Sunday, October 23, 2016

Dead Girl's Society by Michelle Krys (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-

A slick thriller from the author of HEXED, perfect for fans of THE CELLAR by Natasha Preston and PANIC by Lauren Oliver.

You are cordially invited to participate in a game of thrills and dares. Tell no one, and come alone. If you dare.

Hope is sick of everyone treating her like she's breakable. Sure, she has cystic fibrosis (basically really bad lungs), but she's tired of being babied by her mom and her overprotective best friend, Ethan, not to mention worrying about paying for her expensive medication and how she's going to afford college.And she's bored with life in her run-down New Orleans suburb. 

When an invitation arrives from a mysterious group that calls itself the Society, Hope jumps at the chance for some excitement. This could be her ticket out. All she has to do is complete a few dares and she just might win some real money. 
But the Society isn't all that it seems . . . and soon Hope finds that playing the game isn't a choice—it's a requirement.

My thoughts-

This was the perfect book to read the week before Halloween! Young Adult is always a fast and fun genre for me, but this one also had the added element of suspense. At the beginning of the book I didn't think it was all that scary or gory, but towards the end, although brief, there were definitely a few of those elements there. This was the obvious high school drama, boys and cliques, and thoughts of not fitting in anywhere, but there is also a sick girl thrown into this situation with several girls she doesn't know, sneaking out of her house to complete these dares that even a completely healthy person shouldn't be doing. I think that added to the suspense element a bit, but felt it was a little unrealistic that she wouldn't be sicker from a few of them. I always like trying to figure out what is going on in stories like these and the whole "whodunit" feel of the thing.  I think that anyone who enjoys suspense or YA will think the Dead Girl's Society is a good page turning thriller.

The Dead Girl's Society will be available November 8, 2016. You can pre-order your copy on

Saturday, October 22, 2016

The Snow Queen by Hans Christian Andersen Illustrated by Sanna Annukka (Book 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-

Gorgeously packaged with intricate illustrations from Finnish illustrator, Sanna Annukka, this new edition of Hans Christian Andersen's well-loved fairy tale, The Snow Queen, is the perfect holiday gift for adults and children alike.

Hans Christian Andersen's magical tale of friendship and adventure is retold through the beautiful and intricate illustrations of Finnish illustrator Sanna Annukka. Cloth-bound in deep blue, with silver foil embellishments, The Snow Queen is elevated from a children's book to a unique work of art. It is an ideal gift for people of all ages.

My thoughts-

I am a sucker for cloth-bound books so I was in love with this the minute I saw it. I think it is important to have old classics around because I enjoy them and also because I feel like these are the types of books I want to have on my bookshelves for my kids to read. This is an abridged version of Hans Christian Andersen's The Snow Queen, a collection of 7 stories about the ice queen. The biggest draw of this version of the book are the beautiful illustrations. Bold colors and intricate patterns bring to the stories to life in a whimsical fashion. The edition of The Snow Queen would make a perfect gift for the young and the young at heart!

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Restoring Christmas by Cynthia Ruchti (Book Review)

Disclosure of material 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 stated are 100% my own. 

About the book-

Alexis Blake set out to restore a neglected building. What she didn't expect was to restore a life...
Alexis Blake has one chance to land her own show on the Heart and Home Network and nothing—not an uncooperative client, a job site without indoor plumbing, or a challenging videographer—is going to stand in her way. Elsie, at seventy-plus, is far from the ideal client, but she knows exactly what she wants her fieldstone house to look like, and no designer can tell her otherwise. Gabe Langley, the man with the camera, is caught in the middle and it is his wisdom and warmth that just may be the bridge that will bring these two women together. Can they restore more than just a house and save Christmas memories from being lost forever?

My thoughts-

Something about October always has me ready to start reading Christmas themed novels to get in the holiday. I love everything about the holiday season, including Halloween and Thanksgiving, the fall and winter weather, all of the carnivals and pumpkin patches and fun, but Christmas is the big celebration at the end that all of the rest lead up to. Restoring Christmas is the second Christmas themed novella I have read already this year and it was exactly the type of book I love to get me in the  holiday spirit. Right away I could tell I was going to be head over heels for Gabe. He is charming AND funny, two of my top criteria for an attractive and all around good guy, and for me a good romance is a essential part of a great Christmas feel good story. It's such a romantic time of year! I also liked the main element of the book being about fixing up a house for someone who doesn't even want it, it makes for some great tension and gives us a good story to want more from. Alexis is a likable character who you cheer for because you can tell she has a good heart and her intentions are good. I loved seeing her interact with Gabe as they got to know each other as designer and cameraman, and as people. I recommend Restoring Christmas to anyone who enjoys a good seasonal story about hope, love, and kindness. 

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Monday, October 17, 2016

The Compassionate Chick's Guide to Beauty by Sunny Subramanian & Chrystie Fiedler

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 stated are 100% my own.

About the book-

Part DIY vegan beauty how-to, part cookbook, and part self-improvement manifesto, The Compassionate Chick's Guide to DIY Beauty showcases non-toxic, rejuvenating and restorative skin care and beauty products that you can whip up in your kitchen with simple ingredients for pennies per treatment.

My thoughts

When I was pregnant with my first baby in 2007, I really started reading labels and became concerned with a lot of products on the market- food products, cleaners, and especially makeup products which don't seem to be regulated at all. While the makeup industry has come a long way in the last ten years offering more naturally based makeup than ever, those makeup and bath and body products can be quite pricey. Sometimes making these things at home is even easier than people might think and way more cost effective than trying to buy them all from higher end stores. What I love about The Compassionate Chick's Guide to DIY Beauty is that not only are these products safe for us they are vegan so they haven't harmed any other creatures to be made. There is also a great guide at the beginning about why it is unnecessary to test on animals and another great guide that explains many of the bad chemicals and ingredients in traditional beauty products. There are recipes for everything from body washes to muscle pain relief oil, to liquid foundation, several face masks, body washes, body lotions, and even an entire section on hair care products. Many of these recipes require things you already have in your pantry or fridge, but the ones that utilize harder to find ingredients can be found at a Whole Foods or other natural grocery store, or even on Amazon. I have plans to make several of the recipes from the book to give out with my Christmas gifts this year. 

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Classic German Baking by Luisa Wiess (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-

A collection of 100 quintessential German recipes for sweets and breads from the creator of The Wednesday Chef blog and author of the memoir, My Berlin Kitchen, including stories from the author's experience of living and baking in Berlin. 

German baking is legendary and informs baking traditions the world over: Christmas cookies, coffee cakes, delicate tortes, soft seeded rolls, and hearty dumplings all have their origins in Germany (and Austria). In Classic German Baking, blogger and author Luisa Weiss--who was born in Berlin to an Italian mother and American father, and married into a family of bakers with roots in Saxony--has collected and mastered the recipes most essential to every good baker's repertoire. In addition to the pillars of the German baking tradition, like Christmas stollen, lebkuchen, and apple strudel, Weiss includes overlooked gems, like eisenbahner--an almond macaroon paste piped onto jam-topped shortbread--and rosinenbrötchen--the raisin-studded whole wheat buns that please a child's palate and a parent's conscience--to create the resource that bakers across the world have long wanted.

My thoughts-

When I was a small child, my mother was a single mom with two very young kids, working two jobs trying to support our little family. That often left me at my great grandmother's house which was like a second home to me. My great grandmother's mother was German and that influenced who she was and definitely how she cooked. When I think about the ancestry of my family, with all of it's many European origins, I always feel like I connect with being German much more than the many other faucets of my background. My great grandma was always in her kitchen cooking, and I was always at her feet. She didn't really use recipes, so trying to recreate her dishes is next to impossible without her here anymore to call and ask, so I was excited to see Classic German Baking. I knew this would be a book I would definitely utilize in my kitchen, especially during the holidays! German sweets make me think of Christmas, we make lebukuchen (gingerbread) for Santa every year at our house. There are great recipes for all kinds of cakes, cookies, buns, struesels, and cakes. My only worry with this book is that I am going to gain 10 pounds just looking at these recipes! I recommend this book to anyone who likes to bake, some of these recipes will seem familiar, others will be a great new delight to add to your repertoire. 

More Than Magic by Kathryn Lasky (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-

Girls who enjoy spunky heroines such as Merida from Brave (Disney/Pixar) and Ella from Ella Enchanted will want to join Rory and Ryder in their adventures in our world—and the world beyond the TV. An exciting new middle-grade fantasy from Kathryn Lasky, bestselling author of the Guardians of Ga'Hoole series. 
Ryder Holmsby is the same age as Rory, the popular TV cartoon character her animator parents created. Ryder and Rory are alike—bold and brave! But Ryder is a bit lonely: Mom passed away a couple of years ago, and Dad is dating a woman with snooty teenage daughters. Ryder doesn't fit in with them at all. 
And then: Shazam! Rory jumps out of the TV into Ryder's bedroom to tell her that the TV studio behind her parents' show is trying to turn Rory into a dopey princess—no more adventures. She needs Ryder's help! The two girls team up with a crew of animated and real-life friends to save the day in both worlds.
Kathryn Lasky, bestselling author of the Guardians of Ga'hoole series, the Wolves of the Beyond series, and the Horses of the Dawn series, delivers a whimsical tale in which inner strength is the greatest form of magic.

My thoughts-

I was drawn to More Than Magic because I liked the title and the cover intrigued me. I love discovering books my kids can read with characters they can relate to. My kids have not gone through anything as traumatic as the death of a parent or a divorce, but I think any kid can relate to feeling like they don't fit in. Even in adult fiction, I tend to gravitate towards stories that have at least a touch of fantasy to them, so I really loved the intertwining of Ryder's story with Rory, the cartoon character her mother created before her death. In my head I could see how Ryder was jumping into the screen and turning into a cartoon herself when she goes on adventures in Rory's world. That is such a fun concept for a middle grade book! I recommend this book to older elementary aged kids and younger middle school aged kids or to the young at heart. It was a fun tale filled with hope and magic. 

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

When Calls the Heart: Hearts in Question

Disclosure of material connection- I received a copy of the dvd from Edify Media 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 show-

From the celebrated author Janette Oke (The Love Comes Softly series) comes a rigorous and romantic adventure as epic as the wide frontier. Erin Krakow (Army Wives), Daniel Lissing (Eye Candy), Jack Wagner (Melrose Place) and Lori Loughlin (Full House, 90210) star in When Calls the Heart, a beautiful story filled with "nostalgic... escapist fun" (!

About the episode-

An air of discord settles over Hope Valley when Jack's spirited mother, Charlotte (special guest star Brooke Shields), pays an unexpected visit...and stays with Elizabeth. While Charlotte "helpfully" critiques Elizabeth's skills as a housekeeper, pie-maker and teacher, Rosemary has become a bit of a taskmaster herself for those helping with her imminent wedding to Lee. Meanwhile, Gowen comes under suspicion for "irregularities" in the bank's bookkeeping, and as he and Nora prepare to leave town, Bill and Jack must contend with a violent storm, rising flood waters and the collapse of the Silverton mine!

My thoughts-

As usual, there is no shortage of drama or heart in this installment of When Calls the Heart. For a little bit of excitement, Jack's mom is in town. She stays with Elizabeth and her expectations are difficult to live up to, or so it seems. Rosemary is almost always one of my favorite parts of any episode, usually for her well meaning antics, but in this episode they really shine a light on the fact that she is a good person with a good heart as well. The end of the episode will have you on the edge of your seat as there is a huge storm and one of our favorite people gets caught out in it and washed away in the river! It was a nail biting scene. I always enjoy watching this show. It's good clean fun for the whole family and it gives the opportunity to talk about history and other places which my kids always find interesting. This is one of the best family friendly shows on tv!

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Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Doodletopia Manga by Christopher Hart (Book 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-

Doodle, draw, sketch, and color your way to the fun-filled land of Doodletopia! Includes bonus manga crafts and cut-outs.

The world's bestselling author of drawing and cartooning books, Christopher Hart, will show you all the interactive, artistic possibilities offered by doodling, designing, and coloring using characters, scenes, and crafts from the world of manga in Doodletopia: Manga.

Unlike other doodle books that leave you stranded, with no help at all, Doodletopia: Manga pairs fun doodle-based activities with the sort of insightful (and laugh-out-loud funny) advice and tips that countless readers have come to expect from cartooning master Christopher Hart. 

From dressing up super-cute chibis to designing your own manga mazes to completing manga scenes and making manga-inspired crafts like bookmarks, stationery, and more, the opportunities for creative expression are endless. So what are you waiting for? Pick up your pencils, pens, markers, or crayons, and start doodling!

My thoughts-

I have never really been someone who sketches or draws anything, but the cover over Doodletopia Manga made me want to explore the option. I love the cute style of Manga drawings and this book is full of them (the elephant in the book is pretty much the cutest little thing I have ever seen). I like the way that the book builds upon itself. The beginning gives you some basics on drawing the faces, then you move into drawing facial expressions. Once you get passed those basics you get to so more difficult lessons like drawing clothes, animals, and other more specific types of characters. At the very end you have the opportunity to finish off scenes that are provided, which looks like a lot of fun! I think this is a great book for anyone would like to explore the world of Manga or just try a new hobby!