Thursday, January 29, 2015

Wide-Open World: How Volunteering Around the Globe Changed One Family's Lives Forever by John Marshall (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-

For readers of Three Cups of Tea; Eat, Pray, Love; and Wild comes the inspiring story of an ordinary American family that embarks on an extraordinary journey. Wide-Open World follows the Marshall family as they volunteer their way around the globe, living in a monkey sanctuary in Costa Rica, teaching English in rural Thailand, and caring for orphans in India. There's a name for this kind of endeavor - €”voluntourism - and it might just be the future of travel.
Oppressive heat, grueling bus rides, backbreaking work, and one vicious spider monkey . . . Best family vacation ever!

John Marshall needed a change. His twenty-year marriage was falling apart, his seventeen-year-old son was about to leave home, and his fourteen-year-old daughter was lost in cyberspace. Desperate to get out of a rut and reconnect with his family, John dreamed of a trip around the world, a chance to leave behind, if only just for a while, routines and responsibilities. He didn'€™t have the money for resorts or luxury tours, but he did have an idea that would make traveling the globe more affordable and more meaningful than he'd ever imagined: The family would volunteer their time and energy to others in far-flung locales.
Wide-Open World is the inspiring true story of the six months that changed the Marshall family forever. Once they’d made the pivotal decision to go, John and his wife, Traca, quit their jobs, pulled their kids out of school, and embarked on a journey that would take them far off the beaten path, and far out of their comfort zones.
Here is the totally engaging, bluntly honest chronicle of the Marshalls'€™ life-altering adventure from Central America to East Asia. It was no fairy tale. The trip offered little rest, Even less relaxation, and virtually no certainty of what was to come. But it did give the Marshalls something far more valuable: a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to conquer personal fears, strengthen family bonds, and find their true selves by helping those in need. In the end, as John discovered, he and his family did not change the world. It was the world that changed them.
My thoughts-
I have always had a desire to both travel and to help other people. As a teen I dreamed of being a missionary, taking care of orphaned children in Romania, joining the Peace Corps. I never had the courage to do any of them. Don't get me wrong, I do what I can from my home, but I think the desire to help in other corners of the world will always be there and maybe some day I will get to explore that a little, but for now I was delighted to live vicariously through the Marshall clean while reading Wide-Open World. Their time of service around the world led them to interesting places and showed them how there is a need for help (in so many varied ways) pretty much everywhere around the globe. The book takes us through their journey as they live and volunteer at an animal sanctuary where they became close with some primates, they worked at an orphanage in India (I suspect this was the hardest place for them to leave, having forged close relationships with many of the children), they taught English in Thailand and visited and served in so many other places. They learned things about themselves as a family and things about themselves as individuals and were changed forever because of it. It was fascinating to me to take a peek into the lives of people in different parts of the world, how things operated differently in each place. Not only did this trip give the Marshalls the opportunity to do good, it would set the course for where each of  their lives would go upon their return home...but I will let you read the book to find out just what that was! I absolutely recommend this book to anyone at all, I think we can all learn from this type of memoir, but I particularly recommend it to people who want to good, who love to travel, who enjoy adventure and who enjoy reading non-fiction. This is the type of book that I hope will become a movie someday. I would love to see the Marshalls' adventures come to life on the big screen!
Wide-Open World will be available on February 10. You can pre-order it on

Monday, January 26, 2015

Fuzzy Mud by Louis Sachar (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 the acclaimed bestseller Holes, winner of the Newbery Award and the National Book Award, comes a new middle-grade novel with universal appeal. Combining horror-movie suspense with the issues of friendship, bullying, and the possibility of ecological disaster, this novel will intrigue, surprise, and inspire readers and compel them to think twice about how they treat others as well as their environment.
Be careful. Your next step may be your last.

Fifth grader Tamaya Dhilwaddi and seventh grader Marshall Walsh have been walking to and from Woodbridge Academy together since elementary school. But their routine is disrupted when bully Chad Wilson challenges Marshall to a fight. To avoid the conflict, Marshall takes a shortcut home through the off-limits woods. Tamaya reluctantly follows. They soon get lost, and they find trouble. Bigger trouble than anyone could ever have imagined.
In the days and weeks that follow, the authorities and the U.S. Senate become involved, and what they uncover might affect the future of the world.

My thoughts-

Louis Sachar (pronounced SACKER) has been entertaining children for decades with his wonderful books. You would be hard pressed to find a kid from my generation who didn't devour Sideway Stories From Wayside School, a personal favorite of mine or There's a Boy in the Girl's Bathroom, another book I remember reading over and over again in elementary school. Fast Forward a decade or so and the kids of that generation will tell you that Holes is one of their very favorite books (rightfully so, as it is a Newbery winner and even spawned a movie version!) Sachar has penned over 20 books over the years and now he is back with Fuzzy Mud, a great children's novel that I think my children's generation will cherish. Tamaya and her neighbor Marshall take a shortcut through the woods one day to avoid a bully which sets off a series of events. Tamaya touches the fuzzy mud and immediately her hand feels weird. I like the writing style Sachar uses in this novel switching back and forth between the events that started with the fuzzy mud and a court case taking place that is related to those events. As in many of Sachar's books there are lessons weaved throughout. Fuzzy Mud focuses mainly on bullying, something pretty prevelant these days. It doesn't just focus on the bullied, but also shed's some light on the person doing the bullying. This is a great conversation starter about to broach the subject with your children or to get them thinking about bullying and what they can do to prevent it or that things aren't always what they seem. I definitely recommend Fuzzy Mud for any elementary aged children and I also recommend it to their parents. This would be a great book to read together and discuss!

Fuzzy Mud will be available on August 4, 2015. You can pre-order it on

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Sunday, January 25, 2015

Skin Daily Skincare Solutions Rose Water Review

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

If you have been reading this blog for a while, you know that I married into a Persian family and so I have been exposed to (and a huge fan of) rose water for several years now. I didn't think of using it on my face or body until a few years ago, but I am so glad that I finally figured out what a great skincare product it is and how wonderful it feels on my skin. I am also so happy to see it become a mainstream beauty product. There is no need to spend a fortune on several different beauty products for your face or to expose your body to the many chemicals most of them contain. This is a multi-functional product!

I absolutely love to use rose water for so many things, but let me tell you, it is pretty much the only thing you need to use on your face. It makes a terrific toner, cleanser and light makeup remover. I adore the lovely clean tingly feeling it leaves on my skin and the pleasant aroma that it leaves behind. Beyond using rose water on your face, it makes a great addition to do it yourself body care. I like adding it to homemade lotion and putting it straight into my bathwater for a fragrant, relaxing treat. I absolutely recommend adding this to rose water from Skin Daily Skincare solutions to your daily beauty regimen!

IGotTech Texting Gloves Review

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

I am excited to have received these gloves right before I am headed to Denver for a weekend with my husband. It hasn't been too cold very often this winter where we live, but we do have our cold days and these gloves will be a great help on those days. I tried them on and my one complaint would be that they are a little on the small side. They fit my small hands pretty well (besides being a tad tight on the wrists, but they will stretch out with more wear), but I would be concerned about someone with bigger hands trying to wear them. Beyond their functionality, I felt like these were appealing to the eye with the touch of grey on the texting fingertips. I look forward to using them quite a bit this weekend and during the rest of the cold days we might have this winter and in the coming years. 

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Saturday, January 24, 2015

Vanessa and Her Sister by Priya Parmar (Book Review)

Disclosure- 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-

London, 1905: The city is alight with change, and the Stephen siblings are at the forefront. Vanessa, Virginia, Thoby, and Adrian are leaving behind their childhood home and taking a house in the leafy heart of avant-garde Bloomsbury. There they bring together a glittering circle of bright, outrageous artistic friends who will grow into legend and come to be known as the Bloomsbury Group. And at the center of this charmed circle are the devoted, gifted sisters: Vanessa, the painter, and Virginia, the writer.

Each member of the group will go on to earn fame and success, but so far Vanessa Bell has never sold a painting. Virginia Woolf’s book review has just been turned down by The Times. Lytton Strachey has not published anything. E. M. Forster has finished his first novel but does not like the title. Le
onard Woolf is still a civil servant in Ceylon, and John Maynard Keynes is looking for a job. Together, this sparkling coterie of artists and intellectuals throw away convention and embrace the wild freedom of being young, single bohemians in London.

But the landscape shifts when Vanessa unexpectedly falls in love and her sister feels dangerously abandoned. Eerily possessive, charismatic, manipulative, and brilliant, Virginia has always lived in the shelter of Vanessa’s constant attention and encouragement. Without it, she careens toward self-destruction and madness. As tragedy and betrayal threaten to destroy the family, Vanessa must decide if it is finally time to protect her own happiness above all else.

The work of exciting young newcomer Priya Parmar, Vanessa and Her Sister exquisitely captures the champagne-heady days of prewar London and the extraordinary lives of sisters Vanessa Bell and Virginia Woolf.

About the book-

I will admit that while I believe myself to be fairly well read, Virginia Woolf is not an author I have really read much from. However, I find her story interesting and the people  her fascinating and I love reading novels that are inspired from true life people and situations. Vanessa and Her Sister is written to appear as a (fictionalized) journal written by artistic Vanessa, sister of Virginia. I like the idea of the writing style, but for some reason it just wasn't holding my attention the way would like it to and it took me a while to get through the book. I found the dynamic between the sisters and the dependence on one another, especially Virginia's dependence on Virginia, interesting to read. The exploration of mental illness in Virginia was something I won't soon forget. The most interesting thing to me is reading what life was likely like for an extraordinary group of talented artists at the turn of the century in a time where they were yet to be famous but trying to find their own footing. I would recommend this book to anyone with an interest in Virginia Woolf or lovers of history. 

Vanessa and Her Sister is available at and other retailers nationwide.

About the author-

Priya Parmar is a former freelance editor. She educated at Oxford College and The University of Edinburgh. Her debut novel was Exit the Actress.

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Thursday, January 22, 2015

Clean Slate From the Editors of Martha Stewart Living (Cookbook Review)

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

About the book-

More than just a cookbook, Clean Slate, from the editor's of Martha Stewart Living, provides you with the nutritionally sound information you need to shop for and prepare food that nourishes body and mind. You'll find guidelines for restocking your pantry with whole grains, beans and legumes, lean proteins, and healthy fats; glossaries of the best sources of detoxifiers, antioxidants, and other health-boosting nutrients; and menus for a simple 3-day cleanse and a 21-day whole-body detox, with easy-to-follow tips and strategies for staying on track.

My thoughts-

I saw Martha Stewart recently on Late Night with Seth Meyers and I knew immediately I needed to get my hands on a copy. To me, anything with Martha's name on it having to do with food is going to be fabulous and Clean Slate well exceeded my expectations.  The cover is simple but beautiful and the pages within the book follow the same theme. The first section of the book is full of information on what is good for your body vs. things that you should steer clear of. This is the most organized book of the sort that I have ever seen. After the pages giving you the foundation for healthy living there are a couple of detoxes to follow to give your body the recharge it may need, a 3-day and a 21-day full body detox. Each meal is completely laid out for you on both plans so there is no guesswork involved. My favorite part of the book, of course, are the recipes. As I have already mentioned, the recipe section is laid out beautifully with gorgeous pictures, but beyond that the recipes each include nutritional information and even have a note to what kind of diet each recipe is suited (labels include gluten free, nut free, dairy free, ect.) This makes it very easy for someone on a special diet to know which meals they can make as is from the book. I was very impressed by the breakfast and dessert sections. In most books, these two sections are full of recipes comprised mostly of grain and refined sugar, not so in Clean Slate. There are some tasty sounding savory breakfast recipes and the desserts while free of refined sugar still sound tantalizing and satisfying. I highly recommend this book to anyone at all who wants to get back to the basics, eat clean food and say no to all of the processed junk out there making so many of the people eating them very ill. This is a book worth having on a cookbook stand on your counter for very easy access!

Clean Slate is available at online retailers such as and at books stores and other retailers nationwide.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

First Frost by Sarah Addison Allen (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 are 100% my own. 

About the book-

It's October in Bascom, North Carolina, and autumn will not go quietly.  As temperatures drop and leaves begin to turn, the Waverley women are made restless by the whims of their mischievous apple tree... and all the magic that swirls around it. But this year, first frost has much more in store.
Claire Waverley has started a successful new venture, Waverley’s Candies.  Though her handcrafted confections—rose to recall lost love, lavender to promote happiness and lemon verbena to soothe throats and minds—are singularly effective, the business of selling them is costing her the everyday joys of her family, and her belief in her own precious gifts.
Sydney Waverley, too, is losing her balance. With each passing day she longs more for a baby— a namesake for her wonderful Henry. Yet the longer she tries, the more her desire becomes an unquenchable thirst, stealing the pleasure out of the life she already has.
Sydney’s daughter, Bay, has lost her heart to the boy she knows it belongs to…if only he could see it, too. But how can he, when he is so far outside her grasp that he appears to her as little more than a puff of smoke?

When a mysterious stranger shows up and challenges the very heart of their family, each of them must make choices they have never confronted before.  And through it all, the Waverley sisters must search for a way to hold their family together through their troublesome season of change, waiting for that extraordinary event that is First Frost.

Lose yourself in Sarah Addison Allen's enchanting world and fall for her charmed characters in this captivating story that proves that a happily-ever-after is never the real ending to a story. It’s where the real story begins.

My thoughts-

We all know the saying, don't judge a book by it's cover, but sometimes when a cover is this beautiful that alone will compel me to want to read it. Although you wouldn't be able to tell at first glance, this lovely cover convey a lot about the story within it's pages about several women in the Waverley family. First Frost is full of interesting characters, a touch of magic and lots of mystery, love and drama. I particularly liked following Bay's storyline, but I loved learning about all of the Waverley women and where they are in life and what sort of "Waverley Magic" they possess and what exactly that means to (and for) each of them. I loved the little touch of magic throughout the book surrounding the apple tree and the Waverleys, it added a nice spin to the story.  Sarah Addison Allen's previous book Garden Spells was also about the Waverley women so I definitely need to go back and read that. I am sure it contains even more back story to this very interesting family. I would recommend First Frost to anyone who enjoys contemporary fiction. 

First Frost will be available on January 20. You can pre-order it on 

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Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Reese's Spread Review

Disclosure of material connection- I received a sample of the product via Influenster in exchange for my honest thoughts. I was not required to write a positive review and all opinions stated are 100% my own. 

I am always excited to discover new dessert products. I definitely have a sweet tooth and I probably don't need to discover new sweets, but I enjoy it nonetheless. The best motto is everything in moderation. Anyway, I was always a fan of peanut butter cup fans growing up and have been known to occasionally indulge and Nutella and this Reese's spread almost feels like the two got married. There is so much you can do with  a chocolate spread. You can put it on crepes or toast, you can use it to create delicious cookies, or you can use it to dip your favorite chocolate dippables. Pretzels are always fun and a lot of people don't know this, but chocolate also tastes fantastic with potato chips (don't know it til you try it!!), but my favorite way to use a chocolate dip is to enhance the taste of delicious fruit. I have tried this Reese's spread with several kinds of fruit now and I haven't discovered a bad pair yet! My absolute favorite so far has been dipping granny smith apples in the Reese's spread- it is just the right amount of chocolate peanut butter sweetness cut by the beautiful tartness of the green apples.I highly recommend giving it a try!

Monday, January 12, 2015

Beyond All Dreams by Elizabeth Camden (Book Review)

*Disclosure of material connection- I received a copy of the book from Bethany House Publishers 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-

Anna O'Brien leads a predictable and quiet life as a map librarian at the illustrious Library of Congress until she stumbles across the baffling mystery of a ship disappeared at sea. Thwarted in her attempts to uncover information, her determination outweighs her shyness and she turns to a dashing congressman for help.

Luke Callahan was one of the nation's most powerful congressmen before his promising career was shadowed in scandal. Eager to share in a new cause and intrigued by the winsome librarian, he joins forces with Anna to solve the mystery of the lost ship. Opposites in every way, Anna and Luke are unexpectedly drawn to each other despite the strict rules forbidding Anna from any romantic entanglements with members of Congress. 

From the gilded halls of the Capitol where powerful men shape the future of the nation, to the scholarly archives of the nation's finest library, Anna and Luke are soon embroiled in secrets much bigger and more perilous than they ever imagined. Is bringing the truth to light worth risking all they've ever dreamed for their futures?

My thoughts-

I can read from pretty much any book genre and find something I enjoy about the story or the characters, but there is just something about historical fiction that holds a deep place in my heart. I can read novel after novel and feel like I am transported to that time and place and it's always a lovely place to be!

Beyond All Dreams was a nice change of pace for a historical fiction novel to be set somewhere other than a manor house. I enjoyed the very original setting of the Library of Congress. It filled me with envy to read about someone working in such a place! If you are as in love with books as I am, you will enjoy the setting too. Of course, taking place in such a political setting, there is bound to be a story line involving a handsome congressman. In addition to the quintessential love story, there is mystery about a navel ship that will keep you flipping the pages as well! This is the second book I have read by Elizabeth Camden and I will absolutely continue to seek out her books as they are published.

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Mothering From Scratch by Melinda Means & Kathy Helgemo (Book Review)

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

About the book-

Find Your Own Mothering Style

Trying to follow someone else's rules for mothering can take the joy out of being a parent. But Mothering From Scratch show you how to develop your own style that helps you be the best mom for your kids.

Full of solid biblical truth, this book will help you

  • explore your personality and examine your own strengths and weaknesses in order to find out what works for you
  • tap into the resources surrounding you and get mentoring and support from other moms
  • push past the fear of change or doing it wrong and allow room for grace in your mothering
Melinda Means and Kathy Helgemo provide a flexible, customization approach to help you discover your optimal parenting style

My thoughts-

From the very first sentence in the forward by Suzie Eller, I knew this was going to be a book that I could relate to and that would be encouraging to me. This is not your average parenting book that gives you the exact formula to have a smooth ride as a parent, You know those one size fits all books that say that if you just do a, b and c things, you will have this parenting thing down. Those books while well meaning and filled with advice that anyone of us could probably apply to our every day lives, we are all different people with children who are also different people (many times in the same family) and a one size fits all approach is just not plausible. I have known this since very shortly after I delivered my twins. My daughter, my first born, was an easy baby, but two newborns arriving when you are not yet two would probably make anyone a little grumpy. Anyway, I tried to do all of the "right" things to parent, and I quickly learned that my personality and my kids' personalities do not fit what society as a whole would consider great parenting.I know my strengths and weaknesses and I am always willing to work on them, but as a whole at this point in my role as mother (7 years in) I am more comfortable in my own skin and could really care less what other people think about how I parent as long as it is what works for our family and that it works towards the ultimate goal of my kids turning into respectful, responsible, empathetic, compassionate, humble adults. 

Mothering From Scratch is a great book for any mother to read, especially one that feels she is not doing things right (what does that even mean? But I know I have uttered those words myself plenty of times on this parenting journey). This book will encourage you to come up with your own parenting style based on your own strengths and weaknesses. It is full of great stories that will encourage you that we are all different but all working towards the same goal. The most helpful thing I found about the book was the in depth discussion questions at the end of each chapter that will really have you think and may help you discover things you didn't even know about yourself. I would recommend this book to absolutely any mom trying to find her footing or a mom who maybe already knows who she is as a mother, but could use encouraging reminders or new discoveries on her parenting journey. 

Mothering From Scratch-

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Supermarket Healthy by Melissa D'Arabian (Cookbook Review)

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

About the book-

Food Network star and New York Times bestselling author Melissa d'Arabian proves that healthy eating at home is easy, achievable, and affordable. 

Everyone wants to feel good about what they are eating, serving guests, and feeding their families, but most of us don't do our weekly shopping at pricey specialty stores-- we do it at the local supermarket and we don't want it to break the bank. In her second book, Melissa demystifies the task of preparing nutritious and delicious food by showing exactly how you can make your grocery store work for you. She offers helpful strategies for shopping, cooking, and entertaining, as well as meal blueprints and nutritional information throughout. This book will make you confident about the food you're buying, preparing, and eating. Delicious recipes like Almond Waffles with Raspberry-Basil SauceKale and White Bean Caesar Salad in a JarSlow-Roasted Tomato SpaghettiniFlatiron Steaks with Quick Cauliflower Kimchi, and Flourless Fudgy Dream Cookies have something for every type of eater at every meal of the day. No matter your favorite flavors or dietary needs, cooking on a budget is empowering-- and now you can learn how to make every bite count. If cooking at home is the key to healthy living, Supermarket Healthy is the only tool you'll need.

My thoughts-

There is probably nothing more important to me than feeding my family healthy foods. I truly believe this is the foundation of wellness and the best way to defend against horrible diseases. We definitely have our treats, but I think one of the most important lessons I can teach my children is to eat well for the majority of the time and save indulgences for special occasions (this is always a work in process for me because I love sweets, but I do my best and have come along way since my children arrived!)
I thought the highlight of this book were the dinner recipes. I have been cooking healthy meals for a while now so health based cookbooks can be repetitive, but I found many great dinner recipes that I would have never thought of and that I can't wait to give a try. Another thing that I really enjoyed about the book were the pages throughout that give you several options to change up the same type of meal (think omelettes or meatballs (and several other meals) with several different options for variation), It is a good way to make a favorite meal not be redundant. I also loved the breakfast section. I have been trying to cut down on sweet breakfasts in favor of more savory and filling breakfasts, but I love that D'Arabbian has healthified some of my breakfast meals but cutting down on the sugar and making them whole grain. It is nice to have the option to have a sweet breakfast every now and then without feeling like it is dessert or 1000 calories! Overall, I think this is a great cookbook for any home cook to have on their shelve. The pages are beautifully illustrated and the meals represented in every section will have you reaching for this Supermarket Healthy quite often.

About the author-

Melissa d'Arabian was a corporate finance executive before becoming the host of Food Network's Ten Dollar Dinners and Cooking Channel's Drop 5 Lbs with Good Housekeeping. She also developed the series The Picky Eaters Project, serves as lead judge on Guy's Grocery Games, and is the author of the New York Times bestselling cookbook Ten Dollar Dinners. Melissa has an MBA from Georgetown University, and lives with her husband and their four daughters in San Diego

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Sunday, January 4, 2015

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah (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-

In love we find out who we want to be.
In war we find out who we are.

FRANCE, 1939

In the quiet village of Carriveau, Vianne Mauriac says goodbye to her husband, Antoine, as he heads for the Front. She doesn’t believe that the Nazis will invade France... but invade they do, in droves of marching soldiers, in caravans of trucks and tanks, in planes that fill the skies and drop bombs upon the innocent. When a German captain requisitions Vianne’s home, she and her daughter must live with the enemy or lose everything. Without food or money or hope, as danger escalates all around them, she is forced to make one impossible choice after another to keep her family alive.

Vianne’s sister, Isabelle, is a rebellious eighteen-year-old girl, searching for purpose with all the reckless passion of youth. While thousands of Parisians march into the unknown terrors of war, she meets Gäetan, a partisan who believes the French can fight the Nazis from within France, and she falls in love as only the young can... completely. But when he betrays her, Isabelle joins the Resistance and never looks back, risking her life time and again to save others.

With courage, grace and powerful insight, bestselling author Kristin Hannah captures the epic panorama of WWII and illuminates an intimate part of history seldom seen: the women’s war. The Nightingale tells the stories of two sisters, separated by years and experience, by ideals, passion and circumstance, each embarking on her own dangerous path toward survival, love, and freedom in German-occupied, war-torn France--a heartbreakingly beautiful novel that celebrates the resilience of the human spirit and the durability of women. It is a novel for everyone, a novel for a lifetime.

My thoughts-

About a year ago I saw a book on clearance at Barnes & Noble called Fly Away by Kristin Hannah. I picked it up and read the back and for whatever reason (likely that I had already met the quota for amount of books I could buy that day I set it back down. I had every intention of buying it the next time it was there and it was gone. I have been interested in reading something by Kristin Hannah ever since. I am so glad that The Nightingale was her first book that I was able to read. It seems like it is a little different from her other work, but I feel like it will be my absolute favorite (although after reading The Nightingale I checked out Night Road at the library and that was a pretty close second. It was a very fabulous book in it's own right). Back to The Nightingale- I was hooked from the very first pages. I have read pretty much every kind of book that there is about WWII. Fiction, non-fiction, different angles of different types of people during the war, and I have definitely read other books about some of the women that helped during the war, but I have never felt like I good as good of a feel of the constant terror they must have went through while doing what they felt was right during the war until this one. Isabelle is young and fearless. She may start off as a little immature, but her role in the war causes her to grow up quickly. Her sister Vianne has children and a husband in the war so she is a little more cautious about her actions. By the end of this novel, I was in a pool of tears. To me, that is always a great way to end a novel. Any type of strong emotion, smiling from ear to ear, full out rage at how things went or sadness so profound it brings you to tears, to me these are all signs of great writing. I recommend The Nightingale to anyone who is interested in WWII or enjoys historical fiction or dramas. 

The Nightingale will be available February 3. You can pre-order it on

About the author-

Kristin Hannah is the New York Times bestselling author of twenty-one novels, including the blockbuster Firefly Lane and #1 bestsellers Night Road and Home Front. She is a former lawyer turned writer and is the mother of one son. She lives in the Pacific Northwest and Hawaii with her husband.

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Friday, January 2, 2015

A Brush with Love by Rachel Hauck (A Year of Weddings Novella) Book Review + Win a Kindle Fire

Disclosure of material connection- I received a copy of the novella from the publisher via Litfuse Group 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-

Ginger Winters is a gifted hairstylist with scars no one can see. The last thing she expects from the New Year is a new chance at love.

Overcoming a childhood tragedy, Ginger emerges from the pain and trauma with a gift for bringing out the beauty in others. From the top big city salons to traveling the world as personal stylist to a country music sensation, success was almost enough to make Ginger forget she would never be one of the beautiful people.

that girl, forever on the outside looking in. But she needs her confidence this weekend. She’s the acclaimed “beauty-maker” for the Alabama society wedding of the decade.

When high-school crush Tom Wells Jr. also returns to town and shows up at her shop looking for a haircut, Ginger’s thinly veiled insecurities threaten to keep her locked away from love, Despite Tom’s best efforts, Ginger can’t forget how he disappeared on her twelve years ago and broke her heart. Can she ever trust him again?

When Tom challenges her to see her own beauty, Ginger must decide if she will remained chained to the past or move freely into a new, exciting future.

My thoughts-

I hadn't heard that there was to be a second Year with Weddings novellas, but I was so excited to get to read the first in the series and look forward to the ones coming up over the next year. I am a sappy girl who enjoys sappy love stories and novellas are a nice little break from longer novels since they are short and can be read in a very small time span. Overall I enjoyed the story and seeing Ginger go from sad and intimidated to being strong and confident and finding true love. I understand that she has scars (both literally and figuratively) from her past, but that she couldn't forgive someone who had hurt her 12 years previously or given him the benefit of the doubt about the way things went down was a little overbearing. I know that there are people out there like that though and thankfully Tom was persistent and she finally gets the full story of why he moved away abruptly. At that point, it makes sense as to why he hadn't previously told her exactly what happened when it did. I was happy to see the story come full circle and to have everything ironed out in the end. It was a great story of forgiveness, redemption and love. I recommend A Brush with Love to anyone who enjoys Christian romance.

About the author-

Rachel Hauck is a RITA finalist and award winning author. She writes from sunny central Florida. 

With strong southern stories, she infuses faith and real life into the lives of her fictional characters.

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A Brush with Love will be available on December 30th. You can pre-order it on

****Enter below for your chance to win a Kindle & a copy of A Brush with Love!****

"Fire" up the romance in the new year with Rachel Hauck's newest book, A Brush with Love, by entering her Kindle Fire giveaway! And be sure to catch a sneak peek of the soon-to-be-released How to Catch a Prince!
 One grand prize winner will receive:
  • A Kindle Fire
  • A Brush with Love by Rachel Hauck
Enter today by clicking the icon below. But hurry, the giveaway only runs for a week, 12/30 – 1/5. Winner will be announced January 6th on Rachel's blog.