Monday, June 20, 2022

Book Review: The Deep Limitless Air

The best part about Friday is the fact the ice cream truck is going to come and that is always the highlight of my week, if we're being honest. I also have dedicated reading time marked for this weekend, a grad party to go to, and I am going to do some crafty stuff because I feel like it. I need to get better about doint self care things and making time for myself. So let's talk memoir. 

The Deep Limitless Air - Mary Allen 

*For the first time ever, I don't have a back cover blurb to share with you. Hopefully my review below does enough justice that you kind of get what the memoir is about.*
When we talk about complicated family relationships, most of us will talk about dumb arguments with parents or siblings that we let kind of dictate our long term relationship. Maybe nobody wants to say sorry and thus begins a lifetime feud over stuff that could (and should) have been resolved at the time. Mary Allen can't say that's the case in her family. Her mother dealt (not always well) with mental illness, and though Mary's relationship with her sister was OK (though this didn't end well either due to ALS), Mary often felt safer anywhere but home. Later in life her fiance passed away, and she was present when a shooter came into her workplace and murdered four people of a research group. Granted, literally any of that would be hard for any of us over our lives, but Mary has worked diligently to really make peace with life. 

I liked hearing about her experience with EMDR, I was so hopeful that was something I could participate in, but for various reasons that's not in the cards for me. But it's promising for those struggling with different forms of mental illness as a light at the end of a dark tunnel. Mary has had a widly interesting life from beekeeping, to her stint in a monastery, she's really taken the concept of live your life to the fullest to heart. I really liked the humor Mary used throughout, even during dark times, because that's something I do and people always think its insensitive. I've gotten to the point where if you don't laugh you're going to cry, and sometimes I just don't have tears left. 

Thank you to Blue Light Press and TLC Book Tours for having me on this tour, I didn't realize how pertinent this memoir was going to be for me given the journey I'm on. I definitely enjoyed this one. 

*this post contains affiliate links

Saturday, June 18, 2022

Book Review: The Witch Haven

Do you ever walk through a bookstore and impulse purchase a book solely based on how it looks? I do. I actually do it a lot because I'm that girl.  

The Witch Haven - Sasha Peyton Smith

In 1911 New York City, seventeen-year-old Frances Hallowell spends her days as a seamstress, mourning the mysterious death of her brother months prior. Everything changes when she’s attacked and a man ends up dead at her feet—her scissors in his neck, and she can’t explain how they got there.

Before she can be condemned as a murderess, two cape-wearing nurses arrive to inform her she is deathly ill and ordered to report to Haxahaven Sanitarium. But Frances finds Haxahaven isn’t a sanitarium at all: it’s a school for witches. Within Haxahaven’s glittering walls, Frances finds the sisterhood she craves, but the headmistress warns Frances that magic is dangerous. Frances has no interest in the small, safe magic of her school, and is instead enchanted by Finn, a boy with magic himself who appears in her dreams and tells her he can teach her all she’s been craving to learn, lessons that may bring her closer to discovering what truly happened to her brother.

Frances’s newfound power attracts the attention of the leader of an ancient order who yearns for magical control of Manhattan. And who will stop at nothing to have Frances by his side. Frances must ultimately choose what matters more, justice for her murdered brother and her growing feelings for Finn, or the safety of her city and fellow witches. What price would she pay for power, and what if the truth is more terrible than she ever imagined?
I have been on some weird witch kick and there was a few weeks last fall that I bought a bunch of witch books but had no idea until I started shelving them at home. I've been reading this one for months and that right there should tell you about it. 

It begins with Frances, who has no idea she's a witch with powers, suddenly discovers her abilities after killing a man (I mean, it happens to the best of us, am I right??). She is quickly ushered from certain incarceration and brought to Haxenhaven, a school for girls to learn about their powers. Her world is suddenly turned upside down but it's really just the start. 

I believe this is going to be a duology, and because I read this one I feel compelled to read that one because there is something wrong with me. This one also ends with a sort of cliffhanger and I am a bit curious to find out what that's about. The story otherwise though, fell flat for me. It was alright, it wasn't anything special, it's pretty much like every other YA series out there. I will say though, I do appreciate when an author injects LGBTQIA characters into the story and there are several within THE WITCH HAVEN

While I was often bored with this one, there were some random twists towards the middle to end of the book, but I really wish there were more. I also wish the majority of the book kept reminding us that Frances' brother died tragically and far too young, and I understand grief has no end, but it was just way too much in this one. It felt more like the author didn't have any other real purpose for Frances (though there are SO many opportunities) so really relied on his death to keep her going. 

Overall, it was alright. It wasn't terrible but it also wasn't great. This is one I'm likely going to forget that I even read. 

Thursday, June 16, 2022

Book Review: The Friendly Mouse

Happy Thursday! I get to pick Jackson up from his college prep thing tonight, a day early, so I'm ready to hear his stories of the first week. I feel like I'm starting to get into some kind of groove with Pep and Lu by myself during the day, and I'm trying to keep myself busy all day otherwise my depression starts taking a dive, and that's not good. One of the things we've been doing is reading books. Lots of books.... all of our books. I was SO grateful to have something new to add to the mix, that's for sure! 

The Friendly Mouse - Sophia R. Tyler
A Small Mouse with a Big Heart Changes the World One Friend at a Time. . .

Mouse is a field mouse who loves living in the country, but works in the city. This leaves him with a major problem: he is constantly late for work. In the face of losing his job, Mouse makes a bold, faith-filled choice that could cost him everything.

An unexpected story about how a little mouse overwhelmed with his own struggles finds himself to be the miracle prayed for by another.
 
I'll tell you, Pep and Lu really liked this one, they picked up on the moral of the story without me asking. Throughout the book we follow a hard working little mouse who works at a cheese factory, but happens to have a gruff boss named Mr. Roo. Mr. Roo doesn't come off very nice at all and he makes it hard for mouse to get through his day and mouse doesn't really know what to do to make things better/easier. 

Which brings us to the main point of this book, compassion and kindness. The rest of the story unfolds and we see different situations where mouse received kindness and then practiced kindness onto others. The Golden Rule, treat others as you wish to be treated, is shown in several examples, easy for children to understand and practice showing you their comprehension. The story is wholesome, but I will let you know that it does touch on God and the power of prayer, so if that isn't something you practice at home, this may not be the book for you. It would make a great story for a church children's room or as a story during vacation bible school this summer. 

I really loved how the last page of the book features 11 comprehension questions for children to answer and expand upon. You wouldn't even need to go through each question afterwards, you could easily pick one or two to talk about because each one would definitely lead into other stories because you know kids always go off on tangents! Overall we really enjoyed this story and Penelope loved the illustrations. She's been busy trying to copy some of the drawings (as she does with all books, it's how she's teaching herself some drawing skills this way). 

Thank you to PR by the Book and Tiger Lily Publishing for sending me a copy for review! You can learn more about The Friendly Mouse on the website dedicated to it, and it is available as a hardcover (my favorite for children books) on Amazon: 

This post contains affiliate links. 

Wednesday, June 15, 2022

Summer 2022... kind of.

I have gotten really bad at being a blogger and have not been great at updating literally anyone. Ever. 

Sigh. 

I'll get better. Someday. At least I'm pretty sure. Until then, let's talk about what has been happening around here lately. I feel like it's so much that it is hard to keep up but I'm really trying. 

1. Kindergarten Graduation

Lucy officially graduated kindergarten and she was so excited. She had a pretty good school year and could not love school more. She's starting to read books, mastered her sight words, is a whiz at addition and substraction, enjoys art, has adorable handwriting (though she writes her 'y' backwards and it's the cutest), cannot rhyme anything to save her life, and make great strides in speech therapy. 
This was also the year that she started physical therapy and has been doing such a great job. She has some progress to make, but she LOVES going to 'exercise class'! She will continue with speech therapy next year and already misses her kindergarten teacher, her speech teacher, and her friends. 

2. School is out.... for summer
I don't post about the bigger kids much because 1. they hate it and 2. they are literally busy all the time and I don't always get pictures. I need to really try harder because I'm finding my memory is starting to slide a little more. 

But.. Olivia finished 10th grade with amazing grades. She did so great in AP World History, she loved biology, but her journalism class was by far her favorite. She learned a lot from her teacher who I hope becomes a mentor for her because that was a great last minute change to her schedule back in the fall. She's working two jobs this summer, flying through books at breakneck speed, and getting her license as soon as we have time to do it. She even managed to go to Washington D.C., New York City, and Boston for school. Jackson finished eighth grade and is literally chucking deuces at the hell hole that is middle school and is heading to the high school next year. He learned to crochet, play Dungeons & Dragons, and is literally the funniest kid of our bunch. He has my sarcastic personality and I always have a good time hanging out with him. Him and I are doing the DC/NYC trip next spring break (same one I did with Liv), so we at least have that to look forward to. Penelope finished first grade like a boss and is an amazing reader and is excellent at math. She's hoping for "harder math" in second grade. She gets that from her dad because math is the absolute worst. And we already talked about Lucy. 

3. We all scream for ice cream
You know summer has officially started when the ice cream truck starts it's weekly visit. We planned last week entirely around it coming and it was worth it. 

4. Plans?

Normally I have some kind of plan for our summer, but this year I'm stumped. I really WANT to go on a roadtrip but honestly, we need to work on paying down debt and putting money away. I'm really struggling with the "be a responsible adult" versus the "we only get 18 summers, they grow so fast, life is short so take the trip" argument. In my head, of course. I haven't settled it and I really need to make a decision soon so we can appropriately plan and people can take time off. 

If we don't do a roadtrip (which really would be a bummer), I guess we can do some short day trips on the weekends or something. I don't know. I just hate being the only one really delegated to any of this because of our group, I'm literally the last person who should be in charge of anything. I can't make decisions, I can't organize thoughts, and god knows I can't remember anything. The thing about cognitive impairment is that learning to live with your newly acquired shortcomings is really hard and incredibly frustrating. It's like running into a table as you walk by, multiple times and knowing full well that if you just move over a little you would be fine, but you continue to run into the table and it makes no sense. 

So that's my life. 

Hopefully yours is going better, or you at least have any kind of idea of what's happening next. That would be nice. 

Tuesday, June 14, 2022

Book Review: Lucky

It feels like I'm just falling off the blogging wagon, am I right?? I'm really struggling with depression right now and though I have medication for it, I feel like I'm on one end of the spectrum today, but tomorrow I will be flung clear across to the other side. If we could find me some consistency in the middle, that would be greeeeeaaaaat. 

Lucky - Rachel Edwards 

Someone is watching Etta. Footsteps in the night, the security light coming on at strange hours … is it all just her curtain-twitching neighbours, who seem to monitor her every move? Or is her little online problem making her paranoid?

Because Etta needs to win big. She joined a gambling website to get a bit of cash, hoping to convince her boyfriend Ola that they can afford to get married. And she was so good at it … until she wasn’t. Luckily, she’s made a friend who hit the jackpot and if she plays her cards right, he could lend her the money to win everything back. Easy. So why does she feel so afraid? 
This was an absolute shit show Etta has managed to get herself into. It felt like that show Bridezilla, but before they get engaged, and she's just super desperate to get married, so she's like, I need a plan! Responsible partner Ola is like, "slow down girl, we need money for a house so we can be financially responsible" and she's like, "ugh, FINE".  (Don't get me started on Ola because Ola is a loser she needs to kick to the curb as it is, and I'm over here thinking there isn't a dang thing in this world that would convince me he's a good mate for anyone. I understand wanting to settle and do the wedding and baby thing, clocking ticking, blah blah blah, but a loser? Really? Is this what we're coming to?! I digress.) What does a normal person do? Get a job and save? 

If you're a loser! 

Etta isn't a loser (though I started to really doubt my opinion there for a bit), she's smart and smart people do what they do, turn to onling gambling because that NEVER fails, am I right?? Except, as it turns out, it goes bad fairly quickly. Once she gets WAY in over her head, and she spirals into gambling addiction. Honestly, I don't think I've ever read a book that focused on gambling addiction, so this was pretty wild. I could feel the panic Etta feels onces she realizes how royally screwed she is, and she starts making even worse decisions that she thinks will get her out of the hole she's dug, except that goes to hell as well, because now she's in debt but with some really awful people after her. 

I thoroughly enjoyed this one, and even though I was getting so annoyed and literally yelling at my book because Etta is an absolute moron who makes ridiculously terrible decisions, it is an absolute ride. Twists come at you out of nowhere, and through it all, the author makes you as a reader feel the panic and fear, just as Etta does. It puts a glaring spotlight that no matter what situation you get yourself in, there is no such way as the easy way out, there are no shortcuts, the only way out is hard work and making sacrifices, but also putting your wants aside until the end goal is reached. (Also, don't gamble, y'all. I know people have a good time, which seems like insanity to me, but you're flushing money down the toilet. If you really hate having money, let me just give you my email and you can just send it to me because I currently have a whole stack of bills here...)

Even though she got on my nerves with her terrible choices, this book was a wild ride and I enjoyed it. I loved all of the emotions the author got me feeling, I loved watching this trainwreck run completely off the rails, and it was a book I binged in a day. Loved this one. A huge thank you to Harper360 for sending me this for review, I can't wait to see what Rachel Edwards does next!

(Side note, I read Rachel's first book, Darling, and one of my comments was that there was room for growth in the writing.... I'm not saying I influenced that, but she nailed it! She definitely grew and I am so impressed, she is definitely an author to watch and quickly becoming an instant buy for me.)
This post contains affiliate links. Help a girl out, because I am not a good gambler. 

Sunday, June 5, 2022

Book Review: It Takes a Villa

I have so many great books I'm waiting on to arrive for summer reviews, I think you are going to really love them.

It Takes a Villa - Kilby Blades

For the reasonable price of $1, Natalie Malone just bought herself an abandoned villa on the Amalfi Coast. With a detailed spreadsheet and an ancient key, she’s arrived in Italy ready to renovate—and only six months to do it. Which seemed reasonable until architect Pietro Indelicato began critically watching her every move…

From the sweeping ocean views to the scent of the lemon trees, there’s nothing Pietro loves more than his hometown. And after seeing too many botched jobs and garish design choices, he’s done watching from the sidelines. As far as he’s concerned, Natalie should quit before the project drains her entire bank account and her ridiculously sunny optimism.

With Natalie determined to move forward, the gorgeous architect reluctantly agrees to pitch in, giving her a real chance to succeed. But when the fine print on Natalie’s contract is brought to light, she might have no choice but to leave her dream, and Pietro, behind. 
I love, love, love actually coming into a series on the FIRST one, it almost never happens because I am forever out of the loop. I also love finding new authors, and Kilby Blades is completely new to me and I am really looking forward to reading more from her. 

I love a trade paperback romance, something about them just feels more fun, a little more like an indulgence for me. Stupid? Maybe. Can I just say, I really wish someone would offer me an entire house/property for $1????? Like where are my long lost relatives dying to leave me a legacy or something?! Why don't I ever find these amazing real estate deals? Because they sure aren't listed on Zillow, I'll tell you that. 

With all that aside, this was a fun little book. I loved the old vs. new when it came to renovating this place, I loved both of our main characters, Natalie and Pietro. The only thing I did not love is the drama as we are coming to the end. I am finding that with romances especially, the drama just as I'm allllllmost to the end, and then boom- done. I mean, I know this is going to be a series, but I didn't expect there to be such a quick ending, it almost felt like it was written in a rush. I mean, yeah, at least we get an ending, but I was hoping we'd get a little more, you know? The steam factor is a meh, it's a slow burn romance and you get a little something, but this is a very PG book, so I'll have to keep that in mind as I read others from this author. Overall though, a pretty good book, perfect for summer reading  in the sunshine! 

Thank you to TLC Book Tours and Entangled Publishing for sending me a copy for review as part of this tour! I've yet to read a book from Entangled that I didn't love, and this is a perfect fit. 

*this post contains affiliate links. 

Book Review: 100 Great American Parks

Whoa boy.... I have had a really rough last... five days, I guess I'd say. It's just been a lot of awfulness with my health in general, but then I'm dealing that at the same time my mental health is taking a massive nosedive. You can imagine what that's feeling like and you'd likely be pretty spot on. I'm trying to keep my head above the water, but I'm really struggling.  

All that to say I am really behind in life in general, so be patient as I try to catch myself up. 

100 Great American Parks

National Geographic

Discover diverse and breathtaking natural landscapes in this beautifully illustrated collection of America’s 63 national parks, as well as 37 state, recreational, and city parks and green spaces.

Nowhere in the world is there a park system like America’s. The National Park System was the first in the world and is a collection of the country’s best national treasures. For Americans, these places are part of our cultural DNA. Filled with beautiful National Geographic photography, wisdom from experts, need-to-know travel information including the best scenic overlooks and hiking trails, and practical wildlife-spotting tips, this inspirational collection takes readers to all 63 national parks, as well as 37 state, recreational, and city parks and green spaces.
With a park in every state, this beautiful collection highlights the top experiences in stunning destinations from Yosemite and Sequoia to Biscayne and Mammoth Cave. You'll discover the beauty, diversity, surprises, and wonder of each park, including
  • The mountain peaks of the Tetons
  • Hawaii’s constantly erupting volcanoes
  • The crystal-clad underworld of Carlsbad Caverns
  • The steamy swamps and mangrove forests of the deep South
  • Hidden gems tucked in bustling cities like New York’s Central Park
And so much more!
One of my most favorite things to do is go on roadtrips. Coincidentally, one of my favorite things to do as a mom is bringing my kids to new places so they can see the country beyond our tiny little speck on the map. Not for nothing, we do live in a beautiful area that also has some opportunities and ultimately is a great place to raise a family. So while I don't regret settling down here, I do wish I had more chances as a kid to see other places because maybe I wouldn't have been afraid to leave our town, you know? So I really want my kids to see other places and maybe one will stick with them and they'll be excited to leave here and go on their own and thrive. 

Of course, if they stay here, I won't hate that either. But knowing what there is out there has always been a goal of mine as a mom. Bottom line- our family loves a good roadtrip. 

What better roadtrip to plan than one involving a state or national park, right? I am obsessed with National Geographic books in general, but their travel ones are always stunning and I always find myself filling the book with sticky notes as reminders of places I want to see as I plan our next family roadtrip. This book is going to be a huge asset because we do love a good park. 

This book is separated into five main parts: The West & The Pacific, Off the Mainland, The East & Mid-Atlantic, The South, and The Midwest & The Plains, which makes it really easy to go to wherever general area of the country you want to go. Of course, if you know right off which state you're going to, there is a chapter for Parks by State, which is mostly handy for me once I decide which state we're focusing on for that summer roadtrip. For instance, I am really thinking Indiana is going to be our destination this year, so the first thing I did was look for anything in Indiana. The first one I found was Indiana Dunes National Park, which I had written down on my initial itinerary ideas, but I know next to nothing about this place, let alone the fact there are even sand dunes in Indiana (I really thought this was mostly a beach thing). That page talks about the general history/overall view of the park, and some basic information such as size of the park, the best time to go, and some in-park accomodations. Interestingly, the Indiana Dunes is "fourth among US national parks for its biodiversity, home to more than 1100 plant species", so that's actually pretty cool. 

The following page talks about the Iown Effigy Mounds National Monument, which if you remember from last year, was one of the places we actually saw. (We also almost died during that hike while our then six-year old Penelope shamed all of us and reminded us that she had no problem with the hike, what the heck is wrong with US?! Fun times.) The Gateway Arch National Park is also featured, which was a highlight of the Strand Family Roadtrip to Missouri in 2019. Wisconsin only has one park listed, the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore (which is absolutely beautiful if you are ever here), but we hiked those ice caves one winter and we also tried to kayak once (and NEVER again). 

Overall, I really loved this book. It's full of amazing photographics that will inspire you to get in the car and go. Go off and make some family memories, this country is stunning and you need to see it. Thank you to TLC Book Tours and National Geographic for having me on this tour and sending me a copy for review. If you are itching for adventure, definitely pick this one up, or any of their travel books!

*this post contains affiliate links

Friday, June 3, 2022

Book Review: Remember Whose Little Girl You Are

Happy Friday! We officially only have two days of school next week and then all four kids are off for summer break! Well, kind of. The younger two are signed up for summer school, it runs about a month and is half days, mostly doing fun stuff. The older two are signed up for marching band, but that's just a week basically to get ready for the parade. My oldest is going to work her two jobs, and my favorite boy is doing the Upward Bound program at UWS for six weeks and living on campus. I know he's nervous and not super thrilled, but I think it'll be good once he's there. Plus, they get to go to Seattle and I am ridiculously jealous because that is a bucket list trip for me! 

Remember Whose Little Girl You Are

 Ellen Nichols

Remember Whose Little Girl You Are captures the flavor of the Deep South like no author since Eudora Welty or Flannery O'Connor. Ellen Nichols captures the tenor of small-town Southern life in the fifties and sixties, with its vicissitudes and hilarity. One is captured with her openness and drawn deeply into the dialogue-so much as to, according to one reader, sometimes feel guilty of spying. 

Read it and see if you want those times back-or are just relieved they're gone. 
Are you super behind in your Goodreads good? Grab this one, it's only 116 pages and you will absolutely fly through it. It's a memoir too, so I really loved this one, it was fun and sweet in all the right places. Everything you think of when you think about Alabama during the Civil Rights era is absolutely in this book, and I loved it. 

I went to college, but I never lived in a dorm, so I really enjoyed reading about Ellen's time in college and just how different it was to now. Trigger warning though, this book does feature mentions of suicide, so if that's a thing for you, heads up on that. Despite her father being a Methodist reverend, they were rather liberal, which was far more progressive than the south was at the time. I also love how much Ellen was trying to really defend/stick up for people and really fighting for the rights of marginalized people. I'd like to think I'd be doing the same had I grown up during that volatile period. 

One of my favorite lines in the book? 
" I proved that I was a Soul Train girl, not a namby-pamby American Bandstand girl."
If ever there was a time I identified with a memoir, that line is it. HA! I loved that the "chapters" are named after characters that I have come into (and sometimes left) her life, and I felt like that was a pretty clever way to format the book; whereas most memoirs go event by event in their lives and it can feel tedious and slightly boring. I think it made this one a quick read and who doesn't love that? 

I really enjoyed this one, and it's a great read for us youngun's, but if this time period is your jam, you will really like this one and perhaps feel a kinship to Ellen. A huge thank you to TLC Book Tours for having me on this tour, and thank you to Ellen Nichols for sending me a copy (and these GREAT socks!!). 
 

Monday, May 30, 2022

Book Review: The Temporary Roomie

If you have kids, you likely are facing down summer vacation, and if you're like me, you are a mix of excitement and dread. I also have no idea how I'm going to spend the summer, so that's fun. I am planning out my summer reading list though, so there's that. 

The Temporary Roomie - Sarah Adams

What happens when you have to play nice with your greatest enemy? Revenge.

Drew Marshall may have let me move into his spare bedroom while my house is being renovated, but don’t think for one second his kindness comes without strings. Big, ugly, fake relationship strings.

That’s okay, though, Dr. Andrew. I’ll agree to your terms, move into your house, and act like your girlfriend when the big day comes; but I also plan to make your life miserable—make you pay for what you did to me.

I may not be good at forgiving or forgetting, but I’m excellent at getting even.

I borrowed this as an audiobook from my library and man... I don't know where to even start. No, that's not true, I absolutely do. 

This book was terrible. 

The premise was good, it definitely had promise. The real breaker for me was 100% our female lead, Jessie. Jessie is an absolute immature, terrible, bitch. When have I ever called a character a bitch? I honestly can't remember, but I was so irritated with her and I felt so bad for Drew, and if this was a real person? I think I'd legit smack her. 

Drew and Jessie prank each other, it's an enemies-to-lovers trope, and honestly, it's a trope that is usually just fine for me but this one is just a hard, hard miss. Drew's pranks are seemingly harmless and mostly fun, but Jessie's are actually cruel and for no actual purpose. Jessie hates Drew for.... literally no reason other than the fact she has trust issues and needs actual therapy. Your mom dies when you're young, that sucks. Your dad skips town, that sucks. Your grandma dies when you're little, that sucks. Your baby daddy checks out because you're pregnant, that sucks. Does any of that warrant you treating a really good guy like actual shit? No, it doesn't. 

I so strongly disliked this one, I don't even want to read (or listen) to anything else by this author. That says something. 

Sure, the ending was nice and definitely a happily ever after, but by the time I got there I didn't even care. 

This post contains affiliate links. 

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Book Review: Meet Me At The Margins

I've been trying audiobooks because I like to listen to something when I work on crafty things or just on my computer. I've been doing podcasts, but I'm pretty caught up on those, so audiobooks seem like the next step. I just can't justify purchasing audiobooks because if I can't physically hold it, I feel like I've flushed money down the toilet. Rational? No. Instead, I've been using the Hoopla app and using my library card, but there isn't a huge selection... so that's been kind of a bummer. 

What isn't a bummer, was finding this book! I've been wanting to read this for awhile, and I'm so glad I did. 

Meet Me At The Margins - Melissa Ferguson

Savannah Cade is a low-level editor at Pennington Publishing, a prestigious publisher producing only the highest of highbrow titles. And while editing the latest edition of The Anthology of Medieval Didactic Poetry may be her day job, she has two secrets she’s hiding.

One: She’s writing a romance novel.

Two: She’s discovered the Book Nook—a secret room in the publishing house where she finds inspiration for her “lowbrow” hobby.

After leaving her manuscript behind one afternoon, she returns to the nook only to discover someone has written notes in the margins. Savannah’s first response to the criticism is defensive, but events transpire that force her to admit that she needs the help of this shadowy editor after all. As the notes take a turn for the romantic, and as Savannah’s madcap life gets more complicated than ever, she uses the process of elimination to identify her mysterious editor—only to discover that what she truly wants and what she should want just might not be the same. Melissa Ferguson’s latest—a love letter to books, readers, and romance—will leave fans laughing out loud and swooning in the same breath. 
I haven’t read anything by this author yet, but this was really good and I look forward to more of her books! I thought the premise of this was cute, I liked them passing notes literally in the margins of a manuscript, and the writing overall was fun. I'm a sucker for books that feature texts, emails, tweets, etc., I think it's such a fun way to let the story unfold. 

I will say Savannah is kind of a moron, because she is pretty clueless when it comes to relationships, so was almost too annoying, but in the end, I couldn’t hate it. I also wish we learned more about Will, but the cute epilogue makes up for it. I loved how their relationship came together though, I thought it was funny in all the right spots, and for being a clean romance, I really did love this. It's in the Christian category but it really isn't... unless you consider it that way because it really only has one kiss, literally at the end. 

Is it a major romance that all romance lovers need to run and pick up? No, definitely not. Is it fun, quirky, and sweet? Yes, it hits all of those notes. As we move into summer, this is exactly what I need, and I'm looking forward to the next one from this author. 

*this post contains affiliate links

Thursday, May 12, 2022

Book Review: More Than A Mom

If you're like me, you're already trying to plan out how you are going to keep your kids entertained all summer, but also not lose your mind. Don't get me wrong, summer is my absolute favorite, but I always feel so much pressure to make it fun, memorable, but also take time for myself, too. When I saw this book was up for review, I absolutely jumped at it because I think as moms we all need a good reminder on self care and why it's important in all areas.

More Than a Mom -Kari Kampakis

What if taking care of yourself was the first step to helping your family thrive?

If you’ve parented long enough, then you’ve learned firsthand why your personal wellness matters. You’ve felt the pain (or consequences) of devaluing yourself. Whether your wake-up call came from a diagnosis, a breakdown, an issue with your child or spouse, anxiety, or simply feeling depleted and numb, it most likely unveiled this truth: 

Mothers are humans too. We require love, compassion, rest, and renewal. Taking care of our needs strengthens us and equips us for the road ahead. In More Than a Mom, bestselling author Kari Kampakis offers a practical, approachable, and attainable framework to stay on a healthy path. You can take your kids only as far as you’ve come–and since their strength builds on your strength, you must take time to focus on you. More Than a Mom is about unleashing God’s power in your life and standing on timeless truths that will help you know your worth and embrace your purpose, build strong, uplifting friendships that you can model for your children, quit the negative self-talk and make peace with your body, and learn to mother yourself by resting and setting boundaries.

The world shaping your children is more callous and complex than the world that shaped you. Kids need to be stronger, smarter, and more rooted in what’s real. Empower your son or daughter by tending to your heart, soul, body, and mind. Give them a vision of a healthy adult–and know that as they launch into the real world, they will build on what you started.

Full disclosure, this book is written with a God-centered focus, so if that is an issue for you, know that going in. Though I don't consider myself especially religious, I still felt like I gained so much from this book and it really is a worthwhile read. 

Everything you would expect from a book like this is covered: handling stress and anxiety, resting, know your worth and making peace with your body, purpose and hope, and of course... building friendships. Every single parenting forum I have ever been is full of women saying they need friends, but honestly, how do you even make friends as an adult? I always hear that dating and meeting new people can be hard, but I feel like making friends as an adult is so much harder. Our instinct is to compare ourselves to other moms and then spiral into negative self talk, and we all know what that's like. In the chapter about friendships it talks about why it's important to maintain our friendships (but how, as well). It goes into learning what prevents friendships from forming, which we are all guilty of. I also like that it mentions the lost village, how having a village to raise our children in is so important. 

I also loved the chapter on making peace with your body and how crucial this is as a mom because how we treat our body shows our children how to treat their body (and everyone elses). As I enter my 40's, I am noticing changes in myself: my hair is changing colors, my skin is wrinkling and changing texture, I'm sagging in areas I never did before, my joints hurt, and I make noises as I climb stairs because my knees, man.... ha! The book talks about the importance of taking care of yourself but it doesn't say it is solely based on your weight and how that is just one piece of the puzzle. Our airm needs to be feeling good, not necessarily what we look like. 

Overall, I really liked this book. I know that I know all of these things, but it is so hard to remember it, especially when things get hard. I feel like this is one that I'm going to pull out when things get hard because sometimes we can't reach out and ask for help, so this is a little self-help... you see how this comes full circle? I highly recommend this, it would even make an excellent baby shower gift because what better time to learn how to care for yourself than the very beginning? Let's normalize welcoming women to ask for help without shaming her. We're all in this together. 

A massive thank you to TLC Book Tours and Thomas Nelson Publishing for sending me a copy for review, it really could not have come at a better time, my heart really needed it. 


Book Review: Highland Justice

I swear, the closer we get to summer, the less ambition I have to do anything. I thought I was doing pretty well yesterday, until I realized it was the day Jackson has tennis, I still haven't gone grocery shopping this week, and I realized I signed up to bring snacks to the dance recital this week and I haven't done that yet. Today it's really raining and storming so I clearly am not trying to go do any shopping today, so apparently, I have some delusion that I'll be able to do it all tomorrow.  

Because that never backfires on me. *insert panic laughing here*

Highland Justice - Heather McCollum

Without mercy, there is no love in this third installment of the Sons of Sinclair historical romance series by award-winning author Heather McCollum.

Gideon Sinclair, the third Sinclair brother, judges everything in stark terms of good and evil. There is nothing in between, and he is efficient at passing judgment without mercy. Now that his clan has conquered the warring Mackays, Gideon starts the process of integrating them into the Sinclair Clan. He will sort the people, punish the bad, and better the lives of the good. Judging is as easy to him as breathing, until he meets Cait Mackay, who steals his breath...along with his Sinclair ring.

A young widow, Cait Mackay has given her life over to helping the orphaned children in the clan. But love won’t put shoes on their cold feet and food in their stomachs. Cait tired years ago of seeing the rich get richer and the poor suffer more and more, so she decided to do something about it. An agile thief of the rich by night, when she is caught, the new conquering chief must decide her fate.

When Gideon realizes that the thief is the same woman who had already captured his attention, he hesitates for the first time in his life. Letting her get away with her deed leads to more trouble when she is accused of stealing from King James and is arrested. Now Gideon must commit his own crime against the Scottish crown if he is to save Cait. But can a man who was raised to honor and uphold justice break the law for the woman who’s stolen his heart?
What I have learned after reading this book is 1. I am not reading nearly enough historical romance books and 2. I apparently really like Scottish romances because I completely LOVED this book. It's part of a series, but of course, they are all stand-alones so you can jump in anywhere you'd like. After finishing this one though, I really do want to go back and get the first two. Also, author Heather McCollum is a new to me author, and I really liked her writing style and how she had the story flowing through all while weaving this relationship development with Cait and Gideon. 

I really liked both Cait and Gideon too, and I really wanted them to work out, even though there are a lot of obstacles in the way. The thing about historical romances that always throws me at first is how rigid the expectations everyone has put on them. Early on when the author is setting up Cait's character, the concept of her literally not marrying anyone so she can basically mother all of these orphans seemed a bit much, but then it almost has an Oliver Twist feel to it, but obviously she's not a boy. I can't knock Gideon and how black and white he is, because somehow that feels like a standard, so I guess that's me approving the patriarchy here (ha!), but I prefer a dark, brooding, grumpy male lead versus a sweet guy. Red flags are clearly my favorite. ;) 

Not only does this book feature the best first kiss ever, it also features a broken bed, so if that's any indication of the steam level, that basically says it all. I really liked this one a lot and I definitely need to read more of this series, and more from this author. 

Thank you to TLC Book Tours and Entangled Publishing for having me on this tour and providing a copy for review! (That cover isn't bad to look at either, if we're being honest.)

Book Review: How to Draw Cool Stuff

Two posts in one day, who 'dis?! Today though, I have a post that Penelope helped me on, because if there is anyone I trust to give me an opinion on anything involving art, it is absolutely Penelope.  

How to Draw Cool Stuff - Catherine V. Holmes

How to Draw Cool Stuff shows simple step-by-step illustrations that make it easy for anyone to draw cool stuff with precision and confidence. These pages will guide you through the basic principles of illustration by concentrating on easy-to-learn shapes that build into complex drawings. With the step-by-step guidelines provided, anything can become easy to draw.

This book contains a series of fun, hands-on exercises that will help you see line, shape, space and other elements in everyday objects and turn them into detailed works of art in just a few simple steps. The exercises in this book will help train your brain so you can visualize ordinary objects in a different manner, allowing you to see through the eyes of an artist. From photorealistic faces to holiday themes and tattoo drawings, How to Draw Cool Stuff makes drawing easier than you would think and more fun than you ever imagined! Now is the time to learn how to draw the subjects and scenes you've always dreamt of drawing.

How to Draw Cool Stuff is suitable for artists of any age benefiting everyone from teachers and students to self-learners and hobbyists. How to Draw Cool Stuff will help you realize your artistic potential and expose you to the pure joy of drawing!
All four of my kids like art, in their own way, but Penelope is the consummate artist. She spends hours every week just drawing away. Sometimes she uses videos, but mostly she likes to copy things so we're always looking for new books for her to try. Even at seven, she's bored of the books geared for her age group, so we've been trying books for older kids/adults, so when this came, you can imagine how quickly she cracked it open and started doing her thing. 

Amazingly, she is doing pretty well and was pretty excited to draw a rather lifelike looking bird! The directions are obviously clear enough that a seven year old can do it, so you should have no problem giving it a try! I know the author does videos on YouTube as well, so I think Pep will take a look at some of those though. Some of the concepts are a little more advanced (she really doesn't understand shading yet or how to use her pencil to get a more gradient look), but as an adult (or teen), those will be much easier to grasp than for a kid in first grade. 

I think if you're looking to add to your arsenal of summer activities or boredom busters, this (and others in her series) would be really good to check into. The nice thing about these books is you can use them repeatedly so you'll feel like you've gotten your money's worth, that's for sure! 

Thank you to TLC Book Tours for having me on this tour and providing a copy for review!

Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Book Review: The Bus To Beulah

I have a crazy busy week this week, but not too busy to have books and more every day for you. Today's offering? A thriller, of course! 

The Bus to Beulah - E.C. Hanes

On her way to a new job in America, Maria Puente accidentally discovers a human trafficking ring. Fearing exposure, the American company that manages the operation—with the help of their Mexican partners—kidnaps Maria.

Maria’s disappearance triggers a desperate search, by her family and local law enforcement, to find her before the kidnappers can permanently dispose of her. As the investigation unfolds, long-time Hogg County high sheriff Will Moser confronts Albert Waters, a powerful businessman who Will suspects knows about Maria’s disappearance—but Albert and his Mexican cartel partners prove to be brick walls.

At the urging of his wife, Lana, Will calls on Elijah Kahn, a man he got to know while serving in Vietnam who now runs one of the largest international security firms in the world. The idea of working with men who are rightly known as mercenaries troubles Will, but he knows he’ll never find Maria without Elijah’s help—and when Lana reminds Will of the debt they owe to Tomas Delgado, Maria’s uncle, his hesitation evaporates.

Organized in an hour-by-hour structure, The Bus to Beulah is a taut thriller that culminates in a massive, heart-pounding chase to save Maria—before she disappears forever. 
When was the last time you've read a book that is written hour by hour? Honestly, I cannot remember the last time I read a book with that format and it was a refreshing change to the more traditional format. I also can't remember the last book I read about sex trafficking despite what a hotbed and relavent topic it is, so with both of those key points being the only the things I knew about this going into this, so I had high expectations. 

I won't say that my hopes were dashed, because I did enjoy this book, I will say that it wasn't quite what I thought. I was surprised that Will was mostly the key character and I really thought it would be more about Maria, given that she is our victim. I care more about the victim than I do the would be bad guy, and then the people trying to save her. I had a really hard time keeping track of characters, it's definitely not a skill I have anymore post-brain injury, so I can't really say if that is an issue others would necessarily feel. I did get Wiley Cash-vibes, he's one of my favorite North Carolina authors, so I was pleasantly surprised to see the similarities. Overall for a thriller, I did enjoy it, though it wasn't one that I raced through. I picked this up, read a couple of chapters, and then would put it down for the day. I wonder if I would have enjoyed this more as an audiobook, so if you're on the fence, I'd go for that. 

Thank you to SparkPoint Studio and author E.C. Hanes for sending me a copy for review! I think I would read another from this author, there was definitely enough promise in this one for me to go another round.