Sunday, February 19, 2017

When We Last Spoke by Marci Henna (Book Review)

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

About the book-

With the heart and humor of Fannie Flagg’s Fried Green Tomatoes and Rebecca Wells’s Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, author Marci Henna introduces you to the Cranbournes—a mostly lovable and undoubtedly nutty family who’ve had more than their fair share of hard times.

A beautiful blend of tears and laughter, When We Last Spoke tells the tale of sisters Juliet and Evangeline, who are dropped off by their Broadway-bound mother at their paternal grandparents’ Texas ranch in 1967. After their cherished father is killed in Vietnam, the girls are orphaned. Still mourning their son’s death, grandparents Walt and Ruby accept their role as guardians, only to be surprised soon after by another permanent houseguest’s arrival—Walt’s kooky mother, Itasca.

Fast-forward to the present, where the warmhearted home in which the girls grew up is now just a faint memory. The estranged sisters are in need of a good dose of Walt’s famous stargazing wisdom: “You’ve got to look real close. Pay attention to what’s around you in this life. You’re liable to miss something important if you don’t.”

Packed with plenty of quirky characters and hilarious escapades, this must-read novel also digs in deep to the things that matter most—family, friends, love, and forgiveness.


My thoughts-

I felt like the book got off to a slow start but picked up the pace towards the middle. In the present day there is a rift between the sisters and the reason for that comes to light through the novel. A lot of the book is set in the past, but I don't mind that because I love historical fiction. The girls' as children are sent to live with their grandparents, who love them unconditionally, but then their great grandmother also moves in and she is a little more harsh on them. I enjoy books like these where there are two time periods and I especially like that this one was set in small town Texas, which is super relatable to me because that is how I grew up too. Not within my grandmother's home but she lived in town too and I loved growing up in the same town as her and this book brought back some of those wonderful childhood memories. When We Last Spoke is the kind of novel that is easily turned into a movie and I am excited that is just what is happening with this novel. I can't wait to see it come to life on my screen. I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys historical fiction or who (like me) have to read the book before watching a show or movie adaptation.



Monday, February 13, 2017

The Cancer-Fighting Kitchen by Rebecca Katz (Book Review)

*Disclosure of material connection- I received a copy of the 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-


This new and revised edition of the IACP award-winning cookbook brings the
healing power of delicious, nutritious foods to those whose hearts and bodies
crave a revitalizing meal, through 150 new and updated recipes.


Featuring science-based, nutrient-rich recipes that are easy to prepare and designed to give
patients a much-needed boost by stimulating appetite and addressing treatment
side effects including fatigue, nausea, dehydration, mouth and throat soreness,
tastebud changes, and weight loss. A step-by-step guide helps patients
nutritionally prepare for all phases of treatment, and a full nutritional analysis
accompanies each recipe. This remarkable resource teaches patients and
caregivers how to use readily available powerhouse ingredients to build a
symptom- and cancer-fighting culinary toolkit. Blending fantastic taste and
meticulous science, these recipes for soups, vegetable dishes, proteins, and sweet
and savory snacks are rich in the nutrients, minerals, and phytochemicals that help
patients thrive during treatment. 



My thoughts-

In the last 3 years I have had my dad, my great aunt, my cousin, my mother in law, and an old friend all diagnosed with various types of cancer. The title of this book caught my eye because I think it is important to use food as pre-preemptive medicine so I thought it couldn't hurt to check out these recipes. The book is geared towards people who are in treatment for cancer, but I think it is a great read for anyone. We are all affected by cancer in some way at some time. The recipes in the book actually all sound pretty tasty which is always helpful when you are trying to eat healthy. There is also information in the book on how one might feel during radiation or chemo and foods or broths/soups that might help them get through the rougher times when food sounds like the worst thing in the world. I recommend this book to anyone really, but it will especially useful for patients going through treatment or caregivers. 





Sunday, February 12, 2017

Packed by Becky Alexander and Michelle Lake

*Disclosure of material connection- I received a copy of the 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- 

The workday packed lunch - so often a repetitive and disappointing affair - is easier than you think to get right; it just requires a little forward planning. Throw out the soggy sandwiches and fill your Thermos or lunch box with nutrient-packed goodies that are simple to prepare, delicious - and full of things that are good for you. Contemporary and seasonal recipes are supported by sound nutrition to bring you this hip and easy guide on lunch on the go. While food writer Becky Alexander shows you how to knock up simple and satisfying bites - from vibrant Skip to the Beet Soup to satisfying Good Mood Cookies - nutritionist Michelle Lake will explain how that lunch is doing you good. Chapters include: 

   • Get Up and Go for those breakfasts on the run 
   • Raw Goodness salads 
   • Filling Flasks of satisfying hot food 
   • Fork-free Fare: sandwiches, dips and other cutlery-free eats 
   • Snacks and Bites for the inbetween times and treats 
By strategic shopping, making things ahead, and using your fridge and freezer craftily, creating exciting and healthy lunches every day becomes almost effortless. Health benefits of particular foods are featured throughout, so you know your blood sugar will be balanced, the nutrition will be packed in and your brain will be kept in top gear. Because work is harder when you're not fully fuelled!


My thoughts-

I am always looking for new ideas for lunch for my kids because I don't want them eating sandwiches every day and I get tired of sending them the same old things. I also always want to find something that I can send with my husband to his job in the ER where he works overnight. Packed is a great book full of interesting meals, that are healthy and give you many whole food options for a nutritious and tasty lunch. I like how varied the different lunches are.It's nice to get out of the soup/sandwich/salad/typical lunch foods rut. Some of the recipes I found of particular interest are the lemony lamb koftas with mint and yogurt dip, beef brisket chili, and step by step guide to rolling sushi. If you are a sandwich fan there is always a section devoted to the lunch staple, that takes sandwiches to a new level and is not your every day turkey and cheese with mayo. I think packed is a great book. These meals will probably appeal more to adults looking to save money on their lunches at work, but many of these meals are also pretty kid friendly. 

Friday, February 10, 2017

Close Enough to Touch by Colleen Oakley (Book Review)

*Disclosure of material connection- I received a copy of the 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-

From the author of Before I Go comes an unconventional but beautiful love story perfect for fans of the emotional novels of Jodi Picoult and Jojo Moyes.

One time a boy kissed me and I almost died... 

And so begins the story of Jubilee Jenkins, a young woman with a rare and debilitating medical condition: she’s allergic to other humans. After a humiliating near-death experience in high school, Jubilee has become a recluse, living the past nine years in the confines of the small town New Jersey house her unaffectionate mother left to her when she ran off with a Long Island businessman. But now, her mother is dead, and without her financial support, Jubilee is forced to leave home and face the world—and the people in it—that she’s been hiding from.

One of those people is Eric Keegan, a man who just moved into town for work. With a daughter from his failed marriage who is no longer speaking to him, and a brilliant, if psychologically troubled, adopted son, Eric’s struggling to figure out how his life got so off-course, and how to be the dad—and man—he wants so desperately to be. Then, one day, he meets a mysterious woman named Jubilee, with a unique condition...

An evocative, poignant, and heartrending exploration of the power and possibilities of the human heart.


My thoughts-

I have been waiting for Colleen Oakley to write a new book, so I was excited when I came across Close Enough to Touch. I had mixed feelings about her first book Before I Go, but I thought it was well written so I wanted to give her a second chance. Close Enough to Touch had me interested from the first page. While not a real condition, imagining someone with an allergy to other human dna cells was intriguing. How would she live without the touch of another? Not surprisingly Jubilee feels very alone and angry at the beginning of the story. I was thrilled when she worked up the courage (really out of necessity) to go out and get a job. We get to see how she interacts with other people after not seeing or interacting with a single soul for 9 years, besides occasional phone calls. Oakley's writing reminds me a lot of some of my favorite author's of contemporary fiction: Nicholas Sparks, Jodi Picoult, Cecilia Ahern, Jojo Moyes, authors that pull at your heartstrings and are masters at creating a romantic story. Beyond Jubiliee's relationship with Eric, which is a refreshingly different take on a relationship because they can't physically touch, I love the dynamic between Jubilee and Aja, two people who have trouble communicating with others, but find solace in someone similar yet so different. I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys contemporary fiction.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

The Pho Cookbook by Andrea Nguyen (Cookbook Review)

Disclosure of material connection- I received a copy of the 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-
Vietnam's most beloved culinary export—pho—is now within the reach of any home cook.
 
Andrea Nguyen first tasted pho in Saigon as a child, sitting at a street stall with her parents. That experience sparked a lifelong love of the iconic noodle soup, and here she dives deep into pho's lively past, visiting its birthplace and then teaching how to successfully make it. Options range from quick weeknight cheats to 5-hour weekend feasts with broth and condiments from scratch, as well as other pho rice noodle favorites. Over fifty versatile recipes, including snacks, salads, companion dishes, and vegetarian and gluten-free options, welcome everyone to the pho table. With a thoughtful guide on ingredients and techniques, plus evocative location photography and deep historical knowledge, The Pho Cookbook enables anyone to cook this comforting classic. 


My thoughts-

My husband introduced me to pho after a long while of hesitation on my part because I don't generally like Asian food or soup, but once he finally got me into the cute little pho shop by our house a few years ago it became one of my favorite restaurants. I have thought about attempting to make own pho ata home, but I have always been intimidated and besides finding recipes here or there on pinterest, I have never really found a good recipe. The Pho Cookbook not only have a plethora of recipes, but is very detailed on how to make the perfect bowl of soup. Nguyen examines everything from how to find the freshest noodles, to all of the spices and flavorings that need to be added to make pho the pure deliciousness that so many people love. The beginning of the book with the detailed explanation of each step is super intimidating, but once you get to the recipes section it doesn't seem as out of reach. I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys experimenting in their kitchen or that really loves pho!









Tuesday, February 7, 2017

My (not so) Perfect Life by Sophie Kinsella

Disclosure of material connection- I received a copy of the 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 books-

Part love story, part workplace drama, this sharply observed novel is a witty critique of the false judgments we make in a social-media-obsessed world. New York Times bestselling author Sophie Kinsella has written her most timely novel yet.
 
Everywhere Katie Brenner looks, someone else is living the life she longs for, particularly her boss, Demeter Farlowe. Demeter is brilliant and creative, lives with her perfect family in a posh townhouse, and wears the coolest clothes. Katie’s life, meanwhile, is a daily struggle—from her dismal rental to her oddball flatmates to the tense office politics she’s trying to negotiate. No wonder Katie takes refuge in not-quite-true Instagram posts, especially as she's desperate to make her dad proud.
            
Then, just as she’s finding her feet—not to mention a possible new romance—the worst happens. Demeter fires Katie. Shattered but determined to stay positive, Katie retreats to her family’s farm in Somerset to help them set up a vacation business. London has never seemed so far away—until Demeter unexpectedly turns up as a guest. Secrets are spilled and relationships rejiggered, and as the stakes for Katie’s future get higher, she must question her own assumptions about what makes for a truly meaningful life.
            

My thoughts-

I have a tendency to read a lot of historical fiction, but sometimes I like to jump outside my box and read something set in the present. Bonus points if there is a great love story! There was so much to love about this book. Katie is relatable. I think all of us at some point in our adulthood have come to the conclusion that we are not exactly what we thought we would be or that other people's lives are better. Sometimes that can open doors we didn't even know we wanted to step through. I enjoyed both the parts in the office with Katie and her office mates and Katie in the country with her dad and step mom and all of the parts with Demeter, who was an interesting character to get to know. 
If you are looking for a book equal parts funny and romantic, My (not so) Perfect Life is the book for you. 

Monday, February 6, 2017

Ricardo Beverly Hills 43" Rolling Garment Bag Review

*Disclosure of material connection- I received a complimentary product from Viewpoints in exchange for my honest thoughts. I was not required to write a positive review and all opinions stated are 100% my own.

I had never heard of the Ricardo Beverly Hills 43" Rolling Garment Bag until I was offered the opportunity from Viewpoints to received a sample product to review. I am travel quite a bit between trips with my family, getaways with my husbands, and girl's weekends with my best friend who lives in a different state so it's important for me to have good luggage. I usually use just standard luggage for all of my clothing and other travel needs, but is is always frustrating that my clothes get wrinkled and that I have to mix them in with other things like bathroom products. I like that the Ricardo Beverly Hills bag is wider and meant for clothing and that the front zipped area is bigger and perfect for my flat iron and smaller items, still allowing me to only have to take one bag on shorter trips. It is easier to lay clothing flat and keep them from getting wrinkled. I also like that the handle has a zipper compartment to hide in, it makes the bag look that much sleeker. I would definitely buy this bag if I saw it in a store and was in need of luggage and will recommend it to friends as well.