Book Club: Four Winds

It is my favorite day of the month! It’s the day I get to tell you about the book I just read and reveal what my next pick is.  For February I chose Four Winds by Kristin Hannah.  I am a big fan of Hannah and haven’t read one of her books that I didn’t like.  This time was no exception.  In fact, I didn’t just like this book; I loved it.   It was one of those books that you get so invested in that you don’t want to put it down, and you don’t want it to end. This story was definitely a 5 out of 5 for me.  It had all the elements that I love in a story.  It was a little bit of historical fiction (my favorite genre) with excellent character development, and it had a strong female lead.  I thoroughly enjoyed every aspect of this book.  

This story begins and ends with Elsa.  Her beginning was very isolated.  She was the daughter of a prominent family in northwest Texas who treated her with kid gloves due to an illness when she was young.  She was made to feel worthless and unloved.  She was repeatedly told that she was unattractive and too weak to find a mate.  She was left alone in her room with only books to fulfill the void left by her family.  Inspired by the heroine of one of her novels, Elsa went out on the town one night in a handmade red dress.  That one unexpected night left her in the arms of a young man named Rafe, the only person who had ever paid her attention or made her feel any kind of human connection. After a few more secretive meetings with this young man, Elsa wound up pregnant and alone.  She was instantly disowned by her family and left on the doorstep Rafe’s family’s farm.  

As Elsa struggled to find her place in her new home, her affection grew for her new family and the land that they so dearly loved. Following the birth of her daughter, Loreda, Elsa realized that she had finally found the family she had always longed for.  The land became a part of her soul.  She took her place working hard on the farm and filling her duties as a wife and mother.  Eventually, her son, Anthony, was born.  She was living the life that she had never dreamed possible until the family found themselves in the midst of the Great Depression and the devastating drought that swept across the mid-west leaving the land decimated.  Each day was a struggle for survival.  After years of barely getting by, Rafe left the family in the middle of the night in search of something more fulfilling and was never to be seen or heard from again.  Devastated by his departure, Elsa was determined to stay on the farm and protect her children, Rafe’s parents, and the family farm. 

It wasn’t until the dry, dusty land almost killed her son, that Elsa realized that the farm was no longer a safe place to be.  She packed her two kids and as many belongings as could fit in their truck and made the long, harrowing trip to California, which promised work and a better life.  It wasn’t long after arriving in California that they realized that promise was a lie.  They were left living in a tent in a field with all three begging for work every single day.  The work they did find was back-breaking work with so little pay that they barely could afford to eat.  This journey left them broken and in a fight for fair pay and better working conditions that would forever change the course of their lives. 

Not only was this a story of survival, but it was also a story of finding strength in the most unexpected ways and places.  Elsa learned to fight for what she believed in, and she found her voice when she had none before.  She used that voice to survive and took a stand for what she believed was right.  This was also a coming-of-age story that explored the mother-daughter relationship and the journey of finding one’s worth.  I thought that the character development was excellent, and I could feel the agony they felt struggling to survive on barely any food and in the harshest of conditions. Hannah really brought the story to life and made you believe you were right there in the trenches with each person.  I found myself rooting for them and at the same time feeling the devastation when they struggled.  This story was exceptionally written, and I highly recommend it. It was such a good read, and I was so sad when it ended.  

I can only hope that my next pick will be as exceptional as the last.  For March, I have chosen another instant New York Times Bestseller and historical fiction novel entitled The Book of Names by Kristin Harmel.  This story is set in the midst of World War II.  It revolves around a woman named Eva who is taken back in time after coming across a photo of a book in a magazine to a time when she helped Jewish children fleeing to Switzerland.  Here is what Publisher’s Weekly had to say about this novel.

“Harmel (The Winemaker’s Wife) brilliantly imagines the life of a young Polish-French Jewish woman during the depths of WWII. IN 2005, Eva Traube, 86, lives in Winter Park, Fla., and works at the library where she reads a newspaper story about a man in Germany returning rare books looted by the Nazis to WWII survivors. The story includes a photo of a book that once belonged to her, prompting her to leave immediately for Berlin. Harmel then transitions back to 1940s France, when 23-year-old Eva and her mother escape the roundups in Paris and end up in the tiny town of Aurignon. Eva meets document forger Remy Duchamp, who draws her into the Resistance; Remy trains Eva, and the two inevitably grow closer as they work to provide papers for those fleeing the Nazi regime. Eva and Remy devise a method of recording the names of unaccompanied escaping children, coding each name in an old library book, which Eva saw in the newspaper story. Now in Berlin, Eva hopes to recover and decode the names, and learn the fate of Remy. Harmel movingly illustrates Eva’s courage to risk her own life for others, and all of the characters are portrayed with realistic compassion. This thoughtful work will touch readers with its testament to endurance of hope.”

Will you come along and read with me?

Anchored in a Good Book,

***This post contains affiliate links. Should you choose to purchase items using these links, I may earn a small commission.

Book Club: The Beekeeper of Aleppo

I am a week late on posting my book club book review. I must admit that I had not finished the book on time to write this post last week.  I got a late start on reading my January pick, The Beekeeper of Aleppo by Christy Lefteri, because I decided to read another book first.  At the beginning of the month someone recommended that I read In Pursuit of Love by Rebecca Bender.  It is Bender’s real-life story of how she became enslaved into human trafficking and her journey to freedom.  It was an excellent read.  It covered a very tough topic and was truly heartbreaking, but it opened my eyes to the real crime that is happening right here in the US.  Bender’s struggles led to her creating a huge online academy for survivors of human trafficking where she has hundreds of women. So much good has come from her sharing her story and advocating for change.  I highly recommend it! 

My reading of the other book coupled with me struggling at first to get into The Beekeeper of Aleppo put me behind in finishing it.  I don’t know if my struggles to get into the book initially were because my mind was still blown by the other book or what, but I found myself having to reread a lot of pages in the beginning.  Once I got into to the storyline and figured out what was going on and all the characters, I did enjoy this book.  It was a story about a beekeeper (Nuri) and his wife’s (Afra) journey to freedom in the midst of the war in Syria.  After losing their son and the Afra becoming blind, the two made the decision to flee their home in Aleppo for fear of their safety.  They had a long and treacherous journey to the UK where they would meet up with the Nuri’s cousin and business partner who had fled before them. It was a story of loss, heartbreak, survival, and healing.   By her own admission, the author, Christy Lefteri, explored what it means to really see in this book.  This was a journey of sight not just for Afra who had been blinded, but also for Nuri as he learned to cope with so much loss.   

The story flashed between the beginning of their journey and the end of their journey.  It was interesting how the author switched between the present day and the past within one chapter.  I don’t know if there is a technical term for the way she did it or not, so I may butcher trying to explain it.  Each chapter would begin in the present day but would switch to the past halfway through.  I didn’t catch what she was doing at first and was a little confused until I figured it out.  One sentence would begin as the present day, and the last word of that sentence would be cut off.  Then you turn the page to have that last word in a larger font and bold at the top of the page, almost like a title.  That word will have ended the previous sentence of the present day on the previous page, and that same word would be the start of the next sentence into the past.  Here is an example:

“It is”

a key

“was placed in my open palm.”

“It is a key.” was the end of the portion of the chapter about the present day.  “A key was placed in my open palm.” was the beginning of the portion of the chapter about the past.  I hope that makes sense.  When this happened in the first chapter, I thought I was missing pages, or something was wrong with the download of the book.  It took me until about chapter 3 to figure out that this was intentional and what the author was actually doing.  Maybe I am slow and should have caught on instantly, but I didn’t. Once I understood what was going on, the story began to make much more sense, and I began to enjoy it so much more. I would give this book 4 out 5 stars.  I wouldn’t say that I loved it, but I did enjoy reading it.

My pick for February is a much-anticipated book by Kristin Hannah.  I have been a fan of hers for a while and am excited to dive into her newest book, The Four Winds. It is a historical fiction novel set during the Great Depression about a mother trying to protect her family.  Here is what Publisher’s Weekly had to say about this book.

“Hannah brings Dust Bowl migration to life in this riveting story of love, courage, and sacrifice. In 1934 Texas, after four years of drought, the Martinelli farm is no longer thriving, but Elsa is attached to the land and her in-laws, and she works tirelessly and cares for her children, 12-year-old Loreda and seven-year-old Anthony. Her husband, Rafe, has become distant and something of a hard drinker, and after he abandons them, Elsa reluctantly leaves with her children for California with the promise of steady work. Her dreams of a better future are interrupted by the discrimination they face in the unwelcoming town of Welty, where they are forced to live in a migrant camp and work for extremely low wages picking cotton. When Elsa’s meager wages are further reduced and she has the opportunity to join striking workers, she must decide whether to face the dangers of standing up for herself and her fellow workers. Hannah combines gritty realism with emotionally rich characters and lyrical prose that rings brightly and true from the first line (“Hope is a coin I carry: an American penny, given to me by a man I came to love”). In Elsa, a woman who fiercely defends her principles and those she loves, Hannah brilliantly revives the ghost of Tom Joad.”

Will you come along and read with me?

Anchored in a Good Book,

***This post contains affiliate links. Should you choose to purchase items using these links, I may earn a small commission.

Friday Favorites: Grocery Pickup

I know that I am way late to the game, but I have recently discovered the amazement that is grocery pickup and am obsessed.  One of my best friends has been telling me to do it for years, but I just never did.  She knew that it would have made my life easier back when my husband was deployed and my girls were little.  I honestly don’t know why I never did it other than I never had the time back then to plan ahead.  I totally should have listened to her because it would have made all the difference in the world back then.  I really had no idea how great it was.   

When the pandemic started and I didn’t really want to get out, I decided it was finally time to give it a try.   However, there were never any times available because everyone was doing their best to avoid others and appointments were taken as soon as they went up.  I had even heard that you had to be online at midnight when the new times were released to get an appointment.  I was not willing to stay up to do that, so I just kept going to the store to do all my grocery shopping. I was trying to go at times when it was the least crowded and hated every second of it.  I still kept checking every now and then to try to find an open slot at any store around me.  Well, my persistence payed off and the appointments stopped being jammed a few months ago.  I got my first appointment at Harris Teeter.  I made my husband go with me that first time for moral support since I had no clue how it worked. It turned out that it was the easiest thing ever.  You just pull up, push a button, give your name, and out your groceries come.  They were great about no contact too.  I just opened my trunk, and the clerk did the rest.  It was amazing! Seriously, though, how sad is it that I am just now figuring this out? 

Since then, I have used Harris Teeter and Walmart pick-up multiple times.  Walmart is even easier in that all you have to do it click a link on your phone to let them know you are on the way.  They track your location and know when you arrive.  Then you just let them know through the app, which spot you are parked in and the color of your car.  It’s the easiest thing ever.  I could literally kick myself for not listening to my friend all those years ago and trying this out.  It truly is life changing.  I would be happy never to set foot in a grocery store again! 

I was nervous about purchasing fruits, vegetables, and meats this way. I was worried that they wouldn’t choose good ones or that they would be close to being spoiled. I have to say, though, that I haven’t had any issues with this. Sometimes I even think they pick out better produce than I do. I even feel like they check expiration dates and give me the best ones available. My personal shoppers have always done an amazing job.

I feel like I save money doing my grocery shopping this way too.  I am not tempted by the things I see while strolling down the aisle at the store, so I don’t end up throwing things in my cart that I don’t really need.  If it isn’t on the running list that I keep on my phone as things run out, it isn’t going into my virtual shopping cart.  It also forces me to plan ahead for meals which saves me time daily from wracking my brain over what to cook each night. It really has made life so much simpler.  

If you are like me and have been dragging your heals and have never tried grocery pickup before, do it.  I promise you won’t regret it.  It is soooo easy and saves so much time. I am all about things that make my life better, and this certainly does that.


Friday Favorites: Le Volume

Yesterday was a rough day! I woke up with a bad migraine and just couldn’t get over it.  I did sit down and try to post, but the fog in my brain just wasn’t allowing it.  Thankfully, that migraine is gone, and I am refreshed and ready to bring you another one of my favorite things today.  This one is actually a new favorite. I have been eyeing those round brush hairdryers for years because they really intrigued me. I already used a round brush with my regular hair dryer so I thought a brush and dryer all-in-one would make my life easier.   Revlon has had one for years that I have looked at, but I got scared when I heard that many of them had been known to catch on fire.  That alone kept me from ever purchasing one of theirs.  Then L’ange came out with one a year or two ago, and I was again fascinated.  My drawback to pulling the trigger on it was that everyone kept talking about how much volume they got with it.  It is even called the Le Volume, a 2-in-1 volumizing brush.  If you have been following me for a while, you know that volume is just about the last thing my hair needs.  I have insanely thick hair, and it has more than enough volume on its own. I certainly don’t need anything that is going to add to that, but I still really wanted one.  Another thing that was holding me back from buying that one was that it seemed to be a very large brush. The original design was a 75 mm brush.  I was worried that it was too big for my shorter hair.  I just couldn’t make myself order it.

Then L’ange came out with a smaller version last year that is a 60 MM brush.  When it when on major sale for Black Friday, I finally pulled the trigger and ordered one.  I figured it was better to get it heavily discounted than to spend full price and end up hating it.  Best. Decision. Ever. I am obsessed! I may never use a regular hairdryer again! It is so easy to use, cuts down on my drying time, and gives me a smooth look.  I easily figured out how to use it and not increase the volume in my hair.  Now, if you want volume, you certain can get it but lifting your hair upward from the root.  I, on the other hand, just pull down from the root, and it doesn’t add any extra volume.  I still do use my flat iron afterwards to flatten down the natural volume that I have because I personally like my hair better that way, but the Le Volume does not make the volume any worse than it naturally is. In fact, it is probably a little better if I am being honest.  I also think that the brush helps cut down on some of the frizz that I get from a regular hair dryer because the air flow is more easily controlled and is concentrated just on the hair in the brush as the time.  It doesn’t blow your hair every which way like a regular hair dryer.  The brush easily glides through my hair and never gets stuck or tangled.  It is seriously the best thing ever.  I am mad at myself for waiting so long to get one.  It is seriously like getting a salon blowout in your own home. 

The one warning I would give you about the brush is that the air gets pretty hot as it blows out.  It has gotten pretty hot on my neck as it blows when I am drying the short hairs in the back of my head at the base of my neck.  My fix for that is to turn it to low when I am doing that part of my hair because it isn’t as hot when it is on low.   The bristles do not get hot, and I have no problem touching them to guide my hair through or with the bristles touching my head.  The titanium plate does get hot, though, so make sure you don’t accidently touch it.   I do think that my personal body temperature doesn’t get as hot when I am using this versus a regular hair dryer either.  I think that part of that is because it doesn’t take me as long to dry my hair with this as it used to before.  Normally, I am sweating buckets after I dry my hair, and I don’t feel like I am as hot using this. 

I also recommend that you don’t use it when your hair is soaking wet.  I feel like it works better when my hair has dried just a little bit naturally. I usually put my makeup on before I dry my hair, so it has a chance to dry a little first.  I think this is better all-around for the health of your hair when using a hair dryer and brush and when using the Le Volume.  I don’t think it is good for your hair to brush it a lot when it is soaking wet.  I could totally be making that up, but I feel like I have heard that a few times before. 

I highly recommend the Le Volume.  It is one of the best purchases I have ever made.  It saves time and energy, and it works great! I really love all of L’ange’s tools and brushes.  I am not an affiliate for them.  I simply love their products.  If you have been thinking about a round brush hairdryer, look for a sale and get one. I don’t think you will be disappointed!


Book Club: White Ivy

Since I took my unplanned break from blogging for the holidays, I never got around to giving my review of my December Book Club pick, White Ivy by Susie Yang.  I have to start by saying that I had a hard time staying interested in this book.  If fact I just had to go back and read some parts of it again to even remind myself what it was even about.  It clearly did not stick with me. I’m not sure how good this review is going to be since my memory of the story has faded.  I do recall having to reread multiple pages at a time because I found myself daydreaming or completely not really paying attention to what I was reading at all.  I would read and then realize I had no idea what I just read.  In all fairness to the author, this could have been simply because it was December and there was a lot going on and a lot on my mind during the time I was reading it.  I really wanted to like this book, but it just didn’t do it for me.  It was really slow to start, and I felt like there were side stories that really weren’t necessary or that didn’t really go anywhere. Some would likely say that it was good character development but I kind of felt like a lot of it wasn’t needed.   I will say that the second half of the book was a little more interesting and presented some turns that I wasn’t necessarily expecting.  I do think there were some interesting concepts, but I didn’t feel like it was all that it could be.  I would probably give this book 3.5 out of 5 stars. 

The story is about a Chinese immigrant, Ivy, who was brought up learning to steal and cheat by her grandmother at a young age.   She always dreamed of the finer things in life and wanted what she couldn’t have.  She had a determination to get what she wanted to matter what it took or how she had to compromise herself to get it.  Her biggest obsession was a boy named Gideon that she met at a young age. Gideon was the son of a prominent and very wealthy politician, and Ivy set her sights on him right away.  After lying to her parents about her whereabouts, she was caught at Gideon’s house the morning after a sleepover for his birthday.  Her mother, whom she had a tumultuous relationship with, immediately sent Ivy back to China to live with her relatives for the summer in order get her away from Gideon and what her mother thought were bad influences.  While Ivy was away her parents moved to a new home in a new state as a way to keep Ivy from Gideon and those bad influences upon her return.  It wasn’t until after college that Gideon and Ivy’s paths crossed once again. Ivy quickly set her sights on him again and was soon living a life wining and dining in Boston and in the Cape with Gideon and his family.  It looked like she had finally gotten what she had always wanted until a certain someone from her past reappeared in the most unexpected way and threatened to take it all away.  Ivy was determined do whatever it took to keep the wealthy life and to hold on the Gideon including lying, deceit, debt, and even murder.  With a surprising end, you learn that money, wealth, and prestige were far more important to Ivy than actual love.

Despite my feelings on the book as a whole, there were good parts to it.  The ending was definitely better than the beginning.  There were all the things you want in a book like some suspense and a few unexpected twists, but I wouldn’t call it a thriller necessarily.  It was more of a coming of age story with a bit of suspense thrown in.  Some of the characters like Ivy were very complicated.  She was the villain that you wanted to dislike but at times rooted for.  I think that the story just got started so slow for me that I lost interest before it got to the good parts.  Maybe if I had read it at a different time in the year when I wasn’t so busy as well, I may have liked it better.  I would be interested to see what any of you thought about it if you read along with me. 

Looking back at all the books I chose for the Anchored Book Club in 2020, I am really hoping that I choose better books for 2021.  Don’t get me wrong, there were some that I really enjoyed like Dear Edward by Ann Napolitano, The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa See, The Henna Artist by Alka Joshi, and My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabet Russell.  There were just also a few that I really didn’t like.  I had high hopes for some that just didn’t really live up to my expectations.  I would say that my least favorite of the 12 books was The New Wilderness by Diane Cook.  That one really disappointed me the most because I felt like it had so much potential.  It is incredibly hard to choose a book unless they are widely known as exceptional. I try to choose books that you may not necessarily read otherwise. Sometimes I choose well and sometimes I don’t. It is just the nature of the beast.

I am going out on a limb for my first pick of 2021 despite what I said above.  This could end badly or be an unexpected treasure.  I totally just happened upon this book when it came up as a suggestion under another book I was looking at.  I was really captivated by the synopsis, and hope that I am choosing wisely this time.  Some reviewers described it as heart wrenching, realistic, and captivating.  Some even said they were left speechless.  For January, I have chosen a historical fiction novel entitled The Beekeeper of Aleppo by Christy Lefteri.  This is a story about beekeepers, Nuri and Afra, and their plight as they lived through and escaped Syria during the Syrian War. Here is what Publishers Weekly had to say about this novel.

“Lefteri tells a haunting and resonant story of Syrian war refugees undertaking a treacherous journey to possible safety. In 2015, Nuri Ibrahim and his wife, Afra, who was blinded in an incident during the Syrian civil war, cling to their home while everyone else flees the bombings and violence. They are emotionally devastated by the loss and destruction of their neighborhood but decided to seek asylum in the U.K. after soldiers attempt to forcefully recruit Nuri. They travel through harsh conditions in Turkey and Greece, waiting in camps for the proper paperwork and meeting more refugees along the way. Nuri is determined to find his cousin Mustafa in the U.K., where the two men can return to their beloved work as beekeepers. Afra recons with the reality that she will not be able to continue her life as an artist because of her blindness, and the couple recall painful memories as they are drawn into the agonizing experience of other refugees. Lefteri perceptively and powerfully documents the horrors of the Syrian civil war and the suffering of innocent civilians. Readers will find this deeply affecting for both its psychological intensity and emotional acuity.”

Will you come along and read with me?

Anchored in a Good Book,

**This post contains commissioned links. Should you choose to purchase items using these links, I may earn a small commission.

Friday Favorites: Graphic Design

I have had a few people recently ask me about some of the graphics and things I have created for my Trades of Hope business and for here, so I thought I would share my favorite programs/apps that I use to make them.  I like using the creative side of my brain to make eye catching graphics.  You could even say that I am a little crazy about it.  I will see a graphic that someone else on my team has created, and I will recreate it for myself because I need it to be “just right.”  It is pretty much making extra work for myself, but it is the kind of work that I enjoy so I guess that means it is ok.  For some reason, I feel the need to put my spin on it. I literally will spend a whole day working on a set of graphics until I start to go cross-eyed from staring at my screen.  Sometimes I will get an idea for a graphic in my head and then spend hours working on it trying to get it “just right.”  I get super frustrated with myself when I can’t make my vision a reality.  That is the perfectionist and a little bit of the OCD in me.  Bottom line….Despite the hours I spend on it, I love creating graphics. I did, for a very brief time in my life before college, want to go into graphic design.  I think I would have been good at it if I had taken the time to hone my craft.  Anyway, here are my favorites to use. 


Word Swag is an app on my phone that I use when I want to take a photo or image and add words to it.  I use this app mostly for the blog like the one above.  There are so many free stock photo images available in the app that you can use and then simply add whatever text you want to it.  You can also use your own images and add the verbiage you want to them as well.   I like this app because it is simple to use, and I can throw a cute graphic together with it in just a few minutes. I can also easily add my logo to any image I create which I really like too. 


Pic Stitch is another app that I have on my phone. I use this one when I want to put several images together into one graphic to create a collage. These aren’t ones that are super creative or very eye-catching.  This app is really just good for putting multiple images together.  You can’t add text or anything within this app.  Sometimes I will use Pic Stitch to create the image I want and then plop it into Word Swag to add some text to it.  I use this one mostly when I take a group of photos from the blog and put them into one image to share on social media. I do this a lot of times with many of my style posts.  


Canva is my absolute favorite when it comes to creating graphics.  I have the app on my phone, but I mostly use this one on my computer.  I feel like I can manipulate things and make it work better on my laptop than on my phone.  For several years, I used the free version of Canva and loved it.  I would pay a dollar here and there to be able to use a certain image or template that I really liked and was totally happy with it.   Then about 4 or so months ago, I decided to try out the paid version with a free 30-day trial.  I loved the app even more for one simple reason…the background remover.  That feature is only available in the paid version, and I absolutely am obsessed with it now.  I went ahead and started paying $12.95 for it every month, and I am not sure I will ever go back to the free version.  While I think the free version is great, especially if you just use it occasionally, I have to say that I think the monthly fee is worth the investment for the amount of time I use it and the number of graphics I create.   The paid version opens up so many more templates, images, and features that I really like using, but the background removing feature alone really makes it worth it for me.  I highly recommend this program/app if you make a lot of graphics.

Those are my three favorites that I use ALL the time. All three are easy to navigate and really do help make the prefect graphics. All you need is a little creativity.


Book Club: Behind Closed Doors

I am doing my monthly book club review a week early this month because of the holiday next week.  If you were reading along with me and haven’t finished yet, stop reading this post and come back when you are done. For November I chose Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris.  This was a new author to me and one that I had heard about as someone I might like. This novel was definitely a psychological thriller that did grab my attention pretty quickly.  It was a fast read, and I finished it in just a few days.  If I had the time, I likely could have finished it in one long sitting because I didn’t want to put it down.   I feel like I have said this a lot about the past few books I have chosen, but I have mixed feelings about this book as well.  I don’t know what it is lately, but I have been disappointed in the ending of several books.  Some have said that they were surprised by the ending of this book, but I wasn’t.  I thought it was very predictable and didn’t give me that shocked feeling that I had hoped for.  I was left thinking, “That’s it?” with this one. Maybe I watch too many crime shows and all the thrillers are becoming predictable to me, or maybe I should have been a detective or possibly even an author.  My husband always says that I have a good sense for these things because I often predict what is going to happen when we are watching a show or movie before he picks up on it, and I am usually right.  I don’t know if that is necessarily a good skill to have, though, because it often leaves me disappointed like it did with this book.   What I will tell you is to not let my review or feelings about this book keep you from reading it if you haven’t already simply because I think most people will really like it if they are into psychological thrillers.  I think I will give it 4.5 out of 5 stars even with my disappointment because it really was a captivating read. I did like it despite my disappointment at the end. 

This story is about a woman named Grace, who is the primary caregiver for her sister, Millie, who has Down Syndrome.  Millie is currently living in a care facility where she goes to school.  However, once she turns 18, she can no longer live at the facility and will come to live with Grace.  Grace loves her sister so much that her life practically revolves around Mille.  About a year or so before Millie’s 18th birthday, the two sisters were in the park one afternoon for their usual Sunday excursion when they were approached by a man named Jack.  He was very kind to them and even danced with Millie through the park that day.  This act of kindness towards Millie led Grace to begin having feelings towards Jack fairly quickly, and the two began dating right away.  Jack was a well-respected lawyer for women who had been victims of domestic abuse and had never lost a case. To Grace and Millie, Jack seemed like the perfect guy.  They had a beautiful, whirlwind courtship, and before long Jack and Grace were engaged to be married.  As a wedding gift to Grace, Jack promised to find her the perfect house. Their plan was to move into the house and then have Millie move in not long after her birthday.  To all their friends and Grace’s family, Grace and Jack appeared to have the perfect house, perfect marriage, and perfect life. However, appearances can be deceiving.  When you hear that things are too good to be true, that was the case in this situation.  In reality as soon as their wedding ceremony was over, Jack had changed, and Grace instantly became his prisoner.    No one knew this as they visited the house because Jack and Grace put on a good show and hosted beautiful dinner parties.  No one suspected anything was not as it seemed. The one thing that I was surprised by, and you will likely be too, was the reason behind why Grace became a prisoner.  That was something that I did not see coming that was revealed early on.  You will quickly learn that Jack is a very sick and sadistic human being, Millies is much more perceptive than you would think, and everyone’s fate lies very heavily on Grace’s strength and willpower. 

I do recommend Behind Closed Doors if you haven’t read it, and I will likely read other books by B.A. Paris in the future.  I believe that my disappointment in it is just my own personal issue because it really is a good book that will captivate you.   I am starting to think that my disappointment in the ending of several books like this one is just because I didn’t want them to end or I am just being super picky. Who knows? What I do know, though, that it won’t stop me from doing one thing that I really love…reading!   

My pick for December is a New York Times Best Seller and A Read with Jenna Today Show Book Club Pick called White Ivy by Susie Yang. It is a story of a young woman and her crush on a former classmate who comes from a privileged political family, which is the total opposite of her upbringing as an immigrant from China.  It revolves around her love for him and is mixed with lies, deceit, obsession, and family ties. Here is what Apple Books had to say about it. 

“A female antihero can be mighty hard to resist—and the deliciously evil Ivy Lin is one of the best we’ve read lately. Debut author Susie Yang’s unapologetic protagonist is a Chinese immigrant whose grandmother taught her how to steal when she was little. As a Harvard undergrad, Ivy also became an expert liar, and post graduation, she’s ready to focus her skills on the thing she covets the most: handsome Gideon Speyer and his politically connected family’s rich, privileged lifestyle. White Ivy is a tense thriller that literally made us grip our phone with sweaty palms. While Ivy proves there’s nothing she won’t do to fit in with New England’s Waspy elite, Yang colors in the lines of her ruthless and charismatic lead with pitch-perfect cynicism. Like a thoroughly modern updating of Patricia Highsmith’s Tom Ripley, Ivy is an awful person who does awful things. But Ivy’s actions also reflect the heartlessness of her marks—and we’re here for it.”

Will you come along and read with me?

Anchored in a Good Book,

***This post contains commissioned links. Should you choose to purchase items using these links, I may earn a small commission.

Book Club: Big Summer

It’s that time of the month when I share my thoughts on my book club pick. I have to admit AGAIN that I am super disappointed in myself this month.  I had been on a roll of reading 2-3 books a month and was really proud of myself for making the time for something that brings me so much joy.  Sadly, I only read the one book that I had to read for this month and that was it.  I keep letting life get in the way.  I want to say that I am vowing to do better in November, but let’s be real…November and December mark the busiest season with the holidays, so the chances of me reading extra books is probably small.  Anyway, for my October book I chose Big Summer by Jennifer Weiner.  It was meant to be a light read and a change of pace for me.  I don’t typically choose books in the “chick lit” category, but I like to mix it up every now and then to keep me from getting stagnant.  This is also the first book I have ever read by Jennifer Weiner.  I actually have mixed emotions about this book, which I will explain more in a bit. 

The book revolved around a young, plus-size, social media influencer, Daphne, and her relationship with her own body and that of her “friends.”  She had a very low self-esteem and was always very self-conscious about her body and her appearance.  She was skeptical of anyone who wanted to be friends with her or even date her.  Much of that stemmed from her friendship as a teen with Drue, a wealthy and very popular girl.  Drue was also one of those high society, mean girls who often treated Daphne poorly.  Despite that, Daphne was in awe of Drue and did whatever it took to remain on the peripheral of Drue’s inner circle.  That all came to a crashing halt when Daphne discovered that Drue had practically paid a guy to act interested and date her.  That was the last straw for Daphne, and she immediately ended their friendship.  That incident and Daphne’s response to it is what ultimately launched her influencer career. Years later, Drue made a reappearance in Daphne’s life and asked a huge favor.  She wanted Daphne to play an important role in a big life event.  That favor led to a murder investigation that left everyone involved searching for their identity and the true meaning of friendship.  

This book involved a bit of mystery, romance, and drama.  As I mentioned earlier, I have mixed emotions about it.  I didn’t hate it, but it definitely wasn’t a favorite.  I think my biggest issue with the whole storyline was that it was very predictable.  I figured out the plot and the “who done it” pretty quickly.  I prefer storylines that keep me guessing throughout.  It is not a bad story, and I actually think that there are a lot of people who love the “chick lit” genre that would really enjoy it.  Unfortunately, it just wasn’t my cup of tea.  It was a pretty quick and easy read, and there were some parts of it that held my attention.  I do think the idea behind the story was really good.  A story about a girl who doesn’t quite fit in and has body issues that learns to love herself and to value who she is as a person is a lesson that many young adults need.  I just wish it wasn’t quite so predictable for me.  I think I would give this one 3.5 out of 5 stars.  It is definitely a good beach read type of book.

I am switching genres again for November.  This month I am going for a psychological thriller by B.A. Paris entitled Behind Closed Doors.  This book was published in 2016 and was an instant New York Times Best Seller, as well as, a USA Today Bestseller. It is said to be one of those books that you can’t put down.  The San Francisco Book Review said, “This was one of the best and most terrifying psychological thrillers I have ever read.” I don’t know about you, but I love a good page turner! This novel is about a young newlywed couple, Jack and Grace, who seem to outsiders to be the perfect little family.  It turns out that appearances can be deceiving, and Grace is actually a prisoner in her own home.  This is a story of her journey to freedom. Will she find it? We will have to read and find out!

Here is Apple Books review of this story.

“Like starting a fire, writing a page-turning thriller takes patience and skill.  British author B.A. Paris has both in spades. Our heart skittered and raced as we tried to untangle the dark secrets at the heart of married couple Grace and Jack’s twisted relationship. As the story moved between past and present—revealing an ever-larger and more sinister gap between appearances and reality—we could barely imagine how Grace and her sister, Millie, would make it through.”

Will you come along and read with me?

Anchored in a Good Book,

***This post contains commissioned links. Should you choose to purchase items using these links, I may earn a small commission.

Friday Favorites: The Home Edit

Image pulled from @thehomeedit on Instagram

I don’t know if I am late to the party or if I am right on time, but I just recently discovered The Home Edit on Instagram and their show on Netflix, Get Organized with The Home Edit.  I am in love, and following them on social media and watching their show are both a MUST! The Home Edit basically consists of two women, Clea and Joanna, and their love for all things organization and the rainbow.  They go into people’s homes and turn chaos into beauty, and I am totally obsessed. I love everything about their systems and how their brains work. Sometimes I feel like they are inside my head, and I really want to be their best friend.  They follow 4 simple steps to help people get their life together.  They start with the EDIT.  This is where they go through everything in the space and purge. The next step is to then CATEGORIZE.  They sort items into specific categories that they can then use to create zones in the space.  Next is the CONTAIN step.  This is my absolute favorite part.  They use clear bins of various sizes to store everything and make it look all nice and neat. I love that everything is sorted and contained in such a neat way.  The final step is to MAINTAIN.  This is where they make sure that it is easy to maintain the organizational system put into place.  They are specifically known for color coding things in rainbow order to make it easier to locate things and, in turn, put them back in the right spot.  This method is simple enough that even kids can follow it. They also use labels on everything so that it is clear that everything has its own designated space.  AHHHH! You know I love my labels and bins! Having systems like they design truly makes my heart sing!  

I am completely serious when I say that Clea and Joanna are my soul sisters.  I think I could totally be a third partner in their ever-growing business of home organization.  Seriously, sign me up right now! Their attention to detail and their color coding is totally up my ally.  I have actually been color coding my own closet for years.  I am so obsessed with them right now.  If you don’t know about them or haven’t watched their series on Netflix, you need to do it this weekend! I promise you that it will motivate you to get off the couch and organize either your closet, your pantry, or your fridge.  You will also have this burning desire to go to The Container Store, which is the holy grail of organization and my dream store, to purchase clear bins and turntables.  My pantry is already organized into zones and bins, but after watching The Home Edit I want to redo it all using clear bins.  I seriously need it all in my life right now!  They even have a book and workbook that will make all of your organizational dreams come true, The Home Edit Life and The Home Edit Workbook.  Not only are Clea and Joanna fun to watch and follow on social media, but they even have some big-name clients on the show that I’m pretty sure are as obsessed with them as I am.  What I love about them most, though, is how down to earth they are, and they are totally real on social media. They make you feel like you can conquer the chaos in your life easily. It just takes a little time and effort.

Images pulled from @thehomeedit on Instagram

I think I have mentioned before that two of my best friends and I attempted to start our own organizing business a few years ago as we all three have a passion for organization.  Clea and Joanna are everything that we wanted to be, but we just didn’t make it work.  I had to move not long after we launched the business which made it very difficult for me to be a part of it.  Over time we just couldn’t manage it all with our kids and full-time jobs. We ended up having to dissolve the business. However, I totally think we could have done amazing things together.  It was just at the wrong time in our lives for it to work.  Maybe one day we can start it up again and be the next Marie Kondo or Clea and Joanna! I can dream, right? 

Anchored and Organized,

It’s Christmas Movie Time!

I am fully aware that it is only the middle of October, but I cannot contain my excitement because it is Christmas movie time!!!! That’s right! This month marks the start of Hallmark Christmas movies, which are my all-time favorites! Yes, I know that they basically all have the same plot, and I can pretty much predict how they all will end.   I have even seen most of them several times already.  I don’t care! I love them so much. They get me every single time.  I spend my weekends binge watching with tears in my eyes.  I don’t know why I get teary when I know how it is going to go, but I do every single time.   I cannot wait to watch all of my old favorites and the brand new ones released this year.  I fill my DVR with all the new ones, so I don’t miss a single one.  I even re-watch them all when they come back on in the summer for Christmas in July.  They are just that good. 

My husband can’t stand them and rolls his eyes every time he walks in the room and sees me watching another one.   My children think I am crazy, but I know that one day they too will love them as much as I do.  They do occasionally watch one or two with me, and I can tell that they love it and don’t want to admit it.  Seriously, almost every female that I know loves Hallmark Christmas movies. My mom, sister, and I have to watch at least one together when we are all home for Christmas.  It is tradition.  People even make shirts about it, so I know I am not alone in my obsession with them.  

I so have to admit that the Lifetime channel has upped their game, and they are putting out some great Christmas movies too.  Some are even right up there with Hallmark’s.  I added the Lifetime ones to my repertoire last year, and they are sure to be on my DVR this year as well.  I do know that their movies start this month as well, but I couldn’t find a complete schedule all nicely compiled into one graphic like Hallmark has, but you can find the full schedule here. Their Christmas movies start on October 23.

I know that Hallmark Christmas movies are corny, predictable, and a little sappy, but I love them anyway.  There is nothing like a good Hallmark movie to really get the spirit of Christmas flowing through your body. It makes me want to decorate the house already.  I am so ready! This year they have 23 brand new movies for your entertainment pleasure. Check out the schedule below for all of the new releases and get your DVRs ready! It all starts next week.

Anchored in the Spirit of Christmas,