Friday, May 18, 2018

Matchmaking for Beginners Review


If you're a long time reader of the blog, you'll recognize the author of this latest book. I am a HUGE fan of Maddie Dawson and have written about her quite a bit actually. I included her previous book The Survivor's Guide to Family Happiness in both my favorites for 2016 AND my anniversary giveaway that year. When she asked if I wanted to have a look at her newest book, I jumped up and down in my house...and I mean that literally.  So, we'll just start this review off by saying that I went into this book expecting to really like it...and I might be oh so slightly biased towards this fabulous lady and her works. You can call me a Maddie Dawson fan girl.

Can we start off with talking about the cover for Matchmaking for Beginners?? Okay...Survivor's had me going ga-ga over the beautiful watercolor bird on it's cover, but I honestly think I like this one even more! It begs to have photos taken of it, and I've shamelessly used it on new cover photos for my blog, etc. It's just so damn beautiful!! Maybe it's the blogger/instagrammer in me, but I am not ashamed to say that I get pulled in by stunning book covers. The colors, the heart gate, the dog, the umbrella...it's flawless.

Matchmaking for Beginners is a mesmerizing and magical tale about love and living big, authentic lives. Blix Holliday is getting up there in age, and with her tumor Cassandra growing, she knows she doesn't have long on this earth. She has filled her incredibly full life in Brooklyn with a cast of characters who enjoy her eccentricities, and thrive in the loving hands of her witchy ways. She's unsure of why she felt compelled to attend Christmas with her stodgy extended family until she lays eyes on Marnie MacGraw, the future wife of her grand-nephew. Blix IMMEDIATELY senses a kindred spirit in Marnie, and knows that big things are coming for her. Marnie, on the other hand, only wants a simple life. What transpires is anything but simple!

After nearly being left at the altar, and actually being left on her honeymoon, Marnie moves back in with her parents in Florida and back into the arms of her boring high school boyfriend. She is shocked to hear that her ex's great-aunt Blix has passed away, and left her eccentric Brooklyn home to her with the proviso that she live in it for three months. Marnie moves to Brooklyn expecting to pass the time until she can return to Florida, and start her simple life...but Blix has other things in mind.

 Ahh, I'm not even sure where to start with this review! I don't want to give anything away, but what I've always loved about Maddie Dawson's books are her truly memorable characters. I was blown away by even the most minor of characters in Matchmaking. And Blix!! From her first introduction, complaining about her boring family at a Christmas gathering she didn't want to be at, I knew I wanted to spend as much time with this character as I possibly could. And Marnie...even when she was making decisions I wouldn't have made...I could still see her in my life. These are authentic, flawed, sassy, smart, eccentric, and fabulously REAL characters.


I'm always going on about her female characters, but this time she wrote a male character I absolutely fell in love with. Patrick is a tenant in Blix's home. He lives in the basement, is an artist who was burned badly in an accident and now works on websites helping diagnose ailments. The text conversations between him and Marnie were so witty and clever! I live in a house with incredibly intelligent and witty people, and I'm just not that quick. I could never respond to texts in that manner, so was filled with awe over their conversations. In short, Patrick is one to watch...

The story could probably be described as a classic contemporary women's fiction story, an easy read, perfect for the summer months. It really picks up speed once Marnie hits Brooklyn. You might have an idea of where it's going as you're reading it. But none of these things really give you the true measure of this book. Blix has that eccentric sassiness of a Ya-Ya without the childhood trauma and abuse. It has the whimsy of something like Practical Magic, but once again without the violence. And it's filled with these women...REAL women, who make real mistakes, have real flaws, speak like real people, etc. That is Maddie Dawson's Magic.

In short, I highly recommend this book for your summer reading list. I'm so happy that Amazon picked it as a First Reads selection, and it's already doing so well...even though it's publication date for hardcover isn't until June 1st.

I honestly thought about just writing "Fan Girl, Fan Girl, LOVED IT, Not Surprised, BUY IT, Fan Girl, Fan Girl" because that really is the gist of what I said. 😂

Do you have any authors that you auto-buy?? People you just KNOW you're going to love before you ever even open the cover of the book?? Let me know in the comments!!

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Food and Weight...Weight and Food


As I sit down to write this, I'm honestly not sure where it's going to go...so this ought to be a fun surprise for everyone involved.

I have been ruminating on the unhealthy relationship I've had with food since I was a young whippersnapper, and it's something I very much want to write about. But it's also something that is personal and somewhat embarrassing, even though I know in my heart that it's a struggle that a lot of people go through. I did a short and rambling video for my YouTube channel on Monday that touched on the subject (you can find it here), but I think it's probably better told in writing. I edited a whole lot of pauses and sighs out of that video, and tried very hard to keep my emotions under control. But my Weight Loss has been stalled recently, and I think that I need to get this subject right in my head before I can make any more real progress.

I am probably one of the heaviest non-foodie people you'll ever meet, and I say that with the utmost sincerity. Other than pizza, which I love with all of my heart and could eat daily and never get sick of, there aren't many foods that I actually like. I routinely eat and overeat foods that I can't stand. Most of my friends with weight problems are foodies. They love cooking almost as much as they love to eat. They feel passionately about food. They get excited over their next meal. If I were being truly honest, I would have trouble listing a Top 10 of foods I love. And yet, I am obese. I struggle with eating out of boredom, and eating when I'm stressed. I also have this complicated thing where self-worth and food get all jumbled up in my head, and when I'm feeling low I will overeat because then it's easier to feel low...if that makes sense. Because eating has never been about fueling my body, and that is something that I really desperately need to work on if I'm ever going to be successful at losing the rest of my weight and keeping it off. Food needs to stop being mixed up in my mind with self-esteem, self-worth, and control.

If I were to distance myself a bit, and try to see when my issues with food probably started, I'd say things began going haywire around the time that my parents got divorced. I'm not writing a blog post blaming my parents for anything that ails me, let's just say that I'm setting the scene for you. I was in the 6th grade, going through puberty, and my mother left...so me and my big sister stayed with my father, who at the time wasn't even aware of how you made sandwiches. Regular evening meals were not being made in this new 3 person household. My sister did the best she could, but our meals regularly consisted of popcorn, ice-cream and frosted flakes...with the occasional ground meat and potatoes thrown in. I didn't eat popcorn until my late 20's because of this time in my life. This sequed into a full blown Junior High obsession with not eating, one that included competitions with friends to see who could eat the least. I felt like my life was spiraling, as it had all the earmarks of a good afterschool special with parental issues and alcohol thrown in for good measure.

Things got better when I moved to Louisiana towards the end of my freshman year of high school, but got worse after my boyfriend (now husband) left for the military and my home life got very chaotic again. I would post photos, but I had a penchant for oversized clothing so it's very hard for me to tell that I was under 100 lbs at 5'8"...but I know that I was. I wasn't eating, and worse than that, I was taking over the counter products to keep me from wanting to eat, and helping to keep my energy up. Most people my age remember when GNC sold products that actually worked, mainly because they included ingredients that are now BANNED. Yeah...I was a big fan of those products. But we're supposed to be talking about food, and how I wasn't eating it at the time. Feedback from my mother was that I looked great, I looked great, I looked great...and then she said "If you lose another pound, I'm putting you in the hospital.".

Threats of hospitalization are apparently the thing to say to get the women in my family to stop being jackasses, because I stopped starving myself. Did I move onto other bad habits? Most likely. But we're talking about me and food here.

Somewhere in my 20's I flip-flopped, and instead of falling back on the bad behavior of not eating in times of stress, I started eating and leaning towards lethargy instead. Now, I am naturally a very hyper individual...but most of the time, you probably don't see that...the reason being, it's hard to be physically hyper when you are my size. Squirrel brain can show up no matter what your size, but bouncing around the house cleaning everything, and itching to DO SOMETHING instead of sitting still tends to DIE when you're over a certain weight. It's just not physically possible. So, you combine eating in times of stress...even if you've never been a foodie...with a metabolism that is so jacked up from starving it for years...with a lethargic body, and you get an obese woman. Not only that, you get an obese woman who doesn't recognize herself.


And I really don't know what to do with the whole food thing. My whole life it has always been one way or the other. Feast or Famine. Starvation or Gluttony. I honestly don't even think my body knows how to properly handle food...like my metabolism is all kinds of jacked up. And I don't blame it. I have never treated my body as the temple God made it to be. I routinely talk about how my body hates me...like me and my body aren't the same thing. And that doesn't even make sense! LOL

I think a few things need to happen in order for me to make progress, and I apologize that this blog post has almost turned into a diary entry. I think I need to find a way to reset myself when it comes to food...a way to really come to terms with food being a means to fuel my body. It needs to be removed from emotions for me, as I don't think I can ever have a relationship with food that involves passion or love, or any of those terms that a lot of people use when referring to food. It's been used too much as a tool for abuse in my life, either refraining from it as a means of control when my life got chaotic, or gorging on it as a means of feeling crappier about myself. I'm fairly certain I can do that within the template of Weight Watchers, I just need to figure out how. And then I need to come up with some good coping skills for when I AM stressed out or feeling overwhelmed. This is where I'd love to get some comments from my readers! What do you all use to help when you're having a tough time, stressed out, things are getting a little crazy in your life, and you need help getting centered?? Prayer, meditation, running, writing, art?? Please let me know in the comments here, or over on my Facebook page. It would help me a lot.

I wanted to write about this on the blog because I know I'm not the only person who struggles with these problems. I'm not the only person I know who has had disordered eating in the past, or who is struggling with it now. I don't mean to leave my male readers out, but us women have such a hard time with that intersection of self-esteem and weight. We let it all get muddled up together, and we shouldn't. Intellectually I know that I am worthy of love no matter my size. But it all turns into this icky mess at times, and then you toss that in with feeling things are out of control or you're overly stressed and it can turn into one giant feast or famine cluster-fuck (for lack of a more appropriate word). I had to put into words that this is something I am struggling with, and maybe we can figure it out together. I would like that.

Please leave me a comment if you can relate to what I'm saying, if you have any tips...any coping skills you'd like to share...any resources you think might be helpful. And I'll end this with...you are loved and you are worthy my friends.

Monday, May 7, 2018

Not That I Could Tell Review


I finally have another Monday book review for you!! And it's another Netgalley/Ninja book, so big thanks to the author and the Great Thoughts, Great Readers crew for sending it my way. We've had family in town for a visit, so my reading has been relegated to late nights in bed...which isn't necessarily a bad thing, but I haven't been putting in the numbers I normally do. I'm trying to play catch up on my e-books, but that means my physical books are growing out of control. I need to spend a few weeks on a television and movie fast so that I can feel more in control of my TBR list!

Not That I Could Tell by Jessica Strawser was both very similar to other books I've read recently, and yet different enough to keep me reading. At first I thought, didn't I just read a book about a group of female neighbors and some sort-of mystery?? And it almost made me put it down, thinking I needed to put more space between the two books so I wasn't spending too much time comparing. But I kept going, and was happily satisfied that they were different enough to keep my mind from jumbling it all together.

Not That I Could Tell is the story of what happens with a circle of friends/neighbors/acquaintances in small town Ohio when their seemingly perfect Doctor's wife next door disappears one day with her two children, after a girls night fire pit. As someone who has partaken in many a girls evening of adult beverages and girl talk, I could totally relate to these women. They were relaxed, finally didn't have the kids with them, perhaps said a few things they shouldn't have...and then woke up to find one of them missing. Kristin was recently separated from her doctor husband, so a few neighbors are immediately suspicious of him...and when he moves back into the house to "wait" and see if his estranged wife returns with the kids, his every move is under surveillance, from both the police and the neighbors. But the newest arrival in town, Izzy, feels that maybe everyone is being a little harsh to poor doctor Paul...and his interest in her is a little more than neighborly. Clara, who was closest to the missing Kristin, has been in a situation like this before...and is immediately suspicious of the husband, and fearful that the troubles of her past may be repeating themselves.

What really DID happen to Kristin? Did she run off with some money, and start a new life? Did her husband kill her? Do you ever really know your neighbors?? Is there such a thing as being TOO cautious?? Should you ever hop on the back of a man you don't know well's motorcycle just because you're having a bad day? And more importantly, how do you get over your sister marrying the man you love?? These are all questions I pondered when reading.

In spite of the similarities it shares with other books I've read recently, I really did enjoy reading this one. I'm a fan of books about girl friends...probably because I'm a fan of MY posse of gal pals, and love hearing about other groups of close women. My head immediately went to thoughts of how I would feel if one of my circle of girls up and disappeared after one of our evenings of drinks and chats...and the worry you would have that you'd missed something important, some clue that life as you'd all known it would change forever the next day.

And as this book neared it's end, I had a minute of thinking...huh, well I guess that wraps it all up in a tidy little bow, maybe...but it's kind-of anticlimactic...I mean I sort-of saw that coming...but is that really it?!? I was feeling unfulfilled and like it petered out, and had mediocre in my mind. And then I flipped to that next chapter and was reading along, a bit zoned out...and then suddenly went....WAIT, what?!? And went back and re-read that bit again. BOOM, instantly bumped up a notch. The kicker at the end made it all worth it, and totally made this book for me. Maybe I shouldn't say that, as now if you read it you'll be looking for it...but I was happily and pleasantly surprised by how this one ended.

So, if you're a fan of contemporary light mysteries/thrillers, this one should definitely make your to-read list. On a side-note, I kept forgetting it was set in Ohio. To me it felt like Washington State outskirts of Seattle, or Austin, or some other typical quirky area setting...and then they would mention some other town in Ohio and I would be stumped for a minute!! Then I'd remember...OH yeah, it's set in Ohio! 😂 I actually really liked that. Also, these aren't a bunch of older girl friends really, most have young kids at home, and one is single. There is also a lesbian couple and a military family...so a lot of diversity, along with a tiny deployment subplot for my mil folks.

Big thanks again to Jessica Strawser, Netgalley and the Ninja Group for sending me Not That I Could Tell! 

Would love to hear in the comments what everyone else is reading!! I hope you are all starting on Slightly South of Simple by Kristy Woodson Harvey for our Monthly Book Club also!!

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Migraines


I just wanted to write a short post to apologize to all of you for my lack of content recently. My migraines have been out of control, and I seem to have more lousy days than great days as of late. I'm still reading when I can, and still working on the same sorts of things, but my drive to sit and write about it all hasn't been what it normally is. My head issues have put me in a funk, and I'm having troubles getting out of it.

So, bear with me folks. I hope to get up and out of the doldrums soon. As I type, I'm missing out on sightseeing with visiting family because I'm on day 4 of a bad head, and a not so happy stomach from all the headache medicine. I'm vowing to become the healthiest health-nut one can possibly become...if it means my head will stop hurting so much. Vegetarian distance runner? Keto yoga enthusiast? Whatever it is, sign me up Lord.

To any authors who are waiting on reviews, I apologize profusely. I will try to make them glowing once they arrive. To those waiting on jewelry catalogs in the mail? I bought some beautiful mailers, if I can ever make it to the post office. I'm not normally so scatter-brained, so I really do apologize.

Anyway, I hope to get back to normal sooner rather than later. And I hope all of you are having an amazing Spring!