Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Twenty-two Years

Today is a very difficult anniversary for my family. It's a day we experienced a double-dose of loss over the years. And so, finding the words isn't always easy.

I've tried before. Shared my January Reflections. Repeatedly.

But tonight, before I tuck myself and my kiddo into bed, I'll be borrowing some that I used last year, and yes, admittedly, a few from the year before and adding a bit to them as I continue to grow in my grief.

My grandmother left us 22 years ago today. Twenty-two years. How is that even possible?

It's a lifetime. And yet, I had barely lived so much of my own life. Barely seen the world. Barely knew what the future would hold.

But I knew love.

I knew love because my family showed it to me. Showed me heart. Showed me just how important connection was and would always be. Showed me how to take care of those I loved. How to show up. How to be there, even when they barely knew we were. And how to hold on. My father was the strongest example of this you'd ever see.

I remember the second I found out she was gone. Remember it like it was moments ago. Losing someone who loved you with their entire heart - unconditionally - is a loss like no other.

Since that day my family has experienced more loss. More pain. More sadness. And my only solace is that they're together again. My father, his parents, his sister. A family unit that traveled the world to create a new life for themselves. A life unlike what they would have experienced had they stayed. A life that led to my own. Such a blessing that they made that trek. Such history there that I hold onto - even when some of the pieces are missing.

I love and miss them so. Parts of my incredible family together again. And me, us, their loved ones ... here, carrying them in our hearts always. I hope they are listening, on this beautiful and peaceful snowy day, and that they hear me as I whisper softly to them ... I love you.

If you'd like to find out more about my grandmother, I'd love if you'd head over to this post I wrote oh-so-many-years-ago: What I Remember.

And if you have a family member you've lost and would like to take a moment to honor and recognize, I hope you'll do just that in the comments. Say their name. Let me know who they are to you. Let me share in your memories and moments, as you have here in mine.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

The Best Fiction Books of 2017

reading, books, goodreads, fiction, novels, 2017 books, I recommend, favorite books, amreading,

This was not a big year for me when it comes to the total of books I read.

I normally try to set a goal of 100. I've been close once or twice over the years. I started my list-keeping in 2010.

This page isn't promoted on the front of my blog anymore because I rarely update it throughout the year, but if you'd like to see the titles of the books I've read from 2010-2017? You can find them here:


But in more recent years I have started documenting my favorite reads of each year, and so, this year - despite my falling short of even 40 titles - will be no exception. This list includes my favorite reads of the past year, but they're not in any actual order of expressed love. You can't go wrong, whichever you choose.

My Favorite Books of 2017 

Not only is it one of my favorite 2017 books, but The Hate U Give is one of the best Young Adult novels I have ever read. 

Angie Thomas knocked it out of the park with this one. A story that could have all too easily come out of today's headlines - Thomas wrote of a young girl who watches a friend get gunned down for no reason at all. The feeling that she must keep quiet. The work it takes to hide the truth from her friends from school. The fear and the flashbacks. Starr lives in two worlds and is unsure of how to create an overlap where she and those she love can feel safe. Torn between a need to hide the truth from so many people, and the desire to raise her voice above the crowds, this 16-year-old girl is living a nightmare one cannot begin to imagine. But Thomas has enabled us to do just that. If you pick up one young adult book in your lifetime? Let it be this one. 

In This Is How It Always Is, Laurie Frankel has given us Claude, a 5-year-old boy who says that he wants to be a girl when he grows up. Claude loves wearing dresses and dreams of being a princess. Claude becomes the center of the family for a bit - which is, of course, the point of the story. Watching the parent characters come to terms with their child's needs, and watching them learn and grow and support Claude and their siblings, there is so so much to take in.

This book is such a powerful read, to the point where I think everyone should read it. I can't explain with enough words as to why I think this - I just do. And that lack of ability to explain it further is exactly why I have not written a review for the book on its own. It's just that good. I have tried to pull all of the thoughts I have about it into a full post but I'm just not doing Frankel's work justice. So. Go get a copy of This Is How It Always Is. Now.

I'd never read any of Pam Jenoff's books before reading The Orphan's Tale. I knew of her, I knew she wrote incredible historical fiction, and I knew I needed to read her work. So. The Orphan's Tale is where I began. 

Set in a traveling circus in Nazi Germany (yes, I know, I thought the same thing you're thinking now), we watch as the two primary female characters find their lives intertwined in such a way that we feel each emotion and we sense each fear. 

In today's world I find myself drawn into stories that reflect on a time when people of certain races or religions were persecuted for being who they were. I compare and contrast, this way of life, to the way we live today and what the future just might hold for us all. Such a powerful story. 

For more information, read my full review of The Orphan's Tale.

Let's put this out there right away. If you know me, you know I don't really do trilogies or any sorts of book series reads. And yet. Here I am. Not only recommending Kerry Lonsdale's second book - but chomping at the bits to get my hands on book three, Everything We Give, which comes out in July.

Part two of this series gave us more detail on how James has lived his life over recent years, and who he recognizes as family. We also walk through his memories of his life before the revelation at the end of book one. Honestly, I'm having some difficulties here as I'm trying not to give too much away in case you haven't yet read Everything We Keep. By the way, you can get all three books through Kindle Unlimited and read them for free. So - if you haven't yet? Get to it. It's worth it. 

And if you have read book one? Get book two, friends. I mean, Everything We Left Behind brings Aimee back and we get to learn more about her relationship with James, what happened with his brother and his 'cousin' and all the Donato family secrets. 

Everything You Want Me To Be was one of the best thrillers I read over the past year. And as anyone can guess, I've read a good few. but this one - it stuck with me in a way like none of the others. 

This isn't the first time I have included the book on one of my lists. It's on my Must Read Psychological Thrillers list. And it's on my 12 Books To Read in Early 2017 list, too.

Hattie is a young girl we only get to know after she's gone. But the unraveling of her life, her relationships, and, ultimately, her death draw us in until we think we know what happened and then realize we - like the people in her life - may not really know Hattie at all. This book put Mejia on my radar and I can't wait to see what she comes out with next. 

For details on books I recommend:

2017 Releases You Need To Read

The Best Books I Read in 2016

Ten of My Favorite Reads in 2015

Must Read Psychological Thrillers

Some more amazing novels I read over 2017 can be found on these bookshelves:

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Motherhood Is ...

love, parenting, single mom, solomom, coparenting, divorce, motherhood, mom, daughter, mom and daughter, family

Good morning, y'all.

It's barely 7:30 and I'm ready for a nap.

My morning was, for lack of a better and more gentle word, interesting.

My morning was motherhood.

And if you're not this mom you may be wondering - what exactly does she mean?

Allow me to share this morning's definition of motherhood with you.

Motherhood is ...

Oversleeping despite setting about 8-10 alarms for yourself.

Waking up to Justin Bieber's voice because you haven't figured out why the other songs on your phone won't show up when you set an alarm. [That's just a sidebar, really, but come on. I'm tired of the Biebs.]

Running throughout the house wondering why your child no longer has socks or underwear in mass quantities despite knowing you've purchased enough to suit a small army.

Motherhood is ...

Being reminded about the science fair about twenty minutes before school starts, although you've asked the question as many as five times since the robocall 'informed' you about it.

Trying to figure out who the school Girls on the Run coordinator is because your child told you last night and it's a name you've never heard in all six years at the same school.

Motherhood is ...

Watching your child in the most perfect cozy white snuggly hoodie as she drops blue food coloring into the canola oil - or some kind of oil - you thought was open but she just opened as you held your breath. 

Insisting that your child have to go to school without said combination because the rush and instant desire left you with a blob-filled container of blue oil and water. Sort of. 

Motherhood is ...

Explaining much of this to your child's father as he waits, patiently, outside to take her to school.

Actually believing you can make it work for your child to participate in Girls on the Run while immediately Ubering or Lyfting her to karate right after. Twice a week. Maybe.

Motherhood is ...

Pouring yourself a glass of apple cider (non-alcoholic) on top of the rest of your child's cider, only to realize halfway through that she *may* have poured some random water into that cup before trying a last minute science fair project with about three minutes to go before walking out the door. 

Motherhood is ...

Finishing that apple cider anyway, because the thought of more dishes, glasses, cups and whatnot is too much to bear. 

Motherhood is ...

A heartbeat that won't slow down, even twenty minutes after that amazing child of yours has left the house. (Deep breaths.)

Motherhood is ...

The best and the worst of everything rolled into one.

Motherhood is ...

All of it. 

Motherhood is ...

Lots of laughter. But also hoping to avoid tears. 

Motherhood is ...

Nighttime snuggles and reminders that change is difficult and emotional but okay all at the same time. 

Motherhood is ...

Reassurances that memories come with you wherever you go.

Motherhood is ...

Chaotic and anxiety-producing.

And yet.

I wouldn't change a thing. 

* Except I'd really try and never sleep through those alarms. Because I like having a moment to breathe with my kid in the morning. *

Motherhood is my heart outside my body.

Motherhood is love. 

Friday, January 5, 2018

I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter

Last year was a bit of a bumpy year for me, personally. I've been through a lot and found myself off-track with reading and writing book reviews.

For 2018 I'm going to be more actively sharing what I've read - and I am going to try to do some more reviews for you. Some will be shorter, where I summarize why I loved the book, or didn't love it quite as much as I had hoped. Others will be longer and more detailed. Some will be sponsored, which only means I received a free copy of the book from the author or publisher or PR/book tour company - NOT that I was paid for reading/reviewing the book itself. And others will be books I've bought on my own, or had on my shelves or Kindle for a hot minute or a long while.

I will include affiliate links to enable you to click over to Amazon right away and buy the book if you're interested. I will always disclose this information to you.

So, welcome to Good Girl Gone Redneck's book chatter for 2018. And if you'd like to join me in discussing books and receive info on great book deals and steals, join me on Facebook in my reading group: I Like Big Books - hope to see you there!

I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter was a wonderful read. I enjoyed the main character of Julia and could relate to her - despite her mostly teenage angst! Her awkwardness and her friendships, and her first love - or - love? - were beautiful to watch unfold.

The story itself held the strength of family relationships and showed much of the family's culture, whether in parenting, celebrating, or in grief. Julia's relationships with each of her parents were both, powerful, and frustrating. And in the end (no spoilers!) we were able to learn more about why they were the way they were.

The inclusion of the extended family throughout the novel reminded me of my own youth - and how family was always way more than just the immediate connection of me, my sibling and my parents, but extended far beyond. This reminder shows just how many cultures truly are more alike than we see at first glance.

Sánchez has written a book I'll recommend to friends and family, and to those with teens who are ready for mature content.

I don't usually rate books that I read, because it takes a lot to get a 5-star review from me - and 4-star is pretty close to perfect, so I never want to hurt an author's feelings or discourage anyone from reading the book. But I'm trying to be better at that this year!

Overall? I suggest that you go get yourself a copy of I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter. (Or other Young Adult reads I recommend - as seen below!) You'll love it.


Sunday, December 31, 2017

A Brand New Year

new year, divorce, relationships, parenting, change, single mother, single mom, solomom,

I'm sitting on my couch with my daughter.

She is playing a video game.

I'm on the computer.

That last part is obvious - no?

This really isn't that much different than last year.

My daughter and I welcomed in 2017 with her asleep on the couch. I even recorded the moment the year changed on Snapchat and their year in review popped up with a reminder that made me giggle.

She fell asleep and just missed it. This year she is determined to stay awake.


That's different.

We've got a new cat we're snuggling with.

We had a new one last year, too.

Last year we had two dogs, this year we had to say goodbye to one.

July ended with lots of weeping and sadness.

We knew it was coming - but couldn't prepare for it - how can you prepare to say goodbye to such an unconditional love?

It broke our hearts.

We miss him terribly.

I especially felt it Christmas week, when I was home, alone, as last year - but with one dog instead of two. Last Christmas I stayed home from Florida so I could take care of the old man pup.

I was also sick - battling a cold - and it was good timing, I suppose.

This year was different.

It was my very first Christmas Eve and Christmas morning without my daughter.

But then. It's been my very first many things this year.


What a f*cking year.

2016 held so much loss. Pain. Heartache.

And yet, up until the end there - it held hope.

2017 held all of the pain and all of the heartache and none of the hope.

Not personally and not professionally and not in any worldly way whatsoever.

And so.

Here we sit.

Ready to welcome in the new year.

I'll have some final moments, final days, in early 2018.

The countdown will finally be over.

I'll be someone I never thought I'd end up having to be.

But - as always - I will still be me.

So much more to say. So many words, swallowed, held back - written and unpublished.

Perhaps someday they'll be seen in the light.

But as I welcome in a brand new year - I think to myself - maybe there are things I should say.

So so many things.

And then I ask myself - is it worth it? Will anybody care?

Not you. I know you care. I know you're here and have been reading and listening.

You've been here all along.

For that, I thank you.

But others out there. Would they care?

And so, for the time being - I wait. Hold my words.

Share different ones.

And welcome in the new year with an open heart.

For there is so much more to come.

And so much more to figure out.

And so.

I sit on the couch with my daughter.

And soon we'll welcome in a brand new year.

Happy New Year, friends.

May it be full of love and character, joy and laughter, healing and full hearts.

2018, I'm comin' for ya. I hope you're ready.