Monday, November 20, 2017

Redemption Road

You guys, it's not even Thanksgiving yet and I'm over it. I'm itching to put my Christmas tree up and our tradition is to do it on Black Friday. I know that's only a few days away but honest to God I don't know if I'll make it. To get my mind (and yours) off of that, let's talk books.

Redemption Road - Katie Ashley

Looking for a walk on the wild side, Annabel Percy, the daughter of a powerful politician, starts dating a biker she knows is completely wrong for her. But she finds herself living a nightmare when she’s kidnapped and transported into a hell on earth she never could have imagined.

Born and bred into the Hells Raiders MC, Nathaniel “Reverend” Malloy lives and dies for his brothers. But when he becomes the unexpected savior of a rival club’s captive, Rev makes it his personal mission to nurse Annabel back to health—and to shelter her from the nightmares that torment her.

Once Annabel heals, she’s stunned to realize she is falling for the seductive man who saved her. Faced with their impossible attraction, can she accept the life he leads, or will Rev walk away from the only life he’s ever known for the woman he was never supposed to love?


I am so glad I've stuck with this series because I'm really loving it. The first book had a first chapter that kind of made me squirm, but this book has an equally awful back story. Rev's character is exactly like Opie from Sons of Anarchy, so if you're fans of that show and his heart tugging character, you are going to really like Rev.

What makes this book stand out is that the Hells Raiders MC go into danger to save Sarah, the daughter of Raiders member Breakneck, who is being held hostage in a sex trafficking ring. They go in for her and leave with Annabel, daughter of a prominent politician. I was all geared up for one heroine and I got a totally different one. Not complaining, because I think it adds to the frantic situation they find themselves in afterwards. Annabel is in rough shape having suffered horrific abuse and Rev can't help but nurse her to health after having a similar history as a rape survivor.

Yes, you read that right, Rev is a rape survivor, which let's talk about how great that is? Not great to be a rape survivor, but great that we're talking about MEN being a victim and the stigma placed on them.

We see Annabel through recovery and we see Rev kind of coming around, but when one starts making decisions for the other things get hairy.

We also have a pet deer. Just throwing that out there.

Overall I am giving this one 5 out of 5 stars because I really, really liked it. I think I like Rev better than his brother Deacon from book one, and I really liked Annabel. I think had she not sustained the abuse she did I wouldn't have loved her character as much, her resilience makes her pretty endearing.

The next book features the youngest Malloy brother, Bishop, and I'm not sure if he's going to be my cup of tea, he's a little more of a playboy than Deacon or Rev, which is saying something... at least for Deacon. But this one is much better than the first one and if you are a fan of Sons of Anarchy or motorcycle clubs in general, I think you're going to love this series.



Friday, November 17, 2017

Christmastime Cowboy

This is only my second book by Maisey Yates and I love her so much. These books feel like Hallmark movies when you read them so if you're a fan of that kind of romance? This is the series for you.

Christmastime Cowboy - Maisey Yates

Falling for a bad boy once is forgivable. Twice would just be foolish. When Sabrina Leighton first offered her teenage innocence to gorgeous, tattooed Liam Donnelly, he humiliated her, then left town. The hurt still lingers. But so does that crazy spark. And if they have to work together to set up her family winery's new tasting room by Christmas, why not work him out of her system with a sizzling affair? 

Thirteen years ago, Liam's boss at the winery offered him a bribe—leave his teenage daughter alone and get a full ride at college. Convinced he wasn't good enough for Sabrina, Liam took it. Now he's back, as wealthy as sin and with a heart as cold as the Oregon snow. Or so he keeps telling himself. Because the girl he vowed to stay away from has become the only woman he needs, and this Christmas could be just the beginning of a lifetime together…

If you are in need of a good holiday themed romance book that isn't heavy in explicit sex scenes, this is going to be your read this year. The best part is it's well under $10, so that's even better for those of us who are a little tight with the budget. My copy also had a bonus story included, which was a fun little read too and compliments the main story. 

Overall, this is a story of young love gone awry because parents meddle and nobody thinks they are good enough. Which maybe isn't the worst thing because while Sabrina is a 30 year old virgin, Liam left and became successful in his own right and is coming back to Copper Ridge a little more reformed. And I say a little because he's still a bit of a man whore but once he sees Sabrina again for the first time in 13 years, it's game over. 

To turn it up a notch, they find themselves working together to open The Tasting Room where the winery Sabrina is a part of comes together with the Donnelly farm and other local food artisans. Sabrina is set on being professional and Liam wants to put their past behind them, resolve it once and for all. I don't need to tell you it doesn't happen that way, things are rekindled, they both take risks, and find themselves doing exactly what they didn't want to do. 

I read this in the car waiting for Olivia to finish dance and Jackson to finish his tennis lesson, I really enjoyed it. The problem with reading Christmas themed stories is I now want to put my tree up. Maybe this weekend. I'm just grateful I didn't read this in October because it would have been impossible to convince Matt to put the tree up THAT early. I am going to give this one 4 out of 5 stars. I can't quite give it 5 because some parts of the story are redundant and I always get annoyed when characters talk about the same thing over and over again. It makes me feel like something got missed in editing or something. Or maybe I'm just overly picky. Either way it's still a great read and it's a stand alone. You don't have to read the others to understand and love this one but I promise you'll want to read more. 

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Our kid ate $6000.

We knew early on that Olivia was going to need braces. We didn't realize that she was going to need two rounds of braces. The first round wasn't really that bad, she only had them on half of her top teeth, but she had them for two years and that cost us about $3300. We made payments and had maybe six months with no braces and no payments.

Then we did our follow up in September to see how things were now that all of her adult teeth are in. It's a mess. She needs to move teeth around a LOT on the top, the bottom isn't awful. She also needs springs, which is the modern equivalent to head gear. She needs braces for two years, at least. Our cost? Just under $6000.

Matt was not pleased.

We were able to borrow the money from his parents and we're just paying them back, but still. That's a lot of money. That's more than I paid for my first car. It's 3/4 of my second car. It's funny how as we get older the cost of things seem to go up as well.

Sigh.

So we did it. I took Olivia to her almost three hour appointment to get her braces.
I'm actually kind of glad she had the mini set already because those weren't horrible but she at least knew what to expect this go round. She said having a mouth full definitely feels odd and I don't think she's quite used to it yet. 
She absolutely hated the cheek spreader the most. She looked pretty grateful when that thing came out. 
She didn't get her springs yet, that comes in about six months, and I'm going to have Matt go to that one because they show you what to do if they become disconnected. I can tell you right now there isn't a chance I can help her with that. 
Some of her teeth aren't connected by wires yet (mostly the back ones) and that'll happen when her springs get put in. 
She picked purple and teal bands, which you can't really see, but it was what she had most of the time with her first set, her favorite colors of course. She did pretty well that day and I sent her to school with some ibuprofen, but she texted me on the bus saying her whole mouth hurt and she wanted to go to bed. She didn't eat dinner and went to bed with ibuprofen and an ice pack. I felt terrible for her. I kept telling her that while this certainly sucks, think of how amazing her teeth are going to look when its done! She agreed while eating a popsicle for breakfast. Ha!

She's had them for almost a month already and so far she's doing fairly well. The thing that the springs connect to bothers her cheek but other than that, she isn't complaining about them. She IS missing some of her favorite foods that she can't eat with them, but I have to say- she's pretty diligent about taking care of them. She takes her "do not eat" list seriously, so I'm lucky on that front. But every time she asks for something, I remind her she has almost $6000 in her mouth and she quickly stops asking.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Overtaken by toddlers

Someone asked me the other day if I thought have two kids only fifteen months apart was like twins. I think having twins would be easier in some respects but harder in others. I know that right now I struggle. These two are the sweetest handful ever.

It is no surprise that the main instigator is Penelope, she often says, "do it, do it Lucy" when Lucy is doing something she shouldn't. Lucy is always trying to copy Penelope, and we've had some serious showdowns over toys. It's honestly easier to buy two of everything.
A big change in the last few weeks is transitioning Lucy to the toddler bed. Everyone gives me a look when I say this, and I often hear, "But she's just a baby!". Technically, she's a toddler. She's a baby in a lot of ways still, sure, but Matt and I really need sleep. Lucy has been sleeping in a crib in our room since she was born. We honestly didn't think this would be a big deal but as it turns out, it kind of is. Neither one of us feel comfortable doing anything in the room with her right there... even if she is asleep. It just feels wrong. Lucy is also kind of a noisy sleeper, just like her dad. She snores, grunts, cries, and moves around a LOT.... all in her sleep. It's enough to drive you nuts. We thought long and hard about it and we realized that Penelope was only 15 months when she basically got forced into the toddler bed because we needed the crib for Lucy, so now that Lucy is 15 months we felt that it could be done.
How is that going? Well... not bad. Not as bad as we anticipated. Night time is actually pretty great, if she cries (she normally wakes up crying around 4 a.m.), it hasn't woken up Penelope (yet) and we're able to get her back to bed. She's pretty willing to get up in the bed on her own, she'll pull her blankets up, but I think the pillow is odd for her. Often times you'll find her next to the pillow. Penelope has adjusted pretty well to sharing a room, which that alone was surprising.

It's nap time that kills us. Even if I get Lucy in there and wait until she's sleeping and then bring Penelope in, it's a 50/50 chance on whether either of them will sleep. I will say, it isn't always Penelope at fault. I've heard Lucy getting out of bed and waking Penelope up. Other times Penelope will go to Lucy's bed and tell her it's "morn" and they start giggling and playing. The best is when I go to get them in the morning and Penelope says, "Lucy poop". As if the overwhelming smell didn't clue me in. 
Let's talk about Penelope- she is pretty damn smart. She can count to ten, knows most of her letters, knows her colors and shapes, we're working on drawing lines and circles (she is definitely left handed!), she follows 2-3 step directions, and is talking really well. I'm pretty surprised at what this kiddo can do. She's only 2 1/2 but she is having a good time learning things. She hasn't really gotten the hang of crafts, or maybe she isn't interested. She loves Play-Doh and Lego's, where Lucy is more into pretend play, Little People, and cars. Oh! Penelope is really interested in the Disney Princesses. We're watching all of the movies, except Frozen because I hate it and I cannot stand Idina Menzel and that damn song which is just terrible. She really likes Moana and Rapunzel the best, she thinks SHE is Rapunzel because they both have the same color of hair.

Some days are just LONG with these two. I honestly am not cut out to be a stay at home mom, I really don't enjoy it, so knowing this is all I can do? It's pretty depressing. I think I could have handled all of this better had I not had an AFE- I could at least leave the house with them, but the only time I leave my house during the day is for a doctor appointment and I go alone. I think if I didn't have depression and anxiety I would be doing better. Some days I'm fine, some days I can fake it and only cry for a minute in the bathroom, and some days I can't handle anything and I'm flying off the handle about something really pointless, but I'm overcome with rage. It's horrible. I don't see it coming, I can't control it when it happens, and often I don't recognize it until later. Sometimes I don't remember at all. I'm not sure if that's better or worse, really.

Last week I was really at my end with all of the whining, and Penelope testing boundaries, and finally I just yelled at her. I took away the thing she wasn't supposed to be swinging around and she just said, "You no like me". My mom asked if I heard it and of course I did. I have sonic ears now, I hear everything. And I feel like shit. I feel like I am a terrible mom and I'm angry I can't just pull it together. I am angry I need help, I'm so tired of dealing with it that I just shut down and say I'm fine. I'm 100% not fine but I'm sick of explaining it. I'm sick of feeling like I'm not explaining what I'm feeling and thinking well enough for people to understand.

I do know that I love them. My life wouldn't be complete without them, I know that. Some days they just hug me and I can just see how much they love me, I see I'm their favorite person and that at some point I did OK because they feel safe with me. They feel loved. But I always feel like I'm failing someone. I'm always failing someone. 

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Weekend Shopping (My Top 5 Linda Howard books)

If you know anything about me, you know that my favorite author is Linda Howard. I know, some people strongly don't like her, most don't know her, and a few love her.

NOBODY LOVES HER LIKE ME.

I've always been a reader but when I discovered Linda Howard, I bought every book I could find of hers. I have read all of these countless times and I love them so much. So for this week's Weekend Shopping, I give to you....

My Top 5 Linda Howard Books

It's so hard to put her books in order of favorites, and I struggled with this list even though I narrowed it down to just five books I think you'll really like.

5. Open Season
I picked this one to start this list off because this is actually the first book of hers that I read. It was featured in an issue of Cosmopolitan under a "hot reads" column and the one chapter I read sold me. It's about Daisy, who is kind of a naive and sheltered gal, and she's in her mid-30's. Wanting to revamp her life and maybe make it a little more exciting, she transforms herself into a party girl. It gets the eye of the new Sheriff in town but also the eye of a killer. She finds herself in danger, the good guy saves her and it's just a really fun read. I enjoyed this one a lot. 

4. Cover of Night
I'm going to be 100% up front- the plot line in this book is RIDICULOUS. It absolutely would never happen, but I don't care, I kind of wish it would. We have Cate, a widowed mother running a bed and breakfast in the middle of nowhere Idaho. We have Calvin, retired from the military, quiet guy, who kind of has a crush on Cate but he's happy to help her out anytime instead of just telling her how he feels. SUDDENLY! We have bad guys come to town, stuff happens, they think Cate has something of theirs so Cate and Calvin find themselves trying to save the entire town (cut off from all communication, obviously) and they land in dangerous situations in the mountains. The love story between Cate and Calvin is what seals this book for me and Calvin is the hero I'd go for.

3. All the Queen's Men
There is actually a book before this that introduces all of these characters, but you don't have to read that before you read this one. The first chapter or so is a good summary of that book and gives you an idea of why the characters in this book are the way they are. Easily one of the hottest characters in all of Linda's books is none other than John Medina. He's Black Ops CIA, he's lethal. His new mission requires the expertise of Niema, who's husband (who was killed during a mission) was a team mate of John's, and there's some history. She reluctantly agrees to help out knowing the greater good, and it turns out to be an excellent decision. The heat between Niema and John is strong and when we finally get to some romance... it's pretty great. I finished this book wishing SO much that we'd see John Medina in future books but so far, that hasn't happened.

2. Up Close and Dangerous
We are also going to put this in the "never going to happen" category, but dammit if it didn't make me re-evaluate what I pack in my bag when I fly. In this book we have sexy pilot Cam, who finds himself as the last minute change of pilot to escort rich and snobby Bailey to her destination. They can't stand each other so they keep the conversation minimum but! (Dun dun dun) Their plane goes down in the snowy mountains and though injured, Bailey finds herself having to rescue Cam and nurse him back to health. The best part of this book is how they used ordinary, stupid items to survive and of course, even though he's on the brink of hypothermia, his penis still works and wants to play. Why did the plane go down? Was it intentional? If so, why? Do they survive? This was a pretty fast read for me and it involves snowy mountains, so it would be a great winter read. Or, of course, a great airplane read. You can think about what you would do if your plane goes down and all that.

1. Cry No More
If you asked me what my absolute, hands down, no questions asked, favorite Linda Howard was, it will always be this one. This book had everything you want in a book, we have romance (obviously), we have suspense, we have murder, we have kidnapped babies and a mother's heart wrenching search for her child. The first couple of chapters were tough for me to read simply because I don't know what I would do if my child were ripped from my arms in the middle of a market and I never saw them again. What would you do? Well, Milla forms a non-profit agency who search for missing children like her own. She gets desperate and finds herself speaking with the elusive and mysterious James Diaz, who flies under the radar but is really good at finding people Soon Milla and James are on the trail to finding who took her son and where her son is. I'm going to spoil it and tell you two of my favorite sex scenes of all time happen in this book, one on the banks of river and one in a shower towards the end when Milla is in just extreme grief. Ugh... just thinking about that makes me want to read the book right now. Though the book is their mission to finding Milla's son, it poses the moral dilemma of what would you do? If you found the child, and they are happy in a home- do you separate them from that? Would you sacrifice your happiness for your child's? I really loved this book so much, for so many reasons, and James Diaz was perfect. He almost surpasses John Medina in favorite male hero. Maybe they are tied. Ah! I can't decide. I just really loved this book. If you are new to Linda Howard, I want you to try this one for sure.

Stay tuned for next weekend! I think I might do another round up like this one for another author. Oh.. yes! I just looked at my calendar and YES. I already have it planned out. STAY TUNED! 

Friday, November 10, 2017

Fat Kid Class, Vaginas, and Treats.

Last week I made the trek to Rochester, Minnesota to go to the Mayo Clinic. I'll be honest, I'm kind of sick of going. It seems to be a total coin toss on how it'll go and sometimes I feel like I'm getting really great information and other times I feel like they are looking for a reason to charge me out the rear on tests and stuff I definitely don't need.

This visit was two parts: 7:00 fat kid class about weightloss and how to do it, and then a 10:30 appointment in the Women's Health Clinic about estrogen replacement options. I drove down on Monday after my therapy appointment, so that meant I didn't get to my hotel until 9 at night. I was exhausted, and hungry, but it was so late and I didn't really know what to do for food. The gift shop was closed, the cheap restaurant was closed, Starbucks was closed, I didn't know how to get to any of the places within walking distances and not sure I'd find my way back, so I opted to eat the granola bar I brought for breakfast and call it a night.

Can I also just mention my thermostat was set to NINETY DEGREES?! I turned it off completely and it still never got below 78 in my room. I sweat my ass off all night because the fun part about beginning of menopause are the night sweats. I didn't get more than two hours of broken up sleep because it was so hot, the pillows are awful, and I forgot my CPAP machine at home. Frustrating.

So I got myself dressed at 6 and was out the door by 6:30. I got myself a water quick and headed to my class.
It was me, a couple, and another woman. That's it. We got a folder with information on how to count calories, good foods and bad foods, basically all of the common sense stuff we already know. They briefly talked about the services the Bariatric Clinic provides (medication, surgery). We did a little PowerPoint deal for about a half hour and then we all wait to see a Dietitian one on one. I wasn't last, so that was something. I was kind of worried I was going to be late to my next appointment because my schedule said this could last 3+ hours! Finally when it was my turn to see the Dietitian, I grabbed my stuff and headed over.

And dammit if he wasn't cute in a alternative band lover kind of way. He had Vans on his feet, a sweater vest that looked like he picked it up from a thrift shop and yeah.... he was pretty cute. Very distracting.

He's going over all of my paperwork and says I'm eating well below my recommended calorie intake, that's good, but he encouraged me to try to eat more. He mentions that I should add exercise in, and I say I couldn't because I feel like I have the worst flu of my life every single day and like I've been hit by an actual bus but nobody knows why. He agrees that if it's an auto-immune disorder I have to be very careful because exercise can trigger flares. He then sees I'm on steroids, for life, and got a bit of a dejected look because (bingo!!) that's why I'm not able to lose weight. He then starts talking about medications I can take that basically suppress your appetite. I can't take Topamax because it made my nervous system go haywire, so that's out. I'm already on Wellbutrin and I eat one meal a day, maybe a snack, too, but I'm legitimately not hungry. Ever. The only reason I eat at this point is with my medication because I'll throw up if I don't. Who says anorexia works? It's not working on me! Sigh. He looked pretty deflated by the end of my session, he didn't know what to tell me. Suggested I ask my Primary Care, which is how I got here in the first place.

I'm starting to get used to being passed around because nobody knows what to do, but it's pretty discouraging anyways.

My next appointment was at the Women's Health Clinic because of my panhypopituitarism I make no estrogen. Well, I don't make any hormones, estrogen is just one of them. All of my other ones I have prescription replacements (thyroid and cortisol), and I take DHEA as the female testosterone replacement but I can buy that over the counter. (You want to increase your sex drive ladies? Take one of those every day. HOLY.) I was given birth control pills and told that would be good enough, have a great day. But then I stared to get daily migraines (which is the norm for me and birth control) and I can't live like that. I'd rather risk heart disease and bone loss over daily migraines, so I stopped taking it and flat out said you can't make me.

Turns out though, estrogen is super important. As soon as you have a dip in estrogen, your bones start to deteriorate and you're at risk for fractures. (Which could be serious when I start exercising again.) A lot of things in your body need estrogen so you really can't just stop, and because I'm so young (35), it's really not a good idea for me to just go cold turkey with the estrogen, so I need a replacement. She agrees that birth control is not a good option for me because it's so up and down through the month, I need something steady- that leaves me with patches. Not birth control patch, but just the estrogen patch for the older gal.

It also turns out my vagina wants to be in a commercial because you know those commercials about dry, papery thin vaginas? THAT'S ME. Turns out my vagina is now Golden Girl status so not only do I need the patch, I need the cream, too. And it wouldn't hurt to have a moisturizer.

You guys, they make a vagina moisturizer. IT'S AN ACTUAL THING.

She was a little concerned about the breast cancer history in my family and wanted me to get tested for the BRCA gene. She would have taken my ovaries out that day if I let her, said there was no reason for those to have been kept. I tried to say that removal isn't always the best option and it's kind of an old school thought and she was having none of it. She was going to call in my prescriptions but was shuffling me over to the teaching nurse for "review". I had no idea what that meant but that's fine, I'll go there.

Yeah, it turns out I had to have a full on demonstration on how to apply cream to your vagina. I watched her do it and then I had to do it to this very creepy and very lifelike vagina model to demonstrate that indeed, I can do it by myself.

Cross that off on my life's bucket list, y'all. 

I left there feeling stupid, feeling frustrated, feeling like I don't ever want to go back. My entire drive home I thought about how I think I'm better off with my local team and only going to Mayo if something serious happens, or something gets significantly worse and I need another opinion. I saw someone from Mayo was calling me while I was driving, but since I don't use my phone when I drive, I ignored it.

I got home in time to go trick or treating with the kids. Matt was finishing getting them ready as I walked in, so I grabbed my mittens and went out with them.
The only picture I got and not everyone is looking. Don't let it fool you, Lucy cried almost the whole way and Penelope just wanted to eat everything as we went.

When we got home, I saw I had a message from Mayo, telling me I had to come in ASAP for labs before they could call in my estrogen patch. I returned their call and asked if I could just do the lab here and have them send it, because I'm not driving 3.5 hours one way for ONE LAB. That's insane. They said no, they don't like that.

So I told them to pound sand. I'm not doing it.

Fortunately, I see my primary care next week so I'm going to ask her. By then she'll have the notes from Mayo so she'll see their recommendations. So right now, I'm estrogen-less still but I have my cream! I haven't used it yet because I feel weird about it. To be honest I have to look it up online and read more information on it because that's the problem with Mayo- they bombard you with information and it's overwhelming, you feel pressured to agree with them and go blindly in. I don't normally second guess doctors but with medication, I do. I'm on so much of it that I'm nervous about adding more to my stack. So I've got a few days to get some questions written down to ask my doctor here what she thinks. She's pretty great and I trust her, so I'm going in hopeful.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Daily Kindness: 365 Days of Compassion

If there's one thing I've learned this year, it's that National Geographic has some GREAT books.


Lead your best year yet through 365 days of kindness. 
With enriching quotes from celebrated luminaries and striking National Geographic photography, each page of this moving book will inspire you to live with sincerity, compassion, and benevolence. Each month, you'll practice virtues like patience, respect, and generosity that will focus your mind and heart, creating fulfillment and contentment. Both inviting and motivating, Daily Kindness invites you to reflect on life's big and small moments, providing a way to embrace new ideas--and enrich your life every day of the year.

I think I've done reviews for maybe four or five books by National Geographic this year and every single one of them have been really interesting and books that I would gift anyone. I chose this one because in the last year I've also learned that people are kind. Everyone has the capacity to be kind every day, all day, and sometimes the large gestures aren't everything. Simple gestures that are meaningless to you are potentially big things that can turn things around for someone else.

This book is small but mighty. It might have a page for every day of the year, but it's not a large book and works perfectly as something to put on a table in your house, office, waiting room, gift it, so many uses. The photos are what you've come to expect from National Geographic, they are so perfect they almost don't seem real. I wanted to share just a few with you that were kind of important to me. Naturally, the one for my birthday, March 10, was interesting: "The summit of happiness is reached when a person is ready to be what he is. Desiderius Erasmus". The one for Jackson's birthday reads, "Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don't resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like. -Lao-Tzu". Um, if you've been following my personal story this last year, you can see why that one was especially profound. But let us share the one from Lucy's birthday because dammit if it doesn't sum her beginnings up: "Beautiful things are difficult. -Plato".

Sigh.

To be fair I didn't read this book cover to cover, I jumped around to dates that mean something to me but I spent a couple of days getting to every page. Some were sweet, some were profound, some were reminders, and some were punches to the gut. They were all good. Honestly? I know a few people who are in the struggle with me trying to recover from our trauma and this is something I'm going to gift them. One the days I was particularly low, reading a few of these pages were reminders for me to keep going. Keep trying. To just keep swimming. So if you know someone who is maybe stuck in a rough patch of life, this might be a nice gift for them with a few self care items, just to say you get it and it's going to be OK. Those are the best gifts.

You can find this book for sale on the National Geographic website, but I invite you to look at their other books because I had no idea how many great ones they put out. I've really enjoyed all of the ones I've read so far. (If you're looking for a Christmas gift for me, I'd like any of the National Parks books.) You can also find this book on Amazon.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Forever, Please

Gah- I know I say it in every post but I really enjoyed this series. If you were a fan of the Fifty Shades of Grey (not the BDSM aspect so much but more the really dominating male lead), you'll enjoy these. Plus they are all short books so you could (in theory) read all four over a weekend. Just saying.


Will he consent to forever… 

I know that he loves me, that’s not the problem. And I know that he’ll be there for me. 

But he hasn’t mentioned forever. Not only that, but he refuses to tell his mother. 

Some scars run too deep, and this one is the deepest of all. 

I have everything on the line. To lose him now would be to lose it all. 


YES. Everything I wanted to finish this series off is in here. We have Olivia set to have Hunter's baby, we have Hunter totally on board and excited about it, Olivia's game is doing very well, and Hunter is making secret plans to lighten his workload to have more time with Olivia and baby.

All of that is awesome, but Olivia wants to be Mrs. Carlisle. Hunter treats her as such and she's certain he won't leave but having that final commitment is important to her, she doesn't want people to think she trapped him with a baby. I'm going to spoil it and tell you that when he does plan it out? SWOON, ladies. My heart melted a little bit because Matt literally handed me a ring in the bedroom of our apartment and said, "So, do you want to get married?". THAT'S IT. He's not super great in the romance department, that's for sure. So I loved it.

You know I always try to give the good and the bad with every review and for this one... I'm going to just say it: the resolution with Hunter's dad is TERRIBLE. Really? She goes against Hunter, goes "under cover" in the most bizarre stunt and Hunter is totally OK with it? Are you serious, right now? No. None of that happens that way given how their characters were set up in the previous three books. That plot string felt too contrived and easy to resolve and I really felt annoyed. My other complaint? I really kind of wanted to hear about Olivia going into labor, Hunter's reaction when baby is born, etc. We get a snapshot of a year later but even that felt.. odd. It's great all of the plot strings dangled in front of us all of that time are resolved and nothing leaves us hanging, but ugh... I really hoped for that. Oh well!

Overall? I'll give this a solid 4 stars. The series was pretty good and if you're in the mood for quick reads, this isn't a bad one.

   

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

More, Please

Oh lambs... I have enjoyed this series SO much. Just know that today and tomorrow I'll review book 3 and 4 and I need you to know I finished BOTH books in ONE day.

I know.

They aren't long books but I couldn't stop myself.


His ex-fiancée won’t let him go. 

Stupid me. I thought life would get easier once Hunter admitted that he needed me. So what could go wrong? 

Blaire. That’s what. 

His ex-fiancée is a crazy b*tch with a capital B. She doesn’t like another woman going after “her” man. She’s vowed to slice me out of the equation. Physically. 

And then something happens. Something that might make Hunter do as Blaire wants, and cut me out of his life forever. 


I'm going to be up front and tell you my only quirk about this is I wanted Blaire to be even more bat shit crazy. Yes, she does some pretty awful (and disgusting) things, but I wanted this to be even more of a show down. I expected Hunter to stake his claim on Olivia in some over the top, possessive way and that would send Blair totally over the edge. Instead, it wasn't as much as it was hyped to be and Blair kind of peters out and that was that.

But let's set that aside because YES. This book set up book four perfectly and I could not love it any more. OK, I guess I do have another complaint. When Olivia slips up and the consequence of that is huge for the BOTH of them, I really expected Hunter to basically shut down and freak out. Instead he's surprisingly OK with it, he's not demanding confirmation, it's just... easy. It's not at all what I expected. This book sees Olivia becoming more successful in her coding project on the side but also realizing she might have to leave her job as Hunter's assistant, but she doesn't really want to because then she'll hardly see him, and her slip up kind of forces her to choose.

I can't really talk about more without it being a spoiler, but just know I really liked this book. I liked it a lot. So much in fact, that I immediately pulled out book four to read...

   

Monday, November 6, 2017

The Purple Turtle Graded Readers - Level 1!

My favorite thing in the whole world as a school volunteer was to watch little kids learn how to read. At the beginning of the year they stumble over simple sight words, maybe not understand what they just read, and sometimes they don't like to read at all. I firmly believe that every kid can be an avid reader, you just have to find a topic they really enjoy. Not everyone needs to read the classics to be well read, find something you really like and go for it.

I also have found that books with animals as the main characters are always a favorite of the kids. Kids love animals and the fact that animals are going on adventures exercises their imagination. I got the opportunity to try out this beginning reader system and it was pretty great. Keep in mind, my two littlest are only one and two years old so they aren't necessarily learning to read, but Penelope (the two year old) is pretty bright. She can anticipate what's going to happen in a story, she can tell me how a character feels by the look on their face, and she really likes books. Lucy loves to read as well and I find myself reading the majority of the day with them. The older two kids learned to read when they got into Kindergarten, but I really think Penelope and Lucy might be readers before they get there! Penelope can identify all of her colors, count to ten, and identify most letters already. So far, Penelope likes the Counting Insects, The Animal Parade, and Purple's New Shoes (we have a bit of a shoe obsession right now). Lucy likes Music for Melody because I usually give her one of her toy instruments to shake or bang while I read it. The bonus is is that each book has some activities at the end that tie in with the story, and at the front of the book it gives a quick summary of the book so kids can make some guesses at what might happen.

If you home school, or maybe you just want to do some at home reading practice, these are great sets to try out! There are three sets and they are very affordable considering you get 12 books in a box! The next best thing? Is that the books are small enough that you can easily keep a few in the car, put a couple in your purse or diaper bag, put it in their little bag (I know my kids aren't the only ones who bring their own purse or bag everywhere we go, usually full of rocks and crayons, sometimes rogue socks!). Also, if you're traveling, you can bring a few of these and store them in your luggage easily without having to haul around heavy books- these are rather lightweight!


Boxed Book Set Details:

Book Title: Purple Turtle Graded Readers Level 1 (12 Titles)
Category: Children's Fiction,
Genre: Educational
Publisher: Aadarsh Pvt. Ltd.
Release date: April 1, 2017
Tour dates: Oct 30 to Nov 24, 2017
Content Rating: G (informative content intended for and available to children & their parents/educators to enhance and support learning. Suitable for: Family audiences with younger children.)

Boxed Book Set Description:

A1 Edutainment takes you to the world on an amazing new reading programme with Purple Turtle. The first level of Purple Turtle Graded Readers includes a set of 12 books with interesting stories and activities and 150 word count. This level is exclusively for learners who have just started reading. It is based on ATOS and Lexile reading level system.

To read more reviews, please visit Purple Turtle's page on iRead Book Tours.

Buy the Boxed Set: 

Watch one of the book trailers:



Meet the Publisher:


Purple Turtle is India’s 1st International brand with its educational content in several languages sold in more than 30 countries including Russia, China, US and UK. The character of Purple Turtle has delighted children across the globe through beautifully created Purple Turtle books, rhymes and videos available on YouTube.

Purple Turtle was created with the idea to spread education through a wide range of innovative books for children. To give them the experience of convenient online learning, Purple Turtle also brings both learning and entertainment on a common platform to give a wholesome learning experience to young minds.

Connect with the publisher: Website ~ TwitterFacebook


Enter the Giveaway!
Ends Dec 2

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Friday, November 3, 2017

The Score

I've already read the first two books in the Off Campus series, but rest assured, they are all stand alone books. You don't need to read them in order but I promise you that you will love them.

He knows how to score, on and off the ice

Allie Hayes is in crisis mode. With graduation looming, she still doesn’t have the first clue about what she's going to do after college. To make matters worse, she’s nursing a broken heart thanks to the end of her longtime relationship. Wild rebound sex is definitely not the solution to her problems, but gorgeous hockey star Dean Di-Laurentis is impossible to resist. Just once, though, because even if her future is uncertain, it sure as heck won’t include the king of one-night stands.

It’ll take more than flashy moves to win her over

Dean always gets what he wants. Girls, grades, girls, recognition, girls…he’s a ladies man, all right, and he’s yet to meet a woman who’s immune to his charms. Until Allie. For one night, the feisty blonde rocked his entire world—and now she wants to be friends? Nope. It’s not over until he says it’s over. Dean is in full-on pursuit, but when life-rocking changes strike, he starts to wonder if maybe it’s time to stop focusing on scoring…and shoot for love.
 

Alright, if you have read the other two books, you know that Dean is basically a man whore. He sleeps with almost anything that walks, in the open, no worries. He comes off as irresponsible, the classic dumb jock, unreliable. Turns out, Dean isn't those things. He plays the part he's been given but underneath it all is a good guy who meets his match in Allie Hayes.

Fresh off a bad breakup, Allie finds herself crashing at the house that Dean and his fellow hockey teammates live at, except Dean is the only one home. After one too many tequilas Allie seduces her way into Dean's bed- and she's mortified. She isn't the casual sex kind of gal and she hates that she's become a notch in the bed post. Dean doesn't think it's a big deal but Allie is so embarrassed she decides nobody can know.

Turns out, Allie is pretty memorable because Dean can't stop thinking about her. After some persuasion on his part, he gets Allie to agree they are going to be the friends with benefits couple. It all sounds well and good but slowly they each become a bigger, and more important, part in each other's lives.

Soon Dean finds himself in trouble with the team, grieving his friend's death, and making poor choices which drive Allie away. It's for her own good because she needs to know how to do things on her own since she's never been single. Eventually we get a happy ending and what I'm assuming is a big hint on book four.

Overall? I'm actually giving this book 5 stars. Mostly because I really liked Dean, the sexy scenes are great and plentiful and because I just really love this series. I loved the first two books so I knew I'd love this one.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Wild Within

Now would be a super great time for you to tell me what a good job I'm doing at reading off my shelf of books I've had for years and didn't read yet.

It's OK, I'll wait.

OK, back to the post, this is a book I got in my Bookworm Box.... a really long time ago. We don't need to publicly say how long it was but I think it was before Penelope and she's 2 1/2 so... yeah. I won't even tell you how many books have been unread of my shelf for longer. Don't judge me.


A year after a family tragedy, Grace Mori embarks on the journey of a lifetime… 


Two thousand, six hundred miles of blistering heat, wilderness, and soul searching—that’s what Grace signed up for when she decided to hike the Pacific Crest Trail. It’s not a voyage for beginners, but with no husband and her family still recovering from her bother’s death, Grace is more alone than ever. 

This trail meant something to her brother, and she’ll hike it in his memory, but she can’t do it alone. So with her brother’s gear and a small group, Grace takes the most important first steps of her life. 

Grace finds something more than peace and magic on the trail… 

When her first day of hiking ends in heat stroke, Grace is rescued by a handsome, red-haired hiker who calls himself Lone Star. Grace has an immediate connection with him, and their brief encounter leaves her fearing her soul mate has slipped through her fingers. Although he vows to keep in touch, Grace doubts she’ll ever see him again. 

When fears become reality, the only people Grace can rely on may be killers... 

Grace is surprised to find notes left at supply posts along the trail. Lone Star’s eloquent letters keep Grace going, clinging to the hope she’ll find him—and happiness—at the end of her journey. But as the trail becomes more perilous, menace grows within the group. And when Lone Star’s letters mysteriously stop coming, Grace fears the worst. 

As tensions flare and a killer emerges, Grace must battle to survive…and reunite with the man she’s sure is her future. 

I'm really torn on this book for a few different reasons, but I can tell you this absolutely is NOT a five star book. All of the people who have given it five stars must read some really terrible books if this one is just far above the rest. At best this is a 3/5 for me.

The story really revolves around Grace, who we learn early on is still grieving over the loss of her brother Kenji, and is kind of lost in the world. She doesn't know where her place is, her sister is moving away and now her parents are leaving too and Grace realizes she's kind of alone in the world. She finds out that her brother was planning to hike the Pacific Crest Trail as a thru (meaning he would be going from the Mexican border all the way to the Canadian border) and she decides, in all of her inexperience and naivete of the world, she's going to do it in his place, with his stuff, in his honor.

I know, you're saying to yourself, "But Sara, I thought you hated the book Wild by Cheryl Strayed for this very reason?!" and to that I say- you're right! Now that I've read this book I have to tell you I dislike Cheryl in that book even more now. She feels like so much more of a whiner. Which sounds ridiculous to compare a fiction book to a non-fiction book but here we are. I feel like the PCT is actually attainable after reading this book and maybe that's ridiculous because this is a made up story! Of course it wasn't as awful!

Oh lord. I need more sleep.

Anyways. On day ONE (I know, you're rolling your eyes) Grace almost dies, gains her trail name, and somehow meets the love of her life. All of this happens within a few hours of being dropped off. I can't even be angry at that because I know that if this were me, this also would likely be the scenario unfolding. So Grace meets, Lone Star (his real name ends up being Angus, but he goes by Gus when not on the trail) and they fall in love. No hanky panky, but I think any of us would fall in love if saved (literally) by someone. But they don't hike together, he is much faster so he gives her a pep talk, promises to leave her notes at the check in points, and off he walks into the sunset. She pulls on her big girl panties and goes off on her own.

Now is a great time to point out that had the book JUST BEEN ABOUT THIS HIKE, it would have been SO much better. But no. People want to add drama to books so enter Ed out for revenge! Ed is pissed off because he's been nailed for a crime he didn't commit but (dun dun dun) Jerry (the guy who DID commit the crime) is on the trail in a group called the Sideways Seven (because there are seven of them) and he's following so he can exact his revenge!

Does it sound ridiculous? That's because it IS, you guys. It's dumb.

So of COURSE Grace gets mixed up into it and everything goes to hell and Grace needs to be saved by none other than... LONE STAR! You guys, this is miraculous because A) Lone Star isn't even hiking anymore and you find out why in the book and B) not only is he there, but so is Celine! Celine is the dead brother's girlfriend and there's a whole story around that.

You guys. It's just ridiculous. It's now morphed from a cool adventure book with romance to a funny take on crime on the trail. I don't know. It's dumb.

What saved it for me honestly WAS Lone Star and this book should have left out all of the stupid crime and ridiculous story and made it solely about Grace on this life changing trip, hiking towards Lone Star. That would have been a 5 star book. Easily. This... this was kind of dumb with some great spots thrown in. I wanted to hear about her making it to the end, what happens off trail with Lone Star? So many loose ends just kind of dropped.

Turns out this is the first in a series (shocker.... massive eye roll here) so I thought maybe it continued their story. Nope. Book two is a totally different story. So.. that's it. That's all we get of Grace and Lone Star? What kind of bullshit is this? Sigh. It's maybe a 2.5 star book but I'm rounding it to 3 because Goodreads doesn't give half stars.



Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Start Without Me

I make no secret about how much I dislike Thanksgiving. I just really don't like it and I dread it every year. Not because I've had some terrible Thanksgiving experience but mostly because I've never had a GREAT one. My family doesn't really have traditions other than we get together, mom and I cook (and hate it), and by the time food is on the table I'm over it. Hurry up and eat and get the hell out, people. I look forward to Christmas so I am that person who is shopping Thanksgiving Day. So clearly, I picked this book because these characters also aren't super excited about Thanksgiving. We're like literary soulmates.


The author of the critically acclaimed The Book of Jonah explores questions of love and choice, disappointment and hope in the lives of two strangers who meet by chance in this mesmerizing tale that unfolds over one Thanksgiving day

Adam is a former musician and recovering alcoholic who is home for Thanksgiving for the first time in many years. Surrounded by his parents and siblings, nieces and nephews—all who have seen him at his worst—he can’t shake the feeling that no matter how hard he tries, he’ll always be the one who can’t get it right.

Marissa is a flight attendant whose marriage is strained by simmering tensions over race, class and ambition. Heading to her in-laws for their picture-perfect holiday family dinner, her anxiety is intensified by the knowledge she is pregnant from an impulsive one-night-stand.

In an airport restaurant on Thanksgiving morning, Adam and Marissa meet. Over the course of this day fraught with emotion and expectation, these two strangers will form an unlikely bond as they reckon with their family ties, their pasts, and the choices that will determine their way forward.

Joshua Max Feldman focuses his knowing eye on one of the last bastions of classical American idealism, the Thanksgiving family gathering, as he explores our struggles to know—and to be—our best selves. Hilarious and heartrending, Start Without Me is a thoughtful and entertaining page-turner that will leave its indelible mark on your heart.

We have a lot of balls in the air with this book- we have Adam, not even a year into sobriety from alcoholism, who is rebuilding his life (kind of) after the end of his relationship with Johanna and break up of the band he was in. He's a mess. He kind of reminds me of James Frey in A Million Little Pieces, he has the potential to be a lot of things but it's himself that prevents it. He has a good family who are all fully over his crap and he's almost angry about it, like they should want to deal with more of his crap. Or maybe he doesn't fully understand what his alcoholism did to everyone, he admittedly didn't want to listen to their letters at intervention so agreed to rehab... so he's kind of a jerk but I have a feeling he'd end up being a really great future husband and dad. Which seems odd to say, right?

Then we have Marissa, who is still married to her husband though they are having some serious relationship issues. She's a flight attendant and on her travels she runs into her high school boyfriend, they have sex, and uh-oh- she's pregnant! She hasn't told her husband and doesn't really want to face his family on Thanksgiving so she's stalling.

Adam and Marissa meet, it really is almost like fate because of how they keep coming together but you're rooting for them to salvage the holiday. Adam gets to meet Marissa's inlaws, Marissa reconnects with her mother (who is also a drunk and not a great mom, lets be honest), and Adam somehow ends up with his family. It's a really FULL DAY. We find out the deal with Marissa's inlaws, what happened to Johanna, and everyone connects with their family.

I finished this book rather quickly and overall, I liked it. I'm giving it 3/5 stars only because there were a few loose ends with me. I know nobody is going to solve all the problems in a day but Marissa's story line feels really not finished. I really want to know what Marissa does, what happens with the baby, does she and Adam keep in touch, all kinds of things. It took me a few days to think about it and I get that that was the point- leave us hanging a bit, but damn if I'm not one of those people who like everything neat and tidy at the end of a story. I don't do well not knowing. My imagination isn't satisfying enough, I suppose. It was a pretty good book though and if you find yourself traveling for Thanksgiving, stick this in your bag. You'll likely need it. Start Without Me is available on the HarperCollilns website and also Amazon.