Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Book Review: The First Score

If you're like me, the events in the world the last week or so (oh hell, this entire year, lets be honest) have been a lot to deal with. And they should be, because hard discussions need to happen and we need to see actual change happening in the country, not just lip service. As a mother, I try so hard to do the right thing and have these conversations with my kids, not just so they know and do better than I do, but I also want them to be able to have a tough conversation, and not back down from it no matter how uncomfortable it makes them.

I also know that my own mental health isn't in a great place. If we're being honest, and you know I always am, it hasn't bee in a great space in years. Even before my birth trauma. I try very hard to push past it and help others and do what I can to make this a less crappy world.

So when I say I'm mentally not capable right now, it means I'm not capable right now. It doesn't mean I'm putting blinders on and wishing you all luck. It doesn't mean I care for you any less. It doesn't mean if you show up at my house I'm not going to let you in and feed you and we can watch the dumb zombie show Matt is watching. It means I'm going to jump in and fight for you, for everyone, but I can't help anyone if I don't put my own mask on first. I'm trying really hard to keep myself going. You can see that in the amount of books I'm reading, the less frequent family posts (because honestly, we're doing nothing and I'm sleeping half the day away because I just can't keep going), and I'm not visiting all of you as often. I'm still here. Stick with me.

The First Score - Amie Knight

There was something about that first score, and not just on the football field.

I loved all of life's firsts, which was why I’d been saving mine for one girl, my older sister’s best friend—Hazel Jones.

She was tough and sarcastic with walls around her heart as tall as a football stadium, but I knew she was the one for me.

Desperate times called for desperate measures and I’d have done anything to make her mine.

Like create a fake online persona.
Lie about my age.
Pretend I wasn’t some naive virgin.

And catfish the hell out of the love of my life.

I am a huge fan of Amie Knight so I will read anything and everything she puts out there because they are always fast reads, with great characters, genuine feelings, and lovely stories. I will tell you that not only do I not own a lot of football romance, I have zero books on my shelf that involve our lead male character being a virgin.

I know, right? I can't even think of another book that I've read that the man has been a virgin, let alone him a virgin and the woman not. Then let's add in the fact that Oliver and Hazel have been best friends forever because Oliver's sister Scarlett has been Hazel's best friend forever. So we've got this like best friends trio, and while Oliver is totally OK with it, Hazel... well, she's got some commitment issues.

*Here is a great time to let you know that Hazel self harms. Well, she did as a kid because her childhood was traumatic and chaotic.If this is a trigger for you, please be aware of that. There is no text in the book describing her actually doing it, and I feel like that's important to mention because there are different levels and reactions to triggers.*

Oliver knows that Hazel is IT for him and he basically waits all of these years for her and he kind of catfishes her, which blows up (obviously) and that was the catalyst for things to move. Which... they do but at an alarmingly slow rate and you just want to shake Hazel and beg her to stop being stupid already.

I loved Oliver. I was a little afraid that he would be kind of wimpy emotionally for me but he was anything but, he's the epitome of a solidly great guy. Hazel says so many times that she doesn't deserve him (she totally does), and there were a few times that the sentimental sucker in me was doing the gasping clutch of my chest because UGH. If just once in my life I could get that I could die happy.

And you're right, I'm married and it hasn't happened and I know I'm going to likely die without that romance and it is what it is.

Sigh.

I really loved this book. I'm excited to read about Scarlett and Luk's story even though we get a bit of a head start on it in this one. Oliver is the swoon worthy guy we all need. Hazel reminds me so much of myself in a lot of ways and I'm just as awkward and uncomfortable as she is so I could really identify with those parts.

Just... you'll really like this.

Thank you to Social Butterfly PR for having me on this tour, I'm a super fan of Amie Knight, and I can't wait to read what comes next!
   
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Monday, June 1, 2020

Book Review: Intrigued by Love

OK, this was kind of a banner day for book reviews, right?? This is my third one for today but this entire week is crazy busy with reviews so I'm pretty sure I'm going to fill up your summer reading lists!
Intrigued By Love - Sienna Snow

I knew I was in trouble as soon as I read my horoscope.

Dear Gemini,
A blast from the past will force you to confront your dual nature.
Love is in the air, but only if you are open to it.
Remember, your heart can't heal if you don't examine the wounds.

Only one man fit that description. Jackson Burton. Libra. Breaker of hearts, my ex-boyfriend, and the best man for my sister's wedding.

When he ghosted me, I ran as far away as I could, to this island paradise. Now, I was also trapped here for the wedding.

With him.

With the memories of our life together.

Our chemistry was more than just a memory. It was a live wire.

And he planned to spend the next month reminding me exactly what I was missing.

If you are looking to fill your summer with short books so you can get through a bunch, or you're behind in your Goodreads goal and need to catch up, this one is right around 150 pages so you can get this done in an afternoon with no problem.

In here we have Kailani, working at a resort and having to take care of her sister's wedding and make sure it goes off without a hitch. As soon as she sees her ex Jackson, she knows this isn't going to go off as planned. She ended things abruptly two years ago and he never knew why. Its clear he's come back to pick up where they left off but Kailani isn't sure she can do that because she isn't willing to be second best in his priorities.

While this one isn't going to give you the in depth character development, or some real angst, it does deliver in the romantic department. If you're into kink and safe words, this is like BDSM-lite. You know going into this that you're going to end up with a happy ending (all around), but it actually feels satisfying to see them work things out like normal people, even though Kailani's first instinct is to run as fast as she can.

I'm becoming a big fan of the shorter novel, but longer than a novella, this perfect middle ground length novel. I loved these characters, I also enjoyed the Hawaiian cultural references and traditions, I can't remember the last book I read that featured that and it was a great change of pace from the regular. It definitely makes me want to read more by this author because like the other ones today, this was my first from Sienna Snow and it was worth my afternoon.

Thank you to Social Butterfly PR for sending me an ARC for review and having me on this tour! All thoughts are my own of course, and if you have a book you loved from Sienna Snow you think I need to read, let me know!
   
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Book Review: Jackson

Hey- it is book review number TWO for today! Keep an eye out because I have one more up my sleeve for today.

Jackson - Siobhan Davis
Rydeville Elite #5

The devil came to me in disguise. Too bad I didn’t notice until it was far too late.

Vanessa:
The devil doesn’t always wear an evil mask.
Sometimes, he appears in the most beautiful form.
Like the super-hot bad boy with the dirty-blond hair and a wicked glint in his blue eyes who swept in out of nowhere, stealing all the air from my lungs.
I thought he was my savior.
But he’s my ruination.
And he’s just taken a machete to my heart.

Jackson:
For years, my rage seethed under the surface. Hidden behind a cloudy haze of my poison of choice.
But now, the fog has cleared.
And I’m out for blood.
I will annihilate those responsible for taking my sister from me.
Except he’s not here, so I go for the next best target.
The woman he abandoned.
Until it suited him to drag her into this messed-up elite world.
Sucks to be her.
Because when I’m done with Vanessa, she’ll wish she was dead.

OK, right off the bat I'm going to tell you that you absolutely HAVE to read books 1-4 before you get to this one. I did not do that and while it didn't hinder my enjoyment of it, I really didn't understand a lot of the elements going on. Also, there isn't a whole lot of character development because its assumed you've read books 1-4 and I think this is a series that if you read one book now you have to read them all because I'm already wanting the next one.

Second, I know it mentions it on Goodreads, but if you are triggered by sexual assault, incest, and/or sexual abuse by a parent/stepparent: FIND A DIFFERENT BOOK. Don't put yourself through that even for a good book.

OK, so please remember that as I describe this book that I did NOT read books 1-4 and so I was putting the pieces together and this is messed up, you guys. This book centers around these 20something adults, who go to Rydeville University, by all appearances a snooty university basically for rich kids. We have Jackson, who is still reeling from his sister Dani's death (which this is part of the backstory I kind of wish I had known), and he has decided to exact revenge on his nemesis: Christian Montgomery. Enter, Vanessa. Vanessa is the daughter of Christian Montgomery and Jackson's plan is to get close to her, make her fall in love, and basically manipulate her in order to get information on daddy dearest.

Except he hits a bit of a brick wall because the Vanessa he knew growing up, the girl who was always causing trouble, high and/or drunk, and sleeping with anything that walked is nothing like the Vanessa he meets. This Vanessa is tamer, sober, meeker, and clearly has terrible self esteem.

I can't really give you anything more because it kind of gives away what is going to happen, but I'll tell you I flew through this book in a few hours because it was GREAT.

I loved Vanessa. Once you realized her back story, everything about her made complete sense. The best part about her was she was like an onion, we just kept getting more and more information about her and everything starts clicking for Jackson once he realizes what a colossal asshole he was. OK, that's your only hint. Jackson was infuriating. On one hand, we of course knew his motives here but I loved how those kind of morphed and he started feeling things, but then he would do stuff and I'd want to scream. Maybe about half way through I decided I hated him. But then at 3/4 of the way I decided I loved him again.

Honestly, I felt like Vanessa through the whole damn thing. HA!

The book ends on a cliff hanger, but not so bad that you're foaming at the mouth to get the next one. Instead, this is a story that is a hugely spread web of crazy. Members of this Elite club are involved in some of the most heinous acts you can imagine and its basically ignored and honestly, it feels like it could be real. Hell, it probably is somewhere.

For being my first book by Siobhan Davis it absolutely will not be the last! I am so grateful Social Butterfly PR invited me on this tour and sent me an ARC for review! I am ordering the other four so I am fully ready for book six!
   
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Book Review: Titan

Today is going to be bananas because I have not one, not two, but THREE reviews for you today! I know, it's crazy. Even crazier? I read them all this weekend, plus I went on walks, and helped Matt do more gardening. It feels like it has been the longest weekend of all but nope.

Anyways. Let's start with this book and then keep an eye out all day for my other two reviews!

Titan - Shantel Tessier

TITAN
I know I have a black soul. Bloodshed and danger are what I live for.
A King is supposed to rule his Kingdom using any means necessary to demand respect.
I’m not a weak man… A King kneels to no one.
I’ve only ever cared about one other person in my life, but the thing is, she never belonged to me. And before I could tell her how I felt, she left.
Now she’s returned, needing someone to save her.
Emilee York was always meant to be mine, and I’ll see to it that happens. I always get what I want, even if that means I have to take it.
And she’s no different. She’ll be my queen, one way or the other.

EMILEE
When I left Sin City behind me, I had no plans to return. I avoided everyone, even my friends, to stay in my bubble. I’ve always been the kind to pull away and run when things get difficult.
But one phone call changed everything, and I was racing back. If only I had known what was waiting for me.
Titan reappeared like a ghost haunting me.
One look and I knew he recognized me. I never forgot him or what we shared. Those feelings that no one else knew existed between us.
I ignored them back then, but now they are more intense than ever.
“Get on your knees…” He demanded I kneel for him.
I tried to act like he didn’t affect me, but he knew. He remembered the way I reacted when he would touch me. And just like he was taught to do—he used my weaknesses against me.
He staked his claim, and I became his queen to use how he saw fit.
What makes it worse is that I crave him, and when I kneeled, it was willingly.
But was it for nothing? 

Good news, this is book one in what I assume is going to be a four book series, and what an introduction it was!

I'm going to start off by telling you I really didn't like Titan or Emilee for a good chunk of this book. I knew going in that Titan was going to be definitely a DOM-like character so I assumed Emilee would be more submissive... and she was.... but she also wasn't. I honestly don't know how to describe her without it sounding like a dig to the book. How about this- the dynamic between Titan and Emilee definitely doesn't scream "romance book were conflicted characters finally come together". While it is that, I really was confused how either of them felt for each other until the very end. But even then... I'm not real sure?

Emilee has a history with fellow King, Bones, because she was basically his fuckbuddy whenever he wanted, though later in the book we were supposed to believe it was more of a relationship? It did not come off like that when we learn about them, and given how much animosity seemed to be coming off of him, I expected to have some revelation of a major blowup between them, so that kind of left me confused.

Overall though? We have domineering sex, not in a Fifty Shades kind of way but more of a, if you want your cell phone back you better give the blow job of your life, kind of way. If you like sweet nothings whispered to you, you are absolutely not going to get this. I'm going to give this one a 3, only because I wasn't sold on the characters, but the story line with Emilee's messed up family kept me wanting to know what the heck was going on. Also, this was my first book by Shantel Tessier but it definitely won't be my last. I'm not sure if I'm going to come back for the next book (I'm assuming it would be about Bones?) but I want to try some others to see if they are a better fit for me.

A huge thank you to Social Butterfly PR and Shantel Tessier for gifting me a copy of Titan in exchange for a review! Of course, all thoughts are my own. If you've read a book from Shantel Tessier that you think I should pick up next, let me know!
   
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Thursday, May 28, 2020

Book Review: The Opposite of Certainty

It's been awhile since I've read a non-fiction but as soon as I saw the description for this I knew I had to read it and jumped at the chance. Even if you have never had a child with cancer you are going to relate to this mom and the journey of emotions just being a mom.

The Opposite of Certainty
Janine Urbaniak Reid

What happens when we can no longer pretend that the ground underfoot is bedrock and the sky above predictable?


All Janine Urbaniak Reid ever wanted was for everyone she loved to be okay so she might relax and maybe be happy. Her life strategy was simple: do everything right. This included trying to be the perfect mother to her three kids so they would never experience the kind of pain she pretended not to feel growing up. What she didn’t expect was the chaos of an out-of-control life that begins when her young son’s hand begins to shake.

The Opposite of Certainty is the story of Janine’s reluctant journey beyond easy answers and platitudes. She searches for a source of strength bigger than her circumstances, only to have her circumstances become even thornier with her own crisis. Drawn deeply and against her will into herself, and into the eternal questions we all ask, she discovers hidden reserves of strength, humor, and a no-matter-what faith that looks nothing like she thought it would. 

Beautifully written and deeply hopeful, Janine shows us how can we come through impossible times, transformed and yet more ourselves than we’d ever allowed ourselves to be.

Phew... I don't know where to even start with this one but when I say that this was therapy in a book, I really mean it. I go to therapy a few times a month and I feel seen when I'm there, but this book is written so well and I felt seen by the author. She gets it. It makes me feel like all of the irrational things that rattle through my head aren't crazy after all.

In this book we have Janine, a mom with three kids, a wife to a husband with a rising career. She's a Pinterest worthy mom at the cost of herself at times. Oftentimes it takes a tragedy for us to take a hard look at ourselves and gather the courage to fix it. For me, it was dying during giving birth, for Janine is was learning her son had been born with a brain tumor which was like them throwing themselves off the cliff. So much information with little time to process the situation let alone your options,but then having the feelings you do, trying to make sure you're doing the right thing for his son and maintaining his mental health, but making sure your marriage doesn't tank during all of it.

Frankly, how anyone makes it is a miracle, and I have first hand experience at how hard it is to keep going after that traumatic thing that happens to people.

I have to give you a couple of things that made me cry because it was someone else verbalizing something I feel and I can't articulate myself:
I wipe my eyes with the heel of my hand. Growing up I'd learned to stomp out inconvenient and scary feelings that threatened my ability to maintain control amid the chaos. This is a skill I've honed as an adult, a superpower I use to run the business of our family with a mostly affectionate efficiency. The problem is I now find myself leaking-all the time. 
I can relate to that so much. My parents weren't mean about it but it was made clear nobody had time for you to cry about things. People had real problems out there and I'm sitting here crying over something stupid. I find myself doing the same thing to my children sometimes and I have to consciously stop and validate those feelings and help them work through it.
My neediness is embarrassing. As a person who devoted her life to being super capable, it's particularly unsettling. I feel relief when Annie is on the other end of the phone. Eventually, though, we have to hang up, and I'm left with me. But this morning, instead of trying not to think about what might be going wrong in Mason's brain, I shift my focus to the neurologist who "forgot" to order an MRI during Mason's era of "migraines" and "normal" tremors. I also think of Dr. Window-In-The-Head scouring Mason's chart for what I'd done wrong, anything that could absolve the hospital and his colleague of liability. Had I breastfed him enough? Vacationed near Chernobyl? 
You guys. I had to actually put the book down and just cry it out because YES. Yes to all of this. I feel like I'm four years from my trauma and I'm not anywhere near over it for lots of reasons and though professionals tell me it is normal and maybe I won't ever get there and it's OK to not be OK, I'm certain people think I should be OK. After awhile on really bad days you stop reaching out because surely they see their phone and think, "are you kidding me? AGAIN?". Rational? Not really, but here we are. I identified with the guilt. I have experienced doctors telling me this is all my fault but I go over everything in my head wondering what did I do wrong? How does this happen on a fourth pregnancy? Why am I just NOW allergic to my own amniotic fluid?! Maybe I shouldn't have eaten so much pizza and nachos. Maybe I should have exercised more. Drank more water. It's endless and pointless, but I wanted to hug this author because I get it.

She mentions people, with well intentions surely, giving her unsolicited advice and suggestions. There is always someone who has something to say and knows someone or has a fifth cousin with the SAME issue and you know what they did? Ate grass and called it a salad. Worked wonders. *sarcasm*

In between all of that, there is this gripping story about her son, and imagining what it would be like if this is my child. You find yourself on this emotional roller coaster with her. She talks about her relationship to God and it being this confusing thing but also something she is relying on because at some point you have to just let go and hold onto hope. Aside from the surgeries, bleeds, and treatments, its a whole new life once you go home and her comparing it to like bringing a new baby home seems so on point.

I just... I could talk about this book for days and it'll certainly be on my mind for a long time. If you're a mom who has a child who is (or has) gone down a similar path, you might gain some peace from this. If you're a mom struggling with the world right now, burning at both ends and feeling like a failure, this will remind you how critical you are. There's that quote along the lines of being a speck in the world, but to your kids you're the entire world? That's this book.
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Thank you so much to TLC Book Tours for having me on this tour but also Thomas Nelson and W Publishing for sending me a copy to review. The biggest thanks of all to Janine Urbaniak Reid for not just getting it all down on paper but putting it out into the world. I don't think you realize how perfect and timely this will be for so many people.
   
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Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Book Review: Hot & Sexy

Phew! Being "off" most of yesterday and Monday because of a migraine has seriously thrown my entire week off, and I spent the better part of my afternoon reading this one so I can give you a review today! Tomorrow I have the other non-fiction I promised and Friday I think I have some fun pictures to share.
Hot and Sexy - Erika Wilde

She has him just where she wants him...

Joelle Sommers is very good at her job as a PI and bail recovery agent, but she’s definitely out of her element when she arrests sexy businessman Dean Colter in a case of mistaken identity. Because unlike her usual fugitives, Dean is cooperative, accommodating, and hot as sin . . . and not at all guilty as charged. But this bad boy isn’t so innocent either, and she finds it increasingly hard to resist his seductive charm, and their mutual attraction.

After years of working himself to the point of having no life outside the office, Dean Colter is in the mood for an adventure. But being kidnapped by a gorgeous bounty hunter—one he discovers is into bondage, to boot—isn't exactly what he had in mind. Still, it doesn’t take long for him to realize that being a willing captive has its advantages.

Jo might be the one with the handcuffs, but Dean's about to discover the key to unleashing the passionate, uninhibited woman beneath the tough, stubborn facade. And when he does, all bets are off.

Let me start by saying I honestly think this is the first time I've read this kind of story line and I absolutely appreciate it! It gets to be kind of wah-wah (imagine me making that annoying sound) because so many romance books have the same kind of recycled plot with a few different things thrown in. Have I ever read a book about a female bail recovery agent picking up a guy and having it go into the completely unprofessional territory?

NOPE.

Indeed, that is what happens here and I'll tell you what, every time I have a cooler full of ice I'm going to remember this book, that's for dang sure.

So here we have Jo, the youngest, and only, girl in the family who is ridiculously over protected by her two older brothers. She was a police officer but after an incident that killed her partner she quits and becomes a PI specializing in child abduction recovery (which why she picked that in particular IS mentioned in the book so it isn't some random specific piece of information). A job has come up to bring Dean Colter in from Seattle to San Francisco because it seems he's a felon on the run. She takes the case, against her brother's warnings, and she can't be tamed, y'all.

Of course, Dean is hot and sexy (see what I did there?) but a totally willing participant. During their trip back to San Francisco, lets just say things go totally unprofessional and that's all I'm going to tell you.

OK, I already said I'm giving this extra points for being different than the run of the mill romance. Also, it's not very long so if you're into short reads, this is something to consider. I really liked Dean's character, he was a pretty good guy. I didn't totally love Jo. Honestly, she wanted everyone to treat her like she's more capable; however, when things got dicey she didn't handle it well. So on one hand, people make mistakes and I get it.... but on the other, she also is harboring the guilt so its a bit of a double standard to say she can harbor that guilt but others can't hold that incident against her. Does that make sense? The cool thing is we got a little taste of her brothers and the secretary of the PI agency and I see that their books are coming, so I'm excited to come back to this group, I have a feeling I'm going to really like Cole's book. ;)

A huge thank you to Social Butterfly PR for having me on this tour and Erika Wilde for making her book available for review. Of course, all thoughts are my own and if you read this one, I'd really like to know what you thought!
⭐⭐⭐⭐

   
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Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Book Review: The Fight to Flourish

I will actually have two non-fiction books for you this week, this one and one more on Thursday. The great thing about these is that they both came at the perfect time in my life.
The Fight to Flourish - Jennie Lusko
How do you live a full life? Perhaps the better question is, how do you really live when life throws you sucker punches, when you face obstacles that seem to snuff out your faith, when you lose something or someone precious to you? In The Fight to Flourish, Jennie Lusko encourages women to suit up and thrive, not just in the dailies of monotony and routine but even in the most desolate of places. Using the backdrop of her second-born daughter Lenya’s passing into heaven five days before Christmas in 2012, Jennie invites readers to embrace whatever destination they’ve landed. She teaches how, through the good and the bad, they can learn to grow, be strong, draw near to God, and be a blessing to others. It is in this sacred space of pain and promise that women can begin to flourish.
I am going to start off and tell you that this book was.... so great. It is one that I am going to read and re-read again because there are so many things in it that we need just as reminders to ourselves. In this book the author shares about her daughter, Lenya, and her death before Christmas. Lenya was only five.

That is devastating, and as a mom to four kids (including one who is five), I can't even imagine dealing with that news but then having to move forward. Life isn't the same once you lose a child, and the path you thought you would walk: school, prom, first boyfriends, graduation, college, wedding, grand kids, etc, are suddenly not going to happen. You realize all of the things she won't experience and all you're left with is wondering if those five years she had were great. The author does a great job explaining that trauma is trauma, and whether you're dealing with the loss of a child like she does, or you're in a boat like me, where I survived a trauma but my life is irrevocably changed, it is all the same.

Throughout the book she includes diary entries starting from the last day she held Lenya (which is just... it broke my heart). It reminds of me of something I heard once that you never know when the last time you'll hold them is going to be, it just is. It certainly makes me want to go pick my kids up and squeeze their guts simply because I can. The author also calls on her faith throughout her journey, and also throughout the book, but even if you aren't someone who follows a particular faith, the things she discusses still leave you with interesting things to consider.

On page 115 there was a sentence that really struck me:
"When we engage in the daily fight and embrace the present moment, we will flourish."
It is something that hits home for me because every day it really is a fight for me to get through it. When you deal with depression, anxiety, and suicidal ideation, it can be really hard to get up and do it again and again. My therapist says the same thing often, sometimes it isn't the big steps that are worth counting, but sometimes it can be minute by minute. Hour by hour.

If you are looking for a non-fiction, or just something in general to help you grow as a person or think about life, consider picking this one up. I will say that despite being 239 pages, this one was pretty easy to read and I flew through it in a day.

A big thank you to TLC Book Tours for having me on this tour and sending me a copy for review. If you read this one, I'd really like to know what you're thoughts are as well.
      
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