Monday, January 17, 2022

Book Review: Nailing It

Happy Monday, lambs! Do you have plans for this week? I have to entertain the kids today and tomorrow because no school, I've got doctor appointments, and I plan to do crafty stuff... more on that later. 

Nailing It - Robert L. Dilenschneider

This inspiring and encouraging book from respected consultant Robert L. Dilenschneider provides 25 fascinating and diverse profiles of iconic men and women that show where they were at or near age 25—and how they built their legacies across a range of careers, including the arts, business, science, and government.

With a foreword from U.S. Ambassador Donald Blinken.

Do you think Albert Einstein had his act together by his mid-20s? Think again. Would you assume style icon and humanitarian Audrey Hepburn’s life was always as beautiful as she was? Far from it. At the other end of the spectrum is the revolutionary Steve Jobs, who was at the top of his game by age 25. But Jobs’s beginnings were marked by his adoption, displacement, bullying, and then a rocky personal life. This absorbing book examines the trajectories of 25 iconic figures—from Toni Morrison to Albert Einstein and Golda Meir to Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart—to reveal where they were in their lives in their mid-twenties and the choices that enabled them to make their historic marks. For those who are coming of age now, and for those who care about them and their futures, these captivating profiles provide inspiration, instruction, and encouragement. The profiles in Path to Greatness will be real-life examples of the fact that the turning points that lead to success and happiness come at different times and as a result of different conditions. Some people create their own turning points, other people build on what happens to them.

Many people who seemed to "have their act together" at age 25, had already weathered difficult beginnings to their lives; their turning points came early. And other people who didn't even have an act at age 25, went on to make profound contributions to the world; their turning points came with maturity.

This book will remind readers that it is never too late to make an impact.
I think I found the graduation gift I'm getting both high school and college graduates this year, it's going to be Nailing It. I think all of us felt a lot of pressure to get our future figured out as we were leaving high school and as an adult with a teenager approaching this age, it is so stressful. On one hand, the grown up in me knows that finding a career, buckling down, and investing immediately will be such a stress reducer as they get older. Of course, on the other hand, the twenty-something I used to be is screaming, "let her live her life" and man... it is REAL hard to watch your child make mistakes and know that you have to let them do that. 

Parenting is hard, y'all. 

The great part about this book is that it will be a relief to the kids and twenty-somethings who read this, it reinforces that it's OK to not have an idea about what you want to do. It's totally OK to try things, to fail, and keep moving forward. It's validate the concerns parents will have, but also give them the reassurance that things are going to work out, even if they fail miraculously, they could still end up being fabulously successful in their own way. There isn't a timeline to get things done, you might be flipping burgers at 25 but an in-demand engineer at age 50, who knows? I also like that this book reinforced that success is different to everyone and there is no cookie cutter determination on whether someone is successful. 

I also loved the historical tidbits because it features 25 famous men and women and talks about what they were doing around age 25. It's 246 pages of gentle encouragement for us all, no matter which end of the journey you're on. 

Thank you to TLC Book Tours for having me on this tour and providing a copy for review. 

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Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Book Review: A Scoundrel Of Her Own

Are you a fan of Regency romances? I used to always say I wasn't, that historical romance wasn't my thing, until I read them. They are kind of amazing, and I'm not sure what it is about them that I love so much, but here we are. I'm kind of a sucker for these. Maybe it is the mass paperback size, they just remind me of those books our moms and grandmas used to get in the mail, do you remember those? Are those still a thing? 

A Scoundrel Of Her Own - Stacy Reid

Lady Ophelia Darby exists in two worlds. In one, she is the impudent, willful daughter of a powerful marquess and darling of the ton. In the other, she moves through the underworld’s shadows as songstress Lady Starlight, protected only by the notoriously wealthy scoundrel Devlin Byrne. But when she stumbles upon her beloved father’s darkest secrets, the line between her two worlds quickly blurs. Now she needs the help of the one man a lady should never trust.

Devlin Byrne stands on the edge of London society, knowing he will never be accepted. No one else knows that his obscene wealth and ruthlessness aren’t without purpose. Or that his purpose has golden-brown eyes that shimmer with mischief, the palest of skin, and a lush mouth that beckons to be kissed, and deeply. But having Ophelia is only the beginning of Devlin’s plans.

It’s undeniable that Devlin Byrne is a dangerous temptation—but just as Ophelia begins to trust him, maybe even fall for him, she discovers she’s not the only one with secrets. And his would lead her down more than just the path of scandal…
Fun fact, I love the name Ophelia, it was on the short list for Penelope's name. It was Persephone, Ophelia, or Penelope. It would have really fit her, because like Ophelia in our story, everyone loves my Penelope, and she could also be described as willfill. My Pep is going to do what she's going to do, but she's incredibly smart, but I wouldn't describe her as impudent. 

Anyways... I really enjoyed this one. Fifi is such a great character, but so is Devlin! I loved these two separately, but loved them even more together. I'm also here for regency romances with characters who have sass, so much angst, but also not skimping on the steam. I don't usually love the childhood friends to lovers trope, it just feels weird to me and I know this is me being weird, but I really wanted these two to get together, even if they are technically forbidden. It's definitely a class barrier situation, which is obviously common in historical romances and is sometimes overdone, but it was so well done in this one. Also, while this is book 3 in a series, I'm assuming all of them are standalone, because I haven't read the previous two and was totally fine. I just loved how absolutely gone Devlin was over Fifi, I am a sucker for any book that makes the man a blubbering, hopelessly in love mess with a woman who he shouldn't be, those are my absolute favorite. 

While this is my first book from Stacy Reid, it absolutely won't be my last. I loved her writing, I loved her character development, and I loved how she took a trope that has been overdone but she gave it new life. Absolutely loved this! 

Thank you to TLC Book Tours and Entangled Publishing for having me on this tour! Give me ALL the romance! 
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Monday, January 10, 2022

Book Review: Shapeshifting

Listen, I know it's been a hot minute since I've been around (OK, more like a full month), but to my credit, I've been super busy. Doing the whole mom thing, then being so dizzy and sick I can't function (more on that soon), and then we went to Florida for Christmas, and now I'm trying to put everything Christmas away and restore some damn order in this house because my anxiety cannot take it another day. 

So you know, just some leisurely activities. 

Shapeshifting - Michelle Ross

The fourteen spellbinding stories in Michelle Ross’s second collection invite readers into the shadows of social-media perfectionism and the relentless cult of motherhood. A recovering alcoholic navigates the social landscape of a toddler playdate; a mother of two camps out in a van to secure her son’s spot at a prestigious kindergarten; a young girl forces her friends to play an elaborate, unwinnable game. With unflinching honesty and vivid, lyrical prose, Ross explores the familial ties that bind us together—or, sometimes, tear us apart.

I haven't read a collection of short stories in a long while, in fact, I can't even remember what they were even for, but this one? This was lovely. Though the book only contains 14 stories and coming in just over 200 pages long, this packs a punch. Normally when I read something like this, I read one story at a time, it's perfect for setting the book down and reading in short spurts as I have time, which is exactly what I thought I would do with this one. Instead, I found myself glued to my couch, flying through one after another, because each one is a gem all of its own, snippets of motherhood that you might identify with. 

Once I finished this, I decided that I wanted to be the author's friend, attend a book tour stop for this, and/or go out to dinner because the conversation would be absolutely lovely and she could write her entire next short story collection just on me and my stories. (Truly, Michelle, if you've hit a writer's block, hit me up, because I will fix it!) The awkwardness of playdates is perfectly highlighted, comparing a mother's existence to used wrapping paper, the competitiveness of being a mom and making sure we get our children the best of the best opportunities (knowing full well I am 100% guilty of this myself), feeling like you're a bad mom and everyone can see it, etc. Bottom line? If ever you need a book that will make you feel absolutely seen as a mom, this is it. Looking for a fun book to put in a baby gift? Or need an idea for a Mother's Day gift for your friend who just really wants to be seen as anything other than a food source? 

THIS IS WHAT YOU GET THEM. 

I finished this and immediately bought two copies for a couple of friends who are really struggling with this whole motherhood set up because honestly, we could all use a little extra right now. Being a mom is really hard. Being a mom right now is even harder. Being a mom, right now, in a pandemic and the uncertainty of the world, is the absolute worst, so kudos to Michelle Ross for not only putting this out there but making it completely funny and relatable at the same time. 

A huge thank you to TLC Book Tours and Stillhouse Press for having me on this tour, I cannot tell you how excited I am to read Michelle's next book. I am here for short story collections, bonus if they can make me laugh as I sit under a therapy light eating ice cream, because that's what life is now.  

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Sunday, December 12, 2021

Book Review: The Unlikely Art of Parental Pressure

I have no idea how I'm going to get through this upcoming week, I feel like THIS IS IT and all of my Christmas prep needs to be done by Sunday night. You know, NO PRESSURE or anything.  

The Unlikely Art of Parental Pressure 

Dr. Chris Thurber

Parents instinctively push their kids to succeed. Yet well-meaning parents can put soul-crushing pressure on kids, leading to under-performance and serious mental health problems instead of social, emotional, and academic success. So where are they going astray?  According to Drs. Chris Thurber and Hendrie Weisinger, it all comes down to asking the right question. Instead of “How much pressure?”, you should be thinking “How do I apply pressure?”
 
The Unlikely Art of Parental Pressure addresses the biggest parenting dilemma of all time: how to push kids to succeed and find happiness in a challenging world without pushing them too far. The solution lies in Thurber and Weisinger’s eight methods for transforming harmful pressure to healthy pressure.
 
Each transformation is enlivened by case studies, grounded in research, and fueled by practical strategies that you can start using right away.  By upending conventional wisdom, Thurber and Weisinger provide you with the revolutionary guide you need to nurture motivation, improve your interactions with your child, build deep connections, sidestep cultural pitfalls, and, ultimately, help your kids become their best selves.
As a mom to four kids, ranging in ages 5 to 16, I struggle so much on how to parent, how to put good pressure on them, but not too much pressure, but also push them to do better, try harder, etc. It's really a lot harder than anyone can imagine and unless you're knee deep in it, you can't possibly know how hard it is. 

I have gone through this book twice already, and to be honest I think I need to read it a third time. Each time I've read it I've gained a new piece that I missed. I really liked that some chapters had the parent's point of view and also the child's, which I think is so key. One thing that really stands out is being able to look at different situations/problems from different perspectives. We can't ever know which one fits the bill of our child that day, with that problem, but kind of being prepared for anything is huge. Some of the scenarios are based on real experiences and some felt a little unrealistic, but others actually ARE realistic because parenting teenagers is WILD. I also really appreciate that the book can also be looked at from an educator's eye and there is a joint epilogue for parents and educators that I felt was really relevant. 

Overall, I really liked this one. I think no matter where you are in the world of parenting, there will be something you can take away from it. Thank you to TLC Book Tours and Dr. Chris Thurber for having me on this tour and sending me a copy for review. 
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Book Review: The Hookup Dilemma

I can't even bring myself to acknowledge that I am 19 books behind in my Goodreads Challenge. I set my goal for 128 and I'm at 101... well, 102 if I count this one. Do I think I'm going to read 19 books between now and the end of the year? Man.... I don't know, but it isn't looking good. 

The Hookup Dilemma - Constance Gillam

Rashida Howard has never been a one-night-stand kind of woman, but she has good reason for making an exception with Elliott after meeting him in a bar. Cliché? Yes. Utterly amazing? Absolutely. Regrets? None.

Elliott Quinn is a workaholic. The one night he decides to break his routine, he has an encounter with the woman of his dreams. But no matter how amazing they are together, work will always come first.

Both of their lives get turned upside down when they find themselves on opposite sides of an ongoing fight between Elliott’s company and Rashida’s community. Though their chemistry is undeniable, neither of them will risk their integrity…or their heart.

And just when they think they might have found a solution that benefits both sides, they uncover a secret that will change everything.
Have you ever been in a reading rut and you're struggling to find something that will snap you back to it? I can say fully that The Hookup Dilemma is the book to snap me back into it! I thought this was snappy and fun, it reminds me that romance with some humor thrown in is one of my favorite genres, and I like a playful banter between my characters. This one really reminded me of The Hating Game by Sally Thorne, but also not quite, if that makes sense. There are definitely enough differences between the two to make each their own book, but the sarcastic banter, characters who really want each other but also really can't (albeit for dumb reasons that as a reader you're screaming to just get over it already!), and I just loved this. It was fun, it was light, it was a fast read, it was definitely entertaining, and it makes me want more from author Constance Gillam. I want all of her romance books, like just send them all to me. 

If I had to give any critique, it would definitely be that I wish it were more of an enemies to lovers trope, which is the vibe you get from the cover and the description. It really wasn't that, mostly because Elliott was SUCH a nice guy, it was more of a trust issue kind of thing, but also not really? I guess I can't really nail down the trope, it was kind of sort of combination of a few. The chemistry is on point, they have some steamy scenes, and I just really enjoyed this. Have I mentioned I enjoyed this? 

No surprise this is coming from Entangled Publishing, who I've yet to read a book I didn't like from, so thank you to Entangled and TLC Book Tours for having me on this tour. They graciously sent me a copy for review and I am so glad because this has booted me out of my weird reading funk I've been in. 
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Saturday, December 11, 2021

Book Review: The Flirtation Experiment

Well, I'm behind in life... as usual. Actually, all of this week was mostly spent laying in bed because vertigo strikes again. I also started having tremors but only in my torso, arms, hands, and head, so that was fun. I have no idea what is causing them, but I've increased my cortisol treatment in the hopes I've just got some weird thing and my body needs extra help fighting it off. I have no idea, it's really just a guessing game anymore. 

The only good part was I got to read a little more! Well, at least until the tremors made the book move too much and I got dizzy. I'm a super fun time, y'all. 

The Flirtation Experiment  

Lisa Jacobson and Phylicia Masonheimer

Romance novels, Hallmark movies . . . the immense demand for romantic stories reveals a deep, unsatisfied longing that can be found in many marriages, but does it have to be that way? Is it possible that the best marriage has to offer can grow, rather than fade after you say “I do”? Lisa and Phylicia say, “Absolutely yes!” 

So what is the secret to a happy, thriving, loving marriage, where the fire of romance and close friendship do not fade? While The Flirtation Experiment includes the frisky side of marriage, it’s far more than a good romp. By degrees, each chapter takes you to a deeper place, covering themes every beautiful marriage has in common, such as covenant, healing, and hope. 

After reading The Flirtation Experiment, wives will be filled with hope and encouragement for how they can make a powerful, positive change in their marriages, become empowered to pursue their husbands romantically, understand the Bible invites women to be proactive in their marriages, be motivated to consistently love in creative ways, and forge closeness and intimacy in their marriages. 

In June Matt and I will celebrate our 18th wedding anniversary, and that seems crazy to me. It's equal parts of feeling like it's been an eternity with him, and then other times I feel like it can't possibly be that long already. I always tell people that anything that could be thrown at a marriage has been thrown at us at some point. We've done the richer or poorer thing, we've done sickness and in health, we've dealt with financial highs and lows, literally every milestone people our age could deal with, and we've definitely had good times and bad, but we still keep plugging along. Not that it has been a smooth or easy road, but I think we just both made a conscious decision we were going to make this work, somehow, some way. 

One of the challenges that we, and most other couples, face is keeping that spark alive. I always laugh when I hear people say, "I love him but I'm not in love with him" because to me, that's insanity. The love you feel at the beginning isn't meant to last. Things change as you change, and you just have to go with it. 

So let's talk about this book, it is a rather quick read, so I'm confident you can get through it in a weekend easily. Matt and I aren't particularly religious so while the book does feature a Christian approach to marriage, there is still a lot of things to take away from it that you'll find useful in your own marriage. One thing that was a huge learning moment for me in our early years of marriage is that a fear of intimacy can manifest as anger. The authors mention that "anger can be a gut-level response to fear of loss, fear of intimacy, or fear of failure. In my case, I lashed out at Josh whenever I felt like I was failing." 

Hi- I'm fully guilty of that. I know that I get angry with or towards Matt when I'm stressed out, I'm overwhelmed, I'm anxious, I feel like I really suck at life. I think we all do that at some point. It's taken me a lot of years to make myself pause and really ask myself WHY am I so angry right now? Does yelling at anyone really help this situation? Do I get it right every time? Good lord no. I try really hard though and I think that's something that comes with getting older and gaining maturity, too. 

Overall, this was alright. I'd give it a solid 3 stars for me but I think that's also because again, we aren't particularly religious, so a lot of the Bible references weren't relevant to us. I think if you have a relatively good marriage, this might be helpful to make it better, or work on some areas that need improvement. If your marriage is really struggling, this isn't going to get you out of the ditch, so to speak. It is a pretty quick read though, and the humor throughout really helped this from feeling like a self-help but rather, an informative counseling session with a friend who has been there and done that. 

Thank you to TLC Book Tours for sending me a copy for review and having me on this tour! 

 
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Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Book Review: The Book of Timothy

Um, where are my true crime junkies at? If you know me in real life, you know that I am obsessed with true crime documentaries, podcasts, books, etc. so when I saw this one come up I literally squealed out loud because I knew this was going to be wild. I wasn't wrong. 

The Book of Timothy 

 Joan Nockels Wilson

Set in Rome, Chicago, and Anchorage, and spanning thirty years from crime to confrontation, The Book of Timothy: A Sister's Pursuit recounts in lyric movements a sister's journey, partly through trickery, but eventually through truth, to gain a long-absent admission from the priest who abused her brother. While on that journey, Nockels Wilson, a former prosecutor, confronts not only the priest, but her personal quest for vengeance. She further seeks an understanding of how the first Book of Timothy, the work of St. Paul, contributed to the silencing of women in her once loved Catholic Church. This Book of Timothy promises to take the reader on a quest for justice and down a path of unexpected coincidences that ends where it first began: out of a great love for a brother and in the power of first memory. 

I'm not going to lie, I am probably the most impatient person I know, so this one got a little slow for me in parts, but I'm glad that I stuck with it. I'm also not really a religious person, so though this is heavily centered around religion, I was here for the greater story- the love this woman had for her brother, and trying to not only get the truth out of the man who changed her brother's life forever, but also somehow make it right. 

Huge trigger warning though, this book revolves around sexual abuse perpetrated by Catholic priests, so if that triggers you in any way, this is not the book for you. I can see how large portions of this book would be upsetting to anyone who has gone through that, or even somehow connected to it, so just know that's what this book is about. 

Interestingly, this is mainly Joan's story, of being a sibling to someone who was a victim of these awful acts, and how she is really a secondary victim of this. I also really like the connection being made to survivor's guilt, which is something I never really understood until going through it myself, not related to sexual abuse but instead my surviving death experience. I really struggled for a long time with wishing I had just died, and feeling guilty knowing there were so many women who would give anything to be here, but they did. Why me? Those are some really strange feelings to have so in a way I could relate to this author. I also really liked her explaining what it was like to know after the fact that these awful things were happening and they really had no idea. It speaks to the insidious nature of sexual predators and proves that they are really, really good at what they do. It's evil and it speaks to the power they have over their victims. 

Parts of this book were hard for me to read, and others were just fascinating because her perspective was one we don't always hear from. To combine that with faith, and trusting the word of God, and that God always has a plan for you, meanwhile you, or someone you love, is being abused in such an awful way, it makes it hard to understand how this is part of the plan. Nevermind the fact that many of these priests used scripture to justify their actions, it's just wrong on every level, and I can understand how someone may not come out of it OK in the end, no matter the therapy they receive. 

My only issue, which might be just my cognitive impairment showing up here, is the jumping around in the timeline. It skipped forward, and then jumped back quickly, and I had a hard time following along. I just wish the story was more linear because I found myself having to re-read sections just to understand where we were in the story. I'm not sure if others had this issue, so it might really just be me, but I had a hard time with that. 

Thank you to TLC Book Tours, author Joan Nockels Wilson, and Boreal Books for having me on this tour and sending me a copy for review. Definitely a fascinating story on a topic that just keeps popping up and it's so damn sad. 

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