You and Me and Us, Alison Hammer

You and Me and Us, Alison Hammer. Thank you to the publisher & NetGalley for the gifted copy.

This book is beautiful and heartbreaking and all the things. Amazing. Pretty sure this book gutted me—in a good, cathartic way.
See, when I was ten I lost my dad to cancer. Like the father in You and Me and Us, my dad’s name was Thomas. So, this one was a hard one for me. I legit started crying writing that sentence.

All the stars. All the tears. All the feels. Thank you @thishammer for this beautiful book.

Beach Read, Emily Henry

I just finished Beach Read by Emily Henry, and it was the kind of book that just grabbed me and pulled me into the comfort of its pages. January and Gus were both deep, flawed, relatable, and absolutely perfect for each other.

The quick-witted banter between the two was perfect.

Henry’s writing and voice sucked me in and didn’t let me down. Not once. I seriously couldn’t stop reading but also never wanted it to end.

As a woman who writes women’s fiction, I really related to January and loved how the author made the art of storytelling a heavy part of the story.

Truths I Never Told You, Kelly Rimmer

After finding disturbing journal pages that suggest her late mother didn’t die in a car accident as her father had always maintained, Beth Walsh begins a search for answers to the question — what really happened to their mother? With the power and relevance of Jodi Picoult and Lisa Jewell, Rimmer pens a provocative novel told by two women a generation apart, the struggles they unwittingly shared, and a family mystery that may unravel everything they believed to be true.

With her father recently moved to a care facility because of worsening signs of dementia, Beth Walsh volunteers to clear out the family home to prepare it for sale. Why shouldn’t she be the one, after all? Her three siblings are all busy with their families and successful careers, and Beth is on maternity leave after giving birth to Noah, their miracle baby. It took her and her husband Hunter years to get pregnant, but now that they have Noah, Beth can only feel panic. And leaving Noah with her in-laws while she pokes about in their father’s house gives her a perfect excuse not to have to deal with motherhood.

Beth is surprised to discover the door to their old attic playroom padlocked, and even more shocked to see what’s behind it – a hoarder’s mess of her father’s paintings, mounds of discarded papers, and miscellaneous junk. Her father was the most fastidious, everything-in-its-place man, and this chaos makes no sense. As she picks through the clutter, she finds a handwritten note attached to one of the paintings, in what appears to be in her late mother’s handwriting. Beth and her siblings grew up believing Grace Walsh died in a car accident when they were little more than toddlers, but this note suggests something much darker may be true. A frantic search uncovers more notes, seemingly a series of loose journal entries that paint a very disturbing portrait of a woman in profound distress, and of a husband that bears very little resemblance to the father Beth and her siblings know.

A fast-paced, harrowing look at the fault in memories and the lies that can bond families together – or tear them apart.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:Kelly Rimmer is the worldwide and USA TODAY bestselling author of Before I Let You Go, Me Without You, and The Secret Daughter. She lives in rural Australia with her husband, two children and fantastically naughty dogs, Sully and Basil. Her novels have been translated into more than twenty languages. Please visit her at www.Kelly.Rimmer.com

Exclusive Excerpt
PROLOGUE

Grace

September 14, 1957

I am alone in a crowded family these days, and that’s the worst feeling I’ve ever experienced. Until these past few years, I had no idea that lone­liness is worse than sadness. I’ve come to realize that’s because loneliness, by its very definition, cannot be shared.

Tonight there are four other souls in this house, but I am unreachably far from any of them, even as I’m far too close to guarantee their safety. Patrick said he’d be home by nine tonight, and I clung on to that prom­ise all day.

He’ll be home at nine, I tell myself. You won’t do anything crazy if Patrick is here, so just hold on until nine.

I should have known better than to rely on that man by now. It’s 11:55 p.m., and I have no idea where he is.

Beth will be wanting a feed soon and I’m just so tired, I’m already bracing myself—as if the sound of her cry will be the thing that undoes me, instead of something I should be used to after four children. I feel the fear of that cry in my very bones—a kind of whole-body tension I can’t quite make sense of. When was the last time I had more than a few hours’ sleep? Twenty-four hours a day I am fixated on the terror that I will snap and hurt someone: Tim, Ruth, Jeremy, Beth…or myself. I am a threat to my children’s safety, but at the same time, their only protection from that very same threat.

I have learned a hard lesson these past few years; the more difficult life is, the louder your feelings become. On an ordinary day, I trust facts more than feelings, but when the world feels like it’s ending, it’s hard to dis­tinguish where my thoughts are even coming from. Is this fear grounded in reality, or is my mind playing tricks on me again? There’s no way for me to be sure. Even the line between imagination and reality has worn down and it’s now too thin to delineate.

Sometimes I think I will walk away before something bad happens, as if removing myself from the equation would keep them all safe. But then Tim will skin his knee and come running to me, as if a simple hug could take all the world’s pain away. Or Jeremy will plant one of those sloppy kisses on my cheek, and I am reminded that for better or worse, I am his world. Ruth will slip my handbag over her shoulder as she follows me around the house, trying to walk in my footsteps, because to her, I seem like someone worth imitating. Or Beth will look up at me with that gummy grin when I try to feed her, and my heart contracts with a love that really does know no bounds.

Those moments remind me that everything changes, and that this cloud has come and gone twice now, so if I just hang on, it will pass again. I don’t feel hope yet, but I should know hope, because I’ve walked this path before and even when the mountains and valleys seemed insur­mountable, I survived them.

I’m constantly trying to talk myself around to calm, and sometimes, for brief and beautiful moments, I do. But the hard, cold truth is that every time the night comes, it seems blacker than it did before.

Tonight I’m teetering on the edge of something horrific.

Tonight the sound of my baby’s cry might just be the thing that breaks me altogether.

I’m scared of so many things these days, but most of all now, I fear myself.

Excerpted from Truths I Never Told You by Kelly Rimmer, Copyright © 2020 by Lantana Management Pty Ltd. Published by Graydon House Books.

It’s Okay to not be Okay

The other day I read an article about how kids are responding to quarantine.

Sleep regressions.

Behavior regressions.

Potty-training regressions.

Ugh. Yes.

It’s hard being cooped up in the house with your parents all day. It’s hard missing your friends. It’s hard to lose your routine. It’s hard to comprehend all of this when you can read yet.

It’s hard to figure out how to explain all of this as a parent.

I was under no illusion that working from home with my husband, two kids, and three pets would be easy. I understood it would be difficult and I very much get that I am lucky to be privileged enough to do so.

We are safe. We are healthy. We are together.

I should be grateful. I am grateful.

But I’m also losing my fucking mind.

Last night, I slept on the hard-wood floor beside my daughter’s crib because she screams bloody murder when she wakes up every hour unless someone is in her room with her. And, of course, she won’t sleep in our bed because that would be too easy.

My son had his first accident in almost a year. He’s started hitting, screaming, and breaking down anytime he hears the word no. He’s almost five, and I’d naively believed we were past this.

But COVID-19 had other plans for us.

Is it possible to have a parental regression? I feel like all I do is yell and ruin their lives. I have no idea how to handle any of this. Like, there’s no training for parenthood but there’s literally nothing on this. I hope therapists are prepared for the onslaught of COVID kids in 2030.

I see other parents doing arts and crafts and showing off their stellar parenting skills. I see advice on doing all these things, and yet I don’t know where to find the time.

Between normal work obligations, meetings, mini-crisis, cooking, cleaning, tempering temper tantrums, balancing my spouse’s work needs and meetings, and keeping us all alive, I don’t have the time or mental capacity for much else.

I have reading commitments for the blog and Bookstagram to keep up. I have a new book I’m writing (about an unemployed, single, childless woman with one elderly cat, of course). I have me to remember and take care of.

I don’t have the energy to curate and prepare the materials to make shaving cream art or macaroni necklaces every single day. We try to get outside and play in our yard when we can but that is time away from work. (Hello guilt, my constant friend.)

So many well-meaning people want to remind us parents that we’re living in a historic moment and should cherish this time with our kids. I’d love to, Susan, but it’s kinda hard to cherish a time filled with screaming, sleepless nights, and mounting pressure. There’s no playbook for this and it’s hard to stomach advice from people not living the same quarantine life.

My sole hope for my family is that we make it out intact and alive. We won’t be learning any new skills or creating mini art museums.

I’ll do my best to take things one day at a time but I know me well enough to know that I’ll be stressing out over the future. After all, I’m not about to let this pandemic change too much.

I have to constantly remind myself that it is okay to not be okay. It’s okay to breakdown on occasion. It’s okay to not have the answers. It’s okay to feel smothered by your children. It’s okay. None of this is normal. We’re all doing the best we can, and if the best we can do is give in to allowing our kids to run around the asylum naked, then run they will.

I Would Never … But if I Did, Maria Ann Green

Few things bring me greater joy than sharing the amazing work of my author friends. Maria Ann Green is a brilliant, talented, and amazing author who’s book captivate and enthrall me. I cannot wait to dive into her new book, I Would Never … But if I Did.

AND check out this gorgeous cover she designed!

About the book:
Taryn Sams doesn’t believe in love. Period. Every time she’s gotten close, her happiness has been ripped from her, proving once again the only thing worth believing in is the inevitability of her own – and others – screw-ups.

For Austin Wright, Taryn is the one who got away. But really, if he’s honest with himself, he pushed her away, with one hard shove. He did the one thing he told her he never would do and shattered both of their hearts. But it’s been years since then, and somehow Austin and Taryn found a way to be friends, albeit dysfunctional ones. 

Theo Evans is the other man in Taryn’s life. He’s also Austin’s best friend. But, to be fair, he’s been in love with Taryn longer. He accepts Taryn as she is, broken, and he’s willing to do whatever it takes to be the one she chooses in the end. 

Taryn isn’t the only one with someone else in her life. Austin has a girlfriend he’s trying to see a future with even though she can’t live up to those that came before. Yet they keep coming back together like magnets, unable to resist the pull to each other. Taryn continues her relationship with Theo while starting up again with Austin, willing to give him one more shot though not willing to let go of Theo just yet. While juggling the two men, she’s hoping that her once-bitter heart will eventually open up and tell her who to choose, hoping that she isn’t deluding herself yet again about what’s real and what’s possible. 

Can love win Taryn over, or will she screw up her own life yet again, and the lives of at least three others in the process?

*Content Warning: Sexual content, alcohol and drug use, depression, and language*

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Exclusive Excerpt:

“I would never cheat on her, but if I did, it would only be with you.”

His stupid, insensitive words, from who-the-fuck-knows how long ago, a lifetime—from a couple girlfriends ago—feel more and more like I imagined them. And still, I can’t let go; they rattle and clank but just won’t leave. So I tip the bottle of booze back, taking another long pull. And I shouldn’t be surprised when I have to bite back both the gag and mouthful of saliva that follow way too quickly. At this point, it’s almost instant. But I am. Though, after some quick swallowing and a violent shudder, I’m pretty sure it’s not coming back up.

Yet.

I don’t even know why I’m thinking about him, about that, I forget what brought it up this time. But something always does, and, every time, those memories lead to nights like this.

Whatever.

Looking between the bottle in my hand and Maicy eyeing me like I’m a glass on the edge of a shelf, too close to falling, to shattering, I can’t take it. I just can’t. No thank you.

So I take another drink, intending to get drunk.

The Honey-Don’t List, Christina Lauren

Review: The Honey-Don’t List, Christina Lauren (Thank you to the publisher & NetGalley for the gifted copy)

This is only my third Christina Lauren book but I think it’s my favorite.

I absolutely loved Carey and James together but my favorite part of this book was how Carey spent it finding her voice and her strength. She saw what needed to be done and did it, and she didn’t need James or anyone else to do it for her. She didn’t hide behind her condition or try to use it as her reason to not change; nor did she let it change her.

Vanilla Hazelnut Cold Foam Cold Brew

If you’re anything like me, you’re really missing Starbucks. I mean, I’ve been making my own coffee at home using Coffee Over Cardio (affiliate link, including a coupon to save 10% on your order with code 10andreanourse).

Earlier this week, the glass beaker for my French Press cracked 😭), so I busted out my cold brew tumbler and brewed a “pot” of Coffee Over Cardio’s Doctor’s Orders (Vanilla Hazelnut) and decided to get fancy.

Vanilla Hazelnut Cold Foam Cold Brew

  • 1 Cup Coffee Over Cardio Doctor’s Orders (Cold Brewed)
  • 1/4 Cup Milk
  • 1/2 Cup Ice
  • 1/2 TBS Stevia (split)
  • 2 Squirts Sweet Leaf Vanilla flavored Sweet Drops
  1. Pour the cold brew into a cup, add 1 squirt Sweet Drops and 1/4 TBS Stevia. Stir.
  2. Add ice.
  3. In a separate cup, add milk and remaining stevia and Sweet Drops. Using a handheld frother, froth the milk until desired firmness is reached. If you don’t have a frother, you can put into a container with a tight lid (that’s really important) and shake it until you can’t feel your arms.
  4. Pour foam over coffee.
  5. Ta-Da you’re a barista!

I’ve made this recipe twice now & it’s pretty damn perfect. Highly recommend. You need this in your life. And, to save 10% on your Coffee Over Cardio order, be sure to use code 10andreanourse at check out. Added bonus? You’ll be supporting a woman-owned small business.

Finding My Voice in this new Normal

What’s on your agenda this week? Mine? Stay home. Keep the humans alive. That’s it.

As we settle into this new “normal” I find myself reflecting on our old normal, and I’m beginning to wonder if all the things we found important are important now.

Somewhere in this crisis chaos, I’m starting to find my voices. As all the parts of my life melt into one inside our home, I’m finding that I may not like how each voice has evolved over the years.

My writing voice. I spent last year trying to write the books I thought the industry wanted. I focused on serious stories with a message. And, while I loved what I wrote, I’m realizing it’s not what I want to write now. Now I want flawed, relatable characters that do stupid and funny things and find themselves along the way. I want to laugh and roll my eyes at their antics. So, that’s what I’m writing now and I’m writing it for me. Writing has always been my escape, and I need that more than ever.

My mom voice. This voice is loud. It’s impatient. It’s loving. It’s distracted. It’s tired. Every day is a learning experience, and I’m trying to find the softness and patience my children deserve but it’s a struggle.

My wife voice. This is the hardest one to define. I don’t know if my wife voice and I are even speaking the same language.

My work voice. Ugh. Working mom life has always been a tug of war. Now that my work and mom lives are literally one and the same it’s even harder. I get to juggle an important meeting with my boss while my daughter is screaming at me, “I pooped! I poo-oooped! Mama! I pooped” and my boss is doing his best to ignore it. I get to try to explain to my small children that even though Mommy is home, Mommy can’t always play.

Despite the messiness and insanity, this new normal is hard but rewarding. By doing this little thing of staying home, we can actually make a difference.

This pandemic isn’t a hoax or something blown out of proportion. It’s not a political pawn. It’s not a chance to have parties and gatherings.

It is a sober reminder of our humanity and how each and every action we each take impacts our neighbors, friends, and family.

A Good Neighborhood, Therese Anne Fowler

I came into A Good Neighborhood a bit timid. I’d seen mixed reviews. Some hated it. Some loved it. I was worried about which side I’d fall on.

Perhaps because I live in the South or maybe because I’m a raging empath, I feel hard and fast into this book.

Xavier’s story is one that was so promising and uplifting—he was going places—until a selfish, racist, piece of trash decided his own life and desires mattered more than anything.

I loved everything about this book, until the ending. I wanted, well, I can’t tell you what I wanted without spoiling the ending.

I have a feeling this is a story that will stay with me for a while.