Tuesday, May 2, 2023

Book Review: The Recall Paradox

Happy... May? I don't know, it feels like winter here and I'm over it. I'm desperate for sunshine and warm days. I refuse to listen to anyone complain about summer this year, I'll tell you that much. 

The Recall Paradox - Julian R. Vaca

What if everything you remember is a lie? Freya Izquierdo and Fletcher Cohen believe they’re done with top-secret memory knifing. After successfully hacking a terrorist’s memories and foiling the Memory Ghosts’ next attack, they spend their school break intending to clear Fletcher’s dad of being accused of colluding with the radical group. Exposing the truth should be straightforward, if not easy. But Fletcher’s house is robbed, and Freya makes a shocking discovery about her flawed recall. When they return to Foxtail Academy, no one but the dean and Dr. Sanders seems to remember Freya, Fletcher, and their friends Chase and Ollie. Then the Memory Ghosts make contact, and everything the four students thought was true proves false. As they struggle to shine light on the shadowy battlefield between Memory Frontier and the Memory Ghosts, their only option is to undertake the most difficult and risky knifing mission of their lives. But this time, more than their lives are at stake. In this heart-stopping and gripping conclusion to the critically acclaimed Memory Index duology , the only way out is in, and the only way to safety is through reckless danger that could wipe Freya and Fletcher from everyone’s minds . . . forever.

I really wish I had read the first book, The Memory Index, first. In fact, I'm going to tell you to absolutely read the first one first because this is a duology and I think you'll get into this a lot more. There are a lot of secondary characters in this one and I'm not sure if they were in book one and there wasn't a whole lot from the first book mentioned here so you could kind of get the idea of that so there were times I was confused and not sure why these characters were there. 

The story was a bit slow, and felt like a continuation of book one but a good bulk of it didn't really feel worth it, if that makes sense. I almost wondered if a good bulk of this could have been tossed and the rest just added to the first book. I have a hard time with duologies because I always feel like it really could be done in one book, just edited down. Not everything is worth being a duology, you know? 

Things I did like about this book, the overwhelming theme of grief and memory. I'm in a unique place because I have memory issues and it's a weird place to be in. It's really strange to look at photos and see yourself and have zero memory of it, but having people tell stories about it. It feels like someone else, it is truly bizarre. That aspect of this book is what kept me hooked, for sure. I was explaining the book to someone and she said it sounded like a cross between The Matrix and Inception, which I guess it kind of is. If you're a fan of dystopian and either of those movies, this duo is right up your alley. I will also mention the Memory Ghosts kind of freaked me out, I'm not a fan of them. Haha! 

Thank you to TLC Book Tours and Thomas Nelson Publishing for sending me a copy for review! 

Tuesday, April 18, 2023

Book Review: Pomegranate

Hey lamb chops, do any of us even know what day it is anymore? Because everything just blends together for me now so time is meaningless. I have this little goat on my desk and when you push it the goat screams. I feel like it speaks to my soul most days. I am the goat. 

Pomegranate - Helen Elaine Lee

The acclaimed author of The Serpent’s Gift returns with this gripping and powerful novel of healing, redemption, and love, following a queer Black woman who works to stay clean, pull her life together, and heal after being released from prison.

Ranita Atwater is “getting short.”

She is almost done with her four-year sentence for opiate possession at Oak Hills Correctional Center. With three years of sobriety, she is determined to stay clean and regain custody of her two children.

My name is Ranita, and I’m an addict, she has said again and again at recovery meetings. But who else is she? Who might she choose to become? As she claims the story housed within her pomegranate-like heart, she is determined to confront the weight of the past and discover what might lie beyond mere survival.

Ranita is regaining her freedom, but she’s leaving behind her lover Maxine, who has inspired her to imagine herself and the world differently. Now she must steer clear of the temptations that have pulled her down, while atoning for her missteps and facing old wounds. With a fierce, smart, and sometimes funny voice, Ranita reveals how rocky and winding the path to wellness is for a Black woman, even as she draws on family, memory, faith, and love in order to choose life.

Perfect or fans of Jesmyn Ward and Yaa Gyasi, Pomegranate is a complex portrayal of queer Black womanhood and marginalization in America: a story of loss, healing, redemption, and strength. In lyrical and precise prose, Helen Elaine Lee paints a humane and unflinching portrait of the devastating effects of incarceration and addiction, and of one woman’s determination to tell her story.

I am choosing to not go into detail about this book because a lot of it I think needs to be freshly read with no pre-conceived ideas of what you're going to read or what to expect. I had nothing going in and I'm grateful for it. Author Tayari Jones, who wrote An American Marriage (you can read my review of that HERE) writes, "prepare to be challenged, and changed" and she is not wrong. Recently I've been watching a show about people going to jail undercover to basically report to the warden what their experience was to hopefully make positive changes and potentially make it safer for employees and inmates. One of the jailers made a comment that they all come back, and in the beginning of this book, Ranita is told the same thing and it just struck me and that is what hooked me in. 

It's a harrowing story of a woman, who is queer, black, and a recovering drug addict, and how the system is set up for her to continually fail. She's a mother of two children she is trying to get back and form positive relationships with, her lover Maxine is still in prison so she's lonely, she's desperately trying not to turn to drugs to cope with everything on her back, and you can obviously assume there are some mental health challenges in there as well. We learn about her childhood and what set her on a path of destruction that got her to this point, and its a hard but important read. Not every person who goes to prison is terrible, not every drug addict is terrible, sometimes people make mistakes and those spin out of control and we are more than our failings. 

The story started slow for me, but like the problems in her life, things escalated and it felt like a ball rolling down a hill. I loved her therapy sessions and how she slowly came around and opened up. I appreciated the difficult journey to regain trust and family in her life, and just the work she put in when society truly makes it difficult to do anything but fail. 

Thank you to TLC Book Tours and Atria Books for providing a copy for review. I can see this becoming a book club favorite for 2023, easily. 

This post contains affiliate links. 

Friday, April 14, 2023

Book Review: The Last Lap

So... its been a month, huh? I have so much to tell you but also nothing crazy important. I am working on making a summer reading list that will (hopefully) coinside with a couple of reading challenges I'm doing this year.  I'm already reading some and this one was the first on the list. I'm manifesting warm temperatures and beach days. 

The Last Lap - Christy Hayes

A man seeking closure after the death of his estranged brother. A woman grieving her sister and best friend. A connection they never saw coming. More than the temperature heats up in USA Today Bestselling Author Christy Hayes’ unforgettable page-turning romance about two tortured souls and their collision course with love.

Megan Holloway has learned a few hard truths in her twenty-eight-years. Life isn’t fair. People she loves always leave. And she’ll be stuck on Key West running her parents’ gift store and raising her twelve-year-old niece for the rest of her life.

Thirty-year-old Bryan Westfall has come to Key West to clean out his dead brother’s apartment and search for answers about the woman who died with his estranged older brother. Bryan didn’t know the woman had a daughter and he sure didn’t expect her sister to floor him with her beauty and biting brashness.

Bryan’s persistent need to help and Meg’s bumbling business skills create an unlikely union. The more time they spend together, the more their feelings become too powerful to deny. Meg knows Bryan is leaving at the end of the summer and Bryan knows Meg is holding back to spare herself needless heartache. When a hurricane forces them to evacuate, Meg mentally prepares to let Bryan go while Bryan wonders if home is where he came from or is with the woman who stole his heart.
I've read romances where one character moves to a small town to start over after a family death or tragedies and it blossoms over time. In this one we have both characters coming off family tragedies and we see how people deal with conflict and grief differently. I really related to Meg because I've often felt that level of angry when I'm over stimulated, overwhelmed, and putting my feelings aside to get through something. One of the characters go a it-isn't-actually-happening-or-a-problem, and I can relate to that as well. 

We have our two main characters and their individual stories come together unexpectedly and I like how over time they become a rock for each other, and we have a blossoming romance. He wins her over with personality and that's my favorite trope, so that was a definite perk for me. I also am here for a great epilogue, so that right there is a full star in my rating. Without giving too much away, there is a secondary story line that doesn't really get closure, at least for me. I also love that the story takes place in Key West because that's a trip I've been planning for my next visit to see my family in Florida so I had a fun visual of what it might be like. Also, if you're looking for a clean romance, this checks that box for sure. 

I loved the author's writing style, I loved that this gave me summer vibes, and I liked the trope (but also how the author made it different, which is exactly what I've been looking for). 

Thank you to Christy Hayes for providing a copy for review, you hit it out of the ballpark! I'm loving this kick off to summer reading, it's just what I needed after a loooooong winter. (I read these on our two days that were summer weather and it was glorious.)

This post contains affiliate links. 

Friday, March 3, 2023

Manifest some goals with me.

It has been a long six years since my AFE and I have struggled with a purpose after it. Everyone tells me "you're here for a reason", and that's great but nobody tells you what's that supposed to be. It not like you survive death and you're given a card telling you what you haven't done yet, you know? 

So in that theme, one of the things I am currently working on is working through advocacy training for MoMMA's Voices, more specifically, the Patient Family Partner Certification Training. It teaches you how to take your story and use that to help other moms and families who are entering the birth trauma circle. I might be six years into this, having gone through many ups and downs, but somebody somewhere is right now going through it and feeling incredibly overwhelmed. 

I may not remember anything from that time, I know that Matt does and he still struggles with feelings from it. Nobody knows what to do when their spouse dies and comes back, but doesn't come back fully alright. 

My hope is to somehow help other women and families wade through overload of feelings and information. I do remember not really understanding what happened to me, so I was Googling everything that I could about amniotic fluid embolisms, birth trauma, depression, all of the things. Everybody encouraged me to not do that, just move forward, focus on being lucky to be alive, and I just couldn't do that. I really needed to understsand what had happened to me and why I don't feel any better, why do I not feel lucky? 

Some of the things I'd really like to do is a blood drive, and possibly turn it into an annual thing. I'm terrified to plan it and have nobody come, you know? I'd like to turn it into something to highlight birth trauma and the resources available to them, locally but also online. I know the absolute relief I felt when I found the AFE Foundation and support group online. Having an entire group of women who also had an AFE to talk to and ask questions of? Priceless. 

I'm trying to think of some other things I can do to be helpful, but also not require a lot of time. Realistically, I know that health wise (energy, overall feeling, and mental health) I am not reliable. I hate that, but I do know that is something I deal with now and am getting better at recognizing my limitations. 

So that's where I am. I'm trying to get better in life. If I'm going to be here, I may as well do something, right? I don't want to go the rest of my life, however long it is, and not be able to say I did something with my life. I want to see and do some things. I've told some friends that I really just feel this urge to finally do the things I've thought about, like now is my moment. I trust my gut, so here I am. 

Friday, February 17, 2023

Book Review: Breaking All the Rules

TGIF, folks. TGIF. It feels like a long week but also not really at all. I don't have much in the way of plans for this weekend and I'm OK with that. Matt is going to bring me grocery shopping, because oh yes, I can't do that by myself. Love the loss of independence, it's really so much fun. 

Breaking All the Rules - Amy Andrews

Sometimes you gotta toss your whole life into a burning dumpster to find what’s most important...

Beatrice Archer has always done everything she’s supposed to —worked her ass off, ignored her non-existent personal life, and kept her mouth shut. Now she’s over it. The rat race, respectability…the underwire bras. She’s taking her life back. Starting with moving to Nowhere, Colorado to live life on her own terms.

Now Bea gives exactly zero forks. Beer for breakfast. Sugar for everything else. Baggy sweats and soft cotton undies FTW. Then a much younger and delightfully attractive cop is called to deal with her flagrant disregard for appropriate clothing outside the local diner (some folks just don’t appreciate bunny slippers) and Bea realizes there’s something missing from her little decathlon of decadence…and he might be the guy to help her out.

When it comes to breaking rules, Officer Austin Cooper is surprisingly eager to assist. He’s charming, a little bit cowboy, and a whole lot sexy. But Bea’s about to discover that breaking the rules has consequences. And all of the cherry pies in Colorado can’t save her from what’s coming…
I loved this book!! I didn't realize this was going to be a reverse age gap (Bea is older than Austin) romance, but I was here for it because I'm trying to read things I haven't seen a lot of and reverse age gap is just that. I loved Bea's character, I feel like if I were a literary character, I also would give zero forks, if you will. Austin really is charming, and their chemistry is FIRE. For all of that alone, you need to add this to your TBR for 2023, hands down. What sealed the deal for me though is the humor, I love romance with some good humor, and the author balanced it perfectly. I really liked that Bea is going on a limb and asking for exactly what she wants and Austin is eager to please. If I had to offer a critique, I would say I wished the epilogue wasn't mostly Bea, and not them as a couple/their future. This is a series though, so I'm assuming we'll see more from them in future books so I can't be mad about that. This was my first one from Amy Andrews but it definitely isn't going to be my last, I loved her writing style and the personality in her characters. 

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

This post contains affiliate links. 

Wednesday, February 15, 2023

Book Review: Pirate's Paradox

It is Wednesday...but I am so screwed up on which day of the week it is since my kids were off of school Monday and Tuesday. Then I decided to keep Lucy home today because she threw up in th emiddle of the night. I'm pretty sure it was just the pizza she ate for dinner that didn't sit well in her tummy but still, better to be safe than sorry. So she's home today, Jackson has a doctor appointment, I have a bunch of emails to catch up on and a book to read. Lots to do. 

Pirate's Paradox - Lisa Kessler

Pirate Caleb Graves may be an immortal, but he’s also a navigator and a man of science. And yet he can’t explain the erratic tides threatening Savannah. Nor the terrible dreams of sailing through a vicious, supernatural storm that he keeps having. But when fascinating, petite dynamo Diana Williams marches up to his ship and demands to speak to the captain, Caleb is caught up in a wave of unexpected fear…and an electric frisson of longing for this captivating woman.

Diana wouldn’t be a true psychic if she didn’t listen to her spirit guide. So when dream after dream compels her to visit specific coordinates in the Atlantic, she can’t ignore it. Now, she just needs a ship. Good thing she knows about a particular pirate ship that’s in tip-top shape. Complete with a surly, albeit hot, navigator who doesn’t immediately believe in her visions. But no matter how much Caleb objects, she’ll risk sending the entire crew—including herself—to the uncharted ocean.

But both their dreams could be the key to saving Savannah and may even be a clue about the fabled lost city of Atlantis. Or it could damn them all to an unforgiving, watery grave.
Right off the bat I'm going to tell you if this synopsis does it for you, read the books in the series that come before this one. Technically each book is a standalone, but I feel like I would have enjoyed this even more had I read the others. There is quite a bit of backstory that I had no idea about, and while the author did a good job doing really fast summary, I wish I had read the others. With that said, I enjoyed thhis. It was a fast read, it centers around pirates, immortal ones at that, and I can honestly say I don't remember reading a book with immortal pirates. 

Let's talk about some of the things I enjoyed: 
  • The romance! Caleb and Diana are a great couple and I loved their arc. I so appreciated communication between the two and the trust! FINALLY a romance that makes it work!
  • I liked the dynamic between the pirate crew, I need to read the other books before this in the series, I want those stories. 
  • The book also features a.... being that I've never read about but I can't tell you more because it kind of ruins it. I do hope they are featured again, and I think they will be given some of the things that happened in this one. 
  • I really liked the diversity! I appreciate authors taking more chances on diversity in their books, it can only make them stronger and more interesting. 
  • Diana is a great character on her own and I love that she's strong and confident in herself but truthful enough to be uncertain and be OK with that. Caleb is great, too, he is so old fashioned and I thought it was charming. 
If you're looking for something out of the box, something that there aren't multiple of on the shelf, this is a solid option. Thank you to Entangled Publishing for having me on this tour and providing a copy for review! 

This post contains affiliate links. 

Tuesday, February 14, 2023

Book Review: My Three Men

Happy Valentine's Day, lovers! Do you have any plans? We don't plan on doing anything because we are bro-kay, but that's OK. I always do a little something for my kids, nothing big, but it's just fun. If you're not busy and need a little somethin', somethin', I've got a read for you! 

My Three Men - Petra Sharpe

No job. No money. No prospects. When I get the offer of a lifetime from a hot stranger, what choice do I have but to take it?

When I shared a hot hook-up with a stranger at a bar to get my mind off my recent job loss, the last thing I expected was for it to turn into something more.

But it turns out that stranger was a high-flying CEO named Tyler, who runs a major company alongside his best friends, Will and Nate. And he needs a favor. His father won’t sign off on Tyler’s ownership of the company until he shows up with a wife on his arm.

Which is where I come in. Tyler’s paying me an insane amount of cash to play at being his fiancee on a vacation with his family. When it’s over, my money troubles will be done with and the company will be his.

But once we leave the city, I realize it’s not going to be so easy to play at romance with someone I’m so attracted to. And, with Will and Nate joining us, he’s not the only one I’m having to fight off feelings for…

When was the last time you read a MMMF romance? I honestly could not tell you when the last romance I read that wasn't just your standard MF, so I jumped at the chance for this when it popped up. In My Three Men, we begin with Anna, fresh off of being fired and out of options, she reluctantly decides to go for a night out on the town with her friend/roommate Suruthi, and that's where we meet Tyler. He's clearly got money, but he's handsome and listens to her woes as she drinks the night away. One steamy rendezvous later, and Anna is back to worrying about her next step because rent is due whether you have a job or not. 

Tyler then has an interesting proposal...literally for Anna, pretend to be his fiance on an upcoming family vacation to dupe his dad. Tyler won't be left control of the family company unless he can show his dad that he's responsible and has "plans for his future", which in his dad's eyes, includes a wife....and maybe kids eventually. Tyler has no interest in getting married, he quite enjoys the lifestyle he currently enjoys. Anna, for her part, is quite reluctant, but when she sees the dollar amount Tyler is offering her, she really would be an idiot to say no. Also, who is really going to say no to an all-expense paid vacation to Hawaii?? Anna soon learns that this technically isn't a family only trip as Tyler's business partners Nate and Will are also coming, both of which Anna is attracted to, and all three men have wildly different personalities, so Anna begins to feel confused over feelings she seems to be developing. 

I won't go over more than that since it's the bulk of the story, but let's talk about some hits and misses for me with this book. I am a fan of books that aren't dragging a story out, though I do wish this one gave us a little more. It felt like we never really got a full ending, some things were mentioned and that was that. I never got a clear explanation of how this MMMF was supposed to work long-term, and maybe that was the point, but I would have liked to have more, at least in that area. It almost felt like the author had more ideas and literally ran out of time so had to tie it up quickly. I also was really tired of hearing Anna's inner thoughts on being fired, how she's getting paid well for this, how she needs money, etc. At first it was fine because it's story development, but we don't need to be reminded of this every few pages, we get it. It makes it seem like her situation is far more dire than it probably is, I mean, go work at McDonald's or something, you'll find a job, calm down. 

I did really like the development of her relationship (is that what it is?) with Tyler. I really wished that we had gotten more from that because it felt like the author was exploring it and then just dropped the idea towards the end. He seemed like a really good guy at heart, and he was capable of the kind of relationship his dad wanted for him, he just didn't want to go there (for reasons never made clear). Also, for the premise of this being a MMMF story, the author also focused on the MF relationships (all three of them) equally and it felt like Anna had something distinct and special with each one, but collectively it was great, too. The steam of level is pretty high, and the book is short, so if you're in the mood for a quick read that will uh.... get the job done, this is definitely one to consider. 

Thank you to Red Clover Digital and author Petra Sharpe for having me on this tour and sending me a copy for review!