Book Review│Raven Lane by Amber Cowie

raven laneI originally requested a galley of this novel because I was most interested in the author. Amber Cowie has most definitely lived the writerly life. She has worked as a smalltown newspaper reporter, as a front desk person for a remote hotel between England and France and served hot chocolate in Scotland’s only ski resort. It’s safe to say she has many more stories to tell us. What I also loved so much about her is that she is also a wife and a mother now which gave me hope, especially after my last post.

I found the premise of the book to be interesting, in that, so many of us leave the flightly world of being young for the more settled version of life on a cul-de-sac with our partners and families. For some of us, that life is idyllic and it means that we have made it. For others like,  Esme Werner, she struggles with life on the cul-de-sac. She is haunted by old ghosts, including the fact that she had been raped and she still questions the paternity of the daughter that she loves so much. This also leads her to question her love or lack of love for her husband, Benedict.  Everything begins to culminate when Torn, the street’s omni-sexual and local best-selling author, is the victim of a hit and run. His voice continues throughout the book as there is also a story within a story as we are taken through the events juxtaposed with Torn’s book, The Call.

Through the use of Torn’s novel, we get a deeper look at the monsters that are fictionalized within the story and those “real-world” monsters that are living every day on Raven Lane. Benedict and Esme had been celebrating Benedict’s new contract at work, sharing some wine and enjoying each other’s company when he decides to go to the liquor store for more wine. While backing out of his driveway, he hits and kills Torn. At first, this looks like a horrible accident, but upon further investigation, the police uncover that not only had Benedict been drinking, but that there were also drugs in his system. This propels the novel forward, creating a rich narrative that takes us from past and present and unleashes many of the dark secrets that Esme and Benedict held as well as the secrets that suburbia overall likes to hide behind white picket fences.

In the same breath as Big, Little Lies, Cowie’s Raven Lane takes the reader on a spiral down past the glittery images of suburbia and deep into the lives and lies of the people who live on the cul-de-sac. Overall, a quick and enjoyable read that will leave you with a few surprises and an understandable ending–a solid weekend kind of read.

Book Information

Raven Lane by Amber Cowie is scheduled to be released on November 12, 2019, from Lake Union Publishing with ISBN 9781542003728. This review corresponds to an advanced electronic galley that was supplied by the publisher in exchange for this review.

 

The Hart Home│It’s Crazy to Think

Two years ago at this time, I was engaged and towards the end of my planning for our November wedding. We were beginning to seriously discuss starting our family. I was also packing and getting ready to head off to my final doctoral residency in Dallas, Texas.  I blew the residency out of the water when I had my research plan completely approved and granted scientific merit approval the first day of residency, something that usually takes the entire residency to complete.

I am now waiting to hear back about the formatting of my dissertation for publication. I am at the end point. My dissertation is done and written. Now it’s just the last few steps towards graduation. It’s so crazy to be here. Looking forward, the last few major upgrades are going into our townhouse this week and next which means, she’ll be ready for the market soon after and we will be moving towards a single family home that we are hoping is going to be our family’s forever house.

This also means we are leaving the Jersey Shore behind us. After two years of looking all over New Jersey, we have decided that the best spot for us is more north and closer to my job. I will be less of a lunatic when I don’t have to spend 2 hours every day in a car commuting. We’ll also be saving a fortune on gas and car maintenance too. Logan (and the dogs) will have a lot more room to play and run around. Where we’re looking, houses are almost in the country and come with big pieces of property so even if the house we fall in love with is smaller than what we ultimately would have wanted, we will eventually be able to put on an addition if we want to. I am just eager to get out of drug-ridden ocean county and have Logan poised to start school in a blue ribbon school district.

That’ll be my focus this summer. I am also focusing on myself. I finally succumbed to the mom haircut that I have been fighting since I had Logan and I am so much happier. While I have lost all of my baby weight, I am now ready to lose the last of my chubby weight too and I have been following my old eating plan for a couple of weeks now. I already feel better. I would like to lose 100 pounds and get myself back to where I am happiest with my weight, but I would like to lose at least 50 before I have another baby. It’s crazy to think how much this summer is such an end to a happy chapter of my life where I began a life with the man I love, became a mom and finally, after 15 years have finished school with my Ph.D.

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It’s crazy to think that I am also ending this phase with my new mom hair cut that consists completely of my natural hair complete with my hard earned rogue stripe and all.

The Hart Home│Why I Didn’t Marry Until My 30’s

I think the simplest reason why I put off marriage and even getting engaged until I was almost 30 was that I wanted to keep my 20’s for myself.

At my core, I am very artistic and I am a dreamer. I have so many dreams of what I want to do and where I want to go. I saw my 20’s as a time for me to enact those dreams before I settled down. I have said before how I have always wanted to be a wife and a mother, but I always knew that there would be a time for that and that was sometime after I had done everything I had wanted to do in my 20’s. Now, that’s not the say I didn’t want love in my 20’s, I definitely wanted to have a boyfriend that was my person, but I was nowhere near ready or in the mindset to settle down.

I wanted to travel with or without a boyfriend. I wanted to finish my education and get into a doctoral program. I wanted to live on my own with a couple cats and enjoy living on my own without roommates or a live-in boyfriend. I also wanted to buy my first house by myself. In many ways, I wanted to live my life as my own person before I became someone’s wife and someone’s mom. And your 20’s really is the absolute best time to do that because that decade of your life is such a transition time from being a college kid to a working adult with real-world responsibilities. I also wanted to know that if I had to go through life on my own, that I could do it by myself and that I was a solid, financially secure person outside of any relationship or entanglement.

I also wanted to make sure that I was with the right person when my time did come to marry. Without getting too into it here, I grew up in a marriage that was between two people that were not meant for each other and it was hard growing up in that space. And then when it finally exploded, my brother and I took the brunt of the fallout. In many ways, it was more me than my brother because I was the older one. We both have very different memories from that time in our lives.

What I took from that time in my life is that when I did have children, I wanted to make sure that they had a secure and loving relationship modeled for them so that when it became their turn to get married and start their own families, that they would know what it was supposed to be and look like. I was thankful to have found that love in my mid-20’s and that my husband got to be a part of my travels and my first time being out fully on my own and then joined me when I bought a house and together, we started a life together because, at that point, we were both ready for the next step in our lives.

In keeping my 20’s for myself, I think it made me a better wife and it definitely made me a better mother. It also gave my husband and I time to do so much stuff together. We backpacked through Europe, went to Disney World twice, got our first home together, had a lot of date nights and hangouts– we just enjoyed being together for several years. And now we’re an old married couple with a baby who spends their days watching Simple Songs of YouTube and we wouldn’t change any of it because we love having Logan and are enjoying family life.

I think everyone should wait until their 30’s or even late 20’s before they get married. Your 20’s are the best decade you’re going to have to be young, stupid and on an endless search of finding yourself. You’ll experience love and heartbreak, new jobs and opportunities and hopefully, a lot of adventure. Your 20’s are your time and I think if more people kept it like that, more people wouldn’t be getting divorced within the first few years of marriage because they will know who they truly are and what works and doesn’t work for them. You will become the most honest you have ever been when it comes to relationships and what you’re looking for. And you will be an accomplished person in your own right, outside of your marriage and your family.

And if you’re lucky you’ll meet your person and you’ll get to go home from your crazy days of responsibilities and dance to acoustic songs in your kitchen while your baby is asleep in the other room. I am excited to see where my settled self goes in this latest decade of my life and what I am writing about my 30’s when I hit my 40’s…ahhh!

dancing
From our engagement photos at Asbury Park Convention Hall. November 2016.

Book Review│Hattie’s Home for Broken Hearts by Tilly Tennant

hatties homeThere are few things in life that can level you emotionally, socially and physically all within a couple moments. Heartbreak has got to be one of the worst, most longest lasting ones that can have that kind of power over you that can level you in every which way. Often when you are made to feel that awful, you seek comfort in what is familiar. For Hattie Rose, her heartbreak leads her home and in coming home, she finds herself in an entirely new set of affairs.

From Paris to Dorset

Hattie Rose was living her life in Paris. She loved her life in the city of lights and is established in her path. However, Hattie soon meets with a heartbreak that devastates her and leads her to make a huge mistake at her job. Ultimately, she is forced to leave her job and with the loss of her employment, she also decides that she has to leave Paris behind her as well. She decides to return to her cliffside hometown in England and takes a job at Sweet Briar Farm, an animal sanctuary for abused goats.

Sweet Briar Farm

When Hattie arrives back in Gillypuddle, she takes a job at an animal sanctuary for abused goats. We meet her boss, Jo, who makes it known early on that she is not too fond of her new employee and prefers her goats to people. It takes some time for us to learn that Jo is harboring a secret life and heartbreak of her own. The farm also brings us, Seth, the handsome veterinarian that catches Hattie’s eye and Owen, an equally as handsome newspaper reporter who helps unravel Jo’s secret past.

Theme of Loss

Throughout Hattie’s Home for Broken Hearts, we meet characters that are navigating their lives following a large loss. when Hattie first returns home, she learns that her parents are navigating a tragedy and then we meet Jo who is working through her own as we watch Hattie rebuild her life from the one that she had left behind her in Paris. Throughout the tears and the anxiety of loss and the unknown Tennant also intersperses humor and laugh out loud moments that show us that even in the worst of our grief, we can still find the simple joy that brings us to the new lives that we build after we are leveled by our old ones.

Book Information

Hattie’s Home for Broken Hearts: A heartwarming laugh out loud romantic comedy by Tilly Tennant is scheduled for release on July 10, 2019, with ISBN 9781838880019 from Bookouture. This review corresponds to an advanced electronic galley that was supplied by the publisher in exchange for this review. Pre-order pricing is available through the link provided above.

 

BOOK REVIEW │WINDOW ON THE BAY BY DEBBIE MACOMBER

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Debbie Macomber books are the kinds of books that you go back to when you want something that is comfortable and consistent. Her books are “cozy” books for me because they often are about female friendship throughout the years that span time and love and loss. Window on the Bay is no different.

Female Friendship

Window on the Bay brings us Jenna and Maureen, two women who have raised families and are at a good point in their lives and in their friendship with one another. Jenna has been divorced for 20-something years and has focused her energy on raising her children. Her ex-husband has left a bad taste in her mouth and now, even years later, she still struggles with trusting someone again. With both of her children off at college, she is also struggling with being single and being a new empty nester. Maureen has also had her share of heartache as her marriage ended early as well. Together, the two women have come together over the years and have been each other’s support systems as they figured out motherhood and raising their children without the help of their ex-husbands.

Maureen is happy for her friend and wants her to embrace her newfound independence despite Jenna’s reservations. She pushes for them to take the trip to Paris that they had planned on taking in college together when Jenna became pregnant and canceled those plans.

A Love Affair

As Jenna is finding herself again in her new life as a mom to adult children and a single woman, her mother is in need of hip surgery after she breaks it. Dr. Rowan Lancaster is there to help save her mother and soon, Jenna finds herself being drawn to the handsome surgeon, but at the same time remains extremely guarded because of her past. As handsome as Dr. Rowan is, he is also a surgeon just like her philandering ex-husband who had broken her heart so many years ago.

Jenna must find the strength within herself through her friendship with Maureen and the love she has for her children to break free of her past in order to create her future. Jenna’s children also have their own bits of drama that they come to their mother with and Jenna must find ways to manage the shocking news that they bring her without losing everything that she has newly found.

Book Information

Window on the Bay: A Novel by Debbie Macomber will be released on July 16, 2019, from Ballantine Books, an imprint of Random House Publishing with ISBN 9780399181337. This review corresponds to an advanced electronic galley that was supplied by the publisher in exchange for this review.

The Hart Home│Are you fearful of another pregnancy?

My husband and I do not hide the fact that if God allows it, we would like to have four kids. I would like two of each because I think the idea of everyone having a brother and a sister. However, I really don’t care either way as long as I get one of each in this mix.

I was very blessed to conceive our son easily. I had been convinced that it would take us a while and that I would probably have fertility issues. After we visited our doctor, we were told to go home and try for a year before they intervened. I immediately hit the books and from there ordered my pre-natal vitamins and ovulation kits and downloaded a log to keep track of my cycles. I was determined. I also followed every forum and app on TTC I could find and read daily how and when in cycles women were actually conceiving.

meandlogan
One of our first pictures together. August 2018.

I was a bit obsessed, but deep within myself, I had always wanted to be a mother. However, I have also always been very career and academically driven and for years that was my sole focus. I laugh at myself now for thinking that I would go back to work a month after having delivered our son. I also laugh at a conversation that I had with my husband when we first started dating. I flat out told him that I would never give up my career or my dreams for any man nor would I move for one. Which is funny because, in the end, I moved for my husband so that he could finish school and now, I am constantly applying to jobs that I can do closer to home or even remotely so that I can be home with our son. My husband constantly likes to remind me about that conversation and how it’s so funny that this little man entered my life and I am just wrapped around his finger. And it’s true, Logan is the boss of my life now and if it doesn’t benefit him, I don’t do it. Everyone was floored when I took an actual spring break this year and have planned to do the same for summer. I haven’t actually had a true summer since I graduated from Rutgers. I can’t count my first summer with Phil because while backpacking through Europe was definitely a summer, it too was a lot of work. This will be the first summer where I will have no work, no deadlines just an endless amount of time with my baby.

Which has led us to the serious questions of when we want to expand our family again. Since we did not start our family when I was in my 20’s, I know that I do not have much time to finish building our family either. I think by 36, you’re already considered geriatric when it comes to pregnancy. It made me realize how scared I was to get pregnant again. With Logan, my pregnancy was uncomplicated other than being sick every day with him and in the end, I only gained 10 pounds and after deilvery, I wound up losing almost 50 within the first months of being home. My delivery was complicated. I was 42 weeks pregnant and induced for two days. We developed an infection on the morning of the 3rd day and I was rushed in for an emergency c-section where I got to meet the most perfect little boy.

We had 3 days together in the hospital and just as they were about to discharge me, my blood pressure shot through the roof and I was diagnosed with postpartum pre-eclampsia which affects 1 in 600 pregnancies. I had never even heard of that. I spent the next day being infused with magnesium sulfite and dealing with the craziest bunch of nurses I had ever dealt with. They had me on hefty drugs for the c-section, but when I developed a headache from lack of sleep, the magnesium and I am sure the overall stress, I had a nurse get into a fight with me over it. It was just such a whacky experience and we had driven 45 minutes to deliver at that hospital because in New Jersey it is known as THE baby hospital. I was so unimpressed. And the real kicker, the epidural? Didn’t even work! I felt it ALL.

I have been scared of and distant from my husband for months because I was terrified of going through all of that again. It’s taken me a while to even think that at some point I would like to have another baby to grow our family. I think this time though, I would find a midwife that specializes in VBAC and home birth because I never want to go through a c-section again nor do I want to deal with that hospital or any hospital for that matter unless I absolutely have to. I think all of the medical interventions that I believed in for my first pregnancy contributed to my difficult delivery and if God does bless us with another (or three more children), I definitely will not be repeating my first birth experience.

Mental Health and Your PhD

I had not realized the toll my PhD had taken on my well-being until very recently.

As a PhD candidate you are always teaching or writing. Then, when you’re not you don’t know what to do with yourself and often, there is a sense of pervading guilt that you’re being “lazy” by not being involved with something.

jack

Because of this, completing a PhD is extremely isolating because you are spending your free time outside of teaching writing and/or reading which are solitary experiences. I also reached this point in my academic career where I realized I was in my early 30’s and if I wanted to be a mother, it was time to start my family. Being pregnant and then post-partum while I was entering my first quarter of dissertation was extremely taxing. I was dealing with all of the changes in my body and sleep deprivation as well as taking care of my son, it was a very trying time and one that I do not want to go back to.

Now that I at the end of it all, I am realizing how completely burnt out I am. I did a masters, a PhD, got married, bought and renovated a house and had a baby all within the last 6 years. I am exhausted. I am burnt out. And I have reached the point where I have realized that I need to unload something from my plate, I am going to have a full-fledged breakdown.

We are back from spring break today and for the first time in years, I actually took a spring break. I didn’t work on anything…not even a book review or dissertation editing. I hung out with my family and soaked in all the Logan time I could get and then balled my eyes out on the way into work this morning because all I wanted to do was stay home with my baby.

Years ago, an old boss told me that I should go into writing programming for organizations. She told me that I would be very good at that and would love working for myself. I keep thinking about that: getting serious about my own consulting practice. It really would be such an adventure and it would allow me to have more flexibility to be home more. I just don’t even know where I would start.