Thursday, January 30, 2020

Momlife is all of the things.

I know I've given you a bevy of book reviews and almost no update on real life stuff. It isn't like I'm living a glamorous life over here but you know, stuff is happening, things are shaking and moving.

My office/library/craft room remodel is currently stalled. As it turns out you need money to go to IKEA. Which, who knew, right? Well that kind of puts a damper on the party because BILLS so I am probably going to have to wait another month or two before I can make the trip. Definitely a bummer, but not the end of the world.

In the meantime though, I bought this AND put it together myself!
Matt wasn't nearly as proud as I was expecting but whatever. It feels relatively stable and rolls, so I think I did it right. Then I realized none of the stuff I wanted on her fits so that's awesome. HA! I'll come up with a plan B for it but for now it's under a shelf with my die cut machine and laminator because those don't currently have a home.
I always forget how tough winter is until we're in the thick of it. Thankfully it isn't ridiculously cold like it usually is and I'm OK with that. I haven't complained about the temperature one time this year and if we have to have winter I will gladly take these 20s and 30s every year. It's things like this though that make me think about global warming and climate change and what it is going to be like in 50 years. What if it is really awful? What if I'll be dead and my children have to suffer through this?

That's the kind of thing I've been thinking about all of the nights I can't get to sleep at a reasonable hour.

Speaking of, that's a thing now. Insomnia is super fun. I did see my psychiatrist today though and I mentioned to him that at night time I'm getting tremors, mostly in my hands, arms, and head. It only starts around dinner time and progressively gets worse. Considering I haven't had any medication changes and even though I thought it was the Metformin, it was still happening when I stopped, the running theory is my Propranolol. I take that for migraine management and it has worked really well for three years but last week I had migraines every night, to the point I thought maybe I was having a stroke and should go to the ER. The next step is to try an extended form of Propranolol because according to my GeneSight test, this is one of the drugs my body metabolizes not normally or "as expected" and one of the side effects of it wearing out are tremors. I'm going to try this new form, with a slightly higher dose, and hope for the best.

He mentioned maybe changing my Wellbutrin because he doesn't think it's working the way it should but I told him I'll wait until my appointment in April. The last thing I need when I travel to DC/NYC with Olivia is to be messing around with my mental health medication. Could you even imagine??

Speaking of, Olivia and I are going to Washington D.C. and New York City in March! The eighth graders in her school have the option of going and I knew right away I was going to get her there come hell or high water, and so my parents and I paid her fee. They gifted me the money to go as well and Olivia is super excited. I'm excited because I've never been but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't worried. I am in the process of getting all of my notes and medical information together just in case. Once I get the for real itinerary I'll tell you all the things we get to do. It's a jam packed week, that's for sure!
Speaking of Olivia, I just signed her high school registration form. I cannot even believe how quickly it is all going. It seems like yesterday she was starting kindergarten and I was worried about her not eating her lunch and here I am, signing off on her choices of freshman classes. I swear, as soon as your children are done with elementary school they are practically done. The years fly by and I can't catch my breath. I'm constantly worried I'm not doing enough. I only have FOUR years left to make sure I've given her enough to go out into the world on her own and be confident about it. I have four years of slowly letting go and man.

I'm not ready.

I finally understand it when people told me it is so hard. I don't know if there is anything you can do to feel ready.

So yeah. I've got that. Penelope will be in kindergarten next year and I'm hoping we can open enroll her because next school year is going to bring changes that I'll talk about another time. I'm still working through them. Jackson is working hard in his first year of middle school and I am so proud of how much effort he puts in. He just wants to do a good job and I know it feels like he has big shoes to follow coming up behind Olivia but I'm trying to make him understand he has to make his own footprints.

Growing up is hard. It's also really hard to watch your kids grow up and know there is only so much you can do to help and guide them. Matt and I are trying to find that balance of helping and then letting them fail, with a safety net.

Besides that, our furnace is disintegrating (literally), we need a back door, we need to put some heat registers in the front porch, and we need to win the lottery. So you know, the usual.

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Book Review: Unexpectedly Yours

I'm just coming at you with great books and I've got one for you today. Don't worry, tomorrow I'll have a round up of what's been happening here, things that are coming up, and I've still got to tell you about my really cool trip coming up with Olivia.

Let's talk about this book first, though because I think you'll like it.
Unexpectedly Yours - Rebecca Shea
One night of unbridled passion. 
It was the only thing Andrew McPherson and Grace Morgan could afford. 


They promised they would never see each other again, but fate had other plans. Andrew's entire life has been spent working toward one goal - to own the top advertising and public relations company in the world. He's driven, ruthless when it comes to business, never letting anything stand in his way...until Grace. 

Grace has worked hard to build her advertising career. She's fiercely talented and dedicated to her clients. Grace has no interest in getting involved with a man when she knows her focus should be on her career and paying off her mounting debt. 

Andrew knows better than to get involved with a woman who is completely off limits, but he never backs down from what he wants, and he won't stop until Grace is his ... only this might cost him more than he's willing to give. 

I signed up for this review knowing I had never read anything from this author so that's always kind of fun because I get to find new authors and get sucked into the worm hole of their books that I have yet to read. After reading this one, I will tell you I am firmly in her worm hole and I have several in my cart just waiting for a paycheck with some fun money left over.

In this one we have Grace, a good girl with the weight of the world on her shoulders, who decides to let loose one night at the encouragement of her friend. She ends up with a one night stand with the most handsome man who made it worth it and she ends up doing the walk of shame but having to do it on the way to work. Once she gets to work she finds out the company has been sold and quickly bought by another company so while she's freaking out about not having a job, in walks Drew.

Her one night stand, of course. Now he's her boss and they recognize each other immediately. Of course her friend who encouraged her is loving all of it.

Grace is desperate to keep her job though and wants to forget the entire thing happened and keep her nose to the grindstone but Drew.... Drew wants more. He knows it isn't just a fling with Grace but now he has to convince her.

I have to tell you- I LOVED THIS BOOK. I loved Drew and how logical and practical he was, I even loved Grace even though I really thought I wouldn't. I really thought she would be that hard headed to a fault, run at every chance,, and she wasn't. I saw the climax coming at the end and knew exactly what it would be but I did NOT expect the reaction from the characters that we got, but it was oddly perfect. I flew through this book in one evening and couldn't put it down. Although we do get an epilogue, there was a little bit I wanted more from, but I'm assuming we'll get some kind of follow up possibly featuring Drew's brother? I don't know but even if we don't, this ended happy and I really enjoyed it.

If you are looking for a fun read with a Pretty Woman vibe to it, you have to pick this one up!

A huge thank you to Social Butterfly PR and Rebecca Shea for having me on this tour and sending me a copy for review! All thoughts are my own of course, and this post contains affiliate links. Happy shopping and happy reading!

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Book Review: Every Stolen Breath

Let's start by telling you I saw early reviews for this book and immediately I knew this was one that I wanted to read. Secondly, I saw it was coming from Blink YA Books and knew I was going to love it because every book I've read from them has been amazing. Third, this came as a surprise in the mail and I have no idea who sent it to me because the packaging was destroyed and there was no note, so whoever sent it, THANK YOU.
Every Stolen Breath - Kimberly Gabriel

The Swarm is unrecognizable, untraceable, and unpredictable—random attacks on the streets of Chicago by a mob of crazed teens that leaves death in its wake. It’s been two years since the last attack, but Lia Finch has found clues that reveal the Swarm is ready to claim a new victim.

Lia is the only one still pursuing her father’s killers, two years after attorney Steven Finch’s murder by the Swarm. Devastated and desperate for answers, Lia will do anything to uncover the reasons behind his death and to stop someone else from being struck down. But due to debilitating asthma and PTSD that leaves her with a tenuous hold on reality, Lia is the last person to mount a crusade on her own.

After a close encounter with the Swarm puts Lia on their radar, she teams up with a teen hacker, a reporter, and a mysterious stranger who knows firsthand how the mob works. Together, they work to uncover the master puppeteer behind the group. Though if Lia and her network don’t stop the person pulling the strings—and fast—Lia may end up the next target.

Inspired by the real-life “flash mob” violence that has plagued Chicago since 2011, Every Stolen Breath by debut author Kimberly Gabriel is a fast-paced and immersive thriller that shows just how hard one girl will fight back, knowing any breath might be her last. 

This book was an absolute ride. I told the author on Instagram that Matt had to physically take the book away from me so I would go to sleep because it was almost midnight and I could not stop reading. The book begins immediately with Lia at Navy Pier, where she believes the next Swarm attack was going to happen. Her father was the last victim and she's determined to avenge his death and figure out who is organizing the Swarm but also who are the people in the Swarm. Things go south quickly and from there this is a non stop roller coaster. You have no idea who is behind it, everyone is a suspect and you can trust nobody.

I absolutely loved this book, I loved that the setting is Chicago because it isn't known as the safest city to be, but also I loved how this author really grabbed the mob mentality and put it in a way teenagers are going to understand it. I liked that not every person in the Swarm wants to be there but are there because they have to be and I kind of thought that was a brilliant way for kids to maybe use the story to draw comparisons of current times and what we're seeing across the nation. Just so many discussions could be started from this but a story engaging enough to keep teens, and adults, interested.

Couple of things: Lia is the worst. She is literally the dumbest person who puts herself in danger and really doesn't understand her choices impact others. BUT, while she drove me nuts, it was kind of brilliant because the audience for this is primarily teens and what are teens? Stupid! Teens are actually pretty stupid and they aren't able to draw the conclusions that their split second action really impacts others and sometimes in profound ways. I really love how this author did this all the while not putting the main character down and also getting her to see that justice for her isn't justice for all, that there are things bigger than you and your problems out there.

Most importantly? I loved Ryan. I had a hard time remembering that he's just a teenager because wooo.... Ryan. Swoon. Ryan is the bad boy hero and I liked him a lot!

The book is (currently) a stand alone and while we do get a conclusion, there are just enough loose ends to make you feel a second book could/should come, but if it doesn't it makes the point of 'justice for you isn't justice for all" come home even more. Absolutely 5 stars on this one.
This post contains affiliate links. 

Monday, January 27, 2020

Book Review: Cross Her Heart

I normally read thrillers in the fall but I've had a couple of good ones come across so I've squeezed them in. Plus, Sarah Pinborough has a new one coming (that I already have) so I thought perhaps I should read this one first so I know what to expect as far as writing style. It definitely kept me on my toes!
Cross Her Heart - Sarah Pinborough

Lisa lives for her daughter Ava, her job and her best friend Marilyn.

But when a handsome client shows an interest in her, Lisa starts daydreaming about sharing her life with him, too. Maybe she’s ready now. Maybe she can trust again. Maybe it's time to let her terrifying secret past go.

But when her daughter rescues a boy from drowning and their pictures are all over the news for everyone to see, Lisa's world explodes.

As she finds everything she has built threatened, and not knowing who she can trust, it's up to Lisa to face her past in order to save what she holds dear.

But someone has been pulling all their strings. And that someone is determined that both Lisa and Ava must suffer.

Because long ago Lisa broke a promise. And some promises aren't meant to be broken.

If you aren't able to dedicate some solid time to this book, you might get lost. The first half of it is terribly slow and Lisa is a pretty unlikable character. I really didn't like her and once everything started to unravel, I liked her even less. I mean, she had some awful stuff happen and I get it but man.... for as paranoid as she was she really wasn't great at hiding herself. I also felt terribly sorry for her daughter because not only does she have an incredibly protective mom but she has a mom who is relatively clueless as to what her daughter is actually doing.

My other issue is that once you get over the half way mark it all starts rolling downhill relatively quickly, and that's when you're going to want to read it in one sitting because it's so whack-a-doodle you'll be confused if you put it down a few times. It's a bizarre story and I didn't think it really warranted the lengths the main character went through. It reminded me of the cheesy thrillers on the Lifetime channel, where you expect Tori Spelling to be murdered or something.

My biggest issue with this was the incredibly slow pace because it made a book that should only have taken me, at most, two days to read stretch into a week and a half. I just had a hard time sticking with it and by the time I got to the end I'm not sure it was worth it? Overall I can only give this one 2 stars because while it wasn't awful, it's not one I would pick up again.

You can find this book, and tons others, on the HarperCollins website, and if you hang out on the page long enough a 20% coupon pops up, so that's always pretty great.


A big thank you to William Morrow Books and TLC Book Tours for having me on this tour and sending me a copy! All thoughts are my own and this post contains affiliate links.

Sunday, January 26, 2020

Book Review: Now You See Her

If you didn't know, Linda Howard is my favorite author. I don't know why she's my favorite, she just is and I own a lot of her books. I think almost all of them, actually. I should do an inventory on that again, just to make sure. I've had this one on my shelf for a long time, I found it at a library used book sale and got it for $1 but I'm only not getting into it.
Now You See Her - Linda Howard
A talented painter in her early thirties, Paris Sweeney has achieved enviable success: her work sells at an exclusive New York City gallery, and her popularity is at an all-time high. Life is good, and Sweeney, as she prefers to be called, is content.
But lately, Sweeney's dreams -- lush, vivid, and drenched in vibrant hues -- seem to echo a growing restlessness that has taken hold of her. Suddenly, impulsively, Sweeney falls into a night of intense passion with millionaire Richard Worth. Now, the true dangers of her all-consuming urges are about to be revealed where Sweeney least expects it: in her paintings.
After a creative frenzy she can barely recall, Sweeney discovers she has rendered a disturbing image -- a graphic murder scene. Against her better instincts, she returns to the canvas time and again, filling out each chilling detail piece by piece. But when a shattering, real-life murder mirrors her creation, Sweeney falls under suspicion. With every stroke of her brush, she risks incriminating herself with her inexplicable knowledge of a deadly crime. And every desire -- including her hunger for Richard -- is loaded with uncertainty as Sweeney races to unmask a killer.
I have to tell you that this book is set in the mid to late 90's (my copy was published in 1998) so there are some things that haven't aged well. The sexual assertiveness of Richard probably wouldn't sit well in a book published today maybe. Also fun was a small quip about the "millennium compliance" of businesses, which was a big thing back then. Even I remember it! So if you're ultra feminist and won't stand for anything like that, maybe steer clear.

In this one we have Sweeney who has recently, out of nowhere, started seeing ghosts. She has no idea what is causing it and she doesn't see all ghosts, just randomly. Her hometown started looking at her like she's got significant mental health problems so she decided to move to New York City under the assumption that she would fit in a little better, or at least wouldn't stand out as much. All was going well until she started essentially sleep painting. She gets up in the middle of the night randomly and paints. Unfortunately she is painting things like dead people. So, not great.

Enter Richard. He's the soon to be ex-husband of Candra, who runs the art gallery that Sweeney showcases and sells her work. Candra is up a creek without a paddle because when the divorce is final she is likely to be in dire straits so she starts doing some illegal things in order to stay afloat. In the meantime, Richard has taken interest in Sweeney, who is pretty oblivious to sexual attraction all together.

While Richard and Sweeney are heating things up with flirting and almost daily visits, Candra is putting herself in danger by trying to blackmail a senator. All goes to hell when Candra comes up dead and it is up to Richard and Sweeney to basically solve the case especially when they look like the best suspects.

Overall? I really liked this. With most Linda Howard books, I flew through this in two evenings. I always like that I think I can solve who did it but the final unwrapping of it comes together and there is always a little bit I didn't see coming and I appreciate that.

If you are a fan of Linda Howard, you will love this one like you do the others. The writing is good, the characters are pretty alright, and it plays out like a corny Lifetime romantic suspense movie and sometimes that's just what you need. If you're coming here looking for a steamy romance or some real grit to it, probably keep walking. But if you're looking for a quick read that you'll be rooting for Sweeney to get her junk together and just go to bed with the guy already, this is your next read.

This post contains affiliate links. Happy reading! 

Friday, January 24, 2020

Book Review: Down on Me

I don't know what it says that I'm starting to recognize the models on the cover of books. Like this guy? His name is Jake. Jake is Meghan March's husband. She is a lucky, lucky gal.
Down on Me - J. Kenner

Tight muscles. Vibrant Ink.
Meet Mr. January. Winter’s never looked so hot…

Certified bachelor Reece Walker wants two things — to save the local bar he manages and to get Jenna Montgomery into his bed.

He has a few ideas for the bar. But Jenna... well, he’s going to have to rely on cold showers, because she’s been his best friend for years, and that’s a line he just can’t cross.

Until one wild kiss on a dark night changes everything. Now Reece is certain Jenna’s meant to be his.

And with long nights in bed, sensual caresses, and deep, lingering kisses, he sets out to thoroughly convince her that friends can be lovers, too.

I haven't read a book from J. Kenner in a long time and while this does have a couple of hot scenes, it was really different than what I've read from her before. Previous books were steamy and this one is lighter fare and sets up the rest of the Man of the Month series. Each book will feature a different man and this one was Reece.

Reece is a pretty nice guy though at the beginning I wasn't so sure, but you quickly realize he's in love with his best friend Jenna and he's trying like hell to ignore it. She also is in love with Reece and again, she's terrified to ruin the friendship trio (her, Reece, and Brent) so she's avoiding the very clear issue she's having.

The book was actually really short, even if it was 250 pages. The pages go quick and I felt at times this story was a bit rushed and we could have done for more drama or secret rendezvous, something, so it's almost like they had no story at all. My second meh moment is Reece supposedly hasn't slept with anyone the entire time Jenna was gone but the night she comes home? He's in bed with a nobody? What? That just felt like a major eyeroll and kind of pointless? I mean, I get a random hookup but why that night and not any other night she was gone? It was just weird and it almost felt like the author forgot she has that as the beginning when she threw in the "haven't slept with anyone this whole time". I don't know if it's just a weird part of the story or a big editing miss.

Regardless, this was a 3 star for me. I didn't love it, but it gave me just enough to be mildly interested in the rest of the series.

If you aren't following me on Instagram  you really should be because I've got cover reveals, new releases, and freebies happening more and more often so come find me (@sarastrand9438)! This post contains affiliate links. 

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Book Review: Groomed (non fiction)

It feels like it has been forever since I've read a non-fiction book and I'm really glad that this was the one to break that dry spell.
Groomed - Elizabeth Melendez Fisher Good

Someone in your past sold you a false story about who you are and what you’re worth. It has been holding you back for too long. Take control of your future.

A staggering one out of three women in America was a victim of sexual abuse at some point in her childhood. No matter how many years it’s been, if that’s your story, those scars are probably still with you. But even if that’s not part of your story, this book is for you. Women today have been groomed for a lot more than just sex.

Using her own story of abuse, family tragedy, and rebellion, Elizabeth Melendez Fisher guides readers toward an understanding that grooming is oftentimes subtle, but it’s always life-altering. In Groomed Fisher incorporates the language and lessons gained over the past decade working with sex trafficking victims and her work in ministry and counseling before that. She draws out five specific ways that women have been groomed, from physical appearance to spirituality to finances, and shows how those manipulative messages have affected the way we see our worth and how they’ve oftentimes stifled and limited us. From there Fisher offers readers a way to overcome their past, starting with the all-important but rarely explored idea of a selah, or a time of rest and reflection, and exploring active ways to forgive and move forward to a new level of freedom.

No one has to be defined by her past. No one has to live for her groomers. It’s time to take a look back at where we came from to escape the messages of our past and take control of our future.

'What was your first secret? You know, the thing in your past, probably in your childhood, that forever altered the way you understood everything? ...
...The memory of your first secret probably still stings, even after all these years. It's not pleasant to talk about. Perhaps someone warned you never to talk about it. Yet it's never far away. It reaches into your life now. It comes to your mind when you're alone, without distractions."
Those passages happen on page 5 and its how I knew I wasn't ready for this book. I wasn't ready for it to be the gut punch that it was. The truth is I do have a secret. I have several, actually, but I have one that I think about every day. When I think of it, it plays out in my head as if I'm reliving it all over again. I have never talked to anyone about it except for my therapist because at 30something years old I felt like I had to tell somebody. Somebody who would believe me. Somebody who would understand that it was trauma, that it will stay with me my entire life. It's why I'm standoffish with men. I'm a bit of a bitch to them if I think they are interested. I have to head them off at the pass. The only exception would be with Matt, I felt like he would be OK, but there have definitely been times that I felt not nearly as experienced and felt like I was in over my head.

It all stems back to my secret. All of the issues I have with Matt, and even some of the issues I have outside of him, goes back to my secret. The paranoia of people talking about how they should handle me, what am I going to do, going to say?

So I say nothing. My entire life it was always ingrained in me to not say anything. Nobody will believe you, what are people going to say, you're going to make me/us look back, there are always consequences for saying stuff like this, people have their own problems, what good is it going to do?

I think about the boy who gave me my secret a lot. I only know his first name. I wonder how he turned out. I wonder if there were other girls. Was I the first? He wasn't much older than me so where did he learn that? Of course I'll never know but I think of it often. Part of me wants to know if anyone else knew but a part of me doesn't. I would hate to think people knew and didn't do anything. But I know after all of these years it affects me all of the time.

Anyways. Though this book isn't long, it is just over 200 pages, it is a really fast read and you'll be glued to it. You will identify with a lot of it because through the author's very personal stories she explains grooming and how we are all groomed in some way. Most of it we don't even realize and looking back in hindsight is startling to realize how close we were to someone who didn't have our best interests in mind. It isn't even just sexual abuse, it can be as simple as the way we handle a crisis. Maybe you don't step in when someone could use help because you're taught to mind your own business. Maybe you are in a not so great marriage or relationship because you have someone telling you to just deal with it, "think of the kids", "nobody will love you like I do",  "you can't afford to be on your own", "at least you have some control on how he treats the kids if you're there", that kind of thing. Those messages groom you to believe the treatment you are enduring is ultimately OK.

The author talks about the skill of learning to identify these messages and reconciling the reasoning behind them isn't about you. That your feelings are above those and you gain power by rejecting that behavior.

I really, really liked this book and I found myself re-reading passages and having to take a break to think about it and try to understand my past traumas in a different light. It makes you understand the sex trafficking epidemic, how these kids fall into this and how incredibly skilled these predators are. They really don't have to do anything nefarious, it's just specific, guiding comments that can alter the frame of mind of a child so easily. It's pretty scary as a parent but it also helps you how to stay connected with your children.

I have to give this one 5 stars because I enjoy a non-fiction that I can connect to personally.

A huge thank you to W Publish Group, Thomas Nelson, and TLC Book Tours for having me on this tour and sending me a copy for review! All thoughts are my own, and this post contains affiliate links. 

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Book Review: Only a Millionaire

All good things must come to an end, and sadly, this is the last book in J.S. Scott's The Sinclair series. It isn't the end of her books and I think my next series is likely going to be her Accidental Billionaire series. I received a few gift cards for Christmas I can use to get books so I think that's what I'm going to go for, so you'll see more reviews of those eventually.
Only a Millionaire - J.S. Scott

It has been a year since Brooke escaped to the lovely coastal community of Amesport, Maine, where no one knows her real name or what she’s been through. Now she’s finally heading back home to California. That means saying goodbye to Liam Sullivan, her millionaire blond god of a boss who’s fulfilled every one of Brooke’s fantasies. If only in her dreams…

Liam has his fantasies, too—and he’s not letting Brooke go. When he confesses his feelings, it opens the door to an incendiary romance that’s been a long time coming. So has Brooke’s own confession: that the woman Liam is falling for has been living a lie.

But there’s a secret about Brooke that even she doesn’t know. When it’s revealed, it’ll put a whole new spin on her past, her future with Liam, the true meaning of family, and the rewards of following her heart. 

Easily my least favorite in the series and I think it's because Liam isn't nice. He has been an asshole in every book and for a guy who says he's "secure in his masculinity" the fact he isn't a billionaire and "only a millionaire" really bothers him. He is judgmental and assumes any/all of the Sinclairs are total jerks before he meets them and then reluctantly agrees that they really aren't and he was wrong (without ever saying that). By the time we got to this story I didn't really give a dang if he found love or not.

Buuuuuuut.... Brooke's story really wraps this series up because there were some things even from book one that weren't mentioned in some of the later books, so I forgot about them, and she wraps them up. We meet her siblings (who the Accidental Billionaires series is about), and this book kicks start that series while also closing this one down. That reason alone is giving this one 2 stars for me because I like how the author expertly wove this loose end through an entire series to use as the start of another one. That is a crafty author right there.

Brooke herself in this book was alright, definitely nothing to write home about and while she had a fairly awful story, she's kind of a moron? I mean, her fear was that she "lied" to Liam; therefore, he wouldn't want anything to do with her so she's willing to just go home. It's an absurd story line and I was glad this was only 144 pages. The scene where he just happens to be near her home and they have fantastic sex is maybe my only favorite scene of the book and that bummed me out.


It's weird to finish a series that I purchased a long time ago and they had been sitting on my shelf this time, but here we are. This post contains affiliate links. Happy shopping and happy reading! 

Friday, January 17, 2020

Book Review: St. Francis Society for Wayward Pets

I could not be more excited about how my year in books is right now. I know we're only three-ish weeks in but everything I have read has been so good and I am loving it!

St. Francis Society for Wayward Pets - Annie England Noblin

Laid off, cheated on, mugged: what else can go wrong in Maeve Stephens’ life? So when she learns her birth mother has left her a house, a vintage VW Beetle, and a marauding cat, in the small town of Timber Creek, Washington, she packs up to discover the truth about her past.

She arrives to the sight of a cheerful bulldog abandoned on her front porch, a reclusive but tempting author living next door, and a set of ready-made friends at the St. Francis Society for Wayward Pets, where women knit colorful sweaters for the dogs and cats in their care. But there’s also an undercurrent of something that doesn’t sit right with Maeve. What’s the secret (besides her!) that her mother had hidden?

If Maeve is going to make Timber Creek her home, she must figure out where she fits in and unravel the truth about her past. But is she ready to be adopted again—this time, by an entire town…? 

To be honest, I'm really bummed out that people on Goodreads aren't loving this as much as I did because there weren't tons of animals in the book. Listen, there is a jerky cat and the sweetest dog ever and animals who wear sweaters and women who put sweaters on stray animals. It's adorable and this book is so cute.

The book alternates present day Mae and the past with Annabelle. Annabelle had given Mae to a couple for adoption because she was really in an impossible situation (which we learn of), but when she dies, she leaves her home and all of her worldly possessions to Mae. Mae, currently in a slump in her life, feels like she should go to her birth mother's funeral even though she never knew her. Once she arrives in Timber Creek it's like walking into a whole new world. People recognize her immediately since she looks very much like her mother, and the townspeople take her in as one of their own and she decides to stay awhile and evaluate her life.

The cast of characters in this book are so fun and if there was ever a time that I wished I lived in a community like this or wanted to move to a fictional little town, it was now. I loved all of them, even the crank across the street. It has a sweet romance in it and I even really loved that though there aren't really any "steamy" scenes in it.

If you are looking for a fun, but light, read that will make you smile and maybe even laugh, this is a really great choice. A book that could have been bogged down by the past and Mae learning it all was lightened up with the characters.

Overall, I'm actually giving this one five stars because I know I'm going to read it again, and honestly, I was sad for this to end and I really loved all of the characters. I also enjoyed this enough that I want to read more from this author because she has a great way of giving you a heavy topic but distracting you with fun stuff. I think you're going to enjoy this.



I have to say thank you to William Morrow and TLC Book Tours for having me on this tour and sending me a copy to review! This post does contain affiliate links, and all opinions and thoughts are my own. Happy reading!

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Weight Loss Update- Clinic Visit #2

It feels like forever since I've updated you but I am going to do it periodically now because my momentum is seemingly slow. Which, I guess is good and bad. I wish it were faster but I'm glad I'm not losing dramatic amounts of weight quickly because that's not good either.

So if you remember, right before Christmas I went to my first appointment with a weight loss doctor. He's the step you take before you consider weight loss surgery. I am firmly in the "I refuse to do any kind of weight loss surgery" camp and I'm OK with that, but I also want to lose weight. He put me on a diet and it's not strict as in what foods I can eat, but I do need to keep my calories in the 1700 range per day, and my serving sizes of things need to be the palm of my hand. My goal of protein intake is 75 grams of protein a day spread out (so like 25 grams per meal, basically), and ideally I would be losing 1-3 pounds per week. Which... that didn't totally happen.

My starting weight was 206 pounds, and my goal weight is set for 160, so I obviously have a long ways to go.

Today I had my first check in appointment and I am down to 204 pounds, and I lost half an inch from my waist. While it's not some spectacular progress, he said he's impressed considering I started my diet right before Christmas and its the worst possible time to start so I guess that's something.

I don't see him again until the end of March so I should have lost 10-30 pounds by my next visit. Which.... that sounds fucking DAUNTING. I mean, obviously I'm shooting for the 10 pounds because I just don't think 30 sounds reasonable given how my first month has gone. All of that means I have to make a few more changes, so....

  • No more soda. I'm going to struggle here because though I drink 8 ounces every other day... it's too much sugar and I just can't do it. 
  • Exercise. I know I could have lost more this month if I had actually exercised, so I'm going to do that again. I moved my recumbent bike to the living room so I really will have no excuse not to. I have time in the morning once I drop the girls off at school that I can do it. I also want to have Matt pull my treadmill out again (it is currently folded up and I can't get it unfolded) so I can walk on that because I am definitely not steady enough to walk in snow and on ice right now. 
  • No  more fast food. Not that we eat it a lot now, but I have to cut it out completely because this will also help with curbing our spending, too. 
My portions right now are good, I'm consistently under my calorie range each day and I feel OK about it. The protein thing is an issue, I really cannot get up to 75 grams, but he told me if I'm in the 50-60 range that I'm "in the zone" and he's OK with it, so at least I am not a complete failure there. 

Are you trying to lose weight this year? What's your goal for that? Do you have any amazing low calorie recipes that are super easy (or crock pot)? Of course I'm cruising Pinterest but I'm encountering far more fails than successes with those so if you have a tried and true one, I'm open to them! 

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Book Review: Getting Off Easy

I am having the best reading streak that I have had in awhile and I'm all for it. I don't know if it's just blind luck that I'm getting so many good ones or if this is just what I'm in the mood for, but it's been really great.
Getting Off Easy - Erin Nicholas

New Orleans firefighter, James Reynaud’s true love is hanging out in the jazz clubs on Frenchmen Street and playing piano with some of the best musicians in the city. But driving his cute, bookworm neighbor Harper Broussard crazy is right up there on his list of favorite things.

The buttoned-up linguistics professor across the hall is a little older, a lot smarter, and way too good for him. And she knows it. But wow is she beautiful when she blushes.

She’s equally gorgeous when she’s saving his butt. Because now things just got serious. A baby has been, literally, dropped off on his doorstep and to say he’s in over his head is an understatement. Not that Harper knows anything about babies either. But at least they now have something in common. 

I haven't read anything from this author before and I absolutely have to fix that because I really enjoyed this one and found myself laughing while trying to take in their situation.

OK, so in this book we have James, who is probably the most stand up guy I've read in a book in forever. He takes things in stride, nothing makes him panic, he's a gentleman, and he genuinely wants to win Harper over. He's also incredibly hot and a firefighter, and that doesn't hurt the cause either. He has the hots for his across the hall neighbor, Harper, and he has a series of bizarre things come to him and he asks her help with. Think borrowing a cup of sugar, but this is stuff from a tree to a baby. Harper plays along though she's convinced he's just a playboy and while she's attracted to him, she's not sure that's really what she wants to sign up for.

The baby on the doorstep is kind of a big thing though, and while Harper helps James with it, she starts to fall for James and the baby. James is already set on being there for the baby but he really wants Harper to be in it with him. They decide to look for the mother of this baby and James has it narrowed do to three or four women and during this search Harper comes to grips with her feelings for James and isn't sure how she feels about the whole thing.

I really loved this one. I flew through it in one night curled up in my chair, and I was laughing at her Miss Priss attitude and his guy-next-door schtick. Even though I figured out the twist at the end, I didn't have it completely right and I really liked that it still had a surprise for me. It was fun, it was sexy, and it makes having baby poop and puke on you sexy. Seriously! I think you're going to really enjoy this one and if you're in the mood to make your ovaries scream, this is your book.


A huge thank you to Social Butterfly PR and Erin Nicholas for providing me a copy for review, all thoughts are my own. I definitely have to get more from this author, this was a great read. This post contains affiliate links, happy reading! 

Monday, January 13, 2020

Book Review: The Billionaire's Secrets

I have so much to tell you about, which will come later this week. I'll have a weight loss update, my first follow up with that doctor is tomorrow! I'll have Jackson's first band concert this week, and I have some really good books to talk about.

If you aren't following me on Instagram, you need to be! I am going to be regularly showing you great new releases, letting you know about deals and freebies on books, and my goal is to get to 1000 followers this year so you should just be helping out because you're a doll like that. OK, back to the review.
The Billionaire's Secrets - J.S. Scott

Former rock star Xander Sinclair may be out of rehab, but he’s not out of the woods. Still haunted by his parents’ murders, he has secluded himself in his Amesport mansion and dodges any attempted contact from his two brothers. Struggling not to fall into relapse, he believes he’s battling his demons alone.

That is, until Samantha arrives to work as his live-in housekeeper. Effortlessly charming and cheerful and wickedly sexy, she challenges Xander to abandon his isolation. The two embark on a fiery relationship—one that could change them both forever.

Just when Xander is on the verge of reclaiming his life, he discovers that Samantha has been hiding things from him…things that could shatter the fragile future they’ve begun to build together. For Xander, escaping the past is no longer an option. It’s time to face it—even when some secrets seem too heavy for the heart to bear. 

Full disclosure, even though this is book six in the series and technically it's a stand alone, this is the only one I feel like you had to read the previous five. ONLY because Xander's story was kind of set up since book one and you learn small bits about him in each one and you really know what a hot mess he is by the time you get to this book. All of that set up made me VERY excited to read his story and it paid off because I really, really liked this one a lot. Is it my favorite? I don't think so, but it's a really great ending to these brothers.

In it we have Xander, new to Amesport, Maine on the heels of his completion of rehab for the umpteenth time. Still struggling with the death of his parents and the brutal attack of himself, Xander's brothers think a live in person to take care of the house but also be a friend to him is just what he needs. Samantha arrives with secrets of her own and with a secret motivation to see Xander work through his trauma, and she takes on the impossible task of taming the beast, so to speak.

Their tentative friendship begins to turn into more with each of them in denial and assuming the other surely doesn't feel the same (you know this trope), and when secrets start coming out they threaten the relationship and each of their recoveries from their personal traumas.

OK, I really liked this one. I know I said it wasn't my favorite of the books but still, I have kind of a soft spot for Xander because what girl doesn't want to try to save the bad boy? I think all of us at some point have tried or at least read about it. I liked Xander and I really liked Sam even though in the beginning she almost came off as TOO innocent and I was a little worried this was going to be lame, but it turned out to be the opposite. The last big "drama" in the book was a little eye roll worthy with her reaction but I'll ignore it because the overall book was good.

I'm going to give this one 4 stars.


I've only got one left in this series, but don't worry! I found another series by J.S. Scott that I'm eyeing up so this isn't the last of her! This post contains affiliate links. 

Friday, January 10, 2020

Book Review: Seven Days

You might recognize this author because I reviewed The Last Lie last January I gave that one 4 stars and absolutely loved it. It's safe to say I wasn't disappointed this time either.
Seven Days - Alex Lake

A race against time to save her child…

In seven days, Maggie’s son, Max, turns three. But she’s not planning a party or buying presents or updating his baby book. She’s dreading it. Because in her world, third birthdays are the days on which the unthinkable happens… she loses her child.

For the last twelve years Maggie has been imprisoned in a basement. Abducted aged fifteen, she gave birth to two sons before Max, and on their third birthdays her captor came and took them from her.

She cannot let it happen again. But she has no idea how to stop it. And the clock is ticking…

Alright, I have to tell you that not only did I fly through this book over the course of two days, but this felt like the longest seven days of my life. The story takes place over the last seven days before Maggie's son, Max, turns three. The third birthday is significant because her other two boys were taken from her when they turned three and she knows the same will happen to Max unless she can figure out a way to save them both. She has no idea where she even is and she doesn't know what is just beyond the door she hasn't been allowed to go through in 12 years, but she's determined to save Max even if she can't save herself.

I had so many questions throughout this book and I was initially fairly frustrated because even though Maggie was abducted as a teen, she was kind of stupid. I mean, the manner in which she was abducted is startling and terrifying but also not super creative and we all tell kids to not talk to strangers in cars. Ever. I mean, come on. Her life inside this.... box (because that's basically what this is) is so isolating and it's clear from the get go that she wasn't dealing without someone without mental illness.

The book alternates between present day and flashbacks to when she was abducted, snapshots of past things from the last 12 years, we get the point of view of other characters, and it sets the book up to go quickly. Once you start reading this it is hard to put down because you just want to know- is she going to get out? Can she save Max? I can't tell you what happens but honest to god I thought I was going to have a panic attack the last 50 pages or so because I had to know what was going on.

It was stressful.

I have to tell you this is absolutely a 5 star read for me because even some of the things that made me roll my eyes or things that made me question something, the fact that I couldn't put it down sold me on this. I absolutely loved this one in all of its creepy glory.

A big thank you to HarperCollins and TLC Book Tours for having me on this tour and sending me an ARC of Seven Days! This post contains affiliate links. 

Thursday, January 9, 2020

Organization Brainstorm

I am struggling hard with clutter and things that aren't neat and orderly. Unfortunately it's not like I can just put things away and suddenly problem solved. My office/library/craft room is rather small; therefore my solutions for optimizing space are limited. My other issue is this is an everything room. I store all of my books here, my desk with our bills/filing is in here, and then all of my craft stuff is in here.

It's really hard to come up with a plan that lets me do all of this plus enjoy being in here.

So here's where I'm at as of this week:
You can see my desk and my shelf of some books. I typically keep book box books (lower right side) and my review books (lower left side) here. The top shelf is all of my Linda Howard books, and the middle shelf are books from authors I have a few books from.
To the left is my scrapbook desk. It was here when we moved here and this room actually used to be a bedroom for the wife because her knees were bad and she couldn't get up the stairs to where the bedrooms were. So she did her crafting/resting in here. The area I'm using as a scrapbook desk used to be where she had a TV and other equipment (there are outlets in the cabinet and holes drilled to hide cords). Honestly, it's a cool little space. I once asked if I could just make that entire wall deep like that but Matt said a chimney or something runs behind where I have my shelves.

💡 Matt's idea is to get rid of one of the doors and make that an open area to put my legs and put the printer in the remaining cabinet since I don't use it a ton and put my laminator in there. Lower the table top down so it's on top of the cabinet and move my computer/desk stuff there. We can move the shelving as needed (or add another one) and I can keep review books there and then other desk things. 

The books on this shelf are mostly romance/things the kids really can't read. I'd like to get ride of the white storage cubes I have under there since the cabinet is broken, and the large drawers are heavy. It's not really working for me anymore.
On the one large wall I have that doesn't go the whole length because on the ride side (where the picture cuts off) is a closet that is space under the stairs, so it isn't huge but it does hold a few things I need not a lot, but enough that running to the basement would be a pain. The paper storage isn't working for me because I have a lot more categories of paper than shelves, so I have to figure out a new way.

While I love my shelves, not having sides is kind of becoming an issue for me. That and I'm basically out of room. So... obviously that's an issue.

I've been trolling Pinterest for craft room/library ideas but, as it turns out, there aren't a whole bunch of ideas out there. My dream would be to have a big table area for the middle of my room so that the kids could do stuff there too, or I could spread out to do things. Or if I had a large project going, I wouldn't have to clean it up to have dinner because I'm working on the dining room table.

I saw this table on Pinterest and she made her own large table using some shelving and drawers from IKEA and that was really pretty cool. I asked Matt and he says he would be willing to put something like this together for me. Which led me to the IKEA website this weekend. The nearest one to me is a little over two hours away so I could make a trip there, and we probably will because I need to see things in person to really understand their size.
This is listed as 78 3/4 inches by 93 1/4 inches and that would take up my entire big wall... but would it fit all of my books?? I don't know. If it did then I could get another shelf for that wall next to my would be desk and store more books there.
These drawers look like they would fit larger/wider things and Matt says I wouldn't have to use the wheels, or I could put legs on it if I wanted it taller.
I thought a couple of these would be cool. So maybe two of these and one of the Kallax shelves turned side ways?

I don't know. My goal this month is to get rid of what I truly don't use or need in my craft stuff and then look at what I'm keeping and decide what it would fit best in. But by the end of the year this room is going to be far more functional. That's the plan.

Do you have a crafty space with great storage ideas? SHARE THEM WITH ME. I'm kind of desperate and I'm not as creative as I used to be. I need help. Ha!