Thursday, May 27, 2021

Book Review: Tie Me Down

I thought yesterday was Friday and now I think today is Friday and no. Today is Thursday. I'm so over this not being Friday thing already. Just super over it. I don't know why I'm all hardcore about it being the weekend, we really don't have any plans despite it being Memorial Day and all but ugh... I need a life. That's what I need. A life. 

Tie Me Down - Melanie Harlow

Just friends.
That’s all Beckett Weaver and I have ever been.

Sure, he’s a hot cowboy who left Wall Street behind to take over his family’s ranch. Yes, I’ve had a secret crush on him since we were seventeen. And who wouldn’t appreciate those strong hands, that massive chest, and the way he fills out a pair of Levis?

He makes a girl sweat just looking at him . . . and I look. A lot.

But I’m a single mom trying to move on with my life, and he’s running that ranch single-handedly while taking care of his elderly father. We don’t even live in the same state. I only returned to my hometown of Bellamy Creek to sell my late mother’s house, and he just invited me and my son to stay with him because he’s got a big heart.

That’s not the only big thing he’s got--which I discover the night I finally sneak across the hall to his bedroom and shed my inhibitions right alongside my pajamas. And once we give into each other, we can’t stop.

The hayloft. The bed of his truck. The dock by the pond.

Nothing has ever felt so right, but his past has taught him not to believe in happily ever after, and every perfect night I spend in his arms brings us closer to goodbye.
First off, I have been anxiously awaiting Beckett's story because I absolutely KNEW I was going to love it and Melanie Harlow didn't let me down. 

She nailed it. *snicker*

I am a fan of friends to lovers trope, which is kind of the theme to this series as a whole. I also love the single mom getting it for herself- I'm here for that. If I had to rank these books, this one isn't at the top, it's maybe the bottom but please good lord don't let that steer you off! This entire series is so dang great and I hate to even rank them because they were all really great for their own reasons. The great thing about this one is that all of the little story lines and pieces from all of these books come together in this and it feels like it's a nice little bow at the end of it. 

This is a second chance romance and it goes back and forth to present day but also their friendship/chemistry from 15 years ago. There isn't a lot of steam in this one between Beckett and Maddie, but in the place of that it feels like a deeper love but also mutual respect, which is sometimes missing from other romances, so I did really like that. The only thing about this that made my eye twitch is one of my big pet peeves is when there is a commitment fear. He wants Maddie, it's like all of the things are lining up and the stars are perfect and then he's like, "Nah girl, this can't work" and it's ALWAYS for a totally stupid reason and it drives me crazy. It's kind of a theme in these books and knowing that going in prepared me a little more for it in this book. 

It doesn't make me hate it less though. 

Overall? I did love this one, I had all of the feels, and I'm sad to see Bellamy Creek go. This is definitely a series I would re-read, and I wouldn't hesitate to grab the next Melanie Harlow I'd see. 

A huge thank you to Melanie Harlow and Social Butterfly PR for having me on this tour! Have you read this series yet? It's a perfect one to add to your summer reading list for sure!

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Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Book Review: The Perfect Couple

You guys- you probably thought maybe I had died, right? Well, not quite. I have been rather sick lately so I've just let some things go to the wayside and my little blog was one of them. Honestly, I wonder if I should even keep it up sometimes, but then after a few days I kind of miss having something to do, you know? 

Instead of that, let's talk about a new thriller I'm sure you've seen everywhere, now you can see it here. 

The Perfect Couple - Jackie Kabler

The perfect couple…or the perfect lie?

A year and a half ago, Gemma met the love of her life, Danny. Since then, their relationship has been like something out of a dream. But one Friday evening, Gemma returns home to find Danny is nowhere to be seen.

After two days with no word from her husband, Gemma turns to the police. She is horrified with what she discovers – a serial killer is on the loose in Bristol. When she sees the photos of the victims she is even more stunned…the victims all look just like Danny.

But, the detectives aren’t convinced by Gemma’s story. Why has no one apart from Gemma seen or heard from Danny in weeks? Why is there barely a trace of him in their flat? Is she telling them the truth, or are there more secrets and lies in this marriage than meets the eye?

I know the first thing most people say with a thriller is "predictable" and yeah... this one kind of fits that too. BUT. I am a big fan of all things true crime and this one immediately felt like it could be an episode of Crime Junkie or my personal favorite, Morbid. Easily and I can predict the host's voice telling this story as it unfolds because it's so strange but also predictable, while at the same time being so strange you almost can't believe it. Does that make sense? 

Any true crime junkie is going to find a series of inconsistencies with how the police go about their investigation, and that was kind of annoying. I'm over here shouting at the book with what they should be doing and wondering why they asking all of the questions. In the end though, I think that's what made this book for me because it just shows how well some of the characters outsmarted police and how things were able to play out the way they do/did. The other piece that drove me nuts but also kind of made the book was how absolutely awful these characters were. Not that they were written terribly but because if this were real life, they would be the absolute worst where you almost want to throw your hands up and declare you don't give a damn what happens to them. At times, that's exactly where I was at, but then something would happen and I'd almost feel a little sorry for one. It was always quickly squashed though, and by the time I got to the ending I wasn't sure what the hell I was hoping for. 

I suppose that's what puts it into the psychological thriller, right? 

Overall I would give this one 4 stars, it was twisty and frustrating, but also good and awful at the same time. It's like I don't want to like it but I have to admit where I'm often wrong and say this really was pretty good. 

Thank you to TLC Book Tours and Harper360 for sending me an ARC of The Perfect Couple for review. If you're interested in purchasing this, head over to the HarperCollins store, where they are offering a little free shipping deal so take advantage of that!  

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Friday, May 21, 2021

Book Review: Baby Out of Wedlock

Happy Friday! I hope you have a bangin' weekend planned ahead of you. We have a soccer game for Penelope, the three girls have a dance recital, and I might have Jackson help me spread mulch but I haven't committed to that yet. It might end up being a totally last minute decision, like everything else in our lives. 

Baby Out of Wedlock: 

Co-parenting Basics From Pregnancy to Custody

Jim & Jessica Braz

This book answers all the basic questions regarding paternity tests, co-parenting relationships, child custody laws, visitation rights, support payments, and much more. The result is a better relationship with your co-parent and lower attorney fees.

Each author has a child born out of wedlock from their previous relationships. They both stumbled through terrible custody battles, making many rookie mistakes that led to important lessons learned. The information offered here could quite literally save you thousands of dollars, especially if you and your co-parent both read it. You will need an attorney to get through this no matter what, but once both parents understand what is reasonable, there should be no need for a costly, drawn-out custody battle.

By reading this book, you'll learn how to write an effective Parenting Plan and how to enforce it without repeated trips back to court. Since the authors have experience in both the mother's and father's perspectives on these issues, you will get balanced, gender-neutral advice on protecting your parental rights while learning how to get along with your co-parent for the long-term.

If you know me in real life, you know I am a sucker for reality TV court shows. One of the perks of being home during the day is being able to watch Paternity Court because the entire process of not knowing who the father of your baby is but being able to narrow it down to three is fascinating to me. 

I'm telling you- I am far too organized of a person to ever get myself into that situation. I know who, what, when, and where, let's put it that way. 

But things happen. And maybe you're married and things are swell... until they aren't. You find yourself separated/divorced and having to co-parent with someone you very likely don't like anymore. You might get lucky and it is amicable and you can work the kinks out fairly easily. The majority of the time it is a lot harder than that. Child rearing is the easiest way to stick it to the other person but the only one who really loses here is the child(ren) so it is always important to save the drama when it comes to the child(ren). 

Which is exactly where this book comes in. As clearly stated at the beginning, this doesn't take the place of a good family lawyer. You're going to want that because that's really for the benefit of the child. You want to make sure things like custody, visitation, child support, health insurance, etc. is completely hashed out so there is no room for error. That benefits everyone. 

The book covers everything from a positive pregnancy test to parenting once the child is here. I love that the book talks about paternity tests because when you're married, it's just assumed the parents are the married couple. If you're not married... there's always that question. It's normal to feel insulted BUT the father has the right to be as sure as she is because parenting is for life. Not only that, but if you've ever watched Paternity Court when it is an adult child wanting to know if someone is their father- it's heartbreaking to see that they've missed out on an entire childhood of needing their dad. It's like regular medical tests and you hear people say they are too scared to go, my response is and has always been, "just go- you can do something with information, whether it's good or bad. If you don't have the information you need, you're stuck and something else makes the choices for you.". Even if you 100% do not want to be the dad, you need to find out because you've got new avenues to go down once you know for certain. 

The book does go into light legal discussion (like custody options and financial support) but only to clarify some common options. I have so many friends who co-parent with ex-spouses and partners and I bow down to you all. I know I would forever be lost on who has them on what days, so the fact that so many can keep it straight and plan for things ahead of time just amazes me. I also like the point made that 1. babies cry, that's how they communicate, so if they cry with one parent, it is totally normal and 2. going extended periods of time without seeing your child is a common mistake but also not good. Included in the book is a 15 step checklist of what you need to do/the general outline of what happens because sometimes knowing what's down the road helps you drive the car, so to speak. 

Also great information- parenting coordinator! I always ask my friends if they have one of these because I learned of them through another friend and they can really be a godsend. They are your go-between. They mediate all of the details and can really make co-parenting a lot smoother and less stressful. 

I found the child support section incredibly fascinating because I know very little on how it is calculated. I know state by state it is done differently, but whoa. In some states I'd be better off to not work and have babies with a guy who would reliably pay child support. Good grief!! I have a lot of things to say about child support as it is, I don't always think it's calculated fairly and there must be a better way. 

All in all, this was a great starting point for anyone facing the reality of co-parenting with someone. It's definitely not a cake walk and many people don't realize all of the obstacles and loop-holes coming their way and that makes it difficult to plan for. I mean, honestly- do you care where your child is for Valentine's Day? If someone asked me that right now I'd have to shrug my shoulders because that isn't one I really care about but you know, someone might get petty. It actually isn't a bad read if you're married and having children together- it beings up a lot of topics that even married couples don't necessarily think about when babies are being conceived and just trying to get through that first hard year. I know Matt and I disagreed on some disciplining, eating all the food on your plate, handling tantrums, etc. Our oldest is almost 16 and our youngest is almost 5 so we're what you'd call "experienced" but even now, we disagree on things. We've always maintained it would have been helpful to do pre-marital counseling but also pre-baby counseling because it is hard to parent under the best of circumstances, let alone if you're no longer together and have wildly different opinions. I mean, you broke up for a reason, having to parent forever with this person is going to be TOUGH. 

Thank you to the authors, Jim & Jessica Braz, for sending me a copy for review! They also have a website with more information about them and their book that I suggest checking out too: www.babyoutofwedlock.com . The book comes out on May 30, but you can pre-order it now: 

 
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Thursday, May 20, 2021

Book Review: Tears of Amber

I am behind in life right now because I've been sick. First it was allergies and then it was the cold Jackson had this weekend. A cold for you and everyone else is just a cold. A cold for me is like standing on Death's door asking if it's my time to come in. I felt like I was really going to die yesterday and I only vaguely remember coming upstairs to pee, but even that is kind of assumption because my bed isn't wet, so I assume I came upstairs. I feel only mildly better today so I'm trying to get what I can done while I'm lucid. I need to be better for this weekend because we have games and recitals, so back to bed it is for me this afternoon.  

I do want to tell you about this book though because it has stuck with me long after finishing it and frankly, those are the best books. 

Tears of Amber - Sofia Segovia

From the bestselling author of The Murmur of Bees comes a transportive novel of two families uprooted by war and united by the bonds of love and courage.

With war looming dangerously close, Ilse’s school days soon turn to lessons of survival. In the harshness of winter, her family must join the largest exodus in human history to survive. As battle lines are drawn and East Prussia’s borders vanish beneath them, they leave their farm and all they know behind for an uncertain future.

But Ilse also has Janusz, her family’s young Polish laborer, by her side. As they flee from the Soviet army, his enchanting folktales keep her mind off the cold, the hunger, and the horrors unfolding around them. He tells her of a besieged kingdom in the Baltic Sea from which spill the amber tears of a heartbroken queen.

Neither of them realizes his stories will prove crucial and prophetic.

Not far away, trying and failing to flee from a vengeful army, Arno and his mother hide in the ruins of a K√∂nigsberg mansion, hoping that once the war ends they can reunite their dispersed family. But their stay in the walled city proves untenable when they find themselves dodging bombs and scavenging in the rubble. Soon they’ll become pawns caught between two powerful enemies, on a journey with an unknown destination.

Hope carries these children caught in the crosshairs of war on an extraordinary pilgrimage in which the gift of an amber teardrop is at once a valuable form of currency and a symbol of resilience, one that draws them together against insurmountable odds.
First things first, this is a translated book, and I know some of you see that and think, "ugh... there's going to be some 'missed in translation' stuff in here" and I'm telling you I didn't experience any of that. What I did experience was a book that is absolutely beautifully written. It was so much and everything all at once. You know I'm not one to read a whole ton of literary fiction and that's insanity because the ones I do read are always so wonderfully done, like this one. The character development? On point. 

When I see news reports about other countries in war, being terrorized with bombs and fighting, one of the first things I think is that I can't imagine that. Our country experiences one set of buildings going down and our entire country is mesmerized- what would it be like for this to be so common place that you don't even stop to watch the news? For it to not even be news anymore, instead just every day life? That's something I kept thinking about while I read this, and to be honest, there were several chunks that I went back to re-read because it hit differently once I got to the end and knew how things ended up. 

What would it be like to have invaders come into your home and force you out, with nothing, and there wasn't anything you could do about it? They were claiming your house and land and that was that? All of safe-holds you had in place to hopefully prevent that were useless? It makes me think of the pro-gun people in America, who think that their stockpiles would hold out an army determined to take them and their land? I mean, if the army wants it, they will take it, and take it they will. I will tell you that there are some seriously harrowing things throughout this book and it will take an emotional toll on you but it was so beautifully written you can't stop. 

You know what it reminded me of? That movie Schindler's List, kind of. Every character has an ending and the book mentions that "every story has an ending" and ugh. Gut punch. 

Even more? It's based on true events. 

I won't even lie and tell you I didn't cry because I absolutely did. I went into this not remembering that it was based on true events, and then I saw that in my notes and you guys- I was a wreck. It just hits you different. There are a million WWII based books out there, especially the last two years or so, and they are all variations of the same thing. I promise you, this is different. This one is really special and I am so grateful I was able to read this one. It is going to be with me for a long, long time. 

Thank you to the author, but also Amazon Crossing and FSB Associates for having me on this review tour. If you are looking for some historical fiction about WWII in an alternate point of view, I so highly recommend this one. I do believe this will be in my top 10 for the year. 
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Friday, May 14, 2021

Book Review: The Ambassador's Dog

Happy Friday! I hope you have a semi-decent day planned out. I have one mostly of errands, but Matt is only working a half day so he can come with me to do some but ALSO, we get to go have lunch together. We normally do a weekend lunch together but I'm not sure that will happen this weekend (or for the next few) and we're trying to scale back expenses, so this was kind of a nice last one for awhile. 

The Ambassador's Dog - Scott H. DeLisi

"The Ambassador's Dog" is a story of the power of serendipitous meetings, the power of dreams, and the power of hope. Written by retired career diplomat and three-time Ambassador Scott DeLisi and illustrated by award-winning artist, Jane Lillian Vance, it tells the tale of a puppy, abandoned and alone, who waited on a trail in what once was the ancient kingdom of Lo on the Tibetan plateau. And it's the tale of the man who was meant to cross his path.

It's more than just another dog story, though. It's an important reminder, at a difficult time, that there is compassion and courage and hope to be found in the world if only our hearts are open to seeing them.
Before I get into the story, can we talk for a hot second about this cover? The illustrations throughout this book, and the cover, are incredibly intricate and beautiful and they are absolutely worth mentioning. Illustrators don't always get their due, but I wanted to make sure Jane Lillian Vance does because these are gorgeous. 

Full disclosure, this book is marketed as a children's book and technically that's true; however, my youngest two children are six and four- they had a really hard time sitting through this. It most definitely is not a bedtime story, this is an involved story with detail and a more advanced story that I don't think younger children are going to completely grasp, or enjoy so much. Not to say this isn't a lovely story, because it definitely is, but as an adult I really enjoyed this more than they did. I do think this would be a really great book for the second grade and up group, perhaps as a classroom read where the story could be broken up into parts and there could maybe be a teacher led discussion. It would blow the kids' minds if you told them at the end of the book that it was all true. All of the incredible, interesting, heart hugging moments? True. 

It goes without saying that if you are an animal lover, this is going to grab at you differently than someone who isn't. Pet owners, especially dog owners, know that a dog is a special kind of pet, they become more like a companion. They feel emotions, it is clear they form incredible bonds with their owner, and I love it when an animal chooses their person. I mean, if a random animal came up to me and wants a hug? I am that lunatic hugging a random animal. I mean, Matt would be livid if I came home with another animal but honestly, how do you say no? I can't, it feels wrong. 

I also really enjoyed the education on cultural traditions in Nepal; I can honestly say I knew next to nothing about Nepal and the people of. Of course this isn't an in-depth look at it, but it is enough of a look to get children to ask questions, maybe make some comparisons to how we live here and how other cultures do things. I think opening those doors to new things is such a huge part of childhood and part of our role as parents, educators, role models. Anything in that realm is good in my book. 

A huge thank you to DartFrog Books and Scott H. DeLisi for having me on this tour and providing me with a copy of the book for review. This is probably one of the prettiest children's books I've read in quite awhile. The Ambassador's Dog would make a really beautiful gift, perfect for someone building their child's library. 
 
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Thursday, May 13, 2021

Book Review: The Lost Apothecary

I continue to love my Once Upon a Book Club boxes and my next one is on the way and I can't way to see what the book and goodies is. If you are interested in trying it, use my referral code and I think you get a discount on your first box.  It is far and above my favorite subscription box I've ever gotten. 

The Lost Apothecary - Sarah Penner

A female apothecary secretly dispenses poisons to liberate women from the men who have wronged them—setting three lives across centuries on a dangerous collision course.Rule #1: The poison must never be used to harm another woman.
Rule #2: The names of the murderer and her victim must be recorded in the apothecary’s register.

One cold February evening in 1791, at the back of a dark London alley in a hidden apothecary shop, Nella awaits her newest customer. Once a respected healer, Nella now uses her knowledge for a darker purpose—selling well-disguised poisons to desperate women who would kill to be free of the men in their lives. But when her new patron turns out to be a precocious twelve-year-old named Eliza Fanning, an unexpected friendship sets in motion a string of events that jeopardizes Nella’s world and threatens to expose the many women whose names are written in her register.

In present-day London, aspiring historian Caroline Parcewell spends her tenth wedding anniversary alone, reeling from the discovery of her husband’s infidelity. When she finds an old apothecary vial near the river Thames, she can’t resist investigating, only to realize she’s found a link to the unsolved “apothecary murders” that haunted London over two centuries ago. As she deepens her search, Caroline’s life collides with Nella’s and Eliza’s in a stunning twist of fate—and not everyone will survive.
I have seen this book ALL OVER #bookstagram so it was already on my TBR because the premise just sounds funky and cool. The book... sigh. The book isn't funky and cool and I can understand why this one gets so many mixed reviews- there was a point where I almost DNF'ed it but then I thought no.... I'm going to keep going. I'm really glad I did because the ending was kind of wild and I definitely would not have predicted all of the elements of it. 

The story itself bounces around between three points of view who are kind of connected. Caroline, who is in London on what would have been her anniversary trip but her husband is a cheating d-bag so she's there alone. She ends up finding this little glass bottle and she figures she is going to dig into the history of it to use her time. Flash back to Nella, an aging woman with clearly failing health, running an apothecary for women who basically need to kill a man for whatever reason. 

(Side note: If you are a fan of Bailey Sarian on YouTube and have gone through all of her Murder, Makeup, Monday videos you might remember an episode with this very premise. A woman makes poisons for other women and they couldn't use it on a woman, and it was basically called Aqua Tofana or whatever, so I kept thinking of that while reading. This has nothing to do with the book but there's what is stored in my brain- nothing useful like my address but there you go.)

Enter little Eliza, age 12, there to pick up a poison for her mistress/employer to kill her husband. Eliza is wildly interested in Nella and her work and they strike up a friendship. Nella doesn't want to and is certain no good would come of it but her mothering desire (she was never had children) kind of kicks in and she feels a kinship to Eliza. 

The book unfolds each of their stories and we slowly figure out how they are all connected in a disjointed way and I really loved the ending. There was a "What the HELL" moment and a "Aw..." moment, and I feel like I had a "But did she kill him??" moment and I really don't know. I mean, I hope not but hell- anything can happen. 

I feel like this is teetering on 3 or 4 stars. I feel like I'm going with 4 because it's rounding up from 3.5. I liked it and it was definitely interesting, but if you could get through the doldrums of the middle, you'll enjoy the end. 

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Monday, May 10, 2021

Book Review: The Academy Saga

Happy Monday! I hope you have a good little week set up, I feel like we are so close to summer for real being here. I know I'm feeling a little bit squirrely and just want warm weather, sunshine, and summer adventures. I should do a post on some of my summer adventure plans. I decided that since last year was basically a dud (for good reason, don't get me wrong), I am trying to plan a fun summer for us. Part road trip far-ish away and part local-ish tourist, I've got some fun ideas. I just need to get the family on board! 

The Academy Saga - CJ Daly

Kate Connelly should be careful what she wishes for.

Just seventeen, she already feels like she’s suffocating. Since her mother’s death, her father’s basically checked out, so she’s stuck raising her brothers by herself out in the New Mexico scrub. All Kate wants is a little distraction from the same-ole, same-ole that is her life.

When two mysterious guys show up at the diner where she works, she thinks her wish has come true, until they start giving her a hard time. Like her life isn’t hard enough. Something about them niggles her, but she brushes it off. She’s never going to see them again anyway . . . right?

Then they appear in an alley one night to either rescue or kidnap her (she’s still not sure which) before disappearing like figments of her imagination.

Kate decides to put the bizarre encounters out of her mind. She has bigger problems to worry about: like that elite military academy that’s been pursuing her gifted little brother. When one of their cadets shows up at Clovis High School, he creates instant pandemonium. And just happens to be one of those mysterious guys. Coincidence? Mama said there’s no such thing. And to always trust her instinct. But that might be kind of hard, because every time she’s around Cadet Peter Davenport, her gut starts flip-flopping on her. And her heart.

Can Kate keep it together long enough to stop Cadet Davenport’s mission? She’s about to find out. And—once again—how neatly life can be split into before and after.
Today I'm talking about The Academy Saga, the start of a new series which is kind of being compared to Twilight and The Hunger Games. I'm not sure I'm going to go there, it's a bit fantasy/supernatural and part romance (kind of), and feeling like there is a bigger story happening in the background, but it doesn't quite reach the level of those commonly loved series. It has potential though. One thing kind of holding me back from my excitement is that there is a lot of fluff- easily a third of the book could be left out and the greater story wouldn't suffer. Nothing that some heavy editing couldn't fix up. I'm hoping that the next book(s) gets a little more editing because I think it could be a fun series that a lot of teens could get into. For a first novel? It's a solid debut. 

I do love that the characters are written so well that you find yourself thinking about them long after the story ends and kind of wondering what happens to all of them next. The story itself is intriguing enough to keep you turning the pages and wondering what was going to happen. I will say that, despite mucking through the fluff, I wanted to know what was going on. The romance part? Written really well and I felt like it was appropriate for a teenager but I'm also not the mom to shelter my kids from teen romance in general, so maybe I'm a terrible measure for that. 

Honestly, the last 25% of the book or so is where the majority of the story is just us getting there. Overall, I'd be willing to read book two because I feel invested in these characters. 

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