We Came Here to Forget, Andrea Dunlop

**Review**

We Came Here to Forget, Andrea Dunlop

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Phew. What a ride this book was. From page one, I was intrigued with Katie and Penny. I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough… and it’s highly possible that I read ahead to get a few answers I was too impatient to wait for. (I love me some spoilers.)

We Came Here to Forget is a powerful, emotional story. I so want to go deeper into details, but I know not everyone loves spoilers as much as I do. Just know your heart strings will be pulled in a million different directions.

I Don’t Know How You Do It

This year, I’ve completed four manuscripts. Four. This is a record for me.

I also have one that I should be done drafting in a few weeks. So far, I’ve loved every single one of the stories and characters. Okay, I loved them all after a brief cooling off period.

People always want to know how I have time to write this much. The simple truth is that I don’t have time. I make the time. Before work. During my lunch break. After the kids go to bed. In the early morning hours before the rest of the house wakes up. Another truth? I hate this question. I hate the assumption that there is something mystical about my time management. My husband will tell you there is not. He’ll tell you about laundry left unfolded or the dishes I never touch. He’ll probably complain about my nose being buried in Google Docs on my phone while he drives.

This is my dream, and it’s my passion. I owe it to my dreams and craft to keep writing. When I stop, I feel lost. I’m not myself when I’m not writing.

I wrote Happily Ever Never in January and February of 2017. It typically takes me 30-45 days to complete a 80K-90K manuscript draft. I am the type that has to hammer out a draft or the story will die in my Google Drive. It also helps that I am a mad-crazy plotter. Every story I write starts with either character sketches or an outline. Lately, the outline and writing have led to character sketches.

After I wrote Happily Ever Never, I walked away from it. I didn’t write much more than blog posts from February 2017 until late summer 2018. The itch struck me and I started forcing myself to find the time. I did the same thing with reading. I had to do it for myself. I owed it to myself.

If there’s something you want, you have to work for it. You can’t just wish it.

The Mothers, Brit Bennett

**Review**
The Mothers, Brit Bennett
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

I came into this book knowing nothing. I didn’t read the jacket. I didn’t look at reviews. I just dove in head first.In the beginning I was confused by the POV. It felt disconnected.

My feeling was wrong. Guys. I was wrong. I felt disconnected, but I was so into the story and characters, that I devoured this book.

About halfway in, I was in love with the storytelling and unique POV. I couldn’t put the book down. Nadia and Aubrey were such robust and engaging characters. The mothers, with their iconic church lady gossip and observations, added another complex layer to this beautiful story.

I did not want it to end.

The Secrets of Lost Stones, Melissa Payne

**Review**

The Secrets Of Lost Stone, Melissa Payne

⭐️⭐️⭐️

While I enjoyed the overall story and the way the characters connected, I could have done without the paranormal elements. They added an unnecessary creep factor that I wasn’t expecting based on the genre. In other words, don’t do what I did. Don’t read this while sitting in the dark in a creaky rocking chair while rocking your toddler to sleep.

Jess, Star, and Ben are Lucy’s “loose ends.” Each character has experienced pain and loss. It didn’t take me long to figure out how they were connected and what role each played.

The writing and storytelling kept me engaged despite the creepy factor and the obvious plot twists.

Believing in My Voice

My greatest struggle as a writer is believing that the words I write matter or that they are good enough.

I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember, yet I lived in denial that I was a “real writer.” When I talked about my books, I’d always add “but I self-published” as if that made them or me lesser than other writers.

When I was in high school, someone close to me (who will remain nameless and unidentifiable) told me that my kindergarten art was better than my writing. Those words hurt and they stuck with me. Every word I wrote and refused to share was tainted by that statement. Even now, twenty years later, the sting of what they said is just as painful.

My self-doubt grew from there. People close to me that don’t or won’t read my writing or books because they prefer books that “tell stories” as if they stories I told weren’t important or creative enough. For years I took this feedback personally, and I’d be lying if I said it didn’t still bother me.

As a reader, I know and understand that not every book is for every reader. We all connect to different stories and characters. But when it comes from the people that should be in your corner, the rejection digs a little deeper.

Earlier this year, I read an early manuscript of a local author. It was her second book and I’d loved her first, so I was eager to dive in. I devoured it in a night. It was that good. She asked if there was anything she could do to thank me. It took a while to build the courage to ask, but I asked her to read my third release and share her feedback. One of the questions I asked was “do you think this is as good as other published books.” What I was asking her was if I was good enough. Could she see something in me that I couldn’t.

She did.

The simple “Yes, you’re books are good enough” from one person changed my mindset. Around this time, I also connected with a Bookstagrammer who would become not only a friend but also a critique partner. She might also be my first “fan,” but she is definitely one of my biggest supporters and cheerleaders.

I didn’t want to be a writer, I was a writer. I am a writer. That was all it took. Sure I still have doubts and rejection will always sting, but the power that lies in believing in yourself makes all the difference. Anytime I start to doubt myself or my talent, I often come back to her email and her words of encouragement and confidence that she’s since shared.

Her words combined with the support from my critique partner have pushed me forward and given me the courage to put myself out there. These two women, who are also both amazing writers, helped me find my voice. Their belief in me has made all the difference.

I am a writer. My words matter. My stories are worth telling.

Thank you Rea and Leah for believing in me and reading my words. In Leah’s case, reading them over and over and over while pointing out typos with her Takis.

After the Flood, Kassandra Montag

**Review**

After the Flood, Kassandra Montag

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (Out 9/3/19 – Thank you William Morrow for the gifted copy)

Um. Wow. I don’t know where to start with this one.

I’m not usually a fan of reading dystopian novels. I love movies and TV shows (hello Revolution, greatest show ever), but I’ve yet to find a dystopian over that captivated me in the same way.

Until After the Flood.

Myra captured me from the very first page. Her story and voice were beautifully captured. I felt her desperation to get to her daughter, Row, and her need to keep Pearl, her youngest daughter safe. The cast of characters along the way were equally moving.

This is a must read and definitely among my top books of 2019.

Lessons in Imposter Syndrome

I’m up early this Saturday morning for a writer’s conference where I’ll pitch my latest manuscript, Work Like a Mother, to two literary agents.

This book (Lie Baby Lie) taught me a lesson in writing and publishing. I used to succumb to imposter syndrome when it’s came to my writing. I wasn’t good enough to be on bookstore shelves with my favorite authors. My writing and stories didn’t measure up.

It took a few good friends and readers to show me I was. Not just good enough, but that I was worth the risk. My love for writing and storytelling is worth taking a chance and hearing a millions no’s.

After self-publishing my first three novels, I am ready to face those piles of rejections for agents and editors. No is hard to hear. Very, very hard to hear. It can be demeaning and damaging, but it can also help us grow and improve.

My initial goal this year was to self-publish 4 books. Lie Baby Lie was the first I release in 2019 and might be the last of the year. I won’t hit my self-publishing goal and that’s okay. I have a bigger goal. I will get a literary agent—it may not be this year, but it will happen. My books will one day be on the shelf next to the my favorite authors.

I owe this confidence and belief in my writing to a few amazing people I’ve met on Bookstagram. I’ve given them shoutouts before, but they deserve a million more. @thebooksocialite @thewineingreader @reafrey @oils_and_spoils @torrie_reads

The Forever Gift, Brooke Harris

**Review**

The Forever Gift, Brooke Harris

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (8/5/19)

Before I get to the review, yes, I did steal my daughter’s owl for this picture. She probably won’t even notice.

A few months ago, I read and absolutely adored Brooke Harris’s When You’re Gone. So, I knew I had to read The Forever Gift.

It did not disappoint. This was a beautifully sad story that reminded me a bit of Jodi Picoult’s My Sister’s Keeper.

Told from Kayla’s and her mother’s and stepmother’s perspectives, The Forever Gift follows the complicated relationship between these women and explores the depths of a mother’s love.

I definitely shed a few tears in the end, but I also smiled. You will fall in love with Kayla, Heather and Charlotte. You’ll feel their pain and anger, too. It will be with it.

Thank you NetGalley and Bookouture for the gifted copy in exchange for an honest review.

Montauk, Nicola Harrison

**Review**

Montauk, Nicola Harrison

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Every time I read books like Montauk, I’m grateful for the progress women have made. But, I also miss the glamour of the era.

I adored Beatrice and the journey she took in this book. She found her voice, slowly, and learned to use it to speak up for herself and others.

I’ve been wanting to read Montauk for months, and I’m kicking myself for waiting. Such a beautiful story and setting.

Midnight at the Blackbird Cafe, Heather Webber

**Review**

Midnight at the Blackbird Cafe, Heather Webber

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

From the moment I picked up Midnight at the Blackbird Cafe, I was intrigued. The cafe. The town. Anna Kate. Natalie. The blackbirds. The pie (I kinda want this to be real pie). The setting and characters were so richly developed and described, I felt like I was in Wicklow.

The one thing I would have enjoyed more of was the messages and dreams from the pie. Anna Kate and Natalie has such big questions that the pie could have answered. But, I do love that none of them took the easy way out. They learned to heal and love on their own.

Midnight at the Blackbird Cafe was a beautiful story of loss, love and forgiveness.