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. 

Monday, May 9, 2022

Book Review: 100 Days of Adventure

Being a mom means that you reach the point of a school year where you just need the year to be done. You need a break. Of course, that is usually when the panic sets in because once school is over, we are most likely going to hear the dreaded phrase, "I'm booooooooored!" no less than 500 times per kid every day. Thankfully, this has arrived just in time. 

100 Days of Adventure - Greta Eskridge

Turn off the screen and turn on the creativity as second-generation homeschooling mom Greta Eskridge shares 100 hands-on learning activities for kids that will connect and enrich your family through adventures, small and big.

Have a meteor slumber party, attend a symphony concert, take a hike in the rain, preserve colorful fall leaves, and make nettle pesto as children explore a love of nature and venture into the great, wide, real world. From backyard bugs to farmer's market veggies, children will unplug from electronics; explore the world; and learn about nature, art, music, and themselves through STEAM projects and new experiences.

100 Days of Adventure will spark curiosity in 6- to 10-year-olds with indoor and outdoor seasonal activities, projects, experiments, crafts, recipes, and field trips. Free and low-cost activities, with options for different kinds of groups and locations, step-by-step directions, nature journal prompts, tips, and checklists, beautiful photos and helpful illustrations children can bond with parents and siblings, learn new skills with individual investigations, or explore with friends in an educational or homeschool group with this full-color activity book. Also included is a note to parents with encouraging start-here guidance on growing a family culture of curiosity and adventure. Whether your family is looking for fun activities for school breaks at home, road trip vacations, or everyday ways to learn together, this collection of interactive educational activities will help your kids get creative, get into nature, and get closer to each other.
To be honest, I have a love/hate relationship with summer. It's kind of how I feel about motherhood too, I suppose. I love my kids, I love all of the moments and the snuggles. I'm not a huge fan of the exhaustion, tears, and entertaining. I had no idea how hard it was going to be to continually plan activities for kids. 

As it turns out, I always start out enthusiastically at the start of summer and as we approach July, I am absolutely over it. I end up exhausted, and I really just want to read my book in my favorite chair in the sunshine. 

Thankfully, Greta Eskridge has done all of the hard work for us and in one fantastically creative compilation, provides 100 days of adventure that span every season. If ever you have absolutely no idea on what to do with your kids, this book is going to save you. If you're ever stuck watching other kids and feel like they are going to take over, this book will save you. 

My youngest two immediately grabbed this from my desk and started making a list. They made me a list. While that's great because I have a game plan for the summer, but now I feel like there are expectations. Yay me! Ha! Topping the list for them is rock painting (to make The Perfect Pet, page 20) and learning about rocks (page 69), becoming an Insect Expert (page 30). They also want to pick and dry apples (page 66), so we're going to incorporate this into a trip to an apple festival in the fall. Topping the list for both Penelope and Lucy, is going on a Rainy-Day Ramble (page 78). They have asked about going out into the rain dozens of times and honestly, nothing sounds worse to me, but this mom? Is going on a rainy day ramble with a couple of little girls who really want to go shopping for waterproof pants. We also are going to make a book nook (page 114) for our summer reading. 

The book is so well organized, your kiddos won't have any problem going page to page and making their own list. You are surely going to be mom of the summer (and every other season). Thank you to TLC Book Tours and Thomas Nelson Publishing for having me on this tour and sending me a copy for review! I secretly love roping my kids into book reviews, and any time I see them get excited when new books come, is the absolute best.