Friday, September 30, 2016

Between Worlds

Do you have a kid who maybe doesn't love to read but would rather play video games? I think we all maybe have one of those in our families and now there is a very cool augmented reality (AR) component to books that gives kids a new way to get into reading.

Between Worlds - Skip Brittenham

Immersive augmented reality brings this action-packed fantasy to life. 

The town of Eden Grove has a legend: In the center of a pine forest there is an aspen grove, and in the center of the aspen grove is an ancient, magnificent tree. A tree that grants wishes.

Mayberry and Marshall have heard the stories about the Wishing Tree, but they know nothing like that could really exist near their dreary town. Misunderstood and restless, the teenagers wish for a lot of things, including being on another planet altogether. Somewhere with magic and adventure—someplace where they can be heroes.

And then the unlikeliest thing happens: On a hike through the forest, they find the Wishing Tree. The pair make their wish, fall asleep . . . and wake up on Nith, a world that is exactly what they asked for. The alien landscape is beautiful, but it’s also full of dangerous and fantastic creatures, and almost without exception, the creatures are hungry. Soon Mayberry and Marshall learn two very important facts about their wish: First, that magic comes at a very steep cost; second, that they can only be heroes if they can survive. The journey that follows will test the limits of their courage and strength . . . and change them in ways they haven’t begun to imagine.

This epic work brings fantasy to life, first by inviting readers into another world, then by using cutting-edge augmented reality technology to bring the world alive in interactive 3D.

Full disclosure, I was doing the augmented reality (AR) on my iPhone, but it would have been so much cooler on a tablet, for sure. So if you're going to take advantage of the AR aspect of that, that might be a helpful tip for you. Secondly, this is geared towards the middle school crowd (12+) but honestly, my third grader (age 8) got into it easily so if you have a child who can read at a 4th grade level and up, this might be a good pick for them. 

The story itself is pretty interesting, we have two kids who find themselves in another world courtesy of the Wishing Tree. (So it's kind of like The Magic Treehouse for big kids) So Mayberry and Marshall find themselves in Nith, and they don't know what/who are friendly and what/who is an enemy. They discover they have some new magical powers, and they discover that there are some downsides to possessing these powers. They have to navigate this new land and test the limits of their strength and courage. The very cool thing about this book are the creatures in Nith, the author does a fantastic job of imagining them up and giving us some really fantastic descriptions. (Then you add in the AR piece to the book where the characters essentially pop up off your page and it really just adds a very cool element.) And we have a budding junior high romance between Mayberry and Marshall which was very sweet and not too much for this age group. 

If you have a middle school reader on your holiday shopping list, I highly recommend this book. It's a great story with good characters, and I think the AR capability could be the new thing. Especially in a time where kids are more plugged into their devices than they are to actual books, this is kind of a cool way to bring ebook lovers back to regular books too. You can find a copy of Between Worlds on Amazon

*I received a copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.*

Thursday, September 29, 2016

The Girl on the Train

It might be the only time I ever say this, but I hope the movie is better than the book. I apologize if you just choked on your beverage but we all have to be honest with ourselves, this is not that great of a book.

The Girl on the Train - Pamela Hawkins

Rachel takes the same commuter train every morning and night. Every day she rattles down the track, flashes past a stretch of cozy suburban homes, and stops at the signal that allows her to daily watch the same couple breakfasting on their deck. She’s even started to feel like she knows them. Jess and Jason, she calls them. Their life—as she sees it—is perfect. Not unlike the life she recently lost.

And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough. Now everything’s changed. Unable to keep it to herself, Rachel goes to the police. But is she really as unreliable as they say? Soon she is deeply entangled not only in the investigation but in the lives of everyone involved. Has she done more harm than good? 

To be fair, I bought this book WAY before it was a thing. I was a trendsetter and didn't even know it. Then I didn't read it because it got all hyped up and I had a ton of review books, and then I found some other books on my shelf that grabbed my attention and I truthfully forgot about this. But the movie is out soon and now I feel like I can't go see the movie if I haven't read the book, plus I'm on this kick where I should legitimately start reading the books on my shelf I haven't gotten to before I buy more so I picked this one up, assuming I'd fly through it. 

Except I didn't. This book is incredibly slow until you get to the last third of it and it's like we rush through everything. We rush through who the actual killer is (which I had pegged almost immediately), we figure out what the deal is with Rachel and Tom (again, pegged it almost immediately), and nothing feels... finished. Clearly, the killer is finished but there are some characters that I feel had a story line, we're involved, and then bam- character is nowhere to be seen in the book again. I really hate when authors do that because I feel like you just took me on a tangent that was totally pointless to the greater story. 

My other problem? Rachel. Rachel is a grossly unlikable character. You literally cannot like her. I couldn't even feel bad with her at the end and you find out what her deal is, what her story is. I think it's really terrible when I like Anna, the original mistress, more than Rachel. Often compared with Gone Girl, this book isn't executed anywhere near that. Gone Girl is really on a whole other literary level and I think the author really tried to get this book there but fell short. 

But you know me, I want to hear your thoughts! If you haven't already jumped on this train (see what I did there? HA!) you can get your copy of The Girl on the Train on Amazon now. 

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Zumbathon Fundraiser in the books!

This past weekend I took part in a Zumbathon fundraiser my friends Cassandra and Connie organized to help with the costs of life post amniotic fluid embolism and birth of baby Lucy. I actually have an update to give you on what life is like now, but maybe later this week I'll get to that.

We'll see.

(Hint: my sense of time is kind of non-existent. I feel like I float through the days mostly.)

I was kind of worried about going because I'm fat and totally out of shape. I'm also not feeling up to much of anything anymore, which I'm not sure if that's because I'm bone tired every day all day or if it's the depression. Maybe both. I also knew that most of everyone I invited wasn't going to come outside of a few, and I try to not take it personally. But let's just say thank god Cassandra and Connie know so many people because it was 98% of their friends that came and I was blown away.

But I would be remiss if I didn't say HEY to my friends who did come. It was great seeing them, it was great to know others in the crowd, and it meant a lot.

I also should point out that holy hell, I am so grossly out of shape. I haven't worked out in almost two years... it's been since before I had Penelope. Yikes. I also was reminded how much I do like zumba, and I need to get myself to a class once our finances aren't so scary.
I brought Olivia with me because she said she'd like to spend more time with me. She actually kept up pretty well, and she hung out with friends, too. And she saw her previous dance coach, so she was so excited to give her a hug.

Overall, we made just under $600 at the event, which paid our van payment this month and our next two weeks of groceries. I hate how tight things are right now. I hate that I am not bouncing back and able to just do it all on my own, which is what I'm used to. I hate that I feel like I'm a burden to Matt and his job. They really need him, god knows he has more than enough work he could be doing there, and I feel like they probably wish I could just pull it together, too. I'm trying. I'm trying every day. Like I said to people on Sunday, physically I look good, but I'm faking it. I'm faking it every day.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Devil Sent the Rain

According to my Goodreads Reading Challenge, I'm eleven books behind so I've got to step up my game if I want to meet my challenge of 100 books this year. The pressure!

Devil Sent the Rain - Lisa Turner

Fresh from solving Memphis’ most sensational murder case, Homicide Detective Billy Able and his ambitious new partner Frankie Malone are called to a bizarre crime scene on the outskirts of town. A high society attorney has been murdered while dressed in a wedding gown. Billy is shocked to discover he has a very personal connection to the victim. When the attorney’s death exposes illegal practices at her family’s prestigious law firm, the scandal is enough to rock the southern city’s social world.

In a tale of the remnants of Old South aristocracy and entitlement, twisted by greed and vengeance, Billy must confront the secrets of his own past to have any chance at solving the murder of the girl he once knew. But as he seeks the truth, he’s drawn closer to an embittered killer bent on revenge—and eliminating the threat Billy poses.

Full disclosure, this is the second book in the Detective Billy Able series, but it really is a stand alone. I haven't read the first book and I didn't feel like I missed anything that is relevant to this story, so no worries, lambs! Secondly, I don't know why I assumed Billy would be a guy because the book description clearly states it's a guy, so I don't know what my problem is, but Billy is a guy. 

My favorite parts of this book are obviously the mystery theme, which is done VERY well, but I like southern feel of the book. (Which made me reflect on some of my favorite books and they are all set in the south and I wonder if I'm drawn to books just by that.) And what is it about the south that automatically gives you deep roots and feuds that never end? The story is Billy on the case of the death of Caroline Lee, who is found murdered after calling off her wedding and still in her wedding dress. Why would anyone want Caroline dead and in such a manner? We go through all of the obvious suspects, but we quickly walk into family secrets, cover ups, connections that run deep, a revenge twist, and the ending has a really good bang that I didn't see coming. I think I watch too many episodes of crime shows because I struggle with mystery and thriller books because I can see the ending coming, but this one wasn't like that for me and that I very much appreciated. My only complaint is that there are a LOT of characters. Most aren't important and you only have them in passing, but it's a peeve of mine because I'm that reader who doesn't want to read what I don't need. I don't want fluff, I don't want added things for the sake of filling pages of possibly giving the author another way to take the story should their original plan not work out, it's just too much and I feel like I'm wasting my time. So if I have to give you a negative, that would be it. 

If you are a fan of mystery and you need a good read to get through the crappy, rainy days of fall, I highly recommend this one! You can find it on Amazon as well as the HarperCollins website. You can even catch up with author Lisa Turner on her website as well as Facebook

Happy reading, lambs! 

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Bossy Flossy

I bet you thought I was going to write about myself but no, lucky for you this is a book review. Which might be a description of myself, but I'll never admit to it.

Bossy Flossy - Paulette Bogan
Flossy is the bossiest girl around. She's bossy at home and she's bossy in school. She's bossy to her friends and she's bossy to her cat. Sometimes she's even bossy to her teacher! Flossy doesn't understand why no one will listen to her. One day, Flossy meets Edward, a boy who may be just as bossy as she is. Has Flossy finally met her match?

You can guess that this is a children's book and an adorable one at that. It's only 32 pages but it's a fast read and would be a great book for your first and second grader to read on their own. It would also be a great classroom read for those of you who are teachers, or volunteer readers, because you can really make it fun by changing up your voice while reading. Clearly the topic of the book would be a great classroom discussion, especially with the beginning of the school year, some kids maybe forgot over the summer how to be kind to others. And some students, like kindergartners who maybe haven't been in a classroom setting, could benefit from this book as well.

It's the story of Flossy, who is VERY bossy. She even bosses her mother (and teacher). She meets Edward, who is also very bossy, and Flossy gets to see how her behavior is by watching Edward. They eventually learn how to work things out together and listen to each other and perhaps be a bit less bossy. The illustrations are really adorable, the story is so fun to read, and it has a topic that you can discuss with your child and maybe ask them if they are ever bossy, and how they can be a bit less bossy.

It's such a great read, it's a good addition to any home, classroom, or school library. Paulette Bogan has a great website, and you can also follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Sunset in Central Park

OK, so you are probably noticing a bit of a book trend with my posts this week, but I can't help it! I've had so many great books and book related things going on so it's what we've got. But Friday I'll have a non-book post for you, and this weekend I'll have actual things I'm doing so hopefully I'll have fun posts next week, too.

One thing that is super fun is my friends are hosting a Zumbathon for us to help raise money to help us with bills related to the birth of Lucy and me subsequently dying and being sent back to do whatever it is that I was meant to do here. It's in conjunction with our GoFundMe and I'm just super, super lucky to have such great friends.

This was one of the first books I read once I got home since I spent a lot of time laying down, and it was a fun read for my dark mood.

Sunset in Central Park - Sarah Morgan

Love has never been a priority for garden designer Frankie Cole. After witnessing the fallout of her parents' divorce, she's seen the devastation an overload of emotion can cause. The only man she feels comfortable with is her friend Matt—but that's strictly platonic. If only she found it easier to ignore the way he makes her heart race… 

Matt Walker has loved Frankie for years but, sensing how fragile she is beneath her feisty exterior, has always played it cool. But then he uncovers new depths to the girl he's known forever and doesn't want to wait a moment longer. He knows Frankie has secrets and has buried them deep, but can Matt persuade her to trust him with her heart and kiss him under the Manhattan sunset? 

This is actually the second in the From Manhattan With Love series, so if you've read the first one, you'll already recognize and know Matt and Frankie. The really great thing is this author writes these as stand alones, so you don't necessarily have to read them in order, but if you do it's a really sweet expansion of story. So there's the technical stuff. 

On to the actual story: Frankie is so stinking stubborn. Almost to the point where she's frustrating to the reader, but it's also what makes her absolutely unique and someone you can relate to at the same time. She's honest, to a fault, she isn't good at romance, she can't flirt and is kind of awkward around others, loves alone time over anything with people, but she's hugely loyal to her friends. I think she wants to have that companionship a partner would bring but she's the worst candidate for it because everything is stacked against her. Like, you have to leave the house to meet people, but she's so awkward and not an extrovert in any way, so it's not going to come easy for her. But then you have Matt, who is so patient and kind, and he's pretty sure that him and Frankie are meant to be so he's spending the majority of the book woo'ing her in the sweetest, most perfect way. 

I'm assuming book three will be Eva's story, so I'm pretty excited! This book was such a lovely read, it's an upbeat, sweet, classic romance but it's also funny so it makes for a fast read. You'll fly through this! I actually have to give this book five stars because I really enjoyed Frankie's character. She reminds me so much of myself that I found myself nodding in agreement with her logic because it's the same as mine. 

You can learn more about Sarah Morgan on her website, Facebook, and of course, Twitter. In the meantime, you can purchase your own copy of Sunset in Central Park on Amazon!! 

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

September OwlCrate: Darkness

I was going to post about this later in the week, but the box was SO GOOD that I literally cannot wait. So you get it today.

Behold, lambs... my September OwlCrate!

Can we all just take a minute before we rub all of the things inappropriately?

Just kidding- rub all the things!

The read this month is from Kendare Blake, Three Dark Crowns, which looks amazing. We also got a signed bookplate, letter from the author and a paper fortune teller from the author. The book itself sounds interesting:

.. a tale of three sisters, each blessed with unique powers, and each cursed with the need to fight the others to their death in order to claim the crown of their kingdom. But things are never what they seem, are they?...

So excited to get to this book!
The rest of the box was equally great and included:

  • A small candle from The Melting Library inspired by the Throne of Glass series. It's vanilla based, so that's instant migraine for me, so I'll be gifting this to someone. 
  • The large black item is a cool zippered pouch inspired by Miss Peregrine's School for Peculiar Children, in time for the movie. 
  • I am so excited about the Fortune Telling Bomb bath fizzer from Da Bomb! I am mostly looking forward to it because it means I'll obviously be in the tub, alone, in the quiet, for some time. I can hardly wait. 
  • We also got a bookmark from Evie Bookish, a cool button, a passport coloring book, and it looks like a second book called ReMade, A Serial in 15 episodes. I've never read anything like that, so I'm intrigued already. 
October's box is themed "Once Upon a Dream" and is going to feature an item from Whosits and Whatsits, so I'm looking forward to that box already!

Monday, September 19, 2016

Lit Cube September: Haunted Hearts

By the theme title you'd think this would be more Halloween, spooky, possibly scary centered, but no. You'd be wrong. I'm assuming we're saving that for October. This theme ends up being more darker romance I guess. 

So the thing with Lit Cube now is that every month you get a book, a wearable, a snackable, and then some other goodies that go with the theme of the box. 

This month's readable is The Architect of Song by A.G. Howard, and it's the first in the Haunted Hearts Legacy series, so we'll see if the book is good enough to continue on. Our wearable is a glass necklace with pressed flowers, which is so big and kind of gawky, so it's not in my taste but my 11 year old totally loved it. The snackable was a huge disappointment, a packet of hot chocolate from Walmart. The other goodies were a mixed bag. The journal, with a quote hand picked by this month's author imprinted on the front, is easily the best thing in this box. We also got a mini feather quill and ink vial set, I'm assuming to go with the journal, but who the hell has time for that kind of crap? Then we got a gardenia scented mor soap, which again, meh. I'm not one for mini soaps and stuff so I'll pass this along to someone else. It's a mixed bag of a box, but the two more expensive things (book and journal) were pretty nice, so those alone are really the value of the box. 

If you go to the Lit-Cube website, you'll see the theme for October is "Tale As Old As Time", so obviously this will be Beauty & The Beast inspired. I'm pretty excited because I love Beauty & The Beast, and there are SO MANY amazing things hanging out in Etsy shops and online stores that would be perfect for this box, so I'm optimistic! 

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Something in Between

I promise this is the last book review for the week, but I have a couple more almost ready to go for next week! If you are doing any early Christmas shopping for readers in your life, start taking notes because there are a bunch of great books coming out this fall that will make great gifts.

Something in Between - Melissa De La Cruz

Jasmine de los Santos has always done what's expected of her. Pretty and popular, she's studied hard, made her Filipino immigrant parents proud and is ready to reap the rewards in the form of a full college scholarship.  

And then everything shatters. A national scholar award invitation compels her parents to reveal the truth: their visas expired years ago. Her entire family is illegal. That means no scholarships, maybe no college at all and the very real threat of deportation. 

For the first time, Jasmine rebels, trying all those teen things she never had time for in the past. Even as she's trying to make sense of her new world, it's turned upside down by Royce Blakely, the charming son of a high-ranking congressman. Jasmine no longer has any idea where—or if—she fits into the American Dream. All she knows is that she's not giving up. Because when the rules you lived by no longer apply, the only thing to do is make up your own. 

I think if there is ever a group of authors that write about real life topics in a timely fashion, it's YA authors, hands down. Maybe they are just more apt at cranking out books at a faster pace, but it always seems like if there is an issue in the news, you can almost always find a relatively new YA book that touches on the subject and maybe gives high school kids a perspective of an issue that they could relate to. Which is why I'm recommending this one as a good book for any teenager for Christmas. The book itself is about Jasmine, being the all-American kid and I think every teenage girl will be able to relate to her, but the book also is about immigration and what lengths people will go to be here, and what the ramifications can be in the long run.

So we have Jasmine, she's a high school girl working her tail off to get a scholarship to a really stellar school. Her parents push her to excel but she pushes herself even more. She's the top of her class, she's the best in her extra-curricular activities, she's well liked and basically has it all going for her. Until she finds out that not only does her family's visas no longer exist, and they are basically illegals, she learns that deportation is a very real (and scary) thing and that her carefully planned out future is basically stopped dead in its tracks. But it's made all the more complicated because of Royce, who is the son of a Congressman who is actively trying to deport illegals. It's like a modern day Romeo & Juliet but instead of stabbings, we have people being sent back to Mexico. Their relationship is very PG and kind of cute, so the YA aspect of this plays in there.

I basically adored this book because I really liked Jasmine's character. It isn't very often that we have a strong, educated, determined and driven female as a lead in a YA book. Sure, we have strong females but they all seem to be challenging the system, not caring what others thought, "quirky", and not that those are bad things or that we shouldn't celebrate girls who ask questions, but sometimes it's really nice to celebrate the girls who don't, too. (Which makes me sound super anti-feminist, doesn't it? I should kind of old school, middle aged man right now.) Not every girl is going to change the world and it's nice to see a character who is trying to better herself and not necessarily worrying about everyone else around her. (Don't hurt me, feminists, I'm not a jerk, I swear!)

Something in Between comes out later this month, but you can pre-order it on Amazon right now. Honestly, it would be a good book for any teen and then ask them what they thing about people who lived here for so long, holding jobs, going to school, being good citizens and then potentially being sent back to a country that doesn't have the same opportunities as we do here. Their perspective might be eye opening, for sure. In the meantime, keep up with Melissa De La Cruz on Twitter and her website!

Triple Love Score

Can we just talk about how pretty this cover it? It's beautiful.

Triple Love Score - Brandi Megan Granett
A poetry professor stumbles into fame and fortune as an anonymous online Scrabble(r) poet. Miranda lives a quiet life among books and letters as a poetry professor in a small upstate town. When two snap decisions turn up the volume on her life, she must decide whether or not her best laid plans actually lead to where her heart wants to go.

I read the first half of this before I had Lucy, and the second half after I had Lucy... which was not a smart move because I had to go back and re-read the first half because I couldn't remember anything. Let's start with what I totally loved: very rich descriptions of the setting, great character development, and the Scrabble board poetry. (Here's a fun fact: despite being well read and loving everything about literature, I absolutely suck at Scrabble, and people are always surprised to learn that about me.) Fortunately, there isn't anything about this book I don't love which pleasantly surprised me because I've been in a reading rut so to speak. 

But we have Miranda, who is the Blocked Poet, with her Scrabble board poetry and she has the opportunity to make this her thing, make it work FOR her. Just as things are looking up, long lost love Scott comes back into her life, with a child in tow, no less. You really feel for Miranda because she really doesn't know who she is even though she's had all of this time alone to find herself, but I think she doesn't really know how to do that (Which can I get an amen? Do any of us know how to do that?!) so once we have Scott back in the picture, Miranda makes some... less than stellar choices. But can we talk about something in the book that I kind of loved? There is the little girl and she basically has a dead beat mom, which is why Scott is raising her. But there is that question, when a new woman comes into the picture, it's so hard to know what your role is. Are you new mom? Bonus mom? Replacement mom? Just dad's girlfriend, not in a mom role at all? I think so many couple struggle with that and we see that in this book but I think the way it's done is just really nice and realistic. That story line could have gone wonky but it's realistic and honest and I thought it was well done. 

Overall? I'm giving this book 4/5 stars. The story was great, the characters were well developed, and though Miranda drove me a little nuts at time, overall I liked her and the story as a whole. You can find a copy of Triple Love Score on Amazon. In the meantime, catch up with Brandi on her website and Twitter! If you have a friend or family member who loves a good contemporary romance, this would make a GREAT holiday gift. You could pair it with a travel Scrabble game or a cute Scrabble themed gift. Look at me, knocking gifts off your holiday shopping lists already. You're welcome, lambs. 

Monday, September 12, 2016

Fire Brand

It seems like I am on some reading rampage but that's not actually true. I'm just super behind in reviews, so you're going to get bombarded. You're welcome. I think.

Fire Brand - Diana Palmer

Gaby Cane was always a bit afraid of her attraction to Bowie McCayde. Even when she was fifteen and Bowie's family took her in, she had sensed his simmering resentment. Now ten years later, she's an aspiring journalist who can hold her own with any man professionally, the dark shadows of years gone by far behind her. Then Bowie strides back into her life—only this time, he needs her, and the pull of loyalty to his family is too strong to ignore.  

When Bowie asked Gaby to help save his family's Arizona ranch, he never expected the girl he once knew to return transformed into a stunning, successful woman. As they work together, Bowie is shocked to find that her innocence and beauty stir a hunger he can't deny. But the rogue rancher can sense something holding her back, and he's determined to uncover the terrible secret Gaby is fighting to keep hidden…

OK, I'm going to just say it: I am a Diana Palmer fan. I've read quite a few of her books and I really enjoy them and I get excited when I see she's got something new coming. But this one.. I don't know if it's because I read this while recovering from giving birth and almost dying, or if I just wasn't in the mood for a romance, but this book kind of got on my nerves. 

It could also be that these characters are totally not likeable. First off, Bowie is a total asshole to everyone, including his mother. I get that his mother maybe wasn't the most nurturing towards him but man ALIVE. Secondly, what the hell is wrong with his mother? You didn't get a daughter so you just treat your son like crap? Third, Gaby. Listen, I get that some authors aren't going to write the dirty romance novel with your self-assured heroine. I get it. But Gaby is like a bizarre purist, naive and just... she's weird, folks. I get the child hood trauma that we learn about in the second half of the book but come on. It's hard to get excited about a Gaby and Bowie relationship when he's an asshole and she's almost child like. It's creepy, actually. 

The book itself was originally written in 1989 so once I realized that, some of the writing made more sense because something written this way in 2016 just doesn't fit. What was interesting to me was that though the romance story is a little outdated and weird compared to modern, contemporary romance novels, some of the story line that Gaby's character is investigating fits in perfectly with 2016 when you think of fracking and what that can do ecology wise. So we have the Gaby and Bowie blossoming romance (or is it??) but we also have a developer trying to buy Bowie's land to basically develop it and he says not a chance in hell, but there's the promise of jobs to the area so naturally, people want Bowie to just sell already. It gets complicated because Gaby is set to inherit 51% of the land because Bowie is a jerk to his mom so now Gaby isn't sure if Bowie's romantic interest is genuine or not, and because she has the mentality of possibly a 12 year old when it comes to romance, she really struggles with this and that carries us to the end of the book. 

I have to give this book a 3/5 stars. If the characters weren't so hard to like, I'd give it 4 stars. This time this romance was just a little too cheesy for me, maybe I really need to read a filthy book to appreciate the subtle romance again? But then I think- there is a whole market out there of people who want a regular ol' Harlequin romance and they don't want sex toys and red rooms, and if that's you, you get this in your shopping cart right now because you will love it. 

You can get  your own copy of Fire Brand on Amazon now! You should also check out Diana's website because she has a whole lot of books you might want to splurge on, as well. I have really liked a lot of Diana's books so don't let this one scare you away! 

Friday, September 9, 2016

Who's That Girl?

Just a fun little tidbit about this book: I read this while holding a sleeping Lucy on my chest/in my arms.

And her last book, It's Not Me, It's You, was a book I was reviewing a month after I had Penelope.
And again, I read that with a baby on my chest. And a cat on my lap. Isn't that fun? Anyways.

Who's That Girl? - Mhairi McFarlane

When Edie is caught in a compromising position at her colleagues’ wedding, all the blame falls on her – turns out that personal popularity in the office is not that different from your schooldays. Shamed online and ostracised by everyone she knows, Edie’s forced to take an extended sabbatical – ghostwriting an autobiography for hot new acting talent, Elliot Owen. Easy, right?

Wrong. Banished back to her home town of Nottingham, Edie is not only dealing with a man who probably hasn’t heard the word ‘no’ in a decade, but also suffering an excruciating regression to her teenage years as she moves back in with her widowed father and judgy, layabout sister.

When the world is asking who you are, it’s hard not to question yourself. Who’s that girl? Edie is ready to find out. 

My number one complaint about the last book I read by this author was the length. At 535 pages, it's my complaint for this one as well- SO much of this book could have been snipped out to take down the length and make it so much better. Mhairi is a great writer, the story is good and entertaining but when you have 500 some pages it's so easy for someone to put this book down and say enough is enough. I think so many people are going to pass this book up because of the size and that's a shame because the story itself is fun and entertaining. 

The basics are we have Edie, who finds herself at the wedding of someone she works with, and she's had a weird, complicated, totally not good relationship with the groom. On the night of the wedding itself, the groom, in his total asshole-full-of-himself way kisses Edie and OF COURSE the bride sees, freaks the hell out, and Edie makes a run for her room because she's pretty sure she's going to barf. But cue the backlash- Edie is labeled as a homewrecker (and worse) through social media so she basically has to leave London because nobody is giving her the time of day. Her boss feels kind of bad for her so he gives her the lead on a chance to write the biography for a famous television star, which leads them to strike up an unlikely friendship. Not surprisingly, while Edie is basically tarred and feathered for being kissed, the groom is essentially given a pass, which is something that absolutely would happen in real life, so there's that to consider. But the larger talking point is the influence of social media in our lives, what's real online versus not online, and how something small that we post online can take on its own life so to speak. 

Overall? I'll give this one 3/5 stars. It's the length of the novel that gets me. If it was 200 pages shorter, I think I would have enjoyed it far more. Maybe the fact my elbow went numb while reading this is impacting my rating here, but more isn't always better. But I really liked Edie, and I felt bad for her. All of the awkwardness at the beginning of the book- we have ALL been there. And once all hell breaks loose you just want to defend her because she didn't deserve what ultimately happens to her. 

You can catch up with Mhairi McFarlane on her website and Twitter. You can get your own copy of Who's That Girl on Amazon now! 

Lucy: The most epic birth story I could ever tell.

It's taken me almost a month to get enough information to write this post. And some of it is still spotty. I should tell you that I remember none of it. I don't remember anything from that day, and the rest of the days I was in the hospital. I only remember a few spotty moments from the day I left the hospital. So, to the best of my recollection, and from what I was able to gather from others, this is the story of how my little Lucy Louise saved my life.

It started on August 1. Apparently I had gotten up early in the morning and had some bleeding. More than what would be bloody show. I had called Matt at work and he came home, and somewhere along the way he called my mom and his mom, who was going to watch the kids at our house for us.

Once at the hospital, the doctor wasn't sure if I was in labor, but my cervix was changing a bit and so they kept me and we were going to play it by ear, keep monitoring me. After a few hours, I was starting to get contractions and they thought maybe if I got an epidural, a little Pitocin, things would just keep progressing and we'd be having a baby before dinner.
Which was exciting because yay! I have always had relatively fast labor and deliveries, I've never had any issue, this body was meant to be birthing children- I'm practically a baby making machine.
So I got an epidural. I also got the BEST anesthesiologist ever, he was the same one I had with Penelope, and I was so glad to have him (Matt said this- that I was pretty excited to see this guy again) and he turned out to be a critical person in what would eventually happen.

But after some monitoring, Lucy wasn't head down anymore. She had been head down, ready to go, at every damn visit. She was ready to go when I got to the hospital. For some inexplicable reason, she decided to turn sideways. The doctor gave me some options: c-section right now or try to turn her.
I decided that I really didn't want a c-section and they felt like turning her might actually work and we'd just ultrasound to make sure. And once she was turned around, we could up the Pitocin to speed up labor ensuring she wouldn't have time to turn around.
So that's what we did.
I had a really fantastic doctor and an amazing team of nurses doing their damnedest.
They were able to get her turned around successfully. Unfortunately, that was just the start. Once the baby started coming down, my mom noticed that it wasn't the top of the head coming, it was Lucy's face. Now, there are times when you can deliver a face presenting baby, but the way Lucy's head was turned, she could have had a serious neck injury had I started pushing. That was when they decided this now became an emergency c-section situation so they unplugged everything as quickly as possible and I was put to sleep in order for them to get the baby out as quickly as possible.

And at 3:12 p.m., Lucy Louise was born via emergency c-section, swollen faced, adorable, and with dark hair.
Within seconds, the anesthesiologist (who is a rock star) noticed that my lungs were essentially failing, and that I was in the beginning stages of an Amniotic Fluid Embolism.

AFE is characterized by acute and rapid collapse of mother and/or baby as a result of an allergic-like reaction to amniotic fluid entering the maternal circulatory system. It is important to note that many laboring mothers have amniotic fluid or fetal debris enter into their circulatory system and do not suffer such a response. It is most generally defined as a two-phase response:
The first phase is characterized by rapid respiratory failure and cardiac arrest. It is noted most fatalities from AFE occur during the first phase.
The second phase is known as the hemorrhagic phase. The mother begins to bleed profusely at the wound site; typically at the site of placental attachment or cesarean incision. Disseminated intravascular coagulopathy (DIC) or consumptive coagulopathy develops, which prevent coagulation.

AFE is so rare, most medical professionals learn of it only in textbooks. The statistics around the incidence of AFE vary; recent research suggests that the estimated incidence of AFE is 2.5 in every 100,000 births or 1 in 40,000 deliveries in North America and 1 in 53,800 deliveries in Europe, respectively. There is currently no available data on incidence of AFE in other regions of the world. The true incidence of AFE is difficult to determine because the diagnosis of this syndrome remains one of exclusion, meaning that a diagnosis of AFE is made after all other reasonable explanations have been ruled out.

Thankfully, they had a banner team of doctors right there because the fact he saw that so quickly was key. They were able to give me the medication I needed and basically resuscitate me within minutes.

But then I started hemorrhaging. I had to have multiple blood transfusions and the doctor who delivered Lucy said things got really scary because they couldn't get my blood to clot at all. All of my systems were failing, and they made a quick decision to essentially clamp the blood flow going to my uterus and that eventually worked.

Once the hemorrhaging was controlled, and my vital systems were doing OK, I was then brought to the ICU.
So while I was busy dying and being revived, Matt got to meet Lucy. He wasn't able to come to the surgical room for the c-section because it was happening so fast there was no time to get him ready. My mom and Matt said it was almost an hour after I had been initially taken to surgery that they heard anything about me. They had no idea that just down the hall, I was in seriously critical condition and fighting for my life.
And my mom got to meet Lucy. She has been there for the birth of all of my children. She said seeing me in the ICU was horrifying and reminded her of when my uncle David passed away. Matt hasn't really talked about what it was like for him to see me in there. But thankfully, I had really great people working on me. 
And I had amazing friends who dropped everything to help with the kids, food, errands, coming to visit me, etc. They had Lucy come in and lay on my chest and I think it was supposed to obviously be beneficial to her but possibly for me as well. Maybe to subconsciously remind me this baby needs me?
I was on oxygen for about 24 hours and they took the tubes out to see how I would do and apparently my lungs did just fine. They had no idea what kind of side effects I'd have because AFE is so rare, they literally don't know much about it.

Among the survivors of AFE, most will experience long term or lifelong complications. These include but are not limited to mild to severe neurologic impairment, memory loss, temporary or permanent heart damage, organ failure, complete or partial hysterectomy and Sheehan’s syndrome. Infants may experience, mild to severe neurologic impairment, including hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (oxygen deficiency to the brain) and cerebral palsy. Further research is needed to fully understand the potential long-term medical effects of AFE on both mothers and infants.
In addition to medical complications, most AFE survivors experience lasting emotional effects after this traumatic event. Feelings of confusion, isolation, anxiety, postpartum depression and post-traumatic stress are common. Seeking support and treatment for mental health issues is a very important aspect of the overall recovery process, and we recommend that women consult with their health care providers for mental health resources.

The anesthesiologist who was the lead on my delivery asked if my particular experience could be used in research, so that's actually being submitted.
After a few days in ICU, I was brought to a regular room, and Matt said I was pretty out of it. My mom said that when I was awake it was clear things weren't right, I sounded like I was 12 again and I couldn't remember much. I could remember Olivia and Jackson, but not Penelope and not Lucy. Somehow in my delirium I decided we were going to name her Lucy, which is weird because the day before her birth I was pretty set on Eloise, so who knows. Clearly Lucy was what her name was meant to be?
Matt also said there would be times where I was totally lucid and then other times where I didn't make any sense. I had countless tests, MRI's, lab work, doctor visits, etc.  I'll tell you right now that if I saw you or spoke to you during all of this, I remember none of it.
I was able to go home like eight days after having Lucy. Which is insane because I was in absolutely no shape to be going home. I don't remember this picture, for instance. I look kind of out of it. I vaguely remember my mom staying overnight at the hospital with me. I remember eating meals at the hospital, I remember a nurse with blond hair walking me out of the hospital. I remember very small bits and pieces of the next two weeks at home. Even now, I feel like in the moment I'm doing OK, like I'm remembering things, but a few days later I can't recall what I did on a particular day. So if you asked me what I did on Monday? I can't tell you.

Earlier this week I met with the doctor who delivered Lucy just to hear what the hell happened. I'm really struggling with the mental health side of almost dying and I thought maybe if I heard the blow by blow account it would be a good springboard to recovery. As it turns out, it's a really surreal and bizarre experience to hear about your death and revival in a very clinical, matter of fact way. Thankfully the doctor was absolutely lovely and so supportive. She told me that if Lucy hadn't turned, if I had delivered vaginally on the delivery floor and I had the embolism, there is a 99% chance I would be totally dead. They wouldn't have had the resources they needed on the floor and they couldn't get me into surgery fast enough to stop me from bleeding out right then and there. Not just that, but the anesthesiologist who recognized what was happening to me? If he didn't remember the one chapter in one textbook about amniotic fluid embolism? I would have died. She said most doctors will go their entire career and never even hear about this, and it's true, every doctor who I've seen since all tell me how incredibly rare this is and how lucky I am. That someone, somewhere is watching out for me because there is no reason I should be here right now. I should be dead.

Which is a really alarming, horrifying, terrifying, and sobering thought.

So in the aftermath, we have our Go Fund Me account, which is basically how we're paying our bills right now. Matt has had to reduce his hours at work a LOT because while I can function well, and I'm not an invalid, I'm nowhere near ready to be alone at home with four kids. Not even just the younger two. And it's weird, I feel like I'm pretty OK, but then there are points in the day where I don't remember when I fed Lucy last, or I space out a bit. I hate not being able to be 100% independent, but I do know I need help right now. Anyways. So Matt's paychecks barely pay our mortgage so financially things are really stressful right now. I have only gotten bills for doctors who came after my ICU stay, the actual hospital bills haven't come yet and our insurance sucks, so I can hardly wait. Not to mention all of the medication I'm on? It's EXPENSIVE. I seriously get it when people say they debate medicine versus food. I get it, and it's awful. I'm with you, folks.

As for me, I have Sheehan's Syndrome, which is pretty common for AFE folks. I'm being referred to another hospital to get a second opinion on my neurological impairment and basically see if things are going to get better. One doctor seemed confident that my memory would just get better and better over time. Another doctor said she things I'm permanently impaired, that I'm always going to be kind of fuzzy. Both agreed that I won't ever remember the time I was in the hospital. I think that's the hardest part- I don't get to enjoy Lucy's birth, my last baby, like that experience was stolen from me. Needless to say, I have a lot of things to work through. I'm getting help soon though, so that's something. I'm still foggy. I'm trying to get out of the house more, though. There have been a few times where people have stopped me to say hi and it takes me a bit to register who they are, which is frustrating. I hope that gets better.

But that's the best I can give you. I wish I could give you super detailed information because that's more of my style, but this is the best I can do.

Friday, September 2, 2016

You know it's bad when strangers hug you.

Well this week was relatively "easy" considering I only had one doctor appointment to contend with. I think next week I have a visit with the endocrinologist to see how my pee medicine is working (more on that in a bit) but the most important visit (to me) is the one with the doctor who delivered Lucy. I basically want to know what the hell happened because I've gotten bits from my mom, different bits from Matt, and a really broad run down from my actual OB, but she encouraged me to make an appointment with the delivering doctor that day just to get the full story. So I did, and that's next week. Which is why I haven't written down Lucy's birth story, I'm kind of waiting for that appointment to make sure I get details correct.

But here's where I am now:

- I go to my OB again in November to have a full panel of labs run to see where my hormone levels are. She is 75% sure that I am basically a closed down baby bakery because of my pituitary gland being shot.

- Which explains why I haven't gotten a period yet. No bleeding at all, actually. Nothing. Nada. No cramps, no indicator that anything is coming, totally the weirdest thing. She said I most likely won't have a period again. I likely will need a cocktail of estrogen and progesterone or whatever to make sure I don't go into early menopause, considering I'm only 34. And even though my family health history makes that scary, she said she would rather me get cancer (I'm considered high risk for breast, uterine, cervical, and ovarian cancers) than heart disease (something I could get without the hormones) because we can treat cancer. Heart disease is kind of bad. So that's absolutely terrifying.

- Last week my endocrinologist gave me kind of bleak news letting me know that my pituitary gland is basically shot and what that means for me. After all of my labs from last week came back the final verdict is diabetes insipidus, secondary adrenal insufficiency, and low thyroid function. Basically I have Sheehan's Syndrome. It's a good thing I'm not a breast feeding mama because I'd be in bad shape right now since I have zero milk production. Perhaps the only bright spot in all of this is that I have had no milk come in and I have evaded the pain of milk drying up. So.. yay! But also along with this is that I don't think I'm growing hair on my legs or under my arms. Like, it's been a month and I haven't had to shave. Which is totally awesome, but what about my head? Is this it? Is what I have all I'm getting? Nobody seems to know.

- The neurologist I saw earlier in August to go over my MRI must have gotten the more advanced scan results because "after more looking" she wants me to see a specialist in traumatic brain injury (which is what I'm classified as because I technically died twice and the mass amount of blood I lost combined with loss of oxygen for two separate times... bad stuff happens when that happens) at the other hospital to do scans and look at my earlier scans. That's happening in November. Along with more scans at my hospital plus a series of "brain activity tests" to basically see how I'm functioning.

- My OB let me know I failed my post partum depression test and to continue with my anti-depressants, but if things don't get better in the next 2-3 weeks, I need to call and we'll start increasing my dosage. She also wants me to get into counseling for not just my depression but for PTSD. I exhibit a lot of the symptoms of that and she thinks I'm going to have a breakdown if I don't get some immediate treatment. So.. I guess I'll work on that. I can't afford it so who knows how that's going to work.

- The EOB's are starting to roll in. Now I'm getting really scared because we can't afford any of this. Not with Matt not working his usual schedule because I can't do the mornings on my own yet. Hell, I can barely do much on my own. Thankfully the big kids go back to school tomorrow but I won't lie, not having them to help me with Penelope? I'm worried. I hate relying on my mom and Matt's mom to basically babysit and help me take care of my kids. But between the depression, not feeling great physically, and my slew of medication that makes me feel run down and sluggish, I just can't do it. Some mornings I wake up by crying in the shower. I think Matt is concerned but he hasn't said anything. I don't know what I would even say back, to be honest. Certainly nothing that would be reassuring, that's for sure.

But what's been the strangest is when absolute strangers hug me and ask how I am. Doctor's offices, Walmart, the grocery store, the kids' school. I don't know what to say. If I say "good", they immediately feel relieved and assume I'm 100%. If I'm honest and say, "not good", they look like they don't know what to say or do and it's awkward for us all. But at this point, I can fake it for awhile but then it becomes obvious I'm not up to par and things aren't good. And sometimes I want to scream at people, "I DIED, FOLKS, TWO TIMES!" because it drives me nuts when people don't understand exactly what I went through. I mean, I can't even get mad because who the hell even has this happen to them? I do. I do, folks. I shouldn't even be surprised anymore yet here we are.

So have a good weekend, lambs. I'm going to try to be a mom, on my own, for a bunch of hours this weekend. I'm 100% terrified. I keep telling myself I just have to keep them alive. That's really all I have to do. Stay alive and keep them alive. Easy peasy, right?