Review: I Know You’re There by Susan Allison-Dean

Title: I Know You’re Therei know
Author: Susan Allison-Dean
Genre/Audience: Contemporary fiction, adult
Publication: 2013
Source: For review, CLP Tours

I Know You’re There is the story of Jill, a young and caring nurse with a great life ahead of her. She loves her work and life until things take a bad turn. In just a short time, she and her long-term boyfriend cut ties and she gets into a horrific car crash that changes her life. She also discovers tragic family secrets that will shake her to her core. In a bold moment, and not knowing what else to do, she books a spontaneous trip to a faraway island to escape her downward spiraling life. There, she begins to come to terms with what life has thrown her way, and begins to think she can enjoy life once again.

I Know You’re There is a story with a lot of potential. It was a quick read with a very likeable main character that I immediately empathized with. Her need to help and save people is one that many people can relate to, and I enjoyed the nursing aspect as my sister-in-law is a nurse herself. You can tell that the author knows her stuff, too. She worked as a nurse.

The beginning of the story shows Jill’s life before the car accident, and her life after. She has to learn to deal with a new normal, and learn to take back control of her life. The second half of the story takes place on an island called Triton, described as “Heaven on Earth.” I really enjoyed the scenery and descriptions of the island life; it reminded of my honeymoon!

I did have a couple of problems with the book though. I felt that it could have used some heavy editing. There were a lot of awkward sentences and dialogue, as well as a number of grammatical errors. Most noticeably, I observed a number of times where there was a comma used to separate what should have been two complete sentences. These issues made the story feel a bit disjointed.

As I said, I feel the story had a lot of potential with a highly likeable character and a beautiful setting, that perhaps more focus and editing could have helped with. I thought that the outcome of the car accident, wherein a couple died, leaving their baby an orphan, could have made for a fascinating story. The story, however, took a complete twist and focused instead on Jill, her family, and her trip to Triton.

As always, I give this author a lot of props and credit – she’s written a book and she should be very proud of herself! I would certainly give her future works another shot and believe she had some very good ideas that just needed some better editing and focus.

My Rating: 2/5

Review: My Story by Elizabeth Smart

Title: My Storymy story
Author: Elizabeth Smart
Genre/Audience: Memoir, true crime, adult
Publication:
Source: Library

It’s always hard for me to rate and review books that contain such personal stories and ordeals, like this one.

Many of you probably remember the story of Elizabeth Smart, who was kidnapped from her Salt Lake City home in 2002. She was 14 years old and held captive by Brian David Mitchell and his wife. She was held in captivity for nine long months in outdoor “camps.” She was abused both physically and mentally, starved, raped, and made to live in fear with the constant threats made by her captors who convinced her that if she ever tried to escape, her family would be killed.

It was extremely heartbreaking and fascinating to finally hear the whole story directly from Elizabeth herself. I was shocked by all of the horrors that she endured and how delusional Mitchell appeared to be. It sickened me how he pretended and faked his way through life. He pretended that he was a prophet and that he was doing all of these horrific things because he was told to do so by God. He was a master manipulator who “preached” on the streets for money, stole things from stores, and convinced others he was doing it all in the name of religion. He was a phony and a criminal and how he got away with it for so long, I will never understand.

This account of Elizabeth’s ordeal is quite detailed and all encompassing. If you’re interested in following crime cases, as I am, this would be a good choice for you to pick up. I’m also planning on reading some additional books about this case from other authors just to get some other perspectives and information, but this is obviously the definitive account and one that I’d recommend. I will add that it is NOT amazingly well written, but the more important thing is the content and that Elizabeth was able to have her voice heard. I would also highly recommend A Stolen Life by Jaycee Dugard, who was kidnapped and endured some very similar things for 18 years. You can check out my review for that HERE.

My Rating: 4/5

On Being a Night-Shift Wife

Just a few short weeks after Jerry and I married in October, our hopes and dreams were answered in the form of a steady, excellent, full time job with benefits for Jerry. He arrived here in Rochester in June 2012 and struggled to find a good fit for him job-wise for a very long time. He’s been working basically the whole time he’s been here, but most jobs were part time, full time without benefits, and then a full time job with benefits that was only a temporary job. We had so much anxiety about how we would afford to move out on our own, and how we would ever afford health insurance. After hundreds of applications and no job offers, we were feeling very discouraged.

Then things happened very quickly in November, right after our honeymoon return. Jerry received THREE offers in the same week! One was for a promotion at the company he worked for at the time, one was a part time hospital job, and one was the job he accepted and is currently at: a full time job with benefits, health insurance, retirement, and the whole shebang. After some hemming and hawing, the decision was made to take that job because the benefits could not be beat.

collage 2

I text him super attractive selfies like these ones so he doesn’t miss my face too much. Luckily, he thinks I’m as funny as I do. ;)

Jerry loves his job working in building services at the local community college. It’s an amazing place that I attended for 1.5 years of my undergrad and loved. I am endlessly proud of him for how hard he worked to finally land this job and we are so relieved because this job helps provide for us many of the things we need. The downside, however, is that I am now a night-shift wife, and a newlywed to boot, which makes it even harder.

See, I work days and get out of work at 5PM. Jerry STARTS at 5PM. That means that on weekdays, we really don’t see each other. Sure, he sees me when he gets home in the middle of the night and I’m asleep, and I see him in the morning when I wake up for work and HE’S asleep, but that’s not really quality time, now is it? We text through the day and night and cherish every second of our weekends together. Buuut, since I’m also at the start of my own career, I also work Saturday mornings, getting out at 2. I LOVE my Saturday morning shift but I miss the time with my husband.

So on weekday evenings, I’m a night-shift wife. I get out of work, usually have dinner with my parents, then head on home to our quiet, empty house. My dog, Dakota, keeps me company. An introvert by nature, I have always thrived on and cherished alone time where I can recharge my batteries and just be by myself. I love quiet time full of books and shows and blogging. In fact, I get quite stressed out when I have a lot of plans and quite like the rare occasion when my calendar is empty and clear of all social obligations. As much as I love alone time, and always have, I miss my husband. I want to just have dinner with him, go shopping with him, curl up and watch movies with him, even just have him next to me while I read and he games. And while we get to do these things on the weekends, after I get out on Saturdays, our day and a half together goes by way too quickly every time. It makes us appreciate each other more, sure, and our time together is wonderful since it’s so rare, but I still envy all the couples who get to spend all their evenings together just doing the mundane things that people take for granted.

I’m trying to branch out, be more social, and get out there a bit more. I’ve started a book club which has been fun and successful, and am going to start going to a craft night this month. Being social doesn’t come naturally to me, but I need to try a bit harder at it so that I don’t spend ALL my week nights alone, though I do enjoy them frequently.

Anyway, I hope this night-shift isn’t forever. Hopefully he can get a day shift eventually, but for now I know it’s necessary. It’s one of those “you gotta do what you gotta do” situations, ya know? For now, I’m trying to take it all in stride. I’m trying to cherish the quiet moments, make the most of our rare time together, and be more social with friends so I’m not so lonely. I’m sad that I’m a newlywed who rarely sees her husband, but I’m proud of my husband even more-so. Even though I try not to dwell on it too much, and some days are harder than others, I know we will be okay… just as long as I keep on sending selfies.

Review: The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness

Title: The Knife of Never Letting Goknife
Author: Patrick Ness
Genre/Audience: Dystopia, young adult
Publication: Candlewick, 2009
Source: Library

Mehhhh. That is how I feel about this book at the moment and I know it’s not a very popular opinion, but I’m just being honest.

This was another book out of my comfort zone that I read for my Forever YA book club. I would have ordinarily never picked this up, but it was the February selection so I gave it a go out of obligation.

So. The story takes place in the future on some other planet called New World. Todd Hewitt is our 13-ish year old narrator who lives in a town full of men, and is the last remaining “boy.” All the women were killed off when the settlers arrived on New World, by the Noise germ, and only men remain. Yes, when Todd’s people arrived on the planet, they began hearing each other’s every thought AKA Noise. Todd, being the last boy, however, doesn’t know the whole story. He’ll find out in a month when he becomes a man, but before that can happen, he is forced to flee with his dog, whose Noise can also be heard. Todd’s surrogate fathers tell him to run away without any explanation, but Todd knows it must be something sinister and begrudgingly obeys. He leaves the only home he has ever known and soon stumbles across a young girl. But how can that be? All females were killed by the germ when they settled on New World, weren’t they? Todd and this girl must face difficult and harsh realities while escaping a violent and hostile pursuit from some not so well-meaning men intent on finding Todd.

This story was very unique, I will say that, and I have enjoyed a dystopian novel or two (particularly All These Things I’ve Done by Gabrielle Zevin), but it’s not my usual cuppa tea and this one was not. My cuppa, that is. Action and adventure have never really been my thang, and while I enjoy a good suspense novel, I don’t really enjoy adventure novels, and I do believe there is a difference. I like realistic suspense reads that are grounded in reality; I’m more of a contemporary or realistic fiction kind of fan. This was a total action, adventure, thrill ride through the woods and down the river kinda thing.

All that said, the plot was very interesting and different, and I also really loved Manchee, the talking dog. I was intrigued by the story and even read the last 200 pages rapidly because I wanted to see how it would end. It was captivating and attention grabbing at times and the writing was quite good… but I just never really got all that into it. I felt that it was kind of repetitive. Todd and the girl run and escape, then up pops the bad guy and someone gets hurt. They run and escape again, then up pops the bad guy and someone gets hurt, over and over and over again. It got a bit tiring and boring reading the same thing repeatedly, ya know?

Other than that, I don’t have much else to say. I know A LOT of people really love this series, and I can totally see why – it’s very  fascinating! But again, I’m just personally not into adventure type books so I never found myself fully immersed in the story, until the very end. This is the first in a trilogy of very long books, and I’m curious to know how it all turns out, but I’m still not sure I liked it enough to keep reading. This is what stinks about series sometimes – I invested many hours in this nearly 500 page book and I still don’t even know the half of it; I have no satisfaction nor do I know how the story really ends. Will I read the rest of the trilogy? Well, the jury’s still out on that one.

My Rating: 3/5

Goodbye February!

Ohhh, February. Though it was a short month, it seemed to drag on. It was not nearly as eventful as January was, and definitely not as fun. It had its good moments, but I’m not sad to see it go. Between the continued horrific weather, and worst of all, losing Oliver, I’m glad to put it behind me and move on. It’s March now, so we’re hoping for some spring-like weather, but us New Yorkers know never to get our hopes up. The cold will continue indefinitely. Boo hiss.

The only real things of note for this month were the loss of Oliver and Valentine’s Day. Oliver’s death seems like eons ago. Has it really only been two weeks? I’m certainly feeling better about it all, but every time he runs across my mind, I’m hit with the sadness all over again. There’s a tiny little Oliver shaped hole in my heart.

vday

From the husband – aww!

Onto happier things… our first married Valentine’s Day! I work the day shift and Jerry works a late night shift (5PM to 1:30 AM), so during the week, we hardly get to see each other. Not going to lie, it sucks. Needless to say, with Valentine’s Day falling on a Friday this year, I wasn’t expecting much. We planned to celebrate on Saturday instead. However, Jerry was kind enough to surprise me at work on Friday with lunch from my favorite Puerto Rican restaurant down the road, a slice of cookie cake (our favorite – it was dessert at our wedding rehearsal dinner), and a vase of flowers with a bear and chocolates attached. My man sure is sweet and thoughtful; I just love that about him. On Saturday, we opted to skip out of the expensive dinner out we had planned (we are buying a house, after all) and went for our favorite frozen yogurt instead. We also went to two of my favorite craft and antique co-ops where Jerry let me pick out some new decor and dolls as a V-day gift. He went above and beyond for me! I took him to breakfast and to get some new boots as a gift to him the week before. Our Valentine’s celebration was certainly not traditional, but we made it our own.

The month was pretty busy but still seemed uneventful. I went to dinner with my parents a few times, went to dinner with two of my best friends, Taylor and Katie, and met Katie’s new Ragdoll kitten, went and watched a movie with my cousin who was dogsitting for our aunt, and  had a great book club meeting at my house. I felt like I was constantly busy and on the go, but not with anything major. It was nice to be social for once, but I always feel like I need to get home and recharge my batteries after a week full of socializing. That’s the introvert in me talking!

vday2

Me with some of my V-day gift primitive dolls!

I’ve continued to decorate our house and am loving how it’s coming along. I’m hoping to tackle the bathroom this month by tearing down the old wallpaper and painting the walls. As for my style, I’m obsessed with the primitive country look, as you may have seen me mention, and I’m having so much fun decorating and searching for new prims… when the budget allows, of course! My new obsession that started in February are primitive folk dolls! I’ve got a small collection going and am planning to keep adding to it. When I visit my handy grandmother in Florida next, we are going to try and make our own. For now, I love looking for new dolls to buy and add to my collection. Primitive dolls are typically ugly but in a cute way. It’s hard to explain! I’m going to create a post soon showcasing my new decorations and do a little house tour though, so watch for that soon!

As for blogging, this was a pretty great month, despite a ten day streak with no posts (due to all my socializing!). I managed to blog 11 times during this short month! I just counted it up and was quite impressed with myself. ;) My goal is two times a week which would put me at eight a month so I exceeded that goal. As for reading… ugh. Like in January, I only got through 2.5 books this month. This does not bode well for my 100 book a year goal AT ALL. It’s really a smart phone epidemic, I swear. I spend WAY too much time wasting time on my phone that I would have spent reading back in the day. I mean, there are other factors as well, such as working, having a new husband, having a new home and all the accompanying responsibilities, being more social, etc. But still! I am feeling so lame and I am so far behind in my goal already. I need to step it up!

In March, I’d like to maintain my blogging frequency and keep being super active on here. I’d also like to read at least four books. I’m SUPER enjoying personal blogging and am going to try to continue coming up with new, creative personal posts in addition to my bookish posts. I like doing both. I’ve also made a few new blogging friends, now that I’m reading more personal blogs to go along with my newly revamped, partly personal blog. I’m continuing to look for more personal/lifestyle blogs to read so please let me know some of your favorites! As for the bookish aspect, I have not forgotten about it, but I’ve just been reading so slowly and therefore not having a whole lot of reviews to write. I do have a new book review scheduled for Monday though!

So that’s it for me! I’m looking forward to reading more and doing some more work to the house in March – those are my main goals for the month. Oh, also? We should be closing on the house very shortly so EEEE! Aaaand, my nephew is 8 months old today. ARE YOU KIDDING ME?! I love that little man.

Happy March, everyone!

I’m an adult?

Sometimes I feel like I’m just pretending to be an adult.

Since getting married and moving out on our own a few months ago, my life has changed quite a bit. First off, I’m somebody’s wife now. WHOA. Still seems crazy to me (but good crazy!). And we have our own house now which is wild. I do laundry, I tidy up, I obsess over decor, I try (on occasion) to cook. We pay bills (ugh), we talk about children (WHAT!?), we get excited when we finally order garbage service since we’ve been lugging our trash to my parent’s house (yes, seriously, I was stoked when we got our own garbage tote and service! Yay, garbage!).

Anyway, it’s fun (except for the bills part), but it just doesn’t seem like reality all the time yet. It’s starting to sink in a bit more each day, but wasn’t it just yesterday that my friends and I were making movies and graduating high school? Oh wait, I guess that was 7 years ago now(!!!). I’m enjoying learning all these new things with my husband. I love the routines we’ve established and the life we’re creating. My new favorite hobbies include scouring craft antique co-ops for home decor (I’m all about the primitives) then obsessively arranging my new treasures, and pinning bathroom and kitchen remodel ideas on Pinterest. Since when do I care what a bathroom looks like? Since now, apparently. And maybe someday we will actually have the money to execute these remodel plans I’ve been squirreling away on virtual corkboards. I’m going for the primitive look all over the house, instead of the 70′s style bathroom and kitchen we’re currently rocking (my great-grandparents built this home and I love it but it needs some updating).

I remember not too long ago being dragged to craft antique co-ops by my parents and hating every moment of it. Now, I drag my husband every single chance I get (and he’s usually quite a trooper. I suppose the free coffee and cookies don’t hurt). Other things I do now? Turn out all the lights and electronics to save on our electric bill. Close cupboards. Put things away immediately. Swiffer the whole house on the weekends. Ya know, fun adult stuff that my parents used to beg me to do and now I understand why.

So needless to say, it’s been an adjustment, and a very good one at that, but sometimes I’m left wondering, “when the hell did I become an adult?” It feels like it happened overnight sometimes. It feels like just yesterday I was goofing off with my friends in school. I also think I’m at that awkward life stage where SOME of my classmates are getting married, buying houses, etc. but a lot of them aren’t yet. I think a lot of them are straddling the line between childhood and adulthood still, and to be honest? So am I. But it’s been quite fun so far, growing up with my husband by my side. We still have some growing up to do before we’re full-fledged adults, but we’re getting there, one bill at a time!

Got lots of adult gifts at my bridal shower over the summer, like this vacuum cleaner!

Got lots of adult gifts at my bridal shower over the summer, like this vacuum cleaner!

Falling Off the (Fitness) Wagon

When Jerry and I got married in October 2013, I had been logging my calories and exercise on MyfitnessPal for 22 months straight, day in and day out, after having started my fitness journey in January 2012. By the time our wedding rolled around, I had been nearly flawless in my food tracking and exercise for nearly two years straight. Unless it was our weekly cheat meal, not a morsel passed by my lips unlogged and unaccounted for. I was perfect in my logging and I had lost 118 pounds because of it.

food

The dessert table before everything else was put out and promptly demolished. At least our cupcake tower was pretty… and delicious!

Then it was our wedding and things just got crazy. The week before the wedding, family arrived in town and it was constant celebrating and catching up over meals at our favorite restaurants and frozen custard at the beach. Our rehearsal dinner was held at our favorite Italian restaurant with decadent and fattening foods, followed by our favorite cookie cake loaded with frosting. The actual wedding reception itself could have been bad for me too, except that I was so anxious and excited that I could hardly eat (a first for this foodie!). At any rate, we had prime rib (Jerry’s favorite), fettuccine alfredo (my favorite), and a variety of other amazing Italian food. Our dessert buffet was to  die for, but our wedding guests raided it before we got a chance, leaving Jerry and I with only cupcakes and brownies (still delicious, but we missed out on the cake balls, Oreo truffles, chocolate covered strawberries, mini cheesecakes, and more. Can you tell we’re still bitter?).

Barbecue Buffet on the beach in the Bahamas!

Barbecue Buffet on the beach in CoCo Cay!

Then we woke up the next morning and it was honeymoon cruise time! We started the morning with leftover cupcakes and cookie cake and proceeded to eat nonstop for the next seven days. Anyone who has been on a cruise knows that the best part of a cruise? Is the food. It’s available all the time in the form of elaborate and ginormous buffets, classy dining rooms, room service, and ice cream poolside. For two foodies who had been so incredibly strict about their diets for the past two-ish years… we were in heaven!

We told ourselves that we would get right back to our regimen the day we returned home. In fact, we were looking forward to it after all the gorging we had been doing. But then we got back home and discovered it’s not so easy getting back on track after you’ve been OFF track for two weeks straight. I don’t regret for one minute what we did. We’re only getting married once and honeymooning once, and I’m so glad we lived it up and enjoyed ourselves to the fullest. But it’s not been easy ever since.

I wouldn’t say we’re fully off the wagon now. I’d say we’re straddling the wagon and holding on for dear life as we hang half off, half on. Immediately following our return, it was Thanksgiving, then it was Christmas, then it was both of our birthdays in January. We’ve been in a constant state of celebration since OCTOBER! That certainly doesn’t make things easier, but we need, so badly, to refocus.

First things first, we know we have a problem and we’re admitting it. That’s the first step, right? We are struggling and I know why. Before October, we were so strict it HURT. It led us to being successful with our weight loss, but we weren’t always successful in other areas that mattered. Our aim was so laser focused that we often neglected family and friends, to an extent. We were constantly turning down dinner and party invitations because we didn’t want to face the food temptations. Instead, we’d stay home eating our healthier meals. This is not a good way to live. Yes, we want to be healthy, but not at the expense of a normal life. Now, we go to those parties and dinners and we CAN’T fight the temptations. We need to find that happy medium and it’s been a real struggle. We need to be strict enough that we maintain our health, but we also can’t be so strict that we forgo a normal life and relationships.

I so badly want to have a normal relationship with food, but I just can’t. I’ve been successful because of my willpower, not because of my relationship with food. I just want to be able to eat a meal without needing to log it to hold myself accountable, but when I decide not to log it, I usually can’t control myself and I eat more than I should. This is hard to admit. I thought that I would gain a healthier relationship with food after logging for so long, and I have to a degree, but when I don’t log, I just can’t be good. I think I’m going to have to be a lifetime food logger because I need that accountability to keep myself on track. That is frustrating to me.

I also need to get a bit better about my exercising. I used to be at the gym seven days a week when I was first starting out, sometimes for two hours at a time. This was okay for the initial period of weight loss, but it was ultimately not something I could maintain for the rest of my life, nor was it entirely healthy. Now, I aim to get to the gym about three to four days a week, which I feel is sufficient. I used to feel so motivated to go and kick butt though, and now not so much. I still make myself go, because I have to, but I wish I had  that same motivation that I used to. I think it’s just rough right now because it’s so snowy and miserable out. I also haven’t been running outside because it’s slippery and disgusting. I’m hoping that with the warmer weather, I will feel that need and urge to run again and push myself. I am definitely looking forward to spring and training for future races again.

So now our celebrations are done, but we’re still fighting the good fight with food and fitness. I used to log like a robot, never skipping a beat, never missing a meal. It was a rare day that I slipped up. Now, it’s a rare day that I DON’T slip up. Right now, I’m just taking it day by day by day. When I have a good day, where I’ve logged all my food and stayed within my calories limits, it’s a victory. It’s a small one, but a victory nonetheless. Quite frankly, we’re sick of starting over. We keep telling ourselves, “we’ll be bad today, but it’s back on the wagon tomorrow!” I’m sick of starting over, but I’m also sick of being so hard on myself. I need to find a balance with food, that despite two plus years of successful weight loss, I still haven’t found. Luckily, I’ve only gained about six pounds back  from my 118 pound loss, and I am trying desperately to re-lose those six, plus the last 20 after that. I keep losing a couple again, then gaining it back, so I’m still sitting right around that up six pounds mark.

I hear all these statistics about how most people who’ve lost significant amounts of weight almost always gain it back. I’m determined to beat the odds and be one of those rare people that don’t gain it all back. It’s been so damn hard, and it’s a struggle that I really will have to face every single day for the rest of my life. Some days, I feel like throwing in the towel but I know it will never come to that. I have worked too hard and come too far to ever be my former self again. Some days, it feels impossible to keep the weight off, but you know what? I once thought it was impossible to lose 118 pounds and I did it. SO THERE! :P

Review: The Fat Bridesmaid by Brooke Zaras

Title: The Fat Bridesmaidfat bridesmaid
Author: Brooke Zaras
Genre/Audience: Chick lit, adult
Publication: 2013
Source: For review

This book right here? This is the kind of book we need more of.

Ellie Mae Duncan is a 20-something single mom whose husband left her shortly after their son, David, now six, was born. Ellie is a hard working woman who is enrolled in the local community college and works on the horse farm where she and her son live in a trailer on the property. Despite her good qualities, most people have a hard time looking past her fat exterior and seeing what’s inside. In fact, she feels mostly invisible, except to her two best friends: Katia, the perfect, beautiful woman, and Jason, the handsome, divorced man who has feelings for Ellie that she tries to ignore. Even though Jason is a rather perfect man, Ellie is madly in love with Levi, a coworker on the horse farm, who doesn’t reciprocate the romantic feelings. When Ellie is asked to be a bridesmaid in Katia’s wedding, she decides she doesn’t want to be the fat bridesmaid or be invisible any longer, so she decides to change her diet and join a gym to lose weight. A lot of things happen along the way including b*tchy bridesmaids, a romp in the sack followed by next-morning regrets, and what may actually be love.

So, I obviously really, really enjoyed this book. Why we need more books like this is because, quite frankly, there aren’t enough books with fat girls as the main character. As someone who struggled with her weight for many, many years (and still do, despite a 100 plus pound weight loss), I take comfort in reading about other women who have experienced or are experiencing the same thing. And to be honest? There are millions of women experiencing the same thing, but NOT millions of books about fat people. I immensely enjoyed relating to Ellie, and nodding my head “yes” at many of the the problems that fat people deal with but that aren’t usually acknowledged in the media, things like feeling invisible and cringing at the scale at the doctor’s office. I cringed right alongside her, remembering feeling those exact same feelings in my own “fat days.” These days at the doctor’s office though, I’m like, “yup! I’ll get on your scale!” Like Ellie, who ordered her bridesmaid dress in a size 12 even though she was an 18 at the time, I had some sizing issues with my wedding dress. It had to be exchanged for a 12 after ordering a much larger size. WHAT, WHAT! That’s yet another thing that I loved about this novel – all the wedding talk! I’m still sad that my own wedding is over after many months of planning, and it was fun to live through someone else’s (fictional) wedding.

Even if you haven’t: struggled with weight issues, recently gotten married or been in a wedding, dealt with b*tchy friends, or had love life drama, this book is still downright amazing and almost everyone will find something to relate to. It’s both fun and full of heart as well as funny and sweet. If you love chick lit, you’re guaranteed to enjoy this one. The romance(s) are frustrating, heartbreaking, and realistic and the friendships are teeth-grating, heartwarming, and a myriad of other things that you’ll nod your head at. I also just loved Ellie and her strong will, good nature, and humor. There was a lot in her to like and admire. She’s a very memorable heroine, for sure.

I just plain loved this book, not only for the messages it delivered, the strong heroine, and the huge relatibility(new word?) factor, but also because it was just plain awesome and fun. This is definitely one of those books that you’re almost sad to close because you know you are going to miss the characters and stories within. I’d personally love me some more Ellie, Katia, and Jason! Also, Brooke is a debut author, but you really could never tell from the high quality of her writing. She has a natural ability, and I for one am dying for a sequel, or any other novel from her, for that matter. Brooke, make my wishes come true, won’t you please? :)

Highly recommended from this former fat girl! I’ll be keeping this one on my “favorites” shelf!

My Rating: 5/5

Loving (and Losing) Oliver

Jerry and I began our dog fostering adventures in December. I got this crazy idea that since Dakota (my beloved six year old dog) is neurotic, that maybe he’d like having another dog around. We weren’t 100% certain that we wanted and/or could afford a second dog, so we decided that maybe we’d try fostering. It would be a good way to try out having another dog and help rescue dogs at the same time, something about which I am very passionate. So we put in an application to foster through a local rescue group and heard back the very next day. They had a six month old long-haired black Chihuahua mix that they wanted to pull from the shelter if we would agree to take her. We agreed, and we had Jazmine in our care for about a month before she found her forever home with a very nice family. Jazmine was a wild child, causing us lots of grief but also lots of laughs. I was both sad and relieved to see her go. We made it a point to say that we would only foster adult dogs from that point on.

d and o cropped

Prince Ollie and Dakota

Shortly after Jazmine left, we were asked if we would be willing to foster Oliver. We didn’t know much, but were told that he was sick (but not sure what with), on antibiotics, and not contagious. We were a bit reluctant, but agreed. I received a phone call the night he was picked up from the shelter. The woman wanted to warn me about his appearance, stating that he was extremely emaciated. This warning could still not prepare us for the sight of Oliver. I was in shock when I first laid eyes on him. There were bones poking out all over his body and you could count every individual rib. Not an ounce of fat was to be found. I was so scared that first night; the thought of calling and having them finding him a new home ran through my mind so many times. I didn’t feel equipped to care for a dog that literally looked like he was on death’s doorstep. We decided to keep him anyway. Every time the thought of giving him back ran through my mind, the guilt of giving up on this dog, of letting him be abandoned yet again, took over and I decided to hold on and keep trying.

He fit in with us right away. We told each other we would adopt him when he got better (because everyone thought he would). He cuddled up to us and loved lying in ours laps, but…

We knew right away something was very, very wrong. Things were worse than originally thought. No one knew he was as sick as he was. He stopped eating after a day and had constant diarrhea. He almost never got up out of his dog bed and had zero energy. After four days in our care, he went back to the vet. His white blood cell counts were through the roof and cancer was suspected, but he was given antibiotics (a stronger kind) in case of an intestinal infection instead. We were to give him this medication for a week and cross our fingers that he would heal.

oliver 3I won’t lie. There were moments of hope in that week that we were to hope for the best while he took his medication. We were told to feed him boiled chicken, and man did he love it. When I was feeding him, he would snatch the chicken from my hand so aggressively and with such vigor that I felt hopeful. He also continued to love playing. The second he heard his squeaky toy, he would shove himself off his bed and stagger around trying to find it. Trying to take the toy away was a struggle involving our hands and his teeth. These were small signs of life, signs that he had will to fight and survive, that he was still living. The rest of the time, he laid curled up in his bed and blankets so tightly, trying so hard to stay warm that he would get mad when I tried to pick him up to take him out. For a couple of days, his diarrhea even decreased to only once a day, and again, I felt hopeful. But his problems never went away after his dose of antibiotics. In fact, he continued to lose weight and worsen.

To make a long story short, Oliver underwent a battery of additional tests after that first one, including more blood work, as well as an ultrasound. After his ultrasound, he was to start a round of new medication and a special diet. No one really knew what was wrong. There was still the possibility of cancer, but now there was also the possibility of Protein Losing Enteropothy, meaning his body could not absorb food and nutrients. We felt that with his new diet and medications, he might get better… but with this new possible diagnosis and continuing weight loss, I began to feel that Oliver deserved better care than Jerry and I were able to provide for him. We loved him plenty, but that isn’t always enough. I felt strongly in my heart that Oliver needed to go to a home where someone would be home more often to monitor him on a more regular basis. Jerry and I both work full time and are always on the go. When we began fostering, the idea of a dog as sick as Oliver never crossed our mind so we never saw our schedules as being a conflict, but we knew that with his increasing needs, we needed to let him go. This Monday, Oliver went to a new home and began his new meds and diet. I had made arrangements to go visit him TODAY. Last night, just two days after I last saw him, I received a message that Oliver had passed away. Even though he had played with his beloved toys that very morning, at night his breathing became labored and he was struggling to stand. He had to be put down.

I felt like I had been punched hard in the gut when I heard the news. I immediately started sobbing and couldn’t stop. My own breathing became staggered, and Dakota immediately cuddled up to me, sensing something was wrong. I was supposed to see Oliver today, and now I will never get to say goodbye. Couple that with the constant guilt I have felt since deciding to get him placed in a new home, and the pain is almost unbearable. And yet, I know we all did the best we could for this little dog in the three weeks he was with us. Surely he felt the love that so many had for him in his final weeks.

But I am still heartbroken. He was only five years old. He didn’t deserve this and it pained me so much just to look at him and know that he was suffering. I hated that I could do nothing to help him, to stop him from getting worse. I hated that this dog, who still had the tiniest bit of will to fight, the tiniest bit of life in him, just couldn’t live anymore.

I never asked for this and I certainly never wanted this. No one wants to take in a dog for the last weeks of his life and basically watch him die. But I always tell myself in regards to dog fostering that it isn’t about me, it’s about THEM. It’s about saving, or trying to save, lives that other people deemed unworthy… of rescuing dogs that other people abandoned, gave up on, or threw away. I don’t foster to be a hero or for the praise, I do it to save the dogs. I did my best for Oliver, but it could never have been enough; he couldn’t be cured.

It is the saddest sight in the world to watch a dog with a serious illness get increasingly sick. It is the saddest feeling to know that you can do nothing to stop the sickness from taking over his body. It is the saddest thing to imagine that this once healthy, beautiful, energetic puppy is now a five year old who is dying way too soon. It always sucks to lose an animal, even one that was only yours for a short amount of time, but you know what? The love is always worth the loss in the end.

I laid on the kitchen floor in front of his bed and cried the night I first learned he might have cancer, almost two weeks ago now. Sobs took over my body and I shouted to Oliver how sorry I was that I couldn’t save him. I stroked his head and he looked at me with his huge brown eyes and he seemed peaceful, forgiving. He was alert, something he usually wasn’t, and he seemed to be listening to my words. I think he knew that I tried and that I was sorry. He knew that he was sick and he probably mourned the days he had infinite amounts of energy. I mourned the oliverimpending loss of a dog I barely knew but already loved.

Dogs are put on this Earth for one reason only, and that is to be loved. Loving Oliver meant doing what was best for him even if it was hard, even if there are regrets and a million “what if?”questions running through my mind. Should I have had him placed in a new home or should I have kept him? No, it would have been selfish – he needed round the clock care. What if I had done this or that instead? Nothing any of us did could have cured his disease. The best thing we could do for him was to let him go and be at peace and so we did what we had to… for Oliver. I’ll miss seeing his angel face when I come home, bellowing “Olivero!” up the stairs, but I won’t miss watching him wither away. He didn’t deserve this disease, but he deserved love, and that was the one thing we COULD give him.

All I can say now is that I was lucky to be Oliver’s mom for a little bit of time. It was emotionally draining, but I am glad he didn’t live the rest of his life in that shelter where he was abandoned. I’m glad that my family and friends showered him with love and affection. I’m glad that, at the very least, the last three weeks of his life were full of love (and chicken). I do believe that everything in this world happens for a reason, and I believe that for whatever reason, we were chosen to be Oliver’s family (if only for a moment). I was chosen to be his mama, so no matter how much it hurts, I know that this was meant to be and I am trying hard to push away the guilt and regrets. The other thing I know is that no matter how hard goodbyes are, sometimes they are necessary. I know that Oliver is right where he should be. He is a happy carefree puppy again, no longer in pain. He is eating mountains of chicken and squeaking his toys in heaven. And I was privileged to be his.

"Lights will guide you home, and ignite your bones, and I will try to fix you." - Coldplay

“Lights will guide you home, and ignite your bones, and I will try to fix you.” – Coldplay

Guest Post/Giveaway: Meredith Schorr on Release Day Feelings!

I am so excited to have Meredith Schorr, one of my favorite authors, back on the blog today. When I learned that all three of her fabulous books were being released as an eBook boxset, I suddenly started wondering: how does it feel when your book is being released? What is release day like for an author? I like to live a bit vicariously through Meredith and her blog since she is an author and lives in NYC, two things I’d love to be and do, so I asked Meredith all about that and she kindly decided to share those release day feelings with us for each of her three books! I loved every single one of these novels (my reviews are here, here, and here). They are perfect chick lit reads with realistic heroines and fun stories. If you don’t own them yet, you should definitely snatch up this offer. Oh, and hint, hint: it’ll be on sale for Valentine’s Day weekend. Check it out on Amazon here, but it’s available for other devices and on other sites as well. Take it away, Meredith!

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I remember exactly how I felt when my three novels were released:

Just Friends with Benefits – September 1, 2010.

This was my first novel and I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. Aside from an author page on Facebook, I was not on social media and even my website was under construction. I didn’t know any book bloggers or even that such people existed. I was a newbie of the highest order. On September 1,, 2010, I woke up giddy, yet anxious that my first novel would actually be available for purchase by the public! I did not take the day off from work, but I spent most of the morning sending out the various emails I had drafted to inform people of the official publication and to provide buy links. My boss, who is also my dearest friend, took me out to lunch that day and his eyes watered when he told me how proud he was of me. He urged me to take a step back and truly appreciate what I had accomplished: not only did I write a cohesive book with a beginning, middle and an end, but it was a great book and a novel that a publishing company believed in. He reminded me that completing a manuscript is not something that just anyone can accomplish. Later that week, I celebrated the release of my book by going out for drinks with friends.

My experience publishing Just Friends with Benefits was unique in that it was not tainted by the stresses of Amazon ranRealChickLit-Coverkings and reviews because I had no idea what Amazon rankings were and I assumed reviews would come in eventually and that I had no power over it. Oh to be an innocent author again!

A State of Jane – September 17, 2012

By the time my second novel came out, I had joined Twitter and made friends with many other authors and book bloggers. I was definitely more knowledgeable about pre-release activities such as seeking reviews from book bloggers and asking for help in sharing/retweeting news about the release on Facebook and Twitter. I took the day off from work that day so that I could spend all morning sharing the news without feeling negligent in my day job. Imagine my surprise when I woke up on September 17, 2012 to find that the book was not yet up on Amazon or BN. I immediately notified my book manager at my publisher (Booktrope) and was told that there was a miscommunication and that they would put the book up as soon as possible. Although I knew the situation would resolve itself eventually and a few hours here and there wouldn’t make a difference in the grand scheme of things, I was really upset that morning. It was as if all of my excitement and glee about releasing my second novel were put on pause and there was not much I could do besides click refresh every few minutes on Amazon to see if the book was there. While I waited, I informed all of my Facebook friends that the book would be available soon. I had made an appointment that day to get my hair highlighted and it was while I was in the chair waiting for the toner to set in that my book blogger buddy, Michelle Bell, tweeted the official release of A State of Jane on Amazon. My friends threw me a really great party for the release. They even had a cake made with A State of Jane spelled out in butter cream. It was truly a night I will always remember.

Blogger Girl – August 28, 2013

By the time Blogger Girl was released, I was a veteran in preparing for a book release. I also had an amazing book manager assigned by Booktrope, Beth Bacon, to help me strategize. I had sent out about fifty requests to bloggers to provide early reviews and I contacted several readers on Goodreads and asked them if they wanted a free book in exchange for an honest review. I also organized a cover reveal. The biggest thing I did, however, was put together a “Celebration of Bloggers Tour” where I asked bloggers to write guest posts on my blog in order to turn the spotlight on the blogger instead of the author. This tour was a huge success and drew a lot of attention to the book. Between the tour and the close to twenty reviews I had on Amazon before the book was even officially released, sales of Blogger Girl were pretty terrific right out of the gate.

I took off from work the day Blogger Girl was released and this time there was no glitch as the book had already been technically available on all three platforms (Amazon, B&N and iTunes) for several weeks. I spent the morning tweeting, sharing, email etc. and some friends took me out to dinner that night.

After having published three novels, I can say that while each experience came with its own set of circumstances and emotions, the excitement, the fear, the pride, the anxiety, and the hope that the book would skyrocket me to fame were present during all three releases and I imagine I will always feel those things the day one of my books is launched. I will let you know after I publish my fourth – hopefully towards the end of the year. :)

GIVEAWAY:

Since I love all of these books so much and want to spread the love, I will purchase a Kindle boxset for one lucky winner! To take advantage of the awesome sale (and you should, too!), I’m going to draw a winner on Saturday via random.org. Please leave your email address if you’re interested in entering the drawing. Please be 13 years or older.