Books

The Safe Word by Karen Long

Hello, friends!  It’s been a while, hasn’t it?  I’ve been working on trying to find balance in my life with a new full time job and what I want to do now that I’m done with school, but I’m ready to dive headfirst back into this!

This is going to be a spoiler-FREE review of The Safe Word by Karen Long, which is the first novel in the DI Eleanor Raven series.  I’m trying to read my MASSIVE backlog of books from when I first got on Netgalley and requested pretty much everything, and this is one of the lucky winners that was on my Spookathon TBR.

The Safe Word - Karen Long

There are rules that every player of every game must abide by, no matter how dangerous the sport.

Toronto has become the backdrop to a macabre set of artistic installations: women kidnapped, tortured and horrifically displayed by a killer with a vision.

Only someone capable of understanding the killer’s creative desire will be able to stop the murders and D I Eleanor Raven is uniquely qualified. Driven by a complex personality she pursues only the facts, only the things she can see, but never casts a judgement.

But she also has a dark and dangerous secret – one that will threaten her very survival.”

I felt very meh about this. The overall idea was interesting and I really enjoy detective-based thrillers/crime novels, but I just didn’t quite connect with this story.

The plot itself felt very realistic, and the pacing was interesting. Like I said, I enjoy detective-based books and reading from an officer’s perspective. I liked the fact that everything was constantly moving, and the way that they found clues seemed realistic (at least for me, someone who hasn’t worked as a detective/police officer and hasn’t read a lot of it). The killer was creepy but also deranged and sloppy and that was a strong point for me.

I could predict nearly every single plot twist, and even if I couldn’t, I wasn’t all that impressed with them. There was one twist that just had me shaking my head in disbelief. I don’t want to spoil anything since it’s definitely a huge part of the plot, but I didn’t think it made sense at all.

Towards the end of the story, I felt like the pacing got weird. The story felt so realistic, I could completely understand where everything was coming from, then in the last 20% all of the timing was SO convenient and perfect, like everything ended with a little bow tied up around it. It felt a little like the plot was moving at regular speed, and then it got put into slow-mo for a very specific portion.

I hated the characters. Eleanor is rude and acts like a child about her new partner, which is both understandable and yet so irritating. She’s convinced her previous partner, who can barely walk anymore without wheezing, is going to come back to the station and resume duties, and she can’t be convinced any other way. She doesn’t give Laurence much of a chance, especially at the beginning, but he doesn’t give her much to go off of, either.

Laurence is this goof of a guy who tries to charm his partner but is hopeless at the actual job of being a detective. He’s sweet, but kind of stupid. Part of that might be influenced by Eleanor treating him like he’s stupid, so maybe take that with a grain of salt. By the end he magically figures out how to be a great detective, so at least we get a little development.

The side characters were all annoying and forgettable. They were kind of funny sometimes, but mostly the same person with a slightly different dialogue and always rude.

I HATED Eleanor’s “dark secret”. The book immediately starts with you finding it out, and then you see small sprinkles of it throughout the story, but NEVER to the extent that you would assume based on your first impression. It’s not that I have anything against the BDSM community, but it just felt so random and convenient for the plot. I guess that’s the point, but it still just felt so out of place. There could have been a million reasons for the ending to happen, but it had to be tied back into this secret? It also created this incredibly weird subplot that was a bit of a red herring.

I also don’t feel as though the representation was very good. The only people who you see as part of the BDSM community were kind of slimy individuals, or they just seemed like total whacks; not a great way to show off an already misunderstood group of people. The representation for other minority groups didn’t impress me much either; they were often stereotypes and it was incredibly frustrating at times.

On a similar vein, I disliked the setting immensely. It didn’t feel like it was a real place. There are sex clubs with the most stylized people in them. Maybe I live in a very conservative area, but I’ve never seen a club so blatantly sexual and possibly illegal, like, ever. It felt entirely too fictional for what I had expected. Though in reflection, a book with the title “The Safe Word” is probably going to be a little bit focused on the raunchy.

I felt very average about the actual writing of the book. I’ve certainly read worse, but I wasn’t blown away either. Finally, I KNOW that you can’t judge a book by it’s ARC, but the formatting of the file I got drove me nuts. I hope that the actual book isn’t like it; there were grammatical errors, weird line breaks, and NO SCENE BREAKS. So the scene would change and there would be no indication of it, which made reading very confusing. While this didn’t necessarily change the way I would rate the book, it did pull me out a few times.

Overall, it felt very much like the beginning of a series, but not one that I think I would continue.

Rating: 3 Book

I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review.

Uncategorized

August TBR

Hello friends!  I am back to tell you all about the books I plan to read in August.

August is definitely the month of NetGalley. I have 3 ARC’s I want to read that release this month, which is super exciting!

I also didn’t finish 5 books in July, which means they’re being moved forward to this month.  Here’s July’s TBR in case you were curious, as I’m not going to say much about them this month!

My new ARC’s that come out this month are pictured below.

Dead Man Running is a book I got from FirsttoRead.com.  #fashionvictim, Sadie, and Smothered are all from NetGalley.  I’m especially excited about Sadie, as a lot of people I follow on GoodReads have been praising it!  Hopefully I’ll read all of them & you can read my reviews on GoodReads or in my August wrap-up!

The only book I got to randomly select this month was Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers, which is a book I’ll pick up from the library.

stiff the curious lives of human cadavers

I can’t wait to read all of these books!  I’d better get a move on if I hope to read all of them and not have to transfer another 5 books over to my September TBR.

What are you planning on reading in August?

July 2018 TBR(1)

Uncategorized

My Summer Bucket List

Summer has been here for a little while now, but I still wanted to share with you all the things I wanted to do this summer!  Since I’m done with school, I feel as though I can do all those wild things that I want, which makes no sense because school doesn’t happen during the summer anyway, but go with it!

Summer 2018 Bucket List | amidwestbelle.com

1. Go to the zoo. I love zoos, and the new city I’m in has one, so I wanted to visit it at least once this summer!

2. Go to an amusement park. A summer staple is to go to an amusement park!  I’ve done it almost every summer since I can remember and I would love to keep the tradition going.

3. Visit the neon bridge. There’s a popular bridge in my area that lights up with neon lights during the night, and I thought it sounded so cool to see for myself!

4. Visit a winery. Despite now being 22 and being a fan of wine, I have yet to ever go to a winery!  I’m going to try to make it a point to visit at least one this summer.

5. Attend the State Fair. I’ve been to the state fair before, however I’ve never had the chance to really wander around and enjoy it; there’s always been something specific I needed to do.  This year I want to spend at least one day enjoying the fair!

6. Go to the Farmer’s Market. I would love to buy fresh fruit and vegetables, and this is the best way to do it!

7. Start a scrapbook/photo album. I own a ton of craft supplies, but have yet to do anything with them. I want to make use of it and start to keep track of my life!

8. Visit 3 new restaurants. This won’t be too difficult; I live in a big city!  It’ll be fun to expand my horizons and give a try to new places.

9. Make Jello shots. Jello shots taste great, and I want to make some!

10. Spend a day at the water park. A summer staple – need I say more?

What will you be doing this summer? Do you have any goals or things you want to do?

Books

July TBR

Am I the only person who has a massive TBR pile that only seems to get bigger?  It feels that way sometimes!  This month I wanted to share with you all my TBR, or To-Be-Read, for the month of July.

Since I have so many books (over 900!), I wanted to come up with a fun way to pick the books to read for each month instead of just trying to randomly guess what sounds good at the time.

I chose 10 books that I would try to read this month!  They’re sorted into different categories based on how they were picked for the month and where they come from!

The first books I have on my list are the ARCs I received recently that are going to be published in July or the beginning of August and so need to be read this month!

The first is a NetGalley book called The Tarot Cafe; it’s a manga collection that I thought sounded incredibly interesting and I wanted to check out what I thought of it!  The second book was from FirsttoRead, and it’s called The Boy at the Door.

The next two books are rollovers from June that I haven’t finished and want to complete in July!  The first book is I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings and the second is Mindfulness: An Eight-Week Plan for Finding Peace in a Frantic World.

Those four were the books that I had to add to my July TBR for one reason or another. The next six are all books that I had a lot of fun finding!  I decided to use a random number generator for all the books on my GoodReads to-read shelf, and find the book that corresponded with the number I chose.

Two books I got randomly were both books on my physical TBR shelf in my apartment!  I was definitely excited to see that. The first was Why Not Me? (715) and the second was My Life Starring Mum (504).  I’ve owned both for quite a while so it’ll be nice to read them and hopefully move them out!

Old Yeller

This month I only had one book that I didn’t own & had to get from the library, which was Old Yeller (190).  I’ve watched & read enough dog books and movies to know that I will cry at the end of this, but I don’t remember ever reading this before and I want to do that!

Finally, I had three books randomly selected that were all digital NetGalley books I needed to read and review.  The first is The Safe Word (673), then On Her Majesty’s Frightfully Secret Service (741), and finally Eternal Neverland: Steps Before the Fall (446).

I’m not sure if I’ll be able to get to every book this month, which means there might be some rollover to next month, but I will try my hardest!

What books are you reading this month?

July 2018 TBR

Beauty & Fashion

June 2018 Ipsy Bag

Hi, friends!

I’m back and so excited to jump into the swing of things again!  The first thing I wanted to share with you all was my June Ipsy bag.

I’ve gotten a lot of subscription boxes in the past 3 years, but the only one I’ve stuck with is Ipsy.  While this is definitely personal preference based on what you want to get from your subscriptions, Ipsy delivered what I had wanted: lots of makeup, and fun/unique products.

The past few months my excitement for Ipsy has waned a little, as the products they’ve been sending haven’t been up to usual standards for me.  That doesn’t mean that I plan on getting rid of it, however!  I still love Ipsy and intend to continue receiving it.

This month, the bag is incredibly summery and bright!  Yellow is fast becoming a favorite color of mine, which is surprising since so many people seem to dislike it.  I love the bold color blocks and could definitely see myself using it.

products and bagYou can also see the spread of products I got this month!  I prefer colored makeup products, but I do really enjoy the cute aesthetics with some of these so I can forgive the lack of makeup.

I don’t have a closeup of the brush unfortunately, but it’s the Firma Beauty 102 Elite Blush Brush ($15.99).  The bristles feel nice and soft, but I’m not sure I would ever pay that much for a brush.  I tend to use the same brushes every time I do my makeup.  Still, this is great quality and I think I’ll make an effort to try it out soon!

The next product that took my attention were these sheet masks!

biobelle unicorn glow sheet maskThese are the Biobelle #UnicornGlow Perfect Radiance Facial Masks ($4.99 each).  I haven’t taken these out yet, but I think the packaging looks adorable!  It’s got high ratings on the Biobelle website and looks like it even has little pictures on the mask itself.  I’m excited to see whether this fits my face properly (I have a short face) and if it hydrates like it claims to!

cake beauty body mousseContinuing with the cute theme is the Cake Beauty Desserted Island Body Mousse ($2.59 sample size value; $22 full size).  It’s scented like vanilla & coconut, plus has aloe vera in it, which is perfect for summer!  It’s also the perfect size for traveling.

mac prep and primeNext,  I got the MAC Prep + Prime Skin ($6.20 for the sample size; $31 full size).  I have about a million primer samples already, but I’ll never say no to some new makeup!  This primer claims to reduce redness, even skin tone, and make your skin more radiant.  I think it’ll be fun to give this a shot!  I want to see if it really does reduce redness, since that’s a problem I have.

nomad beauty highlighterMy final product for this month is the one colored makeup item!  It’s the Nomad Beauty Illuminating Highlighter in Midnight Sun ($2.45 for the sample size; $17 full size).  It’s a really pretty gold-champagne color that looks really good on my skin tone!  It’s also vegan & cruelty-free if that’s something you’re concerned with!

highlighter swatch

Overall, I’m very middle of the road about my bag this month!  I hope that next month they send me some more makeup (especially lip products!) and cute items like the body mousse and face masks.

All products

I hope you all enjoyed my Ipsy bag for June!  Do you get Ipsy or any other subscription box? Let me know!

Health & Fitness, Personal

Post-Graduation Depression: The Thing Everyone Gets, & No One Talks About

Hi there everyone!  I know that I’ve been gone for a while, and I’m so sad about that!

I started this blog, and I had a great plan.  I was going to post 2-3 times a week,  I had an editorial calendar and a vision in front of me.

Then I graduated, and the strangest thing happened to me.  Instead of having this great drive to constantly work and improve upon this amazing new blog, I began to feel as though I had no energy to do anything.

This feeling of lethargy didn’t just stay with my blog: it touched every part of my life.  I had no desire to do anything.  I didn’t want to get out of bed, I didn’t want to try to find a job, I didn’t want to even go outside on a walk.  I was constantly feeling stress about everything in my life, big or small.

So why?  Where did all of the excitement from graduation go? Where was all of that spunk I had for so long?

My old roommate was talking to our other roommate and me when she said something that finally felt like an answer: post graduation depression.  Her mom had mentioned it to her, and when she mentioned it to me I finally felt as though I could understand what had given me such a dramatic shift in attitude.

It completely makes sense, too.  Suddenly my entire world was shifted completely: no more school, which had been a part of my life for as long as I can remember.  I’m expected to move out of my parent’s house and become independent with my new job.  The bar was suddenly set so high for me, and I wasn’t ready to deal with that.

Unfortunately, my feelings aren’t necessarily unique.  So many people deal with the exact same scary changes that I do and feel the same or similar feelings that I do.

So why don’t we talk about this?

I wish I could give a concrete answer!  Maybe because society stigmatizes mental illness so much that no one wants to discuss anything related to it.  Maybe because people are afraid that if everyone knows that there will be negativity associated with college less people will want to go there. Who knows!

I completely understand that people all have different experiences when it comes to graduating college, or really any big life event.  My experience with this depression may be totally different from someone else; some people may only feel a brief sadness for the life they had that is now behind them.  It’s completely subjective, but I feel like it needs to be talked about for people like me, who are hit with a serious fear of the future and don’t know why.

I hope this helps someone, or creates dialogue for people to consider in the future!  Either way, I’m a message away if anyone needs to chat!  I will be returning once more to the blog, renewed and ready to go.

Health & Fitness

The Start of My Fitness Journey

Hello everyone!  If you’ve kept up with my blog, you know that I recently graduated and am now moving into the fascinating world of adulthood.  With this transition, I decided it was extremely important for me to start treating my body better than I have been.

Over the past two years, I have gained about 45 pounds, which is crazy to think about!  More than that, however, I feel as though I have let myself go in a lot of ways health wise, which is what the true focus of this journey is going to be on.  Not only have I gained a lot of weight, I’ve been eating incredibly poorly and not giving my body the nutrients it needs, and my mental health has been in a constant state of highs and lows.

I want to be clear when I say this: I am not trying to shame myself or make anyone else feel bad about if they are larger or smaller than I am.  I have been wanting to focus on my health for a very long time, and this was the best way to hold myself accountable while encouraging others who may be considering trying to become healthier.

With that in mind, I have taken my measurements (weight and inches) so I can track my progress and see that I am making changes, even if I don’t feel like it some days.  Once again, numbers are only numbers, and it’s more important to me to be happy with myself in my body and not to be at a certain weight or inch.

Starting Measurements May 24 '18

The resolutions I am going to be working towards below are not meant to be goals, as they are too vague for that. Rather, they are promises I am making to myself as a way to promote healthy living in my life.

My Resolutions:

1. I resolve to cook for myself more often.

2. I resolve to make healthier choices in terms of eating.

3. I resolve to drink enough water to keep my body hydrated.

4. I resolve to make my body stronger through working out.

5. I resolve to love the way I look, even if it’s not my current ideal.

6. I resolve to not forget that my mental health is just as important as my physical health.

I plan to make these resolutions look really pretty and then print them out, so I can always see them and have them with me.  It’s a great way for me to remember that I made this promise to myself that I will be taking care of me!

I may end up creating goals based on my resolutions, just so I can be held a little more accountable.  I thrive with goals, so I really enjoy setting them and seeing how close I get or if I accomplish them.

Well, that’s going to be it for me today!  I’m proud of being comfortable enough to share this information, especially because as I’d mentioned, this is the largest I’ve ever been.  Please join me if you’re interested in shifting your health focus, or just cheer me on!

How do you take care of yourself?

The Start of My Fitness Journey