Tuesday, August 08, 2017

To Wager Her Heart by Tamera Alexander BOOK REVIEW

Happy BOOK RELEASE DAY!!!!





Anyone who knows me, knows that TAMERA ALEXANDER is one of my top "go to" authors.  I've met her in person and have loved everything I've read by her.  Every time she writes you can see the love and research and devotion put into the work on each page, in each line.
To Wager Her Heart is no different.

Synopsis

 With fates bound by a shared tragedy, a reformed gambler from the Colorado Territory and a Southern Belle bent on breaking free from society's expectations must work together to achieve their dreams—provided that the truth doesn't tear them apart first.  
Sylas Rutledge, the new owner of the Northeast Line Railroad, invests everything he has into this venture, partly for the sake of the challenge. But mostly to clear his father's name. One man holds the key to Sy's success—General William Giles Harding of Nashville's Belle Meade Plantation. But Harding is champagne and thoroughbreds, and Sy Rutledge is beer and bullocks. Sy needs someone to help him maneuver his way through Nashville's society, and when he meets Alexandra Jamison, he quickly decides he's found his tutor. Only, he soon discovers that the very train accident his father is blamed for causing is what killed Alexandra Jamison's fiancee—and what has broken her heart.
Spurning an arranged marriage by her father, Alexandra instead pursues her passion for teaching at Fisk University, the first freedmen's university in the United States. But family—and Nashville society—do not approve, and she soon finds herself cast out from both. Through connections with the Harding family, Alexandra and Sy become unlikely allies. And despite her first impressions, Alexandra gradually finds herself coming to respect, and even care for this man. But how can she, when her heart is still spoken for? And when Sy's roguish qualities and adventuresome spirit smack more of recklessness than responsibility and honor?
Sylas Rutledge will risk everything to win over the woman he loves. What he doesn't count on is having to wager her heart to do it.
Set against the real history of Nashville's Belle Meade Plantation and the original Fisk University Jubilee Singers ensemble, To Wager Her Heart is a stirring love story about seeking justice and restoring honor at a time in history when both were tenuous and hard-won.

 

My Thoughts

Once again, Tamera Alexander has woven a beautiful story inside real history. Set in post-Civil War Nashville, and including parts of our nation's past, such as Fisk University (a freedmen's school), The Jubilee Singers, Philip Bliss, and of course the beautiful Belle Meade Plantation, I didn't want to put the book down.  
Tamera did a wonderful job showing us the hard truths of that time, the prejudice, and the shifting in society as freedmen and Southerns attempted to reconstruct their lives. I enjoyed all the characters- the main and minor. The building up of Sylas and Alexandra's relationship was believable and not overdone. It was great to see Uncle Bob and the Hardings again. I also enjoyed the theme of trusting God in everything and of continuing education. Both important during that time period, and today!

To Wager Her Heart is available TODAY!!! It is book #3 in the Belle Meade Plantation series, but can definitely stand alone. 5 stars- Highly Recommend!!


Saturday, April 01, 2017

Heart on the Line by Karen Witemeyer

Heart on the Line (Ladies of Harper’s Station, #2)Heart on the Line by Karen Witemeyer
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

There's a reason I pre-order all books, unread, written by Karen Witemeyer. I have yet to read a book by her that I didn't thoroughly enjoy!! I've read No Other Will Do and the novella, Worth the Wait, both featured in the female-run town, Harper Station. This was the 2nd full length novel set in the same town. The ladies of Harper Station each have their own story of why they have searched out an all-gal town. Grace is no different. She has been in hiding since her father was murdered right in front of her. She works as the telegraph operator in Harper Station, where she has made some amazing friends. She has one chat friend, Amos, who she has never met in person, but has grown to know and admire via telegraph. (Picture "online dating" 1800's style...)
When those who have been tracking Grace find where she's been hiding, Amos drops everything to come to her rescue. Y'all, Amos is the cutest. He's not the tough, burly, hot ranchhand or lawman. He's not a big guy, not real athletic, but what he lacks in brawn, he makes up for in heart. Grace, she was brave and feisty. I admired her fight!
This book has it all: romance, mystery, wit... We also get to see Emma and Malachi, Tori and Ben, and all the ladies of Harper Station we've grown to love!! Even Helen- the biggest anti-man woman in town, does her best to help the opposite sex. So, my advice to you is to pre-order this book as well. Your personal library needs it. :)

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Wednesday, February 08, 2017

An Unseen Angel: A Mother's Story of Faith, Hope, and Healing after Sandy Hook

An Unseen Angel: A Mother's Story of Faith, Hope, and Healing after Sandy HookAn Unseen Angel: A Mother's Story of Faith, Hope, and Healing after Sandy Hook by Alissa Parker
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I remember where I was when I heard about the Sandy Hook tragedy, December 14, 2012. I was driving to lunch with my husband when the radio show we were listening to said it had been confirmed that most of the victims were possibly first graders. My heart hurt for the families of the victims and for the community of Newtown, Ct. I remember cheering at my son's basketball game that night, and feeling guilty that I was cheering, as I knew these families were in a nightmare they could not wake up from. My heart still hurts when I think about it.
This book was written by Alissa Parker, the mother of sweet little Emilie Parker, one of the victims of Sandy Hook. I wasn't sure how I would feel reading this and I wasn't sure what to expect. Alissa did a beautiful job sharing her family's grief and their path to healing. I loved reading about how they can see Emilie in small, every day miracles. I love that they can feel her presence at times when it is least expected, but very needed. I believe Heaven is real and is closer than we think, so to me it just seems natural, and right, that we would feel our loved ones who have passed on.
The emotions I felt while reading this book varied, but overall I was inspired. Alissa was very open about her feelings towards all the unwanted attention, the nation's touching, overwhelming response, anger towards Adam Lanza, guilt as a parent, and so much more. I appreciated her honesty and her willingness to share her testimony. I feel this book could help other's suffering from grief find a path towards healing as well.

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Tuesday, January 24, 2017

A Note Yet Unsung by Tamera Alexander

A Note Yet Unsung is the 3rd book in the Belmont Mansion series by Tamera Alexander. It can, however, stand alone.  In this book we read the story of a young gifted musician who happens to be a woman in post civil war settled in Nashville, Tennessee. Upon the death of her beloved grandmother, Rebekah returns from being abroad in Vienna where she has been studying music from a composer. Her dream is to play with a symphony. At this time, women were not admitted at all, but she is determined to try. Meeting with the Nashville Conductor, Tate, she auditions by playing the oboe. She is also proficient in the violin and the piano. Things do not go well and she is still determined to find employment due to her cruel stepfather. She meets Mrs. Adelicia Cheatham, the mistress of Belmont, who in turns offers her the position of violin tutor to her daughter. Mr. Whitcomb, who turned her down for the symphony, wants to help her so he hires her as a transcriber for the music. From here, Rebekah and Tate build a friendship that soon turns into attraction.
I love the banter between them. They love to argue! I love how Tamera Alexander weaves the beauty of music into something amazing. I had the hardest time stepping away from Rebekah and Tate’s story. I felt drawn to find out what would happen next. There are so many situations that I had no idea would happen. Like Tate’s background for example and so much more.   
Whenever Tamera Alexander has a new book, I get excited because I know it will be great. A Note Yet Unsung was no exception. There was music, mystery, and romance. I loved Tate and Rebekah. You couldn't help but cheer for them and mourn with them because of their individual challenges. I was happy to catch up a little with characters from the the other Belmont Mansion novels, A Lasting Impression and A Beauty So Rare, although this one can totally stand alone. I am always impressed with Ms. Alexander's historical research. I always learn from her books, without feeling like I've taken a history lesson. It always flows so beautifully. 4.5 stars

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

The Secret of the India Orchid by Nancy Campbell Allen

The Secret of the India Orchid (Proper Romance)The Secret of the India Orchid by Nancy Campbell Allen
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Anthony Blake is in love with Sophia Elliot. But he's also a spy for the Crown and duty calls. In order to protect the ones he loves, he must lie and cut off all ties. 2 years later, he is once again in contact with heartbroken Sophia, when they meet in India. This just made my heart hurt. He can't tell her he is a spy, but he also does not want her to believe, any longer, the letter he had to write when he left her behind. It is all very complicated. To make matters worse, there is a mystery to solve and Sophia is being threatened.
This book had twists and turns, lost love, engaging characters, culture, and romance all wrapped into one.

Thank you to the publishers for the opportunity to read an advanced copy via Netgalley. :)This book will be released for all in August, 2017.

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Wednesday, January 04, 2017

The Hidden Prince by Nadine Millard

The Hidden PrinceThe Hidden Prince by Nadine Millard
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Oh Nadine Millard! Your writing makes me happy. I know when I sit down with one of Nadine's books, I'm going to love it. This novella was no different.
Lydia- so full of spunk and really a spaz. I can't think of another word. lol She reminded me of Lady Rebecca in An Unlikely Duchess. She knows the expectations of society. She just has a hard time following them!
Alex- he is just yummy. I love how he looks at his life and actually cares whether he's made a difference or if he's been a good person. I also love his seductive flirting. Oh.my.
Once again, Nadine has made a story that sucked me in and allowed me to get lost for a while. When you can get lost in a book, you know it's a good one. :) It was only 9 chapters and I loved each one.
  A few favorite quotes:
"Lord, he was handsome. It was terribly distracting."

"Mr. Farago's laughter was delectable; raspy and deep. Dear heavens! She simply must get a hold of her wanton thoughts."

"It wasn't mere lust. It was more. It felt very much like his heart were being affected, along with more intimate parts of him."

"I lied about the holly..."
(SQUEEEE!! Y'all, this part... I can't even.)

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Tuesday, January 03, 2017

My Favorite Reads of 2016




As I looked through the 150+ books I read in 2016, I realized I had read oodles of books I positively enjoyed! I love it when that happens!! :) Needless to say, limiting them down to a few of my favorites for the year was hard. Extremely hard. But I did my best! Some were by my "go-to" authors, and others were complete surprises for me. :) I decided to limit it to books that were published between Nov. 2015 - the end of 2016. I was pleasantly surprised to see that my reads weren't all the same genre, as sometimes they tend to be. I've linked my Goodread's review for each one if you click on the title. 

So, here we go, in no particular order, I give you my top 12 books of 2016:




My Fair Gentleman
By Nancy Campbell Allen
Historical Regency Era
Anchor in the Storm
By Sarah Sundin
Historical Fiction World War 2

Highway Revenge
By Nadine Millard
Historical Regency Era

Painting Rain
By Annette K. Larsen
Historical Fiction/Fairytale

Change of Heart
By Jennifer Moore
Contemporary Romance

Chasing Fireflies
By Taylor Dean
Contemporary Romance

They're Your Kids
By Mrs. Sam Sorbo
Informational/Educational

Ranch Hand for Auction
By Kimberly Krey
Contemporary Romance

The Captain's Revenge
By Nadine Millard
Historical Regency Era

The Only Pirate at the Party
By Lindsey Stirling and Brooke S. Passey
Autobiography

The Regrets of Cyrus Dodd
By Bette Lee Crosby
Historical Fiction
The Husband Maneuver
By Karen Witemeyer
Historical Western


Tuesday, December 20, 2016

The Captain's Revenge by Nadine Millard

Title: The Captain’s Revenge
Author: Nadine Millard
Series: The Revenge Series
Genre: Regency Romance
Publisher: Blue Tulip Publishing

Will his desire for revenge ruin his only chance for love?


Lucas Townsend learned long ago not to trust a woman with his heart; a lesson taught by the beautiful and aloof Anna Spencer.
Having had his heart broken by Anna for being nothing more than a merchant’s son, Lucas dedicates his life to becoming someone she couldn’t look down on.
Now, years later, he’s the toast of the ton and finally in a position to give Anna a taste of her own, bitter medicine…
Anna Grant has never stopped loving Lucas Townsend, contrary to what he believes about her.
Having lived her life mourning the loss of love and envying other people’s adventures, the opportunity arises for Anna to have an adventure on her own.
Does she have the courage to seize the day, and win back the heart of the brooding captain she used to know?

Can the sins of the past be forgiven, and can love find a way to conquer all?
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There had been quite a buzz round London about the contracts secured by The Western Shipping Company lately. He’d been careful to keep his name out of it as much as possible, but not much got past former agents of the Crown, he supposed.
Lucas inclined his head in confirmation, earning a low whistle from Andrew.
“I see you’ve been modest,” he said.
Lucas fielded more and more questions, all the while noticing that Anna asked not a single one.
And her silence began to grate on him.
Then, of course, his anger flared at himself for not getting it through his thick skull that she simply didn’t care, and at her for not caring.
As the evening wore on, Lucas became steadily more furious with the beauty sitting across the table from him.
Finally, as the footmen began to serve plum pudding and lemon posset, his control snapped.
“I am sorry, Mrs. Grant, if details of my new business venture bore you. I am sure it is not nearly as interesting to you as the latest on dit or salacious gossip so attractive to the less-than-intelligent ladies of quality.”
His words brought an immediate and shocked cessation to the chatter round the table, but Lucas’ sole focus was on the woman sitting across from him.
Her head whipped up at the comment, and her eyes narrowed.
She was clearly unhappy with him, and he felt a sick sort of satisfaction as he watched her cheeks flame. It was no more than she deserved.
Her amber eyes glittered in the candlelight, and for a moment, he thought she might cry.
But as he watched, her face transformed into a mask of snobbish disdain.
She became the Anna he knew her to be: a cold, uncaring snob.
“What the—”
Jonathan’s voice came from the top of the table, harsh and furious-sounding, but with a quick glance, Lucas saw Gabby place a hand on her husband’s arm and whisper something.
Whatever it was, it was enough to have Jon, who was half standing from his chair, sit back down. It did nothing, however, about the glower he had fixed on Lucas.
“The tales of your little business ventures do not bore me, Captain Townsend,” Anna responded now, contempt dripping from every word. “It is always nice to hear of a nobody doing well for himself.”
A gasp of shock sounded from one or both of the ladies, but Lucas didn’t even spare a glance this time.
He was glad, he told himself, even as his heart thundered with anger and humiliation. He was glad that she was showing her true colours.
“I am glad you approve,” Lucas countered, keeping his tone calm and even. “Thankfully in the West Indies, people aren’t as rigidly disapproving of birth and blood. Some of them are even crazy enough to make love matches, for example, instead of marrying monsters with the right connections.”
“That’s it.”
At the sound of a chair scraping, Lucas broke eye contact with his nemesis and watched Jonathan stand and fling his napkin on the table. But before the man could speak to throw Lucas from his home, presumably, another chair scraped back and Anna, too, was on her feet.
“How dare you?” she asked quietly.
Had she ranted and railed like any number of females would in such circumstances, Lucas would have been rather amused.
But she remained so cool, so wholly unmoved by emotion, that it just reiterated his point. She was incapable of feeling anything real. Anything raw.
“Hit a nerve, did I?”
Lucas came slowly to his feet.
He was about to be tossed out on his arse anyway, and he didn’t appreciate sitting there with her standing over him like a governess scolding her charge, even if there was a giant mahogany dining table between them.
“Hardly,” she scoffed. “To hit a nerve, your opinion would have to matter to me. And it doesn’t.”
“I am well aware of that, Anna.”
His softly spoken words seemed to bring her up short for a moment, and she blinked slowly as she stared at him.
But then her expression hardened once again.
“Good. Well, I hope you are also aware that you have no right to an opinion on my life, or my marriage, or anything else to do with me.”
She was gathering steam now. He could tell by the terribly distracting way her chest was heaving in that gown that would give him sleepless nights for weeks to come.
“You might have clawed your way to the top, Captain, and thrown everything real away for the chance of some money and notoriety, but stepping on people on your way there is the lowest of the low, and you are in no position to judge me or anyone else for that matter.”
Lucas felt as though he’d been slapped as her words hit him.
How dare she stand there and pontificate because he’d made the best of a situation he’d been thrown into?
His rage burned red hot until he had to clench his fists lest she see them trembling.
A quick look round the table told him that her family was not only shocked at his and Anna’s argument, but more than a little curious about it, too.
Well, let her deal with the explanations.
He was bound for the West Indies, and it would be years before he returned, if it all.
She obviously hadn’t made any of them privy to her history with Lucas, no doubt embarrassed by her lapse in judgement.
“Well…” He broke the tense silence. “…given how I am sailing on Friday and won’t be returning to these shores for quite some time, I will no longer be around to judge or offend you.”
Her face blanched at his words.
“You’re leaving?” she blurted, then clamped her mouth shut as though she hadn’t meant to ask.
“You knew I was leaving,” he bit out.
“Yes, but — well, for good?”
“It’s possible. Are you going to pretend you care?” he sneered.
Her mouth set in a mutinous line at his words.
As parting shots went, it wasn’t very good, but suddenly the fight went out of him.
She had humiliated him once again, called him a nobody, let him see in black and white what she thought of him, and the fury he felt, a fury which had no outlet because he could hardly rail at her in front of her family, was exhausting.
“I don’t make a habit of pretending to care about people, Lucas,” she said scornfully.
“Just once was enough?” he retorted.
He watched a riot of emotions race across her face before it became expressionless.
“I’m tired of this conversation,” she said as she sat primly back in her chair.
Lucas was so surprised at the sudden change in her that he stood stock still.
Anna fussed with the folds of her gown for a moment or two.
Nobody else moved.
He imagined they looked like players in a terribly awkward play.
It probably would have been amusing had he not been so furious.
After a moment, she looked up and raised a brow. “Are you still here? Weren’t you storming off to India or somewhere?”
Lucas told himself that the dull throb in his chest wasn’t hurt. Wasn’t disappointment.
He turned to address the others seated at the table. “Thank you for having me and for wishing me well,” he said formally, as though the last few minutes hadn’t happened. “I’m afraid I shall have to take my leave earlier than anticipated. There is much to be done before I sail to the West Indies.” He accentuated this last part for Anna’s benefit, but she was studiously avoiding any eye contact.
“I won’t pretend I’m going to miss England,” he continued pointedly. “It will be infinitely warmer in places new.”
Bowing to the ladies and not awaiting a response, Lucas swept from the room and out of the Mayfair townhouse as fast as his feet would carry him.
Friday could not come soon enough. He desperately needed an ocean between himself and that woman.


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Nadine Millard is a writer hailing from Dublin, Ireland. Having studied law then worked in the legal industry for years, Nadine revisited her passion for writing when she became a stay at home mom to her three children. When she’s not writing, she’s reading, coaching, running around after the children, the dog and the cat and drinking far more coffee than should be humanly possible.
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The Captain's RevengeMY REVIEW

I was already a huge Nadine Millard fan. I've read all her books and they've all been amazing. This one... y'all...this one was just fantastic. I mentioned in my review for The Spy's Revenge that I was pretty sure there would be a book with Anna and Captain Townsend's story. There had been hints of their history in that and Highway Revenge. Finally... (FINALLY!!!) we get to find out why there was all that tension and mystery and sadness surrounding Anna and Capt. Townsend in the other books. THIS was their story!
Anna has been through so much. She's been betrayed by her father. She has been abused by her murderous husband, who has now killed himself, leaving her a young, childless widow. All this, while nursing a broken heart from a lost love...
Enter Lucas Townsend... I knew he and Anna had something from their past. We finally learn what happened and why Anna went on to marry another, while Lucas worked his way up the ranks in the Navy.
Their story makes my heart hurt. Young love is hard enough. But throw in confusion, lies, misunderstandings, and betrayal... and it's almost impossible to keep a flame alive. Almost.
I absolutely adored this book. I adore Nadine's writing style. She has a talent for making you really care about her characters. I seriously laughed, cried, sighed, cringed, yelled out loud, felt immense frustration, desired to hit people, cried and laughed some more, and even blushed. (I LOVED the HEAT!!!) Definitely a favorite, and as with all her other books, I'll be adding the paperback to my personal library when it's available. And I am so grateful I was able to read an advanced reader's copy. #blessed;) ***The e-book version will be available on Dec. 15!!***

I'm always highlighting favorite quotes in Nadine's books. Here's a few of my favorite:

"...he was a weak fool who needed to find a way to move on without being haunted by a woman who looked like an angel but hurt like the devil."

"Lucas' mind immediately went somewhere it has no business going in front of her brother."

"GOOD LORD, HE'S HANDSOME, Anna's brain shouted. The hussy."

"He would need a swim in the icy Thames if she kept speaking in such a way."

"...but she had the power to hurt him with her tongue. Worse, he'd still infinitely prefer her do other things with it."


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Saturday, September 10, 2016

Into the Wild

Into the WildInto the Wild by Jon Krakauer
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I have mixed feelings about this book. I'm giving it 4.5 stars because I enjoyed reading it and it made me think. I learned a lot. But ugh.
I began reading it because I had heard so much about Chris McCandless being an inspiration to others. Nope- after reading this I don't feel that way towards him at all. His passion and ideas of being one with nature and going "into the wild" I can understand. I'm positive if I hadn't chosen the path I chose in my life, I could have easily chosen one similar to his. If I'd been born 20 years earlier, I would have been hitchhiking to San Francisco with flowers in my hair. So, I agree with his thinking in that money and things are important. I prefer experiences over material gifts. I love nature and the peace I feel when I am in it. I lived in the wilderness for an entire summer when I was 15 at a wilderness survival camp and I have never been able to duplicate how I felt. However, I felt like the way he went about his exploration just ended up hurting others and killing him.
Chris seemed like an arrogant brat who thought he knew more than everyone else. And I don't like to talk bad about people, especially a dead person, but still... He basically held a grudge against his dad for something he did 20 years ago, and was unforgiving and judged his parents cruelly. They seemed like good and involved parents who gave Chris experiences other kids dream about! But I guess having people care and give you life advice was an inconvenience to him. He didn't take ANY advice from people who actually understood what going "into the wild" meant. He didn't take a bigger gun, a compass, an ax, warm boots... He didn't wait until it was warmer. He didn't take a topographical map that could have ultimately saved his life. He would just smile and nod, and then ignore all advice. I think the author hit the nail on the head when he said regarding himself and a near-death adventure, "...like Chris McCandless, I was a raw youth who mistook passion for insight and acted according to an obscure, gap-ridden logic."
I, too, like to kind of "fly by the seat of my pants" and live and learn, and see what will happens without an air tight plan. But sometimes, a little planning is necessary. Going to live in the wild would be one of those times.
Honestly, if you're looking for inspiration, just read pages 56-58. This is a letter Chris wrote to an 80 year old friend he met on the road. IT was inspiring. He said "...I think you really should make a radical change in your lifestyle and begin to boldly do things which you may previously never have thought of doing, or been too hesitant to attempt. So many people live within unhappy circumstances and yet will not take the initiative to change their situation because they are conditioned to a life of security, conformity, and conservatism, all of which may appear to give one peace of mind, but in reality nothing is more damaging to the adventurous spirit within a man than a secure future."
AGREE!!! I think you should try to live life to the fullest, have new adventures, don't conform and only live how society expects. I've had that attitude most of my life and I had that attitude as I read this book, because I honestly believe those mantras. But Chris... he had the passion and the drive. I'll give him that. But he left a trail of hurt behind him. The man he wrote the letter to renounced God after learning of his death. His parents were heartbroken and confused. Friends he met along the way were so sad because they tried to help him. I don't think that's what he wanted to do. Even HE realized deep into his "Alaskan Odyssey" that "HAPPINESS IS ONLY REAL WHEN SHARED." He was attempting to leave, but couldn't get out because he didn't have a map. :( I'm all for not controlling people, no thought control, government not being in every aspect of our life... but man. A MAP, dude... a map.

**I realize other people got different things from this book and that's cool. Go live your life! (Just take a map...)

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Friday, September 09, 2016

How to Live a Good Life: A Practical Guide to a Life Well Lived by Jonathan Fields

How to Live a Good Life: A Practical Guide to a Life Well Lived
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I actually really, REALLY enjoyed this book for a few different reasons:
1) I like how the author set up the sections into "Good Life buckets." There are many aspects of life that can change your happiness. He addresses these different aspects.
2) The author knows it's not an overnight thing. He has you do things for 30 days to help changed your outlook.
3) The book had amazing quotes. I found myself highlighting inspiration on my Kindle throughout the entire book.
4) There were so many ideas. Some were more simpler than others. Like spending more time outside, for example. This is true! I meditate on my hammock almost daily and it seriously makes a difference. Being with nature has a relaxing and calming affect on your entire being.

This isn't a book to just read through and be done with it. It's more like a "plan". I will be referring back to it often.

*Thank you to the publishers via Netgalley for the opportunity to review this book.

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