Friday, September 23, 2016

Saturday Snapshot - September 24

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.

Before I get into the Saturday Snapshot part of this post, I do want to put an apology out there.  I've been a bit absent from the blogosphere lately.   There really is nothing more to it than I'm going through a double whammy of a rut--a reading rut AND a blogging rut.  I've been through this before (but rarely at the same time), I know it will pass, but I just have to work through it.  C'est la vie!

Anyway, did you hear?  It is the most wonderful time of the year!  I love fall (and not just because my birthday happens to be the first day of the season!)--to me, the best part of summer is that fall is coming.  Yeah, I know...cheesy.  Anyway, here are a few fall-ish pics...

This is the view of our street on the last day of summer...

....and here it is on the first day of Fall!  I tell myself that there is a drastic difference,

This picture was taken about an hour after the one above.  I have told my husband that it never rains on my birthday and, well, there is always a first for everything! Oh well....the kids loved it!  They are such Oregonians!

Friday, September 16, 2016

Saturday Snapshot - September 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.

I have another "Blast from the Past" post today--the past Thursday, my husband and I celebrated our 9th wedding anniversary!  We had a low-key day so, like every year, here are some wedding pictures. I haven't kept track of what pictures I've posted before, so I'm hoping these aren't repeats....

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Book Review: "The Perfect Girl" by Gilly Macmillan

The Perfect Girl Gilly Macmillan
Published: September 6, 2016
ISBN: 9780062567482
Genre: Thriller
Source: HarperCollins and TLC Book Tours
Highly Recommended

You might enjoy this book if you like: The "Girl" Books (Gone Girl, The Girl on the Train, etc), books about prodigies, books about blended families

Zoe Maisey is a seventeen-year-old musical prodigy with a genius IQ. Three years ago, she was involved in a tragic incident that left three classmates dead. She served her time, and now her mother, Maria, is resolved to keep that devastating fact tucked far away from their new beginning, hiding the past even from her new husband and demanding Zoe do the same.

Tonight Zoe is giving a recital that Maria has been planning for months. It needs to be the performance of her life. But instead, by the end of the evening, Maria is dead.
In the aftermath, everyone—police, family, Zoe's former solicitor, and Zoe herself—tries to piece together what happened. But as Zoe knows all too well, the truth is rarely straightforward, and the closer we are to someone, the less we may see.

Unfolding over a span of twenty-four hours through three compelling narratives, The Perfect Girl is gripping, surprising, and emotionally complex—a richly layered look at loyalty, second chances, and the way secrets unravel us all. 

My Thoughts:
I don't think it is a secret anymore that "Girl" thriller books are a "thing" now.  I think that this is the 2nd such book that I've read in as many months!  However, I can't say that I'm bothered by this new subgenre--I haven't liked all that I've read, but I have enjoyed enough of them to keep me going.

The Perfect Girl is one of those that just worked for me, probably more than any other"Girl" book has.  I'm not sure that there is a one-size fits all formula for these books, but I do think there are certain things that I need, and this book delivers.

No matter what I'm reading, the characters are the most important aspect.  If at least the main character (usually the "girl") doesn't seem authentic, I just can get into the book.  This is probably the strongest aspect of this novel.  Zoe is a fantastic character and there is really quite a bit going on with her.  After serving time for a truly horrific event, she and her mother have to start their lives over and, soon, she finds herself in a "second chance family" when her mother marries Chris.  And, well, there are issues there--I'm doing my best not to spoil anything.

What I found most intriguing about Zoe is how her time in a juvenile detention center had so fundamentally changed how she sees the world. I mean, that is expected of someone in her position, but Macmillan conveys it so well that the reader, who has probably never had any comparable experience, can truly empathize with Zoe.

This book has a handful of narrators: Zoe's Aunt Tessa, Tessa's husband Richard, Zoe's father Philip, and Zoe's former attorney (and Tessa's lover) Sam.  Of these, it was only Sam who felt out of place.  I was surprised by Philip's appearance, but I also felt that he gave the reader an insight that only he could provide.  Tessa was by far the most interesting as, like Zoe, she had much more at stake in this entire situation.

I will say that the outcome of this book wasn't especially surprising, although I felt that it was well-executed.  I can see how that would be a stumbling block for some readers but, for me, the character development more than made up for any lacking suspense.

This book completely sucked me in and gave me the escape from reality that I needed.  This is definitely a book that I would recommend to anyone looking for something that will entertain and provoke.,,and one that will stick with the reader long after the book is closed.

About the Author:
Gilly Macmillan is the Edgar Nominated and New York Times bestselling author of What She Knew. She grew up in Swindon, Wiltshire and lived in Northern California in her late teens. She worked at The Burlington Magazine and the Hayward Gallery before starting a family. Since then she’s worked as a part-time lecturer in photography, and now writes full-time. She resides in Bristol, England.

Find out more about Gilly at her website, and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

I received a copy of this book from HarperCollins and TLC Book Tours in return for an honest review.  I received no other compensation for this post.

Want to read more?  Check out some of the other stops on this blog tour!

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Book Review: "The Game Plan" by Kristen Callihan

The Game Plan (Game On #3) Kristen Callihan
Published: November 1, 2015
ISBN: 9781519164902
Genre: Romance (Contemporary)
Source: Personal Copy

You might enjoy this book if you like: Football, Lumbersexuals, Bearded Guys, Strong heroines who doubt their own strength

NFL center Ethan Dexter’s focus has always been on playing football and little else. Except when it comes to one particular woman. The lovely Fiona Mackenzie might not care about his fame, but she’s also never looked at him as anything more than one of her brother-in-law’s best friend. That ends now. 

Fi doesn’t know what to make of Dex. The bearded, tattooed, mountain of man-muscle looks more like a biker than a football player. Rumor has it he’s a virgin, but she finds that hard to believe. Because from the moment he decides to turn his quiet intensity on her she’s left weak at the knees and aching to see his famous control fully unleashed. 

Dex is looking for a forever girl, but they live vastly different lives in separate cities. Fi ought to guard her heart and walk away. But Dex has upped his game and is using all his considerable charm to convince Fi he's her forever man.

My Thoughts:
Hey guys...did you hear?  IT IS FOOTBALL SEASON!  Okay, it is always football season when it comes to my guilty pleasure reading, which is why I love this Game On series more than I'd like to admit.

While the first two books focused on a team of players at a vague southern College, this one is the first where the players are in the NFL.  The team from the previous books is obviously scattered, but Drew, Anna, Gray, and Ivy--the subjects of those books--play roles in this one as well.  I appreciated that Callihan was able to write these characters into the story in a way that they aren't just "there" but they also don't overshadow Dex and Fi's story.

I do have to say that Fi ended up being my favorite of the heroines so far--which is interesting, because I didn't particularly like her in the second installment, The Friend Zone.  I found her to be authentic and well-rounded.  Callihan doesn't hesitate to show us her vulnerabilities and her growth as a person is completely believable.  I also bought without question her feelings towards Dex.

Dex is a very good hero--in fact, he's a bit too good to be true.  Strangely, I wish that Callihan had actually made him a bit more flawed.  I also felt that, at times, his character just didn't really gel with me.  It was almost like Callihan had taken a trope, the bearded/tattooed/pierced lumbersexual, and decided to just do the exact opposite of what you would expect.  I think there was room for more nuance with him and the novel would have benefited from it.

I think, though, that my biggest complaint with this book is that it falls victim to one of my biggest pet peeves in romance novels.  We sort of skip the development of the relationship and the characters seem to be almost automatically in love.  This is more the case with Dex than with Fi, but I still wanted more of the falling part of falling in love.  That is why I read romance--to see the relationship.  If I just wanted to read about the physical side, I'd read erotica.

There were two other things that really stuck out in a not-good way for me.  One is that Dex's explanation for this "Tebow" status is, well, crude and disturbing.  I really wish that Callihan had come up with something else there because I really didn't need to read that.  Let's just say it falls well into the realm of rapey and that is something that I really don't appreciate in romance.

Secondly, and admittedly this is minor, there is a baby in some scenes.  That in itself is not a problem.  The issue is that, when the baby is there, he isn't always there.  Basically, there is a scene and the baby is there--and then everyone seems to forget about the baby for a few pages, and then the baby magically reappears.  As a mom, I kept wanting to yell, "KEEP YOUR EYES ON THE BABY!"  It was just incredibly strange.  Either the baby was necessary and should have been integrated into the scene, or the baby was unnecessary and should have been...elsewhere--asleep, with Grandma, whatever.

By far, though, the worst part of this book is that I have to wait until January 2017 (I think) for the 4th installment in this series.  Really!  I need my fix!

This wasn't the best book in the series, and I did have my issues with it, but I still ate it up.  I think, instead of recommending this particular book, I would recommend the entire series (including this one).  I can't wait to see what Callihan gives us next.

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

Friday, September 9, 2016

Saturday Snapshot - September 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.

Wow...this week has been crazy busy in our household.  In fact, I'm writing this post up on Thursday because I know that I won't have a chance to put it together tomorrow....Oh well, such is the first few weeks of school.

As I've mentioned, my son started Kindergarten this year and, because of that, we're doing more "scheduled" reading.  I've always read to him, but in the past it has been more of just picking up a book when we have a free moment.  Now, we have scheduled "reading time"  (followed by "iPad time"....) each night.   Anyway, I was looking through my camera roll and found a couple of pictures of his selections...

So, this book has a funny story.  One of my friends (whose daughter is a friend of my daughter's) had posted on Facebook that her daughter checks this book out from the school library whenever she can and has been doing so since Kindergarten (she's in 2nd grade).  The next week, my son came home with the same book!  It's actually a pretty interesting book about volcanoes, with a lot of information about Mt. St. Helens, which my kids know about and have visited.
(Volcanoes! Mountains of Fire (Step-Into-Reading, Step 4)  by Eric Arnold)

My son picked this one out of our public library and I am...not at all surprised.  What kid DOESN'T like a book about a guy famous for his farts?  Oh, and it is a true story!  Seriously!
(Fartiste by Kathleen Krull and Paul Brewer)

Anyway, we've had fun reading these and I'll keep an eye out for more of his favorites to share with you all in the weeks to come!

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Book Review: "The Dollhouse" by Fiona Davis

The Dollhouse Fiona Davis
Published: August 23, 2016
ISBN: 9781101984994
Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Historical Fiction
Source: Publisher

You might enjoy this book if you like: Stories about single girls in the 50s, dual-time stories, stories within stories

When she arrives at the famed Barbizon Hotel in 1952, secretarial school enrollment in hand, Darby McLaughlin is everything her modeling agency hall mates aren't: plain, self-conscious, homesick, and utterly convinced she doesn't belong—a notion the models do nothing to disabuse. Yet when Darby befriends Esme, a Barbizon maid, she's introduced to an entirely new side of New York City: seedy downtown jazz clubs where the music is as addictive as the heroin that's used there, the startling sounds of bebop, and even the possibility of romance.
Over half a century later, the Barbizon's gone condo and most of its long-ago guests are forgotten. But rumors of Darby's involvement in a deadly skirmish with a hotel maid back in 1952 haunt the halls of the building as surely as the melancholy music that floats from the elderly woman's rent-controlled apartment. It's a combination too intoxicating for journalist Rose Lewin, Darby's upstairs neighbor, to resist—not to mention the perfect distraction from her own imploding personal life. Yet as Rose's obsession deepens, the ethics of her investigation become increasingly murky, and neither woman will remain unchanged when the shocking truth is finally revealed. 

My Thoughts:
This is a case where I went into the book pretty blind--I agreed to read it based only on the fact that the author graduated from my Alma Mater. It is rare that I get to have that experience so I always savor it when it comes along.  Did this book live up to that honor?  Yes...mostly.

This was a book that I couldn't put down.  Davis has a very clear and engaging voice that suits this story very well.  She also crafted three fascinating characters in Rose, Darby, and Esme.  Rose's story was especially affecting as the poor woman made some really, really bonehead choices (and is called out on them), but she is also in an incredibly difficult point in life.  Darby and Esme, and their friendship, are both nostalgic and unique.  They are, on the surface, exactly what you would expect from female characters in the early 1950s...but then that starts to fall away and we are left with two women trying to forge their own roads in life.

The plots were well crafted and kept my interest.  I don't think I can go so far as to say there were "twists and turns," but there were, shall we say, some swerves that kept me interested and on my toes.  Davis balances both stories and is able to keep the momentum going at an even clip throughout the book.

I also enjoyed how the location of the Barbizon (or "The Dollhouse") almost became a character in its own right.  I've seen many authors try something like this and, more often than not, it comes off as contrived.  However, I didn't feel that here...I felt that the location was necessary and integral to the story.

Now for what didn't work for me.  I've been reading more books that I would like lately where it switches between two different stories in two different time periods.  I realize there is nothing wrong with that and that this is really a matter of preference, but I just didn't feel like it worked as well as it should have here.  Because the reader is given so much more information about Darby and Esme than Rose is, some of Rose's research and discoveries seem too pale or superficial.  Overall, the two stories came together like too puzzle pieces that don't quite fit.

Is that a deal-breaker for me?  Ultimately, no.  I do feel that it impacted my enjoyment of this book, but not so much that it ruined the experience or overshadowed what I did like about this book.  This is a book that I would recommend, albeit with some care.  But I was impressed enough that I will be reading whatever Fiona Davis brings us next.

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

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

The State of My Shelves - September 2016 #ReadMyOwnDamnBooks

The State of My Shelves is a monthly check in where I report on my progress on tackling my immense TBR.  I've opened this up to other bloggers as a meme.  To participate, just do a post documenting your progress, link up below, and include the button for this meme (HTML is at the bottom of this post). My post will go up on the first Wednesday of the month (unless the 1st is on a Wednesday, in which case it will be up on the 8th) and the link-up will be open all month long.

How books come into my TBR:

  • Purchases (Pre-orders, subscription boxes, impulse buys)
  • Book Club (Books purchased for my in-person book club and books that come in for my postal book groups)
  • Gifts and Giveaways
  • For Review - Solicited (I have an agreement with the author/published/publicist to review these books)
  • For Review - Unsolicited (These just appear on my doorstep.)
  • Missed (Purely clerical--for some reason, I find a book that I already own that didn't make it into my spreadsheet)

How books leave my TBR:

  • Read
  • DNF
  • Duplicates (Purely clerical--I find books in the spreadsheet that were accidentally listed twice)
The Monthly Update:

Notes for this month:
  • No special notes for this month....
Now, onto the...

  • Beginning TBR: 794 (June 30, 2016)
  • Last Month's TBR: 788 (July 31, 2016) 
  • Current TBR: 785 (July 31, 2016)
  • Monthly Change: -3 books, 0.4%
  • Total Change: -9 books, 1.13%
Incoming Books:
  • Purchases: 3 (2 Pre-Orders, 1 Subscription)
  • Book Club: 0
  • Gifts and Giveaways: 0
  • For Review - Solicited: 3
  • For Review - Unsolicited: 2
  • Missed: 0
Total: 8

Removed Books:
  • Read: 10
  • DNF: 1
  • Duplicates: 0
Total: 11

The Nitty-Gritty:

Books Purchased:
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling, et. al. (Pre-order)
Present Over Perfect by Shauna Niequist (Pre-Order)
All the Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood (Book of the Month Subscription Box)

Book Club:
None this month

For Review - Solicited:
The Bitch is Back by Cathi Hanauer (ed). (Review 10/13)
The Perfect Girl by Gilly Macmillan (Review 9/15)
Commonwealth by Ann Patchett (Review 9/29)

For Review - Unsolicited:
The Dollhouse by Fiona Davis (Review 9/8)
The Survivor's Guide to Family Happiness by Maddie Dawson

Books Read:
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K Rowling, et, al. (no review)
The Girls in the Garden by Lisa Jewell
The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh
Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty
The Law of Attraction by N.M. Silber
Any Given Christmas by Candis Terry (review 11/22)
The Game Plan by Kristen Callihan (review 9/13)
The Lost Garden by Helen Humphreys (no review)
Second Chance Summer by Jill Shalvis (review 9/6)
The Dollhouse by Fiona Davis (review 9/8)

It Had to Be You by Susan Elizabeth Philips.  SEP is now officially on my "do not read" list, now that this is the 3rd (out of 3!) books of hers that I've tried and had to DNF.  I know she's incredibly popular, but she just doesn't work for me.

To Join the meme:
Simply link include the button in your update post and the URL below.

The next update post will go up on October 5, 2016.

West Metro Mommy Reads

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Book Review: "Second Chance Summer" by Jill Shalvis

Second Chance Summer (Cedar Ridge #1) Jill Shalvis
Published: June 30, 2015
ISBN: 9781455586738
Genre: Romance (Contemporary)
Source: Personal Copy
Highly Recommended

You might enjoy this book if you like: Second chance romances, series centered around brothers, books with humorous dialogue

Cedar Ridge, Colorado, is famous for crisp mountain air, clear blue skies, and pine-scented breezes. And it's the last place Lily Danville wants to be. But she needs a job, and there's an opening at the hottest resort in her hometown. What has her concerned is the other hot property in Cedar Ridge: Aidan Kincaid-firefighter, rescue worker, and heartbreaker. She never could resist that devastating smile . . .

The Kincaid brothers are as rough and rugged as the Rocky Mountains they call home. Aidan has always done things his own way, by his own rules. And never has he regretted anything more than letting Lily walk out of his life ten years ago. If anyone has ever been in need of rescuing, she has. What she needs more than anything are long hikes, slow dances, and sizzling kisses. But that can only happen if he can get her to give Cedar Ridge-and this bad boy-a second chance . . . 

My Thoughts:
Strangely, this is the first book by Jill Shalvis that I've read.  I say "strangely" because I've actually been following her on social media for quite some time.  However, that is not the reason I yelled, "WHY HAVE I NOT READ JILL SHALVIS BEFORE????" the minute I finished this book.

Folks, this is everything that a fun romance should be.  The love story is sweet, the characters are endearing, and it is loaded with humor.  Lily is sort of a walking mess (and, I'll admit it, I can relate to that) and Aidan seems to have it all together, but Shalvis makes sure that there is more to meet the eye with these two.  Lily actually surprised me at how she matured as the story went on--and that is something that isn't especially common in romances.

I also thought, starting this book, that I knew exactly how the story would go.  This sort of predictability doesn't bother me in romance the way it does in other genres....but I was pleasantly surprised that the book did not go down the path I had expected.  I won't say that the road it did take was especially unexpected, but it was nice change to have the plot not go the way it seemed it would.

The best part of this novel was the verbal back and forth between the brothers, which was equal parts joking and sparring.  That alone sold me on this series (and I intend to read on with it in the future) and it kept me in stitches throughout the book.  As someone who has older brothers, their relationship felt very authentic to me.

Yes, it took me far to long to actually read anything by Jill Shalvis--but now I'm hooked!  I highly recommend this book to any romance fans looking for something sweet, a little spicy, and a lot of fun.

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

Monday, September 5, 2016

It's Monday, What Are You Reading? / #FitReaders Check In - September 5, 2016

I hope all of you in the US (and wherever else it is celebrated) enjoyed your Labor Day weekend.  It is Sunday night as I type this and, so far, we've had a very quiet weekend.  If I can be caught up with the laundry by the time the kids go back to school on Tuesday, then this weekend will have been a win!

I've got to be check in here.  This past week was a stressful one due to a family sittuation and meeting #FitReaders goals just didn't make the priority list.  However, I do want to put up my September goals.  I've back off on some of these from previous months, just because I want to focus on consistency.

1 - 70,000 Steps a Week

2 - 3 Strength Training Sessions
I did go up on this one, only because I've found a 12 week beginner strength training plan, which calls for 3 sessions a week.

3 - At least 6.5 hours of sleep a night
My ultimate goal is to get up to 8 hours a night, but I have to work up to it.  Right now, I'm getting too many 5 hour nights.

So, next week there will be an actual check in....I promise!

Right now, I'm reading:
Commonwealth by Ann Patchett
I haven't actually started this yet....but I will tonight.  And I have no clue what it is about!  Ann Patchett is one of those authors whose books I'll read no matter what, so I'm really looking forward to this one.

Somebody Like You (Sugar Shack #3) by Candis Terry
I didn't make much progress on this one, thanks to all the other drama going on--and I didn't have "waiting for the kids" situations this week.  So, for most the week, my Kindle just stayed inside my purse.

The Bitch is Back: Older, Wiser, and (Getting) Happier by Cathi Hanauer (ed).
This is another one that had to take a back burner this week...but this time it was less because of the "family situation" and more because I was just really into another book (which I'll talk about below).  Now worries, I'm getting back to this one tonight!

Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow
I'm not sure if I'll finish this by 12/31 as I had hoped...but I'm still working on it!

Last week, I finished reading:
The Perfect Girl by Gilly Macmillan (finished 9/4, review 9/15)
I don't want to say too much about this before my review....but it did suck me in very quickly.  It is categorized as a thriller, but I found it much more character-driven than many thrillers I've read.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Saturday Snapshot - September 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.

Well, it happened....both my kids are back in school!  This is the first year that my son is in school all day, and I think it has been a bit of an adjustment for both of us.  Here are a few pictures of the first day.