Monday, November 29, 2021

Book Review: The Wedding Crasher & the Cowboy

Hi! I haven't died, I've just been crazy busy but also I haven't felt well at all. I'm starting vestibular therapy or something tomorrow because vertigo sucks, and I've got so many things to update you on. Soon, though! 

The Wedding Crasher & the Cowboy  Robin Bielman

Kennedy Martin is shocked when her ex calls days before his wedding, expressing serious second thoughts. Doesn’t he see his fiancĂ©e's actually the glaze to his doughnut? Now she’s got no choice but to crash his wedding and convince the man he’s with the right woman.

Instead, she crashes into the absolute last man she ever wanted to see: Maverick Owens, her old college nemesis. Maverick is still as awful, infuriating, and just The Worst as ever—even if he looks way too sexy in his cowboy hat. And of course he’s convinced she’s actually at the seaside ranch to ruin the wedding.

Now the only way to get some face time with the groom and save this marriage is to participate in all sorts of pre-wedding events…with Maverick. Stuck on a canoe, making small-talk at cocktail hour, and even a hoedown with her worst enemy? This just might be the longest week of her life…
I didn't know I needed this book until I read it and now I want anything Robin Bielman does. I've been in such a reading funk lately and though I've read a few things, and they were good, nothing really hit the spot, you know? Enter in the latest from Robin Bielman and it was all of the things. It was funny, it was sweet, and it was fun. 

It also makes me think maybe I should just crash some weddings and see what happens because I've yet to read a book, or see a movie, where that ends up terribly. Ha! This gave me The Unhoneymooners from Christina Lauren vibes but honestly so much better. I liked that book a lot, but I really loved this one. I'm deciding the enemies to loves trope is probably my absolute favorite and this book completely sealed that for me. I love sassy banter between characters and this nailed it. I love the steamy chemistry so obviously there but everyone is just ignoring it, this has that and more. The book doesn't shy from giving you the feels either, and the fact this book delivers in every way? Maybe in my top five of the year... I loved it that much. 

A huge thank you to TLC Book Tours for having me on this tour!! 

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Thursday, November 11, 2021

Bucket List: The Rolling Stones

I know I don't go to as many concerts anymore, but to be fair, Covid kind of killed the joy out of that for me. Well, that and just my inability to drive down and back in one night anymore, it's just getting harder and harder as I get older. Though, when I saw that The Rolling Stones were coming to Minneapolis, and the tickets were in my price range, I immediately purchased two nosebleed seats and told Matt we were going. He's not big into concerts, but he'll at least see a classic rock band, so that works out. 

I've been to two other concerts at US Bank Stadium, Taylor Swift and then the Beyonce/Jay-Z tour, so I was already kind of familiar with the place, and that helps so I don't feel totally disoriented. Though, being in crowds like that is really hard for me and vertigo kicks in and I feel like I must look like a totally drunk person walking around. 

I had gone to a crafting/painting thing in the morning with my friend Tammy, and then as soon as I got home we got on the road to the concert, which thank god, because we hit so much traffic on the way there, it was a total nightmare. And, as suspected, we were in absolute nosebleeds, but you can see I brought my glasses like the old lady I am. 
Opening band was Black Pumas, who were amazing live! Unfortunately, we ended up sitting in a sea of racists, who kept making really rude comments about members of the band being POC, so I ended up singing and clapping louder, just to really piss them off. I think they figured it out because they shut up for the rest of the set once they saw me giving them the bitch side-eye. 
While we couldn't really see the stage (they literally looked like ants down there), they thankfully had the best screens I've ever seen at a concert. I've been to a lot of concerts, but these were far and away the best ones ever. Which, they can clearly afford it, and thank god. 
Also, I know these guys are in their 70s, but they looked so much older. I mean, they've done a lot of living, so I guess that's to be expected. But if you ever want to feel like a complete lazy ass, go watch Mick Jagger run back and forth on a stage all night. I don't think I could have done it for one song let alone an entire show. 
Super sad that Charlie Watts wasn't there, and they played Tumblin' Dice for him, and there was a photo montage of him, and literally everyone around us was crying. Well, except Matt because you know, it's Matt. 
They didn't play all of my favorites, I would have liked to have heard Beast of Burden, and Wild Horses especially, but there were so many great ones so no matter which lineup we got it was bound to be an amazing show. 
Honky Tonk Woman always makes me think of my mom and her telling me about the last time she saw them, which was when I was just little. 
I would have really liked to have gone to this show with my mom, but she was able to get pit tickets for the show in Tampa with my uncle Danny, so I'm happy she got to do that. The Rolling Stones are her absolute favorite, and they remind me of weekends at home with my mom while she cleaned. 
The show wasn't super long, but just the right amount. We started walking out during the very last encore song just so I didn't get tripped up in the crowd of people back to the car and that really worked out for us, traffic wise. 
An amazing concert. A long ass day for me. We got home about 1:30 in the morning and Matt took that day off from work. I slept on/off all day, it took me the entire day just to recover from it but whoa boy- I am not a young gal anymore, that's for sure! 

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

Book Review: Beautifully Broken Redemption

Has Christmas taken over your life yet? Because it has for me and I'm just... plugging right along. I think my office tree might go up today because I want to get the spirit of it now. We might be traveling for Christmas Day and I don't know why, but that makes me not want to put in any effort on other trees, isn't that sad? Ugh. Maybe it's just my mood in general. 

Beautifully Broken Redemption 

Catherine Cowles

She’s hiding secrets.

For Anna, keeping her deepest scars hidden from the world has always been a necessity—from the bruises of her childhood to the mistake that nearly cost her everything. To keep herself safe, she must keep everyone around her at a distance—especially the man who has tempted her since the moment they met.

His demons are taunting him.

Mason has done his best to bury the past by achieving more than he ever thought possible. But even with all of his success, his life feels empty.

When tragedy strikes, Anna is left fighting to protect the only family she has left. And Mason will do anything to keep her and her loved ones safe—even if that means the ring of wedding bells.

But as a new spark ignites between them, someone is watching.

And they’ll do whatever it takes to snuff out that light for good.
Catherine Cowles is an auto-buy author for me. Anytime I see anything by her, it's an automatically click because everything she has written has been so great for me, and this one is no different. Secondly, I am LOVING her Sutter Lake series, I feel like now I really need to buy the physical copies of all of these because I just love them that much. Not to mention that fake relationship tropes are one of my favorites and this was just all of my favorites rolled into a book and I loved it. 

Interestingly, this book begins with Anna being released from prison and I honestly can't say I've read a book where the woman is a convict, but I'm here for it because anything that sets any book apart from everything else on the shelves already is great in my book. She unexpectedly becomes the caregiver for her niece and nephew, but her sketchy past puts legal custody in jeopardy so she does what any normal person would do, marry her co-worker. 

I mean, hasn't that come across all of our minds? 

Interestingly, Mason has always had a spot reserved for Anna in his heart but for lots of dumb ass reasons, she has put him firmly into the friend zone. Well, you know what happens when you fake marry a person, eventually you catch feelings but Anna is absolutely convinced that when it's time, Mason is going to high tail it out of there like literally every person in her life. She's had too much happen in her life and too much is at stake so she's trying to hold out. 

I really loved Mason. He's just that steady but great guy that hangs in the background hoping that the one he wants really takes notice of him. He's just solidly good. As with all of the books in this series, we have a reluctant romance but we also have an element of danger, mixed in with an actual real world problem so many are dealing with. I like how the author can seemlessly blend all of those together and still give us a quality story you'll find yourself flying through. I love that these characters pop up in the previous books so if you read those, you'll have seen more of their personality, at least parts that aren't really shown here, but this book can absolutely be a stand alone. 

The only thing I wish we had more of is Anna and Mason's working relationship/friendship before all of this. We do get some, but not really enough that would make you think them getting married would totally work. I mean, I've made friends at work, I even dated one, but I've literally never had one I'd really go out of my way to help out like that or anywhere near it. I feel like we would have understand why Mason's feelings were the way they were more. 

If you're looking for a series to sink into, consider this one. If you just need an easy, quick read to pull yourself out of a slump, definitely pick this one up. 

Thank you to Catherine Cowles and Social Butterfly PR for having me on this tour! 

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Monday, November 8, 2021

Book Review: National Geographic Complete Birds of North America

Happy Monday! I have to brag and tell you that I am already half completed with my Christmas shopping. I'm not kidding- this is such a good feeling and I think this is something I'm going to keep doing every year because I already feel less stressed out about it. Other than that, I've been getting my nerd on and reading some non-fiction. 

Complete Birds of North America 

National Geographic

This desk reference is the most up-to-date and comprehensive source of knowledge on North American bird identification, distribution, behavior, habitat, and conservation concerns available today.

More an encyclopedia than a field guide, National Geographic's Complete Birds is a browsable treasure trove of facts. This comprehensive volume profiles every bird observable in the continental United States and Canada, featuring species accounts with details that include calls and songs, breeding behaviors, molting patterns, and the vast extent of their polar and neotropical migrations. The precision maps, illuminating photographs, and more than 4,000 exquisite pieces of annotated art make this the biggest and best bird book ever.

This third edition, thoroughly updated, includes:

Information on more than 1,000 species and subspecies
Overviews of every family
Organization reflecting current taxonomy
850 range maps, more than half updated since the last edition
Sidebars on identification challenges such as distinguishing between Bay-breasted and Blackpoll Warblers in fall or separating the various species of white egrets
If you would have told me like 20 years ago that I would become a bird nut, I would have thought you were crazy. I am that person that doesn't like birds swooping around me, or being outside when there are a bunch of birds because I just really don't want to get pooped on. 

Honestly, I don't think I'm alone in that. 

Over the years though, I've really gotten into checking out the birds that come into my yard and wondering what the heck that was. Over the last five years for sure I've really gotten into maintaining different bird feeders and being mindful of the plants I put in the garden because I want to make sure the birds like them (also the bees). Fortunately, our neighborhood birds are not scared of my dog at all but it's hard to be scared by a 15 pound morkie named Twinky wearing a sweater. 

The only problem is I know almost nothing about birds, and I certainly can't identify what kind of bird is swooping at my dog for fun. We live in an area that we actually have a huge range of birds that come and go seasonally but also several who stick around for the harsh winters and I'm always curious as to why they would hang around. 

Which is where this book comes in- if every there was a comprehensive book to tell you everything and anything about the birds you'll encounter in your 'hood, or even on vacation, this is it. Just under 800 pages of in depth information about every kind of bird possible. Divided into sections like, hummingbirds, puffins, swallows, dippers, loons, and a bunch more- you're going to learn about their identification, migration, population, rare status, similar species, etc. Each bird has colorful and details pictures so you can see what they look like when they aren't swooping at your head. They also show a map with their migration pattern so you can hopefully figure out which bird is hogging your feeder. 

I have Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds that come to my yard every spring/early summer, that's when they are all over my yard. They particularly like the horse chestnut tree because it does get these yellow flowers all over it so it must be an amazing buffet for them. I also saw an Eastern Bluebird for the first time in my life this summer, it was the brightest blue I had ever seen but I couldn't get a good picture of it from inside the house. Those look similar to Indigo Buntings, but those have more blue on them, so I'm pretty sure that's not what it was that I saw. Also, I saw my first Northern Cardinal this summer. I only saw one, so I wonder if he'll come back next summer. I also get a lot of different Warblers in my yard, which I didn't know that was a kind of bird, so that's kind of cool to know. 

To say I have been geeking out with this book is an understatement. Even the kids have been going through it and just picking out the birds they think look the coolest. I'm a fan of any kind of book that fosters learning. If you're looking for a gift for a birder in your life (or maybe one just starting out), this would be a great one. Maybe you're just looking for an interesting coffee table book or maybe a book for the cabin/camper, this would be a good one. Highly recommend. 

Thank you to TLC Book Tours and National Geographic for having me on this tour! I am a fan of anything to do with National Geographic and you never get through a book from them without learning a thing or two. 

This post contains affiliate links. 

Friday, November 5, 2021

Book Reviews: A Betting Woman & Sisters of the Resistance

I am so behind on my Once Upon a Book Club boxes, it's straight embarrassing. I'm trying hard to get through them though. This is easily my favorite book subscription box, it's interactive and fun, and the books have mostly been pretty good. I do think that I'm going to take a few months off from my subscription though, only because I need to save money and we are reprioritizing things in our budget. As soon as things are back on track though? I'm all in! 

Let's talk about a couple I've finished up lately though. 

A Betting Woman - Jenni L. Walsh

Born Simone Jules, reinvented as Eleanor Dumont, and largely remembered as Madame Moustache, A Betting Woman is a historical novel inspired by the tumultuous life, times, and loves of America’s first professional croupier of modern-day blackjack, bringing to life an intrepid and entrepreneurial real-life woman who lived on her own terms.

When her whole family dies in a fire, young Simone flees her grief and travels west to reinvent herself in burgeoning San Francisco. Down to her last dollar and facing some unsavory options, Simone quick-wits her way to a gambling table where she begins to deal vingt-et-un—modern-day blackjack. Word travels fast among of this French-speaking, card-playing novelty, and she begins to build a new life for herself.

Self-sufficient Simone doesn’t count on falling for an artist— not to mention a man of a different skin color—who society, and the law, says she can’t have. When he is murdered, Simone is devastated and sets off to find closure for his death.

Finding her way to a new boomtown, she adopts a new name, Eleanor Dumont, and opens her very own gambling emporium. "Dumont's Place" is a great success, drawing mountain men and fortune seekers from far and wide.

But the boom and bust of the gold rush stops for no one, nor do the challenges of a man’s world. Eleanor must continue to fight—for her livelihood, for her self-worth, and most of all, for her legacy.
When this first came, I didn't realize it was inspired by a real person, which just made this a little bit cooler. Just the idea of such an independently fierce and self sufficient woman in the America West is pretty wild, so when I went into this one I was pretty excited about it. 

In the end, this book was meh for me. It wasn't awful but it's one I'm going to forget about. Honestly, there are parts of it I already have and that really stinks. The writing was just alright, the characters weren't totally likeable, either. I really wanted to like Simone/Eleanor but she ended up being kind of a strange character for me. She kind of obsesses over a piece of art (which is one of the gifts in the box and it was... lame, so I'm not sure that I really understood the draw of it?), and a guy she was barely with. Someone is made to dress like a boy, and Simone/Eleanor is actually kind of anti-woman in a really weird way? I feel like there was a lot of promise to this and none of the plot strings came together the way that they should have/could have. 
The gifts in the box were pretty predictable, a deck of cards and an interesting game I've never played but I figure we'll give it a try, it is a book about gambling, after all. We also got a pretty umbrella, and then a weird sketch that I think my six year old could do a better job with. I understand why this would have been included and it did fit with the story, but I guess the practical part of me would rather have something I could use. This makes me sound like such a mom, doesn't it? 

Sisters of the Resistance - Christine Wells
France, 1944: The Nazis still occupy Paris, and twenty-five-year-old Gabby Foucher hates these enemies, though, as the concierge of ten rue Royale, she makes it a point to avoid trouble, unlike her sister Yvette. Until she, like her sister, is recruited into the Resistance by Catherine Dior—sister of the fashion designer, Christian Dior.

Gabby and Yvette are both swept into the world of spies, fugitives, and Resistance workers, and it doesn't take long for the sisters to realize that their lives are in danger.

Gabby discovers an elderly tenant is hiding a wounded British fugitive, and Yvette becomes a messenger for the Resistance. But as Gabby begins to fall in love with her patient and Yvette’s impulsiveness lead her into intrigue at an ever-higher level, both women will discover that their hearts and even their souls hang in the balance as well.
Well, this one was slightly better. I'm normally not a fan of historical fiction because it doesn't usually hold my attention. Also, can we just stop making books based off of WWII? There are SO MANY of them and they really all have similar story lines and how many do we really need? Also, I don't know why it references Catherine Dior because it doesn't really have anything to do with Catherine Dior, it's just kind of in the background, but not really? 

I will say, if you like historical fiction based in/around WWII, you really will like this one. It features everything and, of course, ends in romance for the sisters, which we all knew would happen. I preferred Yvette because Gabby almost seems like a character the author just added in to beef up the story because she's just... there. You don't really get invested in her, she's not into all of it like Yvette is, and she's just an afterthought who pops up here and there. The sisters have some drama between them, which feels like it's made up for the sake of having some more conflict in the book, because in the end they have each other's backs so it's not really anything worth having in the book to begin with. 

Overall, the book was alright. It wasn't terrible, I finished the book (though it took me a couple of weeks, to be honest) and it was interesting. Is it one that I'm going to put near the top of a recommended list of WWII books? Probably not. 
The gifts in this box were mostly fashion/jewelry based, of course. I ended up giving them to Penelope and Lucy for their dress up box because I'm not sure what the heck I'd do with them. 

Monday, November 1, 2021

Book Review: 1000 Perfect Weekends

Raise both hands if you are in need of a vacation. Seriously, all of us probably have our hands up. Most of us can't afford a week long vacation doing anything, so that makes us feel like there isn't a solution.  

National Geographic has our back, folks- they've given us 1000 perfect weekend trips so we really just need to start planning. 

1000 Perfect Weekends National Geographic

Packed with innovative ideas and inspiring photographs, this gift-worthy treasury features 1,000 dream weekend escapes from sunny beach retreats to lush mountain idylls, exotic city sojourns, and wild adventures around the world.

Whether you're looking for a way to unplug from the busy work week, take the family on a quick getaway, or add to a vacation itinerary, this practical and inspiring book provides the perfect way to plan your next quick escape. Whatever your pleasure, 1,000 Perfect Weekends has a unique itinerary built to excite you, illustrated with dramatic National Geographic photographs. Divided by theme and interest--including nature parks, country weekends, mountain retreats, enabled travel, romantic getaways, traveling with pets, and more--this fun-packed guide offers an adventure you can experience in 36 to 72 hours. Highlighting the best short escapes from hubs across the globe, these trips cover more than 40 countries around the world with escapes like:
  • Two days sailing off the coast of the Bahamas
  • Camping with wild horses on Assateague Island in Maryland
  • Driving through Italy's "Chocolate Valley"--a mouth watering experience
  • Skating the world's largest ice rink at Ottawa's winter festival
  • Swinging over the edge of the world in Ecuador
  • A family-friendly getaway to the best theme parks in the country
  • An R&R weekend at a renowned spa in California's Napa Valley
You'll also find more than 50 snackable top-10 lists--from the best places to go antiquing to the most relaxing spas to the top museums in the world--to add to your bucket list, along with first-person accounts from travelers who have scouted out each location.
The best place to start is by telling you that I am obsessed with all of National Geographic's travel books. I have read so many of them, I own a ton of them, they are all full of post it notes and tabs because I want to quickly find things. I reference all of them when I'm planning any kind of trip, these books are amazing

This book wastes no time and wants to get you into vacation planning mode immediately. Organized by type of trip (beach escapes, mountain retreats, family friendly, road trip, camping, food & wine, pet friendly, wildlife adventures, adrenaline rushers, ultimate retreats, and many more), this is everything you need to be booking your trip in no time. Each section features international destinations but also things within the continental United States, depending on how adventurous you want to get. Top Ten lists are throughout the book so if you can't decide on a location, maybe something on one of these lists will guide you towards where you want to go. 

Maybe you know where you're going, you just aren't sure what the plan once you get there is- use the index to search your destination. If it's listed in the book, it'll tell you all of the places it's featured in this book and then you can decide the type of trip. For instance, I know that we're going to go to Florida soon but I really don't want to do all of the normal touristy things (looking at you, Disney)- I did a quick index search and I had no idea Sarasota had so much to do, so we are looking into that since its close to where we were going to be anyways. 

I have so many trips marked off in this book already- I am determined to go on an anniversary trip with my husband one of these years.... maybe this is the year. Thank you to TLC Book Tours and National Geographic for having me on this tour! 

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