book review

You Have a Match {A Sprinkle Review}

Title: You Have a Match
Author: Emma Lord
Series: N/A
Publisher: Wednesday Books
Publication Date: January 12, 2021
Page Count: 320
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Time Period: Current Day
Location: Pacific Northwest
Souce: NetGalley*
Rating: 5 Stars

A new love, a secret sister, and a summer she’ll never forget.
From the beloved author of Tweet Cute comes Emma Lord’s You Have a Match, a hilarious and heartfelt novel of romance, sisterhood, and friendship…

When Abby signs up for a DNA service, it’s mainly to give her friend and secret love interest, Leo, a nudge. After all, she knows who she is already: Avid photographer. Injury-prone tree climber. Best friend to Leo and Connie… although ever since the B.E.I. (Big Embarrassing Incident) with Leo, things have been awkward on that front.

But she didn’t know she’s a younger sister.

When the DNA service reveals Abby has a secret sister, shimmery-haired Instagram star Savannah Tully, it’s hard to believe they’re from the same planet, never mind the same parents – especially considering Savannah, queen of green smoothies, is only a year and half older than Abby herself.

The logical course of action? Meet up at summer camp (obviously) and figure out why Abby’s parents gave Savvy up for adoption. But there are complications: Savvy is a rigid rule-follower and total narc. Leo is the camp’s co-chef, putting Abby’s growing feelings for him on blast. And her parents have a secret that threatens to unravel everything.

But part of life is showing up, leaning in, and learning to fit all your awkward pieces together. Because sometimes, the hardest things can also be the best ones.

I abso.lute.ly fucking loved this book. From Cover to Cover. Well, virtual cover to virtual cover? Whatever. I loved Abby’s sassitude, her ability to, despite the anxiety deep within, go for things. There were so many times I was rolling my eyes at her, or Connie, or Leo, or even Savannah, just telling them that “honesty is the best policy,” but then having to remind myself that these are just part of the growing pains. And that sometimes even adults don’t get it right the first time – or ever.

But let’s get to it. The writing. OH, the WRITING. So simple yet so spot on and gorgeous at the same time. Lord carries me away in wave after wave of emotion with her words. I want her book of magic spells so I can feel this carefree and young all the time. I felt like I was at Camp Reynolds, having fun, causing problems, getting demerits, and it was the best time of my life.

Then there’s the characters. While there were quite a few, I never once felt disconnected from the main characters. Lord developed each one into full-fledged people I could see myself standing beside at camp, climbing trees with and eating delicious meals (although I am jealous there were never mega cook-offs at any camp I went to)! In Leo Abby found her partner, someone who would have her back while standing by her side. But that her scared her more than anything. And watching her come to grips with that was such a journey.

“He tries to meet my eye, but I don’t let him. I’m afraid of what he’ll see. Afraid of what won’t.”

“But it isn’t the knowing that matters. It’s the feeling that does – and this is deeper than the miles between us, more enduring than any odds we might face.”

“If you learn to capture a feeling, it’ll always be louder than words.”

Pace:
~Leisurely Paced

Storyline:
~Character driven

Writing Style:
~Engaging ~Richly Detailed

Tone:
~Feel-good ~Upbeat

Character:
~Believable ~Authentic ~Flawed
~Likeable ~Well-Developed

*Thanks to NetGalley and Wednesday Books for an eArc review copy of You Have a Match. This in no way influences my review or thoughts on the book, its characters, or the writing.

Mental Health

The Joker in My Brain

I’m supposed to be journaling. Everyday. That’s what my doctor tells me. And when I do it helps me. And yet… I suck at doing it. Why? Why can I not seem to take the time – even a measly 10 minutes – to do something that helps my brain? It’s the worst.

On Monday I woke up at a complete loss. A loss for words, a loss for energy, a loss for connection. I had had a migraine Saturday night through Sunday and still had the residual pains from it. I was exhausted, wearing sunglasses all day and working with the lights off. In my brain fog I felt disconnected, empty. No matter what I told myself, my depression and anxiety kept lying to me, saying “nobody really likes you,” “everyone is pretending they want you around.”

Perhaps if I had journaled, as I’m supposed to be doing, and as I kept telling myself to do all day, I could have helped myself out of that “funk”, out of that constant loop of existential crisis. But I didn’t so alas, I do not know.

It’s been a few days now. I feel a bit better. Let’s hope it stays that way.

What sort of ‘tricks’ do you have to get through days like this, when your regular mantras won’t work?

television

Is Zoey’s Playlist Extraordinary?

She leaned on her right elbow, powdered donut held between forefinger and thumb when I walked into the bedroom at age fifteen. Lips white, sheets dusted with snow, she looked asleep, though she wasn’t. When I removed the donut from her hand to put in back in the box, she argued she was eating it. Clearly a false statement. Something that helped me get through this disturbing and scary time: music. Loud music. Emotional music. I had always loved music – listening to it, dancing to it – but I hadn’t yet learned until this time in my life that music could literally save me from the darkest depths of my mind and soul.

When I discovered Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist last season it was because I followed Skylar Astin on social media (All Twitter links… for Instagram start here.). Pitch Perfect anyone? Ground Floor? Clearly I like when he sings. (I’ve seen other things he’s in, but I do like shows with music… 🙂 ) Then I watched the preview for this and saw that it included the likes of Mary Steenburgen, Lauren Graham, and Peter Gallagher?! YES! When I watched it, I discovered Jane Levy, Alex Newell, Andrew Leeds, Michael Thomas Grant, Kapil Talwalkar, John Clarence Stewart, and Alice Lee? I had seen some of the latter actors/actresses in things, but didn’t realize it until after I watched Zoey… But this cast + crew… puts together one hell of a show.

I re-watched the first episode and then the last two in prep of the upcoming premiere. Did I want to watch the entirety of the first season for the 3rd time? Of course. But I was chomping at the bit to get to the second season here, so I stuck with a brief reminder here as it had been a few months since I had watched it. I did not expect to be gutted again… and this not hyperbole my friends… by the season finale of season one. It was my third watch ffs! I knew Mitch was going to die! That Howie was leaving! That Zoe’s long-awaited kiss with Max was going to be interrupted! I knew it was ALL COMING! AND YET! My stomach lurched. It knotted. My body shook as tears flowed freely and my glasses fogged and ended up on my head because it was pointless. So was I excited for Season 2? No. I was… Elated. Nervous. Anxious.

I didn’t know my emotions could be further eviscerated. Then came season 2 episode 1. Holy fuckballs. How did I have any feelings left to be tossed around and stomped on?

Even after sitting on this for a couple of days, I still feel completely attached and in love with this show. While I’m sure the flaws abound, and there are triggers for some, this show has something to offer nearly anyone (unless you hate music and fun? Connection and life? Just kidding.). Some may scoff at the family dynamics and how long Zoey took to go back work after the death of her father (I also find it odd my place of employment (and many others) only offer 3 paid bereavement days for tier-one family, which include spouse, children, and parents), some may think they aren’t close enough. Some may think a show that offers a female coder (and this year brings in more) and shows women in power is amazing and others may find that to be a yawnfest. I don’t know. Nor do I care; in the sense of how I see it, I mean. I see it as the creators, cast, and crew coming together to bring us something amazing and awesome each week/month (whatever this Covid-mess allows them to right now) and I’m here for it.

So to answer “Is Zoey’s Playlist Extraordinary?” In a word: Yes. At least to me. Have you watched it? What do you think? What shows do you watch? There are a few I’m super excited about, and a lot more I watch (one might say it’s a bit of an addiction), but this one is probably in my top five.

Book Tag

Thanksgiving Feast Book Tag {a Sprinkles Tag-You’re-It Post}

Ah, November. And if only I could smell the most wonderful smells that fall still has to offer. But, alas. Covid has stolen that from me. *sigh* [more on that later] Thanksgiving is my husbands favorite holiday. Our families and a few close friends come here and we cook and hang out all day. We enjoy the company and closeness it has created over the years. Before we eat we do the thing. You know, The Thing. Everyone tells something they are thankful for that year. Sometimes it’s simple and universal – health, family, etc. Sometimes it’s that they still have a job after layoffs. Sometimes it’s for the hugs they received that day. Who knows what this year will bring, but there will still be food.

And for now, let’s have a little fun, courtesy of a dear friend of mine, Elley the Book Otter (who also tagged me) related to that food. Each food category will have a book to represent it – should be fun! 🙂 Let’s dig in!

Here’s what to do:

  1. Mention the creator of the tag, Elley the Book Otter
  2. If you were tagged, mention who tagged you!
  3. Answer the prompts (and try not to get too hungry!)

Turkey: The centerpiece of any Thanksgiving Feast, but it’s always dry and actually isn’t that great… – A book that everyone likes, for some reason that completely escapes you.

So I was totes gonna go all Fifty Shades of Grey here because it was so uber popular but I didn’t love it for multiple reasons, but… yeah. I thought I could pick something different. So I went down a rabbit hole. And remembered – AH! Yes. I did not enjoy this book (or the movie, actually). I found it to be underwhelming, pretentious, and overall confusing. Perhaps I could try again someday, but doubtful. My tbr list is long. ~The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown

Stuffing: Warm and filling, and best when smothered with gravy – A comfort read.


I’m going to go with this one. It’s one I often think about and sometimes I’ll just play some of it to visit Thisby. I love the place, the people, the horses… Maggie weaves together a story so beautiful and a place so wonderful that I often just like to visit for a chapter or two. ~The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

Potatoes: Boil ’em, mash ’em, stick ’em in a stew – A book that’s great in any format – hardcover, digital, audio…

I can’t remember when I discovered this book, but it was by chance through a blog post of Jenny’s. She had mentioned the hashtag #FuriouslyHappy and how it had taken off. From there she went on to write a memoir. A memoir that included stories on living furiously happy through depression and anxiety and all the shit life throws at you. And it started with decapitated heads or something in a closet. She narrates the audio and it’s sublime. Read any format – you won’t regret it. Or you will. I don’t know. I don’t. ~Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson

Green bean casserole: the obligatory side dish that you have to have… whether you want it for not. – A book that you were obligated to read (for school, for a book club, because it was a gift…)

I don’t read books just because people give them to me. And often I’ll still go to a book club meeting even if I didn’t read the book. So this one is going to have to be a book I had to read for school. Although I feel obligated to note here that I absolutely LOVE, and I do mean love green bean casserole.

I honestly don’t recall a ton (literally 3) of required reading from high school. And only a handful of books pre-high school. But this book. Ooooh, this book stuck with me for a few reasos. The main reason? It was the first book I ever wrote in. My English teacher, Mrs. Learned, forced us to annotate it as we read. I was horrified to say the least. But I did. And to this day I love her for it. It aided me in my future studies. I still cringe with that first marking, but I’m able to do it. ~The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

Jello salad: Look, this is dessert, how on earth does Jello with bits of fruit and marshmallows and whipped cream get classified as ANY sort of salad? – A book that is really bizarre.

The most bizarre book I can recall reading in recent history. I read this one right as quarantine was beginning (so in March 2020). We were supposed to discuss it at our March book group at the end of the month. I never was able to discuss it with anyone, but it was super strange in its storyline. It was a mostly enjoyable read, but a conglomeration of oddities, that’s for sure. Also, unrelated, I thought that was blood on the cover for the longest time. It’s a ribbon, in case you wanted to know. lol ~The Grace Year by Kim Liggett

Cranberries: Do you serve real cranberries, or canned cranberry jelly? A book that is highly divisive – and you have strong opinions about it.

I honestly can’t think of a single book that is “highly divisive” that I had or have strong opinions on? Is that strange? Probably. But there you have it. In general I have this opinion – let people like what they like. But watch someone mention a book in the comments and I’ll be like “OH YEAH, THAT ONE!” 🙂

Pie: Whether it’s pumpkin, apple, pecan, or French silk, it’s not Thanksgiving without pie – A book you can’t live without.


Just as I can have a Thanksgiving without pie (*gasp*), there is not one book that I could not live without. There are multitudes of books I turn to for a myriad of reasons, a plethora of books I recommend to hoards of readers. I hesitate, and after days of thinking am actually unable, to narrow the list down to one book I cannot live without. I have you all down twice over.

What about you? What books would you choose? What categories would you add or change? Clearly I would have taken away pie and cranberries if I were altering Elley’s original list! HAHA! Also, she tagged most of my book blogging friends, so… if you blog any about books consider yourself tagged and play along if you want to. 🙂

I hope you are all getting along well thru this November. We are having unseasonably warm weather right now but that’s bound to change soon. Happy Thankful Season to you and yours! ♥

book review

The Initial Insult [A Sprinkles Review]

The Initial Insult (The Initial Insult, #1)

Title: The Initial Insult
Author: Mindy McGinnis
Series: The Initial Insult #1
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
(Expected) Publication Date: February 23, 2021
Page Count: 384
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Thriller, Mystery
Time Period: Current Day
Location: Ohio
Souce: NetGalley*
Rating: 5 Stars

Welcome to Amontillado, Ohio, where your last name is worth more than money, and secrets can be kept… for a price.

Tress Montor knows that her family used to mean something—until she didn’t have a family anymore. When her parents disappeared seven years ago while driving her best friend home, Tress lost everything. She might still be a Montor, but the entire town shuns her now that she lives with her drunken, one-eyed grandfather at what locals refer to as the “White Trash Zoo,” – a wild animal attraction featuring a zebra, a chimpanzee, and a panther, among other things.

Felicity Turnado has it all – looks, money, and a secret that she’s kept hidden. She knows that one misstep could send her tumbling from the top of the social ladder, and she’s worked hard to make everyone forget that she was with the Montors the night they disappeared. Felicity has buried what she knows so deeply that she can’t even remember what it is… only that she can’t look at Tress without having a panic attack.

But she’ll have to.

Tress has a plan. A Halloween costume party at an abandoned house provides the ideal situation for Tress to pry the truth from Felicity – brick by brick – as she slowly seals her former best friend into a coal chute. With a drunken party above them, and a loose panther on the prowl, Tress will have her answers – or settle for revenge.

In the first book of this duology, award-winning author Mindy McGinnis draws inspiration from Edgar Allan Poe and masterfully delivers a dark, propulsive mystery in alternating points of view that unravels a friendship . . . forevermore.

Of all the saints and all that is holy, what in the hell did I just read? I can always count on Mindy for something dark and real, but this was twisted in ways I didn’t even begin to fathom in my little brain. How One could get from point A to point B… in such a gruesome, horrific manner boggles my mind. And makes me so incredibly sad.

Anyway. It was a bit of a slow start for me. Which is fine. Not every book needs to jump head first, body mind and soul into something huge, right? The way this book is written it’s a card game. It’s not a card game where all cards will revealed at the same time. Oh no. They will be revealed one at a time at an excruciatingly slow pace. And I will be there to savor every moment of it.

Let’s talk characters. Are they likeable? Nope. Well, wait. One is. Really, he is. Some might even say too likeable. He’s that guy in the horror movie that you just know is going to die. Yeah. That one. Or he’s the Stefan. Minus the immortal part. The one who is genuinely just good to the core – always going to help people no matter what.

But the rest? Flawed to the core. Make horrible decisions. Adults included. And why? “Because I was dealt a bad hand.” Boo-fucking-hoo.

Writing? Oh, man. I can always count on Mindy to give me an honest-to-goodness gritty, dark, and foreboding story. She delivers in spades, once again. The writing drew me in, as always.

These quotes are from an uncorrected proof and may change. Therefore I only chose a couple that REALLY spoke to me.

“Now it’s a dead thing, still in my chest. And if I can’t feel the good things anymore, then doing a few bad ones shouldn’t hurt a bit. And they are long overdue.” ~This spoke volumes of eeriness.

“My friends – at least that’s what we call each other – watching me me half-comatose and being carried off into the dark.” ~I really liked how this spoke to the lack of depth of their friendships and how she even recognized that.

Pace:
~Intensifying

Storyline:
~Character driven ~Intricately plotted

Writing Style:
~Gritty ~Engaging

Tone:
~Angst-filled ~Atmospheric
~Bleak ~Disturbing
~Gruesome ~Strong sense of place
~Thought provoking

Character:
~Brooding ~Complex
~Twisted ~Unlikeable
~Well-developed

Trigger Warnings if Needed: (Highlight to see)
~Animal Death ~Violence
~Parental Death

*Thanks to NetGalley and Katherine Tegen Books for an eArc review copy of The Initial Insult. This in no way influences my review or thoughts on the book, its characters, or the writing.

Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday {A Sprinkle List}

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by the amazing Jana over at That Artsy Reader Girl. When I had my book blog forever and a day ago I loved doing these. I’m part of a wonderful small community of peeps now and I’ve been silently nudged into doing them again. If you go to Jana’s site, you’ll find an entire list of prompts for upcoming TTTs as well as more information. It’s a fun way to get to know one another, make a concise list, and think. *GASP* I know, think.

This week’s prompt is a Halloween Freebie, which means I get to choose WHATEVER I WANT. I’m not taking too much leeway, meaning I’m sticking with the Halloween theme, at least. That being said, I’m going to write about about the Top Ten Books that could help get me in the Halloween (not fall) spirit.

As many of you may know, I’m a reader. It’s a Thing I do. But what qualifies as a book that could put me, Brandy, in the Halloween spirit? Let’s find out. The ones that I have read that I would read again…

Would Read Again

Six of Crows (Six of Crows, #1)
1

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo – The downside to this being then I would have to read Crooked Kingdom, of course. At least these rock on audio. But this is so gritty and dark, atmospheric and raw that I wouldn’t mind. I’ll take Kaz and his band of thieves any day. ♥

The Replacement
2

The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff – Just look at this cover – need I say more? When this book first came out I was at a library conference. I walked by a booth and this cover, not surprisingly, caught my eye. I instantaneously bought. No clue what it was about, but a dark cover like this with sharp objects hanging over a pram? Sign me up. It’s creepy and haunting with changelings and monsters. Perfect for this time of year!

Three Dark Crowns (Three Dark Crowns, #1)
3

Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake – I would be cursing myself for this one, because I’d be committing myself to, yet again, a series. And four books this time. And these do not rock (for me) on audio. But the gruesome (Kendare is not known for being sweet in her books) and bleak atmosphere pulls me right in. The series gets better as it goes along, but I do adore this dark and sinister female-driven tale.

House of Salt and Sorrows
4

House of Salt and Sorrows by Erin E. Craig – This gothic, creepy retelling of The Twelve Dancing Princesses was nothing short of spectacular for me! I had actually never read/heard of that particular tale so when I returned to work (I read HoSaS during quarantine) I promptly read a version of The Twelve Dancing Princesses. It was quite interesting indeed. However, Erin E. Craig took something “meh” and made it into something Ah-May-Zing! I absolutely adored this one and look forward to rereading it and reading more by her in the future. (And that cover? Beautiful!)

A Madness So Discreet
5

A Madness So Discreet by Mindy McGinnis – Mindy has so much grit and darkness in all of her books, but not all of them are thrillers and suspense. This is a historical thriller that starts in an insane asylum. I really don’t feel like much more reason is needed, no? 😉

Voila. Five books I might reread to get into the Halloween spirit. So what about five books on my TBR list that might get me into the spirit? Let’s look into that. We have the following…

Would Possibly Seek Out

Sawkill Girls
1

Sawkill Girls by Claire Legrand – This one has been on my radar for a LOOOONG time and I recently acquired it via a gift. So I might actually get to is sooner rather than later!!! I’ve heard really great things and it’s supposed to be atmospheric and creepy – which sounds right up my alley, as you see.

Maplecroft (The Borden Dispatches #1)
2

Maplecroft by Cherie Priest – This is the first book in The Borden Dispatches series, a series about Lizzie Borden. But a reimagining of her as a supernatural being, if you will. I’m super intrigued. I really enjoyed Boneshaker and I look forward to reading more by Priest. This is supposed to be gruesome and creepy and seems like the perfect Halloween read (or anytime of year, for me, really).

The Five: The Untold Lives of the Women Killed by Jack the Ripper
3

The Five: The Untold Lives of the Women Killed by Jack the Ripper by Hallie Rubenhold – Ah, yes. This one is unconventional compared to the rest. But I do enjoy true crime (should I feel weird/bad for saying I “enjoy” it? Because I do feel weird/bad for saying it. It implies someone has to suffer…). However, I find it fascinating. The unsolved and solved alike. How the criminal mind works as well as the victim. Anywho. This book is supposed to be written in a compelling manner and well-researched, which is two tics in the pro column for moi!

The Historian
4

The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova – When I was taking a readers advisory course for my MLIS I ran across this book and I fell in love with the synopsis. A teenaged girl finding letters connected to secrets of a past that lead to Dracula? Uh, yes please?

Serpent & Dove (Serpent & Dove, #1)
5

Serpent & Dove by Shelby Mahurin – A witchy read, anyone? I mean, c’mon! Witches, witch hunters, and a little romance thrown in for good measure? Count. Me. In. Plus, I had so many friends rave about this one that I am definitely going to read it. When Katie sent it to me she even included a post-it with reasons she loves it. So I’m certainly more inclined to read it sooner rather than later (though that seems so long ago that she sent it, lol).

There you have it. Ten fantabulous books that may or may not get me in the mood… that Halloween Mood, that is.

family, friends

Comforts in the Storm

2020. Need I say more? I’m not going to go into all the crappiness that exists within those four numbers when put in that order because we all know. And I don’t need to reiterate what’s been said a batrillion gazillion times already. What I want to focus on is the in-between times. The time within the 0’s and 2’s. The smiles, the cuddles, the laughter, the silence even. Within all of that, I have found solace. Comfort. Kindness.

Look at this. Just look at these two. I’m not saying that this is how they are all the time. Of course not. Life is imperfect. It can be a shitshow around my house. I do my fair share of yelling (I never wanted to be that parent, but I’ll admit it, sometimes I do) at them to go their separate ways. But here they are, watching a movie, maybe a tv show. I don’t remember because it doesn’t matter. What matters is this: She is rubbing his feet! Yes. You read that right. They had been just goofing around and then they were on the floor and I looked down and saw this.

I think they might truly love each other. Deep down.

________________________________________________

When I see this smile, and then she snuggles with me, how can my black heart NOT grow three sizes? She’s the doggie equivalent of a furnace. I love her so.

She’s a ham

________________________________________________

With these views (that I promise I stop the car to take pictures of) my soul calms.

________________________________________________

Every day, in some way, this little girl makes me laugh, she drives me crazy, and makes me wonder how I am going to survive the teenage years with her. She makes me feel whole. This little man, whose head I want to pop off on the regular, challenges me in ways I never thought possible. He tests my strength, my patience, and my ability to bite my tongue without biting it off. He can go from sweet to salty in the time it takes to open your mouth. I cannot imagine a love as strong as I feel for these two. I do love my husband, but this love… is different. (And I swear they both smile with their mouths *open*.)

Friends. Friends who are there for you. Friends who send you the huge BGPL rainbow lion you call Gansey during a pandemic and your daughter promptly tries to steal him. She also tries to steal the Minnie ears your friend sent you. The friends who comfort you when you feel sad, alone, unloved, worth nothing. The friends who lift you up and dust you off when others push you down. The friends who push you out of your comfort zone and keep you moving when you might otherwise not. Friends to talk to in the middle of the day, night, or morning. About books, about SOs, kids, tarot, movies, tv, pandemics, the sky… who cares. They. Are. There. That’s what matters.

This dude. He’s fairly solid. Consistent in the inconsistencies, circular in the arguments we have. I guess at least I know what to expect, yeah? But after twenty years together I still choose to love him. I make that choice every day and I’m sticking with it.

What calms your soul during the storm? What brings you comfort? Who is brings you back to port? (I am *not* a nautical person, what is with these ship references? Sheesh.) My life hasn’t been a whole lotta greatness lately, but finding these little sprinkles of greatness, these people to lean on, reminders of love within my house, has made all the difference.

Also, a reminder – depression is a bitch and lies. You are a beautiful soul and deserving of all the love you think don’t deserve. ♥

book review

Chasing Lucky [A Sprinkle Review]

cljb

Title: Chasing Lucky
Author: Jenn Bennett
Series: N/A
Publisher: Simon Holt
(Expected) Publication Date: November 10th, 2020
Page Count: 416
Genre: Young Adult, Romance, Contemporary
Time Period: Current Day
Location: Rhode Island
Souce: NetGalley*
Rating: 5 Stars

Budding photographer Josie Saint-Martin has spent half her life with her single mother, moving from city to city. When they return to her historical New England hometown years later to run the family bookstore, Josie knows it’s not forever. Her dreams are on the opposite coast, and she has a plan to get there.

What she doesn’t plan for is a run-in with the town bad boy, Lucky Karras. Outsider, rebel…and her former childhood best friend. Lucky makes it clear he wants nothing to do with the newly returned Josie. But everything changes after a disastrous pool party, and a poorly executed act of revenge lands Josie in some big-time trouble—with Lucky unexpectedly taking the blame.

Determined to understand why Lucky was so quick to cover for her, Josie discovers that both of them have changed, and that the good boy she once knew now has a dark sense of humor and a smile that makes her heart race. And maybe, just maybe, he’s not quite the brooding bad boy everyone thinks he is…

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is my-thoughts.png

There was a lot to love about this story. While I couldn’t be further away from Josie in a lot of ways, I actually connected to her on some base levels. When I was a teenager, I loved to take photos. Having a darkroom was a dream of mine; in middle school we had a six week course in taking photos and developing them and it was my favorite! I actually loved taking photos of signs, too. I distinctly remember being in Texas, in San Antonio, and taking a picture of a billboard that read “You’re too skinny, eat.” I can’t remember what the advertisement was for, but I remember loving it and thinking it was great. I was with a friend’s family and we decided we should travel around taking pictures of fun, funny, irreverent, sarcastic signs. That was twenty-some years ago and now it’s just a thing that’s everywhere. The internet, man.

Then there’s Josie’s relationship with her mom. It’s strained to the point of breaking. Mostly due to static in their channel of communication. I wanted to reach through the pages and help them fix it, help them turn that dial until they found the right frequency to make it work. Between poor choices, lack of words, wrong words, they were never on the same page, and sometimes in different books. I completely understood that, deep in my soul. When I was a teenager my mom and rarely got along, our communication stilted to the point of arguing constantly. Communication is hard, y’all.

Jenn Bennett has woven a story that feels authentic and rooted in reality. At first the “brooding boy left behind” felt a little far-fetched to me but once Lucky was brought to life more and more through the pages and his story and self revealed all the puzzle pieces began to fit for me. There were some characters I truly disliked and some I wanted strangle for poor choices repeatedly made. I love how Jenn can give me a feel for a character just by how they talk, dress, or address a problem rather than a paragraph or page description of them. That’s how I like it.

I was dropped into the town of Beauty through the writing. The harbor town was brought to life and I could imagine being part of the town, walking beside Josie as she went from place to place. To the fateful party with Evie, to the bookstore, to the Karras’ boatyard… I could smell the fish, the grease, the books; feel the streets beneath my feet.

I definitely look forward to reading Jenn Bennett’s backlist that I haven’t read yet. And to buying this one for my shelves (and my library). 😀

I so want to share ALL the quotes I loved! But, alas, because it’s an unfinished copy, I can’t!!! If I remember, once it’s published, I shall do so.

WHY CAN’T I SHARE THE LOVE?!?!

Genre:
~Coming of Age
~Contemporary Romance

Tone:
~Strong Sense of Place ~Romantic

Storyline:
~Character-Driven

Characters:
~Flawed ~Likeable

Writing Style:
~Descriptive

Subjects:
~Childhood friends ~Bookstores ~Mother/Daughter relationships
~Hometowns ~Summer ~Teenage boy/girl relationships
~Family ~Teenage romance

*Thanks to NetGalley and Simon Holt for an eArc review copy of Chasing Lucky. This in no way influences my review or thoughts on the book, its characters, or the writing.

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A Swiftly Tilting World

upside down

The world was flipped upside down in the last few months. We all know this. I was thrown into a world where I was working from home, working on assignments, and teaching an 8 and 10 year old (now 11) their school work. All while trying to figure out where the panic level should be in my mind with the COVID-19 Pandemic. Eight weeks straight and three grocery store trips I found no toilet paper. Things were bleak feeling.

One (odd for me) release I found: gardening. I tend to have a black thumb, but all the plants I transplanted are said to be “hardy” and mostly low-to-no maintenance.

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I planted three “pandemic gardens” from transplanted plants. One bookish pandemic garden (I named them all bookish characters – doesn’t everyone do that???). One Brooklyn Nine-Nine garden – you guessed it! They are named after B99 characters. And the last one I planted I actually kinda did two; one is planted alone – Six of Crows (minus one, Inej is planted in the first bookish pandemic garden) and Shinedown is planted with B99. That felt very cathartic.

The top left: Ronan (The Raven Cycle/Dreamer Trilogy by Maggie Steifvater; Rhys (A Court of Thorn and Roses by Sarah J Maas); Inej (Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo); Rory (Jenny Lawson’s taxidermied raccoon in Furiously Happy); Rhen then Harper (A Curse so Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer); Arsinoe (Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake) ending with Alyssa and Morpheus (Splintered series by AG Howard). They all look a lot better than the day I planted them. The one below that is the rest of the Six of Crows members: Kaz, Nina, Matthias, Jesper, and Wylan. Then, going from top right and following down to second and third rows left to right, we have: Shinedown members Brent, Eric, Barry, and Zach sharing a photo with Rosa from Brooklyn Nine-Nine going into the rest of the Brooklyn Nine-Nine cast with Captain Holt, Sgt. Terry, Jake and Amy (sharing a picture), and Charles. Clearly I need to add mulch and make it prettier. That’s next. 🙂

Being quarantined/cut off and put in social isolation, even if you are an introvert, is not exactly fun. One likes to have free will… the choice of being socially isolated. And no one was given the choice. Our kids weren’t given the choice of whether or not they got to go school with their friends. They just didn’t go back. We weren’t given the choice whether or not we got to go to work; some of us just didn’t go anymore. Alas, we all muddled through. Or tried to. Whatever.

Whatever point this is in this part of the pandemic story, we have survived. For better or worse. I managed to complete my master’s degree with very little fanfare. My son completed his elementary school career and my daughter completed her year of 2nd grade. My husband and dog are left behind in academia, but they are chugging along on life’s course of every day things. Stella is chasing away at the bugs and toys and John is being as supportive as he can be and always working way too hard.

So here’s to you. To us. We have all missed out on big things. On little things. Things we were looking forward to, things we weren’t looking forward to. No one else’s “thing” is more important than your “thing” and no one else’s feeling is more or less valid than yours. Feel your feels; celebrate your achievements; shout them from the rooftops. Be excited about your accomplishments, be sad about the things you missed. I know I am. For everyone I know – I see your accomplishments. I know what you missed. I’m sad for you; but I am SO SO SO proud of you, too!

(Shout-out to the bestest internet support group I could ever ask for, even though I didn’t know that’s what I getting into at the time!!! I also didn’t know that’s what I needed, either. From support, celebrations, book recs, weird gift wars, shenanigans, animal pictures, late nite videos – y’all are the best!)

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Depression, the Lying Bitch It Is

You know that feeling you get when you’re in the shower, the heat turned up as high as you can stand it, your skin pinking as the water continues to smother it? You can’t breathe as the steam rises, the condensation choking you as you try to breath in, the sweat dripping down your forehead doing nothing to get you clean as the shower is intended to do? Your eyes closed against the light, the water, the house, the world.

That’s how I’ve felt the last few months. Despite living in a house filled with love – two children whom I adore (96% of the time, let’s be real) and a husband who is amazing (again, let’s be real, 93% of the time) and a puppy who is the best cuddler on Earth (100% of the time!), somehow the depression seeps in and continues to make me believe I’m alone and everything sucks. It’s roots are stronger than the love and understanding I surround myself with every day.

The exhaustion every night from pretending to be “normal” (and by “normal” I mean what people expect me to be)  is whole and literal. But I still don’t sleep well. Is it the depression? Is it the shitty bed upon which I sleep? (Pretty certain I’m not a princess and there is no pea but damn the bed sucks! lol) Is it the mom in me unable to let go and just sleep? Is it the dog? Is it the husband crowding me? Is it a combination? I don’t know.

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But what I do know is that there are some things that have helped me through this bout of depression. Some things that bring a smile to my tired lips, a pep to my weary step, and a light to my heart.

My kids

I know, I know. Cliche, right? But seriously. More than ten years ago if you had told me that children could help me fight depression I might have laughed at you. Yes, I have always loved children and enjoyed being around them but I have also always known just how exhausting they could be – and that was before they were even my own! But these two – they accept me for who I am, flaws and I. They are the epitome of unconditional love. I realize that this may change at some point in time as they grow and change and become adults, but for now I will take their hugs, love, and kisses when I feel down and I can’t express to them why.

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My Husband

Knowing he is here, day in and day out, gets me through. Even on the days I may want to strangle him.

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Books

I’ve taken solace in books this time around. I don’t always when I’m like this; sometimes I can’t bring myself to read when I’m in a state of depression. Sometimes I just want to watch mind-numbing television and zone out. But this time I’ve really gotten into reading and escaping through some stories and memoirs. It’s been so nice!

book

Music

Speaking to my soul since I was wee little one, this will always be an escape for me. Music with moving lyrics, music I turn up so loud I can’t hear my own thoughts, music that makes me feel understood, music that makes me feel better, or worse; it doesn’t matter.

getup

Friends

I don’t have a ton of close friends. Not a lot that I would sit down with and say “Hey, so, I’m feeling overwhelmed and weighed down and like I can’t breathe and handle it all anymore” to. Or any that I would say “I just want to curl up in a ball, under the blankets, and not come out for days, because people/things scare me” to. Mostly those people don’t truly exist in my life. But I have a few that I’m beginning to see exist. Some have been in my life for quite a bit and others came by way of a random book group I joined, not knowing what I was in for. I didn’t know how much I needed these people in my life until they were there. Without them I’d probably still be in the depths of the depression rather than coming out of it.

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As you see I have lots of sprinkles in my life to bring me joy even on my darkest days. Thankfully I notice them. I see them. I hear them. Not always. But most days. They are my lifelines.