Hi friends ~

Today would have been my mom’s 76th birthday.

I’m home for a couple of weeks in Madison, and then I’m back to El Paso, this time with my husband. I’m hoping to get a bit more done on the house, and to do a little socializing with friends I’ve known for over half my life. It’s about time they met Matt, right?

It has been a rather brutal year. Not only did I lose my Mom in September, I also probably lost one of my oldest, dearest friends. He didn’t die. Instead, his partner verbally attacked me when I was staying in their home, after he’d said a number of racist things (I consider them racist. He apparently considered them either “common knowledge” or “politically incorrect things to say, even though everyone knows they’re true”) and I expressed some shock and, umm, outrage. Isn’t that what you’re supposed to do when someone says something racist to you? I thought so.  Apparently not, though, since they threw me out of their NYC townhouse and sent me home like a recalcitrant five year old.

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I turned 50 this year. I wrote my 500th Kirkus review. I lost my mother and one of my oldest, dearest friends. I had a lot of plans that didn’t come to fruition because there’s a lot of grief involved in both of those events. Also a lot of astonishment, bewilderment and some betrayal.

A year ago I was in El Paso celebrating my mom’s birthday. She had a big party and was surrounded by tons of people she loved and who loved her. It’s especially poignant today, knowing that she didn’t see another birthday.

In an odd coincidence, my friend was also in town and he stopped by my mom’s party. Neither of us had been in El Paso for decades, and driving around town together was a huge trip down Memory Lane.

I’m glad we had that time together. I doubt we’ll ever be close again since I’m not sure how we get back from that horrible episode, especially since we feel so differently about what happened.

It gives me a sick, hollow feeling in my stomach to think that from now on, I won’t have either my mom or this person I considered one of my best friends. We’ve been friends since I was 12. It makes me sad that he doesn’t feel I’m worth fighting for, but it also makes me sad that he feels that what happened was justified. If my husband ever treated one of my friends the way his partner treated me, I’d be angry at my husband, not my friend. But I guess that’s just another indicator of how we feel about our friends and how we feel about our partners.

So it’s been a banner year, hasn’t it? For the good and the bad, I guess. Turning fifty is supposed to give us perspective, and I sure have a lot to reflect on. 

In the last few days of November—before we hit the manic pace of December and the full force of the holiday season; when my focus is usually on gratitude, while this year it’s been full of grief and loss—I’m going to count some blessings.

I’m grateful, so very grateful, for my husband, who is always there for me, even in the midst of chaos—and after nearly 25 years of chaos, we’ve had our fair share of chaos;

I’m thankful for the friends through the years whom I've been able to disagree with and managed to come out the other side, still friends;

I’m grateful for romance novels and women’s fiction novels that so often start out with someone losing everything, and then bouncing back, better than ever, through optimism, determination, wit and grit, and often with the help of friends, old or new;

I’m grateful for my sister, who has been my partner on this painful journey of the loss of our mother and in facing an odd combination of grace and vitriol that we’ve dealt with from her family;

I am so thankful for the community of friends in El Paso who, through love of my mom, or love of my sister and me, came together to celebrate her life; to help us go through her lifetime of things and memories; and were simply there for us, in a variety of ways;

I am not thankful I lost my mom, but I’m thankful she died quickly, without suffering through a painful and horrific cancer until the end.

And I’m thankful that I have the opportunity to read, discuss and advocate for books I love.

Here are some you may enjoy and that I’ve recently been very grateful for:

The Hollow of Fear As you know, I will read Sherry Thomas’ grocery list. I finally got an audio copy of her latest Lady Sherlock title, THE HOLLOW OF FEAR, and it was fabulous (of course). If you haven’t read the first two, though, I’d recommend getting them in order. Kirkus gave it a star review (here) and called it, “A novel in which you cannot wait to find out what happens next—even as you do not want it to end. For everyone who wants their mysteries spiced with plentiful twists and a delicious dose of sexual chemistry.”

If you’re a fan of Amanda Bouchet’s Kingmaker Chronicles series, then you may want to check out NIGHTCHASER, a huge departure from the historical fantasy world she started in. The genre is sci-fi, complete with wormholes, space ships and a galactic overlord, but if you’re not a typical sci-fi fan, don’t let that stop you. I think I saw the book described somewhere as Star Wars meets Robin Hood, and that’s a fun description. It’s so good—a great combination of romance and adventure that just happens to be set in a space setting. 

Nightchaser Bouchet is clearly on the fast track to romance stardom, and her versatility is just one of many strengths. (Releases 1/1/19.) Kirkus said “Bouchet’s masterful writing and storytelling meet science-fiction romance, in hyperdrive” and gave it a star too (here) in a review that starts with “A space rebel with a price on her head discovers she may have the power to alter the balance of power in a galactic struggle—just as she’s falling for a sexy trader with dangerous secrets of his own.”

(Want to read a cute contemporary short serial set in Paris? Check out Love At First Baguette, a free read on Bouchet’s website.)

I am really enjoying (my friend) Alex Bledsoe’s Tufa series, and just finished LONG BLACK CURL, Book #3. It didn’t get a Kirkus review, but Book #1—THE HUM AND THE SHIVER and Book 2—WISP OF A THING, received stars. This one sees the series getting a little grittier, but also more fascinating.

Bravo, Alex!

What are you reading? How is your life going? 

I’m looking forward to the holidays, and spending time with childhood friends to whom I gave cat calendars when I was twelve….

I’ve said good-bye to some extremely important people in my life this year, but I’ve reconnected to a number of others, too, and look forward to exploring what 2019 has in store.

#GratefulForGreatReads #HappyReading