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. 

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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!

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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!
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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....