Book Review │ Tell No One by Barbara Taylor Sissel

With school winding down for the year and having finally finished writing my doctoral dissertation, I am all about looking for books that offer me an escape from my own reality. I am very much into books that are full of great plot and drama as well as those that take you to places that are far away from your everyday life. I am thoroughly enjoying escapism through reading.

tell no one

Tell No One by Barbara Taylor Sissel gave me all of what I have been seeking in a book lately. At the heart of a novel is an old truth: lies within families will fester and boil over in unexpected and shocking ways. They will trickle down among generations and touch lives that weren’t even yet considered when the lies began.

Beginning with a deathbed wish, family secrets spill over through the voices of two siblings as scandals emerge in the family. Several plots lines run throughout the book involving financial crimes, PTSD, addiction and secrets so scandalous they cannot be spoken about. Sometimes other people’s choices and actions will shape us even though we think we are consciously avoiding being taken in by them. Also, sometimes good and bad go together and are not often so clearcut, but rather survive in our world as a gray area where distance sometimes means the difference between the two.

Overall, Barbara Taylor Sissel delivers with Tell No One. She creates an immersive world where you remain the entire time that you are reading her book. As you read, you feel as though you are part of her story, watching as a family comes to terms with things long buried and ultimately meets a dramatic, action-fueled end at the conclusion of her narrative which in turn, will hopefully lead to what everyone is searching for: forgiveness both of other people and of themselves.

Tell No One by Barbara Taylor Sissel shows the complexities of families and of the demons we both acquire from our families as well as though that we create for ourselves and in turn, unleash onto our families both consciously and unintentionally.

Tell No One by Barbara Taylor Sissel will be available for purchase on May 14, 2019. It will be published through Lake Union Publishing with ISBN 9781542040457. This review was written after receiving an advanced electronic galley from the publisher in exchange for a review.

Book Review: The Southern Side of Paradise by Kristy Woodson Harvey

the-southern-side-of-paradise-9781982116620_lgWhen I had received this galley, I was not aware that I was part of a series. The Southern Side of Paradise is actually the final installment of the Peachtree Bluff Series which focuses on a mother, Ansley and her three daughters: Caroline, Sloane and Emerson as they divide their time between New York City and Georgia. Each are struggling in terms of their relationships: Ansley is engaged to the love of a her, a man that she left when she was young while Caroline has discovered that her husband James has been cheating on her and Sloane is dealing with her injured husband who is back from being captured during the war.

While the first two installments of the Peachtree Bluff Series focused on the stories of the older sisters, The Southern Side of Paradise is narrated by the youngest daughter, Emerson, who is an actress with a flair for the dramatic. This installment is her story. I think her being the youngest of the girls, made the narration seem whiney and immature in parts, but it didn’t take away from the overall feel of the book. It just made for the story to be more believable since this was the story of a young woman who was beginning to find her own way.

Without having read the first two books in the Peachtree Bluff Series, I did find myself somewhat lost in reading the last book. I did not fully understand all of the conflicts and relationships as well as I could have had I had the background of the first two installments. However, The Southern Side of Paradise, was a light read that immediately plunged me into the world of the Murphy girls and their lives and adventures. After reading this installment, it made me want to go back and read the first two books so that I could not only better understand, but more so fully enjoy the lovely Southern town that Kristy Woodson Harvey created for her characters.

This was a quick read that really put me into that summer mindset. I am ready to find my own pool and big hat and enjoy the heat.

The Southern Side of Paradise by Kristy Woodson Harvey is scheduled for release on May 7, 2019 from Gallery Books with ISBN 9781982122096. This review was created using a pre-release electronic galley of the book from the publisher.

 

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.

 

My New Favorite Phrase

I don’t know why some people take it upon themselves when they learn that a woman is pregnant or is a new mom to vomit all over them unsolicited parenting advice.

I have always found it to be one of the most annoying things about people who choose to do that.

They are a close second to the kinds of people who see you parenting one way and feel the need to comment about how they would do it or how you should do it. They are the absolute worst.

The great big reality of it all is that there are a million ways to parent and be successful at raising kids. And everyone is going to do it differently. When my mom took my son and I home from the hospital since my husband had to go back to work and I was abruptly discharged after almost dying, my mom tucked me into my house and waited for my husband to get home. Then she said to me, “you’ll figure it out. Call me when you want to talk and if not, I’ll call you in a couple days.”

And that was it. And she left me and my husband to figure out our son.

It was the best thing my mom could have done for us. She gave us room to figure out our son and the kinds of parents we were going to be. The truth is, I have taken some things from my mom that I remember growing up and I have added a lot of my own. I also became the kind of mom I never thought I would be: the co-sleeping, breast feeding, holistic kind of mom who believes her son is best at home with either myself or his dad or on the best days, both of us.

46445166_10100663189771167_7237444180694269952_n

And for our son, I think that is just what he needs. He is almost 6 1/2 months now. He loves food. He loves to cuddle. He loves to crawl and explore, everything. He sits and pulls himself up. He’s figured out how to transfer to other objects when he’s standing to move through the living room. He’s taken a few practice steps with his play stroller. He smiles all the time and loves to interact with the dogs and people. He screams and chatters up a storm. He belly laughs when he watches Behr do Behr things. He’s happy and healthy and secure. Which is exactly what I want him to be at 6 1/2 months old.

As a mother though, I will always get the commentary on what I should do  or how they would do it. However, I have also learned my new favorite response to people who think they have some sort of right to tell me how I raise my kid. And that is the following, very simple phrase:

“That is not how I am choosing to raise my son.”

Unfortunately, there will always be people who feel that they have some right to interject their thoughts or wants onto your child and your approach to parenting. They don’t, but they will continue to do it. So, I just learned to shut it down and keep on being the best mom I am being to my wonderful little boy who amazes me every single day.

Is it really April?

I don’t know where this year has gone. I remember spending much of it being very stressed out about my wedding and then more recently, being hyper-focused on my pregnancy and dissertation. And then BAM, somehow it’s April.

29496921_10100582922312797_8068842696326948046_n

Speaking of my pregnancy, he’s getting so big and he’s measuring tall which makes me happy because that means he hopefully got his dad’s tall genes. From the blurry images that we do have, he does look like he got my pug nose and his dad’s button chin. I really can’t wait for him to get here just so I can stare at him for hours and smell his baby head.

I’m almost all ready for him. I would be further prepared had people not started yelling at me to stop buying things because they wanted to buy them, we do have a good family and friends that is for sure. My baby BBQ is the next big event and then after that, I am looking forward to a low-key summer of not working other than my dissertation and you know, pushing out a baby and taking care of him.

Even that though, sounds like an amazing summer as opposed to what my life has been like since we moved to the shore several years ago. I was always working and traveling and now, it looks like Logan is forcing me to slow down for a little bit and enjoy being his mom.

And I strangely, don’t mind at all.

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:

IMG_3996

 

Martian Child

It’s icky and cold here in New Jersey today. It was very hard to get up with that 6AM alarm. By me, it was just beginning to rain, but by the time I got into the capital city to teach today, the roads were slick and the rain had become the ever so lovely mix of snow and freezing rain.

It is definitely one of those days where you wish you could just stay home with your animals and watch Netflix.

BUT! I was just sick and I have a team to coach and a college class to teach tonight, so that wasn’t going to be in the cards today.

I did lay in bed thinking about it for a good 5 minutes. I am just so tired….all the time. It’s got me to think about what I’m going to do once our baby is here. It’s scary to even be thinking about deciding to stay home and cut down on work. I worked so hard to get here. Within 10 years, I completed a double bachelor’s degree, a double post-bac certificate, a master’s degree and almost a PhD. I always thought I would just work forever, but lately, my body doesn’t go like it used to. I can’t work 7 days a week anymore and my nights physically end for me around 9pm, and that’s after my after-dinner nap around 5PM.

I know this is pregnancy tired, but I worry about baby tired too. Will I really be able to come back to work in September/October like I plan? If I can, will I feel guilty leaving my baby even though he or she will have days with her dad since we work opposite schedules right now?

 

college
Douglas College graduation at Rutgers University, May 2008

 

I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. This pregnancy has gotten very real recently, with the belly that has sprung up. It feels like it happened overnight. I went from this little bump to a stomach that you can’t deny has a baby growing in it. And while I have not felt a real kick yet, I do feel, especially when I am standing or walking, these fluttering movements that feel like I have an alien living in my stomach.

in some ways, it is an alien if you think about it. A baby starts to grow in your belly with its own little heart and soul, coming from seemingly nowhere and then you have the baby and you need to teach him or her everything because they have no knowledge of where they just came out into after you push them out of your hoo-ha.

Having kids is weird and stressful, but so worth it. I do love feeling my little baby fluttering around. I also love when I’m working at my desk and I get to rub my growing belly. I’m enjoying every moment of it, but, I’m just wondering how long I will be able to work and how emotionally prepared I’ll be to come back to work. Or if this is one of life’s forks in the road: do I continue on like I have been since I graduated from Rutgers or, is this the time where I choose something more than work and see where a new adventure takes me?