Thursday, May 31, 2018

Book Review: Troublemaker

If you know me at all, you know that my favorite author is Linda Howard. I have many of her books and the ones I don't have I'm currently searching for online in the hopes to have the entire Linda Howard library. Because I'm a fan, y'all. So recently while shopping I came across this one and the sequel, grabbed them because I didn't have them and I squeezed this one in between my review books. 

Troublemaker - Linda Howard
For Morgan Yancy, an operative and team leader in a paramilitary group, nothing comes before his job. But when he’s ambushed and almost killed, his supervisor is determined to find out who’s after the members of his elite squad—and why. Due to worries that this unknown enemy will strike again, Morgan is sent to a remote location and told to lay low and stay vigilant. But between a tempting housemate he’s determined to protect and a deadly threat waiting in the shadows, keeping under the radar is proving to be his most dangerous mission yet.

The part-time police chief of a small West Virginian mountain town, Isabeau “Bo” Maran finally has her life figured out. She’s got friends, a dog, and a little money in the bank. Then Morgan Yancy shows up on her doorstep. Bo doesn’t need a mysterious man in her life—especially a troublemaker as enticing and secretive as Morgan.

The harder they fight the intense heat between them, the closer Morgan and Bo become, even though she knows he’s hiding from something. But discovering the truth could cost Bo more than she’s willing to give. And when Morgan’s cover is blown, it might just cost her life.
My favorite Linda Howard books are all of them, but especially ones that feature a military-esque guy and a plain jane gal who isn't helpless. Those are my favorite, and that is what this one is. Where this one doesn't win is the plot ending, it didn't have the satisfied ending that I wanted but then the more I thought about it, it's kind of refreshing to not have everything tied up neatly. When does that ever happen in real life, anyways? 

So in this book we have Morgan, fresh off a mission out to enjoy a day a fishing only to end it by being shot and almost dying in a parking lot. Then we have Bo (can I just mention here I hate her name? I hate it.) a would be town sheriff with a side job who suddenly finds a recuperating Morgan on her doorstep (literally) thrust upon her. Her ex-stepbrother is the ringmaster here and offers her an ungodly amount of money to just let this guy crash at her house,  help him out, and that's it. Financial security and the fact that the guy looks like he's going to pass out on her step wins out and she reluctantly agrees. 

Commence shenanigans. 

They are a rocky duo, neither one of them are cut out for being with others for an extended period of time but he's in no shape to do anything different and she gave her word (and accepted the money). Time goes on, months, and they start to like each other, then like each other, but the greater question of why Morgan was shot is unanswered and until then, he can't go back. 

We find out the kind of why's, we figure out the who's but nothing really comes of it in my opinion so that was kind of meh for me. I wanted real justice but I suppose it's the way things operate in the world we don't really know about, right? The romance is slow and steady and what's great about these books is that while there aren't any overt sex scenes with descriptions of things, you know what's going on and it's enough. Maybe that's what I like so much about her books. Overall though, I'm giving this one 3.5 stars only because I wasn't sold on the plot. 


Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Book Review: Herons Landing

Are you in the market for a sweet romance without all of the hard sex and action? This one is for you.

Herons Landing - JoAnn Ross

Welcome to Honeymoon Harbor, the brand-new, long-awaited series by beloved New York Times bestselling author JoAnn Ross, where unforgettable characters come face-to-face with the kind of love that grabs your heart and never lets go.

Working as a Las Vegas concierge, Brianna Mannion is an expert at making other people’s wishes come true. It’s satisfying work, but a visit home to scenic Honeymoon Harbor turns into a permanent stay when she’s reminded of everything she’s missing: the idyllic small-town charm; the old Victorian house she’d always coveted; and Seth Harper, her best friend’s widower and the neighborhood boy she once crushed on—hard. After years spent serving others, maybe Brianna’s finally ready to chase dreams of her own.

Since losing his wife, Seth has kept busy running the Harper family’s renovation business and flying way under the social radar. But when Brianna hires him to convert her aging dream home into a romantic B and B, working together presents a heart-stopping temptation Seth never saw coming. With guilt and grief his only companions for so long, he’ll have to step out of the past long enough to recognize the beautiful life Brianna and he could build together.

I'm going to start by saying I'm giving this one four stars only because it was a little slow for me. Maybe I'm just used to more fast paced novels but this one was kind of dragging for a bit. But that's not to say the story isn't worth it, because it is. The romance between Seth and Brianna is sweet and that almost feels meant to be. For as much as Seth regards Zoe as his soul mate, I don't know if that's really true- maybe she wasn't and her death (as tragic as it was) needed to happen in order for him to circle back to Brianna? That's just my two cents.

But in this book we have Brianna, living the fast paced life working in the hospitality industry and suddenly finding herself without a job because she won't compromise her ethics. It turns out OK because she heads home to open her own bed and breakfast, a dream of hers. I'm going to add here that there are a lot of Gilmore Girls references so if you liked that show you are likely going to love this book because it feels like an episode of it. But she comes home and the building she wants to use needs a lot of love so she hires Seth, her childhood crush and also the widower of her best friend, Zoe.

Then we have Seth, a widower of two years of Zoe, who was killed in Afghanistan while deployed and almost ready to come home and start a family. Seth hasn't grieved or moved on but that's mostly because he doesn't know how and isn't sure that he wants to. When Brianna comes to town and offers him an opportunity, he decides to help an old friend out and together they put Zoe's memory to rest.

Cue the romance!!

Clearly reluctant for both of them, they realize there is an attraction and possibly something more brewing but is going for it disrespectful to Zoe? Time will tell.

Overall I liked the story my only complaint is it was a little slow moving for me but that doesn't mean anything because this book was good nonetheless. It felt very Hallmark like and would make a good book to Hallmark movie transition, no question. Just a suggestion, powers that be. ;)


Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Book Review: All the Ever Afters

I absolutely LOVE re-tellings of classics so when I saw this one in reference to Cinderella, I absolutely HAD to review it. 

All the Ever Afters - Danielle Teller

We all know the story of Cinderella. Or do we?

As rumors about the cruel upbringing of beautiful newlywed Princess Cinderella roil the kingdom, her stepmother, Agnes, who knows all too well about hardship, privately records the true story. . . .

A peasant born into serfdom, Agnes is separated from her family and forced into servitude as a laundress’s apprentice when she is only ten years old. Using her wits and ingenuity, she escapes her tyrannical matron and makes her way toward a hopeful future. When teenaged Agnes is seduced by an older man and becomes pregnant, she is transformed by love for her child. Once again left penniless, Agnes has no choice but to return to servitude at the manor she thought she had left behind. Her new position is nursemaid to Ella, an otherworldly infant. She struggles to love the child who in time becomes her stepdaughter and, eventually, the celebrated princess who embodies everyone’s unattainable fantasies. The story of their relationship reveals that nothing is what it seems, that beauty is not always desirable, and that love can take on many guises.
If you are a fan of Cinderella, you absolutely need to have this one in your library. When we read the classic version the step mother is painted as this horribly mean and cruel person, set to ruining Cinderella's life and tries to put her ugly step daughters ahead at all costs. She's painted as a villain, one nobody could possibly like. 

Then we have this book, that changes everything. 

It starts with the step mother as a child, Agnes is born into a poor family and upon the death of her mother during childbirth, she's sent to live at the manor and basically be a servant. She has no other choice, her family cannot feed her and that's just what you did. So she's like eight to ten years old, sent off into the world to become a laundry girl and her life of servitude begins. She lives a fairly harsh, cruel life being subjected to all kinds of things a young girl shouldn't experience and the treatment today would make you blanch. 

Turns our that Elfilda (Cinderella) is kind of a moron and she's almost portrayed as maybe not having all her wits about her. She isn't anything like the movie version in fact, she's painted in a light that makes you feel sorry that the step-mother was even left with her to begin with and her marrying the prince was the best thing for everyone. 

I'm telling you that this books does what the movie Maleficent did for her, makes her likeable and makes you feel sorry for her in ways you couldn't imagine. 

There is SO MUCH I want to talk about with this book but I can't because it kind of gives it away. I will tell you that if you like classic stories, you need to add this to your list because you will not be disappointed. The book reads quickly, it has short chapters, but it's written so well that you don't want to stop. Your heart breaks for Agnes and you become #teamvillain in ways that even Disney couldn't do. I will say that this is even OK for teenagers to read, my 12 year old is reading it now. It would even make an interesting assignment for middle or high school students to do a comparison of characters between the movie and this book. So many possibilities with this one! 

And this cover is everything. It's so pretty, it looks stunning on my shelf. *sigh* You can find this gem on Amazon but also the HarperCollins website, too! 

Friday, May 25, 2018

Book Review: By Invitation Only

I mentioned on Instagram that it isn't summer until I have a new Dorothea Benton Frank book in hand and here we are. It is SUMMER.

By Invitation Only - Dorothea Benton Frank
The Lowcountry of South Carolina is where By Invitation Only begins at a barbecue engagement party thrown by Diane English Stiftel, her brother Floyd, and her parents to celebrate her son’s engagement. On this gorgeous, magical night, the bride’s father, Alejandro Cambria, a wealthy power broker whose unbelievably successful career in private equity made him one of Chicago’s celebrated elite, discovers the limits and possibilities of cell phone range. While the mother of the bride, Susan Kennedy Cambria, who dabbles in the world of public relations and believes herself deserving of every square inch of her multimillion-dollar penthouse and imaginary carrara marble pedestal, learns about moonshine and dangerous liaisons.
Soon By Invitation Only zooms to Chicago, where the unraveling accelerates. Nearly a thousand miles away from her comfortable, familiar world, Diane is the antithesis of the bright lights and super-sophisticated guests attending her son Fred’s second engagement party. Why a second party? Maybe it had been assumed that the first one wouldn’t be up to snuff? Fred is marrying Shelby Cambria, also an only child. The Cambrias’ dearest wish is for their daughter to be happy. If Shelby wants to marry Frederick, aka Fred, they will not stand in her way—although Susan does hope her friends won’t think her daughter is marrying more than a few degrees beneath her socially. At the same time, Diane worries that her son will be lost to her forever.
By Invitation Only is a tale of two families, one struggling to do well, one well to do, and one young couple—the privileged daughter of Chicago’s crème de la crème and the son of hard -working Southern peach farmers.
I absolutely loved this book. I really can't remember a book that Dorothea Benton Frank hasn't hit out of the ballpark, all of her books are a guaranteed great read, this one included.

We have two families, one really wealthy family and one not so much.. they're farmers. But they come together over a wedding, both families marrying off their only child and both families play tug of war over what it should be like. Kind of. The wealthy family wants the most extravagant ceremony and the farmer family just can't compete, you know? The shenanigans leading up to the wedding are hilarious, includes a chicken named Molly, and you find yourself smiling throughout the whole thing.

But not to be outdone, there's more than just this wedding. We have a budding romance between Diane and Alden, we have someone going to prison, someone's fall from grace, and exciting news all wrapping up the book.

I had such a great time reading this one and this is one that I would buy and gift as a summer read. It needs to be on your list for the beach this year. This would also make an excellent gift for anyone preparing a wedding as a reminder of what's important, the vows. Everything else... fades away and isn't important. Back to basics, sometimes sweeter than originally thought. This book is funny, it's sweet, it's a perfect southern novel that makes you want to plan your next vacation in the Lowcountry, it's in my future plans!

You can find this book on Amazon of course but you can also get it on the HarperCollins website, an excellent source for new books.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Mother's Day... wasn't the worst

I have kind of a love hate relationship with Mother's Day. On one hand I love getting presents and the other I hate that we have a forced day to recognize mothers. It's one of those things that if you need a day on the calendar to recognize what I do each and every day, then you're doing it wrong. We almost never do anything, and I end up doing laundry and cooking, but my family wants the praise that they did something for me. 

See? It's not worth it. 

So I woke up with low expectations. I told Olivia to not bother with breakfast in bed because I eat cereal and I don't want to eat it in my room. I hate eating in my room. And nobody gets my cereal to milk ratio right so no, please don't ruin my one guaranteed meal of the day, thankyouverymuch

But my kids had presents, Olivia made me a pillow (which is precariously taped together because her "stitching" is falling apart) and a book with coloring pages she ripped out of her coloring book. Jackson made me a .... Picasso mask in art class? I think that's what he called it. It's collecting dust on my bookshelf next to Olivia's cat she made a few years ago. Matt got me the cookbook I wanted and a new fancy wallet. It was nice. The cookbook is already being used and of course I'm using my wallet. It was nice that he looked at things I took pictures of in my phone so I wouldn't forget about them. At least he tried this year. 

We went out to lunch, our weekend usual, and that was nice. We ended up going to a sit down restaurant versus a fast food place so it was a nice change. 
 I couldn't get a picture with all four kids so I opted for one with each of them. Lucy's hair looked like this all day, even at the restaurant, because she very much did not want to play beauty shop (which is how we trick her and Penelope into doing their hair every day). 
 Penelope after her bath, smelling all fresh and delicious. Clearly not ready for bed. 
 Olivia after she tripped over her own feet in the dining room. 
And Jackson after his shower. He's big into doing his hair lately so I had to tell him to never ever part his hair down the middle like this again. He looks like Alfalfa. 

Overall it was a pretty alright day. 

Thursday, May 17, 2018

It's been one of those days. Or week. Whatever.

I hate the unpredictability of depression. I wish I could predict when I'd be having some bad days and when I'd have some good ones, maybe then I'd feel more productive in life. But none of that happens and I find myself in days and weeks where I just can't care. Here's some of what I'm too tired to care about:

  • I'm waiting for my MRI results of my abdomen. I haven't written about it because I don't want to put the possibilities out into the world until I know what I'm actually dealing with. I'm hoping it's minor and stupid but it could be the opposite of that so I wait. I'm assuming that because it's been almost a week since my MRI that it can't be that bad otherwise they would have called right away. Right? 
  • I am 75% sure that Penelope is going to Head Start/preschool in the fall. Old Sara would feel like a terrible mother for being almost gleeful at sending a child away during the day, and she cried when the big kids went to 4 year old kindergarten for half days. I felt terrible at that but this... I'm nothing if not honest and Penelope is a LOT. She's just a whole lot to handle even on her best days and I'm desperately hoping that preschool will tame the beast, so to speak. I don't know if it's half or full days, I know next to nothing about it other than we qualify and it's just paperwork stuff now. 
  • I'm really tired of feeding my family. Their need to eat meals every day is exhausting me. I'm sick of planning the meals, shopping for the meals, cooking the meals, and cleaning up after the meals. I do all of this for everyone to complain about the meals and I just... I can't care anymore. In fact I don't actually care but I'm going through the motions and I eat nothing. 
  • I can measure my depression in the amount of books I read. When I'm doing well I can fly through books easily but when I'm not I struggle to sit still for any length of time to read. I'm currently in the beginning of two books but I just can't get any further it seems. I hate it. 
  • I am losing patience with people who try to relate their depression to mine. I just want to say they have no idea and need to shut the hell up but I don't because I also don't have the energy to fight back. 
  • I had a nice Mother's Day. Matt got me a wallet to match the fancy purse I bought in a mental health breakdown and I couldn't return and a cookbook. Probably because I was bitching about the meal situation mentioned above. We went out for lunch, we grilled for dinner, and meh. It was fine. 
  • The weather is killing me. One day it's blistering hot and the next it's so cold I wish I owned a jacket that fit me. 
  • I've become paranoid to fill out forms and documents, I'm certain I'm going to miss something or get information really wrong and not catch it or realize it. It's debilitating. I'm constantly certain I've done something wrong, forgotten something, screwed something up beyond fixing, and it's really an awful feeling. 
So those are just a few things rattling around in my head. There are more but I won't put them out there and depress you, too. 

Monday, May 14, 2018

Book Review: Starry Eyes

This one was a surprise book that showed up in my mailbox for review and it looked promising. I hate that it has taken me so long to read. You'll also notice this is my second post for today but it's only because I legitimately couldn't wait for later in the week to share this book.

Starry Eyes - Jenn Bennett

Ever since last year’s homecoming dance, best friends-turned-best enemies Zorie and Lennon have made an art of avoiding each other. It doesn’t hurt that their families are the modern day, Californian version of the Montagues and Capulets.

But when a group camping trip goes south, Zorie and Lennon find themselves stranded in the wilderness. Alone. Together.

What could go wrong?

With no one but each other for company, Zorie and Lennon have no choice but to hash out their issues via witty jabs and insults as they try to make their way to safety. But fighting each other while also fighting off the forces of nature makes getting out of the woods in one piece less and less likely.

And as the two travel deeper into Northern California’s rugged backcountry, secrets and hidden feelings surface. But can Zorie and Lennon’s rekindled connection survive out in the real world? Or was it just a result of the fresh forest air and the magic of the twinkling stars?

Zorie and Lennon, you guys. YOU GUYS. I loved this book to the moon and back. Pun absolutely-freaking intended. At first I wasn't a Zorie fan because it's like she's TOO type A. Too perfectionist, too much of an over the top, organized planner otherwise she actually breaks out in hives. While I'm some of those things, I can also go with the flow, something Zorie can't really do.

Cue glamping trip which goes to hell because as it turns out, for all her planning, she picks really terrible friends who would ditch her in the wilderness.


With Lennon.

Lennon, her former best friend/experimental boyfriend that never really took off. There's drama between the families and that was interesting but I'm not going to focus on it because the heart of the story is Lennon and Zorie and them finding their way back to each other while in the wilderness of California. Now, I cannot imagine being a teenager on the trip they are on and that alone makes ME break out in hives but I absolutely loved this book. I hadn't read anything by this author before (I am maybe one of the only people who hasn't read Alex, Approximately) but I will be putting her on my wish list because this was great. She doesn't shy from teenage angst and feelings, the awkwardness of first love, teenage sex, and issues that teenagers face all while showing that they CAN be responsible and make it out in the world just fine without parents hovering over them every second.

This is a YA book so if that isn't your jam, you likely won't love it but I did because I not-so-secretly love YA books. If you're looking for a book for your teen, this would be a great one. Yes, there is teenage sex but it's sweet and responsible and it isn't exploitative at all. It's really perfect and I would be fully OK letting my daughter read this.


Friday, May 11, 2018

The Arrangement

Once upon a time I considered asking Matt what his thoughts about open marriage were. It wasn't that I was unhappy, I was just unfulfilled. Things got stagnant but I knew I didn't want to get a divorce. In hindsight, I'm so glad I didn't and that we didn't go that route but that was the reason I wanted to read this one.
The Arrangement - Sarah Dunn

Lucy and Owen, ambitious, thoroughly-therapized New Yorkers, have taken the plunge, trading in their crazy life in a cramped apartment for Beekman, a bucolic Hudson Valley exurb. They've got a two hundred year-old house, an autistic son obsessed with the Titanic, and 17 chickens, at last count. It's the kind of paradise where stay-at-home moms team up to cook the school's "hot lunch," dads grill grass-fed burgers, and, as Lucy observes, "chopping kale has become a certain kind of American housewife's version of chopping wood."

When friends at a wine-soaked dinner party reveal they've made their marriage open, sensible Lucy balks. There's a part of her, though – the part that worries she's become too comfortable being invisible-that's intrigued. Why not try a short marital experiment? Six months, clear ground rules, zero questions asked. When an affair with a man in the city begins to seem more enticing than the happily-ever-after she's known for the past nine years, Lucy must decide what truly makes her happy – "real life," or the "experiment?"

I'm going to start off by telling you I'm rating this one three out of five stars and I didn't do that lightly. Not that that is a bad rating but I'm noticing people see three stars and wonder WTF is wrong with the book. There isn't anything wrong, I just feel like while it got a lot of things right, there were a few missteps along the way that were too much for me to overlook to give it a higher rating.

So in this book we primarily have Lucy and Owen, parents of a child on the spectrum that comes with a lot of challenges, they live in the 'burbs, they are the American Dream. They have chickens and debt, they have unfulfilled jobs and sex life. They are written to be all of us. After a rather intriguing night with another couple, they learn that they practice an open marriage and they call it their little arrangement. They seem happy and closer than ever but they have these side things going on, nothing overlaps and it's all alright. So Lucy gets to thinking and proposes it to Owen, who at first, is appalled. But then they come up with some hypothetical rules and suddenly their own arrangement is put forward.

Owen finds a side piece rather quickly is local nut job Izzy Radford, but Lucy takes her time and finally ends up with Ben. Things get out of hand for both of them and one of them breaks one of the rules- they fall in love. Everything comes to a head when one wants to go back to their normal life and end the arrangement and the other is contemplating leaving the marriage and staying with the side piece. Someone gets cancer, someone has a come to Jesus discussion about arrangements and it's a LOT of plot in one book.

Some things I want to quote from the book because I don't do that near enough. But this spoke to me on a woman to woman level:

"Your window?"
"The window wherein people other than the man I'm married to will be willing to have sex with me without, I don't know, being financially compensated in some way."

That's on page 27 so rather early on in the book but man, if that doesn't sum up my life I don't know what does. But there are others, two more that are "quotes" from (what I can find) someone named Constance Waverly, who is a fictional relationship expert of sorts.

On page 309, "What I find amazing is this: that two individuals who have zero genes in common can create a strong enough bond to stick together for a lifetime".  And page 334, "We all have a strong preference that life should be easy, comfortable, and pain-free, but that doesn't mean there's something wrong with life when it isn't those things. It's just life. It's just life adn it's not how you would prefer it to be, but that doesn't mean there's something wrong with it."

Both of those just stood out to me because they may be from a fictional person, but they sum up marriage and adulthood  in general.

Now, if the book was just Lucy and Owen and their arrangement gone awry, this would have been rated higher. Where the book fails for me are all of the other subplots going on. The teacher becoming a woman, Gordon and Kelly, Gordon and Simka (which was weird)Susan and Rowan, it's just too much and I felt like I was ping ponging all over the place waiting for some greater connection. Sure, it all kind of comes together in the end but not enough for me to rate it higher than 3.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

The aftermath of suicide.

Recently I've learned of one person I know directly and one indirectly who chose suicide as a means to an end. Every time I hear of this I feel sad and sometimes, I feel relief for that person because I'd like to hope that whatever hurt them here in this realm is gone in the next and they are at peace. Finally.

Since my mental health journey began, I have struggled with my own suicidal thoughts and extensive counseling and copious medications have gotten me through to this point. It hasn't been easy and I'll be honest when I say people rally for you during a crisis but nobody wants to walk the dark walk of depression for you. And I get it. It's isolating, it's frustrating, it makes no sense, and it feels like you're going nowhere. Nobody really wants to know how you really are when they ask, "how are you?". Let's face it, when someone says, "I'm doing really awful but hey- I'm medicated.", you start to back away and look around for someone else to talk to. Nobody knows what to say and I think a lot of us recognize when someone is struggling but we choose to ignore it.

Then a person chooses suicide and suddenly we rally, because it's a crisis and it makes us feel good, and we say, "reach out to someone today", "be kind to someone today" and for what? For today? Because by the end of the week we'll still think of the person and feel sadness but we've gone back to our behaviors. Instead of reacting to a crisis we have to move our mentality to prevention. I'll be the first to tell you that, for me, the suicide prevention phone numbers are a joke. Hearing someone say, "we'd miss you", "you're loved", "I'm hear for you" didn't work either. For me I knew my journey began and ended with me and it was going to be me to pull myself out of the hole, nobody else. But it would have been nice for someone to give me a hug and validate my feelings. Because though you couldn't understand them, my feelings mean something and they are my truth, as distorted as they are.

I'm rambling. I guess I just feel frustrated that in the aftermath of suicide, everyone wants to rally and pretend that they had no clue. That they can't look back in hindsight and think... there wasn't one thing I could have done differently. The fact is there always is. You can always make time for people, you can always hold their hand. Offer support. Give them a hug. Take them to get counseling. Go with them. Call them nightly to check in. Don't let them retreat inside of themselves. It's hard WORK to walk with someone with depression, I know it is, but it has to be done. Not everyone can do it themselves.

I feel like I have a really unpopular opinion on suicide but I think that now comes from being on the edge myself. I know before I looked at suicide as a selfish solution and now it almost feels selfless, like I wouldn't be a burden anymore so really I'd be doing you all a favor. It's a very warped way of thinking and I can tell you it feels like waves of thought, it comes and it goes. But when it's here? It's awful. It's all consuming. It is a voice that doesn't shut off and it's a continual loop of all the reasons you shouldn't be here. So when I hear of someone who has chosen suicide, only a small part of me feels sad for everyone else, but a bigger part of me feels hope that they are finally at peace. I hope it's quiet wherever they are. I hope it's peaceful. I hope whatever troubled them here has disappeared and they can feel the happiness that eluded them here.

Book Review: Leading the Witness

You might recognize this book as being one of the ones I received in April in my book boxes.. and you'd be right. This one came in my April PageHabit box, and it's short, so I figured I could squeeze it in between review books!

Leading the Witness - Chantal Fernando

New York Times bestselling author Chantal Fernando “turns up the heat” (RT Book Reviews) in this steamy standalone novel when a divorce lawyer finds himself stuck between his client and the woman he desires—and soon he’ll be forced to choose sides.

Hunter Brayze doesn’t always like his clients but as the divorce attorney for Bentley & Channing Law, he doesn’t have to. So when he meets his latest client, even though he can’t stand the guy, let alone understand how any woman would ever marry him, he is still determined to win his case. But he never expects taking this client would turn his entire world upside down.

When he comes face to face with his client’s soon-to-be ex, he’s shocked to see Riley McMahon, owner of his local pub and the woman he’s wanted ever since he first laid eyes on her. He didn’t even know she was getting a divorce, and now he’s stuck defending the man who wants to screw Riley out of everything. Feeling like he’s betraying her, Hunter vows to settle this case as quickly as he can by any means possible. Because after months of flirting with Riley at the pub, and now knowing that she’ll soon be free, Hunter is determined to make her his.

But as the proceedings get messier and secrets are revealed, Hunter’s running out of tricks to keep both parties happy. And when someone sets Riley’s pub on fire, he can’t help but suspect his own client. Torn between his professional code of ethics and his intense connection with Riley, Hunter finds himself at a crossroads wondering whose interests he’ll ultimately protect.

So this book wasn't exactly as I was expecting but it was entertaining enough. Plus it really was a fast read so if you only like books you can get through quickly, this would be one of them. In this book we have stubborn beyond belief Riley, who isn't very smart in the total scheme of things, almost naive to a fault and we have Hunter, lawyer extraordinaire, who visits Riley's pub daily for lunch. Over time their attraction grows and when Riley finds herself getting a divorce, her horizon opens up.

Except Hunter is her ex's lawyer, and things get complicated.

This book wins in their dating area because Hunter is a pretty great character. He's a playboy turned good guy who knows what he wants and that's Riley. The book has a LOT of proposed drama, and I say proposed because it never fully gets off the ground. Sure, the divorce is a biggie but that's over before you know it. Then we have Hunter's sister and her maybe drug problem (which concludes but feels like a VERY unrealistic reaction from Hunter and rushed ending for the sister), we have old characters (from other books in the series I think) come in, new ones being introduced, and then a fire. It's a lot of plot in a short 260 pages.

My copy is from my PageHabit box so it came with annotations from the author throughout and those were kind of lame? In month's past we've had a LOT of annotations so you really knew why the author was doing what they were doing, a lot of additional information, and this one.. not so much. So that was kind of disappointing from a box standpoint. It almost makes the book feel like not much thought went into it and maybe that's affecting my rating of 3 stars. Maybe.

It would make a good summer read to throw in your beach bag.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Book Review: Flight Season

This was a hotly anticipated YA novel released in late winter and it's been on my shelf all this time and I hate that I couldn't get to it sooner!

Flight Season - Marie Marquardt

Back when they were still strangers, TJ Carvalho witnessed the only moment in Vivi Flannigan’s life when she lost control entirely. Now, TJ can’t seem to erase that moment from his mind, no matter how hard he tries. Vivi doesn’t remember any of it, but she’s determined to leave it far behind. And she will.

But when Vivi returns home from her first year away at college, her big plans and TJ’s ambition to become a nurse land them both on the heart ward of a university hospital, facing them with a long and painful summer together – three months of glorified babysitting for Ángel, the problem patient on the hall. Sure, Ángel may be suffering from a life-threatening heart infection, but that doesn’t make him any less of a pain.

As it turns out, though, Ángel Solís has a thing or two to teach them about all those big plans, and the incredible moments when love gets in their way. 

So this book has a fairly annoying main character, Vivi, that normally I wouldn't like and it would make me not want to finish the book. She's 100% clueless, she has no backbone, and she's just tough to love. The we have TJ, who I liked right away even if he was kind of a jerk to Vivi in the beginning. The two know each other, or TJ knows Vivi, because of a really stupid drunken night that Vivi can't remember (which is maybe OK) but TJ remembers it vividly. They find themselves together again at the same hospital as TJ finishes his practicum for nursing school and Vivi needs this internship if she plans to continue at Yale in the fall. It turns out Vivi is not cut out to be a doctor because of her weak constitution so she is paired to be an interpreter of sorts for Angel, gravely ill because of some sick turkeys.

The only thing about this book that knocks it for me is Vivi and I just couldn't grow to love her. I grew to tolerate her but I just didn't love her. What wins it for me is the story of her and TJ and together how they befriend Angel and what they do for him in the end. It looks at illegal immigration and in his dire circumstances I can't imagine someone being sent home when they are actively dying basically. The humanity part of that is just gripping.

Overall? I'm giving this one 4.5 stars and I absolutely loved it. I'm hoping my daughter enjoys it as much as I did.


Monday, May 7, 2018

Date Night with Jim Gaffigan

Way back for Christmas, one of the gifts I gave Matt was a date night out to see comedian Jim Gaffigan, who was coming to the arena near us. Almost nothing we're interested in comes here so when it does I try to go and support the arena in the hopes that more will come. I had no idea what kind of seats I was going to get because I couldn't remember if I had been to the newly remodeled one or not so I bought cheap seats and hoped for the best. 
Turned out to be a decent gamble because our seats were pretty great. I will say the screens were pretty blurry and if you were relying on those to see the stage you were likely to be disappointed. I don't know why the technicians didn't notice that and focus it in but whatever. 

We went out to dinner and was served by someone I know from  high school days, she gave us a discount, we gave her a good tip, and it was kind of nice to eat dinner and not worry about cutting up someone else's food. I think maybe people around us were like, "awkward date" because we hardly talked but it was SO NICE to eat in relative silence. Seriously, our house is so loud that any time we have to be in quiet we take it. Especially me. 

So after dinner we went to the show and of course, I smell popcorn and I'm all about it so I sent Matt to get popcorn and water for me and that's when I meet my new friend, Weird Guy. 

It literally doesn't matter what happens to me, my ability to attract weirdos does not fail. It just doesn't. This guy is telling me all about how he bought his tickets (two of them) on Craigslist but he has no friends so he has an extra ticket. Starts talking about how he took a nap since he was going to work right after this (mind you, he's drinking a beer and has one on the floor waiting for him) and then he asks if I'm single. 

Thank god Matt was coming down the stairs right then because I was done talking to strangers. You think the guy talks to Matt? Nope. But he thoroughly enjoyed himself the entire time and kept slapping Matt's arm to get a mutual acknowledgement that the joke was funny. That alone was funny.  
The opener was Ted Alexandro and I actually thought he was funnier than Jim Gaffigan, especially his erectile dysfunction bit- that was pretty hilarious. Jim was just kind of meh for me. It wasn't hilarious, his bit about the local "come back in summer" phrase (which we ALL say.. we say it to everyone) was pretty on point and funny but everything else was kind of blah for me. It wasn't funny enough to get more than a smile from me but it wasn't horrible either. 

Overall though? It was a pretty great night. Matt's parents babysat for us and that was nice of them to do (after Penelope's birthday party, no less), especially considering it took us forever to get out of the parking ramp! They got home so late and I felt bad. I'm hoping some more opportunities come for us to go do a date, it was fun being with just him again. It kind of highlighted that we need to do more outside of the kids because the kids are all we talk about. Which, no offense, I'm kind of sick of the kids some days, I don't want to talk about them when I'm away from them, you know? 

So I need date night ideas! 

Book Features: YA and MG love all around!

I get sent a lot of books and I can't possibly get through them all, but I want to share them with you because sometimes they are just so great, they deserve their own feature!

The Trials of Apollo: The Burning Maze
The formerly glorious god Apollo, cast down to earth in punishment by Zeus, is now an awkward mortal teenager named Lester Papadopoulos. In order to regain his place on Mount Olympus, Lester must restore five Oracles that have gone dark. But he has to achieve this impossible task without having any godly powers and while being duty-bound to a confounding young daughter of Demeter named Meg. Thanks a lot, Dad.

With the help of some demigod friends, Lester managed to survive his first two trials, one at Camp Half-Blood, and one in Indianapolis, where Meg received the Dark Prophecy. The words she uttered while seated on the Throne of Memory revealed that an evil triumvirate of Roman emperors plans to attack Camp Jupiter. While Leo flies ahead on Festus to warn the Roman camp, Lester and Meg must go through the Labyrinth to find the third emperor—and an Oracle who speaks in word puzzles—somewhere in the American Southwest. There is one glimmer of hope in the gloom-filled prophecy: The cloven guide alone the way does know. They will have a satyr companion, and Meg knows just who to call upon. . .  
If your kids are a fan of Rick Riordan's (most boys can get into these but girls love them, too), you absolutely need to get this series in their lives. I read the first one and it's so well written and full of adventure and suspense, this is the kind of book kids can really get into. 

Love & War 
1780. Albany, New York.

As the war for American Independence carries on, two newlyweds are settling into their new adventure: marriage. But the honeymoon's over, and Alexander Hamilton and Eliza Schuyler are learning firsthand just how tricky wedded life can be. Alex is still General George Washington's right-hand man and his attention these days is nothing if not divided--much like the colonies' interests as the end of the Revolution draws near. Alex & Eliza's relationship is tested further by lingering jealousies and family drama.
The exciting follow up to last year's Alex & Eliza: A Love Story, full of romance and intrigue. If you are a Hamilton fan you absolutely need this book in your life. 

Emergency Contact
For Penny Lee high school was a total nonevent. Her friends were okay, her grades were fine, and while she somehow managed to land a boyfriend, he doesn’t actually know anything about her. When Penny heads to college in Austin, Texas, to learn how to become a writer, it’s seventy-nine miles and a zillion light years away from everything she can’t wait to leave behind.

Sam’s stuck. Literally, figuratively, emotionally, financially. He works at a café and sleeps there too, on a mattress on the floor of an empty storage room upstairs. He knows that this is the god-awful chapter of his life that will serve as inspiration for when he’s a famous movie director but right this second the seventeen bucks in his checking account and his dying laptop are really testing him. 

When Sam and Penny cross paths it’s less meet-cute and more a collision of unbearable awkwardness. Still, they swap numbers and stay in touch—via text—and soon become digitally inseparable, sharing their deepest anxieties and secret dreams without the humiliating weirdness of having to see each other.

I'm actually going to try to squeeze this one in between a couple of upcoming reviews because this has an interesting premise and could either be really great or meh.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

April Book Boxes!

I got some great book boxes this month, I can't wait to show you! 

 First up is my Bookworm Box. If you remember I'm signed up for the two book box which has been really great and everyone gets random books so not every subscriber is going to get the same books. In my box I got Corinne Michaels Say You'll Stay and Tawna Fenske's At the Heart of It. The only downside is I already had Say You'll Stay, (review in that link) so I'm going to gift it to a friend and I hope she'll like it. Her birthday is coming up and we always exchange gifts so I'm going to make a self pampering gift for her. Anyways, the other book looks good too so I'm excited to get into it. We got the obligatory pen, a bookmark, and a popsocket!
I also got my PageHabit box which actually came ON TIME this month, so that was a nice treat. I got a fun pair of socks (wearing them today), an adorable pencil with cat eraser, a very cool reusable bag that folds into itself (in my purse now), a book mark, letter from the author, and Chantal Fernando's Leading the Witness as my book of the month. 

I have to start catching up on my reading because my shelf of these books is um... full. It's FULL so I need to read and donate, pass along, keep, or sell. Or maybe I'll do a giveaway, we'll see! 

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

The day our town almost blew up.

No, really, it almost did. 

It was Thursday, April 26, 2018. We live in Superior, Wisconsin, a little nothing town at the tip of Lake Superior, nothing to write home about. One thing we do have in town is a giant oil refinery. Everyone in town drives by it on occasion (us everyday) and growing up we've all had the, "if that ever went, we'd all be dead" conversation, but for the most part, nobody thinks about it. Nobody wishes it gone because it's probably the biggest employer in town and you know how that is. But on Thursday, pretty much the worst case scenario happened. 

Around 10 in the morning, my mom and I were outside with the little girls. It was a little breezy, pretty chilly, we weren't going to be out there very long. Just long enough for the littles to play on their new climber Matt and I bought in anticipation of having a fence this summer. 

 We were playing without a care in the world, they were having a great time. 
 It was just before we were set to come back into the house where out of nowhere, we heard this LOUD boom. Having no idea what it was, I thought maybe it was a huge crack of thunder or maybe train cars banging together, but it was just once so I didn't think anything about it. Then we started hearing sirens coming from every direction and I think my mom made an off remark about the refinery. 
 Turns out, there was a line explosion at the refinery and it was on fire. This is the view from my back yard at about 1p.m., right after I had gotten a phone call saying we were in the evacuation zone, followed up with a call saying my children were being evacuated from school to a nearby business and you could/should pick them up immediately. 

Matt went to get Olivia at the middle school and my mom went to get Jackson, but his school had already been evacuated since it's so close to the refinery, so she sat in traffic for two hours to get him. By the time they were home, both were shaken up and you can tell Olivia had been crying- they could see the massive amounts of smoke and she didn't know what to think. 
We decided that we'd wait it out instead of evacuating right away so we went to Duluth to kill some time.  
 These are just various pictures of our drive out of town. 
 Matt's work is less than a mile away from the refinery and he said it shook their entire building. 
 We decided we would go to the children's museum until dinner time since our membership is still valid, and that was a really great idea. 
 There was hardly anyone there so we had pretty much the whole place to ourselves. 
I thought for sure people would flock to places like this to kill some time. We went out to eat and saw a lot of friends who were in the same mindset at us, not sure if we should stay or go.  
At dinner there was another explosion and they had pulled back firefighters from the fire so they had started asking for police help from other surrounding communities to knock on doors and get people to leave. It was a city wide evacuation at this point, but our neighborhood and my mom's were the priority.  
 Our drive back was even stranger than the drive out. 
 Almost nobody was driving into Wisconsin (Duluth is in Minnesota) and I heard that they eventually shut off access into Wisconsin, but I don't know that for sure. 
 We decided we would go to Matt's parent's home for the night, as annoyed as Matt was. School was cancelled for the next day, Matt's work was closed the next day, and honestly, I'd rather be safe than sorry. 
 These next two pictures aren't mine but were on Facebook and I thought they were just really interesting in their perspective and scope. In this one you can see how huge the refinery is, it isn't Texas huge but it's pretty large for our little area. 
This is the road going into the refinery, we drive down this every day and it was just obliterated by the smoke. I mean, the road is still there but it looks like the end of days. 

We ended up coming home on Friday because the evacuation was lifted in the early morning, and I was just grateful we had a place to go that didn't cost us money. I wondered what people who didn't have the resources to get out did, and if they got any sleep that night. The aftermath has been actually pretty OK. Our water was safe to drink, they say our air and soil are fine too but I am a little doubtful on that myself. I've had a headache ever since but who knows, my body is not a very reliable barometer of things around me. 

Everyone is giving praise to the rescue and emergency personnel and to me, that's expected. That's your job and I'm grateful they can do it, but you know- it's your job. What I was most impressed with was the school. You hear schools get a lot of flack about not being ready in an emergency but our district was on it and once the evacuation call was made people were out of the buildings and on their way. I was really impressed with how much communication us parents had throughout the day and for not dealing in emergencies like this, they really had a well thought out plan. Parents were going all "mama bear" on Facebook and at the pick up area and it's like, calm down. I get it, we all handle stress in different ways, but I felt like the entire city had a plan and had things under control as much as they could. I wasn't worried and I would have been OK staying, I just worried that if the wind switched we'd be dealing with another crisis. Mother Nature is who I'm afraid of. 

Overall, what could have been a massive crisis turned out to be a memorable moment we'll likely all remember. Only a few were injured, thankfully nobody died. We all know people who work at the refinery so it would have been tragic for us all in a way.