Books, Reviews

Second First Impressions Book Review

Have you ever been caught off guard by the sound of your own heartbeat? Maybe you’ve pressed your ear weirdly on your pillow, and now all you can hear is your own proof of life. You are confronted with your mortality in a base, clock-ticking kind of way: you have an engine room, and it has a finite timeline. What a miracle and a privilege. – Ruthie

After reading two intense adventure books, I thought this book was really slow when I first started it, but it was the best surprise!

Plot Summary

I’m not great at describing book plots, so enjoy the one provided from the back of the book:

Ruthie Midona has worked the front desk at Providence Retirement Villa for years, living on- site at the beck and call of the wealthy residents – and the rare tortoises that roam the manicured lawns. She has her routine, and not much ever changes. Until she lays eyes on Teddy Prescott, the son of Providence’s new owner and her new neighbor. Tall, tattooed, and with the most magical on Earth (just ask him), Teddy’s in town saving up money to pursue his dream of opening a tattoo shop. He’s the definition of risky, and Ruthie’s dazzled at first sight – until he mistakes her for a little old lady.

Luckily, Ruthie has the perfect revenge for Teddy’s insulting first impression. Her most eccentric residents have just places (yet another!) ad seeking a personal assistant to torment. The Parlonis are ninety-year-old, miniature menaces, and not one of their assistants has lasted a week. Ruthie knows a quitter when she sees one and is more than happy to offer up Teddy.

To Ruthie’s surprise, Teddy proves to be the ultimate hire, charming his way through the entire villa and into her heart with his joyful, never-serious outlook on life. But with the future of Providence hanging in the balance, and Teddy’s family’s plans threatening to shatter Ruthie’s safe little universe, will Teddy be there when it really counts?

What I Thought

This book pleasantly surprised me and gave me all the sweet and good feels!

After skimming some of the reviews on Goodreads, this book has gotten a bit of dislike… mainly for not being relatable or for the main character being to meek and blah. I find that assessment very unfair, because I happen to relate to Ruthie in so many ways – it’s kind of sad actually. At one part, I took a screenshot of the page and highlighted parts that sounded like me and sent it to my husband and best friend who laughingly agreed. I think discounting a book for a character not that all around relatable or someone you want to aspire to is silly, because everyone is different and I think it points out that she has reasons for her behavior as well as recognizing where she needs to grow. For those curious, here is the excerpt that describes me: “ID,” the bartender calls out in a forbidding voice when I reach the top of the stairs. “Wow, okay,” I reply and hand it to him. “I’m twenty-five.” He checks it, rechecks it, then chuffs a laugh. “You look about twelve.” I’ll take being mistaken for twelve over a Golden Girls cosplayer any day. As I tuck my ID back into my purse I briefly consider getting wasted. Maybe I’ll drink straight from that bottle of green stuff back there. I’ll leave my car here all night and order my first ever Uber home. Like no joke, I’ve had these very thoughts and conversations. So, in Ruthie’s defense, she is relatable to sheltered, sweethearts like myself. 🙂

I’d like to take a second and just say that I adored Teddy. I thought he was fantastic, adorable, and charming. I like how misjudged he was because of his appearance as a rich, confident, bad boy because of his tattoos, motorcycle, family, but as you learn more about him and see how he interacts with literally all the characters, you see that he is so much different and more than that. The “bad boy” trope is just so big right now, but most real girls don’t actually want a bad boy. We want someone to respect us, adore us, cheer us on…. so I reeeeeally appreciated that this book took a different route. I loved the explanation as to why Teddy was interested in Ruthie – because girls like Ruthie can be a catch for all you haters. And I felt that he truly treated her well and their friendship-turned-relationship was so so so sweet and it felt like something out of my very own dreams. I feel like the author got into my head from a few years ago and wrote a feel-good book just for me!

Let’s talk the love scene. I’ve already said that this book was basically written for me and the love scene was no different. It was hella romantic! But let me back up and say that this is chick-lit, not new adult or romance, so keep that in mind. The book is a love story, but it’s more about the getting to know you, becoming friends, accepting the feelings, and the love scene isn’t until the end. So getting back to the scene itself – I appreciated it, because of how sweet and realistic it was compared to a lot of the raunchy scenes out there. It is described as playful and affectionate. They chat a little in the beginning and laugh. There are kind compliments sprinkled throughout. Not to mention consent is present multiple times through phrases like “Want to keep going?” and “Can you keep going?” It was female positive (is that the word?), because the woman is treated as more than just an object or toy – “I never thought about my body as anything other than an instrument for him to find pleasure. All Teddy wants to do is make me smile and shiver, and his own body doesn’t seem to concern him.” It is obvious that feeling safe was a key in this scene from the way they communicate – “If I ever thought touching him in return would be awkward, I was wrong: we are friends above all else, and we can talk about these things: I can tell him how I want to try this, and this… He lets me.” And last but not least there was aftercare which you rarely ever see. All in all, this scene is spectacularly written. It was kind and sweet and vulnerable and sexy. I loved that the author showed you can write a wonderful love scene without making it dirty and raunchy.

The supporting characters grow on you as well. I wasn’t sure about Mel in the beginning, but as the story moves forward, I ended up really adoring her. The Parlonis were quite funny and I could picture them perfectly in my head. I really like elderly people too, so I found them very endearing.

So the book did start out a little slow. It took maybe 3 chapters before I started to really understand where the story was going and care about the characters. But I am SO GLAD I stuck it out, because this might be one of my favorite books now.

My Rating: 5 Stars

I loved this book and really appreciated how a lot of things were written. It was nice to finally have a main character I could relate to and see parts of myself in. It was fantastic to see a beautiful, kind love scene. I could go on and on. Anywho I recommend to those who enjoy chick-lit – a light-hearted, sweet romance.

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Books, Reviews

Fable & Namesake Book Review

Like a weary bird flying out over the most desolate sea, I finally had a place to land. – Fable

Wow! I haven’t written a book review in a long time, maybe a couple years, but this duology really grabbed my attention that made me want to fly through the pages in a way I haven’t experienced in a long time. It was refreshing!

Plot Summary

I’m not great at describing book plots, so enjoy the one provided from Goodreads:
Welcome to a world made dangerous by the sea and by those who wish to profit from it. Where a young girl must find her place and her family while trying to survive in a world built for men. Fable takes you on a spectacular journey filled with romance, intrigue, and adventure.

What I Thought

I am shocked at how much I enjoyed both of these books. Fable drew me in and I turned the pages quickly and wanted to know more and more about her world. I was so enthralled with it that the night I finished it, I ordered the second book. I finished Namesake in 24 hours and was sad that it was over. I want – maybe even need – more of her story and her world.

Truthfully, I grabbed Fable off the shelf at Target, because the cover was just so darn pretty. I never in a million years thought I was going to be drawn in and obsessed with a story about pirates (although the word pirate is never used). It is a gritty, cut-throat world that I would never want to live in, but I loved escaping to it. It sucked me in and I could picture it all perfectly in my mind. I loved the juxtaposition of how dirty the ground was, but all the underwater scenes were so beautiful.

This series had it all – adventure, family, romance, grit – I couldn’t get enough. I am pretty much always up for a love story and I really like a love story that is entangled in a bigger story especially one with some stakes. I liked that the romance builds as the story moves forward. I liked West and Fable together and was rooting for them from the start.

The characters are so great. I liked the crew so so much. I wanted to know so much more about all of them. Even though they were all dark and mysterious, I couldn’t hate or dislike any of them. I thought Fable was a fantastic female lead. She was tough and strong, but also vulnerable. I know West gets a lot of hate for being reckless, dark, and kind of controlling, but I liked him from the very beginning; I felt like he was more steady and reliable with a reckless side when it came to the ones he loved. I liked the backstories provided and the character redemptions. I even liked the bad guys.

If you can’t tell already there wasn’t really anything I didn’t like about this series. It had just enough of everything I needed. It was so so enjoyable and took me on a thrilling ride!

My Rating: 5 Stars

I give this duology 5 stars. Both of them. Fable was definitely more fast paced and Namesake provided a bit more background. But if you like adventure or if you like adventure with a bit of romance, then I highly recommend you give this series a read and then come tell me about it. 🙂

Has anyone else read these books and loved it as much as me?

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Books, Pregnancy, Reviews

Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth Book Review

It is important to keep in mind that our bodies must work pretty well, or there wouldn’t be so many humans on the planet. -Ina May Gaskin

The best natural birth book I have read so far; full of encouraging words, positive birth stories, and useful information.

Plot Summary

Ina May Gaskin is one of the world’s leading midwives in advocating for natural birth and expressing confidence in women’s bodies. In this book, Gaskin shares her knowledge and expertise in the world of midwifery to advise, encourage, and inform women on natural birth.

What I Thought

Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth is my favorite birth book that I have read so far! It was the most encouraging yet honest and realistic at the same time. Ina May’s knowledge is extensive and very impressive; I like that her advice doesn’t just come from research, but from actual birth experiences she has been a part of.

The first half of the book is full of true natural birth stories from women and families that gave birth on The Farm – where Ina May practices midwifery. The stories are so incredibly powerful and encouraging! Before becoming pregnant, I had never seen a birth or read birth stories… it freaked me out, but after I started seeing how strong the mothers were and how beautiful the process was, I didn’t feel so scared, but instead excited for my own turn.

The second half of the book is packed full of helpful information on how to have a successful natural birth, different coping measures to try during labor, how to be confident in your body, and general information on picking where to birth and who to do your prenatal care. Ina May tells it like it is and has a pretty great voice throughout the entire book. The tone of the book is hopeful and encouraging!

My Rating: 5 Stars

I would recommend this book to any woman who is pregnant – I think that natural birth should be given a chance and this book very clearly lays out the realities of what our bodies can do. I would also recommend this book to any woman who thinking about becoming pregnant, interested in natural birth, or wants to learn about what her options are when it comes to birth. This book could also be beneficial for expectant dads.

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Books, Pregnancy, Reviews

Hypnobirthing Book Review

Hypnobirthing… where do I even start?

Plot Summary

Hypnobirthing: The Mongan Method is a book explaining the hypnobirthing method for a successful natural birth experience.

What I Thought

I did not seek out this book, I just bought it at a used bookstore, because they didn’t have a copy of the book I was actually looking for. I have been trying to read as many pro-natural labor books as I can before Hazel comes, so that I can be very prepared and have as many tactics and techniques at my disposal. So although Hypnobirthing was not what I was looking for, I gave it a chance, because it is a natural birth method that is becoming more and more popular.

People considering using the Hypnobirthing method need to have a very open – and malleable – mind. I didn’t know exactly what the method entailed when I started the book, but one I got into the method techniques, they kind of lost me. It focuses heavily on deep relaxation and putting yourself in a state of self-hypnosis. I like to think I’m becoming more and more open-minded about birth, but I can say that after reading this book, I am not that open-minded.

Even if you are not into hypnosis – like me! – you can still get a lot of good information and some usable techniques from this book. If you read it early in pregnancy or before you have made your decision on whether you want a natural or medicated birth, this book provides lots of good information on different types of care providers and birthing facilities as well as the pros and cons to natural vs. medicated birth. It also gives you a little snip-it of history on how birth has become what it is here in the United States.

The information I took from this book is the importance of mind over matter. Women in the United States have been conditioned to fear childbirth and we forget that it is a natural function of our body. We are built to give birth! Having confidence in your body’s ability and being knowledgeable about how birth actually works can make all the difference when you are actually in labor. Also, relaxation plays a key role in helping your cervix dilate as well as pain management. Learning relaxation techniques (not necessarily the ones in this book) can help you calm down, trust your body, and labor more quickly.

My Rating: 4 Stars

As silly as I felt like some of the techniques in this book were, I would recommend this book to expecting mothers who are interested in natural birth and are not sure if they can do it or are not sure what type of birthing method they want to use. I would definitely remind anyone who picks this book up to keep an open mind and just take what you want away from it and not feel like you have to go all in with this method.

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Books, Faith, Reviews

Crazy Cool Family Book Review

Pursue God. Build Relationships. Create Culture.
-Don & Suzanne Manning

One of the women in our small group is one of the children in the crazy cool family this book is based on. She surprised us with a copy of this book to give us some ideas on how to create an amazing family of our own.

Plot Summary

A faith-based self-help book focusing on building a strong, connected, and spiritual family.

What I Thought

Having started this book with zero expectations, I was pleasantly surprised with some of the ideas and methods. Overall, I think it will be a great tool when Jeremiah and I start parenting. I liked their model of how to build a strong family: pursue God, build relationships, and create culture. I think those three ideas are great to prioritize and remember when thinking about how you want your family to look and feel.

Pursue God – I grew up in a Christian household, but I wouldn’t necessarily describe our family dynamic as one that actually pursued God. I feel like we ended up being more of a go-through-the-motions family, but I think my parents had good intentions. While reading these sections, I learned how having a strong relationship with God and seeking him regularly in all matters can benefit your family dynamic. I also have some tips on how to actually have a strong relationship with God.

Build Relationships – The book outlines a few key relationships that make a great family, great: our relationship to God, the marriage relationship, parents’ relationship to kids, kids’ relationship to Jesus, and kids’ relationships to each other. I think most of the time when we think of family, we think of the marriage the parents’ relationship to kids, but there is so much more going on. Growing up, I think my parents really struggled in having a relationship with God and I know my brother and I did as well. I think that lack of relationship really hindered our growth and family dynamic. It also breaks my heart that my brother and I do not have a strong relationship. Somewhere around junior high, we just went our separate ways and it was real rocky for awhile. The build relationships section was one of the most important for me, because I can clearly see what I need to work on in order for my family now to go in a different direction than my family did growing up.

Create Culture – The creating culture section seemed to focus on how the different pieces of your family interact with each other. So the different parts to culture are: encourage, safe, discipline, and unity. It wasn’t until this point that I felt like I would need to pick and choose what I take from this information. They focused on encouragement and careful correction – which I agree with to a point. Their view of careful corrections kind of translates to choosing your battles and not constantly nagging your children, which I can completely get behind. Next was making you and your home a safe haven. This is one I have always wanted to incorporate into my family. I have always wanted my kids to not be afraid to come home, make mistakes, or to ask hard/awkward questions. Next was relational discipline – discipline with a purpose, not just to control. Although I mainly agreed with most of what was said in this chapter, sometimes it was a little hard to believe the authors, because they came across as if their children were perfect little angels… as someone who grew up with a difficult sibling, I can tell you that their methods aren’t that encouraging for parents with a difficult kid. Last was building unity. This chapter focused on parenting as a team, learning from your spouse, and keeping marital conflicts away from the children.

If you’re interested, you can find out more about this book here.

My Rating: 4 Stars

Crazy Cool Family received 4 stars from me; one was deducted, because of how perfect they came across for a book on parenting. There was multiple times where they boasted about not having to ground their children or by sharing “bad” stories with the disclaimer that this never happened to them, but to someone they know. If you are going to write a book on how to have an amazing family and this is how to do it, please make your family situations seem real and not out of a 90s sitcom. Despite that irritating aspect, I enjoyed this book and think their methods and ideas have a lot of potential and I would recommend to new parents hoping to build a strong family or to families that already struggling, but the parents want to make a change.

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