Amy Cole Has It All Figured Out by Elizabeth McGivern

Cover Art Courtesy of Goodreads
I've been a major reading slump lately, and this was the perfect book to pull me out of it. I've raved about the Amy Cole books by Elizabeth McGivern here on my blog before. Amy Cole Has Lost Her Mind and Amy Cole is Zen as F*uck are both hilarious stories with engaging plots that simultaneously tackle some taboo issues. I obviously jumped at the chance to read the third, and sadly last, installment in the Amy Cole series: Amy Cole Has It All Figured Out. With Elle recently diagnosed with cancer and Amy pregnant again, life is maintaining its regular chaos. Will these two best friends be able to weather the storm unphased, or will life's circumstances win out?

As with the other Amy Cole books, this read had me both laughing and crying. One scene had me doing both! The friendship that Amy and Elle have is so pure and genuine, and I hope that one day I'll develop a friendship like theirs. This book, like the other installments, definitely touches on some tough subjects, like cancer, mental illness, grief, and loss. 

One thing I wasn't a huge fan of in this book was the pacing. There were multiple times throughout this read where I felt like the story was coming to a natural end, only to have it start revving right back up again followed by another major event shortly after.

I liked how more characters were introduced in this story and expanded Amy's universe. You really saw a lot of growth from Amy throughout this book. I will say that by the end of this story, I was really not a fan of Ben anymore. I thought he could have done a lot more to support Amy and lend a hand rather than make things harder for her. Like come on, who gets a puppy for his wife right before she is about to give birth then expects her to care for it?! I thought this was an absolutely perfect ending to the Amy Cole series. Even though I am super sad to not get any more, I am very content with the way it wrapped up. 

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

Thanks so much to the author, Elizabeth McGivern, for reaching out and asking if I wanted to review this read. Amy Cole Has It All Figured Out is out now, so be sure to grab a copy of not only this read, but the entire Amy Cole series!

Product Review: Function of Beauty

This is another product that I've seen a ton of ads for on Facebook and Instagram. Function of Beauty offers customized hair care products tailored to your own personal hair type and up to five hair goals. You can also pick the color and fragrance you want your products to be!

I went with a shampoo and conditioner set (8oz each). For my hair type, I selected straight + fine + normal. My goals were shine, volumize, anti-frizz, strengthen, and replenish hair. I picked Nude (P)each for the fragrance, and made my shampoo blue and my conditioner pink. Each bottle comes with a pump for ease of use, and they put your name right on the side of the bottle!
What I Liked:

I am a huge fan of customization, so the fact that these hair products really are personalized to you is a win. I loved getting to pick not only the formulation, but the colors and scent too! If you don't want colors and prefer unscented, they have that as an option as well. 

I have been using nothing but these products for the last 3 months to really see if they have made a difference, and I do think the products mostly delivered on my hair goals. They didn't weigh my hair down or leave it greasy. My hair definitely has more volume than it used to, and I can tell it has gotten healthier. It's way softer than it used to be! There is also a little bit of added shine, although not a ton. 

I received my set back around January 10th, and STILL have some product left! I am close to being out of shampoo, but have about a quarter of the conditioner remaining. How is it everyone always runs out of shampoo first?! I wash my hair probably 4-5 times a week, and my hair is almost down to my butt, so that's definitely saying something about how a little product really does go a long way. And I'm glad, because this was a bit of a splurge at $41 for the set.


What I Didn't Like:

I'm not sure if my shampoo formulation was extra thick because of the options I chose, or if the included pumps just sucked. The conditioner came out fine but it took way too much effort to pump the shampoo out. Since ordering, I have seen an announcement that the company has changed their pumps, so maybe it wasn't just me with this problem! Obviously the high price is a negative, but if hair care is really something you focus on (and I always have), it's a little less painful hitting the order button when you know the product is really good. 

The scent of my products was pleasant, but I wouldn't have called it peach, so that was a little bit misleading. I don't think the anti-frizz element did much, although that could just be that my hair is damaged and needs a trim vs anything the products could fix.



The Verdict:

I'm a Function of Beauty convert! I'm about to get some highlights for the spring, so I will be placing an order with the added hair goal of reducing brassiness soon! I'm very excited to try out the new pumps to see if they are better than the old ones. They have also recently come out with a personalized leave-in conditioner that I want to try out as well.

Have you ever tried out Function of Beauty? If you're interested in giving it a shot, head over to their website via my referral link! You will get $10 off your first purchase and I'll get a $10 credit!


My Keto Journey


If you follow me over on Twitter, you will have seen a fair amount of tweets over the last two months about keto. I just hit my two month mark on my keto journey and thought it was time to write a blog post about what I've experienced so far! If you are like I was, you are really curious about the diet, but also a little skeptical, so hopefully giving you some insight on my journey will help you decide whether or not you'd like to give keto a try!


The Basics

So the keto diet is based on a diet of very low carbs, high fat, and moderate protein. The idea is to kick your body into ketosis, a state where it burns fat for energy versus burning carbs. As someone who used to be addicted to things like pasta and bread, I was really hesitant to cut these things out of my life. I also realized quickly that sugar=carbs, so anything that had any kind of sugar was mostly off limits. Key foods on the keto diet include red meat, butter, olive oil, heavy whipping cream, avocado, etc.

You'll find a lot of mixed reviews on the internet when you look up the keto diet. I say take everything with a grain of salt. Just like all diets, it's level of effectiveness varies person to person. It does seem like for the majority of people, the diet stops being as effective after 3-4 months, and I do plan to transition off of it when I hit my goal weight. There aren't really any long-term studies on the diet yet since it is so new, but obviously if you eat nothing but bacon on this diet you will probably have some major heart and cholesterol problems down the road. 

My Experience

When I calculated my personal macros I found that I needed to stay under 16 grams of net carbs per day  (they say the average to get into ketosis is 20-30). Net carbs are total carbs minus fiber and sugar alcohols. One look at the nutrition on my coffee creamer that first morning was an eye opener...it had almost my entire day's worth of carbs in one serving! I ended up making a lot of food swaps: sugar to stevia, flavored coffee creamer to half and half, lean meats like chicken and ground turkey for fuller fat ground beef and steak. I also found that I had to limit my intake of vegetables (since veggies DO have some carbs!), and pretty much stayed away from fruit entirely. 

I did experience some small keto flu symptoms. The keto flu happens when your body transitions from burning carbs into ketosis, and you may experience symptoms like headaches, feeling extra tired, irratibility, brain fog, etc. known as the keto flu. This only lasted a few days for me, since I quickly learned to combat it with added electrolytes. I also had trouble sleeping at first, but the electrolytes helped with that a ton, as did saving a carb or two for a bedtime snack.

This diet actually becomes super intuitive very quickly. Like I mentioned before, sugar=carbs so if it has sugar it's probably out. Artificial sweeteners like aspartame and Splenda aren't recommended, and you should swap them for natural alternatives like stevia. Anything processed was also out for the most part. Obviously things like bread, pasta, potatoes, etc. were on the no list. You also shouldn't have beans or any veggie grown underground. I have mostly been eating dairy, nuts, meat, and veggies. There are some packaged keto products on the market that I've thrown into my diet as well, but you should limit those as they do still have some artificial ingredients. This is a diet that actually lets you have alcohol as long as you allocate for those carbs, but for some individuals alcohol makes them hold onto weight. As with any diet, drinking plenty of water is also important.

Once I was fully in ketosis, I noticed a huge spike in my energy. Normally I hit a slump mid afternoon and like to go to bed early, but I've had so much energy on this diet that the slump is gone and I'm staying up later. After the initial few days of sleep problems, I've also found myself sleeping really well at night!

One major, maybe TMI complaint I do have about this diet is that it really screwed with my period. I've been having basically 2 periods a month since I started, even though I'm on birth control, which really sucks. It looks like some women have issues with their cycle, but not everyone. 

I haven't felt deprived once during keto, which I love! My problem with other diets has always been that I have felt like I was missing out on good foods, but not this time. I eat flavorful cuts of meat, make amazing sauces, and can put butter on things without feeling guilty! You can even put butter in your coffee, although I haven't been brave enough to try that myself yet!

This is probably the easiest and most satisfying diet I've been on so far. Yes, it requires a lot of tracking, but as my results below will show, it's absolutely worth that effort.

My Results

I've been on keto for just over 8 weeks, and I have lost 13 pounds. I won't go into starting and current weight, because this will obviously be different for everyone and what people weigh can often be a trigger, but this was a considerable amount of weight for me. To put things in perspective, last year it took me an entire year to lose 10 pounds. I'd tried everything, from calorie counting/restricting, to intense exercise, to eating clean, but nothing was really making the scale move. Keto was almost a last ditch effort for me, and I'm so happy I gave it a try because it really was the kick start my body needed to drop that remaining extra weight. Plus the added benefits like sleeping well and having a ton of energy have been great!

While I'm not quite comfortable enough for full body shots yet, here's a little face-off comparison. While the first image was taken about a month and a half before I started keto, I was the exact same weight as when I began.


  
At my keto starting weight!

At my current keto weight! And I still get wine!

What I've Learned

More than anything, this journey has taught me to eat healthy! So much unhealthy, processed food is loaded with carbs, so it's been nice cutting all that junk out of my diet. When I do transition out of keto, I absolutely intend to keep up the healthy eating and avoid processed food. I recently tested out a small piece of cookie (yes I counted those carbs for the day!) and actually found that I've lost my taste for sugar, which I consider a win! 

I think one of the keys to being successful on keto is really being prepared. I track my macros in a free app called Carb Manager, and it's really helpful in figuring out what food I can have in a day. Knowing what I plan to eat has really helped me stay on track. If I know there is going to be food somewhere I can't eat, I can pack something that I know is keto friendly. Catching yourself with nothing you can eat will inevitably result in cheating! I'm very proud to say I haven't cheated once on this diet. There are also keto friendly snacks that you can have during this diet which have really been lifesavers for me. I've always been a huge snacker! I plan to do a post soon about my favorite keto snacks. 

Electrolyte supplements will absolutely help ward off the keto flu. I noticed the symptoms going away almost immediately after I began adding supplements. I use the Ultima Replenisher supplement in the Cherry Pomegranate flavor. I'll mix mine up to drink every night with dinner, and I'll put it in a wine glass if I'm feeling fancy!

If it hasn't been obvious already, I am so happy with my keto experience. Have you tried keto, or considered trying it out? Let me know if you have any questions!


Fake Plastic Girl by Zara Lisbon

Cover Art Courtesy of Goodreads
Vapid, glamorous, wealthy, manic pixie dream girl books are absolutely my guilty pleasure. Fake Plastic Girl by Zara Lisbon delivered. The book opens with the death of Eva-Kate Kelly, a former child star turned party girl and socialite then flashes back to the events leading up to her death. 

This story is told through the point of view of Justine, an average girl who has regular brushes with celebrities but could never call herself one. When Eva-Kate Kelly moves in across the street, Justine is swept into her circle, and all the spontaneity and WORD that comes with it. But what does Justine really know about Eva-Kate? And what does Eva-Kate know about Justine?

This book was delicious and I devoured it. I love imagining starlets driving around with the windows down wearing big sunglasses, doing whatever they want because they can. I love that there was a dog in the story named Princess Leia and Justine took her wherever she went. I loved Eva-Kate's personality and purple car. The ending really threw me for a loop and brought up so many more questions than it answered! Luckily, it appears there is a sequel already in the works!

My only real complaint with this book was the gargantuan amount of Taylor Swift references. It could have gotten the point across with about half of these...the way it stands this many were just overkill.

Was this book full of substance and intelligent thought? Absolutely not. Was it an amazing guilty pleasure read that delivered exactly what I was hoping for? Of course it did. I loved this book, not because it was particularly profound or well written, but because the plot was engaging, the characters were realistic, and the subject matter was right up my alley. If you are looking for an easy, light read with a little bit of intrigue, this book is for you.

Overall Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

Thanks so much to Henry Holt for an ARC of this read! Fake Plastic Girl by Zara Lisbon is out now!

Product Review: Cocofloss

Lately I've been seeing ads floating around Instagram and Facebook for something called Cocofloss. Being that I'm admittedly not the best at flossing, and this looked like a hip product to use, I ordered a three pack. This product is pricey compared to your average drugstore floss, running around $8-10 for 60 days of floss if you buy them individually. I figured that the flavor options, the high quality ingredients, and overall cuteness of the packaging would make it worth it if it actually helped me develop a good flossing routine. 


What I Liked

The product shipped quickly (and free!), and the outer boxes that each floss came in were brightly colored and appealing. The floss packaging itself was chic and the floss was a gorgeous bright blue shade. The back of each floss also had a measurement gauge so you could see about how many days of floss you had left. The floss itself is free of parabens, SLS, and PFAS. It's also cruelty free which is a big win in my book.

What I Didn't Like

The product itself was terrible. I started with the Cara Cara Orange flavor, but I didn't taste any flavor at all. In addition, the floss actually shredded while using it. The website says each piece of floss is comprised of over 500 filaments. Well, about 400 of those ended up stuck in my teeth. Not only that, but the shreds were so small and delicate it was incredibly difficult to then get those strands unstuck. It was also initially very thick (pre-shredding), so getting the piece of floss in and out of my teeth was a challenge. I decided to open up a second box in the hopes that it was just that orange flavor that had problems, but the Pure Strawberries floss also had no flavor and shredded just as badly. The floss packaging, although visually appealing, was very difficult to get open. To avoid breaking my thumb nail off, I had to pry the lid open with the end of a set of tweezers each time I went to floss. 

The Verdict

Cocofloss was not for me. I have seen tons of people rave about it, which is fantastic, but I did end up asking for a refund. I will give their customer service department credit: they responded quickly and they gave me my money back, no questions asked. 

Have you tried Cocofloss? Do you have any other flossing products you would recommend?

Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Cover Art Courtesy of Goodreads
I've been saving this post, even though I read this book weeks ago, because today Stevie Nicks gets inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as the first woman to ever be inducted twice! Keep reading to find out Stevie's ties to this story.

There has been no shortage of hype surrounding this book, so I snatched it right up for my Book of the Month. After reading it, now I know that the hype is real. Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid follows this band on their rise to the top in the 1970s, and their break up right as their star has gone as high as it could possibly go. Even though this is technically a historical fiction, it really didn't seem like one to me even though it took place about 40 years ago. If you read my blog regularly, you'll know I'm typically not a fan of historical fiction. But this book? This book I loved.

The band The Six is slowly making a name for themselves, at the same time as the young and beautiful Daisy Jones. When their record label forces them together, no one knows what will happen. Will it be chaos? Will it be magic? Turns out, it's a little of both. It's sex, drugs, and rock and roll all the way for this band.

About halfway through reading this I switched over to the audiobook. As much as I loved the book, I knew that the interview format would be that much better on audio, and I was right. I've seen some comments that the interview format was hard to follow, but I found it very easy to get used to, both written and in audio. I thought it was a very appropriate format for the subject matter.

This book absolutely SCREAMED Fleetwood Mac to me. And if you know me, you know I LOVE Fleetwood Mac. A Stevie Nicks biography was actually the first physical ARC I ever received! Even the voice of Daisy Jones on the audiobook sounds remotely like Stevie Nicks. The Aurora album mirrored Rumors, the Daisy/Billy relationship was absolutely Stevie and Lindsey, and Karen was Christine through and through. There's even a reference to Stevie in the acknowledgements at the end. Therefore, I obviously loved this book. 

I want the Aurora album to be real. I want to blast it on my record player. But even though I will never get to do that, there are lyrics in the back of the book, and a bonus track of Honeycomb (without vocals) on the audio version. There's also a playlist on Spotify inspired by the book, so be sure to check that out! 

This was my first Taylor Jenkins Reid book, and it will absolutely not be my last. I've seen that The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo gives serious Marilyn Monroe vibes, so I think I will pick that one up next.

This book had everything I love in a book: engaging characters, a dramatic storyline, and was realistic as hell. Even though it's only March, I'm convinced this will be one of my favorite books of the year, and I've already decided to collect as many editions of this as possible.

Overall Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

**Sign up for Book of the Month with my link and we'll both get a free book!**

In Another Life by C.C. Hunter




Summary

Last year, I read and reviewed This Heart of Mine by C.C. Hunter and loved every second of it! I jumped at the chance to be a part of the blog tour for her newest book, In Another Life. 

Chloe was adopted when she was three, and after her adoptive parents divorce, Chloe and her mom move to a new town. Immediately, Chloe catches the attention of Cash, who she feels an immediate connection with. But Cash has ulterior motives. Chloe looks just like the kidnapped daughter of Cash's foster parents, and he's determined to figure out the truth. 

"Hunter deftly delivers a complicated back-and-forth point of view between Chloe and Cash, building suspense along with a steamy sense of attraction between the two teens."  --Kirkus


My Review

Cover Art Courtesy of Wednesday Books
I absolutely enjoyed reading this book. I was actually surprised at how much action it had, and how dark it got at certain points. I loved the back and forth points of view of both Chloe and Cash, their obsession with Skittles and caramels, and overall just how cute their relationship was. I thought the family dynamics were very real, even though they were hard to read at points. And the plot was definitely intriguing!

Unfortunately, this didn't quite live up to This Heart of Mine for me. This does deal with the difficult topics of adoption and being a foster child, as well as the death of a parent, a parent with cancer, and child abuse. I just didn't feel as strong of an emotional response with this one as I did by her previous book. It was still really good, but I think it might have had a little too much going on for me to really connect to it.

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Author Photo Courtesy
of Wednesday Books


About the Author

C.C Hunter is a pseudonym for award-winning romance author Christie Craig. She lives in Tomball, Texas, where she's at work on her next novel. Christie's books include The Mortician's Daughter series, Shadow Fall novels, and This Heart of Mine.


Thank you so much to Wednesday Books for an advanced digital copy of this read! In Another Life by C.C. Hunter is out today, so be sure to pick up a copy!

Skincare: The Lancer Method

After watching Fuller House, I was amazed at how young DJ Tanner/Candace Cameron Bure still looked after all those years. I had to discover her skincare secrets, and lucky for me, she is super open about the products she uses!

A quick trip to her Instagram revealed that Candace uses skincare developed by Dr. Harold Lancer, the "dermatologist to the stars." Three main products make up The Lancer Method, including Polish, Cleanse, and Nourish.

These products are available on the Lancer Skincare website, as well as through Sephora, Nordstrom, and a few other retailers. These products are far from cheap, so I purchased mine on QVC (thank you, EasyPay!), when they had a deal running on the bundle. I paid $68 for my bundle, which included 4.2 oz of Polish (full size), 0.5 oz of Cleanse (trial size), and 0.75 oz of Nourish (trial size). Typically, the full size products retail for $75, $55, and $125 respectively. There are other products available in the Lancer Skincare line, but these are the main ones.

Step One is Polish. This was the biggest item in my bundle, which didn't make sense considering you're only supposed to use this once daily, and a little bit goes a long way. This is a gritty exfoliating scrub meant to both cleanse and resurface skin. I hadn't used a lot of exfoliating products in the past, so I was a little taken aback at how rough this product actually was. Despite the roughness, it did not irritate my skin at all and did a great job at getting off any dead skin cells.

Step Two is Cleanse. After the roughness of the Polish, this feels fantastic on my face. The bundle I purchased came with only a very small amount of this, which was disappointing since this is supposed to be used twice daily. If I want to continue with this routine, I'll have to buy a full size very soon. This cleanser foams lightly (unless you put it on a Clarisonic, then it basically explodes with foam), and leaves the face feeling refreshed.


Step Three is Nourish. This is the moisturizing step, and the product itself is very thick actually almost seemed medicinal to me at first. There wasn't a lot of this product in my bundle either, but there was more than the Cleanse, and a tiny bit of this can cover the whole face. The moisturizer absolutely worked, and when I put it on at night, my face still felt incredibly hydrated when I woke up. My only issue with this product is that because I have bangs, I have to be careful about if/when I put it on my forehead. This did make my bangs incredibly oily so it's something I need to be conscious of if I'm not planning on washing my hair shortly after applying.

The products don't have much of a smell, and they don't have any color either. The Lancer Method is available in different versions for normal combination skin, sensitive dehydrated skin, and oily congested skin. I've been using the normal combination skin version.

I've been using the products for about two weeks now, but only at night because the bundle came with such a small amount of the Cleanse. I honestly haven't noticed a huge difference in my skin, except for maybe the extra hydration from the Nourish step. I do plan to use this until it's gone, and will probably buy a full size Cleanse to last with the other products. 

What skincare regimen do you swear by? Have you ever tried Dr. Lancer skincare products? 

Rebranding Means New Bloglovin URL

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The Lost Night by Andrea Bartz

Cover Art Courtesy of Goodreads
A psychological thriller about people in their early thirties based in NYC? Absolutely count me in! The Lost Night by Andrea Bartz follows Lindsay 10 years after her best friend Edie's suicide. But was it really suicide after all?

Lindsay has always thought she could put all the pieces together from the night that Edie died, but after a dinner with an old friend who was also around that night, now she's not so sure she can. When inconsistencies start to arise, Lindsay begins to believe that Edie might not have killed herself at all. Even worse, with each new discovery, Lindsay is slowly learning that she might have had something to do with it.

I really enjoyed this one! I was excited to pick this up and read it every night and it kept me engaged. And I absolutely did not see that twist coming! I liked Lindsay a lot as a main character, and was getting serious manic pixie dream girl vibes from Edie. I loved all the references to the 2000s, like Flip Cams, and it definitely made me nostalgic. 

I do think that Lindsay's romance subplot(s) were unnecessary to the story line. I also think that it was a little far-fetched as far as how the actual investigation went, but neither of these things took away from the story. This book does touch on miscarriages, so I wanted to make sure I mentioned that.

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

Thanks so much to Crown Publishing for a finished copy of this book! The Lost Night by Andrea Bartz is out now!

A Danger to Herself and Others by Alyssa Sheinmel

Cover Art Courtesy of Goodreads
I had grabbed this one from the BN Book Haul Sale not really knowing what it was about other than the fact that it addressed mental health. A Danger to Herself and Others by Alyssa Sheinmel is a YA contemporary that follows Hannah after her friend Agnes had a terrible accident. Obvious trigger warnings are needed for mental illness, including psychosis, depression, and eating disorders.

When Hannah's roommate Agnes falls from their second story window and suffers severe injuries, Hannah finds herself in a mental institution. She sees on her file that she is "a danger to herself and others," but how can she be? Agnes was her best friend. She would never do anything to hurt her. This must all be a big misunderstanding. But as days pass Hannah realizes she might be in there much longer than she anticipates. That's when Hannah gets a roommate, Lucy. And Lucy might be just the person to help her through this ordeal.

There was a pretty good twist in this, and it was a very fast read. Parts of this were incredibly intense and I was really invested in what was going to happen. I don't think Hannah was a likable character, but I don't think she was supposed to be. I also heavily disliked her parents, especially towards the end, but again they were clearly supposed to be disliked.

While I've never been in a mental institution, I don't think the one in the book was very representative of real life. The way that Hannah was isolated, was never able to get clean until she was granted privileges to do so, had to do her business in a bed pan because they hardly ever let her out to use the restroom, and was only given fresh clothes every few days screamed patient neglect. There is an authors note in the back that said the author took liberties with some of these things, but I think it's important to portray all aspects of mental health accurately, so I wasn't a fan of this.

I was also not a big fan of the ending. If it had ended a little sooner in the story, it would have been fine and I would have been satisfied. If it had gone on a little longer, it would have been fine. But where it did stop felt jarring and unfinished, like the author didn't want to let go but didn't have anything else of substance to write.

I liked this book enough, but it definitely wasn't as good as it could have been, and taking liberties with something as serious as mental health really rubbed me the wrong way.

Overall Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars

Tomorrow There Will Be Sun by Dana Reinhardt

Cover Art Courtesy of Goodreads
It's still pretty cold here in Virginia, and there's no escape like a read about somewhere sunny and warm. This adult fiction read, Tomorrow There Will Be Sun by Dana Reinhardt, takes place in Mexico and has a gorgeous beachy cover that screams warmer weather.

In this book, two families head to a gorgeous villa in Puerto Vallarta on a joint vacation and birthday celebration. But as they always say, there's soon trouble in paradise. Jenna's husband keeps taking secretive calls, and she's on edge from her recent cancer diagnosis and the trouble she is having finishing her next book. Not to mention the fact that the family they are with is getting on Jenna's last nerve, and there is unrest in Puerto Vallarta dealing with rival drug cartels. 

What appeared on the surface to be a pretty light read was actually really heavy. It has the struggling family dynamic, drug violence, medical drama, references to autism, and more. Even though the dust jacket said this book was funny, I don't think I laughed once. To me it was much more serious, and evoked anger and sadness rather than comedy. 

I absolutely felt for Jenna. I thought that everyone around her treated her like crap when she was just trying to be a good wife, mother, and friend. I absolutely hated how they treated her diagnosis like it was nothing, just because the prognosis was good. I hope to God I never find myself in her shoes, because I don't know what I would do if I was surrounded by such cruel people.

I did fly through this read, as it was only 275 pages, but it left me feeling on edge and really uncomfortable. While I thought it was a good book, I don't think I can quite say that I enjoyed it simply because of the way it made me feel. But it was written well and thoroughly developed. I'm glad it's over, but I'm also really glad I read it.

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

Thanks so much to Pamela Dorman Books for a finished copy of this read! Tomorrow There Will Be Sun by Dana Reinhardt is out now!

Cold Day in the Sun by Sara Biren

Cover Art Courtesy of Goodreads
Pull me out of the oven...I'm done. I don't think any book will ever top the adorableness of this read. Cold Day in the Sun by Sara Biren is a YA contemporary that not only checks all the fluffy and cute love story boxes, but also focuses on sports and women's equality. 

Holland "Dutch" Delviss is a girl player on a boys varsity hockey team. All her life, she has fought to prove herself and make it known that she deserves her spot, even though she is better than half the boys on the team. When her town is thrust into the spotlight for HockeyFest and the shot at a televised game falls on Holland's shoulders, the pressure starts to get to her more than it ever has. And it certainly doesn't help that she suddenly finds herself falling for Wes "Hot Sauce" Millard, the asshole team captain she has always despised. 

Oh how I loved every minute of this book. I was so sad to put it down when it was over. Every element of this story was fantastic. Yes, it was an adorable romance, but it was so much more than that. Holland had to face so much pressure as a woman in a man's world, and she held her own so well. Even when she got hurt, both physically and emotionally, she stuck to her guns to prove herself. 

The stereotypes in this book about women, that we are vulnerable and weak, are very alive in our world. We are not yet done trying to prove that they are wrong, that we are equal, and this book definitely shone a light on that.

Plus can we talk about Holland's and Wes' TASTE IN MUSIC!? Unbelievable. Glam bands, the Foo Fighters, Metallica, Poison. Their love of vinyl!? All of this spoke to me on so many levels. I feel the same way Holland does when I walk into a record store, and I really appreciated this element of the story. And the fact that there were playlists throughout the book? A total win.

And I loved so many other things that I could just go on forever. The family dynamic, the setting, the journalism references. But I'll just stop here and let you read it and discover all these wonderful things on your own.

Overall Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

Thanks so much to Amulet for an ARC of this read! Cold Day in the Sun by Sara Biren is out TODAY, March 12th, so be sure to grab a copy of this adorable yet powerful story.

Alex & Eliza by Melissa De La Cruz

Cover Art Courtesy of Goodreads
I've talked it about extensively on my Twitter, but I have a HUGE Hamilton obsession. So much so that recently I've jumped head first into the world of Hamilton-themed fiction. The first book I picked up was Alex & Eliza by Melissa De La Cruz. 

Eliza Schuyler, rich as she is, wants nothing more than to help with the war effort. But her parents and sisters focus more on the finer things in life, even as their fortune starts to dwindle. Eliza has no time for suitors, especially Colonel Alexander Hamilton. But the more time she spends around the soldiers, and Hamilton in particular, the more those feelings start to shift.

This obviously had a very basic plot, and exists simply to further a fictional back story between these two famous characters. That being said, this absolutely did what I was hoping for-it gave me more time with characters I love. It also developed Eliza more extensively than you see on stage, and I enjoyed getting to see more of Angelica and Peggy and their own relationships.

While a lot of this is steeped in historical fact, you have to remember that much is a creation of the author's imagination. I won't go into details as to what is real and what isn't, because if you take this simply for what it is-a work of fiction-that just doesn't matter.

Historical fiction, historically, has not been my thing at all. But I think I just hadn't found the right subject matter. I fell in love with these characters through the musical, and I'm not sure I would like this is much if I had read the book first. Regardless, I enjoyed the time I spent with this read and don't think I will get tired of Alexander or Eliza any time soon.

The second book in this trilogy, Love & War, is out now and I can't wait to pick it up. And the last installment, All for One, comes out in April!

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

The Smiling Man by Joseph Knox

Cover Art Courtesy of Goodreads
So I read this book over Christmas break and completely forgot to post a review. I'm usually so good about that so I'm over here kicking myself! But better late than never right? The Smiling Man by Joseph Knox is a detective/crime thriller that follows Detective Aidan Waits. This is actually the second book in the Aidan Waits series. 

Resigned to his lack of any real future and his permanent delegation to the night shift on the force in Manchester, Aidan has lost his zeal for pretty much everything. But when he and his partner come across a body one night, Aidan is suddenly invigorated with a new zeal for his career. You see, the dead man is smiling. But why? With no trace of his identity except for a patch sewn into his pants (his teeth and fingertips had been replaced, offering no help in identification), Aidan throws himself headfirst into trying to figure out who this man is and what happened. Even when colleagues and his supervisor tell him to stay away from the case, he just can't leave it alone.

This book was INCREDIBLY gritty, but I really enjoyed that! While I read a lot of thrillers, I don't read a ton of detective focused crime reads, so this ironically offered a breath of fresh air for me.  This really invoked a lot of film-noir vibes  and I really did envision everything in black and white. I loved the abandoned setting of The Palace hotel, and while I actually hated Aidan's partner Sutty, appreciated what he and all the other characters did for the story. There were some great side stories in this book in addition to the main plot as well.

I actually was not aware at first that this was the second book in the series, but apart from a few conversations where I didn't understand what was being referenced, it was easily to jump into this as a standalone.

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

Thanks so much to Crown Publishing for an advanced copy of this read! The Smiling Man by Joseph Knox is out now!

Corpse & Crown by Alisa Kwitney

Cover Art Courtesy of Goodreads
I'll start this by saying I completely missed that this was the second book in a series when I requested it. That being said, it was still very easy to figure out what was going on. Corpse & Crown by Alisa Kwitney is a YA historical fiction blended with sci-fi (with a little bit of a retelling thrown in!) that is definitely different from anything on the market today.

It's the Victorian era in England, and Aggie is training to be a nurse. The hospital where she is completing her studies is controversial due to its research in Bio-Mechanicals: human robot hybrids. The hospital becomes aflutter when the Kaiser plans a visit hoping to pit his bio-mechanical soldier against British technology, but thus far nothing they have produced has been successful enough to face the challenge. Aggie doesn't like the focus placed on this research, and would instead rather help the average patients that walked through the door. But she gets trapped in the Bio-Mechanical research, like it or not, and soon discovers things she never would have imagined.

I liked the story fine, but nothing special jumped out to me. As unique as this was, I just didn't feel any attachment to the book or the characters. Between the sci-fi elements, the historical fiction setting, and the Oliver Twist retelling, I honestly thought this book was trying to do to too much. Two of these elements combined might have been more successful rather than trying to squeeze in all three. 

There were too many story lines to follow and too many points of view for my liking. I kept losing track of who each chapter was about, and with so many characters to care about I ended up not really caring about any of them at all. I don't think reading the first book would have made a difference for me in these opinions, as my struggles were more with the writing style and too much content, rather than not understanding the back story. This was one of those books that I couldn't wait to get through so I could read something else.

I will absolutely give credit where credit is due however, and I thought the world building in this book was phenomenal. I also appreciated Kwitney's inventiveness and creativity, even if it didn't quite hit it out of the park for me. All this being said, I do actually want to give the first book, Cadaver & Queen, a shot if I can fit it into my reading schedule, as I did like the overall premise and this may just be a case of "second book in a series slump."

Overall Rating: 2 out of 5 Stars

Thank you to Inkyard Press for an advanced copy of this read! Corpse & Crown by Alisa Kwitney is out now!


Barnes and Noble Book Haul Sale

Unless you've been living under a rock, you probably know about the Barnes and Noble Book Haul Sale happening right now! Barnes and Noble rarely has sales, so this is a great time to pick up both new release and backlist titles at a great price.

I went to two different stores to get everything I wanted, which meant two free bags! I love these bags so much more than the green ones with classic covers on them and was so excited for this perk. You get a free bag when you purchase three books from the sale.

Now for what I picked up!

Even though I keep telling myself I'm going to move away from YA, I couldn't help but pick up a couple of titles. I chose A Danger to Herself and Others by Alyssa Sheinmel, Anna and the Apocalypse by Katharine Turner with Barry Waldo, and The Similars by Rebecca Hanover.

If you follow me on Twitter, you know I've been on a huge Hamilton kick lately, so I snagged I, Eliza Hamilton by Susan Holloway Scott. I really wanted to grab The Hamilton Affair, but it was sold out at both stores I went to. 

Borne by Jeff Vandermeer has been on my wish list for ages, and I keep hearing a lot about The Black Prism by Brent Weeks, so I grabbed it on sale as well.

I really enjoy self-help nonfiction, and Joyful by Ingrid Fetell Lee caught my eye. Plus this book is gorgeous under the dust jacket-it's covered in confetti!



And finally, The Priory of The Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon was NOT in the sale but I have been so eager for it to come out I just had to add it to my haul. This book will be my Everest.

I'm so happy with what I was able to grab, and hope that Barnes and Noble continues offering this sale periodically! I'm excited to add these 8 books to my ever-growing TBR. The sale runs through March 4th so you still have time to add a few new books to your collection!

Making Reading More Magical for Little Ones

While I don't have any kids of my own, I know that many of my readers do. To this day, I credit the exposure I had to books as a child as the reason I am such a voracious reader today. I know that many of my friends' children sneer at reading when they could be playing video games instead. But here are a few ways to combat that and help make reading a more magical experience for the children in your life.

We all know the magic of delving deep into a new novel that is ready to test our emotions, senses and thoughts. Escaping to another enchanted world that is quite different from your own everyday life is simply unexplainable. The excitement of reading a new book will never get old to you, but what about the younger generation? Perhaps you have younger siblings, cousins, nieces, nephews or children of you own. You want to pass down the baton and let them know about the awesome adventures they can have by picking up a book. In the modern age children are becoming more and more enticed by gadgets, television and social media, but whatever happened to reading a good old fashioned book? The following ideas will help you to set a great example to youngsters in your life so that they can enjoy the magic of reading throughout their lives.

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Audio Books
It can be quite a battle trying to get youngsters to read nowadays, not only because their video games are more appealing, but because some are struggling with learning difficulties. Children with dyslexia find it extremely overwhelming to look at a whole bunch of small words on a page. By introducing books on tape to these kids who are struggling to read, we can introduce books without the stress. They can follow along in their own time and enjoy the true meaning behind the story without getting frustrated. Reading should be accessible to everybody, especially those with special needs. This is an excellent way to give everyone the opportunity to get into brilliant books.
Choose Books For Their Age Range
Kids can easily become disengaged with books because they are too mature or babyish for them. Make sure you’re choosing a subject that is appropriate for their age group so that they have a better chance of getting drawn into the story. Their school will be able to provide you with book that are appropriate for their reading level and age group too.
Lead By Example
If we are all sitting around on our smartphones and browsing Netflix every evening, what do we expect the younger generation to do? When it comes to getting your kids to read more it is important to lead by example. When you sit down to read for half an hour, encourage the little ones around you to do the same. You will soon get into a routine and reading will become an everyday habit for all involved.

It is sad, but true that many people are misunderstanding the magic of reading, especially in the younger generations. Making reading accessible to everybody and enjoyable is one of the most important arts-related matters our society faces at the moment. So spread the joy of books and make reading more enticing to the people around you. The more of us that pick up a book, the more will soon follow suit. Everyone deserves to laugh, cry, and become absorbed into another fairy tale land within a story, so it’s time to make that possible right now.

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