Book Review: The Marriage Lie by Kimberly Belle

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The day after their seventh wedding anniversary, Will leaves his wife, Iris, in bed with a beautiful new ring and a promise that he is ready to start a family when he gets back from his business trip in Florida. Iris goes to work thinking that it’s just another day counseling high school students. Little does she know, her world is about to be torn apart. A plane, heading to Seattle, has crashed, and she is informed that Will was one of the passengers. Iris immediately thinks there has been a mistake because Will was going to Orlando, not Seattle. Days turn into weeks and Iris discovers that her life with Will, her marriage with Will, was nothing but a web of lies.

The Marriage Lie by Kimberly Belle should be on everyone’s to-read list in 2017; it would make an fantastic book club choice. As soon as  I finished the first chapter, I was obsessed. Iris and Will seem to be utterly in love after seven years of marriage. I wanted them to make babies and stay in their little happiness bubble forever. Unfortunately, every lie that is slowly unraveled makes happily-ever-after seemingly impossible. This story is uniquely devastating. Imagine thinking you lost someone you love in a plane crash and then realizing you didn’t know that person at all. That is what Iris feels throughout the novel: a series of ups, downs, and everything in between.

There isn’t much I didn’t like about The Marriage Lie. All of the characters are depicted well. Iris’ family is wonderful. They take a horrible situation and make it bearable.  Evan, another person who lost his family in the plane crash, is a great friend to Iris and slowly became one of my favorite characters in the book. I can’t imagine not only losing a spouse in such a horrible accident, but also a child. I also really liked Iris’ twin brother Dave. There are so many characters in this novel, but none of them seem out of place; they all serve a purpose.

I really enjoy a mystery that leaves me thinking, “What the heck could possibly happen to make this book even better?” I thought this at the end of every chapter. There are so many twists in The Marriage Lie, I couldn’t even count them if I wanted to. The end is better than I could have ever predicted and coming from me, that means a lot. I like to pick apart endings, but this one is perfect. I wish I didn’t read this book so fast. I should have savored it longer, lingered on each word instead of rushing through it. It is just that good.

The Marriage Lie will be available for purchase on December 27, 2016.

I was given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 

Book Review: Two by Two by Nicholas Sparks

two-by-twoI haven’t read a Nicholas Sparks book in a long time. Reading his books feels like going home. They’re familiar: Full of love, family, and ugly tears. Two by Two by Nicholas Sparks made me question my priorities. It made me want to live it the present. It made me want to chase after my dreams. There aren’t many books that make you feel that way anymore, are there?

Russ and Vivian seem to have the perfect marriage and the perfect family. London, who is about to start Kindergarten, is portrayed as the ideal child; she is easy-going, loves art class, and adores Barbies. When Russ decides that he hates is job, and is probably about to get fired, he decides to open up his own advertisement company. Vivian, who is stay at home mom, with London, decides that she is not going to stop using credit cards and getting mani/pedi’s just because money is a little tight. When Russ’s business doesn’t start up as quick as expected, Vivian decides to take it upon herself to start working full-time, leaving London in Russ’s care, over the summer, without daycare. In the meantime, Russ learns that his child’s best friend is the son of an ex-girlfriend, someone he once thought he would marry.

I honestly don’t know why Two by Two by Nicholas Sparks received so many bad reviews. I know that sometimes, people read to escape reality, and Nicolas Sparks likes to paint a beautiful picture of amazing love. This book is no different although, others may disagree. There is a lot of true love in this story: love from the past, love between parents and children, and a whole lot of family love.

A couple qualms I had with this book are: it was very long, the twist 3/4 into the book threw me for a loop, and how the ending just seemed rushed. Other than that, I fell for these characters, except for Vivian, and wanted them all to end up happily ever after. Unfortunately, in life,  fairy tales aren’t always real.

I really like the tie in with the book children’s book, Two by Two. Russ and Vivian read this fictional book to London before bed. It would be neat if it were a real book, or if Nicolas Sparks came out with a children’s book to go along with his adult novel. I personally love Goodnight, Ark by Laura Sassi, which is wonderful retelling of the Noah’s Ark story. Even though there isn’t a real children’s novel to accompany this book, there is a soundtrack that is available  through January 3 , for free, which is inspired by the novel, in collaboration with JD Eicher. Head over to the author’s website to download the digital CD (four songs) after signing up for an email newsletter. (The CD can be downloaded directly from the website. No purchase necessary.) How cool is that? Also, how adorable is the book’s cover? Russ is pretty much the perfect dad and even though Vivian doesn’t  think he is the perfect husband, he seems pretty awesome to me.

Book Review: Home Game: Big-League Stories from My Life in Baseball’s First Family by Bret Boone and Kevin Cook

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From Goodreads:

From the first third-generation baseball player in Major League Baseball history, a sometimes moving, always candid look at his family’s 70 years in the world of professional baseball.

A five-foot-ten firecracker who was spurned by scouts for his small size, supposed lack of power, and temper tantrums (one scout called him a “helmet-throwing terror”), Bret Boone didn’t care about family legacy as fought his way into the Major Leagues in 1992; he wanted to make his own way. He did just that, building a 14-year career that included three all-star appearances, four Gold Gloves, a bout with alcoholism, and the ignominy of being traded for the infamous “player to be named later.” Now that he’s coaching minor leaguers half his age, and his 15-year-old son has the potential to be a fourth-generation major leaguer, Bret is ready to reflect on and tell the story of baseball from the perspective of his family’s 70-year history in the sports.

It has taken me forever to post about Home Game by Bret Boone and Kevin Cook (I received it back in June for review) because I honestly could not get into the book. It is a sports memoir about baseball. I thought I would really enjoy it because baseball is my all-time favorite sport and I am also a Phillies fan, which plays a huge part in the Boone family history. From what I did read, which wasn’t the whole book, I learned a lot about the Boone family, who had three generations of members in Major League Baseball, and about baseball in general. I wish I could have gotten into it more, but sadly, it wasn’t a winner in my eyes. There are a lot of small stories from when Bret was younger, growing up a ballplayers kid. Then, of course, his own journey into the major leagues. There are some interesting tidbits in there if you are a big Boone family fan.

I was given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: One Small Donkey By Dandi Daley Mackall Illustrated by Marta Alvarez Miguens

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From Goodreads:

Little ones can do big things for God!

Your family will love this heartwarming Christmas story told from an unlikely perspective: a donkey carrying Mary to Bethlehem. Though the donkey wasn’t the biggest, fastest, or strongest of all the animals, he had an important job all the same. Adults and children alike will love the message about how God has big plans for little ones.

Dandi Daley Mackall loves God, children, words, and animals. Her nearly 500 books for children and grown-ups have sold more than four million copies worldwide, and her awards include an ECPA Christian Book Award for Best Children’s Book. Dandi writes from rural Ohio, where she lives with her family, including horses, dogs, cats, and an occasional squirrel, deer, or raccoon.

One Small Donkey by Dandi Daly Mackall is based on Mary and Joseph’s journey to Bethlehem. It is told by the perspective of the donkey who carried Mary on his back. It teaches little children that no job is too small and that they can help spread God’s word.

This definitely isn’t my favorite story about Jesus’ birth, but it isn’t horrible either. The illustrations by Marta Alvarez Miguens make the book worth checking out; they are very detailed and inviting. The book is kind of long which would make it more attractive to 4-8 year olds; my 2 year old did sit through it once. There are some fun animal sounds that might interest younger kids.

Worst case scenario, skip the words and just talk about the pictures.

I was given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 

Book Review: Missing Parts by Lucinda Berry

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From Goodreads:

Growing up abandoned by her father and raised by a single mother, Celeste was determined to create the perfect family but even perfect families have secrets. Celeste’s days are filled with a rewarding career, a devoted husband, and her four-year-old daughter. Only Celeste knows the precarious house of cards her family is built upon until the day her daughter falls critically ill. Celeste’s world quickly spirals out of control as her secret threatens to destroy her marriage, family, reputation, and sanity. She’ll go to any lengths to protect her family—take any risk, break any law—anything except tell the truth.

A good book is a book you love to hate. This is the way I feel about Missing Parts by Lucinda Berry. It is twisty, dark, and downright devastating at times. I kind of wish it was told by alternating points of view instead of just Celeste’s. I really would have liked it to switch between Celeste and her husband’s POV. That would have made the story even more interesting.

Celeste is a mom and a wife. Her and her husband, David, tried for years to get pregnant and when Celeste finally did, she just didn’t make a connection with her daughter. David ends up staying home with Rori while Celeste goes back to work. After Rori suddenly gets deathly ill, Celeste’s life begins to unravel. Lies and secrets become a really uncomfortable reality.

I like how at the beginning of the book, all of the moms are out to dinner just complaining about their lives. It is real and raw, it is how most moms feel. More women need to be honest about their new parent feelings. It changes you, your marriage, and your entire life. Real friends don’t judge you, no matter what.

There are so many shocking moments in Missing Parts. Some I sort of saw coming, and others made me want to yell and throw the book across the room. The beginning was good, the middle was just okay, and the end just pissed me off. Each chapter in the book is full of surprises. A day after finishing it, I am still agonizing over some of Celeste’s decisions.  This isn’t a feel good book, and some would probably say the ending is far from happy. But not every story can end with happily ever after. Our choices not only affect our lives, but everyone else’s life, too.

I was given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: Ready, Set, Find Christmas by Vanessa Carroll

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Christmas is right around the corner, friends. How lovely is this little search and find Christmas book? It is such a unique gift for any child 2-6. As you open the book, you will find Mary and Joseph on their way to Bethlehem. Each left page has a bible verse and several items for your child to find on the opposite right page. The pages are board book style and have tabs for little hands to grab and turn.

Ready, Set, Find Christmas by Vanessa Carroll is a great interactive book for you and your child. You can sit with them, read the bible verse, and search for the pictures together. As you complete this Christmas activity, you can explain to your child the true meaning of Christmas in a fun, educational way.

There are 48 objects in the book for your child to find including: animals, everyday objects, and some uncommon items. The colors of the book are bold and intriguing; your child will want to read Ready, Set, Find Christmas again and again.

I was given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 

Book Review: You Will Know Me by Megan Abbott

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From Goodreads:

Katie and Eric Knox have dedicated their lives to their fifteen-year-old daughter Devon, a gymnastics prodigy and Olympic hopeful. But when a violent death rocks their close-knit gymnastics community just weeks before an all-important competition, everything the Knoxes have worked so hard for feels suddenly at risk. As rumors swirl among the other parents, revealing hidden plots and allegiances, Katie tries frantically to hold her family together while also finding herself drawn, irresistibly, to the crime itself, and the dark corners it threatens to illuminate. From a writer with “exceptional gifts for making nerves jangle and skin crawl,” (Janet Maslin) You Will Know Me is a breathless roller coaster of a novel about the desperate limits of desire, jealousy, and ambition

I have read a ton of amazing thrillers this year and You Will Know Me by Megan Abbott is one of them. As soon as I started reading this novel, I knew I was in for a juicy read. Based around a competitive gymnastics center, the Knox’s are trying to achieve the unthinkable, turning their daughter, Devon, into an Olympic gymnast. All I have to say is, I’m glad I don’t have a girl, and I am not going to be pushing my son into gymnastics anytime soon. The insane amount of money people put into gymnastics, the insane amount of time spent practicing and competing, and the insane amount of gossip and scandals that seem to happen, is enough to keep me far away from any gym.

Even though I don’t enjoy being involved in gossip and scandals (who does?), I love reading about them (who doesn’t?). Devon is born to be a star. After a tragic foot accident when she was three, her doctor suggests that her parents enroll her in gymnastics to help her with her balance issues. From there, it is destiny. Sometimes, though, people try to ruin someone else’s destiny. Sometimes by mistake, and sometimes on purpose.

When a car accident occurs on a dangerous road, weeks before qualifiers, the gymnasts, parents, and coaches are all tumble through a whirlwind of emotions. The accident turns into an investigation, which throws everyone off their game, especially Devon. Katie Knox, Devon’s mother, starts to discover clues that may lead to the source of her husband’s, daughter’s, and son’s weird behavior. Her character is my favorite in You Will Know Me. She gives her whole life to her daughter, day in and day out, to help her become a star. Katie and her husband, Eric, aren’t the type of parents that are forcing their child to go to the Olympics, Devon is just that good; she has the will and drive to achieve greatness. With all of the attention on Devon, I couldn’t help but feel sorry for little Drew, the second child in the family. He is so smart and seems to be just along for the ride. I’m sure this happens a lot with other siblings in professional athlete’s families.

Even though You Will Know Me focuses on the death of one person, there is more to it than just secrets and lies. There is a lot of determination in these athletes and a lot of crazy support from their parents. Along with determination comes injuries, pain, and a lack of reality for these girls, outside of gymnastics. It really is an interesting look into their world.

I had first heard about You Will Know Me by Megan Abbott before the summer Olympics started and, of course, I was intrigued. Gymnastics, like many other Americans, is my favorite part of the Olympics. What a crazy life professional athletes live. They must be under extreme amount of pressure from their parents, family, peers, friends, and society in general. I can only hope that if my son wants to play a sport, we don’t get too wrapped up in the hoopla of it all. All I want is for him to have fun.

Book Review: Mending Fences by Sherryl Woods

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From Goodreads:

For ten years Emily Dobbs and Marcie Carter have been the closest of friends. They’ve raised their kids together, shared joy and heartache, exchanged neighborhood gossip over tea. But when Marcie’s son, now a college freshman sports star, is arrested for date rape, the bond between the families could be shattered forever.

As the Carters try to deal with the unthinkable, Emily discovers her daughter has been hiding a terrible secret…a secret that threatens the futures of both families. Recently divorced, Emily struggles to keep it all together—to support her terrified daughter, to maintain her friendship with Evan’s mother and to have faith in the detective who could change all of their lives.

When things seem darkest, both she and Marcie discover that sometimes the first step toward a better future is mending fences with the past.

Mending Fences by Sherryl Woods is a raw, emotional book about friendship, family, and date rape. It is as real as any fiction book can possibly get. I was hooked on this story as soon as I started to read it. I have never read a book as honest as this one. The friendship between Emily and Marcie, Josh and Evan, and Dani and Caityln, is like a fairy tale. Who doesn’t want to be best friends with their neighbors and their kids? Sometimes, though, fairy tales don’t always have happy endings. Sometimes, dreams turn into nightmares, and family trumps friendship, always.

I could not put Mending Fences down. The women in this book could be anyone out there dealing with rape, silently and alone.  Mending Fences is an inspirational story about brave women who decide to stand up to their attacker and do something about date rape, even if they are scared to do it. No woman deserves to feel like they did something wrong. Mending Fences proves that there is justice for date rape victims. This novel is also about the hardships of friendship, divorce, and the struggles of being a stay-at-home mom vs. a working mom.

It broke my heart to see how Marcie was treated by her husband, how Emily was forced to divorce her husband, and how Dani had to keep such a large secret from almost everyone she loved and trusted. It is hard to believe that two families, who lived side by side for almost their entire lives, could end up in such a tangled up mess. Mending Fences is heavy and hard to swallow. Like I said, I had trouble putting it down. Even though it is sad, it is also heartfelt and written with tact and understanding.

Mending Fences is a reissue from Sherryl Woods and will be available to purchase on September 27, 2016.

I was given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 

Fit Organic Mosquito Repellent Review

It has been a summer FULL of bugs, especiallymosquitoes. I have always been prone to being eaten alive by mosquitoes, but up until this year, Jimmie never had any problems with them. At beginning of the summer,  I bought a generic brand bug spray that smelled awful and made me feel bad about using it every time I sprayed it on him. I would put it on him, go outside, then immediately come in and give him a bath. Then I discover Fit Organic Mosquito Repellent.

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Let me start off by saying Fit Organic smells AMAZING. I’m not even kidding, the lemons are so sweet smelling that I don’t even mind using it on myself. Fit Organic is made with lemongrass oil and is deet free. The repellent works for up to three hours and is safe for children and women who are pregnant. I, for one, didn’t even know bug spray could be harmful to pregnant women. Not only does Fit Organic make mosquito repellent, they also make other organic household products. If they all smell as good as the bug spray, then I want them all.

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We live in a very woody area: there is reservoir nearby and many of our neighbors have pools. There was rarely a time this summer where the mosquitoes were not out and about looking to munch on someone. Jimmie and I both started to use Fit Organic Mosquito Repellent and have has very minimal bites since we started to use it. I don’t mind putting it on Jimmie and then letting him nap in his crib, without a bath, because it is made with natural, organic ingredients. This mosquito repellent is USDA certified, unlike many of the other organic bug sprays on the market.

Try out this Fit Organic Mosquito Repellent to see how great it is. It doesn’t expire, which is fantastic because we will be able to use this same bottle next summer, too.

I was sent a product sample in exchange for an honest review.