Saturday, May 28, 2016

Crafty Saturday: Popping my Paper Pumpkin Cherry

So I have a slight obsession with Stampin' Up products. I remember when I first started scrapbooking and I had gotten my first catalog, I may or may not have spent $400 on stamps in one sitting.

It was Sell-a-Bration, and I had a party, and I also have zero self control.

Since then I've really reigned in my spending because truly, I've found that I buy things because the sample cards are super adorable, and then I get the set and think- this is out of my wheelhouse. Why did I think I was going to want to color in all of these elements? Or cut these tiny things out? But I become kind of attached to them and have a hard time letting them go, and it's really just a vicious cycle.

One Matt doesn't totally understand, but he knows better than to question my sanity.

But now I have a friend who sells Stampin' Up and I am itching to buy all of the things. My bank account says to not buy all the things, and predictably, the utility company does not care that I didn't pay a bill because I couldn't control myself when cute craft stuff is involved.

They are kind of jerks in that way.

Sometime last year I got back into buying things when I could and by now Stampin' Up has this super fun monthly subscription called Paper Pumpkin. It's a box of goodies which include fun papers, a stamp set, embellishments and instructions on how to make the project. Don't worry- I'm not signed up for it, but sometimes when they have extra boxes you can buy them individually. I decided to try one out, just to see, and I'm so sorry I can't remember what this one was called but you can't get it anymore so it doesn't matter. What does matter is that it was easy and fun.

This kid allowed you to make like 8 cards, I think? The nice thing is that even after you've used the paper and envelopes up, you still have this cute mini stamp set and the stampin' spots (small inks) so you could easily make more with different papers. The instructions were pretty easy to follow and it took me about 20 minutes to put all of the cards together. The other nice thing is that the cards I make are usually very simple with minimal work, so these took me out of my comfort zone a bit with all of the details and pieces you layer together to make a super cute card. Things I wouldn't think to do, but having everything pre-cut and all you have to do is assemble is really nice.

The other great thing about Paper Pumpkin is that it would make for a fun gift for someone. If you have a friend who likes to do crafty things but not a lot of time, this is a perfect little subscription to get them (think birthdays, Christmas, etc). If you are interested in gifting that (I can give you my address if needed... just kidding... kind of) or want to try on your own, go HERE and order. You can subscribe for the monthly kit or click on "past kits" and you can see what is available. The other cool thing is if you get the subscription and decide you really want to make more of a particular item, you can buy a refill kit. Which is really handy, especially on the kits that would be like party favors or such. It's a fun idea if you do classroom or birthday treats and want to look like the over achieving mom. Just saying.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Yes, Please

No, this isn't the book by Amy Poehler. This is a romance book I bought online after seeing an ad for it on Facebook. Don't judge.

Yes, Please - Willow Summers

He won't let anyone close. 

Two rules: No kissing. No falling in love.

The rules are to protect himself. He won't talk about why. 

Hunter Carlisle is looking for a new admin, and he chose me. Filthy rich and sinfully handsome, he's the bachelor everyone wants. But this job isn't just getting him coffee. He wants complete control. Intimately. 

My bank account is nearly empty and rent is due in a week. I need the money, but I don't know if I can follow his rules. I don't know if I can separate duty, from pleasure.

My only defense is saying no, but everything in my body wants to say yes....

I have to say it, I am SO SICK AND TIRED of the same exact story line in romance. I'm a fan of Fifty Shades of Grey and I tolerated Sylvia Day basically ripping off the same story line as well. And then J. Kenner and a ton of other authors who write books at break neck speed with the story line of rich CEO falling for poor female subordinate and blah, blah, blah. I'll read the books because I'm a fan of romance but honest to god-  you would think editors and publicists would beg authors to just get crazy and try something different, but no. No, they don't because it's a quick buck and frankly? It's tiring.

So that's my mini rant.

I have to tell you, I almost didn't finish this book because it starts off incredibly cheesy and just stupid. We begin with our lead female, Olivia, having lunch with her well off friend Kimberly. Olivia is a recent college graduate in a poor economy, can't find a job, basically desperate to take anything that will give her a paycheck so she doesn't wind up homeless. Kimberly tells her about this "admin" position where sure, you do admin work and are challenged but you also have to have sex with the CEO whenever he wants, no strings attached, and then you go about your day.

Cue the eyerolls, I know, I'm there with you.

I kept going because it's on my list of books I wanted to finish in May and it's relatively short at 233 pages, so I knew I would be able to finish this in a night.

Sure enough, like the sucker that I am, I found myself immersed in the book and finished it in just a few hours. I kind of liked Olivia and Hunter.. he wasn't so bad himself. Them together feels good, so knowing this series has four books in it, you know I have already ordered the other three because I can't quit a series. I just can't. Anyways. The story is exactly what you would expect: CEO sees something in lowly subordinate, lowly subordinate finds herself attracted to CEO and wanting more than just a standard contract, CEO is torn and experiencing things he didn't think he would, CEO has a screwed up background, intense sexual encounters and blurred lines.

Overall? It's the standard outline of this kind of book and it doesn't really deviate from it, but it's also a solid read for a romance novel. It's fluff, it's fast, it's easy, you'll enjoy it even if it's a story line you've read multiple times already.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Amazon Welcome Box Review

A few months ago I read on a couponing site about how Amazon has this really cool thing called a Welcome Box if you make a baby registry on their website. Seeing how I have baby number four coming in August, and there are just a few things I'd like to have but don't totally NEED, I decided I would give this a try. I figured even if I got nothing off of it, I'd at least get this super cool free box of samples and goodies.

So I made myself a registry.

Would you be surprised to know that Amazon is tricky about qualifying for the free box? Well, they are. First of all, your registry has to be very specific and you have to have one item for key groups for it to qualify. A pain because with a fourth baby, I really don't need furniture. I put a rocking chair and ottoman on there because the one I use down in the living room that I bought used for $15 is falling apart so really, I need a new one down here. So yay.

Secondly, you have to have Amazon Prime. I signed up for the 30 day trial and I did it mostly for the Amazon Prime for my TV but so far? That's been pretty crap. I really want reality TV shows and Dr. Phil yet nobody gives me that so I'm disappointed. The only perk about Amazon on my TV is that I can get Backyardigans and Bubble Guppies, which I have discovered is amazing only because Penelope will willingly eat vegetables at lunch time while watching either show. Frankly, I'm considering paying the $99 a year just for that alone.

Third, someone has to purchase something for $10 or more off of your registry. It is an absolute fluke that someone bought me a box of diapers (thanks, Ellen!) so I knocked that off of my list. Then I was able to add the box to my cart and check out. And wait for it to come.

It came in about a week, (Really two day Prime shipping? Really?) and it was... lackluster. I honestly thought it was going to be much more awesome given the reviews I read online.
Everything out of the box, this is what I got.
A small bottle (either 5 or 6 ounces, I can't remember), which is OK because that I can use. A bottle of Johnson's Baby Bubble Bath, which I'll use. A small tube of Aquaphor diaper cream which I had gotten in something when Penelope was just born and forgot about it but it worked WONDERS on her face after she was so sick and her face looked like it had diaper rash from all of the mucus coming out, so this stuff is amazing. Some prenatal pills which are HORRIBLE. They are massive and you need to take THREE for a daily dose. This bottle is enough for five days and I'm telling you right now, I have never felt worse in my life. All natural, my ass. I also got a MAM pacifier and a really gross peanut butter and strawberry Kind bar.
 A package of Avent breast pads, which I will need because I leak terribly once my milk comes in and I'm refusing to buy a full box because I know I won't use them, a sample pack of BabyGanics wipes, some kind of Burt's Bee's thing that I threw out..
and two Seventh Generation Free & Clear newborn size diapers.

Overall? I'm kind of disappointed. The box is basically half great and half junk. It's certainly nothing I would pay for, that's for sure. I also think that unless you already have Amazon Prime and you were already going to do a registry on Amazon, this isn't something to go out of your way to do. Frankly, the registry packet you get from Target is far better and at least with that you get some coupons as well and get on their baby coupon mailing list and you'll get coupons periodically. So if you were on the fence, I would go with Target because you can set it up in the store or online, and have all of the conveniences that Amazon does as well. Food for thought.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Little is Left to Tell

Not going to lie, it's the last week in May and I'm a little worried I won't finish the books I wanted to this month. With that, I'm reading as fast as I can in the hopes I can bang out the last two books on my list!

Little is Left to Tell - Steven Hendricks
Readers enter a narrative rabbit hole through bedtime stories that Mr. Fin, a man with dementia, conjures for his long-lost son. Virginia the Wolf writes her last novel to lure her daughter home. A rabbit named Hart Crane must eat words to speak, while passing zeppelins drop bombs. Mr. Fin tries to read the past in marginalia and to rebuild his son from boat parts. The haunting fables in this lyrical first novel trace the fictions that make and unmake us. 

I'll be honest. This book was so damn strange for me that I quit it around page 226 out of 366. I really tried. The fact I got to this point is pretty amazing to myself because it was so bizarre and I feel like I don't have the education level to fully understand and appreciate the book. Here's what I can say: the writing itself is pretty great. The author has spent a lot of time piecing things together in ways that don't totally make sense, yet they do. Secondly, if you're capable and up for entering a totally bizarre, imaginative world- this is your book. I feel like I'm not really great at immersing myself into a story such as this, perhaps because I have so many distractions, but I really struggled. After giving up the book I decided to go and read some online reviews to see if I'm missing something huge at the end, something that would make me want to get there and I saw nothing. In fact some reviews are so bizarre that I honestly wondered if it was a normal, real person writing it. I'm such a fan of Alice in Wonderland that I thought this was going to be a retelling of sorts but no.. not so much. The writing is bizarre like Alice but I feel like I had a really hard time keeping up with the story and figuring out what was real and what was in Mr. Fin's head. But maybe that's the point? Maybe it's supposed to be strange and unclear, like that's an added element to the story? Hmm.

So overall, I didn't like it. I didn't even finish it because I felt like we were going nowhere and I've got over 100 books sitting here to read. Life is too short to force yourself to finish a mediocre book. Sorry, lambs.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Crafty Saturday: Thank you cards

I was looking through a mommy group I belong to on Facebook this week and the topic of thank you cards came up. I was really surprised at how many people said they don't send them because they are pointless and nobody cares.

That's totally not true. I totally judge you based on whether or not you send a thank you card. I have some friends who never, ever send them and I love them all the same, and I have some who send them for everything and I love it. I love getting any kind of mail that doesn't require me to pay a bill. I think it's especially pertinent when you mail a gift or something to someone not local. Did they get the gift? Did they like it? I feel like it takes less than a minute to write out a simple thank you and it can mean a lot to someone. Sometimes I just have a crap day and getting a thank you puts a smile on my face.

With Penelope's recent birthday, Olivia's dance teachers final year, and some other things we've gotten lately, I realized I was totally out of thank you cards. I made a quick dozen to have on hand because I'm hoping (hint, hint) that I'll get some cute baby gifts soon so I want to have some on hand.
Even better? I'm using up scraps because my box is FULL after finishing Penelope's first year book so it's time I use them up. All of my scraps are basically what I make cards from so it works out perfectly.
I also decided I need to find some more stamps that work with my Stampin Up scallop punches because those are easily my most used punches. I even used up the rest of my green and white polka dot washi tape on the envelopes, because I'm not a fan of naked envelopes. I have this urge to buy more washi tape but alas.. being broke is preventing me from that.

The cards themselves took me maybe 15 minutes to make all dozen of them, and I was able to spend another 15 minutes writing out all 12 cards for thank you's for people. So in half an hour, twelve people will know we got the gift, we love the gift, and we appreciate them thinking of us and being generous.

It's truly the least we can do.

Friday, May 20, 2016

28 weeks

Now that I'm getting bigger, the pregnancy updates are a bit more fun. I mean, I at least feel pregnant versus fat and and sad.

28 weeks

This week I had my glucola test for gestational diabetes and I totally passed. It was a bit harrowing though because it doesn't matter how many times I've done this, you are just never ready for the disgusting drink. You can sip it, you can chug it, it doesn't matter because it's foul and nobody enjoys it. Apparently, Monday was THE day to do this because the waiting room was full of other ladies doing the test at the same time so honestly? We could have clinked bottles and chugged in unison. Instead, clearly a first time mom chugged hers like I have never seen done before and seemed OK. I chugged mine in under two minutes (a personal best) and I was immediately regretting it. Several others followed after me, we all bring out empty bottles and timers back and wait out the next hour before our finger poke to see who was going to get the all clear. 

Within minutes of sitting back down to watch an hour of Flip or Flop on HGTV, I hear the tell-tale noise of someone gagging. I don't look because if I look, I know I will gag and I'm already on the brink so I'm trying to not look, I've started humming to myself to drown out the noise and it's no use. The first one to drink the drink ran to the garbage can and proceeded to throw up. Which is bad enough, but this office is in the lower level of a building so there are no windows to crack and now we all smell her vomit despite the fact a nurse came out to grab the can and change it, and bring her back because she now probably has to come back a different day. 


But I'm not sitting there breathing through my mouth, face tucked into my sweater, eyes closed, doing everything I can to not vomit in solidarity. I don't do well with bodily fluids anyways but vomit is like my achilles heel. I'll vomit on command if I have to. I just don't do well. It was literally the longest hour of my life. 

Finally I got called back there and it was the best feeling to have clean air. Sure, it smells like band-aids and first aid cream, oddly, but it's better than vomit. I got my finger poke and I'm totally not diabetic. As it turns out, I am anemic, which is basically my normal but I still have to sit through the "how to get more iron into your diet" despite the fact I take a prescribed supplement and eat as many iron rich foods as I can. 

Everything else appears to be right on track, though. I'm developing varicose veins on my legs so I look like I have old lady legs... at age 34. It's super cute. She said they might go away but probably not so just enjoy them. Awesome. Other than that, cervix is still closed (yay!) and things are fine. Fetus four hardly moves at all, which apparently isn't concerning to my doctor at all, but it's kind of a let down for me. I really enjoy feeling the baby move, kick, push, all of that and the fact that this is my last pregnancy (no, seriously, it is), I'd really like to be able to enjoy that. But... apparently not. My only hope is that maybe I have just a super chill baby and this won't be such a nightmare when she's born? 

She's still nameless. We have it narrowed down to two ideas, though: 

Eloise Barbara James
Lucy Louise James

After a quick Facebook poll, we eliminated Sophia even though it was popular among Facebook voters. I decided I don't like writing a cursive S, so it's out. 

We're firm on the middle names, it's just the first name we're stuck on. We're 50/50 on Eloise or Lucy so yeah. Thoughts? What's your vote? Fetus four cannot be named Fetus Four and my mom would like me to stop referring to the baby as fetus four, so help us out. 

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Lit Cube: Through the Looking Glass, May

I know. I can feel your judgment through the internet, lambs. I know I said I was going to cut back and I was going to just say no to book boxes but truly. I tried. I tried REALLY HARD.

We can all blame LitCube because their theme for May was Through the Looking Glass and you know I love Alice in Wonderland and I just... I couldn't even help myself.

I had a mini freak out moment on Monday when I seen that people were getting their boxes and I never got a tracking number for my box, and I panicked that maybe I missed the deadline. Thankfully, I'm just a whackadoodle and my box came on Tuesday. And it's gloooooooorious.

Let us all just take a minute and hold the squeal we want to let out for just a minute longer. And now LET IT OUT.

The box itself contains two 5x7 prints (by Star in my Pocket, $12.99 value), a super delicious cookie by Sweets by Steph ($2.50 value), a shirt with one of my favorite lines ever ($19.95 value), and a adorable bookmark, also a Star in my Pocket item ($3.25 value)...
a super cute makeup bag which is exclusive to this box ($12.99 value)...
an exclusive Through the Looking Glass pocket mirror ($8.99 value)... 
and of course, the book Alice Takes Back Wonderland by David D. Hammons ($18.99 value) which came with a letter from the author. Admittedly, the problem I've always had with LitCube is that the books are either unexpectedly really good or they are so bad that they end up in my did-not-finish pile. This one has some pretty mediocre reviews on Goodreads, with more than a few people saying they didn't even finish it, so I'm worried. It's combining the classic story of Alice along with Disney characters so it sounds sketch as hell. I guess we'll find out. I probably won't get to this in May, more likely in June, but we'll see. It's not very long so maybe I can fly through it. Either way, I'll let you know. I feel like if LitCube just bit the bullet and went with books that are mainstream and popular and/or anticipated, this box would be ridiculously over the top amazing. The swag is always so great and fun.. it's the books that are so damn hit or miss.

The next theme is Roaring 20's and no lie, I'm worried but I'm in. Dammit.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Out Rider

Somehow in the night, my laptop automatically updated to Windows 10 and it is really making me unhappy. So bear with me and let us all hope this post looks OK once it's published because nothing looks the same.

I shake my fist at you, Microsoft!

Out Rider (Jackson Hole #11) - Lindsay McKenna

With her return to Jackson Hole, Wyoming, New York Times bestselling author Lindsay McKenna shows how love can find a way out of the darkness… 

A fresh start—that's all Devorah McGuire wants. As a former Marine and current Ranger with the US Forest Service, she's grown accustomed to keeping others safe. But when the unthinkable happens, she can only hope that a transfer to Jackson Hole, Wyoming, will allow her to put the past behind her for good. 

Dev's mentor at Grand Tetons National Park is fellow canine handler and horseman Sloan Rankin. He shows Dev the spectacular trails, never knowing the terror that stalks her every move. Despite her lingering fear, Dev feels an attraction for Sloan as wild as their surroundings. 

With Sloan, Dev can envision a new life—a real home. Unless a vengeful man fresh out of prison succeeds in finishing what he started… 

I don't care how many books I read, what genres I read, or how much I love a certain book- romance is and will always be my absolute favorite genre. I'll read just about anything within that, except historical is kind of meh for me, but I'm not turning it down when I'm in the mood. Yes, I realize so many readers roll their eyes when you say romance is your favorite but I really don't care. It's always entertaining, I always fly through them, and I just really adore Harlequin. It's probably best I don't work for Harlequin because I know I would get literally nothing done. Not a stinking thing.

But let's talk about this book.

You should know going into this that I haven't read any of the other Jackson Hole books but you can bet your bottom I'll be ordering some soon. I've read a few books by Lindsay McKenna and I really enjoyed her writing style so when I was offered this to review I absolutely jumped on the chance because believe it or not, NONE of my local book stores carry her books. NONE. NONE, I tell you. Not even Barnes & Noble, which is a rant for another day so I rely on online ordering to get her stuff and I'm terrible because I often forget. I'm getting old and these babies are eating my brain, I just know it.

I absolutely loved Out Rider. It's a modern time, western romance kind of. It's set in the Grand Tetons National Park and our heroine, Dev, works in the forestry service as someone who essentially finds you (with her dog, Bella) should you wander from your camp site. She's moved there for a fresh start after a hellacious experience at her previous assignment where she was attacked and almost raped by a co-worker, after being stalked. Her supervisor basically did nothing, so reeling from the trauma of that in addition to her time as a Marine (You see where this is going? Because military romance is  my FAVORITE so I love the cross over here.), has made her a bit jumpy and more reserved when it comes to men.

Enter Sloan, not a pretty boy but handsome in a rugged, works hard kind of way. Also a veteran but from the Army branch, he has built a life doing work for the forestry service but also as a farrier in the area, but is fresh off of a divorce from a really terrible marriage. He's reserved by nature but he's leery to start a romance, even with Dev, based on his experience.

Things are moving swimmingly, Sloan is showing Dev the ropes and knowledge of the Grand Tetons but nothing is as it seems. Dev's stalker, Bart Gordon, has followed her unbeknownst to her, and plans revenge on her after she got him fired from his previous job. This book reminds me so much of Linda Howard books, and she is hands down my favorite author, so I devoured this book in a matter of hours. I want anything and everything Lindsay McKenna does because I really enjoy her writing, I love how she crafts a story, I love how we're mixing subgenres, and if you're in the mood for a decent little romance, you've got it. You don't need to read any of the other Jackson Hole books to read this one, they very much are stand alone and I think you'll enjoy it.

You can find your own copy of Out Rider on Amazon right now and it's under $8 for the mass paperback. What a steal. In the meantime, check out Lindsay McKenna's extensive writing catalog on her website to find some other books of hers you'll love as well. You can also follow Lindsay on Facebook and Twitter to keep up to date with new books!

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Connected Underneath

I have so many posts for you this week, including Penelope's for real birthday party and my 28 week update, but I haven't felt super great and I'm just... I'm overwhelmed with life, lambs. So we're going to pretend today is really the start of the week because I dropped the ball yesterday. Whoops! But let's start the week off with a book review, shall we? 

Madena, New York. A small town like any small town: everybody keeps an eye on everybody else's business, nobody recognizes the secrets that connect them.

Teenage Persephone trades sex for the tattoo sessions that get her high enough to forget that her girlfriend doesn't love her and she isn't sure she loves her dad. Theo used to be the high-school bad boy who could never have the respectable girl he adored from afar now he owns the last video store in town and worries wretchedly about the daughter he never understood. Natalie, trying so hard to grasp the last shreds of respectability, would do anything to forget the baby she gave up long ago, including betray the baby's father. And wheelchair-bound Celeste who has never had a life, desperate to connect, watches and makes up stories and finally understands that things have gone terribly wrong and she stands at the heart of disaster.

Connected Underneath is a lyrical, scalpel-keen dissection of ties that bind and those that cannot hold. 

What a perfect book if you're really in the mood for a short story. It's not a short story per say, but it comes in at 195 pages so I flew through this in the evening while Matt watched his dreaded Star Trek on Netflix. 

Admittedly, this book is kind of... strange. It's narrated by Celeste, who is wheel chair bound but hasn't always been that way. It's been a gradual deterioration of the leg function, and her aide says she really needs to get out more. Celeste isn't inclined to do that since she has an entire world she watches through the vent in her kitchen. She sees Persephone, who is adopted by Theo, and she never knew her birth mother. She's pretty sure she's a lesbian, but she has sex with a man in exchange for tattoos all over her body, which is a really bizarre form of self mutilation for her (kind of). Little does Persephone know, her mother is closer to home than she realizes, and Theo made a promise to mom Natalie to never reveal her identity. Which is just really sad that after all this time, Theo still lets that woman walk all over him with nothing in return but yet- here we are. 

What's really strange about this book is that it isn't one that I would have picked up and devoured based on the cover, but yet... the story is kind of bizarrely addicting. It's like how we spy on our neighbors to see what's going on. We might not know but based on what we see we form an opinion and go with it. Celeste sees herself like Persephone but they go about their journey to feel anything in totally opposite ways. I finished this book in just a couple of hours because I want to know what happens to Celeste and Persephone. Even from early on in the book you feel like we're working up to something big, like a train wreck that you know you're coming up on and you can take a detour but you find yourself driving towards it anyways. I have to say, this would be an EXCELLENT pick for a book club. There is so much meat to this story, so many what if's and discussion points, that despite it being a shorter book you could really discuss this for awhile. 

You can find your own copy of Connected Underneath on Amazon as well as Barnes & Noble. Linda Letgers also has a website you can peruse, too. I'm really interested to see what she does for her next book because this one was written really well and you felt like you were sitting right there with Celeste at her table, listening to her recount the neighborhood gossip. Those are the books I adore, the ones I forget I'm only reading and not listening to in real time. 

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Father's Day

You know what I realized? I realized that I don't really read a lot of books written by male authors. Is that weird? I feel like that's weird, like I'm being sexist without knowing it. Weird observations I make while reading in the middle of the night.

Father's Day - Simon Van Booy
The moving story of an orphaned girl named Harvey and the troubled uncle who raises her—an unforgettable tale of loss and redemption from the author of The Illusion of Separateness

At the age of six, a little girl named Harvey learns that her parents have died in a car accident. As she struggles to understand, a kindly social worker named Wanda introduces her to her only living relative: her uncle Jason, a disabled felon with a violent past and a criminal record. Despite his limitations—and his resistance—Wanda follows a hunch and cajoles Jason into becoming her legal guardian, convinced that each may be the other’s last chance.

Moving between past and present, Father’s Day weaves together the story of Harvey’s childhood and her life as a young woman in Paris, as she awaits her uncle’s arrival for a Father’s Day visit. To mark the occasion, Harvey has planned a series of gifts for Jason—all leading to a revelation she believes will only deepen their bond.

With extraordinary empathy and emotional impact, the award-winning writer Simon Van Booy has crafted a simple yet luminous novel of loss and transcendence, second chances and forgiveness: a breakthrough work from one of our most gifted chroniclers of the human heart.

Right away I have to tell you something that almost made this a stop reading within the first 50 pages because it's a trend I see more and more in books and it drives me CRAZY. Stop adding fluff. The first twenty pages or so describe Harvey as a child and her relationship/home life with her parents, who ultimately die in a car wreck, which is basically the start of the story. That's all fine. Then we get to the "Twenty Years Later" and Harvey is all grown up. She's gone to college, she's started her career, she's living in Paris and it's just page after page of nothing about Paris and her living there. What the streets and buildings look like, her commute to and from work, all of this.


It adds nothing to the story, It could all be taken out and literally start with Harvey picking up Jason at the airport for a Father's Day visit because I found myself flipping though all of that and not reading it. Did I miss any story? No. So stop it, authors. Stop it with your fluff. I don't know you have a word or page minimum to fill but it's horrible and it turns so many readers off if they have to plow through useless crap to get to the meat of the story.

Which is all a really long way of telling you to NOT give up on this book. I know, there's fluff and it kind of gives you more fluff periodically in the book, but just skim it. Truly, because the meat of this story is so great and so endearing, I'm really worried people are going to give up and miss out on such a heart tugging story. Because that's what it is. It's really great.

Harvey, orphaned at age six after her parents tragically die in a car accident, is shuffled between teacher's homes until a permanent home can be found for her. Unorthodox social worker Wanda meets Harvey's uncle Jason, who by all first impressions, is not the ideal candidate to adopt a child. He's been to prison for assault, he kind of lives off the system but makes money on the side, his house is a mess, and he doesn't really have clear direction in his life. Nothing about him or his lifestyle scream, "excellent parental candidate", yet Wanda has a gut feeling that this is the fit. Eventually Wanda gets Jason to agree to take Harvey in and from there, both Jason and Harvey's lives change. Jason finds a purpose and clarity to his life, Harvey sees the world in a different light than what her parents gave her, and they both become inseparable. Harvey struggles being in Paris knowing Jason, her dad, is on the other side of the world and she wonders if he's doing OK without her. Will she be OK without him? Not to mention, Harvey learns a secret that is what propels you through this book to the ending which is just.. I don't want to say much to give it away but man. I teared up a little. But the entire bulk of the book is Harvey giving Jason small tokens for his Father's Day gift, but each token is a memory of their lives together, and so we flip between present day and then memories of the past.

But what really just yanked at my heart with this book was my own relationship with my step dad, who for all intents and purposes, is my dad. My biological dad is a hot mess and was never capable or willing to be a father to me or my brother. But my step dad came in, was good to my mom, was good to us, and just took that role on though he didn't have to. I think now that I have my own kids, I have a better understanding of what that means and I can't imagine a world without him in it. The book itself highlights that it doesn't matter who your blood is, it's the people who are there, day in and day out, doing the work. The good, the bad, the ugly. That's what counts.

I highly encourage you to read this book, especially if you have a step parent, because I think you'll just get so much from it. Either way, a really great book. You can find your own copy of Father's Day on Amazon and Barnes & Noble as always. In the meantime, learn more about author Simon Van Booy on his website, Facebook, and Twitter!

Monday, May 9, 2016

Out with April, in with May

Someone suggested I make a recap of what I read in one month and my plan for the current month. Which, genius little lamb, genius. So I'm going to do that. In case you miss one of my reviews, or you're looking for something to read and don't want to go through each post, I'll do a recap with links and if a cover jumps at you- check it out.

That's right, I'm advocating judging a book by its cover. I totally approve.

Here are my April reads:

The Summer of Me: Single mother with two kids given a summer to basically find herself and give herself some direction for the future. Fun beach read!
The Outliers: First in a series, already optioned for a movie about a teen who may or may not have special abilities. She's on the quest to find her friend who has mysteriously disappeared. Everything gets crazy and nothing is as it seems.
Whisper If You Need Me: A cute teen romance novel about a girl who very much doesn't want to go to camp, but realizes camp isn't so bad with a hottie counselor.
Rules for 50/50 Chances: Fun YA book about a girl who may or may not have Huntington's disease and her dilemma on whether she should find out or not.
300 Days of Sun: If you liked Beautiful Ruins, you'll really like this one.
The House by the Lake: A present day novel that weaves in a historical story of Germany during the Nazi regime.
The Decent Proposal: A funny romantic novel about an LA based romance kindled by a deal, not love so much.

Lords of the Underworld 1 & 2: If you are a fan of paranormal romance, you need this series in your life. These are the first two, many others are already published so you can easily continue.
The Heartless City: The start of a series, a twist on Jekyll and Hyde, with a YA romance thrown in. It's a fast read!
A Mind of Your Own: An in depth look at non-medication ways to work on yourself, your depression, and how your entire physical health can be transformed.

Quite a few books I managed to get through last month! Now for May I shortened my "absolute need to get through" list because I think if I set the bar too high it won't happen. But if I can get through these with time to spare, I'll pick a few books off my shelf. Speaking of, I got new shelves last weekend and I found that I have a LOT (and I'm talking maybe 50) books on my shelf that I have not read. But don't tell Matt. So my goal is to really get through a lot of these in the coming months.
So here is my reading pile for May. The only ones that are not for already scheduled reviews is Yes, Please and Drowning to Breathe. The rest I am doing for review and you'll see those soon. I do have a couple of review books for May that aren't pictured here simply because I haven't received them, but I think you'll find quite a few of these being recommended for your summer reading lists, so stay tuned!

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

The Name Game. Or, just trying not to give a future President a really terrible name.

I remember when I was pregnant with my first child and I was asked what name we had picked out and I said we were going with Olivia. People looked at me strangely because back in 2005, you didn't hear a lot of Olivia's.

Then I had her and there were two others in the nursery at the same time and I was secretly glad because I don't want a weirdo, never-heard-of name for my kid. They'll go to school someday, they'll have jobs. Maybe they'll be a telemarketer or something that requires them to say their name a lot and I don't want people butchering it. Maybe they'll be President and you don't want a sissy name or something newscasters can't even pronounce.

My inspiration from her name came from the show Law & Order: SVU and I refuse to feel shame for that. I watched a LOT of it while pregnant and it's just a super pretty name.

Fast forward a couple of years and I find myself pregnant, this time with a boy. I knew what his name was going to be but I struggled with Jack versus Jackson. I have a thing about naming a child something you won't even call them. To me it's like, why bother? So if I liked Jack better, that's what he was going to be. But the longer my pregnancy went on I found I really preferred Jackson and he does, too as it turns out. He'll answer to Jack but every once in awhile he'll correct someone and say his name is JackSON. He really emphasizes it.

During my pregnancy with Penelope I realized people are ridiculously judgmental over names. Like, rudely so. They really hope you're naming your baby something weird so they can immediately criticize it. It's like the most exciting thing about someone you know having a baby, apparently. But I knew she was going to be a Penelope and for no real reason. I just really liked the name. I'm a little annoyed there is a Kardashian named Penelope but I can only hope over time they fade away and nobody will ask me if I used that as my inspiration because no, I did not. I just thought it sounded like a pretty name for a little old lady and I liked how it looked on paper.

When I had her all of the nurses and hospital staff absolutely loved it and kept commenting on what a great name.

I know, I'm an awesome name picker.

Now we have Fetus Four incubating, and that's literally what I've been calling it because I have no other name picked out. My early favorite was Eloise and I got some really strange looks and my dad said he'd call her Weezy. Which, is kind of hilarious and not a reason to not name a kid that because my dad has nicknames for us all so no matter what, this kid is bound to get a good one. Then I kind of liked Lucy. Matt liked Lucy more than Eloise but the more I thought about it, I wasn't sold. My mom mentioned Ophelia, and I really liked that one. Almost immediately. But Matt wasn't sold, and he said we should just do Lucy because it's easy to spell and we'd be done.

I need to mention here that I don't actually have any memory of consulting with him on Olivia or Jackson, I basically filled out the paperwork and that was that. With Penelope I told him it was the only name there was and he'd learn to spell it just fine over time.

So this time... why am I consulting? Why am I so wishy washy on a name? I'm 26 weeks along now and I feel like if I can do nothing else, I need to get a damn name for this baby.

I already told someone I was writing this blog post and they immediately asked if I was worried someone would "steal" my name. Um, nope? Because it's a name- thousands of kids will be born this year with the same exact name. I could care less. I don't feel weird about that kind of thing at all. I also don't really care when people offer me bits of criticism about the names.

So yes. We're basically down to Lucy or Ophelia. I wish my gut, which is never wrong, would kick in and tell me which way I should go.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

A Series of Catastrophes & Miracles

Please, please pick this book up. Seriously. We all need this book in our life. 

A wry, witty account of what it is like to face death—and be restored to life.

After being diagnosed in her early 40s with metastatic melanoma—a "rapidly fatal" form of cancer—journalist and mother of two Mary Elizabeth Williams finds herself in a race against the clock. She takes a once-in-a-lifetime chance and joins a clinical trial for immunotherapy, a revolutionary drug regimen that trains the body to vanquish malignant cells. Astonishingly, her cancer disappears entirely in just a few weeks. But at the same time, her best friend embarks on a cancer journey of her own—with very different results. Williams's experiences as a patient and a medical test subject reveal with stark honesty what it takes to weather disease, the extraordinary new developments that are rewriting the rules of science—and the healing power of human connection.

I remember when my mom told me she had melanoma and she was going to be having surgery to remove it and then a skin graft to basically give her new skin in the area of the melanoma, I (like a really terrible daughter) assumed it would all be fine and it wasn't a big deal. It's not that I didn't take skin cancer seriously, but I am that person who just assumes this kind of stuff won't happen to MY parents (let alone me) and I really put a lot of faith that doctors know what they are doing and everything will be great. Fortunately for her, it did turn out OK but now that I've read more about melanoma and learned that she had not just melanoma but also all three skin cancers you can have and she has the gene which could be a genetic worry for my brother and I, (source) I am terrified. We spent out summers as little kids shirtless, sometimes naked, running around in the Florida sunshine. I am literally covered in moles and freckles, I've already had a suspicious one removed when I was in middle school, so the reality that I actually need to be extra cautious is drilled into my head. So long story short, as soon as I saw this as a book review option, I was all over it because it hits so close to home. 

It's a true story of Mary Elizabeth and her weirdo scab on her head she thought was just a nuisance but turned out to be a very deadly form of melanoma. She has the initial reaction that any of us would upon hearing we have cancer- we'd calmly finish what we were in the middle in, and then breakdown. Look at our children, freak out on the inside, and do whatever it was that we had to do to beat this. She does it with honestly, humor, real tears, and you find yourself relating to her as if she's your best friend. Throughout the book there is not just her real account of what surgery, post surgery, lingering pain, cancer treatments, and repeat is like, but she also talks about how people around you react and treat you. Sure, you get the pot pies and the lasagnas, but beyond that people fall into the "ignore it and it isn't a big deal" category, the "overly invasive, in your business" category, and then the "we have no idea what to do but we want to do something" category. I'm ashamed to say I was in the first with my mother and it's not because I didn't care, but because it was really the first time I had ever seen my mother in that light- scared, but trying not to be, so I felt like if I made a big deal out of it, it would scare her more, or stress her out. And frankly? I am terrified to lose my mom. I have friends who have lost theirs and they always tell me how awful it is, how I'll never be the same, and what a difference it makes in the rest of my life and none of that sounds like something I want to deal with. I really need my mom still. A lot. I can't even imagine what I would do if I couldn't call my mom to vent or to ask a question or to ask for help. She's literally the only person who never makes me feel stupid when I don't know something, or make me feel bad when I need help. So as I'm reading this book, I was emotional and terrified that this could have been, could still be, the reality for my mom and I. 

I also liked how the book gives us actual history and information about cancer, cancer treatments, and it's just a really brutal look into the cancer industry and what it means for real people. You can take a treatment that is $120K for four doses or you can buy a house. You can't buy both but what do you want- to live or be homeless? It's that kind of decision that millions of people are making out there and it's just... it's a lot to think about when your body is effectively trying to kill you. I found myself connected with the secondary characters, the friends and family around Mary Elizabeth, who are fighting (and sometimes losing) their own battles with cancer. It's just such a great book. I think cancer scares us all because it isn't forgiving and even if you "beat it" you live with the threat of it popping up somewhere else the rest of your life. Like a cruel carnival game you think you won but oh look- there it is again. 

Please, whatever you do, put some damn sunscreen on, stop going to tanning beds, wear a hat, and the sun is not your friend so stop trying to party with it. And buy this book. You can find it on Amazon as well as Barnes & Noble, naturally. 

The Summer of Me

I know it's only May but now is a perfect time to start organizing your summer reading list and getting those books ordered, and I'll be bringing you a lot of great reviews in the next few weeks, so take note! If you are in the market for a feel good, put you in the mood for summer book, then look no further.

The Summer of Me - Angela Benson

The nationally bestselling author of Delilah’s Daughters and The Amen Sisters returns with a moving story about a single mother who discovers the woman she can be in one unforgettable summer.

As a single mother, Destiny makes sacrifices for her children—including saying goodbye for the summer so they can spend time with their father and stepmother. Though she’ll miss them with all her heart, the time alone gives her an opportunity to address her own needs, like finish getting her college degree. But Destiny’s friends think her summer should include some romance.

Destiny doesn’t want to be set up…until she meets Daniel.  The handsome, warm and charming pastor soon sweeps Destiny off her feet. But is romance what she really wants? Or needs?

As the days pass, Destiny will make new discoveries—about herself, the man she’s fallen for, and the people around her. And she’ll face challenging choices.  But most of all, she’ll grow in ways she never imagined, learning unexpected lessons about trust, forgiveness, and the price of motherhood…and truly become the woman she wants to be.

So, I'm going to start this review with just an observation I've noticed as a voracious reader: you almost never see a story featuring an African-American woman let alone have a cover as stunning and inviting as this one. I'm saying that as a totally white person, I could not be more white, and I've always noticed it and I don't know if anyone else does, but I jumped on this tour because it was exactly that. Nothing cookie cutter about this novel, it stands out on its own and it's good. It's a really good story that every mother can relate to, but more so if you're divorced and sharing custody of the children, and I absolutely loved it. And I wanted to be friends with Destiny because I can absolutely relate to her.

Destiny is a single mother of twins and we learn right away that their father is the love of her life, but he felt differently and married some other chick. They are well off and Destiny isn't- she's struggling to make ends meet but give her kids a great life to the best of her ability but she always feels inadequate, though the ex and his new wife do nothing to reassure her. The twins will be spending the entire summer with their dad and stepmom in sunny California, far away from Destiny. While she knows this is an opportunity of a life time for them, she's upset because she can't be the one to provide it. Meanwhile, her friends (and her mother, who can be a bit overbearing and a bit of a nag) are harping on her to use this time away from her children to work on herself. Maybe go back to school and get closer to a degree so she can get a better paying job, leading to more opportunities. Maybe meet a man, or at least get herself out there, and not give up on the chance at love again. She meets Daniel through a friend and that basically starts her off on a summer to remember for her own self.

I flew through this book over the course of one day, curled up in my favorite chair under blankets because it is still ridiculously cold for spring where I live, dreaming of being on a damn beach with some sunshine. This book put me in the summer mindset and it is just a really great chick lit story line. I really liked Destiny because I feel like if Matt up and left, I'd be in the same spot as her. It's hard to get momentum when everything seems so hard and it's hard to make a decision on anything when you don't know what you want. You plan your whole life to be a certain way and when that doesn't happen, you lose steam and direction. I totally get it. It does have a good ending and you leave Destiny feeling like things are going to be alright for her, and ultimately that's all I wanted in this book. But don't worry, this isn't all schmoopy love, it's got a scandal!

The book is lighthearted and fun, it's about female empowerment and ultimately taking care of yourself to be better for other people, something all of us should be doing anyways.

To get your own copy of The Summer of Me, head over to Amazon or Barnes & Noble. In the meantime, you can check out author Angela Benson's webpage and her Facebook page for more information on her other books, she's got a few of them!

Monday, May 2, 2016

The Outliers

You guys. I don't care how in debt you are, you need to stop reading this, and purchase this book RIGHT NOW. Right now, and then we'll talk.

It's OK, I'll wait.

The Outliers - Kimberly McCreight

From the New York Times bestselling author of Reconstructing Amelia comes a fast-paced teen series where one girl learns that in a world of intrigue, betrayal, and deeply buried secrets, it is vital to trust your instincts.

It all starts with a text: Please, Wylie, I need your help. Wylie hasn’t heard from Cassie in over a week, not since their last fight. But that doesn’t matter. Cassie’s in trouble, so Wylie decides to do what she has done so many times before: save her best friend from herself.

This time it’s different, though. Instead of telling Wylie where she is, Cassie sends cryptic clues. And instead of having Wylie come by herself, Jasper shows up saying Cassie sent him to help. Trusting the guy who sent Cassie off the rails doesn’t feel right, but Wylie has no choice but to ignore her gut instinct and go with him.

But figuring out where Cassie is goes from difficult to dangerous, fast. As Wylie and Jasper head farther and farther north into the dense woods of Maine, Wylie struggles to control her growing sense that something is really wrong. What isn’t Cassie telling them? And could finding her be only the beginning?

In this breakneck tale, New York Times bestselling author Kimberly McCreight brilliantly chronicles a fateful journey that begins with a single decision—and ends up changing everything. 

The only appropriate way to sum this book up in two words is: holy shit. Everything else I could say feels incredibly inadequate and this book is everything. I actually have a migraine from an epic, no-sleep, reading session and frankly? I'm afraid to go to sleep because I know I'm going to be thinking about this book.

I'm going to start with the negatives, just to get them out of the way. First, Wylie is kind of a whack a doodle and I'm sorry, but I have such a hard time relating to people with such debilitating anxiety and general issues. Never mind the fact we spend so much time establishing the fact she's kind of a whack job yet SOMEHOW, she miraculously pulls her crap together to get through the rest of the book? Sure, she has anxious moments, is on the edge of falling apart, but she never really does and it's like- why couldn't you do that to get to school? I mean, you're functioning pretty well considering the danger you're in but school or a visit to your therapist's office is just TOO much? So that's not very believable and pretty eye-roll worthy. Secondly, can we talk about how annoying it is that teenagers in books like this are just so incredibly stupid? They just think they know the solution to everything and that also is very annoying. Thirdly, I'm not sure I totally get the whole scientific study of emotional intelligence aspect of the book but considering this is now a series (which I didn't know when I started it), I'm assuming we are going to learn more in future books so it's not only an interesting aspect of the book but it starts to make sense.

So that's the boos.

Let's talk about the yay-ness of this book. First, this book is one you cannot put down. I tried, so I could go to the bathroom, but then I was at such a great part and so I managed to go to the bathroom while holding a hard cover book. Take THAT, e-reader losers. I really could not stop reading this and the entire time I'm trying desperately to figure out who is who, who is really who, what the hell is going on, and I started to feel like Wylie. Like the obvious pieces are right there, we just don't know how they fit into the greater puzzle.

Once Wylie finds Cassie, I feel like the book kind of stunted a little bit, we spend a lot of time just at this weird camp in Maine and it almost feels like the author isn't 100% sure where she wants to go with the story but then out of NOWHERE, all hell breaks loose. It all breaks loose, and it's chaotic and awesome, and then I realized I'm almost at the end of the book. With no possible way this is all going to get wrapped up inside of 30 pages or so. But the ending?

You guys.

I had to go to the bathroom again and my stomach absolutely dropped.

Why am I having to wait? Why do authors do this to me? Why do I have to wait to find out what the hell happens? Is Jasper OK? What's going to happen to Wylie? Who are these people? What is even going on in the world?!

*calming breath*

I just... this book was so good and unexpectedly what I needed. I've been on a romance novel kick as of late and you know I love that. But every once in awhile you need something that makes you fly through it and weigh the pros/cons of a bladder infection. Some books are worth it and this was one of them. I mean, can you give higher praise? This book is worthy of a bladder infection.

Also cool? It's already been optioned for film by Lionsgate with Mandeville and Reese Witherspoon's Pacific Standard to produce. Obviously, you know my rear end will be in line for a ticket. The book itself becomes available May 3, 2016 but you can pre-order it now on Amazon as well as Barnes & Noble. This is going to be a book I'm recommending to everyone who likes a good "what the hell is happening" kind of book, for sure. In the meantime, you can check out author Kimberly McCreight's website and Twitter for information on her other books, too!

Whisper If You Need Me

I'm trying super hard to read through some of my books that I've gotten through the many months of book subscription boxes I've had because let's face it- if I'm not reading them, why am I having them mailed to me?!

Because I'm a junky, that's why.

But if you remember waaaaaay back in December, this was one of the books I received in my Bookworm Box for that month. I actually started it when I got the box but then I put it down because I've had a lot of review books to do and finally last week I decided I was going to just finish the damn thing to move it from my desk to my shelf for it to be all moody and pretty.

Whisper If You Need Me - Dina Silver

A strong-willed yet vulnerable young beauty, Julia Pearl is sixteen years old when she’s sent away to summer camp for the first time. Julia’s father and stepmother are convinced that time away from home will be good for Julia, hoping it will restore the confidence she lost when her mother disappeared five years earlier. 

Released from the emotional constraints of her new family and the ugly reputation her mother left behind, Julia finds herself reluctantly tossed into the free-spirited and often drama-infused world of overnight camp—where she quickly falls for an intensely charismatic counselor named Jack Dempsey, a nineteen-year-old college student who will prove to save her life in more ways than one.

Rich with humor and poignancy, Whisper If You Need Me is a timeless story that will remind readers of the strength of friendship, the unwavering devotion of family, and ultimately, the power of young love.

Obviously, I'm going to call this more of a YA romance because our leading lady is Julia, who is only 16. She feels misunderstood by her dad and stepmom, who send her off to a summer camp against her will, and she's determined to hate every second of it. But then she meets Emma, a fellow allergy plagued camper (Julia is allergic to peanuts and it's kind of big deal in the book), and then Counselor McDreamy, also known as Jack.

As a kid who has never been to camp, or was sent away for any kind of length of time as a teenager, I can only guess that the author nailed Julia's anger and general feeling of being left behind and unwanted. Her mother was "kicked out" by her dad and she was never really sure why. We do find out why in the book so that is really great because that could have been a really crappy loose end if we didn't. But while at camp Julia tries to adapt and make the best of it, made easier by her friendship with Emma but also Amber. Mostly Emma, though. She encounters mean girls in twins Brittany and Brianna, and they are basically the worst of the worst. Brittany has a thing for Jack, as does another counselor, Liz, so separately Brittany and Liz try their best to make Julia's life a living hell while at camp. Meanwhile, sparks are flying between Jack and Julia and one fateful night at the end of their Voyager's session kind of catapults the rest of the story forward. Honestly? Until that night, things were kind of slow and boring in the book for me, but the last third of the book was really good. I wanted that through the whole book. More drama, more something to keep you moving. This should have been a one day read for me, but like I said above, it was one that I could easily put down and pick something else up.


That last third of the book, everything from their night in the woods and beyond, was so good and hooked me that I'm actually going to give this book 4/5 stars. I know. I know, I'm giving a book 4 stars even though it was super boring the first 2/3 which is when most people would throw in the towel. It's enough that I would read more by Dina Silver because I have heard a lot of good things about her other books so I don't know, I will have to read more to know if this is just her way of weaving through a story or just something particular about this book.

You can purchase your own copy of Whisper If You Need Me on Amazon as well as Barnes & Noble. And I don't know if you're super particular, but both websites have this book available in a used copy to save you some money.