• ARC's,  Book Reviews,  mental health,  parenting,  Writing

    I’m Saying NO!


    This is the post no mother ever wants to write. But here I am.

    At the height of the #METOO movement, our daughter had her own encounter with sexual assault. She had just turned 14 and the perpetrator was 14. She was also not his only victim.

    We talk often in our home about telling our own story and her story is not mine to tell. But I do have a mother’s perspective to give on empowering our daughters and encouraging our sons to find their voices and speak out against sexual harassment, assault, and pressure.

    The #METOO and #TIMESUP movements have done a tremendous amount of good but we can still do better.

    The post I was writing to share yesterday changed drastically as I received this series of frantic texts from my now 15-year-old daughter. I shut my laptop and spent the rest of the afternoon on the phone with the school, emailing administrators, and checking in with my daughter. With her permission here is what happened:

    Her: Mom I need you to call the counselors office and have them ask to have me sent to see them.

    Me: You have a counseling pass. Give it to the teacher and leave. (this is part of her 504)

    Her: I can’t. I’ll explain when I get to the office. Please call them now. I’m going to have a flashback.

    Me: I called and left a message. JUST LEAVE.

    Her: I can’t.

    I then called the front office and told them that I didn’t know what was going on, that she has a counselor’s pass, but for some reason, she’s not able to use it. The front office said they would take care of it immediately.

    I sat and waited. She wasn’t answering my texts.

    Finally, the counselor called with my daughter and I learned what was going on.

    Why wasn’t she able to use her pass?

    Because she was scared to ask the teacher.

    Because it was the male teacher causing her distress.

    In a discussion completely unrelated to the class, this teacher was going into detail about the juries he has served on. One of which was a 14-year-old boy sexually assaulting an 8-year-old girl.

    This teacher went into graphic detail about the girl’s video interview, the “doll” used in her interview, and the things said.

    My daughter has been in counseling and was able to recognize the situation she was in and was resourceful enough to get herself out of the situation. She has come a long way in a little over a year.

    Since this was just yesterday afternoon, this is obviously still being addressed with the teacher. I have full confidence that the administration will handle this appropriately. I emphasized with them that while my daughter was impacted, this would have upset me as an adult and statistically my daughter was not the only one in that class being impacted by his words.

    We can do better.

    When a grown man feels that a discussion like this is appropriate – in mixed company, to discuss a graphic sexual assault in detail, with no applicability to the class. WE CAN DO BETTER.

    If we are still at the point where educators do not understand the power their words and actions can have over former victims, books like I’m Saying NO! are still desperately needed. Not just for the education of those who love, support, and teach former victims but also for the former victims themselves.

    I was honored to be selected to be a part of the #IMSAYINGNO campaign and it could not have been more timely. And maybe even a little too timely in our own home. Because while time has passed and she has learned ways to manage her anxiety and PTSD, things like this are setbacks.

    I’m Saying NO! does an excellent job of helping former victims find their unique voice. Many, many times it’s far more complicated than just telling someone to say NO. For someone who has already been harmed, healing has to occur to get to that place and this book provides sounds steps and exercises towards saying NO.

    There are also valuable tools for parents and advocates discussed in this book. I have had to learn to advocate for my daughter in a way that makes a mama bear look tame. And the more I have understood about where she was coming from the more effective I have become. What took me a year to learn, is in this book.

    An aside about advocating: you have to be passionate enough to show you mean business but calm enough to keep from being disregarded because you’re emotional – sadly, that’s an actual thing.

    But a few words about that – this book is not a substitute for therapy. The therapists who have helped our family through this past year have been invaluable. There are also parts of this book that could be very upsetting for former victims without the assistance of a therapist. There are plenty of warnings throughout the book that warn of triggers which I appreciated.

    As yesterday reminded me, there is still work to be done and I am grateful for a book that recognized the need and went beyond the initial movements.

    If you are a parent, this book is a great place to start. We need to be talking with our kids much younger than we probably think – I know this was my experience.

    If you are an educator, you are on the front line and the more you understand about what your students are facing, the more compassionate and empowering you will be.

    And finally, if you are a former victim, with support this book can be a great aid in your healing and recovery of your voice.

    Thank you to She Writes Press and BookSparks for a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.


  • Book Reviews,  Writing

    Gingerbread: a book review


    A gingerbread addict once told Harriet that eating her gingerbread is like eating revenge. … ‘That heart, ground to ash and shot through with darts of heat, salt, spice, and sulfurous syrup, as if honey was measured out, set ablaze, and trickled through the dough along with the liquefied spoon. You are phenomenal. You’ve ruined my life forever. Thank you’. – Helen Oyeyemi, Gingerbread


    Gingerbread by Helen Oyeyemi hails from the genre of magical realism, one of my favorite genres. If you are unfamiliar, there is just enough real-life mixed with just enough magic or fantasy to make you forget the real world for a bit. And all without being ridiculous.

    Alice Hoffman is the author who introduced me to this brand of storytelling and in my opinion, she is the master.

    These stories follow a rhythm – introduction of a few quirky or odd characters followed by exploring the world they live in, how they don’t quite belong, and then finally finding a way to live their lives, hopefully better than before.

    Meet Gingerbread:

    Harriet is a single mother of a teenaged daughter, Perdita – who is no ordinary teen. She is different in all ways including her living dolls and completely grey hair caused by a severe allergic reaction to her mother’s gingerbread.

    The gingerbread that Harriet makes comes from an old family recipe passed down to her by her mother, Margot, and farther back from her own ancestors. The origin of the gingerbread comes from crops of blighted rye grown in the questionably existent land of Druhástrana where Harriet and her best friend, Gretel Kercheval are from.

    To waste nothing, the great-great-great-grandmother concocted a recipe using many of the traditional ingredients we know to be in modern day gingerbread. The trick though was to use just enough rye. Too little and you were wasteful; too much and consuming it made you extremely ill.

    Perdita has many questions about her family of origin, her mother and especially her mother’s friend Gretel who has been an integral part of Harriet’s life but has never been seen by Perdita.

    In typical teenage fashion, Perdita says she’s going on an overnight school trip and sets off to learn of her mother’s past and Druhástrana.

    The writing is excellent in the first part of the book. And then there is a dramatic shift as Perdita falls down the rabbit hole of her mother’s past. The change falls somewhere in between a stream of consciousness and a calculated fairy tale.

    Let them come, let them come from the farms and try to pinch us again, Rosolio raged as she sewed. … From now on we’re all carrying gingerbread shivs, OK? – Helen Oyeyemi, Gingerbread

    Gingerbread shivs was my absolute favorite and one phrase I won’t soon forget.

    This change in style may bother some readers but I found the utilitarian writing style fitting for the time and the place. Once Perdita returns to her mother, the writer returns to the style that began the book.

    I found this brilliant. But I can see how some readers would find it distracting.

    In true magical realism form, the characters find a way to bridge their worlds and the ending was just what I had hoped for.

    Oyeyemi is an excellent writer and I know this won’t be the last of her books that I read.

    Who would enjoy this book? Anyone who appreciates unique writing styles and dark fairy tales. If you liked The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman, The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert, or The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz, I think you will also enjoy Gingerbread.

  • Book Reviews

    Tell the Wolves I’m Home: a book review


    Tell the Wolves I’m Home is the debut novel by Carol Rifka Brunt.

    June is a smart and resourceful 14-year-old with a talented but distant older sister, and parents who are both CPA’s and provide little supervision during tax season.

    Mix the family dynamics with the death of June’s beloved uncle, Finn, and you’ve got a recipe for what could go wrong?

    Set in 1987, Finn was a famous artist who died of AIDS before very much was known about the virus. This took me back to my own childhood as the book detailed the news reports, wild theories, and sadly the nastiness directed at the gay community.

    Finn had a “friend”, Toby, that the family won’t speak of and believe that he killed their brother and uncle. But in a chain of events facilitated by typical ‘80’s parenting – kids of the ‘80’s know what I mean – June meets this friend of Finn’s and they develop a bond over their mutual love for Finn.

    That’s where the book went south for me. While there were sweet moments of remembrance for Finn, the liberties taken by Toby – an adult – with a 14-year-old girl were too much for me. Nothing truly inappropriate but secretly sending letters, giving gifts, meeting her in the city, and other adventures without her parents’ knowledge made the story lose credibility for me.

    All of that was a distraction for me. The author missed her chance to highlight the AIDS epidemic, the treatment of individuals with HIV/AIDS, and the grief process of a family. All in favor of the secret relationship and exploits of a 14-year-old girl.

    What did I enjoy? The descriptions of Finn’s art, the painting he left behind for his nieces, and the push and pull of the sisterly relationship were well done. The writing was also excellent and the characters were decently developed.

    Who would I recommend this book to? If you were a child of the ’80s and can forgive some of the WTF’s of the plot, you may enjoy this book. This is classified as a young adult book but the issues addressed will appeal to both young adults and adults alike.

    If you liked The Astonishing Color of After or The Book of Essie, you will probably enjoy Tell the Wolves I’m Home.

  • Book Reviews

    Book Review: The Nix


    …if a new beginning is really new, it will feel like a crisis. Any real change should make you feel, at first, afraid. If you’re not afraid of it, then it’s not real change. 

    Nathan Hill, The Nix


    I listened to the Nix while reading Infinite Jest. Seeking to balance that madness, I picked an audiobook from my wishlist which ended up on my list primarily because of the cover art.

    I am a sucker for good book cover art and looking back over my books read last year, the ones that I picked based on the cover never disappointed. There’s got to be something psychological there, but I’ll leave that to a marketing genius to explore.

    The Nix spans decades and follows Samuel Andreson – Anderson through years of questions, changes, friendships, failures, love interests, and the curse of the Nix. The book begins in his adulthood and finds him as a gaming addict/college professor caught up in national political headlines when his missing mother makes the news after throwing rocks at a presidential candidate.

    Samuel, a promising author that never delivered on his book deal, is put in the impossible position of paying back the advance money. That is until he offers up a story of interest – his mother, Faye. The publisher accepts his proposal and Samuel sets out to find his mother, ask her why she left him as a child, and get close enough to write a tell-all about Faye the political protestor turned assailant. 

    Nathan Hill uses historic events as a backdrop – i.e. Occupy Wallstreet and political protests in the 60’s – which helped me keep my timeline and characters straight. This is a huge positive for this book because of the length (640 pages). Even listening to the audiobook, I never got lost.

    What I enjoyed the most about this book were the well-developed rabbit trails that made each character come to life. I often find myself wanting more from the author on what seems to be an interesting character with a story.

    Nathan Hill leaves no character stone unturned. And while this leads to a long book, I enjoyed the backstories of almost every character. There are a few I could have done without but overall, the backstories added a rich layer in the plot of the book.

    Hill’s writing style is meticulous, witty, emotional, and pulls no punches. There is a healthy dose of social and political commentary which adds color when told through the perspectives of the characters.

    Who would I recommend this book to? Anyone who enjoys a long book with well-developed characters. If you are a fan of John Irving, Michael Chabon, or David Foster Wallace you should enjoy this book.

    And speaking of David Foster Wallace, an un-review of Infinite Jest is coming soon. 

  • ARC's,  Book Reviews

    Little Darlings – blog tour & review

    Author: Melanie Golding

    Publisher: Crooked Lane

    Publish Date: April 30, 2019


    “Mother knows best” takes on a sinister new meaning in this unsettling thriller perfect for fans of Neil Gaiman and Grimms’ Fairy Tales.Everyone says Lauren Tranter is exhausted, that she needs rest. And they’re right; with newborn twins, Morgan and Riley, she’s never been more tired in her life. But she knows what she saw: that night, in her hospital room, a woman tried to take her babies and replace them with her own…creatures. Yet when the police arrived, they saw no one. Everyone, from her doctor to her husband, thinks she’s imagining things.

    A month passes. And one bright summer morning, the babies disappear from Lauren’s side in a park. But when they’re found, something is different about them. The infants look like Morgan and Riley―to everyone else. But to Lauren, something is off. As everyone around her celebrates their return, Lauren begins to scream, These are not my babies.

    Determined to bring her true infant sons home, Lauren will risk the unthinkable. But if she’s wrong about what she saw…she’ll be making the biggest mistake of her life.

    Compulsive, creepy, and inspired by some of our darkest fairy tales, Little Darlings will have you checking―and rechecking―your own little ones. Just to be sure. Just to be safe.

    My Review:
    What a page-turner! I read this book in two evenings. It’s a thriller, mystery, and dark fairytale, with a dash of the paranormal, all rolled into one book.
    In this debut novel, Melanie Golding perfectly captures the fog of postpartum and maternal instinct. She took me back 15 years, to my early days with my newborn daughter. This made the main character, Lauren,  immediately relatable.
    New mothers are often on the receiving end of well-meant, unsolicited advice and Lauren was no exception.
    After a terrifying night in the hospital where a filthy woman tries to exchange Lauren’s twins with her own creature-like twins, Lauren is told she is imagining things and the incident is dismissed as exhaustion. Video footage confirms that nothing happened and soon enough Lauren and her irritating husband Patrick are heading home with their newborn twins.
    Lauren’s fears and terror continue yet she cannot convince those around her that something isn’t right. As a mother, I could put myself in that situation and that’s what made this a page-turner.
    I had to know what happened next.
    What I liked:
    The writing was well done, Lauren’s character was well developed and easy to empathize with.
    I love a good changeling story. And changeling twins? Even better.
    I also appreciated the presentation of a postpartum mother, suffering from terrible worry and fear, without turning her into an unreliable narrator. I never felt the need to question Lauren’s fears.
    What I didn’t like:
    UGH the husband, Patrick. I’m sure that is a universal feeling from anyone who has read this book. Sometimes his clueless demeanor bordered on cruel, making him feel a bit overdeveloped. But I do believe that helped strengthen Lauren’s character and story.
    Harper, the detective – I wish her back story had been expanded more. She was right on the cusp of being an interesting and well-developed character.
    If you enjoy a good thriller without extreme violence and terror – this happens to be me – and if you enjoy dark fairy tales and books like The Hazel Wood and Once Upon a River, Little Darlings should be added to your TBR list today!
    Want to win a copy? Head over to my Instagram to enter! I have three copies to give away, courtesy of Crooked Lane Books.

    Thank you to Netgalley and Crooked Lane Books for a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.
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