Book Review: A Million Little Things by Susan Mallery

The women of Mischief Bay are back in another story of friendship, love, and life. Susan Mallery’s newest novel, A Million Little Things, is the third book in the Mischief Bay series and the second one I have read. I first fell in love with this Susan Mallery’s unique books after reading The Friends We Keep, which is the previous novel in this series. I enjoyed reading about the characters so much and I couldn’t wait for the third installment about the Michief Bay girls. Unfortunately, A Million Little Things follows the characters from the first book in the series, which I never read, The Girls of Mischief Bay. With that being said, it is a good book, just not about my favorite characters from the last book I read.

What I like about many of Susan Mallery’s books is that you can read the entire series or read each book as a stand alone novel. Even though I never read book one in this series, I was still able to follow each storyline of the characters Zoe, Pam, and Jen. Other characters that were briefly mentioned in A Million Little Things are Nicole and Shannon.

Zoe recently broke up with her boyfriend who didn’t tell her he was married. After he finally divorced his wife, he still refused to have committed relationship with her. She works from home transcribing instruction manuals (Can I have this job?) and usually only interacts with her cat, Mason. After getting stuck in her attic, Zoe realizes that she needs to get out of the house more, make additional friends, and find a real man to love.

Jen is the mom of an 18 month old boy, Jack. Jen is basically me when my son was her son’s age, except a little more over the top. She is worried that her son won’t speak even though he understands everything she says and has his own way of communicating back. She has him on a very regimented routine and is very strict about what he does and doesn’t eat. Seriously, Jen could be based on my life just a short year and a half ago. Jen is Pam’s daughter. Jen’s husband is a police officer. Not only does she worry about her son, but also her husband’s whereabouts day in and day out. Jen is Zoe’s best friend. But since she is so obsessed with her son, Zoe barely sees Jen.

Pam has been a window for a few years now. She has a dog named Lulu who has her own wardrobe. Pam worries about her daughter, Jen, and her two sons, Brandon and Steve. When Zoe goes to a Pilates class that Pam routinely attends, she decides that it would be a great idea to set her son, Steve, up with Zoe. On top of that, Pam starts to fall for Zoe’s dad, Miguel. Sounds a bit confusing, right? It is actually kind of hilarious how everyone’s lives are intertwined in A Million Little Things.

I really enjoyed Zoe and Steve’s relationship in this book. When things got tough, he didn’t head for the hills, even though his mom really wants him to. What I also really like about A Million Little Things are the dog characters. Susan Mallery has a thing about giving animals human qualities in her books. This one is no different. Lulu, Pam’s dog, and Mariposa, Miguel’s dog, are main characters.

Susan Mallery not only likes to write about romance in her novels, she is also really good at writing about female friendships. The friendships she writes about are the kind of friendships all adults yearn for. Pam has three friends that she travels all over the world with. She met them on a cruise she took after her husband died and has been traveling with them ever since. What I think is so fun about their friendship is that they pick a special drink that they drink throughout their entire trip. Even though I am a beer kind of gal, I do like to try new cocktails here and there. On their weekend getaway to Arizona, Pam and her friends indulge in a French 75. I can’t wait to try one myself. Also after reading A Million Little Things, I REALLY want a margarita!

VIA

Overall, I enjoyed reading A Million Little Things. It is refreshing to read about a character like Jen who has had trouble adjusting to motherhood. I am not sure why she wasn’t officially diagnosed with postpartum anxiety/depression, though. It is also refreshing to read a contemporary romance novel that isn’t just rainbows and butterflies. I can only hope that I get to read about my friends from the last novel, The Friends We Keep, in Susan Mallery’s next Mischief Bay installment: I miss you, Gabby and Haley! (Because when you think fictional characters are your actual friends, you know you have a problem just like Zoe…)

Book Review: Love Unending by Becky Thompson

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I am a huge fan of Becky Thompson. Her blog and her first book, Hope Unfolding, speak to me like nothing else I have ever read. When I found out she was writing another book, I knew I had to read it.

Love Unending is a lot different than Hope Unfolding. Hope Unfolding is about the difficulties (and joys) of being a mother. Love Unending is about learning how to like you husband again, after having children. You’re probably thinking, “What do you mean like your husband again?” But if you have had a child, you would know that even though you still LOVE you husband, liking him is sometimes easier said than done.(And trust me, I’m sure our husbands feel the same exact way about  us!)

Becky Thompson’s book is a 21 day challenge that encourages us to fall in love with our husbands all over again. Think about the first time you met you husband. How did you feel? Think about the first time you said, “I love you.” Think about the excitement you had every time you saw him after a long day, or in my case, a long week, since we only saw each other on weekends. Becky Thompson guides the reader through a journey to improve their marriage after taking care of little people all day long.

Taking care of a child is exhausting. Taking care of more than one child? Probably 3x more exhausting. If you stay at home, like I do, you count the minutes until you husband comes home. It may not be because you want to see him, kiss him, or hear his voice, it is probably because you want to hand child raising duties off to him so you can cook dinner, and pee in private.

Throughout your 21 day journey, Becky Thompson will guide you through 21 daily challenges and journaling. Some tasks will be as simple (or as hard) as greeting your husband as soon as he comes in the door, instead of bombarding him with immediate tasks or not acknowledging his arrival at all. Another task will encourage you to thank your husband for things that you may take for granted. Each daily task also includes a daily prayer to help you stay focused and committed to your faith.

Don’t get me wrong, this book is not one of those books that encourage you to “serve your husband because he is always right.” It is not even close to that. It is woman centered, and makes you nod your head and want to say, “Yes, yup, that happens, I could fix that, he could fix that.” Being married is about being a team.

I had an interesting experience reading this book. I like to think that my husband are in love (and in like) still, after almost 6 years of marriage (8 years of dating.) I told him I was reading the book for review so that he wouldn’t see it and think, “What is going on?” He kind of thought it was silly, but asked about it for the first two weeks or so. I told him some of the tasks, and kept some of the other ones private (he could have read the book, too, if he wanted to.)

As my journey through the book played out, I did notice our marriage getting even better than it was before. We weren’t struggling, by any means, but let’s be honest, no one’s marriage is perfect. I told him that I wanted a kiss every night when he came home, and even though we now joke about it every night, and laugh, we do it, even if our son is running a muck during witching hour. I realize that I do obsessively read, and I try to put my books down when he is talking and really listen instead of just half listening. Really listening to someone is a game changer, making eye contact is important, and although we are not big cell phone people, I have tried to put mine down after he comes out from putting our son to bed so we can talk about our day, child free.

We have tried to make cuddling a priority, even if it is just during a TV show, or while we are both reading (it helps that is is winter and he is a furnace of heat.) It’s funny because when we were dating, we would always say how we would NEVER sit on opposites sides of a couch. I truly do feel like we started to appreciate our marriage more during the past 21 days. Many of the days and challenges were things we already did. Jim buys me surprises like flowers, several times a year to show me he cares. I also leave him things to let him know I care. But I found some new ways to show my love and it really did make me think about the beginning. Love Unending made me want to focus on us even more than we already do.

I suggest all moms (and dads even) read Love Unending to make your marriage better. Even if you are not suffering a rut (which we weren’t) you could still benefit from this challenge. I must admit, I did not journal throughout the journey, but if that if you thing, or if you marriage truly is on the rocks, journaling may be the right choice for you. Your marriage should be your priority. Even though little ones need so much attention, if your marriage is suffering (or not thriving as it should) your parenting will start to suffer. To teach your children to love, you need to be able to show them how to love.

Someone should send Becky Thompson on a child-free vacation with her husband, she deserves it. As for me and myhusband, we make child-free vacations a priority; once a year is a must. couple of weeks. Every marriage could thrive from a few days away without kids.

I was given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: After I Do by Taylor Jenkins Reid

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There are no words to describe how much I enjoyed reading After I Do by Taylor Jenkins Reid. It took me on an emotional roller coaster that ended in lots of ugly tears. This novel is real. This novel is raw. This novel is what marriage is all about. It shows you that the love isn’t perfect, but it is worth fighting for. Love is worth waking up for, it is worth pushing through those hard days, it is worth every minute of your time, because “for better or for worse, till death do us part” is what we promised to do our on wedding day.

Lauren and Ryan met when they were 19, in college. They fell in love, moved in together, got engaged, and eventually got married. After 11 years of being together, they realized they were in a rut. They weren’t having sex, they were fighting over everything and anything, and they just plain old didn’t love each other anymore. After a few weeks of debating what to do, they decided to take a year break, no communication what-so-ever, and see how they feel at the end of it.

Although this concept isn’t typical, and I certainly wouldn’t partake in a year long break from my husband (we are happily in love, thank you very much), it seems to be the right choice for Lauren and Ryan. They don’t want to give up, but they also know they can’t keep going down the dangerous road they are on. While on their break, they meet other people, discover themselves, and realize what they want from each other. They also decide if they think they can overcome this obstacle in their marriage.

Lauren’s gramdmom is my favorite character in the novel. She reminded me of my grandmom, whom I lost while I was pregnant with my son. I wish I asked her what her secret to love was. I wish I asked her so much more than I asked her. My grandpop died 17 years before her. I can’t imagine being without my husband that long. I can’t imagine all the pain she endured.

‘Did you love Grandpa the whole time?’ Maybe she didn’t. Maybe she is just like me. Ending up like my Grandma would not be so bad.

‘The whole time,’ she says. ‘Every day.’ Okay, so maybe not.

‘How?’ I ask her.

‘What do you mean, how?’ I had no choice. That’s how.’ Pg. 113

I mean, Grandma gets it, people.

‘You have someone. That’s all I am going to say. Don’t give up on him just because he bores you. Or doesn’t pick up his socks.’ Pg. 303

‘Just because you can live without someone doesn’t mean you want to,’ she says. Pg. 304

Preach it, Grandma. Oh, this is where the ugly tears start.

After I Do by Taylor Jenkins Reid is brutally honest. Whether you’re married, about to get married, in a serious relationship, or single, this book is a must read. Once you dip your toes into the sand, you won’t want to take them out. Get ready to cry hard and feel all the feels that Taylor Jenkins Reid so beautifully portrays.

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