Friday, February 15, 2019

An Update on My Anxiety/Depression...

Anxiety and depression are still something I battle daily.  Some days are better than others, but isn't that life in general? I'm going to see a therapist much more frequently now and I really do think its helping. I feel like its helped me to clear my mind a bit more and to gain some focus and perspective about things. Also, I'm really leaning into positivity lately - like, the notion that a new year brings new beginnings. I'm all about that.  I really do feel like 2019 is going to be a good one - the vibes are just filled with hope and optimism.  Plus, its the year of the pig and that means prosperity. So, here's to a prosperous New Year for us all. I'm actually going to copy Patti Smith and tag the prosperity to mean mental prosperity. She wrote that on her IG post and I really loved it.

I saw my therapist yesterday. She told me that I am making progress and that she believes in me. I have to be honest, I really appreciated hearing that. Some days I feel like I am making progress, while other days when the anxiety is relentless I feel like I am falling behind once more. Before, the anxiety would overwhelm me, my thoughts would spiral, my heart beat erratically, I felt nauseated, and it was just horrible.  Now, I am aware of the anxiety creeping in, I lean into it for just a few minutes and then I tell it to take a hike. I actually talk to it and tell it that it is unwarranted and that I am not going to let it win.  I take a breath (or five) and then move on.  I push and push it aside and move on.  Some times its easier said than done, but lately it gets done. And I am so grateful for that.

I'm still working on building up my confidence and nixing all those insecurities that hound me. I really do believe that those are the root causes to my anxiety and depression. So, I've decided to write.  I am writing in my gratitude journal (daily), I am writing in my personal journal (chock full of the good, the bad, and the ugly), I am writing in my creative journal (quotes, poems, song lyrics) to keep me inspired, and I am writing in my memory journal (something to keep old/new memories in - things I don't want to forget).  I'm also trying to post more on my book blog - at least 2-3 times a week.  Oh, and I am planning on writing creatively. I've always wanted to write a book of short stories and a short novel, so here goes, right? Might as well go for it. Especially, since I've been feeling inspired lately - I'm editing short fiction and the stories that come in have just been so much fun to read through, I can't help but want to write my own now. 

Therapy, writing, and the articles on Tiny Buddha are really helping me make strides with my anxiety and depression.  I am hooked on the site and love getting their emails with new-to-me articles to read. I know that its going to take time to feel completely better again, but I know one day it will happen. I also know that I'm not the same person anymore. Having to deal with all of this has really made an impression on me. Its opened my mind up so much more than it already was. Its like Glennon Doyle says about being shattered and letting yourself die so that you can embrace the new you.  I didn't understand what she meant before, but now I do.

Thanks for reading and understanding my need to share these posts with you. 

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

The Lost Girls Of Pars by Pam Jenoff

(Thank you to the publisher and TLC Book Tours for providing me with a copy of this book!)
about book:

From the author of the runaway bestseller The Orphan’s Tale comes a remarkable story of friendship and courage centered around three women and a ring of female secret agents during World War II.

1946, Manhattan

One morning while passing through Grand Central Terminal on her way to work, Grace Healey finds an abandoned suitcase tucked beneath a bench. Unable to resist her own curiosity, Grace opens the suitcase, where she discovers a dozen photographs—each of a different woman. In a moment of impulse, Grace takes the photographs and quickly leaves the station.

Grace soon learns that the suitcase belonged to a woman named Eleanor Trigg, leader of a network of female secret agents who were deployed out of London during the war. Twelve of these women were sent to Occupied Europe as couriers and radio operators to aid the resistance, but they never returned home, their fates a mystery. Setting out to learn the truth behind the women in the photographs, Grace finds herself drawn to a young mother turned agent named Marie, whose daring mission overseas reveals a remarkable story of friendship, valor and betrayal.

Vividly rendered and inspired by true events, New York Times bestselling author Pam Jenoff shines a light on the incredible heroics of the brave women of the war and weaves a mesmerizing tale of courage, sisterhood and the great strength of women to survive in the hardest of circumstances.

my thoughts:

Every time I think I like historical fiction, I read a book that makes me realize how much I LOVE historical fiction. Pam Jenoff's latest tale does just that.  The Lost Girls Of Paris was not only chock full of awesome historical information, but it was an awesome story that shed light on the contributions women made during WWII - something that needs to be written about ALL the time. Women are a force and the lengths they go to to help their country is immeasurable.

Told in dual narratives, this story takes place in 1946 NYC and during WWII in England and France. We get to learn about a network of female spies and their mission to Occupied France - it is absolutely riveting! Grace lives in NY and is on her way to work one morning when she spots an abandoned suitcase. Curiosity aroused, she takes a peek and finds photographs of women.  Determined to figure out this new mystery, she takes the suitcase and starts to work out who it belonged to and who those women in the photographs are.  Grace traces the luggage to Eleanor - a woman who was placed in charge of recruiting, training, and managing female spies. A task she took to heart, knowing full well the risks that these women took in order to ensure a safer world.  Maria is one of the spies that Eleanor recruited.Through these women, we get to find out about a part of history and the role women played in it.  We get to learn about becoming a spy, the dangers that ensued, and the mystery of what happened once you were out in the field.  Grace digs deeper and deeper until she gets answers to the questions that keep popping up as she looks into the photographs. Its fascinating, engaging, and unputdownable. Reading about Eleanor and Maria was simply the best. Their stories were are not to be missed. I absolutely LOVED finding out about them.

The Lost Girls Of Paris was truly a fantastic read. It had history, drama, mystery, and intrigue - I couldn't help but get caught up in it all. In fact, I read this book in one sitting - I just had to! I needed to find out what happened to these women.

I would happily recommend The Lost Girls Of Paris to fans of Jenoff's work and fans of historical fiction - you will LOVE this book to bits!!
Here's the link to the TLC Book Tour schedule for: The Lost Girls Of Paris
Thank you to the publisher and TLC Book Tours for providing me with a copy of this book!

Monday, February 11, 2019

Between Before & After by Maureen Doyle McQuerry

(Thank you to the publisher and TLC Book Tours for providing me with a copy of this book!)
about book:

“The carnage began with the roses. She hacked at their ruffled blooms until they dropped into monstrous drifts of red on the parched yellow lawn … Only two things kept my mother grounded to us: my uncle Stephen and stories.”

Fourteen-year-old Molly worries about school, friends, and her parents’ failed marriage, but mostly about her mother’s growing depression. Molly knows her mother is nursing a carefully-kept secret. A writer with an obsession for other people’s life stories, Elaine Donnelly is the poster child of repressed emotions.

Molly spends her California summer alternately watching out for her little brother Angus and tip-toeing around her mother’s raw feelings. Molly needs her mother more than ever, but Elaine shuts herself off from real human connections and buries herself in the lives and deaths of the strangers she writes about. When Uncle Stephen is pressed into the limelight because of his miracle cure of a young man, Elaine can no longer hide behind other people’s stories. And as Molly digs into her mother’s past, she finds a secret hidden in her mother’s dresser that may be the key to unlocking a family mystery dating to 1918 New York—a secret that could destroy or save their future.

Told in dual narratives between 1918 New York City and 1955 San Jose, California, Between Before and After, by award-winning author Maureen McQuerry, explores the nature of family secrets, resiliency, and redemption. This is an historical coming-of-age Young Adult story about the complex bonds between mothers and daughters.

my thoughts:

YA historical fiction with a tinge of mystery - seriously!? How could I not want to read this book?! And let me just say, I'm so glad that I did. Between Before & After was amazing. I LOVED it!!

First off, dual narratives are my jam.  I love books that provide us with different perspectives in such a clear cut manner, because we get two stories in one. How cool is that? Plus, these two stories are set in different time periods, which makes for a bit of history and who doesn't love learning about the past. Am I right? Also, the two narrators are a mother and daughter. Yep, a mother-daughter book! Now, that is most definitely right up my alley. I wrote my thesis on the mother-daughter relationship in literature (specifically Chicano Literature, but hey its all relative to some degree, right?).  Anyhow, once I knew the book was about mother-daughters, I was so excited about reading it.

This is the story of Elaine and her daughter, Molly.  Elaine's life in 1918 NYC was fraught with loss. The Great Flu hit and no one was safe - especially Elaine's family.  Losing everyone dear to her makes her prioritize her remaining family - little brother Stephen. Mind you, Elaine is a teenager, so having to deal with an absent father and a little brother is A LOT to handle.  Yet, she does it.  As for Molly, its 1955 in San Jose -  she's fourteen and dealing with the dissolution of her parent's marriage, school, friends, and her mother's depression.  Yep, Elaine is depressed and Molly is determined to find out the secret behind it all; along with keeping tabs on her own little brother, Angus.  Oh, and did I mention Stephen, Elaine's brother? We get to learn about how this brother-sister managed to grow up with family secrets and a shared history. The more we learn from Elaine and Molly, the more intrigued we become with this family.

I absolutely LOVED getting to know these characters and their struggles - Elaine was my favorite! I really enjoyed getting to find out about her past and the secrets she kept.  This book was just so gripping. I found that I couldn't stop reading it until I got to the very end - so, it turned into an all-nighter for me and I loved every minute of it.  

I would definitely recommend Between Before & After to fans of Maureen Doyle McQuerry and anyone looking for their next great read - you will LOVE this book!!

Here's the link to the TLC Book Tour schedule for: Between Before & After
Thank you to the publisher and TLC Book Tours for providing me with a copy of this book!

Friday, February 8, 2019

Goodbye Tsugumi by Banana Yoshimoto

Loved this book to bits! Goodbye Tsugumi is now my FAVORITE story by Yoshimoto. It just really touched my heart and got me thinking about my own family, specifically  my cousins.  Growing up, my aunt from Texas would send her three oldest kids to our house for the summer. And when I say house, it was a duplex that barely fitted us all in it.  Yet, we all managed to squeeze in there and enjoy a summer full of pizza, walks to the park, junk food runs at the local shop, and horror movie binges.  I was a kid, so it was all fun times for me. Looking back, I have so many fond memories of those summers. I think those memories ensured my love for this book - this story just gave me all the feels and I really enjoyed it.

This is the story of Maria and Tsugumi.  Cousins who grew up together.  Maria and her mom lived at the inn that Tsugumi's family owned on the beach.  Her father was married, so Maria and her mom endured year of waiting for him to get divorced.  Eventually, the three of them are able to finally live as a family unit, so they move to Tokyo to be together. Leaving behind the inn is hard for Maria who finds herself missing the beach and looking for smells of the ocean as she traipses around Tokyo.  One day she receives a phone call from Tsugumi telling her that the inn is being sold.  Maria is shocked. She always imagined revisiting the inn again and again.  So, she decides to spend her summer at the inn - one last hurrah before its gone.

As we learn about Maria, we learn about her cousin Tsugumi.  A cousin that she is quite fond of and a bit weary of.  Tsugumi was born sick and the doctors told her parents that she would die young.  Growing up alongside Tsugumi, Maria witnessed firsthand the constant battle with fevers and pains that her cousin endured.  She also witnessed the cruel behavior that Tsugumi became known for.  Being sick and knowing that death could come at any time, Tsugumi was not a nice person.  She was unhappy, therefore she made everyone else unhappy. She would throw out insults, steal your favorite treat, make you cry, and remind you that she was the one dying so you had no reason to complain.  She was the worst. She was also strong, smart, funny, and determined.  Tsugumi lived with her illness daily and yet she would push through it to live her life as best she could.  The two cousins grew close after an incident referred to as the Haunted Mailbox.  From that point on, the two seemed to connect even more so than before.  And now, Maria would be spending another summer at the inn with Tsugumi.

Happy to be back at the place she once called home, Maria quickly settles into life at the inn.  The summer moves along nicely - walks on the beach, seafood galore, and quality time with her family.  The girls meet a boy on the beach - his family is opening a huge hotel on the beach that is driving the locals crazy.  Tsugumi and this boy fall in love.  Life is good.  Maria is happy to see her cousin so content.  Things seem to be moving along swimmingly and then...DRAMA.  Yep, drama comes in the form of a dog-napping, a very deep hole, and a close call with death.  Maria sees Tsugumi in all her colors and gets to know her even more so during that last summer at the inn.  She sees her cousin be ill and endure so much pain.  She sees her cousin battle death.  She sees her cousin's resilience.  And, she finally learns about her cousin's take on life in the form of a letter - Tsugumi thought the end was near so she penned Maria a letter.  Its magical, sad, and just lovely to read all about.  I enjoyed it so much.

Yoshimoto has created a pair of cousins that I couldn't help but fall in love with. Their dynamic was such fun to read about.  She's written a story that not only explores family, but also looks at love, death, and illness. And she writes about it all with such depth and authenticity.  You can taste the sea air and feel the sand between your toes.  You can hear the chatter between cousins as they watch their favorite TV show.  You can feel Tsugumi's hand burning with fever.  You can hear the yapping of the dog as he runs around in circles. And you can see the love between all of these characters as they fight, yell, apologize, and accept one another.  Its truly such a treat to experience.

Goodbye Tsugumi is a quiet and emotional story that will just melt your heart.  It will draw you in and keep you hooked.  I would happily recommend it to everyone. 

Thursday, February 7, 2019

The Curiosities: A Novel by Susan Gloss

(Thank you to the publisher and TLC Book Tours for providing me with a copy of this book!)
about book:

The follow-up to Susan Gloss’s successful debut, Vintage, is a charming mid-western story of artists, inspiration, and how to reinvent your life with purpose and flair.

Nell Parker has a PhD in Art History, a loving husband named Josh, and a Craftsman bungalow in Madison, WI. But her last pregnancy ended later in the second trimester, and rather than pausing to grieve, she pushes harder for testing and fertility treatments. Urging Nell to apply for jobs, Josh believes his wife needs something else to focus on other than a baby that may never be.

Finding a job turns out to be difficult for an art historian . . . until Nell sees the ad seeking a director for a new nonprofit called the Mansion Hill Artists’ Colony. The colony is the brainchild of the late, unconventional society dame Betsy Barrett, who left behind her vast fortune and a killer collection of modern art to establish an artist-in-residency program to be run out of her lakeside mansion. The executor of Betsy’s estate simply hands Nell a set of house keys and wishes her luck, leaving her to manage the mansion and the eccentric personalities of the artists who live there on her own.

Soon one of the artists, a young metal sculptor named Odin, is keeping the other residents awake with his late-night welding projects. Nell is pretty sure that Annie, a dreadlocked granny known for her avant garde performance pieces, is dealing drugs out of the basement “studio.” Meanwhile Paige, an art student from the university, takes up residence in the third-floor turret, experimenting with new printing and design techniques, as well as leading a string of bad boyfriends upstairs when she stumbles home late at night.

Despite all the drama, Nell finds something akin to a family among the members of the creative community that she’s brought together. And when her attraction to Odin begins to heat up, Nell is forced to decide what will bring her greater joy—the creative, inspired world she’s created, or the familiar but increasingly fragile one of her marriage.

my thoughts:

What a book! I absolutely LOVED The Curiosities by Susan Gloss. It was such a terrific story. There was drama, art, love, loss, grief, and reinvention. I just couldn't help but fall in love with the characters, the setting, and their stories. This was definitely an unputdownable read.

Nell wants a baby. She wants a family.  After enduring a miscarriage late in her pregnancy, she is even more determined to have a baby. So much so, that she hides how much the fertility treatments are really costing her and her husband.  As for her husband, he wants her to focus on something else - perhaps a job.  Of course being an art historian doesn't make Nell all that in demand for jobs.  Except, there is a new position open for a director at an artist's retreat. Hmm...maybe a job for Nell, something to keep her occupied?  Let me just say, this new job most definitely keeps her occupied - from the kooky residents arting up to the new responsibilities Nell finds herself dealing with. Plus, she's also finding herself experiencing an attraction to one of the artists at the retreat - something she didn't expect.  The more Nell gets to know these artists, the more she begins to see them as friends/family.  She finds herself opening up to the possibility of discovering more about herself and what she truly wants. 

Gloss has written a cast of characters that are interesting, relatable, and unforgettable. She's created a place for them all to come together, live together, work on their art, figure out their futures, and become a family of sorts. Its fun, engaging, and thrilling to read about. I just loved getting to know all of these quirky folks as Nell finds her self at the retreat. This was definitely a great story to get lost in. I would happily recommend it to fans of Gloss and anyone looking for their next great read - you will LOVE The Curiosities!!

Here's the link to the TLC Book Tour schedule for: The Curiosities
Thank you to the publisher and TLC Book Tours for providing me with a copy of this book!