Tuesday, December 31, 2019

December 2019 Wrap up.... 2020 Goals

I knew going into December it was going to fly by because I had a lot going on and the sheer amount of work that goes into Christmas makes days go by. It's only dawned on me in the last day that this is the end of a decade and that's weird but I also no longer have concept of time so I guess maybe it isn't so weird after all.
December Highlights:
  • We had Snowmaggedon at the very end of November but it carried over in December and it was ridiculous. It was the first time (that I can remember) that I was legitimately snowed in and unable to leave my house. 
  • The big three went to Grandma's for the weekend, so Matt and I only had Lucy and it was a DREAM. When the big three came back we made a last minute decision to go to Bentleyville to see all of the Christmas lights and freeze our asses off waiting for Santa in the name of tradition. 
  • I really struggled with depression this month, I saw the weight loss doctor and learned I was fatter than I thought I was and started a diet in which I think I'm failing and I can't wait to go back in January. Ha!
  • I gave you a recap of my Best Books of 2019 and I hope you found your next read on there. 
  • Olivia had her first 8th grade band concert, they did SO well!! A far cry from the squeaky and rough 6th grade band!
  • Olivia, Penelope, and Lucy had a dance recital (pictures coming soon). 
  • Penelope had her first grade school winter concert. She did pretty well but was totally nervous and it was adorable. 
  • Lucy had a family fun day at school so I can and we made crafts and sang songs. She was totally excited to show me all the things. 
  • We had Christmas and it was great. 
Books I read:
2020 Goals
I'm going to put my yearly goals for 2020 here because I feel like January is all about setting yourself up for the rest of the year, so we are doing that all month and coming up with a plan. 
  • Our current debt (not including our home or vehicle) is hovering at $41,000. We would like to get that down to $28,000. To get there it means really buckling down on things. Sorry friends, we likely won't be sending fun things to you randomly during the year. We probably won't be doing a lot of fun stuff that isn't free. We're going to do a budget friendly vacation this year. We need to figure out how to free up $1100 per month or so to do this. 
  • Budget friendly vacation! We do plan on doing a road trip but we're looking at the possibilities to cross a bunch of states off our list but also won't break the bank. Option A: Iowa, Kansas, Oklahoma, Arkansas or Option : Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky. Please weigh in. Our requirement to cross it off is to do a touristy thing in each state, maybe more than one. 
  • Continue with therapy and get through the year. I know that seems kind of dumb, but I know 2020 is going to be a difficult year for me because the support system I've relied on is going to be gone, so I will have to do a lot all on my own. I know, millions of people do this every day, but I struggle. I can no longer "go with the flow" or multi-task and I struggle with every day things. I look "normal", I sound "normal", I am not "normal". I have been struggling with a lot of things and the realization that I'm at my peak recovery and I'm not back to my normal.... it's upsetting to say the least. 
  • Olivia and I are going to Washington D.C./New York City in March and I'm so excited for her. Her friends who are going are excited that I am going to because I think having a mom you know is comforting. I am scared shitless and I am so worried I'm going to get sick, get disoriented/confused, or that something will happen to me. This is my first time going somewhere without some I know/trust helping me. I am terrified. 
  • I would like to finish our Missouri vacation and my Vegas vacation scrapbooks this year. I really want to get back into scrapbooking. 
  • Organize my office/library/craft room. Matt says he will help and build me a table/desk to make my room seem larger and maybe help me with storage and I am so excited and really hope it happens. I just need to find some ideas now! 
  • Lose 15 pounds. I know my goal for 2019 was to lose 5 pounds, and I did that (barely) but my goal for 2020 is to lose 15. I can do this, I have to buckle down. 
That's it, those are my goals for 2020. What are some of your goals? 

Monday, December 30, 2019

Best of the Best: Top Books for 2019

According to Goodreads I have read a total of 125 books this year, smashing my goal of 110 for 2019. Impressive, considering around June I was so far behind and absolutely certain I wasn't going to hit the goal or anywhere near it.

I wanted to share with you some of my 5 star reviews from this year because these were all really good that I think you will scoop these up and enjoy them. Some of my 5 star books aren't listed here either because they were a non-fiction, a children's book, or maybe it was a 5 star book after I read it but now that its months later and I'm not thinking about it anymore. All of these here are ones I recommend, have purchased for others, still think about, or have read a second (or third) time since. That's how good they are. (If you want more information on any of these, click on the image of the book and it will take you to Amazon.) (This post contains affiliate links. 💜)
Envy: An Eagle Elite Novella
Who knew I'd like a mob crime family novella with some pretty serious violence in it? Apparently I do! Enough so that I've considered buying the others in this series from the author but I'm not sure if I can handle a full length book with that much violence. But..... I kind of want to read more about these guys so.... 

Our Totally Ridiculous, Made Up Christmas Relationship
You're going to see  lot from this author on here and I can't help it, they were all really good! I loved the cheese but the sweetness of this guy and the quirk of this girl. 

You guys. I loved this one. A lot. 

Loving Mr. Daniels
I told you, I was addicted to this author all year. The fragility of this heroine and their relationship really made this book for me. 

The Fire Between High & Lo
OK, this book made me an emotional wreck and I had to take a breather maybe half way through and I wasn't sure if this was going to have the ending I wanted. 

In An Instant
Now technically, this book doesn't come out for awhile but you need to pre-order it because it is THAT GOOD. As a mother it gutted me to know I would have no idea what I would do in this situation and thank god I haven't had to do it. 

Fix Her Up
OK, another author I fell in love with this year! This was fun and maybe laugh out loud a few times and convinced me to buy more from her immediately after I finished it. 

The Air He Breathes
The first one I ever read from this author and dammit if it didn't get me. 

The Echo Park Castaways
I was on a YA kick this year and this one, while short and sweet, really stuck with me. 

The Unhoneymooners
Alright, I had forgotten how much I loved these authors and this one reminded me and I laughed so many times during this one! 

Dear Bridget, I Want You
The premise of this was solid, and I hadn't read anything by these authors and I loved it! 

You, Me, and the Sea
A retelling (kind of) of Wuthering Heights that was amazing. I was mesmerized by this book and I've read it three times now. 

The House of Salt & Sorrows
I know some people thought it was weird, but it was GREAT. Its a play on Twelve Dancing Princesses and this author did it justice!! I couldn't put it down and obviously this will win Cover of the Year for me because I loved it so much! 

Cowboy Christmas Redemption
This one is squeaking in barely because I just finished it but I had been waiting for this story for a long time and it was as good as I had hoped it would be!

Getaway Girl
I loved this. It was fun and I really enjoyed these characters. 

If Only I Could Tell You
I wasn't sure if I was even going to finish this book because I really didn't like either sister, I thought they were just the worst, I didn't understand "the drama" between them and then.... it all started slowly unraveling and I could NOT put it down. I finished this one while parked on the street at Olivia's dance class, completely sobbing tears of total sadness but complete happiness at the same time. SO GOOD. 

No Judgements
A review book that was SO good with the best cast of characters that I am crossing my fingers so hard hoping I can be on the tour for the next book. I can't wait to read it! 

The Speed of Falling Objects
If I had to tell you what book really got to me, I'd tell you it was this one. Something about a teenage girl feeling disconnected from both parents, desperately wanting approval and to know she is loved, really did me in. Not to mention the crazy adventure, this one was a ride from start to finish. It's a YA book and I guarantee you will get something different from it than your teenager will and it's interesting to compare notes. Olivia read this one too and would text me from school things like, "MOM!!!! You should have told me *insert name* dies! I can't handle this!" and she'd run home from the bus to tell me which part she was at. Really fantastic book. 

If you read a FANTASTIC book this year, tell me what it was and I will check it out! Have you read any off this list?? 

Friday, December 27, 2019

Book Review & Excerpt: Cowboy Christmas Redemption

So much goodness in this post for you! You know I'm a huge fan of anything Harlequin but I am a big Maisey Yates fan so as soon as I saw this book come up for review I jumped on it! I've read several of her Gold Valley books and this one is in that bunch, so I'm glad to add it to my collection!

Cowboy Christmas Redemption - Maisey Yates

Cowboy Caleb Dalton has loved single mom Ellie Bell, and her little daughter, Amelia, for years. But since Ellie is his best friend’s widow, Caleb’s head knows Ellie will always be strictly off-limits. If only his heart got the memo. So when Caleb discovers that Ellie has a Christmas wish list—and hopes for a kiss under the mistletoe—he’s throwing his cowboy hat into the ring. If anyone’s going to be kissing Ellie and sharing this magical time with her and her daughter, it’s him.

Ellie has dreaded the holidays since losing her husband. But this year, she’s finally ready to make some changes. She never expects the biggest change to be the heart-stopping kiss she shares with Caleb. For almost five years, Caleb has been her best friend, her rock, her salvation. This Christmas, can Caleb prove he’s also the missing puzzle piece of Ellie’s and Amelia’s hearts?

My thoughts... 
I have been waiting for this story for SO LONG!! I knew that Caleb and Ellie would end up together and we would get snippets of their friendship in all of the other stories and it was just enough to make you want to abandon what you were reading and read THEIR story and here it is. It goes without saying that I loved it and it was everything I wanted this to be. I can't tell you much without giving some of the best parts away but Maisey Yates did a fantastic job and all of the waiting was worth it. With that said, it is part of a series and while the other books are OK to jump into without reading the previous ones... this one you really do need to read the previous ones. It features a lot of the previous characters (yay!) but also a lot of Caleb and Ellie's stories (individually) are in those books so if you read those you are coming into this one with anticipation that you just aren't going to have if you start here. Does that make sense? Trust me, those books are really good and you're going to really enjoy this series and I'm not even a cowboy romance fanatic, but these are really good. The best part? Is I finally understand what kept both of them from each other for so long, it's like all of the pieces came together and everything fit together well. The ending? Swoon. That's all I'm going to say- swoon. I have to give this 5 stars because I loved it so much.


“Caleb!” Amelia flung herself off his parents’ front porch and into his arms. He picked her up, and she wrapped her legs around him, clinging tightly to him. And then she leaned forward and kissed his cheek. She smacked her hand against his jaw. “Prickly,” she complained.
Something in his chest tugged. “Well, you caught me at the end of the day, squirt. I need to shave.”
She looked at him and wrinkled her nose. “Am I going to need to shave someday?”
He laughed. And he was surprised how genuinely light he felt in that moment. “Not likely. Your mom doesn’t have a beard, does she?”
“No,” she said, frowning. “My mom says that you have Christmas trees.”
“I do,” he said. “At least, they’re about to be mine. It’s going to be a whole farm of them.”
“I didn’t know you had Christmas trees on a farm,” she said.
“Well, you can. It’s where most of the Christmas trees from the lots come from.”
“I want to see them.”
He hesitated because he knew that if he took Amelia to see the trees, in all likelihood he would have to take Ellie with him. And really, spending time with Ellie and Amelia in the same space right now was strange and loaded.
“All right,” he said. “But only if your mom’s okay with that.”
“She will be,” Amelia said, full of confidence.
He set her down, and she scampered into the house.
“What am I going to be okay with?”
He turned around and saw Ellie. The sight of her just about set him back on his heels. She looked the same as she always did.
But that was the problem.
“Amelia wants to go out and see the Christmas trees,” he said. “I didn’t figure you would mind. I don’t mind taking her by myself, if you need to go home.”
She lifted her shoulder. “No. I don’t mind going up.”
She started to take a step toward him, and his gut tightened. Then the door opened again, and Amelia reappeared with her backpack from preschool, and another stack of old printer paper that his mother had given her to scribble on.
“Can we ride in Caleb’s truck?”
“Yes,” Ellie said.
“I’m sitting in the middle.”
A smile tugged at the corner of Ellie’s lips, and she narrowed her eyes slightly. The impish expression making his gut feel hollow, and effortlessly conveying that she had been hoping for the middle seat.
She was flirting with him.
Now, that, he hadn’t expected.
So maybe this whole making her wait thing was really going to work in his favor.
Buy me!

To order this or any of the other Harlequin holiday books (honestly I want them all), you can visit their website HERE and shop your little heart out.

Or, if you have an Amazon gift card from Christmas to burn or you want to try out your new Kindle or something, you can find it here, too:


A huge thank you to Harlequin, Maisey Yates, and Pump Up Your Book for having me on this tour! If I could just have one of everything from Harlequin, I would die a happy gal. (Christmas gift idea for next year, folks.) 

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Book Review: Hoops Holiday

I hope you all had a really great Christmas and that Santa was really good to you. We had a pretty good one but I'll talk more about that next week because we still have one more Christmas to do with my brother and his family this coming weekend.

In the meantime, let's do some book reviews! Today I have one for you, tomorrow I'll have two for you, and I might even have one for next week and that will finish my Goodreads Challenge for 2019!

Hoops Holiday - Kennedy Ryan

MacKenzie Decker was a question Avery never got to ask, much less answer.

They met when she was a young reporter fueled by ambition, and the ink on Deck's first NBA contract was barely dry. Years later, they've climbed so high and lost so much, but one thing hasn't changed. The attraction that simmered between them in a locker room before is still there. With success like theirs, everything has been possible . . . except them.

That was then . . . but what about now?

The great thing about this one is it's a quick novella but it does contain two bonus shorts that feature the couples from the two books previous to this (Long Shot & Block Shot) so if you're missing them you can get a little visit in just a few pages. This book only features Decker & Avery though and it is really a great read as you snuggle under your new blankets and the kids run wild with their new toys.

In this one we have Avery, an up and coming sports journalist, who meets MacKenzie Decker (who goes by Deck) in an unfortunate way, but that one moment in time stays with them both (hard not to because it was pretty memorable). Definitely a connection between them that engagements, marriage, children, and death can't deter it so when they find themselves working together years later, it's obvious the connection is still there. Older and wiser, they slowly forge their way into a relationship while navigating each other's issues plus the difficulty of long distance romance.

Overall? I have to give this one a solid 4. I like that this series is tackling serious issues and though this is only a novella, it also tackles the issue of suicide but also grief/grieving, and I appreciate that. What I wish we had more of was the romance. Avery almost got on my nerves because she is the queen of mixed signals, and I got a little irritated for how determined Deck was he was ready to give up easily on the whole thing. A few missteps but overall I did like this one and I liked the two bonus epilogues featuring past characters. Definitely a quick one to enjoy before the end of the year.

I have yet to read other books in this series, so don't spoil it for me! This post contains affiliate links and happy reading! 

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Book Review: Landon & Shay (part two)

OK, so before you do anything, you have to go back and read my review for part one if you haven't already. I have been anxiously waiting for part two and here we are!

Landon & Shay (part two) - Brittainy C. Cherry

Once upon a time, I fell in love with a boy.
A beautiful, broken boy who had his own world of struggles.

People warned me against our love, but I didn't listen.
We looked weak, young, and foolish.
Dangerously in love.
We didn't care.

In order to keep our hearts protected from the opinions of others, we became each other’s secret.
We shared stolen moments. Tender touches. Secretive embraces.

It was our twisted love story, and it worked for us up until our lives changed forever.

The boy I loved became Hollywood’s newest golden boy.
His career blossomed as mine stalled.
He found massive success as I discovered multiple failures.
He made something of himself, while my dreams never came true.

We moved into different realms where our pieces no longer fit together.

In the fairy tales, love conquered all.
In reality, love was the main reason empires began to fall.

I always knew Landon belonged in my story.
He was my beginning, middle, and end.
The only problem? I wasn’t certain I still belonged in his.

I have so many thoughts on this and I just had to take a little while to process it and I just don't know if I'm going to do justice. I'm going to start by telling you that while I loved this duet, I didn't love part two as much as part one and as much as I wanted to. Part one leaves us kind of with a cliff hanger of Landon going to L.A. and Shay staying behind. We know that Landon's career will take off and Shay's will be kind of stagnate and not really go anywhere.

I didn't love the way Landon and Shay "break up" in this book (that's not a spoiler, this is basically the trope every book by Brittainy C. Cherry goes, so we know it's coming), and frankly, while Landon makes mistakes, I really hate how Shay handles it. Especially know how Landon operates when he's in a depression valley, I'm not sure how she misses all of the tell tale signs of it. Secondly, there are so many unfinished stories (What happens to Shay's dad? What about their friends? I'm assuming there was a fallout with Tracey or something?) and it just left me waiting for more to happen. Also, for all of the buildup of Landon talking about how hard it is in the spotlight, even for those around him, I expected more of that for Shay. Though she does experience it, it's not like I thought it would be. Third, this was rushed. I felt like a lot of care was spent in part one in the set up, I felt like the beginning of this one was promising, but then... it's a race to the end. If we didn't get an epilogue this would have been a total let down for me. I mean, the epilogue is good but I would have liked even MORE of one.

Oh! My other issue?? We know what happens with Landon over those ten years (kind of) and we know what happens with Shay, but they don't know what happened to each other. There wasn't much of a discussion and what they did have was fairly brief because neither wanted to really acknowledge how they each disappointed and let down the other person. For me it was more Shay than Landon (who clearly did a lot of work dealing with mental illness and I love that so much about this duet), because she was avoiding everything throughout.

I also felt like this entire duet's story line was too similar to her other book, The Fire Between High & Lo, and you know I loved that book. Maybe that's why I felt let down, it was too similar and I was kind of bummed out.

I have to give a massive thank you to SocialButterfly PR and of course Brittainy C. Cherry for making these ARC's available for review. I'm a massive fan of Brittainy and she has a special spot on my shelf because it is well deserved. All thoughts and opinions are my own and this post contains affiliate links. If you read this duet, I want to know what you think!

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Book Review: The Playground

I only have a few book review posts for the rest of this year but I'm pretty sure they are all going to be good and I'm happy to be leaving 2019 with a bang... at least book wise.

The Playground - Jane Shemilt

Big Little Lies meets Lord of The Flies in this electrifyingly twisty follow-up to Jane Shemilt’s breakout debut The Daughter.

Over the course of a long, hot summer in London, the lives of three very different married couples collide when their children join the same tutoring circle, resulting in illicit relationships, shocking violence, and unimaginable fallout.

There’s Eve, a bougie earth mother with a well-stocked trust fund; she has three little ones, a blue-collar husband and is obsessed with her Instagrammable recipes and lifestyle. And Melissa, a successful interior designer whose casually cruel banker husband is careful not to leave visible bruises; she curates her perfectly thin body so closely she misses everything their teenage daughter is hiding. Then there’s Grace, a young Zimbabwean immigrant, who lives in high-rise housing project with her two children and their English father Martin, an award-winning but chronically broke novelist; she does far more for her family than she should have to.

As the weeks go by, the couples become very close; there are barbecues, garden parties, a holiday at a country villa in Greece. Resentments flare. An affair begins. Unnoticed, the children run wild. The couples are busily watching each other, so distracted and self-absorbed that they forget to watch their children. No one sees the five children at their secret games or realize how much their family dynamics are changing until tragedy strikes.

The story twists and then twists again while the three families desperately search for answers. It’s only as they begin to unravel the truth of what happened over the summer that they realize evil has crept quietly into their world.

But has this knowledge come too late?

I knew going into this that I probably wasn't going to like any of these characters and I was totally right, they are the worst. Why they even had kids is completely beyond me, but I bet we can all name four of five parents that we know that definitely shouldn't have had kids.

Imagine them as these characters because it helps. In fact, we probably know people who could play each role because we know these people. You feel terrible for the kids because they don't always necessarily know how awful parents their own are and they inevitably turn out pretty similar to them and that my friends, is the circle of life. I say often that a good thriller/suspense type book needs to be full of characters we don't like or don't want to root for because we inevitably want to see someone go down for once. The downer for me is that even though this book is a meandering trail of "what the heck is going on".... I knew what happened fairly early on. It didn't ruin the book for me, I just wish there almost was a total twist at the end that blew me and my guess out of the water because I missed something stupid that was actually incredibly critical.

The best part of this book was watching the parents each spiraling to hell in their own way and bringing each other down all the while thinking the kids are left relatively unscathed and OK. MEANWHILE, these kids are wreaking havoc with little to no supervision because their parents are the captains of the hot mess cruise ship. It almost feels like two seriously depraved stories happening at the same time and converging together at the worst possible time. At the end of the book I take away that children are not stupid, children are sneaky, and no matter what WE do as adults, the children are watching.

This book is incredibly hard to put down because debauchery is all over the place but someone is also playing them all and it's so disturbing on so many levels. It's honestly exactly what I needed in between cheerful and optimistic Christmas books and movies. Life is all about balance, my friends. If you want something to keep you hooked and mess with your head a bit, this is your next read.

Although it isn't released until 12/30/19, you can pre-order it now at HarperCollins but also most book retailers, too!

Thank you to William Morrow Books and TLC Book Tours for having me on this tour and sending me a copy! All thoughts and opinions are my own; this post contains affiliate links. 

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Disappointment, Depression, Diet.

I know I haven't blogged in a few days and I wish I could say it's because I have so much going on I just couldn't squeeze it in. In a way, that's true.

Mostly though, it's just depression.

It's kicking my ass. My irritability is at an all time high. I feel like I'm walking a tight rope between looking fine and falling all the way apart. I constantly feel like the littlest thing could happen and send me into an emotional spiral of never ending crying.

I'm trying really hard to be cheerful and I really hate that this seems to happen this time of year because this is my favorite time of year. I hate that while depression has ruined a lot of my life it's now taking the one holiday I really, really love.

Why can't I have just one thing?
In other news, I finally went to the weight loss doctor. I'm sure I've talked about this months ago but it's finally happened and I learned a lot. The bare facts:

  • I'm 206.1 pounds, 40% body fat. (No surprise there, I knew all of that)
  • My goal weight is 160 pounds, 20% body fat (this is actually reassuring because that's where I was at before Penelope and I felt pretty good about things so I felt good knowing I wasn't aiming for something crazy like 120 or something)
  • I'm an apple shape and apple are better than pears BECAUSE apples genetically can lose weight doing light/moderate exercise whereas pears have to really go hard in the gym. It's just how a body works, and it's weird but I like being an apple. 
  • My visceral fat is 11, and that puts me in the "high" category. Between the visceral fat information and all of the lab work I had done, he's very concerned about me and diabetes. It's not my blood sugar necessarily, but my body is clearly not processing, absorbing, or breaking down anything normally so he said my primary concern needs to be this.  

I came away with a new pill, Metformin, and so far I'm tolerating it OK. I'm astounded at how huge it is so THAT's fun to take every day. Pretty soon I'll have to take it twice a day. Goody.

The plan is for me to get 30-60 minutes of exercise every day over and above what I normally do for activity in a day, nothing crazy. He doesn't even care what I do, he just wants activity.

My new diet? It's called the "Measuring Cup Free Diet" and it's pretty much just portion control. He spent a lot of time doing math with me to figure out what I need to (hopefully) help my body function more normally.

  • 75 grams of protein, spread out over the day. I can have a protein shake or a protein bar but he showed me how to tell if the bar is actually any good for me, and told me to not get a shake at the local shake places, I have to make my own. There are too many other additives and things in those that would make it basically useless for me. So, that sucks because I'm scared of my blender so YAY. 
  • 4 servings of vegetables. A DAY. If you know me at all you know I hate vegetables and I'm already really struggling on this. 
  • 3 servings of fruit. Again, barf. 
  • 2 servings of starch... which is the worst. I can have one piece of bread, 1/3 cup of cooked pasta or rice, and 1/2 cup of cereal. Only one of those a day. I'M GOING TO DIE. 
  • 1 serving of dairy. Which I'm OK with because I'm not big on dairy, but it's only one slice of cheese. I mean, I love cheese. 
The plan is food journal EVERYTHING and I'm on day three and I hate it. I'm sure it'll get easier. My limit is like 1700 calories or something, and I'm finding I'm ending up with left over calories every day, so at least I'm doing well there. It's the protein that's going to kill me. That and vegetables. I think I can swing the fruit if I have to. But vegetables are gross. Barf. 

I'm only allowed to lose 1-3 pounds a week. If I'm losing more he's concerned something isn't functioning the way it should so we would do labs and see what's going on and make adjustments. Same if I'm not moving anywhere. So I'm optimistic. He's very nice, he made it clear he isn't going to lecture or shame me and said he 100% understands why I haven't lost weight, I'm fighting genetics and a hormonal system that doesn't work. 

Oh! And I learned that just because you take replacement hormones, that doesn't make up for the real thing to the rest of your hormones. My blood looks normal but my organs are functioning as if they have no hormones bossing them around, so things are kind haywire. It's like leaving a bunch of toddlers with no supervision in a kitchen. Basically. 

So we'll see. Best case scenario, this time next year I might look and feel totally different.