Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Book Review: Almanac 2021

I'm having such a junk week and it's only Wednesday. I basically just want to crawl into bed and stay there. That's a totally adult thing to do, right? 

Almanac 2021 - National Geographic

The essential annual for the 21st century, this high-energy almanac is packed with facts, photos, infographics, time lines, and maps--the perfect stocking stuffer and book to browse all year long. A guide to the world like no other, this vivid and comprehensive book offers the best of National Geographic and more: science, nature, history, world cultures, geography, and the environment, illustrated with amazing photography, fascinating infographics, and maps created by expert cartographers. Highlights this year include the James Webb telescope, launching in 2021; a brand-new wildflower guide; a guided tour of the moons of our solar system; a beautiful infographic on jellyfish; and a feature on lithium, central to the work of recent Nobel prize-winning chemistry. Divided into lively chapters including Exploration & Adventure, Life on Earth, and The Science of Us, this year's almanac features top photos from National Geographic's celebrated Instagram account and geniuses past and present including Jane Goodall, Amelia Earhart, and acclaimed conservationist Kris Tompkins, dedicated to preserving much of Patagonia. With new discoveries on every page, this cutting-edge book--called a "category buster" by Booklist--brings you, as Publishers Weekly puts it, "all the things that National Geographic does best." 
I am a SUCKER for a National Geographic book or documentary, but almanacs? GIVE IT TO ME. Admittedly, this edition feels a little heavy because of the topics mentioned, but maybe that's what we need to initiate change. Climate change, coronavirus, and the future of the planet are kind of bleak, not going to lie. If you are looking for science, this is your jam. 

One of my favorite sections is the one on Reading the Clouds (page 100) because I like storms and how storms form and happen, but I also really like clouds. I've seen some strange clouds before, and I've seen some really scary clouds, so this has been interesting to try to match what I see in the sky. Also, on page 160 there is a section about wildflowers, and if you've followed me on Instagram you'll know I've taken up gardening since quarantine and I'm trying to keep them alive but also plant weird things not everyone has. I have two on the list, not including dandelion because who doesn't have that?! I also love the information about Monarch butterfly migration! My kids and I are VERY into butterflies and we have planted milkweed for next year, we nurture tons of little caterpillars into butterflies, but my kids and I totally enjoyed reading about this. (Also, we drove on the section of Hwy 35 that butterflies fly over and saw SO MANY on our way to Missouri in 2019!)

Also, shout out to NatGeo for including information about religious holidays! My children are going to be learning about each of those as we go through them. Interestingly, did you know there are only 12 days of celebrated holidays for Christianity, but Hinduism has 39 days per year? Also, it seems fitting with the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg that I really enjoyed the Woman Sufferage section. 

Overall I loved this. The best part of Almanac 2021 is that you can page through this at your leisure. You likely aren't going to sit down and read this start to finish, but you can kill some time and learn something while you're waiting for dinner to cook (or be delivered). If you need something extra, and not on the computer, for your homeschool/virtual journey, this would be AMAZING. It covers social studies, science, math, and even some English. We are already using it for discussions and learning so much. 

A huge thank you to TLC Book Tours to National Geographic for having me on this tour! I highly recommend this, but also anything National Geographic gives us, because you will learn so much. (Also the photography is always stunning so even if you aren't going to read words, the photos will get you.)
This post contains affiliate links. 


Monday, September 28, 2020

Book Reviews: Perfect Wreckage

Happy Monday! What is on your calendar for this week? I have a LOT going on: I have an appointment with pain management I'm not thrilled about, the dog needs a hair cut (badly), Olivia starts physical therapy for her knees, and I'm actually participating in an online conference that I'm nervous but excited for. 

Perfect Wreckage - Catherine Cowles

My past taught me to play it safe.
To stay far away from handsome men who promised it all.
My life was good without them. Stable, secure, predictable.

But one kiss showed me that I’d been playing it safe for far too long.
One night, and all I wanted was more of his wildfire.
One challenge and my carefully constructed walls tumbled down.

Amidst the rubble, I realized there was more to this man than I ever dreamed.
When everything fell apart, he showed me what it meant to stay.
How to truly live.

But when my demons return, that life might end up shorter than either of us expected…
You might recognize this author from other reviews I've done both for Reckless Memories and Beautiful Broken Control. I loved both of those so when I saw that Perfect Wreckage was up for review, I absolutely jumped at it. Imagine my squeal when I actually got on the tour and received the book. 

I scared the dog, you guys. 

I am a sucker for a romance with two people who are basically messes but they get better together. Just know going into this that it is going to hook you and you will not put it down. 

In this one we have Kenna, the product of basically a loser mom, but fortunate enough to be taken on by Harriet. In her teen years, her first love is Grant (Harriet's grandson) and he turns out to be an absolute douchebag, and her world is turned upside down. Months later she would be devastated again and it would change the course of her life and close her off. She believes everyone will eventually leave her, so she doesn't let anyone in and she doesn't make plans with people, and she's convinced this is the best way to lead her life. Once Harriet dies (calm down, its not a spoiler, you know she's old and sick almost right away), that puts her into a tailspin. Her housing is in limbo but Grant comes back to town. She clearly has no desire to have anything to do with him but he (and his family) are a threat to the life she has built herself. They promise to make her life hell and she's absolutely positive that everything is going to be ruined because she's the daughter of a town drunk, surely she can't be better than that. 

Enter Crosby. Crosby and Kenna have chemistry and while they've got a little something going on, Crosby is also her lawyer and the one to defend her against Grant and his family. He doesn't know anything about her past and doesn't know why she is the way she is, but he knows he's interested. Well, just for casual fun, he's got his own crappy past and he's certain he isn't down for long term relationships or having a family of his own, but he's not really telling all of the details of why to Kenna either. 

OK, so I'm not going to be able to give you a lot more without ruining some key plot points, but I LOVED THIS BOOK. Catherine Cowles has cemented herself onto my list of favorite authors. I couldn't put this book down, and I loved Crosby so much. My heart broke for Kenna at the beginning and I could understand her need for absolute control, but I will say.... the fact that she wouldn't rely on Bell and Caelyn (her best friends) was confusing to me. Bell and Caelyn have been there for her for YEARS so you'd think that alone would reassure her that they could be trusted and she could let them in.. so that bothered me a bit. Also, she doesn't want people to make assumptions about her based on information they heard, but she's willing to do just that with Crosby, and that hypocritical bit rubbed me wrong. 

I loved Crosby, have I mentioned that?! His persistence on taking Kenna on adventures and trying so hard to help her expand her horizons, but also how he is a rock for her when she needs it. He doesn't question why she needs something, he just is there, he just does. 

*Swoon*

I really loved this book and I have to tell you, I CANNOT WAIT for Caelyn's story in Wrecked Palace, because this trilogy is everything for me. I will read anything Catherine Cowles gives me, that's where I'm at. Absolutely 5 stars, I was legit disappointed when this one was finished. Sadsies. I am so grateful Social Butterfly PR and Catherine Cowles had me on this tour and sent me an ARC for review! I wish I had recorded the dog's response when I squealed and scared him, but there's always next time, right!? 

Sunday, September 27, 2020

Book Review: Everyone Dies Famous

I'm in a depressive slump and I feel like I'm dropping the ball all over the place. I was supposed to share this with you on Friday, but here we are. I'm trying to get it together. 

Everyone Dies Famous - Len Joy

As a tornado threatens their town, a stubborn old man who has lost his son teams up with a troubled young soldier to deliver a jukebox to the wealthy developer having an affair with the soldier's wife.

It's July 2003 and the small town of Maple Springs, Missouri is suffering through a month-long drought. Dancer Stonemason, a long-forgotten hometown hero still grieving over the death of his oldest son, is moving into town to live with his more dependable younger son. He hires Wayne Mesirow, an Iraq war veteran, to help him liquidate his late son's business.

The heat wave breaks and the skies darken. Dancer tries to settle an old score while Wayne discovers the true cost of his wife's indifference and turns his thoughts to revenge. When the tornado hits Maple Springs, only one of the men will make it out alive.
Are you a fan of Humans of New York? Currently there is a 32 part story about an elderly woman that had a really tragic, but completely compelling story, and I can't stop checking for updates. 

This book kind of reminded me of that. 

I wasn't really sure what to expect with this, and the cover doesn't necessarily pull me in. The description is accurate but.. it felt lacking something. When I read the book, I could NOT put this down. The story, the narrative never relented, I didn't feel like it slowed down, I really couldn't stop reading this. (That's really saying something too, because in a depressive slump like I'm in now, I have a hard time sticking with things, but I was with this the entire time.) I loved the ending of this, though my heart broke a little because anytime you read a story like this, you just connect with characters. We know from the description only one makes it but STILL. Plus having this entire story happening with the threat of this tornado lurking just adds another layer that makes you want people to get a move on, and each delay or change makes you feel just like the characters do and I appreciated that a lot. Also, if you are a sucker for a story featuring veterans, or even one about redemption, you will like this. 

Overall? I'm giving this one a 4.5 stars, I just wanted.. a little bit more, maybe even just an epilogue would have made this a 5 for me. I really wanted to know where the characters were a year later, or even six months down the road. By the end of this book I felt invested into everyone and all of the stories of each person, so I think you'll get hooked, too. 

A huge thank you to FSB Associates and Len Joy for having me on this tour and providing a copy of the book for review. I don't know this is one I would have picked up at a bookstore, but I'm really glad I read it.
 

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Book Review: Breathe Again

I have the first PTO meeting of the year at my younger girls' school tonight, but I have to talk about this book. I feel like 2020 is the perfect year to do some introspection, what with all of our free time and such, and this was a good one to get into for that. 

Breathe Again - Stacy Henagan

What Do You Do When It Seems God Hasn’t Come Through for You?

When the miracle-working God whom Pastor Stacy Henagan loved and served did not answer the prayers on behalf of her terminally ill one-year-old daughter as expected, she was left crushed with grief and struggling to understand.

How could a loving God allow this to happen?
What do you do when it seems God has let you down?
Is God trustworthy?
Rather than choosing to remain in overwhelming pain and doubt, Stacy emerged with a much greater belief that God is good and trustworthy, even when we don’t think His plans make sense.
If there is anyone that can say she feels like life has legitimately left me broken, it is me. I cannot tell you how many times I have gone to bed wondering why this is the hand I'm dealt. I no longer believe the "God gives you what you can handle" because that just feels cruel and something a sociopath would say as they torture you. 

I cannot say that I have ever experienced the loss of a child, I haven't even come close to that, so I don't know that grief and I don't know those feelings. Normally I shy away from stories that deal with this because child loss is a huge fear of mine; however, the overwhelming theme of the story is overcoming tragedy and moving forward, and that is something I feel like we can all use. 

The story is really heartbreaking start to finish (at least for me) and while I think I could agree a lot of her feelings after her daughter passed away.. I couldn't connect. I will say that I am not a particularly religious person and I don't necessarily believe in God. When someone says the hole in the heart is filled with Jesus, I don't know what that means. I think even more so now, post brain injury, the concept of this is beyond my reach so there were parts of this book that didn't make sense to me, but I feel like that is fully on me. I think if you practice in your faith and have faithful convictions, this will read like a powerful sermon. It would be almost expected to sound like a sermon since the author and her husband are pastors of a church they founded in Arkansas. 

Easily, my favorite part of this book isn't the hope, or strength in her faith, the best part was it highlighted the internal struggle of parents following the death of a child. She talks about every phase of grief, but also talks about how grief doesn't have an end, it just moves between the phases as the years go on, but you never stop. I loved that because, though my situation is 100% different, I've felt that people get frustrated, sometimes angry, when I get upset when I can't do something. Old Sara could, and it is forever going to upset me in some way when I hit a brick wall and am faced with yet another thing I can't do. I am still grieving what was, and in every sense of the concept, my previous self completely died that day, and I'm learning my new self. It is really hard to give ourselves grace, and the author mentions that as well. 

Overall, I thought this was a lovely book. It was a solid 3 star for me because I liked it but I'm not sure it is one I would read again. It is definitely one I am going to pass to a friend who has lost a child and still has good days and bad days, too. I think if you are strong in your faith this would be a powerful read for you, even if you haven't experienced this kind of loss, I'm sure you have experienced a loss that rocked your world and this would be good for you. 

Thank you to TLC Book Tours and Thomas Nelson Publishing for having me on this tour and sending me a copy for review. 

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Book Review: Unlocking: A Memoir of Family and Art

Is anyone else proud of me for taking on so many non-fiction books this year?! I'm out of control! Even better? I have quite a few more for the rest of the year and I feel like this might be my record year for them. I'm definitely not hating it because I have read some great ones, so that's definitely been the bonus for me. 

Unlocking: A Memoir of Family and Art - Nancy L. Pressly

While recovering from a near fatal illness, Nancy Pressly discovers a treasure trove of family material stored in her attic. Haunted by images of her grandparents and her parents in their youth, she sets out to create a family narrative before it is lost forever. It takes several more years before she summons the courage to reconstitute a path back to her own past, slowly pulling back the veil of amnesia that has, until now, all but obliterated her memory of her childhood.

In this sensitive and forgiving meditation on the meaning of family, Pressly unravels family dynamics and life in a small rural town in the 1950s that so profoundly affected her—then moves forward in time, through to her adulthood. With an eye attuned to visual detail, she relates how she came into her own as a graduate student in the tumultuous sixties in New York; examines how she assumed the role of caretaker for her family as she negotiated with courage and resilience the many health setbacks, including her own battle with pancreatic cancer, that she and her husband encountered; and evokes her interior struggle as a mother as she slowly traverses the barriers of expectations, self-doubt, and evolving norms in the 1980s to embrace a remarkable life as a scholar, champion of contemporary art, and nationally recognized art museum strategic planning consultant. Full of candor and art-inspired insight, Unlocking leaves the reader with a deep appreciation of the power of art and empathy and the value of trying to understand one’s life journey.
Some of my favorite things are old photos and learning about the stories of people who came before us. It is weird sometimes to think the day-to-day boring details of my life might someday be interesting or strange to someone else. Maybe my great, great grandkids will think it is strange we had cell phones and cars, and see a picture of my car and think it's the most weird thing they've ever seen. It's always after I read books like this that I feel the urgency to start a diary to document stories of how we live life right now in 2020 (and wouldn't this be the year to start, right?!) but also take photos of everything. Heck, maybe refrigerators will be weird in sixty years! 

I was also drawn to this book because the author kind of digs deep into all of this with her family after a serious illness and she uses that time to dive into her family's history. I loved it. First off, the fact she had access to any of these kinds of records, photos, and information is astounding to me. I have no idea what my grandparents would still have, but I know my mom really doesn't have much (that I know of) that would help me piece together a family history. Second off, the author mentions she has so many questions she would have liked to have asked people before they passed away and I just wish there was a master list so that I would know what to ask! I don't know what I will wish I had known, if that makes sense. 

The best part of the book for me with the social relevance of her family's story to today's political climate. Her family were Jewish and left eastern Europe in the early 1900's (which the story of that alone is amazing, which was great timing for them given what would happen not long after. The history of them arriving in America, not just the process of doing that which was interesting, but what life was like once they settled into New York. The jobs they would take, how dangerous and difficult life was even in the best of circumstances but even that was decidedly better than what they came from. Stories like that are always fascinating to me because we complain of minor things like bike lanes being annoying (that's the popular complaint where I live because we're bougie like that apparently), but there were people working in absolutely unsafe, incredibly dangerous working conditions like it was no big deal. You just did it because it's not like McDonald's was hiring down the road. 

I have to also say that I was finishing this on the day Ruth Bader Ginsburg passed away and somehow, it felt fitting. The author spends a good chunk of the book writing about her life and the struggles she had as a working mother but also being great in her line of work, and the difficulties of "having it all" without feeling guilty, but also, is that even possible? I think we all struggle with that so if you are a mother for sure this is one you might really enjoy.

I absolutely loved this book and it's probably fully because I like dreading about other people's history and being fully nosy, so if you're like me and enjoy that as well (no judgment) you will really like this. I'm also incredibly intrigued by old photos, or other people's photos in general (so yes, I'm on Instagram and Facebook looking at your photos, fight me) so I love that so many are included in this book, having a face to put to names was pretty amazing and I loved it. 

I'm curious to know, have you ever gone through and made a timeline or written down a family history? I guess I had never really put much thought into it but this book makes me want to do that while I still have the opportunity to do it with some of my family, so if you've done it, what kind of questions would you say are the most important? 

Thank you to TLC Book Tours for having me on this tour also to She Writes Press and Nancy Pressly for sending me a copy of Unlocking for review. 
 
This post contains affiliate links. 

Monday, September 21, 2020

September Check In

First off, I can't remember everything we did in September so far, but I feel like it has been a lot but also nothing at all, if that makes sense? When I list it out it seems like a lot but when I think back day to day, we've kind of done nothing? I've taken naps. That happened. Anyways. Let's talk about some things I vaguely remember because I have found sticky notes reminding me to write about them. Thank you, past Sara. 

School started September 1 and I know it is different and weird, but so far, so good. Lucy is in 4K (basically preschool) but she only gets to go two full days a week. I think she's the one most bummed about this, she would go every day if she could. I try to do school stuff with her when Penelope is at school but apparently, I am not as fun as her teachers. 
Penelope is in kindergarten this year and she was SO ready. Last year she was so shy and reluctant to go into the building, she'd cry on the playground, but this year? See ya, mom! She is a big kid and wants no help. Which is so great! She gets to go to school four days a week but have some work to do on the day they are off, which is just fine. She gets a school assigned tablet and she is all about it. She really took great pride showing us how to turn it on, log in, find her things on it, I was so impressed. 
Jackson is still at the middle school for seventh grade. I feel like it has been a bit of a bumpy start. He only goes two days a week as well but most of his friends are on the opposite days so having to find new people to hang out with, while maintaining good friendships, plus learning and adapting to a new way of school is hard. 
Olivia is in high school this year, a freshman. It feels so weird to say I have a high schooler, but I couldn't be more proud. She also goes two days a week, she's in Upward Bound and has mandatory tutoring sessions on Wednesdays but also a once a month Saturday thing, she works M-W in the mornings, she's in dance, she's just a little whirlwind. She's juggling it all really well, and soon she will have to start the ninth grade portion of her senior project. 
I haven't posted a whole lot lately but I'm still doing the weight loss thing. I am so close to hitting my goal of 160. I am crediting 10% of it to my walking routine and 90% of it to having a digestive system that isn't functioning well and nobody knows why. I can hardly eat. Right now I know I should eat, the thought of doing so makes me want to throw up. Honestly, if I start looking in the fridge for food I'll start to gag and maybe even throw up. It's horrible. I almost never feel hungry, and when I do eat I try to get protein in because I know I need it. I used to really like making my own salad but if you've never thrown up romaine lettuce within minutes of eating, consider yourself lucky, because it is awful. I haven't eaten a salad in at least two months because of it. My gastro doctor has essentially given up and is now sending me to pain management. The pain in my abdomen area does hurt, but I feel like the not eating but also non stop diarrhea (despite not eating, you'd think it would stop but SURPRISE, it does not) is more of an issue. What the heck do I know? 

I do know that I am now a size 12, which is where I was at when I got married so I honestly think I could fit into my wedding dress if I had to! This picture is me trying on jeans and not crying in a changing room. It was very exciting. 
I finished my last kit that I bought early quarantine! I don't love it, but it is cute enough to go on my wall! I am thinking about hand making Christmas cards again this year, I don't know if I have the ability to organize that like I used to, though. 
Oh yes, Olivia turned 15. She turned 15, I'm trying to figure out the cost of driver's ed so I can pay for that at some point. She's doing so much at her age and I am so stinking proud of her. Matt and I could not be more thrilled with how she's growing up. As our oldest she's kind of the test kid (sorry, babe!) so we're basically winging it, thankfully she takes it in stride. 
Oh yes, Penelope wants me to show you her cool mask and that she likes using baking sheets at school. Did I mention she's already doing math? This weekend she showed me how she does math on her fingers and I was like, dang! She's so smart and she knows it. She's also just the sweetest and some days when I get her she says, "I was thinking about you, I bet you knew that!" and I just want to squeeze her guts. 

Other than that, I can't think of anything? I've firmly settled into a depression low so I've ignored my phone mostly and taken naps because I don't feel like I'm mentally awake enough to engage with people. Does that make sense? I keep saying it feels like when you're on the verge of sleep, or you wake up in the middle of the night but are still half asleep? That's how I feel everyday. Last week I had an appointment with neurology and I didn't feel safe to drive at all because I was in that half asleep phase. Matt had to leave work to take me. I'm lucky he can do that, but I'm also grateful that I'm at least cognizant enough to know I shouldn't be driving. 

Alright. Happy Monday. I paid bills (even though I woke up in the middle of the night because I thought FOR SURE I've paid things on the wrong days and I really have to make two car payments today, turns out I'm just nuts) so we're broke (yay for consistency). Trying to pay down debt is so hard. 

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Book Review: My Fallen Saint

I feel like the rest of this week is going to be bananas so I'm starting a new book (a thriller) tonight and maybe I'll finish it for Friday. We'll see. Today though? You're going to like it. 

My Fallen Saint - J. Kenner

His touch is her sin.

Her love is his salvation.

Charismatic. Confident. Powerful. Controlling.

A brilliant investor with a Midas touch, Devlin Saint turned a modest inherited fortune into billions, and now operates one of the world’s foremost international philanthropic organizations. He’s a man determined to help the underprivileged, to fight injustice, and to make the world a better place. And that, at least is true.

It’s not, however, the full truth.

Because Devlin Saint is a man with a dangerous secret. One he’ll do whatever it takes to protect. And when investigative reporter Ellie Holmes turns her attention to an unsolved murder, she finds herself caught in a web of intrigue and passion as Devlin draws her closer and closer. But as the intensity and sensuality of their relationship grows, so do Ellie’s suspicions. Until she is no longer certain if the heat between her and Devlin is real, or only a facade he constructed to hide his dark and twisted secrets.
Do you remember forever ago when BDSM books became a thing, and suddenly the romance genre in general kind of blew up and got super popular again? We were all looking for our next author that could do it well, and of all of them, J. Kenner was at the top of my list. It isn't whips and spreader bars but it's equally hot but also has the emotional pull to it, and I discovered her with Release Me. I feel like a lot of us did, so when I saw she had a new series coming, I absolutely jumped on board because I knew this would be good and IT WAS. 

In this book we have Ellie, she's a reporter now but she used to be a cop and that was because she has an entire history of people dying or taking off on her. Her dad and her uncle were both murdered, and the love of her life took her virginity and then disappeared. She's gone over a decade not handling the trauma of any of it, and she spends a lot of time thinking about Alex and wondering why he would just up and leave. 

Fast forward to now, she's having to go back to the city it all began, the one she ran away from, to do an article on this charitable organization with an elusive man at the helm. I'm just going to leave you there because I am 99% sure anyone with a brain already knows where that story line is going. The story doesn't end there, Ellie is also there to find out more about her uncle's death and see what he got himself involved in before his death. A whole LOT of secrets come tumbling at her throughout the book, let's put it that way. 

I have to talk about the good and the bad. The good, I loved Devlin Saint, he's good and he's a tough cookie to crack but it is very clear he has it bad for Ellie. I loved his organization and the work they are doing, even though I think they maybe have something else going on and I'm not sure that I'm going to love that, but we'll see. The bad, I really don't like Ellie. I shouldn't say that. It's not Ellie so much but she is coming of as a little over the top. She's obsessive, she's terrible at reading between the lines, she's completely oblivious to the potential danger for her. I can't tell if she's actually that stupid and haven't watched enough Law & Order or if she's just stubborn with a death wish. I mean, jury's out there I suppose. The rehashing of what Alex did and how she felt about that got to be a little bit much, by mid-book WE KNOW what he did, I don't need a reminder every time she's feeling some kind of way. 

Overall though? I really enjoyed it. Enough that I am really excited and anxious for book two. I felt like we had conclusions, but there is a bit of a cliff hanger here, enough that made me say, "WHAT NOW?!" out loud. The book had the right amount of suspense, we've got a dangerous undercurrent going through it, we have a solid best friend in Brandy, plus the intimacy between Devlin and Ellie is pretty great and worth the read. Nobody is being whipped but someone is tied to the bed, how's that for a rating scale? 

Thank you to Social Butterfly PR for having me on this tour! 
This post contains affiliate links.

Monday, September 14, 2020

Book Review: Miss Understood

Happy Monday! I know, Mondays are gross, but we're going to go into today hoping for the best, alright? I have a really busy week and I'm half excited to have things to do, a set schedule, but also already overwhelmed and wanting to just cover my head with a pillow. So I'm going to get through the week, and I have a few book reviews for you this week and maybe some other fun posts, so stay tuned for those!

Miss Understood - Miranda Elaine and Amie Knight

I've waited my whole life to catch her. They call her a criminal. A con-woman. A thief and too wild for her own good. But me? I just call her mine. --Officer Nathan Trent.

He's one of the good guys. Honorable. Reliable. I’ve loved him since we were kids. But there's no way I’ll let my wild ways tarnish his squeaky clean reputation. No matter how badly I wish he was mine. --Tillie Coletrain
Full stop, this is book two in a duet and I really think you have to read the first book, Miss Apprehended. Just know that going in. Don't let that overwhelm you because both books are less than 100 pages each so you will fly through both of these in a day.

You also need to go into these knowing these are a bit over the top in an absurd way. Is it reasonable to get married to someone in a day? No, that's nuts. The absurdity of it is what makes it fun and its what makes you laugh, and frankly, that is the kind of book we need right now. 

The story revolves around Tillie, basically the town's white trash bouncing checks all over town. Nate is a police officer charged with bringing her to justice. Well, he does that and it's hot but also unrealistic at minimum. We find out why Tillie is the way she is, and like her sister, she's kind of an idiot who doesn't understand that other people can and will help you. 

Overall, this was fun, I laughed a few times, and I really liked Nate the most. If I had to give a critique, I kind of wish there was more between Nate and Tillie. I feel like there was more between our main characters in book one, but this isn't a deal breaker. Also? Hannah! I want more of Hannah, especially after this story, what the heck?! Haha! 

I gave book one a 5 star, but this one is only a 4 star for me, it didn't feel as strong as the first one. It was still fun, it helped get me through my crappy mood yesterday. If you need a solid pick me up, or you are trying to hit your Goodreads goal and need some shorter books, these would be a fun duo to get into. 

Thank you to Social Butterfly PR for having me on this tour and sending me ARC's of both books!

This post contains affiliate links. 

Sunday, September 13, 2020

Book Review: The Wreckage of Us

I am so behind in life right now, so I'm late on this. I am and I hate it. I hate it because I loved this book so I should be shouting it from the rooftops. Sigh. 

The Wreckage of Us - Brittainy Cherry

I know I should stay away from Ian Parker.

But when my drug-dealing stepdad kicks me out, I have nowhere to go. Squatting in an abandoned shed on Ian’s grandpa’s farm seems like as good a plan as any.

Ian finds me there, of course, and he insists on me moving into his spare room. I should say no, but the appeal of a roof and a warm bed is too much. Not to mention Ian’s brown eyes and strong arms.

We’re nothing alike, but the spark between us is undeniable. My life is finally looking up.

Until I call the cops on my stepdad and unintentionally get my pregnant mom arrested.

Now I have to sacrifice my dreams to take care of my mom’s baby. She’s the only family I have left. Meanwhile, Ian’s band is taking off; his dreams are coming true.

Ian is my one chance at love. I just hope he doesn’t become the one chance that got away. 
If you've been around here for awhile you know that I am a huge Brittainy Cherry fan so I jump at the chance for any and everything she does. I've yet to be disappointed by her books and this is another home run for me. 

We have Hazel, who right away you know she has a pretty awful home life. She's 17, her mother is a drug addict, she's basically taking care of her and her mother's husband, Charlie. Charlie is bad news, he's the town drug dealer and he's violent and it's said that he would have violated Hazel if only she was a bit more feminine. One day she gets kicked out and finds herself basically squatting at the ranch owned by Ian Parker's grandparents. She's recently started working there and it is fairly clear her and Ian don't get along. Ian blames Hazel's parents for getting his parents hooked on meth, which caused them to abandon him as a young boy, and now he's forced to train her on the ranch.  

Over time though, things start changing and as Ian gets to know Hazel and realizes she isn't the villain that he's imagined her to be, the attraction grows for both of them. In the middle of all of this, Ian is the lead singer of The Wreckage, who are on the verge of really making it big. Can their relationship survive fame amidst their pasts? 

I don't know why I thought this was going to be a short book because it comes in around 360ish pages, so I did not give myself enough time to read and that's on me. It very loosely reminded me of the book Drive by Kate Stewart and that is great because that is one of my favorite books. I loved Hazel, even though she makes a really ridiculous decision towards the end and when characters do that kind of thing. I also really liked Ian, and I felt like he wasn't as stubborn as men usually are in romance stories and I really appreciated that. 

If I had to pick flaws, I would say the end of Charlie's story was kind of rushed. It was like one second they've got a plan, and then boom it's done and we're moving on. I would have liked to have more of an event for that. Same with Garrett, that felt like it was just kind of dropped? At least I don't remember anything with that, so this could fully be on me. I did love the quieter theme that sometimes your dreams change and its OK. 

Overall? I loved this and I always get sad when I know the book is ending because Brittainy Cherry always creates great characters and a story that you become emotionally invested in. I feel like I have a personal connection to the story and that alone is amazing. Definitely a 5 star from me. 

A huge thank you to Social Butterfly PR for having me on this tour, I will rave about Brittainy Cherry until I die because her books are always an emotional ride. 

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Thursday, September 10, 2020

Book/Movie Review: Words on Bathroom Walls

My friend Tammy and I wanted to go see a movie, so I suggested Words on Bathroom Walls because I was going to read the book soon. Naturally, I had to read the book before I could see the movie, and I was happy to get the book done in a day. We went to see the movie last night, so lets talk about both. 

WORDS ON BATHROOM WALLS - Julia Walton

When you can't trust your mind, trust your heart.

Adam is a pretty regular teen, except he's navigating high school life while living with paranoid schizophrenia. His hallucinations include a cast of characters that range from the good (beautiful Rebecca) to the bad (angry Mob Boss) to the just plain weird (polite naked guy). An experimental drug promises to help him hide his illness from the world. When Adam meets Maya, a fiercely intelligent girl, he desperately wants to be the normal, great guy that she thinks he is. But as the miracle drug begins to fail, how long can he keep this secret from the girl of his dreams?
I know next to nothing about schizophrenia other than it is scary to have, scary to be with someone in the thick of it, and there is no cure. I wanted to read this just so I could learn a little more, even if it is fictionalized, but the perspective of a teenage boy going through it is what sold me. 

In this book, which is written as a diary, we have Adam. Adam is in a drug trial for a new medicine to treat schizophrenia. I won't go into a whole lot because I think you really need to read it as it happens because its important to the feel and flow of the story. I will tell you it was heartbreaking as a mother to read this and know that this could be happening to my child and what is there I can do? I can bring you to doctors and provide medication and therapy but beyond that, parents are unable to fix something like this. As someone who deals with mental illness myself (depression, anxiety, PTSD, suicidal ideation) I did not expect to have so much of this hit close to home. I really didn't think any of it would be something that I could relate to but I was really very wrong. 
"So I didn't think of death as a sad thing. I didn't fear it the way other people do, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. It was only ever bad when I craved it because being me was exhausting. Death seemed like a release that I was too cowardly to reach for because of my family. Even if i could settle on a method that didn't repulse me, I could never have put my mom through the pain of finding my body." -page 144
"You lose your secrets when you let people get too close." -page 152
"Glorious sleep. I'd forgotten how good it feels to just let yourself die for ten hours." - page 257
When reading the book Adam describes the people only he sees, the sounds/things only he hears/sees and that's bad enough. The movie does a GREAT job recreating this, to the point where I could feel what he felt on screen. The fear of the noise, seeing the black cloud come, knowing that an episode is going to happen but being completely helpless. You can feel his desperation of wanting to be "normal" and just his general helplessness of the situation. 

To be frank, I cried through the entire movie because I knew how this would unravel (the movie was a bit different from the book of course) and you could really see his spiral. I think being able to relate to him and his mom at the same time probably didn't help me, either. I will say the parts where the voices are telling him how awful he is, how he should just do everyone a favor and kill himself, that was well done. I can say that as someone who deals with the SAME voices myself day in and day out. It really isn't a matter of "don't listen to them" because they just get louder. It really is like someone behind you in your ear telling you to kill yourself, how to do it, when, where, just do it already, etc. On bad days it is all day. 

Overall? I loved both. I felt like both covered the topic really well in a way that teens (and even adults) could understand the topic. The movie did a great job recreating some of the symptoms which makes it easier to understand, especially if you never experienced anything like this. Both had humor that doesn't leave it feeling like an emotionally brutal experience. I also really like how both talked about the side effects of a lot of mental health drugs, how you can become resistant, and how we often live with awful effects for just a little relief in our heads. In both the book and movie it talks/shows the tremors in hands and legs and I remember having that on our way back from Florida when Lucy was almost one. It was awful, and I had to stop that drug because I couldn't handle it. I was on another where it was full body tremors and someone asked me if I had Parkinson's, it was that bad. Matt said even at night I would shake and the whole bed would shake. I couldn't eat without making a mess because to get a spoon to your mouth when everything is shaking is pretty hard. Mentally, it was the best I had felt but the tremors were just too much. 

If you are looking for a great young adult (truly, adults will like this, too) or your teen needs a new read, have them read this and then go see the movie. Trust me. 

This post contains affiliate links. 

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Book Review: In Case You Missed It

I am so confused on what day of the week it is anymore. Ugh. Today has been kind of crappy, we had to put one of our cats down and I'm so sad about it. We are down to one cat and one dog, and the remaining cat is older and honestly, I'm not sure how long he'll be around either. 

Let's cheer up or at least not be a sad sack! I have a book that will make you laugh throughout!

In Case You Missed It - Lindsey Kelk

When Ros steps off a plane after four years away she’s in need of a job, a flat and a phone that actually works. And, possibly, her old life back. Because everyone at home has moved on, her parents have reignited their sex life, she’s sleeping in a converted shed and she’s got a bad case of nostalgia for the way things were.

Then her new phone begins to ping with messages from people she thought were deleted for good. Including one number she knows off by heart: her ex’s.

Sometimes we’d all like the chance to see what we’ve been missing…
Listen, if you are desperately in need of something light and fun, Lindsey Kelk is where its at and this book is what will get you there. I loved this book and found myself laughing throughout. If you are a 30something wondering if you on the wrong path, or maybe you just miss your 20s, this book is going to get you in the feels. 

We start with Ros, she's at a bit of an impasse with her life. Her job in Washington D.C. didn't pan out as planned, so when she returns back to the UK, her friends are ecstatic to have her home. She can't keep thinking her ex was the one that got away, she's feeling a little left behind because her friends all have grown up lives happening, and her parents have her living in an actual shed (with a composting toilet, no less) while they are reviving their sex life. You guys, her awkwardness about this is all of us when we think of our parents having sex. She's going through this weird quarter life crisis kind of phase and its almost painful to watch her wade through it because we all know her ex is a loser, and her friends know he's a loser, but sometimes we hang onto the vision something could be. 

The interesting theme about this book is that nobody really has life figured out. Matt and I were just talking about this, how as kids we assumed our parents knew everything (but also nothing, of course) because they were adults. They were always supposed to know what to do. As adults with children ourselves, it has quickly become obvious that they were as clueless as we are now. We have no idea what we're doing at all. So watching Ros kind of come to these realizations throughout the book is something we can all really relate to. 

Also, the descriptions of her mother's rather provocative clothing and boobs breaking free is just everything. Also!! The way she meets John is kind of hilarious and I picture it every time I think of this book. 

I will say, I felt like it was a little slow in spots and Ros was almost getting on my nerves by the end. At some point a person has to just smarten up, right? If everyone thinks someone is a terrible fit for you, wouldn't you take the time to really figure out why? Also, the second mini story about her new job with a teen gaming sensation starting a podcast was just a little off and I couldn't get into it. 

Even with that, I'm giving this one a solid 4 stars because I really thought it was fun, it was great to fall into as I worried incessantly about the start of the school year. A huge thank you to Harper360 for sending this gem to me for review! I have a giveaway for this on my Instagram page, so head over there to win your very own copy... because free books are amazing, right? This post contains affiliate links.

Monday, September 7, 2020

Book Review: Leif and the Fall

Happy Labor Day! (Unless you aren't in the US, which of course it wouldn't be Labor Day for you, so happy Monday?) My kids have no school today so I'm not real sure what the plan is. Maybe we'll try to do something. Or maybe I'll try to read more because I have a few books to review for you this week! 

Oh you guys.... do you know how much I love children's literature? I love it so much. It isn't so much because I have kid of my own, but of course that is part of it, but also because sometimes they teach big things in the easiest, simplest ways and children just absorb it. Sometimes as adults we can't even grasp the concepts because we think of all the "what ifs" whereas kids just get it. I think that is one of the best things about being a kid, things are easier. Usually, of course. 

Leif and the Fall - Adam Grant * Allison Sweet Grant

Leif is a leaf. A worried leaf. It is autumn, and Leif is afraid to fall. "All leaves fall in the fall," say the other leaves. But Leif is determined to find a different way down, and with his friend Laurel, he uses the resources around him to create a net, a kite, a parachute in hopes of softening his landing. The clock is ticking, the wind is blowing. What will happen when a gust of wind pulls Leif from his branch? In a culture that prizes achievement, kids are often afraid to fail--failing to realize that some of the very ideas that don't work are steps along the path to ones that will.
I saw this book advertised on Goodreads, I think, and I added it to my shelf because I thought this would be a great fall read for Penelope and Lucy. Surprisingly, we don't have that many fall centered books but when I saw this is certainly fall centered but it has a deeper conversation to it? I need this. 

In this book we have Leif who is a leaf. He's a really nervous/worried leaf (which is kind of like my Penelope) and he's worried about falling from his tree and potentially getting hurt but also, its kind of scary to just fall from a tree. He has a friend (Laurel) who is really kind of starts brainstorming with him all of the ways he could prevent himself from falling from the tree. While each attempt fails, Leif starts to get discouraged and the other leaves taunt him and are basically saying there is no point in even trying, you won't succeed no matter way. Well, Leif does fall from the tree of course, but the ending isn't terrible and it turns out all of his failed ideas worked out in the end. 

I love that this book covers perseverance, the importance of creativity and ingenuity, it also shows what its like to be a good friend like Laurel, and how to ignore the bullies and people who put you down. I wasn't sure if Penelope and Lucy (ages five and four) would really pick out all of those pieces at their ages, but I was pleasantly surprised! Penelope said sometimes she feels like Leif (this was a big deal, she's never admitted to being shy/scared before so the fact she recognized the comparison was pretty great) but she also had thought of ways that maybe his ideas could have really worked for him. Lucy was more upset about the "mean leafs" (v's are a bit tricky for her still, haha!) and she wanted Laurel to tell them to be nice to him. 

All three of us really loved the illustrations by Merrilee Liddiard, and parents- I highly suggest you start pointing out the author and the illustrator when you read a book to kiddos! Penelope always asks me, "And who is the illustrator, mom?" if I forget (and I'm guilty of that sometimes). The illustrations are really pretty. If you are a teacher in the lower grades this would be a really fun classroom read that you could easily pair with some leaf sensory activities or maybe even have the supplies for them to try some of the ideas Leif have really see if they would work or not (and why). 

I really loved this one and Penelope said she'd give it "ten bajillion stars" but Goodreads doesn't work that way, so we're going to go with 5, this will definitely be a staple read in our home. 

Thank you to Penguin Random House and Dial Books for sending me a copy of Leif and the Fall for review, my mini reviewers were enthusiastic in their listening duties! Leif and the Fall goes on sale TOMORROW, so if your favorite book store doesn't carry it, ask them too! Mention it to your library, too!

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Thursday, September 3, 2020

Book Review: Miss Apprehended

Happy Thursday! The end of the week is near, you guys and I am so excited about it. I am absolutely exhausted and I was hoping we would be able to do nothing but instead... we've got stuff happening. We have Olivia's birthday (fifteen!!!), we have to move some stuff out of the garage, figure out a solution for heating the front porch over winter so it can remain usable space, and I really want to paint a basement wall so Matt can finally get a laundry sink put in. 

No relaxing for us. 

I do have plans to read though! If you are looking for something quick and fun, I've got one for you. 

Miss Apprehended - Amie Knight & Miranda Elaine

I’ve got ninety-nine problems and all of them begin and end with the Coletrain twins.

Especially Millie Coletrain.

I don’t know whether to kiss her or spank her.

Either way, she’s mine.

Warning: This is an erotic novella with laugh-out-loud ridiculousness, insta-love, a smart-mouthed heroine, and an over-the-top alpha bail bondsman.

Before I even get into this, let's just be upfront, OK? You will read this in an hour, maybe two if you're slow. It's a novella and if you get bored with long books or just have a hard time staying focused on them, I think you need to get yourself into the novella fan club. Seriously. Novellas are a great size, and I think we can all appreciate that feeling when you finish a book. So we know this is short, but with that, you have to know going in that the story line is ridiculous and over the top. 

That's the fun of it. 

I'm a big fan of Amie Knight's anyways, so I'm game for anything she has out and this was just fun. I've been in a funk the last few days and I decided I would just pick this one up to mark it off my calendar and an hour later I find myself smiling and wanting the next one! 

Millie and Tillie Coletrain are twins, and one of them is wanted by the law. The other one routinely gets mistaken for her sister so when she finds herself up against a wall, being placed under arrest by Jake, she knows the deal. Until she turns around and it soon becomes clear between the both of them that there is real chemistry here and that this might be a bigger problem than either bargained for. 

I loved the humor in this book. The Britney Spears references, the dynamic between the twins themselves, even Jake's alpha male thing that isn't over the top/caveman, all of it was fun. I finished the book wanting to know what happened with Tillie, but she has her own novella, Miss Understood, so I'm anxious to read that because she seems like a firecracker to say the least. Also? I loved the "three years later" at the end! I always want to know what happens with our characters and so often we get squat diddly, but our authors know what we want and they gave it to us. 

A huge thank you to Social Butterfly PR for having me on this tour, this was definitely far more fun than I anticipated and it got me out of my little funk. I can't wait to keep going with these authors. 
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