When A Book Just Hits So Close To Home

Sometimes when a book hits super close to home I don’t know how to write about it. I decided to go for the method I did when I wrote about Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson and write a letter to the author.

The book in question?

Emery Lord’s The Names They Gave Us which is OUT TODAY! I did receive this book as a review copy, c/o Bloomsbury for review consideration, but I pinky swear that these are all my own thoughts and I wasn’t compensated for them.

 

The Names They Gave Us by Emery Lord

[Keep Reading]

In Memory Of

IMG_7539One of my favorite pictures of my sister and I with my mom when we were really little.

 

Today marks the day, 9 years ago, that I lost my mom to brain cancer. The first couple years my sister and stepdad and I would go to her grave. That always felt a little uncomfortable and sad to me personally because a gravestone in the middle of town amongst a sea of other dead waiting to be remembered held no significance to me or maybe it just felt so final? Either way, I couldn’t do the whole visiting the grave thing. I felt guilty for years that I rarely visited her grave but for me…that’s just not where she was. I felt nothing by being there except sadness and awkwardness. I just don’t get graveyards — they are definitely for the living but I guess, for myself, I’d much rather go have a glass of wine on the porch in the home where she actually lived.

 

Sometimes after we would try to have some breakfast or lunch and be together which was nice but it was still too hard to accept the fact that she was gone and here we were eating brunch and trying to act like this wasn’t hard. Other years I stayed in bed and was sad all day. I didn’t particularly like that either.

So a couple years ago, after the breakfasts and lunches kind of faded away because we got busy and the day felt less ceremonious and ritualistic, I decided to honor and remember my mom in my own way. It’s still a sad day for me every year but enough time has passed that it doesn’t feel as raw like the only thing I CAN do on that day is cry a whole lot.

For the past couple years on this day I’ve been trying to do things that my mom loved. It might be as simple as having a glass of wine (my mom was a big wine-o) and listening to Jimmy Buffett (her favorite). One year I went to beach because my mom grew up in Florida and the beach was one of her favorite places on this earth. I always have a little dance party because my mom was THAT person on the dance floor and always loved to dance so much.

This year when I was thinking about what I’d do to honor my mom I started thinking about memory and how 9 years was a long time and how I’m scared I’m going to run out of things that I remember she loved. I talked about this a little bit in my P.S. I Still Love You book talk but that’s one of my greatest fears — not remembering. Or forgetting the details — what her laugh sounded like, how her face looked for real and not just in pictures, what her favorite food was, etc.

IMG_7543

Making fun of my mom (on the left) because of how she scraped her legs falling down in her wedding dress in Jamaica

And I kind of had a moment this morning. My mom’s favorite dessert of all time was carrot cake. It’s not my favorite but I’ve grown to like it. I was thinking about how I wanted to get some carrot cake today but was trying to think of a backup favorite in case I couldn’t find any easily. And then I just sat there because I couldn’t remember what else she liked dessert-wise. And then I panicked. How could I not know or remember? What if I didn’t know all along? How could I not have paid more attention? And so on.

I panicked thinking about how slowly and slowly these memories and these details were going to fade. How eventually there is going to come a time when I will have just as many (and then MORE) years on this earth without her than with her. And it pains me to think about that. How I had 20 years on this Earth with her but time is going to keep going and I’ll be living in a world where there will be 20 years of memories without her. 20 years between the time she lived and the time she didn’t.

IMG_7544I will always remember my mom’s hair (esp how big it was sometimes). ALWAYS. Like in fine detail. Because she passed on the wild mane of curls to me.

Memory and memories are just a weird thing. We collect them. We try to hold on to them. We lose them slowly or they become vague/less specific as we have distance from them — they begin to have holes like swiss cheese. We try to fill picture frames and books and journals and our social media pages with them. We try to pass them and on share them so that the memories just don’t live within us and end up leaving us when we die or our memory fails us for good. They aren’t always reliable or accurate. The most random ones jolt through our brains at the most random of times in full living color while other ones we try to remember just seem lost in the abyss. There are some things we remember forever. There are some things that seem lost the moment it became a part of our history. How some memories we wish we could forget have been branded in our hearts (I wish I didn’t remember the day my mom died in so much detail and color).

IMG_7542RenFaire! That time my sister bawled because she was too embarrassed to dress up but NOT US.

 

There’s been these periods of grief in my life. The times where I’m just trying to get through the day and grief was intense because it just happened and my mind could not fathom it. There was depression and bitterness. There came a wave of a lot of “firsts” that happened without my mom. And then these HUGE big life changing things that were hard to think could happen without my mom — graduations, marriage, babies (for my sister and not me obviously), etc. And I guess maybe this stage I’m in right now has a lot of fears of remembering or realizing the details have slipped away more than I’d like them to have. And maybe it’s that I’m dealing with my stepdad getting remarried and all of my mom being taken OUT of that house that a huge chunk of our memories were made in in preparation of his new wife. Maybe it’s that in preparation for all that, we’ve had to go through some of my mom’s stuff and memories have been swirling around.

So on this hard day, 9 years later, I decided that one of the biggest part of memories and remembering the people we loved is in the sharing and the retelling — sharing them with other people so they aren’t these things that are solely up to us to remember. It’s always broken my heart that Will never met my mom or that Geneiveve and Adela (my nieces) will never ever know her. So it came to me really strongly, in the middle of my panicking over my mom’s second favorite dessert that I can’t remember, that I really really want to put together a book with memories and pictures of my mom and growing up for Genevieve and Adela…and for myself if I’m honest…so that they can know her and that those memories can live on. I want to write about what I know about her. Relive memories I haven’t forgotten. List the random details.

 IMG_7540Intergenerational — my great grandma (who I barely remember), my grandma Mimi and my mom and I. My mom was I think 25 or 26 in this picture which WOAH.

And now I’m going to go on search of that carrot cake. And by the way, as I was writing this post, it dawned on me that cheesecake was definitely a close second.  Memory is a fickle beast, I tell you.

 

Book Talk: I Was Here by Gayle Forman

Book Talk: I Was Here by Gayle FormanI Was Here by Gayle Forman
Published by Viking Juvenile on January 27, 2015
Genres: Contemporary YA
Also by this author: If I Stay, Where She Went, Just One Day, Just One Year, Just One Night
Format: ARC
Source: For Review
Amazon/Twitter
Goodreads

I received this book for review consideration from the publisher. This in no way swayed my opinion of the book. Pinky swear!

 

 

 

Want an “at a glance” look at what I thought? Check out my Review On A Post-It or my “Final Thought”

 

A1
Cody’s best friend, who has been away at college, commits suicide. When she goes to clean out Meg’s room at college, she meets her roommates and realizes that there was a lot Meg hadn’t been telling her when she was away for college — a boy who broke her heart and an encrypted computer file that makes her question Meg’s suicide. As she tries to reconcile the Meg she’s learning about, she also pursues the things she finds in the file to find out what really happened to Meg.

a2*wipes away a tear*

a4If you know me, you know Gayle Forman is one of my favorite authors. If I Stay/Where She Went broke my feels and left me with characters I will NEVER forget. Just One Day changed my life, literally. (Loved Just One Year as well). So whenever Gayle has a new book out it’s kind of scary because there is always the potential NOT to love a favorite author’s book (I will need to a bottle of wine and cake to cope if the day ever comes I don’t love a Gayle book). Her books possess top spots in my heart and on my shelf so obviously going into I Was Here I had some MIGHTY high expectations.

But this right here is what I love about Gayle Forman’s books! They are all so different and yet emotionally they poke and prod into depths of the heart and the soul not always explored and always leave me thinking all these very life-examining thoughts and questions. I Was Here was this same experience. And to be completely honest, I Was Here was a book that kept having this residual affect on me the further and further away I got from reading it. I read it in the beginning of AUGUST of last year and I’m still finding new dimensions to it and having new epiphanies about it randomly that make me appreciate it more. That says a lot to me.

 The plot definitely was one that I knew emotionally was going to be hard as I lost a friend (not a best friend but still a friend) to suicide and it’s such an intense, confusing thing as a human to understand.

I think, by nature, suicide is one of those things that makes you examine someone you love. Cody was already feeling the strain of them living these separate lives after Meg left for college and then she begins to find out so many things about her when she talked to her roommates and cleaned out her room. This  added all these dimensions to Meg. Then there’s  the suicide and all those “WHYS” and “what could I have missed/did I not see” made Cody unsure of everything she thought she knew about Meg and the picture of her becomes so blurred.

I think Gayle wrote that raw confusion very well as Cody tried to reconcile her best friend Meg with the Meg she’s learning about. I could FEEL that as a reader, which in some ways made me feel like I didn’t understand Meg so much or connect to her, but I realized it’s because THAT is exactly how Cody is feeling. So many complicated THINGS are being added to the person of Meg that make her feel like she’s seeing her for the first time — she’s exploring all these nooks and crannies she never was aware of. Things that she’ll never be able to see for herself or hear from Meg’s mouth. You can feel the barest and most raw emotions in Cody — anger, numbness, resentment, guilt, confusion, sadness. I felt that gamete of emotions after my friend committed suicide and so I really understood the disorienting head space Cody was in. I think sometimes she feels a little detached from it all because it doesn’t feel real nor like the Meg she knows but at the same time her emotions are driving her in an intense way. I think we get an interesting picture of a friendship, maybe not the one I expected to see explored, but ultimately one that felt very real and raw after something like this.

The majority of the plot hinges on Cody pursuing the things she finds that makes her question everything about Meg’s suicide. It’s one of those DANGER DANGER DANGER moments as the reader because you know it’s not a good idea as she proceeds. But this is what I LOVED about this book!! There’s this deep drive as humans to UNDERSTAND when things like this happen. To find answers. To make sense of it. To know what could have helped. We like order and things that we can wrap our mind around.  Someone to blame. I grieved very closely with the mom and dad of my friend as they were family friends and I’ve seen this desire very intensely in them even years later. Cody wanted to make sense of things and she latched on to this uneasy feeling she had to pursue answers that maybe would make more sense to her. That could make this easier as she grieved and tried to make sense of the fact that her best friend was gone. I think for me, being able to slip in Cody’s head space so easily, made me understand this desire for closure no matter how reckless it seemed.

The romance in I Was Here takes a back seat to the plot and Cody’s grieving and I think it was better that way. When they do start to have a connection, there’s this “hmmm” feeling I had because it’s a little more challenging of a pairing than Mia/Adam and Allyson/Willem in her previous books. Ben had history with Meg so it’s this strange feeling and you can FEEL that Cody and Ben both feel that at first. I think Ben was pretty hot and intriguing in true Gayle Forman boy-writing fashion but their romance was different for me. I think that’s maybe because we only get to see the challenging start of it and both of them are in very confusing, grief-laden places. I think I wanted more to understand their connection in a deeper way but I think that’s where they are at in the story — a very confusing, trying-to-figure-it-all-out place and all they know is that there is this shared and messy connection between them that they would have never expected. I thought more about it weeks after I finished and started to understand it more though I tend to go for the more sweeping romances myself (ie. her other two) and I think even MORE of the romance would have been a disservice to the heart of this book.

 

a6RATING-loved-it

factors+ writing, the depth of Cody’s character, plot, emotional impact
the romance wasn’t as strong (but I also think it was kind of perfect). I’m still challenged by it.

Re-readability: YES! I NEED to read it again. It’s impacted me so much more in the months since I’ve read it and I just NEED another read because there’s always so much to glean and think about in Gayle’s novels.
Would I buy a copy for my collection? Oh I plan on it!!

a5Gayle Forman fans, fans of books that tackle the intricacies of grief, contemporary YA fans that don’t mind something a little dark (but not overwhelmingly so)

a8This is why Gayle Forman is a favorite of mine. This was quintessential Gayle Forman in that she managed to do something so completely different than everything else she’s written but in that same signature Gayle Forman way — an overload of feels, incredibly layered characters, brilliant and compelling writing and an emotional story that just hits ya hard. This one was heavy but oh so good!! It was heartbreaking but made me think a lot about LIFE. Is this my favorite Gayle Forman novel? No, but how can you compete with a book that literally changed your life like Just One Day did for me?

review-on-post-itI was Here by gayle forman

 

a8j* Have you read this one? What did you think? Similar or different from me? I would LOVE to hear regardless!!
*If you haven’t read it, does it feel like something you’d be into?
* How did you feel about the romance in this one?

 


The Perpetual Page-Turner

 

Book Talk: The Piper’s Son by Melina Marchetta

Book Talk: The Piper’s Son by Melina MarchettaThe Piper's Son by Melina Marchetta
Published by Candlewick on March 2010
Genres: Contemporary YA
Also by this author: Jellicoe Road, Saving Francesca, Finnikin of the Rock, Froi of the Exiles // Quintana of Charyn
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library
Amazon/Twitter
Goodreads

 

 

Want an “at a glance” look at what I thought? Check out my Review On A Post-It or my “Final Thought”

 

A1
The Piper’s Son takes place 5 years after Saving Francesca. It’s a companion novel but it can TOTALLY stand alone though I do think reading Saving Francesca is a GREAT idea anyways. It focuses on Thomas Mackee and his family who have endured a tragedy. This tragedy has ripped the family apart and Tom himself has quit all the things he loved and pushed everyone else away and is pretty much at an all time low. He’s forced to confront the brokenness when he gets kicked out of his apartment and has to live with his pregnant aunt and gets a job where a couple of his former friends work.

a2I NEED TO STOP READING HER BOOKS BECAUSE THEY DESTROY ME FOR ALL OTHER BOOKS.

a4

I’ve said it before in my Melina Marchetta reviews but I’ll say it again — there are books and there are Melina Marchetta books for me. I don’t know what energy of the universe she harnesses to write these amazingly perfect books that make you feel like you’ve never felt these feelings before but at the same time they resonate so, so deeply. I DON’T KNOW but, like always with her novels, I’m completely rendered speechless after reading The Piper’s Son and it just keeps simmering in my mind long after I finish.

1. I loved returning to Frankie and the gang: This takes place about 5 years after Saving Francesca and the main focus is on Tom’s life rather than Frankie’s. Some of the group is still around and some of them are off in different places. I loved the bits and pieces we got that filled in the pieces of what went down in those 5 years. Selfishly I wanted more to know every last detail of those 5 years but alas that would be a series now wouldn’t it? Tom has been outside of the group after losing his uncle Joe and has pushed them away and made some really bad decisions. I loved watching the group try to rally for Tom like they did Frankie in Saving Francesca but also show him tough love that he needed. This group has my heart!

2. I loved learning more about Tom Mackee: Oh my god I love him and I was always so curious about him in Saving Francesca as we got to know him. We learn of his romance with a familiar character from the group & we learn what he had been up to when the tragedy happened to his family. We see the effects of all that and how he’s given up everything that made Tom, well, Tom. I loved learning more about his family background and how he saw things from back in the Saving Francesca days and how he interacted with the others/saw the others. I fell in love with Thomas Mackee for sure even when he was unlikable and downright hard to deal with.

3. The brokenness of Tom and his family GUTTED me: The brokenness of Tom’s family was just so heavy on my heart the whole time I read. The tragedy that befalls Tom’s family is one that just collides with their world and shatters everything into a million places. I could feel the weight of this fractured family especially when juxtaposed with all these memories of the family BEFORE. They are THAT family that you wish you could be a part of. So close, so beautiful. I also loved that we got chapters from Tom’s aunt which filled in some of family history but also told of her pain and loss and how it still affects her.

4. I’ve read a lot of books dealing with grief but few come close to the layered and gut-wrenching grief in this book: The layers of grief in this book, man. My heart feels a bit differently after finishing this one because I feel like it was hammered and twisted and punted across a field. Grief is a really, really hard thing to explain, as someone who has grieved a devastating loss myself, but somehow Marchetta just nails it. Just brilliantly and right through the heart.

a6RATING-loved-it

factors+ EVERYTHING
NADA. So close to a beyond loved but I’m so very stingy with that rating. It’s SO hovering right on that line.

Re-readability: Oh yes.
Would I buy a copy for my collection? Of course.

a5people who read Saving Francesca, fans of Gayle Forman/Trish Doller/Cath Crowley, people looking for a great male POV, people who like books about family

a8The Piper’s Son is yet another Melina Marchetta masterpiece. A beautiful and gut-wrenching story of loss, the enduring bonds of family and friendship amidst tragedy and the kind of healing that can only come with the help of the ones we love. Thomas Mackee, you will not recede back into the pages of the book ever.

review-on-post-it

The Piper's Son by Melina Marchetta

a8j* Have you read this one? What did you think? Similar or different from me? I would LOVE to hear regardless!
*If you haven’t read it, does it feel like something you’d be into?
*

 


The Perpetual Page-Turner

 

When You Were Here by Daisy Whitney | Book Review

When You Were Here by Daisy WhitneyBook Title/Author: When You Were Here by Daisy Whitney
Publisher/Year
: Little Brown June 4th 2013
Genre: Contemporary YA
Series: No
Other Books From Author: The  Mockingbirds/The Rivals, Starry Nights (out in Fall 2013)

Amazon| Goodreads | Twitter |

I borrowed this from a very kind friend.

 

 

 

Three weeks before Danny’s graduation, his mom loses her battle with cancer and Danny becomes an orphan.  Amidst his grief and hopelessness, a directionless Danny has to try to make it through his graduation and deliver a hopeful Valedictorian speech while trying to make adult decisions about what to do with their home and his mother’s things. On top of it all, the girl who broke his heart by just shutting him out of her life suddenly reappears in his life. When the manager of his family’s apartment in Japan, where Danny’s mom had spending some of her final months for treatment, sends a letter that reveals to him that maybe he didn’t know all about his mother’s final months and why she seemed so happy in them. With nagging questions and sense of purposelessness that has made him numb, Danny takes a trip around the world to Japan to if he can find the answers and reconnect with his mother through these memories

I read this book back in January, wrote my Save the Date for it immediately and my heart is still bursting at the seams with my love for it remembering the emotional journey I took with Danny. I can say it’s one of the best 2013 books I’ve read so far and for sure a new favorite. I instantly knew I wanted to read this book when I first creeped the catalog because the story was about a boy whose mom, who wanted to see him graduate high school, passes away from brain cancer 3 weeks before he graduates. I nearly cried just reading the summary because that was my mom’s wish to see us graduate which, luckily for us, she did. I’m always drawn to stories of grief in YA and I knew this was going to hit close to the heart. It did in fact make me sob and sob and sob.

When You Were Here was just all around beautiful. It steamrolls through your heart and then you realize, by the last page, that Daisy Whitney has been so subtly rebuilding those pieces of your heart ensuring that it’s still intact. It’s a story of loss and love but also of the courage and strength you must possess to make it through both. It’s more than just a story about a boy who loses his mom. It’s about how we move forward in all of these things that life throws our way. I definitely connected to the grief portion for personal reasons but, without a doubt, the things that Danny grapples with are things I think a lot of people will connect with.

I loved the physical and emotional journey Danny takes to Tokyo to retrieve his mother’s belongings and looking for answers to what his mom was doing with her time in those last months. I loved how Danny tries to feel the spirit of his mom in the city they loved so much and Daisy Whitney makes the city comes alive as Danny visits the fish market, ambles along the twisted streets or admiring the cherry blossoms. The spunky daughter of the caretaker, Kana, was one of my favorite characters and her spirit just radiated vibrantly which really was this surge of brightness that was a nice balance to the grief and sorrow Danny was feeling. She was the perfect tour guide and really helped him understand some of what his mom was doing and to start the healing process by reminding him to keep LIVING. I love how he learns more about his mom through Kana and her mother and also through the city she spent so much time in, that in turn, help him through this process and learn a lot about himself.

I connected so much with Danny and love the way he was written — one of THE best male POVS I’ve read in YA that was both emotional and felt like HOW A REAL GUY THOUGHT/TALKED. None of this “what the hell kind of boy talks or acts like that?” that I’ve encountered so often.  Having watched my now husband grapple with his own grief I felt that some of the things were so realistic for how some guys might deal with things versus how I did.

I think the ONLY way I didn’t connect with him was with the whole ex girlfriend thing. There is this whole THING surrounding them and their breakup and how she just up and left — it was a little bit hard to swallow and I really struggled to connect with HER which hindered my ability to understand Danny’s love for  her. We get a little of a background of THEM but I felt like I just never FELT what they shared. There are things that will make you understand her more but I just would have liked to truly feel what he felt for her.  I was at such a distance from her whereas, even though his mother wasn’t alive during the book, I felt like I REALLY got to know her and feel the depth of their relationship.

Aside from the emotional grief aspect of this novel there is something that happens that is of the rollercoaster stomach dropping variety and completely took me off guard. I didn’t expect it and it pretty much laid me out emotionally. Big sobby mess over here when I read it — snot nose and all. (I’m so delightful, aren’t I?) I just didn’t see it coming at all.

When You Were Here by Daisy Whitney is one of my newest favorite contemporaries. It’s definitely an emotional read with moments that will steamroll right through your heart but also a good balance of ones that will uplift and remind you how much strength the human spirit has and how resilient we are in love and loss. Loved the realistic male perspective and I connected with him and his physical and emotional journey to work through his grief throughout the novel (with the aside of fully FEELING this connection to his ex girlfriend). It’s a beautifully written story through and through and I highly recommend it if you are a fan of YA contemporary that is more of an emotional, not so light read. ALSO, favorite pet in YA in this book!

 

 

When You Were Here by Daisy Whitney review

 

Let’s Talk: Have you read this one??  Heard of it?  If you’ve read it, did you enjoy it or feel different than me? Did you see the THING coming or were you surprised like I was?

 

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