Wednesday, November 30, 2022

'Tis the damn season

Halloween is done, Thanksgiving is done, and it is officially the damn Christmas season. I am going to fully enjoy this month, that's all there is to it. I feel like I haven't really loved the last few years of the holidays and I think it is stress and being broke. I mean, I still have stress and I am still broke, but I feel  so much more organized this year. I wish I could share with you the gift tracking system I came up with this year but alas.... I'm not trying to spoil anyone's gifts. Obviously. 

I can share that we are fully decorated! All of our trees are up this year, we have the kid artwork tree in our front porch, the red/white/green tree in the dining room, our big tree, and then the tree in my office. Which, honestly, I think I might keep it up. All year. Is that crazy? It kind of feels crazy but I also kind of love it. 

Isn't she a beaut? It's just so cozy and happy when its really the only lights on in here, and it's just happy. 
Also, can I brag on my son? If you know Jackson, you know that he really got into crocheting last year but he's really gotten good at it. He keeps trying new projects and after some encouragement (and harrassment), he finally made me a Yip Yip Alien. Honestly, if you don't know who the Yip Yip Aliens were, I don't know that we can even be friends, because there were the hit of Sesame Street in the 80s and I don't care what anyone says. #yipyips4life But isn't it the freaking cutest?! 

Let's talk about our family's new ornaments! If you're new here, every year we have new ornaments join our hod podge big tree in our living room and they have to be related to something to that year. 
We actually had quite a few this year, so that was fun. First one was the gondola from Lutsen Mountain, where Matt and I went to this fall to see the fall colors. It was a fun date for us, definitely a highlight of the year for me. 
OK, this one technically isn't a memory of the year, but it's an acrylic cutout of Lake Superior, which is basically our backyard. It's just super pretty that it only seemed right we have it on our tree. 
This summer we took a quick summer trip with our friends to Brainerd, MN and we went to Paul Bunyan Land, which was a fun weekend away. 
Way back in March, Olivia and I went on a fantastic trip so I picked up ornaments on all of our major stops, so here was Ellis Island, 
the Empire State Building, 

Mount Vernon (George Washington's house), 
the Statue of Liberty, 
and just the monuments in Washington, D.C. I will have to find new ones because I'm going on the same trip with Jackson this spring, but I'm excited for it. 
Olivia went to a Van Gogh art experience this year and she got me an ornament for my birthday, and it's so pretty. 
Oh yes, and we didn't get to go into the 9/11 Memorial (sadly, I really wanted to go through it and see all of the things and learn more), but we did get to see the exterior and the memorial fountain. 
Earlier in the year Olivia went to Boston to compete for Harvard Model U.N. and she brought home an ornament. 
Isn't it so fun? Each of the kids has their own box that has the ornament they pick out themselves each year, which can be anything they choose. We always have a good time picking them out but even more fun unpacking them each year and trying to remember why they picked it. Someday though, they will grow up and move away but they'll have an entire box of special ornaments to take with them to their homes. I will be sad to not see these year after year though, I can't lie. 
Also, has anyone had experience with a cat who had pink eye? What about a cat who has pink eye in both eyes? I have had cats almost my entire life and never once have I had one with pink eye, but our newest cat, Pickles, has somehow gotten pink eye in both eyes. He's a hot damn mess and I feel like him having pink eye is the most logical way to end the year for us. It just seems pretty on brand for the Strands. 

Sunday, November 27, 2022

Book Review: The Fifth Daughter of Thorn Ranch

Are you buying books as gift this year? Do you usually? I do for some people, but it's surprising how many non-book people I have on my list!

The Fifth Daughter of Thorn Ranch 

 Julia Brewer Daily

An heiress to the largest ranch in Texas stumbles upon people living on her property. Will she survive her attempts to return home or will she accept her fate and remain hidden away from her family forever? A modern ranch, The Thorn, has an ancient secret and The Fifth Daughter of Thorn Ranch is a family saga as large as the state of Texas in which it abides.

Combining genres I don't read a whole lot of on their own (westerns, historical fiction, and mystery), The Fifth Daughter of Thorn Ranch is exactly what you think of when you think of a Texas based family saga with some romance and secrets thrown in for good measure. a multi-point of view story, it is full of strong female characters, especially a mom and daughter duo who (shocker) don't see eye to eye. 

I liked that the book focuses on the relationships we have with the family we're born into, but also the people we consider our family. It did (kind of) get weird when Emma goes off riding her horse, basically camp on her own in the middle of nowhere, but then we get a storm so she takes cover in a cave. While in the cave she decides she may as well explore and she suddenly finds.. people. I won't explain more but they basically don't want her to go so she's formulating a plan and her family is out looking for her. I won't give you anything more because it truly is better for you to go in kind of blind. Overall the story is a little odd, not quite what I thought it was going to be, but I didn't hate it, it was interesting enough to keep me turning the pages because I just really had to know what the hell was going on. If you're looking for something that doesn't really fit into just one category, this is definitely a great pick. 

Thank you to TLC Book Tours for letting me be on this tour and sending a copy for review! 

This post contains affiliate links. 

Tuesday, November 22, 2022

Book Review: Ghost House

What are your plans for Thanksgiving? Do you even celebrate it? I'm not a fan of Thanksgiving myself, but this year we are driving to see my brother and his kids. It's just a down and back trip so I'll be rested in time to shop till I drop on Friday.  

Just kidding, I'm mostly done, I just need stocking stuffers so that's going to take me a solid hour to do if I walk slow. 

Ghost House - Sara Connell

Ghost House is a short story collection where the madwomen are out of the attic and roaming the streets of Chicago, New York City and Prague. This series of "modern feminist ghost stories" explores the line between magic and reality and all the ways women can be haunted, and redeemed.
I honestly think this might be the only short story collection I've read this year.... usually I have a couple but this year I'm not sure that I've read any other. I'm a fan of short stories, sometimes I just don't have the mental capacity to engage in a whole story, so I need short and sweet. If you are a fan of spooky and witchy, this is going to be right up your alley. 

With excellent visual mastery and word play, author Sara Connell gives us a collection of spooky campfire stories of sorts. My biggest complaint is that with a title with "ghost" in it, I expected hauntings, at least some unsettling feelings that could be attributed to spirits or something. The foreword of the book gave the impression that the stories we were about to read were going to be adult versions of stories we made up during sleepovers with friends. Now, maybe I had weird friends, or maybe we were all watching too much cable TV but I distinctly remember being terrified at some sleepovers and none of these gave me the "this is kind of creepy" vibe.  We didn't totally get that, and it doesn't make the book any less fun to read, it just seems like perhaps a different title would have been more suitable? That's probably me getting very technically and nit-picky, but I don't feel well this week so that's where I'm at. 

I don't know why but I kept thinking this would be a good palette cleanser of a book for someone just finishing The Handmaid's Tale or something similar and are still on the feminist kick. I liked the author making comparisons on "all the ways women can be haunted", because some of the stories really hit that mark. I do think maybe two stories could be turned into whole books, the characters were fleshed out really well, the writing was smooth and easy to follow, and while they weren't what I would call horror, I was engaged in them anyways. Overall a good read, a solid 3 star for me. 

Thank you to Red Clover Digital and author Sara Connell for having me on this tour and providing a copy for review!

Book Review: Praesidium

So.. you know that weird flu/illness thing going around where you feel like you've been hit by a bus, you've got the weird headache and you get nausea/vomiting and/or diarrhea? Yeah... I've got all of it. It's super fun and exciting. I feel like death has warmed over and when I look back in Facebook memories, it seems I get sick EVERY YEAR the week of Thanksgiving. Just another reason why Thanksgiving is the worst. 

Praesidium - McKinley Aspen

Kathryn Bek gets the chance of a lifetime: a job offer right out of college, and in New York City, where adventure lies around every corner. Believing she is recruited for her marketing prowess, she is excited by the prospect of her new job in the intelligence sector; but all is not what it seems. Before long, Kathryn and her new team are thrown into a world of mystery, murder, and magic. As the team rushes around the world, untangling the web of lies, she finds that her past may be the key to protecting her, and the world's, future.

Will she be able to confront her fuzzy past to unlock the secrets within herself? Can her team rise to the challenge and stop the Paolucci Crime Family before they unleash havoc upon the globe?

Who will endure, the Kathryn of the past, or that of the future?

Praesidium can simply be described as "Good people with mad skills working to bring hope to a dark world."
I haven't read a good fantasy book in a hot minute, so I jumped at the chance at this one. It's only 240ish pages, so it's a fairly quick read and I've seen good reviews on it. The story definitely has some holes in it and some flaws, but part of me wonders if that's on purpose since this is book one of a series, so while we don't get all of the questions answered in this installment, it has me hooked in for book two already. 

The story centers around Kathryn, fresh out of college and looking for a job. She is inexplicably recruited/hired in the same by a mysterious man, on behalf of an incredibly vague organization, with an even vague/broad mission statement/goal. The whole thing is screaming sketchy, but Kathryn doesn't have a lot of options or prospects, a job with room and board, and the promise of grand experiences? What college grad is turning that down? 

Of course, nothing is as it seems and Kathryn soom realizes she's part of a team who are thrown into a world of murder and lies, which isn't quite the marketing gig Kathryn thought she would be doing. The author does a good job unrolling the story and doesn't overwhelm you with information all at once, instead tossing little pieces as we go and leaves you to work it out in your head as you read on. I was worried Kathryn was going to be the annoying characters who knows nothing and is kind of useless in an adult world, but she is quite the opposite, she can handle herself (almost to a fault) and she's the right kind of heroine for the story. I do hope book two comes sooner rather than later because I don't want to forget key bits of information in the wait. I will probably re-read this before starting book two anyways, but this was unexpectedly entertaining for me. 

Thank you to Red Clover Digital and author McKinley Aspen for having me on this tour and providing a copy for review. 

This post contains affiliate links.

Wednesday, November 16, 2022

Book Review: Between the Ocean and the Stars

Do you ever read a book that so many loved, and you're going through it and wondering what is actually wrong with you because you're not getting it? I feel like that's where I'm at here. 

Between the Ocean and the Stars

M.M. Cochran

As a newcomer on Ophelia Island, Florida, Sam Carter is distraught about moving away from his life in West Virginia. But the moment he lays eyes on the mysterious diner girl, Georgia Gabehart, he can't help but surrender to her bewitching allure.

Sam is mesmerized by Georgia even as she steals sailboats at night and breaks into lighthouses-the master of playing with knives and not getting cut. Until she's trapped in the tight grip of her boyfriend with a dark side.

When a dangerous hurricane sweeps Sam into a police investigation and Georgia is nowhere to be found, Sam gives himself only one option: love, even if loving might end in tragedy.

This dazzling coming of age debut novel from award-winning fiction writer M.M. Cochran will take your breath away.

I think my biggest issue with this book are the characters. I liked all of the things that were tackled in this book, young romance, mental health, some mystery, teenagers being teenagers, and teen romance violence, that is a lot of stuff tackled in one book. I didn't like Georgia right off the bat, I'm not sure if it is because I'm a mom and have two teenagers myself, but I have that whole mom intuition that just has never been wrong. I didn't like Sam because he's 18 and his parents treat him like he's 15, he's fairly clueless about girls and relationships, but also has almost stunted abilities to read the room or think about things long term. In a way, this almost felt like a modernized, skewed version of Romeo + Juliet, and I'm not sure how I feel about that now that I'm thinking of it. Then throw in a hurricane as the backdrop and this is will keep your blood pumping. 

I know a LOT of people really loved this book, I just don't know what I'm missing. I managed to fly through this one in a day so it is a quick read, but I really felt irritated throughout the book because these teenagers are morons. I was really rooting for Sam and I was even more frustrated by the ending and I really don't know how to feel about it. I will say, that for a debut novel, this was great. It is definitely a promising start to a wonderful writing career. 

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

Tuesday, November 15, 2022

Book Review: The Girl in Duluth

You know I jumped on this review for the setting, right? I live in Superior (mentioned in the book!), which is neighbors with Duluth (just over the bridge), and everyone here is basically there at least once a week. I feel like I'm there enough to justify moving there but nah.... I'm staying on this side of the bridge. HA!

The Girl in Duluth - Sigrid Brown

When 18-year-old June Bergeron’s mother goes missing, June fears the disappearance could be connected to the unsolved murders of several women found in the woods near Duluth, Minnesota. As she starts to ask questions, she is pulled into an ugly and dangerous world of exploitation and abuse, and she discovers that everyone around her has been keeping secrets.

Set in a remote area of Minnesota on the Canadian border, The Girl in Duluth tells the story of not only one family’s troubled history, but of a shrinking rural community reckoning with issues of gender, class, and race. Candid and elegant, June’s voice also simmers with the uneasiness of a young woman who has suddenly become aware she can no longer be sure of anything.
Right off the bat, it is so weird to see places that you know, that you drive through frequently, or are generally familiar with show up in a book. I would be lying if I said I tried to bust out my Minnesota highway map to find all of the other places mentioned, but I couldn't. They were possibly made up, but I'm not sure. 

Alright, so the book begins with June, a teenager with an unreliable, possibly not real great mom, named Tonya. June is approached by Frank, Tonya's friend/we aren't really sure what he is to her, who tells her that Tonya is missing. At first, June isn't as concerned because Tonya has a history of disappearing for a few days without warning, but she always turns up. Frank is absolutely insistent that there is something wrong and that June come with him to search for her. At this point, I started getting weird vibes about Frank and honestly, they never went away, even at the end of the book when everything unfolds. Of course, Tonya is not found alive, and thus begins June's persistent investigation of her mother's death. She is absolutely sure it wasn't a suicide, but she's really the only one in that lane, but she's sure that it has something to do with the recent disappearances of girls/women in Duluth. 

We get a fairly large cast of characters (June, Frank, Tonya, Zee, police, newspaper editor, sketchy folks seemingly connected but we don't know how/why, etc.), and while this would add layers to most stories, it almost felt too much for me. It seemed like the author started handing us strings but instead of giving us a tight bow at the end, we've got a loose braid. I had to re-read the last third of the book twice to really understand the meat of the story. (Let me just insert here that the author definitely got the sketchiness of some of Duluth's neighborhood, and I definitely wouldn't recommend anyone hanging out by the large shipping docks, I can't say that I know of this area being a big human trafficking port. I mean, never in all my life have I even heard a peep about that on the news or even in rumor. Prostitution? You bet, we have actual "massage parlors" that very clearly are a happy-ending-only kind of place. 

Overall, while the beginning of the book was a bit slow for me, it seemed like it was a fast ride down the hills of Duluth towards the end. I appreciate that the author brings attention to a little known talked about issue of native and indigenious women and girls being victims of violent crimes and kidnapping with little fanfare because that is absolutely an issue we deal with around here. We have organizations and activists bring the topic to light, and every little bit helps. This is a problem all over, not just here, so it is something that we should all think about. 

My other quip is I had to keep reminding myself that June was only 17, she's still just a kid, because man alive..... she drove me nuts. I'm a parent to a 17 year old myself, so I understand what they are like, but phew.. she got to be a lot. Keeping in mind that she's just a kid, who lost her mom, and the rest of her life has now gone into a tailspin, so that helped to keep in mind. 

I think I'd give this one 3.5 stars, rounded to 4. It really is a fast read, and while the beginning is slow and you'll consider DNF'ing it, keep going because the conclusion leaves you looking at all of the characters completely differently. Thank you to Red Clover Digital and author Sigrid Brown for having me on this tour! 

This post contains affiliate links. 

Book Reviews: The Imagineering Story *and* 100 Disney Adventures

I actually have two books for you today, but they are both related to each other..kind of... so I thought, why not review them together? I don't know about you, but where I live it's getting colder and we're currently getting snow. I'm not a winter fan, so I'm dreaming of sunshine and warmer days.... at Disney!

100 Disney Adventures of a Lifetime

Wake up to the sight of giraffes grazing outside of your window. Soar 400 feet into the sky on a hot-air balloon ride over Walt Disney World. Watch the Disneyland fireworks from The Tomorrowland Skyline Lounge, far away from the crowds. Taste your way through 11 countries of the world at Epcot’s Food and Wine Festival. Take a jet trip around the world.

All these experiences and more bring the magic of Disney alive--and you can find 100 not-to-be-missed adventures in this one-of-a-kind collection. From the most beloved signature experiences--Epcot’s International Flower Show, breakfast with beloved characters at Chef Mickey’s, and getting dolled up like a princess before your day at the park--to the hidden VIP wonders like a private dinner in the wine cellar the Grand Floridian or drinks at the exclusive, members-only Club 33, this illuminating guidebookcelebrates and reveals the best experiences in and around Disney resorts and parks all over the globe.

Discover the magic that awaits, including:
  • A training session at the Jedi Academy at Disney Hollywood Studios, where you can make your own light saber and fight Darth Vader
  • Magical meals at a rotating dinner club featuring Walt Disney World’s best chefs, each themed to Disney lore
  • A 5.7 million-gallon salt water aquarium at Epcot Seas, where you can swim with angelfish, dolphins, eagle rays, and sharks
  • A private after-hours tour of the Luxor Temple in Egypt, where Adventures by Disney gets you away from the crowds for an intimate experience
  • Secret off-the-menu items around the park, including a cherry milkshake at Carnation Café and ice cream nachos at the Golden Horseshoe
  • The ultimate viewing spots for nightly fireworks throughout all the Disney Parks
  • Disney’s Halloween party, a one-of-a-kind theme night in the happiest place on Earth
  • A 5K Challenge on Disney’s private island, Castaway Cay, where you can soothe sore muscles post-race with a beachfront massage
  • A private jet tour around the world, led by expert National Geographic explorers
  • And so much more!
Along with beautiful imagery that will help shape your bucket list, this fantastic guide includes pilgrimages to historic Disney sites, like Walt’s hometown haunts in Chicago and Tam O’Shanter’s in Los Angeles where there’s a table named in his honor. Plus, National Geographic provides the inside stories of some of Disney’s most beloved attractions.

Each of these 100 adventures--from Walt Disney World in Orlando to the Galapagos Islands to Disneyland Tokyo--will have you believing in magic and wonder all over again.

I was blown away by this book!! So many of these things I didn't even know were options to do, or had any clue about. I have tabbed off a few that I definitely want to check out when we go (hopefully next year.. crossing fingers!). The best part is that some of these are geared towards adults, so if you can get away from the kids, or you came with no kids but want a step above a dinner with Winnie the Pooh, there are so many really great options for any budget. Sometimes you just outgrow the parks or need something more, and this book has a LOT of options for you. 

Stunning photography, clear descriptions, lots of insider information that would be incredibly helpful (especially to first timers not familiar with the parks to begin with), and it was well organized. I want to be able to find what I need or want right away and I could do just that. 
The Imagineering Story

The highly acclaimed and rated Disney+ documentary series, The Imagineering Story, becomes a book that greatly expands the award-winning filmmaker Leslie Iwerks' narrative of the fascinating history of Walt Disney Imagineering.

The entire legacy of WDI is covered from day one through future projects with never-before-seen access and insights from people both on the inside and on the outside. So many stories and details were left on the cutting room floor—our book allows an expanded exploration of the magic of Imagineering.

So many insider stories are featured.

° Sculptor Blaine Gibson’s wife used to kick him under the table at restaurants for staring at interesting-looking people seated nearby, and he’d even find himself studying faces during Sunday morning worship. “You mean some of these characters might have features that are based on people you went to church with?” Marty Sklar once asked Gibson of the Imagineer's sculpts for Pirates of the Caribbean. “He finally admitted to me that that was true.”

° In the early days, Walt Disney Imagineering "was in one little building and everybody parked in the back and you came in through the model shop, and you could see everything that was going on,” recalled Marty Sklar. “When we started on the World’s Fair in 1960 and 1961, we had 100 people here. And so everybody knew everything about what was happening and the status of [each] project, so you really felt like you were part of the whole team whether you were working on that project or not. And, you know, there was so much talent here.”

Easily the largest book I've taken on this year, at just under 750 pages, this is not light reading. I would say this is one chapter per sitting kind of book because it is absolutely chock full of incredible stories you couldn't have even imagined about Disney. If you've ever seen documentaries on the Disney+ channel (I just finished Decorating Disney, but the Christmas one and to see the behind the scenes stuff is incredible), this book is just like that but amplified. 

Even if you aren't into the aesthetics and how they get things to visually be what they are, the invisible things, how things move/perform the way they do was fascinating. I absolutely loved the part about projection mapping on things like Cinderella's castle. 
Getting to see it transform in person was incredible, but we all wondered, how do they do that? You can't be off even a teeny tiny bit because then the whole thing is goofed up. There are light shows where animated clips are shown and you wouldn't even know it's on a building, it looks like a flat surface almost. All of that (and more!) is in this book. 

Both of these books would make terrific gifts for a Disney fan in your life, no matter the age. Thank you to TLC Book Tours and National Geographic for having me on these tours and sending me a copy for review. Safe travels!

This post contains affiliate links. 

Monday, November 14, 2022

Book Review: The Book of Maps

Happy Monday! Did you spend your entire weekend decorating your house for Christmas like I did?? Not going to lie, I am really excited about the holidays this year and maybe its because I like 75% done shopping so I'll be able to do all of the fun things and not panic shop that last week or because I'm decorating early, but either way, I'm excited.  

The Book of Maps - Ernest Thompson

In the summer of 2002, Brendan Tibbet, a filmmaker whose luck has run low, takes his ten-year-old son Brenlyn on a raucous road trip across America. Following a 1930s travel guide Brendan purchased at a yard sale, the two-week trek from LA to New Hampshire covers 16 states, hitting the iconic stops along the way, Yosemite, the Great Salt Lake, Yellowstone and Mt. Rushmore and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, replete with wild exploits both hilarious and perilous, but it’s the interior journey that is enlightening, deeply poignant and life-changing.

Brendan assures the boy that each state will be an adventure, and on the second day proves it, seeing the kid washed away in fast-moving rapids, then foolishly putting them both in danger by refusing to back down to the massive black bear invading their campsite. That’s Brendan, impetuous and foolhardy, inciting trouble wherever he goes, a man with demons and bubbling angst. But neither of those missteps, or the many and scarier ones to follow, can begin to compare to the threatening storm cloud hanging over the expedition: the father’s struggle to find the perfect, worst time to reveal to his son the news that will break his heart and affect everything to follow.

Ernest Thompson’s debut novel is a skillful, magical piece of 20th-century fin de siècle writing depicting a United States that, even in the aftermath of 9-11, seems almost innocent contrasted to the horrors and divisions, racism and rage challenging us now. The Book of Maps, with its powerful father-son relationship and one man’s relentless albeit unintentional quest to evolve into the better angel we all aspire to be, will capture the imagination of readers and leave them wanting to relive this mad, irresistibly moving, ridiculously funny, reflective and inspiring cross-country odyssey again and again.

If you know me at all you know that I picked this book 100% on the premise of a "raucous road-trip based a travel guide from a yard sale" because if that doesn't scream "Sara would absolutely do this", I don't know what would. I went into this ready for an adventure, but likely with some greater story being woven along that I don't realize until the end, much like Michael Zadoorian's The Leisure Seeker

What I got was something entirely different, and didn't quite get there for me. I'm not saying it's not a good book, I'm saying that this is 3 star at best from me and that's because I do understand what the author was going for here, I think it was a bigger bite than he could chew. 

The book is long, almost entirely too long, and there is a solid third, maybe even half that I think could be taken out. It's philosophical when it doesn't need to be, we are beating the horse well beyond death with the explanation that this is a father/son, and some things are added in that don't really matter so why are we including them? When the action/funnier things happen, the book is exciting and you find yourself wanting more of that, not so much life lessons and explanations of why things are the way they are and what we could've, should've, would've dones. 

Overall, it's a 2.5 star, rounded to 3 for me. I didn't not like it, but it's one that I think maybe a guy would enjoy more (here's me clearly being sexist, admittedly). As a mom, these aren't necessarily the thoughts I have or what I would do, or the kind of relationship I have with my kids, so I didn't really get it, if that makes sense. Maybe it's a dad thing? Maybe it's a son thing? While the book wasn't a stellar hit for me, I do think it would make a good gift for a dad in your life, maybe even with a road trip adventure book and a week of your time. 

Thank you to TLC Book Tours and Global Collective Publishers for sending me a copy for review!
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Friday, November 11, 2022

Book Review: Imperfect Angel

Can anyone believe it is almost Thanksgiving already?! I am not nearly ready, I literally finished putting Halloween up yesterday, and I only have 2 of my 4 main trees up. Don't come at me, I am a Christmas fan. 

Imperfect Angel - Christi Barth

Three days ago, all Maisy Norgate had was a stack of bills, about a gazillion jobs, and her sunny-as-hell outlook. Now, thanks to an uncle she never knew about, she’s inherited an ornate skeleton key with absolutely no idea what it’s for—or why she has it. Which is exactly when a ridiculously handsome guy claiming to be an angel shows up at her door and all hell breaks loose…

Nephilim Rhys Boyce cannot believe that Maisy is the new Keeper of the Key. Why would anyone bequeath this warm, bubbly redhead the key to Hell? And to make matters worse, she’s given the key to the first person who asked for it. A demon. Yep, Maisy is determined to make his job—not to mention some seriously inconvenient temptation—as hard as possible.

First a half angel with a very human chip on his shoulder must find a way to convince Maisy that angels and demons do exist. Then Rhys will have to break the really bad news…that she might have accidentally ended the world.

There are a bunch of things I automatically love about this book, it's a paranormal romance and it involves nephilim, and it's a romance. Have I mentioned that I love romance, and nephilim? I am on a paranormal kick anyways with all of the podcasts I've been listening to, but now I have this and I am set. 

We have a super ordinary, unusually (and obnoxiously) happy Maisy who, by all counts should be feeling rather down on life, isn't letting life get the best of her. Nope. All of a sudden she inherits things from an uncle she never knew she had (seriously, I would be lying if I said I'm hoping I have a relative I never knew I had leave me something awesome in their death because that seems to work out well for people). But when someone asks for a random ass key, in a stash of stuff you don't know anything about, you just hand it over, right? Sure. 

Except along comes Rhys, ridiculously handsome Rhys, who happens to be nephilim (which is half angel for the newbies in the back) , and he's annoyed. To say the least. Not just because this cluess, happy human is the one who was given the key, but because she has no idea the importance of it and she managed to hand it off to a demon... which is worst case scenario, to put it lightly. Now Rhys and Maisy have to work together to you know, save the world and all that, which is the best because their uncomfortable but undeniable attraction is at the forefront of everything. Him learning that feelings aren't the worst, and Maisy beginning to panic/worry actually made him worry more (and as a reader, I was really worried for her), and them exploring the opposite feelings than they were used to was interesting and fun. 

I thought this was fun and funny, a definite break in the romance I had been reading, and a great jump back into paranormal romance. I liked that he was impossibly grumpy, but clearly wanted her and gave her steamy kisses throughout. They were truly exact opposites coming together, enemies to lovers, if you will. I appreciate that the arguing and banter were the way they communicated love, it reminds me of my husband and I. I often say, "you're on my damn nerves" when really I mean "I completely love you even when you're on my damn nerves". I always know the difference and when he says similar things, I know its endearment in his own way and its one of my favorite things about him. 

Overall? I really liked this one. I'd give it a 4.5 star rounded to 5. The things I didn't like were really minor and I think were more of a me thing so they aren't worth mentioning, and not enough to really knock a star off. I really enjoyed this and I'd like to see more of these characters, or maybe more from this world, perhaps. I will definitely read more from Christi Barth though, so I've got that. 

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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Friday, November 4, 2022

Book Review: The Matchmaker & the Cowboy

I really almost typed 'cowbooty' instead of 'cowboy' and honestly, wouldn't that be something to read, am I right? 

The Matchmaker and the Cowboy - Robin Bielman

Callie Carmichael has a gift for making bridesmaid dresses—some even call them magical. Somehow, every person who’s worn one of her dresses has found love. Real love. And as long as that happily-ever-after is for someone else, Callie is happy. Because she’s fully over getting her heart broken…which is why her new roommate is definitely going to be a problem.

After being overseas for six months, Callie’s only choice is to stay with her best friend’s ridiculously hot brother, Hunter Owens. Cowboy, troublemaker, and right now, the town’s most coveted bachelor. Only, Hunter isn’t quite the player she thought. And if it weren’t for her whole “no more love” thing, their setup could get confusing really fast.

Now, Hunter wants Callie to make him a best man suit—a “lucky for love” kind of suit. But what happens if she makes the suit and he finds true love…and it isn't her?
Who doesn't love a completely awkward, but charming guy? I do, and this one gave me just that. We have Hunter and Callie, who are both helping the other, either by recovering from a fear of falling off of a horse, or from a spider bite, but the chemistry is out of this world. The banter between the two of them is the best, but this is definitely a slow burn romance. When the spark flies, it is definitely there and pretty steamy. 

If you're a fan of a second chance, almost an enemies to lovers (but not really, but kind of) romance, with the banter, this is for you. The entire series is going to be (this is book two, but a complete standalone), because we meet characters throughout the book that I'm pretty sure will come into play with future books. Callie is a strong, independent characters, and you always wonder if she's going to leave but Hunter is clearly a family man, which is obvious from the start, so it feels like there's a forced decision looming, which isn't necessarily my favorite element to a story, but honestly it always seemed obvious what/who Callie would choose.  

If you're a fan of a good, reliable romance I would describe as a steamy Hallmark movie, this one hits it out of the park and then some. I definitely loved this one and I'm looking forward to book 3! 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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Book Review: Stargazer's Atlas

Do you love looking out into the night sky? I have always loved it, but I often have no idea what I'm looking at. Thankfully, National Geographic saves the day!

National Geographic- Stargazer's Atlas

Richly illustrated with luminous photographs and informative maps and graphics, this expansive book is the perfect guide for everyone discovering the wonders of the night sky, from those just learning the constellations to dedicated telescope observers.

Combining science, exploration, and storytelling, National Geographic Stargazer's Atlas invites readers to roam the night sky for constellations, planets and moons, eclipses, comets and meteor showers, auroras, and deep-sky treasures including nebulae and galaxies—many visible to the naked eye and all with binoculars or a backyard telescope.

Beginning with basic space science and including a complete set of night sky maps for all four seasons in the Northern and Southern Hemispheres, this fascinating book guides the reader toward the most rewarding observations. A unique chapter on astrotourism highlights ancient observatories, dark-sky preserves, and other global destinations for the sky-seeking traveler; a final chapter details current and future space missions and what they might discover.

Richly illustrated with awe-inspiring imagery—including photos from space missions and telescopes, science-based artists’ interpretations, and explanatory graphics—the book also contains 170 maps and charts of planets, moons, and constellations, from Earth’s moon to moons of Saturn. Practical advice throughout helps readers see what they have been reading about, building key observational skills such as “star hopping” from easy-to-find stars to fainter deep-sky objects and focusing on “deep sky treasures:” areas rich in observable phenomena.

Approachable and authoritative, gorgeous and fascinating, National Geographic Stargazer's Atlas will intrigue all who love to gaze up in wonder at the night sky—and find themselves wanting to know more.
I have always loved gazing at the stars. I remember laying in our backyard on a blanket and looking into space. The idea that there was more beyond Earth, just on and on into infinity, and as humans we will never know how far it goes. I also don't know a whole lot about space, but it was always my favorite unit in school science lessons but I think my lil' ol' brain just can't comprehend all there is to know. Thankfully though, National Geographic breaks it down into manageable chapters and gives us information we can all understand. 

If you live in an urban area and can't see the glorious night sky in its true glory, National Geographic pulls through and gives us page after page of absolutely stunning photos. The book gives you suggestions on how to see all of these things for yourself (because we don't all have access to high powered telescopes, as it turns out), and it tells you all that you need to know. 

Did you know there is a meteor shower calendar? Did you know there are sky maps? I can barely navigate a land map, but a sky map is a whole new beast, but I really want to learn. It seems daunting because this changes seasonally so that's like the interstates all moving around every few months. Throughout the book you'll see photos of galaxies and nebulas (and more!) but those are my two favorites I think, and they are just..... stunning. To think these are just casually out and about around us blows my mind. Even cooler? There is a large section of the book that talks about the importants of the wonders of the universe and the impact those had on early civilizations. 

If you're looking for a great holiday gift, I very HIGHLY recommend this! I don't know anyone who wouldn't be immediately drawn into this book and soon everyone will be crowding around it. It would make an amazing coffee table book, and anyone who pages through this is going to learn something and look at the night sky just a little differently. 

A huge thank you to National Geographic and TLC Book Tours for having me on this tour! I am a huge fan of anything to do with National Geographic and their books are my #1 gifted book of all time. You literally cannot go wrong with anything they put out there, they are all winners. 
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