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?

NOPE.

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.

BUT!

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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Monday, May 11, 2020

Book Review: Wrong Turn

I have been receiving the BEST review books as of late so stick around because I promise to fill your summer reading list!

If you know me,  you know one of my favorite things are ROAD TRIPS. My family and I usually take one every summer, and since it looks like coronavirus thinks we need to sit this summer out, I jumped at the chance of a road trip romance book!
Wrong Turn - Samantha Chase

Chelsea Cooper thinks her best friend’s fiancé is the world’s biggest jerk.


She’s never really been one to make waves, but when it comes to that guy, Chelsea’s willing to make an exception. There’s just no way she can let her best friend make the biggest mistake of her life by marrying him. She’ll do anything to stop the wedding, even if it means teaming up with the one person who’s an even bigger jerk—the groom-to-be’s best friend.

Drew Russo thinks his best friend’s fiancée’s best friend is the prickliest woman alive.

Everything about Chelsea aggravates him. She’s too structured, too uptight, and too opinionated—especially when it comes to her thoughts on his best friend. When he’s tasked with keeping her away from their best friends’ secret wedding, Drew knows he’s in for one hell of a challenge. Never mind the days he’ll have to spend trapped in a car with the world’s most annoying woman.

The plan is simple enough—keep Chelsea from interfering with the wedding. But between distractions, delays and detours, they discover they aren’t the enemies they thought they were. And sometimes a wrong turn can lead you in the right direction.

I have to just start by telling you that I started and finished this one in just a few hours. I was having such a great time with this book that I've already decided that I'm a fan of this author and I need the rest of this series. All of them are stand alone, but I need more of these!

In this we have Chelsea, who comes off as kind of a stick in the mud, kind of the Debbie Downer of the group. When she finds out her best friend Bianca is engaged to Jimmy, she is less than thrilled. It doesn't seem like she dislikes Jimmy but maybe the idea of it being too quick has her worried. When Bianca and Jimmy decide to elope, and not tell Chelsea for fear she'll ruin the wedding, they enlist Jimmy's best friend Drew to keep her away.

Of course, Chelsea figures it out, so Drew hatches a plan to stall her for as long as possible. It starts with a flight that he of course misses because he "gets lost" on the highway. A few other mishaps has them taking a road trip to South Carolina for Chelsea to crash this wedding. During the trip though, Drew and Chelsea (formerly not particularly fond of each other) learn that maybe they didn't really know each other at all and this trip might leave them as friends.... or more. A wild series of shenanigans ensues with them both learning a lot about each other and themselves.

I loved this! While it doesn't have sexy details we find in a lot of romances, we get just enough to fully enjoy it. I loved the evolution of Drew and Chelsea, I loved Chelsea's big moment with Bianca. If I had to list a con, I guess I'd say more craziness on the actual trip. It was pretty seamless I thought, except for the Chesapeake Bridge incident (though, I have to be fair and say I'm team Chelsea on that and I feel like I'd do the same thing). So minor and that is me being VERY picky.

If you are looking for a fun romance, something with just enough heat to keep you satisfied, this is the one to add to your summer reading list! Absolutely 5 stars from me, this one was fun. I'm always happy to find a new author and I'm excited to read more from Samantha Chase!
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

A *huge* thank you to Social Butterfly PR and Samantha Chase for having me on this tour and sending me a copy for review!
   
This post contains affiliate links. 

Saturday, May 9, 2020

Book Review: Step Brother Dearest

I know this title is making you stop and think, "God DAMN, Sara- what is wrong with you?!" and believe me, I felt that way myself. I'm using this as my "book I swore I wouldn't read" for a book challenge I'm in because this gives me all the uncomfortable vibes.

Imagine my surprise when I finished it and kind of loved it. I feel so gross but here we are.
Step Brother Dearest - Penelope Ward

You’re not supposed to want the one who torments you.


When my stepbrother, Elec, came to live with us my senior year, I wasn’t prepared for how much of a jerk he’d be.

I hated that he took it out on me because he didn’t want to be here.
I hated that he brought girls from our high school back to his room.
But what I hated the most was the unwanted way my body reacted to him.

At first, I thought all he had going for him were his rock-hard tattooed abs and chiseled face. Then, things started changing between us, and it all came to a head one night.

Just as quickly as he’d come into my life, he was gone back to California.

It had been years since I’d seen Elec.

When tragedy struck our family, I’d have to face him again.

And holy hell, the teenager who made me crazy was now a man that drove me insane.

I had a feeling my heart was about to get broken again.

I have to start by saying that the only other book/series I've read that was anything like this was by Annie Stone and part of a series she did that was about a stepmom ending up with her step son after the husband/dad turned out to be an abusive dirtbag. That was a short trilogy but I really loved it and felt all of the feelings going through that so believe me when I say I was uncomfortable at best when I started this and quickly forgot all about it by the end and wanted Elec and Greta to end up together.

Penelope Ward is a magician like that, I swear.

OK, so in this book we have Greta, a virgin and totally inexperienced with boys. Her step brother (her step dad's son) comes to live with him and right off the bat he's an asshole to all of them but Greta is immediately attracted to him and she knows that it isn't necessarily "normal" so she tells nobody. Over time though, while Elec is still a jerk to her, they form a strained relationship. She's falling in love with him and she isn't sure if he even likes her but when he finds out he has to leave to take care of his mom, they both discover they like each other more than family.

Years later they come together over the death of Elec's dad and they realize that what was once between them wasn't a fluke and Greta has to deal with the jealousy of Elec having a girlfriend.

OK. You guys. I know the concept of this is really WEIRD and it is hard to get beyond the step thing but promise me when I tell you that in the end, it is a non issue and it'll be OK. I actually ended up really loving this book and finished it in three hours of constantly being interrupted because I couldn't stop reading it. I'm already a fan of Penelope Ward as it is so I was certain she wouldn't lead us down a weird path and she didn't. My heart broke for Elec when I learned all about his history. I wish Greta was a little more assertive in her feelings but I also understand why she wasn't, either.

I am giving this a solid 4 stars. I am knocking it down only because I felt icky for half the book and I wish there were more steamy scenes towards the end. Which makes me feel dirty and gross but here we are. HA!
⭐⭐⭐⭐
   
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Thursday, May 7, 2020

Book Review: Butterfly Bayou

Honestly, the best part of the quarantine has been all of the reading I've gotten done. Even better has been discovering some new to me authors, Lexi Blake being one of them!
Butterfly Bayou - Lexi Blake

Life in Dallas took a tragic turn for nurse practitioner Lila Daley. In need of a fresh start, she retreats to Papillon, Louisiana, a tiny town on the bayou. Sure she's greeted by a gator, finds herself in the middle of golf cart wars, and unwittingly adopts a scruffy dog, but Lila remains undaunted. She's focused on running the town's medical clinic, but fitting into the quirky community is harder than she imagined.


As a single dad, Sheriff Armie LaVigne embraces routine. But there is nothing routine about the town's newest resident. Lila is a gorgeous fish out of water and he’s ready to catch her. In fact, in no time at all, Armie knows Lila is the woman for him and he plans to win her heart. But when the past threatens their happiness, Armie will have to decide if he has the courage to trust Lila enough to find a true happily ever after.

In this sweet romance we start with Lila, who is the last person standing in a particularly violent domestic encounter in the emergency room she worked at. She watched her friend die and she realizes she needs a fresh start to move forward in her life. She leaves Dallas and heads to Papillon, Louisana where her sister lives with her new husband. (This is where it felt like there was a book before this one featuring that couple, but it says this is the first in the series, so I don't know. Regardless, its OK and you won't be confused during this one.)

Her adventure starts with meeting Otis the alligator in the middle of the road and consequently being ticketed for speeding by Sheriff Armie. Incidentally, they saw each other at Lisa (sister) and Remy's wedding but Lila was in no position to do anything so she avoided him despite the obvious chemistry. Once in town she starts her work at the clinic she has taken over from Doc Hamet, who we discover was rather lazy, and faces the uphill battle of winning over Papillon despite being a nurse practitioner versus a doctor. Her abrupt and sometimes off putting personality doesn't help her case either.

After awhile she finds her groove, starts seeing Armie, tries to make friends, and comes across a patient she suspects is a victim of domestic violence. In her attempt to help her she basically stirs up a hornets nest and while she helps someone, she puts herself in danger. Things in small Cajun communities aren't like big city Dallas. In the middle of all of this, her and Armie have some major disagreements over the role of women, he's a bit unintentionally and unknowingly sexist and she isn't here for it, but his teenage daughter Noelle (disabled and in a wheelchair) becomes a bone of contention. Lila's good intentions are read differently and that ends up being our second conflict.

Overall? I really liked this one. It's sweet and it wasn't overly sexy (I mean, we know they have sex but we don't have detailed scenes) so if that's your jam this is right up your alley. I enjoyed this enough I really want to read the next books coming, Bayou Baby and Bayou Dreaming, both featuring some characters I really liked in Butterfly Bayou. If you're looking for something to add to your summer TBR list, I think you should really consider this one.
⭐⭐⭐⭐
    
Thank you to Lexi Blake and Social Butterfly PR for sending me an ARC for review, all thoughts are my own. This post contains affiliate links.