Thursday, July 26, 2018

Erin's Book Challenge 9.0 // Bookworm

Hello friends! I've been super busy working on our house, hanging in there through tons of work events, and visiting with family who is in town! Whew. Not a lot of time for blogging or blog reading. I decided that I had to get some kind of post out there... because I miss it and I need some time for me! :) Hoping to check in with you guys VERY soon! :)

I'm such a mood reader. I want to read something fun and fast most of the time. Like a romance or fantasy novel... but then I go on non-fiction kicks. It's hard for me to follow through with challenges... but I adore them, and I adore Erin's group! So fun and encouraging! So... here's my 9.0 list. (last time I picked as I went... it kind of worked, but that's why there wasn't a post!)

Erin's Reading Challenge 9.0 (Initial Post and Rules)

July 1st - October 31st - each book must be 200+ pages

5 points:  Freebie – Read a book that is at least 200 pages
Arrogant Devil by R.S. Grey

10 points:  Read a book that starts with the letter “N”

Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman - currently reading!

10 points:  Read a book that has a (mostly) orange cover

Crown of Midnight by Sarah J. Maas

15 points:  Read a book with an unlikeable character

One of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManus -- Audrey sent me this one for our summer reading pen pal swap! woohoo! :)

20 points:  Read a book from the list of 100 books that PBS calls “The Great American Read”

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

20 points:  Read a book with something related to water in the title

Seafire by Natalie C. Parker - not out yet, but the author is coming to my city! :)

25 points:  Read a book you've owned for the longest time but haven't read yet. Or has been on your TBR/Kindle for a long time, and you have not read yet.

Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank

30 points:  Read a book with an emotion word in the title.

The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers

30 points: Read a book (must be at least 2 words in the title) where each word in the title of the book begins with the same letter

Poison Princess by Kresley Cole

35 Points: Read a book where the main character shares your profession.

The Hating Game by Sally Thorne

Are you participating? I'd love to know your picks!

What are you reading this summer?



Thursday, July 19, 2018

Keep It Together: A Planning & Memory Keeping Blog Hop - July 2018

Happy Thursday friends! It is one of the most fun days of month: Keep It Together day with Lauren at Shooting Stars Mag! :) It's the day when we talk about all things planning and memory keeping! :) 

I'm so excited for another edition of Keep It Together with Lauren from Shooting Stars Mag today! :) This linkup is all about planners, memory keeping, bullet journals, etc. So please feel free to linkup your posts on the Third Thursday of every month! Make sure to hop on over to Lauren's page and check out her post too! :)

I've not had a lot of time to document lately... or plan... I've been more of a set an phone alarm or calendar reminder or I will forget it forever kind of planner lately... but I have goals to be less frazzled again someday.

Here is a look at my February goals notebook. I had a lot of fun playing with cute little embellishments like this baby deer! :) I also loved recording some of the favorite things I did with my tiny amount of energy post sickness. Greatest Showman and lots of Olympic figure skating! We also got out to try a new restaurant and I did some light workouts! Woohoo for having energy back! :)

Going through this journal and documenting things has really helped me to be grateful despite struggle, and reflect on the challenges and successes (however small) so far this year. Really excited to get more months documented!

Update on my class: my class went really well, I had my family there and then one participant. She was really engaged with the content and we had some great discussion. I can't wait to make her a mini album and send it her way! :) It was too bad that there weren't a lot of people there, BUT I am proud of myself because I battled my anxiety and did it even though I was nervous.

What have you guys been up to?

Do you journal to get things off your chest? 

Do you ever get the urge to create?!?


    An InLinkz Link-up



Tuesday, July 10, 2018

June 2018 Reads // Sanity Saving Reads!

It's been another busy month with our cruise and continuing lots of work on our new home! It's been fun, but reading has definitely remained one of my sanity savers.

I didn't read quite as much as I did in my, but still a respectable 10 books. :) I also met my reading goal for the year this month! Woohoo! :) 
Let's get to it!

Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows by Balli Kaur Jaswal

4 Stars - I recommend if you enjoy diverse contemporary fiction. Specifically books that delve into gender roles, religion, and immigrant families. 

Nikki is a modern woman. Despite her family's Indian and Sikh heritage, she makes her own way in the world. She works in a pub, isn't interested in arranged marriage, and smokes cigarettes. When her sister asks her to take a marriage ad to the local temple for her, she sees that they are hiring a creative writing teacher for women. Nikki jumps at the chance to empower these women, and takes the job. She doesn't realize that many of them cannot yet read or write, she's even more surprised when she finds out that they really just want to share their deepest fantasies in story form. Kulwinder's daughter disregarded their rules and culture, and now she is dead. Kulwinder spends her days afraid of stepping out of line. When Nikki is hired to teach the women, Kulwinder finds that she is more like her daughter than she is comfortable with. This story blends two cultures, multiple generations, and brings women together.

Overall I really enjoyed this book. I loved that it blended "modern women" with traditional Punjabi women. I liked that it included different generations and circumstances, and allowed all of the women to learn from one another. Particularly I enjoyed the focus on the widows, in American culture we don't treat widows in quite the same way, but I thought that this book was important in showing that widows still need social activities, company, and still have an interest in romance and sex. There are bits and pieces of their erotic stories written in to the chapters, and I thought that they helped illustrate the culture and how people can surprise you. I really enjoyed how things wound up in the end. I loved seeing how far the characters came in their own lives and relationships. I thought that this book was really satisfying.

Scotland or Bust by Kira Archer*

3.5 Stars - I recommend if you enjoy contemporary romance, or have a love for Outlander.

When Nikki's boyfriend breaks up with her she quits her job and decides to move to England. She wants to fulfill her long-term dreams of living abroad, but she doesn't have anything figured out yet. On the plane to London she meets Harrison, a stuck up Brit with a fear of flying. After the two are thrown together and Harrison's assistant quits, Nikki steps in to help him with his family's travel company. After a mis-hap or two, Harrison's family thinks that he and Nikki are engaged... which makes things more complicated than they already were.

I enjoyed this fun little romance and ode to Outlander. I thought that Nikki and Harrison wre really fun characters and enjoyed the shenanigans that they got themselves into. I liked Harrison's friends and family as well and how they added humor to the pages. Overall I felt like the funny situations were a little bit repetitive at first, but still amusing. I didn't feel like I completely understood where the characters were coming from, why they were so reluctant to be in a relationship... it just didn't quite make sense to me. I was hoping for a little bit more out of the story, but still enjoyed it.

The Mermaid by Christina Henry***

4 Stars - I recommend if you enjoy fantasy and historical fiction, this definitely has more of a historical fiction feel than a fantasy one. Especially anything to do with circus-y plots.

A young mermaid longs to know what is on land, to explore the forbidden world above the surface. When she is caught in a fisherman's net, he lets her go, but she sees the sadness in his eyes. She goes back to him willingly and becomes his wife. Their life together is a happy one, however, she doesn't age. When the fisherman dies an associate of P.T. Barnum shows up to persuade her to join his show. She refuses, but later decides that she would like to make money to see the world. She travels to New York where Barnum's show, critics, and zealots await her.

I wasn't quite sure what to expect with this one, but this book started a little bit slow for me. I really liked the story of the mermaid, Amelia, with the fisherman, but it was so short! I wanted to know more about their relationship and her thoughts about life on land. When the plot moved on to Barnum's piece of the story, the book remained at a fairly slow pace until about half way through when things picked up a little bit. The ending was very quick, and while I liked it, it felt a little bit fast to me. Overall I enjoyed the look at a possible circus-like set up, the humanity of humans and mermaids, and critiques on religion, marriage, gender roles, and animal captivity. I did find myself wishing for a bit more description and explanation of relationships and feelings. It would have been interesting to see a bit more of Amelia and Jack's relationship to understand her feelings later in the book, for example. It also would have been interesting to have a look into other circus personalities as well, but I can see why that was avoided to put the emphasis on the friendship between Amelia and Charity Barnum. Overall I recommend if it sounds like your cup of tea.

The Real Deal by Lauren Blakely*

4.5 Stars - I highly recommend if you enjoy contemporary romance and the fake-to-real dating trope.

April's family doesn't understand her big city life, and try to set her up with every single man in her small coastal hometown. When her friend bails on her as her fake boyfriend, he recommends someone much more experienced playing the role. Theo is a boyfriend for hire and he's very good at it. However, he usually has short assignments: a high school reunion, a wedding, an office Christmas party... he's never been hired for days on end. When he meets April it becomes very clear that it will be hard to keep things pretend. But he's got a troubled past and doesn't trust women, April has been on a dating sabbatical for a year... maybe this is what they both need. 

I was worried that this one would be pretty cheesy, due to the cover. But I actually thought it was really really good. The characters are quirky and their relationship walks the line between romantic and banter-y and in the gutter. I thought that their dialogue was really fun and amusing, and I liked how Theo did so many funny roles and accents. It made their relationship a lot of fun. The chemistry was also really really good. Very intense, lots of very steamy moments. It was pretty darn slow burn too, which I was a fan of. I loved the family reunion setting, and April's quirky family members. Overall the story just worked for me and I think it is tied for first in the contemporary romance category for this year with Head Over Heels which I read last month.


4.25 Stars – I recommend if you enjoy contemporary romance. Specifically ones that have characters dealing with some dark things, and also if you like musical settings.

This story follows the band Leaving Amarillo, made up of brother and sister Dallas and Dixie Lee and their best friend Gavin. The band finally gets a break to play a big festival in Austin, and takes to the road. Sharing a hotel room with Gavin is more than Dixie Lee can manage, and their unspoken attraction causes issues for the band. Gavin has a dark past and has made promises to Dallas, but he finds himself wanting to risk and night with Dixie Lee anyway. It looks like the band is on their way to making it big, but will it fall apart if relationships change? Will things lingering at home break them up?

This book was fairly angsty, but I still ended up liking it quite a lot. I liked the brother-sister dynamic quite a bit, and their friendship with Gavin. I wanted a little bit more of a flashback to Dixie Lee being in love with Gavin as a kid/teen, because it seemed a little instantaneous at first, but midway through I felt like I got it. The chemistry between the characters was really good, and I kind of liked the band/country music setting, even though that’s not my thing in real life. I felt like the angst mostly made sense because the characters were dealing with some pretty bad things in their lives. This is a series, I have yet to read a romance series, but I could see picking up the next two books to see what happens next. The ending was fun and I want to see where the plot lines go.

4 Stars – I recommend if you enjoy proper romance with a bit of fantasy. I loved the steampunk elements. Though this is a part of a series, you needn’t read the first one first.

Dr. Isla Cooper has been cursed. Each night she falls into a death-like sleep precisely at midnight and awakens at six o’clock in the morning.  As she helps to hunt rogue shifters this is hardly compatible with her job. What is more worrisome is that she fears the curse will become permanent at the one year mark. When she forces her way onto Daniel Pickett’s private airship, she knows it is risky, but it’s the only chance she has to find the witch who cursed her. Daniel Pickett is immediately irritated with Isla, especially as he is on a mission smuggling shifters out of England. Matters are complicated when Isla’s enemy, anti-shifter governmental agent stows aboard his ship as well. Isla has never been interested in men, nor have they been interested in her, but Mr. Pickett isn’t like other men she’s met.

I wasn’t sure if this would be as good as the first one Beauty and the Clockwork Beast, but it was just as delightful and really quite different than the first one. I loved Isla, she was so cheeky and smart! Daniel was grumpy, but not quite to the point of the male lead in the last book. I loved their interactions and chemistry. I thought that the curse was interesting, and I loved how it brought the ship of people together. I also loved the setting that it was on an airship was a lot of fun! The Caribbean setting was also a different, much less gloomy than the first book taking place in a haunted English estate. I really liked all of the characters and can’t wait to see which side characters get a full story in the future. The ending was really cute, and I think I overall liked this one better than the first!

The Cottage by the Sea by Debbie Macomber*

3 Stars - I recommend if you like Debbie Macomber, and you don't mind the dramatic ones.

Annie's entire family died in a mudslide, while picking up the pieces of her life, she decides to move to the town that was her "happy place." Oceanside is just as she remembers it from her family vacations, and she begins building a life there. Keaton rarely speaks, a product of his father's abuse. When he meets a girl on the beach and she doesn't shun him, he remembers her forever. Now she's back in Oceanside, and he can't let her get away again. Can Annie and Keaton overcome their troubled pasts and start a future together?

This one is a little bit heavier than some of Macomber's stories, which isn't my favorite variety. I expected it to have heavy bits, but then fall into the sunny, hopeful pattern that her books often do. This one stayed pretty dramatic. This story deals with tragic death, abuse, teen pregnancy, agoraphobia, animal abuse, and hospice. It's not a light book. I was hoping for a bit more levity inbetween the issues, and as the characters overcome them. It felt like one thing after another. This wasn't my favorite Macomber book. I did like the characters, the found family aspect, and the little town of Oceanside. I liked Keaton a lot, it's unusual for Macomber's stories to feature a male lead that isn't super confident. It was kind of a nice change. Overall I can only recommend if you enjoy her more dramatic books.

Arrogant Devil by R.S. Grey

4 Stars - I recommend if you enjoy contemporary romance.

Meredith has an emotionally abusive husband, when she leaves him the only place she can think to go is Central Texas where her sister lives. Unfortunately her sister is out of the country, and her house is being remodeled... so Meredith has nowhere to go. Her sister calls her boss, Jack, and sets up a job for Meredith. All Jack can see is a spoiled California girl who ran away from her perfect life, but close quarters cause him to re-evaluate her. Jack is the meanest man Meredith has ever known, but she wants to find out why.

I love R.S. Grey's books! I am not 100% sure if I liked this one better than The Beau and the Belle... but I might have. I loved the premise, I loved the setting.. it just all worked so well for me. I thought that Albert, Edith, Jack, and everyone were so darn cute. I loved the chemistry between Jack and Meredith. That creek scene was too cute. :) I laughed out loud a few times at the really funny internal dialogue. If you enjoy contemporary romance, I highly recommend this one.

Going Up by Tawna Fenske*

3 Stars - I recommend if you enjoy quirky romantic comedies.

When Noah and Lexi get stuck in an elevator together, they bond instantly (with the help of Bartholomew the pack rat). Lexi doesn't let anyone get close, and Noah is big, burly, and intimidating but they instantly click. After they get out of the elevator they think they'll never see each other again, until Bartholomew turns up missing.

I enjoyed this quirky novella about a chance meeting between two characters stuck in an elevator. Lexi and Noah were quirky and fun characters. I liked that their story, setting, personalities, etc. were a little off the wall but authentic. Unfortunately the animation wasn't available on my device, but I bet it was really fun.. This was a fun change of pace in romance books. I felt like the whole story just made me feel cozy.

Your Second Life Begins When You Realize You Only Have One by Raphaelle Giordano*

2.5 Stars - I wouldn't particularly recommend this book. It has reasonable ratings on goodreads, but I just didn't enjoy it very much.

Camille's life is in stuck in a rut: she's not appreciated at work, her husband is pretty indifferent to her, her son is always frustrated with her, and she isn't fulfilled by what she is doing. When she meets "routinologist" Claude, he helps her turn her life around.

On paper this is exactly my kind of book. As I read it though, I just wanted it to be over. It felt like a “then this happened... then this happened” kind of book, but with very very little narrative. I felt like it was pretty hard for me to connect with the main character, Camille. I felt like I didn't get to understand her very well. The story was very padded with various self help and psychological or new age techniques. I love self-help books, but I really struggled to stay interested in this book as a story. I’ll give it a half point back for the “chain” bit at the ending. I wanted to love this book, I was really excited for it, but it just didn't work for me.

There you have it, quite a few books! If you want to see my spring & summer reading bucket list, check that out too! :)

Linking up with Jana and Steph for Show Us Your Books today. :) 

What have you been reading? What do you hope to read this month?! 

Let's be friends on Goodreads!



* Asterisks denote titles that I was given advance access to by Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. These reviews are my own opinion, and based on the edition of the book I was given at the time. Thank you Netgalley

**Double asterisks denote books won via a goodreads giveaway! 

***Triple asterisks denote titles that I was given advance access to by Penguin First to Read in exchange for an honest review. These reviews are my own opinion, and based on the edition of the book I was given at the time. Thank you Penguin First to Read!

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Roaring, Swinging, Fabulous, Groovy Blog Collaboration // 1960's

It's my birthday!!! :) 

It's also one of my favorite blog days! Audrey & I's Roaring, Swinging, Fabulous, Groovy Blog Collaboration! :)

Today, Audrey and I are talking about the 1960's. MAKE SURE TO HOP ON OVER TO AUDREY'S BLOG TO CHECK OUT HER RECOMMENDATIONS! :) 

Here we go:

On the first Tuesday of the month, February through November, we're highlighting books & films from/about specific eras that we recommend! (Television shows, too, sometimes!) There's no commitment or link-up during those months on your end, but in December we’ll host a recap/link-up for the entire year!

I'm learning a lot from this challenge already: 

Books, Films, and Bonus will be things that I HAVE read or watched. "On Deck": will be things that I am hoping to get to soon!

The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd (one of my all-time favorite books)
The Help by Kathryn Stockett
Breakfast at Tiffany's by Truman Capote - I actually don't love this story (I know, I know...) BUT I do love Capote's writing.
The Astronaut Wives Club by Lily Koppel - Currently Reading

Breakfast at Tiffany's
The Secret Life of Bees

Call the Midwife (BBC) - This is my go-to Netflix show. It follows the midwives in London's East End. The show starts in the 1950s, and is still coming out on BBC. I think it is in the mid to late 1960's now. I have a little catching up to do.. but I think I've seen about 5 seasons. This show while very real and emotional... is very heartwarming for me. It's still good for my mental diet! Babies, nuns, people rising above it. A gem you guys, watch this. But be ready to sob.

The Astronaut Wives' Club (TV Show) - I've heard that the show is a lot better than the book, I'll keep you posted!
The Help (movie)
Moonrise Kingdom (movie)
An Education (movie)

What books, movies, or shows can you recommend that take place in the 1960's? 

Be sure to hope over to Audrey’s blog and check out her recommendations!

The 1970s saw political scandal, the rise of feminism, and environmentalism and anti-war protests. It was a weird time for the United States and the world. We’ll be sharing our favorite movies, books, and television shows that encapsulate the strange and groovy 70s.  

Enjoying this series? Check out the other posts:
1900s & 1910s