Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Book Review: The Final Six

This isn't my usual reading material but it had an interesting premise, one that feels relevant to the current changes in climate, so I decided to give it a shot.

I'm so glad I did.

The Final Six - Alexandra Monir

Set in the near future, this action-packed YA novel—already optioned by Sony—will take readers out of their world and on a quest to become one of six teens sent on a mission to Jupiter’s moon.

When Leo, an Italian championship swimmer, and Naomi, a science genius from California, are two of the twenty-four teens drafted into the International Space Training Camp, their lives are forever altered. After erratic climate change has made Earth a dangerous place to live, the fate of the population rests on the shoulders of the final six who will be scouting a new planet. Intense training, global scrutiny, and cutthroat opponents are only a few of the hurdles the contestants must endure in this competition.

For Leo, the prospect of traveling to Europa—Jupiter’s moon—to help resettle humankind is just the sense of purpose he’s been yearning for since losing his entire family in the flooding of Rome. Naomi, after learning of a similar space mission that mysteriously failed, suspects the ISTC isn’t being up front with them about what’s at risk.

As the race to the final six advances, the tests get more challenging—even deadly. With pressure mounting, Naomi finds an unexpected friend in Leo, and the two grow closer with each mind-boggling experience they encounter. But it’s only when the finalists become fewer and their destinies grow nearer that the two can fathom the full weight of everything at stake: the world, the stars, and their lives.

It's not very often that I read a book and think, "this would make a great movie" but this one hits that mark. It's very much like The Hunger Games, teenagers from around the world who possess certain markers (ability, education, physical traits, etc) are selected to be one of the 24 who compete to become the Final Six- those six are charged with colonizing Europa, one of Jupiter's moons. While most of the candidates relish the idea of starting over and leaving a climate torn Earth behind, Naomi is not one of them. She hasn't experienced the loss and devastation the others have and she would be leaving behind her family, but more specifically, her brother Sam behind.

Add to the fact that the entire mission feels doomed to begin with and Naomi knows what the dangers and unknowns are. She isn't buying into the conveniently fluffy information the leaders are feeding the contestants so she decides she's going to use her smarts, and hacking program, to infiltrate one of the leading AI robots to get the information she desperately seeks about Europa, the RRB injections they've been getting, and more. Nothing goes as planned, especially the relationship between her and Leo, the candidate from Italy.

Just as we start to get some answers and real drama, the Final Six are chosen and it's devastation!! It leaves you on a major cliff hanger, and nothing is as it seems because the one person who wants to go and doesn't get chosen, gets pulled aside for their own mission that rivals that of the Final Six.

This was SO MUCH like The Hunger Games, and I liked it! I normally don't care for a sci-fi dystopian, but this one kept me on the edge of my seat the entire time. I knew maybe three quarters of the way in that I was going to be stuck on a cliff hanger and now I can't wait for book two. I so hope I get the opportunity to review that one because now I'm invested in this story, I have to follow it to the end. It would make for an incredible movie as well, we have the space drama, Europa's unknown, finalists you love for their tragic back story and the finalist you don't like at all, then you have Naomi and Leo. I didn't much like Naomi, she comes off as incredibly self absorbed, she isn't able to look beyond her little bubble in the world and see that the majority of people are experiencing tragic losses as a result of climate change. She's just worried about her brother who, let's face it, is probably going to die anyways. Maybe I'm callous but it seems like a wasted effort to save him in the face of current events in the world.

Anyways, I'm giving this a solid 4.5 stars. I'm only knocking it down because Naomi is so self absorbed it made it hard to really like her at all. I'm hoping now that she's had her epiphany at the end of this book that she gets her head in the game for book two.


Monday, March 19, 2018

Book Review: She Asked For It

This book came inside of my February My Guilty Pleasures book box and Willow Winters is a new to me author. I think. Her name is familiar but I can't remember if I've just added her books to my to-read shelf on Goodreads or if I have actually read her before and just can't recall book titles. But it looks intriguing even though I had an uneasy feeling about the title and the back description.

She Asked For It - Willow Winters

Don’t judge a book by its cover.

You’ll tell me you don’t… but you already think you know what my story’s about.

You have no idea.
Just like the people sitting in this courtroom.
She asked for it. That’s what they keep saying.

And no, it’s not because my skirt was too short or I was drunk at a party.
It’s nothing like that. It’s because of what I like and how I like it.

They’re judging me as I sit in the front row, my eyes drawn to the man on trial.
If I’d known it was going to end like this, I never would have gone home with him.
But he’s the type of man I just can’t say no to.

I wanted to feel his lips kiss down my neck.
I dreamed of running my fingers along the rough stubble on his jaw.
I craved his hands on me, pinning me down.
I needed to whisper his name in the dark, late at night.

You still think you know what happened? You don’t.
He’s innocent and I enjoyed every second I was with him.

Let me tell you my story, all about how I asked for it. 

Alright, this story was kind of... strange. I thought it was going to end one way and it ended much differently than I thought. We have Allison, who is literally going to be the female character you hate the most if only because she's an idiot. She has some kind of trauma in her past and you think she's been raped or something and no, it's not really even her trauma she's running from. She's set on ruining her life until she completes something... we don't know what she's even doing. Dean is more straight forward, he knows he's got a troubled past but he's actively trying to make changes and better himself someway and then he meets Allison, which makes him feel things differently. He wants her, he's willing to do what it takes to get past her walls even at the risk of his freedom, literally.

Couple things, I really liked Dean and I feel like maybe I shouldn't have. He's got anger issues and he likes his sex rough but you know it's probably going to be a fun time so you're willing to over look it. Allison is just the worst. I really didn't like her and then in the end when she's just completely unhelpful to Dean and lets him basically hang on his own and he's like, "Nah babe, it's cool"?! No. I didn't like it and I didn't like her. He should not have been so nonchalant and should demand a whole lot more from her than his no lying rule which she already broke.

Overall? I'm giving this one three stars. It was alright, I almost didn't finish it, and Dean saved it for me.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Dance Weekend #1: Brainerd

We actually have two competitions again this year and I know some families find it cumbersome, I think it's fun. We aren't a competitive sort of family, I've always told my kids to do their best but have fun, who cares if you win? We're here to do something fun that we normally don't get to do. I don't want my kid to be the one pouting if they don't do well, I just want to know they had a good time. 

So I go into these weekends looking at it like time away from the chaos of the house. This time it was kind of a big deal (for me) because I drove us to a new place without incident and I got us home safely, too. I didn't get lost and I didn't get distracted or overly tired. Sure, I medicated myself, but I felt pretty OK. 
You know what I forgot, though? My CPAP machine and sleep aid medicine. I don't sleep well away from home and I totally forgot it and paid the price on that. I should also mention that our hotel was fine, except my bed was broken! It was completely busted in one corner so I felt like I was going downhill but backwards. Not a fun feeling to wake up to when you already wake up kind of disoriented anyways!

So the morning of we rush over to the high school in Brainerd, which is really very nice.  
 Got Olivia all ready for her first dance, Hip Hop. This is a special session so they just started this routine in January. 
 But it's a fun group of girls. 
 The team that won first place was far and above our team, but we still placed second out of three teams. 
 Olivia was beyond excited about that. 

We had a quick lunch and then had to get ready for their next, and last dance, for Kick. 
 In this group we were up against four other teams. They've done this routine since September and when I saw it in December, they did so well. It was spot on and just really great. 
I was surprised they came in fifth so they didn't get ribbons. The girls were bummed but Olivia said she had a lot of fun and enjoyed watching other teams from different cities dance. Our team just isn't a competitive dance group and that's OK. I'm glad the girls are getting these experiences and as I told Olivia on the car ride home, which was exhausting, you learn so much more from losing than you do winning. You're still left with goals and something to work towards and that's pretty alright. 

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Olivia Twist

Do you love the retelling of classics? I do and I have a couple I'm going to do for you this year (yeah, I'm looking ahead) but let's start with this one. It's a reimagined version of Oliver Twist.

Olivia Twist - Lorie Langdon

Olivia Brownlow is no damsel in distress. Born in a workhouse and raised as a boy among thieving London street gangs, she is as tough and cunning as they come. When she is taken in by her uncle after a caper gone wrong, her life goes from fighting and stealing on the streets to lavish dinners and soirees as a debutante in high society. But she can’t seem to escape her past … or forget the teeming slums where children just like her still scrabble to survive.

Jack MacCarron rose from his place in London’s East End to become the adopted “nephew” of a society matron. Little does society know that MacCarron is a false name for a boy once known among London gangs as the Artful Dodger, and that he and his “aunt” are robbing them blind every chance they get. When Jack encounters Olivia Brownlow in places he least expects, his curiosity is piqued. Why is a society girl helping a bunch of homeless orphan thieves? Even more intriguing, why does she remind him so much of someone he once knew? Jack finds himself wondering if going legit and risking it all might be worth it for love.

Olivia Twist is an innovative reimagining of Charles Dickens’ classic tale Oliver Twist, in which Olivia was forced to live as a boy for her own safety until she was rescued from the streets. Now eighteen, Olivia finds herself at a crossroads: revealed secrets threaten to destroy the “proper” life she has built for her herself, while newfound feelings for an arrogant young man she shouldn’t like could derail her carefully laid plans for the future.

This book was so good I had a hard time putting it down. You know the story of Oliver Twist, but this is so rich and full of London goodness, dare I say it's better than the original? It's in the same time period but it feels modern, like this could be a modern day retelling almost. The author does a great job with her words so you picture the scenery, the children, the other characters, you get the feel and the grit of the scenes, she just did a really great job with this book. In the back it says this has been in the works for 35 years and you can tell because it's just written so well.

I did not expect a love story between Olivia and Jack, The Artful Dodger, but love story is what we got. A slow moving, rich cat and mouse game ending in a sweet romance. This isn't a retelling so much as it is a "what happened next?", and we find Olivia and Jack off the streets and no longer orphans. Though separated and Olivia no longer disguised as a young man, she and Jack find themselves in the glittering echelon of London society. Though they are no longer orphans, old habits die hard and they are still thieving independently to further their causes until one evening when Olivia realizes why Jack looks so familiar, he's her Artful Dodger, the orphan who took her in and helped her develop her skills, so to speak. The way it plays out and how their relationship develops is fun because Jack doesn't realize how good Olivia, who used to be Ollie, has become and how she continued to pull one over him. But when he realizes who she is and their relationship develops, it is so sweet. Jack can be himself, though he doesn't feel like he deserve her but he does! And she deserves him! It's PERFECT.

I loved this one so much and it was so much better than the original for me. I really adored this one. It's a great read for the YA audience, but even my 12 year old is loving it right now so this really spans the readership groups.


Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Happy mail in the form of: Book Boxes!

I am obsessed with book subscription boxes and there needs to be some kind of therapy group for it. Right now I'm getting The Bookworm Box and PageHabit regularly, but this month I added a one time, just to see how it is My Guilty Pleasures box, which is know called Totally Booked Crate. 

Which, if you're going to change your company's name and website? Maybe a little shout out email to your customers so they don't search for you, not find you, and assume they just got ripped off for $29.99, mmkay? 

So let's talk about  my boxes! 
My February box from The Bookworm Box is pretty solid! I am in the two book box (you can choose one book, if you want but then you get a larger swag item) so I got two books, some bookmarks, a pen, and a little hand warmer. I've already read one of the books, SEE THROUGH HEART, and it was so good!! So, so good you guys. So good that I've added her other books into my Amazon cart for the first chance I get money. Pretty excited about it. 

I heard about the My Guilty Pleasures box (now Totally Booked Crate) through another blog and I decided I wanted to give it a try since they have a one month only option, so that's what I did for February. The theme was "Girls Do It Better". 
Our box contained SHE ASKED FOR IT by Willow Winters, which is my current read, a knit hat, a "girl power" candle, a tea blend from Adagio Teas that I threw out, a vinyl sticker (which is new to a book box for me and I kind of love it), and a little art print. Overall this was a fun little box and they have three sub genres to choose from: young adult/fantasy, historical romance, or contemporary/new adult romance, and I chose the last one. Next month the theme is "Sea of Lies" so I'm on the fence about it. We'll see if I can get through a couple more books before I add to my collection!

I'd love to include my PageHabit box for this month but it STILL is not here. Frankly, this is all kind of unacceptable. It shipped February 19 and here we are, still waiting. I've already contacted them once and finally the package started moving but it's stalled again and I don't know why it's taking THIS LONG to mail a package via UPS. It's nuts. Get your crap together, PageHabit. 

Monday, March 12, 2018

36: It's where I'm at.

So over the weekend I celebrated my 36 birthday and it was pretty alright. The big kids went with my inlaws to the Twin Cities area to be tourists and do fun stuff so they weren't around to help me eat cake. 

Which works out because I don't like sharing my cake. 

But I got presents! I got some really cool presents this year! 
 My friend Penny got me the socks I wanted! There is almost nothing better than new socks and I have eight days of new sock cushy goodness. It was pretty great to get that fun package in the mail. 
 My friend Tammy took me out for dinner for some pizza and got me these gems. A fun mug for my cocoa, an Alice in Wonderland silk scarf, a fun saying for my bookshelf, chocolate, and a travel perfume (not shown) for my purse! She always gets me the best stuff. 
 Matt got me a Silhouette Cameo 3, which I apparently asked for but I have no memory of that. I'm not totally sure what I will do with it but it looks fun!
My parents got me a bike!!!! It's not this exact one, but pretty close. Instead of tan mine is more creamy white, and I have a basket, cup holder for my water bottle, a phone holder, and the back has a little bag to hold stuff in it. I'm so excited about this because I've wanted a bike for awhile I just never could justify spending the money to get one. My mom always knows exactly what to get me and thankfully my dad was home last weekend to go buy it and get it to our house. It's been in my garage for a week and I had no idea! 
My inlaw's got me an insulated water bottle and a gift card to Kohl's to get some new clothes, which I'm going to use with the $40 Kohl's cash I have and my coupon! I love, love, love gift cards.
 My friend Andrea got me a water bottle (smart because now I can rotate them), more socks (!!!), and the arm band for my phone I want/needed, and a Dory Funko Pop! character for my shelf. She sits proudly right next to my books for review.

Earlier in the day I had to go get a head shot done, which is so weird to say, for the Duluth Moms Blog. I'll be a contributing writer over there and I'll get you links and all of that once things start moving.
But I had to do my hair AND makeup and you guys, I used bronzer. It's a big deal and I'm a little orangey but I did manage to not look like Tara Reid fresh out of the fake tan bed.

It was a fun experience and I got to meet the other new writers, and it's so exciting. I did it on a whim and because people tagged me in it no less than 20 times in their "Calling All Writers" post and now I feel kind of sick, like I won't be able to come up with stuff to write about. But it is only a once a month article commitment so I should be fine.

I'll totally be fine and not nervous at all. 

Friday, March 9, 2018


This one came in one of my fairly recent book boxes and it doesn't even matter which one because it was SO DAMN GOOD.

Silenced - Leddy Harper

As a young child, Killian Foster survives the unimaginable. Silenced and scarred, he keeps to himself, spending his time with his notebook in the woods behind his aunt’s house. 

Until Rylee Anderson…

When Rylee spots Killian hopping over a fence next door, she follows him, unprepared for the boy she’d find—or the relationship that would unfold over the next seven years.

Or the silence that would follow.

Fighting between the hate of his past and the promise of his future, Killian must make choices—ones that would affect more than himself. Choices that would test the lines of right and wrong. Decisions that could break the bond of the only love Killian knew.

Hate or love.
Revenge or forgiveness.
Silence or his voice.

I got ALL of the feels with this book. Let's start by saying we have Killian, who witnesses the aftermath of his parent's murder as a young boy and is brutally mutilated in the process. He stops speaking completely because they told him not to and he's destined for a terribly sad and lonely life.

Until he meets Rylee in the woods behind his aunt's house. And nothing is the same ever again for either of them.

They form a friendship and become each other's firsts for everything. The author perfectly captures both a girl and a boy going through the awkward stages of puberty, the weirdness of a first kiss, dry humping, ejaculation for the first time, boners, and sex. I squirmed so many times because there were parts of this book that just hit home so hard for me and now as a parent I squirm thinking that my kids will experience this, so I can imagine Rylee's parents and how they felt.

But it isn't all cupcakes and rainbows, Killian is a troubled boy. He wants revenge but he wants, needs Rylee with him but she's only 17 at this point. He leaves and Rylee is left devastated. For five years. When she sees Killian again she's blown away at how much he's changed, how much he's still the same, and the circumstances of how she finds him inadvertently. Can they rekindle what they had? The answer is YES and it's hotter than dry humping on a twin bed, you guys.

My only issue with the book is that there seems to be some blurry lines of consent in this book a few times and I was there thinking, this could really be wrong on a few levels here. Never mind the almost caveman mentality of Killian at times, so I guess it's part of character building. But bravo to Rylee for being a strong woman open to just about anything because she really turns out to be a pretty great character... even though it got a little dicey at the end for her.

Overall? I'm giving this one 4.5 stars because it was THAT good. This is one I'd buy for my friends, easily.