4 stars · Book Reviews · mental health · non-fiction · Self Care

Review | The Gratitude Explorer Workbook

Advertisements

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase an item using my link, I will receive a small commission with no extra cost to you.

Advertisements

The Gratitude Explorer Workbook by Kristi Nelson
Storey Publishing, LLC 2021
Non-Fiction
4/5 Stars

Advertisements

Thank you to Netgalley and Storey Publishing for the Advanced Copy! The Gratitude Explorer Workbook will be released on November 23rd, 2021.

GoodReads Synopsis:

A Network for Grateful Living, creators of the best-selling Everyday Gratitude and Wake Up Grateful present a distinctive workbook for readers who want to start a gratitude practice or integrate gratitude into their lives with greater intention and consistency. This interactive package acts as both a guide and a journal for recording thoughts and meditations. Dozens of writing prompts, guided meditations, and exercises for beginning and progressively deepening a daily gratitude practice are paired with quotations and space for writing and personalizing the book. The beautifully designed gift package includes bonus features in the back: 10 quotation postcards, mini-cards for keeping in a wallet or leaving for others, conversation starters, gold star stickers and reusable affirmation stickers, as well as die-cut bookmarks for each section of the book.

Review:

I really enjoyed this book. It’s a fantastic introduction to gratitude practice and I loved the exercises, quotes, and art that was included.

Every time I’ve been in the hospital, or intensive therapy, expressing our gratitude has played a part in our treatment. Of course there’s therapy and medication management as well, but patients were encouraged to either say or write what we are grateful for. And when you’re in a place mentally where hospitalization or intensive therapy is necessary, finding and expressing is both extremely difficult (sometimes it feels impossible!), but also vital for healing.

I also try to practice gratitude every day. Part of my morning routine is writing three things that I’m grateful, and I try to do it again before going to bed.

This book definitely supplemented my existing practice, and helped me think outside the box in terms of all that I have to be grateful for!

Perfect for anyone who wants to begin a gratitude practice, but doesn’t know where to start.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

5 Stars · Book Reviews · non-fiction

Review | We’re Not Broken: Changing the Autism Conversation

Advertisements

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase an item using my link, I will receive a small commission with no extra cost to you.

Advertisements

We’re Not Broken: Changing the Autism Conversation by Eric Michael Garcia
Mariner Books, 2021
Non-Fiction
288 pages
5/5 Stars

Thank you to Netgalley and Mariner Books for the Advanced Copy! We’re Not Broken: Changing the Autism Conversation was released in August, 2021.

Trigger Warnings: Ableism, Autism Parenting, Mentions of Autism Speaks and other similar charities looking to “cure” autism.

GoodReads Synopsis:

Autistic person and journalist Eric Garcia brings an insider’s perspective and a reporter’s eye to show that autism is a vital part of his community’s humanity, not a disease that needs to be cured. 

Review:

When I first saw that this book was available on NetGalley, I immediately requested it. As someone who is also Neurodivergent (and follows a lot of Autistic content creators across several platforms), I have been very interested in the conversation surround Autism and Autistic people.

I am so grateful that I received the ARC, because this book was fantastic. It was educational, informative, and also gave me a lot to think about in regards to my own neurodivergency and internalized ableism.

The big takeaway I got from this book is that their is a lack of resources for Autistic people, and that lack of resources is harming not only Autistic people, but everyone. Autistic people need support just like everyone else, and the lack of that is hurting Autistic people, creating a stigma against Autism, creating stereotypes about Autistic people, and denying society of the gifts and talents that each Autistic person has to give the world.

Perfect for people who know (or don’t know and are just finding out!) that you don’t support Autism Speaks, and get weird vibes from the stereotypical “Autism Mom”.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

5 Stars · Book Reviews · romance

Review | Heartbreak for Hire

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase an item using my link, I will receive a small commission with no extra cost to you.

Heartbreak for Hire by Sonia Hartl
Gallery Books, 2021
Romance
320 pages
5/5 Stars

Trigger Warnings: Misogyny/sexism, emotional and verbal abuse, toxic relationship with parent.

GoodReads Synopsis:

Brinkley Saunders has a secret.

Advertisements

To everyone in the academic world she left behind, she lost it all when she dropped out of grad school. Once a rising star following in her mother’s footsteps, she’s now an administrative assistant at an insurance agency—or so they think.

In reality, Brinkley works at Heartbreak for Hire, a secret service that specializes in revenge for jilted lovers, frenemies, and long-suffering coworkers with a little cash to spare and a man who needs to be taken down a notch. It might not be as prestigious as academia, but it helps Brinkley save for her dream of opening an art gallery and lets her exorcise a few demons, all while helping to empower women.

Advertisements

But when her boss announces she’s hiring male heartbreakers for the first time, Brinkley’s no longer so sure she’s doing the right thing—especially when her new coworker turns out to be a target she was paid to take down. Though Mark spends his days struggling up the academic ladder, he seems to be the opposite of a backstabbing adjunct: a nerd at heart in criminally sexy sweater vests who’s attentive both in and out of the bedroom. But as Brinkley finds it increasingly more difficult to focus on anything but Mark, she soon realizes that like herself, people aren’t always who they appear to be.

Review:

Okay, I absolutely LOVED this book. It pretty much opened with a spicy AF scene between our love interests (Brinkley and Mark… hot damn), and then evolves into an enemies to lovers story.

Like are you kidding me??? Can a romance book get anymore perfect???

Oh, yeah. Mark is a dang professor.

I enjoyed Brinkley’s hijinks as a professional heartbreaker. Homegirl makes bank to take down icky men? I know exactly what I want to do when I grow up.

Mark was an absolute sweetheart, the spice had me fanning myself (good thing I was reading in the pool, TBH.), and honestly, the sexual tension between Mark and Brinkley when they were enemies was just… wow. I have never wanted two characters to bang more than the two of them.

That might be a lie, I want all my romance characters to bang.

Perfect for readers who can’t get enough spice or enemies to lovers in their romance books.

Advertisements

Rating: 5 out of 5.
Advertisements
4 stars · Book Reviews · thriller / mystery / suspense

Review | Her Dark Lies

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase an item using my link, I will receive a small commission with no extra cost to you.

Her Dark Lies by J.T. Ellison
Mira Books, 2021
Thriller / Mystery / Suspense
416 pages
4/5 Stars

Trigger Warnings: abuse, violence, murder.

GoodReads Synopsis

Advertisements

At the wedding of the year, a killer needs no invitation

Jutting from sparkling turquoise waters off the Italian coast, Isle Isola is an idyllic setting for a wedding. In the majestic cliff-top villa owned by the wealthy Compton family, up-and-coming artist Claire Hunter will marry handsome, charming Jack Compton, surrounded by close family, intimate friends…and a host of dark secrets.

From the moment Claire sets foot on the island, something seems amiss. Skeletal remains have just been found. There are other, newer disturbances, too. Menacing texts. A ruined wedding dress. And one troubling shadow hanging over Claire’s otherwise blissful relationship—the strange mystery surrounding Jack’s first wife.

Then a raging storm descends, the power goes out—and the real terror begins…

Review

This book is the reason I have anxiety.

Advertisements

Okay, no it’s not. But it definitely didn’t help.

This book was really hard for me to read. I’m usually not a Thriller reader, but I decided to go out of my comfort zone and read this one. My verdict?

Heck, man. I don’t know. The ending pissed me off. I like my endings wrapped with some closure as a nice little bow, and this ending pretty much felt like a brick thrown at me instead.

I even pretty much predicted the ending. Sort of. It’s hard to explain without spoiling it. But I still was left feeling angry and disapointed in the ending.

The rest of the book was good. Slow at times. But once the action finally really started, I couldn’t put it down. Which is another reason why the ending really bothered me.

I still want to try to read Thrillers and find one I like. This one was good, but not really for me.

Perfect for readers who love drama and secrets of the filthy rich.

Rating: 4 out of 5.
Advertisements

3 stars · Book Reviews · non-fiction

Review | The Hidden Power of F*cking Up

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase an item using my link, I will receive a small commission with no extra cost to you.

The Hidden Power of F*cking Up by The Try Guys
Dey Street Books, 2019
Non-Fiction
288 pages
3/5 Stars

Advertisements

Trigger Warnings: Mention of racism, homophobia, childhood mental illness, diet culture.

GoodReads Synopsis:

The Try Guys deliver their first book—an inspirational self-improvement guide that teaches you that the path to success is littered with humiliating detours, embarrassing mistakes, and unexpected failures.

To be our best selves, we must become secure in our insecurities. In The Hidden Power of F*cking Up, The Try Guys – Keith, Ned, Zach, and Eugene – reveal their philosophy of trying: how to fully embrace fear, foolishness, and embarrassment in an effort to understand how we all get paralyzed by a fear of failure. They’ll share how four shy, nerdy kids have dealt with their most poignant life struggles by attacking them head-on and reveal their – ahem – sure-fail strategies for achieving success.

But they’re not just here to talk; they’re actually going to put their advice to work. To demonstrate their unique self-improvement formula, they’ll each personally confront their deepest insecurities. A die-hard meat-lover goes vegan for the first time. A straight-laced father transforms into a fashionista. A perpetually single sidekick becomes the romantic lead. A child of divorce finally grows more intimate with his family. Through their insightful, emotional journeys and surprising, hilarious anecdotes, they’ll help you overcome your own self-doubt to become the best, most f*cked up version of yourself you can be!

Review:

Let me start by saying that I’m a pretty big fan of the Try Guys. I’m not like, a die hard fan, nor can I say that I’ve seen every single one of their videos or anything like that… but I really like them, and I know all of their partners’ names, so I think that qualifies me as a ‘pretty big fan’.

That being said, I was really disappointed by this book. I listened to the audiobook, and I thought I would love it, because I enjoyed the few episodes of their podcast that I listened to, but I felt like the narrator changed too often without being identified, which confused me.

Advertisements

There was also a lot of diet culture talk which I found extremely disappointing. For example, Keith was talking about how since eating less meat and exercising more frequently, he feels so much more healthy… and then immediately followed that with how he’s lost a pants size. He then goes on to say that it’s about health, not weight loss, which simply isn’t true if he found his weight loss meaningful enough to mention in his book.

I also was disappointed that the guys never seemed to acknowledge the privilege behind many of their suggestions and experiences. This was super disappointing to me, because I never get that vibe from their videos. In their videos, they seem to be very aware of their privileges and mention it when necessary, but they seemed just so out of touch in this book, and it made me really sad.

Advertisements

Similarly, many of their suggestions and experiences don’t seem to take things like mental health or class into account. The only mention of mental illness and health is when Zach talks about his experience with major depression as a child, which don’t get me wrong, was very interesting. But none of the guys really talked about how they take care of their mental health as adults besides exercise and meditation (which are very good things, but many, many people need medication, therapy, or other treatments for their mental health). A lot of their suggestions simply don’t seem sustainable for those who struggle with their mental health more than they do.

I still like the Try Guys. I still plan on watching their videos, but this book didn’t seem to be written by the same men you see on YouTube.

Perfect for Try Guys fans who watch the videos and think “wow, I really wish these guys were less likable.”

Rating: 3 out of 5.
3 stars · romance

Review | Float Plan

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase an item using my link, I will receive a small commission with no extra cost to you.

Float Plan by Trish Doller
St. Martin’s Griffin 2021
Romance
272 pages
3/5 Stars

Advertisements

Trigger Warnings: Suicide, Addiction, Self-harm

GoodReads Synopsis:

Critically acclaimed author Trish Doller’s unforgettable and romantic adult debut about setting sail, starting over, and finding yourself…

Since the loss of her fiancé, Anna has been shipwrecked by grief—until a reminder goes off about a trip they were supposed to take together. Impulsively, Anna goes to sea in their sailboat, intending to complete the voyage alone.

But after a treacherous night’s sail, she realizes she can’t do it by herself and hires Keane, a professional sailor, to help. Much like Anna, Keane is struggling with a very different future than the one he had planned. As romance rises with the tide, they discover that it’s never too late to chart a new course.

In Trish Doller’s unforgettable Float Plan, starting over doesn’t mean letting go of your past, it means making room for your future.

Review:

When I was a little girl, my grandfather took my sister and I sailing in the Hudson River. We cried the entire time as the boat rocked back and forth in the New York night. I hated every minute. Meanwhile my grandfather was a sailor who had sailed the Caribbean and had sailing in his blood, so he enjoyed it immensely.

But. This book made me want to give sailing another shot so that I can sail the Caribbean and find myself. Okay, fine. Find the handsome Irish sailor of my dreams.

Advertisements

This was a lovely book. I really appreciated Anna and Keane’s adventure and their growth as individuals. Is Keane the man of my dreams? I mean, he is Irish Catholic, and I’m Irish American Catholic, so probably.

Advertisements

Please note that there were graphic mentions of suicide at times, which I found unnecessary and triggering, but also understood that it made sense for Anna’s inner monologue.

Perfect for dreamers and people looking to let go of the past.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

3 stars · Book Reviews · literary fiction

Review | Normal People

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase an item using my link, I will receive a small commission with no extra cost to you.

Normal People by Sally Rooney
Hogarth Press, 2019
Literary Fiction
273 pages
3/5 Stars

Katie, a white woman, holds a copy of "Normal People" by Sally Rooney.

Trigger Warnings: Abuse, suicide, self-harm.

GoodReads Synopsis

At school Connell and Marianne pretend not to know each other. He’s popular and well-adjusted, star of the school soccer team while she is lonely, proud, and intensely private. But when Connell comes to pick his mother up from her housekeeping job at Marianne’s house, a strange and indelible connection grows between the two teenagers – one they are determined to conceal.

A year later, they’re both studying at Trinity College in Dublin. Marianne has found her feet in a new social world while Connell hangs at the sidelines, shy and uncertain. Throughout their years in college, Marianne and Connell circle one another, straying toward other people and possibilities but always magnetically, irresistibly drawn back together. Then, as she veers into self-destruction and he begins to search for meaning elsewhere, each must confront how far they are willing to go to save the other.

Sally Rooney brings her brilliant psychological acuity and perfectly spare prose to a story that explores the subtleties of class, the electricity of first love, and the complex entanglements of family and friendship.

Review

This book took me on a roller coaster ride of emotions and opinions and thoughts. This book was… a lot.

I started out absolutely loving it. The way it was written reminded me of a lot of the books I read as an English major in college, and it took me back. And then… it got weird.

There was a lot of unexpected stuff. Not plot twist unexpected, more like wait where did this come from and why is this being brought up unexpected. it was a lot. I found it difficult to read and seriously thought about DNFing it, but I’m actually glad I didn’t.

While the ending wasn’t what I wanted, it was realistic and also hopeful enough to make me feel like the characters weren’t completely shitty people. If you’ve hung out here a bit, you’ll know I’m a sucker for a good ending. While this ending didn’t redeem the book entirely for me, it did help me appreciate it and the characters a little more.

But not enough to want to watch the Hulu series. I’ve had enough of Marianne and Connell.

Perfect for former English majors who want to relive their glory days.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

5 Stars · Book Reviews · fantasy

Review | Ella Enchanted

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase an item using my link, I will receive a small commission with no extra cost to you.

Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine
Scholastic Books, 1998
Fantasy
232 pages
5/5 Stars

Advertisements
Katie's iPhone, showing the audiobook of "Ella Enchanted" by Gail Carson Levine is on a blue background and surrounded by a variety of items - including a purple candle, a bamboo plant, and a Belle (Disney Princess from "Beauty and the Beast") bookmark.

GoodReads Synopsis

At birth, Ella is inadvertently cursed by an imprudent young fairy named Lucinda, who bestows on her the “gift” of obedience. Anything anyone tells her to do, Ella must obey. Another girl might have been cowed by this affliction, but not feisty Ella: “Instead of making me docile, Lucinda’s curse made a rebel of me. Or perhaps I was that way naturally.” When her beloved mother dies, leaving her in the care of a mostly absent and avaricious father, and later, a loathsome stepmother and two treacherous stepsisters, Ella’s life and well-being seem to be in grave peril. But her intelligence and saucy nature keep her in good stead as she sets out on a quest for freedom and self-discovery as she tries to track down Lucinda to undo the curse, fending off ogres, befriending elves, and falling in love with a prince along the way. Yes, there is a pumpkin coach, a glass slipper, and a happily ever after, but this is the most remarkable, delightful, and profound version of Cinderella you’ll ever read.

Gail Carson Levine’s examination of traditional female roles in fairy tales takes some satisfying twists and deviations from the original. Ella is bound by obedience against her will, and takes matters in her own hands with ambition and verve. Her relationship with the prince is balanced and based on humor and mutual respect; in fact, it is she who ultimately rescues him. Ella Enchanted has won many well-deserved awards, including a Newbery Honor.

Review

Once upon a time, a little girl read this book, and it enchanted her, and she knew that one day, she would write books that enchanted others, too.

Fast forward almost twenty years, she hasn’t written any books (yet), but she did decide to re-read this book that had inspired her dreams all those years ago.

Anyway, the girl is me, if ya’ll didn’t figure it out.

Ella Enchanted was one of my all time favorite books as a kiddo, and when I first downloaded Libby through my library, the audiobook was one of the first books I borrowed. I listened to it while I waited for my first COVID vaccine (get vaccinated!) and ya’ll, even as an adult, this book is magical.

Advertisements

And as an adult, the magic is difference. Ella’s curse to always be obedient no longer is just what it appears to be on the surface. As an adult, you realize that this curse doesn’t just exist in children’s literature. Women, even today, have always been born with the expectation to be obedient.

The book was so much more profound with this realization. The one thing I didn’t really love about the book was the ending. It still gave me the impression that a woman needs a man, and for a fairytale that screams ‘girl power!’, I thought it could be better. It wasn’t just that she ended up with Prince Char (which, I definitely don’t blame her for. He was one of my very first fictional boyfriends.), but rather how much weight Char’s existence had on her finally being freed from the curse.

Advertisements

But besides that, this book was such a fun throwback, and re-reading it was a great way to care for my inner child.

Perfect for readers who never outgrew their princess phase.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

5 Stars · Book Reviews · romance

Review | Get a Life, Chloe Brown

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase an item using my link, I will receive a small commission with no extra cost to you.

Get a Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert
Avon, 2019
Romance
373 pages
5/5 Stars

Trigger Warnings: PTSD, Chronic illness, Aftermath of abusive relationship (Talia Hibbert does include a content warning at the beginning of her books, bless her.)

GoodReads Synopsis

Chloe Brown is a chronically ill computer geek with a goal, a plan, and a list. After almost—but not quite—dying, she’s come up with seven directives to help her “Get a Life”, and she’s already completed the first: finally moving out of her glamorous family’s mansion. The next items?

• Enjoy a drunken night out.
• Ride a motorcycle.
• Go camping.
• Have meaningless but thoroughly enjoyable sex.
• Travel the world with nothing but hand luggage.
• And… do something bad.

But it’s not easy being bad, even when you’ve written step-by-step guidelines on how to do it correctly. What Chloe needs is a teacher, and she knows just the man for the job.

Redford ‘Red’ Morgan is a handyman with tattoos, a motorcycle, and more sex appeal than ten-thousand Hollywood heartthrobs. He’s also an artist who paints at night and hides his work in the light of day, which Chloe knows because she spies on him occasionally. Just the teeniest, tiniest bit.

Advertisements

But when she enlists Red in her mission to rebel, she learns things about him that no spy session could teach her. Like why he clearly resents Chloe’s wealthy background. And why he never shows his art to anyone. And what really lies beneath his rough exterior…

Review

I actually read this book for the first time in August or September of 2020, but I wasn’t regularly blogging then. Since it was immediately one of my favorite reads and I had a lot of thoughts on it, I decided to re-read it so I could give you an up-to-date review with my thoughts. It was also one of the first romance books I read that made me think, “Wait… I really like this genre….” I always kind of read and viewed romance books as cheap entertainment before that, which I now realize is an opinion based on my own internalized misogyny.

The re-read was worth it, and the book still lives up to the hype in my opinion. The romance is just as sweet and heartwarming the second time. The sex scenes are still as steamy the second read, but a little less shocking (not a bad thing.). Red and Chloe were just as amazing the second read, and now that I own all of the Brown sister books (I haven’t read the last one yet!), I paid more attention whenever Dani and Eve were featured.

I do want to say this book has WAY steamier sex scenes than I’d thought before reading it. I always read sexy scenes in secret and felt ashamed of it. Yay purity culture (Maybe I’ll talk more on that later.)! I remember reading it at the hotel with my mom and clutching my metaphorical pearls at the explicit language and imagery in the sex scenes. That’s something I liked a little better during my re-read, I was a little less scandalized.

This is also probably one of my most recommended books. I feel like I recommend it to almost everybody. I have a friend who has almost identical taste in books as me (Hi, Michelle!) and I think I’ve recommended it to her like five times?!

Advertisements

Perfect for lonely hearts after a year of quarantine and readers who wish Mr. Darcy was real.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

4 stars · Book Reviews · Reading · romance

Review | It Ends With Us

Advertisements

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase an item using my link, I will receive a small commission with no extra cost to you.

It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover
Atria Books, 2016
Romance
385 pages
4/5 Stars

Trigger Warnings: Emotional Abuse, Homelessness, Physical Abuse, Sexual Assault.

GoodReads Synopsis

Sometimes it is the one who loves you who hurts you the most.

Lily hasn’t always had it easy, but that’s never stopped her from working hard for the life she wants. She’s come a long way from the small town in Maine where she grew up
— she graduated from college, moved to Boston, and started her own business. So when she feels a spark with a gorgeous neurosurgeon named Ryle Kincaid, everything in Lily’s life suddenly seems almost too good to be true.

Ryle is assertive, stubborn, maybe even a little arrogant. He’s also sensitive, brilliant, and has a total soft spot for Lily. And the way he looks in scrubs certainly doesn’t hurt. Lily can’t get him out of her head. But Ryle’s complete aversion to relationships is disturbing. Even as Lily finds herself becoming the exception to his “no dating” rule, she can’t help but wonder what made him that way in the first place.

As questions about her new relationship overwhelm her, so do thoughts of Atlas Corrigan — her first love and a link to the past she left behind. He was her kindred spirit, her protector. When Atlas suddenly reappears, everything Lily has built with Ryle is threatened.

Review

Whoa. This book just… wow. I read it for book club, and until this month, the majority of our reads have been light fluffy reads.

This was the complete opposite. This was a heavy read that covered heavy topics. I went in pretty blind to this, so all that I really knew about the book was what the synopsis told me.

Despite it being a difficult read, it was a smooth one. I felt like I was devouring the book in no time at all. This was my first Colleen Hoover book, but I’ve heard that a lot of her books read like this.

As a survivor of emotional abuse, so many parts resonated with me, and I thought that Hoover did a fantastic job of showing why abuse survivors don’t “just leave” without victimizing the survivor or villainizing the abuser. Both Lily and her abuser are complex characters with flaws and strengths.

There was one part where the abuser reveals some past trauma, which shed some light onto why he does what he does. It was done in a delicate way, not excusing his behavior (there is never an excuse for abusive behavior), rather explaining it. This is a sad reality of abuse that I appreciated being mentioned in the book.

The one aspect that really made me laugh were the references to Ellen DeGeneres. Those aged like sour milk, unfortunately.

Perfect for late night readers who need a good cry.

Rating: 4 out of 5.