"Before you, Bella, my life was like a moonless night. Very dark, but there were stars, points of light and reason. ...And then you shot across my sky like a meteor. Suddenly everything was on fire; there was brilliancy, there was beauty. When you were gone, when the meteor had fallen over the horizon, everything went black. Nothing had changed, but my eyes were blinded by the light. I couldn’t see the stars anymore. And there was no more reason, for anything."

~ Edward Cullen

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

What Anthony's Been Reading

Anthony and I have had an amazing summer this year.  Having the chance to be home with him every day was an absolute blessing and I'll always look back on this summer with fond memories.  I was able to start a lot of fun "traditions" this summer, and my favorite was our quickly library trips.  Something finally clicked with him in the past few weeks and he is all about books.  It's awesome and makes this bookaholic proud.  We've been reading books everyday and at least two before bedtime.  He used to be all whatever about his bedtime story, but now he must have it or he won't sleep.  I am not complaining!  We've read some awesome books over the past few weeks and these are his favorites!
Written by Sherri Duskey Rinker and Tom Lichtenheld
As the sun sets behind the big construction site, all the hardworking trucks get ready to say goodnight. One by one, Crane Truck, Cement Mixer, Dump Truck, Bulldozer, and Excavator finish their work and lie down to rest—so they'll be ready for another day of rough and tough construction play! With irresistible artwork by best-selling illustrator Tom Lichtenheld and sweet, rhyming text, this book will have truck lovers of all ages begging for more.
This is probably one of his very favorites by far.  This is the perfect book for a boy.  Anthony loves making truck and heavy equipment noises as I read the book and telling each character night night. Plus I really like the illustrations in this one, and thinks its pretty cute.  It's a good introduction to the different kinds of heavy machinery out there too!

Written by Mark Kimball Moulton
On a beautiful, warm summer day an anxious young boy meets a brand new friend in the form of a book-loving
scarecrow named Pete. Pete introduces his friend to the enjoyment reading and the two share many days of excitement and adventure as they read their books together on a bale of hay.
Pete eventually goes his merry way to fulfill his life long dream of becoming a library volunteer but the two stay in touch as pen-pals and never loose sight of the importance of a good education attained through literacy.
This is probably my own personal favorite too out of all the books we've been reading.  The illustrations are absolutely beautiful, and I love the message behind the story.  Anthony loves to help find Pete the Scarecrow as the young boy looks for him. He's captivated by the story, and even though it's more "wordy" than some books written for smaller children, he does not get distracted and really enjoys the book!

Written by Mij Kelly
When it's time for potty training, both toddlers and parents will have fun with this book. Told in verse, it's the story of Suzy Sue, who has something very important to do! The truth is, she needs to poo--but someone has snatched her potty away! Kids will laugh at the big, bright color illustrations as they turn each page, and as Mom or Dad reads Suzy Sue's funny story. Worried, she goes running all around the farmyard, asking each of the animals if they've seen her potty. Fortunately all is well at story's end--and toddlers will be encouraged to use a potty, just like Suzy Sue.
Potty training has become my biggest hurdle this summer, so we've been reading lots and lots of potty books.  This is by far, the cutest, most adorable potty book I have ever read (and I've read A LOT of them over the past few weeks!).  The illustrations are super colorful and the story is adorable.  Anthony really likes it a lot and seems more encouraged about using the potty after we finish this one. 

Monday, August 26, 2013

What are you reading??

It's been a long, long time since I've done one of these.  But, I'm back now and hopefully that's where I'll stay.  Since my last post, I've now become a mother of two!  It's been a wonderful, wonderful summer.
Here's what's been happening in past week!
I'm trying to get caught up on the reviews for the books I read over the past few weeks.  It wasn't a lot but I'd still like to review them!  I start back to work on Friday, and actually this will probably help to increase my reading time.  I'll read on my lunch, and listen to audio most of the day.  While I certainly DO NOT want to go back to work, this is something I'm looking forward to.
Here's what's on my list for the week:

I might be able to get one more in depending on how my week goes but I'm not making any guarantees!!

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Review: Dare You To

Title: Dare You To
Author: Katie McGarry
Pages: 456
Challenges: None
Rating: 4/5

Summary from Goodreads:

If anyone knew the truth about Beth Risk's home life, they'd send her mother to jail and seventeen-year-old Beth who knows where. So she protects her mom at all costs. Until the day her uncle swoops in and forces Beth to choose between her mom's freedom and her own happiness. That's how Beth finds herself living with an aunt who doesn't want her and going to a school that doesn't understand her. At all. Except for the one guy who shouldn't get her, but does....

Ryan Stone is the town golden boy, a popular baseball star jock-with secrets he can't tell anyone. Not even the friends he shares everything with, including the constant dares to do crazy things. The craziest? Asking out the Skater girl who couldn't be less interested in him.

But what begins as a dare becomes an intense attraction neither Ryan nor Beth expected. Suddenly, the boy with the flawless image risks his dreams-and his life-for the girl he loves, and the girl who won't let anyone get too close is daring herself to want it all....

Dare You To is the sequel to Pushing the Limits and I bought it almost immediately after finishing Echo and Noah's story.  We first meet Beth in Pushing the Limits because her aunt and uncle are Noah's foster parents.  She's tough and kinda mean and I really didn't like her much.  I was a bit hesitant going into this one because of that, but I was hoping for some glimpses into Noah and Echo's future lives that it made me really want to read it.

Well, that being side, I am so glad I continued with this series and read Beth's story.  I didn't like it as much as Pushing the Limits, simply because I couldn't connect with Beth like I connected with Echo.  However, as much as I loved Noah, I am more so in love with Ryan.  It must be something about baseball players, but wow.  Literary crush!!

The writing in this one was just as good, and it again uses the alternative chapters which I liked.  This seems to be becoming more of a trend in YA Contemporary books.  If its done right, it can work to the author's advantage.  I did prefer Ryan's voice a bit over Beth's but that's just personal preference.  Also, the love triangle in this one was a lot more prominent and really really was a huge part of the story.  I was really happy with how it was played out though and feel that Beth made the best decision for her. 
I really do think that Katie McGarry hit a home run with this series.  Haha...I just made a pun.  I can't wait until the third book comes out.  It is Isaiah's story and I.CANNOT.WAIT!!!  November 26th cannot get here fast enough!!

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Review: Pushing the Limits

Title: Pushing the Limits
Author: Katie McGarry
Pages: 392
Challenges: Women's Challenge
Rating: 5/5

Summary from Goodreads:

No one knows what happened the night Echo Emerson went from popular girl with jock boyfriend to gossiped-about outsider with "freaky" scars on her arms. Even Echo can't remember the whole truth of that horrible night. All she knows is that she wants everything to go back to normal.But when Noah Hutchins, the smoking-hot, girl-using loner in the black leather jacket, explodes into her life with his tough attitude and surprising understanding, Echo's world shifts in ways she could never have imagined. They should have nothing in common. And with the secrets they both keep, being together is pretty much impossible.

Yet the crazy attraction between them refuses to go away. And Echo has to ask herself just how far they can push the limits and what she'll risk for the one guy who might teach her how to love again.

I started this one on my phone the day  I waited for the ultrasound that would supposedly determine Maggie's birth.  I probably read about 8 or 9 chapters while I waited.  The book was super engrossing and the wait was long.  However, after the appointment, the wheels really started to roll and I went into panic mode repacking my hospital bag, getting Anthony's stuff together, and recleaning my already clean house.  I didn't pick the book up again until mid way through July.  I stayed up until 2 in the morning to finish it even with a newborn that was still getting up at least once, sometimes twice in the middle of the night.  I didn't care if I was a walking zombie.  This book was that good!

This book had everything I needed.  Let's review:

1. Troubled bad boy with family problems.  Check!

2. Messed up beyond belief heroine with self esteem issues.  Check!

3.  A love triangle of sorts.  Check!

I don't read a lot of contemporary YA.  I don't know why not.  I always seem to enjoy it when I do, but its not typically a sub genre that I gravitate towards.  I'm pretty sure that I got Pushing the Limits when Amazon was running the Kindle edition for $1.99 or something.  I liked the cover and though the premise sounded promising (see above lol).
One thing that I really enjoyed about Pushing the Limits is how true to life it felt.  The characters seemed real, the situations were real, and the feelings were definitely real.  I loved how McGarry slowly pulled back the layers on Noah and Echo.  It was a gradual awakening for them both, and the inner struggles of both characters could be felt by the reader.  I fell in love with Noah right along with Echo.
I normally hate when books are told through alternating perspectives.  I get use to one characters voice, and suddenly it's pulled away from me.  Or, I tend to favor one character over the other and hate reading the other characters chapters.  But it worked really well in Pushing the Limits. 
If you enjoyed books like the Perfect Chemistry Trilogy (one of my all time favorite YA series), then I think you will really enjoy this book!

Friday, August 23, 2013

Review: Garden Spells

Title: Garden Spells
Author: Sarah Addison Allen
Pages: 290
Challenges: Women's Challenge, TBR Challenge
Rating: 4/5
Summary from Goodreads:
The women of the Waverley family -- whether they like it or not -- are heirs to an unusual legacy, one that grows in a fenced plot behind their Queen Anne home on Pendland Street in Bascom, North Carolina. There, an apple tree bearing fruit of magical properties looms over a garden filled with herbs and edible flowers that possess the power to affect in curious ways anyone who eats them.

For nearly a decade, 34-year-old Claire Waverley, at peace with her family inheritance, has lived in the house alone, embracing the spirit of the grandmother who raised her, ruing her mother's unfortunate destiny and seemingly unconcerned about the fate of her rebellious sister, Sydney, who freed herself long ago from their small town's constraints. Using her grandmother's mystical culinary traditions, Claire has built a successful catering business -- and a carefully controlled, utterly predictable life -- upon the family's peculiar gift for making life-altering delicacies: lilac jelly to engender humility, for instance, or rose geranium wine to call up fond memories. Garden Spells reveals what happens when Sydney returns to Bascom with her young daughter, turning Claire's routine existence upside down. With Sydney's homecoming, the magic that the quiet caterer has measured into recipes to shape the thoughts and moods of others begins to influence Claire's own emotions in terrifying and delightful ways.

As the sisters reconnect and learn to support one another, each finds romance where she least expects it, while Sydney's child, Bay, discovers both the safe home she has longed for and her own surprising gifts. With the help of their elderly cousin Evanelle, endowed with her own uncanny skills, the Waverley women redeem the past, embrace the present, and take a joyful leap into the future.

I'm not sure why I waited as long as I did to read this book by Sarah Addison Allen.  I've read two other of her novels and thoroughly enjoyed them both.  Garden Spells was no exception.  This book was fabulous!

However, I read this book in APRIL and never reviewed it, so I'm going on pre baby memories here and I'm not sure how awesome or accurate they'll be!

My favorite character in this book is Claire.  I loved her story and how her and her sister reunited and came together to embrace their family heritage.  Also, I loved Claire's love story of sorts.  It was almost inspiring to see how she changed and her whole world was turned upside down.

Once thing that I really love about Allen's books is the aspect of magic and how it is often connected to food in some way, shape, or form.  This was especially present in Garden Spells.  The way that Claire used the ingredients from the garden in her food to change things was so well thought out and different.  It just really made the whole story come together for me!

Ok, that's really all I got on this one.  I just know I really, really enjoyed it and everyone needs to read it!  I'm almost completely caught up with Allen's back list and only have one more book to go - The Sugar Queen.  Her next book Lost Lake comes out in February of 2014 and I already put a reminder on my calender so I can get it as soon as possible!!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Gone Missing...

Well that was longer vacation than I anticipated!  My last blog post was in May, and boy has a lot changed since then!

I was completely uncomfortable throughout the month of May.  Baby Girl was due June 8th and it felt like it would never get here.  Each day I woke up still pregnant and a little bit bigger.  My stomach was HUGE!  On June 5th I had my 39 week appointment.  I was dilated at all, and Baby Girl was still really high.  I was devastated.  My Drs were still concerned about her size, and the fact that she didn't seem to be dropping any.  He sent me back to the specialist that afternoon to have another ultrasound to see baby's size.  At the ultrasound, they measured her to be well over ten pounds.  The high risk dr consulted with my Dr and it was determined that she would be coming c section, and before the weekend was up.  The next day, Thursday, I went back to my Dr to discuss the c section and to get it scheduled.  The only day available at the hospital was that Sunday.  I was relieved.  I had a date and I could see an end in site.

The next day, June 7th, was my last day of work.  I woke up before the alarm and was lying in bed, contemplating how I was going to get up.  It took a lot of effort to roll myself out of bed and I had to talk myself into it most days!  While I was thinking, I felt a small pop and a bit of wetness.  My waters had ruptured with Anthony, but had been a huge gush that soaked the bed.  I got up and went to the bathroom and noticed I was having a ton of bloody show.  Another bit of fluid seemed to gush out, and I woke up hubby and told him that I was pretty sure my water had broken.  Obviously I wasn't going into work that day!

I was determined to get the dishes down and the laundry folded before we left.  It made my husband nervous but I knew she wasn't coming anytime soon.  I was barely having any contractions and she had been so high the day before I wasn't worried.  We got the house picked up, the car loaded, and dropped Anthony off at this grandma's.  As we headed to the hospital, my contractions picked up a bit.  They were coming closer and were more painful.  By the time we got to the hospital, I was dilated to a five, but Baby Girl still wasn't descending.  They now had to squeeze me in for an unscheduled c section.  This took THREE HOURS.  With no pain meds.  And five hundred people asking me questions.  It was awful.  But in the end well worth it!

Magdalena Grace was born at 11:25am and weighed 9 lbs 11.5 oz, and was 21 inches long.

She has been an absolute delight since day one, and is the happiest little girl.  I couldn't be more in love!

Maggie at 10 weeks.
I've been off work the entire summer, and have filled my days with sidewalk chalk, sprinklers and swinging on the swings.  Anthony, Maggie and I have had a delightful time, and I'm dreading going back in another week.  Leaving my babies will be hard!

The only picture I've managed to get of the two of them.  Trying to get Anthony to sit still takes a miracle!
Reading wise, I didn't pick up a book for the entire month of May or June.  Once things got settled, I did read some in July, and I've slowly been picking back up the pace.  I'm behind on the reviews though!  Once work starts up again, I'll start listening to my audio books again.  I'd love to finish out the year strong!

Friday, May 3, 2013

Review: The Peach Keeper

Title: The Peach Keeper
Author: Sarah Addison Allen
Listening Time: 7 Hours and 43 Minutes
Challenges: None
Rating: 4/5

Summary from Goodreads:

The New York Times bestselling author of The Girl Who Chased the Moon welcomes you to her newest locale: Walls of Water, North Carolina, where the secrets are thicker than the fog from the town’s famous waterfalls, and the stuff of superstition is just as real as you want it to be.

It’s the dubious distinction of thirty-year-old Willa Jackson to hail from a fine old Southern family of means that met with financial ruin generations ago. The Blue Ridge Madam—built by Willa’s great-great-grandfather during Walls of Water’s heyday, and once the town’s grandest home—has stood for years as a lonely monument to misfortune and scandal. And Willa herself has long strived to build a life beyond the brooding Jackson family shadow. No easy task in a town shaped by years of tradition and the well-marked boundaries of the haves and have-nots.

But Willa has lately learned that an old classmate—socialite do-gooder Paxton Osgood—of the very prominent Osgood family, has restored the Blue Ridge Madam to her former glory, with plans to open a top-flight inn. Maybe, at last, the troubled past can be laid to rest while something new and wonderful rises from its ashes. But what rises instead is a skeleton, found buried beneath the property’s lone peach tree, and certain to drag up dire consequences along with it.

For the bones—those of charismatic traveling salesman Tucker Devlin, who worked his dark charms on Walls of Water seventy-five years ago—are not all that lay hidden out of sight and mind. Long-kept secrets surrounding the troubling remains have also come to light, seemingly heralded by a spate of sudden strange occurrences throughout the town.

Now, thrust together in an unlikely friendship, united by a full-blooded mystery, Willa and Paxton must confront the dangerous passions and tragic betrayals that once bound their families—and uncover truths of the long-dead that have transcended time and defied the grave to touch the hearts and souls of the living.

Resonant with insight into the deep and lasting power of friendship, love, and tradition, The Peach Keeper is a portrait of the unshakable bonds that—in good times and bad, from one generation to the next—endure forever.

This is the second book that I've listened to by Sarah Addison Allen and I thoroughly enjoyed each and every moment of it.  There's just something about her books that make me feel good.  Plus her writing is absolutely amazing!  I'm hoping to read or listen to Garden Spells and The Sugar Queen in the next few weeks.

One thing that I absolutely adore about Allen's books are her characters.  They're always so uniquely written, with just that touch of magic around them.  Each one carries their own bit of mystery, and it really helps to keep the story fresh and exciting.

I will say that The Peach Keeper doesn't have the same "magic" in it that the other book "The Girl Who Chased the Moon" did.  It's much more subtle and an underlying theme, and I'm not sure if I enjoyed that as much.  However, the writing was still just as superb, and the story moved along at a delicious pace.  The narrator, Karen White, was extremely talented, and brought a great deal to the story.

Fans of Allen's previous work should really give The Peach Keeper on audio a try.  It's well worth the listen, and quite enjoyable!!
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