The Mother-in-Law by Sally Hepworth | St. Martin’s Press | Book Review

The Mother-in-Law by Sally Hepworth

Book Review-15

Book Summary:

“A twisty, compelling novel about one woman’s complicated relationship with her mother-in-law that ends in murder…

From the moment Lucy met her husband’s mother, Diana, she was kept at arm’s length. Diana was exquisitely polite, and properly friendly, but Lucy knew that she was not what Diana envisioned. But who could fault Diana? She was a pillar of the community, an advocate for social justice who helped female refugees assimilate to their new country. Diana was happily married to Tom, and lived in wedded bliss for decades. Lucy wanted so much to please her new mother-in-law.

That was five years ago.

Now, Diana has been found dead, a suicide note near her body. Diana claims that she no longer wanted to live because of a battle with cancer.

‘But the autopsy finds no cancer.
The autopsy does find traces of poison and suffocation.
Who could possibly want Diana dead?
Why was her will changed at the eleventh hour to disinherit both of her adult children and their spouses?’

With Lucy’s secrets getting deeper and her relationship with her mother-in-law growing more complex as the pages turn, this new novel from Sally Hepworth is sure to add to her growing legion of fans.”

Publication Date:

April 23, 2019

My Rating:

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

My Review:

This was one of those books that I just couldn’t put down. I always enjoy Sally Hepworth’s writing but this was especially addicting. It’s part thriller, part mystery and also a terrific family drama. It has the relationship conflicts and murder/suicide mystery along with the everyday life of this family that kept me drawn in. Hepworth does an amazing job with portraying motherhood so accurately and vividly.

I enjoyed the evolving relationship Lucy has with her mother-in-law, Diana. Seeing the layers pulled back from this family was fascinating and while the ending did seem a little far-fetched, it was a page turner through and through. I also loved the last section that shared about the family 10 years later, which really helped tie up the book in such an enjoyable way.

Thank you to St Martin’s Press and NetGalley for gifting me an ARC copy in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday Randomness | Favorite Things from Amazon in 2018

Terms Made Easy

Well I started this on Wednesday…but yes, it is Thursday now! The week before school vacation is always quite chaotic and I seem to always forget this. As someone who works at the mercy of our kids school schedule, I tend to have a lot of things scheduled right before a school break. I am also a procrastinator so you know I am doing all the holiday things this week too…I work well under pressure though! 😉

I thought it would be fun to recap some of my favorite Amazon purchases from 2018. All of these things are items I use multiple times a week, if not daily and I would buy them again and again.

1. LuminoLite for reading in the dark. One of my favorites part about reading on my Kindle is being able to read in bed without the light on, and this is perfect for that when I still want to read a “real book”.

2. I love my ice roller so much! It is great for eye and face puffiness and also multitasks as a great way to remedy minor kid injuries which happen quite frequently around here!

3. L. Erickson Grab & Go Ponytail Holders are my go-to! I first learned about these a few years ago when they were included in some Pure Barre giveaways. They stand the test of time and are great for holding thick hair or when I just want to pull some of it up. They don’t snag on your hair and they come in so many different colors. I may even coordinate them with my workout clothes sometimes. 😉

4. Blitz Gem & Jewelry Cleaner is something that was recommended to me by a friend who was newly engaged and still way into making sure her ring was super sparkly. I am a bit lazy about taking my rings in to be cleaned so I was excited to hear about something that I could easily do at home. I soak my rings with some of this cleaner mixed with a little warm water for about 10 minutes. Then I carefully brush them with a small tooth brush, rinse them off in warm water and they are good to go! It’s amazing how well it works and definitely results in super sparkly diamonds.

5. I love my Bloom Daily Planner and this is my 3rd year using one. I actually don’t start my calendars in January and prefer to use the academic year version, but they do have both options! I love the format and it is super easy to throw in my bag because of the size. I find that it fits everything I need for myself and anything I need to remember or coordinate for the kids. It is also super affordable. I am not only of those artsy planner people and I end up crossing a lot of things out so it sometimes is quite the mess. After going down the path of the more “fancy” (and expensive) planners, I have found that this one is perfect for what I need.

6. These 20 oz. Simple Modern Tumblers are the best! I take a lot of coffee and tea on the go and they are tried and true around here. They go on sale a lot and I have snagged ours for around 8-9 dollars which is a steal and they keep things warm (or cold) for a long time.

7. We love our myBaby SoundSpa. We first started using a sound machine when our older son was born. He was what one might call a terrible sleeper so we did EVERYTHING possible to set up his nighttime routine to promote better sleeping. One of the things that we introduced was a sound machine and not only do both kids use one now but we love it too. There is something so calming about white noise to me, and this is a great bang for your buck and can also work with batteries if you are traveling. This sound machine is under 20 dollars and we never sleep without it.

8. I love tote bags and I especially love my Scout bag.  I have one I used for a gym bag and one as my work bag and they are the best. They wipe off easily, zip close and are just super sturdy and also very cute. They come in a bunch of patterns and colors and we also have a larger one that is great for an overnight trip.

9. I feel like people have strong feelings about Crocs but I am a fan. I don’t (usually) wear them out in public but I do wear them all the time at home. They are my “house shoes” and I wear them year round. I run hot and our house is also hot from our wood stove so I don’t love wearing slippers but I also like the feeling and support of wearing something so these are the best.

10. I am a Lavish Lash convert. I don’t normally buy “gimmicky” kind of things but I was desperate when a couple of months ago my eyebrow threader totally went a little overboard and I left with my eyebrows looking super sparse. I had a hard time shelling out a bunch of money for something that I wasn’t even sure would work so I read review after review and finally decided I could at least try this. I gave up threading, went back to (minimal) plucking with tweezers and have used this faithfully every night since October, and it worked! My eyebrows are back and it was less than 30 bucks. It is also for eyelashes and I think I am going to try that out now too because it haven’t found it at all irritating and my skin freaks out pretty easily.

11. I recently replaced my super old Turbie Twist towels with these Hopeshinehair drying towels and they are great! They are very absorbent and are super easy to secure. I hate the feeling of wet hair dripping down your back and these are so much better than trying to use another towel that keeps falling off and they help dry your hair a lot before you blow dry.

12. As you al know, I LOVE my Kindle. I love having a case on things and both Lucas and I have had great luck with the MoKo case. They are very sturdy and have held up so well. They also have the magnetic part that allow it to stay shut and automatically turns on the Kindle when you open it. There are a a bunch of different color to choose from and they are great for protecting my kindle when I carry it around in my purse.

Alright, I hope you enjoyed reading through some of my favorite everyday items! Do you have things you would recommend? I would love to hear! ❤

I Owe You One | Book Review

Book Review-13.png


From Goodreads.com:

“From #1 New York Times bestselling author Sophie Kinsella, an irresistible story of love and empowerment about a young woman with a complicated family, a handsome man who might be “the one,” and an IOU that changes everything

Fixie Farr has always lived by her father’s motto: “Family first.” But since her dad passed away, leaving his charming housewares store in the hands of his wife and children, Fixie spends all her time picking up the slack from her siblings instead of striking out on her own. The way Fixie sees it, if she doesn’t take care of her father’s legacy, who will? It’s simply not in her nature to say no to people.

So when a handsome stranger in a coffee shop asks her to watch his laptop for a moment, Fixie not only agrees—she ends up saving it from certain disaster. Turns out the computer’s owner is an investment manager. To thank Fixie for her quick thinking, Sebastian scribbles an IOU on a coffee sleeve and attaches his business card. But Fixie laughs it off—she’d never actually claim an IOU from a stranger. Would she?

Then Fixie’s childhood crush, Ryan, comes back into her life and his lack of a profession pushes all of Fixie’s buttons. She wants nothing for herself—but she’d love Seb to give Ryan a job. And Seb agrees, until the tables are turned once more and a new series of IOUs between Seb and Fixie—from small favors to life-changing moments—ensues. Soon Fixie, Ms. Fixit for everyone else, is torn between her family and the life she really wants. Does she have the courage to take a stand? Will she finally grab the life, and love, she really wants?”


I have always been a big fan of Sophie Kinsella and find her books a little fluffy but super easy to get lost in, which make them the perfect relaxation reading. Unfortunately, this one was tough for me. I liked the premise but the first half of the book was just hard to stick with because the characters were all just so unlikeable. Her siblings didn’t have one redeeming quality about them and Fixie, the main character, was such a pushover that it was just hard to continue reading at points. The mom, who was the one likable character was not part of the story after the first few chapters, which was unfortunate as I found her to be the most interesting of all.

I stuck with it and the second half did pick up for me, but the changes for the characters came just too far along in the book. I love the idea of characters learning and growing but it just didn’t happen in time for this book. By the time it did, it all happened so quickly that it felt overwhelming and a bit dramatic when nothing had really happened for most of the book. I love Kinsella’s writing but this one just wasn’t my favorite. A big thanks to NetGalley and Random House Publishing Group for the advanced digital copy in exchange for my honest opinion.

 

Overcoming Overwhelm: Dismantle Your Stress from the Inside Out | Book Review

Book Review-12

I was very excited to read this new release by Samantha Brody because I am in a stage of life where I often feel pulled in many different directions. This book was exactly what I needed and had such a wonderful overview of why we feel stress and also a plan that can help minimize the feeling of daily overwhelm.

Brody introduced her reader to the idea of overwhelm being a bucket. In this bucket there are things you can’t change, things you can change and things you don’t want to change. Everyone’s items in their bucket will be different and there isn’t a right or wrong answer. With this concept, Brody wants you to have the understanding that what you choose to change (or not) and what is out of your control entirely, is able to help you have acceptance over what takes up your time, space and energy. The power is in your hands.

“There is a sweet spot where our choices line up with our values and health goals. When we are in our sweet spot, we wake up feeling the best that we can possibly feel mentally, psychically and emotionally. We feel confident in our choices, we have the energy we need to care of ourselves and to be there for the people we love.”

Brody shares that while this is the goal for all of us, how we can get there can be different. She asks the reader three important questions…

What do you want to be?

How do you want to feel?

What do you want to do?

Once you answer these questions, she wants you to establish a mental and logistical foundation for how you will reach these feelings and goals. She asks what your support system is and how do you best make changes. Finally, she looks at your foundational mindset. She reminds the reader to remember their power, and that they are not at the mercy of all the things that happen in their lives. This doesn’t mean that there won’t be challenges and difficult circumstances, but rather there are always things you can do to lighten your load…which include:

Believing in yourself.
Being judicious and not taking on too much at once.
Being the author of your life.
Being realistic.
Being kind to yourself.
Being flexible-having an open mind/open heart.
And most importantly…being yourself.

She takes a well-rounded look into her readers whole self, by asking questions about physical, mental and spiritual health, their environment, community, habits, and lifestyle.

This book inspired me to take proactive steps so I can be more mindful the decisions I am able to make myself and reminded me of the power I do have about how I react to things that are not in my personal control. Brody gave not only useful but also very practical advice that I could use right away. I found her ideas to be inclusive, no matter where you fall on the scale of more natural medicine vs. traditional medicine and I appreciated that aspect.

A big thanks to NetGalley and Sounds True for providing me with a copy of this book, all opinions are my own.

You Are A Badass Every Day by Jen Sincero | Book Review

You Are A Badass Every Day by Jen Sincero

Jen Sincero

Book Summary:

“For anyone who has ever had trouble staying motivated while trailblazing towards badassery, You Are a Badass Every Day is the companion to keep you fresh, grateful, mighty, and driven. In one hundred exercises, reflections, and cues that you can use to immediately realign your mind and keep your focus unwavering, this guide will show you how to keep the breakthroughs catalyzed by Sincero’s iconic books You Are a Badass and You Are a Badass at Making Money going. Owning your power to ascend to badassery is just the first step in creating the life you deserve–You Are A Badass Every Day is the accountability buddy you can keep in your back pocket to power through obstacles, overcome the doubts that hold you back from greatness, and keep the fires of determination roaring while you reach your goals.”

My Rating:

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

My Review:

I discussed Jen Sincero’s books last week and shared my enthusiasm about her newest release, You Are A Badass Every Day, last week here on my blog. I am excited to share my review today!

Sincero’s previous two books, You are A Badass and You Are A Badass at Making Money were game changers for me. I learned so much about putting positive energy into the universe, living a life of abundance, giving and receiving with gratitude and how to look at challenges as lessons instead of letting them get you down.

I wasn’t sure what to expect with her newest book and thought it might just be a rehashing of some of her previous ideas. I was pleasantly surprised that while a lot of the themes are consistent, it is a small book that is packed with quick and easy to consume messages of encouragement on ways to live your most positive life. I found it super accessible and a fantastic way to either be introduced to some of the You Are A Badass principles or a great refresher on how to incorporate them into your daily life.

“Your attitude steers the wheel that determines the course of your life.” 

This small books packs a punch and can help you look for the good, focus on what you really want and be grateful for what you have. Surrounding yourself with positive people and energy can help you get there. Sincero’s writing is straightforward, unapologetic and witty. Not only is it enjoyable to read but it’s easy to take in and make it a part of your everyday life. I think whether or not you have read her work before, you will enjoy this book and find parts of it that can help you overcome the doubts you have and keep you working towards the goals you desire.

You Were Always Mine by Nicole Baart | Atria Books | Book Review

You Were Always Mine by Nicole Baart

Book Review-9

I am starting to look back on the books I have read this year to pick out what ones were my favorites of 2018. This one sticks out as a very memorable reading experience. I read You Were Always Mine on vacation and it is the perfect book to curl up with and get lost in the story.


Book Summary:

“The acclaimed author of Little Broken Things returns with another “race-to-the-finish family drama” (People) about a single mother who becomes embroiled in a mystery that threatens to tear apart what’s left of her family.

Jessica Chamberlain, newly separated and living with her two sons in a small Iowa town, can’t believe that a tragedy in another state could have anything to do with her. But when her phone rings one quiet morning, her world is shattered. As she tries to pick up the pieces and make sense of what went wrong, Jess begins to realize that a tragic death is just the beginning. Soon she is caught in a web of lies and half-truths—and she’s horrified to learn that everything leads back to her seven-year-old adopted son, Gabriel.

Years ago, Gabe’s birth mother requested a closed adoption and Jessica was more than happy to comply. But when her house is broken into and she discovers a clue that suggests her estranged husband was in close contact with Gabe’s biological mother, she vows to uncover the truth at any cost. A harrowing story of tenacious love and heartbreaking betrayal, You Were Always Mine is about the wars we wage to keep the ones we love close, perfect for fans of Liane Moriarty and Jodi Picoult.”

My Rating:

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

My Review:

This book!! I had high hopes for this one and it did not disappoint! It was my first Nicole Baart and it won’t be my last. I was hooked from the beginning and it was completely engrossing. I love that it focused on the issue of adoption but it was so much more than that. I loved the mystery about Jessica’s husband and it kept me guessing until the very end.

The characters were incredibly detailed and I felt like I could totally connect with what they were going through on this journey of what makes a family and who the people around you really are…

Thank you to NetGalley and Atria Books for gifting me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday Randomness |The Balancing Act

IMG_0548

Have you ever been in a stage where you felt like you had to “do it all?”.  I have definitely been there, and although there certainly are life stages where this has been more challenging, I have found more recently that sometimes, less really is more.

One of the biggest things that has helped change this for me is being okay with “good enough”. And to do this, for some things, I have just lowered my standards. This may sound simplistic but it really has helped so much. In order to give 100 percent to the things that really matter to me and our family, other things are sometimes dropped.

There was a time when I tried to juggle too many things, and what happened is nothing really got done well at all. A few months ago I read Stretched Too Thin by Jessica Turner. While not all of the chapters were totally applicable to our situation, I found some of it to be so helpful and affirming to this idea.

“The best advice I was ever given was to imagine that my life was a juggling act. Only some of my balls are glass and some rubber. I can drop the rubber balls and pick them up later and they aren’t any different. However, if I drop a glass ball, they are broken forever—no matter how hard you try to fix it. The key then is to determine which balls are your glass balls.” -Jessica Turner 

Prioritizing the things that really matter to me and our family and not worrying so much about the other things has helped so much. And what is important to me, might not be something that is important to someone else, and that’s the great thing about it. This has been a game changer for me, and also something that has helped clear my mind of clutter which often resulted in extra worries and pressures that I was really just putting on myself.

Determining what my glass balls were was the first step. Like many people, the physical and mental health of myself and our family is a top priority, although how we get there might be different. This past year was my first time being back to work “full time” and I had a lot of apprehension about how I would manage those demands while also meeting the needs of our family and my own self. I could look at it like I had “less time” or I could see it as just needing to “manage my time” differently. I chose the latter and it made all the difference.

I am an early riser so during the seasons where my work is full time I would work for a couple of hours in the early morning so I could still prioritize taking a break during the work/school day to exercise or go to a therapy appointment. These things are important to me, so I made them a priority in my schedule. I also do a lot of my editing on the weekends so I am able to work around the kid’s schedules. I combined seeing a friend while also completing an errand so it was getting two important things “done” at the same time.  Have you ever gone grocery shopping with a friend?! It’s really an amazingly fun thing to do and you will feel like the best multi-tasker ever.

Things like laundry took more of a back-burner. We wash a load of clothes every night and that is a priority, but actually putting it away isn’t. We each have a basket that we separate the clean and folded clothes into and there are certain times of the year that we mostly just live out of these baskets. It works for us. During the busier times of the year, we have a pretty small rotation of things we have for dinner and it simplifies not only the planning and shopping but also our evening routine. Our kids have school lunch, every day. Not only does it make our lives so much easier but they are exposed to lots of new things that they might not be as eager to try at home.

I certainly don’t have all the answers but seeing how much control I really did have was such a freeing thing for me. It has also helped me when I see someone doing something and I start to go down the path of “how do they do everything they do and THAT?!” Everyone has priorities and everyone’s priorities are different. This not only makes me feel better about what I do but it also just helps me be happier for what my friends are doing and not having it just highlight my own insecurities. <3

The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne | Random House | Book Review

The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne

The Heart's Invisible Furies

Book Summary:

“Cyril Avery is not a real Avery or at least that’s what his adoptive parents tell him. And he never will be. But if he isn’t a real Avery, then who is he?

Born out of wedlock to a teenage girl cast out from her rural Irish community and adopted by a well-to-do if eccentric Dublin couple via the intervention of a hunchbacked Redemptorist nun, Cyril is adrift in the world, anchored only tenuously by his heartfelt friendship with the infinitely more glamorous and dangerous Julian Woodbead.

At the mercy of fortune and coincidence, he will spend a lifetime coming to know himself and where he came from – and over his three score years and ten, will struggle to discover an identity, a home, a country and much more.

In this, Boyne’s most transcendent work to date, we are shown the story of Ireland from the 1940s to today through the eyes of one ordinary man. The Heart’s Invisible Furies is a novel to make you laugh and cry while reminding us all of the redemptive power of the human spirit.”

My Rating:

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

My Review:

This book. I am sometimes hesitant to read books that come so highly recommended because I worry that I will have unrealistic expectations for them. I didn’t need to worry about that with The Heart’s Invisible Furies. It truly was everything the reviews said it was, and more. It is a long book, almost 600 pages and is one that comes together over time but is also hard to put down.

“I remember a friend of mine once telling me that we hate what we fear in ourselves,” 
― John Boyne, The Heart’s Invisible Furies

It is the story of Cyril who is a gay man born into extremely conservative Ireland in the 1940s. It is a powerful and moving story that intertwines Cyril’s life with the backdrop of Ireland in the 20th century and the long and difficult history of LGBT rights. It covers so much…friendship, family, loss, violence, politics, religion, and prejudice. It follows Cyril from conception through old age in seven-year intervals. Boyne is able to share this sometimes overwhelmingly sad story with humor which I found to be the most wonderful balance as a reader. It had many moments of wit intertwined with some pretty horrific life events for Cyril and those who became his family.

“You’re a bit of an oddball, Jonathan,’ I said. ‘Has anyone ever told you that?’
‘Nineteen people this year alone,’ he said. ‘And it’s only May.” 
― John Boyne, The Heart’s Invisible Furies

The characters were perfectly imperfect and the flaws made the story what it was. There were times of mourning and grief and there were many lessons learned along the way.

“Maybe there were no villains in my mother’s story at all. Just men and women, trying to do their best by each other. And failing.” 
― John Boyne, The Heart’s Invisible Furies

Cyril is an ordinary man with a very unordinary life and I loved watching the process of him finding not only who he was all along but also the road to self-love and acceptance. This book, even with its time of heartbreak, is about love, all kinds of love. It’s about what makes a family and how circumstances that are sometimes out of our own control can totally change our lives.

This book was thought-provoking and truly one of a kind. I will remember it forever and although at times it was hard to read, I am so happy I did.

Small Animals: Parenting in the Age of Fear | Book Review

Blank Instagram Portraits-17

Small Animals by Kim Brooks

Last week I posted a book discussion about Small Animals. I received a lot of feedback on my Instagram feed about how much this book connected with so many of its readers.  I finished this book last night and I have to say, it is one of the most meaningful and thought-provoking books I have ever read about parenting.

Small Animals resonated so deeply with me. She shared the story with what happened with her son but also researched and explored the broader topic of how fear has become such a big part of how we parent in today’s society. Are we afraid to let our kids go out and explore, walk alone to a friends house or play at a park because we think something will happen? Or are we afraid because we are told we should be, and we might also be afraid of the judgments we might receive if we do? And what happens when we don’t let kids make some decisions, navigate the tricky waters of childhood friendship, and build their own confidence of “I did this!” by figuring something out by trial and error. Brooks presented a fascinating discussion about this topic and I will be thinking about this for years to come.

I also appreciated that Brooks was able to look at this from her place of privilege and how much this could impact not only the reaction but the consequences of one’s actions. Brooks walked us through her own story and also what played into her “lighter” sentence and I appreciated so much that she was able to have perspective about this and also share stories about other women who were not treated as humanely.

Another huge part of this book that I connected so much with what her discussion of postpartum anxiety. There is a lot of discussion about postpartum depression now and I am so happy that this is becoming something that is being “normalized” as it is something that affects many. There hasn’t been as much about postpartum anxiety and I don’t think I have ever read something that resonated so deeply for me. I suffered from crippling anxiety after the birth of our first son. Brooks shares so vividly and honestly about how the anxiety that began with her pregnancy spread and grew much stronger with the arrival of her son…

Blank Instagram Post-4

There were many other aspects of this book that I just thought was so thought-provoking and important not just as a working mother myself but as a member of our society. I highly recommend this book and think anyone who is a parent or spends time with children would benefit from reading it.

Take The Leap: Change Your Career, Change Your Life | Book Review

Book Review-7

 

Take the Leap arrived at the perfect time for me. I love self-help books but often find that they can be a little unrelatable with just the author’s viewpoint. This book took a completely different approach of sharing dozens of stories of career pivots from all different perspectives and career paths. I am a big fan of listening to NPR’s podcast How I Built This with Guy Raz and this book was similar in the way of sharing different entrepreneurs (often rocky) paths to success.

As a creative who has recently made a career pivot, I was excite to read this new book by Sara Bliss. I found the stories to be so relatable and I found myself nodding my head along in agreement with so many parts. Overcoming self-doubt can be such a hurdle for so many, myself included, and it is often hard to take the path less followed. Often, what you are leaving behind was something that was lucrative and something you worked and trained many years for.

For many, the switch they were making focused around a hobby that they were passionate about and wanted to turn into a career. Often, this can cause friends and family to question why you would make this untraditional change in your career trajectory. I loved the advice of surrounding yourself with the right people and always people who were focused on bettering themselves and moving forward, even if their path was sometimes rocky. No one gets where they are going if they don’t start. Making a move is your first step and if you are waiting to be ready or have your concept “perfected” you will never get going. These 65 people who shared their journeys did not just dream it, they did it. I recommend this book to those looking for inspiration or just wanted to hear stories of people who followed their own unique and unexpected pivots to career success.

Thanks to NetGalley and Touchstone for giving me the opportunity to read and review this book.