Sunday, January 1, 2017

Hello 2017!

Is it seriously already a whole new year? How did that happen?! Is it just me, or is time going by faster than ever?

Anyway, here's some of the resolutions I completed in 2016:

1. Moved into a new (better) house!
This was number one on my list for last year, and not too far into January 2016 we found a perfect little home to rent for our family. Best part? It's literally five houses away from my grandmother (who is also River's main babysitter).

2.  Discovered the cause of my anxiety attacks.
Turns out it wasn't just postpartum anxiety that was causing me to have severe panic attacks on a daily basis (although that definitely helped). It was my horrible eating habits (and the fact that I can stress like the best) that caused me to have high blood pressure.

3. Got Rid of Toxic People/ Things and Learned How To Tell People No
Anyone who really knows me knows that I don't put up with people who's main goal in life is to cause drama. I also don't let people take advantage of me repeatedly or use me or my family. On the opposite side of that, I also have a really hard time telling people I love "no". Well, as River has gotten older, I've become wiser and discovered the ability to tell people no and mean it. It's been pretty liberating. Because of that though I've lost some people along the way, but that's okay. Those are not the kind of people I want in my life or in my daughters.

4. Completed my Reading Goal.
I challenged myself to read at least 30 books this year (much lower than my usual 100 pre-River). I ended up passing that goal and reading 47 books this year! Just a few of my favorites...

Anyway, new year means new reading challenges and resolutions! So here they are:

Reading Challenges:
1. Read Carrie Fisher's Postcards from the Edge then watch the movie.

2. Read 35 Books

3. Host a Read-A-Thon on the Blog.

4. Clean out my books.

Personal Goals/ Resolutions:
1. Get healthy enough to come off of blood pressure medicine.

2. Buy a new (to us) car.

3. Save money for a vacation, and then go on one.

4. Let go of the Mom Guilt when I leave River with a babysitter.

5. Start going to church again.

6. Make date night a priority once a month.

7. Write. Just write.

8. Enjoy things by myself.

9. Let River stay the night from home.

10. Let go of the small things.

11. Check something off my bucket list

12. Keep it simple.

13. Find an active hobby that I love.

14. Declutter the attic.

15. Less social media.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

"Columbine" by Dave Cullen

Genre: Nonfiction/ True Crime/ Psychology/ History
Publication: April 6, 2009 by Blackstone Audio
Format: Audio Book
Cover Rating: 4/5 Stars

From Goodreads: "The tragedies keep coming. As we reel from the latest horror . . . " So begins a new epilogue, illustrating how Columbine became the template for nearly two decades of "spectacle murders." It is a false script, seized upon by a generation of new killers. In the wake of Newtown, Aurora, and Virginia Tech, the imperative to understand the crime that sparked this plague grows more urgent every year.

What really happened April 20, 1999? The horror left an indelible stamp on the American psyche, but most of what we "know" is wrong. It wasn't about jocks, Goths, or the Trench Coat Mafia. Dave Cullen was one of the first reporters on scene, and spent ten years on this book-widely recognized as the definitive account. With a keen investigative eye and psychological acumen, he draws on mountains of evidence, insight from the world's leading forensic psychologists, and the killers' own words and drawings-several reproduced in a new appendix. Cullen paints raw portraits of two polar opposite killers. They contrast starkly with the flashes of resilience and redemption among the survivors.

My Thoughts: I've just recently gotten into the True Crime/ Documentary genre in the last year or so after watching Netflix's Making a Murderer (which I highly recommend to everyone). But when I ran across Columbine on my rec list I knew it was going to be something that I wanted to read. Like most people my age, this was where school shootings began. That's not necessarily true, but for us, it was the first. You just say the word Columbine and it evokes the grainy photos of Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold standing in a lunch room with a gun. I didn't think of a school or a community. I thought of the  massacre that happened there instead.

I actually didn't read this book, instead I listened to it on Audible Channels. It wasn't easy to listen to. Not because Don Leslie didn't do a FANTASTIC job of narrating (he totally did), but because this was real to me. I remember exactly what I was doing when the news broke about the school. I remember the fear in the days after. This was something that shook our country as a whole. Listening to the vivid account of it was just heartbreaking.

What really shocked me though, was that I didn't really know what happened when it came down to it. The media that swarmed this story was filled with gossip, half-truths, and even lies. It took me a while to accept that what I had believed about Columbine really just wasn't true.

Dave Cullen is a fantastic journalist and superb writer. He covers everything about this story as far as I could tell, giving the reader an up close and personal with the killers as we may ever get. But at the end, he shows us the hope through the survivors. I no longer picture the massacre and the fear when I hear the word Columbine. Instead, I picture a community of people who survived something terrible and came out on the other side. I picture the survivors like Patrick Ireland and the hope they inspire.

Bottom Line: Overall it's a really hard book to read emotionally, but I think it's well worth it and I definitely recommend it.

Rating: 5/5 Stars

"Everything, Everything" by Nicola Yoon

Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Publication: September 1, 2015 by Delacorte
Format: Kindle
Cover Rating: 5/5 Stars

From Goodreads: Madeline Whittier is allergic to the outside world. So allergic, in fact, that she has never left the house in all of her seventeen years. But when Olly moves in next door, and wants to talk to Maddie, tiny holes start to appear in the protective bubble her mother has built around her. Olly writes his IM address on a piece of paper, shows it at her window, and suddenly, a door opens. But does Maddie dare to step outside her comfort zone?

Everything, Everything is about the thrill and heartbreak that happens when we break out of our shell to do crazy, sometimes death-defying things for love.

My Thoughts: There are bad books, okay books, great books, and then there are books that make my fingers tingle while I'm reading them because I just want to devour every single word off the page. Everything, Everything is the later. I'm a mom to a 19 month old. My time is precious. I don't get a lot of alone time to read a book in one sitting any more, but believe me I did for this one. From page one I knew I was going to be addicted and end up late into the wee hours of the morning finishing this book up, and I wasn't wrong.

I fell in love with these characters SO HARD. Maddy and Olly are just simply amazing and I wanted to know all about them. Their story was so unique and their characters so real, I didn't want to let the go. Madeline's mother... good Lord in some ways I could totally relate to the intense amount of love she has for her daughter. There were so many quotes and passages I highlighted in this book. Honestly I could sit here all day gushing over it, but I won't. If you're a fan of books like Fault in Our Stars, or basically any great YA Contemp then you will fall in love with this one like I did.

Bottom Line: I HIGHLY recommend this one. Going on my favorites shelf.

Rating: 5/5 Stars

"Inspire" by Cora Carmack

Series: The Muse #1
Genre: New Adult Paranormal Romance
Publication: December 14th, 2014- Self Published
Format: Kindle
Cover Rating: 5/5 Stars

From Goodreads: Kalliope lives with one purpose.

To inspire.

As an immortal muse, she doesn’t have any other choice. It’s part of how she was made. Musicians, artists, actors—they use her to advance their art, and she uses them to survive. She moves from one artist to the next, never staying long enough to get attached. But all she wants is a different life— a normal one. She’s spent thousands of years living lie after lie, and now she’s ready for something real.

Sweet, sexy, and steady, Wilder Bell feels more real than anything else in her long existence. And most importantly… he’s not an artist. He doesn’t want her for her ability. But she can’t turn off the way she influences people, not even to save a man she might love. Because in small doses, she can help make something beautiful, but her ability has just as much capacity to destroy as it does to create. The longer she stays, the more obsessed Wilder will become. It’s happened before, and it never turns out well for the mortal.

Her presence may inspire genius.

But it breeds madness, too. 

My Thoughts: I love Cora Carmack. Really, I do. Her books are funny and sexy and I always end up liking them. So I was super excited when I found out she wrote a New Adult PNR- like I said before, there's so few good ones out there. I'm not going to lie to you guys though, I almost didn't finish this one. ALMOST. I loved Kalli and I loved Wilder, but I hated their insta-love. They literally met in a grocery store line, said about five words to each other and BAM! That was it for them. Head over heels. ...Okay, it wasn't exactly that way, but close. Here's the thing though, I pushed through it and I'm really glad I did. Yes, there's insta-love, but there's also this really cool, amazing, original story too. If you can get over the fact that these two characters felt love at first sight (or more probable are just destined for each other), then you will enjoy this story.

What's even more crazy was that even though I wanted to give up on it in the first half, by the second half I wanted the next book ASAP. Unfortunately, it looks like the book's publication was put on hold for good reason. After stalking the author I discovered through her blog that she was experiencing some health issues at the beginning of this year and that for now, the second book Inflict, is on hold. It was supposed to be published sometime this year, but so far I haven't read anything saying that's going to happen. Which really sucks because I think the second book is going to be even better than the first. BUT we all need our favorite authors to take care of themselves first so they can write later. Cora is one of those authors like JLA that just spins out books like magic, so I have a feeling it's probably really hard on her to delay a book. Either way, I hope she feels better soon and I can't wait to read the next book in this series.

Bottom Line: I would recommend this book to all friends of PNR and Romance, but with a warning about the insta-love.

Rating: 3 1/2 Stars

Sunday, August 28, 2016

"738 Days" by Stacey Kade

Genre: New Adult
Publication: June 7, 2016 by Forge Books
Format: Kindle
Cover Rating: 4/5 Stars

From Goodreads: At fifteen, Amanda Grace was abducted on her way home from school. 738 days later, she escaped. Her 20/20 interview is what everyone remembers—Amanda describing the room where she was kept, the torn poster of TV heartthrob Chase Henry on the wall. It reminded her of home and gave her the strength to keep fighting.

Now, years later, Amanda is struggling to live normally. Her friends have gone on to college, while she battles PTSD. She’s not getting any better, and she fears that if something doesn’t change soon she never will.

Six years ago, Chase Henry defied astronomical odds, won a coveted role on a new TV show, and was elevated to super-stardom. With it, came drugs, alcohol, arrests, and crazy spending sprees. Now he's sober and a Hollywood pariah, washed up at twenty-four.

To revamp his image, Chase’s publicist comes up with a plan: surprise Amanda Grace with the chance to meet her hero, followed by a visit to the set of Chase’s new movie. The meeting is a disaster, but out of mutual desperation, Amanda and Chase strike a deal. What starts as a simple arrangement, though, rapidly becomes more complicated when they realize they need each other in more ways than one. But when the past resurfaces in a new threat, will they stand together or fall apart?

My Thoughts: SO. FREAKING. GOOD!

I am really, really, particular about my New Adult books. There's so many of them out there and after a while they tend to all run together. I also have a certain balance that I like: a good bit of angst (but not so much that it becomes ridiculous), an oh-so-sexy leading guy that makes real mistakes, and a main character that I can relate to. Oh, and really hot, steamy scenes (no shame here). And Stacey Kade delivered all of that and more in 738 Days.

Let me back up for just a minute though and say that I absolutely adore this author. I follow her (in a non-stalker way) on Facebook and her post are always on point. In fact, I kind of wanted to be her best-friend at one point when she started a re-reading of Flowers in the Attic a couple of years ago when Lifetime was doing the remake. Not to mention, she once fangirled over Andrew McCarthy and I just knew right then that she was going to be an author I wanted to keep track of. Also, she responds back to her fans which is always a huge star in my book.

Anyway, 738 Days was a book I could not put down. I had just spent a week straight reading amazing novels and I was having the book hang-over of a lifetime when I picked it up. I had previously read her Ghost and the Goth YA series and loved it, so I figured this would be something that wouldn't disappoint me. Well, it definitely did NOT disappoint, but now I'm still suffering from THE WORST BOOK HANG OVER ever! In case you don't know what that is, it basically means I just read this amazing novel and the next book I read could not possibly live up to it. This novel had me flipping pages until 4:00 am, and let me tell you, I have a toddler who is up and at 'em at 6:00 every morning so I'm greedy with my sleep. Do I have regrets? Psh, please. I am running on pure love for Chase Henry and Amanda Grace.

Bottom Line: I am going to be recommending this book left and right. I'm also going to download more Stacey Kade books ASAP while also praying that she writes more NA books... and maybe a sequel? Please? 

Rating: 5/5 Stars

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Letter #3: You Don't Owe Anyone Anything.

Hello Brave Girl,

Two letters in one month. Obviously, mom has a lot she needs to say. I write these to you as a "Just In Case". Just in case something happens to me. Just in case I forget to tell you as I get older. Just in case you don't want to listen to me as a teenager, but don't mind reading things from me. Etc.

Today, I want you to know, without any kind of explanation from you whatsoever, that you don't owe anyone anything. Not me. Not your dad. Not your grandparents. Not your future friends or future significant others.

"No" is a powerful, and sometimes hard, word to say. "No, I don't want to do that." Or "No, I can't do that for you." Or even "No, you can't be in my life." All of those things are hard to say, and one day will probably need to be said at one point in your life. The part I want you to focus on, is not feeling guilty for saying it.

I'm telling you this, because I don't think anyone ever told me this growing up. Usually, I never had a hard time telling a stranger no. That was easy. What was harder was telling people I loved no. People that would take advantage of that knowledge about me. That they could push me into doing something they wanted or needed. Those people were toxic, to me at least.

It sucks when that happens. It sucks when you have someone you love and would do anything for, use you. And a lot of time, it was in unexpected ways. Sometimes people just wanted to be saved from themselves. But That. Is. Not. Your. Job.

You were not brought into this world to fix anyone. There's a fine line between helping someone who needs it and wants it, and helping someone who doesn't want to get better. You have to know the difference and you have to know when to walk away and cut that person from your life. It's something I failed at constantly because I felt like it was my responsibility to take care of everyone- regardless of how much they used me.

It wasn't, and its not going to be yours either. I want you to know, right now, you owe me nothing. Everything your dad and I do for you is because it brings us joy. You bring us more joy than I ever imagined possible. The only thing you can do for us is to live your life the way YOU want to live it. To make the choices that will make you happy in life. To travel. To go to college. To create art or to to be a successful business woman. Or both. And to learn to say no to those who would take your happiness away.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

"Wicked" by Jennifer L. Armentrout

Series: Wicked Saga
Genre: New Adult/ Paranormal Romance
Publication: December 8, 2014
Format: Kindle
Cover Rating: 5/5 Stars

From Goodreads: Things are about to get Wicked in New Orleans.

Twenty-two year old Ivy Morgan isn’t your average college student. She, and others like her, know humans aren’t the only thing trolling the French Quarter for fun… and for food. Her duty to the Order is her life. After all, four years ago, she lost everything at the hands of the creatures she’d sworn to hunt, tearing her world and her heart apart.

Ren Owens is the last person Ivy expected to enter her rigidly controlled life. He’s six feet and three inches of temptation and swoon-inducing charm. With forest-green eyes and a smile that’s surely left a stream of broken hearts in its wake, he has an uncanny, almost unnatural ability to make her yearn for everything he has to offer. But letting him in is as dangerous as hunting the cold-blooded killers stalking the streets. Losing the boy she loved once before had nearly destroyed her, but the sparking tension that grows between them becomes impossible for Ivy to deny. Deep down, she wants… she needs more than what her duty demands of her, what her past has shaped for her.

But as Ivy grows closer to Ren, she realizes she’s not the only one carrying secrets that could shatter the frail bond between them. There’s something he’s not telling her, and one thing is for certain. She’s no longer sure what is more dangerous to her—the ancient beings threatening to take over the town or the man demanding to lay claim to her heart and her soul.

My Thoughts: Can I just be honest here and say I am in love with JLA's paranormal romance writing? Seriously, all of her PNR books are just out of this world amazing and addicting. Luckily for me, Wicked had that same magic that she spins and I couldn't put it down. You would think after publishing... well, a TON of PNR books they would start to melt together and get repetitive, but that's just not the case. Each one of her novels/ series stands all on it's own with a splash of amazing sauce thrown in.

What I really loved about Wicked though was that it was New Adult. I don't get to do as much research on upcoming books since becoming a mom. I just don't have the time. So I could be wrong here, but it seems to me like there's a large gap of good, quality, paranormal romance missing from the New Adult genre. So when I got my hands on this baby, I was beyond excited. Just the right amount of world building, romance, and action thrown in!

Needless to say, as soon as I finished this book I immediately went to Amazon to purchase the second in the series.

My Rating: 5/5 Stars