The Music and the Mirror by Lola Keeley

The Music and the Mirror
Published: 4/18/18

All I know about ballet is from childhood when Mikhail Baryshnikov was on tv with those too tight tights and I was grossed out. So my ballet knowledge is limited, but I know a fantastic story when I read one and Lola Keeley’s debut novel qualifies.

Anna Gales is the new ballerina at the Metropolitan Performing Arts Center in New York. She comes from Iowa to train with her idol, the greatest ballerina of them all, Victoria Ford.  Anna’s initial meeting with Victoria makes her feel her hero worship may be misguided. But it doesn’t take long for Victoria to see that Anna has that something special that makes a star. Victoria’s job is on the line and the best chance she has to save it is to make Anna the star of her season.

Victoria begins training Anna and the two become closer. Anna must deal with the jealousy of other dancers and Victoria’s former flame. But along the way, hero worship turns to something more and Victoria’s icy exterior is thawed by the girl next door Anna.

Victoria Ford is a wonderful character. A former ballerina whose career was cut short due to injury, who still feels pain everyday. Ballet is in her soul and she can never give it up. Her icy exterior is how she keeps people at a distance. She has mini flings but doesn’t open her heart up to anyone, until her heart makes the decision for her.

Victoria sees a kindred spirit in Anna, a much younger, but just as dedicated ballerina. She can’t help but gravitate to Anna, not just for her talent, but for her inherent goodness. Anna is just the sweetest. She has had a trauma in her life that could have broken her but made her all the more determined to fulfill her dream of being a ballerina. While Anna has a heart of gold she has a steely determination that Victoria admires.

Anna’s feelings for Victoria move from hero worship to disdain back to hero worship and finally to love. Lola Keeley takes her time to develop these characters and their relationship so I am fully invested. This is such a beautifully written book that I know I will reread many times. Victoria and Anna have captured my heart and I couldn’t recommend this book more.

Standout Moments: The curl of Victoria’s lip is cruel, and it’s clear that Anna is already beneath her contempt. This is intended as a final embarrassment, to make sure the only memory anyone may retain of Anna Gale is of stupidity. It’s every gym class that the new foster kid was laughed out of, every party she showed up to only to realize the invite has been a prank designed to make her the entertainment.

Victoria leans back against the leather of the seat and closes her eyes. As soon as she does, the first steps start to materialize, the scuff of leather against a wooden floor already forming beats only she can hear.

There’s something about this Anna, something Victoria hasn’t felt stirring in her gut for well over a decade. There’s something in the way the girl moves that makes Victoria’s own limbs stir once more, like a low voltage running just under her skin. There might never be another Victoria Ford, and she wouldn’t want there to be. She just might settle for unearthing the next best thing.


All The Little Moments by G Benson

All The Little Moments
Published: 8/12/2015

G Benson is one of favorite writers. In 2015 her debut novel, All the Little Moments, was released. I just read it this year and I am awed that it’s a debut novel. It allows all of the emotions to come out, just like life’s little moments do.

Anna Foster is a successful anesthesiologist in Brisbane. She returns home to Melbourne after her brother Jake and his wife Sally are killed by a drunk driver. She is shocked when she learns that Jake and Sally named her the guardian to  their two children, fifteen month old Toby and six year old Ella. Anna doesn’t want kids. Her and her girlfriend of three years, Hayley, are both too focused on their careers and even if they weren’t, motherhood is something they both agree isn’t for them. But looking into the faces of her niece and nephew and seeing so much of Jake and Sally, she knows she has no other choice but to be there for them.

Hayley ends things with Anna not wanting to to the long distance thing and knowing she won’t compromise her career to move to Melbourne. Anna is barely keeping it together as she moves into her brother’s home to raise her niece and nephew. Things take a turn when Anna, literally, runs into a beautiful woman at the grocery store. She then sees that same woman at the new hospital she gets a job in. Lane is so wonderful. She just wants to spend time with Anna, at whatever speed she is comfortable. Anna also makes a good friend in Kym, they bond over shared grief and Kym becomes a part of Anna’s new little family.

Anna loved the kids as her niece and nephew but the little moments they share, make it so clear to her that her place is with them. The way Toby clings to her when she drops him at daycare and says “Na” over and over begging her not to leave him. The way Ella snuggles into her and tells her about her day at school. Sitting on the couch watching Disney movies as Kym and Ella dose off and she makes eyes at Lane. Watching how the kids greet her Mom and how her Mom’s eye light up even through her sadness over the death of her son. These little moments all bring Anna to a place of peace she never expected to feel after losing her brother. It doesn’t come easily but Anna has the love and support of so many and she is a strong woman who deserves happiness.

I can’t even begin to express how much I love G Benson’s writing in this book. These characters were so well developed and nuanced.  I love Anna and how she cared for Ella and Toby, even though she was scared and angry that her life was disrupted. Lane is the perfect partner for Anna. She understand that the kids come first and that Anna has a lot going on and she just wants to be there to support and care for her. Kym is the perfect best friend and having Anna and the kids come into her life helps her just as much as it helps Anna.  Anna’s mother, Sandra is shattered at the loss of her son but is there to help Anna with the grandchildren she loves so much. Anna’s father shuts down and locks himself away because he can’t handle the loss.  Sally’s mother is a horrible person!  I have nothing nice to say about her.

I read this book a few weeks after my brothers death. Probably not the best idea I’ve ever had. But it actually helped me to see that life does go on and that despite the sadness there are little moments that not only show us that we will survive but that’s it ok to smile and laugh. All the Little Moments is a beautiful book that will make you laugh, cry (a lot of crying from all of the feelings)  and say some curse words (Sally’s Mom, legit asshole). Even with all of the feelings that that brings to the surface, I consider this to be a simply fantastic book.

Memorable moments: She pushed the thought that Jake was dead to the back of her mind, buried it as deep as she could. But there were times when she was doing something completely mundane, that her chest would tighten and, for no apparent reason, it felt like she couldn’t breathe.

“Anna, I’m sorry. I wanted to try. I didn’t want to be the bitch that left you after your brother died and you got dumped with this… this huge responsibility but I just… I can’t do this. It’s not me. And the firm… I just got promoted.” I’m sorry. Kid- I can’t. I can’t I love you. But I can’t.”

“Mama.” He gave a nonsensical cry again and then, “Da.”. The sound almost broke her heart. She wondered how long until he’d forget, until he no longer cried for the parents who had once shown up without fail.

Fuck, she missed her brother. She missed talking to him, hearing his laugh. While accidentally calling him had ripped a new hole in her, she kind of wanted to do it again just to hear his voice, like a balm- the sound could wash over her and take her away for a minute.

“Okay. My brother and his wife died in a car accident, leaving behind two tiny children. My girlfriend of the time, Hayley, and I flew over for the funeral, and when they read the will, we found out he had name me guardian of the kids. I never wanted kids, ever. It was why Hayley and I worked; we wanted the same things. But I agreed to take them on and so Hayley left me. Now I live in my dead brother’s house and am attempting to raise his kids in a city that I hate.” Anna picked her glass back up. “No offense”  Kym leant back in her chair. “Whoa.” A playful smile crossed her lips. Wait, you’re gay.”

Lane had walked in wearing a clingy white dress that draped over every curve like it had been made just for her. It was cut low- low enough that Anna was concerned she wouldn’t be able to look anywhere else. The white set off Lane’s dark sin in a way that had Anna mesmerised. In that moment, she couldn’t remember a single reason why seeing Lane was a bad idea. “Oi, do you need a napkin to get that drool.” Anna turned around to find Kym and a nurse friend of her grinning.