Sunday, August 31, 2014

To The Breaking Pointe

YES! So, religious readers will maybe remember that I reviewed a book called Into the Crossfire way back in November. And it was great, it was the first of a series, and I have been anxiously awaiting the sequel. And it's here.

SQUEAL.

To the Breaking Pointe - Cindy McDonald
To the Breaking Pointe (First Force #2)
Five years ago First Force operative, Grant Ketchum, let the ballerina of his dreams dance out of his life. After her American adoptive parents were killed in an automobile accident, Silja Ramsay returned to her birthplace, Russia, to take the position of the principal dancer for the Novikov Ballet Company. She was living her dreams and although they had very little contact, Grant was proud of her.

The owner and director of the ballet company, Natalia Novikov, has a dark secret: her beloved company is almost broke. Natalia has become so desperate to keep her company afloat that she forces the dancers to prostitute themselves to financial contributors at exclusive after-show parties.

As the prima ballerina of the troupe, Silja has been exempt and kept in the dark about the parties, until a big-time American financier offers to bail out the company and provide Natalia with everything she needs. His prerequisite: Silja must become his companion, live in his home, and fulfill his every desire.

Against her will Silja is taken to the American's mansion, but before she goes she manages to send a text to the only man who can save her: Grant. 

HELP!!!

Now Grant Ketchum is on a mission to save his lost ballerina from this powerful man's subjugation. He will do anything to get her out alive. If they survive, will he let her chasse out of his life again?


Again,  YES. This is everything you want in a romantic thriller. We have stupid girl, who leaves man of her dreams to go to ballet in Russia. Lame. We have brooding, impossibly gorgeous ex-military guy who broods over her and hasn't gotten over her. THEN! We have dumb girl make ridiculous choices that only land her in really horrible danger. 

But then!!! 

Hot guys flies half way across the planet to save her. 

Just stop it. Just stop it right now because you know I read this thing in one afternoon. Laundry out of control? Check. Dinner burning on stove? Check. Eating junk food from the confines of my chair and getting cheeto dust on pages? Check. This is how we do, folks. This is how we do. 

I loved it. I couldn't put it down, even though dumb Silja is just really dumb. She can't follow instructions, or her gut, for nothing and poor Grant has to really work hard to not just keep her in his life, but keep her alive. 

Then you throw in the Russian government being bad, a criminal from American, who happens to be a sexual deviant of the worst kind, and people getting killed left and right. Oh! And a mind altering serum. Which, terrifying if you look at just that aspect alone. 

But I loved it. Poor Matt and kids felt totally neglected today, but a day spent reading was totally worth it. I needed that. AND, there is more in this series and I cannot wait. It's very Linda Howard (my favorite) like in the story. You combine ex-military hotties with romance and I'm all in. Take everything I have, just give me the damn book. 

Go to Cindy's website to learn more about this series and her other series. And bring a towel, just in case. 

Sweet Water

Yes. Yes, I am so glad I read this one after the last book I read from this author because I loved it.

Sweet Water - Christina Baker Kline
Sweet Water
When a grandfather she never knew bequeaths her a house and 60 acres of land in Sweetwater, Tenn., a restless young artist leaves New York to recover her past and rethink her future. Cassie Simon's mother Ellen died when Cassie was only three; raised in Boston by her grieving father, she never knew her maternal relatives. Unprepared for the thick veil of mystery that surrounds them, Cassie is especially bewildered by her brusque grandmother, whom rumor credits with hiding a terrible secret about Ellen's death. In alternating sections told from their respective points of view, Cassie and her grandmother fight their separate battles to cope with the truth about the tragedy. Kline perfectly renders each woman's voice: Cassie's, probing and often uncertain, propels the narrative and creates an appropriate level of psychological suspense; the grandmother's quavers with the weight of memory as Cassie's search forces her beyond family myth to a painful and perhaps dangerous truth. 

The result is a powerful, immensely readable tale of loyalty and betrayal, family and memory, made fresh by Kline's often beautiful and always lucid prose.


Do you know why I like Christina's novels so much? Because she really ties together an older generation, and their personal story, to a younger generation trying to figure out theirs. It always starts off bumpy and it gradually smooths itself out. This book was so stinking good that I had a hard time putting it down and I'm so glad I got to be on this tour. 

We start with Cassie, who finds out that she has inherited a house left to her by her grandfather on her mother's side. Cassie's mother, Ellen, died when she was three and she had been raised in New York by her father. She knows basically nothing of her mother's family and since her life in New York is at a stand still, she decides to take off for Tennessee and see if there is another path out there for her. 

She gets to Tennessee and it's a really bizarre situation. All of the family aren't totally welcoming towards her, and she assumes it's because it's a first meeting. What she doesn't know, is that the family harbors a lot of secrets from Ellen's death and a death that happened a few days prior. It's done an equal job of tearing an entire family apart as well keeping it together in the worst way. They cling to each other because, while the only people who really know what happened in either death are Clyde (her grandmother) and Amory (her deceased grandfather), they all think they know and harbor secrets for years. 

Until Cassie comes and unknowingly digs up the past. She's searching for family, for a connection to her mother, and to figure out why the family dynamic it is. Until then, she doesn't know how she can possibly be a part of any of it. Then enters Troy, her cousin through adoption, and things get a little dicey in the way of how society views their relationship. And his mother. Because his mother is an absolute nightmare. (Can I interject and say I wish, I so very much wish, that Cassie had given his mother the tongue lashing she needed? Because it would have been easily deserved.)

I really loved this book. To me, this is right on par with Orphan Train, which everyone knows I loved. I really adore stories that tie an older and younger generation together through family stories, good and/or bad. It's heartwarming because all of us, in some way, can relate to that. I highly encourage you to check this book out, and certainly others from Christina Baker Kline. I am very excited to read more from her in the future. The author is on Facebook and has a website, as well. 

Batter Up

Who is in the mood for a light chick lit book? I certainly was!

Batter Up - Robyn Neeley
Batter Up
Bakeshop owner Emma Stevens has a secret — a delicious, slightly unorthodox secret. Each Monday, she mixes up a premonition to share with the bachelors of Buttermilk Falls, and sets one lucky man on the path to true love.

When reporter Jason Levine finds himself mixed up in a Las Vegas bachelorette party, he hears the strangest rumour: the marriage is happening thanks to magic cake batter. Seriously sceptical, and sick of frauds, Jason journeys to the backwater town of Buttermilk Falls to expose the baker and release the townspeople from her evil clutches.

But when Jason meets Emma, tempers flare and sparks fly. Will Jason cling to his logic at the expense of a future, or will he let himself fall under Emma’s spell?


I'll be honest, if you aren't into reading books with a heavy story line or that make you feel all of the feels, then this is the book you  need to go with. It's sweet, it's cute, it's endearing, it's short, and it's predictable. I mean, you know Jason and Emma end up together but the fun is the way they end up there. 

Basically it's about Emma, who owns a family bakery she has taken over. It's gained a bit of a reputation for it's Monday night festivities where one lucky bachelor gets pointed into the direction of his true love with the help of a special batter and a spell that Emma says in her head. The first match you read about in the book introduces us to Jason, an unlucky in love and work, who decides to get his investigative reporting career back on track to figure out what the big deal is about this bakery. He doesn't believe for a minute that cake batter and this woman can match anyone up and it's pure coincidence, and he's out to prove that. 

Until he meets Emma and is reluctantly drawn to her, but she makes it clear that she's not interested in him or his story. Except Emma is drawn to him, but doesn't want any notoriety for the bakery or the spell. 

Overall? It's a cute story. It's a fast read, it's perfect for an end of summer read. It's perfect for those fall weekends where it's just a little too chilly to go out but you also don't want to sit around doing nothing either. 

I wish there had been more back story on her mother and grandmother, or least a little more history on how the spell came to be. I also didn't like Emma's boyfriend who goes off to New York only to come back, he's kind of a jerk. But I really liked Emma. You can tell she's just a sucker for romance and after putting so much effort into the boyfriend who essentially left her for bigger and better things, she kind of gives up and I hate that for her. 

I'm giving this a solid 3/5 stars. It's a cute little chick lit novel but if you are more into romance, this probably isn't going to fit into your list. But we all need a break from our usual, and this would be a good one. 

Thursday, August 28, 2014

The Story of Land and Sea

I can only be honest when I tell you I picked this book to review based on the cover. Because it's just pretty.

The Story of Land and Sea - Katy Simpson Smith
The Story of Land and Sea: A Novel
Set in a small coastal town in North Carolina during the waning years of the American Revolution, this incandescent debut novel follows three generations of family—fathers and daughters, mother and son, master and slave, characters who yearn for redemption amidst a heady brew of war, kidnapping, slavery, and love. 

Drawn to the ocean, ten-year-old Tabitha wanders the marshes of her small coastal village and listens to her father’s stories about his pirate voyages and the mother she never knew. Since the loss of his wife Helen, John has remained land-bound for their daughter, but when Tab contracts yellow fever, he turns to the sea once more. Desperate to save his daughter, he takes her aboard a sloop bound for Bermuda, hoping the salt air will heal her.

Years before, Helen herself was raised by a widowed father. Asa, the devout owner of a small plantation, gives his daughter a young slave named Moll for her tenth birthday. Left largely on their own, Helen and Moll develop a close but uneasy companionship. Helen gradually takes over the running of the plantation as the girls grow up, but when she meets John, the pirate turned Continental soldier, she flouts convention and her father’s wishes by falling in love. Moll, meanwhile, is forced into marriage with a stranger. Her only solace is her son, Davy, whom she will protect with a passion that defies the bounds of slavery.

In this elegant, evocative, and haunting debut, Katy Simpson Smith captures the singular love between parent and child, the devastation of love lost, and the lonely paths we travel in the name of renewal.


When I first finished this book, which was an afternoon read, I sat in my chair wondering what the hell the point of this book was? I mean, I really sat there and thought I had just wasted and entire afternoon on a story that kind of felt like it had no point. 

Fast forward a few days and I have a few different thoughts about it. 

The story, for me, kind of revolves around John in my eyes and I realize that it's not really supposed to be, but for me, in hindsight all I think about is John and his connection to all of the other characters. But we start with John, who is caring for his daughter Tabitha alone because his wife Helen dies during childbirth. Tabitha contracts yellow fever and he decided bringing her to sea and breathing in sea air is the best course. Which, to have Tabitha's story at the beginning felt a little odd to me, but I suppose the author wants to give you that gut punch and then explain how John got here in the first place. 

So then we meet a younger Helen who is given a slave for her tenth birthday, Moll, and those two become friends in a really bizarre sense that Helen seems oblivious to. Moll at least understands that they aren't really friends because she is a slave after all, and Helen doesn't understand what's wrong with that because it's just how life is for each of them. But Moll is forced to marry a fellow slave who happens to be a loser and Helen tries to make it a positive, happy occasion when really, Moll hates that it's happening at all. She has no say and again, Helen doesn't understand how terrible that is because she'll never be in that position. 

But as they get older, their lives begin to change. Suitors are coming around for Helen and not wanting to marry at all, she flirts away but basically leaves them no hope that this is going to go anywhere. Until she meets John. She reluctantly likes him, doesn't want to love him, but somehow she ends up doing so. Her father doesn't approve of a privateer without a family but Helen doesn't much care. John is equally smitten and somehow, they find themselves running off and they end up married and she comes back pregnant after being to sea. 

So that's a really terrible rundown of the story. In hindsight, I felt most sorry for John. He has no family, but finds Helen and they start a family. In the end, it's like he loses all of his family so him being basically the sea element in the story rings true. He's drift less and I feel like the sea is just... depression. It's sad, nothing truly changes and you just float along in life. Whereas Helen's father, Asa, is strong and though he has had awful losses in his life too and has lost all of his family as well, he feels different... sturdy. He feels sturdy like land and trees. This will make no sense to you at all, but that's just what I had been thinking of after I had finished the book for a few days. Really, I thought  Helen was terrible. I didn't think she was a very nice person at all and I kind of feel like she really just used everyone. She used her father for monetary reasons, she uses Moll for companionship when it's convenient for her and almost as show, she uses suitors and doesn't think twice about their feelings, and when it becomes obvious she's done nothing in her life, she uses John as almost to prove a point that she did do something with her life and can make big life choices. So in the end, Helen seems like a terrible person. 

But I will say that the end of Moll's story? You go, Moll. You go. It's probably not going to end well but dammit, you have to try. 

This is just a short video of the author discussing how she came up with the story itself and a brief synopsis of it in her words: 


You can purchase the book HERE, or add it to your Goodreads list HERE

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Just keep trying, right?

Ever since the miscarriage, Matt and I have basically been trying to get pregnant. I wasn't sure at first if that was something I wanted to do but the longer it takes to happen, the more I want it. September 3 will be four months since my miscarriage and it's getting harder and harder each month that passes.

I keep hearing people telling me to give it time, it'll happen if it's supposed to happen, give my body time to heal, etc. But it's all annoying and it makes me angry. Because now having been on the side of the coin where I want it so bad and I don't have it, those are really terrible things to say to someone in this circumstance.

I know that I'm relatively healthy, I haven't had any issues carrying my other babies. It's like ever since the miscarriage, with each passing month, I feel more broken. I wonder what is wrong with me. Why can't I get this right a third time? I see people who are not in a position in life to have more kids. I see people who don't even want kids getting pregnant. I see people who then have kids and are more worried about finding a husband, going out and "relaxing" at a bar, and I sit at home wishing with everything in me that I'm pregnant.

And nothing happens.

The part that worries me, is the part where I see Matt's face when he asks if I got my period (because I dutifully write it on the calendar) with a gleam in his eyes hoping I say no. And every month, he's less excited to ask and I kind of think this month, when my period is supposed to come on Wednesday, he might not even ask. If he doesn't ask, I feel like a little part of me is going to shut down. Like all hope is lost and he's going to say we gave it our best and maybe it wasn't meant to be and gee- could you go get your birth control again?

I don't know if I can handle that. I really don't.

I also can't blame him. When it comes to emotionally supporting me, he admittedly is really terrible. Anything to do with emotions is completely foreign to him and he basically just stands there and asks what he can do, as if doing laundry is going to make my heart hurt less. I try hard not to get angry at him for not understanding something he doesn't get but sometimes I can't help it. Sometimes I need to be angry and frustrated.

Someone asked me if the only reason I want a third baby is to prove to myself I can still do it. I'll admit, it's part of the reason, but certainly not all. I had wanted a third baby for years and Matt always said no and I had to grieve and come to terms that I was done. But I don't know, something about being pregnant, against my will basically, turned something on in me. Like, maybe this is the opportunity I never had before and I keep thinking it'd be great to have a third at times when I watch Olivia and Jackson play. Then I feel selfish and I worry I'll be resentful if I have a third.

Then I get angry because I feel like I'm going crazy and maybe this all a symptom of something larger.

It's just so frustrating.

Then the trying. My god. I remember when we were trying with Olivia and Jackson it was always fun, there was an added element and a spark you only get in certain moments because I just knew I was going to get pregnant, it's just a matter of when. And this time... well this time it's not any of that. I don't feel as certain as I once did and it's like being slapped in the face with the aging process. And I'm only 32, I know. It's not old by any means but times like this make me feel otherwise.

So that's where we're at. I hope Wednesday comes and surprises us all. I don't feel hopeful though, but you never know I guess. But I guess we just keep trying until Matt says no more.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Olivia's best birthday present ever, a month early.



Way back in January I had heard that Katy Perry was going to be coming on tour in Minneapolis (which is like 2 1/2 hours from us one way) and I knew that come hell of high water, we were going to go. Olivia absolutely loves Katy Perry and not just because of her music, but she has become really cognizant of "pretty" people and how a lot of models, actresses, singers, etc are blond and occasionally she will tell me she wishes that she was blond. Not only are they blond, but they are skinny. Which, Olivia is a brunette and she is very skinny. But it doesn't seem to help when other girls at school say she's fat or something (which  yes, that happens. That happens quite a few times in any given school year.)

Which, to hear your child say she wishes she was something other than what she is, is absolutely heartbreaking.

But she really likes Katy Perry because she has dark hair, she likes her music, and Olivia tells me maybe someday she can be like Katy. Well, I don't know about that, but at this point, whatever helps her feel better about herself, I'm all about.

So I talked to my friend Andrea, and her daughter Sydney (Olivia's best friend) really loves Katy Perry too. Coincidentally, their dance routine was to the song "Roar" so we decided we were going to buy the girls concert tickets for their birthdays. Sydney's birthday is in July, Olivia's is September, and the concert was in August. It was kind of perfect. So we bought the tickets and kept our mouths shut until Sydney's birthday in July.

Which was so hard. Dude, you have NO IDEA how hard that was.

But they were kind of confused as to what a concert was because neither had been to a real one in a stadium before, but they were excited nonetheless to see Katy Perry.

So we left early yesterday so we'd have time to have dinner before the concert. Andrea made cute signs for the girls to hold at the show. I had purchased pink cat ears for them, and both girls had adorable concert wear and were totally ready for the show.

Pre-concert, holding signs. Stinking adorable.

Once we got to our seats, Olivia was pretty overwhelmed at how many people there were and how huge this was. She had no concept of what a concert was, so she was pretty damn excited.
Olivia and I before the first opening act, Feras, came on. He was pretty terrible. He's like, stuck in 1986 and had a synthesizer. He was a little emo and it was just... it was terrible. Olivia was particularly offended he had a see through shirt AND a dress.

But then Kacey Musgraves came on and we both love her, so she got excited.
And absolutely loved her dress. And loved that she sang "Follow Your Arrow" which is one of her favorite songs ever.
But then it was time for Katy to come on and I'm not kidding you, Olivia's eyes almost came out of her head. She really had no idea what she was in for.
Once the smoke settled and you could clearly see Katy, Olivia yells, "MOM!! That's Katy Perry! She's really here!!"
And she was.
I don't think I could have taken enough pictures of her face that night and in fact, these are really the only two that I got, but she was so excited.
She didn't even notice that we were almost in the nosebleeds. Pretty close.

Oh wait, I got one of her holding her sign when Katy zoomed through the air not too far from us.
She loves the song "Dark Horse" and she thought it was a real horse on stage.
Wait, no- I found another one of her! Holding my phone as a light during "Unconditionally". She thought it looked like a million little stars and wanted to be a part of it.
 "Walking on Air" was pretty cool. She was glad we weren't down there, we wouldn't be able to see anything.
 "It Takes Two" kind of a weird performance but good.
"Birthday" was pretty great as was "This is How We Do"- our girls were totally dancing and singing their little hearts out. Olivia said it was the best birthday present ever. Oh! And during the encore, "Firework" was played and you had to put on the prism vision glasses and everything basically looked like a prism. It was a pretty cool experience at a concert, can't say I've ever done that before. But Olivia loved it and said she wants to go to concerts with me all of the time.

I've done my job. My girl is properly introduced to the greatness of a live show, AND she got to see her favorite singer. I couldn't afford to get her a t-shirt so I convinced her a poster is MUCH cooler, so she now has her Katy Perry poster on her wall with her sign that she held next to it. I remember seeing New Kids on the Block when I was 7 for my first concert and it was literally the greatest part of my childhood. I haven't ever forgotten it and I don't think Olivia will ever forget Katy Perry.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Two jobs kind of stinks.

I tell the story often that back when I was in college, I had three jobs. I was full time in school, I had a full time job at a fast food restaurant, I had a part time office support job and I was part time as a telemarketer during third shift. I was getting maybe five hours of sleep, if I was lucky, each night and at least part of the week I slept in my car in the school parking lot. 

So every time I hear college students say they can't possibly work AND go to school, my eye twitches and I want to slap them. Because it is doable, and though it sucks, your bills still come and no creditor cares what your situation is or that you are sleeping in a 1998 Chevy Lumina in a parking lot during the winter. 

Fast forward to adulthood when I remember having one full time job and feeling like it was a total breeze. I felt like I had won the lottery not needing a second job and man, why are adults always bitching about this? This is AWESOME! 

But now we're in a situation where we really need to have more income coming in, even if only temporarily, and it's on me to do it. And I hate it. I hate that life feels like it has come full circle in some sick joke. 

So as of last week I have been working almost 60 hours between my two jobs. Thankfully, my inlaws has my kids for the whole week and it was just Matt and I. Well, mostly Matt. Poor Matt got kind of bored. But he did do cleaning around the house and managed to find food for himself. This week will be a different story. This is the first week where I basically won't see my kids all day except for an hour in the morning. 

And I hate it. 

I hate that I won't get to smell them after shower time, I won't get to tuck them into bed or read stories, get bed time kisses and snuggles, or hear about their day over dinner. 

Instead, I'll be going from one job to the next. For at least the next six months. 

I have to make some fairly large decisions career wise, pretty soon. I'm adult enough to be honest and say I'm completely avoiding doing that, because it's true. I also start school on September 2 and I'm kind of scared. I'm scared I won't do well and I'll be stuck with the enormous bill and have nothing to show for it, and I am scared I won't be able to do fun things with my kids. 

The plan was always to use one job to pay off things faster and use my other job to be our grocery money, pay my car payment, cover dental visits and extra activities for the kids. Then once all of the extra things are paid off, I'd quit one job and hopefully by then I'd be pregnant or giving birth soon, and it would all work out. 

Do I see that happening? I don't know. I really don't know. I don't know how long I'm going to be able to keep all of this stuff up either because I'm not a super woman and I'm older. Lots of friends were like, "You did more in college, you'll be fine!". Which, true, I did. But I'm also a good 13 years older, I'm tired, and I have kids. Things are different for me now. So we'll see. But for those who have emailed me encouragement this last week- thank you. Seriously. I maybe haven't replied but I got it, and I needed it. 

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Sinful Folk

You guys- I miss you. I miss you all. I promise I haven't died or fallen off the planet! I am working 60+ hours for the next three weeks and I have so much to talk about, but I promise you I'll come back as soon as I can. In the meantime, I have book reviews to tide you over.

Like this odd little book.

Sinful Folk - Ned Hayes
Sinful Folk
In December of the year 1377, five children were burned to death in a suspicious house fire. A small band of villagers traveled 200 miles across England in midwinter to demand justice for their children’s deaths. 

Sinful Folk is the story of this treacherous journey as seen by Mear, a former nun who has lived for a decade disguised as a mute man, raising her son quietly in this isolated village. 

For years, she has concealed herself and all her secrets. But in this journey, she will find the strength to claim the promise of her past and find a new future. Mear begins her journey in terror and heartache, and ends in triumph and redemption. 


I will come right out and say this is not a genre or type of book I usually go for because it's just to much to think about for me and I generally avoid it. But as of late, I had a reader suggest I step outside of my box and I saw this and I thought, "yes- this is a perfect chance to jump out of my young adult/romance/new adult/paranormal box like a big girl!". And now, I kind of like my box because I didn't totally love it. It was kind of odd for me. 

The worst part is I am obviously a terrible judge of this book because everyone else I know who has read it, or reviews I have read are just in love with this book. And I can see why, it's a really compelling story. We have Mear, who pretends to be a mute man in a strange little village but really she's a former nun who got pregnant and had a son. So she left there and stumbles on this village by accident and decided that the best way to survive is to play the mute man card. Which, all is well and good for about ten years until her son is killed along with four other boys when this building in the village burns down. It's very tragic and horrifying really, so the townsfolk whose children died set out on this really ill fated and bizarre mission to haul the dead bodies of the boys to somehow avenge their death and prove that clearly, the Jews did it, despite having no evidence of that. 

A friend said this book reminded her of Chaucer, and though I admittedly have only read a small amount of Chaucer, I would agree. The writer has a real talent where you read this and you can almost imagine the setting, you can hear the voices of the townsfolk. You can feel this building sense of doom throughout the book while simultaneously learning about Mear and why not only being pregnant was scandalous but also learning who her son's father is and it's just... if you think back to what it would have been like in 1377 for a person like her, you totally understand why she did what she did. And, for me, it made the death of her song that much more tragic for her. Because not only does she lose her son, she's lost her identity, and now it's not like she just go back to being a nun. 

It's a hefty book and I'll be honest, this took me a few weeks to get through because I struggle with old versions of English language, so at times I got bored and had to give up for the night because it wasn't an easy, light read. The material is kind of heavy, but the descriptions really are great. I can't say that enough. I mean, Ned Hayes really went for it when writing this book and that is absolutely amazing. But if you are a fan of Middle Age books, you are going to love this. You will, and I'll admit- I'm the oddball who isn't totally loving this book. (Don't throw tomatoes, save them for your salads.) 

Monday, August 18, 2014

Hexed

You guys! I think I have maybe found myself a new series!

Hexed - Heather Graham
The Hexed (Krewe of Hunters, #13)
Devin Lyle has recently returned to the Salem area, but her timing couldn't be worse. Soon after she moved into the eighteenth-century cabin she inherited from her great-aunt Mina—her "crazy" great-aunt, who spoke to the dead—a woman was murdered nearby. 

Craig Rockwell—known as Rocky—is a new member of the Krewe of Hunters, the FBI's team of paranormal investigators. He never got over finding a friend dead in the woods. Now another body's been found in those same woods, not far from the home of Devin Lyle. And Devin's been led to a third body—by...a ghost? 

Her discovery draws them both deeper into the case and Salem's rich and disturbing history. Even as the danger mounts, Devin and Rocky begin to fall for each other, something the ghosts of Mina and past witches seem to approve of. But the two of them need every skill they possess to learn the truth—or Devin's might be the next body in the woods...


Granted, this is number 13 in the series, but the great part is that it's stand alone. I didn't even know how far into the series I was until I pulled up the page on Goodreads! But now I'll tell you I liked this book so much I'm adding more of Heather Graham's books to my to-read list for sure! 

So we have Devin, who lives in Salem in a little cottage in the woods with a bird named Poe and her dead great aunt Mina's ghost. So, totally normal right there. She unexpectedly finds a body in the woods and runs almost into the road and flags down Rocky, who was driving by. Turns out, he's back in town to investigate the murder of another woman who, coincidentally, was murdered the same way as the one Devin found and of a classmate of his years prior. 

All of this launches a major investigation with Rocky's new FBI department, the Krewe of Hunters, in conjunction with the local police. It's a pretty informative book in regards to the Salem Witch Trials because the murders appear to be somewhat connected to them, but it takes quite a bit of digging, ancestral researching, and talking to ghosts of murdered girls, and a connection is made. But that doesn't give us who the killer is. Everyone is a suspect, though and it's so up and down. I couldn't put this book down at all and the ending? OK, I kind of figured?But honestly, there is a bit of a twist at the end and man- so good. I feel like I have to keep going with this series because it's everything you want out of a suspenseful romantic thriller. How's that for a genre?? I'm not kidding, this book is going to get you hooked on the rest of the series and if they are even half as good as this one, we are all in for a treat! 

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Kicking ass temporarily.

You guys, the amount of exhaustion I feel is unreal. Like, I don't know that I have ever been this ridiculously tired ever. I think all of the stress from the last two weeks has finally caught up with me and like an true depressed person, the best way to handle problems is to sleep.

Until you wake up and realize oh hey- those problems didn't go away and you're still tired! And now you have more to do! Awesome!

So here is a wrap up of things:

1. I am planning a ridiculously gorgeous baby shower for my brother and sister in law. I have now resorted to carrying a notebook with me at all times and having one by my bed because I have been coming up with super awesome ideas at totally inconvenient times. They are having a girl, it's a garden theme party, and I rented a mansion. No, I'm not kidding. It's going to be amazing. BUT, it is only a few weeks away (like 6ish I think) and for most people, that's loads of time. For me? No. Because I a list making, party dominant person. The next few weekends is practicing a couple of dessert recipes I found just to be sure. I'm on the fence of, do I save money and make the cupcakes myself OR do I save time and order them from the person who did my wedding cake who is awesome? I don't know. It's so hard. And stressful. I can't even stress how stressful I make this on myself. But it might be my best shower yet? I know. I have pictures of things I so badly want to show off that I've made, but I can't because I want it to be a surprise for my brother and sister in law. No teasers. Lame, sorry.

2. I'm just going to go full steam ahead with school. I'm terrified, to be honest. When I saw how much tuition was for one semester? Well, let's just say I maybe wee'd my pants a bit. Hello, student loans. But I took just enough to cover my tuition, which means books are on me. Which, scary? Yes. I have to take an online gym class (no, I'm not even kidding you guys) and there is a $125 book with access code with it. No, I can't even make this up because it's that absurd. Ugh. So I purchased five of the nine books I need (one class alone has five books. Again, absurd.) to the tune of $40.88. Yes, you read that right. High five your lambwhore leader for being frugal! Now let's hope they all come and are in usable condition! Because yes, as a college bookstore employee I have heard every horror story there is about buying used books online, I hope I am not that student. *cross fingers AND toes*

3. We ripped up the carpet in the living room as well. That flooring needs a little more love than the dining room, but it will have to all wait until next summer where hopefully, we can sand everything and restain it. I'm kind of in love with the darker color opposed to a lighter color. Matt prefers the lighter color and I'm convinced it's because it's less work. You'd think after 12 years he'd know when to not fight me on something. His life would be so much easier.

4. Monday I start my new second job. I'll still be at the college bookstore, although I have no idea how my hours there are going to shake out and I'm hoping for the best on that front. But my second job is a new convenience store that is opening up a ton of stores in my area. I have three weeks of what seems like fairly intense training, then we do "live store" training, and then I think we go into a store. The positive there is that by the time I end up in a store I'll feel like an expert. So that's kind of nice. The downside means I will be working 60 hour weeks for the next three weeks. The crap thing is that the last three days of this training overlaps with the kids' starting school so those last three days are going to be really brutal. I also don't really know what my schedule will be beyond that so I'm hoping for the best.

5. Combine this with having to get PTO stuff in order for the upcoming year. Admittedly, I got a lot done this summer so I'm thrilled with that. I have our first meeting notice to copy, a bulletin board to decorate, and then get my wits about me. Yikes.

6. I need to sign Olivia up for dance yet. I'm such a fail. I hope I can get it together and do it tomorrow night and say it's done.

7. I have SO MANY awesome reviews coming.I have been getting a lot of my September books in the mail and they are all pretty so I'm hoping they are all equally good. I have two books to finish this week, so we'll see what I get done.
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So that's the snapshot of my life right now. I feel a little more emotionally upbeat than past weeks but I'm not all of the way yet. I'll get there. I'm so up and down and it's kind of hard to live like that, you know? I can see why people just lose hope and say screw it. It's probably a good thing I'm so damn stubborn.

And because I can't get enough of this video? You can enjoy it, too.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Desire Lines

Chick lit time!!

Desire Lines - Christina Baker Kline
Desire Lines: A Novel
From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Orphan Train comes a novel about friendship and the memories that haunt us

On the night of her high school graduation, Kathryn Campbell sits around a bonfire with her four closest friends, including the beautiful but erratic Jennifer. "I'll be fine," Jennifer says, as she walks away from the dying embers and towards the darkness of the woods. She never comes back.

Ten years later, Kathryn has tried to build a life for herself, with a marriage and a career as a journalist, but she still feels the conspicuous void of Jennifer's disappearance. When her divorce sends her reeling back to the Maine town where she grew up, she finds herself plunged into a sea of memories. With nothing left to lose, she is determined to answer one simple question: What happened to Jennifer Pelletier?


Let's just get this out of the way up front: was this book as good as Orphan Train? No. No it wasn't. To be honest thought, Orphan Train was so great for me that I almost wish I had read her other books before Orphan Train so I'd feel like she was progressively getting better and better. With that said, it doesn't mean this isn't a good book. It's good in a chick lit kind of way. 

I think the hardest part for me was how slow it was. This wasn't a book that grabbed you because things were just happening and the story wouldn't let you go. What this story was, was slow. It was so slow and the only thing keeping me hanging on is I wanted to know what the hell happened with Jennifer. I think the problem is that the story really isn't about finding Jennifer at all, it's more about Kathryn figuring out what the hell is wrong with herself and her life- why can't she just get it together? Her being distraught over the unexplained loss of a friend is what's given, but honestly? Kathryn is a fledgling adult and I think even if Jennifer hadn't disappeared, her life would have been the same. But once I got going in the story, it became pretty obvious that we weren't going to get a really interesting twist at the end that just unexpectedly guts you, which is what I was really hoping for. Instead, I guessed the outcome by the time we're at the part where they are attending their reunion. 

But with all of that said? I think if you are a die hard chick lit fan you are going to really love this. It would really be excellent for book clubs and there is a reading group guide at the back of the book which I kind of went over just to see if I'd walk away with a different feeling. For me, though, it's not what I was expecting. I'm still going to count myself as a fan who would eagerly await a new release because which everything taken in, the fact that I finished the book even though I wasn't totally feeling it says something about the writing style, and I have to love that. 


Wednesday, August 13, 2014

A Better World

OK, so a few weeks I reviewed book one in the Brilliance Saga, which was aptly called Brilliant. You can see my take on that book HERE. And I really liked it because it was so unique, really nothing else like it out there. So now I've read book two, and here's my review for that.

A Better World - Marcus Sakey
A Better World (Brilliance Saga, #2)
The brilliants changed everything.

Since 1980, 1% of the world has been born with gifts we’d only dreamed of. The ability to sense a person’s most intimate secrets, or predict the stock market, or move virtually unseen. For thirty years the world has struggled with a growing divide between the exceptional...and the rest of us.

Now a terrorist network led by brilliants has crippled three cities. Supermarket shelves stand empty. 911 calls go unanswered. Fanatics are burning people alive.

Nick Cooper has always fought to make the world better for his children. As both a brilliant and an advisor to the president of the United States, he’s against everything the terrorists represent. But as America slides toward a devastating civil war, Cooper is forced to play a game he dares not lose—because his opponents have their own vision of a better world.

And to reach it, they’re willing to burn this one down.


It's absolutely true, you can't put this book down. Just like with book one, I started this one and was instantly hooked and I couldn't stop. Because it's so fast paced and it's fascinating. I am not a politically savvy person at all so I'll admit that element of this book is a bit over my head just like in book one, but it wasn't near enough to make me give up. 

This time we have Nick, fresh after rescuing his family and killing the President of the United States basically, kind of in limbo. He's quickly pulled out of limbo when he's approached by the new President of the United States and invited to help be a part of the team to help discover who the Children of Darwin are and what their motive for basically becoming terrorists on American soil. They seem to be coming after "normals", shutting down major cities. 

In one of those cities is a scientist is kidnapped,  and the city is also shut down leaving his sidekick basically stranded. We get the view of civilians going commando if you will, and those who have stockpiled their goods become targets for desperate people. Then we still have Shannon, an abnorm from book one, who is running her own missions for John Smith. There's still a weird chemistry between her and Nick but he doesn't completely trust her motives with him and at the same time, his ex-wife is giving him some mixed signals. 

Then in all of this, we have political corruption and honestly? Did not see the ending coming. The loss of life in these books is staggering when you step away and really thinking about. The other thing is that the scenario presented in these books is terrifying. I'll be frank, as American citizens, we live a pretty cushy life. Even those of us who are financially strapped, those who are homeless, etc- even the worst circumstances is actually a lot better than some areas in other countries. I think we lose sight of that, but when I read stories like this, it makes it all sound so plausible and scary. Like maybe I really should be stockpiling canned goods and stuff. 

Overall? Loved it. That ending though.. perfect set up for book three and I'm eagerly waiting for it. So, so good. 

Ash to Steele

Yes. I was in a rut where I didn't feel like reading (yeah, I know- I was just as alarmed as you are), but then I picked this book up and thank the lord because it was amazing and I couldn't put it down.

Ash to Steele - Karen-Anne Stewart
Ash to Steele
Emma

Who I am and all I believe is marred with just one glance into angry, steel blue eyes. He seems to control my air, my ability to breathe. He makes me crave everything I know is a sin. Pure becomes tainted and lines are blurred. It's my fault; I'm the one who isn't strong enough. I've been damaged...broken. Breck's words haunt me...'There's a consequence for every choice you make.'

Breck

I've had so many women I can't even remember over half of their names, but none of them are mine; I make damn sure of that. I take what I desire and never look back. I don't need or want anyone, ever...not until I met Emma. Those eyes bore into what's left of my soul and her touch sears me, weakens me. I want to hate her for that. She is my ruin...my sweetest hell. 

Disclaimer: Intended for readers 18+ due to strong language, mature scenes, and some violence.


Oh my. I loved this book so much. It is literally everything you need out of a romance. We have a strong, independent yet semi-naive girl. We have a ridiculously hot, surly, stubborn man whore. We have conflict, amazing attraction and a really fantastic love story. We also get a lot of great steamy scenes and a whole bunch of violence, which is kind of like the added bonus you didn't even know you needed. 

I loved Emma. I feel like she is such a good egg and man, what a solid chick. No matter what gets tossed at her: violence, criminal records, a boyfriend who can't handle  his emotionally instability, her loser ex, her religious conflicts, and just the worst of living in a big city thrown at her, and she just takes everything in stride. And I loved Breck. Sure, he's a bit of man whore who is really upset that Emma has seemingly screwed him off his game but he also knows there's something about her that he absolutely needs in his life. Though he's sure he's going to corrupt her and ultimately ruin her life, he can't stop himself and that just makes him hate himself even more. 

I mean, literally ever conflict you can have in a romance novel? All in. It is all in here and it's amazing. I loved every single part of it, I never once doubted Emma and Breck and the ending is amazing. And thank god there was an epilogue because I didn't want to leave so unfinished without knowing what happens a little further down the road. 

You guys, it's so good. Just so good. 

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Sara and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Week

Yeah, it's not just a bad day, it's on track to be a bad week.

So last week was a tough week with both Matt and I working quite a bit. This week it's not so bad for Matt, but next week will be terrible for me. I'll be clocking in around 65 hours next week. And it's not that I want to work that much, it's that financially, I absolutely have to right now. The medical bills? Killing us. I'm trying to not worry about it because I know eventually they'll be gone, but when I realize I have another $2700 surgery coming this fall? It's daunting. I feel overwhelmed.

Add that to getting more hours cut at work, that sucks. I have a part time job starting next week but after doing some math this weekend, Matt doesn't think we can swing it if I am working two jobs and still being the person to take the kids to activities and deal with school stuff since he's working so much. So I don't know what to do. I mean, for awhile it'll be fine but long term? I don't know. I'm stressed out.

School starts on September 2 and I'm going to be honest- I am terrified. I'm scared I'm going to not be good enough and I won't make it. I'm scared that financially, this is a terrible decision. It's me either try and blow money on something with no reward, or I go and do well, eventually finishing a degree and have a gross amount of debt and try to find a job using my degree so I can pay for it. Which I might not be able to do. I'm worried about it.

All of these things weigh heavily on my mind and this weekend it was hard. Then yesterday we hear of Robin Williams committing suicide and people are shocked. And I'm not. I'm not shocked about depression and feeling like you're really at the end of what you can take. I get it. It's awful. Thank god I've never been to that point but I can absolutely relate to things being great on the outside, but on the inside you just want to shrivel up and die because it's so hard to function.

A friend called me this weekend and told me I need to slow down, relax and just enjoy life. And I can't. I can't slow down and relax because when I do all of these terrible feelings and thoughts creep in and it's so hard to get past them and resume regular life when I need to. I refuse to be medicated because then I just feel totally numb and/or sick. It doesn't matter which one of the 7 (or combinations of) I've been on- it's all the same. I'm tired, I'm numb, I don't care about anything, or worst case scenario, I cry a lot. I can't do any of that and be a mom and wife.

So I just keep plugging on. I'm trying to take hits and bumps in the road in stride and just say things will get better. I'm trying really hard to do that, but sometimes it's just not enough. I told Matt something has to give and give soon because this is just too much. We need some good things to happen to us soon.

The worst part is realizing that overall, I live a really great life. I have a great husband, I have great kids, I have a supportive family. I have a job, I have a home to go to every day, I have clean water to drink and food to eat. I am safe, I am free, and I have opportunity. I hate having all of this and realizing it's not enough to make me want to get out of bed in the morning. And I know it's a phase. In a few weeks, I'll be fine, excited, and happy. And somehow that makes it worse because I know what it's like to have that good feeling, like everything is right at my finger tips. Sometimes I wonder if it would be easier to never know that and just be sad all of the time.

So in the meantime, I'm working on some crafty things, a really gorgeous baby shower that I'm dying to show pictures of but it's a surprise to the mommy to be, I've got some book reviews I'm working on, and a few other things. I'm trying to stay busy because that gives me peace and honestly, I need it.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

9/2

I always forget how much the month of August sucks until I'm in the month of August and it's like oh yes, I don't like you, Mr. August. No sir, I do not.

August is nothing but long to-do lists and rushing. I feel a lot of pressure in August to get everything done because September? Well September is the start of all things. School for the kids starts on September 2. I am excited for Olivia to be in third grade and I don't feel ready at all for Jackson to be in first grade. Of course I worry over nothing but I can't help it. Sports and activities generally start up in September and it's stressful. It's a lot of things all at once starting and it is so hard to balance it all. I sometimes think if August wasn't so awful and busy I'd feel far more prepared. There is no relaxing time before school and that makes it hard.

Also? I start college again on September 2. I have my financial aid and classes ready to go. I may decide last minute that nope, not doing it. I haven't purchased my books, it's all very fly by the seat of my pants and that is clearly the worst way to start college again, right? But with recent things that have happened, there is a real possibility that in a few years I'll be back in the work force full time and I'd be naive to think a Bachelor's degree wouldn't be beneficial. Most employers don't even care what your degree even is in, so long as you have it. Which is absolutely insane. The nice part about having my Associates is that I have already repaid all of that. That degree is free and clear and unfortunately, a lot of my dream jobs aren't going to accept that. Now, had I known that Associates degrees are basically useless in larger corporations and dream job areas? I wouldn't have gone that route in the first place. It's certainly not ideal for every area, that's for sure. I mean, Matt has his Associates as a Network Specialist and do you think he could get a job within 300 miles with it? Nope. They all require a Bachelor's. *sigh*

So as of right now? I'm still in. And pretty terrified, I won't lie.

Not only that, but I recently accepted another part time job (in addition to my part time job that I've been at for almost five years, which doesn't seem like it's been that long). That training starts on August 18 and goes until September 2. Big stuff all at once. So for about three weeks, I'll be working almost 50-60 hour weeks, just like Matt does every week easily. PLUS, I still have the cooking, cleaning, kids to deal with. I feel like if I can do that for three weeks the start of school/sports/activities/craziness won't feel as bad.

Or it'll be worse because I'll be exhausted.

We'll see.

I guess this week has taught me that everyone really is out for themselves. I have to stop thinking that being a good person and a hard worker is going to really get me to the next level in anything. It doesn't. It just doesn't and that's sad because what do I teach my kids? Matt and I are having some real hard discussions about things that will change soon but the underlying current is that we've got to start living a fun life. We have fun now, but we haven't put a priority on fun and that's what we need to do.

But August. Man, we have to get through August.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

The LUMP... under the carpet

Anyone who has followed this blog or knows us in real life knows Matt and I are not afraid to take on a home improvement project. We'll do just about anything and in our previous house, we had to do a wide variety of things, none of which were easy and not traumatic. I think every project in that house brought us to the brink of divorce, we certainly cried a lot, and a lot of swears were heard throughout that neighborhood.

I think that was one of the biggest reasons we were so sad to leave that house, we literally poured a lot of blood, sweat, tears, and money into that house. A lot.

When we bought this house we bought it with the understanding that sure, some things will need updating but it's not like we didn't have the skills. We had experience, we learned the do's and don'ts, and the process of projects. We've been here a little over a year now and basically, we haven't done much. We've painted almost every room, except for our bedroom, the kitchen, and downstairs bathroom. Those will happen in due time. We are steadily working on a family room in the basement and I'm trying to talk Matt into making the bathroom down there maybe a half bath at least because all it is is a toilet.

The biggest project that I was the most fearful of was the carpet. Folks, the carpet situation in this house is disgusting. I'm at the point where I'm embarrassed to have people over because it's really fucking disgusting. When we bought the house, we saw some stains but I honestly thought a couple of runs with a good carpet cleaner would fix it.

Do you see? The entire dining room and connected living room carpet is a blue/gray color but mottled with stains. The dining room is a whole lot worse (above) than the living room. Granted, I did spill an entire tub of gravy on the floor but to my credit, we got that up. This? We aren't totally sure what these stains are. But they are gross and as it turns out, the more we tried to clean it, the worse it actually got. So the decision was that carpet is really expensive and these rooms are fairly large. The next option was to do a laminate or some other wood flooring, but it would have to match up to the hardwood in my office that was never carpeted and we didn't want it to be super different. 

The biggest obstacle was this lump in the floor. Almost right down the middle of the dining room floor there is a ridge, a really long lump. Matt said he really thought it was the floor settling on either side of a wall that's in the basement. Our house is easily over a 100 years old, this was possible. Worst case scenario we have a serious problem that definitely needs to be corrected before we do any type of flooring. The issues could be a variety of things, all ranging in dollar amounts to fix. 

We're broke, so we were scared. I told Matt, totally on a whim after work, let's just do it. Let's pull this carpet up and see what the hell we're dealing with because I'll be damned if I let a baby crawl on this floor. Whether we have #3 or not, I plan on babysitting my new niece after she's born and there's no way in hell that will happen on this carpet. Barf. So Matt got to work. 

 He would not wear a tool belt even though I said he looks better with a tool belt. Sad. Next time, for sure.

So he started pulling carpet from the tack strips. And immediately, the smell.

You guys.

It honest to god smelled like I had walked into a porta potty. You could tell the underside of the carpet was ruined. It's not just the stains we could see, it was worse. The pad? Not only had they gone cheapest pad ever and it was disintegrated in high traffic areas, but whatever liquid went through the carpet? Was disintegrating the pad. And the pad? Still moist in some areas.

Let that sink in folks. The area directly under the table (where nobody obviously walks and nothing gets spilled, we've had nothing drop on it there)? Wet. Gag. Seriously. Matt was gagging. You know things are bad when Matt gags.

But what was under there?
 Really amazing wood floors, people. Amazing wood floors. Minimal damage. Two areas were "patched" terribly, but Matt is confident he can fix it.
 The biggest issue now is you can tell the threshold between the dining room and my office? Not a single fuck was given. That is not a phrase you want to have in reference to your home.
But seriously- look at that floor. It's a beaut. We didn't pull up the carpet in the living room because that requires moving a lot more furniture. We're going to pull the staples out from along the edges, figure out the baseboard situation (taller baseboards or put a moulding on the bottom to cover up the gap) and fix the threshold into the kitchen, where there is linoleum.

Oh, and the ridge? Turns out it is settling on either side of a wall in the basement. But with the carpet gone? You can't even tell at all unless you're looking for it. Seriously. We have never been this lucky in any kind of project. Today is obviously the day to purchase a Powerball ticket.