Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Book Club: February 2021

It's our favorite day of the month...book club day!  We are constantly texting each other about book recommendations and sharing our favorites during the month, so we love when we get to share our hits (and misses) with you all, too. 

Book Club Suggestions February 2021



I was on a roll this past month and pretty much had my headphones in my ears nonstop which meant I was able to finish 4 books.  They were all really different from each other and a couple of them were also different than what I normally read, so hopefully a little something for everyone who might be looking for a new book recommendation.  

Up first was A Good Neighborhood by Therese Anne Fowler.  I had actually seen another blogger share about this book and it sounded really interesting to me.  It's about professor of forestry and ecology who is a single mom raising her teenage son in a very quiet, close-knit, North Carolina neighborhood. All is well until they get some new neighbors. From their big expensive home to their flashy cars and the complete disregard of the trees that border the property line, things just go downhill fast.  Add in a biracial teenage love story between the kids of the two families and it's a recipe for disaster. Honestly I had really high hopes for this book and wanted to love it, but I just didn't. I wasn't a fan of the way it ended and the entire book was just OK to me. 

I loved hearing Jen tell me about A Good Girl's Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson and loved that she said it sort of listened like a crime podcast so I was excited to give it a try.  It was so fascinating and I loved trying to follow along with the clues and secrets that get uncovered as a high school senior turns a local crime story into a school project.  I actually just realized that it is the first in a trilogy so I'm excited to give the other two a try also! Good Girl, Bad Blood is out now and and Good as Dead is scheduled to be released later this year.  

Speaking of a trilogy, after reading The Promised Land by Elizabeth Musser last month I realized that it was actually the 3rd in a series.  My friend texted me about The Swan House saying it was one of her all time favorite books so I decided to add it to my wish-list.  This book is a historical, Christian fiction, coming of age story.  I think my only complaint was that it felt really long.  It dealt with heavy topics of racial tension, family dynamics, mental illness and loss, but it also felt light and happy at parts, too. This story is set in Atlanta and although the story is fiction, the author references so much Atlanta history and landmarks that it really feels like it could be real.  I was born and raised in Atlanta so I loved hearing all of the Atlanta ties. The story is about a teenage girl who has taken her family's wealth for granted her entire life. That is until she experiences a terrible tragedy and ends up helping her family's maid in the inner city to take her mind off of her grief.  She ends up becoming friends with a boy who comes from a completely different background and her eyes are opened to the civil rights movements as she is also learning secrets about her mother that she never knew.  If you are from Atlanta I would definitely recommend this book because I think anyone would enjoy all of the familiar references!  

Last, but not least I decided to totally switch gears and go with a little teenage vampire story. After reading Midnight Sun I couldn't wait to start the Crave series by Tracy Wolff. There are ultimately going to be 4 books in this series and seeing as how I flew through the first one in about 2 days I think it's safe to say I'll be listening to all of them. Think Twilight series with a little more fantasy which is not my style AT ALL, but this book makes it work and had me listening non-stop.  


This might be the first month in awhile I physically read all the books I am going to review. I am listening to a book series with the kids and it's really good, so my Audible has been taken over by them temporarily.  (It's the Keeper of the Lost Cities series if interested.) 

Winter Break was this past month, but we stayed home this year. With a free week full of cold/snowy/rainy weather, I was able to actually hold a book to read. I was able to get three in that week alone, and then one the rest of the month. However, one of these might be in my top three for the entire year. I'm calling it now! 

First up for the monthShipped by Angie Hockman. It's safe to say I am OVER Winter. So, when I saw this book and read about it's tropical romance bliss, I was in. The story follows two co-worker vying for the same job. They are given the task of cruising to the Galapagos Islands as sort of a final interview. The hard part, they both dislike one another. 

Or do they???

The story was super cute, and is the perfect beach read if you have an upcoming Spring Break trip planned. Throw this one in your beach bag, and enjoy! 

A Lady's Guide to Mischief and Mayhem by Manda Collins is what I grabbed next to read. This was my Bridgerton fix for the month. It's a period murder mystery romance novel. It's cheeky at times, and the romance is that of the slow burn kind, but the story is fun and easy. I think without the mystery part of the plot, this book would have lost my interest. I enjoyed it, but I just needed something a smidge more somewhere. 

Next up was the The Diplomat's Wife by Pam Jenoff. Okay I am torn on this one. Last year, I loved The Lost Girls of Paris. So much so that it made one of my top books of the year. The Diplomat's Wife grabs you right from the first page, but there are just a few parts I wanted a little more detail about. The story follows Marta, a young woman found in a Nazi concentration camp at the end of WWII. She is rescued by an American soldier and from there endures loss after loss after loss. She makes choices based on her tragedies and circumstances and your heart just reaches out to her. Without giving too much away, there is a big twist to the love interest in this story and you will be shocked at how Jenoff ties all the details together. If you love historical fiction with a romantic twist, this is one to add to your cart. You can also read this as a stand alone, but I realized later it is part of a series. The Komandment's Girl is the first book in the series, and a lot of these characters make appearances in The Diplomat's Wife

Last up for the month is Love and Other Words by Christina Lauren. I almost don't know where to start with this book. I've read a few Christina Lauren novels over the years, but somehow missed this one. The novels are typically romance based with tons of humor and great characters. This rings true for Love and Other Words as well, but this one has a lot more "meat" to it if that makes sense. And oh my goodness - I loved it! I stayed up waaaaaay too late one night reading it, just to get to the end. 

The story follows Macy, and has duel time lines to explain her relationship to her former best friend Elliot. Elliot popped into Macy's life after her mother passed away. It's often said through out the book that he was her "everything". But fast forward 11 years, and you realize something happened one tragic night that caused Macy and Elliot to no longer speak. They run into each other at a coffee shop, and pretty quickly running into each other brings forward feelings of the past. I can't say anymore without giving too much away. But the story is fun, tragic, and heartwarming all rolled into one. I cried at one part, cheered at the ending, and am totally recommending you add this to your reading pile.  



I figure while I'm on a roll I'll continue on with book two of the Crave series by Tracy Wolff, Crush


I've already got my next read ready to go. I chose to start the month with Love at First by Kate Clayborn. I enjoyed reading her last novel so much. So, when I saw that she had a new one out I scooped it right up! 



| January

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Tuesday, February 23, 2021

The Unexplainable Disappearance of Mars Patel (Review + Giveaway)

I've chatted before about how difficult it is to get my son to read. He's come a long way in the last few years. He loves being read to, and listening to Audibles whenever he can. He'll take the time to sit down and look at graphic novels, or something he deems "easy" to read. The challenge really comes to getting him to sit down and take the time to read something that is on his grade level. 

Like most boys, he wants to read something quick and easy. (Most likely to get back to playing outside, or to perfect his latest Fortnite dance.) 

The key to getting him to read comes down to finding something that actually interests him. It has to entice him enough that he actually gets excited about checking this task off his list. 

Well, thank you Sheela Chari! She wrote a book that my son absolutely could not put down. My son was so into The Unexplainable Disappearance of Mars Patel, that I actually caught him a few times in his room just reading quietly. Without being asked to. 

In my book, that deserves a big huge THANK YOU!


I thought I would share and give a quick review in case anyone else is looking for some good reading material for this age group (4th-7th grade). 

The Unexplainable Disappearance of Mars Patel totally is meant to intrigue this generation. It's a middle grades mystery book with technology tie ins. It's unique and intriguing, not only due to the plot, but it's fun format. Comprised of podcast transcripts, text message chains, emails, and news stories the story is written in a way that hits home with kids technology filled world of today.  My son loved this style of writing. 

It's fast paced and filled with fun characters. The story immediately sucked him in from the first page, and he already says it's one of his favorite books he's ever read. 

We also didn't realize until later that the book is based on an award winning podcast. It has a few seasons, and he already can't wait to listen to them. 


Mars Patel’s friend Aurora has disappeared! His teachers are clueless. His mom is stressed out about her jobs. But Mars refuses to give up—after all, his own dad disappeared when Mars was a toddler, before he and Ma moved to Puget Sound from India. Luckily, Mars has a group of loyal friends eager to help—smart Toothpick, strong and stylish JP, and maybe-telepathic Caddie. The clues seem to point toward eccentric tech genius (and Mars’s hero) Oliver Pruitt, whose popular podcast now seems to be commenting on their quest! But when the friends investigate Pruitt’s mysterious, elite school, nothing is as it seems—and anyone could be deceiving them. Slick science, corporate conspiracies, and an endearingly nerdy protagonist make this first book in the series a fresh, exciting sci-fi adventure.


Walker Press was nice enough to help us spread our Mars Patel excitement. We have teamed up to give away one copy to a lucky reader! 

To enter just comment with the answer to this question: 

Who you are excited to share The Unexplainable Disappearance of Mars Patel with?

Winner will be drawn randomly and announced on Monday, March 1, 2021. Winner will have 48 hours to respond to announcement or a new winner will be drawn. Winner must be a U.S. resident and over the age of 18. 

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Monday, February 15, 2021

Target Outdoor Decor 2021

 Now that Valentine's has passed, we have all things outdoors on the brain. We're at that point of Winter when we are ready to say goodbye to cold, rainy temps and hello to warm, sunny days. We spend most of our days outside, and this year we have a few large outdoor projects in the works. So when we saw Target has already debuted their 2021 outdoor decor, we couldn't help swooning over a few pieces. 

And maybe adding a few of them to our carts already. 

It looks like boho and bright colors are reigning strong this year. We are also digging all the fun textures and little details added in (give us all the tassels and poms!). 

Here's just a sneak peek at some of our favorites. 


Neutral Outdoor Decor from Target

There are just so many good outdoor decor options this year. We could have gone and on and on. It's giving us total Spring/Summer fever! 

Stay tuned to see what we pull for our outdoor projects! 


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Friday, February 12, 2021

Friday Favorites

Happy Friday!  This week dragged on for me and although I got a lot done, I'm happy for the weekend! We've got some fun stuff planned this weekend and my kids are off school all next week for our Winter Break, so lots to be happy about today! 

When I was little Valentine's Day was one of my very favorite holidays because we got to celebrate at school with friends.  I know a lot of schools aren't doing valentine exchanges this year, but I'm so happy our elementary school is still making it happen.  Some of the classes had to bring in their items early and my son's had to go in yesterday so things can sit in "candy quarantine" until this afternoon, but we are fine with that if it means they can still do it.  He decided on a Chick-fil-A themed box this year and it was so fitting for him.  

That boy LOVES some Chick-fil-A so we came up with making this box look like a nugget box, complete with fries and a drink. I think it turned out so cute and the shirt just made the whole ensemble. 

I've been a busy bee working to get the pillows done for our living room and I'm so happy with how they turned out.  I just made covers for the pillows that came with the couch, but there were a ton of them so I felt like it was the project that went on and on. 

I've ordered the trim for the curtains and am currently on the hunt for a round coffee table. 

We shared about some new workout wear that we are loving HERE last week (complete with a discount code), but I didn't mention that my open back tank is actually from Amazon and SO cute for showing off some of those strappy sports bras.  It is under $20 and comes in a ton of colors, too! 

This weekend is a BIG deal for my daughter.  It's Cheersport weekend!  Besides Summit, which is held at the end of the season, this is the biggest competition of the year and they have been working so hard to get ready.  It is crazy to think that last year we had no idea what was about to change and how everything would get shut down shortly after Cheersport.  This year is really different with limited spectators and all sorts of different procedures in place, but we're just happy that it is getting to take place.  Plus, Jen will be there with her little cheerleader, too! 

Last, but not least, I'm so excited about a family vacation next week.  I mentioned earlier that our kids are on winter break next week so we are going to go on a family ski trip.  It's been several years since we were all able to go and I'm really looking forward to it!  

I hope everyone has a wonderful weekend!!!  

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Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Kitchen Confessions {Air Fryer Salmon}

I mentioned a few weeks ago that I've been loving my air fryer and we've tried all sorts of things in it. Last week I shared my Air Fryer Brussels Sprouts (SO GOOD) and the Mr. made wings in it for the Super Bowl. For me it has made weeknight dinners easier to put together because it cooks things so much faster. I have the Cosori air fryer and have been really happy with it.  It thousands of great reviews on Amazon, too! 

One of my favorite things to cook in it that is super easy and quick is salmon!  I've always been a salmon fan, but after trying this new way of cooking it, I won't ever be going back.  This recipe calls for a little bit of brown sugar and it caramelizes so nicely. The top of the salmon browns, but it keeps in all of the juices and it is really tender.  

Air Fryer Salmon 


-2 salmon fillets with similar thickness 

-2 tsp olive oil 

-salt and pepper 

-2 tsp paprika (I don't really measure though...just kind of sprinkle some on)

-1 Tbsp brown sugar 


1. Rub each fillet with olive oil and season with salt/pepper, paprika and brown sugar. 

2. Place fillets in the basket of the air fryer, skin side down. 

3. Cook at 390 degrees for 8-12 minutes depending on your desired doneness. As you can see from the picture, I prefer mine more done so did them the full 12 minutes, but you can adjust the cooking time to fit your preference!  If you prefer your salmon a little less done I would start with 8 minutes and check it before adding a few more minutes to the cooking time. 

That's it!  Just add a veggie or salad and you have a great healthy meal.  Let me know what you are cooking in your air fryer...I'm always looking for new ideas! 

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Thursday, February 4, 2021

Budget Friendly Activewear We LOVE!

In 2020, we embraced the athleisure trend with open arms. In 2021, we have no plans on stopping. It just works for us. Our jobs are at home, and we wear so many hats throughout the day, we've come to value an outfit that can keep up with our lifestyle. 

Trendy and affordable activewear is becoming more common, but weeding through the brands to make sure they pass the test can be tedious. Sure you look good, but then you bend over, and well...the rest is see through not for children's eyes history. And while we love a good pair of compression leggings, we also love our blood being able to circulate. Then there is our personal favorite - making sure our sports bra is supportive, but also doesn't require a Houdini like effort to get in and out of it. Or our husbands and a pair of scissors. 

By the grace of the activewear gods though, we've stumbled upon a new affordable athletic wear brand that we absolutely LOVE

Budget friendly active wear


We were introduced to Halara a few months ago, and each tried a few pieces. OMG! When they say "soft as clouds activewear" they have the buttery goodness to back it up. 

Putting on their Cloud9 leggings is like wearing a second skin. A really smooth soft, second skin that's been blessed by the wings of an angel. 

Then we tried their "In My Feels" line, and found equally comfortable results!

Even better...Halara's soft, yet supportive technology doesn't stop at leggings. They have a whole line of amazing activewear pieces to ensure you're comfortable head to toe! 


One of our favorite things about the Halara brand is that they make trendy, high quality athletic wear pieces, but at super affordable price points. 

We were instantly drawn to all the on trend patterns, and fun sports bra backs that look like more expensive brands, but without the expensive price tag to go with it. Everything on their website is under $50 (with a lot of items $25-$30!), and they offer free shipping for orders over $59. 

Even more amazing? Their mission is to make their brand 100% sustainable. They are a brand created for women, run by women, and are committed to creating their fun activewear pieces while avoiding the fast fashion traps. They also have plans for expanding their collection to offer organic and recycled pieces. 


Halara means "take it easy" in Greek, and this has become their company's mission statement. Well we want you to make it your mission too! We love Halara (And we know you will!!!), so we asked them for a discount code. They were happy to share with our readers! 

Use code FFGGBS to snag 30% off your Halara athletic wear purchase!

We've already got another order in our carts, but you'll have to tell us what pieces you are going to try and how much you love them! 

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Monday, February 1, 2021

Book Club: January 2021

 Happy first day of February friends! Does anyone else feel like January was a particularly long, but fast month? So many things were jam packed into January that our New Years trip to Barnsley Resort seems so long ago! 

We don't know about you, but we're looking forward to a month that celebrates love and kindness. 

Each month we look forward to our Book Club post the most. And saddle up for today's post because it's a doozy! We get asked all the time how we are able to read so many books in a month with our lifestyles. Our big (not so secret) secret...

Multi-tasking + audio books. 

A close second...our Kindles/Kindle App. 

While we love a sit down with a good physical book, time is limited for that. With audio books we have the ability to "read" while we fold laundry, drive the car, make dinner, walk the dog. With our Kindles we can read a book while we have twenty minutes waiting for our prescriptions to be filled, have an unexpectedly long carpool line, or during an extra long cuddle session to get kids back to sleep in the middle of the night. 

So if reading more is on your goal list for 2021, but you can't seem to find the time - give audiobooks a try! Audible gives you a free book to try so you can see if you enjoy listening before you commit. But - trust us - we think you'll love it!

Now onto the fun part...January's book reviews! 



I finished 4 books this month...two that were good and two that were GREAT! Like they might end up being contenders for my top books of the year kind of great.  I know! That is saying a lot right out of the gate, but they were SO good. 

The first book I listened to this month was Emily Giffin's The Lies That Bind. I am a big fan of Giffin's novels and in fact I named All We Ever Wanted one of my top books of 2018 so I was excited to check this one out.  I didn't even really know what it was about so was kind of shocked to learn it was set in NYC during 9/11. It was completely fictional, but did weave in some of the events that happened during that day and after.  The story follows Cecily, a twenty something reporter, who has just broken up with her long time boyfriend and ends up meeting a guy who she quickly falls head over heels for. Their relationship seems a little off at times, but the times they are together you really do believe they are meant for each other.  She sees him on the night of September 10th, and then never hears from him after the September 11th events. What she finds out about his life after 9/11 makes her question everything. The more she goes digging into his past, the more far fetched the story gets. I really enjoyed the first half of the book, but the second half just seemed a little hard to believe. That being said, I still found myself listening to it every chance I got because the love triangle she finds herself in and lies just continue to get deeper and deeper.  

I shared about this in my Friday Favorites a few weeks ago, but listening to Midnight Sun by Stephanie Meyer took me back to my Twilight loving days. This is the story of Twilight told from Edwards point of view and it is SO good.  The Twilight series was the first one that really sucked me in and kept me thinking about the characters long after I was done reading. However, since I read them so long ago I sort of forgot a lot of the details. It was fun to listen to this story knowing what was going to happen, but not knowing all of the details. It almost felt new again! This version is definitely a little darker than Twilight, but I loved every second and was so sad when it was over.  It makes me want to re-read (or, let's be honest, listen to) the entire series again and watch all of the movies again, too! 

My next read for the month was The Promised Land by Elizabeth Musser. My mom gave me this book for Christmas because her cousin is the author! It's actually part of a series, but reads fine as a stand alone. It's a departure from the type of stories I usually read, but it was a book with a lot of spiritual depth and a great story of letting go of fears, control, and burdens. It focuses on several different characters, but the main one being Abby, a forty something mother and wife with a seemingly perfect life that is starting to fall apart. Her teenage sons are moving away from home, her husband decides he needs some "space" and her aging parents are beginning to have serious health issues. She's on the verge of a mental breakdown when she decides to visit her son during his gap year in France and walk the Camino pilgrimage with him.  She is forced to take a look at herself and discover who she is and what really makes her happy. 

My last book of this month was You Were There Too by Colleen Oakley. Jen recommended this one to me and it has been on my wish-list for a while, but when I saw that she named it her favorite book of 2020 I downloaded it immediately!  You know what, it might just make my top 3 of 2021! It's about young married couple and the wife, Mia, truly loves her husband.  However, she has been having reoccurring dreams about another man for years.  She thinks it's just some weird dream coincidence until she meets him in real life and realizes that maybe the universe is showing her that the guy from her dreams is really the one she should be with.  It sounds kind of far fetched, but it was SO believable in the book. Towards the end I found myself hoping she would make a difficult decision only to then be blindsided with how these characters all ended up crossing paths and how their lives aligned. I was SOBBING in my car one afternoon listening to the end of this story and just love books that make you FEEL something.  I highly recommend this one. I also loved the narrator's voice, so if you are an audible fan, this one is great listen.  


When You Were Mine by Rebecca Serle

Kicking off the new year for me was When You Were Mine by Rebecca Serle. After loving In Five Years last year (and naming it one of my top books of the year!), I was SO excited to read this one. Hmmm...I'm torn because it was totally not what I expected. This is a modern day re-telling of Romeo and Juliet, but from Rosaline's perspective. I also didn't realize it was a young adult novel until I read the first chapter Based off the language and the writing it's pretty clear right away that it's geared towards a younger audience. The start of the book was a little underwhelming for me, but I enjoyed the ending and the twist Serle put on the classic tale. Overall I would say maybe 3.5 out of 5 stars??

I think it's funny that both Carrie Beth and I had teenage vampire love stories on the brain for the start of 2021. At her suggestion I have Midnight Sun in my queue, but in January I dug into a new YA fantasy series. I forget who suggested the Crave Series by Tracy Wolff to me, but thank you. I wasn't sure what to expect, but it was entertaining for sure.  It sucked me right in, and gave me the escapism I needed in moments of January. In Crave you are introduced to Grace - an orphan who is sent to live with her uncle in Alaska. He is the headmaster of an Alaskan boarding school. Pretty quickly you are introduced to Jaxon, her enemy/love interest. Take Twilight, put it in an elite boarding school in the middle of the Alaskan wilderness, throw in a variety of supernatural friends, and a crazy love triangle - and you've got this series in a nutshell. The one twist is that in Crush, the love triangle is totally flipped on you. It's such a fun twist that in this series I am actually team "Jacob". Is it literary genius? No. Is it entertaining? Yes. The third book in the series comes out March 2nd. 

Next up for the month is This is Not How it Ends. This has been on my 
Kindle forever. With Prime you get a free book each month and I think this was a pick I had from last year. Okay...girl meets guy on plane, they fall madly in love, they move to Islamorada in the Keys, he travels a lot, and a love triangle ensues. In my notes I wrote, "A book that digs into friendship, loss, grief and love. I loved the overall story, but felt a little disconnected to the characters at times. The ending is sweet and makes all the tears through the novel more than worth it.That about sums it up. If you are looking for a romance novel with a good cry - this one is for you. 

I switched gears for the back half of the month. My middle little had a cheer comp out of town that required an overnight stay, but because of Covid wouldn't allow spectators. Needless to say I had a lot of down time. I picked up Lies Lies Lies when we were stocking up on road trip snacks at Target. I think this would be considered a domestic thriller. I will give it a full trigger warning because abuse of several kinds come to light throughout the story. Simon and Daisy seemingly have the perfect marriage. After years of infertility, they finally have the precious daughter they prayed for. But not all marriages are perfect and theirs has secrets upon secrets upon secrets. A major incident occurs following a party one night, and everything begins to unravel for the couple. I could not put this one down. The twist and turns that kept coming made me want to read it until the end - even though this is not really a genre I'm into. A main character I disliked from the start ended up being one of my favorites by the end. And the ending is a doozy. If you are into thriller novels - give Lies Lies Lies a go. 

Okay if I have to pick one book from this month's bunch to read - it would be A Good Girls Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson. It was just. so. GOOD! This is classified as a YA novel, but I think it is well written enough anyone would enjoy it. Full disclosure: I listened to this one, and instantly it was one of my favorite Audibles I've ever listened to. The cast reading it is really good, and it's formatted similar to a true crime podcast. The story follows Pippa who decides to do her senior project on the hometown murder/suicide that hit her hometown five years earlier. She knew the "murderer" and feels that something is off about the facts of the story and the investigation that followed the events that lead to one faithful night. As Pippa does her own investigating she realizes she is right. Let me just tell you...I could not stop listening. And so many twists and turns occur that when you finally find out what happens - you never would have guessed. Never in a million years would have I figured out the ending. Nothing is gruesome and the release of details keep you on the edge of your seat the whole time. There is a sequel that comes out in March and I already have it pre-ordered. 



I can't wait to start on a few that Jen mentioned above, but first up for me is going to be A Good Neighborhood by Therese Ann Fowler. 


As mentioned, I've started listening to Midnight Sun. But in my reading pile for February I want to dig into Shipped. A friend told me about it and it sounds super cute! 


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