Thursday, May 6, 2021

Book Review: The Hating Game

I'm trying SO hard to get back into my reading groove and catch up to my Goodreads goal. I'm so behind and I need to really get cracking. I just do. THANKFULLY, I have so many good books on my TBR coming up so I think that's going to really help.  

I have the next two from this author and I am HERE FOR IT. 

The Hating Game - Sally Thorne

Lucy Hutton and Joshua Templeman hate each other. Not dislike. Not begrudgingly tolerate. Hate. And they have no problem displaying their feelings through a series of ritualistic passive aggressive maneuvers as they sit across from each other, executive assistants to co-CEOs of a publishing company. Lucy can’t understand Joshua’s joyless, uptight, meticulous approach to his job. Joshua is clearly baffled by Lucy’s overly bright clothes, quirkiness, and Pollyanna attitude.

Now up for the same promotion, their battle of wills has come to a head and Lucy refuses to back down when their latest game could cost her her dream job…But the tension between Lucy and Joshua has also reached its boiling point, and Lucy is discovering that maybe she doesn’t hate Joshua. And maybe, he doesn’t hate her either. Or maybe this is just another game.
Now, this author has two more novels out and I haven't read those yet but they are on my desk to get to, but at the time, this was her debut. AND WOW. 

I forget how much I love a good rom-com and I guess this going to be a movie soon and I am so excited about it- this will be so much fun. I also decided that an enemies to lovers trope is maybe my favorite? They are always so much fun and usually pretty funny and I think we all need that right now, to be honest. 

In The Hating Game, we have Lucy and Josh, they work in the same office. They have their own bosses and it's a publishing house that is a mash up of two and so it's like competing publishing houses having to play house and work together and one big publisher. Needless to say, it's very different way of doing of things and Lucy and Josh couldn't be more different. Lucy is very retro, kind of a mess, but she's just so great and fun. Josh is as anal retentive as they come, he's straight forward, and people literally fear him. 

Lucy swears she hates Josh. 4 ever. 

Turns out, once their jobs are on the line, Lucy goes on an accidental date, and other things happen, she starts to think maybe that isn't totally true. She's convinced he hates her just as much but as time goes on, it becomes clear that Josh doesn't really hate her at all, and literally everyone around them knows it, too. To say Lucy is kind of oblivious and dense, is an understatement! 

OK, so I found myself laughing throughout this one and I loved it so much. I love the little games they play, I love that Lucy is desperate to basically have sex with Josh and he's just holding his own. I love the role-reversal there, normally it is the other way around and I'm here for this. I love the sarcasm between the two and the banter, it's perfect. I love how we have a woman having to pay attention to the man's emotional well-being and that the man admits his emotional shortcomings. I loved all of it. 

Honestly? This was a 5 star for me, so much so that I had to go buy her next two because I have to see if this was a one off or if I love her as much in the new ones as this. 

If you're looking for something fun, light, and hilarious, you need this. 

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Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Book Review: Runaway Train

How proud of you of me for having a post every day? I'm out of control, peeps! OUT. OF. CONTROL. I have something for you every day and then maybe I'll talk about some health stuff coming up? Maybe. I'll try to get it together and do that because I feel like I've got a lot going on there. 

In the meantime, let's talk about this book, which was a hidden gem for me. 

Runaway Train - Lee Matthew Goldberg

Everything changed when the police officer knocked on the door to tell me – a 16-year-old – that my older sister Kristen had died of a brain aneurysm. Cue the start of my parents neglecting me and my whole life spiraling out of control.

I decided now was the perfect time to skip town. It’s the early 90’s, Kurt Cobain runs the grunge music scene and I just experienced some serious trauma. What’s a girl supposed to do? I didn’t want to end up like Kristen, so I grabbed my bucket list, turned up my mixtape of the greatest 90’s hits and fled L.A.. The goal was to end up at Kurt Cobain’s house in Seattle, but I never could have guessed what would happen along the way.

At turns heartbreaking, inspiring, and laugh out loud funny, Runaway Train is a wild journey of a bygone era and a portrait of a one-of-a-kind teenage girl trying to find herself again the only way she knows how.
Alright, I'll be honest and tell you I don't love this cover. I saw this and felt the whole "whomp, whomp" and was really worried I wouldn't like it. 

This will be the only time I admit that my initial cover opinion was wrong. I'm normally completely on point and this time.... obviously I'm low on sugar or sleep or something. That's what I'm going with. 

I swear to everything, the 90's was THE BEST time to be alive, for a lot of reasons, but the music. The music was amazing and it'll never be that good again. It just won't. I fell in love with this book as soon as I realized that chapters are named after songs. Every song listed is exactly what an MTV Alternative Nation (that was a great show, if you don't know what it is, you need to educate yourself because it was amazing) episode would be. In fact, I think I had tapes with every song listed in this book. The kicker? The title? Named after a song. 

THIS BOOK IS TOO GOOD FOR US. 

We have the classic perfect daughter dies, leaving not so perfect daughter behind, parents are distraught and basically neglecting left over daughter so she peaces out to road trip to Kurt Cobain's house, as any teen in the 90s would do, and life changing shenanigans ensue. That's the book in a nut shell and if that alone doesn't make you want to read this. But if you're too young to enjoy the 90's and are calling me a boomer right now, the story itself is really good. I just could remember that teenage angst and I don't care who you are, you can relate to Nico. 

If you're a fan of strong character development, you will enjoy this. The writing felt a little clunky but honestly, it's written in the POV of Nico, and Nico is very much a teenager. If I had to list anything as a ding... I'd say the mental health tidbits. I think suicide is referred to as the easy way out and as a person who is diagnosed with suicidal ideation (I'm not planning a suicide, but I maybe wouldn't hustle out of the way of the bus, and I think about dying/being dead... I'm just not actively planning anything), that really bothered me. Don't sit here and tell me that a suicidal person should just try harder, if you know anything about actually BEING suicidal, you would know it has nothing to do with laziness or having to try harder. It's an illness. You wouldn't tell a diabetic to just make your pancreas work, God, are you even TRYING?! I mean, come on. 

So that got to me, but even with that? A solid 4 star read for me. I really loved the drive down memory lane with the musical references, and I loved the characters Nico meets along the way. Each one makes a contribution to Nico's growth throughout the book. I also loved that this is the first in a series to come, and I'm pretty excited about that because I'd definitely read it. 

Thank you to TLC Book Tours for having me on this tour! 

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Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Book Review: All Kinds of Other

I know its only Tuesday but.... how is your week going? Mine is pretty alright. I feel like I'm a little overwhelmed with our family schedule, so I'm hoping that kind of eases up soon.  

I do have a really good YA book for you today, and I feel like it has been awhile since I've read YA, which is strange. I have a couple coming up so we'll get back on track. 

All Kinds of Other - James Sie

In this tender, nuanced coming-of-age love story, two boys—one who is cis and one who is trans—have been guarding their hearts to protect themselves, until their feelings for each other give them a reason to stand up to their fears.

Two boys are starting at a new school.

Jules is just figuring out what it means to be gay and hasn’t totally decided whether he wants to be out at his new school. His parents and friends have all kinds of opinions, but for his part, Jules just wants to make the basketball team and keep his head down.

Jack is trying to start over after a best friend break-up. He followed his actor father clear across the country to LA, but he’s also totally ready to leave his past behind. Maybe this new school where no one knows him is exactly what he needs.

When the two boys meet, the sparks are undeniable. But then a video surfaces linking Jack to a pair of popular transgender vloggers, and the revelations about Jack’s past thrust both Jack and Jules into the spotlight they’ve been trying to avoid. Suddenly both boys have a choice to make—between lying low where it’s easier or following their hearts.
I really want to talk about this cover because it is so interesting to look at. I mean, I didn't see the larger face right away, it wasn't until I was taking a photo of it that I saw it and I just really love it. So.. there's that. 

I also need to confess that I don't read a lot of books with LGBTQ+ characters and it isn't because I'm not an ally. I just really have a hard time connecting with the characters and I have to feel some kind of connection for me to really get into the story. Usually. I really adored these characters though because I think of my own kids at that age, but also remember what it was like to be a teen and awkward as hell, so I just really wanted to hug them both.

I'll be honest and tell you that there are some potentially triggering things that might be hard for some, at least make most people uncomfortable. Obviously a lot of transphobia and homophobia so slurs do make an appearance, there are some racist comments, and bullying. I feel like it takes a lot to make me uncomfortable in a book, but even I squirmed a bit. Honestly, I think its because I'm a mom and I am always fiercely protective of kids being mistreated. 

So that's my mini-mom rant. 

I went into this book thinking it was a YA romance but it really wasn't? Well, kind of? I'm not really sure I would classify it as such, but I guess I can understand why some would say that it was. I'm just saying, don't go into this hoping that that's what you're getting, because it's just a lot more than that. I also will say I felt like there could have been more book, there were some loose threads kind of left hanging and that is frustrating for me. I loved the writing style, I love the tumblr posts, I felt like the conversations throughout felt normal (which is a thing for me, it either works or it very much doesn't), and overall? I really liked this. 

I do think that I'm looking at this from a very straight and boring female point of view and if you were a member of the LGBTQ+ community, you might have a differing opinion of how the story flowed and maybe a few specific things about the book. In short, this book would be different for everyone but honestly? I kind of loved that. I think that's part of the beauty of it. 

Thank you to HarperCollins/Quill Tree Books for a review copy. I'm really excited to have my teens read this and get their thoughts on it. 

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Monday, May 3, 2021

Book Review: Her Last Holiday

Happy Monday, lambs! I hope your week goes smoothly... considering people are morons out there. Honestly, I don't know what it is but warmer weather makes everyone drive like an idiot. It's so stressful.  

I have to watch murder shows and read thrillers to get myself off the ledge, but that probably says something about me, doesn't it? 

Her Last Holiday - C.L. Taylor

You come to the retreat to be healed. You don’t expect to die.

Two years ago, Fran’s sister Jenna disappeared on a wellness retreat in Gozo that went terribly wrong.

Tom Wade, the now infamous man behind Soul Shrink Retreats, has just been released from prison after serving his sentence for the deaths of two people. But he has never let on what happened to the third victim: Jenna.

Determined to find out the truth, Fran books herself onto his upcoming retreat – the first since his release – and finds herself face to face with the man who might hold the key to her sister’s disappearance. The only question is, will she escape the retreat alive? Or does someone out there want Jenna’s secrets to stay hidden?
I'll be honest, the sound of this made me think of a Dateline show and it got me thinking maybe Keith Morrison should be narrating thriller novels. 

I'm just saying, it would be amazing. 

Alright, so in this one we have a woman who is missing/presumably dead, her sister who feels guilty because of a bad last interaction with her, and a guy fresh out of prison for the deaths of two other retreat guests (he runs the retreat). The sister decides to figure out the fate of her sister because it's eating their mother alive, the not knowing, so she enrolls and embarks on the newly revived retreat. The retreat was heavily suggested by Tom's wife, Kate, who wants Tom to basically restart his career as someone who "helps people". Right off the bat she comes off kind of loony and I didn't like her. I almost felt bad for Tom because I can only imagine being right out of prison involves a serious readjustment to life and here she is, forcing him to get back into it all. She seems grossly oblivious to his current issues so you know this is going to end badly. 

The story obviously covers two storylines, the past (where Jenna is at the retreat) and now (where Fran is now at the retreat, resolved to solve this damn thing). I felt like the author did a good job going back and forth, I wasn't confused or lost, so that was good. 

There were quite a few characters in this one, and truly- nobody really is as they seem. I had everyone pegged and kind of started piecing this story together and yeah.... I was wrong. I couldn't have been more wrong. It actually was comical because I missed a few things through the story, so just pay attention because maybe you'll do a better job than I did. The best part? I flew through this story because I just really wanted to know what was going on, and as things really start moving and I realized some of my theories were totally wrong, I had to keep going. 

I will say there was a few things that make the story a little unbelievable (the rafting scene- I'll tell you what- you will NEVER see my butt in a raft on any kind.. ever... just saying), but honestly? I know people take points off for that but it's a fictional story, so that kind of thing doesn't bother me. 

Overall? I'd give this one 4 stars. I really liked this and felt like it was an entertaining read. If you're going on a vacation, this might be a fun read to throw in your bag. It was my first C.L. Taylor book but I would definitely read another. Thank you to TLC Book Tours and HarperCollins for having me on this tour and sending me an ARC for review! 
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Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Book Review: The Next Wife

My sleep is all wonky still from having to stay up all night Sunday into Monday. Also, I'm not feeling great from my second Covid vaccine, which I knew would be a thing so I took extra of my steroid to hopefully get my immune system working but man alive... I'm not sure that plan worked. I thought for sure because I got so sick with the first one I'd be fine this time but WHOA. Not so much. Yay for a junky body! HA! 

The Next Wife - Kaira Rouda

Kate Nelson had it all. A flourishing company founded with her husband, John; a happy marriage; and a daughter, Ashlyn. The picture-perfect family. Until John left for another woman. Tish is half his age. Ambitious. She’s cultivated a friendship with Ashlyn. Tish believes she’s won.

She’s wrong.

Tish Nelson has it all. Youth, influence, a life of luxury, and a new husband. But the truth is, there’s a lot of baggage. Namely, his first wife—and suspicions of his infidelity. After all, that’s how she got John. Maybe it’s time for a romantic getaway, far from his vindictive ex. If Kate plans on getting John back, Tish is one step ahead of her.

She thinks.

But what happens next is something neither Kate nor Tish saw coming. As best-laid plans come undone, there’s no telling what a woman will do in the name of love—and revenge.
If you're a fan of true crime, you are going to love this tale. It's not a true story but man... it sure would be bananas if it was! 

What a book. You guys- if you need a twisty thriller that actually has some funny parts? Add this to your lineup. What the description of this book fails to point out is how much of a role the daughter, Ashlyn, plays and how she is just as devious as the two wives. This is like Real Housewives times ten, you guys. So we have Kate and Tish duking it out, let's throw in Ashlyn who is interning at the company John (the dad/husband/dirtbag) and Kate (wife #1) own and that Tish works at as well. They literally cannot get away from each other so to say this is a toxic whirlwind is an understatement. 

All of the characters are flawed and kind of awful and you're left wondering if any of them are going to get their act together. My only complaint is that you kind of know how this is going to play out well before the mid-point of the book and while that isn't the worst thing, I would have really like an outrageous turn of events at the end to turn everything on its heels. With such outlandish and crazy characters doing the most the entire way, I felt like we really needed to end with something crazy. 

I shouldn't say that, the ending was predictable but how we got there was kind of bananas. Once things started unraveling you really have to stick with it until the end because it really went quickly. 

Overall? I really liked this one. I needed a fast read because I've been in a bit of a reading slump so things just aren't holding my attention like I want them too, but this was fun and twisty. We're going to see this one all over bookstagram this summer and on top of people's TBR lists, guarantee it. 

Though it doesn't come out until 5/1/21, you can pre-order it now! A huge thank you to Thomas & Mercer for sending me a copy for review, I can't wait to read more of Kaira Rouda! 

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Monday, April 26, 2021

Book Review: Backyard Guide to the Night Sky

Happy Monday! I hope you have a really good start of your week. I have a bit of a busy week myself: my sleep deprivation EEG, my second Covid vaccine, Lucy's speech IEP meeting, I'm leading a book club discussion, Penelope turns six, I have therapy AND my new psychiatrist appointment, and then I prep for Teacher Appreciation Week pretty much all weekend.  

So, you know.... the usual. HA! 

Backyard Guide to the Night Sky 

Stargazing's too much fun to leave to astronomers. In these inviting pages, "Night Sky Guy" Andrew Fazekas takes an expert but easygoing approach that will delight would-be astronomers of all levels. Essential information, organized logically, brings the solar system, stars, and planets to life in your own backyard. Start with the easiest constellations and then "star-hop" across the night sky to find others nearby. Learn about the dark side of the moon, how to pick Mars out of a planetary lineup, and which kinds of stars twinkle in your favorite constellations. Hands-on tips and techniques for observing with the naked eye, binoculars, or a telescope help make the most out of sightings and astronomical phenomena such as eclipses and meteor showers. Photographs and graphics present key facts in an easy-to-understand format, explaining heavenly phenomena such as black holes, solar flares, and supernovas. Revised to make sky watching even easier for the whole family, this indispensable guide shines light on the night sky--truly one of the greatest shows on Earth!

When I was younger, my favorite unit in science was always the space unit. Even as an adult, I am fascinated with all things space. I love to look up in the night sky and look at the stars. Remember a few months ago when we could see Saturn? I still have a photo on my phone and randomly look at it. Seeing photos in a book is one things, but looking up in the sky in my backyard and seeing an actual planet, with its rings, just blows my mind. If ever there was a time that would make you feel so incredibly insignificant, that's it right there. 

If you're a fan of sky watching, or just like to geek out on your own, National Geographic has released the second edition of BACKYARD GUIDE TO THE NIGHT SKY, and wow. It's just under 300 pages, and the perfect size to throw in your backpack for your next camping trip or evening hike to look at some stars. The great thing about this updated edition is that it does take into consideration modern and updated technology that us regular folk have access to, different cameras and photography skills, and even just the knowledge of space. We're continually learning new things and this accounts for it. 

This is such a great book if you're looking to learn new things, or even just an abbreviated lesson on things, but it's also a great reference guide. My kids loved the constellation guide (because we always forget), too. Also helpful? If you're in the market for a new telescope, there is a great section that gives you information on what to look for, depending on what you want to see. I loved learning about tricks of light and about our atmosphere in general. I have seen a few things that I thought were the Northern Lights and yeah.... it definitely wasn't. The book is laid out really well, the photos throughout are stunning and there really is something for everyone in this. 

Thank you to TLC Book Tours and National Geographic for having me on this tour- another 5 star read for sure. I can't wait to take this out when it's warmer this summer and see what we can see. We definitely need to drive a little ways out of the city to really get a pretty view of the universe, but it is always worth it. 

 
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Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Book Review: The Ex Talk (& Once Upon a Book Club steamy romance box reveal)

Remember when I told you I started subscribing to Once Upon a Book Club? OK, well I've finished my second box and YOU GUYS! 

I freaking love this box! I feel like if you're in a reading slump or you just need something fun, you should absolutely try this. For real. I have my March box yet to read so stay tuned for that. You can use my link and I think you get $5 off

The Ex Talk - Rachel Lynn Solomon

Shay Goldstein has been a producer at her Seattle public radio station for nearly a decade, and she can't imagine working anywhere else. But lately it's been a constant clash between her and her newest colleague, Dominic Yun, who's fresh off a journalism master's program and convinced he knows everything about public radio.

When the struggling station needs a new concept, Shay proposes a show that her boss green-lights with excitement. On The Ex Talk, two exes will deliver relationship advice live, on air. Their boss decides Shay and Dominic are the perfect co-hosts, given how much they already despise each other. Neither loves the idea of lying to listeners, but it's this or unemployment. Their audience gets invested fast, and it's not long before The Ex Talk becomes a must-listen in Seattle and climbs podcast charts.

As the show gets bigger, so does their deception, especially when Shay and Dominic start to fall for each other. In an industry that values truth, getting caught could mean the end of more than just their careers.
The fact that this is a romantic comedy debut blew my mind. For real. I've been in such a reading slump and I so needed this book because it had my laughing and cheesing and yes. It's such a fun read. 

So we have Shay and Dominic. Shay is working at an NPR station and it's basically the only thing she knows and she's doing it to honor her late dad, and she's really terrible in relationships. Basically, she's the clinger who loves you on date three, if not sooner. We also have Dominic, the golden boy with a Master's and the two of them don't really get along. In fact, they are enemies and it's just a weird situation. 

When donations are down and it is clear that the station needs a jolt of something exciting, and obvious that jobs are on the line, Shay suggests the idea of a show where ex couples talk about basically remaining friends. They would invite different couples on, ask questions, ask a therapist, etc. The basis of the show though is that they would have to sell that they were a couple, it didn't work out, and now they are forced to work together so how do they do that? It's all a lie, and while neither of them love that, they both want to keep their jobs so they are determined to make it work. 

Turns out, they do a really great job because the show is a huge success, but as their popularity grows, so does doubt on the believability of their relationship. Meanwhile, they realize they are actually kind of falling for each other, and how will that play into their show? 

I have to give you some quotes that I just loved and seriously, this book. For real. 

"What would a mediocre white man do?" she asks. Ameena and I started saying this years ago, after she had a seminar about diversity in the workplace. Ameena is Indian, and she relayed that women, especially women of color, are statistically less likely to ask for things men don't think twice about. WWAMWMD, one of us will text the other when we need support. - page 50
On our drive home, Steve (her dog) vomits in the car carrier. When we get inside, he vomits again on a rug I never really liked, pees on my coffee table, and poops on the living room carpet. If my house felt empty before, now it's teeming with chaotic energy. I set up his bed in my room, and he humpts if for a solid forty-five minutes before turning around in a circle four and a half times and curling himself into a tight ball. When I try to get near him, he growls, baring his underbite. Steve, as it turns out, is kind of a hot mess. - page 69
I could go on and on, but there were so many pages that I found myself laughing and this was exactly what I needed. It was a fast read and I really cannot wait to read the next book from Rachel Lynn Solomon. I loved that this was her debut and that it comes out so strong, I love that it was so funny, but I love that she tackles workplace sexism with relatable humor AND! Did I mention Shay is Jewish/white and Dominic is Korean American? I love that we have such a great romance with some damn diversity- FINALLY. 

I bet you want to know what I got in my box, right?
The first gift was a glass, because Dominic is so much taller than Shay and there's a part where she asks for him to get her a glass and it was a steamy moment in the breakroom. Next up were a couple of lavender bath bombs, same as what Shay used. Easily my FAVORITE is the pair of WWAMWMD silver bracelets! I have no idea who I'll give the second one too, but it's become a new mantra of sorts I ask myself on the daily and I cannot love it more. Lastly, a pair of wireless headphones because they work in radio after all. 

I absolutely adored this box and the entire experience of a box with book related items is such a fun experience and a thousand times better than random swag you mostly throw out. If you're looking for a box, you have to try this. 

If you can't commit to a box but you want to read this book (for real, it's a fun one), definitely pick a copy up! 

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Monday, April 19, 2021

First half of April Catch Up

I can't even believe we're in the second half of April this week- it feels like it was just Easter/Jackson's birthday. April, as a whole, has been a crazy busy month, so let's talk about the first half.  

Thursday and Fridays are really nice because I'm all alone at home and I really don't hate it. Wednesdays are the worst/hardest because everyone is here and inevitably, the kids are really loud, crabby, and fighting so I hate Wednesdays. Mondays and Tuesdays really aren't bad because you hardly see Jackson, Olivia has work and then school, Penelope is at school all day, so really, I only have Lucy to contend with. I'd say 90% of the time she's content to do her own thing and it is easy to forget she's even here. She's happy to entertain herself and only really pops up when she wants to eat, so that's not so bad. 
I got my first Covid vaccine, the second one is on the same day I do a sleep deprivation EEG, so that'll be a banger of a day. I knew going in that I would likely get sick because everything makes me sick and my immune system is garbage but WHOA. I got sick within four hours and was out for a week straight, had two decent days, and then I've been sick ever since. Not sick sick, but enough where I feel like I'm in the beginning stages of the flu. It's awful and I'm a little worried how shot number two is going to go. I'm hoping because I got sick with the first one, it won't be so bad with the second. 
It is starting to get slightly warmer here so we decided to put the trampoline back up for the season. The kids were pretty damn excited about that. 
We have gone on some bike rides, too. Penelope is getting a newer/bigger bike for her birthday at the end of the month so she looks like a giant on a mini-bike and she says her knees hit the handle bars, so she's not a fan right now. We're trying to convince her to try taking the training wheels off and she's NOT excited. 
Which is weird because she's normally not afraid to do things. In fact, she's showed us exactly how she broke her arm this fall, which pole it was, and then proceeded to climb backwards on top of other structures. So, that's fun. 
We also had Easter, but that feels like forever ago. 
We ended up getting the little kids bubble wands, candy, Hatchimals, and these little Plus Plus blocks they are obsessed with. 
The big kids got a Funko Pops (Olivia got Yzma (her favorite) and Jackson got someone from Parks & Recreations), candy, and some other random things. 
Thankfully it was a super gorgeous day because the big kids hid eggs around the yard for Penelope and Lucy. We went out to my in-law's for dinner/Easter/Jackson's birthday all rolled into one and that was fun. It was even nicer out there and it was pretty great to walk around outside in early April with no jacket on. 
Jackson also turned 13. Our big gift to him was an Apple Pencil and some game for his Nintendo Switch, both of which he really loved. He's getting into drawing on his iPad and apparently the pencil do-da helps. I have no idea because I'm tech dumb as I age. 

Overall, April has been pretty busy so far. We have a lot of things on the calendar for this last half and honestly, if I get sick after the second Covid shot, that's really going to screw things up. I literally have no time to be sick. You know what I'm really sucking at? Reading. I am like 7, maybe even 8 books behind on my Goodreads challenge. I'm trying to not let that overwhelm me but UGH. I need to get cracking, for real. 

Saturday, April 10, 2021

Book Review: Play The Rules

It's the weekend and I am HERE for it. Honestly, I need this weekend to be a whole bunch of nothing. It mostly is, Olivia has a dance class on Sunday evening, but other than that- I'm going to read, do some crafts, and literally nothing else. 

Maybe laundry because clean underwear and socks are a luxury I'm not willing to give up, even in the name of relaxation. 

Play the Rules: How to Stop Doubting Yourself 

Be Your Own Superhero/ine! 

Dr. Monica Armillotta

Play the Rules is the self-help book for people who hate self-help books! Offering a colorful mix between the semi-autobiographical, humor and provocative genres and advocating a counter-intuitive approach to life, Play the Rules delivers on its promise by defining its own category. This is a modern success story—an antidote to conventional fairy tales!

Standing by what I preach, this book provides the ultimate tips and tricks from a lawyer (myself—indeed defying the stereotype by example!) who got bored with playing by the book and decided to write one instead.

Through a no-nonsense, yet unfailingly humorous approach to our everyday messy lives, which are always full of surprises and where the only constant is indeed the unexpected, Play the Rules outlines 33 down-to-earth Rules aimed at challenging our most common stereotypes. Each novel turn (of page and of life) offers a unique chance to stop, rethink our next move and reinvent our own story. Each Rule and Charm directly calls upon the superhero/ine that each of us disguises: our true selves, awaiting to rise as our champions and take back control of our own lives. My ultimate goal? To reach those who are looking for inspiration to dare to live (not just think) outside the box, and to chase after their dreams!

Dr. Monica Armillotta is a senior corporate lawyer, passionate writer and owner of a lively blog, daring you with a counterintuitive approach to life.

Born in Italy and currently living in Germany, her travels across Europe, Asia and the US offer unspoiled material for her first semi-autobiographical, highly whimsical and defiant book: Play the Rules.

Challenging conventional stereotypes and humorously defining herself as a "writer at heart, challenger by nature, and lawyer by profession (and chance),” Monica has worked with major multinational companies as a senior legal advisor and negotiator.
I'm going to be that person to say that self-help books are sometimes a struggle for me. I have a thing about excessive positivity and I'm learning that toxic positivity is a thing and there is a reason my eye twitches when people are all, "at least you're alive!". Normally when I read a declared self-help book it is mostly full of that but also that your life might be a mess but Jesus says it's fine so just be happy, dammit. 

I just can't work under those conditions.  

When I did some research on this one, I love that it's not really a self-help book but more of the common sense stuff we already KNOW but it's the push for us to actually do it. Chapters are referred to as "rules" and there are 33 overall. It sounds daunting, but each is rather short and you can get through this book in a weekend easily and go back to work on Monday refreshed and maybe with a completely new game plan. 

I had a few favorites in the book, so I'll share a few of those just so you get the general idea of the book. Rule #24 was "Let Your Present Be Your Present; Live in the Moment" and I know that we all know this, half of us have some kind of wall art telling us to do just that. I am the absolute worst at doing this and I know that I need to be better at removing distractions. It's just not good for me in any way, considering I already have a slower cognitive function level post stroke. I also wrote down a line in the book that really stood out and it said, "Befriend chaos. Darkness is not your enemy, but your ally. Even stars can't shine without darkness." and man.... I need that. I struggle in any kind of chaos and going with the flow is just not my go-to action at all. I know I need to work on that and that takes effort on my part. 

Another rule that really stood out was Rule 16: The More You Do, the Less It Means. Focus on What Matters. I know less is more, and sometimes I disagree on that, but for the most part.... I get it. I always get a bit prickly when people say money doesn't make you happier. I agree it doesn't make you happier, but it does make life more comfortable and comfort makes happiness easier to achieve. I can't feel happiness when I'm stressed about feeding myself of my children, for instance. She also touches on whether having more options would make us happier and I don't necessarily think so. It's kind of like children, if you give them an entire closet to pick from, it will lead to a meltdown every morning. Give them three to pick from and they'll find something they are happy with for the day. 

Also, towards the end of the book there is a line that says, "Trolls die if you don't feed them." and I loved that. It's so applicable in every part of life, right? I've found some real freedom in the last few years deleting friends and family from social media and out of my life in general. I didn't realize how much of their rhetoric and negativity, or even toxic positivity, was affecting me until I erased them completely. I'm making conscious decisions on who I give my time and attention to and it's amazing how much stress you feel come off once you start making some of those moves. 

Overall? I really liked this one. I appreciated her humor throughout and the conversationalist nature of the book. It didn't feel like a textbook but rather sitting down for coffee with someone set to helping you make a plan. I appreciated her personal stories to support some of the rules and showing how they can be practically applied to your own life. I think you'll find yourself tabbing off several pages of this book to come back to and spend more time thinking about them. 

A big thank you to Red Clover Digital for sending me a copy for review! If you're looking for something to spark your motivation, this will be a great place to start. 

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Thursday, April 8, 2021

Book Review: Lies We Bury

I normally don't really read a lot of thrillers until the fall, but I've had a good run of them lately so I have to just talk them up.  

If you know me in real life, you know that I really love true crime and I'm all about a true crime podcast and this book is really one for you if you're the same way. 

Lies We Bury - Elle Marr

I was born in captivity…

Two decades ago Marissa Mo escaped a basement prison—the only home she’d ever known. At twenty-seven, Marissa’s moved beyond the trauma and is working under a new name as a freelance photographer. But when she accepts a job covering a string of macabre murders in Portland, it’s impossible for Marissa not to remember.

Everything is eerily familiar. The same underground lairs. Sad trinkets and toys left behind, identical to those Marissa had as a child. And then there is the note meant just for her that freezes Marissa’s blood: See you soon, Missy.

To determine the killer’s next move, Marissa must retrieve her long-forgotten memories and return to a past she’s hidden away. But she won’t be facing her fears alone. Someone is waiting for her in the dark.
Whoa, boy. I actually flew through this book because I was totally caught up on my Morbid podcast episodes, and this one was dark. I'll even call it a psychological thriller because the book really centered around the memories we have, how time can change them, and how several people can go through the same traumatic event and all have wildly different memories of it. I told someone else that this story was pretty bananas and I didn't even figure it out because my brain couldn't get all the way around this, so the ending was kind of intense. I honestly felt like Claire trying to process things at the same pace. The things I remembered from earlier in the book maybe wasn't the way it really was so I was trying to figure the ending out based on information I don't have totally right.... if that makes sense. 

The story really starts with Claire, who used to be Marissa. She is one of three children who were born in captivity after her mother (and the other two moms) were abducted/held captive by Chet. Eventually they escaped and Claire has grown up being "that girl" and you know people are- they spread rumors, make up stories, treat them like a news piece instead of actual people dealing with a traumatic life. Claire fares slightly "better" than her sisters do, though that is really debatable because it is clear she isn't well. It's approaching the twenty year anniversary of their escape and suddenly Claire finds herself back in the crosshairs of a killer, possibly one that knows HER and her story. She reaches out to her sister Jenessa, who after a few stints in rehab is seemingly back on track who assures her it probably is just a prank or an opportunist. Claire wants to believe that but as new murders happen in Portland, she's just not sure and it seems like the killer is setting her up for something. 

This book was wild. I couldn't put this one down and I found myself trying to figure this out for Claire because things just seemed too odd. By the time all of the details unraveled? Wow. What a story. I can only imagine the notes the author had to keep to organize all of it and to let it flow the way it did. It is PERFECT for fans of true crime because you'll really enjoy trying to piece the original story (the book flashes back to before their escape to present day) and decide how it ties in with the murders happening now. It's also a great piece on what childhood trauma can do to a person and also bring up the nature versus nurture debate. 

A huge thank you to Thomas & Mercer for sending me a copy of this for review- WHAT A RIDE. If you're a fan of Jennifer McMahon, this is a good comparison and I'd read anything by Elle Marr, she is incredibly talented and I'm excited to see what comes next. 
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Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Book Review: Everybody Fights

I know it feels like I'm the world's worst blogger as of late, and I kind of am. I'm kind of the world's worst everything lately, so I guess I'm excelling at that. I won't even tell you life is busy because it is for everyone, but I will say I'm really struggling to keep up with life. I feel like even when I take things off of my plate, it doesn't help- it just moves priorities around and I still feel like I'm a mess. When I think about what life would be like if I had no priorities, no responsibilities... even that stresses me out because I'll always feel like there's something I should be doing.  

It's really a no win and I need to find better ways to manage this. Clearly my lists and reminders aren't enough. 

Everybody Fights - Kim & Penn Holderness

My wife drives me crazy sometimes. My husband should already know what I need. Is our marriage in trouble if we fight all the time? Is it possible to learn how to fight?

For the last several years, Penn and Kim Holderness have done the hard maintenance and the research. With the help of their marriage coach Dr. Christopher Edmonston, they break down their biggest (and in some cases, funniest) fights. How did a question about chicken wings turn into a bra fight (no, not a bar fight; a bra fight)? How did a roll of toilet paper lead to tears, resentment, and a stint in the guest bedroom?

With their trademark sense of humor and complete vulnerability, Penn and Kim share their ten most common Fight Fails and how to combat them. Throughout the book, they offer scripts for how to start, continue, and wrap up hard conversations. Couples will emerge equipped to engage and understand, not do battle—and maybe laugh a little more along the way.

In Everybody Fights, couples will learn how to
  • conjure the magic of metacommunication
  • break free of secret contracts
  • banish the three Ds—distraction, denial, and delay
  • carry their own individual baggage while helping each other deal with theirs
Penn and Kim metacommunication want people to know they’re not alone. Marriage is messy. Marriage is work. But marriage is worth it. Fight for it. 
If you've been on Facebook anytime in the last couple of years, I guarantee that you have seen the Holderness Family and their hilarious music videos. Honestly, the ones made in the early days of the quarantine gave me life and I just remember one where he's rolling the garbage cans down the driveway and Kim is like, "garbage came last week" and the look on his face was all of us. To this day I cannot tell you if it's garbage week and I've stopped trying to figure it out. 

What's endearing though is that you can tell this couple love each other and get along really well, genuinely have fun with each other- but we all know that cameras turn off and doors close.... then what? I love that they have written this book because one of the things I'm most proud of is how hard Matt and I have worked at keeping our marriage going. I say it often, but we have LITERALLY tested each and every vow at least once. We've had bankruptcy, infidelity, miscarriage, unplanned babies, me dying, me being not well, discovering we have WILDLY different ideas on a lot of different things, and then a bunch of good times, too. Of all of the people we know who got married the same year we did, we are the only ones still going strong. Not to say we're some super couple, sticking together out of spite at this point, but we have worked so hard at making it work. I tell people all of the time that absolutely nobody realizes going in that marriage is harder than anything. It's harder than parenting, and we're in the middle of doing that times 4, marriage is by far harder. You know why? 

Because someday the kids will move out (hopefully) and then it'll just be Matt and I. We don't want to get there only to realize we don't even like each other anymore. 

If you are at all married, wanting to be married, might be getting married, struggling in a marriage, divorced and wondering what's wrong with you, etc.- you need this book. Reading this book is like sitting with the best marriage counselor you can find. No, it's like watching people you know end up on a daytime psychiatrist show and knowing what they need to do but still watching it to the end to validate you were, after all, right. I always know what other people should do but when it comes to me... it's a mystery. 

One of the BEST pieces I got from the book, that I know is my worst fault: "..when you're trapped in a fight, you can't bounce around all over the place trying to find a way out. We had moved on too quickly to the next issue before we had the first one resolved." This was early in the book and it was after they argued over chicken. Well, actually a bra. No, she was cooking chicken, she took her bra off, he was having a bad day, he was sick of chicken and said let's go out, and she's like, "no- my bra is off" and from there it went down to "you never help", "but I did what you asked", "why did I have to ask, you're so selfish", etc. 

I know for a damn fact Matt and I have this argument at least once a month. 

Other sections that really hit home? The one about snuggling.... I'm not a big snuggler. I think I used to be and that's what gave Matt the impression that hey, "this girl likes to the cuddle and hug!", but since dying and such? Yeah.... stop touching me. I don't like hugs that drag out, not even from my kids. If I want to snuggle, I'll initiate it but good god GET OFF OF ME. 

We're still working through that. 

Also? The chapter on money. I think the face that Matt and I have been together since the beginning of our 20's makes us a bit different. We were never really financially set on our own, and never really figured out responsibility and future planning on our own, so trying to learn all of that WITH someone at their pace? 

It's been..... a challenge. 

Some years he's our super saver and financially fiscal person. Some years he falls off the wagon and it's me, the chronic spender trying to guide the ship and that's no good. Getting on the same track at the same time has been really hard, even more so now that he's the only one working and the money dynamic is different. I feel like money is so hard because it's the easiest thing to turn into a weapon. 

I could go on and on about this book, but I'll end it with I love their suggestion of being your partner's publicist. I know people get annoyed with the "my husband is amazing" posts but you know what? I love them. I don't look at it as making it look like our lives our so great, it tells me your husband did something pretty cool and that you want others to admire him for it. Maybe it doesn't have to be a public thing, sometimes just a note in his lunchbox that says, "I'm thankful you work so hard for our family. I love you for that." is enough. We are not telling each other the things we like or appreciate about them and it does amazing things. One compliment can turn someone else's entire attitude around. 

A huge, HUGE thank you to TLC Book Tours for having me on this tour and Thomas Nelson for sending me a copy for review. This is maybe one of the best books on marriage I've read, it's a fast read and easy to get through but also apply to your own relationships. 

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Friday, April 2, 2021

Jackson is a TEENAGER

If you haven't been around since the beginning of this blog, you'll not know that I basically started this blog to update my far away family on my kids shortly after Jackson was born. I felt terrible that so many of them weren't getting to see my kids and learn how cool they were, so I thought I'd start a blog, and so it is 13 years since the start of this blog, which means..... Jackson is officially a teenager. 

It doesn't really feel like a huge milestone sometimes because he isn't my last baby anymore, but then there are times where I'm like, if I didn't have Pep and Lu.... I'd only have five more years and my kids would be adults. 

That is really kind of weird to think about. 
If you don't know my kids in real life, you're really missing out because they are pretty great. Jackson is, and has always been a total mama's boy. He's my boy. He loves me more than anyone, he goes out of his way to help me at every turn, he worries incessantly about me, he is always looking for my approval, and he is such a great helper. You know, when he wakes up at a reasonable time. 
If I'm sick, he's the first one to bring me an ice pack or a bucket... depending on the day. When he's sick he absolutely wants me to completely baby him and we both agree I make the far superior grilled cheese. He's banned from making pudding. 
He's incredibly sensitive and it doesn't take much to hurt his feelings. He isn't "all boy", he doesn't love sports (he tolerates tennis and will willingly do it), he hates physical labor, and he has a weak stomach like me. I wish he didn't, because it would just be a lot more convenient if we weren't both gagging when having to clean certain things up from the pets HE wanted. 
If I could hand pick a boy for my very own, I would 100% have picked Jackson. He has all of the best qualities, and his laugh is contagious. He is also ridiculously indecisive and I have no idea where he gets that from, probably his father. 
He's also the best big brother even though he's insistent that Penelope and Lucy don't like him. They actually love him, they just really enjoy giving him the hardest time ever for the fun of it. 

His birthday falls on Easter this year and he completely hates sharing his birthday with a holiday, let alone Easter. He's never been a fan of Easter, so we're going to celebrate today. If you see him out and about, wish him Happy Birthday, but not Happy Easter. 

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Driving in her little blue car..

Over the weekend on Facebook I mentioned that Olivia (wait for it) bought her first car. I know, I'm in real denial that this girl is growing up. I really struggled with her turning 15 because it felt like her getting a job was this huge milestone but no. She's turning SIXTEEN soon and is going to learn to drive. Soon. I'm not at all ready.  

The deal with her job was that we would match what she could save in order to buy her first car. As her parents, I realize that we could just buy her one, we could absolutely do that and that would be really cool of us. I remember being 17 when I got my first car (1988 Ford Taurus, light blue, it was a TANK), and I didn't get to pick it out. My dad came home, handed me the keys, also handed me the payment booklet, and told me to never be late on a payment, or else

That was how my first car was handled. 

While that kind of sucked because some of my friends were being given cars by their parents, I'm making my payment every month, while paying a LOT of money for repairs because it was basically a junker, and my gas, and I vowed then that my kid would have to do it too. 

And here we are. 

We found a 2012 Ford Focus with low miles on it, a few dings/scratches, but runs really great. It was also at a really reasonable price point and things were signed. 
Matt and I picked it up this weekend and though she can't drive it just yet, she's getting close. She's almost done with her classroom hours, then she'll take her test to get her permit, and then we start behind the wheel in this. It'll be a LOT easier to learn in this than my SUV or Matt's giant truck. 
She's isn't totally broke, she kept some money in the bank, which was responsible of her. I think she's learning that it is hard work to get anything you want. She worked her butt off all summer while her friends were out having fun without her, she missed pool days, and most of the summer sunshine while sweating in a machine shop, but she's also the first with a car. That she bought. That's pretty badass and she should be proud of herself. 
It will forever be weird to see my kid in the driver's seat of a car. I told Matt as weird as this feels, the first day she drives away without us will feel even stranger. I legit don't know if I'm ready for that. 

She is, though. I don't know that Olivia realizes how great of a kid she is. She's working so hard and juggling all of the things, and she is just excelling at everything. I know it won't always be easy for her, but we've got to celebrate the successes when they come.