Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Book Review: Christmas in Newfoundland

It's not even technically winter and we are overwhelmed in snow and now we're dealing with temperatures I would expect in January. I am completely over it. The silver lining is that it looks, and feels, like Christmas, so let's read another Christmas book!
Christmas in Newfoundland - Mike Martin
From the author of the award-winning Sgt. Windflower Mysteries comes "Christmas in Newfoundland: Memories and Mysteries," a welcome addition to the Sgt. Windflower family of books. Christmas in Newfoundland is a special time. In the depths of long winter nights memories are made and stories are told. Of Christmas by candlelight and horse and buggy rides to church. Of shopping on Water Street in St. John’s before malls and the Internet. In later years, Sgt. Windflower came to work and then to stay in the quiet town of Grand Bank by the Atlantic Ocean where the salt air froze in the wind and the Mounties were welcomed to warm themselves by every fire. Come and warm yourself by the fire and hear their stories. Some memories and some mysteries. Enjoy some holiday time with Sgt. Windflower and all the familiar characters that you’d come to know and love. Good food, good friends and always another chair at the table.
Do you love small town reads with a little mystery thrown in? You just might enjoy this one. The bonus is its a story that brings you to Christmas of the past, complete with mystery that keeps you guessing. I haven't read any of the other Sgt. Windflower books but it's totally fine, you won't feel out of step, but if you have read others, I think you're going to enjoy getting a new look into what I think are the usual characters.

The book has an interesting writing style, it feels more like a story someone is telling you over an afternoon rather than a polished story. I struggled a little with that but I think it was more of a preference issue than a skill issue on the author's part. The best part of the book is the nostalgia of it, and I think anyone who reads this will be left remembering their firsts of their own. The entire book is made up of several short stories, each one a sweet memory that will leave you smiling.

Overall, this was a pretty cute book. If you like Christmas stories but don't want to commit to a full novel, this is a good option, especially if you only have short spurts of reading time. See below for an excerpt!
A Windflower Christmas

It was just days before Christmas, and Sergeant Winston Windflower only had one big problem. That was what to get his girlfriend, Sheila Hillier, for Christmas. Other than that, life was good for the RCMP officer in Grand Bank, Newfoundland. Crime was low, if not non-existent, and spirits were running high as the holiday neared its peak in this little seaside town.

Of course, being the holiday season, the Mountie was concerned about impaired driving. But Windflower and his team had been out on the roads for the past two weekends with the R.I.D.E. program. He figured that meant everyone would be on their best behaviour for the next couple of weeks. That was especially true since one town resident had been charged with impaired driving and two others had received suspended licences because they were just over the legal limit of alcohol.
Fortunately, even the weather was cooperating. They hadn’t had any snow in Grand Bank for almost two weeks. That was a relief to not only the snow shovellers catching a break after a series of early winter storms but also to the RCMP officers, as they had already worked several overnight shifts because of storms. The best news was that there wasn’t even any snow in the short-term forecast.
All of this meant the town could be festive and safe during the holiday season already well underway.
The old Town of Grand Bank went all out to pretty itself up for Christmas. Almost every house had some form of decoration, and Christmas lights were aplenty all over town. Some people went old-fashioned and just had a wreath on their front door and a couple of strings of lights hanging from their eaves. Others decided to splurge on nativity scenes and blow-up Santas, as they held nothing back in their gaudy and joyous celebration of the season.

Old Saint Nick had already made one visit. That was last weekend during the Santa Claus parade led by the antique pumper truck from the volunteer fire department. Local RCMP vehicles were decked out in flashing lights and ribbons as the Mounties collected toys and gifts along the parade route for the Salvation Army. Sheila had rounded up a few extra dollars from local businesses to ensure that even the abandoned buildings near the wharf were gaily festooned with ribbons, bows and the essential Christmas lights in time for the parade. Now, Saint Nick’s return engagement on December 25th was eagerly anticipated.

Thank you to Mike Martin and Pump Up Your Book for having me on this tour and sending me a copy for review! All thoughts and opinions are my own, this post contains affiliate links. Happy reading!

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Weekend at Grandma's and Bentleyville

It's so weird to think this is basically mid-December. Needless to say, I don't have much of my December to-do list done and I feel like I'm dragging. Time moves on though and last weekend Olivia, Jackson, and Penelope went to Grandma's for gingerbread houses and caroling. It's a tradition but this is the first year Penelope was old enough to go.

Of course, Lucy was devastated (seriously, she was an emotional mess) that she wasn't going to we took her on a little date.
Her and Woody went out to eat with us at the mall, which is always fun because really, our kids don't eat out at restaurants that often, having six of us is just too expensive. 
So Lucy was pretty excited because she got to order what she wanted and didn't have to share with Penelope. 
I love this picture because she's so serious as she scribbles furiously on her paper. She's big into making us "mystery maps" and we have no idea what any of it means but it's a big deal. 
She got to go play in the little play area they have and she carried Woody on her shoulders, like Andy does in the movie. It was adorable. As we were leaving she wanted ice cream so while Matt was trying to tell her we have some at home, I'm the cool mom so I said we can totally have ice cream. He's not great at spontaneous fun, but this kid knows I'm a sucker for ice cream.

It was delicious. 
I think I mentioned it but I managed to get our Christmas cards done and in the mail. That's always an undertaking, but it's something I enjoy doing. I really like getting cards in the mail so here's hoping we get a few!
When the big kids came home I got to see their gingerbread houses. I had to take Olivia to dance and Matt was going to drop off Penelope and Lucy off at dance a little later. Lucky for me, he let them eat candy for an hour straight, with no naps, so you can imagine how fun THAT was.

We were supposed to get a snow storm that night but the temperature was oddly warm (and by warm, I mean 35 degrees) so we decided that was the night to go to Bentleyville.  I've only recently learned that some people think Bentleyville is tacky and terrible, but I absolutely love it. The kids (and I) get so excited seeing it be put up, the lights coming on, we go once every December, and do all the things. It's amazing and FREE. There aren't many really great free things to do with kids, especially where we live, so we try to take advantage of as many that we can. This was the first year we were there for them turning the lights on for the night, so that was fun.
Lucy was all about the panda bear and the penguin. She was a little upset she didn't get to hug the penguin, but she hung onto that panda for dear life. This was her as she was done because I wasn't fast enough. 
I didn't bring my selfie stick so no family photo, but I did manage to get the kids in front of the big tree. 
The big tree is my favorite. I thought I was taking a video of the light show to music but it turns out I took one photo instead. I'm officially an old lady who can't work the phone. 
We also stood in line to see Santa. I was SO SURPRISED that Penelope went right up there and on his lap. She really hates strangers but she was really into Santa. Lucy shouted to him she wanted a cat piano (don't worry, Grandma got it!), and it was kind of funny how she did it. That kid cracks me up.

So yeah, we're clipping right along through December.

Tomorrow I'll have a book review for you. Thursday Olivia has a band concert and she's nervous, and Lucy also has a family craft day at school. Friday I see the weightloss doctor and I'm really nervous, and Olivia and Jackson are going to see The Nutcracker with Matt's parents. I'm hoping I can hang out with Tammy on Saturday, and then dance on Sunday. No rest for the weary, I suppose.

Monday, December 9, 2019

Thanksgiving, Snowmeggdon #1, and more!

I feel like so much has been happening and I've been failing to update it it here, so we're going to do a total random dump of photos and babbling.

First up, Penelope. Penelope is loving 4K and she has the greatest teacher she could possibly have. This woman has endless optimism and you can tell she truly love kids. We've really lucked out in the teacher department because I can only think of two in all of these years that have been meh. Maybe three. That's not bad, and the rest have been exceedingly amazing. Even the teachers I know that my kids haven't had, amazing. Amazing at their jobs but also amazing as people. This year I went into it with real gusto thinking I could finally get into the volunteer swing of things.

I was actually completely wrong.

I've not been doing well in many areas but my cognitive issues are really frustrating and my mental health continues to take a steady nose dive, so I've had to give up volunteering in her class once a week. I hate that because the joy on her face when I would come was so great but honestly, I can't be crying in front of kids. It's not normal or OK.
Her teacher didn't make me feel bad or remind me how crucial volunteers are; instead, she took me aside and told me if there is anything I need or any kind of support to reach out because she truly wants to help.

It's that kind of continued support that means everything. I am grateful for having a really great tribe and I know I'm lucky.

With that, let's talk turkey. And eating it. It was delicious, both days I had it. On Thanksgiving we went to have dinner with Matt's family and that's always great because I don't have to cook, but the kids get to hang out with their aunt Kate and uncle Karl. 
But also play with retro toys! This time an old cassette player and a basket of cassettes was found and watching Penelope try to work this was the best. She spent the better part of an hour putting tapes in, playing them for a few seconds, stopping, and doing it all over with a new tape. 
Meanwhile Lucy went around and ate everyone's snacks off their plate when they weren't looking. She's quiet but man, she's sneaky. She also really loves food. 
Penelope conned uncle Karl into playing with his laptop and ultimately spending all of his money on coins or something in some game, but getting him further in Angry Birds. She thinks uncle Karl is the best and they have similar personalities so he may find himself with an adorable niece to babysit as she gets older. 
You'll notice Jackson skipped everything and went right for his ugly Christmas sweater. Also, we all love Hank the dog. Hank is pretty great. 
The elf showed up at our house. His name is Sam and he's pretty lame. Our elf mostly moves from shelf, to tree, to a stocking, back to a shelf, and rotate. Every once in awhile he gets saucy and moves to the kitchen. 
We had snowmageddon. It took down our gigantic cedar tree and the bushes. Good news, I won't have to pay the outrageous prices I was quoted for trimming them (so I can see out my kitchen window), but now we have a massive project of pulling them all out ourselves this coming summer. I'll have to plant some other stuff there but ugh... I can't grow things well so I'm really nervous I'm going to spend money just to watch it all die. 
The bunk beds have been installed! Penelope is on top, Lucy is on bottom, and (so far) we've had nobody falling out, no jumping, no hanging off of the ceiling fan, it's gone OK. 
I'm hoping this week we can get rid of her toddler bed and start moving stuff around so their room doesn't feel so cluttered. 
My tree down. I'm still upset. It's going to stay like this until all the snow is gone. Ugh. 
Lucy really loves playing with her Calico Critters and her new thing is to find the toilet and put a bunny on it and say, "POOPING" really loud, several times. It's the worst. 
Penelope will do the same thing only because they copy each other on annoying or bad things, never good things and this is what it must feel like to have twins. It's so hard. 
I got my Christmas cards all filled out, addressed, sealed, stamped, and in the mail! These aren't them but are some thank you/winter cards I made. I got an itch to make something the other day so I just started pulling things out and here we are. I'm going to try doing this more often, it definitely uses a different part of your brain.

What are you up to? I have a little Christmas shopping to finish up but I'm hoping I can do that this week. Crossing fingers!

Sunday, December 8, 2019

Book Review: Our Totally, Ridiculous, Made-Up Christmas Relationship

I looked and last year I only read like one holiday themed book which is just terrible. I'm more than making up for it this year, though so there's that. Of course it's a book by Brittainy C. Cherry because if I had to sum up 2019 with one author, it would be her.

Our Totally, Ridiculous, Made-Up Christmas Relationship - Brittainy C. Cherry

All families have secrets, and Jules Stone’s is no exception. Deciding not to follow in her family's Oscar-winning footsteps, Jules chooses to take a more behind-the-scenes career in one of the Top 10 Talent Agencies in Chicago. After being dumped five hours before spending Christmas with her dysfunctional family, she needs a plan to avoid their judgmental eyes.

Enter: Kayden Reece.

Kayden is the black sheep of his family, being the one actor drowning in a world of doctors and lawyers. Never really getting a jumpstart at his acting career or landing a big time role, he can feel his dad’s disappointment soaking into his spirit.

When Kayden gets a chance to meet and sign with a big name agent at Walter and Jacks Talent Agency, he’s ready to prove everyone wrong. Jules stumbles into the building in shambles, ugly crying, and begging to pay an actor a big sum of money to be her made-up boyfriend for five days, Kayden jumps at the opportunity—finally able to say he landed a role.

When secrets start to unravel, Kayden and Jules must learn that all families have their baggage, sometimes co-stars fall in lust, and it’s important to always have invisible mistletoe hanging around.

This holiday season join the two fake lovebirds as they partake in the role of a lifetime. 

I'll tell you right now if you're coming into this book fresh off her other books which are sex and emotional and leave you a gutted mess, you can just relax. A completely out-of-her-norm foray into romantic comedy doesn't leave you disappointed. We still have the angst, we still have the "Oh man, did he screw up too much?!", we still have everything that makes a book by Brittainy C. Cherry great. This one just has a whole bunch of fun holiday humor throughout that makes this an incredibly fun read.

In this book we have Jules, fresh off a really crappy breakup and kind of a clinger. We have Kayden, a bit of an irresponsible play boy who doesn't really know what he is doing in life. They get together (there's a whole thing, you have to read the book, I'm heavily summarizing this) as a pretend couple and basically, it all goes to hell. Jules forgot to mention her family are incredibly famous actors and Kayden forgot to mention he really isn't a hired actor he just happened to be in the wrong spot at the wrong time. What unravels is the holiday from hell but in the funniest way possible. The slow burn romance between Jules and Kayden is really great and to see both of them individually grow over those few days is really pretty great.

Also, I loved the epilogue. A lot.

Overall? I'm giving this one 5 stars because I love this author but also because I couldn't put this down and it had me laughing throughout. If you need a fun holiday read- this is it!

This post contains affiliate links. 

Friday, December 6, 2019

Book Review: I Heart Hawaii

If ever there was a time that I wished I was in Hawaii, it would be this week. We had a massive snowstorm with nearly 20 inches dumped on us, my tree came down, my bushes are destroyed, and I can't see past snowbanks so I'm terrified I'm going to die. I need to be on a beach and Hawaii is a bucket list trip for me, but Christmas sucks us dry financially, so reading a book about Hawaii is my plan B.
I Heart Hawaii - Lindsey Kelk

When Angela Clark’s best friend Jenny invites her to join a press trip to Hawaii, three days of sun, sea and sleep sounds like the perfect antidote to her crazed life.
At work in New York, she’s supposed to be the face of Having It All. But the only thing Angela feels she excels at is hiding in the printer cupboard, eating Mini Cheddars and watching Netflix on her phone and if this is living the dream, she's more than ready to wake up.
A few days away with Jenny sounds like exactly what she needs but Angela’s talent for getting into a scrape guarantees nothing goes to plan – and not even the most beautiful beaches, blue skies and daiquiris will get her off the hook…

While this is the last installment of the I Heart series, it's the first one I've read and even still, I felt OK with that throughout the book; I didn't feel like I was left in the dark. I think if I had read the others though I would have enjoyed this one even more. Also, any book that references hiding in a small space while eating cheddar crackers is a book I can get behind because that is my typical Tuesday afternoon.

Right out the gate I have to tell you that I really loved the humor in this book. It's cheeky and sharp in all of the right places. Though I didn't love Angela, I really liked Alex. I have to also say that I think my issues with Angela were strictly because I didn't know her and I feel like all of the other books developed her much better so by this point readers should really connect with her, I didn't because I don't feel like I understood why she was the way she was... so I struggled. Alex though, really liked him and I felt like their relationship was more believable despite being fictional. Their interactions were more authentic, and if you're a parent yourself you'll really understand their feelings throughout the book perhaps a little better.

Another character I liked? Jenny. She is my kind of girl, she's spunky and feisty. She is who you want to be with you on a trip because she's a great friend but she can also kick the fun level up ten notches.

Parts of this book felt like that show Workin' Moms on Netflix. It's an entire gang of women, in various stages of life, and while some of it has a more serious tone, it's also funny. It's not exactly like the show, but if you like the show you might enjoy this. I really enjoyed this book and I have to give it 4 stars. Honestly, I feel like had I read all of the other books before it this could have been a 5 star so that's definitely my fault. I will say, I liked this one enough that I would like to read the rest of the series for sure.

If you are already a fan of this series, I think you'll enjoy this book. If you haven't read this one, I still think you'll enjoy it but it would be worth reading the others to really love it.

A huge thank you to HarperCollins and Lindsey Kelk for sending me a copy of I Heart Hawaii in exchange for review, all thoughts are my own. This post contains affiliate links. 

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Book Review: A Lady's Past

I just want to say quickly that this is book four in The Everton Domestic Society series but if you haven't read the others, it's totally fine. Each one is a stand alone. Also, can we just admire this gorgeous cover?!
A Lady's Past - A.S. Fenichel

The greatest risk—for the sweetest reward…

His fiancée’s betrayal nearly cost Jacques Laurent everything. Despite his resolve not to trust anyone again, he can’t abandon the young woman he finds alone on the road to London. In the brief hours they spend together, the enigmatic Diana touches his heart in a way he can’t explain. Even after bringing her to the Everton Domestic Society for safekeeping, he can’t get her out of his thoughts. And when he next encounters her, working as assistant to a renowned scientist, he becomes even more intrigued…

The Society’s kindness is especially welcome after everything Diana endured in a French prison, but she fears for the safety of those who get close to her. French spies are on her trail, convinced that her scientific knowledge can help them win the war. As peril draws them irrevocably together, Diana and Jacques succumb to mutual desire. But love may be the most dangerous pursuit of all, when a lady guards her heart even more carefully than she guards her life...

Normally I'm not a fan of historical romance but every once in awhile one comes along and I feel like its too good to pass up, and this was one of them. I'm glad I got a chance to read it because while it isn't going to convince me to grab more historical romances, I really enjoyed reading it.

The book starts off immediately on page one with Jacques Laurent nearly running into Diana, on the run presumably from spies. Diana reluctantly accepts a ride into London with Jacques but after an unexpected storm forces them to stay the night at a nearby inn, Jacques knows he can't in good conscious leave her so he convinces her to accept the help of the Everton Domestic Society. I feel like had I read the other three books I would have more of an idea of who they are and their entire background, but I was still able to enjoy the book, so don't let that deter you.

I really liked Diana because she wasn't afraid to fend for herself or do things on her own but she's also intelligent enough to accept help when that's the most logical choice. Jacques also is rather progressive given the time period and doesn't treat her as if she's below him because of her gender or social status, he sees her as equal and treats her even better. If I had to tell you something I didn't love.. I would say the dialogue is close to cheesy. Granted, this is a historical romance so this might be me not used to it but Jacques fawning over Diana was eye roll worthy and I didn't love it.

The espionage and murder aspects will keep you on your toes (almost making is a suspense) and the romance is an absolute slow burn. Which I suppose given the time period it would be. Danger is abound since Diana is a bit of a target and everywhere she goes, nothing good happens so anytime Jacques gets close to her she bolts because she doesn't want anything to happen to him.

Overall? I'm giving this 3 stars. I liked it, I would read more of this series and this author. If you're a fan of historical romance and are looking for a short read, this would be a good option for you.

Thank you to Kensington Books, Lyrical Press, A.S. Fenichel, and Pump Up Your Book for inviting me on this tour! All opinions expressed are my own; this post contains affiliate links. 

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Book Review: The Cost of Honor

I already completed my Goodreads Reading Challenge for 2019 so any book this month is just extra so maybe it'll motivate me to increase my goal for next year? I don't know... we'll see.

In between baking cookies I've been reading and I'm not hating it because I've had some really good books waiting for me, including this one.

The Cost of Honor - Diana Muñoz Stewart
He gave up everything to escape his family
The only male to be adopted into the notorious Parish family, Tony Parish always did right by his vigilante sisters. But when an attempt to protect one of them went horribly wrong, he had to fake his own death to escape his fanatical family. Tony set sail and ended up in Dominica—face to face with the woman of his dreams...
Now he must give up Honor to save her
After the death of her mother, Honor Silva moved to Dominica, where her family could help her heal and move on. But her activist mother left her more than money, she left her proof that could take down one of the richest and most powerful men in the world.
Tony gave up everything he thought he knew when he fled his family. But when a threat too dangerous for Tony and Honor to fight on their own closes in, he has no choice but to go to them for help. Problem is, they'll demand something in return—something that could cost Tony not just Honor, but also the love that changed him forever.
Let us start by saying this is book three in the Black Ops Confidential series but if you haven't read the other two, I think you should because they are really good. If you don't, it's going to be OK because each book is its own "couple" so you won't be terribly in the dark because the author does do a good job of keeping you up to date on whats going on. I will say if I were you, I'd read them in order because by the time you get to this book, you'll understand why Tony being here is a big "what the hell is going on?!". To recap though, I Am Justice is the first book and The Price of Grace is book two, and I have been liking this series the further I go and The Cost of Honor continues that because I really liked this book. Again, this one is just under 400 pages and you know I normally have a 300 page count limit because I like to get through a book quickly, I had no problem flying through this. The great thing about this author is she doesn't mess around with too much fluff to take up pages, the story is constantly going and you find it hard to put down or at least find a good stopping point.

In this book we have Tony, who we thought died in book one but found out he didn't in book two, and book three is his much needed story. Everything in this book was more of what you liked in books one and two- we have more danger, we have more suspense, we have more sex, we have more heat, and we have more moments that make you physically feel like you're actually in it and that alone is doing it for me.

If I had to give you something that I would put in the "that's kind of weird/meh" column, I would say it's the League of Warrior Women as a whole. In the first book I was kind of intrigued and thought ok, this could get interesting. Book two it's a little stranger and I wasn't sure how I felt about it, but by the end of this book it just feels straight up odd. Almost like a vigilante cult. I'm not sure if the author set out for it to be like that and I don't know if other people are reading it like that, but that's where I am. Except Tony is the exception to the group which is kind of odd but I'll go with it. Him coming back is the catalyst of a whole set of dominoes that move this book along. This family is straight up nuts. I want so badly to talk about what is really going on but it would ruin the book for you.

I can't quite give this 5 stars because the Parish family is just so strange and I really don't think I like them... so I'm giving this a 4. I say that also knowing this one is my favorite of all three.

Thank you to Sourcebooks and TLC Book Tours for inviting me on this tour and sending me a copy in exchange for review, all thoughts and opinions are my own.