Sunday, August 31, 2014

To The Breaking Pointe

YES! So, religious readers will maybe remember that I reviewed a book called Into the Crossfire way back in November. And it was great, it was the first of a series, and I have been anxiously awaiting the sequel. And it's here.


To the Breaking Pointe - Cindy McDonald
To the Breaking Pointe (First Force #2)
Five years ago First Force operative, Grant Ketchum, let the ballerina of his dreams dance out of his life. After her American adoptive parents were killed in an automobile accident, Silja Ramsay returned to her birthplace, Russia, to take the position of the principal dancer for the Novikov Ballet Company. She was living her dreams and although they had very little contact, Grant was proud of her.

The owner and director of the ballet company, Natalia Novikov, has a dark secret: her beloved company is almost broke. Natalia has become so desperate to keep her company afloat that she forces the dancers to prostitute themselves to financial contributors at exclusive after-show parties.

As the prima ballerina of the troupe, Silja has been exempt and kept in the dark about the parties, until a big-time American financier offers to bail out the company and provide Natalia with everything she needs. His prerequisite: Silja must become his companion, live in his home, and fulfill his every desire.

Against her will Silja is taken to the American's mansion, but before she goes she manages to send a text to the only man who can save her: Grant. 


Now Grant Ketchum is on a mission to save his lost ballerina from this powerful man's subjugation. He will do anything to get her out alive. If they survive, will he let her chasse out of his life again?

Again,  YES. This is everything you want in a romantic thriller. We have stupid girl, who leaves man of her dreams to go to ballet in Russia. Lame. We have brooding, impossibly gorgeous ex-military guy who broods over her and hasn't gotten over her. THEN! We have dumb girl make ridiculous choices that only land her in really horrible danger. 

But then!!! 

Hot guys flies half way across the planet to save her. 

Just stop it. Just stop it right now because you know I read this thing in one afternoon. Laundry out of control? Check. Dinner burning on stove? Check. Eating junk food from the confines of my chair and getting cheeto dust on pages? Check. This is how we do, folks. This is how we do. 

I loved it. I couldn't put it down, even though dumb Silja is just really dumb. She can't follow instructions, or her gut, for nothing and poor Grant has to really work hard to not just keep her in his life, but keep her alive. 

Then you throw in the Russian government being bad, a criminal from American, who happens to be a sexual deviant of the worst kind, and people getting killed left and right. Oh! And a mind altering serum. Which, terrifying if you look at just that aspect alone. 

But I loved it. Poor Matt and kids felt totally neglected today, but a day spent reading was totally worth it. I needed that. AND, there is more in this series and I cannot wait. It's very Linda Howard (my favorite) like in the story. You combine ex-military hotties with romance and I'm all in. Take everything I have, just give me the damn book. 

Go to Cindy's website to learn more about this series and her other series. And bring a towel, just in case. 

Sweet Water

Yes. Yes, I am so glad I read this one after the last book I read from this author because I loved it.

Sweet Water - Christina Baker Kline
Sweet Water
When a grandfather she never knew bequeaths her a house and 60 acres of land in Sweetwater, Tenn., a restless young artist leaves New York to recover her past and rethink her future. Cassie Simon's mother Ellen died when Cassie was only three; raised in Boston by her grieving father, she never knew her maternal relatives. Unprepared for the thick veil of mystery that surrounds them, Cassie is especially bewildered by her brusque grandmother, whom rumor credits with hiding a terrible secret about Ellen's death. In alternating sections told from their respective points of view, Cassie and her grandmother fight their separate battles to cope with the truth about the tragedy. Kline perfectly renders each woman's voice: Cassie's, probing and often uncertain, propels the narrative and creates an appropriate level of psychological suspense; the grandmother's quavers with the weight of memory as Cassie's search forces her beyond family myth to a painful and perhaps dangerous truth. 

The result is a powerful, immensely readable tale of loyalty and betrayal, family and memory, made fresh by Kline's often beautiful and always lucid prose.

Do you know why I like Christina's novels so much? Because she really ties together an older generation, and their personal story, to a younger generation trying to figure out theirs. It always starts off bumpy and it gradually smooths itself out. This book was so stinking good that I had a hard time putting it down and I'm so glad I got to be on this tour. 

We start with Cassie, who finds out that she has inherited a house left to her by her grandfather on her mother's side. Cassie's mother, Ellen, died when she was three and she had been raised in New York by her father. She knows basically nothing of her mother's family and since her life in New York is at a stand still, she decides to take off for Tennessee and see if there is another path out there for her. 

She gets to Tennessee and it's a really bizarre situation. All of the family aren't totally welcoming towards her, and she assumes it's because it's a first meeting. What she doesn't know, is that the family harbors a lot of secrets from Ellen's death and a death that happened a few days prior. It's done an equal job of tearing an entire family apart as well keeping it together in the worst way. They cling to each other because, while the only people who really know what happened in either death are Clyde (her grandmother) and Amory (her deceased grandfather), they all think they know and harbor secrets for years. 

Until Cassie comes and unknowingly digs up the past. She's searching for family, for a connection to her mother, and to figure out why the family dynamic it is. Until then, she doesn't know how she can possibly be a part of any of it. Then enters Troy, her cousin through adoption, and things get a little dicey in the way of how society views their relationship. And his mother. Because his mother is an absolute nightmare. (Can I interject and say I wish, I so very much wish, that Cassie had given his mother the tongue lashing she needed? Because it would have been easily deserved.)

I really loved this book. To me, this is right on par with Orphan Train, which everyone knows I loved. I really adore stories that tie an older and younger generation together through family stories, good and/or bad. It's heartwarming because all of us, in some way, can relate to that. I highly encourage you to check this book out, and certainly others from Christina Baker Kline. I am very excited to read more from her in the future. The author is on Facebook and has a website, as well. 

Batter Up

Who is in the mood for a light chick lit book? I certainly was!

Batter Up - Robyn Neeley
Batter Up
Bakeshop owner Emma Stevens has a secret — a delicious, slightly unorthodox secret. Each Monday, she mixes up a premonition to share with the bachelors of Buttermilk Falls, and sets one lucky man on the path to true love.

When reporter Jason Levine finds himself mixed up in a Las Vegas bachelorette party, he hears the strangest rumour: the marriage is happening thanks to magic cake batter. Seriously sceptical, and sick of frauds, Jason journeys to the backwater town of Buttermilk Falls to expose the baker and release the townspeople from her evil clutches.

But when Jason meets Emma, tempers flare and sparks fly. Will Jason cling to his logic at the expense of a future, or will he let himself fall under Emma’s spell?

I'll be honest, if you aren't into reading books with a heavy story line or that make you feel all of the feels, then this is the book you  need to go with. It's sweet, it's cute, it's endearing, it's short, and it's predictable. I mean, you know Jason and Emma end up together but the fun is the way they end up there. 

Basically it's about Emma, who owns a family bakery she has taken over. It's gained a bit of a reputation for it's Monday night festivities where one lucky bachelor gets pointed into the direction of his true love with the help of a special batter and a spell that Emma says in her head. The first match you read about in the book introduces us to Jason, an unlucky in love and work, who decides to get his investigative reporting career back on track to figure out what the big deal is about this bakery. He doesn't believe for a minute that cake batter and this woman can match anyone up and it's pure coincidence, and he's out to prove that. 

Until he meets Emma and is reluctantly drawn to her, but she makes it clear that she's not interested in him or his story. Except Emma is drawn to him, but doesn't want any notoriety for the bakery or the spell. 

Overall? It's a cute story. It's a fast read, it's perfect for an end of summer read. It's perfect for those fall weekends where it's just a little too chilly to go out but you also don't want to sit around doing nothing either. 

I wish there had been more back story on her mother and grandmother, or least a little more history on how the spell came to be. I also didn't like Emma's boyfriend who goes off to New York only to come back, he's kind of a jerk. But I really liked Emma. You can tell she's just a sucker for romance and after putting so much effort into the boyfriend who essentially left her for bigger and better things, she kind of gives up and I hate that for her. 

I'm giving this a solid 3/5 stars. It's a cute little chick lit novel but if you are more into romance, this probably isn't going to fit into your list. But we all need a break from our usual, and this would be a good one. 

Thursday, August 28, 2014

The Story of Land and Sea

I can only be honest when I tell you I picked this book to review based on the cover. Because it's just pretty.

The Story of Land and Sea - Katy Simpson Smith
The Story of Land and Sea: A Novel
Set in a small coastal town in North Carolina during the waning years of the American Revolution, this incandescent debut novel follows three generations of family—fathers and daughters, mother and son, master and slave, characters who yearn for redemption amidst a heady brew of war, kidnapping, slavery, and love. 

Drawn to the ocean, ten-year-old Tabitha wanders the marshes of her small coastal village and listens to her father’s stories about his pirate voyages and the mother she never knew. Since the loss of his wife Helen, John has remained land-bound for their daughter, but when Tab contracts yellow fever, he turns to the sea once more. Desperate to save his daughter, he takes her aboard a sloop bound for Bermuda, hoping the salt air will heal her.

Years before, Helen herself was raised by a widowed father. Asa, the devout owner of a small plantation, gives his daughter a young slave named Moll for her tenth birthday. Left largely on their own, Helen and Moll develop a close but uneasy companionship. Helen gradually takes over the running of the plantation as the girls grow up, but when she meets John, the pirate turned Continental soldier, she flouts convention and her father’s wishes by falling in love. Moll, meanwhile, is forced into marriage with a stranger. Her only solace is her son, Davy, whom she will protect with a passion that defies the bounds of slavery.

In this elegant, evocative, and haunting debut, Katy Simpson Smith captures the singular love between parent and child, the devastation of love lost, and the lonely paths we travel in the name of renewal.

When I first finished this book, which was an afternoon read, I sat in my chair wondering what the hell the point of this book was? I mean, I really sat there and thought I had just wasted and entire afternoon on a story that kind of felt like it had no point. 

Fast forward a few days and I have a few different thoughts about it. 

The story, for me, kind of revolves around John in my eyes and I realize that it's not really supposed to be, but for me, in hindsight all I think about is John and his connection to all of the other characters. But we start with John, who is caring for his daughter Tabitha alone because his wife Helen dies during childbirth. Tabitha contracts yellow fever and he decided bringing her to sea and breathing in sea air is the best course. Which, to have Tabitha's story at the beginning felt a little odd to me, but I suppose the author wants to give you that gut punch and then explain how John got here in the first place. 

So then we meet a younger Helen who is given a slave for her tenth birthday, Moll, and those two become friends in a really bizarre sense that Helen seems oblivious to. Moll at least understands that they aren't really friends because she is a slave after all, and Helen doesn't understand what's wrong with that because it's just how life is for each of them. But Moll is forced to marry a fellow slave who happens to be a loser and Helen tries to make it a positive, happy occasion when really, Moll hates that it's happening at all. She has no say and again, Helen doesn't understand how terrible that is because she'll never be in that position. 

But as they get older, their lives begin to change. Suitors are coming around for Helen and not wanting to marry at all, she flirts away but basically leaves them no hope that this is going to go anywhere. Until she meets John. She reluctantly likes him, doesn't want to love him, but somehow she ends up doing so. Her father doesn't approve of a privateer without a family but Helen doesn't much care. John is equally smitten and somehow, they find themselves running off and they end up married and she comes back pregnant after being to sea. 

So that's a really terrible rundown of the story. In hindsight, I felt most sorry for John. He has no family, but finds Helen and they start a family. In the end, it's like he loses all of his family so him being basically the sea element in the story rings true. He's drift less and I feel like the sea is just... depression. It's sad, nothing truly changes and you just float along in life. Whereas Helen's father, Asa, is strong and though he has had awful losses in his life too and has lost all of his family as well, he feels different... sturdy. He feels sturdy like land and trees. This will make no sense to you at all, but that's just what I had been thinking of after I had finished the book for a few days. Really, I thought  Helen was terrible. I didn't think she was a very nice person at all and I kind of feel like she really just used everyone. She used her father for monetary reasons, she uses Moll for companionship when it's convenient for her and almost as show, she uses suitors and doesn't think twice about their feelings, and when it becomes obvious she's done nothing in her life, she uses John as almost to prove a point that she did do something with her life and can make big life choices. So in the end, Helen seems like a terrible person. 

But I will say that the end of Moll's story? You go, Moll. You go. It's probably not going to end well but dammit, you have to try. 

This is just a short video of the author discussing how she came up with the story itself and a brief synopsis of it in her words: 

You can purchase the book HERE, or add it to your Goodreads list HERE

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Just keep trying, right?

Ever since the miscarriage, Matt and I have basically been trying to get pregnant. I wasn't sure at first if that was something I wanted to do but the longer it takes to happen, the more I want it. September 3 will be four months since my miscarriage and it's getting harder and harder each month that passes.

I keep hearing people telling me to give it time, it'll happen if it's supposed to happen, give my body time to heal, etc. But it's all annoying and it makes me angry. Because now having been on the side of the coin where I want it so bad and I don't have it, those are really terrible things to say to someone in this circumstance.

I know that I'm relatively healthy, I haven't had any issues carrying my other babies. It's like ever since the miscarriage, with each passing month, I feel more broken. I wonder what is wrong with me. Why can't I get this right a third time? I see people who are not in a position in life to have more kids. I see people who don't even want kids getting pregnant. I see people who then have kids and are more worried about finding a husband, going out and "relaxing" at a bar, and I sit at home wishing with everything in me that I'm pregnant.

And nothing happens.

The part that worries me, is the part where I see Matt's face when he asks if I got my period (because I dutifully write it on the calendar) with a gleam in his eyes hoping I say no. And every month, he's less excited to ask and I kind of think this month, when my period is supposed to come on Wednesday, he might not even ask. If he doesn't ask, I feel like a little part of me is going to shut down. Like all hope is lost and he's going to say we gave it our best and maybe it wasn't meant to be and gee- could you go get your birth control again?

I don't know if I can handle that. I really don't.

I also can't blame him. When it comes to emotionally supporting me, he admittedly is really terrible. Anything to do with emotions is completely foreign to him and he basically just stands there and asks what he can do, as if doing laundry is going to make my heart hurt less. I try hard not to get angry at him for not understanding something he doesn't get but sometimes I can't help it. Sometimes I need to be angry and frustrated.

Someone asked me if the only reason I want a third baby is to prove to myself I can still do it. I'll admit, it's part of the reason, but certainly not all. I had wanted a third baby for years and Matt always said no and I had to grieve and come to terms that I was done. But I don't know, something about being pregnant, against my will basically, turned something on in me. Like, maybe this is the opportunity I never had before and I keep thinking it'd be great to have a third at times when I watch Olivia and Jackson play. Then I feel selfish and I worry I'll be resentful if I have a third.

Then I get angry because I feel like I'm going crazy and maybe this all a symptom of something larger.

It's just so frustrating.

Then the trying. My god. I remember when we were trying with Olivia and Jackson it was always fun, there was an added element and a spark you only get in certain moments because I just knew I was going to get pregnant, it's just a matter of when. And this time... well this time it's not any of that. I don't feel as certain as I once did and it's like being slapped in the face with the aging process. And I'm only 32, I know. It's not old by any means but times like this make me feel otherwise.

So that's where we're at. I hope Wednesday comes and surprises us all. I don't feel hopeful though, but you never know I guess. But I guess we just keep trying until Matt says no more.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Sinful Folk

You guys- I miss you. I miss you all. I promise I haven't died or fallen off the planet! I am working 60+ hours for the next three weeks and I have so much to talk about, but I promise you I'll come back as soon as I can. In the meantime, I have book reviews to tide you over.

Like this odd little book.

Sinful Folk - Ned Hayes
Sinful Folk
In December of the year 1377, five children were burned to death in a suspicious house fire. A small band of villagers traveled 200 miles across England in midwinter to demand justice for their children’s deaths. 

Sinful Folk is the story of this treacherous journey as seen by Mear, a former nun who has lived for a decade disguised as a mute man, raising her son quietly in this isolated village. 

For years, she has concealed herself and all her secrets. But in this journey, she will find the strength to claim the promise of her past and find a new future. Mear begins her journey in terror and heartache, and ends in triumph and redemption. 

I will come right out and say this is not a genre or type of book I usually go for because it's just to much to think about for me and I generally avoid it. But as of late, I had a reader suggest I step outside of my box and I saw this and I thought, "yes- this is a perfect chance to jump out of my young adult/romance/new adult/paranormal box like a big girl!". And now, I kind of like my box because I didn't totally love it. It was kind of odd for me. 

The worst part is I am obviously a terrible judge of this book because everyone else I know who has read it, or reviews I have read are just in love with this book. And I can see why, it's a really compelling story. We have Mear, who pretends to be a mute man in a strange little village but really she's a former nun who got pregnant and had a son. So she left there and stumbles on this village by accident and decided that the best way to survive is to play the mute man card. Which, all is well and good for about ten years until her son is killed along with four other boys when this building in the village burns down. It's very tragic and horrifying really, so the townsfolk whose children died set out on this really ill fated and bizarre mission to haul the dead bodies of the boys to somehow avenge their death and prove that clearly, the Jews did it, despite having no evidence of that. 

A friend said this book reminded her of Chaucer, and though I admittedly have only read a small amount of Chaucer, I would agree. The writer has a real talent where you read this and you can almost imagine the setting, you can hear the voices of the townsfolk. You can feel this building sense of doom throughout the book while simultaneously learning about Mear and why not only being pregnant was scandalous but also learning who her son's father is and it's just... if you think back to what it would have been like in 1377 for a person like her, you totally understand why she did what she did. And, for me, it made the death of her song that much more tragic for her. Because not only does she lose her son, she's lost her identity, and now it's not like she just go back to being a nun. 

It's a hefty book and I'll be honest, this took me a few weeks to get through because I struggle with old versions of English language, so at times I got bored and had to give up for the night because it wasn't an easy, light read. The material is kind of heavy, but the descriptions really are great. I can't say that enough. I mean, Ned Hayes really went for it when writing this book and that is absolutely amazing. But if you are a fan of Middle Age books, you are going to love this. You will, and I'll admit- I'm the oddball who isn't totally loving this book. (Don't throw tomatoes, save them for your salads.) 

Monday, August 18, 2014


You guys! I think I have maybe found myself a new series!

Hexed - Heather Graham
The Hexed (Krewe of Hunters, #13)
Devin Lyle has recently returned to the Salem area, but her timing couldn't be worse. Soon after she moved into the eighteenth-century cabin she inherited from her great-aunt Mina—her "crazy" great-aunt, who spoke to the dead—a woman was murdered nearby. 

Craig Rockwell—known as Rocky—is a new member of the Krewe of Hunters, the FBI's team of paranormal investigators. He never got over finding a friend dead in the woods. Now another body's been found in those same woods, not far from the home of Devin Lyle. And Devin's been led to a third body—by...a ghost? 

Her discovery draws them both deeper into the case and Salem's rich and disturbing history. Even as the danger mounts, Devin and Rocky begin to fall for each other, something the ghosts of Mina and past witches seem to approve of. But the two of them need every skill they possess to learn the truth—or Devin's might be the next body in the woods...

Granted, this is number 13 in the series, but the great part is that it's stand alone. I didn't even know how far into the series I was until I pulled up the page on Goodreads! But now I'll tell you I liked this book so much I'm adding more of Heather Graham's books to my to-read list for sure! 

So we have Devin, who lives in Salem in a little cottage in the woods with a bird named Poe and her dead great aunt Mina's ghost. So, totally normal right there. She unexpectedly finds a body in the woods and runs almost into the road and flags down Rocky, who was driving by. Turns out, he's back in town to investigate the murder of another woman who, coincidentally, was murdered the same way as the one Devin found and of a classmate of his years prior. 

All of this launches a major investigation with Rocky's new FBI department, the Krewe of Hunters, in conjunction with the local police. It's a pretty informative book in regards to the Salem Witch Trials because the murders appear to be somewhat connected to them, but it takes quite a bit of digging, ancestral researching, and talking to ghosts of murdered girls, and a connection is made. But that doesn't give us who the killer is. Everyone is a suspect, though and it's so up and down. I couldn't put this book down at all and the ending? OK, I kind of figured?But honestly, there is a bit of a twist at the end and man- so good. I feel like I have to keep going with this series because it's everything you want out of a suspenseful romantic thriller. How's that for a genre?? I'm not kidding, this book is going to get you hooked on the rest of the series and if they are even half as good as this one, we are all in for a treat! 

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Desire Lines

Chick lit time!!

Desire Lines - Christina Baker Kline
Desire Lines: A Novel
From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Orphan Train comes a novel about friendship and the memories that haunt us

On the night of her high school graduation, Kathryn Campbell sits around a bonfire with her four closest friends, including the beautiful but erratic Jennifer. "I'll be fine," Jennifer says, as she walks away from the dying embers and towards the darkness of the woods. She never comes back.

Ten years later, Kathryn has tried to build a life for herself, with a marriage and a career as a journalist, but she still feels the conspicuous void of Jennifer's disappearance. When her divorce sends her reeling back to the Maine town where she grew up, she finds herself plunged into a sea of memories. With nothing left to lose, she is determined to answer one simple question: What happened to Jennifer Pelletier?

Let's just get this out of the way up front: was this book as good as Orphan Train? No. No it wasn't. To be honest thought, Orphan Train was so great for me that I almost wish I had read her other books before Orphan Train so I'd feel like she was progressively getting better and better. With that said, it doesn't mean this isn't a good book. It's good in a chick lit kind of way. 

I think the hardest part for me was how slow it was. This wasn't a book that grabbed you because things were just happening and the story wouldn't let you go. What this story was, was slow. It was so slow and the only thing keeping me hanging on is I wanted to know what the hell happened with Jennifer. I think the problem is that the story really isn't about finding Jennifer at all, it's more about Kathryn figuring out what the hell is wrong with herself and her life- why can't she just get it together? Her being distraught over the unexplained loss of a friend is what's given, but honestly? Kathryn is a fledgling adult and I think even if Jennifer hadn't disappeared, her life would have been the same. But once I got going in the story, it became pretty obvious that we weren't going to get a really interesting twist at the end that just unexpectedly guts you, which is what I was really hoping for. Instead, I guessed the outcome by the time we're at the part where they are attending their reunion. 

But with all of that said? I think if you are a die hard chick lit fan you are going to really love this. It would really be excellent for book clubs and there is a reading group guide at the back of the book which I kind of went over just to see if I'd walk away with a different feeling. For me, though, it's not what I was expecting. I'm still going to count myself as a fan who would eagerly await a new release because which everything taken in, the fact that I finished the book even though I wasn't totally feeling it says something about the writing style, and I have to love that. 

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

A Better World

OK, so a few weeks I reviewed book one in the Brilliance Saga, which was aptly called Brilliant. You can see my take on that book HERE. And I really liked it because it was so unique, really nothing else like it out there. So now I've read book two, and here's my review for that.

A Better World - Marcus Sakey
A Better World (Brilliance Saga, #2)
The brilliants changed everything.

Since 1980, 1% of the world has been born with gifts we’d only dreamed of. The ability to sense a person’s most intimate secrets, or predict the stock market, or move virtually unseen. For thirty years the world has struggled with a growing divide between the exceptional...and the rest of us.

Now a terrorist network led by brilliants has crippled three cities. Supermarket shelves stand empty. 911 calls go unanswered. Fanatics are burning people alive.

Nick Cooper has always fought to make the world better for his children. As both a brilliant and an advisor to the president of the United States, he’s against everything the terrorists represent. But as America slides toward a devastating civil war, Cooper is forced to play a game he dares not lose—because his opponents have their own vision of a better world.

And to reach it, they’re willing to burn this one down.

It's absolutely true, you can't put this book down. Just like with book one, I started this one and was instantly hooked and I couldn't stop. Because it's so fast paced and it's fascinating. I am not a politically savvy person at all so I'll admit that element of this book is a bit over my head just like in book one, but it wasn't near enough to make me give up. 

This time we have Nick, fresh after rescuing his family and killing the President of the United States basically, kind of in limbo. He's quickly pulled out of limbo when he's approached by the new President of the United States and invited to help be a part of the team to help discover who the Children of Darwin are and what their motive for basically becoming terrorists on American soil. They seem to be coming after "normals", shutting down major cities. 

In one of those cities is a scientist is kidnapped,  and the city is also shut down leaving his sidekick basically stranded. We get the view of civilians going commando if you will, and those who have stockpiled their goods become targets for desperate people. Then we still have Shannon, an abnorm from book one, who is running her own missions for John Smith. There's still a weird chemistry between her and Nick but he doesn't completely trust her motives with him and at the same time, his ex-wife is giving him some mixed signals. 

Then in all of this, we have political corruption and honestly? Did not see the ending coming. The loss of life in these books is staggering when you step away and really thinking about. The other thing is that the scenario presented in these books is terrifying. I'll be frank, as American citizens, we live a pretty cushy life. Even those of us who are financially strapped, those who are homeless, etc- even the worst circumstances is actually a lot better than some areas in other countries. I think we lose sight of that, but when I read stories like this, it makes it all sound so plausible and scary. Like maybe I really should be stockpiling canned goods and stuff. 

Overall? Loved it. That ending though.. perfect set up for book three and I'm eagerly waiting for it. So, so good. 

Ash to Steele

Yes. I was in a rut where I didn't feel like reading (yeah, I know- I was just as alarmed as you are), but then I picked this book up and thank the lord because it was amazing and I couldn't put it down.

Ash to Steele - Karen-Anne Stewart
Ash to Steele

Who I am and all I believe is marred with just one glance into angry, steel blue eyes. He seems to control my air, my ability to breathe. He makes me crave everything I know is a sin. Pure becomes tainted and lines are blurred. It's my fault; I'm the one who isn't strong enough. I've been damaged...broken. Breck's words haunt me...'There's a consequence for every choice you make.'


I've had so many women I can't even remember over half of their names, but none of them are mine; I make damn sure of that. I take what I desire and never look back. I don't need or want anyone, ever...not until I met Emma. Those eyes bore into what's left of my soul and her touch sears me, weakens me. I want to hate her for that. She is my sweetest hell. 

Disclaimer: Intended for readers 18+ due to strong language, mature scenes, and some violence.

Oh my. I loved this book so much. It is literally everything you need out of a romance. We have a strong, independent yet semi-naive girl. We have a ridiculously hot, surly, stubborn man whore. We have conflict, amazing attraction and a really fantastic love story. We also get a lot of great steamy scenes and a whole bunch of violence, which is kind of like the added bonus you didn't even know you needed. 

I loved Emma. I feel like she is such a good egg and man, what a solid chick. No matter what gets tossed at her: violence, criminal records, a boyfriend who can't handle  his emotionally instability, her loser ex, her religious conflicts, and just the worst of living in a big city thrown at her, and she just takes everything in stride. And I loved Breck. Sure, he's a bit of man whore who is really upset that Emma has seemingly screwed him off his game but he also knows there's something about her that he absolutely needs in his life. Though he's sure he's going to corrupt her and ultimately ruin her life, he can't stop himself and that just makes him hate himself even more. 

I mean, literally ever conflict you can have in a romance novel? All in. It is all in here and it's amazing. I loved every single part of it, I never once doubted Emma and Breck and the ending is amazing. And thank god there was an epilogue because I didn't want to leave so unfinished without knowing what happens a little further down the road. 

You guys, it's so good. Just so good. 

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

What Strange Creatures

Totally an unexpectedly fun book to read in a really weird way.

What Strange Creatures - Emily Arsenault
What Strange Creatures
Scandal, love, family, and murder combine in this gripping literary mystery by critically acclaimed author Emily Arsenault, in which a young academic’s life is turned upside down when her brother is arrested for murder and she must prove his innocence.

The Battle siblings are used to disappointment. Seven years, one marriage and divorce, three cats, and a dog later, Theresa still hasn’t finished her dissertation. Instead of a degree, she’s got a houseful of adoring pets and a dead-end copywriting job for a local candle company.

Jeff, her so-called genius older brother, doesn’t have it together, either. Creative, and loyal, he’s also aimless in work and love. But his new girlfriend, Kim, a pretty waitress in her twenties, appears smitten.

When Theresa agrees to dog-sit Kim’s puggle for a weekend, she has no idea that it is the beginning of a terrifying nightmare that will shatter her quiet world. Soon, Kim’s body will be found in the woods, and Jeff will become the prime suspect.

Though the evidence is overwhelming, Theresa knows that her brother is not a cold-blooded murderer. But to clear him she must find out more about Kim. Investigating the dead woman’s past, Theresa uncovers a treacherous secret involving politics, murder, and scandal—and becomes entangled in a potentially dangerous romance. But the deeper she falls into this troubling case, the more it becomes clear that, in trying to save her brother’s life, she may be sacrificing her own.

I say it's a fun book in a really weird way because the story itself is kind of heavy. We have a dead girl, her boyfriend is accused of it and rightfully so, all of the evidence is literally pointing to him. But his sister Theresa just knows he didn't do it. She's kind of a life underachiever but she decides to take on the role of detective because she just can't stand to see her brother in prison for something he didn't do. So, that's kind of heavy. What isn't heavy is the author's voice. I've read a few other books by Emily Arsenault and I've enjoyed them, not necessarily because the story itself was so amazing, but it's her writing. Her stories are always well put together and thought through, they give you everything you want out of that genre and you feel like you're traveling on the arc of a good story line, but she's really easy about it. She injects humor and lightheartedness into a story that shouldn't have any of that and in the end, it makes you feel like you not only know these people, but that they could actually be you. 

I don't know how I feel about the ending, when we solve the perpetual mystery of Kim's death, because it just didn't feel satisfying? I don't know really what I expected but I just... I don't know. It fits, the story fits together I just feel like something is missing. BUT, the story leading up to all of that? Great. I loved the characters, I loved the weird little town they live in, I love Theresa, I loved the way she gathers her information in order to save her brother, it's just all really fun. Which sounds really messed up because again, we're trying to figure out who killed this poor woman. I mean, that's not a fun story but I really enjoyed this book. Mostly because Theresa seems a little... different, and different in the way you want at least one of your friends to be so you can have coffee with and leave thinking, "well, things might be bad but at least I'm not her" in the best way possible. I also flew through this book in one evening so if you're looking for a fast read with an interesting story? Try this one. 

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Binding Agreement

Book review time! Hopefully now that I'm home I can get some more reading done and you can continue filling your "to be read" lists!

Binding Agreement - Pam McKenna
Binding Agreement
A chance encounter on a moonlit beach draws sensible, cautious Kay Denehy into a night of anonymous passion and surrender with a ruthlessly dominant stranger. As John Randall introduces her to the exotic thrills of bondage and discipline, she discovers who she really is under the prim schoolteacher exterior—a sexual submissive who needs the strict and ardent guidance of a take-no-prisoners Dom like him. John carries more than his share of emotional baggage, the result of a tragedy for which he feels responsible. Though he cares for Kay, he refuses to pursue a relationship, certain he could only bring her pain. He pushes her away even as his unconscious dream self turns her into a sex slave to be punished and enjoyed ménage-style by two other zealous and demanding Doms. For the first time in her life, Kay knows what she needs, and who she needs, to be sexua lly and emotionally fulfilled. She knows, too, the path John must take to escape his dark places—if only he’ll trust her to lead the way.

I'm going to give this book 3 stars. And that's only because it was better than a 2 star, but not anywhere near a 4 star. It is a novella and on my Nook it came in at 99 pages so I got this done in a little over an hour, perfect for those of you who want to read but don't have a lot of time to commit to a lengthy book. 

Basically, Kay goes to the beach in the middle of the night. She sees John, who strips down to nothing, goes for a swim. Kay gets knocked over by a wave, John helps her up and then storms off to his house. Kay, confused but totally turned on by him, goes back to her car, now totally soaking wet and freezing. Then her car won't start. So Kay is forced to go to John's house, which seems to be the only one occupied, and from there she has an amazing night of sex with major BDSM tendencies. Now, these are complete strangers, so the entire set up is so strange but you're going with it, because it almost immediately goes into steamy scenes. 

I will say, I don't consider myself a prude and lord knows I've read a wise variety of romance books, including erotica, but this one was almost kind of hard to read. It's not that it's overtly violent, it's just really overwhelmingly dominant. It's like, you know how when you read Fifty Shades, you thought, "hmm.. maybe BDSM wouldn't be so bad"? Well this is like, BDSM is not for me. But not in a "I'm going to end up bleeding with welts" scary, but it felt more... mean? Like John isn't totally nice to Kay and she's refusing to stop because she  has some weird thing she's fighting against internally. 

But I won't tell you what happens beyond that night because it kind of ruins the end of the novella for you. I will say, I'm kind of disappointed? Kay really made a point telling John exactly why she thinks he is this way, and with the changes he made towards the end, I really hoped it would be a "he really loves her so he's willing to be more" and it's not that, per say. I mean, I guess it kind of is from  his perspective but I can't help but wonder if, long term, Kay would be satisfied? It's an interesting thought. 

I will say this: if you are a fan of erotica, and you're a fan of novella length stories, this is definitely a great book for you. Truly. Pick it up and you won't be disappointed. If you get a little squeamish with a BDSM story line, definitely avoid this book because you won't enjoy it and it'll be hard to read. You can purchase the book on Amazon right now. If you are interested in learning more about the author, visit her website

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Wall Drug, Badlands, Corn Palace and the longest drive ever. DAY FOUR

This is it, folks. The LAST post about our trip to South Dakota. I know you are probably as exhausted as we were from this trip. But truly, you have to make these trips count and that means seeing and doing as much as you possibly can and that is exactly what we did.

So early Saturday morning, we all packed up our stuff and said goodbye to cabin KK3 from the Crazy Horse Custer Camground.

And hit the road. We decided last minute to cancel our hotel that we had planned in Mitchell and we decided to be total road warriors and not only fill our day being total tourists, but to drive all of the way home as well.

So we got going and our first stop was Wall Drug. Olivia was absolutely determined to see what Wall Drug was because she was getting annoyed at all of the signs. So we stopped.

Jackson saw the sign for the six foot jack rabbit and he honest to god thought it was a real rabbit. A bit disappointed that it was not real, but got excited when he realized you could sit on it. Until he realized that said jackrabbit was really hot from the sun so he promptly burned the inside of his thighs and quickly declared that it was the dumbest jackrabbit ever.
Matt found a new lady friend and managed to get himself his free Wall Drug bumper sticker. I got a box of six donuts which I ate in the car and regret not one moment of my gluttony, those donuts are fucking delicious. The kids each got their promised cowboy hat and Jackson got a cork gun (which is really annoying to hear in the car) and Olivia got a beaded coin purse. All was right in the world and we got back in the car again.

This time our destination was the Badlands Scenic Byway. Which we did backwards apparently but it was the same distance as going the highway so we didn't lose any time, but saw really amazing scenery.
Jackson, declaring that it's my fault he left his binoculars at home, made a show of using his pretend ones.
And the Badlands was actually pretty damn cool. I'm a bit of a geology nerd and I wish I could have stared a little longer, and certainly had more time to climb around on the rocks.
Olivia thought it was pretty neat and Jackson wanted to know if you would die if you fell off. I said yes because that's what he really wanted to hear.
You can't tell by this, but Jackson's face is sheer terror. He was convinced Matt would drop him and he'd fall and then die because I had just got done telling him that yes, you would die if you fell off the cliff.
 And you have to squint and look on the top of the car, but you can see they are using a wire hanger as an antennae. When you're sleep deprived and dehydrated because you can't remember to get a damn water out of the cooler, which is buried under stuff, that kind of thing is hilarious and highly amusing on the highway.

Our next stop was the Corn Palace. Now, I had googled extensively to find out what exactly is in the damn Corn Palace. Why is this a thing? Everyone told me it was stupid and not worth the stop but I had this fear if I didn't stop and we were literally right there, everyone would then say I should have stopped.

So we stopped.
And it was really fucking stupid. Seriously. Don't stop at the Corn Palace. In fact, this is literally the only thing going for Mitchell, South Dakota and it's dumb. We weren't even the only ones to say that. While in line for the bathroom, everyone was like, "This is the stupidest thing ever. What a waste of gas." And really, it kind of was.
I mean, they make murals out of corn. You can pretty much just google that and have the full Corn Palace experience. There are like, crafts inside of what looks like an arena, but that's it. Nothing else. They have their on site made caramel corn balls which was actually super gross. But the prepackaged caramel corn cobs were pretty good. The kids thought it was really dumb as well.

So then we got back in the car and hauled ass. We ended up stopping around 7 at night for gas and dinner in Worthington, MN. We ate at a Pizza Ranch and it was maybe one of the worst restaurant experiences I've ever had. I thought it was strange we were the only white, English speaking people in the middle of farm country, Minnesota. Jackson though the surprise was that I took them to Mexico. And yes, he blurted that right out and it was mortifying. It ended up being a weird chicken and pizza buffet, which is kind of a random combination, but they had literally no food. For $31 we got: one slice of ham pizza, a biscuit, a weird piece of chicken, some wilted lettuce and a whole bunch of croutons. We waited 45 minutes and I was getting so tired I told Matt let's just go because we have to get back on the road. It was 8:00 p.m. by the time we got back on the road and we still had six hours of driving left to do.

Needless to say, we rolled into our driveway at 2 in the morning, Sunday. I honestly don't know how either of us stayed awake because it was tough. I know for a good two hours we sang every Aerosmith song I could get on my phone via the cloud or whatever. When we finally got home the kids had been sleeping for hours so they are stumbling into the house like tiny drunk humans. Jackson was basically sleep walking and trying to take his underwear off. I'm still not sure what that was about. But we got them into bed and left everything in the car. We both crashed in the clothes we were wearing.

And of course do you think the kids would sleep past 7am?


No they did not.

Overall? Epic vacation. It was so great that there has already been discussions of next year's road trip and Matt is trying to convince me that financing a camper is a good idea.

We'll see about that.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Breakwater Bay

Raise your hand if you are in need of a good chick lit with a great story and a little romance? Yes, you over there eager beaver waving your hand- you need this book.

Breakwater Bay - Shelley Noble
Breakwater Bay
Preservationist Meri Hollis loves her latest project, restoring one of Newport's forgotten Gilded Age mansions. And with summer approaching, she'll be able to spend more time with her Gran on the Rhode Island shore. She has a great job, a loving family and she's pretty sure her boyfriend is going to propose on her thirtieth birthday.

But everything Meri believes about family, happiness, truth and love is shattered when her family's darkest secret is exposed.

Thirty years before, Meri's neighbor and friend, Alden Corrigan, took his father's dinghy out to fish. In a sudden storm, he rushed to help a woman stranded on the breakwater. She was just a girl . . . a very pregnant girl who disappeared soon after they reached safety-But not before she left behind a very special gift.

Now that the truth it out, life will change for everyone in Breakwater Bay, and Meri and Alden will have to make decisions that could insure their future together . . . or separate them for good.

On my recent vacation I brought two books with me to read, this one and Going Somewhere by Brian Benson. So you'll get both reviews, hopefully by the end of the weekend, but this one gets first dibs because I finished it first. Anyways. 

I loved this book. While reading it, I realized I hadn't read a good chick lit novel in quite awhile. I think the last one was The Hurricane Sisters by Dorothea Benton Frank. But the great thing is that this book? Feels like a Dorothea Benton Frank book, and I absolutely love her stuff. So Shelley Noble? You are definitely on my radar. 

It's basically the story of Meri, who while meticulously restoring the ceiling of a sad, unloved mansion, is on the edge of a lot of things in her life. She has Peter, who she loves and she basically just expects to marry him. She has her Gran and Gran's house on a lovely beach. She has her friends and her family. Suddenly on her birthday, she discovers everything she knows about her family and herself are not correct at all and it thrusts her into discovering the answers to things she's not sure she wants to know. This pairs her up with Alden, Gran's neighbor who she has known her whole life and has come to rely on him more than she realizes, and their relationship is put to the test and she spends a chunk of the book figuring out just what their relationship even is, or what it should be. 

I don't know if anyone else picked up on it but there were some real ties to her restoration work and her actual life. When things went well with the project, life was good. When things went wrong with the project, things were rocky in her personal life. It's kind of a cool aspect of the story I didn't pick up on necessarily until we got closer to the ending. But can I just say, the story line with the abandoned baby, pregnant teenager, etc? So great. Really. I just felt so terrible and then when you meet the family this teenager came from? Pieces of work. Truly. And I totally loved the ending. I would have loved an epilogue maybe, but even still, so good. 

The other thing I appreciated about this book was that with everything happening, seemingly all at once, I never felt like I was on plot overload. The transitions were smooth, the story was good, and the characters were great. This turned out to be a fabulous vacation read. 

Pick up a copy for yourself. It would even make for an interesting book club read and in the back there are some questions that you can use to guide discussion.