the very fabric of the universe itself. In a time-travel mishap, Tom finds himself stranded in our 2016, what we think of as the real world. For Tom, our normal reality seems like a dystopian wasteland.

But when he discovers wonderfully unexpected versions of his family, his career, and—maybe, just maybe—his soul mate, Tom has a decision to make. Does he fix the flow of history, bringing his utopian universe back into existence, or does he try to forge a new life in our messy, unpredictable reality? Tom’s search for the answer takes him across countries, continents, and timelines in a quest to figure out, finally, who he really is and what his future—our future—is supposed to be.

My Thoughts

Can I just say OMG! This book enthralled me immediately, pulling me in so deeply that I finished it in two days (and it would have been a day, but I had to do some of that parenting that’s required when you have daughters, like taking one of them to see “Beauty and the Beast”)!

All Our Wrong Todays  is classified science fiction, but it’s also classified literary fiction. And it’s tough to say where I would classify in my imaginary bookstore. There is a lot of alternate reality and futuristic life (although, in the book, it’s present time in a different reality), but, at it’s heart, this is just a book about a man-boy trying to figure out who he is and where he belongs.

I did not let myself get bogged down in the science — when I did it gave me a headache. I concentrated on the literary side of the story more, because it’s more of who I am as a reader. I enjoyed the basic science, the possibility, of it all, but, when I found myself getting lost, I began to skim more (I still read it, but I just didn’t let myself think too deeply on it all).

Tom (and his counterpart, John) was very likable, or he came to be likable. He was a whiny baby of a man in the beginning of the book, but grows as a character and grew on me as a the reader.

All Our Wrong Todays is very much a nature vs. nurture argument, or maybe a study. The nature of your environment determines how you are nurtured and how you develop. It’s also a study of chaos theory, and how one small act can change the world.

It made me wonder what small acts change our lives and our realities every minute. And what small decisions in our pasts have changed our lives in small and large ways.

All Our Wrong Todays hit all my sweet spots. Characters who grow and change, realities that beg to be questioned, a little romance, some conflict, all done well. It is both character-driven and plot-driven, balancing both with perfection.

I loved All Our Wrong Todays. It’s beautiful and thoughtful, but interspersed with science and action and suspense. It’s science fiction, but also a thriller with a little bit of romance thrown it.  It doesn’t shy away from the ugliness of humans, and the selfishness of people, but it balances that with the wonderful things of which humans are capable.

And BOOKS! The two worlds in All Our Wrong Todays have many differences, but the loss of books and fiction are pivotal to the differences in emotions and art. The emptiness that both Tom and his mother feel in the more ‘advanced’ world can be partly attributed to their lack of fiction, or at least in the way we think of fiction.

I cannot recommend All Our Wrong Todays enough. I LOVED it. Smart, funny, sad, romantic (without being a ‘romance’). Seriously, get your hands on this one and give it a go. You won’t regret it!

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Posted in books

CRM Review: “The Wicked City” by Beatriz Williams

 

In honor of  International Women’s Day, I reviewed a book about two strong women written by an AMAZING female author. The perfect bite of history AND fiction!

 

 

“How terrible a time is the beginning of March. In a month there will be daffodils and the sudden blossoming of orchards, but you wouldn’t know it now. You have to take spring on blind faith.”

Beatriz Williams,  The Wicked City

The Premise

Ella Gilbert has moved out of her ritzy Soho loft after finding her husband cheating. Her new home is an old, Greenwich Village apartment; it’s charm is there, but she’s still reeling from the downturn in her fortune.

And then she had to do laundry, where she meets her new (attractive) neighbor Hector, who warns her to stay out of the basement, and the laundry room, at night. It seems other tenants have reported party noises when down there after midnight — the piano, clinking glasses, laughter. It seems at one point, back in the 20’s, the place was a speakeasy.

Flash back to the 20’s, and we meet Geneva ‘Gin’ Kelly, a beautiful, smart, vivacious flapper. Gin grew up in western Maryland, but now makes a (mostly) legitimate living in Manhattan, spending many of her nights at Christopher Club, as the speakeasy is known. After being caught up in raid, Gin is persuaded to help Prohibition enforcement agent Oliver Anson to catch a notorious bootlegger from western Maryland. The man is the reason she ran, the reason she never returns home. Her stepfather, Duke Kelly.

Gin’s adventures in the 1920’s are exciting, taking her into the high society of New York, shaking the city to its core. We watch as Ella channels that spirit, and finds herself shedding her predicable life for a more free-spirited existence.

My Thoughts

Beatriz Williams is the QUEEN, in my book, of American historical fiction. She uses all her research and creates fictional worlds that are part of that time period. Williams is a weaver of history and fiction.

And she uses her previous characters to build her characters. In The Wicked City, Williams takes the children of the main characters from A Certain Age and weaves them into the story. She does this in all her books (as far as I’ve read her), and it’s awesome. They might not be main characters, they may not have a huge part in the novel, but they show up. In my mind, it shows me that she has created whole families who weave in and out of higher society, making her historic ‘world building’ (although the world is already there? but she creates more than just family trees. Maybe ‘society building?’) realistic. 

But each of these novels stands completely alone, by the way. There is no need to go back and read her previous works if you haven’t before. The character’s are not at all dependent on other works, their storylines only build off of previous books. For instance, Gin’s love interests are sons of high society, and their parents show up in A Certain Age, but they really do not. Just their names. In The Wicked City, their stories are their own. If you don’t read A Certain Age all you will be missing is that connection (and the backstory of their mother, which is fun, but adds nothing to THIS story).

Any way, back to The Wicked City.  Williams skillfully weaves Ella and Gin’s stories together (and Ella’s connections, to other Williams stories is another fun tidbit), although Gin is the star. Her verve and vigor add spunk to Ella, who is at a low point in life. Gin’s life story is interesting and lively, and her spirit seems to infect even Ella, in the present day.

Either of these stories would be great to read on their own (although Gin’s story is a little more lively and adventurous!), but together they intertwine beautifully, creating a history of the building where both women lived, contrasting the differences in  their spaces and times while also connecting their love for life and Manhattan.

The Wicked City is a book that combines all sorts of goodness: history, The Roaring 20’s, strong women, love, lust, adventure, and fun!

I received an advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review

Book Details

Title: The Wicked City 

Author: Beatriz Williams

Publisher: William Morrow

Pages: 384 pages

ISBN/ASIN: 978-0062405029/B01ER65QNI

 

 

 

Posted in books

To Be Read Tuesday

I had a really busy February, and missed out on telling you about a bunch of great books–but it’s March now and life has slowed down a bit.

So on this, the second Tuesday of March, I’m telling you about the books on my radar today!

 

The Song Rising by Samantha Shannon – The third installment of Shannon’s wonderfully imagined The Bone Season series. This woman really understands world building! Her characters and rich and full and complex, and her London (and her world) is just recognizable enough to be believable. If you haven’t read them yet, you’ve got to get your hands on the first two books. Magic, criminals, clairvoyants – and a government hell-bent on getting rid of them all.

 

 

The Whole Art of Detection: Lost Mysteries of Sherlock Holmes by Lyndsay Faye – Faye is a Holmes aficionado, and has written a number of stories throughout her writing career. In this book, she brings together her best, including two brand new ones. As a fan of Faye’s other works, I’m excited to read this one!

 

 

Ill Will by Dan Chaon – Two sensational unsolved crimes—one in the past, another in the present—are linked by one man’s memory and self-deception in this chilling novel of literary suspense from National Book Award finalist Dan Chaon.

 

The Accusation: Forbidden Stories from Inside North Korea by Bandi – A
deeply moving and eye-opening work of fiction that paints a powerful portrait of life under the North Korean regime. Set during the period of Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il’s leadership, the seven stories that make up The Accusation give voice to people living under this most bizarre and horrifying of dictatorships.

 

The Night Ocean by Paul La Farge – Marina Willett, M.D., has a problem. Her husband, Charlie, has become obsessed with H.P. Lovecraft, in particular with one episode in the legendary horror writer’s life: In the summer of 1934, the “old gent” lived for two months with a gay teenage fan named Robert Barlow, at Barlow’s family home in central Florida. What were the two of them up to? Were they friends–or something more? Just when Charlie thinks he’s solved the puzzle, a new scandal erupts, and he disappears.

 

I know there are MANY others out there, but these are the reads coming up for me. Have a great Tuesday and GET READING!

Posted in books

CRM Review: Elinor Lipman’s “On Turpentine Lane”

Seriously fun reading!

The Premise

Faith Frankel is kind of at loose ends. She’s returned to her small Massachusetts hometown, and has a job writing generic thank-you notes for the private day school she attended. She thinks she’s engaged — no ring, just a string — but her fiancé is off ‘finding himself’ on a walk across America. A walk that seems to include a lot of ex-girlfriends and very little of Faith (at least until she cuts up his credit card).

But then Faith decides to buy a house, and finds the perfect little bungalow, a real fixer-upper with tons of charm. On Turpentine Lane. And suddenly her life isn’t so steady and mundane.

Faith is dealing with her witless fiancé, an idiot boss, a well-intentioned-but-overly-involved  mother, and a father in the midst of an artistic reawakening. Throw in the secrets and mysteries of the new house . . . life on Turpentine Lane is giving Faith a headache!

Thank goodness for her wonderful office mate, Nick Franconi, whose steady, affable presence and ability to swoop in and save the day makes him indispensable.

As Faith settles in on Turpentine Lane, she finds that maybe her life needed to be turned upside down, giving her a chance to put things in order.

My Thoughts

I read quite a few deep, thoughtful books —  LITERATURE — and I love many of them. The writing is beautiful, the characters deeply flawed and well developed, the symbolism and subtexts deep and plentiful. They put my literature degree to use, and make me want to write literary reviews and scholarly papers on the beauty and deep ideas I discovered within their covers.

And then there are the other books I love. Books that don’t pull me as deep, that don’t make my mind reel, that don’t make me ‘think.’ They’re just as necessary as capital L LITERATURE.

On Turpentine Lane is one of those books. And I loved it!

This is the best kind of ‘brain candy,’ witty and sweet, quirky and easy. The characters are smart and funny and very likable, the plot twisty and interesting but not overwhelming. On Turpentine Lane is perfect fun reading: easy reading but not dumbed down, romantic and funny without beating the reader over the head with it.

I couldn’t help but like Faith Frankel, a character just flawed enough and complex enough to carry the mantel of main character. She shares this title a bit with the house and its history, but Faith’s dealings with that history and her own present are what drive the story.

And there’s just enough romance, just enough family, just enough romance, to make it interesting.

I loved On Turpentine Lane. The characters were deep enough and just flawed enough to be realistic. Yes, there is more than the usual craziness and turbulence in Faith’s life (at least all at once), but it’s still realistic turbulence. It made me laugh and smile and sigh without great effort, which was what I needed at the time.

So no, it’s not high Literature. But it is perfect none-the-less. Fun and funny, quirky and witty, easy and readable. The perfect beach or rainy day read, one that won’t be easy to put down — but will be easy to pick back up. On Turpentine Lane is perfect.

I received an advanced digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest review

Book Details

Title: On Turpentine Lane

Author: Elinor Lipman

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Pages: 320 pages (read on my Kindle as an ARC)

ISBN/ASIN: 9780544808249/B01912OYK4