Tuesday, August 23, 2022

Book Review: It Happened One Summer

You know I'm an outrageously enthusiastic, probably more than normal, fan of Tessa Bailey. I will buy and read anything with her name on it, I don't care what it even is. I know I'm going to enjoy it and this did not disappoint. 

It Happened One Summer

Tessa Bailey

Piper Bellinger is fashionable, influential, and her reputation as a wild child means the paparazzi are constantly on her heels. When too much champagne and an out-of-control rooftop party lands Piper in the slammer, her stepfather decides enough is enough. So he cuts her off, and sends Piper and her sister to learn some responsibility running their late father’s dive bar... in Washington.

Piper hasn’t even been in Westport for five minutes when she meets big, bearded sea captain Brendan, who thinks she won’t last a week outside of Beverly Hills. So what if Piper can’t do math, and the idea of sleeping in a shabby apartment with bunk beds gives her hives. How bad could it really be? She’s determined to show her stepfather—and the hot, grumpy local—that she’s more than a pretty face.

Except it’s a small town and everywhere she turns, she bumps into Brendan. The fun-loving socialite and the gruff fisherman are polar opposites, but there’s an undeniable attraction simmering between them. Piper doesn’t want any distractions, especially feelings for a man who sails off into the sunset for weeks at a time. Yet as she reconnects with her past and begins to feel at home in Westport, Piper starts to wonder if the cold, glamorous life she knew is what she truly wants. LA is calling her name, but Brendan—and this town full of memories—may have already caught her heart. 
Right out the gate, this was advertised as  "Schitt's Creek inspired.." and I am all in. I absolutely love that show and watch it over and over again, it's so underappreciated. Anyways. We have Piper, a spoiled rich kid who gets into trouble and as her punishment she's banished to a tiny fishing town on the coast of Washington. Because her sister is ride or die, she also agrees to go with her and she is a damn good sister. 

Piper quickly meets Brendan, who is clearly not welcoming, and her accomodations are.... they are straight up awful. No amount of Clorox is going to make this place alright, I don't care what anyone says. Piper and Hannah soon learn about their father who died tragically on a fishing trip when they were very young, and they start meeting the colorful characters of Westport, Washington and already, I am in love with all of it. 

Of course this is Piper and Brendan's story and I love, love, LOVE how their story is rolled out. Both of them have similar humor/sarcasm but in very different ways that compliment each other, which is what each other need. Piper has zero long term relationship experience and Brendan was married but his wife actually died a few years prior, so they are different in that area too, which leads to a little difficulty as the story goes on. Piper and Hannah decide to revamp and revive the bar their father was so proud of, so they are trying to do this all on their own with a very limited budget, Piper is trying to connect with the community and finds that she's quickly finding her niche, and of course, things are getting hot and heavy with Brendan. Tessa Bailey is known for writing great steamy scenes and she doesn't disappoint here. 

(Side note: I actually listened to the audiobook version of this and loved it! I will say, it's a different vibe having someone read these scenes to you versus reading them yourself. *ahem*)

Overall, I really loved this one. I didn't want it to end at all and I am ridiculously excited the next book is Hannah's book, I can't wait to start it. I loved the characters so much, I loved the plot, I loved how the little town is set up so you feel like you're walking through it with Piper and totally get the feel for it. I loved Brendan so much, he's a solidly great guy, and I was so excited that him and Piper are the focus in this one. 

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Monday, August 22, 2022

Book Review: The Highlander's Tudor Lass

I don't want to get cocky, but I was kind of a reading rockstar this weekend, more so than I've been in awhile. I've just got to keep up my pace, no biggie, right??

The Highlander's Tudor Lass 

Heather McCollum

Callum Macquarie would give anything to go back to the Highlands and Wolf Isle. Instead, he’s stuck circling an undefended English castle in too-tight breeches, longing for his bed and his plaid. But he has an oath to keep: to bring home the bonny Anna Montgomerie and her sister before that devil of a blaggard pirate Jundeau finds them first. Only the lass he’s come to rescue has no interest in going back to Scotland with him. Or ever.

To hell with Callum and his oath. Anna won’t step one foot in Scotland—no matter the danger. Not after what she’s left behind, and not while there’s a chance she can remain in England. But she has a plan. And the only hitch involves a braw, fiercely protective highlander who refuses to leave…and whose touch burns hotter than fire.

Now Anna and Callum are caught between the threat coming for Anna. Staying means danger. Leaving means death. And a blazing attraction that could spoil everyone’s plans.
I honestly could not tell you what the last book I read that was set in the Tudor period, so this was fun in that regard all on its own. This is part of the Brothers of Wolf Isle series, it's number 3, and while it is technically a stand alone, I feel like it almost would have been helpful to have read books one and two. The book is Anna and Callum's story, but it keeps mentioning that Anna won't go back to Scotland and while we do find out why, having no back story really made it hard for me to really understand what her dang problem was. So if you're on the fence, I'd recommend books one and two, which I am now going to read because I really enjoyed this one. 

With that, this book begins with Anna and her sister Dora, who have left Scotland and are now hanging out in England, in a castle, basically hanging out and helping Princess Elizabeth. One day though, Callum comes along, from Scotland, on a mission to bring both Anna and Dora back to Wolf Isle at the command of their older sister Lark. Anna doesn't know that pirate Jundeau is on his own mission to capture her, which puts her in imminent danger. She very much doesn't want to go back (she is basically wanted for the murder of her father, which I was so confused about, but it is elaborated on later in the book) and out of nowhere, a man of stature named Griggs proposes to her. Anna of course is just excited because she would no longer be on the bottom rung of economic status. It then becomes a waiting game on whether she will accept the proposal or go with Callum, while waiting for the pirate and his crew. 

With that, the story starts having some comedy and fun, and I was absolutely here for it. I totally LOVED Callum, and though Anna was driving me nuts at points because WHY, why, WHY FOR THE LOVE OF WHY would she even consider Griggs? Can we just all acknowledge he needs to be pushed off a cliff? Even the first appearance of him, I wanted to push him off a cliff. Sue me. 


I love how Callum give zero craps on what others think of him, he's just confident in his abilities and qualities, and he is absolutely the best match for Anna there ever could be. Of course, we know pirates are coming, and they do, and holy hell- Callum does the damn thing. It was so great, quite possibly the best action sequence I've read in a romance in a long time. It does have one real steamy scene and a couple of almost/we're getting there moments, and I was so thrilled. 

I absolutely loved this one, I can't wait to read more of this series! I also love the author's writing style, the story was fun and I didn't want to put this down at all, needless to say...... my family ate cereal for dinner and I never went to bed. 100% worth it. 

Thank you to Entangled Publishing and NetGalley for sending me an ARC for review, this was an unexpected delight, and it makes me want to read a whole lot more historical romances, that's for sure!

I am going to include the links of the three books that have been released so far, I know you'll love them- I highly recommend getting all three at the same time. 

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Friday, August 19, 2022

Book Review: In Our Blood

I don't think I have to tell you that I specifically picked this book out because any book about someone's personal mental health journey automatically interests me. As soon as I saw this and learned a little more about her story, I knew I had to read this. 

In Our Blood - Caitlin Billings

When Caitlin Billings became a therapist, she did so with an intention to heal from her past. She wasn’t planning on a mental health relapse or an involuntary psychiatric hold. She was a mother now. A mental health professional. She thought the issues she’d faced in her past were dealt with, tucked away forever.

She was wrong.

Over the years, Billings contends with bipolar disorder while raising two children and fighting to regain her footing as a clinician. She feels she’s finally gotten a handle on her mental health when, on the cusp of adolescence, her elder child begins to struggle with disordered eating and depressive symptoms. Convinced that she is to blame for her child’s struggles, Billings pivots her attention to this new crisis, determined to keep it together for her family—but after it comes out that sexual abuse has taken place in their home, she questions her ability to protect her children and experiences a relapse. Amidst all this turmoil, her elder child also comes out as transgender, forcing yet another kind of reckoning. Billings must find a way to accept the many changes and unexpected challenges that have reared up in their lives—and, ultimately, to accept herself.

Trigger warnings: domestic violence, self harm, suicidal thoughts, eating disorders, addiction, sexual assualt, incest, assault with a deadly weapon... I think I got them all. 

I started this one in the middle of the night (are you seeing a trend here?) and I really only intended to read a couple of chapters and pick it up in the morning. Fast forward three hours and I put the finished book down and I think I said, "wow" totally outloud for nobody to hear. Well, Twinky (my dog) did but he didn't especially care. Since finishing this book, I have recommended it to no less than 20 people because it just hits differently. I think those of us who are parents and trying to juggle being a mom, being a wife, keeping a career, and struggling with our own health issues, we put ourselves last. We don't deal with the traumas we've gone through, no matter how bad, because someone else needs us. Nobody has time for mom to break down. Moms are supposed to keep it together. 

I remember when I had Lucy, I came home an absolute wreck. I think everyone expected I would struggle, but when it was clear I was really struggling, everyone was quietly worried in their own way, but nobody actually knew what to do. I was going to therapy biweekly, I was seeing a psychiatrist for mental health medications, I was seeing what felt like a doctor in every practice to manage my complicated health situation, but still, nobody really knew what to do with me. I didn't fit the mould of anything, and amniotic fluid embolisms are rare enough that there is no blueprint on what to do with us. I remember those first three years being the worst, and more than once I thought about checking in somewhere, anywhere, because I wasn't doing well by any standards. I never did, and I truly regret that now. I'm nowhere near in those years, but I definitely do come in and out of really awful depression and I think almost daily about what's the point of being here? Sure, I've got my kids and husband, friends and family, but once you look beyond that... what's the damn point? 

So while I definitely can't relate with Caitlin in much of her personal story, I definitely know what that really dark and scary feels like. To be so close to the edge you scare the hell out of yourself, nevermind everyone else around you. 

A quick rundown of the book is Caitlin is a licensed clinical social worker, who leaves college with the goal of helping someone, somewhere. She goes into this thinking that while she's helping others, she could also help herself heal from the trauma she had endured, which includes an eating disorder, being held at gun-point, learning her child is transgender but also has depression, self-harm, and suicidal thoughts, all while she learns she actually has a bipolar disorder. I mean, what a whiner, am I right? Of course dealing with your own struggles brings shame, and I don't care how much we try to normalize mental health, people definitely give you the look once they realize what you're trying to manage. 

I just really loved this book. It's well organized, it's written as if your best friend is writing you a letter explaining where they've been, and at times you also feel the weight of the world on her shoulders. You're rooting for her and her family, and you just to fix it all for them. As someone who has a child who has struggled with many of these same issues, I absolutely knew what she meant when she described the helplessness you feel as a parent because you can only do so much. Trying to help them, and yourself at the same time is a monumental task. 

Overall, I absolutely loved this book. Caitlin Billings did an amazing job pulling all of it together, bringing us into with her, while also showing us that it's OK to get help. Actually, it's imperative to get help because nobody else can do it except us. The world around us does go on even when we're gone and taking the time we need to work on ourselves is the best thing we can do not just for ourselves, but our family and friends, too. She really hides nothing, she pulls the rug all the way back, so to speak and it's beautifully brave. 

A huge thank you to Caitlin Billings and PR by the Book for having me on this tour and sending me a copy. You can learn more about Caitlin on her website, but also on Instagram and Twitter. As always, I will always tell you to pick the book up as well. If you, or someone you know, is struggling with mental health, this would be a great read for them. 

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Thursday, August 18, 2022

Book Review: Ugly Love

Hey, hey! I'm starting to get the hang of the audiobook thing,  so I've been trying to listen to one between podcasts, so it's not the worst thing. 

Ugly Love - Colleen Hoover

When Tate Collins meets airline pilot Miles Archer, she knows it isn’t love at first sight. They wouldn’t even go so far as to consider themselves friends. The only thing Tate and Miles have in common is an undeniable mutual attraction. Once their desires are out in the open, they realize they have the perfect set-up. He doesn’t want love, she doesn’t have time for love, so that just leaves the sex. Their arrangement could be surprisingly seamless, as long as Tate can stick to the only two rules Miles has for her.

Never ask about the past.
Don’t expect a future.

They think they can handle it, but realize almost immediately they can’t handle it at all.

Hearts get infiltrated.
Promises get broken.
Rules get shattered.
Love gets ugly.
I have to first say, the voices on this? Were kind of awful. No, I shouldn't say that, the voice of young Miles was the absolute worst. The way he would say "Rachel" made me want to dig my own eyeballs out to shove them into my ears. And that is my least dramatic opinion on that. 

Moving onto the story though, it wasn't bad. I absolutely called what was going to happen long before it did, and that's because Colleen Hoover is predictable in that way- what is the worst thing that could happen to a person in the set up she's given us? Because that's what is going to happen, it never fails. I will say, I did like Miles, even though his reaction to the traumatic event seems a bit insane, I really liked him. I also really liked Tate, but I liked the chemistry between Tate and Miles so much more. Tate referred to herself as "liquid" and I'll be honest, that seems really strange, and just.... creepy. Literally the only highlight of the book for me was the Thanksgiving trip to Tate's parent's home, only because her dad reminded me of mine, so I got a good chuckle out of that. 

I will say though, the scenes with Miles and Rachel are pretty good, but then it gets to be uncomfortable when you realize these are teenagers and almost/kind of step-siblings, so its just really... I don't know. It literally almost ruined the entire book for me. 

Overall, this was just.... meh. Let's just say this was a borrowed audiobook from my library instead of a purchased book. Colleen Hoover is a toss up on how I'll like the book anyways, but this was SO heavily suggested, I thought for sure I'd really like this one. Alas, I was disappointed. I will say though, if you're a fan of Colleen Hoover, you will really love this one because it follows her recipe for a novel, but if you're looking for something different, this wouldn't be it. 
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Tuesday, August 16, 2022

Book Review: The Weekly Gratitude Project

Do you journal? I do off and on, but I wish I were more dedicated to it. I also really wish I had been diligent about it when I came home after Lucy, there are so many things I don't remember. You'd think that because I regret that, it would make me more dedicated to it now but no... I don't know what my problem is. Perhaps having a guided project like this would be more helpful for those of us who aren't real consistent. 

The Weekly Gratitude Project

It’s time to start a project that will grow a grateful heart. The Weekly Gratitude Project is a 52-week guided gratitude journal that offers a life-changing journey through reflection prompts and inviting questions to guide you into a deeper relationship with God. This yearly gratitude journal features beautifully illustrated journaling pages that will help you discover more intimacy and joy in your spiritual life.

The Weekly Gratitude Project is:

Perfect for a beginner in faith and practicing gratitude, but strong and thought provoking enough for someone who already has a solid foundation. An easy-to-use journaling format designed to help you focus on adding more gratefulness into your day. A helpful companion for individual worship, Bible studies, and small groups.
Obviously, this is aimed for faith-based journaling, but I've found that several of the prompts could easily be used for those who aren't Christian or follow those teachings. 

First off, this book is gorgeous. It has that almost-clothlike textured cover, which are my absolute favorite. Just as the exterior is gorgeous, the pages throughout also are too pretty to write on! It only has 123 pages, and does include room for you to write within the book, but I found that using my personal journal worked best. It you do that you can easily pass this along to someone who would benefit from this, or at least enjoy it. I also thought this would maybe be a great thing to use in a Bible study group, or even faith based book club, it would certainly give you topics to talk about and compare your answers. 

Overall, I thought this was a well put together book, breaking it up over 52 weeks so you'd have a whole week to really think about your response to each question. It would make a great gift for sure, and with the holidays approaching, this would be a nice one to give so someone could start the new year with a positive start. 

Thank you to TLC Book Tours and Zondervan for having me on this tour and providing a copy for review! It's jumpstarted my own journaling, but I know exactly who I'm passing it along to. I'd love to know if you journal, and if you use anything to jump start your writing? Do you have a favorite book (or pen, I love a good pen) you use to write in? 
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Sunday, August 14, 2022

Book Review: Rookie Mistakes

I love this cover so much, and I just have to put that out there. I love it.  I also have to comment that I noticed I haven't read as much nonfiction as I usually do by this point in the year, and I'm not sure if that good or not. I do have more coming up, but it was just a random observation. 

Rookie Mistakes - Kelly Bandas

In her highly anticipated nonfiction debut, comedian Kelly Bandas uses her trademark humor to recount stories of growing up and becoming a semifunctional adult in a dysfunctional world.

Raised in a devoutly Catholic home, Kelly Bandas spent her entire childhood trying hard not to tick off “the man” or the Lord. And for the most part, she crushed it. But as she got older and began to navigate what it looked like to truly live in a world where gender roles, race, and politics weren’t always so black and white, Kelly realized that her former worldview was beginning to feel like that pair of Forever 21 jeans that used to glide effortlessly over her hips but now required a lot of stretching and acrobatic maneuvering to shimmy into place. And she’s not alone. 

In Rookie Mistakes, Kelly shares stories of growing up in a church-centered, male-dominated society and how those experiences shaped and primed her for a new chapter of life. In this debut collection of essays, Kelly shares:

Funny, fast-paced, and uplifting stories 
Encouragement for women who are tired of feeling like they will never measure up—and kind of don’t want to anyway
Inspiration to find your voice, your power, and your people

Kelly shares everything from laugh-out-loud accounts of Oregon Trail-themed first kisses to heartfelt insights gleaned from navigating life as a Christian feminist doing her best not to screw up being a parent of a child with a disability, in a trans-racial family.

Rookie Mistakes is the call-to-action millennial women everywhere have been waiting for. 
Full disclosure, this does have a little bit of religious tones sprinkled about but as someone who wouldn't consider myself as religious, but I didn't think it was overwhelming in this, so go in knowing that. Also, if you love Jenny Lawson, you might really like this. They don't have the same writing style, but the comedy sprinkled into situations that probably don't warrant laughing, makes me think having a dinner date with both of them would be a good time. 

The book is comprised of several essays that span her childhood, growing up, getting married, being a mom, and then being a mom/everything during the height of the pandemic, and I don't care who you are, we can all relate to so many of these. The best part of this book is that the author shows us some of her shining mistakes, which many of us have done (or in the process of doing), but looking back on them in hindsight with humility, but also trying to learn the lesson, you know? The concept of not being so hard and judging ourselves, but also giving others the same grace, because life is rough on us all. I also really loved the nostalgia and love for the 90's in this book! I'm a 1982 baby, but I tell my kids all of the time that the 90's were the BEST time to grow up. I will forever be grateful that that's when me real growing up happened, because it definitely shaped me as a person. 

Honestly, this might be my top nonfiction book of the year. I really like memoirs anyways, but this one just really stuck with me. I could relate to the stories, and the author, and it encouraged me to look at the mistakes I've made and stop dwelling them. The other perk was that each essay isn't very long, so if you like a book with short chapters because you only get short spans of reading time, this is great for you. Needless to say, I flew through this one. The perk of my husband snoring outrageously loud is that I am getting a lot of reading in, so there's that. 

Thank you to TLC Book Tours and Thomas Nelson Publishing for sending me a copy of this and letting me jump onto this tour! 
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Friday, August 12, 2022

Book Review: The Gunslinger's Guide to Avoiding Matrimony

Can we just appreciate how pretty my hydrangeas are in this picture? Sure, you can't see the detail, but they have HUGE blooms. I don't want to get cocky, but I feel like I'm pretty good at growing these at least. Everything else? Slowly working on it. I should do a garden update soon, I can show you my fight against ivy, it's all very exciting. Ha!

The Gunslinger's Guide to Avoiding Matrimony Michelle McLean

At the ripe old age of twenty-eight, desperate-to-retire gunslinger Adam Brady has exactly two rules. And one of them is never, ever get married. So he’ll be danged when his dreams of permanently avoiding the bounty hunter on his tail in Desolation, the only town where notorious men like him can find respite, comes with one helluva string attached. The town has a new rule: gunslingers welcome—if they get a job…or marry.

Without realizing it, Adam stumbles into a big town wedding and accidentally marries Nora Schumacher, a sassy-mouthed mountain of a woman with legs as long as his wanted poster. So what’s a gunslinger to do but get himself unhitched and find a job. Any job. Except Adam keeps getting fired, one odd circumstance after another. And he’s running out of options.

Desolation was supposed to be his safe haven. Except, he’s not only running from his past but from the irresistible woman he married. And worse, he’s finding that he rather likes the enticing, if damnably independent, wife of his. But some men just aren’t the marrying kind. Only, if he leaves, his own life won’t be worth living. If he stays, he puts the lives of his newfound family and the woman he loves on the line. So much for Desolation being the answer to all his problems.
I know I say it everytime I read a western romance, but I truly always forget how much I like this genre until I'm in the middle of reading it. I actually read this one in the middle of the night while Matt slept great, but snored all night so I couldn't sleep. I haven't read the first one, but these are all going to be stand-alones, so no worries there. I do want to go back and read that one though, because I would have liked to know more on how this little town came to be, but also get a little more backstory on all the characters for my own curiosity. 

I have to start by saying I love a romance that has banter between the two main characters. Maybe because that's just my general personality so I can relate more? I'm not sure, but I love that immediately upon meeting each other, Adam and Nora are at it. Also, the idea that you can literally accidentally marry someone in the middle of town is bizarre, but also funny, so I liked how this one started right away. As we get through the book, we have a lot of... sexual tension, we have more banter, a little danger, but full of comedy but not in a laugh-out-loud way, more of a snicker to yourself kind of comedy. The only thing that gets me, and it isn't this book only but rather, romance books in general, is the lack of communication story line. I feel like it's in more books than not and while it was fun for awhile, it's just really played out and I'm over it. I think between that, and how comically unbelievable the entire premise is (though it is fun), I'd give this one a solid 4. 

I am looking forward to book three though, and if you're looking for something light and fun, this would be a great one to look at. Thank you to TLC Book Tours and Entangled Publishing for having me on this tour and sending me a copy for review! 
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Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Book Review/Feature: Little Dirt Road and Juiced

Happy Wednesday! I have been running errands and then on the phone literally the entire day. I really hate scheduling appointments, especially medical ones, because it's just a pain. I also got to take my vehicle for an oil change and $800 later.... I'm not even kidding... I have two new tires AND an oil change. I just want it on the record that every time I've ever had something in a tire it has been because of Matt driving my vehicle. He got it "fixed" a few months ago and I said, I don't think this is actually fixed, but you know, I don't know what I'm talking about. 

Even though I'm paying $800 today, I really enjoyed listening to the tech explain to Matt that the tire clearly wasn't done correctly. I don't want to say I told you so, but..... let's just say my track record of being right is pretty strong. 

In other news, I have a couple of books I think you might like if adventure with a little mystery sprinkled in. It's a departure from what I've been reading lately, and I really needed the change of pace. 

Book Review/Feature: Juiced & Little Dirt Road

Both books are the latest installments of The O'Malley Adventures (books 3 and 4), and I should mention I haven't read books one and two. I don't think you necessarily need to read these in order but I think it would add to the character development of our main characters. I personally like seeing the arc of the characters over an entire series, if done correctly you really see them change as a real person would. Let's take these in order so I don't get mixed up. 

Little Dirt Road: Bad Men on Whidbey Island
The O’Malleys are doing what? How is it possible that dangerous complications arise from their simple vacation in wine country? With their recent move to South Whidbey Island, only the O’Malley’s would stumble upon drug smugglers, embezzlers, and murderers amongst the locals. The quirky, pastoral island, reachable by a less than speedy ferry from Mukilteo or the narrow, deteriorating Deception Pass bridge, is no match for the wicked men about to visit.

A notorious drug lord and a nondescript enforcer with freakish hell-raising skills invade the peaceful Pacific Northwest island—where not even the friendly locales and free-roaming long-eared rabbits can soften his homicidal heart.

Weeding through the facts and surprisingly connected characters with their trusted friend, Bellevue Detective Bill Owens, the narrative swirls from Mexico to Canada and throughout Puget Sound. It’s a heart-racing and outrageously offbeat adventure for two innocent people, proving once again that trouble will find the O’Malleys without the slightest amount of effort on their part.

I mean, who doesn't like a vacation going to hell, am I right? I've never personally been to the Pacific Northwest, but the descriptions were so spot on and descriptive, that won points with me. Let's talk about the things that made it tough for me first because there are far more good than bad. Having read two of Ted's books now, I get the impression his skill is in weaving the story together, and that means giving you some strings as you go and somehow by the end they all come together before you know it. It's 100% an issue with me, I have some cognitive issues so I sometimes have a hard time remembering those details so it takes me a bit at the end to connect things. Some of the twists were predictable, but not all. One of the perks of this for me was that you didn't necessarily seen some of them coming, so I appreciated that, it makes the book hard to put down and a rather quick read. I would say overall this is a little different, but in the best way possible. It made going into the next book much easier because I liked the writing style, but now I feel kind of invested in the O'Malleys! 

Juiced: A Whidby Adventure
An invention that can save the planet?
Somehow, someway the O’Malleys have found themselves in the thick of things once again. On peaceful, bucolic Whidbey Island, they become entangled in a corporate plot to stifle a paradigm-shattering discovery, one that promises to upend conventional thinking, topple markets, and create an entirely new industry.
Kevin and Jenne, along with scientists from the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, find themselves pitted against a band of bumbling criminals who will stop at nothing to get what they want—including arson and murder.
It’s another rollicking adventure for the retired interior designers ably assisted by their favorite detective, the FBI, and Emma, their ever-vigilant German Shepherd Dog.

So... what I gather from these is that Kevin and Jenne are forever falling into trouble somehow, no matter where they go or what they are doing. While we aren't dealing with a drug lord in this one, we are dealing with some serial criminals who aren't real smart. Let's just say they aren't watching enough Dateline because they kind of fumble along the way. I suppose if this was real life, that's for the best if you're tasked with catching them. I want to also say I love their dog. I really wish my dog was helpful, let alone dependable. I could be being murdered, but if it is his naptime, I'm on my own. 

This story centers around an invention of a power source that could really upend science, but also how society functions. Obviously, not everyone would be excited about that, specifically anyone that would be losing power and/or profits, but our rag tag team of heroes are on the case. I actually liked this one slightly more than Little Dirt Road, only because I felt like this one had a little more action. Coincidentally, I was just watching a documentary that talked about arson and how investigators can tell if a fire was arson or not, so I liked that this book featured arson. Which sounds weird to say. Overall, I liked this one and again, flew through this one in less than a day. If you're stuck and need a quick one to read, definitely consider these!

Thank you to Ted Mulcahey and Author Marketing Experts for having me on this tour and mailing me copies for review! 

Saturday, August 6, 2022

Book Review: In The Dark We Forget

Two in one day, who 'dis? I know, I've finished a few books kind of all at the same time so I'm getting them out to you before I forget all about them. (I'm absolutely guilty of that and it's terrible!)

In the Dark We Forget - Sandra S.G. Wong

A jolting psychological suspense novel from an up-and-coming Chinese-Canadian crime writer about missing parents, a winning lottery ticket and the lies we tell ourselves in order to survive.

Some things are better left forgotten . . .

When a woman wakes up with amnesia beside a mountain highway, confused and alone, she fights to regain her identity, only to learn that her parents have disappeared—not long after her mother bought a winning $47 million lottery ticket.

As her memories painfully resurface and the police uncover details of her parents’ mysterious disappearance, Cleo Li finds herself under increasing suspicion. Even with the unwavering support of her brother, she can’t quite reconcile her fears with reality or keep the harrowing nightmares at bay.

As Cleo delves deeper for the truth, she cannot escape the nagging sense that maybe the person she should be afraid of...is herself.

With jolting revelations and taut ambiguity, In the Dark We Forget vividly examines the complexities of family—and the lies we tell ourselves in order to survive.

What interested me in this book originally was the concept of a main character having amnesia and trying so hard to get back any kind of memory back. As someone who actually has short term (and some long term) memory loss, the feeling of not being able to remember key events in your life is really unsettling. It's creepy and actually kind of scary. You have to trust what other people say, and the information they give you, and it could be completely wrong. The vulnerability in that is scary. 

In this book, we have Cleo, who literally wakes up in the middle of a gravel road and she knows she's been teh victim of something violent. Where she is, how she got there, why, but also who she is all information she does not know and she is tasked with figuring that out. It turns out she isn't the kind of person to rely on others, but being a Chinese-Canadian woman, in the middle of nowhere Canada makes her an outsider of sorts. She quickly finds commonality with an officer of sorts who agrees to help her out. Of course though, how easily would you believe someone who can't tell you where they are or how they got here, but oh yeah, has no idea who they are? I think any of us would have a healthy amount of doubt.  

Once we start unraveling this crazy ball, we start getting small pieces of the story at a time. We meet Cleo's brother and sister in law (both of which you never really get a good feeling from), you find out Cleo's parents won some crazy lottery, and as the story goes on more and more starts coming out all of my original theories were being tossed out one by one. 

I will say, I was starting to figure it out, and I felt like the author kind of pooped out. I was really expecting a more major bang at the end. It is a debut thriller from Sandra S. G. Wong and I was hooked on this one so I will absolutely read the next book she gives us. Can we also get excited about a Canada based novel? I feel like I've read books from lots of other countries but I truly can't think of one set in Canada. I also love the diversity of the characters but also like the inclusion of how that diversity would affect how authorities would treat them. 

Overall? I really liked this one and I'm really looking forward to the next book from Sandra S.G. Wong. Thank you to TLC Book Tours and HarperCollins for having me on this tour and sending me a copy for review!  

Thursday, August 4, 2022

Book Review: The Craigslist Incident

I am trying to really catch up on reviews, but I also have some fun family things to post about soon, so I've got lots to do. The rest of our summer looks pretty lame, but I'm trying to squeeze one or two more fun things into this last month. Stay tuned!

The Craigslist Incident - Jason Fisk

In The Craigslist Incident, Edna Barrett takes an advertisement out on Craigslist: I’m an 18-year-old female and I want to take a hit out on myself. Joe Dolsen, a 20-year-old who has suffered from periodic blackouts his whole life, answers the ad. What would bring two people to such ominous points at such young ages, and will they actually go through with it?
OK, wow. This book was actually an emotional gut punch that I wasn't at all expecting. I knew going in these two characters have heavy backstories, but I thought it would get lighter and almost a happily ever after, you know? Turns out that isn't it at all. Edna and Joe each have their own awful backstories so you find yourself rooting for them because surely it can't get worse, right? 

Well, turns out it actually can. The book features mental health struggles, and completely dysfunctional families, and you know it has to be bad if an 18 year old young woman takes an ad out to have a hitman end her life. I mean... think about that. Enter a 20 year old guy, definitely not in a great place himself, decides that yup- he can totally do this job. The story sounds completely bananas at this point but it gets even more bizarre and I found myself just so sad, and upset for each of them, and I just kept hoping somehow this would all turn around for everyone. 

As a mom, this story broke my heart. As someone who struggles with mental health myself, and I've battled thoughts of suicide at different points in my life, I could relate and understand the feels Edna had. I will say for a book that doesn't even come in at 250 pages, there was so much packed in, but done very well. 

There are some triggers which readers need to know about, and those include abuse and rape, and obviously suicide. Interestingly though, there are two endings for this book. I actually have only read one other book like that before, but this one is almost like a choose-your-own-ending book from our childhood. I felt like that really enhanced the book for me, even though I already really liked this one. I definitely want to read more from Jason Fisk, I'm already anxiously awaiting the next book. 

Thank you to TLC Book Tours for having me on this tour! If you're looking for something a little offbeat, a little different, I definitely think this is one you should be looking at. 

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Monday, August 1, 2022

Book Review: First Bride to Fall

We had a pretty great weekend doing a staycation (kind of) with friends instead of a our usual road trip. I'll share more about that later, also Lucy's birthday. She's six now and I'm in my feels. 

First Bride to Fall - Ginny Baird

Nell Delaney will do almost anything for her parents and her two sisters. But enter a marriage of convenience to save the family’s coffee shop? Too far. So Nell and her sisters strike a deal: whoever hasn’t found love in thirty days has to step up to take one for the team. The good news? Nell knows the perfect guy to fall in love with. The bad news? She’s going to have to pretend she likes the outdoors…a lot.

Adventure guide Grant Williams knows immediately that Nell is not exactly Little Miss Outdoorsy. She’s a walking natural disaster—an amazingly adorable disaster. And whoa, their chemistry is unbelievable. Everything between them is so perfect, he’s not even a little bit shocked when he starts thinking of forever…

Right up until he catches the town gossiping about the Delaney sisters’ bargain and realizes she’s just using him to win a bet. Unfortunately, his family’s unreliable reputation means he can’t just dump one of the town’s sweethearts. No, she needs to dump him. If she’s going to pretend to be the perfect doting bride, well, he’ll just pretend to be the worst bachelor on the market.

Let the games begin…
I have a love hate relationship with the fake relationship trope, but this one was a fun read. Instead of a fake romance between people who don't like each other to start, this is one where Nell, our main character, has had a crush on Grant for quite awhile, so this isn't really a hardship for her. Bonus points are that it's the start of a new series, which I'm excited for, but also if you're looking for a clean romance, this is a good pick. Think Hallmark movie, so it isn't realistic so much, but it's sweet and fun. I did enjoy the humor throughout, I always appreciate a romance with some humor, especially when I'm in the mood for a palate cleanser, so to speak.  

My only issue was it's another book with miscommunication at the core. I feel like that theme has been beaten to death and I always enjoy a book with characters who communicate. Let's normalize that, you know? Overall though, I really enjoyed this one, it was exactly what I needed after a series of thrillers. It's light and fun, the absolute definition of a rom-com! It's my first read from Ginny Baird, but it definitely won't be my last, I really enjoyed her writing style. 

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