Friday, July 28, 2023

Book Review: The Wolf and the Wildflower

 You know how I always say I forget that I love historical romance until I'm reading it? Yeah, I'm no longer saying that. I keep reaching for historical romance and I'm not hating it. This one was such a fun, and unique, read. 

The Wolf and the Wildflower - Stacy Reid

London is buzzing with the news that James Winters, the Duke of Wulverton—thought lost at sea a decade ago—survived in the harsh wilderness of the Yukon. Now he’s been returned to his family, his responsibilities, and a nightmarish world of artifice and noise. He has three weeks to become a refined, elegant duke for the Queen…or doom the entire family to ruin and scandal.

Promising psychologist Jules Southby knows a lot about disguises. She’s secretly been living as a boy since birth, enjoying the freedoms of men and knowing little about how to behave like a woman. When she meets the alluring duke, she’s unprepared for his raw, masculine beauty and icy intelligence…or that he can see through her darkest secret.

Jules has very little time to transform the duke into a true semblance of an English gentleman. Yet his very presence seems to unravel her in every way. Their attraction is stark and achingly real—and forbidden. But loving the lost duke would mean losing every sacrifice she’s made to earn her freedom…
Let me just get into this, James was lost in the wilderness for ten years so when he makes his miraculous return, its imperative that he find a duchess. In his family's preparation of his return to the haute ton, the Duchess of Wulverton (his mother) hires a psychologist and his son Jules to come in and evaluate James' abilites. Is he crazy? Is he feral? Is he able to look and act normally?

The psychologist's son, Jules, is a promising student who is hopefully following his father's footsteps to someday take over his promise. Jules is immediately taken with the duke and the duke can seemingly sniff out Jules' secret. Jules isn't a man after all, she's a woman in a manly disguise who is fooling her father and hopefully, society. How does a dad not know his son is a daughter? That's a great question answered immediately in the book. 

The love affair between James and Jules is quite adorable and promising. I really loved the romance, and I loved the duke's frankness. The story ultimately requires both James and Jules to decide, are they willing to drop all pretenses and the life they know to hang onto their love, or is the life they've made and what comes with it more important? Even though I knew exactly what the climax was going to be, I was only partially right and for that I am grateful. I really enjoyed this one!

Thank you to Entangled Publishing for sending me a copy for review, I thoroughly enjoyed this. Stacy Reid does it again, I can't wait to read what she does next! 

This post contains affiliate links. 

Thursday, July 27, 2023

Book Review: Shattered Dreams

 Hello friends! I'm still reading like crazy and one of my recent books is the last in the Beautiful Nightmare series from Abbie Roads and I want more. 

Shattered Dreams - Abbie Roads

A crooked cop. Corruption. A woman convicted of murder. A man determined to prove her innocence.

When Helena Grayse is released from prison, all she wants is to say a final goodbye to her old life. But when a man finds her trespassing on his property, instead of turning her in, he takes her in. Accepts her. Loves her.

But someone decides to serve Helena with a death sentence.

Shattered Dreams is the third book in Abbie Roads’ Beautiful Nightmare Series of dark romantic thrillers. It features a felon heroine who never thought she deserved love. If you devour true crime and romance novels then you’ll love a series that combines both in a roller-coaster ride of danger, mind games, and swoon worthy love.

I'm going to try to talk about this without giving anything away and ruin it. To be fair, I didn't read the synopsis when I started it so I went into this kind of blind. We have Thomas, who after a tumultous childhood with a harrowing, violent event, lost the ability to see color. Until Helena, who after an unbelievable awful stint in prison for a crime she didn't commit. With Helena near him, he can see color and that's alarming to him. She isn't mute, she's selectively quiet so Thomas finds it difficult to communicate with her but he's still able to. 

After a chance encounter in the woods, Thomas sees this as fate, but Helena is still terrified and doesn't know why Thomas is being kind to her and she doesn't trust it. They quickly learn that Helena is in grave danger, and it is connected to the danger finds Thomas finds himself in and it's a larger problem than either can imagine. Helena's dreams may have the key to unlock all of the questions. 

I loved the romance, I loved the interesting connection between the two and the connection to the larger stories. I loved Abbie's writing, she makes every story a fast read. I loved the romance angle, and I loved the connection to the legend the totem pole the books are written around. (I understand that sounds bizarre, just go with it.)

Overall I really liked this and this series. I need to read the first one because I'd like to see how the series started, but the second one was just as good as this one. Each couple has strange challenges and I liked the creativity. I can't say that I've read anything quite like that and I'm here for it. 

Thank you to Xpresso Tours and Abbie Roads for having me on this tour and providing a copy for review! A package from Abbie is a bright spot in any kind of day, I can't wait to read what she does next! 
This post contains affiliate links. 

Thursday, July 20, 2023

The Strands do Tennessee. And Kentucky. Kind of.

 One of my goals in life is to visit all 50 states and because last summer we didn't go on any roadtrips, this summer I wanted to get the most out of our summer. First trip was to Tennessee/Kentucky. We could only go for a few days if we wanted to fit our second trip in this summer to cross another state off. 


We left in the middle of the night so we can get to Tennessee in one trip (16 hours) and it ended up working out really well. 

Lucy would agree. I feel like we're road trip pros when a 16 hour drive doesn't even phase us. 
In Tennessee, our destination was Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge which I actually didn't realize was such a tourist mecca. It was like Branson, Missouri in my opinion. 
Highlights of our trip was Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies. I highly recommend it if you're in the area, especially if you're a fan of sharks. They have a really cool shark area with species I hadn't even heard of. I'm not even sure we saw every area but the kids were getting tired (we walked around for two hours). I definity wouldn't recommend the "boat ride" which is literally a glass bottom boat, tethered, and goes in a slow circle and you see everything you saw in the shark area. It was an outrageous money grab and the kids were disappointed. 
We also went to the Skylift Park and Skylift Bridge on what felt like the hottest day of the week. You ride up on a gondola to get to the top, which is the gorgeous park area. The bridge itself is long with a glass bottom at the mid-point. It was SO hot outside so I only made it to the half way point before I had to turn around. I think a combination of the heat and height got to me because on my walk back I got so dizzy. I had to rest and hydrate when I got to the end. Conveniently, the park has lots of chairs to rest and enjoy the view. 
I mean, I could sit and look at this for hours. 
Jackson didn't love the height of the day so he was the real sport this day. 
We did some walking around Gatlinburg to see some shops and Jackson hit the motherlode when he found a small music store. He got some vinyl he's been searching for at an unbelieveable price, and a couple of posters that will look great in his room. 

We spent a night having dinner at the Island in Pigeon Forge and went with Margaritaville, a favorite of Jackson. We also walked around there and the little girls rode some rides. I was actually surprised it wasn't more busy, but maybe it was the heat. 
The next day we went to Dollywood and unpopular opinion.... I thought it was overrated. We didn't do the water park side, just the amusement park, but I wasn't impressed. It was overpriced, the food wasn't great, there was almost no shade and sitting areas in the shade, it was just a really long, rough day. The only positive was the lines for rides actually weren't that long so the kids were able to ride as many as they would like to. The best part of the day was paying the extra $45 for preferred parking because by the end of the day my legs were screaming. 
Another part of our trip was going to the Titanic museum, which was a wish from Penelope. She's obsessed and she was all over the place taking it all in. Unfortunately, my traveler and Jackson's traveler died, everyone else's survived. 
Even the big kids had a great time. I definitely recommend this if you're looking for something to do indoors. 
We also did some mini-golf, as recommended by all of the kids, and I had actually never mini-golfed before so I got to do something new. Recommendation: go to Pigeon Forge to golf, and go in the morning, otherwise the lines are long and you'll be rushed. 
Our very last day we drove to Bowling Green, Kentucky so we could go to Beech Bend Amusement Park. We weren't doing the amusement side, just the water park side. The kids a great day, I spent almost seven hours sitting in a shaded cabana because I forgot my book at the hotel and didn't have a current one on my phone. Rookie move! The park was OK, I'm not sure I wouldn't go out of my way to go here again, but if you're in the area and need somehting to do, it might be a fun day. 

Overall? We had a really nice week. It was so nice to go on vacation with all of us again, I can't wait for our next one to Michigan. 

Wednesday, July 19, 2023

Long live through the cruel summer.

We have been having a very busy summer, doing all kinds of things left and right. Our summer kick off was basically the Taylor Swift concert, which was a Christmas gift for them last December. Even if you aren't the biggest Swiftie, I think being able to say you went to the concert of the year is going to be something. 

I'll be honest, I can't remember who the opener was, (maybe Owenn?) but he wasn't great and we couldn't get into it. 
The second opener was Girl in Red and I am SUCH a fan so I was almost more excited about them and they did not disappoint. I wanted more and it was such a great set. 
Of course Taylor came on and everyone lost their minds. Even us 40something moms had a good time. 
It was so great hearing all of the crowd singing along and everyone was so happy. It's a pretty great, uplifting feeling to be surrounded by so many happy people, all enjoying the same thing, and being friendly. 

If I had to critique anything, I'd say there needed to be more monitors for those of us in the nosebleeds. I know there were the two smaller ones on the sides of the stage and one on the far end, but it basically only focused on Taylor, we didn't always get the full effect of the stage. Is it a big deal? No, but for a tour being touted for the visual piece, it would have been nice if everyone had the opportunity to see the same thing. 

Also, we went to Minneapolis night 2 and unpopular opinion, I think the song Dear John sucks so the fact we got that was a giant eyeroll for me. With the lecture of "be nice" when she knows good and damn well people are going to attack John Mayer with or without her blessing. It's like telling a kid to stop that even though as a parent, you're laughing at what they're doing. It's the same thing. I hoped so hard for a Bon Iver duet considering he lives not far from Minneapolis but it wasn't our luck. I didn't care for either surprise song, but I know I'm in the minority with that. 

The real fun came after we left, it began to rain, absolutely pouring, and after walking to the other side of the stadium to find our ride, I got knocked off the sidewalk and curb by a drunk person walking backwards. Do you think anyone, literally anyone other than my two teenagers, would say, "Shit- do you need help?!"??? No. No, and that was disappointing. Needless to say, I sprained my ankle badly and almost a month later, my ankle is still painful. Thankfully it didn't break, I thought for sure I fractured it some how that night though. It cut our weekend fun short though and we ended up just going home the next morning. 

Did you go see Taylor Swift? Is still on your agenda this year?

Saturday, July 1, 2023

Book Review: Everything's Fine

Hi lambs! I've been on a reading frenzy and gearing up for our first roadtrip in two yars, which is why I've been quiet around here. I hope your summer is going well and that you have some fun things planned. I'll keep you updated after our roadtrip about the highs and the lows and any shenanigans we come into. 

Everything's Fine - Cecilia Rabess

When Jess lands a job as an analyst at Goldman Sachs, she’s less than thrilled to learn she’ll be on the same team as Josh, her preppy, white, conservative sparring partner from college. Josh loves playing the devil’s advocate and is just…the worst.

But when Jess finds herself the sole Black woman on the floor, overlooked and underestimated, it’s Josh who shows up for her in surprising—if imperfect—ways. Before long, an unlikely friendship—one tinged with undeniable chemistry—forms between the two. A friendship that gradually, and then suddenly, turns into an electrifying romance that shocks them both.

Despite their differences, the force of their attraction propels the relationship forwards, and Jess begins to question whether it’s more important to be happy than right. But then it’s 2016, and the cultural and political landscape shifts underneath them. And Jess, who is just beginning to discover who she is and who she has the right to be, is forced to ask herself what she’s willing to compromise for love and whether, in fact, everything’s fine.

A stunning debut that introduces Cecilia Rabess as a blazing new talent, Everything’s Fine is a painfully funny, poignant, heartfelt novel that doesn’t just ask will they, but…should they?
Everything's Fine is one of my most anticipated books of 2023 and I couldn't wait to get into it... unfortunately it wasn't a hit for me. It's your traditional enemies to lovers romance, but it's peppered with the patricharchy, race, and political arguments and it just wasn't what I needed right now. I don't know if I'm the only one who ended the book with a "what the hell is this ending?!" but maybe that's the point. Now that we know what happened since that election in real life, you could just imagine how Jess and Josh would handle it. I definitely don't think they'd survive it as a couple, that much I know. 

I haven't read a book where I didn't like either character. Jess is the realist/pessimist, Josh is the optimist/his own version of white realist, a classic Fox News Republican. Surely they wouldn't work as a couple somehow they make it through different things. I think I found myself so frustrated throughout it I almost DNF'ed it but I wanted to know how it was going to end. I had an ideal ending that would be best for everyone and that'd didn't happen so I was left frustrated and wanting to yell at someone. 

But... maybe that was the point. 

Regardless of the ending or how you feel about the story, it is truly a stunning and promising debut for Cecilia Rabess. I'll be interested to see what she does next. 

Thank you to TLC Book Tours for having me on this tour!