Thursday, September 16, 2021

Book Review: Deer Season

I am so behind in life right now, I'm just trying to keep up. I have so many things going on all at once and I don't know how I did this kind of stuff before Lucy and liked it. Honestly, that blows my mind, because I really hate being this busy now. I'd like to just nap and watch crime shows. That feels like the extent that my brain can function right now. 

Deer Season - Erin Flanagan

It’s the opening weekend of deer season in Gunthrum, Nebraska, in 1985, and Alma Costagan’s intellectually disabled farmhand, Hal Bullard, has gone hunting with some of the locals, leaving her in a huff. That same weekend, a teenage girl goes missing, and Hal returns with a flimsy story about the blood in his truck and a dent near the headlight. When the situation escalates from that of a missing girl to something more sinister, Alma and her husband are forced to confront what Hal might be capable of, as rumors fly and townspeople see Hal’s violent past in a new light.

A drama about the complicated relationships connecting the residents of a small-town farming community, Deer Season explores troubling questions about how far people will go to safeguard the ones they love and what it means to be a family.
I live in an area where we're surrounded by the woods and forest, many people look to the fall as hunting season and plan their lives around it. Every year we hear about a couple of people being accidentally shot, sometimes people go missing and we find them after they've passed away from exposure, so right away this story grabbed me. Reading it felt like a cross between a Jennifer McMahon thriller and something else... I can't quite put my finger on it, but it was really good. It ended up being the perfect book to pick up now that kids are back in school, summer weather is really gone, and I'm curled up on the couch with a good blanket. 

In this we see the disappearance of Peggy, a girl like so many in towns like mine, who sneak out on weekends to go drinking and partaking in other activities in fields away from supervision. Until one evening, and Peggy just doesn't come home. After a few days, rumors are rampant in town, and suddenly what began as whispers become a quiet rumbling of accusations towards Hal, a grown adult with intellectual disabilites, who doesn't understand social cues or flirting, which becomes the sticking part in the accusations. 

While we do find out what happened to Peggy and that gets solved, that really isn't even the focus of the book. Once you get into it and we start meeting new characters, figuring out how they are connected with different people, we learn some pretty damning things about many. It's like Peggy's disappearance was what kicks up all of the dirt everyone in town was covered in. Old hurts are rediscovered, hurtful words are heard again, and we learn that those things are never really forgotten and people never really lose that hurt. It's all things that stick with you for life. 

I'd give this one a solid 4 star. It got a little slow for me in parts, but as soon as I realized this book isn't so much about the crime (which is what I was expecting), and more about this crazy web of secrets within this town, I perked right up because it felt like I was reading a whole new book and that's what kept me engaged. The writing is lovely, the setting and character building are great, I could easily picture any small town around me as being the location. 

If you're looking for a solid read to get you into the fall mood, definitely pick this one up. Thank you to TLC Book Tours and University of Nebraska Press for having me on this tour and sending me a copy for review. 
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Thursday, September 9, 2021

Depression, still a thing around here.

I haven't been super vocal about my medical stuff going on, mostly because it's the same thing over and over: people just don't have a clue so they optimistically send me off and tell me things will "probably be fine".  

I don't know if you know this or not, but that's literally the most unhelpful thing to tell someone with a chronic illness. I mean, if you don't know what's wrong, that's fine, but maybe send me to someone who would know instead. 

I still don't feel well physically and at this point, I've just decided this is the best I'm going to get. Every day I feel like I have the worst flu, with body aches all over, I'm so tired I'm barely functional, and if I'm not sick to my stomach and/or vomiting, it's a good day. I'm just tired of advocating for myself because as far as I'm concerned, that's just some bullshit people say to be motivational or encouraging. 

I'm already struggling but now that it's fall I have moved firmly into the worst season of the year for me with mental health. I know it's going to happen every year but this last weekend I hit my wall and I've steadily slid down it into a dark hole. I'm just over it. I'm trying to keep myself afloat and I have one child dealing with their own mental health issues and I'm having to drag them along with me. It would be helpful if they made some efforts to help me move them but no, it's straight resistance and I'm struggling with forcing them to get help or saying fuck it, because until they want it, it won't work? Does that make sense? I also love being told they wish I was a better mom. I mean, I already know I'm not the same mom I once was and it's taken me five years to not feel tremendous guilt and just angry about it, I was finally feeling like I could let that go. 

To have one of my kids point blank say they wish I was a better mom not only felt like a stab to the heart, but it was like confirmation for my brain to start the "you're a shit mom, you're better off dead, they're better off without you" track that plays on repeat. I know they are just a kid so they don't understand fully that what they say has a direct impact on someone else, it doesn't make it hurt any less. So since then, I've really had some dark moments where I've been worried to be home alone. I'm doing the best I can, I can't give anyone what I don't have. I feel like I'm being sucked dry by other people and nobody gives a flying fuck that I'm struggling. 

I continue with my therapy and my psychiatry because I know it's the best thing for me. It's the only place I can say what I really think and how I really feel. Because I am so angry. I'm starting to feel resentful and I feel like I don't ever get the chance to get better because it's always me having to come to the rescue of someone else. I spend 90% of my time taking care of and doing things for other people. I'm always running someone around to appointments, activities, or places with friends. I do my best to plan out a menu, shop, and cook only to have people not eat or tell me they decide to starve themselves to lose weight they can't afford to lose. I don't understand why people don't seem me melting down until nothing. I just don't get it. 

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Book Review: The Shadow in the Glass

Nothing like the mid-week slumps, am I right? I was doing so well this weekend but as we inch towards the end of the week, I'm starting to feel like a damn slug. Which... ugh.  

The Shadow in the Glass - JJA Harwood

A deliciously gothic story of wishes and curses – a new dark fairy tale set against a Victorian backdrop full of lace and smoke.

Once upon a time Ella had wished for more than her life as a lowly maid.

Now forced to work hard under the unforgiving, lecherous gaze of the man she once called stepfather, Ella’s only refuge is in the books she reads by candlelight, secreted away in the library she isn’t permitted to enter.

One night, among her beloved books of far-off lands, Ella’s wishes are answered. At the stroke of midnight, a fairy godmother makes her an offer that will change her life: seven wishes, hers to make as she pleases. But each wish comes at a price and Ella must decide whether it’s one she’s willing to pay…
You know I love a good retelling, and when I saw this one coming down the pike, I immediately went for it. Judging by the name Ella, you would be safe to assume this is a Cinderella remake, but not quite. I definitely could see the similarities, and glaring differences, I just wish this gave me more. 

Instead of an evil stepmother, we have a lecherous stepfather who really ought to be in prison because he's disgusting. We learn early on in the book that he takes a liking to the young women in his employ and once they end up pregnant, they are sent off in shame. Ella is fairly naive, but also kind of not, it's hard to really get a read on what she knows and doesn't know. She knows enough to watch out for the younger girls though. She doesn't have evil stepsisters, but there are definitely other servants that don't like Ella at all and make her life an absolute nightmare and make it impossible for her to leave. 

What they can't take away from her are books. When her stepmother was still alive, she taught Ella how to read. She taught her other things as well, but reading was a mutual love of theirs, and Ella seeks refuge in the books when her stepfather is out getting drunk or once he's asleep in his stupor. She does have a fairy godmother of sorts and though she is granted seven wishes, they don't come without a cost. With that twist it starts to feel like the author is weaving some other classic fairytales into this so it doesn't feel like a Cinderella remake totally. 

The story itself is darker than I thought it was going to be. I also went through the entire book with the ending I wanted in my mind and I won't tell you what that was, but I will tell you I very much did not get it. In the end, though I was mad at the ending immediately following, the longer I sit on it the more it felt right. There is a line on page 400, almost the last page, that reads: 
"Why, why had Eleanor thrown her trust away on this puppet? The only person worth putting her faith in was herself." 
Isn't that a lesson we all learn at some point? I felt like Ellie was such a likeable character, one that you can't help but root for because we're all a little bit of her at some point. Also, this book is classified as young adult, and as a whole I would agree with that, but the story does dip into horror at times and is definitely more macabre than what a young adult audience is used to, I think. It would definitely be worth mentioning to someone that this gets kind of dark. To me it had the dark feel like The House of Salt and Sorrow, and you know I loved that one. I would have to give this one a solid 4 stars.

Thank you to HarperVoyager for sending me a copy for review!
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Tuesday, September 7, 2021

Book Review: Poison for Breakfast

Are you a fan of Lemony Snicket?  I used to read all of his books when I was in elementary school, I was in love with them. I even watch A Series of Unfortunate Events on Netflix, and Neil Patrick Harris is PERFECT in that role. My kids loved the books and show as well, but I think I was maybe more excited than them. 

When I saw Lemony Snicket had this one coming out, I literally jumped at the chance because I'm basically a grown up child at heart so here we go. 

Poison for Breakfast - Lemony Snicket

For more than twenty years, Lemony Snicket has led millions of young readers through a mysterious world of bewildering questions and unfortunate events. With this latest book—a love letter to readers young and old about the vagaries of real life—longtime fans and new readers alike will experience Snicket’s distinctive voice in a new way.

This true story—as true as Lemony Snicket himself—begins with a puzzling note under his door: You had poison for breakfast. Following a winding trail of clues to solve the mystery of his own demise, Snicket takes us on a thought-provoking tour of his predilections: the proper way to prepare an egg, a perplexing idea called “tzimtzum,” the sublime pleasure of swimming in open water, and much else.
The best part of any Lemony Snicket book, for me, is that he writes as if he's a weird grandpa. You know what I'm talking about, someone has the kind of grandpa that kind of rambles while telling you something important so you kind of tune out a bit, but then you realize he was saying something important the whole time. I often glaze over what seem like minute details but find myself going back to re-read something because it makes the part of the book I'm in make more sense, it's basically always an interactive story, I'm always going back and forth. You could say he's a bit of a messy, or chaotic, writer and that would be true, but if he were any other way his books wouldn't be as entertaining. 

Poison for Breakfast was certainly entertaining and a quick read. Though I can't go into much about the plot because it would really give the entire surprise away, I will say that if you are a fan of classic Lemony Snicket, you won't be disappointed. This isn't so much a murder mystery/who-dun-it, but more of a pondering of life and death as he goes around town trying to solve this mystery. It does talk about death quite a bit, and how death will come to us all, so if you (or your children) aren't ready to explore that concept in a very matter of fact way, perhaps this isn't the one for you just yet. It's considered a nonfiction because it's a "true story", and our main character is both the victim (because he had poison for breakfast) but also the detective (because over the course of the day he has to figure out why and who did it).  

I really loved this one. It made me nostalgic for my childhood and the time spent in my school library. I know this is geared for ages 9-99, but I think kids won't get the full message of this and that maybe adults would appreciate it more. Not to say kids couldn't/shouldn't read this, I just don't know that they would learn the lessons Lemony is trying to show us. 

Thank you to Liveright Publishing for having me on this tour and sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review.
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Monday, September 6, 2021

Book Review: Ultimate Journeys for Two

I know it was just summer, but I'm already counting down the days until next summer and I miss vacation. Not that we can really afford to go on vacation again, but I told Matt that him and I really have to figure out a way for just us to go on vacation. This year is absolutely kicking our ass, so I'm sure by next summer we'll be practically desperate to go anywhere! 

Ultimate Journeys for Two - Mike & Anne Howard

Written by the founders of HoneyTrek.com, this inspiring book reveals hidden-gem destinations and insider tips for unforgettable couples travel.

In these informative pages, Mike and Anne Howard--officially the World's Longest Honeymooners and founders of the acclaimed travel blog HoneyTrek--whisk you away to journeys of a lifetime. Drawing on their experience traveling together across seven continents, they curate the globe and offer tested-and-approved recommendations for intrepid couples, bringing culture, adventure, and romance to any couple--no matter their age or budget.

Chapters are organized by type of destination (for example, beaches, mountains, and deserts) to help travelers discover new places and experiences based on their interests. Each entry focuses on a specific region, getting to the essence of each locale and its one-of-a-kind offerings. The authors reveal the best time to visit, the best places to stay, and recommended activities--each with their own adventure rating to illustrate level of intensity. Special features include funny and insightful stories from the Howards' own adventures, expert advice from other renowned traveling couples, and tips to increase the romance and excitement at each destination. A large map shows every location covered in the book, and each entry has a locator map depicting the city and country. Both entertaining and informative, this book is an invaluable resource and inspiration for a lifetime of travel.
If you had to pick one kind of vacation, which would you choose? Mountains, lakes/rivers/falls, beaches/islands, on a safari, history/architecture, at sea, deserts, snow and ice, jungles and rain forests, road trips, or supernatural? It's so hard to pick, but that is kind of the point of this book, to help you narrow your trip down. 

We're a road trip kind of family so when we do a vacation that is usually our top choice. A close second would be a beach, mostly because we really want to relax and do nothing. No matter the vacation type you choose, this book has you covered with trips set in your own backyard/country to adventures around the globe. Each destination gives you ideas on where to stay, when to go, how to get romantic, but also some helpful tips to keep in mind to make your trip stressfree. I loved the "couples adventures" under each destination, all of them are unique and will impress anyone listening to your vacation story with envy. 

One trip I've been eyeing is road tripping the southwest of the United States. I feel like I would need more than a week to really see it properly and do all of the things I'd want to do, though. I also knew it existed, the Olympic Peninsula, but I really had no idea the continental US has a rain forest. How did I not know this?! The other great thing is that each trip features a "to explore more.." area with other places in the book that would be easy to combine on your trip. 

If I had to give this book a critique, I would say the idea that traveling outside of the country isn't worth it unless you have a huge amount of time to do it, and I just don't think that's true. Not everyone can just travel for a month (or more) at a time; not to mention the expense of doing so is mostly impossible for people. I do think that if you have a set budget, and a set amount of time to travel, using a book like this is probably the best idea because it basically lays out where you should go, do, and stay. Don't let an "extraordinary destination" scare you, I think using the advice in this book will give you a great starting direction. 

Thank you to TLC Book Tours for having me on this tour! I'm including the purchase link but also one for the spiral bound version because spiral bound versions of travel books need to become the norm. I'm just saying. 

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Friday, September 3, 2021

Things look a little different around here.

I've been thinking about this for awhile, but now that the kids are back in school and I had some time to sit down and just do it, you'll notice things look kind of different. Or maybe not unless you're looking for old posts or something specific. 

Banana just hangs on the chair like this- he's weird. 

I have taken most of the posts that have pictures of my kids in them. Not all, you'll still find a few, but I think going forward I likely won't post photos of them so much. It's not because I don't want to share the hell out of them, but I think I'm changing as a person in general. Does that make sense? 

Banana and George like to wrestle at night. It's so bizarre to watch. 

If you have been around here for years (I started in 2008!), you know that my writing over time has changed drastically. I still have the posts, so I could bring them back, or at least go back and read them for myself. I started this blog as a mechanism to share photos of my kids for family who were all far away. While that could still be the reason to keep photos, pretty much everyone is on Facebook and/or Instagram, so I guess it's not needed that I share them here. Over time, I evolved into a more... snarky blogger, you could say? I think when I look back at my life then, I was in a much different space than I am now and certainly I was a totally different person. 
Can we just admire my older cat, Batman? He's actually playing!


Not to say I'm lame as hell now, but I'm lame as hell. I'm moving my blog to be more book centered but I also am going to keep my medical updates, vacations, and book reviews, of course, but I likely won't be blogging a whole lot about my home life. Between horribly disgusting spam comments I end up deleting and just thinking about my older kids' getting older and wanting less out there, it just seemed like the time to do it. I'll give updates here and there, but not much more. 

Don't get me wrong, I want to, and god knows I have SO MANY THINGS to write about because my life is a tragic comedy. I have so much on my plate and happening to me and around me that most days I just sit inside of my closet, on the floor, and scream into a pillow while simultaneously crying my eyes out. It's just too much and frankly, I don't know how this much just keeps happening to one person. It's certainly not fair, that's for sure. My blog used to be an online journal of sorts, where I would write out my feelings on things that were happening, and I guess it still could be that, but it just doesn't feel the same, you know? I think a lot of bloggers are feeling this way as well because I see so many changing, it isn't just me. 

Saturday, August 28, 2021

Book Review: Love You, Little Lady

Happy weekend! I am so screwed up on my days of the week so I woke up thinking today was Friday and I had to get my weekend planned out and organized. JOKE IS ON ME though because today is Saturday and I missed half of the things I was supposed to do yesterday because I thought yesterday was Thursday. 

How I'm allowed to adult and being in charge of four little humans is beyond me, to be honest. Ha!

Love You, Little Lady - Brett Young

There's something special about the love between a father and daughter. In Love You, Little Lady, award-winning singer-songwriter Brett Young writes a love letter to his daughter as he shares what it's like to hear her heartbeat, hold her for the very first time, and watch her take her first steps.

This heartfelt picture book is ideal for kids ages 4-8 and shares the wonder of becoming a new parent
the unconditional love dads and moms share for their children beautiful artwork, a heartwarming cover, and sweet rhymes inspired by Brett's lyrics. 
I have a solid rotations of music channels while I'm in the car and one of them is a country station so I actually know who Brett Young is. I also know the song that this one is inspired by and I am a sucker for songs about parenthood. When I heard this book was coming out, I was so excited and knew this was a perfect book to add to my little girls' library. 

If you are looking for the perfect book for a baby shower, gift for a new mom (or dad), or just need to add a new one to your library, this book is adorable. I loved the illustrations throughout, they are so colorful and reminiscent of everyday life, we enjoyed looking at those with the story. The story is really genuine and loving mixing the wishes every parent has for their child while also reinforcing the hope that the child finds their own way. I love instilling the confidence that your child is capable of forging their own way while knowing they have the support of their parents no matter way, that's the greater meaning of the story. 

Thank you to TLC Book Tours for having me on this tour! I highly, highly suggest picking this one up to include in your next gift or to add to your bedtime routine. 
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