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.

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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.

 

The Hart Home │ The Girl That was Gone at the Crossroads

In my early 20’s I had graduated from Rutgers University with a degree in art history and journalism. I was set to go to graduate school for art business. I saw a world of possibilities in Europe, and art and everything that lay before me. I had finally ended things with my high school into college sweetheart and was ready to embrace the life that I had been building for myself.

And then I collided (there really is no other way to describe it) with the first person I ever truly loved. That love was steeped in such a part of me that was that artsy girl who loved life and reading and traveling. And then after many months of being together, he turned the tables on me and I ended it because I thought I was protecting myself from him and from my feelings. To go from having someone who would call me ten times a day and talk to me for hours, send me flowers and court me in every sense of the word to then flip the way that he did hurt me in ways that I wouldn’t even realize for years.

It derailed me from my life as it was. I fell into a deep depression, it took me years before I felt like I could trust anyone again and to stop encompassing bad habits that I thought were making me get over it all, but in reality, were just causing more damage. He took from me that artsy girl I was and it’s a piece of me that I have never quite recovered. This was a turning point in my life where I abandoned the life I had and I pursued education and went full force with that instead of becoming the art history professor that I had wanted to be. I pursued education because it felt good to me to take all of that hurt and do something good in the world with it instead of allowing it to fester and become something I used to hurt someone else with.

Only now, I am finding myself again at a crossroads in my life. I am graduating this summer or fall depending on when I get to defend my dissertation and then I am done with my Ph.D. I will have gone as far with it as I had wanted to do with art history and I also know that I am at the point where I am ready to leave the classroom. In my heart, I know I have done as much good as I am going to do and to stay would just make me bitter. My husband and I were talking about all of this last night and he told me that while he has gotten glimpses of that girl that has been gone every once in a while, he never really got to know that side of me because the side he did get was a woman trying to save the world and growing angry when she couldn’t get funding and couldn’t make something better for her students and when you teach in high poverty like I do, this is a frequent if not daily occurrence. He told me that he would love to meet the girl that has been gone, she seems pretty cool.

With this time of my life and my time as a classroom teacher coming to a close, it’s also a chapter of my life closing that began 10 years ago with that collision. I am looking out on that future that lays ahead of me again where I am completely finished with school and have countless options ahead of me. And this time, I have my real true love by my side and our handsome little boy along with me for the ride into the next chapter of my life.  Thankfully, my boys are just as goofy as I am and we take really great family photos at weddings:

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We decided last night that as we look for our family’s forever home we’re going to add to our list of wants a space that I could make a studio so that I could start painting and doing pottery again. My best friend also started to send me jobs closer to her so that we can find ourselves together and start going on adventures again like we used to. I am thankful that this is going to be a very blessed season of my life filled with love and support from those who have known me the longest and have been around for this crazy ride. I am also excited to embrace that side of myself that I buried when my heart was completely broken. I would like to see who that person is now that she is older and in a much better place in her life.

Book Review: One Summer in Paris by Sarah Morgan

parisWhen I was in my early 20’s, I broke up with my high school/college sweetheart and packed up my life for a semester abroad in Paris. I am all about books that take me back to Paris, especially those that are about a newly single woman navigating her new world in one of the world’s most beautiful cities. I was so excited when I received the galley for Sarah Morgan’s One Summer in Paris.

Morgan’s novel focuses around two women from different worlds: Grace and Audrey. Grace is an American who was looking forward to celebrating her 25th wedding anniversary with her husband whom she books a trip to Paris for. Only, he really surprises her when he tells her that he wants a divorce. Grace packs up her life and her heartbreak for Paris where she finds herself in an apartment of a bookshop. It is here she meets Audrey, a teenage Londoner, who is also working through her own heartbreak. Audrey with her limited French language skills begins to work in the bookstore and forms an unlikely friendship with Grace. Together, the two become their own sort of family.

Inevitably, David, Grace’s husband, decides that he doesn’t want to be with his mistress, Leesa, and wants to reconcile with Grace. This is where the story lost me a little. He is still sleeping with Leesa, but has decided that he rather be with Grace. I felt like he didn’t suffer enough to make up for his crimes and it was here that I was a bit turned off.

Overall, though, this novel is a light summer kind of read that will make you laugh out loud at the scenes between Grace and Audrey. The premise that landed them both there as well as how a small town part time teacher could afford to buy a summer aboard left me guessing, but if you can get past those plot holes, you will definitely enjoy this quick read about heartbreak, female friendship and the power of moving forward in your life even if your heart is broken.

One Summer in Paris by Sarah Morgan is scheduled for release on April 9, 2019 from Harlequin with ISBN 9781335507549. This review was created after reading an advanced electronic copy of the novel from the publisher.

 

Book Review: The Swan Thieves

Elizabeth Kostovaswans was first published in 2005 with her best-selling historical vampire thriller, The Historian. Today, there are more than 1.5 million copies in print and a Sony film adaptation is in the works. Much like that novel, Kostova sets up The Swan of Thieves.

The Artist and the Academic

Here, Kostova creates a central, academic hero that becomes engrossed within a mystery. Each chapter ranges in time from past to present, encompassing the lives of painters Beatrice de Clerval and her uncle Olivier Vignot, whose lives are beautifully described and played out through their art and letters.

Juxtaposing the past with the present, Kostova creates her academic hero in Andrew Marlow, a trained psychiatrist who is bent on asking the tough, prying questions and unraveling the mystery that is key to the plot of the novel. The mystery being that one of Marlow’s patients, renowned painter Robert Oliver, tried to slash a painting in the National Gallery. Marlow becomes increasingly obsessed with Oliver and his reasons for attempting to do what he did, when he uncovers Oliver’s obsession with a stolen batch of letters written in French that he continually reads and obsesses over himself.

Living Up to The Historian

Fans of Kostova have waited with great anticipation for her next novel. Fans of The Historian will not be disappointed by The Swan Thieves, in fact, it is rather easy to see much of Kostova’s budding writing style continue on into her latest novel.

The intrigue and ability to build a deep and entangled plot is clearly evident in Kostova’s second novel. Accompanied with the lush world of Impressionism and 19th century life, Kostova delivers with The Swan Thieves: A Novel. Kostova has a great gift for writing. It will be a long wait to see what her third novel will bring to her already impressive quality of work.

About the Author – Elizabeth Kostova

Kostova was born New London, Connecticut and raised in Knoxville, Tennessee where she graduated from the Webb School of Knoxville. She went on to complete her undergraduate degree from Yale University and a Master of Fine Arts from the University of Michigan.

According to a press release, in May 2007, the Elizabeth Kostova Foundation was created to help support Bulgarian creative writing, the translation of contemporary Bulgarian literature into English, and friendship between Bulgarian authors and American and British authors.

The Swan Thieves: A Novel by Elizabeth Kostova was published by Little, Brown and Company on January 12, 2010 with ISBN 0316065781.

My Baby is Turning Me Into a Nut Job

Today my pregnancy app told me that I would probably feel kicks soon and that this may make me feel more attached to my baby.

I’ve been feeling the butterflies from him for a couple weeks now and I saw his little face that looks like a baby already just two weeks ago. We’ve named him and began a room for him, so Ovia, I think attachment comes way before feeling a kick.

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I can trace it back to even first finding out I was pregnant. I hadn’t even been to a doctor yet and my husband pretty much told the world we were pregnant. I remember sitting across from someone and listening them talk about miscarriage and it was even then, before I even saw his little heartbeat or evidence of his little blobby fetal pole– I wanted to claw her eyes out. You want to talk about MY KID er, fetal blob, being miscarried? It’s scary how quick that becomes a new facet to your personality.

The worst so far has been when we shared that we planned to name him Logan. Wooo chiillddd, some of the comments from friends and even family, again made my mom claws begin to bulge. I am amazed with how much commentary people want to give you on things that are about your kid.

I fear when the time comes and I push him out of my body and into the world, because I think then, I am really going to be like full-on mom-clawing. I already cringe at the idea of a smoker even looking at him let alone touching him, I don’t want people other then me or his dad watching him, especially for overnights that will not happen for years. He’ll probably be like 10 before he’s free to have that. I hold my breath when I’m forced to walk by people that are smoking and I distance myself from anyone that even smells like smoke, because, did you know that 3rd hand smoke can heighten the chance of SIDS (and probably fetal death) significantly? Looking back at my 20’s now, I really don’t know how I ever smoked. But the worst for me is,  the idea of someone kissing my kid, after I read an entire article about adults making babies deathly ill from kissing them before vaccines, makes me want to punch anyone that even gets close enough to my kid to remotely even look like their lips may touch his perfect little baby body.

My new level of neurosis has made me begun to question how I am going to go back to work after having Logan. I planned to be back in September as of now, but the more I think about it the more I just want to be home making sure evil smoking kissing people are nowhere near my kid.

It’s definitely begun.

The Kind of Mom I Want to Be

I’ve been thinking a lot lately, especially over the last couple of days about the kind of mother I don’t want to be.

I spent a lot of my dating life looking for my other half and within him, making sure that he was going to be a good father who loved me and his children and most importantly was someone who wanted to be involved in the life we built together. That was always extremely important to me and I know that I had found that in my husband. Phil is with me without being asked to every doctor’s appointment and ultrasound. He only has ever missed one appointment and that was because he had class, but he sat there texting me the entire time and got teary eyed when I played him the video of our baby’s heart beat.

Now, I want to make sure that I am the kind of mother that I want my children to have. I think most importantly is that I don’t want to be the kind of mother that manipulates and plays games with her children. I don’t want my love to come with contingencies. I also want to be present in my children’s life and I want them to always know that they could come to me with anything and not have to go through their lives alone. That’s the biggest one for me, I think, because I have always felt I was going through life alone which I think made me the sort of driven person that I am, but at the same time it would have been nice to feel like I had that kind of support where I could have gone to someone without judgement and contingencies had I really needed to, especially with the big stuff.

I have also become really fixated on the idea of buying a new house and selling our townhouse. I would like to find something that is our forever house and becomes something that we can eventually hand down to our kids. I always have liked the idea of a house that is shared among generations of the same family. I guess I can no longer deny how much of an old soul I really am…oops.

Anyway, as I stress over all of this like I do with anything in my life, my husband looked at me as I was hand painting the name plate that we picked out and out together in AC Moore for our son, and told me that I was the most loving person he had ever met and how many people would sit there knitting baby blankets and hand painting name plates for a baby that wasn’t even born yet? Not many, I guess. He reminded me that if I love our kids and am present for our kids, our kids are most likely not only going to be okay and successful in their lives, but also will love me back just as much and have solid relationships with me. I mean, I know they will be total monsters during their teen years, but once the hormones of adolescence calm down and they become normal people again, I would love very much to be close to all of my kids.

I’d like to be the kind of mom that makes her kids Halloween costumes and birthday cakes. Whose kids have memories of baking cookies every Christmas and watching A Christmas Story on repeat. And when life got hard or uncertain that they had a mom (and dad) that they went to and who made things better for them.

And it all starts this summer with our first born, Logan Philip. I’m slowly getting ready for you, my little love. I am in love with your name and am relieved that your dad and I finally agreed upon a name and it’s a really good name too:

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The Week That Was: Oh Baby & Doctoral Comps

My week started off with a trip to the ultrasound place. We both were looking forward to it for a week because we would have gotten the envelope that had the sex of our baby in it.

Only, baby had other plans. The moment that she put the wand on to my stomach, we looked up and saw that our baby is very much, in fact, a boy. Phil’s heart had been set on a gender reveal party next weekend, but after that, we pretty much called and told everyone our news.

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I knew he was a boy from the moment I found out that I was pregnant. Sometime in my late teens/early 20’s I had a dream that I was in a room with all of these babies. They all looked too small to even walk, so I was shocked to see them running around. I followed them up a flight of stairs until one fell backward and into my arms. I was amazed by how beautiful he was with his soft blond hair and huge blue eyes. A voice from behind me told me that his name was Dylan and that he “wasn’t ready for me yet.” Then I woke up.

I knew I had met my future son, and I knew eventually he would be ready for me. I just knew that this was him when my 5 pregnancy tests all turned positive. Only, Dylan never really fit him and for the longest time, I wanted to name my son John Dylan, John for my grandfather and Dylan for the dream. Phil is on this Phil the third thing, but I really feel that it’s too much to put on a kid and kids need their own names and their own identities.

We’ve been kicking around John Philip which I really love because it honors both grandfathers who are no longer with us and it gives our son his own identity. We have time to decide, but I’m really rooting for the latter choice. I was very close to my grandfather when he was alive and I know that I was his favorite. I took his death really hard in high school and in a lot of ways, I think losing him really put me on the path I took as an adult. He would be nearly 100 years old today. I wonder what he would think of all of this and how he must be up there smiling thinking about becoming a great-grandfather.

I thought this was going to be my big news for the week, but it seems that life also had other plans. Yesterday as I checked my phone for the time, I saw a gmail notification from my university. I didn’t breath the entire time the e-mail loaded. Coming in a whole FIVE DAYS before I was supposed to receive my results, it was the email containing my pass/fail notice on my doctoral comprehensive exam.

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And…I PASSED!!! I am officially a doctoral candidate and am now only waiting for my university to assign my doctoral mentor and committee before I plunge into dissertation. If I follow my plan, I will be done in a year and a half. I really can’t wait. I even hope I get there sooner because I am ready to be done and moving on with my life and career.

Pretty crazy week, eh?

The End of Doctoral Comps?

I am 15 weeks pregnant.

And I just submitted my doctoral comprehensive exam.

All 50 pages of its 13,000-word glory which I wrote when I spent much of the writing period in bed battling the worst flu I think I have ever had.

Getting sick when you’re pregnant is kind of one of those sick jokes. You can’t really take anything, other then Sudafed (does nothing) and Tylenol (never does anything, but when you can only take ONE pill, it REALLY does nothing).

Suffice it to say, I am pretty tired and straight up brain fried.

I won’t know for another 10 days if I passed. My university will forward my exam to 3 faculty readers and they will each score it. I will need to have at least 2 of the readers mark each criterion as proficient or distinguished in order for me to be passed and fully moved into dissertation with a mentor.

I thought I would be biting my nails raw, but I think I’m just going to enjoy those 10 days where I won’t have to be writing or researching…or worrying. I have some for fun books that I want to get through, even though I definitely did not make my 100 book challenge. And, I’d like to shop for my baby.

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The Secret to Success as an Urban Educator

I saw a status from someone who began teaching around the time that I was deciding to commit to teaching myself. She wrote that her former students were shocked that she had had a baby and that just because she has high expectations and wasn’t a “nice” teacher doesn’t mean she wasn’t a nice person in life.

Seeing that, just dumbfounded me. Particularly because we both teach in inner cities and teach special education populations, her more so than me as I am not a special education teacher, but for the majority of my years in the inner city, I had volunteered to be the general education teacher in inclusive classrooms for my grade level.

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And there is a side to teaching wherein if you want to be successful, meaning you help students achieve academically in your subject area, then you have to have high expectations, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t love your kids as well or that you have to be “a not nice teacher” to communicate those expectations. With city kids, that means being consistent in your judgement, consistent in your love and your criticism as well as being flexible and truly listening to what these kids have to say.

The majority of the students I have taught remain in contact with me, updating me on their lives and their dreams. They visit sometimes and when they do, it’s always with big hugs and excitement. That is how I know I am successful in what I do. Sure, I have years of data that back me and show my administrators that I am successful in teaching kids how to read and bringing them towards career and college readiness, but that’s not all there is to teaching.

I remember the first time a student called me mom. Continually. Later, when I asked them why I had become their mom I was told it was because they knew that I was there for them, even when they were acting a fool. They knew that they could come to me with anything and I would do my best for them. That was when I knew that I was on the path of becoming the kind of teacher I knew that urban kids needed.

Urban kids are different from your suburban kids that come from nice homes, with semi-intact families and better financial support systems. Urban kids are often starting school well below their suburban counter parts because of the environments they are raised in, they often have parents or grandparents working multiple jobs meaning they’re home alone more times than not or in state-funded daycare. Urban kids are also semi street smart, because really, kids are also kids in any environment and come into school with an attitude more times than not because they feel like they don’t fit.

However, if you hold these kids to a high expectation of achievement as well as give them them the empathy and love that so many just need, then you are not only going to have success in their academics, but you’re also going to have success in helping to raise a better future in that, your love and acceptance may be what sets that kid up for an entirely different path in life.

Within urban education, I firmly believe all students need it. Some more than others, specifically kids with difficult home lives and worse yet, the kids that have spent their lives in and out of the system. If you pursue your teaching career in an inner city district, you have to become an educator with clear expectations as well as someone who will become another mother or father towards the kids that you are working to educate.

And I carry that belief with me in everything I do. For instance, the college class I am teaching this summer is at the city campus. It took me less than 5 minutes to e-mail the students who missed the first class to just remind them that class was today. Within 30 minutes, I even had one show up late to class.

Sometimes, you just have to be that person for other people. If you want to be a successful teacher, you need to remember that you have chosen a profession where you are in service to others.