Friday, February 28, 2020

Book Review: Close Your Eyes

I seem to be on a thriller kick and I'm not hating it.

Close Your Eyes - Darren O'Sullivan

Close your eyes…and count to ten.

He doesn’t know his name. He doesn’t know his secret.
When Daniel woke up from a coma he had no recollection of the life he lived before. Now, fourteen years later, he’s being forced to remember.

A phone call in the middle of the night demands he return what he stole – but Daniel has no idea what it could be, or who the person on the other end is. He has been given one warning, if he doesn’t find out his family will be murdered.

Rachael needs to protect her son. Trapped with no way out she will do anything to ensure they survive. But sometimes mothers can’t save their children and her only hope is Daniel’s memory.

First off, can we talk about this cover? Because I absolutely love it and it looks so good on my shelf! Second off, this story was SO GREAT. I was completely drawn to this one because I have my own memory loss so any time I see a story about memory loss of any kind, I'm all over it. It's just interesting and also scares the pants off of me because it feels real. On Goodreads it was compared to Gillian Flynn and I would agree with that.

In this one, Daniel has amnesia after a pretty awful accident. That's pretty scary but despite it having a rocking start, he was able to slowly rebuild his life into something normal again. Fast forward 15 or so years and one day it all goes to hell. Someone is demanding that he return something but he has no idea what they are talking about. It leaves him scrambling to figure out everything he doesn't remember because the future of his family depends on it.

You guys. I stayed up WAY too late reading this one because I really felt like I could identify with his fear. It is really hard to piece together things about yourself and your life that you don't know and its hard to trust what people are telling you is the whole truth or the truth at all. Interestingly, the story is a dual narrative between Daniel and Rachel (his ex-wife but they are still friendly), so while normally those aren't my favorite, it played really well with this one. I can't tell you more because I will absolutely spoil it but the ending was GREAT. Even though I thought I had maybe worked it out by the time I got there, there was a great twist that made me question things throughout the book. I felt like I had missed everything like Daniel did.

If you really like thrillers and want to be on the edge of your seat, definitely pick this one up. It did not disappoint.
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
   

Thank you to HQ, Harper Collins for sending me a copy of this for review! This post contains affiliate links. 

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Book Review: The Second Midnight

I have so many reviews that I need to finish before our big move so be prepared to see quite a few! Fortunately I seem to be all over in genres so there really will be something for everyone here!
The Second Midnight - Andrew Taylor
A secret mission…
1939. As Europe teeters on the brink of war, Alfred Kendall is tasked with carrying out a minor mission for the British Intelligence Service. Travelling to Prague, he takes his troubled young son, Hugh, as cover.

A terrible choice…
When Hitler invades Czechoslovakia, Alfred is given an ultimatum by the Czech Resistance. They will arrange for him to return to England, but only if he leaves his son Hugh behind as collateral.

A young boy stranded in Nazi terrain…
Hugh is soon taken under the wing of a Nazi colonel – Helmuth Scholl. But even though Scholl treats Hugh well, his son, Heinz, is suspicious of this foreigner. And as the war across the continent intensifies, they are set on a path that will ultimately lead towards destruction…


I am not normally a historical fiction fan, but I wanted to read this because having this kind of story told through the eyes of a child sounded really interesting. It absolutely was, but not without a few bumps.

Imagine being a father and having to abandon your son to save your life... most of us would tell someone to pound sand because who knows what would end up happening to them. Not Hugh's dad, Alfred readily hands him over and is basically gone in the wind. (Granted, it isn't like they had some tight bond, Hugh wasn't the easiest kid but still... I can't imagine making that choice, myself) Hugh is now trying to survive in Nazi territory, essentially alone.

So much happens in this story so I can't really give you a whole lot without spoiling some key moments, but here are the pros and cons:

PRO:

  • I really enjoyed the author's writing, it felt true to the WWII era and at times I felt like all of this was really happening. I appreciate that it was able to transport me at times. 
  • The espionage piece of this was actually really good and kept me interested and that's noteworthy because sometimes that's boring for me and I space out but I genuinely wanted to know what was going to happen with Hugh and all of the other characters that come through. 
  • I firmly believe that a good thriller cannot have characters you love, and this one follows that. None of these characters were ones I particularly liked, they all had flaws but it really pulled the story together and made you believe people were just trying to survive this horrific time. 
  • If you want a story that is layer after layer of complications, a little bit of romance, family dysfunction, etc. 

CONS:

  • At times I would put the book down and have a hard time picking it back up. I felt like you really had to be in the right mindset to read it. 
  • The beginning of the book featured some time with Hugh and his sister Meg and that was... uncomfortable at best. It's not quite Flowers in the Attic level but it definitely isn't what I would want my kids doing. 
  • I do feel a good chunk of the book could/should have been edited out. It finishes at a little over 400 pages which is over my usual limit of 300 for time sake and some of it was just fluff that we didn't really need and didn't really add to the greater story. It would have been OK without it. 

Overall? I'm going to give this one a 2.5 star, rounded to 3 for Goodreads. It was an OK book but I think if you are a fan of historical fiction or WWII themed books you will enjoy this one far more.
   
A huge thank you to Harper Collins for having me on this tour and sending me an advanced copy! All thoughts are my own and this post contains affiliate links. 

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Book Review: Dead to Her

How it is only Wednesday, I'll never know. I woke up thinking for sure it was the weekend. But nope! This week is wiping me  out completely.
Dead to Her - Sarah Pinborough

Being the second wife can be murder . . .

“Once a cheat, always a cheat,” they say. Marcie Maddox has worked hard to get where she is after the illicit affair that started her new life a few years ago. But her world of country clubs, yachts and sumptuous houses in Savannah, Georgia, isn’t easy to maintain, no matter how hard she tries. Nor is keeping her husband, Jason, truly interested.

So, when Jason’s boss brings home a hot new wife from his trip to London, the young Mrs William Radford IV isn’t quite the souvenir everyone expected. Sexy, drop-dead gorgeous and black—Keisha quickly usurps Marcie’s place as the beautiful second wife. But when Marcie sees the extra spark in the room when Keisha and Jason are together and their obvious, magnetic attraction, the gloves come off.

Revenge is best served cold, but in the steamy Savannah heat, blood runs so hot that this summer it might just boil over into murder.

If you remember, I reviewed another book by this author called Cross Her Heart, and I didn't totally love it. It was OK but it wasn't great. I was a little hesitant going into this one and unfortunately a lot of the problems I had with Cross Her Heart were present here, too so it's either me with the issue or its just the author's writing style that isn't meshing well with me.

You know I am a big believer that characters in thrillers really all need flaws to keep them suspect and you really can't like them. While both of those things are in this book, it almost goes too far because I really, really, really didn't like any of these characters and I found myself rooting for a terrible end for all of them.

The book is really bizarre, we have Marcie who is the younger, hot second wife of Jason. We have Keisha, who is the new younger, hot wife of William (Jason's boss). Picture the Real Housewives of Literally Any City and that's what this entire circle is. While Marcie isn't exactly besties with any of the women in the circle, the introduction of Keisha threatens not only that, but Marcie's marriage to Jason, who suddenly centers his attention on Keisha. Jason convinces Marcie to befriend her and while they do become friendly, this ends up being bananas. I mean, bizarre. The little twist of southern voodoo in here surprised me and was a breath of energy into this book that I was having a hard time sticking with.

To be honest, this really isn't a thriller, its more like a strange regular ol' fiction with some steamy sex and supernatural stuff thrown in. I can see how fans of Liane Moriarty would enjoy this one, it should be shelved in that area but it really wasn't a thriller. I'm going to give this one 2.5 stars, rounded up to 3 for Goodreads.
⭐⭐⭐
   
Thank you to William Morrow and TLC Book Tours for having me on this tour and sending me a copy! All thoughts are my own and this post contains affiliate links. 

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Move it, move it.

If you were here on Friday you maybe saw my post about us moving. (If you didn't, go catch yourself up.)  Since then I've gotten a ton of support and offers to help and don't think I'm not going to take you up on that because Matt and I are getting old. He's only going to be 40, but he is almost certain he's going to need surgery on his elbow after all of this (its been bothering him awhile, so it's not like this just happened), and I can't lift anything. So don't start ignoring your phone now. HA!
I spent most of my Friday night packing up books. Which... that's actually really daunting. When we moved the last time I thought it was bad but no, this is actually worse. Even Matt agrees. Ha! I purged quite a bit along the way and I have some in piles to donate to specific people. I'm pretty sure I won't have as much room at the new place so I will likely have to purge more and that makes me sad. 
The great news is that I found Edward Cullen's head! If you aren't a long time reader, this is probably just weird to you. But long time readers remember when I had a six foot cardboard cut out of Robert Pattinson, aka Edward Cullen. I used to have it standing next to my side of the bed. Then he lived in my dining room for awhile. No matter where he was he would scare the daylights out of people. Even me sometimes and I knew he was there. In our last move he was "accidentally" damaged so Matt said I should just toss it but nope! I had an idea for a project so I neatly trimmed his head and top of his shoulders off, but I put it in my craft closet because I probably didn't have time. Then I forgot about it. Lo and behold! Edward has returned and he is 100% coming with me. 
On Saturday Matt went over to start building our bedroom, so I had all four kids to bring with me to run errands. I thought we'd be gone an hour tops but it ended up being a huge chunk of my day and I was exhausted. I brought stuff over for Matt and I had to just rest so the girls colored while I almost fell asleep. This is wiping me out. I told Matt my fear is I won't have it in me to move again. We'll see what happens, though.

Sunday I spent more time purging our stuff. So much has already been donated or given to friends/family who want/need it. Its nice to unload so much, its just getting daunting because I know a lot more needs to go, but as a family of six we actually use/need a lot of stuff. So... it is turning out to be a bigger job than I thought it would be.

In other news, it was super nice this weekend and I'm bummed I never really got out there. The kids have a SUPER busy week this week. Things on our agenda:

  • Lucy's conferences and 4K registration
  • Olivia plays in the University of Minnesota's Honor Band
  • Olivia and I are going to a mandatory meeting for our DC/NYC trip (more on that soon)
  • Olivia and Jackson are going to the Level II meet for Forensics
  • I have therapy (thank god)
  • Penelope has conferences and we talk about her kindergarten readiness
  • Dance on two nights this week
  • A school movie night we're going to try to get to
  • Penelope has TWO birthday parties to go to this weekend
That's just evening things. My days are completely jam packed of stuff to do and places to call. Poor Matt is going to be working a ton all week. I'm already exhausted. 

Monday, February 24, 2020

Book Review: Beautiful Broken Control

I really don't love reading on my iPad because my eyes have a harder time getting information to my brain since my stroke (which this can't possibly make sense to you unless you were in this boat) but it helps when I get books I can finish in one sitting. Even if it is in the middle of the night.
Beautiful Broken Control - Catherine Cowles

A woman trying to rebuild her life.


Kennedy is doing all she can to escape, to prove that she’s not the monster her father was. A simple life of peace and service is all she needs.

A man haunted by a past he can’t forget.

Cain has buried his demons under layers of control and success. The only thing he needs is his company and his solitude. Certainly not a woman with captivating green eyes filled with ghosts so similar to his own.

He’s a reminder of the life she’s left behind. And she’s a threat to his tightly guarded control. As sparks fly between them, they discover that what they might need most is each other.

But with pasts like theirs...you never know when darkness might descend.

I am such a fan of romance novels but there are certain ones that just hit me right, and this is one of them.

We have Kennedy, the daughter of a man who went to prison for a Ponzi scheme that swindled people out of millions of dollars. Even though she was the one who sent him to prison, everyone hates her anyways. She hates herself and realizes everything that she's enjoyed in life is from someone else's hard work and it was stolen. It's hard to feel grateful for any of it. She decides to go as far as she can and ultimately ends up in Sutter Lake to start a new, significantly more modest, life. Alone.

Then we have Cain, the CEO of a prominent IT and Security company, who needs some time to clear his head after burying his mother he felt nothing for. She neglected him and his sister to the point his sister was brutally murdered and that has screwed Cain up pretty badly. Even worse, he's confident that someone in his company is selling information to a competitor and that could cause everything he's worked for to go under. He needs time to figure out how to sniff out the culprit and what to do about it, and he needs space away from the city that haunts him worse than he though. So he goes to Sutter Lake where his best friends live and he plans to adjust while in solitude.

But then fate brings Kennedy and Cain together and while Kennedy is terrified for anyone to learn of her true identity, Cain know something isn't quite right with her story so he's going to figure it out before one of his friends gets hurt.

Of course they start to fall for each other and I kind of loved it. A lot. They are both incredibly flawed and while they are working through their own guilt and traumas, they are doing it in two wildly different ways. Kennedy is focusing on her everyday gratitude and Cain is bottling it in and choosing to not discuss his sister and her death.

It apparently is par for the course for Sutter Lake to have some crime and when Kennedy is kidnapped, it challenges Cain in ways he can't comprehend.

Overall? 5 stars. I loved this one so much I have the other three in the series in my shopping cart for payday. This was my first book by Catherine Cowles and I really enjoyed it. It was everything I want in a romance novel but she isn't going over the top or trying to hard. I absolutely loved it, stayed up far too late reading it, and would recommend it to you. Though this is book four in the Sutter Lake series, they are all completely stand alone so you won't feel out of place but if you've read the other three, the other characters are in here too so it is a nice "what are they doing now" book.
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
   
Thank you to Social Butterfly PR and Catherine Cowles for having me on this tour- I am so lucky to review books because I find authors and books I otherwise may never have found. All thoughts are my own of course, and this post contains affiliate links. 

Friday, February 21, 2020

Revenge of the Digestion System and Changes

When I posted on Facebook that I was going to have my gallbladder removed everyone told me how great I was going to feel. So much better! I have friends who have had it done and they all gave me good post surgery tips and talked about changes they made.

Cool.

I'm like two weeks out from my surgery and you know how I feel?

AWFUL.

I am nauseous ALL of the time. I have had the worst heartburn of my life and my Omeprazole isn't doing squat for it. I ate an entire bottle of Tums over the course of a day and no relief. The idea of food and eating it makes me want to throw up. I have been trying to eat toast, maybe a handful of grapes, some saltine crackers and all of it makes me want to throw up.

Even better?

It doesn't matter what I eat or how very little of it I have, I will have diarrhea. Not just regular, this is inconvenient diarrhea, but it is painful. The cramping is painful, too.

I did go to the surgeon follow up and I didn't meet with him, I met with one of his PA's, and she didn't seem concerned at all. Which... I can't imagine this is normal. Seriously, I cannot live like this. The closest comparison I have to this is morning sickness but EXTREME.

I am so tired and physically weak because I'm not getting enough nutrition but I cannot stomach anything. I messaged my gastroenterologist to ask for help. I see him at the end of March but I am going on that Washington D.C/New York City trip with Olivia (I'll post more about it next week) and I can't imagine going on that trip like this. I can't even run to Target without making several bathroom trips and then breathing and counting randomly so I don't throw up on the floor.

It's bad. So that's how my recovery is going.

***
Really big news that has come (literally) out of left field: we are moving.

I know, didn't see that coming, did you? I haven't talked about it much because I'm still just trying to process it myself, but my parents have moved to Florida to care for my grandparents. It is no secret that since my AFE things have been financially tight. To give you a better idea, when I had my AFE we had less than $5K in debt that wasn't a vehicle or house. It wasn't bad at all and we assumed I'd be going to work so it was manageable. Once it was clear that things weren't going to be the same and I wasn't going to work, we got a little nervous.

We were lucky to have a GoFundMe account and that is what kept us from losing our house because those first six months Matt was working sporadically between helping me at home, taking care of kids, getting me to appointments, etc. If you aren't working, your paychecks aren't covering the bills. We used that money to basically float us for six months. We never planned on me having disabilities, seeing so many specialists and having all kinds of tests, trying new medications and it being a never ending cycle. For the last three years when I say we are barely getting by, I am not kidding. We are in debt up to our eyeballs and the only solution right now is to plug the holes in the boat.

Our house is a hole in the boat.

Not only can we no longer (realistically) afford it right now, but our house is big. I mean, it looks big, but if you walk up and down the stairs all day? Exhausting for a healthy person. I am no longer capable of cleaning it. I can't take care of things. Some mornings I can barely get down the stairs when I wake up. It's just too much.

But let me be clear, I don't love this house. It wasn't going to be our forever home. It was really just to get us through raising the kids and then we would downgrade. Even though I'm not in love with this home, I'm really sad to move. I'm sad because we are moving to a home that is half the size, maybe even less. Six people = one bathroom. I feel like we're all being punished because I got sick. It's all my fault we're in this predicament and I feel guilty as hell. I know it isn't rational and we're here whether I feel guilty or not. I am scared that we're not seeing a larger consequence later on down the road. I trust Matt wholeheartedly and when he says this is what we're doing, this is what we're doing.

So where are we going?

We're moving into my parent's old home. I grew up there from age 14 and up. The house has sentimental value and the thought of someone else living there really bothers me, so I guess on the bright side I won't have to navigate those feelings right now. We will be saving a TON of money each month to apply towards debt. It does feel like a weight is lifted, like we're going to move forward again. We've got five years to get the debt under control and then we can either buy the house or we can move somewhere else. It's all kind of up in the air and if you know me, not having a concrete, permanent home base is terrifying for me. As a kid I really hated moving and it never made me feel secure. I worry that I'm doing this to myself now but also to my kids.

Fortunately, the only changes they'll have is a different bus stop. I'm not sure when we'll be IN that house because Matt has to build a bedroom for him and I (the house is only a 3 bedroom) in the basement, and then we'll start moving things over. We'll have a few things to fix here before we can list our house and hope it sells quickly.

I don't know if you are the praying type or just the kind who sends positive thoughts, but we would take any and all of it. I'm really feeling anxious, scared, and uncertain. I know all of it is my own issues and I'm going to do the best I can to make this move not a pain in the ass but also be kind to the kids. Olivia and Jackson really aren't thrilled, and Penelope and Lucy are so worried we won't be bringing their toys, stuffed animals, books, clothes, etc. The concept of moving is totally foreign to them and not Lucy so much but Penelope looks scared and I feel really terrible. That somehow my body has failed us all and its my fault they are sad/mad/scared.

Sigh.

So that's the scoop.

It's going to be OK. It can always be worse. I am thankful we will have a home. I am thankful we have family who help us out. I am thankful to have friends who have already told us they will help us in any way. I am thankful for my therapist who starting next week is going to see me have panic attacks during sessions again. I am sure she has missed them. HA!

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Book Review: A Flame Through Eternity

I don't know about you but this week is kicking my rear and I just want to get into bed and wave the white flag because I am over it. Honest to goodness. Stress is going to be what kills me. I wish I could go with the flow and just relax but no. My DNA is not capable of that so here I am, getting almost no sleep every night because I cannot stop worrying. It's horrible. Anyways. I have a book review!
A Flame Through Eternity - Anna Belfrage

Helle may believe in second-chance love, but she sure doesn’t believe in reincarnation. Okay, she didn’t believe in stuff like that until she met Jason Morris a year or so ago. By now, she has accepted that sometimes impossible things are quite, quite possible—like an ancient princess being reborn as an ambitious financial analyst.
Finding Jason was like finding the part of her that had always been missing—a perfect match. But handling Sam Woolf, the reborn version of their ancient nemesis is something of a trial. No sooner do you have him well and surely beat, but up he bounces again. Sheesh, will it take an oak stake to permanently rid their lives of him?

Sam Woolf is a powerful adversary. Too powerful, even. Jason and Helle will need help from unexpected quarters to finally bring this tangled, ancient love-and-hate triangle to some sort of conclusion. Question is, will they survive the experience?

Before we even get started I have to tell you this is book three in The Wanderer series and you absolutely HAVE to read book one (A Torch in His Heart) and book two (Smoke in Her Eyes) because these are very much not stand-alone books. The first book was amazing and I loved every weird second of it. Book two kind of wavered for me a bit but this one?

Holy moly.

First off, this author will pull every single emotion out of you and somehow you find yourself loving and hating the villain, the hero, and even the heroine sometimes all at once. The entire series was a crazy roller coaster but this book took us off the rails.

My conclusions after finishing this:

  • I don't like Helle. She was kind of.... bitchy? I mean, that's the best way to describe it. I cannot for the life of me understand why Sam and Jason were fighting for her all of these years when she isn't even the nicest person. What did Justin Bieber once say? "My mama don't like you and she likes everyone?"
  • Nefirie is literally the worst mother in law in the history of ever. I mean, she clearly doesn't like Helle (I mean Helle is having sex with her son pretty flagrantly and just giving zero craps about how mom would feel being in the next room.) I'm not excusing her horrific behavior through all of time, because that was really pretty bad, but her ending in this book felt fitting. 
  • Jason is a total mama's boy. Sure, the ending of this book happens and some would say that refutes that but no. He loves his mom even at her absolute worst. I He reminds me of the hunky guy would can't save you from a burning building. 
  • Sam is in need of significant mental health counseling. He is deranged at best and there are ties where I actually felt sorry for him and I had to stop myself and say- this guy is nuts. He's abusive and not matter how much I don't like Helle she doesn't deserve that. He reminds me of those kids who love their pet so much they squeeze them to death. Basically. 
For awhile I thought maybe I wasn't going to like the ending of this and in a way I didn't LOVE it, but it certainly felt fitting to the series. Overall, I have to give this book (and series) a solid 4 stars. A few bumps along the way but for the most part it was a really entertaining read if you like romantic suspense with a little paranormal thrown in. 

   

A huge thank you to Anna Belfrage and TLC Book Tours for having me on all three of these tours and sending me a copy for review. All thoughts are my own and this post contains affiliate links. Happy reading!

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Book Review: The Life Below

A few months ago I received a super unfinished copy of The Life Below and I scared Penelope and Lucy because I was literally SCREAMING. I have been wanting to read the follow up to The Final Six since I read it in 2018. I feel like it has been forever and I had a small worry the author was going to give up on it and I'm telling you what: the wait was WORTH IT.
The Life Below - Alexandra Monir

As Naomi lifts off into space and away from a rapidly deteriorating Earth, she watches the world fade away, and along with it Leo, a Final Six contestant she grew close to during training. Leaving Earth behind is hard, but what’s ahead, on Europa, could be worse. The International Space Training Camp continues to hide the truth about what happened to the last group of astronauts who attempted a similar colonization but failed mysteriously. With one shot—at this mission and to Europa—Naomi is determined to find out if there is alien life on Europa before she and her crew get there.

Leo, back on Earth, has been working with renegade scientist Dr. Greta Wagner, who promises to fly him to space where he can essentially latch on to Naomi’s ship. And if Wagner’s hypothesis is right, it isn’t a possibility of coming in contact with extraterrestrial life on Europa—it’s a definite. With Naomi unaware of what awaits, it’s up to Leo to find and warn her and the others.

With all the pieces of their journey finally clicking into place, everything else starts to fall apart. A storm threatens to interfere with Leo’s takeoff, a deadly entity makes itself known to the Final Six, and the questions the ISTC has been avoiding about the previous failed mission get answered in the worst way possible. If the dream was to establish a habitable domain on Europa… the Final Six are about to enter a nightmare.

If you haven't read the first book, The Final Six, you absolutely HAVE to before you read this one! I absolutely loved that book and I am not even a fan of space novels or movies, but I am a fan of Hunger Games and Divergent books and movies and I put this right up there. Honestly, this is probably better than Divergent. There, I said it, fight me.

The Final Six leaves us with the six teenagers who were hand picked from tons of other kids for their superior skills in specific areas. Naomi is amazing with computers and programming so she was chosen to basically lead all of the IT components of this mission. What is the mission? Well Earth is basically garbage and quickly becoming uninhabitable and research suggests that Europa, one of Jupiter's moons, is a promising second chance. The Final Six are being set to set up a colony and if they fail they are dooming mankind as a whole.

So no pressure at all.

When we start The Life Below, these six have taken off and on their way to the Mars rendezvous to pick up supplies (and of course, if they miss it, they are likely going to starve to death), and then off to Europa. Naomi doesn't feel right about any of this and she can't help but feel like something is really wrong with the entire mission but also the leaders of this trip, Dr. Takumi and General Sokolov. Neither of them are giving the six the entire big picture and Naomi knows it. She also knows another astronaut on board, Beckett, is up to something, and she feels the weight of not just her fellow astronauts but all of mankind on her should. Big doings for a girl prone to panic attacks.

She isn't alone, though. Her romantic interest in this series is Leo. Leo wasn't one of the chosen six (probably on purpose) but he was quickly recruited by Dr. Greta Wagner, one of the original scientists to organize this who was unceremoniously booted from the mission, to run a covert, unauthorized mission to basically follow The Final Six on their journey. Leo would be responsible for helping them because Dr. Wagner knows something is very wrong.

OK, so that's the set up. Basically. I cannot tell you anything about what happens because it is a TRIP and I started this before bed, stayed up until the morning. I'm not even kidding. I knew better starting this then, but here we are. First off, I love Naomi and I love Leo, I love them even more together. I love how Naomi swallows her fear because she has to and (for the most part) keeps it together. Throughout the books she acknowledges she's scared out of her mind but it doesn't change their situation, she's still responsible to act and do something.

Not only are teens going to love this but adults- you will love it even more. My 14 year old, Olivia, had read The Final Six but she isn't really into space stuff (like me) and I told her I promise its good. She came back two days later demanding the second book and peppering me with questions and asking what I thought about things that happened. Same thing when she read this. She was using it as her in school reading and she was texting me things like, "MOM!!!!! I can't put this down! (insert name) died! I'm so upset!", which was crappy because I hadn't read it yet so she's the queen of spoilers. But its really good and if you want a book that is going to suck you in immediately, this is the series to start.

Not only can I not wait for the next book, but the film rights have already been picked up by Sony Pictures. And even though I already know what happens (so far) I don't know if I can watch this on the screen! That's how much of a fast paced thriller this is, frankly, I don't know if my blood pressure can handle it!

Absolutely no question, this was a 5 star read.
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
   
I cannot thank Harper Collins Publishers enough for sending me a copy of The Life Below for review, all fangirl comments are my own. This post contains affiliate links. Please tell me if you read this, I am desperate to hear what you thought about it!! 

Monday, February 17, 2020

Bursting with love.

Anyone with a calendar or sense of time knows that Friday was Valentine's Day, and while a lot of cynical people call it a Hallmark holiday or a commercial scam, I disagree. I love Valentine's. Winter really sucks and after Christmas it feels like a really long haul until the next thing to celebrate, so Valentine's comes at the perfect time. More importantly though, at least where I live, seasonal depression is almost at peak performance in February/March and we all are a little down in the dumps, so it always encourages me to put a little effort in and someone I love them. I always tell them, but sometimes its really nice to get a treat, too.

Fight me.

Lucky for me, Friday I was in a pretty OK mood. I wasn't too depressed, it at least felt manageable, and I was looking forward to the day. I'm still a little sore from surgery, so it wasn't like I was moving fast, but I was able to get around enough to pick up the house a little bit. Matt's gift was going to be some of his favorite snacks to munch on at work or when he was playing his computer or video games, but also, I wanted the house to feel cleaned up for him.

Definitely a rarity in the last three years because I physically can't do it like it should be done but also mentally I can't always put the tasks in motion. So, I sometimes can't think of what steps you take to do that and/or if I get that worked out, its like I can't start them. Kind of like a CD skipping. (Yes, I realize some of you youngsters have no idea about the concept of a CD skipping but I'm going to pretend you do.)

The kids all had school, and while the big kids don't do anything awesome at school now that they are in middle school, Penelope and Lucy do and they were SO excited about it. Matt and I took on a craft project to make these little paper plate heart pouches for Penelope's class so the kids could decorate and they were really cute.
She was literally BURSTING to open everything when she got home, and that's what she did. She only got a few candies but most everyone gave a non-food item and I thought that was really cool. 
In Lucy's class they weren't allowed to give a food item at all, which was totally fine because she was THRILLED with her goodies. They decorated a box and she was pretty proud of hers. 
I always get the kids a little treat, not a present or anything. For the little girls I ended up getting them a little painting craft, a box of gummy hearts, and a tube of M&M's, nothing crazy. 
While I was helping them organize their classroom cards, I got a delivery of flowers from Matt! I really love flowers and these smell so good
The big kids came home from school and I had gotten them a bag of Hershey Kisses, a tube of Sweet Tarts, and a box of Slim Jim's because they fight over them in the snack bucket so they have their own box and I'm sure they are gone by now. HA!

Olivia had a couple of friends stay over and she had bought them some Valentine goodies with her own money, but I had purchased a bunch of Valentine themed goodies for them to snack on all night.

Matt played his video games, I finished a book, and overall it was a nice night in. Matt and I are not the ones to fight crowds on a holiday just to go on a date, but I'm hoping we can go on one soon!

What did you do on Valentine's Day? Do you like to go on a date or spend the night in?

Friday, February 14, 2020

The Mom Uber

I knew when I had kids I would be driving around a lot, but I also didn't consider that having four kids means that I would be putting on ridiculous mileage on my vehicle. February has been crazy for our schedule but March is going to be even worse between traveling for school, traveling for dance, and our regular weekly activities. I almost never get supper anymore. Which is kind of fine because I no longer get hungry around then anyways so its kind of worked out.

Olivia has officially registered for high school. She was pretty nervous when it was first happening but now that she did the online registration, she seems OK with it. I'm not sure how you tell a kid who wants scholarships and a degree that takes a long time and costs a lot of money, that high school is really important for her. Your grades matter, your effort matters. I got good grades and I made real effort but I also didn't have high hopes for myself after it and frankly, its kind of a miracle I did anything. It's not like I really had any kind of guidance helping me. But I'm trying to balance helping/guiding her and having her learn to take on the stuff on her own at the same time. 
She was on the fence about doing band in high school and I told her it would be completely up to her. We bought her flute so the deal was she would have to play all through middle school, and she has. The eighth graders got to play with the high school pep band earlier this month just to see what its like (since high school band functions differently than their current class) and she loved it. She had a lot of fun (and sounded good, too!) so she signed up for band in ninth grade. I think shes going to do really well.

Olivia has done Forensics every year of middle school but this year since Jackson is at the middle school he decided to join as well. They ended up combining both groups and writing their own piece for Readers Theater. 
It was called Who Killed Nancy? and it was about the mysterious seventh person in their group, Nancy, who didn't show up for Forensics because she died after being pushed down some stairs. Super uplifting, right? HA! 
It was actually really good, and funny, and they received all A's, which means they can go to the Level 2 competition later this month. Or March. I can't remember. It'll be a fun experience for them and I'm glad Jackson tried something new.
Lucy has been doing really well in speech and she's thankfully gotten over the nonstop illness she's been dealing with for a few weeks. She is such a goofy little kid, its hard not to have a good time with her. 
Penelope and Lucy wrote out their own Valentine's Day cards and whoa.... that is an exercise of patience. It really is. Lucy can write the L-U but C-Y? Nope. Cannot do it. It's like her brain just stops, so that's really strange. Penelope can do hers just fine, in all capital letters though, and she has so many E's that she gets mixed up. Now I feel bad for giving a kid such a long name. I don't think I put much thought into learning how to write it. Whoops.

All of the girls are still in dance so Mondays and Wednesdays I'm driving back and forth. I enjoy leaving the house and interacting with adults, and watching my girls dance each week, but sometimes I wish I could walk outside and not freeze. Or sit in my car, reclined, and listen to a podcast or something. The dance season always feels so short and we're done in May so I'm going to just enjoy my weekly outings, even if it does require gas like you wouldn't believe.

I can understand now why parents of new drivers are excited to get them on the road, because by then you're just over it. You're sick of hauling everyone else's kids, you're sick of running to school, waiting in the pickup line watching everyone drive at their absolute worst because they somehow think they're the only ones with a life waiting for them.

Even better when it all keeps going even if your stomach still hurts post surgery and you just feel down on life.

Sigh.

Tonight though I have two of Olivia's friends coming to hang out with her and that'll be fun. I'm glad she has really nice friends because its never a big deal when they come. I got a little treat for all four of my kids for Valentine's and I bought an abundance of Valentine themed treats for the sleep over so I'll try to take some pictures and share next week.

What are YOU doing for Valentine/s?

(PS- if you haven't already, enter my Instagram giveaway that ends TOMORROW, 2/15/20!)

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Book Review: Dirty Filty Rich Men Duet

I have something different for you today, a review for a duet, so both books. A month or so ago I ordered some bonus books from The Bookworm Box and in my order I got a little novella that I thought was a prologue of sorts to a different series. As it turns out, it's the first couple of chapters of the first book which was incredibly disappointing and irritating. Regardless, I was already invested now so I had to see how this story finished, and that's how I came to be the owner of these two books. 
Dirty Filthy Rich Men - Laurelin Paige
When I met Donovan Kincaid, I knew he was rich. I didn’t know he was filthy. Truth be told, I was only trying to get his best friend to notice me.

I knew poor scholarship girls like me didn't stand a chance against guys like Weston King and Donovan Kincaid, but I was in love with his world, their world, of parties and sex and power. I knew what I wanted—I knew who I wanted—until one night, their world tried to bite me back and Donovan saved me. He saved me, and then Weston finally noticed me, and I finally learned what it was to be in their world.

And then what it was like to lose it.

Ten years later, I’ve found my way back. Back to their world. Back to him.

This time, I’m ready. I've been down this road before, and I know all the dirty, filthy ways Donovan will try and wreck me. 

But it’s hard to resist. Especially when I know how much I’ll like it.
I am going to be real clear at the start because I didn't see any warnings, and usually I don't care about the triggers, but this one involves sexual assault and later, rape fantasies. If that isn't your jam, toss this book into your fireplace and get warm because this is not the book for you. Normally someone being a victim of sexual assault in a book doesn't trigger me, it isn't pleasant but it doesn't make me second guess a book. What DOES give me some pause is when a victim later goes on to have fantasies about what it would be like to be raped. Frankly, if that doesn't scream YOU NEED THERAPY, I don't know what does. I suppose we all have our kinks but that one has always been one that I'm not sure is a kink rather than a trauma still in progress. 

In this one we have Sabrina, she was almost raped in college and later lost her virginity in a rather cruel and crude manner to her professor's teaching assistant, who she had an almost hero worship/but I don't like him feeling for. Fast forward ten years and she finds herself working in the same company as him and she's forced to acknowledge the past. Donovan doesn't make it easy because its clear he has some kind of feeling for her.  It's bizarre. 

I'll tell you, I almost quit with this book because this was like... a dominant being TOO mean and TOO cruel, but the submissive keeps coming back and I don't know why. It goes beyond girl girl taming a bad boy, but it was just... it was a lot in some areas for even me. So when I got to the end I was like, no thanks. But then.... 

Dirty Filthy Rich Love - Laurelin Page
I've discovered Donovan Kincaid's secret.

It's dirty and filthy and rich - as dirty and filthy and rich as he is - and it haunts me as much as he ever did.

Even after knowing what I know now, I still want to talk to him, to touch him. But there's an ocean between us, and I'm not sure it can be crossed with something as easy as a phone call or a plane ride.

Yet I'm willing to try.

He doesn't know this yet, but this time I'm the one with the power. And maybe - just maybe - if the air were cleared and all our secrets bared, there could still be a chance for us.

And this dirty, filthy thing between us might end up being love after all.
...I remembered I had this book too, so it wasn't like I could waste a perfectly unread book. I'm already committed so now I have to see this through. At the end of book one we find out that Donovan is kind of a nut and is a stalker in his own way. Sabrina can't be sure of anything and she doesn't know what the next steps with him are, but somewhere in her gut she knows she can't just quit the guy.

I really struggled through this one but I will say the author does a much better job in this book making Donovan seem like a likable guy. He definitely gives off asshole vibes but you do get more of a look at his life, his past, and his family and it does help explain the way he is. Book one was Sabrina trying to get one her own adult feet and book two felt more like Donovan finding his way back to humanity. A rather predictable final event in book two kind of felt like a dud for me, so I didn't love this. 

At best I can give this duet 3 stars. It isn't enough to get me to read the others, even though story lines have been set up and we kind of know where each duet is going, I'm just a little leery of the story lines. I mean, if the first duet pulls out rape fantasies and tries to sell it as sexy, what the hell could be next?! 
   

Let's be honest, I'm getting older and that might be my issue here. I'm not sure but I was kind of going into mom mode thinking what someone needs to do is get this girl into therapy and this guy, too, for that matter. Definitely not the basis of a healthy relationship in any way, that's for sure. 

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Book Review: Playing to Win

If you are following me on Instagram, a couple of weeks ago I mentioned that my favorite sport is hockey, and that if I need to read a sports related romance.... I'm going to pick a hockey one. If you're like me, this is definitely a series to get into.
Playing to Win - Stacey Lynn
It was a three-week fling. Nothing more than a couple of college kids having some fun, but then I did the stupid thing and fell for Jude Taylor quicker than he can score a goal on the ice. And after one beautiful night together, he left for the pros before I could make my first cup of coffee.


I thought I’d put him behind me. I thought I’d moved on. Then he hobbles into my physical therapy office and I realize how absolutely wrong I’ve been—there’s no getting over Jude Taylor.

But now things are complicated. Jude lives half a country away and his career is in direct opposition to my need for stability. Most of all, getting involved with him could mean losing my job and everything I’ve worked so hard for.

Jude doesn’t seem to mind one bit and he’s all in. He might be a patient in my office, but he’s no longer the patient guy I remember.

This time, he’s playing to win, and the prize he’s looking to score is me.

Let's not beat around the bush and get into it, this book was pretty dang great. So often in romance novels the trope can be different but the arc of the story is similar, it will likely have a huge drama thing at the end, the couple go their own ways only to come together because that's what you do. I am pleased to tell you that this one is DIFFERENT. Oh yes. It's different in the best, most refreshing, completely mature adult way and I'm here for it.

In this book we have Jude, a big time hockey player with a new injury forced to re-evaluate things and work on recovery. We have Katie, a physical therapist in a bit of a rut. Together they had a night to remember years ago and Katie thought she was doing herself a favor by deleting his number and moving on because surely he won't remember.

Oh but he has and when he discovers he is doing his therapy at the same facility Katie works at, sparks immediately fly.

Over a few weeks/months they slowly start to reconnect and they realize there is more to the spark than just sexual chemistry. Katie knows he's going to recover soon and go back to his team and she doesn't know if he wants to really make this work. Can it be long distance or should she take the plunge and leave all that is familiar to her and go with him?

First off, the ending was perfect, I am totally excited for a romance to not have children masquerading as adults. I love how Jude and Katie have actual discussions, they open up to each other, and are willing to discuss hard things and work out a solution so they each feel fulfilled. It's the story I didn't know I needed and I really hope other authors pick up on this. The steamy scenes are pretty great considering this guy has a messed up knee/leg and mobility is an issue. Plus, he's just a really great guy and she seems pretty great, too.

If I absolutely had to give you something I wish was different... I would give you two things:

  • It would have been cool to get maybe a prologue of their time leading up to their first hook up. They talk about how they knew each other, but what led up to that first night? 
  • I didn't realize this was book one in the series, I assumed maybe book three. Towards the end a couple of other girlfriends/wives are mentioned and hinted that there is a story there that I missed but nope- this is the first book. 

I loved this one a lot and I am so excited to read the rest of this series.
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
A huge thank you to Social Butterfly PR and Stacey Lynn for having me on this tour, I cannot read what is next for the Ice Kings! This post contains affiliate links. 

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

That time I was beat up by a gallbladder.

I'm going to preface this to say there is a lot more to this story that happens before that I'm just not mentally ready to talk about that would make my feelings about this make more sense. Just know that immediately before all of this happened, I had some major life changes happen the same week as this, so by the time all of this happened, I was already in a depression low. So that makes all of this that much more depressing.

If you follow this blog you know I have a ton of medical stuff going on at any given time, especially stomach issues. I've had unexplained pain and though I've had two endoscopies and a colonoscopy, no real cause was determined. We knew that I had a few gallstones and while my symptoms weren't screaming that I needed to have my gallbladder out, I knew that eventually it may be a thing.

As it turns out, now it is a thing.

Last Wednesday, I woke up with a minor stomach ache. Nothing big, and everyone in my house has had a stomach bug so I thought I was probably next. I had been having weird bowel movements for about three weeks and I figured it was either the stomach and flu bug going around my house the last month or so and/or some medication I was only a month into taking. I thought maybe my body was telling me this wasn't going to work out. That day though, no issues with that, just an icky tummy.

I couldn't eat a small bowl of cereal in the morning, I felt a little nauseous. I couldn't eat lunch because I felt like I was outrageously full. By dinner I knew I had to eat something so I could take my nighttime medication, so we had spaghetti and I tried to eat a little of the chicken and the plain noodles. I just really couldn't stomach it so threw most of it out.

Around 9 p.m., we all go to bed. Matt had been sick and barely functioning so when he went I figured I probably should in case I really was getting sick. By 10 though, it was clear it wasn't happening. My stomach hurt. When I say it hurt, I mean it was worse than being in labor. I'm not even exaggerating. I decided to go take a hot shower because it was a pain going right through the middle of my chest into my back, like I was being impaled. Shower was nice but not helpful. I got into bed and thought maybe a heating pad would help. I literally suffered through this for two more hours until waking Matt up at midnight and saying I think I need to go in.

Let's just feel remember Matt is loaded up on NyQuil, he feels like absolute crap, but he's more able to drive than I am at this point. I felt terrible.

Olivia was still up so I told her I was going to the ER, don't freak out, but if there's a fire she's got to wake everyone up. Cool, so we leave.

We get there and thankfully there wasn't a crazy long wait, maybe a half hour or so, but I thought I was dying in that waiting room. At this point I had Googled enough that I thought I'm either having a weird heart attack or a gallbladder attack, neither of which had super enjoyable options.

By the time I get there, the doctor (and nurse) are fairly surprised that I'm in as much pain as I'm in. It felt like contractions, like a dull pain that stays and every minute or so it ramps up and just HURTS LIKE A MOTHER%*!@)!. The doctor can't even touch my abdomen without me screaming and jumping off the bed so he orders a CT scan and an ultrasound.
I got my handy dandy IV and they gave me some pain medication, Fentanyl, which was horrible. I mean, it took the pain away but I also felt like I was on an out of control speed boat going side to side. Even Matt said I looked completely high.

I go to my CT scan and they tell me I'll have to lift my arms up, which is fine because I've done this kind of scan on my abdomen before so I know what to do. I can only lift my IV arm up though and she tells me totally fine. We do the first two scans, normal, no problems. The next ones are with contrast and as she puts stuff in my IV it really hurts. I go to put my arm up and it explodes everywhere. The contrast stuff is all over my face, both arms, chest, hair, machine, everywhere. Apparently there was too much pressure but my IV was intact.

In case you don't know, that contrast stuff is SO sticky. By the time I was done, they had me go into a restroom with some towels and told me to do my best to wash off because it basically looked like someone ejaculated all over me. Like all over, and it was getting crusty.

Nice.

I got wheeled into ultrasound after that and she had me rolling over into the weirdest positions I've ever been in during any kind of exam. She tells me she sees a LOT of gallstones, sees that it's extremely inflamed and that there is a "big chunk of something" towards the bottom.

She said she would send all of that to bed read after she got me back down the hall. As soon as I'm wheeled away and she's not even down the hall, the ER doctor comes in and says my CT scans are really pretty bad and I'm getting my gallbladder out first thing in the morning.
So we wait. We had to wait for them to find me a room to go to for the rest of the night and be prepped in the morning.
At this point I have enough drugs flowing through me so all I'm feeling is a dull pain I'd register at around a 5, but it's what I feel EVERY day so I'm not even phased anymore. I mean, I can work through this because I've had to for years now, so I'm fine.

About an hour later, they get me up to the fifth floor, but instead of the surgery side, I get put on the orthopedic side because they didn't have a single room or a shared room with another female.
At this point I'm delirious with sleep because I hadn't slept all night on Tuesday because of Matt's snoring, and now it is early Thursday morning and I still have not slept. Matt wasn't feeling so super, either.
We waited all morning. Apparently my idea of "first thing in the morning" is different than everyone else's, so I was getting a little annoyed.
I did have a nice room with a decent view though, so I can't even hate on that. My nurses literally had no idea what to do with me because they aren't used to handling people with gallbladder issues, so I was getting annoyed as the day progressed. By 5 pm or so, it was shift change and I had two very nice nurses come in and ask how I was. I started to cry and say that my child care was going to be done at 7pm and I honest to god needed to have surgery by then. They asked if Matt had to be here and I was like, YES because I can't speak for myself if I'm unconscious and he sucks at answering the damn phone.

Lo and behold, if you call down to surgery and ask when your patient needs to go, they come and get you. (Which... I honestly would like to know if any of my daytime nurses did that because when I got down there they had all be waiting for me. For HOURS.) Anyways. I had to have my hydrocortisone drip set up before my surgery, one during my surgery, some iodine drip so they can see what they're doing in there, etc.

I just remember laying on this bed back there, speaking with the anesthesiologist about the procedure and he recognized my name from my AFE and told me what a big deal it was. He talked about how things are still being changed because of my case and they talk about it often. I mean, that's cool to hear, but at that moment, I was terrified. I've had anesthesia a few times since but it doesn't get easier. It's like now that I know first hand that things can and do go wrong, and I'm not immune to that, I'm scared. Regardless, the gallbladder still had to go.

While Matt got the summary from the surgeon, he learned that not only was my gallbladder in rough shape, but a rather large gallstone(s) had worked its way up into an artery and that likely is the extreme pain I was feeling. I sat in the recovery area for almost two hours because they couldn't get my pain under control. I don't remember much, but I remember a nurse holding my hand and rubbing my arm and telling someone different things to try and listing off what she had already tried. I just remember awful pain everywhere.
I don't remember being transferred to my room, but I remember being there and meeting my night nurse David, and seeing Matt there. He had ordered me food in case I was hungry and had gotten me water (because I wasn't allowed to have anything to eat/drink before surgery so I went an entire 24 hours with nothing... which is HORRIFIC if you have diabetes insipidus and you grave ice water at all times and feel like you're dying of thirst) and was helping me get ready for bed.
I know Matt left to go home for a few hours to sleep, and my pain was just awful. They had me wedged in bed so I couldn't move really and I had this cool towel on my head which was helpful because I was starting to get a headache. They gave me morphine at some point and I had to yell because I thought for sure I was going to throw up everywhere.
Fortunately I didn't, but the barf bags now kind of look like weird, giant condoms. Right? The morning after surgery,  Friday, I was in so much pain. Honestly, recovery after child birth didn't even hurt this bad. They were having a hard time getting my pain under control and just really wanted me to go home, which I get, so I gave up when my pain was at a 5/6 and told them fine- send me home. Honestly. The surgeons came in to talk about the procedure and answer questions and they are looking at me like I must be feeling SO much better and I'm just nodding my head with tears streaming down my face. I left two hours later.
Not before I looked in the mirror though, because I am a glutton for punishment. I already have a mutilated looking stomach since Lucy's birth, that line under my belly button is the start of my c-section scar which ends a little lower and I call it the second butthole, because it does look like a butthole, no joke. But now I have these four other spots, with another one that looks like a belly button/butthole hybrid. My stomach is contorted and lumpy, and it's just.... I wasn't feeling great about myself as it is but this sets me even further back. To say I've cried over something so stupid more than once is an understatement.
So on Friday afternoon, I hobbled my way down the ramp I know so well (it's my only real memory of my time at the hospital after Lucy's birth) and went home. 

It is now almost a week since my surgery and I'm still in pain. It has definitely moved beyond the trapped air pain and it feels like every muscle in my abdomen was torn to shreds. Every organ was squished and manipulated, it feels like my ribs are broken, and it hurts to breath. I can hobble around a little more now, but sitting hurts. Laying down hurts. Using a pillow to move doesn't even help. It hurts to eat. I can pass gas and have a bowel movement OK though, and I was kind of worried. I can't dry myself after a shower. I have had to have help getting dressed. I cannot bend over, can't put my shoes on. Of course no lifting or anything that would use ab muscles, which is a lot as you can imagine. 

They sent me home with some oxycodone which is like eating Smarties and calling it a pain reliever. They don't do a dang thing for me so I only tried two and gave up. I alternate between Tylenol and Advil and those have never worked on me so I don't know why I even bother with those either. I'm just kind of using the labor breathing techniques I learned and who knew that would end up being a life skill? I just feel like crap. 

I really wanted my mom and I can't have that, and my depression is at a ridiculous low right now so I'm grateful to have therapy this week. I already struggle with independence with my medical issues and now having to have my children help me put pants on? It doesn't really do a lot to help me in anyway so I'm struggle. Which is STUPID, because it's just a stupid gallbladder. 

But. Here we are. 

So yeah- I had gallbladder surgery. No big deal. 

Bright side, hit my insurance deductible for the year, I suppose.