Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Book Review: Meet Me At The Margins

I've been trying audiobooks because I like to listen to something when I work on crafty things or just on my computer. I've been doing podcasts, but I'm pretty caught up on those, so audiobooks seem like the next step. I just can't justify purchasing audiobooks because if I can't physically hold it, I feel like I've flushed money down the toilet. Rational? No. Instead, I've been using the Hoopla app and using my library card, but there isn't a huge selection... so that's been kind of a bummer. 

What isn't a bummer, was finding this book! I've been wanting to read this for awhile, and I'm so glad I did. 

Meet Me At The Margins - Melissa Ferguson

Savannah Cade is a low-level editor at Pennington Publishing, a prestigious publisher producing only the highest of highbrow titles. And while editing the latest edition of The Anthology of Medieval Didactic Poetry may be her day job, she has two secrets she’s hiding.

One: She’s writing a romance novel.

Two: She’s discovered the Book Nook—a secret room in the publishing house where she finds inspiration for her “lowbrow” hobby.

After leaving her manuscript behind one afternoon, she returns to the nook only to discover someone has written notes in the margins. Savannah’s first response to the criticism is defensive, but events transpire that force her to admit that she needs the help of this shadowy editor after all. As the notes take a turn for the romantic, and as Savannah’s madcap life gets more complicated than ever, she uses the process of elimination to identify her mysterious editor—only to discover that what she truly wants and what she should want just might not be the same. Melissa Ferguson’s latest—a love letter to books, readers, and romance—will leave fans laughing out loud and swooning in the same breath. 
I haven’t read anything by this author yet, but this was really good and I look forward to more of her books! I thought the premise of this was cute, I liked them passing notes literally in the margins of a manuscript, and the writing overall was fun. I'm a sucker for books that feature texts, emails, tweets, etc., I think it's such a fun way to let the story unfold. 

I will say Savannah is kind of a moron, because she is pretty clueless when it comes to relationships, so was almost too annoying, but in the end, I couldn’t hate it. I also wish we learned more about Will, but the cute epilogue makes up for it. I loved how their relationship came together though, I thought it was funny in all the right spots, and for being a clean romance, I really did love this. It's in the Christian category but it really isn't... unless you consider it that way because it really only has one kiss, literally at the end. 

Is it a major romance that all romance lovers need to run and pick up? No, definitely not. Is it fun, quirky, and sweet? Yes, it hits all of those notes. As we move into summer, this is exactly what I need, and I'm looking forward to the next one from this author. 

*this post contains affiliate links

Thursday, May 12, 2022

Book Review: More Than A Mom

If you're like me, you're already trying to plan out how you are going to keep your kids entertained all summer, but also not lose your mind. Don't get me wrong, summer is my absolute favorite, but I always feel so much pressure to make it fun, memorable, but also take time for myself, too. When I saw this book was up for review, I absolutely jumped at it because I think as moms we all need a good reminder on self care and why it's important in all areas.

More Than a Mom -Kari Kampakis

What if taking care of yourself was the first step to helping your family thrive?

If you’ve parented long enough, then you’ve learned firsthand why your personal wellness matters. You’ve felt the pain (or consequences) of devaluing yourself. Whether your wake-up call came from a diagnosis, a breakdown, an issue with your child or spouse, anxiety, or simply feeling depleted and numb, it most likely unveiled this truth: 

Mothers are humans too. We require love, compassion, rest, and renewal. Taking care of our needs strengthens us and equips us for the road ahead. In More Than a Mom, bestselling author Kari Kampakis offers a practical, approachable, and attainable framework to stay on a healthy path. You can take your kids only as far as you’ve come–and since their strength builds on your strength, you must take time to focus on you. More Than a Mom is about unleashing God’s power in your life and standing on timeless truths that will help you know your worth and embrace your purpose, build strong, uplifting friendships that you can model for your children, quit the negative self-talk and make peace with your body, and learn to mother yourself by resting and setting boundaries.

The world shaping your children is more callous and complex than the world that shaped you. Kids need to be stronger, smarter, and more rooted in what’s real. Empower your son or daughter by tending to your heart, soul, body, and mind. Give them a vision of a healthy adult–and know that as they launch into the real world, they will build on what you started.

Full disclosure, this book is written with a God-centered focus, so if that is an issue for you, know that going in. Though I don't consider myself especially religious, I still felt like I gained so much from this book and it really is a worthwhile read. 

Everything you would expect from a book like this is covered: handling stress and anxiety, resting, know your worth and making peace with your body, purpose and hope, and of course... building friendships. Every single parenting forum I have ever been is full of women saying they need friends, but honestly, how do you even make friends as an adult? I always hear that dating and meeting new people can be hard, but I feel like making friends as an adult is so much harder. Our instinct is to compare ourselves to other moms and then spiral into negative self talk, and we all know what that's like. In the chapter about friendships it talks about why it's important to maintain our friendships (but how, as well). It goes into learning what prevents friendships from forming, which we are all guilty of. I also like that it mentions the lost village, how having a village to raise our children in is so important. 

I also loved the chapter on making peace with your body and how crucial this is as a mom because how we treat our body shows our children how to treat their body (and everyone elses). As I enter my 40's, I am noticing changes in myself: my hair is changing colors, my skin is wrinkling and changing texture, I'm sagging in areas I never did before, my joints hurt, and I make noises as I climb stairs because my knees, man.... ha! The book talks about the importance of taking care of yourself but it doesn't say it is solely based on your weight and how that is just one piece of the puzzle. Our airm needs to be feeling good, not necessarily what we look like. 

Overall, I really liked this book. I know that I know all of these things, but it is so hard to remember it, especially when things get hard. I feel like this is one that I'm going to pull out when things get hard because sometimes we can't reach out and ask for help, so this is a little self-help... you see how this comes full circle? I highly recommend this, it would even make an excellent baby shower gift because what better time to learn how to care for yourself than the very beginning? Let's normalize welcoming women to ask for help without shaming her. We're all in this together. 

A massive thank you to TLC Book Tours and Thomas Nelson Publishing for sending me a copy for review, it really could not have come at a better time, my heart really needed it. 

Book Review: Highland Justice

I swear, the closer we get to summer, the less ambition I have to do anything. I thought I was doing pretty well yesterday, until I realized it was the day Jackson has tennis, I still haven't gone grocery shopping this week, and I realized I signed up to bring snacks to the dance recital this week and I haven't done that yet. Today it's really raining and storming so I clearly am not trying to go do any shopping today, so apparently, I have some delusion that I'll be able to do it all tomorrow.  

Because that never backfires on me. *insert panic laughing here*

Highland Justice - Heather McCollum

Without mercy, there is no love in this third installment of the Sons of Sinclair historical romance series by award-winning author Heather McCollum.

Gideon Sinclair, the third Sinclair brother, judges everything in stark terms of good and evil. There is nothing in between, and he is efficient at passing judgment without mercy. Now that his clan has conquered the warring Mackays, Gideon starts the process of integrating them into the Sinclair Clan. He will sort the people, punish the bad, and better the lives of the good. Judging is as easy to him as breathing, until he meets Cait Mackay, who steals his breath...along with his Sinclair ring.

A young widow, Cait Mackay has given her life over to helping the orphaned children in the clan. But love won’t put shoes on their cold feet and food in their stomachs. Cait tired years ago of seeing the rich get richer and the poor suffer more and more, so she decided to do something about it. An agile thief of the rich by night, when she is caught, the new conquering chief must decide her fate.

When Gideon realizes that the thief is the same woman who had already captured his attention, he hesitates for the first time in his life. Letting her get away with her deed leads to more trouble when she is accused of stealing from King James and is arrested. Now Gideon must commit his own crime against the Scottish crown if he is to save Cait. But can a man who was raised to honor and uphold justice break the law for the woman who’s stolen his heart?
What I have learned after reading this book is 1. I am not reading nearly enough historical romance books and 2. I apparently really like Scottish romances because I completely LOVED this book. It's part of a series, but of course, they are all stand-alones so you can jump in anywhere you'd like. After finishing this one though, I really do want to go back and get the first two. Also, author Heather McCollum is a new to me author, and I really liked her writing style and how she had the story flowing through all while weaving this relationship development with Cait and Gideon. 

I really liked both Cait and Gideon too, and I really wanted them to work out, even though there are a lot of obstacles in the way. The thing about historical romances that always throws me at first is how rigid the expectations everyone has put on them. Early on when the author is setting up Cait's character, the concept of her literally not marrying anyone so she can basically mother all of these orphans seemed a bit much, but then it almost has an Oliver Twist feel to it, but obviously she's not a boy. I can't knock Gideon and how black and white he is, because somehow that feels like a standard, so I guess that's me approving the patriarchy here (ha!), but I prefer a dark, brooding, grumpy male lead versus a sweet guy. Red flags are clearly my favorite. ;) 

Not only does this book feature the best first kiss ever, it also features a broken bed, so if that's any indication of the steam level, that basically says it all. I really liked this one a lot and I definitely need to read more of this series, and more from this author. 

Thank you to TLC Book Tours and Entangled Publishing for having me on this tour and providing a copy for review! (That cover isn't bad to look at either, if we're being honest.)

Book Review: How to Draw Cool Stuff

Two posts in one day, who 'dis?! Today though, I have a post that Penelope helped me on, because if there is anyone I trust to give me an opinion on anything involving art, it is absolutely Penelope.  

How to Draw Cool Stuff - Catherine V. Holmes

How to Draw Cool Stuff shows simple step-by-step illustrations that make it easy for anyone to draw cool stuff with precision and confidence. These pages will guide you through the basic principles of illustration by concentrating on easy-to-learn shapes that build into complex drawings. With the step-by-step guidelines provided, anything can become easy to draw.

This book contains a series of fun, hands-on exercises that will help you see line, shape, space and other elements in everyday objects and turn them into detailed works of art in just a few simple steps. The exercises in this book will help train your brain so you can visualize ordinary objects in a different manner, allowing you to see through the eyes of an artist. From photorealistic faces to holiday themes and tattoo drawings, How to Draw Cool Stuff makes drawing easier than you would think and more fun than you ever imagined! Now is the time to learn how to draw the subjects and scenes you've always dreamt of drawing.

How to Draw Cool Stuff is suitable for artists of any age benefiting everyone from teachers and students to self-learners and hobbyists. How to Draw Cool Stuff will help you realize your artistic potential and expose you to the pure joy of drawing!
All four of my kids like art, in their own way, but Penelope is the consummate artist. She spends hours every week just drawing away. Sometimes she uses videos, but mostly she likes to copy things so we're always looking for new books for her to try. Even at seven, she's bored of the books geared for her age group, so we've been trying books for older kids/adults, so when this came, you can imagine how quickly she cracked it open and started doing her thing. 

Amazingly, she is doing pretty well and was pretty excited to draw a rather lifelike looking bird! The directions are obviously clear enough that a seven year old can do it, so you should have no problem giving it a try! I know the author does videos on YouTube as well, so I think Pep will take a look at some of those though. Some of the concepts are a little more advanced (she really doesn't understand shading yet or how to use her pencil to get a more gradient look), but as an adult (or teen), those will be much easier to grasp than for a kid in first grade. 

I think if you're looking to add to your arsenal of summer activities or boredom busters, this (and others in her series) would be really good to check into. The nice thing about these books is you can use them repeatedly so you'll feel like you've gotten your money's worth, that's for sure! 

Thank you to TLC Book Tours for having me on this tour and providing a copy for review!

Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Book Review: The Bus To Beulah

I have a crazy busy week this week, but not too busy to have books and more every day for you. Today's offering? A thriller, of course! 

The Bus to Beulah - E.C. Hanes

On her way to a new job in America, Maria Puente accidentally discovers a human trafficking ring. Fearing exposure, the American company that manages the operation—with the help of their Mexican partners—kidnaps Maria.

Maria’s disappearance triggers a desperate search, by her family and local law enforcement, to find her before the kidnappers can permanently dispose of her. As the investigation unfolds, long-time Hogg County high sheriff Will Moser confronts Albert Waters, a powerful businessman who Will suspects knows about Maria’s disappearance—but Albert and his Mexican cartel partners prove to be brick walls.

At the urging of his wife, Lana, Will calls on Elijah Kahn, a man he got to know while serving in Vietnam who now runs one of the largest international security firms in the world. The idea of working with men who are rightly known as mercenaries troubles Will, but he knows he’ll never find Maria without Elijah’s help—and when Lana reminds Will of the debt they owe to Tomas Delgado, Maria’s uncle, his hesitation evaporates.

Organized in an hour-by-hour structure, The Bus to Beulah is a taut thriller that culminates in a massive, heart-pounding chase to save Maria—before she disappears forever. 
When was the last time you've read a book that is written hour by hour? Honestly, I cannot remember the last time I read a book with that format and it was a refreshing change to the more traditional format. I also can't remember the last book I read about sex trafficking despite what a hotbed and relavent topic it is, so with both of those key points being the only the things I knew about this going into this, so I had high expectations. 

I won't say that my hopes were dashed, because I did enjoy this book, I will say that it wasn't quite what I thought. I was surprised that Will was mostly the key character and I really thought it would be more about Maria, given that she is our victim. I care more about the victim than I do the would be bad guy, and then the people trying to save her. I had a really hard time keeping track of characters, it's definitely not a skill I have anymore post-brain injury, so I can't really say if that is an issue others would necessarily feel. I did get Wiley Cash-vibes, he's one of my favorite North Carolina authors, so I was pleasantly surprised to see the similarities. Overall for a thriller, I did enjoy it, though it wasn't one that I raced through. I picked this up, read a couple of chapters, and then would put it down for the day. I wonder if I would have enjoyed this more as an audiobook, so if you're on the fence, I'd go for that. 

Thank you to SparkPoint Studio and author E.C. Hanes for sending me a copy for review! I think I would read another from this author, there was definitely enough promise in this one for me to go another round. 

Monday, May 9, 2022

Book Review: 100 Days of Adventure

Being a mom means that you reach the point of a school year where you just need the year to be done. You need a break. Of course, that is usually when the panic sets in because once school is over, we are most likely going to hear the dreaded phrase, "I'm booooooooored!" no less than 500 times per kid every day. Thankfully, this has arrived just in time. 

100 Days of Adventure - Greta Eskridge

Turn off the screen and turn on the creativity as second-generation homeschooling mom Greta Eskridge shares 100 hands-on learning activities for kids that will connect and enrich your family through adventures, small and big.

Have a meteor slumber party, attend a symphony concert, take a hike in the rain, preserve colorful fall leaves, and make nettle pesto as children explore a love of nature and venture into the great, wide, real world. From backyard bugs to farmer's market veggies, children will unplug from electronics; explore the world; and learn about nature, art, music, and themselves through STEAM projects and new experiences.

100 Days of Adventure will spark curiosity in 6- to 10-year-olds with indoor and outdoor seasonal activities, projects, experiments, crafts, recipes, and field trips. Free and low-cost activities, with options for different kinds of groups and locations, step-by-step directions, nature journal prompts, tips, and checklists, beautiful photos and helpful illustrations children can bond with parents and siblings, learn new skills with individual investigations, or explore with friends in an educational or homeschool group with this full-color activity book. Also included is a note to parents with encouraging start-here guidance on growing a family culture of curiosity and adventure. Whether your family is looking for fun activities for school breaks at home, road trip vacations, or everyday ways to learn together, this collection of interactive educational activities will help your kids get creative, get into nature, and get closer to each other.
To be honest, I have a love/hate relationship with summer. It's kind of how I feel about motherhood too, I suppose. I love my kids, I love all of the moments and the snuggles. I'm not a huge fan of the exhaustion, tears, and entertaining. I had no idea how hard it was going to be to continually plan activities for kids. 

As it turns out, I always start out enthusiastically at the start of summer and as we approach July, I am absolutely over it. I end up exhausted, and I really just want to read my book in my favorite chair in the sunshine. 

Thankfully, Greta Eskridge has done all of the hard work for us and in one fantastically creative compilation, provides 100 days of adventure that span every season. If ever you have absolutely no idea on what to do with your kids, this book is going to save you. If you're ever stuck watching other kids and feel like they are going to take over, this book will save you. 

My youngest two immediately grabbed this from my desk and started making a list. They made me a list. While that's great because I have a game plan for the summer, but now I feel like there are expectations. Yay me! Ha! Topping the list for them is rock painting (to make The Perfect Pet, page 20) and learning about rocks (page 69), becoming an Insect Expert (page 30). They also want to pick and dry apples (page 66), so we're going to incorporate this into a trip to an apple festival in the fall. Topping the list for both Penelope and Lucy, is going on a Rainy-Day Ramble (page 78). They have asked about going out into the rain dozens of times and honestly, nothing sounds worse to me, but this mom? Is going on a rainy day ramble with a couple of little girls who really want to go shopping for waterproof pants. We also are going to make a book nook (page 114) for our summer reading. 

The book is so well organized, your kiddos won't have any problem going page to page and making their own list. You are surely going to be mom of the summer (and every other season). Thank you to TLC Book Tours and Thomas Nelson Publishing for having me on this tour and sending me a copy for review! I secretly love roping my kids into book reviews, and any time I see them get excited when new books come, is the absolute best. 

Saturday, April 30, 2022

Book Features.... something for everyone

I have SO many books to share with you, and the only way to do this is to give you a whole bunch of features! There really is something for everyone here and I can't wait to see which one(s) you pick, you'll have to let me know. 

Sean D. Young brings us Secrets from the Heart, the second book in her Clover Creek series, but definitely a stand alone, so don't fret. 

I really loved this one, you can get through it quickly, and if you love a good small town romance with the friends to lovers trope...this one is for you. We've got long buried family secrets, long standing family feuds, and almost a Romeo and Juliet/kind of a forbidden love romance carrying this book through. Sometimes I'm in need of a book that is screaming, "Make me a Hallmark movie!" and this one is definitely giving those vibes start to finish. 

Now that I've read this one I have to go back and get the first book, Claiming the Doctor's Heart, which let's be honest- sounds just as great as this one. 

Claim Your Dream Life by Dawn Fleming is one that not only did I read, but Matt, my non-reader husband has been going through it! This is a quick, to-the point how-to book that we can all understand and use. It's not full of the confusing jargon none of us understand, even though we totally say we do. (GUILTY)

Even if you aren't totally sure what you want to do in retirement, that's completely OK. You don't have to nail that down right now, but you can start your planning now and worry about that later. 

I completely loved this and it got my wheels turning and hopefully Matt and I can really make a plan because the idea of living in Wisconsin and our never ending winter, awful, cold, and windy weather is enough to make me jump off the bridge. 

Girl in Ice by Erica Ferencik was definitely interesting and reminded me of Dean Koontz's Icebound, which I read in middle school.. which seems weird as an adult, and Shiver by Allie Reynolds. I think the setting of a freezing cold land puts any mystery up on the creepy scale, and this one was no different. It's a perfect winter read to fit into if you're like me and forever waiting for spring. 

The idea that we are thawing people alive is a little far fetched.. (right?!?!), I feel like a fun mystery/thriller/suspense almost has to have something our brains can't quite comprehend, right? It is weird that the book takes place in 2023, it almost seems like it should be several decades further out. It tackles climate change and how we're basically ruining the planet, which makes me wish this was written further into the future. 
Books about secrets in the family tree are always fun for me because I feel like none of us really know about our family members long before us. Even our parents.. do we really know all of the secrets of their lives? Yeah... no. 

Strangers We Know by Elle Marr is exactly that. Imagine getting sick, taking a genetic test to see what's what, and suddenly the freaking FBI is at your door letting you know you're somehow related to a serial killer. It's not a far fetched idea, several crimes have been solved in recent years thanks to genetic tests, so this one had me absolutely sucked in. I flew through this one in a weekend and has now made me want to take all of the genetic tests. Is that creepy? Yeah... it kind of is.... but I'm still going to do it! The idea that our genetic tests are being watched in some way feels icky on one hand, but then on the other, if it brings closure to families? Maybe solves crime and lock criminals up? I'm all in. 

Speaking of nutjobs... this book was incredibly fascinating! Donna Andersen brings us Senior Sociopaths: How to Recognize and Escape Lifelong Abusers brings some insanly scary facts that seem obvious given what we know about mental health, but still staggering. Approximately 14 million people over the age of 50 could have antisocial, narcissistic, borderline, or histrionic personal disorder, or psychopathy. Of course, if you are watching the Johnny Depp/Amber Heard trial, you're maybe learning about some of these avenues of mental health, I know I am. 

This book is absolutely full of these facts, information about interesting studies that cover things I never would have thought about, while connecting the dots with real-life stories and examples to make it more understandable. You can read a definition and think you get it, but having a true story really explain it is so nice. 

If you're a true crime fan, which I totally am as I currently listen to a true crime podcast, you will really enjoy this book. (I feel like it's weird to say you'll enjoy a book about sociopaths, but here we are.)

A huge thank you to TLC Book Tours, PR by the Book and Thomas & Mercer for sending me copies of all of these books for review! Hopefully I have added a few more to your ever growing TBR. 

Monday, April 25, 2022

Book Review: Into the Forest

Happy Monday! I hope you had a great weekend and maybe... you got to take a stroll in the forest... see what I did there? 

Into the Forest - Susan Tyler Hitchcock

For millennia, trees have offered renewal and inspiration. They have provided for humanity on every level, from spiritual sanctuary to the raw material for our homes, books, and food. In this beautiful and revealing book, National Geographic combines legendary photography with cutting-edge science to illuminate exactly how trees influence the life of planet Earth—from our personal lives to the weather cycle. Beautifully illustrated essays tell the stories of the world’s most remarkable trees, from Tane Mahura in New Zealand, the ancient Maori "lord of the forest," to Pando, a single aspen spreading over 100 acres: Earth’s largest living thing. You’ll also discover how an astronaut carried tree seeds to the moon and back; the reason "microdosing" on tree gas is a sure way to boost your immune system; and why playing in the dirt boosts serotonin, happiness hormone.

For nature and science enthusiasts, as well as photography lovers, Into the Forest is a beautiful and edifying gift to give or cherish.

If ever you want to feel like a teeny, tiny speck of nothing, go walk in any forest. I've been in all kinds of forests and just looking out to never ending trees will really take your breath away. 10/10, highly recommend, it's really calming. 

It goes without saying, this book is chock full of amazing photographs that will make you want to pack your bags and find a forest, any forest. Some of these photos made me feel the cool air you would feel in a forest, and I almost got the same soothing feeling I would get if I was actually in a forest. Aside from the photos, the book is divided into six chapters (Tree, Earth, Water, Air, Fire, Forest) so you really get the full educational experience about trees. You'll learn about the dangers of the environmental changes that in turn effect the trees, which effects literally every aspect of our lives and the Earth. 

While this likely isn't the kind of book you're going to read cover to cover, this is a great book that you will find yourself immersed in because of all of the information coming at you. It's another amazing book from our friends at National Geographic. A huge thank you to them, and TLC Book Tours, for having me on this tour and sending me a copy for review. I cannot wait to get into the forest this summer and look at things in a completely different light. 

This post contains affiliate links.

Monday, April 18, 2022

Book Review: What We Give, What We Take

Are you completely full of jelly beans? I am! I can't even say I ate them just yesterday, I've been eating Sweet Tart jelly beans for months now because even at 40 years old, I have zero self control. Let's start the week off with a book review though. 

What We Give, What We Take - Randi Triant

In 1967, Fay Stonewell, a water tank escape artist in Florida, leaves for Vietnam to join the Amazing Humans—a jerry-rigged carnival there to entertain the troops—abandoning her disabled teenage son, Dickie, to the care of an abusive boyfriend.

Months after Fay’s departure, Dickie’s troubled home life ends in a surprising act of violence that forces him to run away. He soon lands in Manhattan, where he’s taken in by eccentric artist Laurence Jones. Fay, meanwhile, is also facing dangerous threats. From the night her plane jolts onto a darkened Saigon runway, she is forced to confront every bad decision she’s ever made as she struggles to return to her son. But the Humans owner is hell-bent on keeping her in Vietnam, performing only for war-injured children at a hospital, daily reminders of the son she’s left behind.

Decades later, Dickie is forty, living in a Massachusetts coastal town with a man who’s dying of AIDS, and doing everything he can to escape his past. But although Spin may be giving Dickie what he’s always wanted—a home without wheels—it seems that the farther Dickie runs, the tighter the past clings to him.

Ultimately, What We Give, What We Take is a deeply moving story of second chances and rising above family circumstances, however dysfunctional they may be.

Wow, wow, wow. I honestly don't know if I can do this book any justice because it was just so good. It's such an incredible picture of a dysfunctional family, at best, but also the complications of second chances, but also shows us that our past never really escapes us. I also honestly don't want to talk too much about this because I went into this knowing nothing about it (aside from the description on the back) and I think that was really for the best. Having each event pop up when it does and watching how it plays out for both Dickie (the son) and Fay (his mom), even when they are separate, it was so interesting. I had such a hard time putting this one down, so I ended up getting through this book over the course of two days and it was so good. 

You have to go into this knowing it will be an absolute emotional rollercoaster and even at the end I felt like I needed to just think about it, and put some time in between my next book. It also has a suspense thread running through it, which I didn't expect but I really loved it. I also liked that the author wasn't afraid to really tackle the HIV/AIDS crisis and everything that came with that. As a mother I struggled, but also understood, Fay's ambivalence towards motherhood but I definitely can't understand the choices she made, so that alone was fascinating to me. Even at the end, I feel like I should understand her better but I really don't. The story is completely heartbreaking, and it isn't really about redemption, but this would make an amazing book club read. I feel like this would give you so many discussion points but also everyone is going to feel differently about it, I suppose given your own life experiences. 

Overall, this was a fascinating read that you absolutely should pick up if you're in need of an emotional rollercoaster. Thank you to She Writes Press for sending me a copy for review, this was definitely 4 stars. No question.  

Saturday, April 16, 2022

Book Review: Tough Justice from Tee O'Fallon

Happy Easter weekend, lambs! I hope you have some time to read at least a little bit, I know I have two books I'm hoping to finish this weekend, so cross my fingers! I'm finding it to be super hard to read while I'm dizzy and/or nauseous, so that's a fun new thing. On the other hand, constant insomnia means I can read and thankfully, a reading light doesn't bother Matt while he sleeps, so we're back in busy, baby!

Tough Justice - Tee O'Fallon

A thrilling, fast-paced romantic suspense perfect for fans of Piper J. Drake and Katie Ruggle from a former federal agent. When a DEA special agent and his K-9 companion team up with an ER doctor to investigate a public health crisis, chemistry sizzles. But the danger is far closer than they ever imagined…
If you've been around these parts awhile, you know that romantic suspense is one of my favorite genres, yet I'm not reading a ton of them right now. Tee O'FAllon has me changing my ways and ordering a few more because this was so good. The best part? This is the start of her new K-9 Special Ops series, but I can already tell these will be great stand alones, but I am a fan of getting in on the start of a series. I'm that person that once I jump in, I have to follow to the end because there is clearly something wrong wiht me. Good news though, is this one was so good and had me hooked to the end, I am already wanting book two!

I knew I was going to love this one right away when our female lead character, Dr. Tori Sampson, literally puts our male lead, special agent Adam (Deck) Decker, in his place. The ER is her battleground and she is the only one calling the shots around there, much to Deck's chagrin. Our major plot centers around a rash of overdoses involving a new opiod street drug that is taking more lives than imagined, causing authorities to believe this isn't just the work of a powerful drug dealer, but maybe a serial killer of sorts. In a turn of events, despite kind of being on each other's nerves (in all the best ways, of course), Deck and Tori have to work together to solve the crime but also figure out how to help these people falling victim to the lethal drug. Oh, and we have a really cute police dog in the mix and now I am in love with police dogs in books. 

The book comes in at just under 400 pages, but don't let that deter you, because you will fly through this. Tee O'Fallon does such a great job balancing the suspense with the romance that you never feel like one is overpowering the other, and both are pulling you through the book. If you read a lot of suspense you will definitely figure out who the bad guy is, but I didn't think it took away from the story at all. The romance between Tori and Deck was really good and didn't feel forced, you know? Of course I loved Deck, but I liked Tori too, because I am always here for a smart female lead that can stand up for herself and hold her own, which describes Tori perfectly. 

If you are looking for a fast read, or you're a fan of romantic suspense in general, definitely pick this one up. This was my first read from Tee O'Fallon and I really liked her writing and how she kept me moving through the book, so I have been adding more of her books to my list (and shopping cart... ahem.... don't tell Matt!). Thank you to TLC Book Tours and Amara Publishing for sending me a copy for review! I definitely suggest adding this to your TBR and picking a copy up!

This post contains affiliate links. 

Wednesday, April 13, 2022

Book Review: Octopus, Seahorse, Jellyfish

You know I am an absolute sucker for all things National Geographic, but this one is maybe my favorite one! 

Octopus · Seahorse · Jellyfish

In this mesmerizing book of photography, acclaimed photographer David Liittschwager reveals the unnerving beauty of three notoriously mysterious sea creatures--the jellyfish, octopus, and seahorse--and how they perceive the world.

The jellyfish, the octopus, and the seahorse are among the most wondrous species on Earth--as well as some of the most difficult to document using traditional photography methods. Enter celebrated photographer David Liittschwager, who has spent decades developing specialized portraiture techniques to capture these creatures’ pulsating bioluminescence, translucent bodies, and ethereal movements.

This luminous collection showcases 200 of Liittschwager’s most revealing photographs, paired with penetrating essays that explain how a creature without a brain or without bones perceives the world. Bestselling science writers Elizabeth Kolbert, Jennifer Holland, and Olivia Judson explain the biology and advanced cognitive abilities of these spineless denizens of the deep, exquisitely evoking their unnerving yet undeniable charisma. In these pages, you’ll glimpse a seahorse only half an inch tall, a moon jelly spinning off a snowflake-shaped clone, and the blinking comb jelly, which may be the most ancient living animal on Earth.

Both enlightening and profound, this enchanting book documents the expanding frontiers of marine science, creating a powerful testament to the value and beauty of these little-seen--and endangered--species.
Ever since elementary school, I've always been incredibly fascinated, and slightly scared of, jellyfish. I remember doing a report on them once and they have become the first thing I look for at every aquarium I go to. I could watch them all day. I should also confess the I get freaked out when I see an octopus. They are incredible to watch, just their fluidity as they move makes them seem more liquid than anything. Their tentacles are weird though, and I've always wondered what they would feel like, but also I'm pretty sure I would completely flip out if I touched one. I also love seahorses, they seem so delicate but strong. I once saw one give birth at an aquarium and it blew my mind to see all of the tiny seahorses come right out, and on page 130, there is a photo of just that and it is absolutely amazing. 

This book is 250-something pages full of incredible photos and I found myself paging through this over and over again. Penelope and Lucy are now obsessed with it, and we have talked about each animal and compared them, and talked about what we think about each. The book isn't just all photos though, there is information a plenty about each animal so you can learn along the way as well. 

Thank you to TLC Book Tours and National Geographic for having me on this tour and sending me a copy for review. Anytime one of these comes to my mailbox, it's an absolute happy day for our family!
This post contains affiliate links. 

Thursday, April 7, 2022

DC/NYC, we've seen it all.

Olivia and I finally got to go on the DC/NYC trip we were supposed to go on in 2020, which kept being rescheduled because of the pandemic. Honestly, the whole month before the trip, I really thought about just not going.  

I don't know what my problem was, it was probably just a lot of anxiety and generally not feeling well. In the end though, both of us went and I'm glad we did. We literally saw and did all of the things in both cities and I'm glad I had that time with Olivia. 

I wasn't prepared to walk 12+ hours every day, even though they clearly said we would be. I think it's one thing to be told something like that and actually doing it are two very different things. I honestly don't know how I made it every day, but by the time we got home my legs were in rough shape and I really hurt
I do wish we could have spent another day in Washington, D.C. though. I do really want to go back because while we got to see everything, I would really like to go back and spend a little more time at a few of the places, specifically the Korean War Memorial and the Vietnam War Memorial. We saw both of them, but it was night, and also sleeting, we were all completely miserable and frozen, so I definitely didn't get to really take it all in like I should have. 
I'm also bummed that we didn't get to go into any of the federal buildings, which I totally understand why we couldn't, but damn... I really hope someday we can do that again because I just want to really experience the awe of all of them. 
I am so grateful that my kids are all great travelers, because Olivia is all about learning about the things we're looking at, and she is generally excited to see and do things. I really appreciate that about her. 
I think Liv would agree, but maybe my favorite thing to see in DC was George Washington's home, Mount Vernon. It's an absolutely beautiful estate, and I wish we could have had another hour at least to see things, but we made it through the home, some of the grounds and outbuildings, and George Washington's tomb. We also got to experience ridiculously rude students from a different school and that was pretty crappy. 
I have to talk about our tour guide super quick, her name was Liz and she works with EF Tours (the company our trip was through), and she was phenomenal. I literally would go anywhere Liz wanted to take me. She knew everything about everything, she knew her way around everywhere, and it was just amazing to watch her expertly get us around with ease. I'm so glad we had someone so fun because I learned a ton, and I hope the kids on the trip really appreciated that, too. 
We did see the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and were lucky enough to watch a wreath ceremony and it was just super moving and I am so glad we were able to see that. I also saw Ruth and Marty. 
After a half day in DC, we rode a bus to NYC and went to the Empire State Building on our first night. Honestly, the view was beautiful, we saw a sunset and we could not have been there at a better time. I will say though, I didn't love it, and it kind of reminded me of the St. Louis Arch. It's cool, I can say I saw it, but it isn't anything I'd tell you that you need to see/do. 
We also saw Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty, and I'll be honest, we liked the Statue of Liberty a lot more. I really thought Ellis Island was going to be my favorite but I think not being able to see all areas of it was the key. I also wanted to know more about Ellis Island specifically, but the museum was a lot of information about immigration in general, not just Ellis Island, so it wasn't really anything we didn't already know. 
We were super grateful for the great weather though, it was a little over 70 and I was all about the sunshine because DC was freezing the entire time. 
New York City was.... a lot. 
I knew it was going to be a lot, I already kind of prepared myself for it, but honestly, NYC is a level of stimulation you literally cannot prepare for. 
I almost had a full breakdown in Times Square. Plopping a person with cognitive issues, memory loss, and issues with too much stimulation in the middle of Times Square and telling that person to have fun for two hours, that is really just... too much. I kind of panicked and I didn't really go anywhere off of the block we were meeting at because I was absolutely terrified I would get lost and I had no idea what I would do. I won't even talk about being dropped in China Town because that was even scarier. Thank god for McDonald's, that's how I would sum that up. 
Oh, and we saw a Broadway show! We saw Paradise Square, which was so good! Olivia and I both really enjoyed it, plus we learned a whole lot about a time in history that we just never learned about. 
We also saw the courthouse used for Law & Order episodes, and I loved it so much. Ha! 

The trip was good overall. There were some bumps, there were some real high points, I also had blisters which ended up incredibly infected. I had no idea that could even happen, and I went the entire week thinking my feet were just sore but no, I was walking miles and miles on infected blisters. Shout out to my doctor who called in antibiotics for me to start as soon as I got home. I won't even talk about the awfulness that was our trip home, I can sum it up by saying LaGuardia is just the worst and I will avoid that place at all costs for the rest of my life. 

I already have wanderlust and want to go somewhere else. I'm considering a summer road trip for us, but that's kind of up in the air right now. Maybe if I plan it, the universe will make it happen....