Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Book Review: The Mister

You guys. Oh, you guys.

The Mister - E L James

London, 2019. Life has been easy for Maxim Trevelyan. With his good looks, aristocratic connections, and money, he’s never had to work and he’s rarely slept alone. But all that changes when tragedy strikes and Maxim inherits his family’s noble title, wealth, and estates, and all the responsibility that entails. It’s a role he’s not prepared for and one that he struggles to face.
 
But his biggest challenge is fighting his desire for an unexpected, enigmatic young woman who’s recently arrived in England, possessing little more than a dangerous and troublesome past.  Reticent, beautiful, and musically gifted, she’s an alluring mystery, and Maxim’s longing for her deepens into a passion that he’s never experienced and dares not name. Just who is Alessia Demachi? Can Maxim protect her from the malevolence that threatens her? And what will she do when she learns that he’s been hiding secrets of his own?
 
From the heart of London through wild, rural Cornwall to the bleak, forbidding beauty of the Balkans, The Mister is a roller-coaster ride of danger and desire that leaves the reader breathless to the very last page.


Let me start by saying I was one of the people who enjoyed the Fifty Shades trilogy. Yes, it had terrible editing and the writing wasn't great, but at the core of it, it was unlike anything else out there and it hit the mainstream. E L James managed to do something no other erotic romance author has done and it really opened up a new genre to the soccer moms and they feel no shame in reading them because now they are popular. I will forever give her credit for that and good for her.

But what I wanted her to do was take all of that money she earned and hire a god damn EDITOR and find a publisher that actually gave an ACTUAL DAMN about the quality of book coming out with their stamp of approval on it. Seriously. Either one would do, both would have been nice.

Before I get into this book I'm going to tell you it ends with every loop not being closed so I would bet everything in me this ends up a trilogy as well. It was set up as such, it ends almost on a similar ending as Fifty Shades and even the story line mimics it with the danger element. And while I'm going to sound like a total tool talking about this book, you have to know me enough by now to know I will read the rest of the trilogy because I have poor impulse control, I'm a sucker for a series, and my OCD legitimately will not allow me to skip out.

And I hate myself for it.

In this book we have Maxim, and he's fresh from the death of his brother. Their parents had "an heir and a spare" when they had kids and you can guess that Maxim is the spare. He's a bit of a playboy with his hand in a lot of different things but no direction, really. Then we have Alessia, clearly an illegal immigrant who finds herself in London after some kind of horrible experience and through a connection of a friend, she ends up as Maxim's "daily", which is housekeeper for us American folk.

I cannot tell you how many times Maxim thinks about her "ghastly blue housecoat and scarf" SO MANY TIMES throughout the god damn book that it's absurd. It could be mentioned once and as a reader with short term memory loss, even I could remember that's what she wears when she cleans. We are continually hammered at how poor Alessia is as if at some point we should look at Maxim as the best guy ever because look- he looked past all her ugly to find her worth. Get the hell out of here with that. Secondly, the book changes voices constantly. It's forever switching between first and third person, sometimes in the same chapter and it's absolutely frustrating to read. I just want to get through the damn book, you know?

If it's any indication of how this book is, the term "fuck a duck" happens in the first 50 pages and a few more times throughout.

While I did manage to finish this, and the second part kind of got a little better in thanks to the pages dedicated to them having sex, this is a solid 2 start book. I even have to mention the sex was only meh. If you are expecting scenes like what you got in Fifty Shades, turn all the way around and run because you will not find that here. There is one small part where he uses handcuffs on another girl and has a one sentence thought that Alessia wouldn't be ready for that but then you never hear anything more about that. Oh god- don't get me started on the "forbidden room" that you absolutely can never go into. I got excited and then NOPE, just wait until you see what it is. Honest to shit I have never been more disappointed in my whole life. Honestly I've read books that have been independently published as a PDF only that are edited far better. Frankly, I'm a little taken aback at how unrefined this book is given the magnitude of success Fifty Shades had brought in, I would think E L James' next book would warrant the best of the best and that's absolutely not what we have here.

The entire story feels hokey and bizarre? It's like modern day Cinderella meets Pretty Woman, kind of. She's illegal, he's a rich Earl but she doesn't know it, they fall in love, she plays piano well and has broken English, he takes her in and decides hiding his identity is the best situation, she's got sex traffickers and her betrothed after her, it takes a weird fucking turn when he goes to Albania, the whole thing is such a bizarre story that you almost keep reading just to see where the actual hell is she going? Then it ends on a damn cliffhanger which guarantees more is to come. It really feels like E L James wanted to really go there, really push the envelope and show what she can really do, and she fell so far short of that. Honestly, I think she'll get to finish this trilogy but then this might be the end. Unless she can really ramp up the next books and hire a better team for it, I don't know if we'll read more from her in the future.

All in all? Don't buy it. Truly. If you really can't stop yourself from reading it, wait for a library copy, borrow it from a friend, wait until it's free on Kindle, something but spend your money on something more worthy.

   

Monday, April 29, 2019

Book Review: Bent But Not Broken

In all of the books I've read I have read, I have never come across a topic like this. Fiction, nonfiction, none of it. You know I've read a huge range of books but this was a complete first for me.

Bent But Not Broken - Don Cummings
Bent But Not Broken is an unflinchingly honest memoir about the onset of Peyronie’s disease, a painful and sexually limiting condition that is estimated to affect more than 5% of the worldwide adult male population. Don Cummings writes humorously about the emotional and collateral damage brought on by a suddenly curved penis as he struggles to maintain his sense of sex and self. He openly details the doctor visits, the excruciating treatments, and the acute anxiety over the state of his long-term relationship with a man who is supportive but often helpless in the face of nature’s whims. Discordant domestic life, a harrowing kidnapping by a handsome stranger, and reminiscences of a hyper-active sexual past are woven into the single-minded quest to minimize the effects of this deforming disorder. Brace yourself for a daring, heartfelt and beautifully twisted story of love and survival. 

I'm going to tell you completely up front that this book contains sexual content and talks about M/M sexual encounters so if that is not your thing or if your progressive, cool friend would consider you a prude, you need to skip this one all together because there aren't enough pearls in the world for you to clutch.

Alright, so this book is a memoir of sorts about a man who develops Peyronie's disease. Did you know this was even a thing? I did not but being honest, it's not like I've come face to face with a ton of penises. Thanks to a rash of penis pictures years ago, I've seen a wide variety but I can tell you I've never seen anything like what you'll find on Google images when you look this up, which is exactly what I did when I was reading this because while I understand what it means to have a bent penis, I really needed to know if we're talking a curve or 90 degree angle. I'm not going to give it away but if you want to forever change your Facebook ads, you're welcome.

It can be painful (obviously) but also have an emotional impact on the person but also take a toll on their relationship because sex and intimacy is a huge factor in a successful relationship. In this book Don talks about this beginning and how jarring it was to go through this not only as a person but as someone in a long term relationship. The book is funny, it's written as if you're sitting down for coffee with him. It isn't clinical and dry, but it really is funny to the point where it feels inappropriate to laugh at his situation yet here you are because he wants you to laugh with him at the absurdity of it all. It also kind of highlights the taboo of penises in general. We hear a lot about women's health but we only hear about erectile dysfunction in regards to medication to have prolonged sex. We occasionally hear about prostate cancer but anything else with a penis is pretty taboo and I think a lot of men are reluctant to go to a doctor and say "hey- I think I've got a problem here" because it takes a shot at their virility. Which is absurd but you know, it is what it is. So I think this book did a good job covering all of the issues something like this would bring a guy but also that it isn't a doomed diagnosis, either.

Overall I'm giving this one a solid (get it? HA!) 4 stars. It was informative, I learned a lot about penises that I didn't know before and I think I've freaked my husband out by asking him questions and intensely scrutinizing his penis looking for any kind of curve and he thinks I'm nuts. Better safe than sorry I say. So if you're a guy, definitely pick this one up because you can't know too much about your penis. And ladies, if you want to learn a LOT about a penis, here you go. *ahem*

   
Thank you to TLC Book Tours and Don Cummings for my ARC! All thoughts are my own, and affiliate links have been used. 

Weight Loss Challenge (week 25)

I had a little bit of progress this week due to warmer weather. That was actually pretty nice. I did learn that using a double jogging stroller with only one kid is incredibly difficult and I almost tipped it over and Lucy almost fell out. 

So the goal is to get my single stroller out of my mom's garage because Lucy has been reluctant to get back into the double. Understandably so. 
Aside from that I have kind of decided I'm not going to worry about my diet. I feel like (overall) I eat just fine. Should I eat more vegetables? Sure. I'll give you that. But for the most part I eat pretty alright and you know.... if I want ice cream? I'm going to have it. If I want nachos? I'm going to have it. Eating less and still being hungry only makes me irritable, even if I'm seeing progress on a scale. Life is short, I want to enjoy what I can while I can.
Lately when I do go for a walk I've been listening to podcasts and I stumbled across the Unladylike podcast because it was recommended on another blog. And wouldn't you know, they have a How to Leave Dietland part 1, and part 2, which were so good. A lot of the information I already knew but it was nice to hear another take on it, so if you are struggling with your diet, definitely give this a listen. 

Heading into this week I have therapy (THANK GOD), I see the gastroenterologist (nervous, but THANK GOD), and my plan is to get a few more walks in. It's supposed to be kind of chilly (under 40 degrees, but not freezing) so I have to just suck it up and do it. But at this rate....
Hang in there, lambs!

Friday, April 26, 2019

The Worm Whisperer

It's really hard to believe that Penelope's three year old preschool year is almost done. They finish in mid-May and I hear every day from her that she is ready for 4K. She has really loved 3K and though we started off rocky having to drag her in there, every morning she now skips right in and has a good time. Lucy will (hopefully) be going next year, we've already applied, just waiting to get the thumbs up (or down).

They recently had the third, and last, family day and though I went to the first two, I had Matt go to this one because I was at home for a speech therapy session with Lucy. But it's a bummer because I missed Penelope meeting worms.
Penelope is either really adventurous or wild horses can't drag her away, absolutely no in between.
Turns out on this day she was feeling adventurous. Matt said actually picking up the worm took her awhile because she was not so sure but once she picked it up, she was incredibly gentle.
She pet a worm for a long time.
When she came home she was telling me all about it and told me she wanted to bring a worm home but her teacher said no. She told me this morning she can't wait to find a worm and maybe she can bring it in the house because she thinks she has a good bucket for him to sleep in.

Obviously this summer I will have to seriously check what she brings into the house because I won't be happy to have worms in the house. Gross.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Book Review: The Girl He Used To Know

I have so much to say about this book, I can't even give you a preamble.

The Girl He Used To Know - Tracey Garvis Graves

Annika (rhymes with Monica) Rose is an English major at the University of Illinois. Anxious in social situations where she finds most people's behavior confusing, she'd rather be surrounded by the order and discipline of books or the quiet solitude of playing chess.

Jonathan Hoffman joined the chess club and lost his first game--and his heart--to the shy and awkward, yet brilliant and beautiful Annika. He admires her ability to be true to herself, quirks and all, and accepts the challenges involved in pursuing a relationship with her. Jonathan and Annika bring out the best in each other, finding the confidence and courage within themselves to plan a future together. What follows is a tumultuous yet tender love affair that withstands everything except the unforeseen tragedy that forces them apart, shattering their connection and leaving them to navigate their lives alone.

Now, a decade later, fate reunites Annika and Jonathan in Chicago. She's living the life she wanted as a librarian. He's a Wall Street whiz, recovering from a divorce and seeking a fresh start. The attraction and strong feelings they once shared are instantly rekindled, but until they confront the fears and anxieties that drove them apart, their second chance will end before it truly begins.

I received an ARC of this book months ago, like in 2018, to review. I've been in a serious reading funk and I just couldn't read things. Like writer's block but for reading. I don't know. I couldn't muster the energy. So here I am in April and I'm trying to power through my TBR list and I see this. I read her very first book, On The Island, way back in 2012 and I absolutely LOVED IT. If I'm looking for a book to take me away, that has always been my go-to. I've read some other books by this author and some were good, some weren't, so I had no idea where this would fall. 

You guys? This is a 5 star read. You know I'm stingy with my stars and I'm telling you right now this book earned every damn one. I feel like I'm not even going to do this book justice, but I'll try.

So this is the story (mostly) of Annika as she navigates college and young womanhood and it's not necessarily easy because it's very clear to you as the reader that she has to be somewhere on the autism spectrum. It's not mentioned for almost the entire book, but for good reason, it honest would ruin everything before it. As you read this book Annika is at a store, runs into Jonathan, her one (and only) real, steady boyfriend. College sweethearts, assumed to stick together after, but they don't and the book kind of hints that there was a major reason why. It's flashbacks to college and switches from Annika and Jonathan's point of view and done so well I didn't even care. We see Annika's awkwardness as she starts college, joins a club, makes a friend, tries her hand at having a boyfriend, all of it. Throughout though everyone around her kind of suspects something is amiss because she's painfully awkward and struggles in so many areas but when she's with Jonathan he smooths the edges, so to speak. 

Then we have "the incident" and then they are their own adult. But as they gravitate towards each other again, it's wonderful and adorable, and they are the same yet different. She's better/different and he's in awe of the changes she's made knowing she worked so hard at it. Then I'm going to tell you there is a 9/11 tie in and I was just as emotional reading this as I was reading survivor stories years later from the event. The author nailed this and knowing what we know about Annika, you can imagine what that was like for her.

Anyways. I loved this book. I flew through it in two days while sitting in my car outside of my daughter's dance class (five hours total) and I was honestly sad to finish it. I wanted more, I want to know what happens later on with them (I can't even tell you what I want to know because it ruins it for you). I also loved where it ended, too because the abrupt ending almost felt fitting because that's how Annika would have ended it. Annika's awkwardness was actually so sweet and endearing but she's also conscious enough to know it's not the way "normal" people approach things and I just really enjoyed her as a character. The development of these characters was just really great.

I hate recommending a book to a broad audience but honestly? If you had a child on the spectrum, read this book. Yes, it's fiction, but for me it still shows how a "normal" future is possible despite their struggle. I don't even think I'm saying this the way I mean it. I just really loved this book and this is one I'm going to recommend a lot because it was just solid from cover to cover.

   

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Book Review: My Wicked Prince

Alright, so I saw this advertised first on Instagram then on Facebook so obviously, I had to buy it. I've read a couple different books from this author so I was pretty confident in my purchase and it turns out I wasn't wrong.
My Wicked Prince - Molly O'Keefe

He was my stepbrother.
My Prince Charming.
My fairy tale gone totally wrong...

My mother marrying the king was supposed to give my mom and me our happily ever after. But my life has never been a bedtime story and no prince with a fancy shoe is turning me into a Cinderella.

I had big plans outside of my small but powerful country. But Gunnar, the wicked prince in a gorgeous package, was temptation too strong for me to resist. His sweet lies and sweeter kisses pulled me back into his arms over and over again until his cold cruel heart finally broke mine for good.

Now he's going to be King and he wants me back in his country, his palace...and his bed.

And we all must bow to the King.

I'm going to start by telling you I'm giving this one 4 stars but if you've read anything by this author before this book kind of feels out of place in her catalog. She always seems to have the bad boy with issues and the smart girl who doesn't take shit and demands the best from him- she has that trope down, so I wasn't surprised to see this book follows suit.

Here we have Gunnar, heir to the throne and he doesn't really care. His father, the King, is getting married to a commoner who happens to have a daughter, Brenna. Brenna could care less about being in the castle and becoming a princess- she has big plans all on her own and she doesn't plan to stick around longer than she has to. Initially Gunnar isn't really hospitable and Brenna has heard the stories about him being a playboy so her expectations of him aren't high.

Soon enough though, little sparks start flying and the attraction grows and suddenly they have a problem- the optics of a prince getting it on with his stepsister aren't real great. To be honest, as I read the book I kind of had a hard time looking past that. I know they aren't blood related but... it's really strange. I have a step brother and yeah, I would never consider striking up a relationship with him. This book pushes boundaries while at the same time keeping the female lead smart and powerful in her own right. Brenna holds her own and I'm really digging female characters who aren't stupid and meek. I will say though there is a "banishment" (really?!) and Gunnar says some pretty awful things to Brenna, and he's doing it to take the heat off of her, and Brenna believes it. She throws out all logic and gut feelings and that felt like a forced plot twist for me and eye roll worthy.

So overall I'm giving it 4 stars but it's barely getting there. If you want to try Molly O'Keefe, she has other books that are so much better than this one and I would start there first.

   

Book Review: Until Harry

I was just telling a friend that I really want to renew my subscription to The Bookworm Box but honestly, I have so many books from past boxes I haven't read yet. Lets not add to the crisis, right? So I'm trying. I picked this one up because it looked good so here we go.

Until Harry - L.A. Casey
He was my best friend, my best not-really-big-brother, and my best protector.

He was my best everything.
He was mine.
Coming home is hard for Lane. Hard because Harry, her beloved uncle, has died suddenly, but also because of him. Kale.
Kale Hunt has been her best friend since childhood. But it was never that simple. He was Lane’s reason for leaving home and moving to New York. Seeing him with someone else, in love with someone else, shouldn’t have hurt. But it did. It really, really did. So she upped sticks and left, started a new life and cut herself off from her past.
But now she’s back, and all the feelings are right there. As if she had never left.
Emotions are running high for everyone, and tragedy has a funny way of bringing people together. But is Lane reading the signs right? Are they still just friends, or is there something more?
Let's just sing it together, OK? "Feelings.....nothing more than feeeeeeelings."

That's what this book is going to give you. It has unrequited love, awkwardness of losing your virginity, trauma, death, suppression of feelings, jealousy, rage, more death, making poor choices because of your emotions, etc. Literally every trope you can fit into a romance book and this one covers it. Honestly I might be missing a few but you get the basics.

In this book we have the struggling love story of Lane and Kale. They grow up together, he's three years older, but Lane is in love with him for as long as she can remember. She doesn't act on it because Kale says often that he loves her like a sister, he's practically a member of their family, and she grows up wanting to be loved by him in a different way but also feeling weird about it because he's like a brother to her. As they grow up it only gets worse except you get the glimmers that Kale feels the same way and is struggling with the same issues, but neither of them do anything because they are terrible communicators and are never on the same page at the same time, it seems.

Until Lane's beloved uncle Harry dies and she's forced to return home and deal with all of the issues that she ran away from. With a story line that alternates to present day and Lane's past, the story of how Lane and Kale being in this strained and heartbreaking impasse is told out and we see the highlights on their relationship timeline. Throughout you see the mistakes they are making and you want to shake your fist at them but alas, it's just a book and you'd look weird.

One negative of the book for me was Lane. She's a combination of stubborn, hard-headed, but also incredibly immature. She doesn't listen to what anyone says but is equally angry when they say nothing at all. It's not that I didn't like her but she was just teetering on that brink and I really wish she had stood up for herself sooner than she did because waiting until the last possible second is just terrible.

Positives of the book is going to be the scene she loses her virginity. I'll tell you- my night was definitely not that hot and I was a little jealous of her. The situation around it is screaming red flags but I also would have thrown caution to the wind and went with it. I really liked Kale, he's the good guy who doesn't really know what to do and feels like he's damned if he does but damned if he doesn't. Things get more complicated for him but they kind of clear the fog out of his eyes too and he comes around the bend a lot sooner than Lane. 

I will say, if you are looking for a book chock full of sexy sessions, you're going to be fairly disappointed, there's really only one but it's at least a really good one. If you're looking for a love story as it unfolds, this is definitely for you and I think you will really enjoy it. Overall I'm giving this one a solid 4 stars. I had a hard time putting it down and liked it.

   

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Speech therapy, it's happening.

A few weeks ago I talked about Lucy being evaluated by a early child development team to figure out if she has a speech delay, and if it was at the level of needing intervention services.

It turns out that she does have a speech delay and it does need some intervention services. I knew it was coming and I don't care who you are, you are never ready to hear that your child isn't developing at the same rate as other kids their age. Rationally, I know I haven't slacked in parenting or failed her in any way.

I KNOW THIS.

My brain runs away anyways and I think of all the ways I could have done better. I should have encouraged her to talk sooner. I should have gotten her help sooner. It's ridiculous and I'm trying really hard at not focusing on that, instead focusing on what I can do for her now.

So here we are.
The people who came to evaluate her were incredibly kind and they totally loved her. Fortunately, I had told Lucy that these were teachers and we were going to do some school stuff before they came so she was all about it. Anything dealing with school, she's completely on board. They had her do some puzzles, color matching, some other things to see if it was a cognitive or motor skill delay. Her fine motor skills are pretty dang good. Her gross motor skills.... not awful but not at a 32 month old normally. 
They had her go through this workbook and identify what the picture was. She actually did that longer than a child usually does, so that was good.

Overall the assessment went really well. They concluded that she has a speech delay, bottom line. She can say singular words fairly well but when she strings them together in a sentence she is hard to understand. Her articulation isn't very good and she has poor speech imitation. The recommendation is she would work with the speech therapist two times a week for 45 minutes. She only gets these services until she's 3, so that ends July 31 for her. After that, her therapy is turned into the hands of the school district if they feel she needs it.

We met with them last week and based on that assessment alone, the school district is going to get the ball rolling on enrolling her into that. It's a bit of a process and apparently we are sneaking in at the very last minute, so that mad me a little angry at myself and I should have done this sooner.
On Friday she had her first therapy session and that was another quick assessment and then a play session. She actually did really well and participated through the whole thing. Our guy is very nice and he has a great way with kids. He was letting us know that over the next few months we'll be able to tell if this is just a speech delay that she just needs help forming words OR if this is more of a neurological issue. He believes SHE thinks she's saying the words clear as day but she just isn't. We've always thought she could say the word, it's just "stuck", and he agrees. She's eager to learn and she likes the one on one attention, so I am hopefully this will be really good for her. She really is the sweetest kid ever and everyone really enjoys her. I'm excited for her and I'm excited to watch her blossom through this process.

Monday, April 22, 2019

Weight Loss (week 24)

I missed my post last week but I really didn't have a whole lot to talk about, so I saved the energy.

Last week though, I actually did something and it felt really good.

First off, I cleaned my house every day. That is something that hasn't happened in 3+ years. I'm not joking. We had a couple of meeting with the speech therapist team so I feel this pressure to have a clean house when they come. Honestly? I realize they probably see some questionable homes. But I don't want to be lumped into that category so I will clean until I hurt myself because I have a compulsion and Matt definitely does not get it.
Next up, I went on a 2.5 mile walk one day last week. Actually the entire family did and that was nice. The big kids rode their bikes and eventually ditched us. Matt pushed the stroller and I did my best to keep up. The weather was like 55, slight breeze, and it was perfect. The sunshine felt so great. It was also nice going for the walk and I've got the itch to go again but by myself. 
On Saturday we took the kids to the zoo for an Easter event like we do most every other year. Some years it's been freezing and our local zoo sits kind of in a bowl so it gets cold in there and I hate going if it's cold and windy. Our zoo also doesn't have many animals at all so you can literally get through the whole thing in a half hour and that's kind of sad. We stayed for a whole hour, maybe a little more, and we walked all over. Needless to say, I definitely got my cardio in that day because I was down for the count when we got home. I was also done on Sunday too.

Today I feel like I'm getting the worst flu and I feel generally like hell. This is maybe the worst part about trying to lose weight and exercise, I have such a hard time the days following. I do know I have to start exercising regularly because I recently had a doctor remind me that I had a cardiac arrest and I have to actually try to keep my heart healthy.

Kind of a sobering thought.

So I'm trying. But dammit if I don't want to sleep for 12 hours like right now though.

Friday, April 19, 2019

Book Review: No Ordinary Billionaire

I'm going to confess to you.... I have the rest of this series in my Amazon cart and on payday it's going to come.

I should feel some real shame but I just don't. I'm a sucker for a series and it's like an OCD thing. I can't read part of a series and not the rest.

No Ordinary Billionaire - J.S. Scott

Dante Sinclair never cared about his family’s money. All the young billionaire ever wanted was to be a cop; and now that he’s a homicide detective in Los Angeles, he’s a damn good one. But when he is injured and loses his partner in the line of duty, he returns to his vacation home in Amesport, Maine, to recover.

Sarah Baxter, a brilliant young doctor still struggling with her stifled upbringing, has recently moved from Chicago to sleepy Amesport to escape her past, hoping to find peace. When Sarah is assigned to Dante’s case, there’s an instant heat between them. They couldn’t possibly be more different, yet their igniting passion is impossible to ignore. As new feelings awaken within Sarah, her haunted past returns, threatening her once again. But can Dante overcome his grief and discover the secrets Sarah is hiding in time to protect and rescue her?


I got this book in one of my boxes from The Bookworm Box long ago and it's been in my unread pile ever since. I have been trying to get back into my reading binges and I'm going for anything that looks like a fast read (shorter books) so this was my latest binge. I thought it was going to be cheesy and lame but I'll tell you- this surprised me.

I also need to mention that this is the first full book in The Sinclairs series but there is a shorter novella that comes before it called Billionaire's Christmas. It isn't a prerequisite to read that one before this, Grady and Emily are mentioned in this book so if you're curious, maybe worth checking it out. In this book though it's all about Dante and Sarah.

Dante is an injured homicide detective from Los Angeles and his partner is dead. He's struggling with his injuries, both physical and mental. Sarah is a genius doctor working well below her abilities in a little town in Maine, escaping a nightmare of her own in Chicago. Dante returns to Maine to recuperate with his siblings around him and quickly becomes interested in his beautiful doctor, Sarah.

What's interesting in this book is that Sarah is incredibly inexperienced with relationships but also any kind of intimacy and she doesn't see any point to it. Dante, on the other hand, is a very sexual creature but the idea of an actual relationship isn't even on his radar so he's a little slow to the punch throughout the book. Of course we have drama and danger in this book but I kind of liked it. It wasn't over the top, you knew it was happening and this could have gone to Corny Town real quick but I felt like it was done pretty well.

Overall, I really enjoyed this one. I had a hard time putting it down, I think it's going to be a fun series and if you're in the mood for something quick with some hot scenes, give this one a try. 4 stars for sure.

   

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Twinky the (Super?) Dog

Pretty much everyone knows Twinky is our dog. He's a Morkie (Yorkie/Maltese mix). He's obnoxious and not super smart. He likes to hump his stuffed animal dog we call his "lady friend" and he has a specific purple toy he likes to play fetch with every day at the same times. He likes long walks and he has a hard time deciding when and where to poop. He pees a lot. He hates squirrels and the mail man. He's a jumper and believes everyone wants to love him so he jumps on people, shakes, and whines incessantly.

He is, hands down, worse than a newborn. I say it a lot that Twinky is the last dog I will ever own because he's just so much work. I'll stick to cats, thank you. I love Twinky, he's just a lot of work.

But sometimes I baby this dog because he's so doofy I can't help it.

On the weekends this dog wants a LOT of walks. He knows people are home to do it so every other hour this dog is patrolling the 'hood looking like a badass in his sweater or his bandanna from the groomers. He's literally the least threatening looking dog there is and nobody is scared of a dog in a sweater vest.

I mean, come on.

On Sunday though, neither kid wanted to walk Twinky so Matt begrudgingly did it and thank god.

We have a park right across the street from us that's usually pretty busy with kids but it takes up an entire city block (3/4 of that is just green grassy area and a few trees, but people use it to play football, frisbee, soccer, etc.). A lot of people bring their dogs there to play so it isn't unusual to see dogs here and to be honest, a lot of people around here walk their dog off leash and it drives me crazy. I have a fear of dogs and I really don't like being approached by a dog I'm not familiar with.

So Matt didn't think anything of it to see a dog at the park. Out of nowhere though, the dog at the park charged for Twinky and apparently Twinky never had time to turn around. Matt said it happened so fast but this dog had Twinky in his mouth.

Now, if this had been the kids walking the dog, Twinky 100% would be dead right now. It would have been traumatic for everyone there. Someone could have really gotten hurt.

Instead, Matt is a very take charge of a crisis person so he's physically fighting this dog and prying its mouth open to get Twinky out. Once Twinky was free, he took off and Matt couldn't chase him. Matt took this dog and located the owners who were super apologetic.

Meanwhile, I happened to be walking past the door and see Twinky shivering on our sidewalk and the gate open. I go out and call him in because I didn't want him to run, and I notice he's covered in mud. Annoyed, I have Olivia start drying him off with a towel. As she's doing that, she tells me he has blood on him. At this point, I have no idea what happened. So I start looking at the dog.
I see a little on his face and think he got cut on a stick or something, that happens. 
I see a dot on his ear and I think- weird. Not sure how that would happen. 
Then I see this and I think, alright- something happened. This didn't look that bad, I figured we could clean it and he'd be fine.

But then Matt comes home, relieved to see Twinky found his way home, and starts telling me what happened. He takes Twinky's collar and bandanna off and we see this. 
He's got a huge bite mark on the back of his neck. Matt starts really looking at it and realizes you can see "meat" (insert my gagging here because I can't deal with this kind of thing). Matt says he's got to get stitches and it'll get infected if we wait, so we start looking for an emergency vet. Thankfully, there was one local to us that was 24/7 on weekends so Matt took off for that at about 6. He calls me at 7:30 to tell me Twinky is going to live but he needs surgery because the muscle was separated from the skin (more gagging) and they have to put drains in, stitch other others, etc. The surgery would take about two hours, he needs blood work to make sure his organs could handle sedation, and oh yes- it's going to cost between $850-950.

Great. Seriously. Just great.

I tell Matt he's going to have to charge it because I don't have that kind of money, but I can't let my dog get sick and die with a hole in his neck.

So he hangs up and I wait at home. They didn't get home until almost 10:30 that night and my poor dog was high as a dog can get. He could hardly stand, they shaved his neck and ear and it's so gross, you guys. 
He actually has three drains (two on the back and on the side of the neck) and a ton of stitches. The dog took two big bites into him from different angles, probably trying to get a good grip. The vet said Twinky is pretty lucky to be alive because a couple of shakes would have done him in. He's got a bunch of medication for pain and antibiotics, we've got to put ointment on him and do the warm washcloth thing on him twice a day.

He can't go up or down stairs, so we have to carry him outside to pee. No collar for a long time. No walking for even longer. No leash or harness for a long time (like months) because his muscle is damaged. He has some trouble with crunchy food so we've got to a soft wet food for awhile. He can't shake, he likes to randomly shake his whole body but he can't do that for awhile. He can't play, no running, no humping the lady friend, and he can't lay in bed with anyone just to make sure his drains are OK. 
To say he's a sad sack is an understatement. He sleeps a LOT more than usual and sometimes when I pet him he whimpers and I feel terrible. His shaved ear doesn't really go down anymore. I'm not sure if that's a permanent thing or not. They didn't put stitches there because it's not a huge wound but it's a pretty bad cut. We're hoping he can have his drains taken out on Friday, but that's really depending on a certain level of healing so we aren't sure. I think stitches may be able to come out the week after? They need to be in 14 days, so we'll see.

The bill ended up being around $860 or something? I think the owners of the other dog are going to pay for it since it was their dog's fault. I really hope drain and stitch removal are in that price and not an added fee because the starting price to show up at the vet is $130 so yikes. I will say though, they were really great and Matt said they were very nice. They called us on Tuesday just to see how Twinky was doing, and I thought that was really nice of them.

I feel terrible for the dog and I wish there was more I could do for him. I took him out yesterday morning to pee and poop and he tried to run after a bird, then froze mid step because I think he hurt himself and he just walked back to me with his head down. It was pretty sad to see. We have to fight him to take his medicine but I think they do help, so that's something.

So just think good thoughts for Twinky the Dinky Dog. He's a hot mess for awhile.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Book Review: The Young Adventurer's Guide to (Almost) Everything

When I saw this up for review, I immediately thought of my son Jackson who is 11. I had to get in on this because he's all about these kinds of books, he likes funny, and I know with everything in me this covers every single thing this kid would not do. Nope. He is not my outdoors kid, he doesn't like adventure, he's just not that kid, so I thought if even if he liked this book- that's a big deal.

He loved it.

The Young Adventurer's Guide to (Almost) Everything - Ben Hewitt

45 step-by-step, illustrated activties that teach kids everything from how to see like an owl to build the world's coolest fort from sticks. (ages 8-12)


Calling all adventurers! Want to know how to build a fort from nothing but sticks? Or find your way through the forest? This survival guide is your ticket to getting down and dirty in nature and learning to make the coolest things with your own two hands.

Look inside to learn how to: 


• Use a knife without bleeding
• Sleep in the woods without freezing
• Escape a bear without getting eaten
• Poop in the woods without falling down
• Find your way home without a GPS
• Eat bugs without throwing up
• And so much more! 


I'm just going to start by saying if you have a Boy/Girl Scout in your family, this would make a really great gift for them. Full of practical tips and how-to's, this book also has jokes and fun thinks sprinkled throughout. So while your kids are reading a practical manual with information they could actually use in real life, they are being entertained and enjoying what they are reading at the same time.

Our family isn't real outdoorsy (dad has far more experience than the rest of us combined) but my older kids often go to their grandparent's home and they live in the woods. In the summer especially they play out there and this is going to be a cool book for them to take out there and try some skills out! I don't know that either of them will poop out in the woods, but I can definitely see them practicing new knots, making a whistle from a stick, or even a birch bark container. I could see this being a great gift idea for any kid or even a boredom buster over the summer when you want them off their electronics and outside doing something. Definitely consider picking this up!


Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Bathroom. I'm coming for you.

When we moved into this house fiveish years ago, we knew we'd be updating things and fixing things but it wasn't at the level as our last house.

That remains true.

What also remains true is that this house is kind of ugly in the spaces we haven't updated a little. This bathroom, for instance. It's what we call the downstairs bathroom, but it's on the main floor, right around the corner from our kitchen. It's the one that guests use but also the one the kids use to shower and get ready.
I hate the cabinets, I hate the sink/counter, I hate the mirror, I hate the shower, I hate all of the wood. I appreciate wood but I really hate the look of wood. My house is full of it and I hate it so much. The sink drives me crazy because it isn't centered. The drawers aren't wide enough to really use for much. 
The cabinet above the toilet is handy. I'll give it that. The shower though? Awful. The shower head sprays everywhere and I know I just need to buy a new one. There's no shelving in there to put anything. It's very narrow and dark in there. The floor feels..... not good. I so strongly dislike shower doors, and we took the ones that were in the upstairs bathroom off but this is still there. Ideally, we need a whole new shower insert. 
The only thing that might have to stay is this tall cupboard. It is VERY narrow so you can't store much in it but I keep towels (rolled up otherwise they won't fit) and a few bottles of shampoo. But the back corner is slanted so I'm absolutely certain this is a custom made shelf. I really need an idea to still have shelving in here that you can't see (I don't like open shelves) but maybe not this shelf. I guess I could paint it and make it look alright but ugh... I don't know.

I am trying to convince Matt to take this project on over the summer. Do one thing at a time because it might be cheaper to do it that way. But I feel like if I can get him on board with this the upstairs bathroom might be next??? (CROSS YOUR FINGERS.)

But what kind of shelving/storage do you have? I need some ideas. I really only need to store 4-6 towels, extra shampoo/soap/toothpaste. I'd like to put the kids' hair and makeup stuff under the sink.

Also, what are the best lights for a bathroom? This bathroom is DARK even with everything on, it's not ideal for any kind of makeup. It has a fan/vent thing so the light fixtures I've seen with that incorporated are kind of ugly, but I could also put in other lights, I guess. I need help, guys.

Book Review: Say You Won't Let Go

I don't know why I don't go for novellas more often because there's some real satisfaction of finishing a book in a day when I have a ton of things going on around me. So I'm glad I had this one. I've finished the other books in the Return to Me series with an introduction of the Masters and Mercenaries series, which uggggggghhhhh... you know I'm going to get because I have no self control and now that I've "met" one character I can't go on with my life and not read the entire series. BUT! It doesn't exist yet so now I feel uneven and not OK.

You know how I am.

Say You Won't Let Me Go - Corinne Michaels

Emily Young had two goals in her life:
1. Make it big in country music.
2. Get the hell out of Bell Buckle.

She was doing it. She was on her way, until Cooper Townsend landed backstage at her show in Dallas.

This gorgeous, rugged, man of few words was one cowboy she couldn’t afford to let distract her. But with his slow smile and rough hands, she just couldn’t keep away.

With outside forces conspiring against them, Cooper hires the McKay-Taggart team to protect her. Emily refuses to let Cooper get hurt because of her. All she wants is to hold onto him, but she knows the right thing to do is to let go . . . 

I need to mention that I've read the other three books in this series so I'm familiar with all of the characters. Do you need to read them in order? No, I don't think it's imperative but I will say you may not understand Cooper as much in this book unless you read the previous book with Grace & Trent's story. Do you HAVE to? No, you'll be fine.

I had a lot of issues with the last book, Say I'm Yours, because I really didn't like Grace. I think she didn't give Cooper a fair chance and he seemed like a good guy. In this book we have Cooper and Emily's story and *surprise* I didn't like Emily. I liked her ambition and drive, I liked that she had goals and she wasn't going to compromise them for some guy and falling in love, BUT! She is an absolute moron when it comes to making rational decisions. Danger? "Oh, I'll not tell anyone- that makes the most sense!". You're told  not to go anywhere? "Yes, I'm going to run far, far away because I have never seen a movie involving a stalker!".

That's how stupid she is. I'm not kidding.

I really, really liked Cooper. He is willing to give her some space to live out her dreams, he's taking care of his obligations, and he's confident enough to make the long distances work. I really liked it. Sure, is he crazy protective? Yes, but not to the point where he drops his life to be around her 24/7, he knows his limitations so he hires a security team for her and entrusts others. I just really liked Cooper.

Now, I know it's a novella but I actually wanted more. I felt like this could have been more of a book and Grace & Trent could have been a novella because their story was boring. This at least had some action in it, and I liked that. When  you find out who the stalker is it was.... a little anti-climatic? There's a lot I could add here but it would give it away, but just know I have some thoughts about it and part of me was like, oh..... this is the easy way out. I felt like the author could have done more with this.

But it's a novella and it's OK. Calm down.

All in all? I'm giving this one a solid 3.5 stars. It's not quite to 4 for me but I really enjoyed it and like I said, I read it in just a few hours and that's always a good feeling. If you're a fan of contemporary romance (holla, holla!) I think you'll enjoy this series as a whole and Corinne Michaels. Definitely enough that you want to check out her other books too.
   

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Book Review: Say I'm Yours

I'm trying so hard to work through my backlist books that have been sitting on my shelf for a long time. I'm not making any huge strides but it's nice to feel like I'm at least going forward. That doesn't stop me from buying more books but I refuse to acknowledge that I have any kind of problem.

Say I'm Yours - Corinne Michaels

From New York Times Bestseller, Corinne Michaels, comes a new second chance standalone romance.

I spent twenty years waiting for Trent Hennington to open his eyes and see me. But it was all for nothing. He chose to keep himself guarded and let me walk away, proving that my time and efforts were wasted.

I’m done being invisible.
It’s time to move on.

A single dance sets my new reality into motion, and I welcome it. After all, Cooper Townsend is perfect. He’s kind, sexy, and attentive—everything a girl could want.

I thought I got it right this time.
That my heart could mend, and I would be happy.
Apparently, some things really are just too hard to walk away from.


In this book we have the story of Trent and Grace. Trent is hard headed and afraid of commitment. Grace is ridiculously sensitive and incapable of moving on even when Trent pushes her away. Now, that's kind of a standard trope in romance but the difference here is that this goes on for TWENTY YEARS. You guys, this girl settles for this for TWENTY YEARS.

*insert giant eye roll here*

Trent has some really dumb issues as to why he won't commit to her and we know they end up together but the way they get there is a little ridiculous. Secondly, I really did not like Grace. Not even a tiny little bit. Grace is the worst. She's a whiner, she's an idiot, she is needy and dependent, she's indecisive and can't make a decision for herself, and she's completely incapable of figuring anything out. I think the author was trying to paint her in the light of being SUCH a great girlfriend and willing to take the emotional manipulation but really I felt like Grace was an enabler and taking that kind of abuse from someone doesn't make you a great partner.

In all, I had a lot of problems with this story. I'm glad we get the answers to some questions at the end of this book that were kind of eluded to in the previous books, I'm glad they end up together, it's just the way we get there that doesn't sit well with me. I was kind of disappointed because I really liked the other books, but this one fell flat for me. It should be noted that though this is the third book in the Return to Me series, they are all stand alone so don't feel like you have to read them before tackling this one.

   

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Keeping up with the Strands

I feel like I'm not doing a very good job updating on what's happening with the entire family like I used to. We're all super busy and it's basically chaos in this house every day. I'm at least living up to the blog's name, so there's that.
Over spring break, Olivia and Jackson got to go to Harry Potter World/Universal Studios with Matt's mom and sister. That was a big deal because they were told if they finished all of the books they would get to go. Olivia had read them a year or two ago but Jackson had just started at the end of last summer so in the span of four months that kid obsessively read all of them. They were really excited and ended up having a good time, even if the flight home ended up being a nightmare. (Flight was cancelled, plane issues, tons of delays and 14 hours later they made it home.)
Penelope and Lucy (in the middle) started a Teeny Tots dance class. It's only March-May and they'll be in the recital. I wanted to sign them up but I honestly wasn't sure if they'd even do it so I figured a shorter special session was the way to go versus signing up for a whole year and having them hate it. They are like three weeks in so far and LOVE IT. Every single day they ask if they have dance and no, they don't. It's only once a week for a half hour but they are all about it. They practice at home, it's so cute. Olivia also does dance now three days a week and it's really a joy to watch her.
Penelope is almost done with 3K, I think they are done in early May. Which seems crazy to me. Matt and I were just talking about what an incredible program this has been for her. She is a completely different kid. When she started we had tantrums multiple times a day, she didn't listen for anything, wouldn't follow directions, didn't want to learn anything, etc. She was difficult. I am so, SO glad that we put her in this because honestly my sanity is better for it. Not that she listens really well now, but it's better. She can follow directions, she's incredibly smart, she enjoys structured activities, she's just better for it. I think 4K next year for her is going to be really great and she's excited about it. 
Lucy has her speech and development assessment today so I hope they can help her out a little. We signed her up for 3K in the fall (same thing Penelope did this year) so we're waiting to hear if she gets in, I hope so. She's the opposite of Penelope and is very much a rule follower but I'd like to see her development get on par with her peers. I'm actually going to miss hanging with her all day, she's kind of become my little buddy. This week we went to the bookstore to use my gift cards and we had a great time reading books and playing trains. Oh, and her cold is back AND her eye is getting goopy again so we made it, what? Two weeks? Right on cue. Annoying. 
Jackson is gearing up for middle school. He has a transition night coming up soon, he turned in his instrument preference for band (drums, clarinet, or trumpet-in that order), we're going to get him a school lock so he can practice because he's worried about it. We got him signed up for summer school so he can get familiar with the school, and he's pretty excited. They always do a lot of fun stuff at the end of fifth grade at his school so that's something he's looking forward to.
Olivia is pretty dang busy. She has dance three days a week and loves it. That ends in mid-May and she's already asking if there are summer dance things so I'm hoping there will be. She gets her braces off at the end of May and I hear about it EVERY DAY. She's obviously excited. She's getting all A's in her classes, every teacher loves her, she's turning into a little comedian and reminds me of me a lot so obviously she's going to turn out awesome. She recently was selected for the Junior Curator program so sometime this summer she gets to interview a Veteran and develop a museum quality exhibit with other students. Kids have to apply for this but some students are pre-selected by teachers to participate and she was one of them, definitely a high honor. She's applying for the 8th Grade Leadership team for next year and she worked on her application for two hours on Monday. She asked for my help earlier but ended up not needing it and wouldn't let me read her application so I'm pretty proud she didn't need me after all. She's smarter than she gives herself credit for.

So that's what's happening with the kids. We're ridiculously proud of them. I'm not completely sure how we're doing but we're doing pretty alright with this parenting gig. So that's cool.