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I am a 24 year old Christian, bookworm, lover of all things chocolate, and soon to be knitter from Upstate New York, currently residing in sunny New Mexico (thank you U.S. Air Force). I spend my days as a Children's Librarian Assistant in a public city library and my nights working towards my MLS degree.
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1. The night before.

I started running 2 years ago and chronicled my journey here. How excited I was to be able to run 3 miles without stopping, the struggles I had, and the pounds I lost. However, my true love of running didn't show up until just about a year ago when it also became my form of cheap therapy. All of my insecurities and stresses poured out of me while I was running and so I just ran. A lot.  

I felt so much better when I was moving, but I don't think I ever truly let go of those things that were powering my legs to go. I just used them as fuel. Every day stresses, major insecurities, hurts, family drama, work stress, etc. I'd run and get out the frustration and anger, but it would always show back up, worming its way into my optimistic nature and positive attitude and leaving me mentally tired. 

This training has been amazing. Hard -- brutal some days -- but so worth it. I'm in better shape than I've ever been and most of all, I'm proud of myself. I haven't felt that way in a very long time and I know I deserve it. I've worked so hard and have fought against asthma, humidity, heat, time constraints, and my own brain telling me I'm not good enough, but I am. I am good enough for this. 

Tomorrow, when I reach that finish line (and I WILL reach the finish line) in all of my hot pink glory, I'm finally letting it go. I'm leaving it all out there on that course. It's going to be one of the hardest things I've ever physically done, but one of my very best friends, an ultra-marathoner, sent me a text today that said "when your legs and body get tired, run with your heart. Run with your spirit. You know why you're running, so just do it." And that's exactly what I'm going to do. I'm going to run. And I'm going to run for me. 

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2. Three Story House by Courtney Miller Santo

Nearing thirty and trying to avoid the inescapable fact that they have failed to live up to everyone’s expectations and their own aspirations, cousins and childhood best friends Lizzie, Elyse, and Isobel seek respite in an oddly-shaped, three-story house that sits on a bluff sixty feet above the Mississippi.

As they work to restore the almost condemned house, each woman faces uncomfortable truths about their own failings. Lizzie seeks answers to a long-held family secret about her father in her grandmother’s jumble of mementos and the home’s hidden spaces. Elyse’s obsession with an old flame leads her to a harrowing mistake that threatens to destroy her sister’s wedding, and Isobel’s quest for celebrity tempts her to betray confidences in ways that would irreparably damage her two cousins.

Told in three parts from the perspective of each of the women, this sharply observed account of the restoration of a house built out of spite, but filled with memories of love is also an account of friendship and how relying on each other’s insights and strengths provides the women a way to get what they need instead of what they want. (description from publisher)

Check out the rest of the tour here

You can also head to Santo's website Facebook page or Twitter

I loved The Roots of the Olive Tree and can't wait to read this one! I was thrilled to be part of this tour, but just couldn't get the book finished in time. If this one is just as good as her first, you'll enjoy it for sure. 

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3. Sisters' Fate by Jessica Spotswood

I'm so sad to see this series end. I have to admit, I was a little skeptical when I first picked up Born Wicked 2 years ago, since witches aren't normally my thing, but I fell in love with the world Jessica Spotswood had created and the characters she nurtured into such strong women. When Star Cursed came out last year, I was happily at the launch party (complete with cupcakes for readers and a tiara for the author), and now comes Sisters' Fate.

I read this book in one day, despite my attempts to make it last. It's filled with action as Cate attempts to fight against the Brotherhood, rebuild her relationship with Finn, and save her sisters from destruction - both self-inflicted - and not and the emotional hits just kept on coming. I couldn't put the book down once I started, so I just gave in and read it all through. Such beauty in the writing, yet the plot twists just kept coming.

Can we just talk about Cate and Finn for a moment? This is not your typical teen-book romance. It had depth, crazy complexities, and yet felt entirely realistic despite all the magical elements floating around. Their relationship is one I cheered for and may have even shed a few tears for throughout this series and I really love how Spotswood ties things up. Sorry for being a bit vague, but no spoilers here. Just read the series!

I love Spotswood's writing style and her easy ability to pull you into the story from the very first pages. I can't wait to see what she has up her sleeve next!

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4. All I Know and Love review

For years, Matthew Greene and Daniel Rosen have enjoyed a contented domestic life in Northampton, Massachusetts. Opposites in many ways, they have grown together and made their relationship work. But when they learn that Daniel's twin brother and sister-in-law have ben killed in a Jerusalem bombing, their lives are suddenly, utterly transformed. 

The deceased couple have left behind two young children and their shocked and grieving families must decide who will raise six-year-old Gal and baby Noam. When it becomes clear that Daniel's brother and sister-in-law had wanted Matt and Daniel to be the children's guardians, the two men find themselves confronted by challenges that strike at the heart of their relationship. (Description via Goodreads)

Such a heavy, heavy read, but so beautifully done. I was pulled into Matt and Daniel's story from the very first pages and found myself crying along with them as they suffer a terrible tragedy and their entire lives are turned upside down.

The characters each had a special sort of depth that is missing in a lot of books and I appreciated the realistic flaws in each. Each character was still likable, despite the flaws, which I feel is the mark of a true-to-life character.  I can't stop thinking about the horrors they faced and the crazy circumstances Matt had to endure in the midst of the tragedy. He was totally out of place in Israel, with Daniel's family, with everything really, and it just felt perfect. That's how life is... messy. 

Brimming with topics for discussion (religion, same sex marriage, family drama, politics, etc), I can definitely see this one being used for book clubs with huge success. It's a long read, but so, so good. 

Thanks to TLC Book Tours for the review copy! Check out the rest of the tour here

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5. Manhunt by Kate Messner

I love Kate Messner and I love this series! Manhunt is the third book, following Capture the Flag and Hide and Seek and I think it's the best one yet. This time around, the young members of the super secret Silver Jaguar Society are tasked with finding the stolen Mona Lisa painting, which takes them all over Paris.

The setting was well-described and appropriately detailed for the desired age group. Lots of cool Parisian landmarks were used in the plot and it definitely made me want to take a trip. I can't imagine reading this and not wanting to hop on a jet plane to that city!

The characters were complex, diverse (#weneeddiversebooks) and realistic making for great detectives that kids are going to love reading about. Hopefully, when they've finished the story, they'll want to look up more cool facts about Paris. I love when fiction encourages non-fiction research.

If this is your first Kate Messner book, definitely check out her others.

Thanks to Scholastic for the review copy!

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6. 2 new Christian reads

I've been spending a lot of time with my Bible lately and in books that are an encouragement to me as both a Christian and a woman. They're my refreshment after a long day with a cranky toddler or even just a normal, happy day. I need to be in the Word and these two books are my most recent "refreshing" reads. 

Love, Skip, Jump by Shelene Bryan is all about saying "yes" to the things that typically scare you and take a true leap of faith. It was a great reminder at taking care of the things we have and not taking them for granted, as well as how others are living without many of our luxuries and we're called to care for those with less. 

Jumping into the adventure our Creator has planned for us is essential -- but much easier said than done. Bryan did an excellent job at using personal experience to inspire. 

Living Life Undaunted by Christine Caine has quickly become my new favorite devotional. It contains 365 readings to challenge us to help change the world. She is an incredibly powerful speaker and has a great writing style -- simple, but direct. I love opening this up with my Bible each morning to see what Caine has in store for me to chew on. 

Thanks to BookLook Bloggers for the chance to review these fantastic books. I hope to be featuring more from them in the near future! 

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7. A beach book giveaway!

I just returned from 4 glorious days at the beach with my friends. It was a much needed mama-break and I enjoyed every single minute of doing almost nothing except lounging in the sand with my book.  SO relaxing!

Though I really enjoyed my alone time, I know Elliott would love the beach, so I'm hoping to take him to a closer one sometime this summer. We've been reading a lot of books about the beach lately and our favorite has been Duck & Goose Go the the Beach by Tad Hills. Who doesn't love this sweet pair of friends??

In their latest adventure, the excited pair head to the beach where Goose loves the sand and the surf... but, poor Duck is a little scared. It's the perfect blend of sweet and silly and kids will laugh all through the antics of these two crazy birds. 

For us, it's also a great intro for Elliott as to what life at the beach might be like. Sand, big waves, little tide pools, etc. The illustrations are fantastic, as Hills' always are, and he loved laughing at Goose being so silly. 

Random House has kindly sent an extra book and some Duck & Goose goodies to give away to one of you! Leave a comment on this post by Friday night and I'll pick a winner Saturday morning. Make sure you leave a way for me to contact you! U.S. only please. 

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8. The Care and Management of Lies by Jacqueline Winspear

From the publisher:

By July 1914, the ties between Kezia Marchant and Thea Brissenden, friends since girlhood, have become strained -- by Thea's passionate embrace of women's suffrage, and by the imminent marriage of Kezia to Thea's brother, Tom, who runs the family farm. When Kezia and Tom wed, just a month before Britain declares war on Germany, Thea's gift to Kezia is a book on household management -- a veiled criticism of the bride's prosaic life to come. Yet when Tom enlists to fight for his country and Thea is drawn reluctantly onto the battlefield, the farm becomes Kezia's responsibility. Each woman must find a way to endure the ensuing cataclysm and turmoil.

I absolutely love Winspear's Maisie Dobbs series and was thrilled to see she had a stand-alone coming out. Though I wasn't quite as entranced with the characters as I had been with the series, I still found myself pulled into the time period and setting just as deeply. Winspear has a knack for creating an ugly beautiful -- the Great War being a terribly ugly time in history, yet her descriptions of life, place, and emotions are truly beautiful.

This one wasn't a quick read, but worth savoring. Add it to your beach bag if you're looking for something with depth, but also bits of humor. I loved it!

You can check out the rest of the tour here or head to Jacqueline Winspear's website or Facebook page. And if you haven't read a Maisie Dobbs book, YOU MUST.

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9. The Dog Year... interview with Ann Garvin

You all know I love a good dog book. The Dog Year follows Dr. Lucy Peterman, a woman struggling to keep her head above water after losing her husband and unborn child in a tragic accident. She's caught stealing from the hospital she works in and is sent to a twelve-step program to attempt to help rebuild her life. 

She adopts a stray dog and slowly starts bonding with the people in her group while at the dog park. Proving that dog-people really are the best people, right? (just kidding, cats are cool too)

I thought it would be great if Ann Garvin would provide us with a little background that went into The Dog Year -- in the form of its playlist! 

What is the musical soundtrack you imagined to go along with The Dog Year?

This is a wonderful question and since there is a discovered iPod in the book where my protagonist listens and tries to feel connected to her husband after his death, it’s a perfect question for me. If I were to fill an iPod with music for listening while reading THE DOG YEAR, I would fill it with.

·         Everlasting Love by Gloria Estefan
·         Give Me Everything by Pitbull
·         Say Hey (I Love You) by Michael Franti
·         My First My Last My Everything by Barry White
·         It’s Raining Men by The Weathergirls
·         Bad Day by Daniel Powter

I’d also add to this list
·         Just Give Me a Reason and Blow Me (one last kiss) by Pink (Lucy has Pink’s attitude so often it seems to fit.)
·         The Show by Lenka (would be perfect for either Sara or Sidney)
·         Me and Mrs. Jones by Billy Paul
·         Hard Candy by The Counting Crows
·         You and I Both by Jason Mraz
·         At Last by Etta James
·         A Thousand Years by Christina Perri
·         Club Can’t Handle Me by Flo Rida
·         I’m Yours/Somewhere Over The Rainbow by Straight No Chaser (for closing credits)

And I would like nothing better than Thrift Shop by Macklemore to be playing while Lucy is stealing all the strange stuff she doesn’t need. How awesome would that be?

Thanks for joining me, Ann! And thanks to Penguin for sending a review copy along. If you're a dog lover, be sure to add this one to your summer reading list -- just be sure to have a box of tissues nearby!

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10. The Bookman's Tale review and giveaway!

From the publisher:

Nine months after the death of his beloved wife Amanda left him shattered, Peter Byerly, a young antiquarian bookseller, relocates fromNorth Carolina to the English countryside, hoping to outrun his grief and rediscover the joy he once took in collecting and restoring rare books. But upon opening an eighteenth-centrury study of Shakespeare forgeries, he discovers a Victorian watercolor of a women who bears an uncanny resemblance to Amanda. 

Peter becomes obsessed with learning the picture's origins and braves a host of dangers to follow a trail of clues back across the centuries -- all the way to Shakespeare's time and a priceless literary artifact that could prove, once and for all, the truth about the Bard's real identity. 

This one definitely kept me up at night! The plot was fascinating, mixed with all sorts of twists and turns, along with the awesome literary points. Though I don't personally get a thrill from antique books, I do love reading about them. 

The time shifts were done well and kept me interested in the story. I didn't particularly care for Peter as a main character -- his melancholy was a bit overdone -- but I did love his emotions when it came to the actual mystery. 

Intrigued? The publisher is kind enough to give one of you a copy! Just leave a comment here telling me a summer reading recommendation and you'll be entered to win a copy. U.S. only. Enter by Friday night, 6/6. 

Make sure you leave me a way to contact you!

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11. Mrs. Hemingway review

Summer, 1926. Ernest Hemingway and his wife Hadley take refuge from the blazing heat of Paris in a villa in the south of France. They swim and play bridge and drink gin with abandon. But wherever they go they are accompanied by the glamourous and irrepressible Fife. Fife is Hadley's best friend. She is also Ernest's lover. Hadley is the first Mrs. Hemingway, but neither she nor Fife will be the last.

I was absolutely fascinated with this story. I fell for the life of Ernest Hemingway after reading Hemingway's Girl by Erika Robuck a couple of years ago and now I love to read anything I can about him and his lifestyle. Though fiction, this novel was a great look into the world of the women who surrounded him and what their thoughts of the famous man may have been as they were caught up in his lavish life and eventually tossed aside. 

The writing was atmospheric and beautiful, though, at times a little confusing with the back and forth of present and past. I felt the flow was sometimes a little off. Once I made it a few chapters in, I found the rhythm and enjoyed the story. 

Thanks to Penguin for the review copy!

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12. The Year She Left Us review

Thank you all for your kind comments regarding my thoughts in my last post. I'm still not sure what I'll do, but taking things slowly is definitely my plan. I don't want to give up something I love, but I do want to make sure I have plenty of time for enjoying books without obligation. You all are amazing!

Today, I have a review of a book that will make those readers who are drawn to detailed characters very happy. I found myself totally wrapped up in this family and their journey of healing and growth. 

From the publisher:

The Kong women are in crisis. A disastrous trip to visit her "home" orphanage in China has plunged eighteen-year-old Ari into a self-destructive spiral. Her adoptive mother, Charlie, a lawyer with a great heart, is desperate to keep her daughter safe. Meanwhile, Charlie must endure the prickly scrutiny of her beautiful, Bryn Mawr-educated mother, Gran--who, as the daughter of a cultured Chinese doctor, came to America to survive Mao's Revolution--and her sister, Les, a brilliant judge with a penchant for ruling over eery thing's lives.

The story is, at times, humorous, while being an incredible family story. There's a bit of mystery, a lot of heartbreak, and a great examination of what one's culture means to daily life. I loved the book and can't wait to see what this author brings to us next! 

To stop by the rest of the tour, check out the other blogs participating here.

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13. To blog or not to blog.

This year has been a tough one for me. Lots of changes with our extended family, friendships ending, and just a whole lot of chaos that I wasn't quite expecting to have to deal with, all while I attempted to lead a group of 50 women and be their encourager... plus mom to a toddler and working at the bookstore more. Whew. I'm just tired writing it and it has truly been mentally and emotionally exhausting. It wasn't all bad things happening -- though there were definitely some of those -- but, just a lot in general and something needs to give.

Lately, I've been doing a lot of reading whatever I want and just reflecting on my days, along with a little journaling, and it's perfect for my current state of mind. I'm not passionate about blogging right now and I'm not sure if it will return. I'm not sure what that means for this blog... I've been at it 7 years and letting go would be a very difficult decision. So, for now, I'm going to blog when I feel like it and start to say no to review copies, so obligations will be gone. Maybe taking any pressure off will help. This is supposed to simply be a hobby, after all. 

If this year has taught me anything, it's that I want to be ALL IN with everything I do in this short life. I want to love every aspect of my days (even the temper tantrums), because I'm only on this earth for so long. That meant letting go of a difficult friendship. It meant deciding to make the right choices for our family, despite my own opposition. It may mean being done with this blog, so I can just focus on reading what I want, when I want. 

I'm not putting a timeline on this decision, because I'm just honestly not sure. I'm going to finish up a few review obligations and then see what happens. If I just write once in awhile, maybe the passion for reviewing books will come back. If not, I'm still on Twitter constantly chatting up what I'm reading, so I won't totally disappear. Can't get rid of me that easily! 

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14. A break of sorts

Life got crazy and blogging, once again, took a backseat. I'm hoping to be back before much longer, but for now, I'm enjoying my family and LOTS of books. See you soon!

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15. One Hundred Names by Cecelia Ahern

After a scandal rocks the world of journalist Kitty Logan, she's pretty sure her career is over. Add that to the fact one of her best friends and mentors is dying of cancer and Kitty isn't exactly having a great time in her life. Which might just be the understatement of the year. 

When Constance does pass away, Kitty finds herself recalling one of their last conversations - when she asked Constance what was one story she had always wanted to write. Kitty convinces her boss to let her turn the answer Constance gave into a story and thus sets off on a wild goose chase of what turns out to be a list of one hundred names of random people Kitty has never heard of. 

As Kitty tracks down the people on the list and learns about them and their seemingly ordinary lives, she also learns a lot about her friend and ultimately, herself. 

I had good and bad moments with this book. I really want to like Cecelia Ahern's books, since I fell in love with P.S. I Love You so many years ago, but I've yet to find another that I really connect with. This one was close. I loved the concept and the wild goose chase Kitty was forced to go on and I really liked the connections she made with all of these crazy people. I thought it was original and fun and it made me want to keep reading. 

I also thought the book was much too long and reached it's ending point probably 75 pages before the book actually ended. The scandal Kitty was involved in wasn't quite focused on enough and though I definitely realize it wasn't meant to be the central focus of the story, it did play a huge role in why she was falling apart in the beginning of her journey. I just wish more had been done with it. 

If you've loved Cecelia Ahern before, give this one a try. If you've never read her, I'd still give it a try, because of the interesting plot turns. It's not one I loved, but I can see others really enjoying it. 

You can find more stops on this blog tour here

Thanks to TLC Books for the review copy!

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16. Coffee and a chat

It's been awhile since we've had a chat over coffee! So many fun things have been happening over here and it's definitely time for an update, so grab your coffee and let's have a chat!

If we were having coffee... I'd share a few of the beautiful family photos we had taken a couple of weeks ago. 

Seriously... is my child not the cutest? We ended up with some really beautiful shots, but it definitely took effort on all parts. Elliott was not thrilled with anything to do with posing, so the family shots are few and far between -- give him a wagon or a tree to hide behind (or a flower to destroy) and he was happy. 

If you're local, check out Portraits by Inga. She's AMAZING and affordable and so, so sweet. Many of our friends have used her services and she's become a friend to all of us. 

If we were having coffee... I'd have to show you the beautiful new earrings I won! One of my favorite local businesses, Apple and Pear Wardrobe Design, ran a Facebook contest for a pair of handmade earrings from the lovely Etsy shop: Jocelyn Brown Jewelry. I picked the pair I wanted and they arrived last week. 

So pretty! They'll be great for spring. Check her out!

Even if you aren't local, I definitely recommend liking Apple and Pear Wardrobe Design on FB. She gives great styling tips and fashion tips for different body types and runs an awesome Style Chat every Wednesday night. Fun and informative!

Not paid ads, just my love for two awesome local businesses! 

If we were having coffee... I'd share my latest Stitch Fix box with you! I haven't ordered a fix in a couple of months, but I'm so glad I got one for May. I loved every single item in the box and had a very hard time choosing which to go with. 

In the box were 3 striped tops, a white cardigan, and an abstract print dress. I honestly loved all of it, but only kept the coral striped top. It worked well with jeans or capris, which I wear almost every day, so it will fit nicely into my current wardrobe. 

My favorite piece in the box was probably the white cardigan -- really lightweight with a nice, draped effect in the front, but I couldn't get over the white. Elliott would ruin it on me in 5 minutes. If it had been any other color I would have kept it. 

If you're interested in getting your own personalized stylist via Stitch Fix, just click here. If you do sign up, I get a small referral credit, so thank you in advance!

Thanks for chatting with me! If you do a similar coffee and chat, link back in the comments!

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17. My latest picture book picks

I read a lot of books with Elliott, but there are some picture books that make their way to my mailbox that I love, but are just a tad bit above his interest level at this point. These 2 are ones that will hang out on the higher shelves for another year or two before I read them to him, but they're definitely worth having!

At the Same Moment, Around the World by Clotilde Perrin takes a fascinating look at children in different parts of the world going through an average day. 24 different time zones are covered and readers can visit these exciting places and get a glimpse into what it might be like to actually be a child there. France, Vietnam, Hawaii, Australia, Bulgaria, and Greenland are just a few of the places the book explores, with illustrations exhibiting what exactly might be taking place at that time of day. Pretty neat! 

I love the concept and all the different learning opportunities presented. Time zones, cultural differences, how to tell time, how many hours in a day, etc. A very cool book! 

I also really love a great anti-princess story (Paper Bag Princess, is a classic fave) and The Worst Princess by Anna Kemp is a fun new one on the shelves. Let's celebrate girl power, shall we? Author Anna Kemp has created a spunky character in Princess Sue and girls will cheer for her quick-thinking and quirky attitude when the Prince she believes is bringing her to freedom, actually just wants her to hang out in the castle trying on fancy clothes. 

Illustrations, done by Sara Ogilvie, are bright and fun, which add to the charm of this smart book. I loved it and will definitely be adding it to my list of smart-girl picture books!

Thanks to Chronicle and Random House for the review copies!

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18. 2 new paperbacks

The House at the End of Hope Street by Menna Van Praag was absolutely charming. I don't always love magical realism, because it's rarely done well, but this one (along with those by Sarah Addison Allen) was an exception. 

The story of Alba Ashby, a young PhD student at Cambridge, and the house she falls in love with at 11 Hope Street. She has 99 nights to stay in the house and change her life. Many women from the past have entered the door and allowed the house to work its magic on them and they went on to have incredibly successful lives -- Agatha Christie, Dorothy Parker, and Florence Nightingale to name a few. Alba quickly learns, if her life is to actually be changed, this is the place to do it. 

While reading this one, I felt transported to 11 Hope Street. The writing is fantastic and I loved the premise of the plot. It was truly a charming novel and one I'll happily recommend to all readers, even those who aren't typically into magical realism. 

I also wanted to make a brief mention of the paperback release of one of my favorite books of last year, Looking for Me by Beth Hoffman. I raved about this book back in May and now it's available in paperback. If you haven't read it yet, grab a copy now -- it's a sweet, fun read with quirky, well-developed characters and lots of Southern charm.  I'll be gifting this one to a few of my favorite moms for Mother's Day! 

Thanks to Penguin for the review copies!

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19. Coffee and a chat

If we were having coffee... I'd tell you I miss blogging. The once-a-week posting is getting old (and I'm sure it is for you too), but I'm just SO busy. If you look at my calendar for March, I have something going on almost every single day and that just doesn't leave a whole lot of room for sitting down and typing out book reviews. Or reading books for that matter. I'm just behind on everything. It's slightly overwhelming, but getting out at night is nice!

If we were having coffee... I'd tell you that Elliott has started calling me "mommy" which is super adorable. I realize this is a normal thing for kids, but I've always been "mama" and just one day he started calling me mommy. Totally caught me off-guard and still gets a smile out of me several times a day.

I don't even have a recent picture of him for this post. That's how behind I am. 

If we were having coffee... I'd tell you all about my hatred of winter. I used to LOVE winter. Fall and winter were always my favorite seasons growing up in snowy Upstate NY, but as I've grown older, I realize that my moods are definitely associated with the seasons and I need sunshine. I may hate the humidity of summer, but the days staying lighter longer and more sunshine than clouds definitely helps keep me in my usual cheerful form. It's supposed to be 70 today and high 20's tomorrow, so really, March can just go away.

If we were having coffee... I'd gush over the brilliance that was True Detective. I think that's the best television I've ever seen. It was like watching a fantastic 8-hour movie. The acting was great, the plot was CRAZY, and the unique format kept me hooked. Whole new cast next season. So cool.

If we were having coffee... I'd probably talk about my fear of this Dave Ramsey Financial Peace class we're starting next week. It's going to be intense. Anyone else take it?

Here's to more reviews later in the week, I hope!

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20. The Unbound by Victoria Schwab

I don't typically talk about sophomore books in a series here, choosing to mainly focus on the first in a series or an entire series as a whole, but this book deserves a post of its own. It's that good! 

Victoria Schwab happens to be a local author and when The Archived came out last year, I went to her signing at my favorite local indie, One More Page Books. It ended up being one of my favorite books of the year and I eagerly anticipated the arrival of The Unbound this winter. When it showed up at my door, I held off reading it for a few weeks, knowing I'd want to savor it... and I was right. Once again, it's that good. 

Mackenzie Bishop is once again our main character and she is still a Keeper for the Archive. Dealing with the emotional ramifications of almost dying has taken over her life and she's struggling to stay afloat. Yet, when people start disappearing -- all of them knowing Mackenzie -- she knows that her past may very well have come back to haunt her, as impossible as that may seem. 

As she attempts to track the person responsible for the disappearances, Mackenzie quickly becomes the prime suspect. She knows she has to prove her theory to the Archive before they take away her role as Keeper... and her memories. 

The writing in these books is just amazing. Not only does Schwab make it incredibly easy to connect to the characters and almost instantly care about them, but she also provides such great plot that I wanted to just fly through the pages. Her prose is beautiful, yet suspenseful -- the perfect combo for this series. 

Taking on issues of grief and PTSD is probably difficult enough on its own, but adding those topics to a fantasy novel have to be even more difficult, but Schwab created a realistic world in the Archive, while also allowing her readers to see the journey a person goes on while recovery from tragedy and trauma. I love these books and can't wait to see what Victoria Schwab does next. 

Thanks to Hyperion for the review copy!

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21. The Secret Side of Empty review

M.T. seems like the typical American teenager. She has a guy she's interested, friends, a social life, and gets excellent grades. M.T. also has a big secret -- she's an undocumented immigrant. 

Though this huge part of M.T.'s life has been fairly easy to hide through high school, her life as a senior has thrust everything into a tailspin. Her friends don't understand why she won't get her driver's license or why she constantly avoids any talk of applying to colleges, and when her roll in the Honor Society necessitates the planning of a trip abroad, M.T. knows she's in trouble. 

I totally saw myself in this girl. She was me in high school. The grades, the friends, Honor Society, etc. Her story completely opened my eyes to a whole new perspective of what some teens are handed and forced to deal with throughout their high school years, due to circumstances beyond their own control. I can't imagine being in M.T.'s position, though I definitely appreciated the author forcing me to feel that way. She's a typical teen...except, she's not. 

I was uncomfortable while reading this book and I think that was a necessary feeling to truly grasp the emotional nature of M.T.'s story. I could't put it down once I started reading and needed to know what happened to this girl who reminded me so much of my younger self. 

The subject is timely and the character realistic and easy to connect to. Maria Andreu is a debut author and I look forward to whatever she writes next. Highly recommended. 

Thanks to Running Press for the review copy. 

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22. Some Bugs by Angela DiTerlizzi

This adorable book completely charmed both Elliott and I. Though we haven't hit the bug stage in our house yet, though this one could most definitely be the gateway book to all things "bugs."

The illustrations are a great mix of quirky and cute and the text is surprisingly simple, yet helps to inform young readers on some pretty cool bug traits. The back pages have a great spread of all the bugs referenced throughout the book, with their names making for a great reference source.

We loved it and can't wait to see more from this author/illustrator duo!

Thanks to Simon & Schuster for the review copy!

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23. The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski

Kestrel is the daughter of a general. She's incredibly wealthy and leads a comfortable life, despite the war going on outside her city walls. Her father has told her she must either join the military and serve her people, as he does, or she must get married. Kestrel, of course, would prefer not to do either.

When on a shopping expedition to the market, Kestrel passes by the auction block where slaves are being sold. Something draws her to Arin and before she realizes what she's done, she has paid an exorbitant amount of money for a slave she did not need or want. He follows her home, is put to work as a blacksmith, and Kestrel believes that will be the end of it. 

As I'm sure you can imagine, the pair end up falling in love and are forced to fight to be together. This wasn't the typical teen love story though -- it goes deeper. Their relationship is one of both love and war, just like the lives they live. Kestrel is supposed to become a warrior and Arin be her slave, though fate seems to have other things in store. 

The detailed descriptions are what pulled me into this book and the dramatic explanation of the setting. I was hooked from the beginning and am definitely looking forward to the 2nd book of the series. Kestrel was a great main character -- and though I won't spoil anything for you -- I LOVED the ending!

Thanks to FSG for the review copy!

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24. The Last Forever by Deb Caletti

Deb Caletti is one of those authors who I just love. I anticipate early spring every year, because that means a new book will be on the shelves for me to fall in love with. Her writing is just beautiful and her characters relatable and complex. Her books are some of my very favorites to gift my teen nieces, because I know they'll be a hit, no matter the subject. 

The Last Forever is the latest of Caletti's lovelies to hit the shelves. We meet Tessa, a sweet girl still mourning the death of her mother. She's desperate to keep her mother's rare plant alive, believing it's the last link they really share. Throw in a road trip, a beach town, a new job, and a kind (and cute) guy and the combination creates a beautiful story. 

I always find a bit of myself in Caletti's stories and this one was no exception. When my own mother passed away a little over five years ago, I became the owner of her huge, beautiful jade plant. Unfortunately, having to move it from Florida to New Mexico and then eventually to Virginia was just too much for that plant and little by little it died, until I was only left with about a 4 inch stem I was determined to transplant and keep alive (spoiler alert... I failed). I saw myself in Tessa - desperate to keep that last connection to something beautiful, something my mother loved, even though it was simply a material thing. 

The writing is gorgeously detailed and the characters each were perfectly plotted into the story. I loved every minute with this book and I know I'll be eagerly waiting for next spring to get another book by this fabulous author. Thanks for the experience, Ms. Caletti... it's always a pleasure!

Thank you to Simon & Schuster for the review copy. 

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25. Twitterature

This week I'm linking up (a day late) with one of my favorite bloggers, The Modern Mrs. Darcy, for her Twitterature feature. You can find the rules here, but they're pretty simple: just share what you're reading in 140 characters or less. I've been reading a lot, but my blogging time has been minimal, so I thought this would be the perfect chance to jump into this feature!

High & Dry by Sarah Skilton
Fast-paced thriller with great characterization. The author has created a complex story rich with realistic, thought-provoking characters. 

Noggin' by John Corey Whaley
Absolute hilarity paired with amazing writing. Reads like an awesome contemporary, even with the cryogenically frozen head. ;)

Attachments by Rainbow Rowell
Fun, cute romance. A little too long for my liking, but it was an enjoyable read and one that kept me chuckling.

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin
LOVED this book. Excellent fiction for all book nerds, but booksellers will especially appreciate. Sweet story with lovely characters!

And the Dark Sacred Night by Julia Glass
Had a hard time getting into this one after loving her last. Deep, complex characters, but plot had me a little lost much of the time.

Boys of Blur by N.D. Wilson
A bit slow-moving, but the writing is worth it. Descriptions of setting, sounds, people, etc. are beautiful. Would be a great class read.

 Thanks to Random House, Simon & Schuster, and Amulet for the review copies. And the library for the others!

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