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Wow, it's been a long time since I did one of these. I took a break from my own novel writing to get a look at my inbox and, lo and behold, I had a new author in there with an interesting new novel! I'm happy to introduce Tinley Blake to all of you. She's a sweetheart and I'm excited to get my hands on this ARC so I can tell you about it. Isn't this cover gorgeous? I love the Instagram layout, it's such a different, modern cover that I think is going to look fantastic in person.

This is a debut novel from Ms. Blake, I can't wait to see what else she comes out with in the future. This synopsis is promising, and we all know traditional romance really isn't my thing but I am interested in this one.

If you want to go find Tinley and say hi, here's her FacebookTwitterInstagram, and website. Tell
her I sent you - I don't think it'll get you anything cool, we're all good neighbors in this community and it's nice to think that some (if not all) of my readers will be welcoming, since you're such good beans. You can also find this book on Goodreads and Tinley is doing a Kindle giveaway - so follow that link and go win yourself a book, friendo!

I'm afraid that's all I have for you for now. I'll have this review up as soon as I get and finish that ARC, and you guys know I'm always honest - if I'm nothing else, I'm honest about the books I read. I do have high hopes for this one, though. I hope to have another quarterly update for you guys next month, hopefully with some very exciting news of my own.

See you,
Tamarah

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It has been a long time since I sat down to write at this blog. Not because I don't want to or because I don't have the time to - though really, I don't have a lot of free time these days - but because I have changed. This blog has to change, and I know you're going to want to know why, so let's talk.

Everyone knows I've been working on my book: I'm over halfway through the first draft and the end is getting closer every day. Then it will be on to revision, then querying agents, and I'm both ecstatic about that and nervous as hell - but I've also been working on scripts. One with a partner in the hopes it will be picked up and loved in its final form, which I will discuss further when it happens, and another on my own. For now. That one's my baby - you've seen the title by now: American Ghosts. The people who read it say it's smart and interesting, I'm going to have to trust them and hope it can become something special.

Truly, I hope it all becomes something special because I have so much riding on this work. The only work I've ever wanted to do, probably the only thing I'm good at, if I'm honest. I turn twenty-nine in thirteen days, and I'm not at all where I thought I would be. I know we had this conversation on my last birthday, but back then I was trapped in a job I hated...and now I'm not. It came with a price, sure, but I sleep better at night. I'm living on savings and retirement, paying the bills how I can, and writing.

And I'm scared, but I'm free. I stay up well into the night with my tea and my hopes and Scandal playing in the background - a recent obsession, a recommendation from a new friend. I have Amanda Palmer's There Will Be No Intermission on loop right now because I have to dig down deep to finish this novel, I have to go to some pretty dark places because that's what the work is going to require. It will be an excellent story. It already is.

And then I have its sequel half planned. And a few romance novels waiting for my attention, though I'm not a fan of reading them I can definitely write them. And both first seasons of these shows to finish, with following seasons to plan - never mind production and seeing how all of that will play out for the first time. It's a lot, guys. It's a lot.

I'm excited. I'm nervous. I'm writing this to let you know that I'm okay, really, I am. I'm the happiest I've ever been, I'm living the beginning of my dream and it is just as hard as I imagined it would be. I don't know where the money's coming from, I've lost friends along the way, but I'm going to stand by my gift and my choices because they're what I have.

They're all I have.

If you've supported me this far, thank you. Thank you for your patience and your kindness, thank you for looking at my work and encouraging me to keep going - thank you for your love. For your strength. For your hope, when I lose my own. I'm going to be okay because you're there to prop me up when I can't stand on my own.

This blog is going to change. I might still do book reviews and travel tips, I might talk to you about the music that's inspiring me, but mostly I'm going to come here to talk to you. To update you on what's going on with me, so you can stay in the loop, because things have been happening so quickly since April and it's just going to keep speeding up. I want to take you with me and this is the only way I know how.

In the meantime, have the song I've been playing all morning and know that I'm thinking of you.

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I was five when they placed you in my arms, a wiggly mass of baby I didn't have a concept for. Pillows sat on either side of us, supporting us both, and I looked at you with wonder. I wanted to grow with you, teach you so many things, be more like a trusted older sister than an aunt - but we moved, and I did not see you again for a long time. When I saw you again, there was another baby that I loved just as deeply, though I did not know how to show it. Life kept us apart, you both grew into women in the blink of an eye - one of you has a baby, the other is getting married. You gained an older sister, I gained another niece I could never hope to know who has a baby I can never hope to know. I hold you in my heart, even if I cannot hold you in my arms.

The cycle continues.

I was eighteen when she put you in my arms - not a sister by blood, but by circumstance - and I adored you so completely. You were the smallest baby I ever held, I took you that night as your mother went back to school for an event, and I did not put you down. Then came the years I held you daily: late nights, early mornings, read to the baby, feed the baby - and I loved you more than life itself. I read the same book a thousand times, I held your hands and helped you learn to walk, I spoke to you so you could learn to speak for yourself. You were given a brother, but you were still my baby - then one day you were gone, and I did not see you again for a very long time. Now I am a stranger to you, but you will always be my baby.

The cycle continues.

I am twenty-eight when they put you in my arms, but I have loved you fiercely since we found out about you. I was the first person who knew you would be a girl; I bought so many clothes and nursery items, I wanted your mother to be prepared, I wanted to be helpful. You came in the wake of an unspeakable tragedy and everyone has held you tighter for it; but when they put you in my arms, I promised I would be different. I would be present. I would fight for you, shelter you, understand you in a way only your aunt can; I would be one of your first best friends, I would always be there when you needed me. For two months, I have tried my best to be there in a way I know annoys your dad, but he doesn't know my heart. He doesn't have to.

It's about six a.m. when your mother puts you on my chest, a sleepy bundle that stretches the length of my torso. You have changed so much in two months: you smile, you wave your little fists and babble at the fan, you like to hang out on your own. I cuddle up to you and try to doze, knowing these moments are few and far between, but my mind races about your future and mine. This time in my life is so uncertain, I feel like I am walking a tightrope suspended over shark infested waters: I have to make the right moves and not deviate from this path. There can be no turning back for me, I have to see this to the end - but when I hold you, I hold the promise of a future.

I want to fall in love and give you cousins, I want to build a home you can know as well as your own. I want sleepovers and birthdays and school plays - I always want to be there. When you're a teenager and feel like your mom just doesn't understand you, I want you to know you can run to me and I will still be your first best friend, while loving you with a depth you will not comprehend until you have your own baby.

In each stage of my life, I have held babies. Rocked babies. Put toddlers on unsteady feet and walked with them. I have given pieces of my heart to little humans to carry away with them, while trying not to be sad when they don't reach back for me. No one will love you the way your mother loves you, but please know that no one can love you the way I love you.
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I know this blog has been dormant for quite some time, for that I am sorry. I kept meaning to sit down, type this all out, and tell you guys what's been going on, but I'm afraid I've been busier now than I ever have been before - despite my insistence that I'm "not doing much," it appear that I am - in fact - doing quite a bit.

I am no longer at my previous job and, you know, I've never been more grateful for that in my life. I gained some valuable experience there, but I was walking the wrong path and it took being free of that job, stranded on my couch for a few days to see it. I am happier and freer than I have been in a very, very long time - it's hard to be angry or upset about a tumor that's been cut off, you know?

In the last month, I have written over 33,000 words of my novel (starting from page one on March 30th), and I've been given an incredible opportunity thanks to networking...and I really can't say much more than that right now. It's a project I'm so excited about that I want to tell you everything, but it's going to be more satisfying in a few months to just present it and say, "hey, you remember the thing? This is the thing! Go enjoy it!"

I did take a weekend away to go to California and show one of my closest friends the beautiful-and-strange city of Los Angeles. It was incredible, we covered more ground in that weekend than I think we'll manage the second time around, but we'll see. Who knows, maybe I'll be going back as an author with an agent instead of someone holding their breath, writing from their soul because that's quite literally all they have in that moment...I don't know that I'll ever stop holding my breath, but I know the mad desperation to get this story out will ebb into something else.

Hopefully something calmer.

Maybe I'll never lose the madness.

However, this is a blog for book reviews and travel posts/tips, so I imagine you'll want to know what's coming next. I'm currently reading a collection of Neil Gaiman short stories, so I should have something to say about that soon, to be followed by a romance novel and trip highlights/recommendations.

I'll close this by saying I'm finally living the life I've always wanted to live. It is rough and scary, but it is thrilling and I am so grateful you get to share it with me.
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Out of all of the books I thought I would review in 2019, I really wasn't counting on this one. Cecelia Ahern recently announced the sequel, Postscript, and I knew I would want to read it, so here I am with P.S., I Love You, a story I have a complicated past with.

I didn't know it would be so hard to read, even harder to write about.

Let me take you back to fall 2008. I'm in my first year of college, running the student newspaper, eagerly awaiting the birth of my niece. I'm eighteen, in love, and I'm on an old white couch next to the guy I am convinced I'm going to spend the rest of my life with. It's a Sunday and we're bored, idly flipping through cable channels, desperate to find something to watch.

P.S., I Love You has just started. He looks to me and says, "have you seen this yet? No? It's so great, you'll love it. Let's watch it."

He puts his arm around me and we watch Holly mourn the loss of her husband, Gerry,  to cancer. Over the next year, she gets a letter a month from her dead husband, who uses the medium to help her to move on and embrace life - even if it is a life without him. Their relationship isn't perfect, but he loves her in all of the best ways, and that's the warm blanket she wraps herself in each night for that first year.

Halfway through the movie, the guy I'm next to looks at me and says, "You know that's us, right? I love you that much, that's us in a decade. Probably not dead, though."

And this is the promise I hold onto for the next few years in our relationship. I turn a blind eye to the cracks that begin to form several months later, I sail through our first holidays together without letting my disappointment show every time he lowers my place on his to-do list, and I go all out for our anniversary. Later, when I am balancing caring for my niece, college, two jobs, and trying to keep up the brave face I put on to hide my growing fears and concerns in my relationship, I hold on to his promise that he'll be there.

That he'll continue to love me just as deeply, even though all of the signs are pointing to something else.

That the things he says and does are normal, we're going through a rough patch, every couple has one.

And sure, every couple has rough moments, but not like those. Never like those.

When this mess is finally over in 2010, I graduate with my A.A. in Journalism as barely a shell of a human. Every bright, beautiful thing about me has been lost to circumstance, to this boy who may not have truly understood the damage he was doing - or maybe he did and just didn't care. I'll never know, I never want to know. A cancer had grown in our relationship, taken over every good memory we ever made and replaced it with moments that have fueled years of nightmares for me.

Summer of 2010 I was mourning the loss of someone I thought had defined me. I didn't know who I was, if I ever did. Like Holly, I was going to have to start all over again, but without even half of the help this character had...and I resented her for it. I couldn't watch the movie, somehow the beautiful memory of it had become tarnished, and I didn't want to face it. If I couldn't watch the movie, why on earth would I read the book?

A few years later, I found it on HBO and I spent a day watching it. Over and over. I huddled up in my blanket with my cat, and I cried. I let it all out. And then I never watched it again.

Here we are, March 2019, and I am not where I thought I would end up...but I am precisely where I am needed right now. The promise of that sequel was looming over me like a shadow, and I knew I would have to face this monster before I allow myself to conquer that one. It's a DBT technique, I think, opposite action? Could be CBT. I keep mixing up my therapies, I just go through them and find new ways to help myself every day.

I started this book yesterday, and it hurt in ways I hadn't truly anticipated. I am no longer mourning the loss of what was, in the end, a terrible relationship I spent nearly a decade paying for; instead I am grieving the me I lost to that metaphorical cancer, while trying to celebrate the woman that took her place.

Cecilia Ahern is a fantastic writer, and to think this was her debut novel. Book-Holly is infinitely more engaging than Movie-Holly, even though I think Hilary Swank is the tits; Book-Holly has more room to grow, to mourn, to show you the light peeking through the blackout curtains of grief. Perhaps it has more to do with my age than anything else: I'll be 29 in that strange cusp of summer and fall, closer to Holly's age, with infinitely more experience with life and love and men than I had when this began.

Holly picks up the pieces with more grace than I managed - not hard to do, being a fictional character - but she finds a way to reconnect with and support her family and friends that feels very realistic. It's hard to live with trauma, even harder to live through it, but Holly takes it in small doses in a way that's very doable.

And it's funny! There's a dry sense of humor to it that's oddly comforting, but I suppose that's the part of me that still longs for England - even though the story takes place in Ireland, I find the humor seems to be a regional thing. It's an easy book to love, the scenes feel like they flow effortlessly together, and you find yourself awaiting Gerry's next letter just as eagerly as Holly does.

P.S., I Love You is an ode to letting go, to living through love, and rediscovering yourself in very weird places, sometimes with very weird people. If I had a nickel for every person I've met on my own adventures that have helped me or taught me or changed me, I would have a lot of nickels. Those are always the people you didn't know you needed: the stranger in the grocery store, or at the bar, or on the Tube around midnight who wants to know why you're crying. There's a sort of innate goodness in the human spirit, a desire to help that you don't really notice until years down the road, and I think this book captures all of that.

Even though I'm typing this with a knot in my throat, I'm happy to tell you that P.S., I Love You is worth reading, no matter what season your life is in. I'll be picking up Postscript when it comes out, I'm interested to see where we go from here.
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Today is a rough day.

It didn't start that way. I woke up at seven, I got dressed, and started the forty-five minute drive to work. About halfway through, I could feel the monster creeping in. I put on loud music to drown it in, I got coffee, and busied myself with work.

I accomplished everything I needed to accomplish before 9 a.m., so I had no choice but to sit with it and let the whispers in:

"Nobody ever really wants you for you, you know. They want you for what you can do for them, they want you for your support, they want your love but they don't really love you back. No one will ever really love you back, why would they? Look at you, you're not much, what could you possibly have to offer anyone?"

These are the lies my brain keeps on a loop, and that's not even the worst of it.

I've been in therapy since last year, trying to tackle the monster hanging onto my back: PTSD. Depression. Anxiety. Things that will never truly go away, but I am trying to learn to manage them. It's difficult, there's so much that has happened in my life that I never told anyone because I didn't feel like I could.

Because I thought the person who claimed to love me was supposed to protect me, and then when they were the one causing the damage, I turned that on myself. My fault, my fault, my fault. It had to have been my fault, I had to have done something to deserve this because why else would it be happening to me?

I internalize a lot in my personal relationships. I have a hard time letting people in because it hurts to be emotionally vulnerable. People I have loved have mocked my passions, have told me I would never achieve my dreams unless I changed _______ about myself, have ignored my pleas for help until I stopped asking. I try not to rely on anyone because so many people have let me down.

But I don't want that to be my story anymore, I don't want to carry these things around with me.

I'm trying to re-teach my brain that it is okay to want or need people. It is okay to talk about the things you love and the things that hurt you. It is okay to want the people in your life to embrace every part of you, and if they don't then it is okay to let them go. It is okay to be who you are.

Today I am dealing with a crippling sense of loneliness, and that is okay. It is a temporary state of being, and I have the tools to cope with it. I don't have to try and stuff it behind a mask to fester, I have the tools to deal with it. And I'm getting better all the time.

I know this isn't usually what you guys come here for, but I haven't read or watched anything that's inspired me enough to write about it. I just wanted to put this out there: if you're having a rough day, it's okay to embrace it. It is okay to not feel okay all the time. It is okay to have emotions, we are not robots. Our flaws are just as beautiful as our positive traits, they make us who we are.

Just...don't give up on yourself, okay? You're worth all of the effort you're putting in, someone will see it, I promise. Hang in there, we'll get through this, and someday "I'm okay" won't be the lie you tell other people to keep them from asking hard questions.
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The last twenty-four hours have been wild, my friends.

I don't even know where to begin, except...well, the beginning.

Last year was a rough year for me; in fact, spring 2018 saw me barely holding it together. I put on a brave face because, well, I'm good at it - I've always had to be good at it, but I couldn't read, I couldn't write, I couldn't think. Ultimately, I needed a distraction.

My sister and brother-in-law had been playing D&D for a while, and were in the middle of a campaign to get me to play with them, when Mike said to me one day, "Have you heard of Critical Role?"

I had. Everyone said it was good. I'd tried to listen to the podcast for Vox Machina at the end of 2017 while I was painting, but I just couldn't get into it. This was going to eat hours of my life! I didn't have four hours for one episode!

Or did I?

With a little pressure from him and my sister, I sat down and gave The Mighty Nein a shot - and I fell in love. I had not laughed so hard in my life, the actors were equally as engaging as their characters, and the world they were creating together blew my mind. They were telling stories in a way I hadn't been able to in years!

When the cast took a brief hiatus to, you know, have a life, I dove into Vox Machina. And that's where the real love set in. I adored the M9, I'd laughed with them and cried with them, but I wasn't prepared for the way I felt about this foundation story: by the time we meet this original band of adventurers, they're already larger than life.

Larger than life, but not indestructible.

I watched the way these characters banded together like a family, like my own family, and I watched them face every impossible challenge together. I think I got through all 115 episodes before the fall, that has to be record time, right? I couldn't stop watching because I found echoes of my own flaws in these characters, and my own triumphs too. Believing in these people and their story taught me a little about believing in myself and my own struggles too, so I got back into therapy after nearly a year-long break, easing my way towards treating the monster hanging onto my back: PTSD.

This disorder has taken a lot from me: my peace of mind, my ability to sleep for longer than a max of four hours at a time, my passion for life; like the trauma that birthed it, it took me apart in pieces, but I was regaining my sense of self. I was learning to enjoy things again, I was figuring out how to stand up for myself, and really express my passions. Things I had always preached at my friends to do.

Then on November 6th, my ten-year-old nephew died.

And my world stopped.

If you've never lost a child that you have loved, then you can't comprehend what comes next. I didn't go to work for almost a week, I developed a pretty constant tremor as I sat with our family, and whatever sleep I had been getting went out the window...and even writing that, those seem like such minor complaints in the face of that loss. Tomorrow will be four months to the day that he's been gone, and even now I sometimes feel like the grief might to overtake me.

Between grieving for Jaden and trying to process my own trauma, I felt like I was facing down a horde of dragons with my back against a wall and nothing but a stick to defend myself.

Luckily, the cast of Critical Role had taught me how to fight dragons.

And death.

And loss.

And grief.

I leaned into the struggle, and leaned on my friends and family. I told people what was happening, what had happened to me, and together we've created the tools I need to fight these dragons. I'm in the middle of my fourth re-watch of Vox Machina, and I'm not out of the woods yet, but I am re-learning how to enjoy living my life.

I'm working on my own novel. I'm planning a trip. I'm preparing for my new niece at the end of the month.

And this group of nerdy-ass voice actors playing D&D have seen me through it all.

Yesterday they launched a Kickstarter to animate these characters I love so much, something Mike and I have talked about wanting for a while. We backed it instantly, no questions asked, and in twenty-four hours they had about four million dollars. The Kickstarter doesn't end for another forty-four days. My story isn't unique, there are thousands of people on Twitter talking about how Critical Role picked them up when they were lost or struggling, and that's why they've made as much as they have in such a short amount of time.

They taught people how to believe in themselves, so we in turn believe in them - and that kind of faith is going to pay to bring an incredible story to life in ways we hadn't thoroughly imagined.

I, for one, can't wait to see what comes of all of this.

If you want to see what's going on with the Kickstarter and back it, go here. You'd be funding an independent company and giving them the means to tell their story the way they want to tell it: without cutting corners or sacrificing a lot of creative freedom. We all want to get behind indie artists and pay them what they're worth, and this is one way to do that.

People don't gain success in a vacuum: when they rise, they enable others to rise with them. Giving Critical Role this exposure is granting a potential platform to give voices to smaller artists. When we all band together, look at what we can accomplish.

The stories we tell matter, that's part of the reason I spend so much time reading/reviewing books, and this is just one more way to get them out there. I hope you'll at least join me in cheering these people on, they've given me so much that I think writing this blog post is probably the least I can do to spread the word about their project.

It's just a drop in the ocean...but an ocean is just a collection of drops, right?

Take care, I'll see you,

Tamarah
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