Thursday, August 6, 2020

Book Review: When The Time Is Right

If you can remember back in June I read and reviewed the book called When The Walls Come Down, which is by the same author and it was great. I loved it so much. When I saw that this was available for review I literally ran to my computer to sign up for it because I had to read more and I was not disappointed. 
When The Time Is Right - Aly Martinez
Hudson Bradley is the cockiest, most stubborn, hard-headed man I’ve ever known. And for fifteen years, he’s been my brother's best friend.

But lately, what I’m feeling for him isn’t friendship at all.

Why is my heart racing every time his blue eyes lock on mine?
Why does every word he rumbles in my ear make my body come alive?
And worst of all, why did I bet him that I could find a woman he and his son would both love?

If I hadn’t given up on love altogether, Hudson would have been perfect for me. After all, he was there the day my world fell apart. He’s spent the last six years piecing me back together.

There are a million reasons why we could never work, but after a single kiss, I can’t remember any of them.

Now that the time is right, I have to make him mine—before I lose him forever.
I'm going to say this right from the gate because I honestly don't think my review is going to give enough justice to this book: this is my FAVORITE romance book in the friends-to-lovers group. Ever. 

I know, that is a bold statement but with books like this you have to be bold. 

Aly Martinez is one of my favorite authors for a reason: her books are fun. You get everything you need from a romance book: humor that keeps you turning the pages, angst, big emotions, great sexy scenes, and that big sigh at the end of the book because she hit the mark yet again. 

I got allllll of that with this book. 

In this one we have Hudson, the best friend to Alexis's brother, he's known her forever basically. Alexis and her family is Hudson's family (basically) and so they have a bond that kind of goes beyond friendship. Alexis had some pretty awful things happen to her that basically shattered her world and she is only put together because Hudson spent the time doing it. I really struggle with a friends-to-lovers trope with some books because it either happens way too fast or it is so painfully slow that I lose interest all together. Once again, the pacing in this book is spot on. I felt all of the butterflies with Alexis and I could feel all of Hudson's nerves and it feels like the best slow motion train crash turning into the prettiest explosion you could hope for. The author does such a great job with the emotions that we don't need crazy ass drama all over the place, the only thing we have are big feelings and Alexis's sass. Which is PERFECT. When I tell you there is not a more perfect couple, I am not joking. I am in love with this book, I cannot wait for the next one they put out. I cannot get enough of these and if the sentiment of third time's a charm is any indication? We are going to need to sit all the way down for it. I'm freaking out already. 

If Goodreads let me give this one more than 5 stars, I would. I loved it. I am telling you right now, if your week was crap and you need something fun to unwind with this weekend, pick this one up. Trust me. 

A HUGE thank you to Social Butterfly PR for having me on this tour and sending me an ARC for review, they always have the latest and greatest of books so if you need ideas, check them out. Or stay here because I always have something from them popping up. If you pick this one up, let me know and we can chat about it. I have to know what you think about it. 

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Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Book Review: Gaijin

Happy hump day!! Honestly, this week is dragging and I'm just trying to get to the weekend, and I hate that every week feels like that. 

Today I have a rather interesting book for you and it's.... it's a mix of genres and it doesn't really fit into any specific one and I think that's why I wanted to read it. 
Gaijin - Sarah Z. Sleeper
The Japanese word gaijin means "unwelcome foreigner." It's not profanity, but is sometimes a slur directed at non-Japanese people in Japan. My novel is called Gaijin...

Lucy is a budding journalist at Northwestern University and she's obsessed with an exotic new student, Owen Ota, who becomes her lover and her sensei. When he disappears without explanation, she's devastated and sets out to find him. On her three-month quest across Japan she finds only snippets of the elegant culture Owen had described. Instead she faces anti-U.S. protests, menacing street thugs and sexist treatment, and she winds up at the base of Mt. Fuji, in the terrifying Suicide Forest. Will she ever find Owen? Will she be driven back to the U.S.? Gaijin is a coming-of-age story about a woman who solves a heartbreaking mystery that alters the trajectory of her life.
A few things about this one missed the mark for me, the biggest one being the "relationship" between Lucy and Owen. I went into this thinking they were engaged or on the bring of that, or even a new but passionate love affair with promise of budding into something more. Basically, I thought there must be some kind of deep emotional connection to warrant a  young woman to basically drop her life, move across the world to Japan to look for this man. Instead, she really just had a crush on him and they kissed once but barely? I mean, if some guy just suddenly stopped talking to me at that point I'd think maybe I was a bad kisser and that's that. 

Nope. Not Lucy. So Lucy ups and moves. She embarks on this journey of sorts and though the book is kind of set up like this journey for love, it quickly became clear the intent of the book is maybe something different entirely. A lot of focus was put into the anti-US protests, about Okinawa, the US military presence there but also the inevitable tensions that could be because of all of that. Once I got my mind shifted out of the romance lane and into the mystery but also modern day history lesson, I felt like I was really liking this book. 

Except... I felt like it didn't hit the mark quite like it could have. For example, its almost toward the end of the book where one of the characters we meet, Hisashi, makes a statement about Okinawa being largely forgotten and exploited because of the US military being there and Japan as a whole largely ignoring the Japanese people there, and THAT felt like it could have been a key piece of the book. I'm a little on the fence about the piece about the Suicide Forest because on one hand, as a person I am deeply intrigued by this. I know that this place exists, I know why people make this pilgrimage and I once saw a show that did a short piece on the forest and I can't remember anything other than the fact people that go in often line their shoes up at the beginning, sometimes with a note. One image was an entire family's shoes and some of them were so little. So as I'm reading this book, I'm thinking of that image in my head and I don't know, it almost feels wrong to go in to look for someone... or something. It feels like such an intensely personal decision to go in knowing your intent is to not come out, and knowing people would just go traipsing in there looking for you. 

Now, even with all of this, I'm still giving this a solid 4 stars because I could really relate to the feeling of things not turning out the way you planned. A lot of us have experienced plans being changed or life bottoming out on us and suddenly we're midstream having to turn it around, but at the same time figure out a bigger game plan. I could really understand Lucy's struggle to navigate Japan as it is, but doing it in the middle of this crisis, finding out that what you're looking for might not end well, and then wondering what next? What do you do with the answer you find at the end? 

I loved the writing of this. Though there were a few slow slumps for me, it just read nicely and for the most part I got through this one quickly. I think if you're interested in Japanese culture in general or investigating things on your own, this would be a great book for you. If you are looking for light and fluffy, maybe not the best pick right now. 

A huge thank you to Running Wild Press for sending me a copy for review! The author, Sarah Z. Sleeper, was also featured on Authors Answer recently and if you're interested in checking that out, you can find it HERE

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Progress is progress.

It's so funny to look back at old blog posts, mostly between 2010 and 2012, and see how hard I worked at losing weight. I was out there every day doing my walk/run and I was portion control measuring everything. At some point I got to 160 pounds and it was like I was the skinniest girl in the world. 

Here I am all of these years later and I'm still at it. I'm doing it differently, that's for sure. In December I started going to the doctor to see what I could do because what I knew to do wasn't working. While a bit depressing, I at least got confirmation that my medications and my conditions post AFE are major issues so it isn't rocket science that I'm gaining weight like crazy. 

In December I started at 206.1 pounds. It wasn't my heaviest, I know I hit around 215, but when I really started to lose weight again I was around 211 pounds

Since starting at the doctor, I try to eat a lot of protein, around 50-75 grams a day split throughout the day. It's a lot and I'm telling you, I'm starting to hate protein. I'm terrible at the vegetables and I'm really trying with the fruits. I've really cut down on my carbs (except pasta night, not sorry) and dairy. Overall, despite all of my stomach/digestive issues, I'm doing well. 
I'm also exercising. Matt said he needs to lose weight so we've been walking a few times a week. I have to get 140 minutes of exercise in during the week. It doesn't matter what it is, I just have to move my body. 

So we walk. I don't know what the plan is for winter, I'm hoping we can get the treadmill from storage here. Maybe one of us can use that and the other use the bike thingie and just take turns switching. I don't know. I'm trying to do leg things because they hurt so badly all of the time and my doctors tell me if I keep them moving it will help the progression of rheumatoid arthritis, so that's what I'm doing. 
I started with a size 16, almost 18 pant... they were pretty snug. I'm officially in a size 12 pant and I'm not mad about it. My shirts were 2X and I'm on that edge of L and XL. This shirt was one I bought before I got pregnant with Penelope and it fits again. 
I feel better. I don't feel great, but I can feel an improvement. Self esteem wise I'm better. Also not great, but I know I'm in a better place than I was when I started. I don't feel as self conscious even around Matt, so that is big. Not that he would ever, or has ever, made me feel anything less than beautiful, but all of the positive reinforcement means nothing if you don't believe it, right? 

I'm still continuing. My healthy goal weight was 160 pounds, I'm currently at 170. Once I get there I think we do lab work again to see what has changed. We'll see. I'm pretty proud of myself though. The fact I've been able to consistently exercise even though it hurts like hell makes me feel like a bad ass. Just keep swimming. 

Monday, August 3, 2020

Book Review: Inked in Lies

I have a few great book reviews for you this week, plus some cute pictures from Lucy's birthday this weekend, but today? Today we talk about this book and how mad I am that I am JUST NOW finding this author. 
Inked in Lies - Giana Darling
He moved in next door.
Handsome as sin, older in a way that meant forbidden.
He had tattoos on his hands and wickedness tucked in his grin.
I was a goner as girl to a man they called Casanova for a reason. He would never love me, at least not the way I needed him to.
I tried to move on. But I couldn’t turn my back on him or The Fallen MC.
So when they needed me most, I offered the only thing of value I could use to help them.
My body.
And when helping them meant putting my life on the line, Nova had to decide just how much he was willing to do to get me out alive.
I have to start with the obligatory "this is number five in a series but it is totally a stand alone". Then I really need to tell you that if you haven't read Giana Darling yet and are like me, be ashamed of yourself. If you are a fan of the romance genre in genre, I cannot believe that I am just now finding her. Finally though, she had the BEST promo for this book. I had subscribed to her newsletter, which then gave me a link to her Facebook and somehow I signed up for Facebook messages that updated me on the release. The messages though? Were written in the POV of Nova, the leading man here, and he's writing them to you like he's going to jump through Facebook and rip your clothes off. 

You guys, I wasn't hating it. Hands down the best lead up promo for a book I've ever participated in. 

Let's talk about the book now because the book was SO good. So good that I was legitimately bummed for it to end. I really liked these characters even though for a hot second I was worried Lila was going to be annoying and drive me a bit nuts, not going to lie. I really liked Nova and though I really didn't understand what the point of the bad boy persona was, I mean, he kind of explained it but not really enough for me to say "oh well that makes sense", instead I was like, "well that's depression and anxiety, not 'something dark' worthy of being a man whore". (That is me being overly critical) The only other thing that seemed odd to me was Diogo and Molly Booth, what a bizarre set of parents there. I mean, name one set of parents you know that is 100% cool and supportive of a child who joins a motorcycle club skirting the law? I'll wait. Secondly, once Lila starts getting herself into trouble in the name of vengeance and they find out, totally not freaking out. Meanwhile, I'm just a mom of four over here getting mad at an irresponsible twenty something girl who isn't even real. If this was Dr. Phil he'd be telling them to plug in.  

I'm just saying. 

Outside of that?I loved this. I have to read the previous four because we get to meet them here, and I already know someone dies so I might have to skip that if its a book because UGH. I can't with book deaths right now. In here we have Nova, who was best friends with Dane (Lila's brother), and has always been a bit of a caretaker for Lila, being 12 years older than her and they met when she was six. Fast forward all of these years and as Lila grows up, Lila grows up, and she realizes that the feelings she has for Nova aren't brotherly at all. In fact, she is in love with him and lets him know. He, of course, is not alright with that because she's basically a sister to him. 

Yes well, things happen over the course of the book and Lila realizes that even as time goes by and she tries to move on, Nova is IT for her. Nova wants her and is wrestling with that but is also insistent that absolutely this cannot happen because he's not right for her, blah, blah, blah. 

Thrown in motorcycle gang versus a drug/porn/human trafficking kind of group, vengeance, and all of that and hot damn, we got ourselves a good dang book! If you were a fan of Sons of Anarchy, I feel like you'd really like this one. I haven't really gotten into a lot of motorcycle club romances because they are either corny as heck or overly violent for zero reason other than trying to look hardcore. 

Thankfully, Giana Darling skips around all of that and brings a great book you will have a hard time putting down. SO glad I asked to be part of this tour for Social Butterfly PR and that I was given an ARC to review, this is definitely not my last Giana Darling book, that's for sure. 

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Saturday, August 1, 2020

Lucy says goodbye to 3.

I knew yesterday was going to rough, and it was. I always forget about how hard her actual birthday is. I'd say I don't know why I forget but that would make no sense given all of my memory loss. No sense for jokes now. 

Today though, at 3:12 p.m. Lucy will officially turn four years old and I have a lot of feelings. A lot about me and my journey but even more for this little girl. Even though there are a lot, and I mean a LOT, of days that I wish I wasn't here and I have no idea why I am, there are more days where I watch Lucy and I think I could have missed this, and what a shame that would have been. 

Lucy is, far and beyond my easiest child. It might not always be that way and of course I don't remember the other three in most ways but I have never met a happier person in all my life. Lucy is happy start to finish in a day. Sure, she gets upset and throws a tantrum but she's little and that's how she grows emotionally.
Lucy is so laid back, she enjoys doing anything. You can give her a pile of garbage and she will make it fun and make you have fun playing in it, too. Everything is new and exciting to her, even if she played with it an hour ago. Her sense of wonder makes you look at life differently, too. 
If you don't know Lucy in real life, you are missing out. She is a hilarious kid. She is the sweetest, funniest little girl. You only need a few minutes around her and you'll be smiling and feel better. Honestly, she's the baby I needed at exactly the right time. 
There are still times where she still looks like a little baby and I try to remember if this is what she was like as a baby. Because I don't remember and it makes me so sad but also incredibly angry. I will never understand the cruelty of letting me survive but taking my memories. I wish so badly I could remember her baby smell, or the feel of her cheek. The way she felt snuggled into my neck. I wish I remembered that for all of my babies and it feels like the greatest punishment of all to take it from me. 
This year Lucy went to school and was so excited about it. She enjoyed riding the bus home, she had zero fear about it and in fact demanded we let her ride the bus. She started speech therapy and seemingly enjoyed it. 
I always call her my little mess because she really is a little hot mess walking around. Her outfits are always interesting, she usually is carrying a plethora of things with questionable accessories. She is really into music, dancing, Blippi, Baby Shark, and baby dolls. She loves anything with animals, purple flowers, going on adventures, and continues to love food but mostly muffins and spaghetti. She doesn't like chocolate so much and isn't big on sweets. Big fan of ice water, though. 
I was sad we had to stop going to school because of the Covid-19 quarantine, but I tried hard to keep her skills up. It is really hard to do with Penelope constantly next to her. Penelope LOVES Lucy and they declare each other best friends but Penelope always wants to help Lucy, fix whatever she's doing, and eventually take over. 
Lucy is joy personified. I hope she remains the happy, joyful little light for all of her life. I don't want that little light to go out. 
She likes to do "cwafts", likes to dress up, hates bath time because it's too loud for her and she's terrified to get water in the tubes in her ears, loves her pink penguin even still and really wants to hug a penguin in real life and learn to waddle like them. She loves her beloved purple blanket and needs it every night. She gets easily scared at night and we had to put nightlights in a path all the way to our room because she often comes down for help. 
She still has the cutest little feet that never seem to grow and I don't hate it. Same with her hands, they are still pudgy and cute. She still has the dimple in her one cheek. She also has my hair (sorry, baby), its long and thick and has the most beautiful curl through it. 
Sometimes I look at her and want to never let her go. Sometimes I look at her and I'm so scared something awful is going to happen to her. How did we both get through this and only I am affected daily? Please God take what you have to from me but please let her be unscathed. This little girl doesn't deserve what I know you can dish out. 
As we go into four I hope you continue to be amazing. You bring so much joy into all of us and you are what we all needed. Your siblings love you, me and Dad love you even more, and someday so many others will love you too, because they can't help it. You're that kind of person. 

I hope you fully enjoy 4K this year. I hope you continue to blossom in speech therapy. I hope you remain healthy. I hope you stay happy and sweet. I hope you have a wonderful birthday and feel loved.

Thursday, July 30, 2020

The reflection of four.

Lucy turns four on Saturday and what I am not going to do is talk about my AFE on her birthday and what that has been like for me. So on Saturday come back here and I'll have a special post about Lucy and how great she is, plus we can all admire how beautifully adorable she is. 

Because that's just a fact. 

Today though, I'm going to talk about what this means for me. (If you're new around here or have no idea what I'm talking about when I say AFE, you can go HERE to catch up.) On Facebook earlier this week I shared this and it made me pause. 

I have spent a good chunk of the last four years trying to get people to understand that right now the concept of be grateful has nothing to do with trying to heal from trauma. Being grateful doesn't make my trauma go away. It doesn't make the depression go away, the PTSD, the panic attacks, the anxiety, the fear, the feeling of not wanting to be here, none of that goes away whether I am grateful or not. 

Even after four years I am still sad. I still feel terror when I see a pregnant woman. A small baby sometimes makes me cry. I still feel angry. 
I am angry it happened at all. 

I am angry my life isn't the way I worked for. It isn't what I wanted at all. I don't even feel like this is my life anymore. 

I am angry that I missed out on Lucy's every first because I don't remember any of it. What kind of God lets a person survive this and then robs you of memories? To make me feel like a constant disappointment to my children when I can't remember important things or share in their memories? To make me always wonder if I'm as good of a wife as I was? 
I cry all of the time. I cry because I'm sad. I cry because some days I don't know what I'm doing. I cry because some days I don't want to be here anymore. I cry because I feel guilty. I cry because I feel like a prisoner in someone else's life. I cry because I'm crying and because I'm angry. 

I cry because I'm not grateful. 
I am angry and I cry because I'm not better. I'm angry there is no such thing as "better". I am so sad that I never feel well. I always hurt. I am always so tired I can barely function. I am angry my memory is awful. I'm really angry that I am so short tempered and angry and that my family sees it. I'm feel so deflated because I keep trying and trying and still, I'm running in place. Its like I'm running uphill but I never reach the top. I hate complaining about my life because I KNOW people are out there who have it worse, but my therapist absolutely hates when I say that because its downplaying my reality. I will say that I would take all of the pain and ailments if it meant Lucy could stay healthy. Anytime she gets sick or worse I feel guilty. Its an endless wheel of thoughts of what I messed up when I was pregnant, how did I fail her? 

I am angry people still push their stupid essential oils on me like that's going to fix me. I'm angry people tell me if I just did a specific thing I would be cured. I'm angry people suggest memory games for me and assume I haven't tried them. Or maybe they think I just didn't try hard enough. Yeah, its probably that. Maybe I should just try harder and suddenly my brain and body will snap together and be normal. 

I am angry people talk about me like I'm not trying hard enough. I am angry these people can't see me on the bathroom floor in the middle of the night crying. That they can't see me in my therapy sessions trying so hard. I am angry they can't be in my body just to feel what its like to feel like you have the worst flu of your life every day. I'm angry that they can't see me in the shower sobbing almost every day because I am so emotionally exhausted from just going through a day. 

The only thing I know for certain, the only thing I know for sure with every bone in my body, is that Matt is my person. I know I'm lucky that he has stuck around, that he still loves me. I'm not always a pleasant person and I know that. It has to be hard for him to know I need so much help and some days, some days I just can't do it at all. I also know my kids are pretty damn great. I couldn't have a better set of kids even if I handpicked them. I constantly feel like I'm failing them but how do you explain to them that my best is really crappy and I'm sorry? 

I'm really struggling this week, as I always do this time of year, and I'm trying so hard to fake it. 
I wish I had the same connection with my family as I do with Lucy. It's not that she is my favorite or anything like that, she is the only person who knows what it was like. Some days I am grateful babies can't remember their birth and then other days I wish she did so I wouldn't feel crazy alone. Isn't that messed up? It feels messed up. I know there are other survivors and I've friended many and I listen to every one of their stories, some are similar to mine in ways but we are all different. Some days it helps but other days it makes me feel more alone. I'm surrounded by so many and I have never felt more alone. 

But I'm here. I'm acknowledging that I am here, I have worked so hard to stay here, and being here is an accomplishment. I might still be running uphill in a storm but nobody can say I'm not hanging onto every rock and branch so I don't fall. Because I might be a lot of things, but I don't want to be a failure too. I also know that nobody has the right to make me feel worse, to make me feel more guilty. So I guess I'm learning things, too. 

So here we are, four. I don't know if things will get better. I'm no longer in that "give it time, it'll get better" optimistic phase, I've moved firmly into the "its shit and that's OK" phase. I'm not even sorry about it. I'll just keep swimming, surely I'll wash up somewhere. 

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Book Review: First & Then

I can't believe I haven't given you the review for this one! I don't think it comes to anyone's surprise I picked this one solely for the cover, it is absolutely stunning and colorful. I'm a sucker for a rainbow, lambs. 
First & Then - Emma Mills
Devon Tennyson wouldn't change a thing. She's happy watching Friday night games from the bleachers, silently crushing on best friend Cas, and blissfully ignoring the future after high school. But the universe has other plans. It delivers Devon's cousin Foster, an unrepentant social outlier with a surprising talent for football, and the obnoxiously superior and maddeningly attractive star running back, Ezra, right where she doesn't want them: first into her P.E. class and then into every other aspect of her life.

Pride and Prejudice meets Friday Night Lights in this contemporary novel about falling in love with the unexpected boy, with a new brother, and with yourself.
With the school year coming up this one has all of the vibes you'd expect from a high school based young adult novel. We have Devon, slumming it through high school, with a best friend named Cas who she has a crush on. Her cousin Foster (who I kind of wondered if he was maybe on the autism spectrum?) comes to live with her family after his parents have issues and its under the guise of temporary. Foster finds out by accident that he's a really great football kicker so he finds himself on the team, being coached by Ezra, the football star of the school. 

High school happens and then we have relationship switcha-roo and mostly Devon learns that a person isn't just what is face value. All kinds of life lessons. 

Let's talk review though, this book was a bit slow for me. I kept waiting for something big to happen and it never really did? Devon was the selfish in the way that teenagers are by nature, and she makes assumptions of people and get embarrassed when it turns out she wasn't right at all and in fact. I didn't totally love Cas, but he's a typical teenage boy. I really loved Foster and he actually ended up being the star of the book for me. I was most tuned into him and I wanted to know about his life before he came to live with the Tennyson's, and when he has his "big moment" in the book my heart broke for him in both a bad and good way. I actually really liked Ezra because if there was ever a character who had a lot on his shoulders and for no reason and every reason at the same time, it was him. He was far too good for Devon and this could have, should have, been his book. Devon was easily the least interesting person in this book and that was the shame. 

Now, does it compare to a Jane Austin in modern day? I don't know, Jane Austin wasn't ever my thing. COME AT ME, DON'T CARE. I didn't love this one but I can absolutely see why this would be a hit with teens and mega fans of young adult alike. I felt like the author did a good job capturing the atmosphere of high school and the confusing first feelings with crushes and first love, raging hormones, and teen angst. It was primarily Devon's character that brought this down for me. 
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