Friday, August 15, 2014

Mademoiselle Coco Chanel and the Pulse of History by Rhonda K. Garelick (Book Review)

Disclosure of material connection- I received a copy of the book from the publisher via NetGalley. I was not required to write a positive review and all opinions stated are 100% my own.

About the book-

Certain lives are at once so exceptional, and yet so in step with their historical moments, that they illuminate cultural forces far beyond the scope of a single person. Such is the case with Coco Chanel, whose life offers one of the most fascinating tales of the twentieth century—throwing into dramatic relief an era of war, fashion, ardent nationalism, and earth-shaking change—here brilliantly treated, for the first time, with wide-ranging and incisive historical scrutiny.

Coco Chanel transformed forever the way women dressed. Her influence remains so pervasive that to this day we can see her afterimage a dozen times while just walking down a single street: in all the little black dresses, flat shoes, costume jewelry, cardigan sweaters, and tortoiseshell eyeglasses on women of every age and background. A bottle of Chanel No. 5 perfume is sold every three seconds. Arguably no other individual has had deeper impact on the visual aesthetic of the world. But how did a poor orphan become a global icon of both luxury and everyday style? How did she develop such vast, undying influence? And what does our ongoing love of all things Chanel tell us about ourselves? These are the mysteries that Rhonda K. Garelick unravels in Mademoiselle.

Raised in rural poverty and orphaned early, the young Chanel supported herself as best she could. Then, as an uneducated nineteen-year-old cafĂ© singer, she attracted the attention of a wealthy and powerful admirer and parlayed his support into her own hat design business. For the rest of Chanel’s life, the professional, personal, and political were interwoven; her lovers included diplomat Boy Capel; composer Igor Stravinsky; Romanov heir Grand Duke Dmitri; Hugh Grosvenor, the Duke of Westminster; poet Pierre Reverdy; a Nazi officer; and several women as well. For all that, she was profoundly alone, her romantic life relentlessly plagued by abandonment and tragedy.

Chanel’s ambitions and accomplishments were unparalleled. Her hat shop evolved into a clothing empire. She became a noted theatrical and film costume designer, collaborating with the likes of Pablo Picasso, Jean Cocteau, and Luchino Visconti. The genius of Coco Chanel, Garelick shows, lay in the way she absorbed the zeitgeist, reflecting it back to the world in her designs and in what Garelick calls “wearable personality”—the irresistible and contagious style infused with both world history and Chanel’s nearly unbelievable life saga. By age forty, Chanel had become a multimillionaire and a household name, and her Chanel Corporation is still the highest-earning privately owned luxury goods manufacturer in the world.

In Mademoiselle, Garelick delivers the most probing, well-researched, and insightful biography to date on this seemingly familiar but endlessly surprising figure—a work that is truly both a heady intellectual study and a literary page-turner.

My thoughts-

I remember the very first bottle of perfume I bought. I was 19 and I was in Paris with my parents and siblings, in awe of all of the romantic surroundings and at the most amazing shopping center I had ever seen. I wanted to buy something quintessentially French, but something different than the norm. I knew I wanted Chanel because what girl doesn't want something Chanel in her house? I chose a very spicy scent called Coco. I still have a tiny bit left in the bottle 13 years later because it is such  special purchase for me, my first Chanel perfume! There is just something so classy about the Chanel brand, so when I saw this book I wanted to learn more about this woman and how she came to be one of the most famous fashion icons of all time. I absolutely did not know a thing about her. Her life, especially her young life, were full of sadness. That is clear by the fact that she constantly was lying about where she was from and making up stories about her young life. She clearly wanted to create a different life for herself and with determination, individuality and the right people, she managed to do just that. Her style was quite risque in her younger days, in a time when everyone was wearing frumpy long, constricting dresses, Coco wanted to wear pantsuits. Even in that time period she wasn't well known but made a name for herself by word of mouth really. I absolutely loved learning about the girl with the humble beginnings turning into this person that will be talked about for centuries to come. Her life story is interesting, one I think even someone that isn't interested in the Chanel brand would enjoy reading. There are some parts that made me extremely sad for her, but in the end, I think she was exactly who she wanted to be and I think that is her legacy. I recommend this book to anyone interested in Coco Chanel, French history,or who enjoys reading biographies about iconic figures. 

Connect with
Rhonda K. Garelick on Goodreads

Mademoiselle: Coco Chanel and the Pulse of History will be available September 30. You can pre-order it on

Monday, August 11, 2014

Gabriel Finley and the Raven's Riddle by George Hagen (Book Review)

*Disclosure of material connection. I received an advanced copy of the book from the publisher via Netgalley. I was not required to write a positive review and all opinions stated are 100% my own.
About the book-
How can 11-year-old Gabriel find his missing father,who seems to have vanished without a trace? With the help of Paladin—a young raven with whom he has a magical bond that enables them to become one creature—he flies to the foreboding land of Aviopolis, where he must face a series of difficult challenges and unanswerable riddles that could lead to his father...or to his death.
My thoughts- 
I remember when I was in high school and my English teacher became obsessed with Harry Potter. I turned up my nose and thought "why is she reading a children's book?" A few years later when the first movie came out, I understood. I too fell in love with Harry Potter and still love that series to this day. I can not wait for my kids to read it! And I am so glad as an adult that I lost that uptight uppity attitude I had as a teenager. I get so much joy out of reading children's fantasy novels and as my kids get older and the prospect of reading them and enjoying them together makes it even more exciting!
Gabriel Finley & the Raven's Riddle has been said to be a cross of Harry Potter and The Phantom Tollbooth.I absolutely think that is an accurate statement. It is full of imagination and crazy fun story lines and mysteries. You will be cheering Gabriel along as he tries to figure out how to find his father. He, of course, has some friends along for the ride which only adds to the story. The book is full of great riddles that are fun to try to figure out. I will admit, I didn't get a lot of them until I read the solutions, but it was so much fun trying to figure them out, it definitely added another great layer to this great adventure story. There is a bit of history and folklore in these pages as well. I think kids will really enjoy Gabriel Finley & the Raven's Riddle. I know I did. 
About the author-
George Hagen is the author of two novels for adults.The Laments—a Washington Post bestseller and recipient of the William Saroyan International Prize for writing—has been compared to the work of John Irving and Ann Tyler and described by Publishers Weekly as "a funny, touching novel about the meaning of family." Tom Bedlam was called"a Victorian three-decker novel [that] shines with contemporary clarity and moves at the speed of 'The Sopranos'" by the Los Angeles Times. Hagen had lived on three continents by the time he was twelve. The father of three children, he now lives in Brooklyn. This is his first book for kids.
For more information, visit

Gabriel Finley and the Raven's Riddle will be available on August 26. You can pre-order it on

Sunday, August 10, 2014

The Wonder of All Things by Jason Mott (Book Review)

Disclosure of material connection- I received an advanced copy of the book from the publisher via NetGalley. I was not required to write a positive review and all opinions stated are 100% my own. 

About the book-

On an ordinary day, at an air show like that in any small town across the country, a plane crashes into a crowd of spectators. After the dust clears, a thirteen-year-old girl named Ava is found huddled beneath a pocket of rubble with her best friend, Wash. He is injured and bleeding, and when Ava places her hands over him, his wounds disappear. Ava has an unusual gift: she can heal others of their physical ailments. Until the air show tragedy, her gift was a secret. Now the whole world knows, and suddenly people from all over the globe begin flocking to her small town, looking for healing and eager to catch a glimpse of The Miracle Child. But Ava's unique ability comes at a great cost, and as she grows weaker with each healing, she soon finds herself having to decide just how much she's willing to give up in order to save the ones she loves most. Elegantly written, deeply intimate and emotionally astute, The Wonder of All Things is an unforgettable story and a poignant reminder of life's extraordinary gifts.

My thoughts-

I have been anticipating this sophomore effort from Jason Mott pretty much since I finished reading The Returned last year. When I read the plot synopsis, I was excited that this is something different than his first book, but still in the same vein of things. I really had a difficult time putting this story down. There were so many questions that I wanted the answers to and so many things that I wanted to see unfold. I enjoyed all of the parts where Wash and Ava were interacting. There were such sweet moments between these two best childhood friends and you can tell that theirs is a deep, deep bond. As I read on in the story, I found out part of that bond is shared tragedy. Another interesting part of the story is how Mott interweaves the different events of Ava's life to really give us a whole picture of what she has gone through. I was interested in reading this story to learn about Ava's gift, but that ends up being just  a small part of this story in the grand scheme of things, even though it is constantly being talked about in the book. I don't know if that makes a lot of sense, but the best way I can explain it is this story is so much bigger than Ava's gift. At the core of things, it is definitely about love and about sacrifice. I am so excited that The Wonder of All Things has already been optioned by Lion'sgate for a movie (just like The Returned, this occurred before the book is even released because Mott is just THAT good!) I will be stalking the internet to find out who will be starring in this movie and will be anticipating it's release date just as I did for this fantastic book. I recommend The Wonder of All Things to anyone who enjoys thought provoking books or love stories. 

The Wonder of All Things will be available for purchase on September 30. You can pre-order it on with Jason Mott on Facebook
Connect with Jason Mott on Goodreads
Jason Mott's Website  "

Beauty by Shea Raw Organic Unfiltered Shea Butter Review + Giveaway

I have been pinning diy beauty projects on Pinterest for pretty much as long as Pinterest has existed. A lot of those do it yourself products call for shea butter. It's soft texture and mild & pleasant scent make it a great addition to lotions and soaps so I was very excited to get the opportunity to try this shea butter. I was even more excited because not only it is raw and organic, but also fair trade. 

The first thing I noticed when the shea butter arrived was that it was in a resealable package. When I opened it up, I sniffed it and was happy to smell the mild, pleasant aroma. The texture is almost like a really soft clay. I rubbed a little of it between my fingers and applied it to my skin like a lotion. A little goes a very long way. It made my skin feel super soft. I am definitely happy with using it all on it's own, but I still wanted to play with making something to add to my ever growing collection of diy beauty products. I found this awesome bronzing body butter on Pinterest and knew I had to try it. It only required a couple of other ingredients. If you decide to make this particular body butter, make sure it is clearly labeled. These are all natural ingredients, but you wouldn't want someone to accidentally eat a spoonful. All 3 of my kids asked me if they could have a bite when I was making it! Anyway, the body butter was a super simple recipe and turned out fantastic! Next on my list of diy products that have shea butter are shaving cream and hair moisturizer. The sky is the limit really. 

You can purchase Raw Organic Unfiltered Shea Butter on As of this posting, it is on sale, so hurry over there and get yours!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free using Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. "

Friday, August 8, 2014

Treat Yourself by Jennifer Steinhauer (Cookbook Review)

Disclosure of material connection- I received a copy of the book from the publisher via Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest thoughts. I was not required to write a positive review and all opinions stated are 100% my own. 
About the book-

If you grew up on corner-store treats, memory lane is paved with Ho Hos, Yodels, Oreos, and Ring Dings. And while your taste buds may have grown up a bit, chances are you still crave these classic flavors. Now you can re-create the lunch-box delights that made you the envy of other kids, with all-natural homemade versions.

After much obsessing and experimentation, Jennifer Steinhauer has cracked the code for 70 iconic treats to re-create in your own kitchen. There are cookies with a perfect crunchy base for cream filling, snack cakes with frosting so thick you can peel it off all at once, candies dipped in chocolate and dusted with sugar, and ice cream pops so juicy that they drip down your arm. A self-taught baker, Jennifer had no interest in complicated techniques or chemical gunk, just easy hacks that break down and remaster these throwback snacks.

So go ahead—treat yourself to your own homemade version of these favorites:
• Samoas, Pecan Sandies, Chips Ahoy!, and other classic cookies
• Nutter Butters, Mint Milanos, Oatmeal Creme Pies, and other sweet sandwich cookies
• Twinkies, Drake’s Coffee Cakes, Devil Dogs, and other snack cakes
• Fig Newtons, Lemon Mini-Pies, Strawberry Pop-Tarts, and other fruity, filled treats
• Soft Pretzels, Pizza Pockets, Funyuns, and other salty, savory snacks
• Cracker Jacks, Goo Goo Clusters, Candy Dots, and other candy favorites
• Orange Creamsicles, Strawberry Shortcake Ice Cream Pops, Nutty Buddies, and other frozen treats

My thoughts- 

You may be surprised to learn that I grew up in a house full of junk food. There were chips of every kind, Popsicles and ice cream and always around were my mother's weakness- Little Debbie snacks. My whole family balks when they come over to my house and look for a snack because I do not keep that kind of thing in my pantry. All of those treat may taste delicious, but they are full of chemicals, artificial flavors and colors and are likely full of GMO ingredients. I love when I run across a great copy cat recipe online. It is great to be able to enjoy the indulgences of my childhood without the terrible ingredients of the commercial products that are just never going to make an appearance at my house. When I came across Treat Yourself, I knew I had to have it in my cookbook collection. It is full of such awesome copy cat recipes. I was not even sure which one to try first, so I went with a classic favorite- Oreos. These cookies were not very difficult to make. They did take a little time because I had to make the dough, freeze it, roll it out and cut the circles and make the filling, but any sandwich cookie takes the same amount of time. After I baked the cookies, I tasted the cookie and it was pretty similar to the real thing. The filling was spot-on.  The only thing I did wrong was make the cookies too thick, so next time I will roll them out a little thinner. They were tasty. All 3 kids and my husband devoured them. I am so excited to have these recipes and I can not wait to try each of them. I think next I will try the Star Crunch recipe or the Thin Mints. There are so many wonderful options! This book is really going to come in handy during the holidays! I absolutely recommend Treat Yourself to anyone who enjoys baking. You will love re-creating your childhood favorites!

About the author-

Jennifer Steinhauer has been a reporter for the New York Times for twenty years. Her weekly column at, "Weeknights with Jenny," shares her adventures in weeknight cooking. She lives with her husband and their two daughters in Washington, D.C.

Treat Yourself
is now available on

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Escape Monthly Subscription Box heads to Paris for August! Sneak Peek at a product + 20% Off Coupon!

*Disclosure- this post contains affiliate links. 

Escape Monthly has been one of my favorite subscription boxes for  a while now. I love the idea of a vacation in a box. I can not always afford to venture off to the places I would love to go, but I can get this box and have some of the local things from places show up on my doorstep! There have been many escape boxes since they started sending them out around a year ago. There have been escapes to Hawaii, Napa Valley, Las Vegas, Ireland, India and many others, but the box I have been waiting for since I signed up is headed my way this month- Paris! I think you would be hard pressed to meet any person that likes to travel that does not have Paris on their travel bucket list. I am extremely blessed that I have actually had the opportunity to visit when I was younger. The problem with that is that I have been itching to go back ever since. It is the most beautiful place I have ever seen. I hope to go back some day, but in the meantime I am happy to have a little piece of Paris arrive at my house in a few weeks!

The picture above is a sneak peek at one of the items that will be included in the box. The lotion alone is worth more than half of what you will pay for the box (and that is if you pay full price for the box...I have a nice coupon code that will take 20% off your subscription FOR LIFE making it even more affordable!) Just look at that lotion container. It SCREAMS Paris and makes me super excited to see what else will be included in this awesome box!

Perhaps the ABSOLUTE coolest thing about Escape Monthly, is that each month one lucky subscriber will actually win a vacation to the destination! I am always up for traveling anywhere, but I will cross all of my fingers and toes this month. Whoever wins the Paris Escape is one lucky person indeed!

For 20% off of your subscription (for life!) enter coupon code CRISTIMARASHI at checkout! If you have not tried Escape Monthly yet, this is definitely the month to do it! You will fall in love with. "

The Fourteenth Goldfish by Jennifer L. Holm (Book Review)

Disclosure of material connection- I received an advanced copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for my honest thoughts. I was not required to write a positive review and all opinions stated are 100% my own.
About the book-
Galileo. Newton. Salk. Oppenheimer.
Science can change the world . . . but can it go too far?
Eleven-year-old Ellie has never liked change. She misses fifth grade. She misses her old best friend. She even misses her dearly departed goldfish. Then one day a strange boy shows up. He's bossy. He's cranky. And weirdly enough . . . he looks a lot like Ellie's grandfather, a scientist who's always been slightly obsessed with immortality. Could this pimply boy really be Grandpa Melvin? Has he finally found the secret to eternal youth?
With a lighthearted touch and plenty of humor, Jennifer Holm celebrates the wonder of science and explores fascinating questions about life and death, family and friendship, immortality . . . and possibility.
My thoughts-
I loved this book. It was engaging and interesting all the way through. The chapters were short, which is great for beginning readers and the main premise about the grandfather making himself young again was an interesting concept that I think young readers will enjoy. What I love most about this book were the great lessons that children won't even realize are lessons in history and science with mentions of several prominent people in the science community. I love that this was a fun book about a granddaughter and her wacky grandfather, but that it may open up children to an interest in science. Some of the funniest parts to me were when 70-something year old Melvin stuck in a 12 year old's body, deals with his own daughter who is now acting as his guardian. Parents and children alike will enjoy this book. It would be a fun one to read aloud together. I would recommend The Fourteenth Goldfish to elementary aged children. It is easy enough for a little one that is just at the point of reading chapter books, but interesting enough to keep the attention of a pre-teen as well. 
The Fourteenth Goldfish will be available for purchase on August 26th. You can pre-order it on
About the author-
Jennifer L. Holm's father was a pediatrician and she grew up listening to him talk about the wonder of antibiotics and how science could change the world. Today Jennifer is the NY Times bestselling author of three Newbery Honor Books, as well as the co-creator of the Babymouse series (a 2013 Eisner Award Winner) and Squish series, which she collaborates on with her brother Matthew Holm.