Saturday, November 30, 2019

Book Review: The Billionaire Takes All

You guys... this is maybe becoming one of my favorite series. I know, that's kind of a big thing to say, but truly. I have really loved every single book and they just keep getting better and better for me. Though this is book five in the Sinclair Series, it is absolutely a stand alone, so jump in at any time!

The Billionaire Takes All - J.S. Scott

A-list movie star and billionaire Julian Sinclair learned from past tragedy that life doesn’t come with multiple takes. Now that he’s figured out what he wants—in the lush form of redheaded Kristin Moore—he’s got one chance to claim it. Between working as a medical assistant and filling in at her parents’ bar, Kristin has no time for pleasure. So Julian is bringing her to his brother’s Vegas wedding, where their mutual attraction can finally get a starring role.

What happened in Vegas has followed Kristin right back to Amesport, Maine. In the space of one magical weekend, the leading man in all her X-rated fantasies whisked her off to Sin City for breathtaking sex, followed by an “accidental” marriage she doesn’t remember. Kristin fully expects Julian to demand a quickie divorce. But instead he’s daring her to go all-in. To gamble everything on a love that might be too good to be true…or the best, wildest adventure of their lives.

Do you know what I like about Kristin? She's sassy. She's sarcastic, she doesn't do flattery, she's a tough nut to crack. Julian is the same way though, so it only makes perfect sense that these two are the next ones to come together.

In this book we have Kristin, slaving away at her parent's bar/restaurant at night and weekends after her shift as a medical assistant during the day. Not for fun of course, but because that bar is her parent's livelihood and with her mom having MS and her dad aging, they can't run it but also can't afford to let it go. Enter Julian. A billionaire, A-list movie star, over the fame and being tracked down like game, he's come to Amesport, Maine for a break. He meets Kristin and immediately his interest is there but he can't seem to get beyond her tough exterior. Until he does, they end up married, and their story kind of goes backwards, really.

I won't get into more of it, but I want to tell you their story was really fun and I really loved it. Maybe my favorite part of these books seems to be that the guy knows that the girl is the one meant for him, and it seems to always be the girl who is hesitant to the point of pushing away/ruining a good thing, and this was no exception. Secondly, I really liked the build up of Xander and his story and I really hope that one is next because his will be quite the ride, I think. If I had to pick this one apart and tell you something I didn't love, I would have to say Julian going a little radio silent in the three weeks he's gone on movie. That was weird. Also, Kristin making assumptions of him based on his job. At first, I get it, but as the book develops? STOP IT, ALREADY.

Overall though? A good 4.5 stars for me. I'll round it up to 5 for Goodreads but just know there are a couple of bumps in it but overall it was a fun read. A quick one too! You can get through this easily in a weekend, even if you're a slower reader.
Of course I'm going to keep going with this series, so stay tuned for the next one. This post contains affiliate links. 

Friday, November 29, 2019

Book Review: The Unfaithful Widow (Ten Years Later)

Well hopefully you've got a game plan for Black Friday and your obscene calorie intake from yesterday is enough to sustain you as you get through the crowds, or at least drive around a mall parking lot looking for a parking spot. In case you're looking to shop online, or maybe find a book for yourself to read, consider this one.
The Unfaithful Widow (Ten Years Later)  Barbara Barth
Welcome Back To My World. Picking up where The Unfaithful Widow ended, Ten Years Later continues the author’s journey from widow to a slightly askew woman. A memoir written with warmth and candor on being single again, aging, and finding a creative path surrounded by dogs, friends, laughter, and a bit of craziness. Barbara Barth shares stories on the adventures that followed her first year alone as she moved headfirst into a new life, listening to her heart, sometimes not so wisely, but always full speed ahead. From owning an antique shop for nine months to finding a Victorian cottage outside of Atlanta, trading traffic for views of pastures and cows, and all the folly in between. Going into the next decade with six dogs by her side, the author proves you are only as old as you feel, and happiness begins with a grateful heart. A funny and engaging memoir for anyone who wants to be their own super-hero facing life’s good and bad moments.
Full disclosure, I haven't read the first book, The Unfaithful Widow, which is her first year following the loss of her spouse and dealing with death, grieving while dealing with death and the logistics of that, get getting back into dating and living as a new person. I haven't read it, and now that I have read this one, I really want to.

Barbara Barth makes things that shouldn't be funny.... funny. The entire book is written as if you're reading her personal journal and not only are you laughing along with her, but you're getting a candid look at what life is really like when you find yourself starting life completely over. Finding yourself (again), learning how to adult but a little differently (again), trying to figure out where your boundaries are (again), but all the while trying to be you. The old you, because sometimes people aren't on this ride with you because for them, things change differently. But also do it all as you're aging and going through that process which is like unlearning what you knew and relearning how to do simple things in a way that you won't hurt yourself. And sometimes it's not even you, but nurses and aides who happen to break your femur and dislocate your hip so you get to have a repeat surgery! (That actually happens to her in this book- I felt rage for her!)

With chapters that include a farting Christmas tree and being "as merry as we get", you are going to enjoy each one. Oh! If you're a dog lover- you will adore this book, it features her dogs heavily and we even see pictures of them, so that's pretty adorable.

Barbara is honest all the way through, talks about the good and the bad, and is honest about grieving and moving on but also about aging. I liked how she was determined to not be defined by her age, and no matter how tough things got for her personally, she was always able and willing to help people in different capacities. Dogs, too.

Overall? A solid 4 for this. If you're into books that are comprised of short chapters that aren't quiet essays but more like journal entries, this is for you. You'll find yourself reading and going for "one more chapter" and suddenly you realize you've read half of the book. I really enjoyed this and it would make for a fun gift (along with the first one) for someone who has lost someone or is just in a weird spot in life looking to reinvent themselves, I'm sure they'll relate to this in some way.

A big thanks to the publisher and author, as well as Women on Writing for making sure I received a copy of this for review; all thoughts and opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links. 

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Book Review: Atlas of the National Parks

It's the day before Thanksgiving and here in northern Wisconsin we got hit with a snowstorm. Nothing crazy by our standards, but anytime you go from zero to like five-ish inches sucks. I think we're supposed to get more and that sucks but what can you do- weather. Also, this year we are going to Matt's parent's for Thanksgiving so it's not like we're having to travel far or anything, so that's  nice. I normally cook a little turkey and a super mini dinner for us on Friday so I'm set for that. I really can't stand the holiday but I participate because other people like it, so don't @ me about being a crap mom/wife. Jackson wanted me to make a pumpkin pie, so as soon as Matt picks up my groceries I will do that.

Even though I hate it.

In the meantime, lets talk about a book that will have you itching for vacation and summer road trips.

National Geographic: 
Atlas of the National Parks
 by Jon Waterman

The first book of its kind, this stunning atlas showcases America's spectacular park system from coast to coast, richly illustrated with an inspiring and informative collection of maps, graphics, and photographs.

From the white sand beaches of Dry Tortugas to the snowy peaks of Denali, this captivating book combines authoritative park maps with hundreds of graphics and photographs to tell the stories of America's sixty one beloved national parks. Former ranger and author Jonathan Waterman introduces readers to the country's scenic reserves and highlights the extraordinary features that distinguish each: magnificent landmarks, thriving ecosystems, representative wildlife, fascinating histories, and more. With striking imagery and state-of-the-art graphics reflecting details of wildlife, climate, culture, archaeology, recreation, and more, this lush reference provides an up-close look at what makes these lands so special--and so uniquely American. A heartfelt foreword from National Geographic CEO Gary Knell reminds us how important these lands are to our lives and our national pride.

I hate always telling you how amazing the photographs are in these books because this is from National Geographic and their threshold is nothing short of amazing, always. So that's what you will get in here. I do want to tell you about the book itself because it is huge. Size huge. It won't even fit on my shelf huge. I can't hate it because the images in her warrant the extreme size because showing a photo of a mountain in a little 4x4 image doesn't do it justice. The pages are a great size that when it's an image of a person looking up as they hike through a valley, you can almost feel the emotional impact that you would have if you were right there. Just the awe of knowing you really are just a tiny speck on this planet and never in your lifetime are you going to see it all. You just can't... but this book will get you a little closer.

Also, if you don't finish this book without wanting to sing This Land is Your Land by Woody Guthrie, it's like I don't even know you.

The book itself is incredibly organized so if you want to go to a specific park, you can find that park easily. Each park has a map, some basic geographic information, the history of the park, why it became a park, interesting information about the park, why you should see this park, and what you should do in the park. Each section is concise and to the point so if you are trying to narrow down a vacation for you or your family, it's rather easy to compare parks.

Maybe you aren't sure which park you want to go to but you know you want something in the central plains because it's close to you and you don't have a lot of time to spend driving. Not a problem, the book is divided into sections (Eastern Coast & Forest Parks, Central Plains/Lakes & Mountains, Desert Southwest, Pacific Northwest, Alaska & Hawaii, More National Parks at a Glance) so you can compare the major parks in the area. Don't be deterred by the "More National Parks at a Glance" because they are just as amazing as all of the others, they just aren't the first ones you think of when you think of a national park, which is maybe why it's worth spending more time on those because it might be your speed if you want to avoid crowds or prefer something off the beaten path.

Interestingly, I didn't know a lot about Zion National Park other than it existed, but after going through the pages and seeing the images- it has jumped to the top of my road trip list. Maybe because it's not that far from the Grand Canyon people kind of forget about it, but it looks stunning. The photos on those pages makes me wish I could be a bird and just fly through it so I could see it.

Also, small plug for the pages in the way back because there is a list of park units, so National Battlefields, National Military Parks, National Historical Sites, Memorial Sites, Lakeshores, Preserves, Monuments, etc. Absolutely everything memorable or historical that you would want to see is in here. Even if you aren't planning to go to a specific park, you might be going on a road trip to Grandma's but want to plan a stop to stretch your legs or see something cool- this book will help you.

Overall? Obviously it has to be a 5 star book because it's beautiful but it's also educational and an absolute must for anyone planning a trip. Hand this book over to your kids and have them make a top 3 list of where they want to go and plan some trips- trust me when I say anyone who goes through this will get the itch to travel.

If you have a traveler on your Christmas list, or maybe a mom/dad who is always in charge of planning the family vacation- this is an amazing gift for them.

Thank you to National Geographic and TLC Book Tours for having me on this tour, all thoughts and opinions are my own. Also, this post contains affiliate links. Happy reading! 

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Book Review: The Ninth Session

I'm assuming this week is crazy busy for you too, because mine is bananas. It's not even that we're traveling anywhere for Thanksgiving, I just feel like I have so much stuff to do and get done. We're going to Matt's parents' home for the actual holiday, but I always make a turkey for us on Friday. Normally that's when we put up our tree, watch Christmas movies, and relax but we did all of that shortly after Halloween and I don't regret it. So this year I'm making a turkey and now Jackson wants me to make a pumpkin pie for him and Olivia wants some chocolate cream pie, and I'm sure someone else will have a request for me ten minutes before the grocery store closes on Wednesday. Just you watch.

In the meantime, let us discuss books. Who doesn't need a good thriller that messes with your head as you spend time with you loved ones?

The Ninth Session - Deborah Serani

An edge-of-your-seat psychological thriller that brings a unique mix of Psychotherapy, American Sign Language and Coda Culture. Just when you think you have it figured out, think again!

Dr. Alicia Reese takes on a new patient. Lucas Ferro suffers with crippling anxiety, and as sessions progress, he begins to share the reasons why he's struggling. As Ferro's narrative becomes more menacing, Reese finds herself wedged between the cold hard frame of professional ethics and the integrity of personal truth. And, finally, when Ferro reveals his secrets, Reese learns how far she's willing to go, willing to risk and willing to lose to do the right thing.

I really liked this book and I'm giving it a solid 4 stars. I don't know if its because I'm in therapy myself so I can picture how all of this plays out and the back and forth between the professional and the patient, but I really connected with this book. I mean, let us be clear: I don't kill or hurt people, I'm not psychologically corrupt, I'm not a danger to others, etc. I'm going because I'm depressed and anxious- please don't side eye me and wondering what's in my basement or anything. But that dynamic which solely relies on honesty on both sides is challenged here. I think it helps that the author herself is a psychologist and professor AND has been an advisor for Law & Order: SVU, which is one of my favorite shows ever. Anyways. I'm just saying because of that, there is a realistic feel to the book and it feels like an actual doctor asking the questions and posing scenarios that likely would happen in a real session, and that makes this book feel authentic.

I don't read enough thrillers but if they were all like this one, it likely would be all that I read because this grabbed me from the first page and I could NOT put this down. Not at all. I ended up staying up well past my bed time to finish it up. In this story we have a doctor who, after getting to know her patient Luke, realizes there is a lot more to him than anxiety. Rather quickly. The majority of the book is her trying to help him but also wrestle with what she should do with the information he gives her. One on hand, what a patient tells you is in confidence but on the other.... if there are crimes committed? Do you turn them in and violate the confidence or do you keep the confidence intact but violate the victims by being silent? It quickly becomes apparent that there is a reason for everything and the things that hold Luke hostage know are a result of something bigger.

Let me just say, when you think you know.... you don't. You don't know at all.

I absolutely loved this book. It was messed up in all the best ways. This is like those crime dramas on TV where you feel sorry for the bad guy but then wonder what the heck is wrong with you for feeling that way. That's the feeling you're going to have in this book.

Thank you to Deborah Serani and Pump Up Your Book for having me on this tour and sending me a copy for review. All thoughts and opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links. 

Monday, November 25, 2019

Closer, Progress, and Chuck E. Cheese

I know I said today was going to be a Sara's Favorite Things post but I'm over it. I don't know what my favorite things are anymore. I mean, my bed. Chocolate. Water. Books. There you go.

I wanted to give you a weight loss update, though! So I weighed myself on Friday and I'm down to...
204! I'm pretty excited. I'm so close to being under 200 and I just want to get there already. I've really cut down on junk food and soda, so I'm sure a lot of this is from that. Also, I have almost no appetite. Ever. So I'm trying to stick to the "eat when you're hungry" and that seems to be going OK. Next week though I get my labs done for that weight loss doctor, and apparently an entire pile of paperwork to complete before my actual appointment which is December 13. I'm totally nervous for it, so that's weird.

Last week I posted about my depression making a strong comeback and a few people suggested I find something I can do at home that relieves stress. Which is totally reasonable.

So I decided I would start wrapping Christmas presents.
As you can see, there is no order to my top secret closet and I really wish this was a little wider because to get yourself in here is a nightmare. Needless to say, this just made it worse so even though I got five presents wrapped, I fell in here once and since added a few more boxes. So that was a bust.

But I did leave the house this weekend and went to see my brother, sister in law, and my niece and nephew. My niece was turning five and we were going to her birthday party. Which, I shouldn't have told Penelope and Lucy about until the day we left because they LOVE their cousins and asked me EVERY SINGLE DAY multiple times when we were leaving. Rookie move, mom.
Throwback to Adriana being just a few days old and I got to snuggle her for two hours.  
Her party was at Chuck E. Cheese and Penelope and Lucy went to one of these last year for Adriana's party so they were SO excited to go again. The only game I like to play is Skee-Ball because I'm super good at it, but it was more fun because I ended up on a broken machine that wouldn't stop giving me balls to roll. I got to play like 20 games in a row and spend no tickets. Needless to say, Penelope and Lucy cashed out and bought a ton of candy. Yay.
A big hit was the dance pad. Fortunately, the money I spent in dance classes for Penelope and Lucy is well spent because they went to town on it. 
I completely love that these three are so close in age and get to grow up together. I didn't have cousins growing up, I'm a lot older than all of them, but Olivia and Jackson only have Adriana and Mason as cousins, but they still like to hang out with them. 
Lucy was IN LOVE with Chuck. Penelope mostly was into feeling his hand to see if it's furry. 
Oh, and the edible design on the cake was new for Lucy, who wouldn't turn down food ever, so she kept showing it to us. 
I finally got an updated photo of my brother and I. It's so weird how old we look. I realize we ARE older, but I always think of us as 20somethings.
I mean... this is like 2009 sometime. Ooh.. 10 year challenge! HAHA! I didn't even realize that. But this was when we went to Florida. I don't really remember most of that trip. Huh. Weird.

We played pretty much every game there was and the kids all had a really good time. I love that picture because neither girl was playing anything but they both thought they were going so fast. HA!

So after the party we went back to their house and I've kind of become crafty Aunt Sara. Every time Adriana comes up here to visit, I've always had a cool craft for the kids to do. I like doing it and sure enough, as soon as we got to their house Adriana asked if I had any things to do. I definitely did. 
I should have taken a picture of the kids with their finished ornaments but I completely forgot. They ended up making three different ornaments which were all cute and killed about an hour. Then I had brought books and I read for a little while to them. 
I didn't get many pictures of Mason this time but I managed to get a quick one of Mason and Jackson!

At bedtime I told the girls I would slumber party with them in the basement last time. So we got everyone set up. 
Little girls on the floor next to each other, 
big kids on the recliners, me on the couch, and Matt on the floor by the outlet for his phone. It didn't last long because Penelope was crabby so she snuggled with Matt. It was kind of sweet because I was up a lot and one of the times I saw Adriana sitting up and Lucy scooting over and Adriana was saying, "You can hold my hand, Lucy." and sure enough- they held hands. It was pretty cute.

Our drive home was long, but totally worth it. I'm glad we got to see them. I think the next get together is probably around Christmas. No plans are in stone yet but I better start looking for some winter crafts so I'm ready!

Sunday, November 24, 2019

Book Review: The Billionaire's Christmas

I don't know if you've noticed but I am in full Christmas mode and quite frankly, I don't know why I've never done this sooner. Why have I waited until after Thanksgiving my whole life?! Insanity. At this point my entire house is decked out, I have a nine foot inflatable unicorn in my yard (seriously) and I am slowly giving Matt the hints that the other lawn decor needs to go out. If I could go Clark Griswold on this house, I would. Matt says we cannot, under any circumstances, staple lights to the roof. Which is ridiculous. So let's read Christmas books for grownups.

The Billionaire's Christmas - J.S. Scott

Called an eccentric beast by the citizens of Amesport, Maine, handsome, sensual billionaire Grady Sinclair stays isolated in his mansion on a private peninsula. The arrangement suits Grady just fine—until an unassuming woman rings his doorbell, awaking his long dormant passion with her fearlessness. All he wants is to make the fiery blonde his forever. But will he have to become the monster everyone thinks he is to get his Christmas wish?

Emily Ashworth is desperate. The Youth Center has been robbed of all its money, and as the director, she has to find a way to give the town’s needy children the Christmas they deserve. With nowhere else to turn, she ventures to the mansion of a mysterious billionaire to ask for help. Warned to expect a beast, Emily is shocked to find Grady Sinclair a handsome and very sensual man. With steamy kisses under the mistletoe and seductive whispers while hanging the wreath, Emily finds there’s more to Grady than meets the eye. Is this misunderstood billionaire just a lonely soul who needs the gift of love for Christmas?

You want this one because it's only 100 pages or so, and if you're a slow reader novellas are where its at. That's what you should be looking for, I promise you won't be disappointed. I think if you've been around here long enough you'll know I'm a big fan of the Sinclair Series by J.S. Scott and I think after this only have two left to read, which makes me sad but also hopeful because I can't wait to find more by her. This little novella was actually the start of the entire series and I didn't read it first because I am a dork and wanted to wait until Christmas. You can read this entire series out of order and it's totally fine. Actually, Grady and Emily are hardly featured at all in any of the other books (so far, but I don't see them making an appearance in the next two either) so don't feel like you're going to be confused or be missing information/ruining future books, etc. It's fine.

The way the first chapter is set up it made me think that maybe Grady was autistic or had a far bigger disability than stuttering. Seriously. Honestly, that was a bit of meh moment for me but for the most part- I liked Grady. I'll be honest and tell you the first half of this book is pretty cornball because the impracticality of a woman in charge of a community Christmas party where the funds have been stolen finds herself on the doorstep of the town's wealthy recluse in a last ditch effort to ask for money is a BIT MUCH. I mean, that's the story. He demands sex (seriously) she's aghast (obviously) and the whole rest of the story is ridiculous and hokey and god help me, I loved it. It couldn't be any more cheese. It just couldn't. Even Hallmark doesn't serve this kind of cheese. HALLMARK, you guys.

Here's what I loved, though. Emily is a pretty normal person. She sees Grady's flaws and she's OK with that. She doesn't want him to change, she wants him to see things in a different way and experience the good, to not associate everything with bad memories and know that's its OK to make new, better memories.

Overall, I'm going to give this 4 stars. It would have been 5 if it had be just a bit less cheesy/ That and there's a part where a bad guy makes his entrance and his dialogue is so very bad that I have to take a star off for that alone, so I've rounded 3.5 up to 4. But if you are in the mood for a Christmas romance, don't discount this one because it's quick and fun and a really good start to the series.


I'm curious to know what are some of  your favorite Christmas romances? I could always use a couple more. ;) 

This post contains affiliate links. Happy reading! 

Saturday, November 23, 2019

Book Review: Getaway Girl

I hope you have fun plans for this weekend- my niece just turned five so the plan is to visit with her for awhile. I'm still debating on stopping at a few stores to do some Christmas shopping and I found a new, drive-thru Christmas light display that I kind of want to go to. It's like $25 a car so I'm trying to convince Matt this would be a fun thing to do. We'll see on Monday if we did or not.

Getaway Girl - Tessa Bailey

This unlikely getaway driver never expected to help the mayor escape…

After a six-year absence, Addison Potts is back in Charleston to stir things up. And what better place to make her villainous return than her estranged cousin’s wedding? Only, the nuptials hit a snag when the bride doesn’t show, leaving Addison to play getaway driver for the jilted groom. A groom whose heartbreaking smile and deep, southern drawl she should not be noticing…

Elijah Montgomery Du Pont is the future mayor of Charleston. From his military career to city hall, every detail of his life has been meticulously planned. Until now. His only respite from life’s sudden upheaval is Addison, his new, improbable best friend. She makes him happy. Grounds him. And public disapproval be damned, he’s not willing to give her up. But with an election on the line and public pressure rising, Addison—and the cruel hand of fate—might not give him a choice.

I have now read two other books from Tessa Bailey that I loved, so naturally I picked up another one and it does NOT disappoint! I couldn't put this one down and ended up finishing it in one sitting, and I am clamoring to get the next one. Tessa Bailey is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors because she develops characters who you can actually see yourself liking. The dynamics between them are realistic, the dialogue between them is normal, and the drama between characters (particularly Addison and Elijah) is maybe not normal but how they handle it is.

In this book we have Addison, back in town since leaving years ago, to handle her recently deceased grandmother's things. Her family were the black sheep of the town after a rather scandalous affair involving the towns "it" family. Elijah is part of that family and he finds himself left at the altar by Naomi, who is Addison's cousin. Traumatic, awkward, and embarrassing as that is, he finds himself outside contemplating his next move, when he encounters Addison, idling in her car. He makes the split second decision to get in her car and essentially hang out at her house to ride the hysteria out. Over that short time they form an awkward, endearing friendship.

Eventually, he's running for Mayor and she's still the black sheep by association but their friendship transcends that, eventually turning into a friends with benefits and then... more?

I loved this book, I loved that Addison is awkward but always thinking of what is in Elijah's best interests. I love that Elijah is the perfect southern gentleman but is always trying to do right by Addison. Neither one of them actually knows what love is or if what they've got going on is love, and them working through that is really great. Not to mention the steamy scenes? So good. Tessa Bailey can write a dang good scene.

Overall? I have to give this one a 4.5 only because I wish there was a little.. something at the end. I feel like we're missing something but I can't tell you what it just didn't hit the spot for me all the way. I wanted a little more, but honestly, I'm rounding this up to 5 for Goodreads because I'd recommend this one anytime.

This post contains some affiliate links. 

Friday, November 22, 2019

Book Review: The Devil & Dayna Dalton

I'm so glad it's Friday. I get to see my niece and nephew this weekend and I'm just really excited about doing something. I'm in a not great place right now and it's mentally and emotionally draining,, so to have something on the calendar to do is a good reason to force myself out of bed and out of the house. If you don't know, I am also a writer for the Duluth Moms Blog and if you're interested, my latest article is up this morning. In the meantime, let's go into the weekend with a book review.

The Devil & Dayna Dalton - Brit Lunden

Reporter Dayna Dalton's reputation has been ruined since birth. The daughter of wild child, Becky Dalton, is expected to follow her mother's footsteps; never given a chance to prove she's different. Dana's been in love with Clay Finnes since she was a teenager. Her unrequited love for Sheriff Finnes leaves her empty. He's happily married and unavailable. Instead, Dayna finds herself stuck in the revolving door of bad relationships. But this is Bulwark, Georgia, a town where strange things are always happening. Dayna is doomed to this loveless life until she can find someone who will appreciate the depth of her character. Can she overcome her fears and look beyond her own perceptions to accept a greater love?
*Contains Sexual Content* 

Let's start by saying that though this is book 9 in the Bulwark Anthology, I didn't feel too lost having not read any of the others. A few points I felt like I was on the outside of a conversation (that kind of feeling) but it didn't last long and then I was fine. I think the fact it's a novella helped with that because there really isn't time in the 100ish pages for a recap of the rest of the anthology. Anyways. In this book we have Dayna Dalton, a girl on the outside because of her familial background. We don't learn a whole lot about her, which... I wish we did because all we really get is her rather long list of relationships (romantic, friendship, professional, etc) that don't work out. Basically, she's got a really crappy lot in life and it's like nothing is every going to go her way.

Anyways. Some paranormal things are happening where she lives and curiosity gets the best of Dayna so she starts investigating. She ultimately stumbles upon some bizarre things and that's when her life takes a sharp turn to completely different. She meets someone, falls in love with them almost immediately (which feels a little odd, I mean, I know it's a novella but there has to be a way to make this seem like it isn't an overnight thing), but nothing is really as it seems.

Overall? Fun read. I got it done in just under two hours so you can definitely fly through it easily. My only quips are things that maybe could have been cleaned up with editing, but are things I find common in novellas: the dialogue feels off, it isn't a conversation you would ever hear in real life so it feels cheesy, almost. I know a novella is a get-to-the-point story but it's literally the last third of the book that has all of the action and we go from getting to know you to we're in love, and know it's the end. The conclusion of the book felt a little rushed for me. (Also, the description of his long, thin fingers kind of creeped me out. If I think of romance and being wooed- I don't want thin hands and fingers, I want something sturdy. BUT, that might just be me. HA!)

I'll give this one a solid 3 stars. I liked the mythology piece of it and the overall concept of the book even if getting there was a bit bumpy.


Thank you to Pump Up Your Book for getting me on this tour but also to Brit Lunden for getting a copy to me for review. All thoughts/opinions expressed are my own. This post contains affiliate links. Happy reading, lambs!

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Forgetting It Sucks

I feel like it's been awhile since I've posted about what life is really like. Away from book reviews and kids being fun (and sometimes not), there is a lot going on in my life. Some of which I'm not ready to share because I haven't quite worked out how I feel about it. And that's OK.

It seems like every November I really struggle with life. Last year was pretty bad and I guess the good thing is I forget how bad its already been. I know fall of 2016 was really horrible because I was planning my suicide. So, I guess we've gone up from there. 2017 was bad. 2018 was really bad but by then financial issues were catching up with us and they are still here so that really sucks, but every year it's like the depression morphs into something new, if that makes sense.

I've really struggled this year with the realization that this actually is it. I'm really at the peak of my depression treatment. I've really come to the end of the road medication wise in some areas and my mood stabilizing medication can obviously be increased but I've been waiting to do that to make sure I really need it so I don't max out sooner than I should. Nobody can ever say I'm irresponsible with my medications because I'm scared of everything so I'm willing to suffer until the absolute last minute before I change anything.

Every day though I sit at home while all four kids are in school and I just think about how difficult life is. How hard it is to just get out of bed, then to get dressed, then get them to school and back, and all of the stuff a mom does during a day. I'm barely keeping anything together as it is and I'm just so mentally exhausted. I just don't know how much longer I can do this, you know? I'm not sure what I'm doing as a mom, I'm a really crappy wife and I know that Matt is absolutely tired of always correcting me and double checking what I'm doing because I probably screwed something up as usual, I have no desire to do anything, and I just don't know how I manage to get through every single day.

Last week I brought Penelope to school when she had no school. I had almost left her there. I was late for a therapy appointment and that wasn't good. I had to pick Jackson up from school for an appointment, I went to the wrong school. In fact, I went to a school none of my kids have ever been to. Explain THAT. We had family pictures taken and I inexplicably ordered 168 photo cards. We needed 60. Thank god Matt was able to get that fixed and save us $82.

Needless to say I cried a lot last week. I forget something, get frustrated, so then I forget more, and get more frustrated, start messing things up more, so now I'm angry. It's a spiral. I get upset because I'm frustrated my brain doesn't work right. I'm angry that any of this has happened to me. I'm exhausted because pretending I'm OK is really hard.
On my really bad days I obsessively "clean" and "organize". I put those in quotations because that's what I call it when in reality I'm really just moving things around. I move books from one shelf to the other. I organize pencils in a cup. I take everything out of a drawer and put it back in. Over and over again. (I found this note on Wednesday that I had kept and it was just everything that day. I needed it.) I can't even tell you how many times I've written and re-written our Christmas card lists. I have to be nearing 30 times in the last two weeks. I'm not kidding. I'll see that a letter doesn't look right and now I have to re-do the entire thing. I know it's obsessive behaviors but I can't stop.

I have a lot of big changes and stress happening in my life and 2020 is going to kick my ass. I already know that I won't handle it well and knowing that I am not in a good space to deal with them scares me. While I still think of wanting to be gone, I'm now medicated to the point where I know that isn't true so now I scare myself. The last two years death didn't scare me and I just wanted to be there. This year I'm so medicated that while I want to be dead I am absolutely terrified. I am having my nightmares again of dying and I'm waking up terrified and crying. It's horrible. I'm tired of feeling like I can't share how bad things are for me because it makes people feel guilty or feel like I'm a burden. In my head I know I can't control how other people feel and that's on them. I know that. My feelings don't know that so they are always reminding me of what a pain in the ass I am.
I hate talking about it because I often get the "is therapy even working for you?" question and YES. Yes, therapy is working. Therapy is the only reason I'm even here. If I didn't have therapy I know without question I would have been dead by June 2017. No question. I had one attempt and several days of toughing it out on the phone with my therapist, praying to anything to get me through the day. So yes, I know its working. I know people are sick of it and god- nobody is sick of it more than me. Nobody. Try living this EVERY SINGLE DAY. It's Groundhog Day. Every day its the same version of hell. No better, no worse. I keep being told I didn't die for a reason, I haven't fulfilled my purpose, but I sure hope that purpose is shared with me soon because I just don't know. I'm not nearly as strong as people think I am.

It's just a shitty season. Every year I get through the winter and days get easier, and I think it's OK. It's just a bad season.

Then that season rolls around again and I'm reminded that it sucks and every year it seems to outdo itself. I'm just tired.

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Book Review: WOMEN

If you  have a budding feminist on your Christmas list, or maybe you have a bad ass woman or some girls who need inspiration, this absolutely needs to be their gift this year. No hesitation.

WOMEN: The National Geographic Image Collection

#MeToo. #GirlBoss. Time's Up. From Silicon Valley to politics and beyond, women are reshaping our world. Now, in anticipation of the 100th anniversary of the 19th amendment, this bold and inspiring book from National Geographic mines 130 years of photography to showcase their past, their present, and their future. With 300+ stunning images from more than 50 countries, each page of this glorious book offers compelling testimony about what it means to be female, from historic suffragettes to the haunting, green-eyed "Afghan girl."
Organized around chapter themes like grit, love, and joy, the book features brand-new commentary from a wide swath of luminaries including Laura Bush, Gloria Allred, Roxane Gay, Melinda Gates, New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern, and the founders of the #MeToo and Black Lives Matter movements. Each is accompanied by a bold new portrait, shot by acclaimed NG photographer Erika Larsen. The ultimate coffee table book, this iconic collection provides definitive proof that the future is female.

I'm coming right out to tell you I am giving this one 5 stars without hesitation because this was AMAZING. I would consider myself a feminist in the sense that I likely won't ever be burning bras or marching. I am a feminist in the sentiment of Ruth Bader Ginsburg who never identified with women marching but instead used her brain and her grit to make movement. Not that there is anything wrong with marching. I think we need a visible faction and we need brains, we both play a major part of moving forward. One of my favorite women to read and listen to is Roxane Gay who is featured in this book but is quoted on page 317:

"I think that feminism should be a default feature of humanity. Women deserve equality and equity with men. - Roxane Gay"
Within this book there, of course, sections called "Portraits of Power" with famous feminists that we all know such as Oprah Winfrey, Nancy Pelosi, Jane Goodall, Laura Bush, and Melinda Gates (and more). The rest of the book are sections of Joy, Beauty, Love, Wisdom, Strength, and Hope that has every day, regular, you and me women. It's women from every culture around the world doing what they do to live their lives. It looks at the education of women around the world, women and reproductive rights and beliefs, careers and hobbies. I really enjoyed the Beauty section because the definition of beautiful is different no matter where you are in the world and it's astounding to me that we as a society in America doesn't recognize the value in that.

Without question the photography throughout this book is exquisite and looking at the women and their traditional wear is beautiful. Frankly, we look like a really lame society in comparison to everywhere else. Throughout this book it shows you that women are, and always have been, made of stern stuff and if you can get through this entire book without a new appreciation for yourself and all of the women in your life, I don't know what would get you there. This book features women now and women from years and years ago. Some of the images are beautiful and some are startling and some will make you look at your life and realize we don't have it so bad as you see women doing their thing in the starkest of landscapes. It's just an amazing collection of images and stories, it's inspirational from the first to the last page, every step of the way.

An incredibly HUGE thank you to National Geographic for sending me this book and TLC Book Tours for letting me host on this tour. All opinions are my own and this post contains affiliate links. Happy reading! 

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Book Review: We Met in December

If you follow any book blogger on Instagram you've probably seen this book multiple times, it's everywhere! It's got the cutest cover that is screaming to be read. Also, can we make note that this book officially finishes my 2019 Goodreads challenge?! This is book 110 of the year and for a few months I definitely wasn't sure if I would finish the goal this year but here we are with a month to go!

We Met in December - Rosie Curtis

Two people. One house. A year that changes everything.  

Twenty-nine-year-old Jess is following her dream and moving to London. It’s December, and she’s taking a room in a crumbling, but grand, Notting Hill house-share with four virtual strangers. On her first night, Jess meets Alex, the guy sharing her floor, at a Christmas dinner hosted by her landlord. They don’t kiss, but as far as Jess is concerned the connection is clear. She starts planning how they will knock down the wall between them to spend more time together.

But when Jess returns from a two-week Christmas holiday, she finds Alex has started dating someone else—beautiful Emma, who lives on the floor above them. Now Jess faces a year of bumping into (hell, sharing a bathroom with) the man of her dreams…and the woman of his.

I hate saying things like, "I wanted to love this one!" because that automatically implies that I didn't like it or that there was something wrong with it. In fact, I really did want to love this one because I love the romantic triangle trope and the premise of this book is kind of a dream set up for any romance novel. My primary issues with this book are that it is a bit of a slow read, I wanted to know when stuff was going to happen, and I was rather frustrated when both people are kind of morons and scared to ask each other what's going on, "are we friends or do you want more" kind of thing.

From every account of this summary you think this is a Christmas romance and no, it really isn't. Other than the fact they meet right after Christmas, this book takes place over the course of the year and doesn't resolve itself until the next Christmas so truly, this isn't a Christmas read and don't go into it thinking that otherwise you'll be greatly disappointed. Right away we meet all of these roommates and almost immediately you realize Jess is awkward but so is Alex in a way, and Emma is the worst. Everything about Emma oozes mean girl who is incredibly insecure so she's going to be extra snarky just because she can. How guys fall for this I will never understand, but Alex definitely does and it makes his budding friendship with Jess a little awkward. It's clear that they both want to be more than friends but confused me was why? I don't know what it is about either character that makes the other interested. I mean, Alex sounds handsome but Jess doesn't really sound like his type so the whole thing just felt odd.

Overall, I really struggled with this book. It wasn't awful but it's not one I'm going to remember and it's not one that I'd include in Christmas boxes for friends. I don't know, I expected something different so I ended up a little disappointed.

Can we take a quick minute to say you can find this in the HarperCollins store, along with a LOT of amazing books? They often have free shipping once you  have $49 in your cart and if you need help with a list, let me know. I can get you to $49 quickly!
Thank you to William Morrow and TLC Book Tours for having me on this tour! All opinions are my own and this post contains affiliate links. 

Monday, November 18, 2019

Sara's 2019 WISH LIST

I cannot even tell you how hard it is to put a wish list together because I'm at a weird point in life where I like presents but I also feel weird getting them. Does that make sense? I mean, when in doubt, PRESENT. Always. Obviously. But I also really struggle with what the heck do I even want? So this is the culmination of an entire year of thinking.

1. Handheld Fan: I know this sounds dumb, but these things are awesome. I get so unbelievably warm out of nowhere in the summer and having a fan I could pull out of my purse would be amazing.
2. A New Mop: You know you're old when the idea of a new mop is exciting! But our current mop is the worst and sometimes the steam mop just doesn't do it, you know?
3. No Tie Shoes: I have become a huge fan of sneakers I don't have to tie and are squishy.
4. New bedding: We actually only own one comforter so when ours is dirty it's an entire day affair to get it washed and there have been times we've been up to almost midnight waiting for this thing to dry. Someday I'm going to have a washer and dryer that handle huge comforters but until then... it's a process. So having another one so we aren't exhausted waiting for the thing to dry would be nice. 
5. Socks. I really like socks. I can't help it. 
6. Scrapbook Goodies: If you know me at all you know my favorite scrapbook supply company is Doodlebug Designs, so anything by them is my go-to supply.
7. Books. You guess had to know that books would OBVIOUSLY be on my list!
8. Sweeper Thingie: Again, pulling into Loserville, because I hate to sweep. Hate it. I would vacuum all day every day but I hate to sweep. Unfortunately, I have to sweep every day at least twice and even still... I feel like it just isn't enough.
9. Gift Cards: I know people hate to give gift cards, but I really love them. I mean, do you really want to go buy me bras and underwear? I mean, no. I love my friends but I'm not trying to buy you underwear. I have a dog who likes to eat underwear and so I need some. Gift cards to Victoria Secret, Lane Bryant, Target, Kohl's, Maurices, Old Navy, etc are awesome because I can buy the things that fit me when I feel emotionally ready to enter a dressing room. You know what I'm talking about.
10. iPad: This is a total pipe dream gift but still. You never know.
11. Fitbit: I just want to know my heart rate and how many steps I'm doing. I don't want anything fancy because I won't be able to figure out how to use it, I'm a simple gal.
12. Gift Cards, part two: Matt and I would like to go on dates but honestly, if it isn't a childcare issue it's a cost issue. We like to go out to dinner and a movie, so gift cards to restaurants are cool. Or ones the whole family could use because all six of us doing stuff together is pretty expensive.
Honestly, that's a lot. I really like anything I end up getting. It's really nice to get something because someone saw it and thought of me. I always really appreciate that. It's always nice to be thought of.

What is on YOUR wish list this year? What is on your kids or grand kid's list? I'm still trying to get ideas for Olivia and Jackson because their lists weren't super helpful for me this year.