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!
   

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

In 5 Weeks

I was trying to work on this post, and then I quit it, but now I feel like it's still accurate and it's my blog so I should share it.

In 5 weeks...
... Lucy will be two. It's hard to believe it will be two years since the most traumatic event in my whole life. Probably the worst thing that will ever happen to me if there's any justice in the world.
Last year at this time I was having major anxiety about her turning one and that turned out to be just because I was incredibly anxious and depressed leading up to the event, and my depression last fall was some of the worst I had experienced. Last fall I stopped my car on a bridge and it was everything in me to not get out of the car. Last fall I sat on a cliff and wondered why I'm still here and desperately praying to go.

I feel much the same this year. I don't understand the purpose of me still being here and at the same time I'm too tired to care. I'm going through the motions of my every day.

But I'm not happy.

I'm not fulfilled.

I still feel like I'd step in front of a bus should the opportunity arise.

Am I always going to feel this way? Is this really the best there is for me in terms of emotions and well being?

This year has been another series of doctor appointments, lab work, procedures, and we are no closer to finding out why I feel the way I do. I still can't be around pregnant people for long without crying and having anxiety. I struggle with word usage, word spelling, and things I thought I was really good at. I can't do math very well, I could never be in charge of a cash register again. Simple processes are hard for me. I get confused when you give me directions or try to tell me a story. Every day I say that I hate my life and I wish I was dead. I'm developing a fear of needles. I still don't drive with the toddlers, mostly because I'm afraid I'll forget them but also because I can't handle them. I hate being a mom, it brings me no joy anymore. I want to lay in bed every day all day. I miss being adventurous. I miss being a good friend. I'm not a very good friend right now and people are forgetting me. People are forgetting that I'm still impaired, everyone else has moved on but I'm still stuck here. I'm happy I've got my reading speed back up, but I realize that remembering a story is gone. The bright side is that re-reading my books has been nice, it's always a new story even if I've read it countless times.

I'll say my relationship with Matt, oddly, has never been better. Who knew a crisis would be a saving grace to a marriage? I certainly wouldn't have thought so.

I feel like I don't contribute to the house. I feel shame being on disability. I feel like the world is passing me by. I'm scared about my future. I feel guilty that Penelope and Lucy will never know the mom I used to be. They'll never have the best of me, they'll never know it. Olivia and Jackson will always miss the mom they had and continually disappointed in the one they have now.

It's been a rough two years. Then I realize it's only been two years and I sigh because I feel like it's been a lifetime of this. How many more years will I struggle through like this? I can't fathom it.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Book Review: A Touch of Gold

YOU GUYS. Drop everything and buy this book. It's been five days since I read/finished it (in one sitting) and I'm still thinking about it!

A Touch of Gold - Annie Sullivan

Gold is wealth. Wealth is power. Power is a curse.

King Midas once had the ability to turn all he touched into gold. But after his gift—or curse—almost killed his daughter, Midas relinquished The Touch forever. Ten years later, Princess Kora still bears the consequences of her father’s wish: her skin shines golden, rumors follow her everywhere she goes, and she harbors secret powers that are getting harder to hide.

Kora spends her days locked in the palace, concealed behind gloves and veils, trying to ignore the stares and gossip of courtiers. It isn’t until a charming young duke arrives that Kora realizes there may be someone out there who doesn’t fear her or her curse. But their courtship is disrupted when a thief steals precious items from the kingdom, leaving the treasury depleted and King Midas vulnerable. Thanks to her unique ability to sense gold, Kora is the only one who can track the thief down. As she sails off on her quest, Kora learns that not everything is what it seems—not thieves, not pirates, and not even curses. She quickly discovers that gold—and the power it brings—is more dangerous than she’d ever believed.

Midas learned his lesson at a price. What will Kora’s journey cost?

I'll start by telling you I'm giving this one FIVE gold stars because any book that has me wishing for more five days later is worth every star I can give it. If you're familiar with the story of King Midas and his golden touch, then you'll love this part two almost. We know he turns his daughter gold but what happens after that is where this book comes in. Kora is still golden, but she hasn't ever left the palace but she has to now because only she can track down her father's stolen gold before he's too weak to survive. So off Kora goes, aboard a ship with her stowaway cousin Hettie, and the suitor who has come to court her but also offers his assistant, Aris. But it's not all smooth sailing because soon enough she realizes the danger she's in from the crew members but also the realization she will eventually have to face off with a pirate named Captain Skulls. 

There are SO MANY plot twists in this one that more than once I found myself saying, "SHUT THE FRONT DOOR" and I couldn't stop reading it. I finished all 300some pages in one sitting because I couldn't put it down. It's a YA book so it's got a little romance but nothing extends past kissing so this is perfectly OK for a kid to read it. In fact, my almost 13 year old has stolen it from my desk already. I am so impressed with this author and her writing style, it's just a smoothly written novel with a twist on a classic. Absolutely loved it.
   

Monday, June 25, 2018

Book Review: Heart of Fire

I am pretty thankful that Jackson has tennis lessons for another five weeks because I get an uninterrupted hour of reading in every day and that's been kind of nice. But today I'm having my endoscopy done so I'm giving you a book review because I've been a bit of a basket case in anticipation. Tomorrow I'll have another book review but that one is a FIVE STAR one that I couldn't put down!

Heart of Fire - Linda Howard
A fabulous lost Amazon city once inhabited by women warriors and containing a rare red diamond: it sounded like myth, but archeologist Jillian Sherwood believed it was real, and she was willing to put up with anything to find it -- even Ben Lewis. Ruffian, knock-about, and number one river guide in Brazil, Ben was all man -- over six feet of rock-hard muscles that rippled under his khakis, with lazy blue eyes that taunted her from his tanned face. Jillian watched him come to a fast boil when she refused to reveal their exact destination upriver in the uncharted rain forests -- and resolved to stand her ground. Neither of them could foresee what the days ahead promised: an odyssey into the fiery heart of passion and betrayal, and a danger that would force them to cast their fates together, immersed in the eternal, unsolved mysteries of love....
I'll start by saying I totally enjoyed this one and it reminded me a little of her Cover of Night book where the man takes over extreme conditions to save the woman but the woman is no slouch herself. This was different in that it takes place along the Amazon River in Brazil and they are dealing with  murderer closely while searching for the treasure that may or may not be there. Jillian is absolutely sure that it is and is determined to find it to not only salvage her working reputation but that of her late father's. Ben is the guide up the river and back and he's curious only because of who is financing the trip, a known criminal with a reputation who has brought along a murderous thug as hired help. Once they find the Stone City things start to unravel quickly and it's a race to get back to civilization before they are murdered. But in the middle of it all, Ben and Jillian strike up an unlikely romance that's as hot as the jungle itself, but with a relationship clouded with deception, it's anyone's guess if they make it.

I know next to nothing about the Amazon River but Linda Howard's writing puts you right in the middle of it, and all of the discussion about heat and humidity makes this a perfect summer read! It's 309 pages but I made it through in a few hours (actually 4 of Jackson's tennis lessons plus one evening session but that makes it sound longer than it really was) and enjoyed it. 4 stars.

   

Friday, June 22, 2018

I have lost my entire mind.

I've been told you aren't supposed to do things that could be considered rash or not thought out when you're in a depressive episode. You make faulty decisions and your logic isn't always on point. I should tell you that right now, I'm only on my Wellbutrin and that's really bad because that's when I'm at my worst. I'm in between drugs right now and need to have the previous fully out of my system before I add anything else in, so I'm struggling with life right now pretty hard. I try not to talk about the things that go through my head in episodes like this because it was scare the actual shit out of you so I keep it inside and patiently wait for my next therapy session to unload all of the blackness inside of me. 

But in these episodes I also make incredibly stupid decisions. I buy things I don't need and can't afford, I decide I don't need medication at all and get incredibly sick, I'm snappy and mean to everyone, I sleep more than I should but I'm so tired I can't stay awake, and then I get angry. I get angry that this is where I'm at in life and I miss the old Sara. I'm angry I can't just up and go, that I have to mentally prepare myself to do something and even physically I can't do what I once did. 

A few days ago I was particularly angry and in a "screw YOU, life!" moment I did something that was pretty stupid. 

I signed up for a 5K. 

Now normally this wouldn't be cause for alarm except for the fact I can only walk a handful of blocks before my body is screaming and the exhaustion sets in and I could nap on someone's front lawn. How exactly do I think I'm going to make it three miles?! I have no idea and all of the training in the world couldn't help me. Not only can I not run three miles, I am not supposed to exert myself because of the adrenal insufficiency and I'm pretty running counts as exertion. 

So at this point I am going to throw caution to the wind and I'm going to try to walk it at least. Which means getting a full mile down by the end of July, two miles by August, and three miles by September which gets me to the three mile mark just in time for this race. Can I do it? I have no idea but I most likely will die trying. 

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Book Review: A Game of Chance

The best part of Jackson having tennis in the summer means it's a guaranteed hour to myself to read. I occasionally look up to make sure he's still out there but for the most part I'm reading because I don't understand tennis. Their scoring is bizarre. Anyways, I'm going through my old Linda Howard books that I just ordered and I faintly remember reading this one long ago but I could be wrong.

A Game of Chance - Linda Howard
Romantic suspense, originally published by Silhouette Intimate Moments. The last book in the Mackenzie Family series focuses on Chance Mackenzie, a feral, homeless adolescent until rescued and adopted by Wolf and Mary Mackenzie. The stunning and aloof half-breed has built a career in undercover ops, first as a Naval Intelligence Officer, then as a private consultant. However, one particularly vile terrorist has always eluded the law. Chance and brother Zane find a way to lure Crispin Hauer in: They'll use his daughter Sonia as bait. First step: Make Sunny fall in love with Chance. What could be simpler? 
Alright, the general premise of this is almost identical to Loving Evangeline in that it's a guy seducing a girl to get information out of her with the intentions of walking away afterwards. It doesn't happen because the girl is so seductive and amazing that he can't imagine a life without her. This one has a more modern take at relationships and the guy doesn't speak to the woman as if she's a helpless moron so already it has that going for it.

The other perks being that if you're into a military romance, this hits the mark because Chance is a Naval Intelligence Officer, posing as an ex-Army Ranger turn charter pilot. Sunny is a courier on the side but always on the run from her father who happens to be a terrorist. Chance is after her, and information about her father, and prepared to use her as a bait to get it. He has a traumatic back story, as does she, so they end up being a great match for each other.

Overall I'm giving this one 4 stars. It's the Linda Howard I enjoy, it's short and a relatively fast read, it's got an interesting story with complex characters and it was a fun little read. Great for the beach or tossing into your purse to read little bits at a time, though there are parts you won't want to put it down!
   

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Summer Bucket List

Every year I see people on Facebook posting things like their summer bucket list and every year I think to myself, what a great idea!!, and then never do it. We really can't afford to do a whole lot and now trying to do anything as a family of six is EXPENSIVE so we have to keep it to a minimum. Except I keep seeing things like older people talking about regrets and things they wish they had done as a family and it all boils down to taking the trip, doing the thing. You can always make more money, you won't always get that opportunity to do that thing.

If there's anyone who knows how short life is, it's me.

So we are going to do the things.

1. Go to the Dells: We are going to the Dells, specifically Great Wolf Lodge, for two nights in July. We've gone twice now and we've discovered Kalahari wasn't all that (at least when you have toddlers) so we are going to go back to Great Wolf Lodge. This time, we told the kids, so they are super excited about it. I don't know if we'll have time to do anything else while down there, maybe we'll head to a zoo or something before we hit the road back home, not sure yet.

2. Brainerd, MN: We are going to the Safari North Wildlife Park in Brainerd one day. We haven't ever been there and it shows up on a lot of lists around here so I figured we'd take the drive one weekend and check it out. That's going to cost us $60 just to get in.

 Lucy living her best life with her first smore. 

3. Hayward, WI: So another place I haven't been to but the big kids have, the Wilderness Walk in Hayward, Wisconsin. Another $60 but I have heard really great things about this place.

4. Como Zoo/Cascade Bay: This would be a recreation of a trip we did way back when Olivia was just 10 months old. It would mean spending the night in a hotel, so an added expense, but it would be so much fun. I'm thinking it makes sense to go to Cascade Bay the first day and then Como Zoo before we come home. That's going to be like $53ish to get into Cascade Bay but Como Zoo is free so as far as trip cost, it's pretty inexpensive. Sure we'd have the expense of a hotel but I bet I can get one for $120 or less if I start looking now.
Penelope ate a smore, but went back to eating chocolate and marshmallows separately. 

5. Canal Park Day: We have a gem of a place right in our own backyard, Canal Park. Every summer we spend the day throwing rocks, having lunch, getting ice cream, and walking around. We can do this anytime so I've left this one kind of loose. The last few years we've ended up doing it on Labor Day but we'll see.

6. Vista Fleet: The second thing I have booked for us. I wanted to do it this past weekend but with the crappy, rainy (and cold) weather, and Grandma's Marathon happening, that didn't make any sense. So I booked all of us tickets to go on a Family Fun Cruise around the Duluth/Superior harbor. This was a little more expensive because there's pizza and ice cream served but I figured it would be a fun Father's Day thing to do and I don't have to cook. Always a win.

7. Mall of America: It's basically a given that every August we make a trip to the Mall of America. We do it all up, rides, aquarium, shopping, food, Crayola Experience, the whole thing. This ends up being hundreds of dollars so Matt dreads it every year, but I try to pick up some school clothes off clearance racks while we're there so it's not without purpose. Matt still hates it. The kids love it.

I think that's it! That's a very full (and expensive) summer but figuring we're stuck to doing these things on weekends only, it fills our summer. The kids are gone for a couple of weeks to their Grandma and Grandpa's so that books out time we don't get them. Then we just have to hope for good weather which (at least around here) has been not great at best. It's not snowing, but it's been cold. We're maybe the only part of the nation not in a ridiculous heat wave. If you're melting, come to northern Wisconsin or Minnesota.. by Lake Superior. And a sweater because you will need it.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Book Review: Loving Evangeline

The absolute best part about reading really old romance novels is that they almost never stand the test of time. Surely you can get over fashions and such but the voice of characters is fantastically hilarious and I forgot how much I love it.

Loving Evangeline - Linda Howard

Evangeline Shaw is the key to the conspiracy that threatens Robert Cannon's company. Classified software developed by Cannon's group is being sold to a foreign government without his approval. It isn't just theft or a case of corporate espionage -- it's treason. And the trail leads straight to Shaw -- who by all accounts has both the means and the motives.
Determined to handle his own investigation, Cannon tracks her to a small town in Alabama. But as he tries to untangle the knot that surrounds her, he finds himself questioning he's believed. The facts still seem pretty black-and-but his heart tells him she's no Mata Hari...

I have to give this one a 5 star basically because it's as cheesy and ridiculous as it gets. I had so much fun reading this and I suppose it was probably racy and sexy back in the day but now, especially in the era of #metoo this is so wrong it's fabulous.

So in this gem we have unsuspecting Evie Shaw, owner/operator of a marina, widow of 12 years, pretty, and pretty clueless about men. Then we have Robert Cannon, CEO of everything in life, steely gray eyes, lean like a panther (seriously, the amount of times you read the panther comparison is TOO MUCH! HA!), mean as a fox but also pretty sure he's figured out which employee is selling compromised information for money on the side. Which leads him to where Evie is, a small rinky dink town in Alabama. He's sure that she's somehow in on it because she followed the rogue employee a few times so in order to find out and break the case, he's on it himself. Forget the FBI or other authorities, this guy will circumvent them all and do it himself. As he's sleeping with her (which was amazing ridiculous) he's slowly ruining her life and putting her in a financial tail spin to get her to confess or something, that was never really clear. Of course, she isn't in on it and that's obvious from the word go but he's pretty laser focused on her guilt. It all goes to shit pretty quickly, he breaks her heart, and he struggles to see where he went wrong. It's just nuts.

Anyways. He says incredibly condescending things to her, he assumes that he would just take over her life and she would practically trip on herself to marry him, and he assumes that she can't think on her own. It's really enough to make you put the book down except it was so entertainingly hilarious and eye roll worthy I couldn't stop.

I am SO glad I spent $10 on a ton of backlist Linda Howard books because I'm diving all in now!

   

Monday, June 18, 2018

School is OUT!

So I'm like two weeks late, nobody should be surprised here. But I did take some pictures so I'll share them now before I forget and suddenly it's the beginning of next school year. 

 Jackson is officially a fifth grader now having successfully completed fourth grade. He apparently grew three inches this year and he doesn't believe it (neither do I) but he said he's kind of nervous for next year. I'm not, I think he will be just fine it's his first year of middle school I worry about. 
 I volunteered at his school in the afternoon for their Celebrate Success, as I always do, and I try to be out at the DJ booth area so I can take a picture of the kids with their friends. I got Jackson with all of his very best friends. 
 I love looking through all of the paper stuff he brings home at the end of the year. He had to make a book about transportation so I quickly skimmed through it and I loved his dedication. 
 I also loved this page because he had to specify which one was his mom and which was his dad. Nice, kid. 
 This was my favorite. Apparently at some point this year (probably on a birthday I'm assuming) they the kids all got to shout out things about Jackson that describe him and his teacher laminated it for him. I put it in his scrapbook but I thought these were all super accurate of him. Shares snack, best classmate ever, nice to people, always there for me, good at cleaning- these all made me smile the most. 

I wasn't awake when Olivia went to the bus in the morning so we had to take her last day picture after school. 
She finished sixth grade like a champ and managed to get all A's in all three trimesters in every class. Not that I'm surprised, she's the perfectionist in the group and she's naturally very smart. She got to go to ValleyFair (theme park) the day before because she's a "Super Spartan" meaning she got good grades and no trouble all year. I guess her and her friends had a great time and it was her first time there so I'm glad they had so much fun. I sent her with $80, she came back with $5 so I'm glad I sent her with more because some of her friends didn't bring enough money for lunch and water so she helped them out. 

They both had such a great year, I'm so glad we got through this year with as little drama as possible. Onto next year! Jackson's last year in elementary school and Olivia starts Spanish class next year! 

Friday, June 15, 2018

Book Subscription Boxes: May

I forgot to take a picture of my Bookworm Box but it was so lame you aren't missing anything. I can't even remember which two books I got, they have to be here somewhere that's for sure. 

Let's talk PageHabit, though. 
So this is what I got in my box. A cool pull light that I gave to Jackson, which already broke after two pulls, so that ended up being a bust. A very cool little dude bookmark I also gave to Jackson because I thought it kind of looked like him. A mini book which was meh, a nice bookmark, and a new book by Amanda Quick. I'm not a fan of Amanda Quick, not that I don't like her she just isn't an author I have to read. This one is a roaring 20's type book and that's maybe one of my least favorite genres, I really don't like historical stuff. I find them dull. 

This is my third month with a dud book selection (for me) so I have successfully cancelled that subscription. 

Instead, I'm strongly considering doing OwlCrate again or maybe trying out a new box. I'm kind of undecided. 

But let's talk about books I'm currently reading! I ordered a BUNCH of super old Linda Howard books so I'm going to be working my way through those. I forgot how short some of her older books were so I should be able to fly through them. I'm hoping to complete my Linda Howard library soon! I'm still trying to work through some series I haven't finished that I have on my bookshelf. I made the mistake of flipping books I haven't read on their side and it's glaringly obvious what a problem I have with buying books. It's.... it's pretty bad you guys. So I have to make it through these books before I buy more. I say that but... addiction wins, you know? I can't help it! 

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Book Review: Bleeding Love

I'm kind of on a Harper Sloan kick but I swear this is the last book of hers that I have so I'll move further down my shelf!

Bleeding Love - Harper Sloan

I've loved once. I gave everything that I had to that love. Blindly believing that nothing could ever take that feeling away from me. Away from us. And when my little world of happiness was ripped from my fingers, I felt a loss that still haunts me to this day. 

Now I use that lingering grief as a shield to keep my heart from loving again. It's that fear that keeps me from letting anyone, except my daughter, get close enough to make it hurt. To make my heart bleed when I inevitably lose again. 

Until the day I met Liam Beckett and everything I thought I had protected myself from was shoved back in my face. 

He's on a mission to prove to me that a love worth having is a love worth fighting for.

I think I have to move to a different Harper Sloan series or maybe stick with newer books because this one was just meh for me. I think the problem with this one is Megan, she's kind of the worst. Yeah, she is independent and a single mom but she's just whiny and annoying and completely has no back bone. If you liked her Corps Security series, you'll like this series because these are the adult children of the characters from Corps Security and it has almost the exact same voice, so it doesn't feel like anything new. Which is not what I was hoping for, I wanted a fresher take and I didn't expect the adult children to say the exact same things, if that makes sense. And the over use of the word "baby", STOP IT RIGHT NOW. Nobody talks like that. Oh! And "darlin'" too, that needs to stop. It's enough that I won't pick up book one or anything after this one. If I read another Harper Sloan book it'll be something completely unrelated to these. I can only give this 2 stars. 

   

Book Review: Beautiful Music

Fun fact: The very first book review I ever did on this blog, and what got me started, was Michael Zadoorian's book The Leisure Seeker. That was so long ago but (even with memory loss) I remember being so excited when his publicist for the book reached out to me to thank me for the review and she sent me a box of books, including The Motel Life by Willy Vlautin (one I really enjoyed). There was also a book called The Summer of Tiffany, a memoir written by a woman in her 80s and the publicist told me it's never too late to write my book. I think about that every time I hit a slump in writing. So when I saw that Michael had a new book coming and was contacted asking if I'd be game I said OF COURSE.

Beautiful Music - Michael Zadoorian

Set in early 1970s Detroit, a racially divided city still reeling from its violent riot of 1967, Beautiful Music is the story of one young man’s transformation through music. Danny Yzemski is a husky, pop radio–loving loner balancing a dysfunctional home life with the sudden harsh realities of freshman year at a high school marked by racial turbulence.

But after tragedy strikes the family, Danny’s mother becomes increasingly erratic and angry about the seismic cultural shifts unfolding in her city and the world. As she tries to hold it together with the help of Librium, highballs, and breakfast cereal, Danny finds his own reason to carry on: rock ‘n’ roll. In particular, the drum and guitar–heavy songs of local legends like the MC5 and Iggy Pop. In the vein of Nick Hornby and Tobias Wolff, yet with a style very much Zadoorian’s own, Beautiful Music is a touching story about the power of music and its ability to save one’s soul.

I wasn't born until 1982 so I'll be honest when I say a lot of the cultural references from the 70's went right over my head. But I think that's OK because Michael Zadoorian writes in such a way that you absorb the information, you can picture everything around him, and we can all relate to the middle school awkwardness. I don't care who you are, you were awkward. It isn't just middle school that's difficult to navigate (swimming naked in gym class? I'd rather die, thank you very much), but his home life isn't always easy. His father feels distant and unaware, likely stressed out to the max. His mother is emotionally unstable and to be honest, she reminds me of me in a way. Add to this the complexity of all of these characters, you can almost picture someone in your life that could play these characters in a movie and nail it.

The day his father brings home a new stereo changes Danny's life, but the book is more than that. It's about Detroit, Detroit in the 70's during the race riot time period, adolescence, mental health, it's so many real life things all balled up that you can't help but be immersed in it. You find yourself turning the pages, nodding your head, laughing out loud, all of the emotions. I just really adored this book and it feels like a perfect summer read. Maybe pack it on your way to your outdoor music festival, what a tribute. I have to also say, Danny had his coming to Jesus rock and roll moment with Led Zeppelin's Houses of the Holy album and I also remember the first time I heard that. Senior year of high school, my boyfriend introduced me to Led Zeppelin and I've been such a fan ever since. But that was the year that I went beyond what was on the radio and delved deep into the archives of rock and roll and reveled in the classics. Every emotion Danny spoke about? I felt it, I could identify with it. I can only imagine what life would have been like had I been introduced in middle school like Danny- I might be an entirely different person. And that's what music can do to you. Books, too.

   

Book Review: The Paris Wedding

I didn't expect this one to be as fast of a read as this was and was pleasantly surprised!

The Paris Wedding - Charlotte Nash

Ten years ago, Rachael West chose not to move to Sydney with high-school sweetheart Matthew. Instead she stayed on the family wheat farm, caring for her seriously ill mother and letting go of her dreams. Now, Matthew is marrying someone else. And Rachael is invited to the wedding, a lavish affair in Paris, courtesy of the flamboyant family of Matthew's fiancĂ©e - a once-in-a-lifetime celebration at someone else's expense in Europe's most romantic city.


She is utterly unprepared for what the week brings. Friendships will be upended, secrets will be revealed - and on the eve of the wedding, Rachael is faced with an impossible dilemma: should she give up on the promise of love, or destroy another woman's life for a chance at happiness?
Alright, so in this book we have Rachael, fresh from her mother's passing and at odds with her future. She isn't sure what she wants to do but she feels like the ten years she spent caring for her mother were the best years of her life just gone. She feels like she missed opportunities and she won't get them back. In the middle of her grief, because life loves to kick you when you're down, she receives a wedding invitation for an all expense paid trip to Paris to see the love of her life get married to a socialite. She's gutted and doesn't know what to do but is convinced in order to get over him she needs to see him get married, the door will shut, and she will be able to move on. She decides to take her best friend, who is hiding problems of her own, and off they go.

It turns out the groom isn't as excited to get married as he's portraying and when he sees Rachael again, the doubt creeps in.

I don't want to write any more than that because it'll give it away. This was SUCH a good book and I had no idea how this was going to end. Everything falls apart for poor Rachael and she's forced with the consequences of her bad decisions, her best friend is angry, and her future is up in the air. I really enjoyed this one, I enjoyed watching Rachael blossom into an entirely new person while in Paris and taking in all that Paris has to offer. There are so many things I want to squeal about but it will ruin everything for you but just know there is a love triangle, one guy turns out to be a giant douche, and the ending is sweet. I'm giving this one a solid 4.5 stars, it's not quite a 5 star but it's pretty darn close. Find it on the HarperCollins website HERE and do a little shopping while you're at it!

   

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

That time I did a boudoir shoot and what I learned.

Last October I joined a secret group for Mad Chicken Photography- their boudoir photos page. I had been kicking the idea around to do a shoot for years so I went into this thinking someday maybe I'll get the courage to do it. Then Black Friday rolled around and they were offering 50% off their session fee, making it more affordable obviously, so I just jumped on it and picked a date at random. I figured if I did it early enough in the year I'd give the end result to Matt as an anniversary gift.

Now surprisingly, I didn't lose any of the weight I wanted to and in fact, gained 14 pounds leading up to my shoot. I showed up that day at my absolute heaviest weight and lowest self esteem, totally not ready to rock it and scared shitless.

Thankfully Emily and Jes have your back because they transformed me inside and out. The images speak for themselves.





 (the one where Jes thinks I look like Taylor Swift)







These are being given to Matt for our 14th wedding anniversary. He's getting a lot more images than this, obviously, but I wanted to share some PG ones so you could see what my experience was like. But I left there feeling on top of the damn world, wondering if I could actually get fake eyelashes on myself and not look like 2009 Britney Spears. You know what I'm talking about.

I will tell you that though I'm wearing stilettos, lord knows I did not walk in them. I legitimately put them on sitting down, and shuffled as little as possible. It was ridiculous and never again. Matt's going to laugh when he notices because he knows how much I hate heels and how that isn't me in real life at all. None of this is me in real life, this is all pretend. In real life my hair is in a messy bun, I'm wearing lame, ill fitting clothes and I likely have no makeup on. I look at these and I can pick out all of my flaws, all of the things I don't like but I also see a girl I used to be. She's still in there.

I learned that I have to figure out how to see myself in a different light. Before when I didn't like what I saw, I actively changed it. I exercised and lost weight and I never felt great but when I look back at photos of me then, I wish I could have that again. I looked really great. It turns out that I don't know how to be OK with what I have right now. I don't know how to just get some self esteem. I can  have one really fabulous day and that will buoy me for a little while but when it wears off what do I do then? I'm not really sure.

I learned that I took myself for granted all those years ago when I lost all that weight. I should have been happy where I was at. I think that was legitimately the best I am ever going to get and I spent that time wishing I was thinner. Then I think, what if I end up larger than I am right now and this is as good as I'm going to get? That's a pretty horrible thought but I think it sometimes. I don't feel sexy 99% of the time. Matt has never said anything to make me feel that way but I can do enough damage to myself, I certainly don't need any help. So it's a process. I don't know how I'll be in a year but I hope better than where I am now.

My blog for Mad Chicken can be found HERE and I really invite you to go there because it has more photos than I do and it's pretty insightful on my experience, too.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

14 years

So today Matt and I have been married for 14 years. We have been together for 16 years total but we only celebrate our wedding anniversary. If anyone had told me ten years ago that we'd still be married, and happy, I would have laughed in your face. There were times where things weren't so great and I think we both thought about leaving and chalking it up to being too young to get married. We weren't mature, we hadn't lived life yet, we hadn't done enough as a couple before we got married to really know if this was our partner.

But through it all, Matt has proven to be my ride or die. Literally. He's there anytime I need him. He drops everything and comes. Whether it's me in labor, cat puke, dead bunny in the yard, or a poop explosion, he doesn't blink an eye. He does all of the worst jobs of parenting and home ownership and never complains.
He might not be emotionally supportive the way I need but he does his best in his own way. And I've come to appreciate that. You're never going to find someone who checks off every box but you can find someone who checks off a lot of them and you can be happy. 
We fight. We argue. We still have bad days but not once do I ever worry that this is it for us. I know that tomorrow is another day and we'll be just fine. 
He's always up for adventure. If I throw out an idea he's totally game for it. He does his absolute best to get me things I want, always provides what I need, and provides for our family better than anyone else could. He works his ass off every day and never complains. 
It's funny because now we've been together for so long I can't remember a time without him. I don't want to face anything without him by my side. I think about our future and I can't imagine what it would be like if he died before me, I would be heartbroken. I don't know what I would do, to be honest. 
He's the best guy I could have ever picked. He has his flaws, but so do I. I'm not a perfect wife or mom, I have serious flaws that I work on but he's makes sure I know I'm loved anyways, that he wouldn't want anyone else. That no matter what happens he is going to hold my hand and help me.

I can finally say we are at that stage where we feel secure in our marriage, that it feels like this was meant to be. It hasn't been an easy journey and we are sometimes dragging the other behind us, but we've landed here together. Here's to so many more years. Love you, babe.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Book Review: A Blaze of Sun

Two left, friends. I have two books in this section of the series that I want to finish and then I'm done! Thankfully this one was a really fast read!

A Blaze of Sun - Bella Forrest

Welcome back to The Shade... 

"Of course you know who I am. I'm a daughter of the darkness just as surely as you are his son..." 

Ever since his brief encounter with Emilia at The Shade, Derek's thoughts and dreams have been haunted with images of the mysterious, beautiful brunette. Plagued with guilt, he struggles to understand why he is so drawn to this dark stranger from his past. 

When Emilia suddenly appears again on the island, Derek is both terrified and intrigued. But this time, he is determined to involve Sofia and discover who this woman is. 

If only Derek and Sofia knew, Emilia is a mystery that should be left undiscovered...

I feel like this book had a lot of momentum in the plot which honestly made me fly through this one faster than the others. This book brings us Emilia, a threat to Derek and Sofia surely, but a greater threat to The Shade as well. Once you find out who she is you fully understand why she's here and why she's so focused on Derek and being the part that fulfills the prophecy. It kind of worried me because she's basically everything perfect and amazing that Derek could want so really, what would stop him from choosing her over Sofia?

Sofia, for her part, is less whiny in this book and puts more trust in Derek and his love for her and that was refreshing. This book finds Sofia trying to reconcile with her parents while at the same time trying to run The Shade while Derek is gone with Emilia to fulfill his one week obligation. That ends up being a colossal mistake and thank god Aiden was there when he was. Aiden kind of redeems himself, I think, and it seems the more he's around the vampires the more his attitude is changing.

We also learn of the elder who is basically king of all vampires, we meet Arron (leader of the hunters), and we find out that Kiev (Emilia's brother) wants Sofia for his own for his own shot at redemption but he's put to the test by the Elder to bring Derek and Sofia's future children. A lot of foreboding for the next couple of books which means I want to dig in as quick as possible. (That might take a hiatus because I have one review book and a bunch of shorter back list titles I want to get to first so we'll see. )

Overall I'm giving this book a solid four. I liked that the plot was quick and didn't linger too long on one aspect, we have some lose ends tied up, some characters finally meet their end, new ones are introduced and I feel like Bella Forrest is really shaping a complex but really great larger story.

   

Friday, June 8, 2018

Book Review: A Shadow of Light

I'm trying SO HARD to get through the series books I have started on my shelves and I'm working on back list titles. Does this stop me from ordering new books? No but I legitimately cannot stop myself. Matt might have to close down my Amazon account soon.

A Shadow of Light - Bella Forrest

Since the implosion at The Oasis and Derek's stay at Hawk Headquarters, The Shade has fallen into a state of utter chaos. To make matters worse, the citizens of Derek's kingdom have become suspicious of his loyalties and accuse him of siding with the enemy... At a time when Derek desperately needs full cooperation from his subjects, they wish to put their own King on trial.

Meanwhile, Sofia is being held hostage by the hunters. They are determined to rid her of her infatuation with the vampire. She submits to the strict routine and training they impose on her, but the only fuel that keeps her going is the thought of reuniting with Derek - something Reuben is fighting with every fiber of his being to ensure will never happen. 

...Until one day, out of the blue, Reuben appears to have a change of heart and comes to Sofia with a proposal; a solution that she never dreamed possible. A solution that would fulfil her heart's deepest desires and secure her and Derek's future together, forever.

But can she really trust this man who is so renowned for his hatred of vampires? Does she even have a choice?

To be clear, these are not stand alone titles, you absolutely have to read them starting from book one to understand anything that is going on and why some things are significant to the greater story. 

So in this book we have Sofia trapped at hunters' headquarters and Derek is going back to The Shade. Sofia learns who her mother is, learns she's crazy as a loon, and learns her dad is the same way just differently. Derek arrives to what is basically a civil war and his father has challenged him. A few key people die in this book so I'm kind of glad to see movement in that regards but it makes me wonder who else is going to go in future books because this author gives zero craps about your feelings, she will kill anyone she wants to on a whim. In a way that's really refreshing because if you can imagine yourself in this world you can imagine some deaths would happen on a whim so it feels more true to the story.

Sofia and Derek continue to struggle to be together. I don't know why they are letting mortality to get in the way. They are worrying about a greater problem that can be worked on later on instead of focusing on the fact they are supposed to be together and then worry about that stuff. Instead they are doing it all backwards and I'll be honest, I'm getting kind of tired of it. You know what else I'm tired of? Sofia's blind... love? Maybe it's not that but she continues to love her parents despite the fact they continue to be absolutely worthless in meeting her needs and considering what's actually best for her. She saves herself in this book though so I have to give credit where it's due.

We also see a return of Vivienne, which is great because even though she's kind of odd, she continues to be reliable and there when you need her and I've really missed her.

I only have three more books in this series that I'm going to read because I refuse to get stuck in teh series that never ends, and this one is exactly that. The fact that this series is like eight books long (the Derek and Sofia part) is ridiculous but I'm going to keep going because now I'm all invested. These are currently free on KindleUnlimited and worth the read, they are really quick to get through so you can probably pass me up since I can only read these between review books.