Thursday, March 31, 2016

Book Box Update, Owlcrate & Bookworm Box

I have so totally been slacking on showing you what I've gotten from both Owlcrate and The Bookworm Box. I have two months of each to show you and some thoughts from each.

First up, let's talk about the February "Sci-Fi Love" Owlcrate box. I'm not a fan of sci-fi so much and I was going to cancel, but this was the one I was getting for free because I had enough referrals, so I figured if it was super shitty, I'm only out the shipping.

Which was nice because it's kind of shitty. The books aren't ones I'd ever pick up in a store, the bag was lame because I didn't read that book and I donated it, and the Dr. Who wooden pin is going to be shipped to my friend who really likes Dr. Who (it's coming, Kim- I SWEAR). Overall I was pretty disappointed and the books are just on the shelf.

The very next day I got my February box from The Bookworm Box. You know I've been on the fence about this box since the start, and here I am, legs dangling over the fence, ready to jump off.
I have to say that the books look promising, and they have always been on point. The swag in this box is absolutely terrible and it makes me angry to essentially throw away all of the bookmarks and postcards each month. Oh, and the highlighter that doesn't work? Yeah, that was awesome.

I actually forgot to cancel my Owlcrate for March because for whatever reason, at age 34 I cannot wrap my head around the fact that February is the shortest month and it screws me up. So that arrived and I didn't hate it.
I'm not sure how I feel about the book because I haven't gotten a chance to read it yet, but the swag this month was GREAT. I love the banned books socks, the cool little buttons, the feather pen (that writes SO WELL), and the bonus mini book 642 Tiny Things to Write About is next to my laptop and I hope to use that as blog inspiration. So I'm kind of happy that I didn't cancel because I would have been bummed to miss this stuff.

The Bookworm Box has switched how they mail our boxes out so apparently we don't get any kind of shipping notification this is coming, which is frustrating since this box is notorious for being really late. So imagine my surprise when this showed up to my house on Tuesday.
I hate to be a bitch about a box that donates the proceeds to charity. I hate to be that person because I love charities and helping causes out.


This box is almost $50 a month for me after shipping. And when you break down the value of your almost $50 to what you're getting, it's not even close. Every other book box out there you know that for your $30-40 a month you are getting well over that in stuff in your box. That's the fun little perk. The best part about The Bookworm Box is that you get two books every month versus one so that makes you feel like you're really getting something.

So yesterday, after throwing away a sticker, a weird cleaning cloth thing, a rubber bracelet, yet ANOTHER FUCKING PEN, and a pile of bookmarks and promotional materials, I'm left with two books. That's it. For almost $50. I decided to look on Amazon to see how screwed I'm really getting, because that always makes you feel better, doesn't it? Well Thizz is actually free on Kindle (if you have the unlimited, but $1.99 if not) but $11.99 for the paperback and One Pink Line is $9.99 for paperback, otherwise $3.99 for Kindle. Oh, but you can also buy One Pink Line for $1.02 used on Amazon if you aren't picky.

So at best, my books brand new cost what, $22? So over half of my money is literally being flushed down the toilet. Every month. And that's really disgusting to me because the idea of this box is genuinely good and I want to support it. It's just that they aren't really selling it. I certainly can't be the only customer feeling like we're being ripped off.

Which led me to finally cancel my subscription to The Bookworm Box. Which really sucks because it was my first, it was the one I was the most excited about, but jesus it really sucks. It has really become an awful waste of money. I'll keep my eye out and maybe if enough people complain it'll get better. I get that everything that goes into the box is donated by authors and whoever works for them to promote their stuff, I get that. But how is it that every other box is out there making a profit and still mailing out phenomenal boxes? It's like The Bookworm Box needs someone who is 100% dedicated to making this great versus an author who does this on the side while trying to write and promote her own stuff.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Why infant illnesses are no joke.

Not for one second did I debate on posting about Penelope's recent illness because honestly? People need to know that it is 100% unacceptable to touch, hold, kiss, etc any child if you have been sick. If you have been sick you need to act as if you have the plague because what is just a "minor cold" or "probably my asthma" or "just a little sore throat" can be very serious in a child, much less an infant. It's also important to note that I am, in no way shape or form, a germaphobe. I am that mom who is not afraid to put my child in a shopping cart, I'm not constantly wiping them down, I advocate for hand washing because it's common sense, but I'm not spraying everything down with sanitizer and slathering my child in it, either. I know germs are OK. What isn't OK is knowing you are sick, getting sick, or have been sick in the last few days and brushing that off to hold my super adorable baby.

I get it, she's super cute and cuddly and you want to squish her. Trust me, I get it because I do it often. But I also want her to stay healthy. Because this is what could happen, and it's not even a worse case scenario, but it was scary enough. 

It all started three weeks ago. On Saturday we had a BIG day, lots of running around between Jackson's Boy Scout pancake breakfast (Matt and him were volunteering) and Olivia participating in an all day youth choir concert (more on these tomorrow probably). We came into contact with afew people who had colds, who were coughing but blamed their asthma, and one guy who touched Penelope and then proceeded to hack a lung into a kleenex. It was pretty disgusting. We spent the entire day running back and forth, so needless to say by night time we were all pretty exhausted. All appeared to be well. 

On Sunday, it started out alright. Penelope was a little crabby but I figured maybe being screwed up on naps the previous day had set her up for melt downs this day, but no big deal. We went out to lunch as a family (as usual) and we planned on coming home to just relax because I wasn't feeling great. I figured I was just really, really tired so I ended up taking a nap. 

When I woke up, Olivia let me know that she had diarrhea, Jackson said his stomach really hurt, and Penelope refused to be anywhere but in someone's lap and she'd just cry and cry if you put her down. She didn't want to eat and she started running a temperature. It was 102 when we put her down for bed so I thought I'd give her a dose of Tylenol just to take the edge off so she could fall asleep.

Fast forward to 4:30 a.m., Matt has already gone to work and Penelope woke up crying. When I went in there, she was burning up, probably the warmest I have ever had a child. I took her temperature and it was 103.8, so I immediately went and got some Tylenol and thought I'd rock her until she fell back asleep.

Except that never actually happened.
She was up for the day. I decided maybe if I brought her into my room she'd want to cuddle and go back to bed. In the light of my room I could tell she looked really awful. She had a bit of a runny nose, was coughing, but that fever.. that worried me. Soon we dozed off for about a half hour, but then Olivia and Jackson were up for school. I felt awful, my head was pounding, and I was just SO tired. I called Matt and asked if he could bring the kids to school because I didn't think I wanted to really cart Penelope around. Every time  you picked her up she'd whimper and cry so I figured she probably had body aches. The entire day was like this. She hardly ate but throughout the day she just got worse.
By Tuesday Matt and I were both tired. He ended up not going to work on Tuesday because he had slept with Penelope on the couch all night in 10 minute intervals so I could sleep. I could tell I was really getting sick, and I figured it was the flu despite having a flu shot because I just felt miserable. Penelope would eat, sparingly, but was still having enough wet diapers so I wasn't totally worried. She just refused to be put down anywhere, you had to hold her constantly. The mucus and coughing though.... those were bad. I mean bad. We couldn't suck stuff out of her nose fast enough.
The entire day on Tuesday was spent in the dark, with vapor plug in's everywhere in the house, a rotating schedule of Tylenol and ibuprofen because her fever wouldn't go lower than 101. And she cried. Oh... did she cry.
By Wednesday she was a limp noodle. It was to the point where I was really getting worried. Thankfully her doctor thought the symptoms and her general demeanor were bad enough to warrant her missing a meeting so she could see Penelope. We went in, did the swab for influenza and sure enough, it came back positive for Influenza A. We got a prescription for Tamiflu and told to push the liquids.

After spending an OBSCENE amount, even with our insurance ($134, to be exact) on a very small dose of Tamiflu, we started it. To which she vomited it up within 45 minutes. We were to give it to her twice a day and each time, she'd vomit. We were literally watching her vomit the very last of our money.

By this point, I was also incredibly sick. I called my doctor on Thursday and again, they couldn't do anything for me except give me Tamiflu which I refused to pay for and figured I'd tough it out. Which was really stupid because I'm just now feeling like I can move without pain and it's been three weeks. That's how bad this is.
On Thursday Matt went back to work but I was also so sick I could barely take care of her let alone myself, so he ended up coming home early. Penelope was literally no better. In fact my mom and I both thought she was getting worse. Her face was so red, her eyes were just dim, and she wouldn't do anything. You could barely move her without her whimpering or crying. She'd eat occasionally and wouldn't do Pedialyte and she'd only perk up about an hour after Tylenol and ibuprofen, but that was such a short time that we ended up feeding her then just to get something in her.
On Friday I woke up at 7 and kind of freaked out because this entire week she had been waking up a lot all night, but she hadn't at all. I panicked and thought the worst, ran into her room, and there she was, curled up in a ball sleeping peacefully. I left her, figuring she'd wake up now that her door was open.

Except that she didn't. Matt had been taking the kids to school all week, so I didn't have to take her out anywhere. But by 9, I just had a feeling, and I went in to check on her. She was awake, lying on her side facing the door and just... crying but with no sound.

My heart absolutely stopped.

I took down her rail and she always puts her little arms up for me but today she didn't. I knew immediately something was really very wrong. I should also note that every morning of this week I had to strip her and get her into a bath and change bedding because of all of the mucus. I mean, it was EVERYWHERE. Crusted to her face, hair, limbs, just wherever it could be it was. So as soon as I pick her up I realize she is a total limp noodle. She looks like she's wailing and has tears coming out of her eyes but there literally was no sound, like someone had hit a mute button on my baby.

I got her into the bathroom, stripped her down, and got into the shower with her to get everything off her. She's trying to cling to me but I could tell she just didn't have it in her. So once I get her all cleaned off, and mucus sucked out of her nose (and that's when she made a sound, so I knew she wasn't broken!), I got her dressed in some light pajamas and called my mom.

I knew 100% I had to take her into the emergency room because this had just gotten to a serious point. Her breathing was so shallow. She didn't appear to be struggling to breathe, she wasn't having the sucking in like they showed me on Wednesday, she just looked like she was taking such shallow breaths that she'd eventually just stop.

As soon as my mom came and saw her, I knew I had made the right decision to bring her in. It's always nice to know I am not nuts and I'm not over reacting. She had seen Penelope every day that week and she said we absolutely had to bring her in. And thank god.

We got there, and it's not our normal hospital, but the other one in town because my pediatrician told me that our hospital would transfer me anyways and I would maybe have an ambulance bill, so to just avoid that and go on my own. So we did. They have a really good pediatric unit, so I felt like it was a good decision.

We were in the emergency room for just shy of six hours. There was a few hours of debating whether to admit her or not but ultimately, the amount of oxygen she was taking in hovered around 94, and they don't admit unless you're in the 80's, so they felt confident she was getting enough air on her own. Ultimately though, we did a swab for influenza and RSV, and they did a nebulizer treatment while we waited for the results on that to see if that cleared out her airways anymore. Meanwhile we waited for her turn for a chest xray, to which I couldn't go with her because I'm pregnant, so thank god I had my mom with me because I couldn't send Penelope alone.

We waited for about an hour to get results of everything and sure enough, she still had her influenza A, she also had RSV, but on top of it all, she had bronchial pneumonia.

Which is just too much for a little baby to have. I was pretty scared because not even the day before did I hear of a really healthy 30 year old woman in our area who died of pneumonia and so fast. It hit her and that was it- she was gone. The silver lining was that we could get an antibiotic for the pneumonia because it wasn't a viral strain, and they hoped that would jump start the rest of her body to fight the flu and RSV better. Basically it's too much for a little body to handle all at once without some kind of help.
They gave her the first dose, a super sized dose, before we left, gave me a ton of literature about what she has and what I need to watch for and when I absolutely have to bring her back in immediately. Friday and Saturday were pretty awful, scary days because she was just still so sick and I was pretty scared. I was absolutely sure I'd go into her room and see she her blue or something.

Thankfully, that didn't happen. By Sunday she wanted to be on the floor and even played toys for a bit. She crawled a little bit but was really wobbly when trying to stand. Was a little more agreeable about eating something and her fever was hovering around 100 so I felt less scared, like things were improving.

All of last week was pretty chill. We took it easy, we ate and slept on demand, we didn't play hard, we didn't really go anywhere. My mom came over to help because I was still so sick and the kids had spring break, so it felt far more manageable.
This week? Well this week she's back to her old self. She's teething so that's why she gets cranky, but she's back on her regular schedule and so very happy. Her face isn't red, it isn't chapped, we have a random cough here or there but usually only after she's really been playing. I cannot even tell you how relieved I am to see her feeling better. That was easily the scariest two weeks of my life. It was even scarier than when Olivia actually was hospitalized for dehydration after the stomach flu. That was a three day thing and she was really fine after one so we were mostly just bored in there. But Penelope... man. 

And this is where I get VERY annoyed at people who blow it off and who have said, "Yeah, well babies get sick." I so badly want to tell these people to fuck off because unless it was you carrying a limp baby into an emergency room, you have absolutely no idea what it was like. Even her pediatrician said thank god I brought her in because she has seen babies just fade away when that sick and it's actually really common. You think it's a mild cold for you but it turns into something more with babies. You can't be flippant about your damn germs. 

So that's me, getting off of my soap box even though I really want to rip into some people. I won't because I've got a cute little doll making cute little noises in her sleep in her crib and I'm totally going to check on her because I can. 

Monday, March 28, 2016

Summer at Little Beach Street Bakery

I already posted this morning, but let's also start your week off with a book review that will definitely get you in the mood for summer reading!

Summer at Little Beach Street Bakery - Jenny Colgan

The New York Times bestselling author of Little Beach Street Bakeryand Christmas at the Cupcake Café returns with a delightful new novel—with recipes!—that is already an international bestseller and is perfect for fans of Jojo Moyes, Meg Donohue, and Sophie Kinsella.

For fans of Jojo Moyes and Elin Hilderbrand, an irresistible novel—moving and funny, soulful and sweet—about happiness, heartache, and hope. And recipes.

A thriving bakery. A lighthouse to call home. A handsome beekeeper. A pet puffin. These are the things that Polly Waterford can call her own. This is the beautiful life she leads on a tiny island off the southern coast of England.

But clouds are gathering on the horizon. A stranger threatens to ruin Polly’s business. Her beloved boyfriend seems to be leading a secret life. And the arrival of a newcomer—a bereft widow desperately searching for a fresh start—forces Polly to reconsider the choices she’s made, even as she tries to help her new friend through grief.

Unpredictable and unforgettable, this delightful novel will make you laugh, cry, and long for a lighthouse of your own. Recipes included.

First thing first, this is the second book in the Little Beach Street Bakery series but I haven't read the first one (I'm going to pick it up soon) so I can tell you with 100% certainty this can be a stand alone book. I have talked with a few fellow readers who have read both and they said of course, reading this one first will give you spoilers about the first book, but more so that the story carries on. Honestly, I didn't feel like I've really missed out by not reading the first book so please don't let that deter you from adding this to your summer reading lists.

Jenny Colgan might be one of those authors I automatically add to my summer reading list, right up there with Dorothea Benton Frank, because it's just a fun chick lit novel that will give you sweet moments, a little bit of angst for some character but ultimately leave you smiling at the end. It's a light, feel good read basically so if you are in the market (or mood) for that, you need to add this. I also want to mention that the characters and setting are just so lovely in this book. I also finished it wanting a pet puffin, to which my husband said absolutely not because he is an absolute buzzkill.

Basically the book centers around Polly and her essentially idealistic life on Mount Polbearne. She is in love with her boyfriend Huckle but we soon discover he has responsibilities and things from his past that are making their appearance again, thus making him more and more absent and we aren't sure if his absence is going to make Polly's heart grow fonder or not. We also have recently widowed Selina who moves to town hoping to work through her stages of grief but is befriended by Polly who soon realizes she knows something that could hurt Selina even more. All while thinking these things through, Polly continues to bake in her little bakery so throughout we have little recipes as well. Some of my favorite parts of this book is the excellent craftsmanship of the story, you actually feel like you're walking down the streets of Mount Polbearne and you instantly want to really be there. Secondly, the dialogue and the interaction between characters is so fun and full of personality. I absolutely adore Polly as a character and her character development alone would convince me to pick up anything else Jenny Colgan writes because I know it will be spot on and fun.

If you want a light, fun, sweet read as you work on your summer reading lists- this is one to for sure add. I don't think you'll be disappointed at all. You can purchase your copy of Summer at Little Beach Street Bakery on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. In the meantime, check out Jenny's website, Facebook, and Twitter to look at some of her other books and see where she what's new!

18, 20, and 21. Still pregnant.

I have been absolutely slacking on the pregnancy posts this time, haven't I? I haven't been documenting this one as much as I did with Penelope and I feel like I'm already playing favorites or something. To be honest, Penelope's pregnancy was probably my absolute favorite. Sure, it had some tough spots there but what pregnancy doesn't? But I really enjoyed every minute of it and watching myself grow, and just be excited.

If I'm being honest, and you know I always am, this pregnancy isn't nearly as fun for me. I've been dealing with some serious depression, it's been winter and just shitty. I'm exhausted. I can say this is the only pregnancy where I had legitimate morning sickness up until week 14 (also the first pregnancy I've even had morning sickness save for a day or two), and as of late, I've been so very sick with the flu, a cold, a sinus infection, and bronchitis. Some of those at the same time.

I am only just now getting to the part where I'm kind of enjoying it. I know I have to hurry up and enjoy it because I'm 21 weeks as of this morning and that means I'm half way done. It's going to go by so fast and I know absolutely, FOR SURE, this is my last one so I don't want to ever feel like I took this for granted.

So let's talk pregnancy for baby four.

 18 weeks

I didn't actually start looking pregnant until 18 weeks, which is reminiscent of when I had Olivia. And Jackson. I felt like I showed earlier with Penelope, but who knows. I still get the stares where people wonder if I'm pregnant or fat. The worst part about being pregnant with a baby is that people say some of the rudest stuff to you at all. Especially because right now, I haven't been wearing my wedding ring because it itches badly. (Weird fact: When I'm pregnant basically all jewelry, real or fake, irritates my skin so I don't usually wear much. If I do, it's for shorter periods of time.)

Anyways. A few times now I've gotten stares if it's just Penelope and I, but it's even worse when I have my two older ones with me. I've had women (and men) ask why I keep getting pregnant without a husband to which I say I have a husband, but I don't feel like I have to have a ring to prove it. The best though is when people see Penelope, look at my stomach like they want to ask if I'm expecting or if I'm just still fat, so I usually just say, "Yeah, I'm pregnant. I'm due in August." and then people laugh and say, "HAHA!! Don't you know you can prevent that?!" 


Yes, I do. In fact, FUNNY STORY- I tried. I tried to prevent it and yet, here we are. I'm part of that what, .01% freak chance that could happen. 

Usually people don't know what to say then and walk away awkwardly. 
20 weeks

At 20 weeks I found out that baby four is going to be a GIRL. I wish I could have recorded all of our reactions. Actually, Matt didn't really care either way, he's not very into caring about stuff like that. Olivia teared up, sunk in her seat. Jackson full out cried until Matt told him to stop it, which only made me feel worse for the little guy. Penelope sneezed and blew boogers ALL OVER the door so Matt had to clean that up, and I teared up. 

Yes, I am that asshole mom who was disappointed. I had really hoped for a little boy. 

Now, before you get all up in my case with, "Jesus Sara, maybe you should just be grateful it's healthy. There are lots of women who would do anything for any kind of baby." Yes, I get it. I do. I'm not unsympathetic to the plight of women who are unable to conceive. I'm not an asshole. But I'm telling you what- being in the worst depression I have ever been in, having dealt with an incredibly sick baby for the last ten days (more on that tomorrow), and feeling sick and awful myself, I had really held hope that maybe JUST ONE THING could go my way. Just one thing. I'm not asking a lot, I'm really not. I wanted Jackson to have a brother, I wanted to be even, and I wanted Penelope to have a little brother like Olivia did because that was and still is, a very special friendship/sibling relationship. 

But instead, baby four is a girl. 

She's a little small for her gestational age but that's probably because I've now lost quite a bit of weight and am five pounds lighter than when I started this pregnancy. (I had kind of gone up, down, up, and now way down) but that's because I have zero appetite being sick. I'm obviously still eating but very small bits at a time and just enough to satisfy hunger pangs. 

Other than that, it's been kind of uneventful? I'm working on names. I'm trying to work out the logistics of having four kids in my head and it's not easy. I keep thinking if this had been happening in another year it wouldn't feel so daunting but alas, here we are. 

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Terrible Virtue

I apologize for being MIA as of late and getting this review out late. Please bear with me as I try to get well, and Penelope gets well, and I give you an update later this week. SO MUCH to tell you about and I promise it's coming just as soon as I can stay awake for longer stretches!

Terrible Virtue - Ellen Feldman

In the spirit of The Paris Wife and Loving Frank, the provocative and compelling story of one of the most fascinating and influential figures of the twentieth century: Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood—an indomitable woman who, more than any other, and at great personal cost, shaped the sexual landscape we inhabit today.

The daughter of a hard-drinking, smooth-tongued free thinker and a mother worn down by thirteen children, Margaret Sanger vowed her life would be different. Trained as a nurse, she fought for social justice beside labor organizers, anarchists, socialists, and other progressives, eventually channeling her energy to one singular cause: legalizing contraception. It was a battle that would pit her against puritanical, patriarchal lawmakers, send her to prison again and again, force her to flee to England, and ultimately change the lives of women across the country and around the world.

This complex enigmatic revolutionary was at once vain and charismatic, generous and ruthless, sexually impulsive and coolly calculating—a competitive, self-centered woman who championed all women, a conflicted mother who suffered the worst tragedy a parent can experience. From opening the first illegal birth control clinic in America in 1916 through the founding of Planned Parenthood to the arrival of the Pill in the 1960s, Margaret Sanger sacrificed two husbands, three children, and scores of lovers in her fight for sexual equality and freedom.

With cameos by such legendary figures as Emma Goldman, John Reed, Big Bill Haywood, H. G. Wells, and the love of Margaret’s life, Havelock Ellis, this richly imagined portrait of a larger-than-life woman is at once sympathetic to her suffering and unsparing of her faults. Deeply insightful, Terrible Virtue is Margaret Sanger’s story as she herself might have told it.

First off, I kind of love this cover in a really simple, understated way. It's just beautiful and simple and it looks pretty on my shelf. That alone wins points. Secondly, the book really centers around women's rights and giving them choices (even ones we may disagree with) and you know that's the reason I picked this book. I was drawn to it immediately and I was absorbed in the story of Margaret Sanger and her quest for women's rights and ultimately, their freedom. I've seen so many people quote this line in the book so I hate to be yet another person to wave it in the air, but it really stuck with me long after I finished the book,

No woman can call herself free until she can choose when and how often she will become a mother."

I mean, isn't that just a really stunning line? Maybe it's because I'm a mom and I know what it's like to know you are carrying a life inside of you and from that moment knowing you are no longer your own person, I don't know. But I think becoming a mother has shaped my opinion on pro life or pro choice and the older I get the more pro choice I've become. It's not always a popular opinion, but I think if we take away the right for us to choose what happens to our body, we really lose a huge part of our freedom as people. We should be able to make our own choices about our own bodies and live with the consequences or benefits, no matter what.

But I'll get off the soap box now and just tell you that if you at all consider yourself a feminist (and you should, we're a fun group!) this is a really amazing, eye opening, breathtaking read. Even if you aren't fighting for women's reproductive rights but instead just an advocate for choice and freedom in other arenas, I think you are going to love this book and really identify with Margaret. It's about a woman who really sacrificed a lot of her own happiness to ensure personal freedom and liberties in so many women throughout her lifetime. Yes, it's a fictional book but the story is so dead on and relevant to what is happening in our country (and world, really) that I hope so many women pick this book up and maybe leave the book with a new thought or two. It is so incredibly well written and I was so moved. I cannot praise this book enough and I have no idea how this book is getting less than 4 or 5 stars anywhere.

You can find Terrible Virtue on Amazon and Barnes & Noble but I also encourage you to check out Ellen Feldman's website for more information about the book.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

The Total Package

I have some fun posts coming up, and a follow up to my last one, but first- let's do a book review.

The Total Package - Stephanie Evanovich

The New York Times bestselling author of Big Girl Panties and The Sweet Spot is back with a funny, sweet, and sizzling novel about the game of love, in which a hot quarterback must figure out how to score big with a beautiful and talented media analyst after a heartbreaking fumble.

Star quarterback, first-round draft-pick, and heartthrob Tyson Palmer has made a name for himself with his spectacular moves. When the head coach of the Austin Mavericks refuses to let him waste his million-dollar arm, Tyson makes a Hail Mary pass at redemption and succeeds with everyone . . . except Dani, whose negative comments about his performance draw high ratings and spectacular notices of her own.

Dani can’t forgive Tyson’s transgressions or forget the sizzling history the two of them shared in college, a passionate love Tyson casually threw away. And even more infuriating, he doesn’t realize that the bombshell with huge ratings is the cute girl whose heart he once broke.

But can a woman trying to claw her way to the top and a quarterback who knows all about rock bottom make it to the Super Bowl without destroying each other? And what will happen when Tyson—riding high now that he’s revived his career—realizes he needs to make an even more important comeback with Dani? Can he make some spectacular moves to get past her defenses—or will she sideline him for good?

For the record, Stephanie Evanovich is a new-to-me-author and I really enjoyed this book, so I would definitely add her to my authors-to-watch-for list. If you are in the mood for a fun, quick romance novel, then you'll really enjoy this one. Honestly, I managed to finish this book in one setting because it's only 256 pages but it reads like a 150 page book. You'll fly through this story.

So we start with Tyson Palmer, presumably at one of his lowest points, basically losing his lucrative football career to drugs and alcohol, and his alma mater doesn't even want to be associated with him. Enter Ella (later known as Dani), who was his tutor in college, and we have a not-so-steamy night that he doesn't totally remember but she kind of regrets. I mean, she was clearly in love with him but she certainly thought maybe she wouldn't be a bang and leave type of girl, but that's what happens to her.

Cue intense rehab, training, and hard work to rebuild his career and become successful again, Tyson worked hard to get to that point. Dani, now with a four year old child (yes, it's Tyson's, you know where this will go), is trying to build a career as a sports correspondent and she finds herself with a too-good-to-turn-down offer which puts her squarely in the daily presence of Tyson again.

If you are an avid reader of romance novels, you know how this story line will finish out because it really does follow basically the same route as all of the others. What is a little bit different in this story is I didn't care for Ella/Dani, but I really liked Tyson. I felt his was so sincere and really trying to do good things and stay on a positive path whereas Ella/Dani.. meh. She's just refusing to believe that a person like him could change for the better and be sincere about it. But overall? It was fun read compared to the last few books I've read with a heavy story line, so this was definitely a welcomed change. I think if you are looking for a romance novel unlike anything you read, you might be disappointed. If you want something solid with a great guy at the center of it and a comeback story, then this is definitely something you are going to enjoy. I'd have to give this a solid 4/5 stars and I would definitely read more from Stephanie Evanovich.

Lucky for you, you can purchase The Total Package on Amazon but also Barnes & Noble, of course. In the meantime, you can check out Stephanie's website and follow her on Facebook to keep up to date with her!

Friday, March 11, 2016

The worst birthday I have ever had.

This will likely be long so if  you're up to it, grab a snack.

My entire life I have really tried to live by the golden rule of treating others the way you want to be treated. Sometimes I fail, sometimes I take the easy way around it, but most of the time I live by that. I try to treat my family and friends really well. Even when I can't afford it, I send a card and/or a gift. Sometimes I fail and resort to a Facebook message or email. If anyone has ever needed something or someone, I have always dropped what I had going on and been right there. I feel like I'm a really great friend. I feel like I'm a really quality person for someone else to have in their life. I feel like no matter what is going on, the people who know me know that if they need me, I'll be right there. I'll help you bury that body and while I might have some basic questions, I won't judge. I support everyone in my life to the best of my ability. I bend over backwards and go beyond what is asked of me a lot of times and I just really assume that it would always be reciprocated. I know this year I've really slacked because of my depression but I'm really trying.

Until it's not. And it leaves me questioning basic relationships and wondering if all of my time and effort is for absolute nothing.

It's no secret that I have been dealing with some pretty severe depression. I finally relented and started taking the Lexapro I was prescribed despite my fears of birth defects because the truth of the matter is that there have been some scary days for me. And it was enough to warrant me to take a gamble because at the end of the day, I'm worth something to my family. I hope.

But last week, and this isn't totally related and I might have a separate post about it another day, Joey Feek lost her battle to cervical cancer. If you don't know her, she's one half of the bluegrass country duo, Joey + Rory and I'm pretty sure everyone's Facebook feeds had shares of Rory's blog posts that are just heartbreaking yet beautiful and honestly, your end goal in a life partner should be to find someone who loves you like Rory loves Joey. But her death, though we all knew it was coming for awhile now, hit me really hard in a really strange way. I got to wondering what would happen if I died? Would there be just a handful of people who thought to show up to a memorial? Would there even be one? Or would lots come out of the woodwork to tell my remaining family what I meant to them at one point in their lives? I'm not sure. So really since last week I have been in what is easily the darkest days I have ever experienced in my life.

So I did a little experiment. I purposely didn't mention my upcoming birthday. Unlike past years where I have essentially planned my own birthday party or celebration, told Matt where I'd like to go for dinner, eagerly gave people a gift list, etc- this year I did nothing. I said not a word. I will admit, Matt did say something last week about dinner and I said I didn't know, and that we could do whatever. I really wanted to see what would happen if I didn't force people to celebrate.

And I should just insert here that I am not, nor will I ever be, that person who dreads a birthday. Aging doesn't scare me, but death does. I'm aging appropriately, I'm not upset about wrinkles and cellulite that isn't going anywhere. The varicose veins I have popping up on my legs, the stiffness of my knees, the complete exhaustion, none of that bothers me. I'm graciously welcoming new phases of my life and I'm totally OK with all of it. It's bound to happen and I don't want to be that person gripping the last straws of my youth in the sad way so many do. But when I was a kid, we didn't have the money for birthday parties. I didn't really have friends, and even as I got older, I was a bit of a loner. I had a few friends but I wasn't invited to things and I was more of that sit-next-to-her-and-be-nice-because-she's-smart friend but once the bell rang, I was long forgotten. So as an adult, when I can control what I get to do to celebrate, I always want it to be fun and have a good time.

Needless to say, none of that happened.

Olivia and Jackson woke me up at 6 a.m. singing happy birthday and gave me the cards that they had quickly made that morning. They only knew it was my birthday because Matt had left me a card and my gift. Which, my "gift" was a candy bar.

No, I'm not kidding.

At first I was pretty upset because I don't care who you are, that's a really shitty, thoughtless gift. But then I thought, maybe he got me that as a lunch time treat and he will come home after work and I'll get a real gift over dinner. So I tried to not be mad, but I would be lying if I said I wasn't really upset.

Then my mom came over to watch Penelope so I could go volunteer at school, and she got me a gift- a pair of really funky, only-Sara-would-wear-them shoes with rainbow colored cats all over them. My mom ALWAYS gets me shoes because she knows I love shoes and these were pretty unique. Pretty much nobody will have these, and I'll post a picture soon. So I really thought things were picking up for the day. Not to mention my friend Andrea had given me an early present on Tuesday of candy (which I've already eaten, no shame), an amazing candle that makes my house smell like Lemon Pledge (and if you know me at all, you know that I would huff a can of Pledge if I didn't think I'd kill off half of my brain cells), and an Amazon gift card which I used to buy some outdoor toys for Penelope this summer so we can play outside in the sunshine.

Fast forward to dinner time and I hadn't planned anything for dinner because I assumed we would be going out somewhere. I had packed a bag of things for Penelope to eat/play with at the restaurant, and I was ready. Only to be asked what I was making for dinner by Matt.

No, I'm not kidding.

I sat there, stunned, and the kids were looking at me as I started to silently cry and wonder if I really meant this little that I couldn't even have a birthday dinner. He must have realized he screwed up along the way because he quickly said he did remember to buy me a cake but let's be honest, the damage was done. I ended up giving the kids each hug and kiss, told them thank you for their cards, and told them they can definitely have a piece of birthday cake after they have some cereal for dinner.

I went upstairs, cried for a solid 20 minutes in the shower, and went to bed.

About two, almost three hours later, Matt comes up and asks if I would like anything for dinner. I said no, it's fine, I'll just eat the remaining crackers I have next to the bed for morning sickness. He then gets angry with me  because I didn't tell him what I wanted for my birthday.

Admittedly, I lost my shit. I had absolutely had it. I couldn't hold it in and if I hurt feelings? Well it felt really fucking good.

I said I didn't think it was right how I bust my ass and save little bits of money on the side for MONTHS so I can make a fun family day for Father's Day, for his birthday, and all I get is a shitty card that I never think are funny and if it's a sappy one, I know for absolute sure he didn't read it but thought it would score him points, and a god damn candy bar.


And I'm not a selfish person, I really appreciate what people get me. I spent all day recognizing that yes, he either went out of his way to get it or he saw it and thought of me, and both of those are nice, good things. But in all of the years we've been together (14 now), I have ALWAYS made a big deal out of my birthday. I shouldn't have to spell something out as basic as "do something nice for someone's birthday". Frankly, that's common courtesy. That's just something you do as a decent human being. If you know you can do something to brighten another person's day, why would you not just automatically do it? It's just assumed that especially for your spouse, but certainly for friends, you should absolutely, 100%, ALWAYS do something nice for someone on their birthday of all days.

Except this year.

And he dropped the ball so hard it busted.

I swear to god, if he or anyone else asks me what they can do, I'm going TO LOSE MY MIND TOTALLY. Because that's the thing about depression folks, I don't know what I need. I don't know how to get better because if I did, I surely would have done it by now. Do people think I enjoy randomly bursting into tears in the middle of Walmart? The grocery store? I haven't even gotten groceries in 3 weeks because I can't not cry for a long enough stretch. I can talk to people until I'm blue in the face and I feel no better, oftentimes I feel exponentially worse. I'm trying to exercise, I'm trying to eat right, I try to get out into the sunshine every day. I'm trying to do things I normally love to do and I get bored and restless. I can't sleep at night, and when I do nap it's awful and you don't even want to know the things that go through my head.

I feel like I'm drowning and the person closest to me either doesn't recognize it or decides he does, but doesn't know what to do so he does nothing and hopes for the best. I finally said last night that if I died today, I don't even think he'd be upset. He'd be more upset trying to keep up with laundry and figuring out how to get the kids to/from school every day.

He wouldn't make it a week and he doesn't even care.

So needless to say- yesterday was a really bad day. Today isn't much better, but I'm trying so very hard to be positive. It's going to be almost 60 degrees today, so my plan is to get out and hope for the best. I have a lunch with a friend planned for tomorrow and I already bailed on her because I didn't feel good the last time, so I am absolutely going no matter how bad I feel. Jackson has a Boy Scout pancake breakfast in the morning and I'm going to try to not squeeze his cute little guts while watching him serve to people. Olivia has an all day honor choir thing she's at and we'll get to see her perform afterwards. Then Sunday.. Sunday I plan to be in my room with a stack of books and a notebook. All day. I think Saturday will drain every bit out of me and I'll need to be back to perky shape for the outside world on Monday. Because apparently, that's my role. Be perky all of the time and like it.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

The Crooked Heart of Mercy

I've had some really great, feel good reads as of late so of course it's time for the pendulum to swing hard and fast the other direction, right?

The Crooked Heart of Mercy - Billie Livingston

From acclaimed Canadian novelist Billie Livingston comes this powerful U.S. debut that unfolds over a riveting dual narrative—an unforgettable story of ordinary lives rocked by hardship and scandal that follows in the tradition of Jennifer Haigh, A. Manette Ansay, and Jennifer Egan.

Ben wakes up in a hospital with a hole in his head he can't explain. What he can remember he’d rather forget. Like how he’d spend nights as a limo driver for the wealthy and debauched….how he and his wife, Maggie, drifted apart in the wake of an unspeakable tragedy…how his little brother, Cola, got in over his head with loan sharks circling.

Maggie is alone. Again. With bills to pay and Ben in a psych ward, she must return to work. But who would hire her in the state she’s in? And just as Maggie turns to her brother, Francis, the Internet explodes with video of his latest escapade. The headline? Drunk Priest Propositions Cops.

Francis is an unlikely priest with a drinking problem and little interest in celibacy. A third DUI, a looming court date.…When Maggie takes him in, he knows he may be down to his last chance. And his best shot at healing might lie in helping Maggie and Ben reconnect—against all odds.

Simmering with dark humor and piercing insights, The Crooked Heart of Mercy is a startling reminder that redemption can be found in the most unlikely of places.

I can't remember a book in recent history or off the top of my head where I hated every single character from the first couple of pages. I hated them all and at no part in the book did that ever turn for me and I'm not sure if I should be disappointed in that or if I should applaud the author because she went with something and she really committed to it until the very end.

I think why I hated the characters so much was because they are absolutely everything I am not as a parent. These are the people I would give zero sympathy to in real life and maybe that's because I'm more of a "buck up and deal" kind of person. When things are hard for me, I don't look for ways to "escape" and I really do, it's a prejudice of mine I will freely admit, I look down on the parents who just can't cope and resort to drinking or doing drugs as a way to unwind. I'm not even going to apologize for not being sorry, that's how not sorry I am. So when we start the book, Ben is basically in a mental institution of sorts after an "incident" that nobody thought he would survive. Maggie is trying to pay the bills on her own now since she clearly can't count on Ben. Her brother Francis ends up coming to stay with her after his own run in with the law and being in the beginning of a pretty big scandal. We find out that all of this happens immediately following the death of Ben and Maggie's son, who while they were busy getting high off of Xanax, falls out of their apartment window to his death. Clearly struggling with guilt, AS THEY SHOULD, they both spiral in different directions out of control, but don't worry, Francis, a clear alcoholic, is determined to save them both in the hopes he can save himself.

I really struggled to finish this book because I was disgusted at the very start of it and I wasn't convinced that any of the characters could be redeemed. Ultimately, they kind of are and their lives feel like they've come to a conclusion of sorts, or maybe it's just the starting point for take two on their relationship and life moving forward. So in that regard, I liked it.

The book has some dark humor to it, which never having read anything by this author, I wasn't aware this is part of her writing style. I'm not sure if the humor really fits because although dark, the story line in this book feels so heavy it almost feels out of place to make light of anything. I have to give this book 3 out of 5 stars. It wasn't amazing, it's probably one I won't think to recommend to anyone off the top of my head, but it wasn't terrible either and I think the author's writing is what really saved it for me.

You can find The Crooked Heart of Mercy on Amazon as well as Barnes & Noble. You may also want to check out Billie Livingston's website since she does have other books, though this is her U.S. debut. She is also on Twitter where you can keep up to date on future books!

What the Waves Know

I have been on a reading roll lately! I have to really pick up my pace though because I have so many reviews coming up, so stay tuned. 

In the tradition of Sue Monk Kidd and Beth Hoffman comes a compelling debut novel about a young woman's quest to find herself—and her voice—on the island where she lost both.

The tiny state of Rhode Island is home to even tinier Tillings Island—which witnessed the biggest event of Izabella Rae Haywood's life. For it was there, on Iz's sixth birthday, that her father left...and took her voice with him.

Eight years later in the summer of 1974, Iz’s mother is through with social workers, psychiatrists and her daughter's silence. In one last attempt to return Iz’s voice, the motley pair board the ferry to Tillings in hopes that the journey will help Izabella heal herself by piecing together splintered memories of the day her words fled.

But heartbreak is a difficult puzzle to solve, and everyone in Tillings seems to know something Iz does not. Worse, each has an opinion about Izabella's dreamer of a father, the undercurrents of whose actions have spun so many lives off course.

Now, as the island's annual Yemayá festival prepares to celebrate the ties that bind mothers to children, lovers to each other, and humankind to the sea, Izabella must unravel the tangled threads of her own history and reclaim a voice gone silent…or risk losing herself—and any chance she may have for a future—to the past.

What the Waves Know is a moving, magical novel that asks us to consider the stories which tell the truth and the stories we tell ourselves 

The timing of me reading this book was kind of strange because the book deals with loss and coping with it, mental illness, the effects of a mental illness on the greater family, but especially children. Normally books which are narrated by a child because it could really go either way, but this one was done wonderfully. The bottom story line comes down to a girl having to deal with the realities of her father, the reason for him leaving, Once he leaves, she stops speaking (literally) and her mother, years later, decides that the only way for Iz to go back to normal and hopefully move forward with her life. 

I will tell you that the ending was easy to figure out if you're an avid reader, but the journey to the ending was so good. The book highlights how a child's memories can be so different from the actual reality, and having to come to terms with that can be both painful and freeing. How coming to grips with the truths of the past can be what ultimately puts everything into perspective. 

I absolutely loved the voice of this book, I loved the narration by the child because it made you feel so much more sympathy for her and her childhood. The mother, while making questionable choices, I kind of liked her. She did the best she knew how and I have to respect as a mother myself. Overall? I think this was a great book. I think if you are in a book club, this would be an ideal book choice because there are so many discussion angles. You can pick up your copy of What the Waves Know on Amazon as well as Barnes & Noble

Monday, March 7, 2016

Therese Makes A Tapestry

I'm kind of loving all of the opportunities lately to read and review children books. I have such a passion for children learning to read and finding a genre that captures and holds their interest. I think elementary school is such a great time because while later on in their schooling they'll have to read assigned things, elementary school is really the best time for them to explore what they like best. So let's talk about my latest read.

Therese Makes A Tapestry - Alexandra S. D. Hinrichs

Step back in time to seventeenth-century Paris with Thérèse, a talented young girl who lives and works at the Gobelins Manufactory, where Europe’s greatest artisans make tapestries and luxury objects for King Louis XIV. Even though girls are not trained on the great looms there, Thérèse practices on a small one at home and dreams of becoming a royal weaver someday.

This charming story follows Thérèse as she carries out an ambitious plan with the help of family, friends, and the artisans of the Gobelins. The intricate craft of tapestry weaving is illuminated, and surprises await Thérèse, her parents and brothers, and even the king himself. Children’s book author Alexandra S. D. Hinrichs here breathes vivid life into a delightful tale full of fun twists and an appealing cast of characters.

Original paintings by award-winning artist Renée Graef playfully illustrate the book, as well as the many steps involved in the creation of the famous Gobelins tapestries, from dyeing wool and making silver thread, to painting and copying the elaborate designs, to the delicate art of weaving.

Thérèse’s fictional adventures are inspired by real people, the actual Gobelins Manufactory, and a beautiful tapestry that hangs today in the J. Paul Getty Museum.

Raise your hand if you grew up reading the original American Girl novels before they got all politically correct and trendy. Yes, I was that annoying third grade girl in her school's library constantly trying to put holds on the next book that I wanted to read and to bug the librarian to make those other kids bring back the books already. Surely they weren't reading them like I was! The American Girl books as of late have really lost a bit of their original charm and I think that's sad because those originals had so much education and history in them, vital for any girl really.

When I received this book in the mail my immediate thought was this is a total throwback to those books. It's rich in history, the illustrations are absolutely amazing, and the story is so well written. The book takes place in Europe and has so many French histories and bits of language, it's so fun to read. The best part? I'm not one for understanding the French language, so the French words sprinkled throughout the book are featured in the back in a glossary. So are some of the "larger" vocabulary are also featured in a glossary at the end of the book, which my daughter and I used during our discussions.

To be fair, this book comes in at 40 pages and I read it with my 8 year old son and 10 year old daughter. Not surprisingly, my son didn't like the book at all and was quite bored. My daughter liked it though it was a little under her current reading level (she's in fourth grade). I think this book is appropriate for a high second grade, third grade reading level. The story is educational especially considering I knew next to nothing about a tapestry factory. But the ambitious Therese has a plan to surprise her father but in order to do it, she has to learn about every aspect of making a tapestry.

Overall? It was a really great book. It's an ode to the original American Girl books and what they had set out to be. If you have a child who adores history, loved those books, or is a bit ambitious themselves, this would be such a great book for your home library! You can find Therese Makes A Tapestry on Amazon as well as Barnes & Noble.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Romance When You Need It!

One of my favorite go-to reading genres is hands down romance, and nobody does romance like Harlequin. It's really not even close. Our mothers and grandmothers used to get the Harlequin book club books and I would be lying if I said those weren't the first things I look for at summer time yard sales! But Harlequin has really moved into different romance genres and if you haven't looked at them lately, you really should.

This video is SO great and honestly, this is basically my argument to myself as I'm standing in the middle of Barnes & Noble knowing full well I have an entire shelf of books at home I haven't read but let's be honest, sometimes you just need a romance novel.

This March, Harlequin kicks off the Romance When You Need It campaign with the launch of this awesome video. Whether you need an escape from your hectic day, or have some unexpected time to yourself (it's OK to lock yourself in the bathroom with kids on the other side) (assuming they are supervised and/or won't start a fire, of course) - you can count on Harlequin for a solid romance!

The best part? Sign up for their newsletter (HERE, just do it) and you can download 17 FREE BOOKS. Happy Friday, lambs.

PS) I am in no way responsible if a baby is a by-product of your romance novel reading.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

The Rain Sparrow

I have another good book for you!! Isn't it nice when I just keep flooding your to-read lists and you can't keep up? I've kind of been on a roll with good reads as of yet, and this is my first book by this author and I'm totally in love.

The Rain Sparrow - Linda Goodnight

New York Times bestselling author Linda Goodnight welcomes you back home to Honey Ridge, Tennessee, with another beautiful story full of hope, haunting mystery, and the power to win your heart... 

Famous yet anonymous, thriller writer Hayden Winters lives a life colored by lies. Deeply ashamed of his past, his hunger for an honest relationship and dreams of starting a family remain unsatisfied, and he can trust no one with his secrets. He's determined to outrun his personal demons, but the charming old Peach Orchard Inn and a woman whose presence is as gentle as a sparrow's song stops him in his tracks. 

Carrie Riley is afraid of everything from flying to thunderstorms, and pretty much of life itself. But meeting the enigmatic writer staying at the inn emboldens her to learn everything about him. When they discover a fragile boy hiding at the inn, Hayden is honor-bound to help Carrie protect him. Soon they're led to a centuries-old mystery that haunts Hayden's sleep, and his only safe haven is Carrie. As the secrets of the past and present force their lives to become entwined, all that's left to come to light is love—if the grim truth doesn't tear them apart first.

Full disclosure, this is the second novel in the Honey Ridge series but this is absolutely, 100% a stand alone. I haven't read the first one (but I'm definitely adding it to my wish list), and in fact, this is my first book by this author and I loved it. I didn't feel lost, but for those of you who love to see the previous characters make appearances in future books, you will get that in this one.

The story circles around two primary characters and one secondary character. First we have Carrie, a kind of awkwardly cute librarian with a terrible romance streak and clueless about men in general with a quiet sarcastic/funny side to her. Then we have Hayden who is a famous suspense/thriller writer with an unsavory past with family drug abuse and other issues that he has covered well as a relatively famous person in the literary world. Hayden ends up at the inn Carrie's sister runs in order to work on his forthcoming novel in the hopes the setting can provide some much needed creativity. Almost immediately, Hayden finds Carrie in the middle of the night (he writes at night, she's terrified of everything including thunder storms) and they begin a tentative friendship when they discover someone hiding on the porch.

Enter secondary character, Brody, a young boy with an abusive and alcoholic father who spends as much time out of his home as possible to avoid it. He got caught in the storm, but Hayden and Carrie invite him in for the night. Hayden suspects he knows exactly what Hayden's real story is but ever hopeful Carrie isn't seeing all of the basic clues that this boy needs an intervention.

So we have a budding romance between Carrie and Hayden developing while they try to figure out the best way to help Brody, and it's basically everything you want in a southern romance.

But then!

Hayden also finds himself having incredibly vivid dreams of the post Civil War era with a really colorful cast of characters and it seems like that the past and his present are merging together, which also gives this book a nod to historical romance. It's really the best of both worlds for fans of either/both genre.

I absolutely enjoyed this book, I had no problem finishing it quickly and it's just a really great spring time book. It reminds me of Dorothea Benton Frank with just the overall feel of the book, the way the author writes makes you feel you're right there in Tennessee with them and maybe even sitting in that library or little burger place. It really takes you to a different place and the cast of characters in The Rain Sparrow are so well written, you really can't help but root for them all.

You can purchase your own copy of The Rain Sparrow on Amazon as well as Barnes & Noble. Linda Goodnight has lots of other books available as well, and you can find more information about those on her website, or follower her on Twitter!
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