Friday, July 20, 2018

Book Review: When We Found Home

Honestly, does Susan Mallery ever write a dud? Let's be honest- she's amazing so it's no wonder her latest is great.

When We Found Home - Susan Mallery

Life is meant to be savored, but that's not easy with no family, limited prospects and a past you'd rather not talk about. Still, Callie Smith doesn't know how to feel when she discovers she has a brother and a sister--Malcolm, who grew up with affection, wealth and privilege, and Keira, a streetwise twelve-year-old. 

Callie doesn't love being alone, but at least it's safe. Despite her trepidation, she moves into the grand family home with her siblings and grandfather on the shores of Lake Washington, hoping just maybe this will be the start of a whole new life.

But starting over can be messy. Callie and Keira fit in with each other, but not with their posh new lifestyle, leaving Malcolm feeling like the odd man out in his own home. He was clever enough to turn a sleepy Seattle mail-order food catalog into an online gourmet powerhouse, yet he can't figure out how to help his new sisters feel secure. Becoming a family will take patience, humor, a little bit of wine and a whole lot of love. 

But love isn't Malcolm's strong suit... until a beautiful barista teaches him that an open heart, like the family table, can always make room for more.

I know I'm biased because I am such a fan of Susan Mallery but I absolutely loved this book. It's such a great summer read, you'll find yourself flying through it like me!

Alright, so in this book we have Malcolm (who is running the family business, older brother), Callie (convicted felon, trying to turn her life around but she's Malcolm's half sister he never knew about), and Keira (the youngest and Malcolm's half sister but she's 12 and has a life time of abandonment issues) and the story circles around the three of them learning what a family is and how to be one despite their differences.

Side plots is Malcolm learning to love again with Delaney and Delaney figuring out how to move on from a tragedy. We also have Santiago changing his ways once he meets Callie and deems her the love of his life but also convincing Callie she's worthy of goodness in her life despite past mistakes. We also have Keira learning how to love her family and understand that people aren't always going to run out on her.

This books gets a lot of things right, the interpersonal relationships throughout the book are managed well and you never feel like you're being jerked from one story line to the next, it is a smooth transition back and forth. I loved all of the characters except Delaney- she really bugged me all the way to the end because I kept wanting her to get over herself. She isn't all that and a bag of chips, she felt very self-absorbed and I didn't like it. Keira was a little over the top for me too but I kept reminding myself she was 12, turning 13, and having one of those kids myself I know how they can be.

Overall I'm giving this one a solid 4 stars. Susan Mallery can do no wrong for me and I thoroughly enjoyed this from start to finish. (I also am crushing hard on Malcolm, FYI). This is worthy of a splurge, I promise. Also below check out a fun giveaway for a fabulous prize package, you can enter every day!

Thursday, July 19, 2018

We R Who We R

It feels like forever ago already but at the end of June we joined one of my friends and her pretty amazing daughter and we all went to a Kesha concert. It was outdoors, the weather was perfect, and it was so nice to get away with just Olivia. 

If you've never been to Mystic Lake Casino in Minnesota, they have a huge outdoor amphitheater which was really well maintained so the grounds were super nice. The hotel was really great too and we were surprised at how fast the lines for everything were. 

Anyways, we went for a Kesha concert. 
I had to buy the girls shirts because you can't go to a concert and not buy a shirt. You have to have proof you were there.  
 The show itself was pretty good. The opening act was some guy called CVBZ and he was alright. He wasn't terrible but he wasn't great either and he looked like he needed a shower. He had a couple of songs that I bopped along to but not enough for me to go out of my way to buy them, if that makes sense. 

Then we waited some more for Kesha. 
By the time Kesha came on it was fairly dark but not dark enough that you couldn't see the people around you. If you are in need of interesting people watching, a Kesha concert is where you want to be. Hands down. Nothing can even come close to it. We saw a six foot papermache gold penis, someone was hauling that thing around, which eventually got carried to stage for Kesha to sign. A lot of panties and bras were removed and tossed. A lot of people with much too small clothing on. Some were wearing actual underwear and calling it an outfit. One woman had a "skirt" made of dildos. It was basically a belt with dildos attached and she was calling it a skirt. Poor Olivia had never seen any of this and I had to explain why someone would wear fake penises and what a fake penis was used for. 

So that was fun. 

Her concert was alright. I wish she had played more from her current album but "Praying" was definitely the encore. She attempted to sing Dolly Parton's "Jolene" but no, the only person who has any business covering that is Miley Cyrus, Kesha's version was terrible. I'm going to say it, it was terrible. I also wish Kesha didn't talk so much. You don't actually have to introduce every song, we are capable of figuring out what you're singing, fans definitely don't need to be told. If she hadn't talked so much she could have sang more songs, which is what the people wanted .The other odd thing is that the songs she sang from her back catalog were remixed, or had a new twist to make it just enough different from the original that it wasn't great. Maybe that was some kind of shade to Dr. Luke after the court case, I'm not sure but I wish she had just left them as they were because they were great. 

I was pleasantly surprised that the girl can sing. She can actually sing live and it's so refreshing because so many artists sing to a back track and that's just awful but she is 100% for real singing so that was nice. Tons of outfit changes which weren't needed and there was a totally bizarre/useless interlude that we could have skipped all together. She was clearly changing her outfit and taking a drink but let's maybe stick with two outfits or something. 

Overall? It was good. Olivia and I had a fun time and I'm glad we had a little getaway. It was awesome catching up with my friend and getting to know her daughter. My friend Sarah is someone I knew in high school but got to know better in college and she was the one who organized the GoFundMe when I had Lucy. She's a pretty fantastic person in general and I'm so glad we got to hang out. I legit want to be her when I grow up, that's how great she is. 

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Book Review: Sarah's Child

How in fresh hell did this book get published in 2001? Honestly? I would like to think in 2001 romance readers were more sophisticated than this but I have no idea, I was busting my ass in college and too busy to read.

Sarah's Child - Linda Howard
A beloved classic by Linda Howard to captivate old fans and new, a compelling novel that tests the fragile bonds of love in a deeply moving story of the healing gift of selfless devotion.... A tragic accident took everything that mattered to Rome Matthews -- his wife, Diana, and their two little boys. And it robbed Sarah Harper of her best friend. In the two years since the tragedy, Sarah has wanted to reach out to Rome, but she knew she needed to stay away, guarding the secret she had kept from him and Diana all those years -- that she was in love with her best friend's husband. But now Rome needs her. And though another woman will hold his heart forever, Sarah agrees to be his wife, knowing that everything has a price, including love. Then something totally unexpected rekindles her hidden hope that a marriage of convenience will become a union of love. Now it all comes down to her husband. Will Rome keep fighting his own growing need for a woman who dares him to believe there are second chances in life...or will he give in to the power of love and miracles?
I've said it countless times, Linda Howard is one of my favorite authors but I swear to god, some of her earlier books are so awful that I can't even. I just can't.

In this gem, we have Sarah, who works at Spencer-Nyle as an executive secretary. She was best friends with Diana, who died in a car accident a few years earlier. Diana was the wife to Rome Matthews, who is an executive at Spencer-Nyle. The twist is that Sarah has always had a think for Rome but obviously couldn't do squat about it because who goes after their best friend's husband? Nobody decent, that's who. Surprise- Rome has had a thing for Sarah but again, couldn't act on it because OBVIOUSLY. Well, Diana is dead, and it's high time we get rid of her stuff. Rome calls Sarah to come and get friendship mementos and in the process almost freaking rapes her on the bedroom floor, then gets angry at her, and sends her off.

Indignantly Sarah leaves and decides she just can't go back to work. Not after this.

Plot twist- they have sex and Rome is so aghast that he asks her to marry him. (No, I'm not kidding, that is legitimately the story line of this book.) Sarah agrees because he might not love her but she doesn't have any other prospects and she's getting older, after all. (Nope, still not joking.)

Sarah gets unexpectedly pregnant and Rome is maaaaaad because he definitely did NOT want more kids after his sons died (in the car crash with Diana) and he thinks Sarah did this on purpose! But she didn't, she's just a moron who doesn't know that you have to take your birth control even if you're sick. It doesn't magically work, you guys. Anyways. So the story is basically driven by wondering if Rome can ever love Sarah, will she be OK without being loved, and what will Rome do about the baby?

The ending is preposterous and I actually threw the book when I was done. It was that bad. Rome is the worst and Sarah is just as bad, maybe more because she has zero self esteem or self worth and totally OK letting a guy marry her so he doesn't feel bad about using her for sex. That's the actual gist of it. *eye roll*


Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Book Review: Long Shot

I know this book is almost 500 pages and I have a personal rule against long books because I think they are ridiculous. I am telling you to PLEASE BELIEVE ME that every page is worth it. It's a slow burn and it is everything. This will end up in my top 5 of the year book list. Guaranteed. It was so good that I finished it in two days. 500 pages in TWO DAYS, lambs. That's unheard of.

Long Shot - Kennedy Ryan


Think you know what it's like being a baller's girl?
You don't.
My fairy tale is upside down.
A happily never after.
I kissed the prince and he turned into a fraud.
I was a fool, and his love - fool's gold.

Now there's a new player in the game, August West. 
One of the NBA's brightest stars.
Fine. Forbidden. 
He wants me. I want him.
But my past, my fraudulent prince, just won't let me go.

Before I rave about this book I have to be fully upfront with you and tell you that the first half is TOUGH TO READ. It features domestic violence (pretty brutal stuff) and rape. I had no idea going into it but within the first few chapters you get a sense of foreboding so just know that going in. The author did a fantastic job because honestly, those scenes are written so well that you feel like this happened to you and you are reading your damn diary. So.. beware.

But this is the love story of August and Iris. It's like star crossed lovers at first, they want to be together but they can't because Iris is dating Caleb and he feels like a sure thing. August would be a gamble and she doesn't have the guts to do it. It turns out to be a pivotal decision she would think about in all the years to come. There is SO MUCH that I want to say about this book but everything would be spoilers and I don't want to ruin a second of it. The author takes you through every emotion, you're angry when you can see the writing on the wall and Iris can't, you're angry and scared when Caleb switches, you're sad and longing when Iris has her stolen moments with August, you feel terrible for August and pray he waits a little longer for her. There's a part in the book where August tells Iris that if she were his girl, he would play her at the five... meaning she would be the center of his world. I UGLY CRIED. Honestly, I can't think of a more panty dropping, romantic moment ever. Honestly, I really can't.

And you know what I kept thinking of? Remember a few years ago that football player got into trouble because there was video proof of him dragging his fiance from an elevator by her hair? And then everyone was angry at her for staying and they ended up doing a joint interview for TV? I kept t thinking about her and thinking how this might be her story and I worry so much for her. Like is she dealing with the hell that Iris did? Does she feel hopeless and stuck like Iris? Just so many emotions with this book.

If there is a book I would recommend all year for anyone, it's this one. It's so well written and it is so heavy and at the same time completely hopeful which makes you feel totally crazy. If ever there was a character to root for it's Iris, but also August, too. Two fantastically built characters, flaws and all, and such a fist pumping ending. Could not put this down, I actually fell asleep holding it. No joke.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Book Review: An Independent Wife

Dude, if there is one thing that does not age well, it's romance novels.

An Independent Wife - Linda Howard
Linda Howard sweeps fans into the high-stakes, high-pressure world of a top news magazine in this exciting and romantic story of rediscovered passion . . . Sallie wondered if Rhy would recognize her after seven years. She'd lost weight, loosened up and turned her talents to news reporting for one of the nation's leading magazines. After all this time, would Rhy Baines, the news publisher, recognize his wife? Sallie Jerome, a.k.a. Mrs. Baines, had picked up the pieces of shattered dreams after Rhy walked out. She'd become the independent, self-possessed woman he'd always wanted. Only now, she didn't want him. . . . Or did she?
You guys- this book was laughable at best. Not only is this guy completely abusive, there are a few times that he flirts with the line of raping this woman. I'm sure in it's heyday this was maybe seen as thrilling because it's this macho guy being possessive over the woman and maybe a bored housewife would see that as better than being ignored, but I'm telling you- it was hard to read. 

The book centers around Sallie (formerly known as Sarah) as she makes a life for herself as a reporter going into dangerous situations. Her estranged husband, Rhy, suddenly comes back in the picture and demands she assume the role as wife and give up her career. Sallie tries to dig her heels in but he threatens to blackball her from the industry, eventually thwarts every chance she has to leave him, and threatens her throughout the book. Not to mention the few times where he squeezes her wrist painfully or kisses her and initiates sex against her will. She might not be screaming no but she damn sure isn't screaming yes. I was so uncomfortable with this book that I actually wanted to smack Sallie myself and tell her to get a damn clue.

I am only giving this one star because I can't give it no star on Goodreads.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Book Review: I Can Handle Him

I unexpectedly kind of loved this book. It's a fast read that you should check out if you like contemporary romance!

I Can Handle Him - Debbie K. Lum

Quinn Corbin’s got nothing to lose – except her life.
She’s finally got the attention of the man she’s always loved, Nick Allen. But Nick has a reputation for trouble. And after a car explosion killed his last girlfriend, many people in San Antonio, Texas think Nick got away with murder.
But Quinn, a 24-year-old elementary school teacher and bubbly optimist, believes Nick is innocent. So does her best friend Tory, a law student and sarcastic realist. Soon Quinn and Nick find their relationship growing when suddenly their world upends. Now Nick is in major trouble again and Quinn may have made the biggest mistake of her life.
With incriminating evidence mounting against Nick, Tory works to prove his innocence. But Nick finds himself in a bigger battle when he must fight to protect, and win, his true love.

Alright, so this book features two girls who fall for the same guy. One friend (Tori) graciously bows out so Quinn can have her chance with Nick. Nick is an up and coming coffee shop entrepreneur with quite the reputation, his last girlfriend was killed in his car and everyone thinks he has gotten away with murder. When the second accident happens so close to the first one, it seemingly confirms everyone's suspicions and that's where Tori steps in. Tori is a second year law student and she enlists the help of her dad (also a lawyer) to clear Nick's name. As more details come out his innocence is getting harder and harder to prove but Tori really doesn't believe that Nick has done anything wrong.

All during this process, Nick and Tori get closer and it looks like things could turn romantic but all Tori can think about is Quinn and how this feels like she's betraying her best friend.

Overall? I'm giving this one 4 stars. There are a few conversational areas of the book that don't read correctly, they don't sound like anything a person would say in real life. Additionally, there are a few scenes that you know would never play out that way in real life and it was hard to believe it, even if it is a book. Overall I really liked it. It's romance without sex so it's a clean romance if that's your jam. The ending was actually kind of predictable but that's OK because the route to get there was fun and leaves you craving cookies.


Thursday, July 12, 2018

Book Review: The Smallest Part

You guys. GO BUY THIS BOOK. I cannot tell you all of the reasons I loved this book but just trust me.

The Smallest Part - Amy Harmon

It was a big lie. The biggest lie she’d ever told. It reverberated through her head as she said it, ringing eerily, and the girl behind her eyes—the girl who knew the truth—screamed, and her scream echoed along with the lie. 
“Are you in love with Noah, Mercedes?” Cora asked. “I mean . . . I know you love him. You’ve been friends forever. We all have. But are you in love with him?” 
If it had been anyone else—anyone—Mercedes would have stuck out her chest, folded her skinny arms, and let her feelings be known. She would have claimed him. But it was Cora. Brave, beautiful, broken Cora, and Cora loved Noah too. 
So Mercedes lied. 
And with that lie, she lost him. With that lie, she sealed her fate.
She was the best friend, the bridesmaid, the godmother, the glue. She was there for the good times and the bad, the ups and the downs, the biggest moments and the smallest parts. And she was there when it all came crashing down. 
This is the tale of the girl who didn’t get the guy. 

This was my first book by Amy Harmon but this was so good I want to buy all of her books. Right now. Credit card worthy purchase. I went into this story feeling kind of skeptical and within a few pages I was completely hooked. I laughed, I cried, and did those two things on repeat throughout the book. 

So we have this triangle of best friends, Cora, Mercedes, and Noah. Mercedes has loved Noah since she was eight years old but when Cora says SHE loves him, Mercedes gives him up. She doesn't want to be the one who turns their friendship messy. They each have had challenges growing up but it's clear Cora is the most messed up of the trio so Mercedes thinks if she has Noah then maybe it would ground her more. It doesn't, and in the first few pages we learn that Cora essentially kills herself and the book is about Noah and Mercedes picking up the pieces and moving forward. Noah and Cora have a one year old daughter, Gia, and Mercedes is her godmother so she feels a sense of responsibility.

Mercedes, in her true fashion, picks Noah up and helps him move forward. That moving forward though has Noah seeing Mercedes in a different light, a light her used to see her in. He always thought he would end up with Mercedes but then Cora kind of took the reigns. Mercedes doesn't feel right taking Cora's place and she's worried that any romance will ruin the friendship she's come to depend on her entire life.

But thrown into this are characters that are SO fantastic. We have Cuddy, who has a connection to Noah's past and we have Moses, a patient of Noah's. Both Cuddy and Moses can see dead people and dead people communicate to them and this ends up being key into giving Noah and Mercedes closure and save the day. Literally.

Lots of twists and turns, emotional revelations, and big breakthroughs for both Noah and Mercedes. I absolutely could not put this book down. I loved Mercedes' character and she reminds me a lot of me. I didn't love Cora's character and liked her less and less as the book went on. Loved Noah, he's such a classically good guy who wants to do the right thing but always wants to do what his heart wants and he isn't sure if it's the same thing. I cannot recommend this book enough. It was amazing.