Chasing Lucky [A Sprinkle Review]

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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…

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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.

A Swiftly Tilting World

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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!)

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!

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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.

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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.

Breathe In, Breathe Out

Because if you skip the second half of that, you’ll pass out and that would suck.

I know that in reality your body just knows how to breathe on its own, right? Like it just takes care of it and really if you think about it, how many times in the day you even think about breathing? I would venture guess not many. Maybe if you’re a yoga instructor (I know there’s a name for that – yogi? I could look that up, but I already have like a gazillion tabs open), or one of those other mindfulness practicing people, you do it more often than I do. Which I should do more often and I’d probably be more “centered” and less stressed, yada yada.

I love the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Christmas is my FAVORITE time of year. For reals. I love decorating. I love the holiday spirit. I love gifting people things. I love spending time with family and friends. People tend to be happier and overall in better moods more often than not. My kids seem to get along better between Thanksgiving and Christmas and I’m pretty sure it has something to do with those little elves/Santa watching. Hey, I’ll take what I can get. (And no, our elves don’t do any of those naughty tricks. Our elves are super boring – sometimes to the point that they can’t even think of someplace new to “hide” and all they ever do is a leave a note for the kids from time to time! HAHA)

We decorated for Christmas the day after Thanksgiving and I think we had fun doing it! Even Stella got in on the fun. 🙂

But the past week has been fairly stressful and I’m trying to breathe out the stress. When I do take a few minutes to focus on my breathing, I’m telling myself to breathe in the good and out the bad. And it’s not that the bad is bad. But to breathe out the negative thoughts, the irritating things that have happened. Those things are minuscule, really, if you were look at the grand scheme of life. And most of the time it works.

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Like last night, just before I shut off the Christmas lights and went to bed, I was looking at the handmade ornaments, the meaningful ornaments, and all the ornaments that my kids will take with them someday, and I thought, “our tree makes my heart happy.”

And that’s all that matters.

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Look at that leaning beauty! ♥

Witches and Westerns

Huh. So, I thought I’d be slightly more consistent. Turns out I was wrong. Oh well.

Halloween is over, as you are well aware, and we have two overflowing buckets of candy that these two cuties managed to gather from town. And in five days I’ve managed to not eat one piece from either bucket. So I’d say I’m #winning (I felt the need to do the hashtag thing there… HAHA).

Halloween night was a LOT of fun for the kiddos. We spent 2 and a half hours out and about. We went all around town – down our street, into three churches (in our town, we have three churches that do special things for the community – one does a whole bunch of games an a big free dinner indoors, another does hot dogs and chips and a game outdoors, and another does hot dogs and chips and hot chocolate), and down to fire station and then back up another street and then down to a friend’s house to end with chili and the kids sorting out their candy. They even hit the ‘jackpot’ of houses – they scored a full-sized candy bar!!!

The days leading up to Halloween, however, were quite stressful for me, however, About six weeks ago, Eli decided he wanted to be a “western.” He had been watching old westerns with my dad. John Wayne movies, Bonanza, and apparently Steve McQueen’s Wanted Dead or Alive. He wanted to be Randall from that last one. My mom said they would take care of getting the shirt that he needed and my dad already had a cowboy hat (see above photo). Sweet. No biggie, he’s got jeans. We’re good to go, right? This isn’t a therapy session and we don’t have like hours of time here, so I suffice it to say I should have had a back up plan. Alas, I did not and Monday before Halloween rolls around and we have nothing. No time to order something and Lord knows I’m not going to, nor do I have time to, go to Goodwill and spend hours sorting through racks of clothes looking for a beige/tan long sleeved button up shirt like Randall wears. I know Walmart in town doesn’t have one. So I try Rural King. I have to call Mom, who by the way, doesn’t even remember who it is he wanted to dress up as. So I call dad. Then I look the guy up to verify the look of the shirt. And guess what RK doesn’t sell? Unless I want to spend like $45 on an adult sized Carhartt shirt for him. And yeah. No. So I buy him the shirt he’s wearing in the picture. Which, of course, wasn’t what he wanted. So there’s tears. Mom happened to be in the car with me (this was Tuesday). She talks to him. Then proceeds to inform me that he likes the shirt, just not for his costume. Then she and my dad leave and then later that nite (long story, but again, not therapy) I’m with them again she doesn’t want to come in the house because she had told him that she would stop at Goodwill and look for the “right” shirt for him but she didn’t “get to” and she doesn’t want to “disappoint” him. Um… weren’t you supposed to do that in the first place? When I didn’t say anything, she then went on to say, and I quote, “Some day you’ll understand.” What the actual fuck? You had six weeks to not disappoint him, but instead I’m the one disappointing him but because I’m the “bigger person” I won’t say anything and you want to try and the person who saves the day and then tell me that someday I’ll understand? Where the fuck is the eject button so I can throw your ass from this car?!  (AND CAN SOMEONE TELL ME HOW TO INSERT GIFS INTO MY BLOG POSTS BECAUSE EVERY TIME I TRY IT JUST COMES UP AS GIBBERISH AND I HAD A GREAT ONE FOR THIS!? AAAHHH!!!   I followed the instructions I found but still, gobbledygook… 😦 )

Then I went away for a weekend of scrapbooking and I didn’t have to talk to my mom for an entire three days and it was bliss. However, I think my son was still a little upset with me because he didn’t seem to miss me and actually asked me this morning when I was going to go on another weekend trip. I had to remind myself he’s nine and it’s not personal.

Anyhow. Til next time.

I’d Do It Again

The last few months of life, on a large scale, have been great. Overall. Not to jinx things, because let’s face it, I’m sure that’s what’s about to happen… the kids are healthy and busy and doing well in school. John is healthy, I’m mostly healthy (the major headaches from which I was suffering seem to be mostly gone, the details of which I will spare you because it is boring and pointless unless they were to return…), and the puppers is doing well, with the exception of a peeing issue (possible UTI or hormonal imbalance). But there are a million little things that are making my life seemingly implode. Work stress. School assignments and readings piling up. Kids’ schedules. Doing ‘mom’ things. Doing ‘wife’ things. Doing ‘adult’ things. And trying to fit in some ‘me’ things to not lose my mind.

 

This goes out to this man. The man I chose to spend the rest of my life with. The man I’ve been with for eighteen years. The man who, nearly eleven years ago, together in front of our friends and family and under witness of God, vowed to spend eternity with me. And I’d do it again. And again and again.

Do we fight? Yes. Do we sometimes hate each other? Probably. But do we love each other? Definitely. (I mean, I do. He says he does. I think I’ll take him at his word.) He’s not always a great a listener, but he’s a great tree to lean on when life gets rough. And I know I suck at talking, but I’d like to think I’m a pretty decent listener, so maybe we balance each other out there. Together we created two of the most amazing humans I’ve ever met. (Even if I want to strangle them sometimes. ♥)

Am I saying it’s perfect? Hell, no. Far from it. Sometimes there are more bad days than good even. All in all the good outweighs the bad, though. He’s a loving husband, caring father, and a reluctant but affectionate puppy dad. He does his fair share of laundry and dishes and works hard to provide for us what we need. Is there a “secret” to our happiness? To being together so long? I don’t think so, unless you want to boil it down to one word. And no, it’s not love. It’s not trust. It’s not communication. Yes. All of those are important and vital to a relationship. But they also all count on something that you’re willing to put into it. Work. Here’s something to know. One of our biggest struggles is communication and we have to work hard at it every. Single. Day. Some days we fail. Some days we soar.

Those days are the best. ♥

Sprinkles of Imperfection

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♥ My three babies – humans on the outside, puppers in the middle. ♥

Let’s backtrack a bit to January 2016. Ten years after graduating with a Bachelors in Elementary Education, eight years after giving birth to my first child, four years after giving birth to my second, I started a journey to go back to school to obtain my Masters in Library Science. Don’t let me fool you . This wasn’t the first time I had considered it, or even the first time I had applied and been accepted. That was back in 2008, but before we had found out about our first pregnancy and the timing was just way off. So I waited. And waited. And waited some more. Then finally I just did it.

This past summer (2018, in case you’re reading way later and don’t want to think), I had a class that completely had me stressing. The professor was providing contradictory feedback and wasn’t giving grades in what I believed to be a timely manner. One night I was going to bed and as usual, I went into my daughter’s room and gave her a kiss on the cheek and gazed down at her serene, sleeping face with her hands tucked under her check and her stuffed bunny squeezed between her arms, and I swear I was gut punched. I knelt down next to her bed. Tears started streaming down my face as I stroked her hair. It hit me – nothing else mattered (yes, queue Metallica ♫). She, and Eli… they are my perfect in this world of imperfect. No grade, no assignment, no bad day at work, no shitty new headline matters as much as what is within the four walls of my house. My family, my heart. But I seemed to have forgotten that in the last few weeks. Not like literally, of course. But I was so stressed over this class that I wasn’t being my usual self. I was bity (is that a word? Eh… it is now…) and dismissive. I was basically living on Sprite, crackers, and Tums. I wanted them to not talk because my mind was just too busy. And that was totally unfair. To them. To me. To my husband. To my puppy. To my pounding head. I was overstressed, I was depressed, but not only was I suffering, everyone around me was suffering. Reality check.

And so here we are. I thought this might be an effective way to keep myself in check. To keep myself out of my own head. Because sometimes… it fucking sucks in there. 

Quick disclaimer, this isn’t just going to be about being a mom, though that will definitely be a thing, since that is definitely part of who I am. It will be about all the perfect things in an imperfect world, and probably some of the imperfect because that’s part of life. But I’ll talk about life in general. Things I love – my kids, books, tv, movies, anything and everything. Hopefully you join me. Maybe you won’t. It’s all good either way. 😉

So to be ‘cheesy’… Find your perfect and live it!