Wellness Wednesday – A New Personal Milestone!

Note: This post was pre-drafted before Jason got sick and my family entered full-on quarantine.

Last Thursday, I looked at the weather and saw that soon, San Antonio would be sitting in a multi-week rain cloud. I hadn’t run in days – in fact, I hadn’t exercised much in days. My body desperately needed to MOVE. Looking at the possibility of being flooded out for weeks, I threw on my running clothes and headed out to the park.

My next scheduled run for the Couch to 5K program was Week 5, Day 1, which consisted of three five-minute runs with three-minute walking breaks between them. For anyone who has done C25K in the past, you might recognize the dreaded Week 5. From Day 1’s fairly innocuous pattern, you jump to two eight-minute runs on Day 2 (a reasonable increase), to a frickin’ twenty minute nonstop run on Day 3. From my own personal history and the stories I’ve heard from many others trying to attempt this program, this last day of Week 5 is where folks often fall apart. Twenty minutes is a LONG time to run nonstop, especially when the longest you’ve done previously is eight minutes, and for most of the program, it’s been five minutes max. It’s a really huge jump and a valid reason to struggle. It’s also extraordinarily intimidating.

When I finished Week 4, I felt good. In fact, I felt so good that I no longer felt intimidated by Week 5. I’ve been doing this program in a way that kept me running slow, steady, and gentle. I’ve focused on keeping my breath calm and my heart rate down. There’ll be the occasional day when I feel like pushing hard, and as long as I can do that without hurting myself, I don’t mind doing so. But mostly, I’ve tried to run in a way that doesn’t make me feel like I’m dying by the time my program says, “Walk!” And I felt like I could do that nonstop twenty minutes. It might not be fun, but I could do it.

So when I went out to the park last Thursday, I decided to skip Days 1 and 2 of Week 5. Day 3 is the intimidating one, the big hurdle, and I wasn’t going to let weeks of rain delay me facing it. I put in my headphones, turned on my music, and hit Go.

Five minutes of warm-up walk later, and I was off.

My pace was very slow. Later, when I looked at RunKeeper, I found that I held a pretty steady pace of 3.6 mph, or a 16:40/mi. For the entire twenty minutes. Because I did it. I jumped over that hurdle and left it behind me. And you know what? I was okay. I felt okay. When the program told me that I was halfway through, I was surprised, because I’d estimated that only about seven minutes had passed. When I was told that I had one minute left, I had enough gas left in the tank to speed up to a (slightly) faster pace for that last bit. I felt like I could have held up that pace for a lot longer than twenty minutes, and that’s HUGE. It’s like coming over the mountain – the rest is downhill from here.

During my twenty-minute run, I achieved three major milestones. First, it was the longest time I’ve run nonstop since 2014 (back when I was 75-80 lbs lighter and had been running regularly for three years!). Second, it was the furthest distance I’ve run nonstop since then as well. Third, and my favorite: I’ve run a full mile several times since last September, but it’s always been on a route that’s 2/3rds to 3/4ths downhill. In last week’s run, I ran 1.2 miles nonstop on level ground, no slope to help me out at all (which makes a MAJOR difference!). That last milestone was also one of my current running goals. It’s not a mile PR by any stretch of the imagination – downhill means faster without as much effort – but it feels better than a PR. It feels like achievement. It IS achievement. My face afterwards says it all.

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Podcast Review: Real Life Ghost Stories


I’ve mentioned the above Podcast in several posts lately, and figured I should do a longer review because I love it so much. Real Life Ghost Stories is a podcast hosted by Emma and Dan, a couple who seem to both love and fear the paranormal. Each week, they do a movie review followed either by stories gathered from historical accounts, folklore, and various other research tidbits, or user-submitted personal paranormal stories. The podcast is a mix of very creepy tales and lots of humor, giving it the right tone that never goes too far off to one side or the other. I’ve found myself looking over my shoulder and laughing out loud during the same episode. Emma is the perfect storyteller (with, it has to be said, a gorgeous Irish accent). You know how sometimes you listen to an audiobook and the narrator is just awful, and sometimes they’re brilliant and bring the story to life? Emma falls into the brilliant category, and the banter between her and Dan is priceless.

Now, to get a bit into why I, personally, love this podcast, I have to give a little background. Two things are important here.

First, I’ve never, ever in my life been able to enjoy a podcast. I’ve tried so many. I tried nonfiction podcasts on subjects I enjoy (food history, the biology of stress, fitness, writing). I’ve tried fiction-based podcasts like Night Vale. I’ve tried to listen to podcasts that are actually college lectures. I’ve even tried listening to the podcast that my favorite author co-hosts, because I love his stories and I love hearing what he has to say about writing and fiction and all the rest. But nope. I’ve never been able to continue past a few episodes. I don’t like the podcast format, the succinctness of them, the weird mix of conversation and teaching that so many use, etc. I chalked this up as being the same as my dislike of magazines. I don’t read or like the article format and my brain just blanks out after a while when I get bored. So honestly, when I heard about this podcast from Andi at Estella’s Revenge, I doubted I’d enjoy it or listen to more than an episode or two.

So why bother at all, right? Well, this comes down to my second point: I’ve been interested in the paranormal my entire life, partially due to early childhood book selections, partially due to personal experiences. I’ll save said experiences for another post, because otherwise this would go on WAY too long. But Andi’s description of the podcast seemed so ME that I decided to download the first few episodes and give them a try, even if I was pretty sure it wouldn’t work out longterm.

It was Emma’s storytelling that hooked me from the beginning. Y’all know that I’m a HUGE audiobook fan but also very picky about my narrators. Emma is an amazing storyteller. She reads both her own and others’ stories out with perfect timing, pitch, and emphasis, so it’s more like performing the story rather than just reading them aloud. So few people realize how tough that is, and how the best audio narrators are the ones trained in vocal acting. I don’t have a clue what training, if any, Emma has, but she has the talent in this regard.

More than that, though, the podcast has this perfect mixture of story and banter. It’s like listening to a new mini-audiobook with each episode, followed by the sort of discussion that you could see happening at an in-real-life book club or at a fireside sleepover. Dan is the perfect counterpoint in the podcast, bringing in reactions and moving the podcast from story to discussion seamlessly. The banter between the two never feels staged or scripted. It’s awesome.

(photo credit: Facebook RLGS)

Jason tells me that I’m obsessed and he’s probably right. Over the last few weeks, I’ve nearly caught up with all 70+ episodes, and now I’m wondering what I’m going to do in a few days when I’ve finished them all. I keep telling him little stories I’ve heard or things I’ve learned, or things I’ve seen on their instagram/facebook, and he laughs at me each time. He can just keep laughing, though. This podcast is carrying me through all this COVID lockdown and book slump, and it’s giving me reasons to smile, which is a lot to say given the current environment. I’m so happy to have found it. Many thanks to Andi!!

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Sunday Coffee – Just After I Thought I Found a Good Book…

Earlier this week, I saw a preview for a new TV show coming out: Defending Jacob. It featured Michelle Dockery (Mary from Downton Abbey) as the mother, and the story looked interesting. A fourteen-year-old boy is accused of killing a classmate. His parents want to believe he’s innocent and steadfastly defend him, but of course there’s always a doubt in your mind. Beyond that, there’s the reaction of everyone around them – the hoards of press, the court trials, the graffiti on their house, etc. It seemed like a fascinating-if-gruesome psychological story, even better in book form.

The show was based on the book (same title) by William Landay. He’s not an author I was familiar with, and I’d read none of his books before. Confession: I tend to avoid male authors in modern fiction, particularly anything of the literary or thriller areas, because of certain trends that often go through their writing. I’m not anti-male-author or anything like that – in fact, most of my favorite authors are male – but there are particular quirks of writing that I see too frequently, and so gravitate toward non-male authors. (Notably, there are certain quirks of writing I see too often with modern female writers, too, and I tend to avoid those authors or genres that use them frequently. They just happen to appear more in genres I avoid anyway.) Anyway, the story for Defending Jacob was interesting enough that I put myself on the ebook hold at my library.

Friday, the book became available. I downloaded it and began to read. Right away, I was hooked. The story was fascinating. I didn’t really like the frame story back-and-forth – that’s often just not my favorite technique – but it wasn’t too bad. Those male-writing quirks? Definitely all present, unfortunately. The way the narrator described his wife and her friends, the self-indulgent masculinity, the arrogant navel-gazing, etc. But it was a much more subtle version of it than I often see, and the story itself was interesting enough for me to ignore the parts of the writing I disliked. Until I came to this line:

Seriously. “Try as I might to penetrate her, by talking, kissing, stabbing myself into her” – WTF? Was that meant to be clever? Because it feels like it was meant to be clever. Bleagh.

Anyway. I’d actually planned to read past this, but the line was just so bad that I had to share it with Jason and my online book group. Jason didn’t know what book I was reading, looked up the characters, and found Defending Jacob. He read the Wikipedia summary, which of course had the full plot, and was really surprised that I was reading the book. He expressed his surprise, and a warning bell went off in my head. Because that description I gave in the beginning? That’s exactly the kind of book that I’d read, and Jason would know that. Clearly something happens at a point beyond where I’d read that Jason thought I would highly dislike.

He didn’t want to give me any spoilers. I thought about things that might happen in the book that would make me dislike it and want to abandon it at the point I was at. I mentioned those particular things. Turns out, one of those things did indeed happen in the book. So I asked Jason to tell me the entire spoilery plot, and then I read the Wiki article for myself. That confirmed it – I did not want to read the rest of Defending Jacob.

The part that I read – probably around 40-50% – was actually really good if I ignored the writing quirks that drove me crazy and the awful line I highlighted above. The story was good. But I’m glad I had some forewarning, because if I’d read the entire book, I’d have had another really negative review to post here. I think other people might really enjoy this book. The ending just hit on one of my personal dislikes (not just in books, but stories in any form). Everyone has their particular pet peeves in books, and this one hit on mine. So yeah, I’m writing about the book because 1) I’m frustrated that I still haven’t been able to find a book to read and love since early February, and 2) I think other people might really love this book and I thought it deserved blog time despite my abandonment.

Now I’m back to the drawing board. I literally have no books right now (physical or virtual) that I want to read. Even those that I want to read eventually don’t sound appealing at the moment. Quarantine is a really bad time to have a book slump!! Anyone have any good suggestions?

PS – This book takes place in Newton, MA, which is where my family lived in 2014-2015. Both this book and the folks in Newton seemed to feel that Newton was “like a small town,” which just shows that none of those folks have ever lived in an actual small town. Newton was like a giant suburb city with multiple divisions (there were five “towns” with different names inside Newton!) and as much crime as you’d expect in a super-rich, posh area that snubbed their noses at outsiders and anyone they considered beneath them. The romanticism of the area boggles my mind. That place was awful.

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Quarantine Diaries – Week 3

So we enter Week 3 locally just as the US case number surpasses any other countries worldwide, and end the week with triple that number. Yikes. It was a scary week for us personally, too, as both Jason and I got sick. Both illnesses were short-lived and mild. I have no idea if it was corona or not – this is the time of year that so many people get sick with major allergy season and all – but either way it was scary!

To repeat from previous weeks: If your mental health is at a point where you cannot bear to hear more about quarantine stuff, skip to the bottom of this post for a list of positives and highlights and Nice Things. We all need some of that right now!

–Friday, March 27th
Local count: 120, 5 deaths. One of the weirder facets of my anxiety is that it’s relieved by organization, especially data-organization. So on this morning, two weeks into quarantine, I decided to put together a spreadsheet of cases and deaths in my local county. This way I can watch as things progress, and hopefully see a flattening of the curve over time. I don’t know why it calms me to gather this info and follow the progress, but anything that relieves my personal anxiety is okay in my book. Anyway. In local news today, the mayor closed city playgrounds and basketball courts because they were hotspots of people refusing the shelter-at-home order. They want to keep the parks themselves open for people to get exercise, but there are signs up all over the place with social distancing guidelines as well. Our city also began a daily televised live update. I rescheduled my upcoming well-woman and twice-yearly physician exams from April to July/later. No need to go to the doctor’s office for check-up stuff while the Virus is prevalent! The day ended on a positive note, with my first virtual Happy Hour with my hiking group. (photo credit: Lindsey)

–Saturday, March 28th
Local count: 140, 5 deaths. The city website added zip code info to their COVID page, and so far my zip is in an area with 1-4 cases (ie pretty low). This was mostly a good day, spend on Marco Polo with my hiking ladies or on Facetime with Stephanie. It was a very social day even though I didn’t get out at all. On the other hand, Jason began coughing and got short of breath while out at the grocery store, and spent about six hours sleeping in the afternoon. After that, he felt better, but we’re keeping a really close eye on it. We suspect it’s allergies and stress, because Jason’s body reacts to stress with extreme sleeping.

–Sunday, March 29th
Local count: 157, 5 deaths. Unfortunately, Jason started feeling unwell again during the afternoon. He took a self-test for COVID and was told to self-quarantine (100%) for two weeks. That evening, he began to get body aches – not a good sign. Additionally, I developed a mild fever by bedtime. So…not good. Right now, the plan is to shelter at home and try to keep from passing this to the boys. If necessary, we can call in to a nurse line through our insurance for further direction. Hopefully our symptoms will remain mild. But keep our family in your thoughts, please. No matter how often we wash our hands and disinfect the house, it’s difficult to contain an illness when it’s already inside.

–Monday, March 30th
Local count: 168, 6 deaths, 44 recovered. Today was the first day we heard about local recoveries. Additionally, the city began to put a ton more information on their COVID-19 site, which is great. Plus, we got the word that the Olympics will be scheduled for July/Aug 2021. Glad they’re not canceled altogether! On the home front, Jason continued to feel tired today, but was able to work a full day. He slept a few hours after work, and still has no fever. I felt perfectly fine and normal all day, though I did check my temp in the evening and have a mild fever again. Honestly, I wonder if the digital thermometer is a bit faulty. I miss the old mercury thermometers. They were so much more reliable!!

(quarantine cat snuggles)

–Tuesday, March 31st
Local count: 207, 9 deaths, 44 recovered. The governor ordered a statewide shelter-at-home mandate (finally!), and extended school closures through early May. We doubt the boys will go back to school at all this year. I feel so bad for Ambrose, who is missing all those senior year ceremonies and the last few months with his friends. As for health, I woke up in the morning with a weird pain deep in my lungs, like the bottom of my right lung was in some kind of cramp – not like anything I’ve experienced before with bronchitis or other chest infections. I also had a dry cough that I couldn’t shake, even though otherwise I felt just fine. The pain persisted through half the day, then came back in the evening. I also had a weird headache-like feeling in my whole head in the evening, like a painless headache that made everything tender. I’m probably just being hypersensitive, but it definitely feels like I’ve come down with some kind of illness, COVID or not. Hopefully not. But I’d rather be careful. I self-quarantined to my bedroom today and made personals ads for my cats because I was bored out of my mind.

–Wednesday, April 1st
Local count: 229, 9 deaths, 45 recovered. Woke up feeling just fine. So I don’t know. It’s weird and I want all the weird on-and-off symptoms to GO AWAY and leave my anxiety alone. Weird news, though – a semi truck carrying toilet paper bound for San Antonio got in an accident in Dallas and all the toilet paper burned… Otherwise, a pretty routine day, and happily got to participate in a virtual game night via Zoom and Jackbox Games.

–Thursday, April 2nd
Local count: 254, 9 deaths, 47 recovered. Sadly, this does not include the numbers from a major outbreak contained at a nursing home, which will include another 59 cases. All but 11 residents there tested positive, and there’s a high likelihood those 11 will eventually test positive even if removed from the facility. This is a terrible outbreak on a vulnerable population. San Antonio is working to shore up protections for other group facilities. The city leaders have also put out public pleas to religious facilities to voluntarily stay closed even though the Texas governor overruled the city’s mandate (grr!) Things are okay on the home front. I’m pretty sure the symptoms I felt this week were related to allergies, and that any fever was faulty equipment. I’ve been perfectly fine the last two days and Jason has recovered well. I actually went out running this morning (following all social distancing protocols of course!) and felt no difficulty with breathing or chest pressure etc. Thankfully, the boys have all stayed completely healthy as well so far, also.

(SA cases/deaths through Week 3)

So, a very scary week altogether. I’m really glad I have my support group online and easily accessible via video chat/texts. That’s been very helpful and necessary during this time.

Positives and Highlights and Nice Things
Every little bit of good news helps right now. Here are the small bits from my week.

  • discovered Unsolved Mysteries is on Amazon Prime so I’m binge-watching now, and my youngest son was hooked from the very first show.
  • virtual meetups: happy hour, coffee dates, game nights – Marco Polo is a wonderful app and gives me a lifeline to my support group!!
  • discovered one of my fellow hikers is a published romance author!
  • started an online book group via Marco Polo!
  • finished Week 4 of Couch to 5K before I began getting symptoms (and yes, totally alone in social distancing protocols!)
  • finished Week 5 of Couch to 5K (mostly because I skipped right to Day 3, heh) and hit a personal goal of mine (to run a mile nonstop on level ground rather than downhill). I ran further and longer than I’ve done since 2014 when I was 80 lbs lighter. Woohoo! My face afterwards –>

How were things with all of you this week?

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Favorite Photos of March

Still trying to keep up with taking photos, though it’s a bit more difficult while quarantined to the house!! Here are my favorite dozen from March. Some of these have been featured in full already on the blog, my apologies for that. I had far fewer photos to choose from! All these photos were taken by me and have no filters on them.

Left to right: the extra card from my Modern Witch Tarot Deck, which really sums up the current world situation for me; Jojo chasing a toy and looking like a huge dork while doing so; tradition selfie for Stephanie and me while on our hike to Government Canyon

Top left: Ambrose and Laurence (background) dressed for St Patrick’s Day. Bottom left: photo coasters for my birthday. Right: me with my iced coffee gear before a birthday 5K.

Left to right: self-portrait of anxiety-induced isolation; sunset at Friesenhahn Park; Gavroche and Nimi cuddle together

Left to right: modeling my new cat-print Torrid dress; a gecko that came to say hello on our back porch; path to the library with the mountain laurel flowering in purple

As you might be able to tell, many of these photos came before I was shut up inside my house. I hope I can still get some wonderful photos for April!!

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March 2020 in Review

Um, well…this month fell off a cliff, yeah? We (both the collective “we” and my family specifically) didn’t really expect to spend the second half of March under quarantine. But there you go. The Gignacery is all together again, all five of us, getting on each others’ nerves all cooped up in the house and frustrated with the really crappy internet service we’re subject to. And personally, I’d like to just pretend that the second half of March didn’t happen at all. Sigh.

Reading and Watching
I don’t know why I just haven’t felt like reading since early February. Both books I read this month were boredom, force-myself-to-read books and I didn’t enjoy either of them. I also tried and rejected multiple others. Apparently I just have no reading mojo right now. I’ve been listening to the same audiobook off and on since the 3rd, and I’m still less than halfway through – even though it’s only seven hours long. At least the lovely Real Life Ghost Stories Podcast is keeping my audio-brain happy!

So you’d think I’d be watching all the TV/movies I can, if I’m not reading…but I’m not doing that either! I can’t seem to get into anything specific, though I did manage to finally watch the new Aladdin (Laurence’s choice) and The Aeronauts this month. Both were pretty good. Otherwise, I’ve mostly been watching reruns of Unsolved Mysteries on Prime…

If the month is going to fall off a cliff, likely goals will as well. As far as it goes, I was unable to volunteer at the now-closed library, do any writing with my family home full time, make any financial progress with sudden expenses like driving to Kansas to pick up Morrigan, meet up with old friends, start a book club, get a tattoo, cross books off my 2020 list (because no reading right now…), do any social fitness, lose any weight, etc etc. Basically, I’m on stand-by. Plus I went backwards on one goal because our planned vacation was canceled. I did try to get out and do my running practice this month, though even that is a bit shorted because of restrictions and rising heat. And sadly, for the first time, I didn’t reach my 20-20 mini goals this month. I reached most of them, but I was so stressed out and anxious that I had my phone on too many nights past 9pm, reading Corona-news. Sigh.

I have a few small pieces of good news to report from early in the month. First, my abdominal ultrasound came back normal, so I can stop worrying about that. Second, my running fitness (legs, heart, and lungs) are definitely improving as I practice. Third, I’ve officially transitioned my anxiety coping habits from drinking wine to drinking iced coffee. While it’s definitely not healthy to drink as much coffee as I drink these days, it’s far better than wine, especially given that anxiety is at major high levels right now.

Other than that, my health went to ground this month. Agoraphobia took over thanks to social lockdown, so there was my mental health blown, at least for a short time (see next paragraph). Stress and anxiety meant that I stopped tracking my food and probably overate too often. (Plus I got a LOT more cream in my TONS more iced coffee.) Social lockdown and agoraphobia meant a lot less getting out to exercise, and my family home full time meant a lot less indoor exercise. (So, less exercise generally – less than 13 hours when I generally do about 17-18ish) And on top of all that, it’s oak allergy season here – the time of year I start coughing and getting sick often and become much more susceptible to lung disorders like bronchitis. So imagine what the reality and my anxiety are doing with that now that a respiratory illness is rampaging all around us. Unfortunately, I am ending the month sick, though it’s mild (so far) and I have no idea if it’s covid or something else. I’ll keep this updated in my weekly quarantine diary posts.

(photo credit: Lindsay)

My only saving grace – mental health-wise – has been technology. At first, with just texts and occasional Zoom meetups –> , this didn’t make a dent in my agoraphobia. But through my hiking group, I discovered Marco Polo, a video-text chat platform that has allowed me to feel REALLY connected with my friends and family. Suddenly I have multiple support groups available at all times of day, and it feels far less like I’m isolated. This has been a godsend for me in so many ways and definitely ranks as the highlight of the quarantine half of March!

But generally, it was a decent month for health in the first two weeks – lots of good hikes, running, eating, and hey, I even reached a yearly low in weight! – followed by a few weeks of less exercise, scarce produce, hypersensitivity to health symptoms, stress-eating, panic attacks, and generally all the things that might caught you to lose any ground you’ve made in terms of health. Thankfully, with the recent discoveries that help my mental health, I plan to enter April with a determination to do better on my physical health as well. Provided I get past this weird illness that is currently terrifying me.

Highlights of March
There was obviously a lot of crap this month. Virus, quarantine, the boys all having to school-from-home, having my apple accounts hacked, the whole bizarre solar panel issue, agoraphobia, vacation canceled, getting sick in these last few days. Which means I really, really need to be able to look back at this in future months and say that March may have been the month that the apocalypse came upon my family, but there were also some really great times:

  • all of my birthday celebrations, as well as celebrations for the seven other March birthdays in the family, including a surprise virtual party for my sis-in-law
  • walking the Get Your Rear in Gear 5K with Jason and Stephanie
  • hiking at Government Canyon for the first time, and having brunch at a new-to-me amazing restaurant afterwards
  • feeling an actual compulsive desire to run for the first time in years!
  • my group hiking shirt arrived and I love it so much
  • the Real Life Ghost Stories podcast, which kept me entertained under quarantine
  • Unsolved Mysteries, best show ever!
  • amazing new running/hiking shoes and gear (shoes, hat, special socks, hiking poles…)
  • I won an awesome free pair of leggings from my LuLaRoe dealer!
  • my awesome new cat-print dress from Torrid
  • receiving a great new tarot deck (Modern Witch)
  • Zoom, Marco Polo, FaceTime, and every other platform that’s helping me stay in contact with friends and family!
  • finishing weeks 3 and 4 for Couch to 5K despite everything –>
  • Jason able to work from home and us having financial security during this time
  • San Antonio’s mayor being very proactive to hopefully help us flatten the curve
  • having plenty of toilet paper before this happened!
  • the amazing workers and officials at HEB, our local grocery store, who already had an emergency plan and who put it in place immediately
  • getting a virtual book chat room together on Marco Polo (Book Ladies!)
  • all the women of my hiking group – I cannot believe just how lucky I am to have found such a wonderful set of people!!

Coming up in April
Um…alien invasion?

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Finding Georgina, by Colleen Faulkner

When Georgina is a toddler, she’s kidnapped out of her stroller at a Mardi Gras parade. Fourteen years later, her mother spots her working at a coffee shop. Harper has never given up hope, but this seems unbelievable. The police confirm it, though. Lilla, the coffee shop employee, is indeed the lost Georgina. Reunited with her original family, of whom she has no memory, Lilla struggles to make sense of her past and her new life, just as her old family struggles to adjust to this new reality.

In a single sentence, this book had a very interesting idea that was only so-so executed. However, I’m not sure if that’s my opinion because it’s how I would feel any time reading this book, or because right now books just aren’t really appealing to me and I’m easily bored. (Or because I read this as an e-book, and dislike that format.) So take the rest of this review with a grain of salt, because this might just be curmudgeon-Manda talking.

I never felt like Lilla/Georgina’s psychology was completely right. While I imagine there would be a lot of flip-flopping emotions, things seem to come/go too easily for her. I highly disliked Harper throughout the entire book, especially because she refused to use her daughter’s preferred name. Harper’s relationship with her younger daughter, Jojo, seemed to change every other chapter, not realistically but however would best suit the story at that moment. And I didn’t really understand the dad’s viewpoint at all, because he’s the only family member that never gets any chapters to narrate and basically existed as a non-character. Furthermore, the story had one of my biggest pet peeves – explaining basic cultural references rather than just letting them explain themselves (or letting the reader look them up if they don’t know them). I don’t need the plot of Stranger Things described so that the term “the upside down” could be used to describe Lilla’s world.

Over all, the book didn’t work for me. I kept reading because I was bored and didn’t have anything else to do, and that’s the worst reason for me to keep reading. I never enjoy books under those circumstances, so I don’t know why I continue them! My apologies.

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