When I was growing up, I heard the word “crybaby” tossed in my direction on more than one occasion. At least, I think I heard it. It was difficult to hear over the sound of my own sobs.
Other variations of “cry baby” have included phrases like: “too sensitive.” “Drama Queen.” “Over-Exaggerator.” “A weakling.” “A snowflake.”
To be sure, there were definitely times during my childhood and adolescence when my emotional outbursts warranted some kind of tough love. It’s one thing to get upset if someone compares your physical appearance to a Rottweiler (no names here); it’s another to lock yourself in your dad’s bedroom and cry stormy tears after he posited that John Travolta is gay. (What can I say? I’ve always been a huge fan of Grease.)
Even today, there are times when I can’t handle criticism like I should, or when I unexpectedly get upset and witnesses watch me warily. Not to mention the more mundane events, like having a hard time taking the scrutiny of others when I’m late or have to speak in a new class. Or sometimes fighting the urge to panic if I can’t find the person that I walked into the grocery store with. Or getting upset over prolonged trash talk during a game of cards.
The fact is, I’m sensitive. I have a hard time handling criticism. My feelings get hurt easily. I sometimes cry when I’m sad, and I often cry when I’m angry.
For so long, I’ve been embarrassed about being sensitive. If I’m being honest, I think that part of me has been ashamed. I’ve seen it as a weakness, a character flaw that suggests that I’m not as strong as others. I’ve judged myself by imagining how others are judging me.
I didn’t even realize it until recently.
Some comments were made to me that upset me, and I was telling my husband Daniel about them. That’s when I said something like, “And I’m probably being too sensitive,” and went off on a tangent about how my being sensitive might possibly negate how I was feeling or affect how I had misinterpreted the comments. That’s when my husband said: “Being sensitive isn’t a bad thing.”
It was a huge moment for me.
Over the years, I’ve spent some time considering how witnesses to my “sensitive” responses were judging me, assuming, of course, that they were. I didn’t spend any time at all considering that being sensitive might not be a bad thing. It could just be a “thing.” Or, wonder of wonders, it might be a good thing.
I have friends who are sensitive, and I don’t judge them for getting their feelings hurt on occasion or for crying when the mood strikes. So why do I judge myself? A more important question is: how can I reconceptualize my own sensitivity? Because, all things considered, I think that I’m far more judgmental of it than others are.
I could say that being sensitive makes me more empathetic. That it means that even when I’m a jerk (which still happens, Miss Sensitive or not), I apologize ardently and sincerely, because I hate the thought of hurting others.
I could say that diversity of all kinds—including emotional—is powerful and beautiful, and that there are strengths and weaknesses found in us all.
I could say that I think it makes me a better writer and reader, because I spend so much time ruminating over what others have said and what I might have said to them and what I might say to them in the future, should the occasion arise.
I could say that sometimes, people are mean, and an authentic response is to have my feelings hurt. When that happens, there’s absolutely no shame in acknowledging that I can be hurt, that I expect an apology, and that I’m upset if I don’t receive one.
Yeah, I’m going to try to avoid getting worked up over the little things that aren’t worth the time of day. Let’s be real, sometimes my sensitivity does not discriminate; it doesn’t always separate the wheat from the chaff. But I’m also going to remind myself that sensitivity does not equal weakness. I can accept that part of myself—and maybe even be proud of it—tears and sulks and all.
***Never Trust a Pirate Giveaway results***
Congrats to Tonni Coladilla, who would choose to live in the 70s, and who won a mass market paperback edition of Valerie Bowman's Never Trust a Pirate. Yay!
Need to Know: Never Trust a Pirate is a highly sensual read featuring independent, passionate characters and compelling Napoleon-era backstories.
I've written before that I admire romance writers who can take the conventions of a romance novel—the meet-up, the physical chemistry, the emotional attraction, the break, and the reconciliation—and write about them in original ways. Enter Valerie Bowman, whose historical romance Never Trust a Pirate features two very independent people whose jobs and backgrounds might drive them apart…or bring them together.
Danielle LaCrosse is hired by General Mark Grimaldi to pose as a lady’s maid to Lady Daphne Cavendish. Her real purpose is to spy on Lady Daphne’s brother-in-law, Cade, who has returned from a long, mysterious absence and whose intentions cannot be trusted. Once Danielle completes this mission, she’ll be able to move her consumption-stricken mother to the seaside, where she can hopefully recover.
Cade Cavendish has more noble intentions in returning to London than many would give him credit for. He wants more than anything to “avenge his brother’s treatment at the hands of the French,” though “he’d die before admitting that purpose to [his brother] Rafe.” Cade believes that he owes his brother for decisions he made in their youth, but he’s also unwilling to drop his "ne’er-do-well" charade, a fact which both antagonizes and troubles his brother.
Danielle decides to accept Cade’s offer of a drink, because, after all, she has a mission to consider. But a drink leads to conversation and conversation leads them to…the knowledge that they have amazing physical chemistry. With both of them pretending to be not quite who they are, is there a chance that they can trust the other?
Valerie Bowman skillfully sets Danielle and Cade’s hot romance against the fascinating backdrop of 1817 England. The stakes are high for both Danielle and Cade, partially because England’s stakes on the world stage are high. Some French (and British) are hoping to bring Napoleon out of exile, and a pirate named the Black Fox is terrorizing some ships in the area. Bowman’s backdrop could have become unwieldy, but instead, it gives her primary and secondary characters depth.
And luckily for us, her characters are truly fun to watch operate in this world. Danielle, in particular, is very resourceful in how she thinks on her feet. She’s strong and determined, and she’s been caring for herself—and her mother—for a long time. There were a couple of times when I was surprised by her lack of confidence—largely relating to her physical appearance—but overall, she is a great example of a female character in a romance novel who is self-sufficient and chooses to make relationships with others.
Now I have exciting news for you: I’m hosting a giveaway for this book! Sign up above, and you could possibly win one mass market paperback edition of Never Trust a Pirate, courtesy of St. Martin’s Press. For the giveaway, I took inspiration from Bowman's handling of historical context. To enter the giveaway, answer this question: If you could live in any historical time period, which would it be? Are you a flapper at heart? Or do you have a hankering for ancient Egypt! I can't wait to hear!
U.S. entries only.
There will be 1 (one) U.S. only winner. The giveaway ends at 12:00 am EST on 04/28/2017. I'll announce the winner later that morning on my blog and notify the winner via email. St. Martin’s Press will send you a hard-copy of your book!
The Need to Know: It’s Always the Husband was like candy to me: a delicious treat that I quickly gobbled up.
Last weekend I raced through Michele Campbell’s It’s Always the Husband, a compelling, dramatic mystery that reminds me so much of one of my favorite shows, How to Get Away with Murder (HTGAWM). Like HTGAWM, It’s Always the Husband focuses on a small group of friends who attend a private school together. Booze, drugs, sex, and drama abound.
Also like HTGAWM, eventually the characters in It’s Always the Husband find themselves confronting something much darker than the jealousies, insecurities, and resentments that underlie their friendship.
In It’s Always the Husband, Aubrey, Jenny, and the beautiful, charismatic Kate don’t have a perfect friendship. But they’re college freshmen roommates, and they’re the closest friends each of them have.
Fast forward twenty-two years later, and now Kate is dead. Who did it? And why?
Campbell does an excellent job of using flashbacks to illuminate her characters’ deepest motivations and desires. These are characters that I didn’t feel protective of or emotionally drawn to, but layered, complicated characters who, at their core, want something more than acceptance: an acknowledgement of their superiority.
Even more important in terms of this murder-mystery plot, Campbell’s ability to hold these various threads of the story together so skillfully means that the reader has suspicions about what happened to Kate and why, but no real certainty until the book’s last pages. As Campbell suggests through her portrayal of Aubrey, Jenny, and Kate and their dangerous friendship, any number of characters might have had motive—to use the police vocab—to kill Kate.
If you’re in the mood for a moody, dramatic murder-mystery that’s centered on a rich portrayal of a female friendship, check out It’s Always the Husband.
**I received a complimentary copy of Michele Campbell’s It’s Always the Husband from SheSpeaks but all opinions included here are my own. This book will be released on 05/16/17 and is available for pre-order today.
Once she put him in bed, her “me time” frequently overlapped with her “eat king-sized chocolate bars alone time.”
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The Need to Know: This book will unsettle and fascinate you.
Have you ever regretted something that you did or didn’t do? Wondered what might have been different about your life if you had pursued “the road not taken”? Questioned whether you made the right or wrong choices?
In Blake Crouch’s Dark Matter, that basic notion of what if becomes terrifying.
Jason Dessen is a physics professor at a small college who once had the potential to make a big scientific discovery. But his girlfriend at the time, Daniela, became pregnant with their son, Charlie, and he walked away from his research to be a better father and partner. Now, an old friend of his, Ryan Holder, is the one making huge scientific breakthroughs.
Jason is happy. But he gave up a lot professionally to be where he is personally, and part of him wonders what if. In Jason’s words, his “life is great. It’s just not exceptional. And there was a time when it could have been.”
After randomly meeting up with Ryan at a bar, Jason is returning home when he’s kidnapped and taken to an abandoned factory. He’s told to change his clothes and he’s injected with something.
When Jason awakens, he’s greeted by a group of scientists who treat him like a returning hero. They tell him that he’s been missing for 14 months. Frightened, Jason escapes the laboratory and learns that Daniela is a famous artist who is not married to Jason Dessen, his son Charlie does not exist, and he has won the Pavia Prize for his research, not Ryan Holder.
Has Jason imagined his life with Daniela and Charlie? He knows that can’t be the case. Then who brought him here? What is “here” and how does he get back to his old life?
Crouch’s riveting plot relies on quantum physics. And now I’m going to quote a concept from the book, because there’s no way that I can adequately paraphrase it. “The Many-Worlds interpretation of quantum physics posits that all possible realities exist. That everything which has a probability of happening is happening. Everything that might have occurred in the past did occur, only in another universe.”
This theory has compelling implications for Jason in Dark Matter, who struggles to get home to his wife and child all the while knowing how difficult it will be to find his precise world. And oh yeah, that task is made even more difficult by others who have different agendas when it comes to Jason Dessen—who would do anything to keep him from finding his Daniela and Charlie.
Dark Matter is one of those weighty, bold books that should appeal to people like me—with very little background in physics (really, I can’t say that enough)—and to people of a scientific bent. Crouch makes us care about Jason and his dilemma, and then plays with our emotions through his skillful unwinding of the plot. This book is fast-paced and action-heavy, but the plot's implications for Jason—and possibly on us—will leave you thinking long after the last page.
If you’re looking for a different kind of thriller, check out Dark Matter.
The Need to Know: An epic adventure, Hannah Tinti’s The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley explores how we get to where we are and how we love our family, sins, foibles, and all.
The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley opens with Samuel Hawley teaching his 12-year-old daughter, Loo, how to shoot a gun. This small chapter tells us so much about the characters and the secrets that Tinti will reveal about their lives.
First of all, Samuel taught Loo’s mother, Lily, how to shoot guns. This is our first mention of Lily, who has been dead since Loo was an infant and who is the subject of a “traveling shrine that her [Loo’s] father re-created in the bathroom of each place they lived.” She’s held up on a pedestal to Loo and used as an example of behavior that Loo should always strive to emulate. “When Loo did something well, her father said: Just like your mother, and when she did something bad, her father said: Your mother would never approve.”
Second, this is our first mention of guns, which come to be a fairly substantial part of the book. We’re told from the opening chapter that Hawley has lots of guns which he travels with, and he “was always watching. Always waiting.”
Samuel and Loo stop travelling the country to move to Olympus, Massachusetts, where Lily was from. Tinti intersperses their present life in Massachusetts with tales from the Hawley family’s past, including how Samuel got the many bullet holes which riddle his body and how Lily died. This is really where we learn some of their secrets, and how Samuel and Loo learn that the person that someone is now isn’t always the person they were before or the person they’ll be later.
When the moment of reckoning comes for the Hawley family, when Hawley’s past comes knocking, Tinti beautifully and powerfully delivers an ending that brings this glorious epic to a close.
The plot that I’ve provided here just doesn’t do this book justice. There are many scenes in the book which are action-heavy, but most of all I loved Tinti’s characterization and gorgeous language. Tinti is an excellent writer who weaves words and sentences together into rapturous prose.
Take this sentence about a whale: “The creature rolled sideways, a rotating school bus, and lifted its pectoral fin high in the air and then spun it easily and dove, showing the full running slick of its long back, until there was only the fluke rising, the tail’s ragged edge flecked with white, bending and scraping the surface of the heavens and then plunging deep into the earth.”
If you read this book, you’ll love it.
**I received my complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley, but all opinions expressed here are my own.
Give me that HEA, please.