Friday, May 31, 2019

Quick and Dirty Book Reviews/Feature: Angels, Kings, Good Deeds!

I have a LOT of books I need to share with you and realistically I can't do one book per day but I'm also too lazy to do several posts in a day SO.... I'm going to try to squeeze a Feature Friday in every few weeks so you can look through books quickly.

Angel Thieves - Kathi Appelt
This book kind of reminded me of the Hush, Hush series but only kind of? I can't really wrap my head around it but it has a little romance in it but a lot of a magical realism throughout. Kathi Appelt normally writes middle grade books but is tip toeing into the world of Young Adult and it's a pretty OK first book. My only complaint about this book is it is told through multiple points of view and that's not always my jam, but it's an angel thief, an ocelot, and a plain ol' girl who is supposed to save the angel thief. Also, one of the POV's was a river? I think? That's so bizarre to think about so I don't know if that's really the case of I just really misunderstood who the character is, but it was strange. The book also jumps around in time and I sometimes have a hard time keeping track of who went where and when. Overall? 3 stars for this one, and I can see the young adult crowd, especially the upper middle school/early high school readers enjoying this one.

The Fever King - Victoria Lee
Anyone who is anyone has seen this book advertised everywhere and it's been all over your Instagram most likely, and with good reason. The first book in the Feverwake series, it's an exciting read, a perfect introduction to a duology that people are anxiously awaiting the sequel for. And can we talk about this cover? BEAUTIFUL. Eerily timely to current affairs with refugees  (kind of), this book reminded me of The Darkest Minds (kind of) where kids are used by the government for their powers without consideration of whether it's ethically OK to do or not, but the people with the power learn how to stand up for themselves. Kind of. I can't really give you more without giving some of the plot away, but if your teen (or even you) are looking for a book that would make a pretty cool movie, and is on equal standing with all of the other popular dystopian novels, this is what you should pick up. 

No Good Deed - Cass Green
You guys, this was the most messed up book that had me saying, "What the hell is even happening?!" multiple times. I was instantly hooked because one mention of a date from hell is what pulls me in because if I were in the dating world, I'm completely convinced I'd end up dead in a suitcase left in a hotel somewhere. I'm sure of it. The story itself is so completely far fetched that it feels like a Dateline episode happening right now. We have Nina, who ends up on a crap date, but then is saved by a stranger, only to be held at gun point by stranger. There's a baby, there's an entire night of running around and a bloody guy, and guns, you guys- it's BANANAS!! And every time you're like, "this is too damn much!" something happens and you can't put this down. I realized my pulse was going crazy, my heart was beating, and I was sucked all the way in that I scorched the top of my stove with boiling water because I forgot I was boiling water. Seriously- if you're in the mood for a psychological thriller that doesn't require you to really think and isn't a ridiculous length long, grab this one. 

Alright, if you pick any of these up and read them, let me know what you thought about them. Especially No Good Deed because I need someone to talk to about it. 

This post has affiliate links which help keep this little ol' blogging going. I received ARC editions of these books in exchange for an honest review, but all thoughts and opinions are my own. Happy reading, lambs! 

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Book Review: The Forbidden Billionaire

I'm not going to beat around the bush. By the time you are reading this, I am in the middle of an endoscopy AND colonoscopy. I'll tell of my harrowing adventures of prep and procedure another time... probably Friday. Just know that while you're busy not working at your desk or letting your kids run wild through the house while you have some coffee, I am busy being probed from both ends at the same time. I don't need to tell you who is having a better day.

The Forbidden Billionaire (The Sinclaires #2) - J.S. Scott 

All of Jared Sinclair’s wealth still can’t ease the pain from his terrible childhood… or his guilt over a recent tragedy. Unable to forgive himself, the billionaire property investor buries his emotions, toughens his skin, and becomes a notorious womanizer, refusing to commit his heart to a woman when he’s convinced she wants only his wallet.

But ever since Jared arrived in Amesport, Maine, he’s been intrigued by Mara Ross, the petite and sexy shop owner who asks nothing of him. When Mara’s store is purchased without her knowledge, she stands on the brink of losing her home, her livelihood, and generations of family history. Then the irresistibly persuasive Jared proposes a business deal to Mara… and soon draws her into a steamy, sensual affair, convincing her that he’s anything but cold. However, when a revelation shakes Mara’s fragile trust to the core, Jared must finally confront the truth about his past.

I read the first one in this series and had to buy the rest of the series because I have an issue with not being able to quit a series and I have poor impulse control, so here we are. Thankfully though, this one didn't disappoint! It's not a hot, steamy romance read, but if you're a fan of a light romance with some drama tossed in, but also a fast read, this series just might be for you. 

In this book we have Mara, a single woman who owns a doll shop that has been passed down her family for generations. She lives above it, the place is a city code violation dream, but she isn't raking in the dough selling dolls to do anything about it. Jared is a billionaire who is dead set on the belief nobody could love him because of a choice he made YEARS ago that ended up getting two people killed (that's his opinion, not actual fact). But Jared has thing for old buildings and he's got a bit of a thing for Mara so he buys the building without her knowing it. Doesn't matter because the damn thing burns down and now Jared is helping Mara get back on her feet.

The drama, as you've guessed, is that Mara doesn't know that Jared was the buyer but also, he becomes a financial investor in her new business and she doesn't like the feeling she's taking advantage of him because that's what Jared expects from people. So while they struggle with that, there's all of this sexual tension, and it leads to some great moments.

Overall? This was a 3.5 for me. I really enjoyed Mara more than Jared, actually, and she's a pretty smart woman who has some self image issues, she's confident in her abilities to get through life. She's kind and logical, and when she meets Jared's brother Evan (he's a future book), even he seems to be taken aback by how good of a person she is. I had a good time reading this one, managed to get through it in one day and you might enjoy this if you're looking for a romance that won't make you blush at a kid's soccer game.

*This post contains affiliate links which help keep this blog going. 

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Book Review: Junk Mail

Today I have a rheumatology appointment and then Lucy has speech right after her nap so we'll see how cooperative she is. Oh, and I'm prepping for a colonoscopy beginning at noon today. It should be AWESOME. How I'm going to do this during Lucy's speech therapy, I have no idea. This week is going to be bananas, and I think I mentioned that yesterday, but I feel so worried and I don't know why. Well, I'm a little worried about my procedures this week but honestly, they are so routine there's no reason to be worried.

Sometimes I'm in the mood for a short read, something fluffy I can whip through to break up the heavier stuff I'm likely reading on the side. Thankfully, Facebook ads never let me down.

Junk Mail - Kendall Ryan

It all started with a sexy selfie.
Texted to the wrong number. 
Not my finest moment—but I have nothing to be ashamed of.
She thought I was no better, and I quote, than the knuckle-dragging douche-bags she was never dating again.
It was a stupid dare from a girl I’d met online, but since she’d given me a fake number, I didn’t feel bad that my interests were suddenly focused elsewhere—on the fiery and sharp-tongued, Peyton that I found myself sparring with over text for the rest of the evening.
The following day, my case of mistaken identity came back to bite me in the banana.
When I strolled into the office, I was introduced to Peyton as the new client I needed to win over. The Peyton , in case you're not tracking.
And let’s just say she had my full attention.
Brains? Check. 
Beauty? Oh yeah. 
And the best part? She hated me on sight. 
Dear God, do I love a challenge. 
Let the games begin. 

I am a big fan of Kendall Ryan and she's one of those authors I recommend when someone is looking for a quick book that's good and easy, and this is in that group. The book only comes in at 287 pages but margins are generous and the print seems a bit bigger so you honest could fly through this book in a day if you wanted to.

We have Josh, who definitely isn't a play-boy/douchebag type (which I really appreciate because I'm getting kind of tired of that trope in romance books), he's a decent guy who happens to be on a dating website when the discussion of sending "a picture" comes up. He puts some thought into it and it turns out he sends it to the wrong number.

In fact, he sends it to Peyton. Peyton is the client he is meeting the next day to work on a collaboration. Peyton realizes it right away, then Josh does, and everything gets incredibly awkward in the cutest possible way. The best part is that they are attracted to each other immediately, outside of his impressive photo, and it takes off from there.

The description says she hated him on sight? No. It's definitely not that way at all, it's just incredibly awkward so if you're looking for a book where the guy has to REALLY win her over? This isn't for you because she very much wants to ride the pony, it's just weird to basically have sex with your boss/business partner.

Overall? I really enjoyed this and it was a quick read to fill my day with. It's light, it's funny, it's sweet, it has steamy moments, it has a cute ending, it's basically everything you want in a light romance. I'd add this to your summer reading list.

This post has affiliate links in it which help keep this blog going. Happy reading!

Monday, May 27, 2019

Book Review: Waisted

It's Memorial Day! I hope your holiday is sunny and you're doing something decent. We're hoping to drive to Fort Snelling (a couple of hours away) to go see my grandparents' resting place, but we'll see what the weather does for us today and the temperament of a couple of toddlers takes us. In the meantime, here is another book review (have you noticed my mojo is back??) and I'm hoping I will have a few more for you later this week. I know it's supposed to be Weight Loss Challenge day, but I'm giving you this instead, which is kind of related.

Waisted - Randy Susan Meyers

Alice and Daphne, both successful and accomplished working mothers, harbor the same secret: obsession with their weight overshadows concerns about their children, husbands, work—and everything else of importance in their lives. Scales terrify them.

Daphne, plump in a family of model-thin women, learned only slimness earns admiration at her mother’s knee. Alice, break-up skinny when she met her husband, risks losing her marriage if she keeps gaining weight.

The two women meet at Waisted. Located in a remote Vermont mansion, the program promises fast, dramatic weight loss, and Alice, Daphne, and five other women are desperate enough to leave behind their families for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. The catch? They must agree to always be on camera; afterward, the world will see Waisted: The Documentary.

The women soon discover that the filmmakers have trapped them in a cruel experiment. With each pound lost, they edge deeper into obsession and instability...until they decide to take matters into their own hands.

In this book we focus mostly on Daphne and Alice and their journey to this boot camp. Both come from vastly different backgrounds and families, but they ultimately have the same thought: if they could just lose weight, they would be happy and their lives and the issues in them would be fixed. Alice is mixed race but is told that a black woman needs to be "strong" (which is a nice way of saying "large"), and her husband is successful but she suspects he has a wandering eye. Her family loves her just the way she is and can't understand why she's unhappy with how she looks. Daphne's situation is totally different, her family (mostly her mother) is very critical of her weight, she realizes her daughter is fixated on her own weight because Daphne has modeled unhealthy behaviors, but Daphne's husband loves her unconditionally- but he lets her know that because she accepts all of this criticism, it's hampering their sex life and that's a problem for him.

In order to get a grip on their life they agree (with other women, all strangers to each other) to enroll in this boot camp/documentary (think The Biggest Loser) in order to lose weight fast and hopefully gain the skills/knowledge on how to keep it off. The only problem is that it's immediately clear that something is amiss because the trainers are incredibly cruel and the rules are outrageously strict (if you speak when not spoken to you get a "shot"). To be honest, those parts of the book were difficult to read because I know how I would feel in that situation, so I could absolutely relate to this women as if I were in camp with them.

After camp though, they have harsh truths waiting for them at home because the problems they had wasn't really with themselves, but they were also putting blinders on to avoid the other issues. Failures in parenting, issues with their marriages, being a selfish friend, etc. They discover the work isn't done just because you lose weight, that isn't a miracle cure all for the problems, it just puts a nicer picture on them.

Overall? I really enjoyed this book. It's a fast read and I found myself invested in these characters, both who were easy to like but also easy to be annoyed by. We all have that friend, the one who complains about needing to lose weight while eating nachos with you. I really think this is a good book club book but also one to add to your list for this summer.

Thank you to TLC Book Tours and Atria Books for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own. This post also features affiliate links, which helps this blog keep going. Happy reading! 

Friday, May 24, 2019

Book Box Review: The Unplugged Box (don't judge me)

One of the best things are book boxes. I know, I've gone on and off with them for years and everyone is like, "God, SARA! Do you need any of this?!".


No, I don't, and I don't care Mr. Judgey Pants.

On Instagram randomly one day I saw a sponsored ad for Unplugged Book Box and after some sleuthing at past boxes, I decided to give it a try. They have a YA box and an Adult fiction box, promising to mail out a new release book. I chose the YA box because adult fiction is always kind of broad and hit or miss for me. At least with a YA, if I don't like it Olivia or Jackson might so there's more use of the book.
My first box came, the May 2019 box, and I was pretty damn excited, almost attacking the mail man. Even HE was judgey and said he thought I was done with these. It's pretty bad when the mailman (who I know from high school) is making comments about my mail. 
I had to wait until nap time before I could open it. So as soon as you open it you noticed that everything is individually wrapped and the post card detailing your box is on top. 
I have always loved this quote, so it is obviously a sign that this box is meant for me. 
Here's what we got, a cool candle (that doesn't smell that bad, actually), a compact mirror and a chapstick (which Olivia has already stolen from me)...
a mason jar glass that says, "We you can't beat the odds, change the game", a face mask, and a pair of Harry Potter house socks...
and the book EVERY MOMENT AFTER by Joseph Moldover. It's about high school friends dealing with the fallout of a school shooting that left many of their classmates and friends dead. Is it one that I would pick up out of a store? No, but it's pretty relevant to current times so I'm interested in giving this one a chance.
We also got a card telling us what the June YA Summer box is going to be, "Create Your Own Sunshine". That sounds pretty promising, so I'm excited.

Now the big question.... should I start The Bookworm Box again? You know how I love a good romance novel. OR should I do Owlcrate again? OR BOTH??

(If you're my friend, you would say, "Of course you do both, Sara!") 

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Book Review: Whatever It Takes

It's Tuesday. Honestly it feels like it's going to be a long week and that it should be June already. I'm fully over May. Oy.

Whatever It Takes - MJ Markovski
Regan Argent inwardly uncovered a dark conspiracy that has her on the run. Forcing her to return to her childhood home, small town just outside Dallas, to seek refuge. Unexpectedly, she bumps into Hunter Grainger, a man she never saw coming. An Air Force pararescueman, only you, with only one person who is supposed to know of his return home. The unexpected meeting ignites a chain of events where they will be forced to help each other or be executed. 

Man. I am going to be honest, I'm a little torn on this one. On one hand, it's a cute love story with a little drama thrown in. Then on the other.... it needed another edit. Or two. There were a lot of technical errors that really made it hard for me to look over. For instance, in any given chapter we have Regan talking to herself, then all of a sudden Sherry is there and then we've switched to something from New York. Basically, the voice of the book was all over the place. I'd get fixated on issues like at her party she's wearing a red dress and even her panties match, but then a few pages later it mentions she's wearing a sapphire dress. Um, no. It's red. That kind of thing happened throughout the book and it made it really hard to settle into the story.


It isn't all doom and gloom because while the characters were really roughly developed, I think after a couple of stories and some serious editing and rewrites, this is an author I'd be interested in reading again in a few years to see the development. The characters are really hard to like because Regan, though she wants to be independent and seen as such, she's actually incredibly stupid and makes poor choices and is scared of everything. Then we have Hunter, who I can't say I didn't like because I've read enough books with a lead male like him with a similar backstory (Locke by Harper Sloan comes to mind immediately), so I kind of have a soft spot for seeing the tough guy get sucked in by a good girl.

I think if you don't really read a lot of romance novels and are putting your toe into the water, you will likely enjoy this one quite a bit. If you're an avid romance reader, this isn't going to get your motor running and you might be bored. All in all, I'm going to give this one 2 out of 5 stars. It definitely wasn't awful and it had some good scenes and some moments I enjoyed but is it one I would re-read or gift? No, I can't say that it is.

Thank you to TLC Book Tours and White Bird Publications for the Advanced Reader Copy in exchange for an honest review! All opinions are my own. Happy reading! 

Monday, May 20, 2019

Book Review: A Torch In His Heart (Wanderer #1)

I had a huge ready surge this weekend so I'm coming at you with all kinds of reviews this week! Also, I'll have a ton of photos to share of the girls' recital this weekend, so that might be Wednesday.

A Torch In His Heart - Anna Belfrage

In the long lost ancient past, two men fought over the girl with eyes like the Bosporus under a summer sky. It ended badly. She died. They died. 

Since then, they have all tumbled through time, reborn over and over again. Now they are all here, in the same place, the same time and what began so long ago must finally come to an end. 

Ask Helle Madsen what she thinks about reincarnation and she’ll laugh in your face. Besides, Helle has other stuff to handle, what with her new, exciting job in London and her drop-dead but seriously sinister boss, Sam Woolf. And then one day Jason Morris walks into her life and despite never having clapped eyes on him before, she recognises him immediately. Very weird. Even more weird is the fact that Sam and Jason clearly hate each other’s guts. Helle’s life is about to become extremely complicated and far too exciting. 
If you've read my blog or followed my reviews for awhile, you'll know that I am a sucker for a series. It could be the worst series on the planet but if I've read one... I have to read them all. At this point it has to classify as some kind of illness or maybe an offshoot of my diagnosed OCD, but it's really annoying at times, but this time? I'm all in and I cannot wait.

To be honest with you, when I first started this book it felt daunting. There are a lot of pages, the font is slightly smaller than what I normally read, margins are smaller, and it just felt like a really long book. Also, the story didn't hook me immediately and I was really worried if I was going to be able to finish this let alone enjoy it. All I can say is THANK GOD I did because this book sucked me in as soon as Helle and Jason "meet" for the first time (in this life) and I couldn't put it down.

It's clear from the start that Sam Woolf is a bad guy but we have no idea why...until Jason Morris shows up. Helle's strong reaction to Jason is kind of perfect and I love how we don't get their entire backstory jumbled into one chapter, but instead it's spread out. It comes layer by layer and you start realizing the reactions characters have in earlier chapters make sense now so you almost feel like Helle because she is learning the story and the history at the same pace we are- does that make sense?

I can't tell you really what happens but I CAN tell you that this ends on a MAJOR cliff hanger and I need book two RIGHT NOW. The book is perfect for fans who love time travel, romance, paranormal (kind of?), thriller/suspense (kind of), and a story that is unlike anything else out there on the market. I'm not even a fan of historical stories so much, and I took a chance on this one because it only talks about what happened 3000 years ago so I felt like I could get into this. Though a bit of a slow start, this book definitely picks up, has some very steamy scenes, and overall a pretty dang good read.

A solid 4 star read for me!
Thank you to TLC Book Tours and author Anna Belfrage for my ARC in exchange for an honest review! All thoughts and opinions are my own. Happy reading! 

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Book Review: You, Me, & the Sea

Oh guys. I feel like I'm not giving you the books you absolutely must read right now as of late but that stops today because this one? Had  me all over the place with feelings.

You, Me, & the Sea - Meg Donohue

To find her way, she must abandon everything she loves…

As a child, Merrow Shawe believes she is born of the sea: strong, joyous, and wild. Her beloved home is Horseshoe Cliff, a small farm on the coast of Northern California where she spends her days exploring fog-cloaked bluffs, swimming in the cove, and basking in the light of golden sunsets as her father entertains her with fantastical stories. It is an enchanting childhood, but it is not without hardship—the mystery of Merrow’s mother’s death haunts her, as does the increasingly senseless cruelty of her older brother, Bear. 

Then, like sea glass carried from a distant land, Amir arrives in Merrow’s life. He’s been tossed about from India to New York City and now to Horseshoe Cliff, to stay with her family. Merrow is immediately drawn to his spirit, his passion, and his resilience in the face of Bear’s viciousness. Together they embrace their love of the sea, and their growing love for each other.

But the ocean holds secrets in its darkest depths. When tragedy strikes, Merrow is forced to question whether Amir is really the person she believed him to be. In order to escape the danger she finds herself in and find her own path forward, she must let go of the only home she’s ever known, and the only boy she’s ever loved....

You know I don't give out 5 star ratings willy nilly but I'm telling you right now, I'm giving this a 5 and it is going to end up in my top 10 books of 2019. Maybe even top 5. It's that good, you guys. I'm also saying this knowing I've read a previous book by this author (How to Eat a Cupcake) and I didn't like it. Also! This book is kind of a retelling, with liberties, of Wuthering Heights and I very much did not like that book and I threw it across the parking lot of the public library. Obviously, I went back to get it because I was too poor for a fine, but I thought it was just the worst.

Turns out, if it had read more like this one, I would have loved it.

The book revolves mostly around Merrow, who grows up without a mother (who died when she was an infant), with a brother who is abusive and awful to her, and a dad who seems kind of lost since the mother's death so family friend Rei kind of helps out when she can. When she turns 8 her dad becomes the guardian of Amir, the adopted son of her mother's friend who tragically died, but she wanted her son to go to Merrow's dad. Why? I have no idea because they are literally living in a shack, can't afford to eat or clothe themselves and water is a commodity. Yet here we are.

The brother (Bear) is just as awful to Amir, if not worse, so Merrow and Amir form a unique bond that helps them get through the nightmare that is this childhood. Only they don't really see it as a nightmare because they live in this uniquely beautiful area that they feel connected to, like this is really where they belong. On occasion they travel to town and break into houses just to see how other people live, not to rob them. On one such excursion it goes wrong and suddenly they meet the Langford family. Things really take a turn for Merrow and suddenly her and Amir are apart, years go by, etc. I really can't keep telling you what happens because it ruins it, BUT I have to tell you that this book hooked me immediately.

I really had one train of thought when it came to Amir, what happened to make him go, opinions on Bear, and I knew exactly what Merrow should do. Instead, I was so completely wrong on every point and I felt like I was falling off a cliff as I raced to the end. It was so good and out of nowhere I realized all along, this was a love story. I think. I mean, I guess that's how I'm interpreting it.

I loved the writing, I loved the setting, I loved the characters. I loved how you had very strong feelings for the characters almost immediately and by the time you get to the end of the book you realize you saw them all wrong and it's masterful because had you thought of them this way... the book wouldn't have been the gut punch that it is. This book is absolutely lovely and if you need a vacation book? You've just found it.

Luckily for you it's available on Amazon but it's also available directly from the Harper Collins website. I'm so excited for you to read this and tell me what you thought about it.

Thank you to William Morrow and TLC Book Tours for my ARC for review. All thoughts and opinions are my own. 

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Book Review: Where the Forest Meets the Stars

I have been reading a lot of reviews as of late and while I'm loving it, Matt is not because books keep showing up in the mail. I ordered this one a few months ago after reading a LOT of reviews just raving about it and I thought this would make a great book for Olivia for her Easter basket. She absolutely ADORED it and I was a meh.

Where the Forest Meets the Stars - Glendy Vanderah

After the loss of her mother and her own battle with breast cancer, Joanna Teale returns to her graduate research on nesting birds in rural Illinois, determined to prove that her recent hardships have not broken her. She throws herself into her work from dusk to dawn, until her solitary routine is disrupted by the appearance of a mysterious child who shows up at her cabin barefoot and covered in bruises.

The girl calls herself Ursa, and she claims to have been sent from the stars to witness five miracles. With concerns about the child’s home situation, Jo reluctantly agrees to let her stay—just until she learns more about Ursa’s past.

Jo enlists the help of her reclusive neighbor, Gabriel Nash, to solve the mystery of the charming child. But the more time they spend together, the more questions they have. How does a young girl not only read but understand Shakespeare? Why do good things keep happening in her presence? And why aren’t Jo and Gabe checking the missing children’s website anymore?

Though the three have formed an incredible bond, they know difficult choices must be made. As the summer nears an end and Ursa gets closer to her fifth miracle, her dangerous past closes in. When it finally catches up to them, all of their painful secrets will be forced into the open, and their fates will be left to the stars. 

A few years ago I read a book called The Enchanted Life of Adam Hope as part of a review tour and it remains one of my all time favorite books. When I saw the synopsis of this book it kind of reminded me of that because Adam Hope was kind of a being from beyond who goes on to be such an integral part of so many around him. In a way, Ursa is similar but the ending and the journey to the end are so completely different so I'm not sure if it's me being disappointed because of that or because this book could have been... more? I'm not sure but I'm giving this a solid 3 stars. Which, I know people will scoff and say ONLY three?! And to that I say calm down and unclutch the pearls, 3 stars means I liked it, and I did like this book. Did I really like it? I don't feel like it quite reaches that level. But let's talk about it.

So in this book we have Ursa, supposedly a being from space who is here to witness five miracles, and she shows up on Jo's door and Jo can't shake her. Though Jo suspects she's really an abused and possibly abandoned girl, she can't figure out what to do because the girl runs (literally) at any mention of the police. Jo quickly makes friends with the chicken guy down the street, Gabe. It quickly becomes obvious that Jo and Gabe are going to end up a thing but they both have some serious obstacles to overcome, plus there is the pesky problem of Ursa.

Some issues I had was Jo's story felt under developed for me but then I wonder if the details of her cancer are watered down because this is a YA novel? Also we see a teaser of a past relationship between Jo and Tanner at the very beginning but we never get any details so it seems pointless to introduce it. Gabe and his depression feels... it just feels off and as someone who does have depression to that level, it wasn't portrayed very well and it's not a matter of just getting up out of bed and getting better. I'm not naive and I know the foster care system is a hot mess but this portrays it in a terrible light and I worry that a kid in the position of maybe going into foster care would be scared by reading this, but maybe that's just the worrying mom in me looking for the worst. I don't know, but I just felt like that part of the story wasn't fully fleshed out. And the ending, I felt like the ending was rushed and we don't really have a conclusion and I was kind of disappointed and wanted more.

With all of that, there are things I really did love, and the first being Jo and how she isn't a feel-sorry-for-myself kind of gal. She's got a terrible health situation but she really is an independent person who perseveres through this and I really thought that's a great message for young people to read. I loved how educated and smart she was and I thought- this is the kind of character we need more of, specifically in YA books. I really found Ursa to be annoying but she was also kind of endearing because as a mom I think I see her a little differently than a teenager reading this book.

Overall, I liked the book. Is it one I'm going to read again? No. Is it one that my teenager really loved? YES. She actually came bouncing down the stairs in tears telling me I had to read this and to this day I have no idea what she was crying for because I didn't come close, but clearly I'm not as cool as I used to be. If you're looking for a summer read for your teen to keep them off their phones, this might be a good option. It does have a scene where it's clear two people were going to have sex without giving you any of the details but to be fair, I'm not sure my 13 year old picked up on it. Also, there is a lot of discussion about Jo's job studying bird nests which makes it the perfect cabin read!


Monday, May 13, 2019

Weight Loss (week 27)

I missed last week because I couldn't get myself together, which seems to be a reoccurring theme, doesn't it?

Last week I weighed myself and I came in at 213, which honestly isn't as bad as I thought it was. The lowest I've gotten here is 209, so I'm going to take this. The interesting thing is I feel like I have lost more but the scale says differently. Which also makes me wonder the role hormones play in weight gain/loss because I know my hormone replacement is what is holding me back from losing weight at a faster pace than I am.


The good thing is that this week the weather is going to get warmer (supposedly) so I'm excited about going for walks in the morning. I'll be pushing the stroller with the girls so that's a decent amount of weight I'm pushing because they aren't little toddler/baby anymore, it's preschooler/toddler, and they wiggle which makes the process so much harder than it needs to be. Lucy LOVES going for a walk and Penelope is at the age where she hates it but she also can't walk (or ride her bike) for that kind of distance so there's no choice there for her.

Also, with Lucy's speech therapy I have to work her gross motor skills and then do her exercises to see if she gets better after some activity or if there is no improvement, so that means going to the park to run around and climb so I feel like I'm going to tire out easily. But it'll be good for me, too.

I come back to this photo a lot and my friend Amy sent it to me last week. This is from 2011 and I was doing a lot of walk/running at the time and I thought I was so fat. I really felt fat, like I hadn't made any kind of weight loss progress, and when I see it I'm equal parts angry and proud. Proud because I looked damn good and that would be a dream weight/size to be for me now. But I'm angry because I look at where I am now and I'm so far from that and I think, I should be OK with where I am because it could certainly be worse. What if I was 313 pounds? 413 pounds? That Sara would be pissed off with the 213 pound Sara because that was nothing compared to heavier Sara. Does that make sense? I really hate that I didn't enjoy my weight loss back then, that I didn't feel proud of myself for accomplishing that. I know I wasn't at my goal weight, but I looked really good.

I'd like to get there. Not so much the number on the scale, but looking like that and enjoy getting dressed in the morning because I would have more to choose from. It's a weird place to be in, stuck between hating where you're at but knowing full well it could be worse so I should be grateful it isn't worse.
So when I look at current pictures like this one from yesterday, I think god damn, and I get so angry.

But it's time to do something. Yesterday I went for a one mile walk and I didn't feel like I was going to die at the end. We'll see how I feel later today. The goal today though is to go for a walk and just keep doing this, even if I can only go for a mile at a time.

Friday, May 10, 2019

Pink..... my second favorite color

I'm trying to go through my phone photos to share what life is like lately because it is more than doctor appointments, speech therapy, depression, and trying to hold it together. I am VERY fortunate to have really great friends who still hang out with me despite being a little slower and sometimes a little harder to hang out with. I try really hard to medicate and take all of the steps to be fully functional so they don't feel like adult babysitters but every once in awhile I need help so I need to trust the people I'm with, basically. My friends Tammy and Amy are the best ones and they try to get me out regularly and are always touching base with me and I appreciate it a LOT because I'm guilty of forgetting to reach out to people and I kind of fall off the radar and they are always pulling me back.

Bottom line- get yourself some good friends who you know will always actually be there. I have pretty great friends.

So this last weekend Tammy and I went to see the Pink concert. I always have to drive to Minneapolis/St. Paul to see a concert and it's a long drive there and back. I don't mind so much but some nights it's long on the way home, so if I can have someone come with me that's a little easier. Tammy and I went down early so we could have dinner and that worked out well.

The show itself was long, ending a little after 11 p.m. which meant I got home close to 2 a.m. because we had a bathroom break and got snacks to stay awake the rest of the way home. But it was WORTH IT.
Julia Michaels opened and honestly? She wasn't that great and I would have listened to DJ Kid CutUp the entire time because he was actually really entertaining and everyone around us was really getting into it. 
The good  news is we usually end up sitting next to questionable people or people who smell, or people who are so outrageously drunk that it ruins it for us but this time we had some pretty cool people. Well, except for the lady a row down and to the left, we thought for sure she was going to go over the balcony because she was so drunk and really relying on the plexiglass wall and nobody with her was trying to pull her down.


Let me just tell you that this show was easily in my top 5 shows of all time. No question. Tammy and I have been trying to see Pink for like ten years but the tickets always sell out, but Matt bought these a year ago (because I was at an appointment) and we got nosebleeds but it was worth it. Pink puts on an incredible show which is non stop from start to finish.
The other thing were all of the acrobatics which we come to expect from Pink and those skills were on full display in her first number as she swung around on a chandelier. 
I'm not even a fan of some of her earlier stuff so much (I don't hate it but it's not something I'd pick up to listen to, either), but this show renewed the interest in it. 
The only bummer of the show for me was I kind of wish she had done some kind of a medley of song and done a snippet of her first album. I know that one is so far removed from what she does now and even she didn't love it BUT, we remember it and it would have been a fun nod to do even a short medley. 
During "Revenge" we had an Eminem blow up doll which was kind of fun. A video of Nate Reuss played during "Just Give Me A Reason" which was alright. 
Easily me favorite of the show was "Secrets" because I love the song but watching her do the trapeze/acrobatics with a male partner was so beautiful and just went with the song so well, I was kind of bummed when that ended. 
She ended the concert with a final short set with "F*ckin Perfect", a short video to her daughter, "Raise Your Glass", and then "Blow Me (one last kiss)", which was really good. Normally I've been ducking out of a finale so I can get onto the highway before everyone else but I stayed because I saw online that it would be "So What" and "Glitter in the Air".

"So What" was pretty dang amazing and none of my pictures turned out but she literally swung around the arena, like around the entire thing, and it was so fun to watch. I didn't stay for all of "Glitter in the Air" because I kind of wanted to see a repeat of that Grammy's performance and it wasn't that so I took off.

Overall? Amazing concert. I had such a good time and I am so glad I was able to go. Even though I almost peed my pants on the way home. And dropped a bunch of ice cream down my shirt while trying to eat an ice cream cone while driving on the highway. Always an adventure.

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Book Review: The Question Authority

I feel like I'm a roll with my reading and I'm really excited about it. I hope I can finish one, maybe even two books for next week but we'll see. I'm still behind on my Goodreads goal so I really need to pick it up!
The Question Authority - Rachel Cline

Nora Buchbinder--formerly rich and now broke--would be the last woman in Brooklyn to claim #MeToo, but when a work assignment reunites her with her childhood best friend, Beth, she finds herself in a hall of mirrors. Was their eighth grade teacher Beth's lover or her rapist? Where were the grown-ups? What should justice look like, after so much time has passed? And what can Nora do, now?

Nora's memories, and Beth's, and those of their classmates, their former teacher, and members of his family, bring to light some of the ways we absorb and manage unbearable behavior. From denial to reinvention, self-pity to self-righteousness, endless questioning to intransigent certainty, readers will recognize the ripples sent into the lives of others by one broken man.

I picked this book for review because it sounded like it was going to be a timely story in line with the #metoo era. And it was. It was just really very slow and meandering and sometimes I kind of lost track of who was who and what the heck was going on.

The book focuses around Nora who through her job comes across her friend from childhood, Beth. Curiously, the case Nora is trying to settle involves a male teacher being sexually inappropriate with students and that jogs memories Nora has of a specific teacher she and Beth had as kids. Her friend Beth ended up having a sexual relationship with this teacher and at the time Nora thinks it's just gross and stupid but as an adult now, she wonders if it was really rape and if it was consensual, can really be that if one person is under age, like well under the age of 18.

My copy was 224 pages so I thought I was going to zip right through this in one sitting but no, that very much didn't happen. It's a slow read and I felt like some of it was pointless and didn't add to the story. In the beginning of the book she mentions being well off but now she's not and she can't move, etc and I just wondered.... who the heck cares? Seriously? I think it was to justify the reason she has her crappy job to the reader but I didn't even wonder why she did the work she did. It's a job, you've got bills, I get it. Once we get beyond the fluff, the story IS interesting and it does raise some debate on where the line is but also how sometimes the lines are blurred. It got me thinking about some questionable teachers I have had when I was younger but even in college, as well as the criminal justice system that is full of holes for cases like these due to the nature of mostly having little to no evidence. It's often a he said, she said situation and it's just hard to prove.

Basically, this book got me thinking about things and I really appreciated that. Overall I'm giving this one a 3 star. I liked it but I wouldn't say I really liked it.
*Thank you to TLC Book Tours and Red Hen Press for a review copy! All thoughts are my own and this post contains affiliate links. Happy reading!*

Monday, May 6, 2019

Book Review: We Were Beautiful

I know today is normally a Weight Loss Challenge post, but I'm going to do that tomorrow. It'll be a weigh in day and if I can get my crap together I'll try to vlog. We'll see. But in the meantime I have a book review and according to Goodreads I'm still like 10 books behind and I'm trying SO HARD to catch up.

We Were Beautiful - Heather Hepler

It's been a year since fifteen-year-old Mia Hopkins was in the car crash that killed her older sister and left her terribly scarred. The doctors tell her she was lucky to survive. Her therapist says it will take time to heal. The police reports claim there were trace amounts of alcohol in her bloodstream. But no matter how much she tries to reconstruct the events of that fateful night, Mia's memory is spotty at best. She's left with accusations, rumors, and guilt so powerful it could consume her.

As the rest of Mia's family struggles with their own grief, Mia is sent to New York City to spend the summer with a grandmother she's never met. All Mia wants to do is hide from the world, but instead she's stuck with a summer job in the bustling kitchens of the cafe down the street. There she meets Fig--blue-haired, friendly, and vivacious--who takes Mia under her wing. As Mia gets to know Fig and her friends--including Cooper, the artistic boy who is always on Mia's mind--she realizes that she's not the only one with a painful past.

Over the summer, Mia begins to learn that redemption isn't as impossible as she once thought, but her scars inside run deep and aren't nearly so simple to heal ... especially when Mia finally pieces together her memories of the night Rachel died. 

I first heard of this book from the TLC Book Tours website and I read all of the reviews and there were so many that just raved about this book so I had to get it and I wasn't disappointed.

The story revolves mostly around Mia, who is scarred pretty severely on her face and she's completely self conscious about and rightfully so, it's glaring and the first thing you see when you look at her. Her mother abandoned the family after the car crash that changed everything and her father hasn't been the same since. Her father sends her to New York City for the summer to her maternal grandmother and it doesn't seem like they are going to really hit it off since Grandma is pretty brusque and no nonsense. Mia gets a job working at a cafe down the street where she meets her new best friend Fig, and all of Fig's boisterous family. But Fig forces Mia out of her shell one outing at a time and introduces her to a new group of friends and soon she finds a friend in Cooper, a boy who also has scars in the open and together the learn how to live beyond those defining moments in their lives.

Overall? A solid 4 for me. I really liked it, it was hard to put down, and maybe because I'm a mom to a 13 year old, I just really liked Mia. I will say that while we do find out what happened around the car crash, I kind of wanted more. I also really wanted to know what that last photo on Mia's camera was because I'm nosy. I like how the relationship between Mia and her father ends up, how the Grandma comes off more compassionate, and how Mia comes away with friends. It's just a really good story, it's really a perfect summer read. It's heartwarming for adults, but teens (who it's intended for) are going to enjoy the story as well.


Friday, May 3, 2019

Book Review: The Murmur of Bees

I am so late in some of these reviews so if you feel overwhelmed reading all of these, imagine how I feel trying to clear the stack off my desk!

The Murmur of Bees - Sofia Segovia

From the day old Nana Reja found a baby abandoned under a bridge, the life of a small Mexican village forever changed. Disfigured and covered in a blanket of bees, little Simonopio is for some locals the stuff of superstition, a child kissed by the devil. But he is welcomed by landowners Francisco and Beatriz Morales, who adopt him and care for him as if he were their own. As he grows up, Simonopio becomes a cause for wonder to the Morales family, because when the uncannily gifted child closes his eyes, he can see what no one else can—visions of all that’s yet to come, both beautiful and dangerous. Followed by his protective swarm of bees and living to deliver his adoptive family from threats—both human and those of nature—Simonopio’s purpose in Linares will, in time, be divined.

Set against the backdrop of the Mexican Revolution and the devastating influenza of 1918, The Murmur of Bees captures both the fate of a country in flux and the destiny of one family that has put their love, faith, and future in the unbelievable.

I have no idea where to even start on this book. I guess I'll tell you my copy clocked in at 529 pages and if you know me at all you know I have a fairly strict policy of no book over 300 pages. I normally don't have the attention span and 9 times out of 10 I feel like there's no reason for it, there are things that could/should be cut from it to make it a more reasonable sized book. Also, most of your average readers aren't going to go near a book in the 500 page range.


The Murmur of Bees is so beautifully written and I was so engrossed in the story that I couldn't stop reading, I just wanted more and more. The book was originally written in Spanish and later translated by Simon Bruni, and there were a couple of sentences I had to re-read a couple of times because it didn't read naturally, if that makes sense? Though I do have an ARC so things like that may have been cleaned up, so don't let that stop you. It's also worth mentioning that historical fiction isn't really my jam and this book does take place in 1918 so it's firmly in that genre but I was interested and engrossed all the way to the end. Interestingly it does happen during an influenza outbreak which is something that could easily happen now so it still felt current.

The book is about a baby, seemingly abandoned, and discovered by an old woman. Oddly, the baby is swarmed by bees so some people think he may be evil but he ends up being kind of a good luck charm for the family? Not really good luck but he kind of guides them to good things, if that makes sense. There is a supernatural/magical element throughout the book because of this boy, but this also is a book that gives you some moral and philosophical things to think about and I really enjoyed that.

The writing is beautiful and it's coming at you in different points of view but it's also almost conversational? It's like someone is sitting down with you to share a meal and tell you a story and that makes it an easy read even if it is long.

Overall? I'm giving this one 4 stars. It's a really terrific book and there's a pretty great climax where I got all the feels. By the end of the book I let go of a breath I didn't even know I was holding. Bravo.

A big thank you to the publisher, Amazon Crossing, and MB Communications for an ARC in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.