Posted in books, Death, family, loss

I guess this is what it means to really grow up + “The Keeper of Lost Things” by Ruth Hogan

It’s been a little more than a year. A year of wondering and hoping and waiting.

A year of hell.

A little less than a month ago my mom passed away. And yesterday the weight of that realization really hit me. Like a brick to the mouth.

It was a normal day for me. A little busy, a little running around. A lot of little decisions made every hour to keep our family going.

But suddenly, every decision I made seemed to contain extra weight. Like a plastic pitcher suddenly filled with water (or vodka . . .), every thing I had to do yesterday was heavier than just a few days earlier.

It was yesterday when it hit me. I’ve been mom, but now I’m the only ‘mom’ in my immediate family. I’m the older child, the only girl, the only one with children. There is no one left in my immediate family that really knew me as a child. Not the way my mom did.

There is no one left for me to  call mom. There is no way I can go home to my mom if things get rough (I don’t even come close to envisioning this, but there was always that net there, just in case). There’s no one I can call to complain to, who will just listen or put me in my place for sniveling and whining.

I no longer have that person who knew me best and longest. She changed my diapers, helped me buy my first bra, simultaneously ignored and helped me deal with my first (and subsequent) periods. She called me on my crap and rarely coddled me, but was the first to comfort me when my I experienced true heartbreak or hurt (and then to tell me to suck it up).

She was there for my victories and my defeats. She watched me rock and reel through my 20’s (I’m sure she was holding her breath for most of it), and then watched me emerge okay, to be married to a good man and to become a mother myself to two daughters. She watched me own a home and find a career; all those adult things we all must do.

In other words, she watched me fake adulthood.

Because that’s what I feel like I was doing before yesterday. Faking being an adult. Now it’s all real. There’s no mom to help me.

My mom taught me to be strong. So strong. I was a daughter of middle class privilege,  a child brought up wanting for nothing. Her childhood was the same, pretty much (although she was really spoiled, according to my Aunt’s stories. As the youngest of three girls, she got everything she wanted because she was stubborn and they were tired. I get it–the youngest child gets the most because everyone is SOOO tired of arguing with KIDS). But then things fell apart in her (in our) life, and I learned how strong she really was. Strong enough to get through the worst of EVERYTHING.

At the end of that horrible time (which I may or may not talk about later–it’s a true story of tough-as-nails), she met my stepdad. And, because of that, my mother taught me true love. She showed me love — or rather, THEY showed me what real love looks like. Supportive, unconditional, forgiving, true. It was because of them that I can love my husband the way I do.

But back to my original point. Suddenly the weight of it all hit me. Seriously hit me. My husband asked me to call the cable company, and then he left for work. That request just tipped the scale. Suddenly, at 50 years old, I felt grown up. I realized that all my decisions were mine. There was no mom to call and talk to about cable decisions or raising a teenager or dealing with unreasonable people.

Suddenly I am the one-and-only mom in our family. For 14 years I’ve been part of the ‘sandwich’ generation, caught between the bread of parents and children. I’m no longer part the meat or the cheese in a sandwich. Or maybe I am, for awhile. Maybe my sandwich is now open faced. But sooner than I want to think about (but not too soon, and in no way in the near future, please), I’m going to be that top piece of bread in that generational sandwich–the grandma and mother.

I miss my mom. Crazily. I’ve had time to prepare for the loss, at least mentally. Lung cancer is not easy to beat. But knowing that she’s gone, realizing that on an emotional level? That part is not so easy.

Days like yesterday make me want to call my mom. And knowing I can’t call her makes her passing so much more real.

And I guess that’s when this adult thing hits home. That’s what it means to really grow up.


The Premise

(Paraphrased from the book blurb.)

 

Anthony Peardew  is the self appointed keeper of lost things. After he lost a keepsake from his  fiancée on the same day she died unexpectedly. he has sought consolation in finding and keeping lost objects—the things dropped, misplaced, or accidentally left behind—and writing stories about them. He has kept his mission a secret from all, puting the items neatly in a room in his house. But as his life draws to a close, Anthony worries that done all he can do to reconnect the items and their owners. In his will, he bequeaths his secret mission to his housekeeper and assistant, Laura, leaving her his house and and all its lost treasures, including an irritable ghost.

Laura is one of Anthony’s lost thing, coming to him after a bad divorce. But when she moves into the mansion, her lonely life begins to change. She finds friendship in the neighbor’s daughter, Sunshine, and a distraction in Freddy, the rugged gardener. As Laura starts to emerge from the fog, she and her new friends embark on a mission to reunite the items with their owners.

In a connected story,  we follow Eunice, who found a trinket on the London pavement years ago and hung onto it. Now, as she comes to the end of her life, she has lost something precious—a tragic twist of fate that forces her to break a promise she once made.

As the Keeper of Lost Objects, Laura holds the key to Anthony and Eunice’s redemption. But can she unlock the past and make the connections that will lay their spirits to rest?

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

My Thoughts

I have a tendency to give objects I find a story, creating a backstory for them that is rich and full of life. Knowing that there is a whole room filled with objects for which stories were created (at least in Hogan’s work) seemed logical to me, and make my heart more than happy.

And Sunshine, the next door neighbor girl? I love her. She is a young adult with Down syndrome, and reminded me quite a bit of my daughter. I do wish she had more of a life beyond the story (as all the other characters seem to have), but she I loved her. She was an integral part of the story, including the work of reuniting the items with their lost owners–this, to me, was perfect.

The Keeper of Lost Things is a character-driven novel, in that the lost things are characters — and the characters are lost things. Each lost thing has a story which must be uncovered, during which the actual characters are telling the stories and uncovering their truths.

The story of Eunice and Bomber, who met the same day Anthony’s fiancee died, is almost worth its own book. I can’t really say it was parallel to Anthony and Laura’s story: I would say it was more diagonal, running side by side but destined to intersect.

The story is a little too cute, a little too sweet at times, and it could have done without the touch of supernatural (which works fine, but not necessary). But honestly, I loved it. I think I needed to know that life works out sometimes, and that all the objects in the world have a story to someone out there. I needed the cute story, and the happy ending.

Book Details

Title: The Keeper of Lost Things

Author: Ruth Hogan

Publisher: William Morrow

Pages: 293 (Kindle Edition)

 

 

 

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Posted in books

CRM Review: “All the Missing Girls” by Megan Miranda

 

“There is nothing more dangerous, nothing more powerful, nothing more necessary and essential for survival than the lies we tell ourselves.”

Megan Miranda, All the Missing Girls

The Premise 

(from the book blurb)

Like the spellbinding psychological suspense in The Girl on the Train and Luckiest Girl Alive, Megan Miranda’s novel is a nail-biting, breathtaking story about the disappearances of two young women—a decade apart—told in reverse.

It’s been ten years since Nicolette Farrell left her rural hometown after her best friend, Corinne, disappeared from Cooley Ridge without a trace. Back again to tie up loose ends and care for her ailing father, Nic is soon plunged into a shocking drama that reawakens Corinne’s case and breaks open old wounds long since stitched.

The decade-old investigation focused on Nic, her brother Daniel, boyfriend Tyler, and Corinne’s boyfriend Jackson. Since then, only Nic has left Cooley Ridge. Daniel and his wife, Laura, are expecting a baby; Jackson works at the town bar; and Tyler is dating Annaleise Carter, Nic’s younger neighbor and the group’s alibi the night Corinne disappeared. Then, within days of Nic’s return, Annaleise goes missing.

Told backwards—Day 15 to Day 1—from the time Annaleise goes missing, Nic works to unravel the truth about her younger neighbor’s disappearance, revealing shocking truths about her friends, her family, and what really happened to Corinne that night ten years ago.

My Thoughts

All the Missing Girls easily could have been lost in the sea of mystery/thrillers told through the eyes of an unreliable narrator, but Megan Miranda finds a way to make it stand out. She has Nic Farrell tell the story backwards instead of the standard timeline, starting with Nic’s 15th day in Cooley Ridge, North Carolina, working backwards to her first day.

Well, this is a bit of an exaggeration, but just a bit. The story begins with Nic’s return to her hometown, which gives Miranda a way to present all the necessary information. Readers meet Nicolette –  Nic to her friends –  and the other main characters. Also, at that point, Corinne’s disappearance ten years earlier is explained, and the recent disappearance of Annaleise Carter is introduced.

But Miranda then fast forwards to day 15, and begins counting back to day one, throwing in a few walks down memory lane for Nic.

It’s a great device, and it works. All the Missing Girls is exceedingly engrossing, and fast paced. I think it would have been better in one sitting. I found when I put it down for awhile and then picked it back up, I had to go back and reacquaint myself with the characters. I think the story being told backwards threw me off a bit, although I really enjoyed it.

The plot is incredibly twisty and turning, and I closed the book (or my Kindle cover) with a smile and a shake of my head. The ending really stunned me with its final twist.

All the Missing Girls is a great read for a rainy day or a weekend stuck inside. Dark, suspenseful, thrilling. Everything I hoped it would be.

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

 

Book Details

Title: All the Missing Girls

Author: Megan Miranda

Publisher: Simon & Shuster

Pages: 384 (hardcover)

ISBN/ASIN: 978-1501107979/B0176M3UJW

 

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!

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