Friday, July 20, 2018

Book Review: When We Found Home

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

When We Found Home - Susan Mallery

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, July 19, 2018

We R Who We R

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

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

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

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

So that was fun. 

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

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

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

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Book Review: Sarah's Child

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Book Review: Long Shot

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

Long Shot - Kennedy Ryan


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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, July 16, 2018

Book Review: An Independent Wife

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

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

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

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

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Book Review: I Can Handle Him

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

I Can Handle Him - Debbie K. Lum

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

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

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

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


Thursday, July 12, 2018

Book Review: The Smallest Part

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

The Smallest Part - Amy Harmon

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

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

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

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

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

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


Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Book Review: The Last Rodeo

I am such a fan of Delores Fossen so anytime I have the opportunity to review one of her books, I jump at the chance!

The Last Rodeo - Delores Fossen

Lucian Granger isn’t winning any Mr. Cowboy Congeniality awards. Known in his small Texas town as “Lucifer” thanks to his surly nature and knack for scaring people away from getting too close, the handsome rancher has no trouble ignoring the gossip. But when he’s in danger of losing the land he’s put his blood, sweat and tears into maintaining, Lucian sets out to prove he’s a changed man—by claiming he’s about to settle down with his invaluable assistant, Karlee O’Malley.

Their pending nuptials may be just for show, but from the moment they kiss, the proverbial fireworks start going off in his head—and in his heart. Before long, the man who’s usually as emotional as a brick wall is tired of pretending and wants to share a real future with Karlee. With his world suddenly turned upside down, Lucian will risk losing the business and the ranch if it means holding on to the one woman worth becoming a better man for.

I've read a few of the Wrangler's Creek series, but not all of them, so though it's part of a series these are all stand alone titles.

In this book we have Lucian, who is running the family ranch and Granger Enterprises until his dad strolls in and takes over since he has the majority share holding. Knowing that his dad will likely bankrupt the company to save his own ass, Lucian and his mom come up with a cockeyed plan that feels wonky on sight. The plan is for him to become fake engaged to his assistant (and the woman who has been in love with him since her teens), Karlee in the hopes that it would make him a more likeable person and therefore; the town would throw their support behind Lucian instead of his father so that Lucian can take the company over again. That only ends up being a small part of the story because the larger part of this is the company and how to save it.

Of course Karlee knows she's going to end up hurt but she also wants Lucian to retain his company so she's willing to do what it takes. She doesn't expect sex with Lucian but once that happens it seems her heartbreak is inevitable.

The story itself feels so far fetched and almost like the author bit off more than she can chew. There were so many moving parts to this that I had a hard time keeping up but also staying interested. And honestly, the ending felt kind of rushed and it didn't end up being the happy ending I wanted. I still felt bad for Karlee and I wonder if she'll ever get what she really wants out of Lucian? It's hard to say and I can't remember a time when I still felt bad for a main character at the end.

Overall I'm giving this one a 3 star review. It was good, there was some heat, but Lucian is a hard character to like and it didn't have quite the ending I had hoped for.


Monday, July 9, 2018

Book Review: Rainy Day Friends

You guys- this was my FIRST book by Jill Shalvis and I am SOLD.

Rainy Day Friends - Jill Shalvis
Six months after Lanie Jacobs’ husband’s death, it’s hard to imagine anything could deepen her sense of pain and loss. But then Lanie discovers she isn’t the only one grieving his sudden passing. A serial adulterer, he left behind several other women who, like Lanie, each believe she was his legally wedded wife. 

Rocked by the infidelity, Lanie is left to grapple with searing questions. How could she be so wrong about a man she thought she knew better than anyone? Will she ever be able to trust another person?  Can she even trust herself?

Desperate to make a fresh start, Lanie impulsively takes a job at the family-run Capriotti Winery. At first, she feels like an outsider among the boisterous Capriottis. With no real family of her own, she’s bewildered by how quickly they all take her under their wing and make her feel like she belongs. Especially Mark Capriotti, a gruffly handsome Air Force veteran turned deputy sheriff who manages to wind his way into Lanie’s cold, broken heart—along with the rest of the clan.

Everything is finally going well for her, but the arrival of River Brown changes all that. The fresh-faced twenty-one-year old seems as sweet as they come…until her dark secrets come to light—secrets that could destroy the new life Lanie’s only just begun to build.
I am actually going to give this book five stars right out the gate. I wasn't even sure if I would like this one because the cover didn't call to me but almost immediately it reminded me of some of my favorite Nora Roberts books so I was sold. 

The story centers around Lanie, fresh from her husband's death where she learns that she was one of many wives and it's left her feeling ashamed and unworthy. So in an effort to start over but take a break from her regular life, she takes a job with Capriotti Winery doing graphic design work. In the few weeks she's there she basically gains a family and friends, falls in love, second guesses her marriage and what she wants to do in life. 

I loved the characters in this book, I could see all of the spin off's for this and I want them now. I loved Mark especially, he's so alpha male but in all the best ways. I didn't like River so much because she's kind of young and irrational and for someone going to nursing school she's pretty clueless. But aside from that, I flew through this book because the writing is good, the story is great, and there's humor in all the right places. I loved all of the meme quotes at the beginning of each chapter about anxiety, mostly because I can relate to all of them. This is a super fun read to add to your summer lists but don't count it out for your fall reading if you can't fit it in this summer, especially if you are a Jill Shalvis newbie like me. I'm a total fan now. 

You can find this book on Amazon of course but also on the HarperCollins website


Friday, July 6, 2018

Jello Jiggies

It seems like an odd way to begin a tribute to my grandma Linda, but it's true. I'll always remember her for a lot of things but mostly for her Jello Jigglers, which my kids called "jiggies".

About two years ago, shortly before I had Lucy, my grandma Linda was diagnosed with cancer. It was in her bile duct, which is random and weird, and though she exhausted every medical avenue, it proved too much for her. She fought like hell all the way to the end but last week she gained her angel wings. We knew it was coming, I had been prepared since I heard about it, but it's never quite the same, you know?

Olivia and Jackson have great memories of her and grandpa Dennis, they went to every kid movie that came out, they've done sleep overs, gone to the Wilderness Walk together, and now that they were getting older they wanted to do more trips with the kids. The kids were SO excited about that.
I'm grateful that she did get to see Lucy before they moved and she got sicker. They were some of the first people to hold Lucy and that will always be special. Grandma Linda had a pretty cool life but she was always an example that you're never too old to live out a dream. She went to college, graduated with honors, and then retired. I'm sorry her and grandpa didn't get to travel more like they wanted to.

But let's talk about some fond memories that I have. Grandma Linda is actually my step-dad's step-mom, so she's like a step-step-Grandma, but she was always just grandma to me. When we moved to Cloquet in 1991 she took my brother and I in like we had always been her grand kids. I remember holidays at their home, and coming over a few weeks before to put window clings on all of her windows. She would bring just me and I'd get to decorate every window while she made cookies and I always got to go home with a plate. I remember spending the weekend while my parents went on a trip. I remember seeing her drive, only once ever, when she picked me up so we could go see The Babysitter's Club movie in the theater.

When I had children she loved them fiercely. She was at every birthday, always sent cards with envelopes decorated in stickers, and was quick to email me back.

But back to Jello. When we were growing up grandma Linda had Jello Jigglers for every holiday. Honest to god, if there was a jiggler mold, she had it. One Christmas she made Jello trees and for whatever reason my brother and I were goofing around and he threw one at me. It went high, hit the wall of the stairwell so high that nobody could reach it. So there we were, one Christmas evening, balancing on the ledge with a bar of Avon soap tied to a yard stick with a wash cloth, in an attempt to wash the wall.

It obviously didn't work and that stain was there for years until it was painted over only two years ago. My mom never knew what caused the stain.

Fast forward to being a parent and hosting holiday dinners, grandma Linda always brought pie, deviled eggs (because I can't make them without gagging but all of the guys love them), a side dish, and Jello jigglers. Without fail. My kids began to expect them so she was making large quantities of these jigglers and pretty soon all four kids would get excited when they saw the tray of them.

Shortly after Christmas 2017 I got a box in the mail from Grandma. Not very heavy but large. When I opened it up and saw it was packed full of her Jello molds I knew that we weren't going to have her much longer. She must have known because for her to pass them onto me was a big deal. I remember looking through them all, having memories of each one, and crying because there would never be anyway to replace her. Her presence will be missed at every holiday dinner and every birthday party. I can no longer expect the best tray of Christmas cookies ever. Or pie. Because I hate baking pies.

On Easter I was getting dishes ready and Olivia asked me if I had made any jiggies. I hadn't. But I got down the molds, found a couple of boxes of Jello, and we made big eggs and some little jelly beans. I remember taking a picture of my molds chilling in the fridge and texting her to let her know they were already being used. I got back a smiley face.

We emailed and texted until she couldn't anymore. Olivia wrote letters regularly and texted her updates about school. Poor Olivia is heartbroken that she's passed but she understands the circumstances. I know I told her how much she meant to me and I shared some favorite memories that I have of her, and I told her I loved her. But it feels like you can never say those things enough to someone. It never feels like enough.

Today Matt and I, along with Olivia and Jackson, will attend her funeral and burial. I'm heartbroken and it doesn't even matter that we all know we'll bury people we love. Though I know it, it doesn't make it any easier.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Book Review: The Lost for Words Bookshop

I didn't fly through this one with as much gusto as I usually do but I'm really happy I read it because it was an unexpected delight.

The Lost for Words Bookshop - Stephanie Butland
Loveday Cardew prefers books to people. If you look closely, you might glimpse the first lines of the novels she loves most tattooed on her skin. But there are things she'll never show you.

Fifteen years ago Loveday lost all she knew and loved in one unspeakable night. Now, she finds refuge in the unique little York bookshop where she works.

Everything is about to change for Loveday. Someone knows about her past. Someone is trying to send her a message. And she can't hide any longer.
This book came in the mail a few weeks ago and I was able to squeeze it into my review calendar faster than usual because I'm kind of on a lightening streak right now with reviews. But I loved the cover right away and I read that it was "witty and irreverent" so I wanted to start it right away. I guess I thought there would be more humor in the book than there was but I really enjoyed it anyways. 

In this book we have Loveday, who throughout the book, tells us about her really tragic home life that was once a picture perfect family but became one where she's in foster care, one parent is dead, and the other in jail. Loveday changed as a person and is mostly kept to herself but she comes alive inside of the little bookstore run by her friend Archie, who becomes a mentor/father figure. We read about her failed attempt at a relationship with Rob, who isn't the person her portrays himself to be, and her reluctance to start one with Nathan, the good guy who really adores her. It all comes together on poetry night, which Loveday reluctantly goes to, where she starts to come out of her shell and be a little more honest with those around her.

The first half of this book is kind of slow and threatens to land it into the DNF pile but it's around the halfway mark that things start to take off, the plot picks up speed, and things start happening. I didn't actually care for Loveday's character, for me she was TOO much of the cliche introvert. I don't understand her fear of her childhood and how that would affect how people treated her but to each their own I guess. I really loved Archie's character, and I liked Nathan's character, too- he's such a great guy with his own issues but he tries so hard to be patient and come around. I loved the story line about Loveday's parents and how she ended up in foster care. It goes to show a child doesn't really always see all the moving parts around them, and remember things the way they want to. It was a really interesting way to talk about domestic violence in the home and it was well done.

I'm giving this one a solid 4.5 stars- I'd give it a full 5 if it just weren't so slow in the beginning. If you are a bibliophile or dream of working in a book store you will adore all of the book references throughout. This was a delight to read.

Book Review: The Summer List

Finally, I get to read one of the summer's most anticipated reads early! Usually I get to read them long after they've had their stint at the top of reader's list, which is fine, but it's kind of nice to be able to talk about a book now!

The Summer List - Amy Mason Doan

Laura and Casey were once inseparable: as they floated on their backs in the sunlit lake, as they dreamed about the future under starry skies, and as they teamed up for the wild scavenger hunts in their small California lakeside town. Until one summer night, when a shocking betrayal sent Laura running through the pines, down the dock, and into a new life, leaving Casey and a first love in her wake.

But the past is impossible to escape, and now, after seventeen years away, Laura is pulled home and into a reunion with Casey she can’t resist—one last scavenger hunt. With a twist: this time, the list of clues leads to the settings of their most cherished summer memories. From glistening Jade Cove to the vintage skating rink, each step they take becomes a bittersweet reminder of the friendship they once shared. But just as the game brings Laura and Casey back together, the clues unravel a stunning secret that threatens to tear them apart… 

I almost didn't finish this. I know, it's a hot book right now and I almost put it in my DNF pile. Why? It's slow. It's a VERY slow moving book, so much so that even once I got into the meat of the book I had already figured out the big secret and I couldn't understand why the author was so slow in getting there. Easily could have taken 50-100 pages of this out. I didn't love Laura's character at all, she's as exactly as Casey described her, someone who only thinks of herself. She doesn't look at big picture, she's so worried about herself all of the time she doesn't consider anyone else. Not everything is about you and that's something Laura struggles with all the way to the end. So that was annoying and I could understand why she didn't have any friends growing up aside from Casey.

The mother/daughter relationships in this book are completely dysfunctional, at best, but a lot of readers will be able to relate to one or the other. I really liked J.B. and I felt badly about how terrible Laura treated him, I really wanted him to just give up on her all together but this is a story so that doesn't necessarily happen. I liked the scavenger hunt theme throughout and how it ties into the end, as does the local stories about the Collier boys. I figured out the entire thing by the time I got to the half way point so the ending itself wasn't surprising for me though I felt like it was kind of rushed. I wanted to hear more of Katharine's story, maybe details on her death, or even more beyond Daniel's story- why did he end up the way he was? Nobody just decides to be a predator, what really landed him in a drug house raping young girls? Maybe a clue is in the story Laura's mother told her of her experience in the Collier home.

The book takes place in the summer so naturally this is an appropriate summer read. It's slow so this isn't a fast weekend read, I'm a fast reader and I couldn't stick with it for too long before getting bored. Overall I'm giving this one 3 stars. It wasn't amazing for me like it was for so many others, but it was solidly good. It earns its spot on top summer reading lists but isn't a favorite of mine.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Summer Bucket List: Vista Fleet

A week or two ago I post our Summer Bucket List and I feel like I have things fairly spaced out, but a lot of things are weather dependent and the weather around here is really crappy right now. It's rainy and cold most every day so when I planned out our cruise date I looked ahead and picked a hot day, knowing that the weather on Lake Superior is cooler once you're on the lake (by a lot). But of course, the day of our cruise it was rainy, cold, and ridiculously windy. Pretty much the worst day to go on a cruise. 

But, reserved and paid tickets don't care about the weather so off we went. And I'm telling you right now, I have never been sea sick in my life but I came so close on this night!
 Penelope was super excited to ride on a big boat, it was her first time, and she was fascinated by the entire process of boarding and looking out of the window. 
 Olivia and Jackson have been on the cruise plenty of times but they are always interested in learning new things. 
 It was Lucy's first ride, too and she was having a GREAT time. 
 This is such a great shot of our Aerial Lift Bridge and I always love looking at it. 

Anyways. So this was the Vista Fleet Family Fun Cruise so it was all you can eat pizza and then build your own sundae bar. The price of the tickets were kind of steep (our family of six cost about $142) but if we had gone out to eat and done a cruise on the same day it would have been about the same price so I figured it was worth it. And it was. They had a coloring station, a face painting station, hula hooping, a limbo contest, the tour of the harbor and then of course the food. It kept all of my kids (age 12, 10, 3, and almost 2) entertained for the hour and a half and they had a good space of time between pizza and the sundae so we weren't hanging out with nothing to do for the last 45 minutes. 
 Lucy didn't want her face painted so she settled for a flower on her hand. 
Penelope wanted the same thing but didn't want to smile for the camera. 

This would have been great to do on a much warmer day so we could sit outside but we still had a good time. The crew they had working with the kids were really great and friendly and there was more than enough food for everyone, so that was nice. At least we felt like we got our money's worth. It was a nice thing to do to end our weekend, I'd recommend it for families with little kids, they'll keep them entertained. 

Bucket list item complete!

Monday, July 2, 2018

Summer fun, family love

We are having a pretty good summer already and it's hard to believe the first month of it is done! This month is going to be pretty packed with stuff, but I wanted to share some June photos I had on my phone. 
 Penelope is in a phase where she likes to fully tackle someone to give them a hug and often squeezes their neck until they can't breathe. Jackson has been a frequent target. 
 She is also big into doing Jackson's hair. Thankfully he's a pretty good sport some of the time. But as much as he hates having it documented in a photograph, I have to have something to show future girlfriends. 
 Penelope and Lucy had their first freeze pops. I know there is a lot of debate on what these are called but we've always called them freeze pops so there. 
 Lucy likes them the best and will diligently try to squeeze it up but she often needs help. 
 Oh- her big love this summer? The big red car. She can't move in it but she's fully happy to just sit in it and occasionally beep the horn. 
Meanwhile Penelope sits on the tricycle and though it takes her a try or two she can go forward, very slowly, this year. Not that we have a ton of space to roll because she isn't into putting effort to go in the grass, but it's progress I suppose. She'd rather run around chasing people with water guns. 

This week I have posts about our first summer bucket list item, a Kesha concert, possibly a Fourth of July recap, and then something about my Grandma, who we will celebrate her life and mourn her death on Friday. Miss her already. 

Friday, June 29, 2018

Book Review: Whisky Sharp: Torn

This was the first time I've read this author but it won't be my last!

Whisky Sharp: Torn - Lauren Dane

Sometimes what you find isn’t what you were searching for...

Beau Petty has been searching his whole life. Searching for a place that fills all the empty spaces in him. Searching for a way to tame the restlessness. Searching for answers to the secret he’s never stopped trying to solve. What he wasn’t searching for was a woman to claim all of him, but when Cora Silvera walks back into his life, he’s ready to search out all the ways he can make her his.

Cora has spent her life as the family nurturer, taking care of others. But now she’s ready to pass that job on to someone else. It’s time to make some changes and live for herself. It’s in that moment that her former teenage crush reappears and the draw and the heat of their instant connection is like nothing either of them has experienced. He craves being around her. She accepts him, dark corners and all.

Beau thinks Cora’s had enough drama in her life. He wants to protect her from the secrets of his past, even if it means holding back the last pieces of himself. But Cora is no pushover and she means to claim all those pieces.

Let me just start by saying this book was refreshing to read because unlike 99% of other romance novels this one doesn't have major angst or drama starting the book and leading towards the characters having an unrealistically difficult relationship. In this book Beau and Cora meet up in an every day way, start dating like normal people, have a normal relationship without unrealistic expectations. It was just so nice to read a book that wasn't drama filled and ridiculous.

On the other hand, the story line with Beau's past life in a cult felt like it wasn't thought out all of the way and so the ending arc of it fell kind of flat for me. There didn't feel like a real resolution as you'd want in a book and I just kept thinking there was going to be some kind of big deal at the end and there just wasn't. Same with Cora's story line with her mother, I really expected some kind of big time blow out with the mom and Beau and while there kind of was, it wasn't to the magnitude that I was hoping for, some kind of big drama.

I'm going to give this one four stars and what saves this book is that the relationship between Cora and Beau is really sweet and normal, nothing to get crazy with, you leave the book really enjoying them as characters because while we hope for external drama, it's nice to not have any within their relationship. What keeps this from being a five star is the fact there is no big boom at the end, or anywhere.


Book Review: Dead Girls

Nice, cheery title, right? This was actually a really fascinating book of essays that made you think and look at things twice.

Dead Girls - Alice Bolin

A collection of poignant, perceptive essays that expertly blends the personal and political in an exploration of American culture through the lens of our obsession with dead women.

In her debut collection, Alice Bolin turns a critical eye to literature and pop culture, the way media consumption reflects American society, and her own place within it. From essays on Joan Didion and James Baldwin to Twin Peaks, Britney Spears, and Serial, Bolin illuminates our widespread obsession with women who are abused, killed, and disenfranchised, and whose bodies (dead and alive) are used as props to bolster a man’s story.

From chronicling life in Los Angeles to dissecting the “Dead Girl Show” to analyzing literary witches and werewolves, this collection challenges the narratives we create and tell ourselves, delving into the hazards of toxic masculinity and those of white womanhood. Beginning with the problem of dead women in fiction, it expands to the larger problems of living women—both the persistent injustices they suffer and the oppression that white women help perpetrate.

Sharp, incisive, and revelatory, Dead Girls is a much-needed dialogue on women’s role in the media and in our culture.

I'll start by saying I'm going to give this book 2 stars and only because it was reluctantly good. It was slow to get into and I got the feel that the author is the type of person you'd sit in a coffee shop with and she would over analyze everything you said or did and assume you meant it in some nefarious way. Some of the essays were a bit of a stretch to me, and the Britney Spears one was the best in the book. I was going into this thinking this was going to be about the murders of women that are then blown up in the media and in our face for years but no, it isn't that at all. It feels like a memoir about moving to L.A., with a sprinkle (or a heavy dash) of commentary on the works of Joan Didion (who I'm not familiar with) and talks about the entertainment industry and it's just kind of all over the place. To me if it had focused solely on dead girls (actual dead girls) then this could have been beefier and been a must read. If you're interested in feminism as it relates to entertainment commentary.. kind of.. this book is for you.

If you're looking for a relaxing beach read, this isn't the book for that at all. It's heavy, it's meandering, it's easy to put down to instead do a load of laundry and come back to because you have nothing else going on. It's hard to just sit and read it. I struggled. But I feel like every nuance in popular culture was examined and at some point I want to just scream, "and maybe it means nothing at all!!". It was frustrating at times.

If you like thought provoking, different take on modern culture, this would be a good book to pick up. You can find it on Amazon of course, but you can also find it on the Harper Collins website!


Thursday, June 28, 2018

Book Review: Meet the Sky

Blink Publishing is on FIRE with their YA division as of late and I just want all of them. I read A Touch of Gold and gave you that review earlier this week and I also read this gem, also in one day. I have other books in my review queue but they both looked so good I couldn't wait and I'm so glad I didn't.

Meet the Sky - McCall Hoyle

It all started with the accident. The one that caused Sophie’s dad to walk out of her life. The one that left Sophie’s older sister, Meredith, barely able to walk at all.

With nothing but pain in her past, all Sophie wants is to plan for the future—keep the family business running, get accepted to veterinary school, and protect her mom and sister from another disaster. But when a hurricane forms off the coast of North Carolina’s Outer Banks and heads right toward their island, Sophie realizes nature is one thing she can’t control.

After she gets separated from her family during the evacuation, Sophie finds herself trapped on the island with the last person she’d have chosen—the reckless and wild Finn Sanders, who broke her heart freshman year. As they struggle to find safety, Sophie learns that Finn has suffered his own heartbreak; but instead of playing it safe, Finn’s become the kind of guy who goes surfing in the eye of the hurricane. He may be the perfect person to remind Sophie how to embrace life again, but only if their newfound friendship can survive the storm. 

You know I like to start by telling you the star rating so I'm going to give this one 4.5 stars. The only thing keeping this back from a full five stars is Sophie was a little annoying for me, too timid, too cautious, too rude and assumes everything really is about her when there's a whole world circulating around her. It took me some time to come around with her and I appreciate her independence but sometimes I wanted to shake her and tell her to stop being a brat.

With that, there is so much  more that this book does right so it far outweighs her annoying personality. We have Sophie, who is trying to hold everything together since her dad up and left the family following a catastrophic accident leaving her sister Meredith with a brain injury. She's responsible and does far more than her share of the work while her mom tries to pull the rest of the family together. But trouble is approaching in the form of a hurricane and so her mom and sister drive off first, with Sophie to follow. Except it doesn't go as planned and Sophie finds herself stranded after her tires blow out, only to be rescued by her long ago friend, Finn. Finn is back in town after moving away for awhile and they have some awkward unfinished business since he supposedly stood Sophie up a dance. Finn agrees to help Sophie get to her mom and sister but the storm gets out of hand and some costly delays make it so they are stranded on this little island together and alone. They weather the storm while learning dark truths about their time apart and Sophie, in the matter of 48 hours or so, discovers how selfish she's really been under the guise of being helpful.

I absolutely loved this book and again, finished it in one sitting. I loved Finn's character even though I wanted to shake some responsibility and common sense into him, I also appreciated his free spirit and go with the flow despite tragic circumstances. There were a few things at the end that felt a little rushed, or that I didn't get enough of an ending for, but other than that I really loved this one!