Monday, February 29, 2016

Beneath Still Waters

It isn't often that a book hooks me on the first page but when it does, you better believe I'm going to rave about it.

Beneath Still Waters - Cynthia A. Graham

The swamps and bayous around Cherokee Crossing, Arkansas have always been dark and mysterious, but on this summer day two boys stumble across the remains of a baby girl, headless and badly decomposed. Hick Blackburn, a reluctant sheriff with a troubled past is called to the scene. With nothing to go on except the baby s race and sex, the task of discovering who she is and how she died challenges all of Hick s investigative skills. But Hick faces a deeper challenge. The vision of the infant has left him shattered, a reminder of a war crime he has tried to lock away, a crime that has begun to eat away at the edges of his life, destroying him one relationship at a time.

With the aid of his deputies, Hick will begin to piece together his investigation, an investigation that will lead him to question everything. As he is forced to examine the town he grew up in, he will come to terms with the notion that within each of us lays the propensity for both good and evil. His investigation will turn up lies and ignorance, scandal and deceit, and the lengths a mother will go in order to hide her shame."

It only has 215 pages but inside those few pages is one of the best stories I have ever read. Right away on page one we meet town sheriff, Hick Blackburn, on the scene of a crime that just doesn't happen in Cherokee Crossing. Two boys fishing stumble across (literally) the body of a headless infant. Nobody knows who she belongs to or how she got there, but this crime has catapulted Hick back into memories of his time in Belgium fighting in the war.

While it doesn't shift perspective (just a couple of times, but not every other chapter like most books do), it really feels like two different stories happening at once. We have current Hick trying to solve the murder of this innocent baby with almost no clues at all except for a genetic anomaly in the babies hands. He needs to find the mother of the baby, possibly the father, but ultimately the murderer. The baby was alive when it went into the swamp because it had sand and water in it's lungs so right away, any mother is horrified and you're hooked- who could or would do this to a newborn baby? Then we have war time Hick who too young to understand the long term ramifications of war, finds himself in the middle of a horrific battle with no experience and he makes a mistake out of fear rather than logic. It haunts him to this day and the murder of this baby brings it all rushing back.

And then... we have a love story. Because before Hick went to war, he was engaged to his life long love, Maggie. When he came back, obviously suffering from the mental anguish war gives a young man, he breaks it off with Maggie, leaving her heartbroken. She doesn't give up hope and she keeps trying to break through what is eating at Hick, sure that if she could, she'd have her old love back where he belongs.

This book hooked me immediately when I started and I absolutely could not put it down. It captures everything right about the south, it gets you in the head of a war returned soldier, and you ache for this baby. Once all of the puzzle pieces come together the story becomes even more tragic and you find yourself, like Hick, at odds of what is right in the law and what someone believes in their heart to be the best decision. I cannot praise this book enough- it's such a fast read and I know you'll absolutely love it. It really reminds me of a Christina Baker Kline novel, actually. Just a masterfully done weaving of the story lines so you never feel lost or like you're having to keep too much straight in your head for it to make sense. Absolutely one of my top ten books of 2016 so far. Easily.

You can get your own copy of Beneath Still Waters on Amazon, it's a worthy buy.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Hitting the rock bottom of caring.

It's no secret I have had a really rough few months. I've tried my go to anti-depressant and that made things really awful so I've now weaned off of that successfully. But I'm back in a funk and the only bright side is that it's given me a different perspective on a lot of things in my life.

Yesterday was really bad. It was bad from the word go when I only got two and a half hours of sleep. For some reason, morning sickness flared up again and the fact I even made it to the kids' school at 8 to help with the book fair is a miracle all on its own. But then I'm there and I'm really blown away at how kids are essentially trying to barter for books. Which, on one hand, I'm so excited at their enthusiasm for reading. The little bookworm nerd in me is over the moon. But then on the other hearing kids talk about how easy it would be to steal a book, how their mom/dad told them to just ask if they can pay half (yes, parents actually told their kids to ask that), and then watching one kid for sure steal a pen but do it so quickly I didn't get a good look at his face. Then, just as I was leaving, Olivia comes up to me in tears because she forgot her recorder at home, apparently her "third strike" in a month. She wants me to go home and get it so she doesn't get in trouble.

I tell her no and she really starts sobbing, running down the hall saying I'm so mean to her.

All before 9 a.m.

I ended up having Matt run home to get it and while I was still at school, he went to her classroom with it and I'm pretty sure she peed her pants when her dad pulled her out of class and several kids started asking who it was. (Mostly because Matt is usually M.I.A. for all school or kid related things so most of her friends have no idea what her dad looks like.) But she started sobbing even harder when he told her he could get in trouble at work for having to deal with her irresponsibility.

But, silver lining is that she will likely never forget the damn recorder ever again. I told the music teacher to absolutely, 100%, give her a referral next time and let her sit in the office because you've got to learn how to be responsible for yourself at some point.


So then all afternoon I was dealing with emails I didn't want to deal with, pissy people left and right, Penelope was a bit of a bear (she's even worse today, YAY), and then Matt got home late and I had to run to a meeting before I could eat dinner. I explicitly asked that someone please save me something to eat, seeing how I hadn't gotten breakfast and I didn't get lunch. All I had yesterday was a questionable granola bar and a bag of fruit snacks that I'm pretty sure were expired because they were super hard.

By the time I came home, I walk through the door to find that not only was no supper saved for me, but the kitchen was a freaking mess. Laundry hadn't been switched over, the rest hadn't been folded. Nobody showered or bathed. Homework wasn't checked and reading calendar wasn't signed. The good news is that everyone was in bed at least and Matt was ready to bolt out the door to walk the dog.

So I quietly cleaned everything up, got everyone's homework squared away and into folders so it wouldn't get tossed by Matt on accident. I answered some emails, returned two phone calls, and lay in bed until 4:45 a.m. when finally I fell asleep for a whopping two hours.

But as I lay there in the dark when everyone else in my house is asleep, I thought about how very little I'm appreciated. Yeah, people say it periodically but that's just talk. That's to save face for looking like an ungrateful asshole. I volunteer my time to a LOT of different groups and places, friends, etc and I'm at the point where I'm getting nothing in return. I get zero joy from almost all of it. Maybe I've done too good of a job being competent and organized all of these years that it has back fired on me. Maybe people actually have zero idea that I spend every single free moment doing things for other people. Then when I do take time for myself, a whopping hour to read, I get, "Wow- must be nice to have THAT kind of free time!". You know what?

Fuck you.

Seriously, fuck yourself.

If I hear one more suggestion on how things should be done, what I should be doing, or what I could do better I cannot be held accountable for my actions. I am literally at that point where I will actually lose it. I really want to be one of those people who just do nothing and hope everyone else will pick up the slack because they have better things to do. I really do. Some of the people who have the most complaints have a fraction of what I have on my plate yet cannot possibly do any more.

But it's totally OK if I do it?


So no. It's done. I'm done. I'm mentally done. I will be systematically checking out of things in the next few weeks and I can tell you right now- this summer? I do nothing for anyone. Nothing. I refuse. I'm going to enjoy my summer, I'm going to spend time with my kids, I'm going to enjoy the end of pregnancy, I'm going to start next school year with a fraction of the stress I've had several years now, and I'm just... done. I am mentally done.

Some of my best qualities have always been my selflessness, empathy, and giving nature. Those are all things I've really liked about myself and I've always been proud to be that person that is there in a jiffy. You need something? I'm on it. I never want someone else to feel burdened by something I could be doing. And I really hate that volunteering for so many different things has left me hating all of that and looking at those qualities as negatives. Because I may as well have "walk all over me, I'm cool with it" written on my head.

I can only hope the rest of the week gets better. I'm not even optimistic about it. I keep hearing I should look at all of the things that are good, I wouldn't feel so down. I've resigned myself to having zero expectations from anyone because then I can't be let down. If by god someone actually pulls through and does something, it's just a small blip of good. Who knew doing good things for others would turn you into a depressed pessimist?


Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Fighting Dirty (and giveaway opportunity!)

I won't confess to this being true for me, but let's just say I think a lot of babies are made because of Lori Foster books.

Fighting Dirty - Lori Foster

He's the hottest MMA fighter in the game, but one woman is ready to try out a few steamy moves of her own in an unforgettable new novel from New York Times bestselling author Lori Foster...

With the life he's led and the muscles he's gained, Armie Jacobson isn't afraid of anything. Except maybe Merissa Colter's effect on him. It's not just that she's his best friend's little sister. Fact is, she deserves better. Women pursue him for one night of pleasure, and that's all he wants to offer. Until rescuing Merissa from a robbery leads to the most erotic encounter of his life. 

Good girl meets bad boy. It's a story that rarely ends well. But Merissa is taking matters into her own hands. No matter how he views himself, the Armie she knows is brave, honorable and completely loyal. And as past demons and present-day danger collide, they're both about to learn what's truly worth fighting for… 

I am a HUGE Lori Foster fan. HUGE. I have so many of her books and I'm a little disgusted that I am just now getting to this series because I was missing out. It's a complete fail on my part and I hope Lori forgives me. Because god knows I'm ordering all of the other ones to rectify that immediately.

This book.


First off, I am in love with romance novels that have a military leading man in it or boxer/MMA lead and this one has Armie (hate that name) and he's on his way to becoming a huge MMA star. Then we have Rissy (Merissa) who has been in love with him for years. Well, he's been in love with her too but he took time to be a total man whore while Rissy essentially waited for her chance at him. I'm going to tell you the scenes with them are great and I could not have asked for more. What's even better?


Thank you, Lori, for writing an intelligent, non-clingy, non-crazy, drama free woman. Thank you. She's not irrational, she fully understands Armie, his moods, his reluctance, and she goes at his pace. It's total proof that there are some of us who are not emotional nut bags.

The drama element of this book was pretty solid. We have Rissy's ex, Steve, who is nuts for whatever reason and then we also have Armie's mysterious past that he has chosen to ignore/run from instead of dealing with it. When it all comes to a head, it really works out well and I hated to finish the book. I wanted so much more because this was such a well written couple, and I loved all of the characters. How often do you hear me say I loved the characters? It's rare. The sex scenes in this book were good, I found myself smiling at Armie and Rissy's playful banter, and I really identified with Rissy. She's a little insecure but wanting to please Armie despite his colorful sexual background but not in an annoying way. She really wants to make sure she's not holding him down or back, and she wants to be enough, and not in a way that it snubs it's nose at feminism.

Overall? I loved this book. I flew through it, I am eager for my other Lori Foster books to come because I anticipate flying through those as well. If you are a fan of romance, you need to be a fan of Lori Foster. You can find Fighting Dirty on Amazon as well as Barnes & Noble.

There is a huge giveaway happening for your chance at the series! Go HERE for your chance to win! Good luck!

Bookworm Box: January

I know, it seems like I'm super behind on these and it's because these boxes are showing up more and more late every month. It's kind of absurd, really.

The only promising thing about this box are the books and I say that every month, don't I? This month the books looked especially on point and I've already read and reviewed Dirty English and I'm going to start the other one soon.

The swag was a bunch of crap bookmarks I threw out, a sticker, a pen, a guitar pick (also thrown out), and a tote bag that BROKE after one trip to the library. The handles ripped right off and I only have 4 kid books, 2 movies, and 2 paperback books. I also see they have an online store where you can buy some of the Bookworm Box swag that they have been giving out and I'm telling you right now, the prices are so high that having worked in jobs where I had to get promotional items- you are being ripped off by your vendors, Bookworm Box. Just putting that out there.
Anyways. These are the two books we got and I read Dirty English first because the cover is really great and I really liked the book. Yes, it had some annoying things about it but overall it wasn't a bad book and I'm excited for the upcoming sequel, which will feature the other British twin. The other book has a great cover and it's in my to-read list. I'm actually reading a book from the December box right now, Whisper If You Need Me, because that book had a pretty cover as well and so far it's a pretty good little book, but I'm only a third of the way through with it. Stay tuned for the review.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Remembrance (Mediator Novel #7)

You know how a few months ago I was super out of it and feeling like I was losing my marbles? Yes, we all remember this, especially my family. But in that daze, I was also signing up and organizing all of my early 2016 book reviews and I totally signed up for this.

Which was dumb because this is number seven in a series I have not read. At all. In fact, I haven't read any Meg Cabot.

I know.

You're like, "What's wrong with you?!" and I can't even defend myself because truly, sometimes I'm a really dumb person.

Remembrance - Meg Cabot

Fifteen years after the release of the first Mediator novel, #1 New York Times bestselling author Meg Cabot returns with a deliciously sexy new entry to a fan-favorite series. Suze Simon—all grown up and engaged to her once-ghostly soulmate—faces a vengeful spirit and an old enemy bent on ending Suze's wedded bliss before it begins.

You can take the boy out of the darkness.

But you can’t take the darkness out of the boy.

All Susannah Simon wants is to make a good impression at her first job since graduating from college (and since becoming engaged to Dr. Jesse de Silva).

But when she’s hired as a guidance counselor at her alma mater, she stumbles across a decade-old murder, and soon ancient history isn’t all that’s coming back to haunt her. Old ghosts as well as new ones are coming out of the woodwork, some to test her, some to vex her, and it isn’t only because she’s a mediator, gifted with second sight. 

From a sophomore haunted by the murderous specter of a child, to ghosts of a very different kind—including Paul Slater, Suze’s ex, who shows up to make a bargain Suze is certain must have come from the Devil himself—Suze isn’t sure she’ll make it through the semester, let alone to her wedding night.

Suze is used to striking first and asking questions later. But what happens when ghosts from her past—including one she found nearly impossible to resist—strike first?

What happens when old ghosts come back to haunt you?

If you’re a mediator, you might have to kick a little ass.

I want to tell you that this is a totally stand alone book but I would be lying because as I mentioned before, I haven't read any of the previous books, and I was a little lost with the back story. Does that mean I didn't like the book? No. It just means I was a little lost, I felt like I wasn't in on the inside joke and this would have been a far better book for me had I read all of the previous ones. Secondly, if you haven't gotten caught up on this series, apparently, the book description alone is a spoiler for you so... sorry. I will say I have a friend who LOVED this series a whole bunch and she was a little confused why there was going to be a seventh novel, but once she wrapped her head around it she pre-ordered it right away. (She really enjoyed it and is a bit disgusted I am a Meg Cabot virgin.)

Here's what I really liked about the book: the mystery aspect was really good. I don't know who "the gang" really is or why they are bad ass, but the characters in this book were really good. I think I would be freaking out more about this if I had been following along, but I liked the characters. Enough where I kind of feel like I should start this series right at the beginning. I liked the general story line once Suze arrives as a guidance counselor, things move pretty quickly and I appreciated that. What I didn't like? I kind of assumed this was basically a romance novel with a little bit of fun action tossed in, but the romance part is just meh for me. Also, Paul seems like a bit of an asshole and I didn't like him at all.

Oh! My other super awesome like was the supernatural aspect of it. You start talking demons and ghosts and I will practically throw all of my money at you.

Overall? I'd give this a solid 4 stars. It's enough to make me want to read the books from the beginning, it almost seems like a watered down YA Twilight/Vampire Diaries/cue every other teen series but without vampires, but the characters are grown up and they seemingly haven't changed. I really enjoyed this, I was able to fly through it in one afternoon. I really liked the Suze and Jesse couple story line and I think if you were a die hard for this series you are going to eat this book up and love every page of it.

You can order your copy of Remembrance on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. In the meantime, check out Meg Cabot's website, Facebook, and Twitter.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

In Another Life

I promise you that very soon I will have non-book review related posts for you, but today... it's a book review post! I've gotten some serious reading done in my insomnia plagued evenings so I've been on a roll.

In Another Life - Julie Christine Johnson

Historian Lia Carrer has finally returned to southern France, determined to rebuild her life after the death of her husband. But instead of finding solace in the region's quiet hills and medieval ruins, she falls in love with Raoul, a man whose very existence challenges everything she knows about life--and about her husband's death. As Raoul reveals the story of his past to Lia, she becomes entangled in the echoes of an ancient murder, resulting in a haunting and suspenseful journey that reminds Lia that the dead may not be as far from us as we think.

Steeped in the rich history and romantic landscape of rural France, In Another Life is a story of love that conquers time and the lost loves that haunt us all.

Can we all just take a minute and marvel at the cover and admit it's absolutely stunning? This is one of those covers where you have facing out on your bookshelf because it's just so pretty and beautiful. The great part is that the cover is only the tip of the iceberg for this book because the story itself is equally as beautiful. Normally I have a hard time getting into books that have a setting in another country (this one is set in France) but the writer does such a good job at describing everything so you really feel like not only have you been there before, but you're there right now in the middle of it all.

We have Lia, who finds herself back in France after the death of her husband. Struggling to rebuild but also to identify who she is as a widow, she meets Raoul. Unexpectedly falling in love, Lia tries to reconcile these feelings alongside of her feelings of grief by her husband's passing and I think it's a really great inner struggle that we would all feel. You don't want to betray your chosen life partner, but you know that life is going on without them and you want to be happy, but it's this back and forth. Well, it would be easier if she wasn't thrown into the puzzle of a long ago murder, and as a historian, she finds herself compelled to figure out.

There are so many interesting elements to this book that I think could appeal to many different readers. It's a historical fiction, it has themes of the afterlife and are they ever really gone, you have the murder mystery, you have a romance going on, and you have a really terrific writing style pulling every genre together expertly. It was so well done that it makes up for the semi-slow start to the book. Once you get through that and get to the meat of it, the rest of the book more than makes up for it and again, the writing is really well done.

As of this morning, it appears that In Another Life is on sale on Amazon for under $10, so this is really a good deal for a book I think you're going to enjoy. In the meantime, you can find Julie on her website, on Facebook, and of course, on Twitter. Happy reading, lambs!

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

No Ordinary Life

I seem to be on a kick of books with a parenting theme this week, huh? That's OK because we all need to get out of the norm once in awhile!

No Ordinary Life - Suzanne Redfearn
Suzanne Redfearn delivers another gripping page-turner in her latest novel, a story about a young mother's fight to protect her children from the dangerous world of Hollywood. Faye Martin never expected her husband to abandon her and her three children . . . or that she'd have to struggle every day to make ends meet. So when her four-year-old daughter is discovered through a YouTube video and offered a starring role on a television series, it seems like her prayers have been answered. But when the reality of their new life settles in, Faye realizes that fame and fortune don't come without a price. And in a world where everyone is an actor and every move is scrutinized by millions, it's impossible to know who to trust, and Faye finds herself utterly alone in her struggle to save her family. Emotionally riveting and insightful, NO ORDINARY LIFE is an unforgettable novel about the preciousness of childhood and the difficult choices a mother needs to make in order to protect this fragile time in her children's lives.

I will tell you that if you are looking for a book that you will fly though, this is your pick. And for me to say that about a book with about 400 pages is really something. I was engaged and hooked from page one because I really identified with Faye. She's got three children, her moron husband has seemingly picked up and left and doesn't seem like he's ever going to return. She works a dead end, low-paying job, she has a teenager being a teenager, a son who has "selective mutism" and she can't afford the therapy to fix it so the school has called CPS, and she has just a little toddler who doesn't understand the world around her because she's busy being a toddler. She reluctantly packs the children up and moves in with her mom who makes it very clear she knew that guy was a loser and if you'd just listen to your mom (and stop having babies) you wouldn't find yourself here.

But alas. There Faye is, in Hollywood, barely making ends meet with her three kids and unsure of where life is going to take her next. All of a sudden, her super cute toddler is seemingly discovered online and all of a sudden she becomes the key to the family getting out of their rut. But of course, nothing is ever as easy as it seems and Faye is quickly learning about the dark side of show business and her family's happiness and normalcy is at stake. Every single stereotype you can think of in Hollywood is represented in this book and you cringe when you can see them coming but Faye can't. She's too nice, too naive, too trusting, and in her case, it's basically her being confronted with every fear she has. She has to go against everything she has ever done for her family to pull through. And then of course we have the dad, Sean, and he's a serious piece of work and you really hope Faye just pops off at him and really gives it to him.

I won't tell you if she does, of course, or how it winds up for the family. But it was a really great book that I sailed through on the weekend. It's just a really great book of a mom who doesn't think she's good or strong enough for her family but deep down she can do it. She's so easy to identify with as a mother.

You can get your own copy of No Ordinary Life on Amazon as well as Barnes & Noble.  While waiting for your book to arrive, check out Suzanne Redfearn's website, Facebook and on Twitter! She has another book out that you may also be interested in called Hush Little Baby.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Be Frank With Me (and FIVE giveaway copies!)

You guys. If you are in the market for a book that isn't a romance, isn't a suspense mystery, but a little quirky and totally endearing, then you need this book in your life. It's as wonderfully weird as I wanted it to be.

Be Frank With Me - Julia Claiborne Johnson

Reclusive literary legend M. M. “Mimi” Banning has been holed up in her Bel Air mansion for years, but now she’s writing her first book in decades and to ensure timely completion her publisher sends an assistant to monitor her progress. Mimi reluctantly complies—with a few stipulations: No Ivy Leaguers or English majors. Must drive, cook, tidy. Computer whiz. Good with kids. Quiet, discreet, sane.

When Alice Whitley arrives at the Banning mansion, she’s put to work right away—as a full-time companion to Frank, the writer’s eccentric nine-year-old, a boy with the wit of Noël Coward, the wardrobe of a 1930s movie star, and very little in common with his fellow fourth graders.

As she gets to know Frank, Alice becomes consumed with finding out who his father is, how his gorgeous “piano teacher and itinerant male role model” Xander fits into the Banning family equation—and whether Mimi will ever finish that book.

Full of heart and countless only-in-Hollywood moments, Be Frank With Me is a captivating and heartwarming story of an unusual mother and son, and the intrepid young woman who finds herself irresistibly pulled into their unforgettable world.

When I saw this book come up on my possible review titles, I jumped at the chance because I had seen a quick blurb about it on Goodreads and it sounded so odd but cute that I had to jump. And I am so glad I did!

Alice reminds me so much of myself and Mimi reminds me so much of a boss I once had. You never knew if she liked you but you knew that 99% of the time she would physically hurt you if she could because she just really didn't like life in general. Then you'd get those small moments where you think, "maybe she secretly likes me!" and you know it's fleeting because she doesn't like anyone. So to say that I identified with Alice in this book is a huge understatement.

But Alice is in need of a steady, regular job and this one has everything she needs and she has the opportunity to get to know M.M. Banning, who at one time, was this up and coming writer when out of nowhere she seemingly tossed it all aside and became a recluse. The way M.M. Banning is set up immediately reminded me of Harper Lee after To Kill A Mockingbird. Mimi is now broke after being scammed by a ponzi scheme (Bernie Madoff, anyone?) and is now being reluctantly forced to write the follow up of her breakout and classic novel, Pitched. In order for her to do that she needs a live in person to take care of the house but more importantly, her kind of strange son Frank who has two major rules and is an old Hollywood buff. Alice struggles learning how to relate to Frank and just when she thinks maybe she's reached buddy status with him, he reminds her that she is really just staff and she can go at any time. He's overly attached to his mother who appears to be fighting her own set of demons all alone and Alice finds herself trying to figure this family out.

So many say it but truly, the characters of this book are what make it outstanding. It's also a debut novel which is also amazing because Julia Claiborne Johnson just wrote the hell out of this book and you can't put it down. Frank is such a bizarre little boy and you want him to be OK, and you really start to feel like Alice as she tries to crack the puzzle of this family. The book was so fun and you found yourself kind of sad when it ended but also kind of relieved because what ELSE could possibly happen? It's so great.

You can find Be Frank With Me on Amazon as well as Barnes & Noble. See what Julia Claiborne Johnson is up to on her Facebook and Twitter pages, too!

The best part is that I have not one, but FIVE, copies of Be Frank With Me to giveaway! The first five people to leave a comment on this post about the worst boss you've ever had, will win one! But remember- you MUST leave me your email address so I can contact you!

Monday, February 15, 2016

The Rabbit Who Wants To Go To Harvard

Um, raise your hand if you really loved the book, Go the F*ck to Sleep? If you are cool at all, your hand should be up. Another great book in the same vein as that one, this is a parody on the parents who will do anything for their children to be obnoxious over-achievers.

The Rabbit Who Wants To Go To Harvard 

Do you struggle with getting your child to bend to your will? Join parents all over the world who have embraced this groundbreaking book as their new nightly routine.

In this parody of The Rabbit Who Wants to Fall Asleep, Ronald and Mommy Rabbit get help from Adderall Aardvark, Kollege Koach Kitty, and Admission Officer Owl, who know just how to stop all that incessant sleeping and get into Harvard, now. This lovingly panic-inducing and innovative story helps children at any age to set aside sleep and other quaint relics of youth for a much worthier goal: the Ivy League.

Make your dreams your child's dreams today!

“Yeah, that hypnotize-your-kid-to-sleep book was a success for a certain kind of slacker parent. But any truly successful parent knows that there’s no time to rest: the prep school toddler down the street has already invented a new computer language! This book is guaranteed to get your kids on the right track. Now.”--Harvard Dad, class of 2031

“Super creepy!”--Mom in Seattle

“Makes controlling your kid child’s play—or, you know, the opposite!”--Harvard Mom, class of 2032

Anytime a book starts with a page on how to read the book and gives you the disclaimer, "The author and publisher take no responsibility when your child ends up in therapy.", you know this is going to be fun stuff. The book is basically the story of Mommy Rabbit who wants desperately for Ronald to go to Harvard and be the best rabbit he can be. This means no sleep, play, or fun because all of that is for under achieving losers and you don't want to end up a LOSER. Mommy Rabbit reads this handbook/story to Ronald when he's sleeping as a form of hypnosis so that, in theory, he wakes up ready to do exponentially better than he was before bed.

In short, it's a great parody on helicopter parenting and how so many parents in today's society have zero faith in their children to learn how to make good decisions and be a responsible adult later in life. There is a line at the end that Ronald thinks to himself, "Mommy Rabbit will finally leave me alone and stop thinking that it's her job to micromanage my every move. She will back off. She will trust me to find my own calm, contented place." and I have to believe that every kid with a parent like Mommy Rabbit feels that way from time to time.

Honestly, I got a good laugh out of this book because I get the humor, I know parents like Mommy Rabbit and I wonder if they would see the similarities between themselves and this character and see how ridiculous it all is.

You HAVE to watch the trailer. It's hilarious.

This would make a really great tongue in cheek baby shower gift for a new parent, assuming they have a sense of humor or that they wouldn't take this as an actual parenting strategy. HA! You can find this on Amazon, it just came out! If you got it now you are basically a baby shower gift trend setter and we all want to be that.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

My Sweet Vidalia

Eep.. I know I'm running late! Yesterday was so challenging that I admittedly through the towel in and thought for sure I'd be able to get this out first thing this morning. I should really know better. 

On July 4, 1955, in rural Georgia, an act of violence threatens the life of Vidalia Lee Kandal's pre-born daughter. Despite the direst of circumstances, the spirit of the lost child refuses to leave her ill-equipped young mother's side.

For as long as she is needed―through troubled pregnancies, through poverty, through spousal abuse and agonizing betrayals―Cieli Mae, the determined spirit child, narrates their journey. Serving as a safe place and sounding board for Vidalia's innermost thoughts and confusions, lending a strength to her momma's emerging voice, Cieli Mae provides her own special brand of comfort and encouragement, all the while honoring the restrictions imposed by her otherworldly status.

Vidalia finds further support in such unlikely townsfolk and relations as Doc Feldman, Gamma Gert and her Wild Women of God, and, most particularly, in Ruby Pearl Banks, the kind, courageous church lady, who has suffered her own share of heartache in their small Southern town of yesteryear's prejudices and presumptions.

My Sweet Vidalia is wise and witty, outstanding for its use of vibrant, poetic language and understated Southern dialect, as well as Mantella's clear-eyed observations of race relations as human relations, a cast of unforgettable characters, an in-depth exploration of the ties that bind, and its creative perspective. My Sweet Vidalia is a rare, wonderful, and complex look at hope, strength, the unparalleled power of unconditional love, and a young mother's refusal to give up.

Right off the bat I'm going to tell you I absolutely LOVED this book. It reminded me so much of one of my favorite books of all time, Televenge by Pamela King Cable because the main female characters are just so similar. They both marry young, desperately wanting children, and their husbands are alcoholic, abusive, and basically cause them to lose their babies and set them on a lifetime path of hardship and heartache. I knew I had to read this book when I learned that My Sweet Vidalia is told in the voice of Cieli Mae, Vidalia's first baby who she tragically loses after her husband decides he doesn't want to be a father after all. Some could say Vidalia kind of loses her mind because she begins to speak to Cieli Mae and use her as her confidant, though she's just a spirit now. 

The story takes place in the deep south in the 50's, so you can imagine the racial tensions and the stereotypes already present. Add to that the tumultuous home life of  Vidalia and those around her, and this book is a really fast read. I really could not put it down because I just wanted her to be OK, to find some kind of happiness despite the hand she's already been dealt. Another amazing thing is this is a DEBUT novel and I'm telling you right now, the writing style in this book is just really wonderful. It's sweet, it makes you feel you really are in the deep south and you just feel at home, and you feel like you are sitting across the table of a grown up Cieli Mae telling you about her life. 

I can't hint to you at how it ends because the path all the way to the end is so damn great, even though it's awful, that it would really ruin it all for you. I will say that if you don't like to read about domestic violence, hostile prejudice, and things of that nature, maybe not the book for you. But if you can weather through those, I promise you this is a book that will stick with you. You'll find yourself thinking about the characters long after you've finished. 

I will share a special gem that I particularly enjoyed only because it reminded me of something my own parents would do. But at the very beginning of the book we learn Vidalia got pregnant by her high school sweetheart, JB, and so back then it was only natural for her to drop out and get married. At the wedding, JB is really spiking the punch with liquor and her father, who doesn't have anything of real value to offer her as she sets upon her new life, quietly hands her a gun "just in case". It's not funny and you shouldn't laugh, but picturing this happening at a quiet wedding, with a pregnant bride, and an already drunk husband... it's kind of uncomfortably funny. As if her dad knew exactly what her fate would end up being. 

It's so early in the year, but this is going to be at the top of my best books of 2016 list, I can already feel it. You can get your own copy of My Sweet Vidalia on Amazon. In the meantime, you can connect with the author, Deborah Mantella, on her website, Facebook and Twitter

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Platinum Doll

First I'm going to tell you that I chose this book simply because I'm fascinated by old Hollywood and also the early deaths of it's stars. Jean Harlow is right up there with the best and everyone knows the name, so I was immediately drawn to this book to learn more about her.

Platinum Doll - Anne Girard
Set against the dazzling backdrop of Golden Age Hollywood, novelist Anne Girard tells the enchanting story of Jean Harlow, one of the most iconic stars in the history of film.
It's the Roaring Twenties and seventeen-year-old Harlean Carpenter McGrew has run off to Beverly Hills. She's chasing a dream;to escape her small, Midwestern life and see her name in lights.In California, Harlean has everything a girl could want;a rich husband, glamorous parties, socialite friends;except an outlet for her talent. But everything changes when a dare pushes her to embrace her true ambition :to be an actress on the silver screen. With her timeless beauty and striking shade of platinum-blond hair, Harlean becomes Jean Harlow. And as she's thrust into the limelight, Jean learns that this new world of opportunity comes with its own set of burdens. Torn between her family and her passion to perform, Jean is forced to confront the difficult truth;that fame comes at a price, if only she's willing to pay it. Amid a glittering cast of ingenues and Hollywood titans: Clara Bow, Clark Gable, Laurel and Hardy, Howard Hughes, Platinum Doll introduces us to the star who would shine brighter than them all.

This book begins with a young Harlean, newly married to Chuck, on their way to what she thinks is a visit to Hollywood. She quickly finds out that Chuck has purchased a home for them, and that's the beginning of it all, really. Let me just interject and say I really felt terrible for Chuck. I think he comes from a sad upbringing and he's so desperate to be loved and so badly wants to fit in, he's willing to do anything to make Harlean happy. It's quickly obvious those that Harlean has a natural quality that draws people to her and Chuck takes a turn for the worse when his drinking escalates. We learn about Harlean's mother, Jean Harlow, who desperately tried to make it big in Hollywood but never amounted to anything. By chance, Harlean is discovered on a studio lot and asked to stop by for an audition. She blows it off, thinking she isn't motion picture material, but with the encouragement (and a dare) she goes for it. Her husband would be upset so for awhile she is able to keep it a secret.

She finds herself pregnant, and her mother, Jean (who let's just get this out now, I find it absolutely creepy that she keeps calling her mother "mommie" through the whole book), is the ultimate stage mom. She couldn't get herself in Hollywood but she'll be damned if anything stops her daughter because ultimately, that's a win for her as well. Her mother forces her into an abortion because a child would derail the burgeoning career.

And honestly, I think that was something Harlean never fully recovered from. Everything after seemed like her way of coping. She pretty much lost control of her own life, at age 17, from that point on. We see a marriage implode, romances begin and fizzle, more tragedy, and the book, oddly- ends on a high note. Strange because the life of Jean Harlow did not end on a high note. She died at age 26 of kidney failure, ultimately. Which is really sad because you think of this book, which starts with her at age 17 and only eleven years later and she's gone. A star for the ages in that short time.

Overall, I really enjoyed the book. It's a fascinating look into early Hollywood in the late 20's and early 30's and really, a tragic insight to the short life of Jean Harlow. Platinum Doll can be purchased on Amazon and Barnes & Noble!

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Girl Through Glass

Day two of a ton of book reviews for you- hopefully you'll find a few you want to add to your to-read lists!

Girl Through Glass - Sari Wilson
An enthralling literary debut that tells the story of a young girl’s coming of age in the cutthroat world of New York City ballet—a story of obsession and the quest for perfection, trust and betrayal, beauty and lost innocence.

In the roiling summer of 1977, eleven-year-old Mira is an aspiring ballerina in the romantic, highly competitive world of New York City ballet. Enduring the mess of her parent’s divorce, she finds escape in dance—the rigorous hours of practice, the exquisite beauty, the precision of movement, the obsessive perfectionism. Ballet offers her control, power, and the promise of glory. It also introduces her to forty-seven-year-old Maurice DuPont, a reclusive, charismatic balletomane who becomes her mentor.

Over the course of three years, Mira is accepted into the prestigious School of American Ballet run by the legendary George Balanchine, and eventually becomes one of “Mr. B’s girls”—a dancer of rare talent chosen for greatness. As she ascends higher in the ballet world, her relationship with Maurice intensifies, touching dark places within herself and sparking unexpected desires that will upend both their lives.

In the present day, Kate, a professor of dance at a Midwestern college, embarks on a risky affair with a student that threatens to obliterate her career and capsizes the new life she has painstakingly created for her reinvented self. When she receives a letter from a man she’s long thought dead, Kate is hurled back into the dramas of a past she thought she had left behind.

Told in interweaving narratives that move between past and present, Girl Through Glass illuminates the costs of ambition, secrets, and the desire for beauty, and reveals how the sacrifices we make for an ideal can destroy—or save—us.

Right off the bat, I have to be honest and tell you I know next to nothing about ballet other than the fact it screws your feet up and that is the main reason I never wanted to do it. I have a thing about jacked up feet so you will never even see me encourage my daughters into ballet because, no. Secondly I've only seen a ballet once and I really am not that person that can understand a story with no words. I see people flitting about and twirling and I'm not getting the emotions they are supposed to be conveying and I get bored. All this to say that if you are not a fan of ballet, you are probably not going to enjoy this book at all because it all centers around ballet and the emotions on and off stage and how you never really leave any of it behind despite best efforts.

I don't want to give it away but I figured out the Mira/Kate connection almost immediately and I've talked to two other reviewers who said they didn't get it until the end. I'm not a super smart person, but come on, now. So for me, I think that was supposed to be a little bit of a suspense element but I figured it out in the first third of the book so if you're hoping that will hold you through, maybe don't count on it especially if you are an avid reader of suspense or mysteries.

I have to say the book is written very well. You can tell the author has extensive experience in ballet and knows her stuff, almost to the point it goes over a regular reader's head. I can't picture what these girls are doing because I have no idea what the technical terms in ballet are, but I appreciate the education and time that went into writing this book. I have to be honest though, and I have seen a few documentaries on ballet and dance in general, but the Maurice character is beyond creepy and wholly inappropriate. I get that these are some of the real life people these young women (and men) encounter and sometimes they are so wrapped up into the art of ballet and what it means to really emote with everything except your voice but man. It made me feel uncomfortable and to be honest, I almost didn't finish the book because of it.

Overall? I'd give this book 3/5 stars. It wasn't bad, it was just a solid OK for me. I didn't know what to expect going in, and it is better than I thought it would be because the writing is exceptional and I really adored Mira. Mira just... she's just that little kid with crap parent(s) and you just want the best for her but life choices lead you to different paths. It makes you wonder where she would be had she made different choices all together. It's just a really interesting book, but not one where I'd say you couldn't put it down. In fact, I put it down and started another book mid way through it, and then came back to it. But I think people are loving this because the writing is just... it's really beautiful and so well done.

You can purchase Girl Through Glass on Amazon and Barnes & Noble, of course. In the meantime, you can connect with Sari Wilson on her website and Twitter!

Every Broken Wish Blog Tour

About the Author
K. S. David lives in the Mid-Atlantic with her husband, their three children and a menagerie of pets. 
New storylines are constantly running through her head and she keeps notebooks tucked in pockets of the car, the nightstand and makes voice recordings just about all day long. She's addicted to true life mysteries and crime shows, both of which marry well with a great romance. Some of her favorite things are long walks, reading in bed, baking and of course, writing her next novel.

Her latest book is the romantic suspense, Every Broken Wish.

For More Information

Litha Adams cleared her schedule, deciding to spend the day at home. She needed a break from her chaotic life. She picked a perfect sunny day to relax and just hang out in the garden. Nothing prepared her for the sudden appearance of Ethan Garner. She had walked away from him and spent every day since, building a life on her terms. By day's end, she had another problem. Strangers were in her home. Litha found herself locked away with Ethan as interlopers hunted for treasure. Then came the realization that she was their target. They were hunting for her. 

For More Information

  • Every Broken Wish is available at Amazon.
  • Discuss this book at PUYB Virtual Book Club at Goodreads.

Working the soil was a source of comfort for Litha Adams. She liked to feel the rich black granules slip through her fingers. She liked the sense of accomplishment she felt when something as small as a minuscule seed erupted from the earth to produce an edible crop or the vivid canopy of colors that lit up the back wall of her estate. She had purchased Enchanted Island specifically for that purpose. It was an eleven thousand square foot brick-front colonial on ten acres, complete with its own private lake, which she kept well stocked with ladyfish, spadefish, and Alabama darter.
 The estate was a collection of steep undulating hills, surrounded by ten-foot sugar maple, loblolly pine, and yellow buckeye trees, which closed off visibility from neighbors and passersby. Once you turned off the residential road, drove up the long shaded driveway, and passed through the tall black iron gates, there was an immediate sense of isolation. The vast green acreage, the colorful gardens, bubbling fountains, even the man-made lake, was serenity for Litha and the few guests she allowed at her home. The irony was that her quiet oasis was barely a heartbeat away from the bustle of downtown Atlanta.
“Ms. Adams,” said a voice behind her.           
Litha sat back on her heels, removed her lavender rose patterned garden gloves, and waited for her assistant to continue. She rarely took time to do anything for herself, rarer to work in the gardens. She needed a breather from the chaotic treadmill of her life. Instead of hitting the office before sunup, she decided to work from home and sneak in a little solace. She had already run five miles and punched off a dozen emails before telling Courtney, her assistant, to change her schedule. Courtney reported to the house instead of the office and every appointment had been canceled, except one. Even that had been re-routed to the house.
“You have a visitor. The guy didn’t give his name, but he says you know him,” said Courtney.
Litha twisted around and glared at her. “What?”
Courtney shrugged. “He’s at the gate. He insists on seeing you.”
“Here?” confirmed Litha. “You’re saying some random man just drove up and wants to see me?” 
Putting her hand on her narrow hip, Courtney nodded. She wasn’t just Litha’s assistant, but her closest friend. “Shaun has him at the gate. I already spoke with the guy. I asked him to leave his name and a card and I’d have you contact him, but he insists on talking with you himself.” 
Courtney was impeccably dressed in a tasteful, mid-calf, ice-blue sleeveless dress. She wore her hair natural, kept it cut low and perfectly tapered on the sides and at the nape. A hint of red on the edges of her hair set off her toasted-chestnut skin, which was flawless. She had high cheekbones, full lips, and a sultry come-hither voice that made most men stop dead in their tracks. She was also a closet comedienne, with a wicked sense of humor, who had the ability to lift Litha’s mood no matter what was going on. But when Litha looked at her, she didn’t see that spark of wit bubbling behind her dark brown eyes. 
“What does he look like?” She imagined some half-crazed man hanging from the twenty-foot gates. There were dozens of charitable organizations always chasing her down; ladies auxiliaries, educational funds, and church groups inviting her to either speak to their masses, lend her name to their cause, write a check in support, or all three. No one had ever tracked her to the house. Litha had hired personal security eight months ago and kept a guard at the gate twenty-four hours a day. She also had a man present in the house at all times or by her side whenever she left. 
Courtney considered the question and shifted her iPad to the opposite hip. “If I may say so . . . he’s fine. He’s well dressed. He’s driving an
Affalterbach. Speaks well. He’s very clear about your association.”
Sighing, Litha slapped her hands together, sending up a small plume of dust. She brushed off her jeans and pressed her hand against the front of her t-shirt. “And he won’t give his name?” asked Litha.
“No. Shaun wants to know how you want to handle it. He’s ready to dial 9-1-1; he’s just waiting to finish the call.”
 Litha looked back at her unfinished work. She’d been planting larkspur and penstemon for added color in the garden. Small black containers waited to be transplanted. “I’ll go see what the guy wants,” she decided.
She and Courtney took a narrow cobblestone path that rounded the east end of the home. As they stepped onto the paved driveway, Litha noticed the shiny black car idling outside the gate. The heavy tint on the windows made it impossible for her to see who sat in the driver’s seat. Shaun stood at the edge of the guard’s house holding a cell phone. 
The extreme security measures hadn’t been her idea, they’d had been put in place at the insistence of Ed Mitchell, the Chief Operating Officer of her company. He was afraid that the recent protest at the company could spiral out of control. After weeks of cajoling, begging, and pleading, Litha finally conceded to a personal escort, the fortress-like gates circling the property, the armed guard, handpicked drivers, and the fleet of secured vehicles. Her personal staff had swollen and been required to submit to extensive background checks, polygraph exams, take basic training in selfdefense, sign rigid confidentiality agreements, and had been taught to remain on alert at all times. Litha agreed to all the changes even though they resulted in every facet of her life being utterly and completely invaded. 
A walk to Starbucks for an iced coffee was an act of defiance. Ed and the entire team would spin into action, hustling about in a fury trying to find her. When they did, they'd swoop in like a SWAT team to form a secure bubble around her. Slipping away occasionally was her way of keeping her sanity, retaining her independence, and proving to Ed that his concerns were unwarranted. It was also her way of reminding all of them that she was the one in charge. 
Courtney slowed her pace then touched Litha’s arm to halt her. “I . . . I don’t know about this,” she said. “Maybe it isn’t such a good idea. He didn’t look crazy, but you never know.” Then deciding. “I’ll have Shaun just get the guy’s name and number. He’ll have to be satisfied with that. Ed would kill me if anything happened to you. The protocol . . .”
Litha held out a hand. “Whoa. Stop.” She turned to Courtney. “Has
Ed been harassing you about what goes on in my house?”
“Not exactly harassing,” evaded Courtney. She was uncomfortably aware of the tension that had developed between Litha and Ed Mitchell recently. She wanted to stay clear of it. “You know him,” she urged, “Ed’s all about rules and has his ideas about how things should run.” 
Litha sucked her teeth, crossed her arms, and said, “I haven’t abdicated control of my life to anyone. If Ed Mitchell thinks any differently, then he’d do well to remember who owns the company, who he works for and this house. If I choose to walk to my gate, then I will.” 
Not offended by Litha’s directness, Courtney pursed her lips, snapped her fingers. “Alright, Boss Lady.” She stepped aside and pointed toward the gate. 
At their approach, the car door opened. Shaun’s hand swung to the gun on his hip. “Sir, please stay in the car.”
Ignoring him, a tall, well-built man stepped out in a crisp, tailored suit. He had skin like whipped dark chocolate, a broad regal nose, a firm jaw, and narrowed eyes that went immediately for Litha. 
She stopped. Her heart thumped in her chest so hard it hurt. In a quaking breath, she huffed, “Shit.”
“You okay?” asked Courtney, protectively stepping between Litha and the gate.
The man closed the door, letting her see the full measure of him. 
“Sir, please get back in the car,” said Shaun. “I’m going to have to call the police if you don’t comply.”
 “I’m fine,” said Litha, regaining her composure.
She willed herself to steady and pinched her hands closed for a moment to stop the shaking. Imagining herself a bar of unbendable steel, she stepped around Courtney, walked toward the gate. Wrapping her fingers around the bars and she stared at the man for a moment. 
When the man took a step forward, Shaun pushed his hand into the stranger’s chest and warned, “Sir, I’m serious. All I have to do is hit ‘send’ and I’ll connect with the police.” He held up the phone.
In a voice that had turned cool and hard, Litha said, “Shaun, put the phone away. Let him through.” 

My Review

A strange little book. We have Litha, who basically decides to take a day off of her regularly scheduled life to stay home and then all hell kind of breaks loose. Which makes it sound more dramatic than it really is. It all starts when Ethan, who she left long ago, shows up mysteriously out of the blue. After steeling herself against his appearance things take a turn for the weird when she finds herself locked away as people begin searching her home and grounds for some kind of locked away treasure. That then forces Ethan and Litha to reconcile their past since they are conveniently together for such a long time. The book itself almost reads as a short story because it's only 173 pages and I was able to finish it within two hours easily. It's not a gripping suspense, and it won't keep you on the edge of your seat/can't put it down, but it's a decent little read if you are in the mood for something you can finish quickly, for sure. I thought it was OK, I'd give it 3/5 stars. I went in thinking this would almost be a teen book but it's definitely not because these are very much adult characters but the ending felt kind of... bleh? (Yeah, not a real world, but it's more of a sound I would be making, just go with it.) It's an OK little book. I would absolutely try another book by this author because there were sparks of potential greatness in this one, I think the author just didn't quite get there, but it's not enough where I would recommend you not to read it. Definitely give it a try if you want a quick book on a budget!