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Where I Belong

After reading my last book I was wanting something more on the sunny side.  Where I Belong by Heather B. Moore is the second book in the Pine Valley series and was exactly what I needed: a quick read with a happy ending.

After reading the first Pine Valley book, Worth the Risk, and not being too thrilled with it, I wasn't sure what to expect with Where I Belong.  I must admit that I was pleasantly surprised.

Written like a modern-day Cinderalla Where I Belong is the story of Jane Morris, a sweet and humble woman, and Cameron Vance, a handsome and wealthy man, who is very engaged, and way out of Jane's league.  Cameron's fiancĂ© is Crystal, a girl that he's met only a few months before, and who you can tell right away cares more about Cameron's money than Cameron himself.  It doesn't take long for Cameron to realize this fact himself and he quickly ends the engagement which unleashes Crystal's wrath.  Jane runs her own housekeeping business and was hired to clean Cameron's condo.  After their breakup, Jane literally picks up the pieces and is there to comfort Cameron.

Needing a date for an upcoming gala, Cameron's mother suggests he take Jane.  It's a match that is made strictly out of convenience but Mrs. Vance makes sure Jane gets the star treatment.  She picks out a gown that fits her perfectly and has her assistant help get her hair and makeup all ready.  Jane feels like she is in a dream, being transformed into a beautiful princess.  What girl wouldn't love that?  The night is absolutely enchanting, both Cameron and Jane immersing themselves into the night, and enjoying each other's company.  Even though rumors swirl about Cameron's incredibly recent breakup with Crystal, everyone cannot help but notice the electricity between Cameron and Jane.

As Cameron and Jane fall for each other the reader falls in love with the characters which makes the story that much sweeter.  The innocent love that blossoms between them was quite enjoyable but what I really appreciated was how the author focused on their friendship before their love.  The attraction is felt immediately but they crave to know each other before they let their feelings truly show.  That paired with the antics of the crazy ex-fiance makes this story more grounded compared to a true fairy tale, though it does have that fairy tale feel.

Where I Belong definitely redeemed the Pine Valley series for me and I cannot wait to read the rest of the series.

*I received a complimentary copy of this book from Mirror Press in exchange for honest, unbiased review.  All opinions are my own.

Before and Again

It's every woman's nightmare to lose a child.  One second, one glimpse, and your child is gone forever.  The aftermath is like an out of body experience, the weight of their death on your shoulders.  Not to mention the media attention and the trial while you are grieving, attempting to keep it all together.  It's unfathomable.  You looked away for a split second and didn't see the stop sign.  It wasn't like you were texting!  You were looking at your GPS, trying to find a house on a heavily wooded street, headed to a playdate, and suddenly the nightmare that you never dared to dream has become a reality.  In an instant you've lost everything in your life that matters.

It's been five years since that fateful day, the day that she lost her five-year-old daughter Lily, and Mackenzie Cooper has pieced together a life that looks nothing like the life she had before.  The only reminders are her mugshot, which she keeps taped to the medicine cabinet in her bathroom, and the faded red scar on her forehead that she constantly keeps covered on her forehead.  She is a makeup artist at The Devon Inn and Spa in Devon, Vermont, which isn't far off from her previous career as a well-known sculptor.  Devon is the perfect place for Mackenzie, who now goes by Maggie Reid, to start a new life with no questions asked.  It is a quiet life she leads, just her and her animals, no husband, and no children; a place where she can keep it together and control her environment.  Or so she thought.

Grace Emory works as a masseuse at the spa with Maggie.  Grace's son Chris is arrested for hacking Twitter accounts of some of the biggest names in New York and the FBI has been trying to crack the case for awhile.  Internet crime is a federal offense and these "big names" are looking for justice.  In an instant, Mackenzie is once again thrust into the spotlight, standing by her friend, as the media storm opens secret pasts and relationships that no one expects.

All in all, I enjoyed Before and Again.  The first chapter has you immediately hooked as you first wonder what happened to Lily and, once you find out the truth, wondering how a mother and father deals with such an incredible tragedy.  The book is very well written, with little twists and turns, and secrets here and there, which keep the reader interested.  The ending was a little predictable but I really love how the writer left us with hope for these characters.  The character development is wonderful and by the end you feel like you are reading about one of your friends, longing to see that happy ending.

I had few complaints with this novel.  One was the cursing, which was unnecessary in many of the places in my opinion, and really took a lot away from the story itself for me personally.  I also thought there were spots that were too drawn out but when you look at it in the scheme of a grieving mother it makes a lot of sense, and in that respect more forgivable.

Other than that Before and Again is a tale that once you finish will have you hugging your children tighter, feeling thankful for your family, and never taking even the slightest moment for granted.

*I received a complimentary copy of this book from St. Martin's Press and NetGalley in exchange for an honest, unbiased review.  All opinions are my own.  

The Pirate Bride

I fell in love when I read the first book Daughters of the Mayflower series The Mayflower Bride and am so excited to be reviewing the second book in the series, The Pirate Bride.

We begin the story with Maribel Cordoba, a 11-year-old girl that is grieving the recent deaths of both her mother and beloved grandfather.  The only family she has to speak of is her Spanish father who has brought her aboard a ship full of privateers and Captain Beaumont, a man that is harboring a vendetta for the spaniard.  Cordoba murdered both his brother and his mother years before and Captain Beaumont is ready to settle the score.  A brawl aboard the ship leads to Maribel becoming an orphan but she is quickly "adopted" by the many of the privateers and Captain Beaumont himself.

When the ship is attacked Captain Beaumont believes that the young Maribel is killed during the battle and is racked with guilt for years.  You find out that Captain Beaumont is in fact Jean-Luc Valmont from the prominent Valmont family of New Orleans, Louisiana.  No one knows that both men are actually the same person or that Maribel in fact survived the battle and has been growing up at an orphanage on a small island in the Caribbean.

I first want to say that I fell in love with the main premise of the book.  The action was intriguing and I finished the book quite quickly.  The characters were well developed and you can't help but fall in love with Maribel's tenacity.

The only fault I found with the story was the age difference between Jean-Luc and Maribel which, if you read other reviews, I am not alone in my opinion.  When the story begins you see Captain Beaumont (Jean-Luc) more like a father figure to the fatherless Maribel.  He is incredibly protective of her and his heartbrokenness from losing her is almost palpable.  When the story fast forwards to Maribel as a young adult Jean-Luc is also quite a few years older and yet the age difference is not a major concern not only between the two of them but for any of their acquaintances.

Other than that I really enjoyed The Pirate Bride and cannot wait to read the next book in The Daughters of the Mayflower series, The Captured Bride which was just released last month.

*I received a complimentary copy of this book from Barbour Publishing and NetGalley in exchange for an honest, unbiased review.  All opinions are my own.

Everyday Bible Encouragement for Women

Finding encouragement every day can often be a struggle for women which is why I was so excited check out the Everyday Bible Encouragement for Women from Barbour Books.

Everyday Bible Encouragement for Women is 365 short devotions that are intended to encourage you in your busy day.  Each day is compromised of a Bible verse as well as one or two lines that coincide with that day's verse, perfect for those days when you do not have a lot of time in your busy schedule, or to use alongside with another Bible study.

With the devotionals being short it is easy to use as a companion to other, more in-depth devotionals, during your daily Bible study, those small moments throughout the day to re-foucs, or even before bed.  You will find yourself encouraged, inspired, and strengthened on a daily basis and will not regret having this wonderful resource to assist you in your daily walk with the Lord.  Highly recommend!

*I received a complimentary copy of this book from Barbour Books and NetGalley in exchange for an honest, unbiased review.  All opinions are my own.

So Close to Being the Sh*t, Y'all Don't Even Know

Many do not know this about me but I love television shows, especially sitcoms.  Problems that are solved in thirty minutes and with everyone smiling puts a smile on my face as well.  I prefer the classics like The Dick Van Dyke Show and I Love Lucy but there are several shows that aired recently that captured my heart as well, and one of those is Parks and Recreation.  I have been an Amy Poehler fan since SNL and was hooked from the very first episode.  By the time season two began to air one character quickly became my favorite: Donna Meagle.  Donna, played by the incredibly talented Retta, had the best lines and some of my favorite parts, and the most memorable parts of the show, are because of her.  She has such a great delivery and plays off of everyone around her so well that it's hard not to fall in love with her.  When I saw Retta had written a book I couldn't help but pick it up, hoping that she would be just as funny of a writer as she was on Parks and Recreation.

Let me start off by saying this girl can cuss, as most comedians do, but I myself found that the charm of the stories and her particular style of writing helped me get past this fact (with the exception of taking the Lord's name in vain, which I cannot tolerate.  I cringed every time she used this phrase but luckily she didn't use it too often).  She is a comedian through and through and reading So Close to Being the Sh*t is like being front row at one of her shows.

There are several parts in the book where I literally laughed out loud (with a few questionable looks from my family) but I couldn't help it!  Retta's story is relatable on so many different levels and she let's you into her world with humor.  She goes from telling of her meager upbringing, and growing up in a house full of people, to studying medicine at Duke University then switching things up to becoming a comedian.

My favorite part, of course, is when she talks about her time on Parks and Recreation.  I always enjoy hearing about what goes on behind the scenes!  One thing I really loved as a fan of the show was that her and the actor that plays Jerry Gergich, Jim O'Heir, were actually incredibly close while working on the show.  Everyone always picks on Jerry, and I always felt sorry for him, so knowing Retta took care of him, as his work wife, behind the scenes, makes me feel better.

The common theme throughout the book was her obsessions.  Obsession with television, designer handbags, the Broadway musical Hamilton, Twitter, Snapchat, and even hockey!  When you finish this book, even if you didn't know who Retta was before, you certainly will afterward!  Her bright personality shines through this book and it was a pleasure for me to get to know her.

*I received a complimentary copy of this book from St. Martin's Press and NetGalley in exchange for an honest, unbiased review.  All opinions are my own.

The Sorensen Low Self-Esteem Recovery Program

When you've struggled with self-esteem issues your entire life and you see a book called The Sorensen Low Self-Esteem Recovery Program it tends to pique your curiosity.  I've always known that I suffer from low self-esteem but for the life of me cannot tell you its origins.  I do know that it is a familiar trait in my family so maybe it's inherited and if so am I able to combat it and have the healthy self-esteem that I've always craved?  That's what I hoped to find out in The Sorensen Low Self-Esteem Recovery Program.

Dr. Marilyn Sorensen does a wonderful job of making sure the reader knows from the beginning that recovering from low self-esteem is "only possible if you choose to make use of what you learn," and that the road to recovery can be a long process.  This is an interactive resource so you will get out of it what you put into it.

What I loved about this book is that Dr. Sorensen goes into great detail explaining just what low self-esteem is, why it develops in so many of us, and symptoms of low self-esteem.  The steps to recovery are clearly laid out and even though I've had a short amount of time to incorporate the steps just recognizing the symptoms in myself has been life changing.  I know that I have a long road ahead but I hope that me making the necessary changes in myself will help me to not pass this horrible trait to my children.

If you struggle with low self-esteem issues, or know someone that does, I highly recommend this book.  If you really apply what Dr. Sorensen recommends I know you will be on the road to an healthy self-esteem in no time!

*I received a complimentary copy of this book from Wolf Publishing and NetGalley in exchange for an honest, unbiased review.  All opinions are my own.

Beyond Soap

I was diagnosed with psoriasis when I was five.  It was 1985 and at the time psoriasis was a condition that was seen mostly in the elderly, so for a five year old little girl from Texas to have this disease was baffling not only to my family but our family physician and many local dermatologists.  I was passed from specialist to specialist, each marveling at my age and condition.  I hated every second of it.  Having psoriasis changed my life forever and I still struggle daily with its effects.

At the time of my diagnosis the reasoning behind my having the disease was genetics even though neither of my parents or grandparents showed any signs or symptoms.  It wasn't many years later that my dad was diagnosed that I felt somewhat better about my ordeal but I've never felt like this was the whole story.  I am practically allergic to everything under the sun and though I am extremely careful about what I come into contact with, and use on my skin, I have often wondered if the products I've so carefully chosen are aiding in the ever-constant battle that I have with the psoriasis symptoms they are supposedly supposed to help alleviate?  That's what dermatologist Dr. Sandy Skotnicki wanted to find out.

In Beyond Soap Dr. Sandy Skotnicki lays it all out for you.  She explains the different types of skin, gives you a brief history lesson about bathing and makeup rituals through the generations, and then goes on to explain why our society is having the skin issues they are having.  A lot of the information are things that you most likely have heard before but it is a good refresher and Dr. Skotnicki's writing style is so fluid that you will breeze right through many parts of the book.

Dr. Sandy Skotnicki has done her research and it shows in every chapter of the book which makes it a wonderful resource for anyone who struggles with skin issues like myself.  The main premise of the book is less is more.  We are living in a society of overindulgence and that includes what we put on our skin.  When you read about the history of skin care Dr. Skotnicki provides it is obvious that we are "too clean" and using way too many products which are doing more harm than good.

I highly recommend Beyond Soap for anyone who has any type of skin ailments.  I have already begun to use some of Dr. Skotnicki's recommendations and I can already tell a difference.  In my opinion it is a must read!

*I received a complimentary copy of this book from Penguin Random House Canada and NetGalley in exchange for an honest, unbiased review.  All opinions are my own.
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