“Once Again” (2020) | BES July – Aug. 2021



CHOSEN BOOK:

“Once Again” (2020) by Catherine Wallace Hope

((fiction novel))


TRIGGER WARNINGS:

pedophilia, crime, substance abuse, murder, preying on children, suicide, grief, assault, abduction, language, “crazy,” drug overdose, PTSD, depression, gaslighting, narcissism.


THEMES:

Grit, overcoming adversity (again and again and again), strength, time lines, time, time travel, quantum physics, alternate universes, pain, emotion, hope, light, meaning, psychological thriller, keeps you guessing, cooking, very descriptive language, quotes, parts (part 1, 2, etc.), healing, (group) therapy, flashbacks, mathematics, time stones, memories, consciousness, simulators, Colorado, what if chances, paving into a new future, change, detectives, medical scenes, black holes, white holes.


SUMMARY:

Hi hi, the summary for this book is tough for me because I want to talk candidly about what the story as it unfolds is about but I don’t exactly want to give it away either! Ahaha, SUCH a problematic pickle!

Either way, if I start off the review vague but get more specific in the Critical/Questioning Corner, it’s because I’m grappling with these decisions. Honestly though, I LOVED this book. It was such a good read. I definitely still struggled with my re-reading and having to go back at times because I couldn’t remember things (for instance, by p. 120 I was angry trying to figure out who Aidon was lmao) or things that I thought were one way turned out to be another way, etc. Overall though, I pretty much devoured this book in a few long sessions, which was super nice and wonderful!

Something I haven’t been able to do in a long time. It’s a complex read in terms of the quantum physics, alternate time lines and all the consistencies and confusions that arise from the popular and well-explored in movies (especially lately–I’m looking at you, MCU) time travel components, the makeshift of the science fiction involved and the tang of creativity that envelops it all.

There is betrayal. There is the darker sides of humanity. And there’s a mother who will stop at nothing to save her daughter. I should probably explain…

So, the story focuses on Erin Fullarton and Zac Fullarton, parents to the six-year old child Korrie. We start in present day where it’s June 2021 and slowly and gradually learn that the shell of what is left of Erin is because of the intense grief and pain that came with losing her child. We don’t find out right away how this happened exactly but it is revealed later. Zac is working on some time and physics type of thing where he has created two time stones, one as Erin’s wedding ring and a second a year or so later. He begins to spend his day in the ‘Clean Room’ of his workplace on the kinda anniversary of Korrie’s death; as time begins to shift and present itself, Erin is forced to realize that what she could potentially prevent is within her hands and only something she could do (she tried, valiantly, to get aid but it didn’t come readily, unfortunately).

She decides to put her everything into changing the story that her life had took a dark turn in.

We get the perspective a few times from Korrie’s killer, the icky yucky pedophile who–ooof, his chapters were particularly disgusting. Hated them. Hated him.

There’s also the Detective from Korrie’s case and that is tied up nicely at the end but I’ll leave it there for now.

Erin faces a LOT of adversity throughout this book–trying to get people to understand the gravity of what was happening and that things themselves were repeating and people treating her like she was “crazy” for it, etc. She realizes some of the pattern with the time shifts–one minute it’s summer and the next she’s stepping into winter. And when the simulation that Zac is running falls into the abyss, she recognizes that too. There’s a whole section I could talk about but I’ll say this instead:

This story will keep you guessing all the way through. You’re going to get pissed off, elated, enthralled, interested, sometimes bored (sorry, for all the physics talk! But, they lighten up, too!), wondering what certain things have significance, confused at all the time travel and how things are happening but then jumping so far aboard that it’s just natural and where the writer wanted to take us with this story that needed to be told. It’s such a gripping book. Every time I started to celebrate Erin’s wins–another thing impeded her path. “No!” I would internally shout. “You were so close!”

This book had a great balance and instances of things looking up, then going down, then looking up, then going down. It reminded me, towards the end of the story, of a video game I’m playing on the Nintendo Switch: “Journey of the Broken Circle.” Very similar I’m finding (in the sense that the story line paves the way from when things are seemingly at their most hopeless, there’s still a way through and out the other side to better times, better life and better health.) This book has a lot of those themes too.

Ultimately, the last thing I’ll say is this: The ending and those final scenes were so poignant and wishing to be captured, frozen in time as they were, forever and always. For time to retreat backwards without memory, with repetition and with different details… I don’t understand quite why they were different details, was it just the universe that was at play or did something change within the intervals of the waves on the simulation, it’s never quite explained but maybe it doesn’t have to be. Things are different and yet similar and surprising and then just are. They shine with the possibility that only having read the book’s prior pages, knowing how certain events unfolded and fell apart, only then could you appreciate those small changes that made such a different outcome. The ways it was described was very thought-provoking for me–that little bit of wonder when you take a moment to think and realize right then and there in the present day reality: how could this event unfold next? What if I acted on this thought now? Or what if I never did? What would change? What led to what? What would be different?

Time is an elusive beast. The universe works in strange ways. Maybe that we’re all here, for however long that is, is all that matters. ๐Ÿ’™๐Ÿ’™๐Ÿ’™๐Ÿค


BOOK LENGTH:

276 pages


MY RECOMMENDATION SCORE:

4.5/5


OUTSTANDING QUOTES OR IDEAS:

  1. I love the way Erin in her grief is described in this book, particularly in the first act. Hope uses the metaphor and theme even with Erin’s husband and it’s such a magical little callback. I found this part particularly captivating and relatable at the start of the book: “{Erin is considering and getting ready to make some muffins} Did she even know where the whisk was anymore? And with that, she was overwhelmed and could not face it. There had been a time when she could have put muffins together without a thought..now she couldn’t handle the idea of even starting them” (Hope, 2020, p. 11)
  2. The pain of the grief that not only Erin has felt from the shock waves of Korrie’s death, but the fact that Zac was isolated in his own is rocked even harder and with more intensity in this description here: “The other Erin, as he’d begun thinking of her, the one who’d replaced his wife, this lifeless Erinesque version who had appeared when the love of his life was sucked into the void…When Korrie died, Erin departed without him for regions unknown” (Hope, 2020, p. 16)ย ย ย ย ย ย ย ย  Personally, I found this was very relatable and how I tell the story in my fanfic “Distorted & Disordered” (to be fair, quite a bit of this book reminded me of D&D but I think a couple other fics were also on my mind too).
  3. When the story behind the nickname is revealed of how Erin and Zac called Korrie, it’s just so breathtaking. Like, she’s in the midst of a dream and consciousness and just the way it was written, thinking she’s lost her Korrie from when she was just a fetus, remembering the bump and then not feeling it, looking for her in the blankets, damn it’s powerful writing.
  4. I’m pretty sure this was unintentional but the commentary for those who are suffering from severe or even just mild or moderate mental health conditions was something that needed to be said. For Erin, in an impossible situation, she was painted to be “crazy” or a “lunatic” or “losing it” etc. That her grief had made her go “out of her mind.” We know, as the Reader, that this is not the case. But we’re powerless to stop them from feeling and judging her so harshly. I think, also, when she’s trying to get help from other people who immediately dismiss her because of her intense grief, her intense depression and her just overall struggle from her mental health because her daughter freakin’ died–that commentary, that “other-ness” is such a strong stigma in place in our real life and society as a whole. It paints the very real picture that “just because it’s all in your head” it’s not valid or real or true to you etc. Or that your whole identity is that “illness”. Or that you’re somehow “wrong” and “broken.” These are disastrous ideals because we know that mental health conditions recovery is a process, a journey and there’s no one way fits all. Hope is out there. Help is available. You deserve to have nice things, to live a happy and fulfilling life and you can if you decide to still be here and choose life. Recovery is possible and we’re here for you. Sorry, side rant. Compassion, empathy and understanding can go a very long way. Validating doesn’t mean agreeing!!
  5. Another super relatable, emotional and grieving point of the book was how Erin described her feeling lost and broken after hearing the first news that no one knew where Korrie was: “In the time that followed, people kept introducing themselves… Erin fell apart and pulled herself together and fell apart again. People gave her drinks in paper cups and handed her tissues and patted her shoulder. And yet nobody managed to do the only thing that mattered: find Korrie” — (Hope, 2020, p. 89)
  6. This next scene is so horrendously and marvelously composed that I just have to share it with you all. It fits so perfectly into this story, it definitely belongs in it and the grappling of time and understanding amongst the confusion is so on point: “[Erin] dreaded the idea that she might stand where he had stood, where he had discarded what he stole. But perhaps if she were to stand there in winter before he did, she could find a way to undo what he’d done before he did it” (Hope, 2020, p. 130)ย ย ย ย ย ย  It makes so much sense, it gets us to where we need to go, it fills in the gaps and at the same time it’s almost insignificant. Truly fascinating.
  7. At one point, ending a phase of the book, Erin struggles with realizations and the questioning nature of time and its happening in a perfectly described token of: “She couldn’t understand how this had happened. Now she had no idea where she was, or rather when she was, or what to do, but she knew she had to get back, back to where she’d been” (Hope, 2020, p. 141)ย ย ย ย  To me, it felt totally wild and even MORE adversity. The adversity and the odds were truly stacked against her and her family. This book is a RIDE.
  8. There’s something so remarkable, fitting, human and true in the following scene: “(Erin to Korrie) ‘You have to keep talking. Let’s do a story.’ Korrie: ‘I don’t want to, I feel bad.’ E: ‘The trick is to keep going, no matter how you feel. That’s how it has to be.'” — (Hope, 2020, p. 217).ย ย ย ย ย ย ย ย  To me, it’s just something so striking, this scene. Erin’s fight and will to survive and thrive and do everything she can is super admirable. She doesn’t give up even when she has those moments where she considers it. Even with how much of a mess she is at times, she still fights. That’s amazing. It also again reminded me of that Switch game “Journey of the Broken Circle.” And really just life in general. (Which I can relate to very much right now with my physical health, as you get older ailments don’t seem to come individually wrapped but rather altogether to test your resolve. Bleh. ๐Ÿ˜ซ๐Ÿ˜ญ๐Ÿ˜–)
  9. What I really love about the way things ended in this book is that vague, distinct thought or phrase or almost memory that something had already happened before, something in another future, another place, that a perspective had been made and even though it came through distantly thereafter (fragmented in some cases, somewhat whole in others) it was a little glimmer of what once was even if it never became anything. I don’t know, just thinking about how these gut feelings at times or these conscious dabbling scenarios could hold so much more significance in a different time line is just fantastic eye candy to me: “As Erin stood, a feeling illuminated within her, the sense that she had the strength to take on whatever might lie ahead of her. She couldn’t know what the future was, but she knew she could rise to meet it” — (Hope, 2020, p. 255).ย ย ย  Again, I just thought it fit so well with the ground covered in this story and then was also just so mind-boggling, fantastic peeks into detail and yeah. A memory of what once was even though it never came to be.

THOUGHTS OR IDEAS I HAD WHILE READING:

  • Legit, I have no context to understand this now but early on in the book there was a scene that reminded me of this really great horror movie I watched on Netflix, I’m gonna pull up the name here: “Before I Wake” (2016) Something about how the story line in that movie went and how it’s relatable and similar to this particular story, I’m thinking specifically how the mother in the movie kinda uses her foster kid to purposefully see these tangible rehashed memories of her first son (who died) and how in this novel there’s that tangible aspect first going back in the past (so that Erin was back when Korrie was still alive and how she related and touched and could feel the very realness of the bedroom around her, in such stark contrast to her present day time line) and just… yeah. I don’t know if I explained that right or if it even fits here now having gone through the story but I think that’s what I was thinking of. That just holding on to what once was even though it’s no more (or wasn’t for a while). ๐Ÿ˜Š
  • Shout-out to any other cardiophiles out there: this book has a pretty good plethora for them in case you’d like to read it and also be in for a great story! ๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿงก๐Ÿงก
  • The way Erin reaches out to the next person she can think of that holds power in the situation to help alter or change the line of events that the first three quarters of the book presents, and that she’s told she can’t be helped and that there’s something wrong with her and just overall abandons her…. yeah, that reminded me of Luna a lot.
  • Hah! I did think of “This Would Be the End” fic at one point! Hah, I knew it!
  • Probably one of the coolest things about this book was seeing the way I write Loki in my fanfics being mirrored back to me. Like, I could so relate to what the author was conveying and the depth of which she did (though not completely, I may add) and the ANGST involved and the pain and grief and also see how I’ve achieved or already done and am continuing to do similar themes and cases of writing within my own fics. That’s cool. That’s nice. So, it works? Hahaha
  • I do love that the betrayal we witness in the majority of the time line DOES get brought up and addressed and it’s SO cathartic to hear Zac’s POV of it (the book is all written in third person regardless)
  • Calling time mischievous reminded me so much of Loki. I wonder how Loki and the TVA described and told a story with that (time, memory)… Maybe one day I’ll actually catch up with all of the MCU… We can dream, right?
  • It’s funny, there’s a green page flag where I wrote possible scenarios (three of them) of what would happen later in the book annnnnnnd none of them occurred. Ahaha, the ending/the conclusion was truly a surprise!!
  • There was a scene in this book, maybe because I had already been thinking of it in some videos I filmed prior, but Erin describes the old mill building and how it’s “derelict and shoved against the rock of the mountain” (Hope, 2020, p. 139) and it reminded me so much of another book I read called “Ash” Though I don’t remember the author or if I even have the review of that published online. ๐Ÿ˜—๐Ÿคจ
  • There were some great glimpses of thoughts, peeks into consciousness and thoughts the characters were having mixed in with their assessment of the world around them that I really, really liked. It made it more tangible and real to me, I think. Also reminded me again of my fics
  • For some reason, I thought the zip ties were white….. They were black.
  • It’s funny because towards the end of the book when there’s some medical scenes, I realized why it was so familiar, it’s because I had done similar types of scenes in my D&D fic haha So that was nice to see that research in someone else’s head!
  • There’s this really neat part of the story where Erin is thinking about how she’s going to explain the things she has done and how in the world she was going to convince anyone else that they had happened, this list of an outcome from multiple time lines–is just a nice reminder of how I write in my fics when I haven’t written in them in ages and I have to get a better picture and grasp again on the character and where they’re at with things hahaha (So, like often I’ll write a few sentences on Loki’s history laid out in the movies because I need to remember who I’m working with! Haha)

**At the end of the novel, our author shares that she read a particular book to help her understand and explain loop quantum gravity and it’s definitely something I also want to read and check out, here it is: “The Order of Time” by Carlo Rovelli


CRITICAL AND QUESTIONING CORNER:

More of a questioning corner but there was a point in time of me reading the book where I thought the power behind the time stones would prove too great and the money-hungry gaslighter would try to get involved and Zac would have to destroy the stones in some manner for the good of all mankind. Didn’t shape up like that though but hey, maybe a fanfic idea? ๐Ÿ˜‰๐Ÿ˜› I think that also makes sense why it never is quite panned out like that because when time does that weird thing it does and snips out certain details and changes others, then what the book ends with that Zac studies isn’t the same as what he began with. So, there’s that.

Another Questioning Corner thing: I was very, very surprised to learn that, at least never completely written in whichever time line or any time line, that Aidon didn’t sexually assault Korrie. That, to me, was something I was expecting but there’s never the autopsy that pointed to that and such. But just the way he would describe Korrie and kids in general… Eh, I’m not convinced he didn’t try at one point of a time line.

Critical Corner! Maybe just a statement but I feel like with the detective’s story line that the guy is just WAY too hard on himself. We find out some understanding of this later in the book but the dude is just mega struggling and has a lot of cop PTSD and is just so, so unhealthy in terms of how he handles his cases in the sense that he’s not taking care of himself and beating himself up for things he couldn’t really control or had very little power or play in. It’s sad to see. And it’s also sad to see the stigma that he notices from his peer cops when they treat him differently and ostracize him. Also, it sounded more like mini heart attacks than PTSD/anxiety attacks but maybe that’s just me.

Critical Corner but it’s more of another commentary piece I don’t know where else to put: Aidon is SO dislikable. The dude is so narcissistic and arrogant and pompous and says a lot of fucks and just ugh. He is SO unsavory. He has SO MUCH audacity and just, no. No. *shudders* Brava though for Hope to pull this off. It really sounds like a different character/person/identity set different and apart from all the other characters. Nicely done.

Questioning Corner: I wonder if the question of time erasing itself, of the universe unfolding in a way that couldn’t be anticipated, I wonder if that being brought up explains why things were so different in the later time line. I honestly don’t know but it’s an itch in my mind I can’t scratch. From my understanding, everything in the adjusted time line had changed even what the original feedback had been before, the original carry out of events, so time corrected itself in that instance because it didn’t leave any room to be born again in the same way it was at that juncture. Hmmm.

Critical Corner: I don’t know this for FACT, but I found it odd that the EMTs would ASK Erin whether there was any neck or back trauma to guide them whether or not to give Korrie a brace and not just put one on themselves. Like, normally in shows we always see them just go do it just in case and it was odd to me that they’d ask her rather than just go with their gut and do it. But I guess…


MY EXPERIENCE: WHAT KEPT ME READING AND THE BOOK’S IMPACT ON ME:

I’d say for this section, the best thing I cannot harp on enough is the fabulous, dedicated and highly descriptive language and portrayal of this story through the author’s eyes and fingers, as it were. She takes you on a mystical ride, deeply colorful arrays of the science that can sometimes be too science-y but still breathtakingly understandable when explained a little further. Like, to me, she just rocked it. I found words I didn’t know and feelings I hadn’t come by in a while. It was a great type of distraction read for me too, because sometimes I went to it when I was feeling ill physically and mentally. Just being lost in someone else’s story for a while and to see all the triumph after so much hardship was genuinely inspiring. If her writing was this good and she continued on for another 100 pages, I don’t think I would have minded that at all–it wouldn’t have been a chore.

Another great thing I want to highlight about this book is that hidden clique experience where as the Reader we know far more what is happening, we have that inside scoop and a look into all the characters involved and there’s just something so magical and captivating about that. I know it’s run for the mill, par for the course, but it’s still nice to know certain things, even when the main characters don’t and we’re yelling at them to listen to us! Hahha, it just makes it more real, you know?

I’m personally experiencing a lot of physical pain right now but really want this post to go up before I get checked out so I just wanted to say, thanks so much for reading this post! It’s a truly beautiful story and I hope it sticks with me. I think parts of it will for sure. My next fic book I’ve decided will enter another time travel one so I’m excited about that and to learn more about these things… maybe I’ll understand them one day and carry them through further into my own writing haha.

Well, thanks so much for everything. Again, I hope Erin’s wit and her charm and her perseverance are something I remember from this book. And the strange ways the universe works and the fascination of the human memory and mind. Thanks again. See you all soon. xxx


My next book is….

“Why Don’t You Write My Eulogy Now So I Can Correct It?” (nonfic); “Hazards of Time Travel” (fic), then when I finish WDYW, which I will it’s less than 100 pages with illustrations–I’ll begin (as of the current plan) “The Audacity to Be Queen” (nonfic)

*Next upcoming BES is for a nonfic I read called QI.


TRACKING DATES I READ THIS BOOK:

6/28/2021 early evening, 6/29 late afternoon, 7/29 late evening, 7/30 mid-evening, 7/31 evening, 8/10 mid-evening, 8/11 early morning and early evening, 8/12 early evening, 8/13 mid-evening, evening, 8/14 late morning, noon, early afternoon.

TRACKING DATES I WROTE THIS POST:

8/14/2021 (early evening, evening, late evening).

“It’s Your Funeral” (2020) | BES: Apr-June 2021


CHOSEN BOOK:

“It’s Your Funeral” (2020) by Emily Riesbeck, Ellen Kramer and Matt Krotzer

((graphic novel))

BES 5 -- Apr. - June


TRIGGER WARNINGS:

Not applicable.


THEMES:

Purpose, death, afterlife, bureaucracy, case workers, art, body language, emotional expression, mysteries, unanswered questions, meaning, life, bitterness, emotions, scathing retorts to interpersonal relationships, letting go vs acceptance vs holding on, getting better, living again or for the first time, ghosts, multiverse, inter-dimensions, imagination, hard to pronounce names, pronouns, teenagers, the “voice” of the characters, fear of abandonment, miserable outlooks, not giving up on someone, aliens.


SUMMARY:

Marnie Winters is dead after her chair blew up and killed her and now she has to deal with an internship in a case worker’s alien bureaucracy to help other ghosts like herself cross over and have their files closed. She goes through the process of trying to identify why she is still there, and not in her own dimensional destination within the multiverse of universes, as she grapples with the new alien co-workers she’s met and has to live alongside in her afterlife, while also questioning if they’ll really be there for her because she’s far more used to people abandoning her and forgetting about her. Marnie struggles with her emotions and how she handles interpersonal relationships as evident throughout the graphic novel. She comes to learn about her main case worker X’lakthul (Xel) and her related co-workers and learns how to approach other ghosts and the circumstances around her afterlife position through the internship in training and then actual field work.

Marnie learns, most importantly, at her experiences within the Department of Spectral Affairs that life and the end of life takes time, healing requires time and effort and not giving up on someone and that acceptance is a powerful force and we have to meet people where they are at in their journey, not where we think or want them to be at based on our own experiences.

This graphic novel is an emotional read with funny light-hearted moments and endless depths of meaning, existential awareness and the legacy we are choosing to leave behind as we follow our lives from this existence into the next one. It is a timeless read that can help improve the lives of anyone it comes across. I hope that you will enjoy this review just barely scratching the surface and peeking into what it has in store. Many thanks, xxx


BOOK LENGTH:

200 pages


MY RECOMMENDATION SCORE:

4/5

๐Ÿ’Ÿ๐Ÿค๐Ÿงก๐Ÿ–ค๐Ÿ’Œ


OUTSTANDING QUOTES, IDEAS OR IMAGES:

  • BES5 -- Img.1
  • As stated here on my green page flag, I’ve written: The emotion/power conveying through these images is so amazing and, this is C’tharla and I already loved her early on ahaha. ๐Ÿ’š๐Ÿ’š๐Ÿ’š
  • BES5 -- Img.2
  • Of the above image, I really, really just loved the perspective captured here between Marnie and the educational video for her new internship position (lead by Xel) ๐Ÿ˜€๐Ÿ˜…
  • BES5 -- Img.3
  • For the above image here, I absolutely ADORED the way the light play was done. Just the attention to detail that the video recording would project onto the screen was so wonderful and refreshing, I found. Especially for me because I never include light and shadow in my work ahaha. It was marvelous to see it done SO right. This is Xel, or X’lakthul our main case worker working with Marnie and helping her through her ghostly life. ๐Ÿ˜Šโคโค
  • Luckily, for me, p. 59 really redeemed itself in my eyes for why I wanted to read this book and what I was looking to get out of it, so that is nice! I really enjoyed the notion between Dev and another caseworker, Marnie in tow, towards a ghost that there was no rush for his file to be closed and that it was going to take time. Additionally, that “we’re all in this together. But if we gave up every time we were frustrated, we’d be doomed from the start” (Riesbeck et al, 2020) I really, really loved that message. It was SO poignant to me and really highlighted something important that I could gather from this book and keep with me, hopefully tightly because it’s so relevant for my life!! (I’m looking at you, Avoidance!). Just wanted to highlight that in this review. ๐Ÿ˜Š๐Ÿค๐Ÿค๐Ÿค
  • p. 60 involved a nice breath of mindfulness where Jose (the ghost), Dev and V’qttyr take another moment to choose to watch the boats pass by on the river because there really isn’t a necessary rush and it’s okay to take a moment sometimes, just for you. ๐Ÿ˜‰๐Ÿ˜Š
  • BES5 -- Img.4
  • My page flag, I believe written in pencil here, says: “I do just love the illustration of existential awareness here.” It was very, very well done, in my opinion!! ๐Ÿ˜…๐Ÿ’™๐Ÿ’™ (p. 71)
  • Another detail I enjoyed out of this book was the dialogue boxed squiggles when Marnie was being silenced/muffled by Xel’s hands over her mouth ahaha. So, instead of a straight line off the speech bubble, her speech bubble main “line” was just a squiggle instead! Like a snaking squiggle, so to speak. A little squiggle with an edge of personality to it ahaha
  • I feel like my number one favorite scene in this entire book happens, unsurprisingly with C’tharla, on p. 93 when C’tharla is explaining to Marnie that “[C’tharla] has to be the one to tell her employees to care less. That [she] has to be so cold so that Xel can be so warm. This job (she tells Marnie) needs coldness as much as it needs empathy or it would suck us dry. The greatest good for the greatest number” I just absolutely loved this scene and it took SO MUCH care and beauty and challenge and understanding from me. It absolutely made sense and it was just so wonderful I had to share and highlight it in this review (because god knows I shit on this book in the critical section haha!) I just thought it was so powerful and it really humanized C’tharla and made her character have that much more depth and purpose. It’s just beautiful to witness, I feel.
  • My next favorite scene that I think defines, or should arguably define, this entire book is this: “[C’tharla telling Marnie] A third of our clients will succeed no matter what we do. And a third of our clients will fail no matter what we do. The last third.. that’s where you can make a difference. That’s where you have to focus your energy…” [Marnie:] “Which third am I?” [C’tharla] “That depends on you.” (Riesbeck et. al, 2020, p. 94-95).
  • The above section is just SUCH a powerful scene, even more so with the images of the body language but yeah like, it’s amazing. That is the biggest thing sticking with me and I’ll focus on it when I consider my recommendation score for sure. Like, the empowerment that is channeled here is amazing and the determination that that part, if nothing else, is up to you, like, oooof, chef’s kiss. I’ll probably even mention it in the what kept me going section of this book and its lasting impressions on me. ๐Ÿ’œ๐Ÿ’œ๐Ÿคฉ๐Ÿ˜ญ
  • The above image takes place on p. 126 and is really, really something I loved and adored about this book. Xel validating Marnie in the sense that Marnie cannot understand why people wouldn’t give up on the hard cases (like how her life was while she was alive, at least to her perspective) and instead would want to fight through hell and back for people (that wasn’t her experience in life) and Xel’s words saying it’s because these people are WORTH the effort, is just all sorts of emotional, heartwarming and hopefully inspiring. I thought it was worthy of mentioning in this review, myself. ๐Ÿ–ค๐Ÿ–ค๐Ÿ’š๐Ÿ’™ They’re worth it. You’re worth it. And so am I. ๐Ÿ˜ฑ๐Ÿ˜ญ
  • I would like to say that before the concept is brought up later, on p. 139 I was even thinking that Xel was necessary to let go of the box she had placed Marnie in and instead work with her with where MARNIE was at rather than attacking the problem and the issues Marnie was having in only Xel’s point of view and point of reference. It felt to me that Xel was pushing for something that maybe Marnie didn’t even want anything to do with and that was something I was hoping Xel to come to realize on her own (as a Reader, I’m powerless) and luckily she did. I just noticed here that I was hoping for this resolution and I’m glad to say it was reported on later. Sometimes we have to let go, even when we want to hold on tightly and forever. Not necessarily to abandon but to allow for extra space to regather our thoughts and adjust our approaches. ๐Ÿ˜Š
  • The above image, from p. 143, shows an increasingly pissed off Xel after Marnie jabbed at her roughly regarding how she handles her job and isn’t very good at it. YIKES! She is literally seething and I LOVED the display of emotion here. Not only just within this particular photo but the lead up and drop off after (she just takes a deep breath and re-centers herself) ahaha
  • I liked this quote in particular from King Tut’s ghost (I imagine if I were still in school, like traditional school ages of middle to high school, I would have better understood this reference and information, but since I’ve been through higher education and left that for a while too, I really don’t remember much if anything at all of King Tut ๐Ÿ˜…) where he says, on p. 150: “Mine was a life wasted. For three thousands years I have sat idle, as helpless in death as I was in life” There’s just something so somberly beautiful about this concept that I HAD to highlight here. It really speaks volumes to me.
  • (Once Marnie tells King Tut his true legacy he laughs and says…) “I suppose I feel silly. For spending so much time worrying. And I suppose hearing it made me realize that it really…doesn’t matter. Knowing [my legacy] doesn’t change what I did in life or what I’ve been doing in death” — Riesbeck et al., 2020, p. 153

  • The emotional and wave of acceptance of these simple facts was just SO much of a relief and a wonder to experience as the Reader, for me at least. It was just so beautiful to get the chance to witness. That in the end either being remembered or being forgotten, in the grand scheme of things, didn’t really matter. It didn’t change what was or could have been and there’s something just so magically empowering about that. This book does have some fantastic sprinkling of messages, even though it didn’t live up to my full viewpoint of potential. It could have been so much more yet… what does exist is still at least worthy of telling. And overall, it sent its message and I was receptive to it. It’s not without faults yet it does have its beauty, too. And amazing artwork at that as well. I probably won’t pick up a graphic novel again for a while but it was nice. It took me a while to get into it or stay in it but it was nice when I was in it.
  • The motion achieved and captured here was just far too astounding to not include. I love it, yay! Riesbeck et al., 2020, p. 154.
  • I thought it was powerful the way Xel wanted Marnie to get better no matter what the cost and the ultimatum that was offered to all the characters in that moment. So heartwarming and lovely, I found.
  • “It’s a process. You’ll get there someday. But give yourself time. Don’t forget to be kind to yourself along the way. Celebrate the wins, even if they’re small” — (Xel) Riesbeck, 2020, p. 198

  • Wise words to live by and take from this book above if there’s nothing else you read in this post (but if you do read it all I send you a gold star and some glitter (virtual glitter, so no mess!) along the way and thank you very, very much for your time, attention and gratitude!!) ๐Ÿ˜˜๐ŸŒŸโญ๐ŸŽŠโœจ๐Ÿ’– Remember these few things: time, effort, healing.

flight-of-ideas-bes-thumb-2.19.21

THOUGHTS OR IDEAS I HAD WHILE READING:

  1. Probably the nicest thing and also the most surprising thing that I got out of this book was inspiration and motivation for my own novel in the works. By p. 13 I was already adding new notes onto my iPod for my novel, for an improved and new ending, for the main characters to “end as they began” and a few times throughout reading this book I did in fact work on my novel. Noteworthiness was the fact I worked on my novel for about 2 hours just from getting inspired on p. 13. So that was very exciting. ๐Ÿ˜Š
  2. Attention to detail is definitely something this book really shined in doing, and speaking of shine, I absolutely loved the sparkles in each alien character’s/case worker’s hair!! Particularly C’tharla’s, who was honestly my favorite character to begin with ahaha. But Xel was great too. ๐Ÿ˜
  3. p. 16 with its “comes to pass” phrase reminded me that I should try and work on my own fanfic “Come to Pass” very, very soon. For fanfics, I’ll most likely be updating these guys soon: ALU, CeC, D&D, S and TAaBBT, AUS
  4. At the beginning of the book, on p. 28 where Marnie is attacking and threatening angrily towards Xel, it’s definitely her depression coming out on the attack but I wondered to myself why Marnie necessarily had to attack Xel’s positivity because that optimism can so often come from a place of having known pain. ๐Ÿ˜“๐Ÿ˜”
  5. For a while, and maybe this is to show the change and pay off for Marnie later in the book, but for a while I feel like she chooses to isolate herself and be miserable instead of being open to embracing that while love does hurt and is painful, it can also bring her much peace, understanding and patience. Again, maybe it’s to highlight later how she changes her mind about her predicament, it’s just a bit tough to work through in the beginning, and tough for me as the Reader to give her that time and space to figure it out on her own (there’s a helplessness involved and also I really DID feel for Marnie and I cared enough about her story that I wanted to find out what happened, regardless of my stance in the next section. I did care for Marnie and I wanted to love her and in some ways I did, it was just complicated and a roller coaster getting all the way there, but I’m glad I stuck it out, even if I felt the ending was underwhelming and rushed.) Back to this review though!!
  6. This is ESPECIALLY highlighted on p. 64 where Xel is talking about having patience to Marnie and I realized I maybe needed to have more patience for her, myself, too. I was hoping she would redeem herself in the coming pages (and she did, for a while, until going backwards and then being in a cheesy ending, ahaha).
  7. The chapter where Marnie has to learn how to speak with the character Carol was something I could relate to (Carol seemingly speaks gibberish and unclear English) because the supporting characters tried to give tips or experiences they’ve had with Carol that helped them learn about Carol and how to communicate with Carol, but it turned out their stories had little resolve to complete Marnie’s questions and one of those characters tells her that it just takes time and is something that Marnie will learn on her own. For me, personally, this reminded me of work at Amaryllis and having to learn and build a rapport with each kid and any tips I manage to gather to help with that process, particularly with the nonverbal toddler as of late (though I have to brush up on my interpersonal effectiveness skills because I’m severely lacking in them lately, that and passive/aggressive/assertive stances as well. Ooof, I’m pretty exhausted by this point of the review, a few days later, so this is already feeling rough to get through and I hate it. Ugh. Bleh. I went on another Athena dive too so that reallyyyyy didn’t help anything. Meh. 6/21/2021)
  8. Xel even tells Marnie on p. 125 that her work with Carol is in fact that: work. It’s going to take time and she doesn’t have to rush the process. Again, this reminded me of relationships and building rapport with, in my job, kids, and even just other humans in life in general. ๐Ÿ˜Š In fact, Xel even says how she can’t give a lecture or show a video for Marnie to learn how to speak with Carol, that it’s just something that is learned and cannot be taught exactly, which again, I related to very much. It’s a process, basically!! Communicating with other humans, hehe.
  9. I loved Marnie’s and Xel’s stare down on p. 150 Ahaha
  10. I found it so heartbreaking when Marnie was apologizing to Xel, thinking Xel was pissed and going to abandon her. My heart, oh! ๐Ÿ’”๐Ÿ’”
  11. I would say, yeah, not meeting someone where they’re at in recovery or life can be pretty invalidating so try and validate where they ARE rather than where you think they could be! Validation doesn’t necessarily mean agreeing with the person, too. Take care, out there!
  12. On p. 181 when Xel suddenly hugs Marnie, Marnie makes such a Loki-like comment telling her to put her down and it was just such a hilarious little thing that my MCU mind took over. ๐Ÿ˜Š๐Ÿ˜‰๐Ÿ˜™
  13. p. 191 reminded me of Deadpool 2 in particular when Deadpool sacrifices himself to save the kid from going on to commit acts of murder against humanity and he dies until Cable goes back in time to save Deadpool from dying with the little token thing. Basically, that sacrifice of the self for someone else just reminded me of Deadpool 2. Which I have to still do a review on…
  14. The book ends with some lovely progress from Marnie. ๐Ÿ’š๐Ÿ’š๐Ÿค๐Ÿค

CRITICAL CORNER: THINGS THAT DIDN’T SIT RIGHT WITH ME…

I’m not sure which section this next part should go in exactly: Is it a Critical Corner thought? A Thoughts or Ideas I had while reading thought? A Summary thought? I’m not sure.

But Marnie, as the main character in this story, is… complex. She, to me, was very unlikable. Like, I get that she dealt a lot with worthlessness feelings, low self-esteem, and pushed people away that were only trying to help her, as she had deserved in her living life to begin with however she did not receive, yet at other times she was very scathing and hurtful and angry towards people that were doing her a favor. Like, she was just ruthless and mean-spirited, and didn’t really give herself pause to consider how she might be negatively impacting others around her. She was definitely struggling with her identity and depression and how that was unfair that it wasn’t treated right in her living life and as a ghost, she’s taking out that pain and frustration on everyone around her, and it doesn’t make it right, it makes it understandable and it also was just soooo annoying to me. Like it really grated my nerves. If the story had been about Xel or C’tharla, I think I would have enjoyed it a lot more.

And there were times that Marnie would realize the error of her ways and change.. only for her to resort back to abandonment and angry/miserable tactics that weaponized her emotions onto others. And that was frustrating (because I was open to Marnie, I disliked Marnie, I cared again for Marnie, I hated Marnie and then I was indifferent and wanting more from Marnie). And even the ending of this book seemed rushed to me and was so, so cringe, anticlimactic, underdeveloped and unfinished. It just fell really flat. I feel like the main rushed in plot at the end where another supervisor was being introduced, could have been hinted at before rather than being tossed in for one final punch. It was also very unprofessional of everyone involved and lacked any sense of realism, which is ironic for a fiction graphic novel about the bureaucracy of aliens in the afterlife, so I get that’s an odd sentiment to hold.

Also Marnie was apparently 19 years old. She spoke to me and acted FAR more like a fourteen or fifteen year old. We also never really get an insight into how her family coped with her loss or the way she died. Like, it was just a comical joke that her butt blew up from her chair and it was never revisited again. It was very odd.

Pairing this with the ending where, yes, there were some great points by Xel, it also didn’t fully answer anything. It just seemed lackluster and I think at least 20 additional pages could have mapped things out in a far more clear fashion. It just felt and read to me like the deadline for finishing this novel was approaching and everyone just had to put together all the last pieces the night before and one hour before it was due. I would have liked to see more growth. I do think, again, that Xel had some great ending of the book quotes here but like it was cheapened and we don’t get to see the more growth and change that Marnie gets to experience. Does she stay in the job as an intern forever? Does she eventually leave for the further afterlife? It’s never quite answered.

And then what happens to everyone after the boss issue? Do they get spoken to about what happened, is there any justice served to them for their unprofessional behavior? It seemed more like a six year old ending a story than something well thought out and planned meticulously. Again, rushed and just forced.

There were definitely moments where this book made me laugh or made me think or kept me going for sure. I would say 60% of me was disliking Marnie and 40% was me already being invested and needing to know what happened etc. (The closure aspect, I suppose one could say).

So, for instance of how much I disliked Marnie and resented the fact that this story was mainly about her: Take in point p. 50 where her smug attitude is presented towards two of the case workers, the main chapter being on Dev where she is suggesting that instead of finding the ghost they’re looking to work with they just abandon the process (mmm, do you taste that? The sweet scent of projection) and head back to the office. This is putting it delicately for Marnie’s attitude because it’s about to get a whole lot more direct and miserable. Bleh. ๐Ÿ˜›๐Ÿคฎ

Also, in general, I feel like the worlds and environment about the inter-dimensions could be further explained and unraveled but it’s just never covered further.

By p. 55, Marnie is once again hurling insults at the two people she’s working besides. She, to me and in my eyes, became very unlikable, abusive, powerless, miserable and lashing out cruelly in a verbal fashion (though her body language ALSO communicates this without a doubt). She’s so often in a angry positioning of her ghostly form, which is probably just her shtick and how the character wanted to be presented (but it doesn’t make me want to feel for her, at the same time. So, eh). It’s almost like as a character, particularly the MAIN character, Marnie is just so…. agh, I forgot the word. Like, I definitely felt for her more later but so soon into the novel and I’m ready to chuck the book out the window and never touch it again, you know? It’s not the best way to keep the reader engaged, I think. And maybe this is meant later to build such a testament that Marnie plays such a vital role in the ending of the book but at what cost does me disliking Marnie from the get go make me want to stick it out and see how she turns out (for the better/ultimate good)?

I think I honestly may have mentioned it in another section, but I don’t recall where and I’m still plugging away at this post days later, so I just wanted to add that I was also disappointed in the way that the chapter named after V’qttyr BARELY had any of him actually in it, which was super odd and different from how all the other chapters were constructed. And it seemed SUPER rushed to me, like the last hour before a deadline paper is due and you’re just throwing everything at it to get it done. I thought this was pretty, yeah, I already said it, disappointing. I think if the story had gone on even another 20 pages there could have been a better way of handling it. I believe I’ve said this, too, but like the ending with a new character being suddenly involved to serve as the purpose of Marnie growing a thick skin and finding someone darker than she was and crueler than she was so as to build up Marnie and have Marnie change her stance on things (becoming more assertive, sticking up for her friends etc.) was pretty obvious and predictable. The added character was just so random and not built up in previous pages or chapters, so that was rough. There were still some great things that Xel told Marnie then, which I covered before (I’m writing this review out of order, haha) but yeah, it was just not what I was expecting and the fact that I expected something before it even happened made it cringey to me and dull.

Carol is also accidentally misgendered on p. 175.

To me, I felt that the ending of the graphic novel was kinda like the way parents are presented on Disney channel shows. Very like clueless and just a, I mean, I want to say a ‘mockery’ of their own selves but I feel that may be harsher in words than I wish to intend. I guess just it was pretty cheesy and formulaic and not what I was expecting. I would have preferred less of the random new character involved and more thought placed into it with even more scenes if that was possible. I think taking out the new character would have worked fine and there could have been another way to show how much Marnie had changed (and even then, we could potentially question how much of that was that positive change, she was still having somewhat of an attitude) over the course of the plot line but we didn’t quite get that, in this case. It was still a good and decent book overall, with some excellent ability to code and decipher body language and emotional expressions which I really appreciated.


MY EXPERIENCE: WHAT KEPT ME READING AND THE BOOK’S IMPACT ON ME….

As I already hinted at earlier, I got, as I tend to do, pretty invested in this story and needing that sense of closure and finality when it came to seeing through the graphic novel. For better or for worse, no matter how much I disliked Marnie, I still cared for her and wanted to know what happened to her and where the story went. I cannot abandon a story, I have to see it through and this was definitely one of those cases.

In the end, I did enjoy my time with this graphic novel. I definitely don’t want to read another graphic novel for a while and I probably won’t anyways so that is nice at least. I have my next book that I’m working on and I’m so, so, SO ready to finally just let this book go and no longer be in my possession. As you’ll see below at the very end of this review, I read this book on and off since April 2021 and I’m soooo ready to just be done with it. Thank god!!! It’s going to be SUCH a relief to finally pay off all my final fines from my local library and then continue moving on and forwards with the remaining books I have from two other library networks.

I am excited, I am grateful and I am inspired and motivated. I will be making a lot more videos this coming week and I’m really happy and excited. I also have more blog posts I can do and I plan to finish watching Thor and work on that review, and really get out the TIH and IM2 review posts, along with things like life updates, talking about my romantic relationship and some other older book reviews or film reviews that I have in various documents and physical journals.

I cannot wait. I think I’ve said everything I wanted to say.

Soooo, thank you so much for reading, stopping by and putting up with my shenanigans!! Thank you so very, very much. I’m still working on messages and will continue to uphold that across my socials this week. I am already reaping many benefits and just talking with people by doing that so I’m really motivated and inspired. Thank you so much once again!! I can’t wait to bring this book back, yay. Ahaha

My next book? (within the current timeline of me reading, not necessarily next upcoming BES’s)

Quiet Influence” (2013) by Jennifer B. Kahnweiler PhD

๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿ˜Š๐Ÿ˜Ž


TRACKING DATES I READ THIS BOOK:

4/4/2021, 4/13, 4/14, 5/7 (late night), 5/8 (morning), 5/19, 5/27 (late night read), 6/1 (late night), 6/2, 6/3 (early morning reads), 6/16 (afternoon), 6/17 (multiple hours in one day).

TRACKING DATES I WROTE THIS REVIEW:

6/17/2021, 6/18, 6/21, 6/22/2021

“Willow Brook Road” (2015) | Book Review (April, Sep, Oct. 2020; Feb. 2021)


Chosen Book:

“Willow Brook Road” (2015) by Sherryl Woods

A Chesapeake Shores Novel; Fiction

Book Review - Multi. dates


Trigger Warnings:

“Crazy” multiple times, grief, loss, trauma mentioned, substance use (alcohol), mild suicide jokes, trichotillomania (hair pulling) language (‘they were ready to pull their hair out’).


Themes:

Grief, loss, drama, romance, adoption, family, meddling, straight couples, marriage, meaning, childcare, attachment, starting a business, dreams, adversity, challenges, emotions, snippets of emotional abuse, manipulation painted as quirky, desperate needs for DEAR MAN’s, relationships, interpersonal effectiveness, small town, through the seasons (summer to autumn), Southern town, forgiveness, understanding, career paths, definitions of living a fulfilled life.


Plot Summary:

This novel follows Carrie Winters and the meddling of her near and extended family as she tries to uncover what her own unique career path is and whom she may fall in love with along the way. Sam Winslow moves into the town of Chesapeake Shores with the single intention of raising his nephew Bobby after a horrible car accident killed his sister whom he hadn’t spoken to in forever and her wonderful husband. Thrust into a world where they no longer exist and trying his best to raise a kid he barely knew and completely change who he was as a traveler and not being tied down with a home and family and wife, Sam and Carrie’s paths cross and a spark ignites, following them as they continue to interact with one another and Carrie’s family rejoices that this match may be its true potential, even as they want her to be careful or question if it’s a healthy dynamic.

As time goes on, and Carrie works on volunteering at a daycare out of town and growing her interests (both in love and in career), her family has to accept that this is where her heart is going and it’s what’s best for her. Carrie takes care of her sibling’s and cousin’s kids and her cousin, Susie, is struggling from having recovered from breast cancer and wanting a child of her own. When an adoption falls through, Susie becomes distant, envious and unlike herself. She reacts by lashing out at Carrie and others in the family, and hating Carrie for walking into a romantic relationship that involves a small child to begin with.

As the relationships crack and break and drama ensues, the novel follows Carrie and Sam’s relationship and everything else as it seems to crumble around them. In the end, love strives to win and the dust settles. Forgiveness is passed around and the novel ends on a hopeful and existential awareness note.


Strengths and Weaknesses:

A. STRENGTHS:

Something I liked about this book was the notion of taking on other people’s issues or relating too much to them in a way that is self-sacrificing or just causes problems. Like, it was super relatable to read about falling into those traps or falling into the notion of trying to “fix” or help others even if it’s at a cost to yourself. Carrie did this at times with Sam so that was just something I could relate to as a Reader.

Another thing I could relate to in this story was the working with kids thing. So, like, I work at a residential for trauma informed youth primarily ages 4 – 12 so the insights into dealing with traumatized kids, regular kids in general and just working with them or having to do right by them or keep them safe was super relatable. One of the characters on p. 113 at the daycare was still trying to figure out that balance between being stern and being nurturing which was something I could HUGELY relate to. It’s that fine line between getting taken advantage of and sticking to your limits. I liked that about this novel and learning a little from some fictional characters. That, that was cool. ๐Ÿ˜€๐Ÿ˜‰๐Ÿ˜˜

In addition to the above, p. 119, picking up on body language cues is also something I need a lot more work on and my therapist actually recommended in the last month (at the time of me writing this review it’s Feb. 2021) to do some research and learn about typical body language cues from children or warning signs that things are going awry. I’ll try to write that down some time soon to start reading up on and such. It’s funny because when I do creative writing I do a lot of body language cues and such even if in real life I’m a little unaware of it. Sometimes when I’ve worked in other environments on campus though I’ve managed to pick up on it and can work with it more hands on so it’s a work in progress, for sure. Ahaha

Carrie’s snarkiness within the novel was so lovely and refreshing at times!! ๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿคฃ

Something that I also really loved and appreciated and stuck out to me was when Sam was waiting on Carrie to express what it was that was bothering her (which happens on p. 257). His patience was ever present and he was willing to be there for her because she needed it and it was just SO sweet and wonderful. He waited for her to be ready and that was just so lovely. ๐Ÿ’œ๐Ÿ’œ

Towards the end of the novel, Sam’s low self-esteem, low self-worth (from a traumatized childhood he had) is revealed as well as his own self-fulfilling prophecies that work against him to keep him away from Carrie and love and happiness that he feels he doesn’t deserve. It’s a note that he finds from his sister that restores his faith in the relationship he was developing with Carrie which was such a beautiful progression and I wish more of the novel could have focused on this and humanizing Sam and making him into really the main character he was supposed to be. All this drama with Carrie’s cousin Susie and everything took away from the heart of the matter, which I felt sucked a lot. I feel like if Sam’s history and his growth could have been focused on more and how he was handling these matters that were against him would have made a far better story to tell.

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B. WEAKNESSES/Things I had issues with:

Emotional manipulation and streaks of gaslighting is painted as quirky and desirable because it’s coming from “family.” Meddling is seen as natural and something to be put up with, as if family cannot be toxic, neglectful or abusive. The book understands that this does happen and has happened to people within its pages but still paints this viewpoint that because it’s coming from a caring, loving place that it’s acceptable, okay and should be put up with.

Also, there are the traditional views of women in Western society that they should have a family with a husband and children in order to have a fulfilling life. There’s the notion that having a romantic partner is a goal in life, implying potentially that not having that is just as unexplored as anything else. This rubbed me the wrong way.

The drama in the book was present about 85% of the time and the romance only 15% which sucked because I was there for the romance. This is the third full book I’ve read by this author and I was pretty disappointed by it, sadly. I’ve never read the others in this series so maybe that affected my judgment as I could see some things as disastrous and problematic than maybe I would had I gotten to know the other characters better instead of walking in in the middle of a scene, so to speak. I also felt that it was an emotional roller coaster of a ride and I dreaded it a lot of the time and a lot of my symptoms of BPD came out with it (idolization of characters, demonization of characters, mood swings, attachments, etc.) I definitely went through waves of this book: I liked it at first, I disliked it, I hated it, I despised it, I loved it, I wanted to quit on it, I was still attached and involved, I started to like it again, I was disappointed as I finished it. It was a LOT. Just exhausting, really.

There was also this idea that Susie’s emotional abuse was something to put up with when really it just made me think of her as a bitch later evolved into a…well, not the most flattering of words. Let’s just say she became like a “mewling quim”. I hated her character and groaned every time she came on board. Her and Carrie’s reconciliation was not discussed explicitly which I would have liked because maybe I was being too harsh on her and despising her greatly, again this notion that because she was hurt she had the right to emotionally abuse her cousin was horrible, horrendous and a dangerous ideal, and I would have appreciated understanding more from her perspective and seeing why and how Carrie could forgive her. Carrie was far more forgiving and understanding than I would have been and really, really needed a DEAR MAN in her life. It was super frustrating and I almost quit the book entirely because of Susie’s bitterness, refusal to handle her emotions in an appropriate and healthy manner because she was hurt and hurting and that still gave her no right to be a bitch towards her loved ones. Ugh. Fuck Susie.

Manipulation by the family was painted in a “oh, that’s just them/that’s so cute” which was really dismaying and awful. It was like toxic positivity. It was super frustrating and definitely NOT something that even because it’s family is something you have to put up with. Ugh, no.

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I think the novel could have worked with fancier page breaks than just simple spacings but maybe that’s just me. I also found the notion of all this manipulation and meddling as endearing was missing the mark in this book and it is a theme in some of the other novels I’ve read by Sherryl Woods but for this one it really rubbed me the wrong way and made the experience bitter and I really, really almost quit for real (but I can’t fathom not giving a book a chance so I’ll continue no matter how much I hate it!!).

On p. 146: We are introduced to the idea that a happy and fulfilling life is mainly one where a person has a love interest and isn’t alone (and down the line has a family of children and kids of their own). I’m honestly not sure how I feel about this exactly because I don’t know if it’s a good idea to paint the notion that romantic relationships and families are the only sound ways to live a happy and fulfilling life. Like, why can’t independence and “being alone” be okay, too? It’s just never really explored and I think it’s a little exclusive to only certain types of people that have to share those points of view and understanding about the world. To me, it’s like traveling the world. Some people where that’s integral to that part of their life love it and can’t imagine life without it and at the same time, will think a life without that is boring or not as complete. I personally am content with where I’m at and don’t feel the need to have to travel. And sometimes that perspective is painted as ordinary or not as good as traveling or having the family or having a partner, etc. Also, I don’t know if Woods ever writes about non-straight couples because I’d be very interested to read about that than just the traditional family views. But, maybe that’s just me!! ๐Ÿ˜›

Aaaa, yes, by page 155 we really live in the age and the thirst for meddling by the family and it’s painted as endearing when in reality it’s manipulative, overstepping boundaries and is super frustrating at least from my perspective of being the Reader in this novel. ๐Ÿ˜ค๐Ÿคฌ This continues on p. 156 where it’s explicitly said that the meddling is typical and expected even though it’s not wanted. And when in reality it’s not something that has to be put up with just because “it’s family.”

Another thing I found super frustrating was Carrie’s lack of self respect and voicing her concerns about things or effectively managing her interpersonal relationships (sticking up for herself, saying what’s on her mind, saying what she’s comfortable or uncomfortable with, being true to herself and where she’s at, expecting people to “just know” rather than telling them) etc. She totally could use some help with DBT skills like DEAR MAN, GIVE and FAST. It was super aggravating.

Susie, (I hate to gripe on her more but…), had a problem with being manipulative and then playing the victim when things didn’t go her way or her ruthlessness was met with a broken record from Carrie and Carrie trying to keep her distance from her melting over cousin. Susie particularly shone like this on pages 276 – 277 and probably a little more beyond that. It was so annoying. Around this page I also felt that Carrie had an advantage because she knew more context about her cousin Susie than I did as a Reader. So I had all these mixed feelings about things but was still strong in my dislike for Carrie’s cousin. I still felt resentful on behalf of Carrie. We never get a full on scene of the apology which I would have benefited from greatly had there been one so that was additionally disappointing. I would have liked to read that. I think it would have helped to repair my relationship with Susie and understand where she was coming from instead of just glossing over that and having Carrie move on and forgive so easily and what seemed to be as unjustifiably. On p. 278 Carrie does in fact forgive and says to forget what Susie had said but really, I don’t. I still don’t think being hurt and in pain gave Susie the right to be abusive towards her family, especially when they had very little to do with it. Her lashing out at her cousin just wasn’t it. I hated how much the novel revolved around her and her drama rather than some ooey gooey romance stuff. Grrr.

I also think that not so much “hitting girls” is wrong, but just hitting anyone in general, regardless of their gender or gender identity is something we should be more strict about. Like, hitting a girl isn’t great but a girl hitting a boy or a boy hitting a boy, etc. also shouldn’t be condoned as okay or right, you know? It’s not like boys can’t be abused or assaulted too, and this notion that they can’t or it’s not on people’s minds first off is something we have to work on in society. (This comes up on p. 317).

What really helped me most towards all this hatred and despised nature I had towards Susie was actually in real life Mandy Harvey’s music, in particular her two songs: “Try” and “This Time“. These two songs really got me through my anger and my intense emotions as I grappled with the nature of this novel and all the feelings it brought up. They just diffused the situation right away and I could listen to them on repeat while I read and it gave me a chance to take a deep breath and just let it go as I continued onward. I am glad that I managed to finish this book, even if it was a hurricane of a time, but apparently I still managed to remember quite a bit of it as I did the review process, so, that at least was nice. Yeah, just, ranting and raving about this book and being so upset by it was tough but it’s over now and once this publishes, I can really wipe my hands clean. And I’m ready for that. I’m excited for that. It’s what I wanted all along. ๐Ÿ’š๐Ÿ’š๐Ÿ’š Peace, at last.


Book Length:

379 pages


Recommendation Score:

2/5

Dramatic stories

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What Kept Me Reading & the Book’s Impact on Me:

Definitely my intense levels of being stubborn kept me reading this book. I refuse, no matter how good or how bad a book is, to give up on it half-way through. Not only have I become invested with my time, my attention span, my mind and my craft, but I refuse to let the book make or break me. By that point, I want to see it through all the way. I can’t fathom giving up and not giving it a chance. I hold onto hope that it gets better and when it doesn’t, it doesn’t, but a lot more of the time it DOES. The satisfaction I can feel and the fulfillment that I got through it, no matter what, is something I want to give back to myself at the very end. The moment I can shut the book and sigh and then just plow through its review is immense and such a relief (even if more of the time I’ve written up reviews that I have yet to publish. It’s… a work in progress). And again, a lot of the time I will like a book, then dislike it for a bit (usually because I’m not reading it or not able to focus well enough for it) and then by the end I have liked it again. I usually have so much to say about the books I read that it’s only mandatory that I write a review of it.

For this book, again, I managed to remember quite a bit of what happened in it so I’m proud of that and I’m so happy to be letting it go again soon. My plan is to return this book and TAoCL tomorrow at the library so I can finally let go and say goodbye. It is so nice to be able to do that. To stick with something no matter how good or bad it is and know that you did everything you could to get through it and in the end, whether it was a happy or a doubtful experience, it’s done and it’s over and you gotta move on to the next one. For this book, I’m glad it’s over, I hope I never hear of another Susie again in a Woods novel and I can’t wait to uncover some of my other Woods books from the libraries that I’ve loaned them from. For now, I think I will settle on a psychological thriller I’ve had in my possession for over a year, haha.


Noteworthy Quotes:

  1. “Everybody has problems. Some are worse than others, but that doesn’t mean they don’t matter to the people trying to get through them” — Woods, 2015, p. 31

2. “He’d vowed not to show any sign of weakness in front of his nephew. Bobby needed to believe in [Sam]” — Woods, 2015, p. 43

I think it’s pretty arguable that emotions and grief are not weaknesses and instead showing them is a sign of immense strength.

3. “‘[Carrie to her Grandpa Mick] You mean I’m letting you down yet again…. Sorry, I guess I’m just destined to be a huge failure in your eyes'” — p. 217

Honestly in this exchange, Grandpa Mick was a total asshole and the hurt and pain in Carrie’s body language and words was SO palpable. It also hugely reminded me of Loki in the MCU and just in my fanfics as well. It was so rough. It definitely also reminded me of his relationship with his not-father Odin, too. It also made me think how much Loki, as well as Carrie, needed to verbalize their pain more. ๐Ÿ’”๐Ÿ’”๐Ÿ’”

4. “[Sam to Carrie] ‘I’ve already made mistakes.’ [Carrie] ‘Find me one human being who hasn’t. Or one parent who hasn’t made a boatload of them…. Mistakes are part of life. It’s what you do to fix things that really matters'” — p. 266

I thought this was just SO beautiful and really captures the romance which was what I was here for. I’m so annoyed that Susie and the other drama was the main focus of the novel and not just nurturing and blossoming this love interest. If it had been, I would have rated it a lot higher and it would have been a far more pleasant experience. Instead I just despised Susie and hated her so much.

5. “‘You can’t fix this,’ Bobby said to Sam, clearly resigned to suffering alone. His attitude made Sam want to cry. No six year old should be feeling this defeated. ‘Fix what? Maybe I can’t, but you have to tell me so I can at least try'” — p. 290

I really loved this scene and thought it was so poignant and something I have to try out at work some time!! The notion of this tactic to be honest and yet problem solving is so huge and something any kiddo struggling needs to hear. ๐Ÿ’”๐Ÿ–ค๐Ÿ–ค

6. “As Sam’s sister had told him [in her letter], it was time for him to start running toward something, rather than away from it. People who loved deeply got hurt. They suffered terrible losses. It was unavoidable. But loving deeply was the only way to truly live” — p. 372

Again, I’m not entirely sure how much I agree with this statement. In some ways, yes, I can understand it, but I’ve also not been a person who has had a long lasting or much of a lasting romantic relationship and I don’t have plans to have a family of children one day with a partner so I don’t know how much I can relate to or agree with it. I think being alone can be okay and not wanting traditional values is also okay. I feel like saying it’s the ONLY way to live a happy life is a bit insensitive and not all that inclusive. I think there are multiple ways to live a fulfilling and happy and healthy life beyond just having a partner (especially in a straight, heterosexual world only) and having kids and a family. I guess my avoidance patterns of behavior is blocking me from exploring this so much right now, especially since there’s a worldwide pandemic happening and I can’t exactly meet up with people for romance, let alone just my friends. It’s something I’ll have to explore one day but not for now. I do suppose it’s that notion of “to love at all is worth it even if you’re not loved back”. Hmm. I’ll have to mull this one over more.

There’s the additional quote later on where Sam says he’s ready for love to win over fear–I’m definitely not there yet in my life. Fear still trumps a lot in my life so maybe one day when I’m freer I can experience more of these benefits of life. I think I’ve gotten very used to being “on my own” or not having the backup of an emotional relationship like romance and so I’m more attuned to self-sustaining behaviors and ideals rather than opening myself up to putting someone else’s needs besides my own first. I guess I’m just in a different place than most.


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Wandering Thoughts I had while reading/Extra Notes:

    • p. 154: Equivocal and vocalized are nice words
    • p. 165: That’s definitely NOT what a threesome means and why does Carrie have to change because of someone else’s opinion of her and her influence in the setting with Sam and Bobby? I don’t think that’s particularly necessary and maybe something she should be more critical of and wary against
    • p. 167: I don’t understand why Carrie cares so much about what other people think. She takes the notion that Bobby may be attaching to her in an unhealthy way as fact when really it’s because she is nervous about falling in love with Sam and can’t separate the fact that other people’s opinions are just opinions and not something she has to change for her own sanity. I think she used the opportunity as an excuse to not get close to Sam or Bobby further until she could figure out what her intentions were and where she would be going with them. Which, was too bad at the time.
    • p. 168: Shows a good indication of manipulation with good intentions where Sam wants Carrie to stay with him for the evening keep him company with food and wine. Carrie is conflicted and definitely sending him mixed signals so this is annoying in one part and also an indication that Carrie needs to pick a side and stick with it. She struggles with this though and being clear about her intentions and what she wants and doesn’t want and is easily influenced by others. ๐Ÿ™„
    • p. 174: There is not a capital letter after a dialogue exclamation which I found interesting and will try to remember when I use similar wording/typography in my own work (my grammar/technical writing has become so awful since being out of school). “For example!” she muttered.
    • p. 185: Reminded me that I should (as of Sept. 2020) work on my fanfics and my memoir! I’m at a mixed state with this. I haven’t touched my memoir in months and I’m working in and out of different fanfics and a new creative writing endeavor I’m on at the moment of writing this review (Feb. 2021).
    • p. 216: There’s this notion with Susie and Carrie that taking care of other people’s children will never fully replace their need for having one of their own. For me, I find that it fills that pretty well (but I also don’t want children myself) and having the work I do gives me my fill of children and allows me to be able to go home and do what I normally would be doing without being bogged down with other matters. (Also it freaks me out that you don’t know what kind of human you could be creating and what if they become like a serial killer or a horrible person? I don’t want to get murdered. And it’s such a lifelong endeavor. Meh, not for me. I can have pets sure but I’m not all that inclined to have to have children.)ย 
    • p. 237: In regards to Carrie and Susie’s now estranged and strained relationship, I would NOT be as quick as Carrie to forgive her cousin because no matter how much pain she is in (Susie) that gives her NO right to be cruel and emotionless towards her family members (or even strangers!). I just wouldn’t forgive her right away and wouldn’t want to be around her for a while. Susie was being SUCH a bitch. That doesn’t give her an excuse just because she was hurting. On top of that, Carrie needs to confront the issue and practice a DEAR MAN and also not be alone with her thoughts.
    • p. 308: There’s a nice “rise and fall” of chest reference here which made me go (โ—’โ—ก’โ—) because of the innerworkings of being a cardiophile. ๐Ÿ˜™๐Ÿค—๐Ÿคฉ
    • By p. 320 I was feeling exhausted and annoyed that the book felt far more like 90% drama and 10% romance. This constant back and forth between Sam and Carrie was just so ugh, eye roll worthy. Every time they made some progress, something else would slide back against them. And it wasn’t like there was a lot of pages left for the novel so it definitely ended prematurely and without having a saturated amount of romance throughout. It was definitely a bust for me. Which sucked. I’d invested so much into a story that just didn’t have a significant payoff. Surprisingly though, I still remember a good chunk of it so that helped in part of making this review–hooray, I suppose?
    • p. 363: I noted that about 85% of the time I didn’t understand why Carrie was mad ๐Ÿ˜‚
    • p. 379: The very end of this novel ends on a super existential awareness point of view that I honestly could have happily gone without. It ends with Mick’s perspective and was just too real, too soon, too much and immensely depressing and sad while also layered with a sense of hope, lingering feelings, family and love. It was a whirlwind for sure. It was also a bit horrifying. And just very surreal to think of life and the end of life and all of that jazz. ๐Ÿ˜จ๐Ÿ˜ญ๐Ÿคช

Dates I read this book:

4.5.2020, 4.7, 4.8, 6.18, 9.17, 9.18, 9.21, 9.29, 9.30, 10.1, 10.4, 10.5, 10.8, 10.9.2020


Dates I wrote this review:

10/12/20, 2.22.2021, 2.25.21

Any background music: “This Time” by Mandy Harvey, ambient nature sounds, a mix of songs including Demi Lovato, Shawn Mendes etc.


Thank you:

Annnnnnnnd so, we have made it to the end of this review!! This was more of a traditional book review for me and I surprisingly did not have a super lot to say regarding quotes and I originally had it set with this thumb above so I didn’t feel the need to make it into more of a “Book Exploration Station” post. So, you’re welcome for that! It was still about 4,800 words but by far simpler and not as intense and complicated as my latest TAoCL review/BES. So for now, I’m going to go to a support group and I’m gonna have dinner, take my meds, read a book and begin another review so that I can drop off books tomorrow to their respective libraries. Thank you so much for stopping by and reading!! Feel free to share this post across social media and let me know what you thought! I’m planning to get back into the blogosphere very soon. For now, I also have some print-outs for work I have to manage and some watered down versions of my fanfics for a kiddo at work I’m sharing with. As well as that creative writing story I am working on with them since this past week and on towards Sunday as well.

Thank you so much and I’ll see you again soon.

PS I really need to work on videos too, ooof. It’s a process. I’ll try to soon.

All the best, my friends.

xxx ๐Ÿค๐Ÿค๐Ÿค