2018 – We have plans!

Last year I sat down around this time, give or take a few days, and started this blog. When I first started, I wasn’t exactly sure what this space was going to be. I knew I wanted to explore my writing more, and I wanted to start reviewing books. But I didn’t really know what that meant.

Fast forward a year, and the more things change, the more they stay the same!

I’ve talked a bit about my reading goals in my 2017 summary. I am once again doing Goodreads, and trying the Book Riot Read Harder challenge again. I am going to leave my Goodreads number as is, just as I did last year. It’s a good exercise for me to stop trying and changing my goals. Set them and work towards them. Even if I meet that challenge, changing it raises too much uncertainty in me. I just need to keep going forward. Does anyone else relate to that?

One of the biggest successes I had was in building relationships in the bookstagram and blogging community. I am floored by how generous and kind the people in these communities are! I talk to them every day, and my life and confidence is blooming because of them. No matter what career or hobby you find yourself in, reaching out and developing relationships with people within that area is such an enriching experience. Being able to talk to other writers and know that they go through the same roller coaster of emotions and challenges helps quiet the noise for me. It helps me feel like I’m not on this journey by myself.

I enjoyed posting my bookstagram photos before, but let me say, the experience is 1000 times better when you get involved in the community. This group of wonderful book worms has single handedly changed my experience of social media. Life is what you put into it, and the same can be said of social media. It can be intimidating and scary to reach out into the abyss of the unknown and open yourself up to strangers. But man is it rewarding! This experience was the most unexpected thing to happen in 2017, and by far one of the best.

Life as a reviewer bloomed in 2017. When I first started, I had no idea how to request books, let alone reach out to publishers or publicists to build relationships. Again, with help from some amazing friends, I learned about Netgalley, First to Read, Blogging for Books and began to email for books. This process can seem daunting when you’re first starting but it isn’t nearly as frightening as I would have initially thought.

I also learned some things about reviewing. The first is, careful what you wish for. When I first began, I emailed and requested everything from everyone. And ended up getting more than I could handle. I wish I had requested less and built better relationships with fewer publishers. Rather than feeling stressed out and spread thin. But you live, you learn, and then you do better.

Personally, 2017 was a bit of a turbulent year. We ended up selling our store in April, and at the time I thought that meant I would have more time. Time to write, time to recover, time to reconnect with myself. What I didn’t anticipate was just how exhausted and run down I had let myself get.

The thing about exhaustion that I learned, is recovery takes time. It’s a slow process. It isn’t just the physicality of it. It’s mental and emotional as well. It meant that I didn’t make as much progress on my manuscript as I thought, and that other projects I dreamed of tackling took more time as well. And when you’re exhausted like that, you can be a bit fragile. I found that my anxiety and depression, which had mostly been under control for quite a long time, hit me hard.

Recognizing that I was in a depressed state took some time. Accepting it took time. And finding my way back, took time. Bit by bit, I found my energy returning, and with it, the ability to focus. I began to feel like myself, a self that I forgot about. Because that’s the other thing with exhaustion. When you run yourself low, but just keep pushing yourself, you forget what normal feels like.

So what does all this mean for 2018 goals?

First, I am going to discipline myself with reviews more. I’m going to request less and work in personal books with my reviews. I don’t want to get back in a rut when I feel like reading is a chore.

I want to post more consistently on my blog. Since I didn’t really have goals in place with my blog when I started, I never got into a routine with my posts. Some weeks I posted daily. Some only once that week. But like anything, consistency matters. So, whether it’s a review, a check in with writing, or writing about questions of the day, I want to post at least every other day.

My manuscript is almost complete, and I want to start submitting within the second quarter of the year. This gives me time to work through a second draft, get to some trusted readers for feedback, and to review that feedback. And of course, start the second book!

I am going to become more active on my social media accounts. Developing friendships has been the best thing I could have done. I want to be sure I continue and give back to that community as best I can.

One of the big accomplishments was opening my Etsy shop! I want to keep developing that account and working on projects so that the shop is always evolving and growing. Writing is my destiny, of that I am sure, but working in this mode creatively is a very fulfilling exercise, and I want to see how far I can take that.

Finally, I want to make sure I am taking time for me. I need to be kind to myself. To forgive myself for setbacks, to cut myself some slack, to stop being my biggest critic. Life is a journey. One meant to be lived. Here’s to taking each day, the good with the bad, and living.

 

The Heart’s Invisible Furies – Review

“Anything is possible,” I said. “But most things are unlikely.”

The Heart’s Invisible Furies is an epic, all-encompassing story spanning the life of Cyril Avery. Cyril is adopted, “not a real Avery”, as his adopted parent’s Charles and Maude often remind him, growing up in the 1950’s in Ireland. Even though his adoptive parent’s remind him, (quite frequently), of his adoptive status, Cyril doesn’t find himself neglected, or even uncared for. He is simply a participant in an odd family.

Cyril knows he is different. It isn’t just his relationship to his adoptive parents. He is quiet and shy and has a stutter. But nothing life shattering sets him apart. Until Charles ends up arrested and goes to trial for tax evasion. This normally wouldn’t have anything to do with Cyril, no more than natural consequences would provide. However, as fate would have it, this brings Julian Woodbead into Cyril’s life, which sparks his trajectory down a new, frightening path altogether.

“And a moment later I realized I didn’t feel shy around him at all. And that my stutter had gone.”

Even though the interaction between the two boys is brief, it is emblazoned into Cyril’s young mind. And while most boys begin to dream of girls, Cyril finds himself dreaming of Julian. Years later, when another twist of fate brings Julian to the same school, and Cyril’s new roommate, his love for his friend cements firmly and stubbornly into his soul; and launches a complicated, lifelong friendship.

“But for all that we had, for all the luxury to which we were accustomed, we were both denied love, and this deficiency would be scorched into our future lives like an ill-considered tattoo inscribed on the buttocks after a drunken night out, leading each of us inevitably toward isolation and disaster.”

Growing up during that time period as a gay man was difficult most places in the world. In Catholic, conservative Ireland, it is near impossible. We feel the fear as Cyril walks through parks and pubs, terrified of being beaten and subsequently arrested by the Garda for simply trying to find companionship. We feel the guilt and confusion of wanting to be “normal”. We feel the exhaustion of constantly living a double life and maintaining a constant lie.

Boyne writes so beautifully, it is easy to hear the Irish lilt in their dialogue and feel the depth of Cyril’s emotions. There is a sharp humor in these characters. With all their dysfunction, Charles and Maude are entertaining people who you have to laugh at since they seem to be incapable of seeing the ridiculousness of their ways. And Cyril himself is very funny without trying, or in some instances, even meaning to be.

This is a beast of a book, and yet I read it easily in a few days. This is a book where you fall completely in love with the characters, and get lost in the drama of their lives. Cyril, for all his flaws and mistakes, is very likable. He makes some very wrong choices, but it would be difficult to say anyone would make different ones given the same set of circumstances.

“We all fall in the shit many times during our lives. The trick is pulling ourselves out again.”

And while this is such a beautiful book, make no mistake, it will rip your heart out. Because you will feel the cruel underside of human nature deeply and profoundly in these pages. You will feel what it is to be hated simply for who you are. To be afraid for your life. To be on the receiving end of bigotry. It isn’t easy to bear. For all the warmth and humor and wit, there is an sharp wrenching pain as well.

Which is why these characters and this book will stay with you. It is reminiscent of life. Sometimes funny, sometimes warm, sometimes lonely, sometimes painful. And yet, overall, very full and rich and full of meaning.

Throughout Cyril’s life, we also get to witness monumental shifts in society. We see the impact of the IRA, the horrific terror of the early days of AIDS, the historic vote to grant marriage to all. We see how attitudes towards homosexuals varied from openly accepting in Amsterdam to barely veiled contempt in America.

But for each shift in time, each life lesson that Cyril experiences, for better or for worse, he grows as a person. He begins to learn to accept his mistakes and his failures. Learns to forgive, himself and those who have wronged him. He learns to accept himself. And it is in this acceptance that he finds not just peace, but acceptance in return.

“Maybe there were no villains in my mother’s story at all. Just men and women, trying to do their best by each other. And failing.”

Sometimes life doesn’t give us villains wrapped in a nice, black bow. Sometimes we are presented with good people who make terrible decisions in the name of the greater good. Sometimes we get people just trying to live the only way they know how.

The Heart’s Invisible Furies will remind you that life is sometimes hard. That we don’t always know what we’re doing. That we will make some great decisions and some terrible ones with inconsequential ones strung in between. We will have fond memories and regrets. But the most important thing is to live. To continue to move forward, and try every day to live better than the last.

There are some amazing life lessons wrapped in this plot. Lessons on forgiveness and acceptance, yes. But also lessons on how to let go of this illusion of control we imagine we have over our lives. Charles and Maude showcase the best examples of this. Julian shows us the lesson of friendship and love, while Alice allows us to see how to let go of hurt and forgive. And throughout it all, Mrs. Goggin let’s us see how to let go of regret. Cyril, of course, comes wrapped with all of these and more.

Easily one of the top five books I’ve read in 2017, I would recommend this book to anyone. Be ready to fall in love. To laugh. To cry. I wish I could do the eloquence of this book justice, but I don’t know that I can. All I can do is urge you to pick up this book. You won’t regret it.

Thank you Hogarth Books and Blogging for Books for sending me this book to read and review.

Beautiful Animals – Review

“Morality was nothing more than paying attention to the chain reaction while not causing another one.”

Beautiful Animals is simply stunning. This novel is not just thrilling in plot, but beautiful in prose. Osborne writes about the complexity of the human psyche in such a way that the vividness and absolute truth in some sentences took my breath away.

We follow two girls, Naomi and Sam. Naomi has had a summer home on the island with her father and stepmother all her life. Even though she can’t stand her stepmother and seems to harbor deep-rooted resentments against her father, she finds herself fleeing from her freedom, unsure of what direction her life will take next.

Sam is staying with her family in Hydra for the summer. First time visitors, her mother especially, is anxious to emerge themselves into the routine of expats and locals. Sam’s mother encourages the friendship, knowing that this could lead to more social connections. Sam is drawn to Naomi right from the start. She sees in her someone so different from all the other girls she’s known.

“The girls her own age were tiresomely uniform, as if a human-production plant in the center of the country had churned them out according to an approved paradigm. Suddenly, she had found someone different.”

Right away, the two find themselves inseparable, and Sam is endlessly enamored with how easily Naomi accepts and includes her. She is swept away in the glamour of it all.

Until the two of them stumble on a man, clearly a refugee, stranded and struggling in the isolated wild of the island. Naomi, immediately wants to help and charms the more reluctant Sam to her aid.

Naomi comes up with a plan to help Faoud. Sam doesn’t like it, but finds herself drawn in and is complacent to stop it. Even when things take a drastic and irreparable turn, Sam still is unable to tangle herself away from Naomi.

“She supposed that, speaking for herself, she had been mentally preparing for it for days and it was, she imagined, the way people evolved: they gravitated toward the most pleasing and dangerous idea.”

This book had me on the edge of my seat. It isn’t simply the way the writing lulls the horrifying nature of the plot into something eloquent and beautiful. It’s more that Osborne takes us into the heart and soul of each of these characters. We feel their desire to do good, even if this leads to very flawed logic and actions.

The thing I liked about this book the most is the flawed characters. They make bad choices, but one could argue that sometimes there are only the best of bad choices to be made. You can understand how Naomi, Sam and Faoud, each ended up being able to rationalize their decisions and how they were led to them. As humans we are all flawed in similar ways, and Osborne doesn’t flinch away from exploring these flaws. Rather he embraces them and creates incredibly compelling characters.

The quote at the beginning is such a beautiful summary of this novel. We are given an introduction to the girls and the plan without knowing much of Faoud. He is the catalyst, the beginning event that triggers the rest. And the girls are left to try and minimize these events from exploding into far larger ones that could quickly spiral out of control.

It’s interesting to try and frame the girls as the morality of the novel, and yet, strangely enough they are. They are not justice warriors out to save the planet, they are simply trying to find their place in it. And it is this effort that creates the catalyst and also minimizes the chain reactions.

Even as we get to know Faoud, in the days after the plan goes awry, we develop a sympathy and an understanding of him too. He isn’t easy to shove in a box and explain in terms of good or evil. He is an amalgamation of events in his life, leading to justifications and rationalizations built upon the last.

“Because you either act or you are shipped back in a cage to face an anonymous fate that no one will care about anyway.”

As the novel reaches its final chapters, I found that I wasn’t sure what was going to happen. I also found that, strangely, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to happen. Often when reading we pass judgement or pick sides, rooting for one outcome over another. In this novel, the line between right and wrong is so blurred, I didn’t know where it was, or even where I thought it should be.

In a time when we find ourselves facing overwhelming discussions on the politics of refugees, on the morality of helping other countries, this novel is impeccably timed. It throws you in the middle of the conversation, but with such an intimacy to both sides that it will make you pause and consider them equally. The politics is kept subtle and the tone is not heavy-handed. It is a fictional story that simply makes you aware of the larger discussion in the world. And while it is timely, this novel could take place in any number of times or any number of places, so beautifully is it written.

One thing is for sure, if you like dark, gritty and morally ambiguous novels, this book is definitely for you. It is haunting and beautiful and will stay with you long after you turn the final page.

Thank you Blogging for Books and Hogarth Books for sending me a copy to read and review in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.

Arena – Review

“This wouldn’t be the first time I died.”

Welcome to the future. The year is 2054. Virtual gaming has swept the world and virtual gamers are the celebrities of the time. And the RAGE tournaments in the Virtual Gaming League are where the worlds best face each other to fight to the death. Digital death, that is.

Kali Ling is a player on Team Defiance. She has everything she thinks she could want. Playing professionally in RAGE is her dream. She has fame, fortune and loves every moment in the Arena.

But life isn’t as predictable as it is in the virtual realm, and quickly everything Kali thought she had becomes unravelled. When Nathan, one of her teammates overdoses, she realizes that everything she worked for could be slipping through her fingers.

“Funny thing about being on top: It’s a long way down when you crash.”

This book is such an interesting concept. Gaming is something that is evolving as fast as all other technology. Using virtual reality as a way to propel sports into the gaming world is incredibly creative. And plausible. I can picture tournaments like this somewhere in the future, and scary enough, this book is realistic enough to be frightening in that aspect.

There are a lot of good themes in the book. Drug use is the main one, obviously with Nathan’s overdose driving some of Kali’s struggle. But her own reliance on not just drugs and alcohol but virtual reality itself was very insightful. I suspect that having the ability to escape reality could, and probably would be, just as addictive as any other substance.

For Kali, the real world seemed more fake to her than the fake world. In reality, men and women bought fake bodies, had fake features, presented fake personalities. In her own world, she was forced to maintain an image based on what the team owner and sponsors wanted. They created relationships, rivalries, whatever would push viewers and increase ratings. So to her, the Arena was realer than reality.

“Reality was more programmed than the virtual world.”

It’s only when the newest team member, and replacement for Nathan begins to break through her walls, that she starts to realize maybe she has been trying to escape for longer than she cares to admit. With his help, she starts to find her way back, not just to the top of the RAGE scoreboards, but to herself.

“The virtual world is just for fun, and reality is the place worth living.”

As she fights her way back from the bottom, Kali begins to notice things in the VGR world aren’t as great as they seem. VGR controls their lives. If they want them to go out, they have to go out. If they want them dating someone, they have to make the appearances look legitimate. Yet, for all that is expected of them, the relationship is very one-sided as they can be dropped with one loss.

To top all that off, Nathan’s death is getting not just swept under the carpet, it is flat out being erased.

Kali has to figure out how to turn her team into a team, what her feelings actually are towards Rooke, and keep her own struggles at bay week after week. Oh, and they can’t lose a single tournament or they all go home.

This novel was amazingly complex. The idea of using virtual reality along with actual substance abuse and addiction is brilliant. To further drive the appeal, gamers are celebrity, the most envied people in the world. Combine these addictive components into one, and you have a sure-fire path to an all encompassing addiction. Already we struggle with people, especially children, becoming dependent on technology and social media. What could happen if we ramp that up to a subversive, completely interactive environment? I think something like this book, is what.

The other really smart thing is how Jennings used corporate greed, in the form of sponsors and owners to highlight how profits can easily trump everything. They sidestep drug testing, push their gamers beyond reason and when they die or go crazy, they simply replace them and move on. The allure of fame and fortune is enough to entice gamers to play, but is it really worth the risk?

Kali is a strong character. But, she is also flawed enough to be believable and realistic. She doesn’t always make good choices, and the road back to redemption is really tough for her. But she does find a way to put the team first and to find her way forward. She even figures out how to play the corporate game so against both the team owner and their sponsors.

I think that anyone with a love of gaming, or even an interest in gaming would enjoy this book. It is a smart and creative approach to how gaming could evolve in the future. Jennings has created a world that ties celebrity, corporate greed and virtual reality. The effect is fun but also sobering. We see the highs and we see the lows.

I loved the battle scenes. The writing is fast paced and intense, keeping you on the edge of your seat. Each scene within the Arena plays out so vividly, you can hear the swords and smell the blood.

All the characters are very fun to read as well. Hannah and Lily are wonderfully complex, Jennings doesn’t go for easy lesbian stereotypes in her depiction of them. Their relationship is one of the sweetest I’ve read, especially given the scenery. All of the characters are complex, nuanced, flawed but extremely likable. And the writing is filled with tons of gaming references and sarcasm that it stayed fun, even though it is also violent and brutal. There are very funny moments written into what is otherwise an intense non-stop action book.

This was a solid 4 stars. I devoured this book in a day and cannot wait to dive into the sequel.

Thank you to Blogging for Books for sending me this book in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.

Woman No. 17 – Review

“You think you know how a story begins, or how it’s going to turn out, especially when it’s your own. You don’t.”

Lady Daniels needs many things in her life. She needs a break from her husband. She needs to finish her memoir. She needs a nanny. Karl has already moved out, and in order to finish the memoir, she needs the nanny to help watch Devon, her young son.

Unsure of what she is looking for, her interview with S is as unexpected as the young woman herself. Lady is drawn to S and hires her.

S, or Esther, is on her own mission to become the artist she thinks she can be. Her current project is to turn into her mother. Literally. She undoes herself to become the younger version of who she envisions her mother was, and to some extent still is, documenting the entire process, including the binge drinking.

The thing I found so incredibly interesting about this book is the examination of women and their relationships with their mothers.

Lady is examining her own relationship with her non-verbal son Seth. It’s the focus of her memoir. Yet, her journey of being a mother is tied to her own mother, so she forced to examine that relationship.

In direct contrast, S is putting effort into actually becoming her mother. She undoes her highlights, gives up her clothes and stops wearing make up, all in an effort to encapsulate who her mother was at her age. The job as a nanny is because that’s what her mother did. She drinks, she swears, she behaves with confidence and bravado to see what it is like and who she becomes. It’s very interesting that her art begins to blossom when she sheds her own self-consciousness in this new persona. I also think there’s a deeper message in how she finds herself by becoming someone else.

As a daughter, and a mother, there is an interesting push/pull in society to not become our mothers. It’s a warning, a joke, but also a fear. I was fascinated that S wanted to understand and know her mother so badly that she literally tried to become her. And then Lady, was so terrified of becoming her mother that she unwittingly began to go down the path of doing exactly that. In fact, she refused to see how she actually was doing exactly what her mother did to her until it was brought to light by Karl. Even when S tried to show her, Lady refused to see.

Beyond the dialogue and examination of motherhood, we also get some incredibly insightful observations about women and womanhood in general.

Lady is terribly lonely. She has been her entire life. Her relationship with her sister-in-law, the only other woman she’s really around, is hostile and fractured, although it’s hard to determine if this is Lady’s doing. But, in S, she sees an opportunity for an actual friend, even though she acknowledges that it may not be as pure a friendship as she would like.

“The thing about rich people,” Lady said suddenly, “is that they pay you for your services. But they also pay you to make them feel better. To be their friend.”

She knows on some level that S is only there for the paycheck, but her desire to connect with another woman is so intense, she ignores that reality.

Lady is a character who I loved and hated in equal parts. It’s hard to sympathize with her, even though you know she is struggling and floundering in her life. She’s lonely and she’s lost, but there’s a strong argument to be made that she did this to herself. She’s doesn’t want to become her mother, but she holds on to her relationship to Seth so fiercely that she is doing nothing but push him away. The harder she holds, the farther he goes.

It was difficult to determine exactly what the relationship between Lady and Seth was. In some instances, it felt like she was a little in love with her son. Perhaps that love was simply that he looked so strikingly similar to his father, Marco, the one man she desperately loved. The man who left and broke her heart. She can’t let him go, and in Seth, she doesn’t have to.

There were other instances where it felt a little Munchausen Syndrome. She didn’t want Seth communicating their “special” signs. She didn’t even want his little brother, Devon, to learn signs at all. She wanted to keep him all to herself, and became angry when Seth reached out to others instead of her. When Lady learns that Seth is keeping secrets from her, the betrayal cuts deep.

Part of this I did understand. As a single mother myself, I know how intense a bond between mother and child can be. Especially when it is you and that child against the world. It is a partnership of the strangest sort. You learn to rely and depend on each other, in a way that doesn’t exist when another parent is involved. So, I get why she would mourn the loss of that intimacy. But, she is very selfish in how she wants to keep Seth to herself. I think in some ways, if Lady could make it so Seth only had her to communicate with she would be very happy.

Again, it’s a very complex analysis of motherhood.

I really enjoyed the character S. She embodied everything that I sometimes wish I could do. My life has always been about control on some level. When you have depression and anxiety, at least with me, there is a constant sense that everything is on the brink of spiraling out of control. There is a fantasy, a secret desire to simply let it. What would it look like to just become someone else. To say what you think, and do what you want, and be who you want to be? Consequences be damned!

S has different reasons for jumping into this wild abyss, but she does it. And she commits so fully to it, that at times she isn’t even sure if it’s coming from her or her persona. There’s something alluring about that.

But I think I really enjoyed her because she just wants to find herself. Her life was determined by having a screw up mom and a stable dad. What does that make her? How does she find herself when she only has extremes to base her judgements on?

Both women end up hurting those closest to them, as their lies and carefully constructed personas fall apart. Both women also end up facing and confronting the things inside themselves that they didn’t want to see.

Being a woman isn’t easy. You are tied to so many definitions. Mother. Wife. Friend. Lover. We put these expectations on ourselves and each other, judging how we fit against others. These descriptions become intertwined with our identities and propel our decisions. Sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse.

This is a book that I will read many times over. The themes and conversations about women and motherhood and mothers in general are so deep, that I suspect each time I read it, new nuances and perspectives will jump out at me. Anyone looking for a book club book that will open many interesting debates and conversations should read this book.

I loved the dark humor, and how simple sentences captured an observation about society and life with striking precision. This book is deeply moving, and is a fantastic look at women’s relationships within society. Highly recommend!

Thank you to Blogging for Books for sending me this copy to review. And thank you to Booksparks for featuring this book as part of your #SRC2017 and sparking my interest!

 

10 Things I Can See From Here

Living with anxiety is no easy task. First, you have to actually live with anxiety. Then you have to try and help everyone in your life understand what that means.

Maeve is a teenage girl living with anxiety. The one person who understands her, and can help her fight through the panic is her mother. Which is the good news. The bad news is that her mom is going to Haiti for six months. Meaning Maeve has to go live with her dad.

I’ve lived with chronic anxiety for most of my life. Some days it’s manageable. It’s controllable. It’s easy to forget how crippling it can be. Other days it’s not. My entire body can feel jittery and wired, a feeling of panic hovering just on the edges for no reason. I can feel the crushing weight of this panic. So, I was more than a little timid about reading a book where the main character has an anxiety disorder.

People commonly attribute anxiety to simply worrying. “We all have our worries. There is no corner on the market.”

There is no corner on the market for stress. Or worry. But anyone who has stared at a dark ceiling, exhausted from worry but nowhere near sleep understands that there is a difference. The thing with anxiety, at least for me, is that often I can feel that crushing weight of panic for no discernible reason. Not because I’m worried about any one particular thing. Or have any one particular stress. Sometimes I am filled with the tingly numbness of panic and I don’t know why.

This is the world Maeve lives in. One potential ‘what if’ can spiral out of control and cause her to panic. It’s debilitating. It wreaks havoc on her family, her relationships and on her sense of self.

I really liked how Mac captured how exhausting it is to live with an anxiety disorder of this magnitude. My anxiety is not as severe as Maeve’s, yet I completely understood how she felt.

From the moment Maeve steps on the bus headed to Vancouver, she can’t get those worries out of her head. Facts are constantly running through her head, an endless ticker of morbid statistics. She can’t stop. Even though she survives the bus trip, her father being an hour late without answering any calls or texts sets an ominous tone for a her visit.

Her father is a recovering alcoholic (50-90% of recovering addicts relapse). Her step-mother is pregnant and planning for another home birth (a plethora of dangers there). Her younger twin brothers offer her a surprising safe haven by “being little and loud and bursting with bright, shiny goodness,” Owen is a worrier like her and Corbin is fearless. But they both offer her love and understanding and distraction.

With her mother not as available as she promised and her dad acting weird, there is plenty for Maeve to worry about it.

Anxiety is not always an easy thing for outside people to understand. It is an invisible enemy. How do you explain to someone that everything really will be okay? Because, the thing is, we don’t know that. We can’t know that.

Fear is a good thing. It is the reason we survive, the reason we evolved. Fear keeps us safe. But our brains also have a switch. A way to control the fear and keep it from controlling us. If our ancestors were controlled by their fear, we would never have left the cave. We never would have discovered anything that propelled us into the future.

When that switch is defective, or missing entirely, it’s hard to comprehend.

“But I see the fear, and then I go through the fear, and then I get to the other side of fear. I go through it.”

That’s how most people deal with fear. Like Salix, the girl Maeve is drawn to. She doesn’t let her fears control her. She looks it in the face and goes through it. You would think that someone like that might struggle with dealing with Maeve. Surprisingly she is the one who seems to see her the clearest. She sees how Maeve struggles, and instead of making her be someone she isn’t, she asks her for small steps. I honestly thought that was beautiful.

In the end, even though nothing goes right, and Maeve has to face and deal with more than she ever thought possible, she also discovers that life happens. She takes small steps and in those small steps, she finds that there is a strength in progress. Even if is something small. And sometimes those small things, prepare you for something bigger.

For someone who deals with anxiety, who struggles with it, this ending was perfect. “Everything changed, and everything stayed the same.” Because that’s exactly how life works. Everything does change. Even if we don’t want it to. Even if we fight for things to stay safe, and the same. But, everything also stays the same.

I don’t imagine that Maeve woke up the day after the book ended cured. Or relieved of her worries and anxiety. But, I do believe that some days became easier than others. That some things became easier than others.

This book is funny and has heart. It is warm and heartfelt. If you struggle with anxiety, or even know someone who does, I think that this book gives an insight of what it can be like. Maybe it doesn’t fit everyone’s experience, but I felt it was relatable and realistic.

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.