Friday, February 16, 2018

Saturday Snapshot - February 17

To participate in Saturday Snapshot: post a photo that you (or a friend or family member) have taken then leave a direct link to your post in the Mister Linky below. Photos can be old or new, and be of any subject as long as they are clean and appropriate for all eyes to see. How much detail you give in the caption is entirely up to you. Please don’t post random photos that you find online.

This past Tuesday, my little girl turned NINE YEARS OLD!  I can hardly believe she's growing up so fast!


Newborn!


1 year old


2 years old



3 years old


4 years old


5 years old


6 years old



7 years old



8 years old


NINE YEARS OLD!

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Book Review: "She Regrets Nothing" by Andrea Dunlop

She Regrets Nothing Andrea Dunlop
Date Finished: February 4, 2018
Date Published: February 6, 2018
ISBN: 9781501155987
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Recommended

You might enjoy this if you like: Books with sociopath characters, stories about modern day New York City

Summary:
When Laila Lawrence becomes an orphan at twenty-three, the sudden loss unexpectedly introduces her to three glamorous cousins from New York who show up unannounced at her mother’s funeral. The three siblings are scions of the wealthy family from which Laila’s father had been estranged long before his own untimely demise ten years before.


Two years later, Laila has left behind her quiet life in Grosse Point, Michigan to move to New York City, landing her smack in the middle of her cousins’ decadent world. As the truth about why Laila’s parents became estranged from the family patriarch becomes clear, Laila grows ever more resolved to claim what’s rightfully hers. Caught between longing for the love of her family and her relentless pursuit of the lifestyle she feels she was unfairly denied, Laila finds herself reawakening a long dead family scandal—not to mention setting off several new ones—as she becomes further enmeshed in the lives and love affairs of her cousins. But will Laila ever, truly, belong in their world? Sly and sexy, She Regrets Nothing is a sharply observed and utterly seductive tale about family, fortune, and fate—and the dark side of wealth.

My Thoughts:
I'm one of those people who struggles with quitting books I'm not enjoying.  The thing is, the vast majority of the time, I finish reading it and then regret the time I spent on it.  Every once in a while, though, I push through and then I regret nothing (see what I did there?).  This is one of those books about which I felt one way while reading it and another once I had finished.

I found the hook of this story interesting enough--cousins who didn't even know each other existed meet at a funeral.  From that point, it became a bit of a twist on the Country Mouse in the City trope--which isn't a bad thing.  Personally, I like it when books take sort of accepted formulas and tip them over.  However, I also started to have some problems with the book.

I think the biggest issue for me were the characters.  The only character I found likable was Liberty.  However, I'm not the sort of reader who needs to like all the characters in a book.  But, what I do need is to find them interesting and, again, Liberty was the only one who fit the bill.  Nora and Leo were nothing more than the very predictable and cliched trust fund babies and Laila, well, I wasn't sure about Laila.

As the story progressed and we were introduced to more secondary characters, I think the direction of the book became more clear, but it was bogged down with rather unrealistic plot points.  While I became frustrated with the more tropish nature of the book, I was still interested enough to keep going.

This is a book where everything seems to happen in the last quarter.  Personally, I don't think that is an especially wise move as it risks losing readers (it almost lost me a few times), but it does reward readers who stick with it a good pay off.  My opinion of the book once I finished was vastly different from the opinion I held up to that point.  While I thought I was reading a rather run-of-the-mill piece about the Manhattan rich, I ended up reading a chilling character piece.  And, yes, that is a great experience...but that doesn't make it less frustrating to have to struggle through the rest of it.

So, would I recommend this book?  Yes...possibly.  However, I would preface any recommendation with the warning that a reader just has to trust that it will all pay off in the end.

I received an electronic copy of this book in return for an honest review.  I received no other compensation for this post.



Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Book Review: "The Upside of Unrequited" by Becky Albertalli

The Upside of Unrequited Becky Albertalli
Date Finished: December 28, 2017
Date Published: April 11, 2017
ISBN: 9780141356112
Genre: Young Adult Fiction
Source: Personal Copy - Amazon
Highly Recommended

You might enjoy this book if you like: Realistic young adult fiction, stories about sisters, first-love stories, Obama-feels

Summary:
Seventeen-year-old Molly Peskin-Suso knows all about unrequited love. No matter how many times her twin sister, Cassie, tells her to woman up, Molly can’t stomach the idea of rejection. So she’s careful. Fat girls always have to be careful.

Then a cute new girl enters Cassie’s orbit, and for the first time ever, Molly’s cynical twin is a lovesick mess. Meanwhile, Molly's totally not dying of loneliness—except for the part where she is. Luckily, Cassie's new girlfriend comes with a cute hipster-boy sidekick. If Molly can win him over, she'll get her first kiss and she'll get her twin back. 

There's only one problem: Molly's coworker, Reid. He's a chubby Tolkien superfan with a season pass to the Ren Faire, and there's absolutely no way Molly could fall for him. 


Right? 

My Thoughts:
Reading the summary of this book, I bet you think that it is about a girl trying to get her first boyfriend, right?  Well, not so fast,  That may happen in the book, but that's not what the book is about.  A cynical person might call this a bait and switch, but I see it as a delightful surprise.

So what is this book actually about?  It's a beautiful story of how our relationships change as we grow up.  Yes, there are Young Adult Relationships here, but the real relationship is between Molly and Cassie.  As twins, they've always been close but they are at a turning point as they start to differentiate from each other and find their own ways.  It's bittersweet and authentic, and something with which everyone, even non-twins, can sympathize.

Molly is a complex but realistic character.  She isn't wholly likable, but what seventeen year old is?  She struggles with her circumstances, her emotions, and her anxiety and it is all painfully true.  But she also grows as the story progresses, and does so in a way that makes sense.  At no point did I ever feel like her transformation skipped a step or went a direction it shouldn't.

The romance feature of this book is well-done and satisfying.  Albertalli expertly captures Molly's angst, not only with her desire to be in a relationship, but also watching her twin sister forge ahead with her own relationship.  I'm not sure how accurate the depiction of modern teen life is (because I'm old, um, older) but I didn't feel as though I needed to question it.

Another feature that I loved about this book is that it is set during the summer of 2015, when the Supreme Court ruled in favor of same-sex marriage.  While it was heartwarming to read of Molly's moms finally being able to get married, what really got me was that feeling of a world where things were more optimistic and inclusive.  I call this the Obama-feels and this book had it spades....and I really need that right now.

This book was such a delight that I feel like I should buy a bunch of copies just to hand out to everyone.  I hadn't heard of Becky Albertalli before this, but I will definitely be reading her books in the future.

I was not solicited for this review and I received no compensation for this post.



Friday, February 9, 2018

Saturday Snapshot - February 10

To participate in Saturday Snapshot: post a photo that you (or a friend or family member) have taken then leave a direct link to your post in the Mister Linky below. Photos can be old or new, and be of any subject as long as they are clean and appropriate for all eyes to see. How much detail you give in the caption is entirely up to you. Please don’t post random photos that you find online.

This has been a crazy week and I don't have much in the way of pictures...except 2 close ups of my kids.  Enjoy!


My son's hair is very shaggy at the moment.  I had to let it grow to recover from a bad Great Clips cut and now we're just waiting to get in to see my stylist...

Here's my girl, being silly as we do some grocery shopping


Book Review: "The Atomic City Girls" by Janet Beard

The Atomic City Girls Janet Beard
Date Finished: February 1, 2018
Date Published; February 6, 2018
ISBN: 9780062666710
Genre: Historical Fiction (World War II)
Source: TLC Book Tours and HarperCollins

Summary:
In November 1944, eighteen-year-old June Walker boards an unmarked bus, destined for a city that doesn’t officially exist. Oak Ridge, Tennessee has sprung up in a matter of months—a town of trailers and segregated houses, 24-hour cafeterias, and constant security checks. There, June joins hundreds of other young girls operating massive machines whose purpose is never explained. They know they are helping to win the war, but must ask no questions and reveal nothing to outsiders.

The girls spend their evenings socializing and flirting with soldiers, scientists, and workmen at dances and movies, bowling alleys and canteens. June longs to know more about their top-secret assignment and begins an affair with Sam Cantor, the young Jewish physicist from New York who oversees the lab where she works and understands the end goal only too well, while her beautiful roommate Cici is on her own mission: to find a wealthy husband and escape her sharecropper roots. Across town, African-American construction worker Joe Brewer knows nothing of the government’s plans, only that his new job pays enough to make it worth leaving his family behind, at least for now. But a breach in security will intertwine his fate with June’s search for answers.


When the bombing of Hiroshima brings the truth about Oak Ridge into devastating focus, June must confront her ideals about loyalty, patriotism, and war itself.

My Thoughts:
One of the trends in books, and in entertainment in general, that I particularly appreciate is recognizing the scientific achievements of women.   As the mother of a daughter, this is a welcome trend and one I would like to support.  So, when I heard about this book, I knew I had to give it a try.

Here's the thing, though.  I feel like I'm the victim of a bait and switch.  This book is not about the "Atomic City girls."  There are two story lines and one of them does involve a young woman, but not to the point that it got into any sort of scientific achievement.  Instead, it was more a case of girl finds herself in a not entirely appropriate relationship.  The other half of the relationship, the physicist Sam, actually seems to be more of the focus of that particular plot.  Because of this, it all just felt off.  The title told me that the whole book was about June (or June and others...the "girls" is plural!) and then it gives more weight to the male character?

The other story line centers around an African-American man, Joe.  This was the more interesting of the two plots for me (ironic, given the title of this book!).  I felt that Joe was a more well-rounded character and that his actual story was far more nuanced.  I would have rather read a book based solely on this plot than one where it tried to focus on two.  When a novel runs two parallel stories, there needs to be a point where the stories become intertwined with each other.  In this book, there is a scene where Joe passes June's roommate on the street and...that's it.  As a result, the story never felt finished to me.

There were a few things I liked.  As I said, Joe's story did hook me, and I liked that Sam and June's relationship was believable throughout the book.  At tines, Beard made the setting of Oak Ridge, Tennessee and actual character in the book, and I wished she had done that more often. 

This was not a successful read for me, although I think the potential was there (and it might have been more successful with a different title and more accurate synopsis!).  I would be open to read more from Janet Beard in the future, although I can't say that I would recommend this book.

About the Author:
Born and raised in East Tennessee, Janet Beard earned an MFA in creative writing from The New School. She currently lives and writes in Columbus, Ohio.


Find out more about Janet at her website, and connect with her on Facebook and Instagram.

I received a copy of this book in return for an honest review.  I received no other compensation for this post.

If you are interested to reading what others thought of this book, please check out some of the other stops on the tour!

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Book Review: "Bad News Cowboy" (Copper Ridge #3) by Maisey Yates

Bad News Cowboy (Copper Ridge #3) Maisey Yates
Date Finished: December 27, 2017
Date Published: July 28, 2015
ISBN: 9780373788538
Genre: Romance
Source: Personal Copy - Amazon

Summary:
Kate Garrett keeps life simple—working hard, riding her beloved horses, playing cards with her brothers. Lately, though, she feels a bit restless, especially when family friend Jack Monaghan is around. Sexy and shameless, Jack is the kind of trouble you don't tangle with unless you want your heart broken. Still, Kate could always use his help in learning how to lasso someone a little less high-risk… 


Jack can't pinpoint the moment the Garrett brothers' little sister suddenly stopped seeming so…little. Now here he is, giving flirting tips to the one woman who needs zero help turning him on. Love's a game he's never wanted to play. But he'll have to hurry up and learn how before the best thing that ever entered his life rides right back out again…

My Thoughts:
I will admit that I went into this book with slightly higher than normal expectations.  I so thoroughly enjoyed the previous book in the series, Brokedown Cowboy, that I expected this book to continue at the same level.  Perhaps that isn't fair, but that was where I was.  Sadly, this book ultimately didn't live up to my high expectations.

This is the third book in which we've met Kate and Jack, so we know them fairly well.  However, we don't know them so well that we don't need any additional backstory.  Kate's is what was expected--as we've already gotten the story from her brother's viewpoints, there really wasn't that much to add.  Jack's, however, was just more of the same.  I'm starting to think that Copper Ridge is populated entirely by people with crappy parents.  At this point, I really needed Yates to go in a different direction with one of her characters.

I can't say that I really felt the affection between these two characters.  Personally, I find the friends-to-lovers trope tricky as it either comes off as at least one of the parties harboring feelings for the other for some time or it just comes out of nowhere and, in this book, it was definitely the latter.  I also felt that the angst about the relationship was a bit too manufactured.  I mean, there was nothing that couldn't be solved with, I don't know, people talking to each other.

What I enjoyed most about this book, though, were the other characters.  I loved seeing Liss and Connor and how their relationship had progressed.  With Sadie and Eli, there was continuity between this book and the previous installment (although they still didn't connect to the characters in the first book) and were more entertaining here than they were before.

I did enjoy this book enough to continue in the series, although that may be because I had already read the holiday novella that comes after this book.  I guess I can chalk this one up to the fact that not all the books can be winners.

I was not solicited for this review and I received no compensation for this post.




Previous books in this series:


Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Book Review: "The Story of Our Lives" by Helen Warner + GIVEAWAY



The Story of Our Lives Helen Warner
Date Finished: January 17, 2018
Date Published: February 13, 2018
ISBN: 9781525820830
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Source: TLC Book Tours
Recommended

You might enjoy this book if you like: Novels about female friendship, contemporary British novels, soap operas

Summary:
A moving, unputdownable novel about four lifelong friends, the milestones they've survived...and the one thing that might change everything. There are certain events you'll always remember where you were and who you were with...and the friends who have commiserated and celebrated every amazing first date, bad breakup, dubious haircut and dream job along the way. Sophie, Emily, Amy and Melissa have been best friends since they were girls. They have seen each other through everything--from Sophie's private fear that she doesn't actually want to be a mother despite being mom to two kids, to Amy's perfect-on-the-outside marriage that starts to reveal troubling warning signs, to Melissa's spiraling alcoholism, to questions around the paternity of Emily's son. But could a lie that spans just as long as their friendship be the thing that tears them apart? Four friends. Twenty years. One powerful secret. 

My Thoughts:
I've struggled with how to start with this review and I think the best thing is to share something that I realized at the end of this book which, had I known it earlier, probably would have led to greater enjoyment while reading this story.

This novel is a soap opera.

I mean this in a couple of ways.  First of all, the plots of the story are very soap-ish.  Fortunately, I'd call them more prime-time soap plots (think This is Us or Grey's Anatomy) than daytime soap plots (things like people performing brain surgery on themselves or daughters giving birth to their own fathers).   Now, I'm a person who tends to enjoy the prime time soaps, so this sort of appealed to me.  Nothing is too crazy here, but it is definitely a bit sensationalist at times.  And they are definitely soap-worthy plots: adultery, addiction, domestic abuse to name a few.

I did enjoy the characters and my favorite part of the book was seeing how the interacted with each other and how their relationships developed.  I did feel like we got to know Amy and Sophie more than Melissa and Emily, which was unfortunate.  However, we still knew enough about those two characters to make the story work.

Now, here is where the soap opera aspect didn't work for me in this book.  In a soap opera, you have plots that come and go and characters who come into the forefront and step back a bit as their own plots follow through.  That works for television--but I didn't work for me in this book.  In some ways, it felt like it almost would have worked better as a short story collection as we spent a story focused on each character instead of this situation where a character would have something to do and then a long stretch of being little more than an accessory to the story.

I also felt that this book didn't have a strong central plot.  It did have a strong central theme--the friendship of these 4 characters--but that wasn't enough to hold all these different plots together.  So, as I was reading this, the whole book just felt disjointed to me until the end when it clicked--THIS IS A SOAP OPERA!  Had I realized that at the beginning, I think that my experience with this book would have been more successful.

I would still recommend this book--it was entertaining and enjoyed getting to know these characters.  However, I feel like I would have to give a heads up to whomever I handed this book about how to read it so that they don't spend the bulk of the novel in the same befuddlement in which I found myself.

About the Author:
Helen Warner is head of daytime for Channel 4, where she is responsible for shows such as Come Dine With Me and Deal Or No Deal. Previously she worked for ITV where she launched the daytime talk show Loose Women and was editor of This Morning. She lives in East Anglia with her husband and their two children.

I received a copy of this book in return for an honest review.  I received no other compensation for this post.


If you would like to read more about this book, please some of the other stops on this tour.

TLC Book Tours is hosting a giveaway for a $25 gift card.

To enter, simply fill out the rafflecopter form below.


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Friday, February 2, 2018

Saturday Snapshot - February 3

To participate in Saturday Snapshot: post a photo that you (or a friend or family member) have taken then leave a direct link to your post in the Mister Linky below. Photos can be old or new, and be of any subject as long as they are clean and appropriate for all eyes to see. How much detail you give in the caption is entirely up to you. Please don’t post random photos that you find online.

Last weekend, I took my kids into Portland to see the Oregon Children's Theater production of Pete the Cat: The Musical.  We have season tickets, so going to the shows is not a new thing--but my son loves Pete the Cat and had been looking forward to this one.



We had to get our usual poster picture!


One thing that my kids love is to get autographs after the show.  For some reason, my daughter opted not to this time (she was in a bit of a mood that day...), but my son patiently waited in line and then got a photo with Pete the Cat himself!


There are these nifty old bubblers in Pioneer Square in Portland, and my kids can't pass up a water fountain.




Thursday, February 1, 2018

Book Review: "Only You" (Sugar Lake #2) by Melissa Foster

Only You (Sugar Lake #2) Melissa Foster
Date Finished: December 26, 2017
Date Published: December 5, 2017
ISBN: 9781542049016
Genre: Romance
Source: Personal Copy - Amazon

Summary:
Single mom Bridgette Dalton doesn’t have time to stop and smell the roses—not even in her own flower shop. But that doesn’t mean she hasn’t noticed Bodhi Booker. Her ruggedly handsome next-door neighbor would be the perfect candidate for a no-strings fling. Having loved and lost, Bridgette’s not ready to hand over her heart…but she could use a distraction.

Bodhi has one rule: never leave anyone behind. As a special operative, he knows that each new mission is more dangerous than the last. He’s never made a promise of forever to a woman, not even to the beautiful widow who has him tied in knots. And if there were anyone who could tempt him into putting down roots, it would be Bridgette and her adorable son.


But as his next deployment nears, they make a startling discovery. Their passion, meant only for the here and now, might already be blossoming into something more…

My thoughts:
When you write enough reviews, you start to have your formula for them.  For me, I start with what I like and then talk about the things that didn't work for me.  In the case of this book, however, I feel like I need to flip that around, so bear with me as I start with what I didn't like about this book.

I read enough romance to recognize a stereotype from a mile away and Bodhi is the most typical of romance heroes.  He's former military who now leads special ops!  He has a dog!  He's in a small town for just a short period of timed!  He loves kids!  He's....the same character that I find in so many books.  In fact, he's so typical that he was downright unbelievable.

And he and Bridgette fall in love instantly.  There is no real "getting to know you" period here, it is love at first sight and spicy sexy times at first opportunity.  Moreover, the second book in this series falls into the same trap as the first in that there is no real conflict here.  Bodhi and Bridgette have a time limit on their relationship and...that's that.  The lack of conflict makes me feel like I'm not actually reading a story, but rather just an account of something that happened and, because of that, I am left feeling unfulfilled.

The ending of the book was predictable, which is not the worst thing.  What was a problem, though, is it just felt rushed  It almost seemed like Foster had a finite number of pages to write and realized that she had to wrap things up as quickly as possible.

But, here's the thing...damn if this book didn't make me cry!  And I read this almost in one sitting, so it obviously held me.  So, even if I rolled my eyes, it wasn't enough to leave me unmoved.  Yes, I wanted more of a story and, yes, I wanted a more compelling hero, but what was there was at least enough to keep me going.

My reward for all this was the most delightful epilogue.  I enjoyed it for 2 reasons: first of all, it had some wonderfully awkward dinner conversation thanks to a child who doesn't quite understand the birds and the bees (and it made me snort water out my nose).  Secondly, it sets up what I think will be a compelling, and hopefully better constructed, third book in the series...providing that the brother Ben is the subject of the next book.

I can't say if this was a successful book for me, but at least it went out on a high note and left me with a sense of optimism for the rest of the series.  It was at least an enjoyable way to spend an afternoon, and no one can complain about that.

I was not solicited for this review and I received not compensation for this post.



Previous books in the series:

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Book Review: "Should've Been You" by Nicole McLaughlin

Should've Been You (Man Enough #3) Nicole McLaughlin
Date Finished: December 23, 2017
Date Published: January 30, 2018
ISBN: 9781250120090
Genre: Romance (Contemporary)
Source: Netgalley
Recommended

You might enjoy this book if you like: Series romance, love triangles

Summary:
National Guardsman Jase Beckford wants to live a quiet life raising cattle and taking care of his mother. His childhood friend and neighbor Hannah is still his best friend, but when he walks into the Walters house one morning and sees her twin sister Becca for the first time in five years, he wonders if he missed out on something special.

Becca Walters has nursed a secret crush on Jase since childhood, but he always preferred Hannah, so she buried her feelings assuming her sister and Jase would one day turn their flirtation into a real relationship. And this Christmas, she is anticipating a proposal of her own, so Jase’s reappearance in her life doesn’t mean anything. Much. Okay, maybe more than Becca would like to admit.


However, when Becca’s sister gets engaged to someone who’s not Jase, Becca and Jase find themselves spending more together. And when secrets are revealed, suddenly those dormant feelings come back to life; but is the possibility of something between them worth risking the happiness of everyone they love?

My Thoughts:
Let's talk about romance catnip, shall we?  Here we have a book that is a cross between a second-chance romance and an "un-unrequited" love story and, honestly, this is the most catnip-y idea I've come across.

And this book does deliver, on some levels.  The basis of Jase having a secret crush on Becca, but also telling himself he's in love with Hannah, while Becca has a secret crush on him and Hannah feels possessive towards him is tantalizing, and McLaughlin sets it up well.  I also felt that both Becca and Jase were realistically conflicted about this situation, which is necessary for this to work.

I enjoyed the world that McLaughlin creates.  This is the third book in a series that I had not read, which made me apprehensive. I'm "that" reader who needs to starts series at the beginning, but this book did a fairly good job of standing alone.  There was only one scene, including Jase's friends (whom, I assuming, were subjects of earlier books) that I felt I was missing something--and even that was minor.

There were, however, things that bothered me.  I found Jase's and Becca's feelings, which were hidden from each other for almost two decades, a little hard to believe.  On Jase's side, it worked a little better as it seemed that he had directed his feelings about Becca to Hannah, but Becca came off a bit desperate to me.  I also felt that the characters were unrealistically self-aware.  By that, they seemed to have an usual awareness of what their feelings were and why they had them.  Yes, there are people like that--but those people would never find themselves in Jase and Becca's situation.  I also felt that, because these characters were that way, McLaughlin lost out on some interesting story opportunities when she opted to tell instead of show.

All in all, though, this was a pleasant book to read.  Nicole McLaughlin is a new author to me and I'd welcome the chance to read more of her books.

I received an electronic copy of this book in return for an honest review.  I received no other compensation for this post.