Monday, June 1, 2020

Book Review: Intrigued by Love

OK, this was kind of a banner day for book reviews, right?? This is my third one for today but this entire week is crazy busy with reviews so I'm pretty sure I'm going to fill up your summer reading lists!
Intrigued By Love - Sienna Snow

I knew I was in trouble as soon as I read my horoscope.

Dear Gemini,
A blast from the past will force you to confront your dual nature.
Love is in the air, but only if you are open to it.
Remember, your heart can't heal if you don't examine the wounds.

Only one man fit that description. Jackson Burton. Libra. Breaker of hearts, my ex-boyfriend, and the best man for my sister's wedding.

When he ghosted me, I ran as far away as I could, to this island paradise. Now, I was also trapped here for the wedding.

With him.

With the memories of our life together.

Our chemistry was more than just a memory. It was a live wire.

And he planned to spend the next month reminding me exactly what I was missing.

If you are looking to fill your summer with short books so you can get through a bunch, or you're behind in your Goodreads goal and need to catch up, this one is right around 150 pages so you can get this done in an afternoon with no problem.

In here we have Kailani, working at a resort and having to take care of her sister's wedding and make sure it goes off without a hitch. As soon as she sees her ex Jackson, she knows this isn't going to go off as planned. She ended things abruptly two years ago and he never knew why. Its clear he's come back to pick up where they left off but Kailani isn't sure she can do that because she isn't willing to be second best in his priorities.

While this one isn't going to give you the in depth character development, or some real angst, it does deliver in the romantic department. If you're into kink and safe words, this is like BDSM-lite. You know going into this that you're going to end up with a happy ending (all around), but it actually feels satisfying to see them work things out like normal people, even though Kailani's first instinct is to run as fast as she can.

I'm becoming a big fan of the shorter novel, but longer than a novella, this perfect middle ground length novel. I loved these characters, I also enjoyed the Hawaiian cultural references and traditions, I can't remember the last book I read that featured that and it was a great change of pace from the regular. It definitely makes me want to read more by this author because like the other ones today, this was my first from Sienna Snow and it was worth my afternoon.

Thank you to Social Butterfly PR for sending me an ARC for review and having me on this tour! All thoughts are my own of course, and if you have a book you loved from Sienna Snow you think I need to read, let me know!
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Book Review: Jackson

Hey- it is book review number TWO for today! Keep an eye out because I have one more up my sleeve for today.

Jackson - Siobhan Davis
Rydeville Elite #5

The devil came to me in disguise. Too bad I didn’t notice until it was far too late.

The devil doesn’t always wear an evil mask.
Sometimes, he appears in the most beautiful form.
Like the super-hot bad boy with the dirty-blond hair and a wicked glint in his blue eyes who swept in out of nowhere, stealing all the air from my lungs.
I thought he was my savior.
But he’s my ruination.
And he’s just taken a machete to my heart.

For years, my rage seethed under the surface. Hidden behind a cloudy haze of my poison of choice.
But now, the fog has cleared.
And I’m out for blood.
I will annihilate those responsible for taking my sister from me.
Except he’s not here, so I go for the next best target.
The woman he abandoned.
Until it suited him to drag her into this messed-up elite world.
Sucks to be her.
Because when I’m done with Vanessa, she’ll wish she was dead.

OK, right off the bat I'm going to tell you that you absolutely HAVE to read books 1-4 before you get to this one. I did not do that and while it didn't hinder my enjoyment of it, I really didn't understand a lot of the elements going on. Also, there isn't a whole lot of character development because its assumed you've read books 1-4 and I think this is a series that if you read one book now you have to read them all because I'm already wanting the next one.

Second, I know it mentions it on Goodreads, but if you are triggered by sexual assault, incest, and/or sexual abuse by a parent/stepparent: FIND A DIFFERENT BOOK. Don't put yourself through that even for a good book.

OK, so please remember that as I describe this book that I did NOT read books 1-4 and so I was putting the pieces together and this is messed up, you guys. This book centers around these 20something adults, who go to Rydeville University, by all appearances a snooty university basically for rich kids. We have Jackson, who is still reeling from his sister Dani's death (which this is part of the backstory I kind of wish I had known), and he has decided to exact revenge on his nemesis: Christian Montgomery. Enter, Vanessa. Vanessa is the daughter of Christian Montgomery and Jackson's plan is to get close to her, make her fall in love, and basically manipulate her in order to get information on daddy dearest.

Except he hits a bit of a brick wall because the Vanessa he knew growing up, the girl who was always causing trouble, high and/or drunk, and sleeping with anything that walked is nothing like the Vanessa he meets. This Vanessa is tamer, sober, meeker, and clearly has terrible self esteem.

I can't really give you anything more because it kind of gives away what is going to happen, but I'll tell you I flew through this book in a few hours because it was GREAT.

I loved Vanessa. Once you realized her back story, everything about her made complete sense. The best part about her was she was like an onion, we just kept getting more and more information about her and everything starts clicking for Jackson once he realizes what a colossal asshole he was. OK, that's your only hint. Jackson was infuriating. On one hand, we of course knew his motives here but I loved how those kind of morphed and he started feeling things, but then he would do stuff and I'd want to scream. Maybe about half way through I decided I hated him. But then at 3/4 of the way I decided I loved him again.

Honestly, I felt like Vanessa through the whole damn thing. HA!

The book ends on a cliff hanger, but not so bad that you're foaming at the mouth to get the next one. Instead, this is a story that is a hugely spread web of crazy. Members of this Elite club are involved in some of the most heinous acts you can imagine and its basically ignored and honestly, it feels like it could be real. Hell, it probably is somewhere.

For being my first book by Siobhan Davis it absolutely will not be the last! I am so grateful Social Butterfly PR invited me on this tour and sent me an ARC for review! I am ordering the other four so I am fully ready for book six!
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Book Review: Titan

Today is going to be bananas because I have not one, not two, but THREE reviews for you today! I know, it's crazy. Even crazier? I read them all this weekend, plus I went on walks, and helped Matt do more gardening. It feels like it has been the longest weekend of all but nope.

Anyways. Let's start with this book and then keep an eye out all day for my other two reviews!

Titan - Shantel Tessier

I know I have a black soul. Bloodshed and danger are what I live for.
A King is supposed to rule his Kingdom using any means necessary to demand respect.
I’m not a weak man… A King kneels to no one.
I’ve only ever cared about one other person in my life, but the thing is, she never belonged to me. And before I could tell her how I felt, she left.
Now she’s returned, needing someone to save her.
Emilee York was always meant to be mine, and I’ll see to it that happens. I always get what I want, even if that means I have to take it.
And she’s no different. She’ll be my queen, one way or the other.

When I left Sin City behind me, I had no plans to return. I avoided everyone, even my friends, to stay in my bubble. I’ve always been the kind to pull away and run when things get difficult.
But one phone call changed everything, and I was racing back. If only I had known what was waiting for me.
Titan reappeared like a ghost haunting me.
One look and I knew he recognized me. I never forgot him or what we shared. Those feelings that no one else knew existed between us.
I ignored them back then, but now they are more intense than ever.
“Get on your knees…” He demanded I kneel for him.
I tried to act like he didn’t affect me, but he knew. He remembered the way I reacted when he would touch me. And just like he was taught to do—he used my weaknesses against me.
He staked his claim, and I became his queen to use how he saw fit.
What makes it worse is that I crave him, and when I kneeled, it was willingly.
But was it for nothing? 

Good news, this is book one in what I assume is going to be a four book series, and what an introduction it was!

I'm going to start off by telling you I really didn't like Titan or Emilee for a good chunk of this book. I knew going in that Titan was going to be definitely a DOM-like character so I assumed Emilee would be more submissive... and she was.... but she also wasn't. I honestly don't know how to describe her without it sounding like a dig to the book. How about this- the dynamic between Titan and Emilee definitely doesn't scream "romance book were conflicted characters finally come together". While it is that, I really was confused how either of them felt for each other until the very end. But even then... I'm not real sure?

Emilee has a history with fellow King, Bones, because she was basically his fuckbuddy whenever he wanted, though later in the book we were supposed to believe it was more of a relationship? It did not come off like that when we learn about them, and given how much animosity seemed to be coming off of him, I expected to have some revelation of a major blowup between them, so that kind of left me confused.

Overall though? We have domineering sex, not in a Fifty Shades kind of way but more of a, if you want your cell phone back you better give the blow job of your life, kind of way. If you like sweet nothings whispered to you, you are absolutely not going to get this. I'm going to give this one a 3, only because I wasn't sold on the characters, but the story line with Emilee's messed up family kept me wanting to know what the heck was going on. Also, this was my first book by Shantel Tessier but it definitely won't be my last. I'm not sure if I'm going to come back for the next book (I'm assuming it would be about Bones?) but I want to try some others to see if they are a better fit for me.

A huge thank you to Social Butterfly PR and Shantel Tessier for gifting me a copy of Titan in exchange for a review! Of course, all thoughts are my own. If you've read a book from Shantel Tessier that you think I should pick up next, let me know!
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Thursday, May 28, 2020

Book Review: The Opposite of Certainty

It's been awhile since I've read a non-fiction but as soon as I saw the description for this I knew I had to read it and jumped at the chance. Even if you have never had a child with cancer you are going to relate to this mom and the journey of emotions just being a mom.

The Opposite of Certainty
Janine Urbaniak Reid

What happens when we can no longer pretend that the ground underfoot is bedrock and the sky above predictable?

All Janine Urbaniak Reid ever wanted was for everyone she loved to be okay so she might relax and maybe be happy. Her life strategy was simple: do everything right. This included trying to be the perfect mother to her three kids so they would never experience the kind of pain she pretended not to feel growing up. What she didn’t expect was the chaos of an out-of-control life that begins when her young son’s hand begins to shake.

The Opposite of Certainty is the story of Janine’s reluctant journey beyond easy answers and platitudes. She searches for a source of strength bigger than her circumstances, only to have her circumstances become even thornier with her own crisis. Drawn deeply and against her will into herself, and into the eternal questions we all ask, she discovers hidden reserves of strength, humor, and a no-matter-what faith that looks nothing like she thought it would. 

Beautifully written and deeply hopeful, Janine shows us how can we come through impossible times, transformed and yet more ourselves than we’d ever allowed ourselves to be.

Phew... I don't know where to even start with this one but when I say that this was therapy in a book, I really mean it. I go to therapy a few times a month and I feel seen when I'm there, but this book is written so well and I felt seen by the author. She gets it. It makes me feel like all of the irrational things that rattle through my head aren't crazy after all.

In this book we have Janine, a mom with three kids, a wife to a husband with a rising career. She's a Pinterest worthy mom at the cost of herself at times. Oftentimes it takes a tragedy for us to take a hard look at ourselves and gather the courage to fix it. For me, it was dying during giving birth, for Janine is was learning her son had been born with a brain tumor which was like them throwing themselves off the cliff. So much information with little time to process the situation let alone your options,but then having the feelings you do, trying to make sure you're doing the right thing for his son and maintaining his mental health, but making sure your marriage doesn't tank during all of it.

Frankly, how anyone makes it is a miracle, and I have first hand experience at how hard it is to keep going after that traumatic thing that happens to people.

I have to give you a couple of things that made me cry because it was someone else verbalizing something I feel and I can't articulate myself:
I wipe my eyes with the heel of my hand. Growing up I'd learned to stomp out inconvenient and scary feelings that threatened my ability to maintain control amid the chaos. This is a skill I've honed as an adult, a superpower I use to run the business of our family with a mostly affectionate efficiency. The problem is I now find myself leaking-all the time. 
I can relate to that so much. My parents weren't mean about it but it was made clear nobody had time for you to cry about things. People had real problems out there and I'm sitting here crying over something stupid. I find myself doing the same thing to my children sometimes and I have to consciously stop and validate those feelings and help them work through it.
My neediness is embarrassing. As a person who devoted her life to being super capable, it's particularly unsettling. I feel relief when Annie is on the other end of the phone. Eventually, though, we have to hang up, and I'm left with me. But this morning, instead of trying not to think about what might be going wrong in Mason's brain, I shift my focus to the neurologist who "forgot" to order an MRI during Mason's era of "migraines" and "normal" tremors. I also think of Dr. Window-In-The-Head scouring Mason's chart for what I'd done wrong, anything that could absolve the hospital and his colleague of liability. Had I breastfed him enough? Vacationed near Chernobyl? 
You guys. I had to actually put the book down and just cry it out because YES. Yes to all of this. I feel like I'm four years from my trauma and I'm not anywhere near over it for lots of reasons and though professionals tell me it is normal and maybe I won't ever get there and it's OK to not be OK, I'm certain people think I should be OK. After awhile on really bad days you stop reaching out because surely they see their phone and think, "are you kidding me? AGAIN?". Rational? Not really, but here we are. I identified with the guilt. I have experienced doctors telling me this is all my fault but I go over everything in my head wondering what did I do wrong? How does this happen on a fourth pregnancy? Why am I just NOW allergic to my own amniotic fluid?! Maybe I shouldn't have eaten so much pizza and nachos. Maybe I should have exercised more. Drank more water. It's endless and pointless, but I wanted to hug this author because I get it.

She mentions people, with well intentions surely, giving her unsolicited advice and suggestions. There is always someone who has something to say and knows someone or has a fifth cousin with the SAME issue and you know what they did? Ate grass and called it a salad. Worked wonders. *sarcasm*

In between all of that, there is this gripping story about her son, and imagining what it would be like if this is my child. You find yourself on this emotional roller coaster with her. She talks about her relationship to God and it being this confusing thing but also something she is relying on because at some point you have to just let go and hold onto hope. Aside from the surgeries, bleeds, and treatments, its a whole new life once you go home and her comparing it to like bringing a new baby home seems so on point.

I just... I could talk about this book for days and it'll certainly be on my mind for a long time. If you're a mom who has a child who is (or has) gone down a similar path, you might gain some peace from this. If you're a mom struggling with the world right now, burning at both ends and feeling like a failure, this will remind you how critical you are. There's that quote along the lines of being a speck in the world, but to your kids you're the entire world? That's this book.
Thank you so much to TLC Book Tours for having me on this tour but also Thomas Nelson and W Publishing for sending me a copy to review. The biggest thanks of all to Janine Urbaniak Reid for not just getting it all down on paper but putting it out into the world. I don't think you realize how perfect and timely this will be for so many people.
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Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Book Review: Hot & Sexy

Phew! Being "off" most of yesterday and Monday because of a migraine has seriously thrown my entire week off, and I spent the better part of my afternoon reading this one so I can give you a review today! Tomorrow I have the other non-fiction I promised and Friday I think I have some fun pictures to share.
Hot and Sexy - Erika Wilde

She has him just where she wants him...

Joelle Sommers is very good at her job as a PI and bail recovery agent, but she’s definitely out of her element when she arrests sexy businessman Dean Colter in a case of mistaken identity. Because unlike her usual fugitives, Dean is cooperative, accommodating, and hot as sin . . . and not at all guilty as charged. But this bad boy isn’t so innocent either, and she finds it increasingly hard to resist his seductive charm, and their mutual attraction.

After years of working himself to the point of having no life outside the office, Dean Colter is in the mood for an adventure. But being kidnapped by a gorgeous bounty hunter—one he discovers is into bondage, to boot—isn't exactly what he had in mind. Still, it doesn’t take long for him to realize that being a willing captive has its advantages.

Jo might be the one with the handcuffs, but Dean's about to discover the key to unleashing the passionate, uninhibited woman beneath the tough, stubborn facade. And when he does, all bets are off.

Let me start by saying I honestly think this is the first time I've read this kind of story line and I absolutely appreciate it! It gets to be kind of wah-wah (imagine me making that annoying sound) because so many romance books have the same kind of recycled plot with a few different things thrown in. Have I ever read a book about a female bail recovery agent picking up a guy and having it go into the completely unprofessional territory?


Indeed, that is what happens here and I'll tell you what, every time I have a cooler full of ice I'm going to remember this book, that's for dang sure.

So here we have Jo, the youngest, and only, girl in the family who is ridiculously over protected by her two older brothers. She was a police officer but after an incident that killed her partner she quits and becomes a PI specializing in child abduction recovery (which why she picked that in particular IS mentioned in the book so it isn't some random specific piece of information). A job has come up to bring Dean Colter in from Seattle to San Francisco because it seems he's a felon on the run. She takes the case, against her brother's warnings, and she can't be tamed, y'all.

Of course, Dean is hot and sexy (see what I did there?) but a totally willing participant. During their trip back to San Francisco, lets just say things go totally unprofessional and that's all I'm going to tell you.

OK, I already said I'm giving this extra points for being different than the run of the mill romance. Also, it's not very long so if you're into short reads, this is something to consider. I really liked Dean's character, he was a pretty good guy. I didn't totally love Jo. Honestly, she wanted everyone to treat her like she's more capable; however, when things got dicey she didn't handle it well. So on one hand, people make mistakes and I get it.... but on the other, she also is harboring the guilt so its a bit of a double standard to say she can harbor that guilt but others can't hold that incident against her. Does that make sense? The cool thing is we got a little taste of her brothers and the secretary of the PI agency and I see that their books are coming, so I'm excited to come back to this group, I have a feeling I'm going to really like Cole's book. ;)

A huge thank you to Social Butterfly PR for having me on this tour and Erika Wilde for making her book available for review. Of course, all thoughts are my own and if you read this one, I'd really like to know what you thought!

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Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Book Review: The Fight to Flourish

I will actually have two non-fiction books for you this week, this one and one more on Thursday. The great thing about these is that they both came at the perfect time in my life.
The Fight to Flourish - Jennie Lusko
How do you live a full life? Perhaps the better question is, how do you really live when life throws you sucker punches, when you face obstacles that seem to snuff out your faith, when you lose something or someone precious to you? In The Fight to Flourish, Jennie Lusko encourages women to suit up and thrive, not just in the dailies of monotony and routine but even in the most desolate of places. Using the backdrop of her second-born daughter Lenya’s passing into heaven five days before Christmas in 2012, Jennie invites readers to embrace whatever destination they’ve landed. She teaches how, through the good and the bad, they can learn to grow, be strong, draw near to God, and be a blessing to others. It is in this sacred space of pain and promise that women can begin to flourish.
I am going to start off and tell you that this book was.... so great. It is one that I am going to read and re-read again because there are so many things in it that we need just as reminders to ourselves. In this book the author shares about her daughter, Lenya, and her death before Christmas. Lenya was only five.

That is devastating, and as a mom to four kids (including one who is five), I can't even imagine dealing with that news but then having to move forward. Life isn't the same once you lose a child, and the path you thought you would walk: school, prom, first boyfriends, graduation, college, wedding, grand kids, etc, are suddenly not going to happen. You realize all of the things she won't experience and all you're left with is wondering if those five years she had were great. The author does a great job explaining that trauma is trauma, and whether you're dealing with the loss of a child like she does, or you're in a boat like me, where I survived a trauma but my life is irrevocably changed, it is all the same.

Throughout the book she includes diary entries starting from the last day she held Lenya (which is just... it broke my heart). It reminds of me of something I heard once that you never know when the last time you'll hold them is going to be, it just is. It certainly makes me want to go pick my kids up and squeeze their guts simply because I can. The author also calls on her faith throughout her journey, and also throughout the book, but even if you aren't someone who follows a particular faith, the things she discusses still leave you with interesting things to consider.

On page 115 there was a sentence that really struck me:
"When we engage in the daily fight and embrace the present moment, we will flourish."
It is something that hits home for me because every day it really is a fight for me to get through it. When you deal with depression, anxiety, and suicidal ideation, it can be really hard to get up and do it again and again. My therapist says the same thing often, sometimes it isn't the big steps that are worth counting, but sometimes it can be minute by minute. Hour by hour.

If you are looking for a non-fiction, or just something in general to help you grow as a person or think about life, consider picking this one up. I will say that despite being 239 pages, this one was pretty easy to read and I flew through it in a day.

A big thank you to TLC Book Tours for having me on this tour and sending me a copy for review. If you read this one, I'd really like to know what you're thoughts are as well.
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Thursday, May 21, 2020

Cardboard Queen, Phallic Worms, and Balls

I bet this post sounds PRE-TTY promising with that title, am I right?
Well, on Instagram I have another giveaway, this time for a book duo! It ends Friday, and you should definitely enter. 

In other news, not being about to go out into the world means I'm doing a lot of online shopping, like everyone else. It dawned on me that I'm really glad the delivery people can't see what I'm ordering because I'm pretty sure they would really have thoughts about me.

I've been ordering a lot of books but from used bookstores so I pay very little for them and I'm all about that. Let me just put in there that you can't get excited until the book comes because a little over half the time the book ends up being refunded because they realize they don't have it. It's SO frustrating.
Also, the books coming to the house are wildly different. I've got my standard fiction coming, a few non-fiction, review books, my R.L. Stine books, and then my romance books which are swinging from cute rom-com to not quite Fifty Shades of Grey but close. HA! Also? I can't wait to show you my new craft/office/library room, I'm hoping I can get something together to show you on Friday!
In other news, I'm trying to garden and if you know me at all I'm certain you are laugh/snorting right now. Penelope and Lucy want to help and on our breaks I take them for a walk (separately, so its like I get two walks or one really long one). 
That's been working out, but they also want to pull everything and they aren't actually helping at all, so I have to give them things to do. A favorite is to find worms in the dirt and "rehome" them, which if I was a worm I'd be fully terrified, because Penelope pets them and holds them right up to her eyeballs. Lucy is a little more squeamish about it but she'll hold them only because Penelope is. 
One afternoon I took a break from weeding and Penelope found our I Can Only Draw Worms book. It's a really cute book about counting but also how even the worst artist can at least draw a worm. Anyways. So I tell the girls we should draw worms. We drew worms (Lucy's is a squished worm). When Matt came home the girls showed him and he looks at me and tells me they look like messed up penises.

So I have penises on my sidewalk right now. You're welcome, neighborhood.  
Shout out to Matt though because he has been working so hard at work and then coming home and doing stuff here. Our city dump/landfill opened again so he ended up taking a half day off of work just to haul things from our move because we had no way of getting rid of it before. So he's exhausted all of the time. 
I cannot find it but once upon a time I had a post all about my failures in the meatloaf and meatball area. I'm 38 years old and only THIS WEEK was I able to make meatballs that (wait for it) taste good AND retained their ball shape. Big doings, you guys. Big doings. I took a picture of my balls in case I can't ever do it again. 
Speaking of books earlier, here's what came on Monday this week! I'll read and review these soon for you, no worries!
Oh, new development: Penelope now walks Lucy around the house like a dog. She tried to put the actual leash around her and I had fears of her choking Lucy so this was our compromise.

Momlife. Nailing it.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Book Review: Beautifully Cruel

You might not remember but you know how yesterday I was all, "I'm not sure I'm into mafia/mob romance"? What I need to do is shut my damn cake hole.
Beautifully Cruel - J.T. Geissinger

Alpha (noun):
1) Having the highest rank in a dominance hierarchy
2) The most powerful man in a group
3) Liam Black

He was a stranger to me, a dark and dangerous presence who materialized from the shadows one rainy night to save me from a vicious attack. I didn’t know his name or where he was from. All I knew was that the only place I’d ever felt safe was in his arms.

But safety is an illusion.
And not every savior is a hero.
And—as I’d soon find out—having an alpha save your life comes with a price.

Liam Black wanted something from me in return.

Me, the not sure mafia/mob romance is for me and feeling meh about it after a few meh stories. Along comes J.T. Geissinger who blows my mind with this book. Guess who got zero sleep on Monday night? And didn't do a dang thing yesterday, and wore the same clothes from Sunday and Monday?

This girl.

Why? Because this book, you guys.

OK, so let me break this down for you without ruining it:

  • Tru is a waitress, super hot guy comes in periodically, stares at her. Covered in tattoos and expensive clothing, "danger" is basically radiating off this guy. Tru gives zero fucks, but also is shy and says nothing until they are 11 months in this weird situation. 
  • An "event" happens, stranger guy swoops in and saves day. She finds out his name is Liam, he has danger radiating off of him for a reason. 
  • Things happen. 
  • Arrangement is made. Kind of. 
  • Some really fantastic sexy times happen and you know I'm not a beard gal (in real life, I don't care for the chafing, frankly, but in books I'm here for it) but this guy makes me want to change my mind. 
  • They learn about each other. Kind of. 
  • Tru falls in love. 
  • Shit hits the FAN. 
  • Then the ending which I can give you ZERO information about because it ruins the entire book and you just need to let this roll out. 

I'll be honest with you, the only downside to this book for me is I have no idea if another specific character (which I can tell you nothing about, sorry lambs) is getting a book. The book does NOT end on a cliffhanger so I don't need a book two for that, but these guys are hoooooooot. Seriously. If you're a gal who likes a challenge or think you can fix the broken guy, THIS IS YOUR BOOK.

I loved Liam and he really is alpha in the best way, has an Irish accent and I love it so much, and once you find out his back story it all makes sense. I loved Tru because she takes zero crap from people and she might come off as a pushover but she will absolutely fight back.

If I could give this ten stars I would, but Goodreads limits me to 5. So 5 it is!

A huge, huge, HUGE thank you to J.T. Geissinger and Social Butterfly PR for having me on this tour and sending me an ARC for review. I am SO happy I was picked for this one, and because it was my first book from this author, I'm ecstatic to add to my shelf because this is not an author to pass up.
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Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Book Review: Promise Me Forever

Quick note here, don't go into this thinking these are short novellas, otherwise you're going to get REAL frustrated. Ha! Instead, go into this knowing these are four full length novels and settle in because you are going to enjoy this.
Promise Me Forever - Top Shelf Romance #3
For the love of books...

Top Shelf Romance is devoted to bringing readers a new standard of Romance. Unforgettable books in a collection you'll cherish.

Promise Me Forever is a collection of four best-selling novels, including: ⁣

Drive by Kate Stewart
Ghost by A Zavarelli
The Stolen Duet by BB Reid
Flow & Grip by Kennedy Ryan
Top Shelf Romance represents the best of the best in romance. There are no cliffhangers. These are simply must-read novels for readers looking for the best in happily ever afters. 

Full disclosure, this is my first Top Shelf Romance book so I wasn't sure what to expect. Inside there are full length novels so if you order this as a hard copy, it's coming in close to 2000 pages. I'm not even kidding.


You're going to get so much out of this one, things from four really great authors. I won't go into every story too much because this would turn into the longest blog post, but if I had to rank the stories...

1. Drive 
2. Flow & Grip
3. Ghost
4. The Stolen Duet

Let me be clear, this isn't to say one is better than another, but this was just my favorite lineup. Far and away, DRIVE by Kate Stewart was my favorite. So much so that I actually read it again after I finished the book because it just tugged at my heart. I went into it thinking it was a novella so I didn't want to go to bed if the end was near. (Spoiler: it wasn't) I ended up reading an entire book at lightning speed and I texted my friend Shirley and told her she had to read this book. It was so good that I felt like I should have a cigarette at the end and I haven't smoked ever. Also, if you don't have the Deftone's cover of Drive stuck in your head forever, we can't be friends. That song has always been a favorite of mine since I was little so when that came up in the book I totally cried.

FLOW & GRIP was pretty good though there is a prequel called GRIP included that you really should read first because it is how this couple meets each other and its him before he was famous. The nice thing about Kennedy Ryan is she often features bi-racial couples and includes conversations about race and while the characters are learning about each other, you might be learning things that maybe you didn't feel comfortable, or had the opportunity, to ask. I always appreciate that from her and she did it exceptionally well here. The only thing I didn't love about this book is our female lead is... I'm not sure if its selfish or self-centered. She doesn't always understand or consider what other people want, she's very singular and at times that made me hard to like her.

I am not familiar with the Boston Underworld books by A. Zavarelli and I don't think mafia/crime family type books are my thing, so I had a hard time getting into GHOST. I just had an icky feeling about all of it but by the end, I was really rooting for Talia because she's had the WORST time imaginable, and I really wanted Alexei to pull through for her.

THE STOLEN DUET is last on my list but not because it wasn't good, it's just that there has to be someone last. Obviously 'duet' tells you this is two books, THE BANDIT and THE KNIGHT. The story is good, I liked the premise of it, I just had a hard time connecting with the characters.

Ultimately, I think the fact that DRIVE was the first one in here and it was so incredibly great, I kept measuring things to that instead of how they would have been separated and I had more time before stories. Alas, that's the tricky part about reviews, sometimes you just have to read, read, read and I don't always have time to come down from a book so to speak.

If you're looking for something to round out your summer reading list, this is an excellent one to pick up! A huge thank you to the authors as well as Social Butterfly PR for having me on this tour and sending me an ARC for review. Have you read anything by these authors? Share in the comments!
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Monday, May 18, 2020

Warmer days...kind of.... if you like wind

(Quick note: if you don't follow me on Facebook, you didn't see that my latest article for Duluth Moms Blog is up and I talk about dry vaginas and wrinkles, so that's cool. AND!!! If you don't follow me on Instagram, you didn't see I have a new giveaway for *two* books that ends Friday, so go there and enter like the cool kid you are.)

May is a weird month in northern Wisconsin. It can either be snowing and horrible, or it's 60's and teasing you with warmer weather. I can't really handle 100 degrees anymore, but I'm alright with anything above 70. We've had a lot of 50's and the kids are begging for shorts and I'm supervising from inside shouting things like, "Lucy do NOT lick the shovels!".

Anyways, here are some pictures of life lately:
Lucy had her end of the year IEP meeting for speech. We drafted something for the fall so as of right now she will have speech services as she enters 4K. I think it is really good for her and we've noticed an improvement over the year. Last year we would get random words but now she can put together sentences and you can understand her half the time, but that's progress and I'll take it! They still think she might have an apraxia issue but time will tell for this little one. 
Oh Penelope. Penelope has been the one that I have always said is not like the other ones. Definitely not in a bad way, I love that she's unique and very sure what she likes and does not like. She is so smart and I think she's so imaginative and funny. She broke my heart over the weekend singing a song she came up with that I posted a part of on my Facebook page, but in short saying "she made no friends in 4K", "nobody else likes unicorns but me so nobody plays with me" and then saying things like she is sad and lonely.

Guys. She's only FIVE. I know this quarantine is hard on all of this, but I really didn't realize what a big deal it was to her and even Lucy. We've been participating in virtual classroom things but truly, I think not being able to see her friends again and her teacher (who she LOVES) is really upsetting for her. 
Lucy is all about 4K though, she cannot wait to go. I don't know why but she thinks we are skipping summer and just going to school. Which.... I really hope we can start like planned in the fall because if I have to tell them we have to home school again, they might cry louder than me. I'm trying to not take it personally, but I'm well aware I am not equipped to be a teacher. If this was five years ago, I'd easily be able to make themed weeks and bang this out but oy. It's a win if we get dressed.
Olivia has decided to just go right to adulthood without consulting me. Just kidding. She's undergoing so many great changes this summer, I don't think she realizes what a big deal all of this is. First, she got herself a JOB. I'm not kidding! She is doing work a few days a week where Matt works but she's in the office. She is desperately trying to make some money because frankly, I can't afford an allowance even though she does a TON for me. She's basically my right hand, and that's not an exaggeration. She also is starting in the Upward Bound program through UWS, which has a pretty intense application process.  This year around 60 kids applied and she is one of the 12 that were accepted and I wish I had taken a picture of her face when she found out she got in. It's basically four years of college prep and I think this will be good for her because she's pretty nervous about college and gliding into adulthood.
Jackson is gliding into teenager life himself complete with moodiness! (Yeah, I know you're seeing this, Jackson, square up. xoxo) Dad told him he's going to start mowing the lawn this year to earn some cash and I think he's happy about that. He has taken on the job of reading bedtime stories to Pep & Lu and he's going a great job with it. He's really adjusted well to online school for the rest of this year and I'm really proud about that, considering its his first year of middle school. I really hope next year is smoother/easier for him and he finds his place. It is so weird for me to think he is going to be in seventh grade next year!!
We are closing on our old house soon and I'm kind of sad about it. I know it's annoying to people because it IS the best thing for us. I know this 100%. I also know that I feel like a failure, like if I had just done things differently our family wouldn't be in this spot. Also not owning a house feels really weird and I don't like this feeling. At all. I really hope we can pay things off quickly and figure out a game plan. 
I took the kids for a car ride the other day and it was the first one since mid-March. The whole experience was hilarious for me. I'm really hoping things warm up more so that maybe we can go find some trails or something to walk on just for a change in scenery.

Matt and I are doing OK. I have a ton of telehealth appointments this week and I hate it. I am so grateful my friend Trish made us each a face mask because Penelope and I will each need to wear one when I take her to her well child visit next week, I think. It's just weird. The playgrounds have opened up here and the kids so badly want to go but I really don't think I can risk it. I'm so worried about getting coronavirus and I get angry when people brush it off. I don't wish this fear on anyone but I wish they understood what it felt like having something like this looming over you everyday.

Aside from that, I'm meh. I'm hanging in there. I'm not as depressed as last week but definitely not what I'd consider good.

I do have SO MANY book reviews coming up soon and I'm so excited to share those with you. Stay tuned!

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Book Review: Reckless Memories

It took a few weeks but I'm back on the reading wagon. It helps to have had so many great books come for review and I'm not hating it. Like this one!
Reckless Memories - Catherine Cowles

I loved him before I knew what the word meant.

From skinned knees to first dates and everything in between.
But he was never mine to love.
I settled for friendship, even though I always wanted more.

That was before.
Before he ripped my world apart and didn’t bother sticking around to help me pick up the pieces.
I knit every last shred back together all on my own.
And I’ve all but forgotten his name.

Now, he’s back, and everything is torn apart once more.
But he’s not the only one doing the tearing this time.
And there might be no stopping the person who has it out for us both.

If the author's name sounds familiar, it might because I recently read and reviewed another book of hers, Beautifully Broken Control, and I really liked that one. I do believe I have another one in that series that I'm hoping to get to soon. In the meantime though, I had this one. It's the first in what I believe is a trilogy called Wrecked, and I cannot wait to read the other ones and that tells you  how good this one was for me.

In this book we have Isabelle and Ford. Ford was a first love to Violet, Isabelle's older sister. Of course, Isabelle is in love with him but he is strictly off limits. After a tragic accident, Ford leaves and Isabelle is left to deal with her grief without her sister and without Ford. Her parents are the absolute worst.

Years go by and she goes by Bell now, she's made something of herself and made her own family with her best friends and Ford's family, who have adopted her as one of their own. For a variety of reasons, Ford finds himself back in his hometown and neither him or Bell realize they'll be working together. Closely.

Over the course of weeks it becomes clear that those old feelings didn't go anywhere for either of them, not that they are admitting it to each other. Bell feels like she's betraying Violet but also its a small town so the gossip mill is in full force. Before they can even get into any of that, someone in town is angry that Ford is back but also that Ford and Bell are rekindling their friendship or more. Threats of violence escalate into actual violence and they are trying to solve the crimes before someone gets more seriously hurt.

I absolutely loved this book and I really liked Ford and Bell separately, but also together. I didn't guess right on who the culprit was but that was totally fine because it was a fun journey to get there. I am so excited for the next two books, I'm pretty sure who the couples are going to be and you will too once you read this one! I am becoming a huge fan of Catherine Cowles because this is now the second book of hers I've really enjoyed so I'm eager to read more from her!
Thank you to Catherine Cowles and Social Butterfly PR for having me on this tour and sending me an ARC!
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Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Book Review: The Ultimate College Student Health Handbook

I know a lot of you have kids graduating high school and thinking about going to college. If you don't personally, surely you know someone graduating, and you're probably invited to a grad party. If you're looking for a GREAT gift, this is what you need to get them. Hands down.
The Ultimate College Student Health Handbook - Jill Grimes, MD, FAAFP

College students facing their first illness, accident, or anxiety away from home often flip-flop between wanting to handle it themselves and wishing their parents could swoop in and fix everything. Advice from peers and “Dr. Google” can be questionable.The Ultimate College Student Health Handbook provides accurate, trustworthy, evidence-based medical information (served with a dose of humor) to reduce anxiety and stress and help set appropriate expectations for more than fifty common issues.

What if you can’t sleep well (or can’t sleep at all) in your dorm room?  What if a pill “gets stuck” in your throat? What if your roommate falls asleep (or passes out) wearing contacts, and wakes up with one painfully stuck? Your friend’s terrible sore throat isn’t Strep or Mono? What else could it be? What if everyone from your group project thinks they’re coming down with the flu the day before your presentation?
Dr. Jill Grimes has the answer to these questions and many more. Her guidebook is designed to help you: 
Decide if and when to seek medical help
Know what to expect when you get there
Plan for the worst-case scenario if you don’t seek help
Learn how you can prevent this in the future
Realize what you can do right now, before you see a doctor
Understand the diagnostic and treatment options
The topics of tattoos, smoking, vaping, pot, piercings, and prescription drugs will also be tackled throughout the pages of this handbook, ensuring you, your roommates, and your friends have a healthy semester.

A few months ago, I found myself in the ER because my gall bladder decided that was a good time to wage war on me. The whole thing was a comedic circus but the best part about being in the ER are your neighbors. You can never see your neighbors, you only hear their problems, and if you're unlucky their vomiting. On this particular night one of my neighbors was a college kid, escorted to the ER by campus police because of (wait for it)...... heartburn.

Turns out the kid was worried he was dying and he apparently called his parents (who presumably live far away) who were rightfully worried because you can bet his description of what was happening wasn't clear. The nurse specifically asked him if he tried taking Tums or something and you know what he said??

No. He said no because his mom told him everything over the counter is scary and to never ever take it.

Instead, go to the ER. (This is when I tell you she had been calling the ER constantly for status updates but they can't talk to her over the phone because he's an adult and they were begging him to just call his mom from his cell phone.)

The moral of the story though is to not send your kids into the world unprepared. Your job as a parent is to turn a kid who picks their nose into a fully functioning adult. Someday, these kids are going to have no help and will have to fend for themselves because you can't hover (and shouldn't) forever.

If you're worried, THIS is the book to get them. First off, you can tell this book is written by a mom who has likely gotten some bizarre calls for advice, and has gone to college herself because the book covers everyday things like pink eye, test anxiety, headaches, home sickness, acne, etc. What it ALSO covers are things like hangovers, tattoos, date rape, sexually transmitted infections, the "missing" tampon (I laughed so hard over this because this happened to a friend and I had to help and it brought back memories!), birth control, smoking/vaping/pot, and alcohol.

So much of this are questions you know your child has or will have and might not want to talk to mom or dad about, and that's OK. Each chapter explains what is happening and how you got yourself in this predicament, what to do, and when to go to the doctor. Do you remember when we had our first baby and we clung to those What to Expect books? Like a how-to manual on being a mom? This is similar to it and I promise you that your child is going to roll their eyes when you give it to them but they will 100% pull this out to read it when they get something stuck in their eye. (Seriously, this is in the book!)

The BEST part? Way in the back there is a list of a DIY First Aid Kit. You can purchase all of those things in a handy box, with this book, and bam- you've got the best (and most useful) graduation gift.

I have to thank the author, Jill Grimes and PR By the Book for sending me a copy of this to review, I absolutely love it and I am so impressed with how well organized this is. It is written in a way that isn't condescending or in a "if you had just listened to your mother" voice, and I loved the Preface meant for the parents, and I love how the author acknowledges that it doesn't matter where your child goes, they WILL be exposed to new and different things, sometimes not always the best things, but mistakes are OK. We all learn from mistakes, but hopefully this book will help your child feel a little more confident making the big leap to college!
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