Friday, February 28, 2014

curious and curiouser.

When Laura Gantt returns to her hometown to bury her mother, she is hit with the impossible news that her father, who drowned when she was a teenager, has returned to town as well when sightings of an unkempt mountain man circulate through the small town. Like this woman doesn't have enough to deal with her mother passing away, she now needs to come to terms with the fact that the father that she loved dearly could have deserted her. As Laura tends to her mother's affairs, she also rekindles the flame with her high school sweetheart, Sean, who knows much more about her father than he cares to share. Dark, dark secrets are looming over this second-chance romance, adding a chilly air to the otherwise romantic novel A Stillness of Chimes by Meg Moseley.


Thursday, February 27, 2014

living in the fruits of the spirit.

Many of us have made a mental or physical "bucket list" for our lives. What do we want to do before we die? What do we want to accomplish? What do we want to see? And most of us truly believe that crossing things off our tailor-made bucket lists will make us happy. I have to say, crossing skinny dipping in the Mediterranean off my list was sweet as hell, but at the end of the day, will I find a continual lifetime of happiness based on pleasures alone? Uh, well, I kind of thought so until I read Teresa Tomeo's God's Bucket List.

Tomeo is not trying to tell us that creating a list of goals for ourselves is a bad idea, the opposite really, in this book she is more guiding us toward practices for achieving happiness. Because simple manmade pleasures are not enough, and many of us, especially younger adults are so busy making plans that we forget to include God in any of them.

God's Bucket List consists of eight "agenda of adventures [God] wants you to experience, ways of living before you die." These include: Live with Stillness, Live Your Passion, Live with Instruction, Live in the Mess, Live with Understanding, Live by Confession, Live the Good Life, Live like You're Loved. In Tomeo's opinion, each of these eight practices are surefire ways to achieve happiness in this life and beyond. I can't say I disagree. It's nice to stop and be reminded why we're here.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

unlike any nun i've ever met.

The Chalice by Nancy Bilyeau is the second book in the Crown series that takes place during the reign of King Henry VIII. We met Joanna Stafford in the first installment of the series (The Crown) and she continued to become one of my favorite heroines to date, at least in the historical fiction genre. Joanna is a nun during the terrible period of the Reformation as King Henry orders monasteries and convents to close down leaving Joanna, as well as other nuns, monks, friars, and priests to be tortured and killed, unless they escape. The year is 1538, and England is in the midst of bloody power struggles between crown and cross that threaten to tear the country apart. Since her escape from The Tower of London, Joanna has lived a quiet life as a seamstress, until she decides to give into fate and join the efforts to destroy the King.

England has such a dark history, and Nancy Bilyeau flawlessly brings this time period to life.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

keep the tissues handy.

I reviewed My Hope is Found, the third and final installment of the Cadence of Grace series a few months ago. Sorry to go about things a tad backwards, but I’m here to report about the second novel, Though My Heart is Torn today. As to not leave anything out, the opening novel, Be Still My Soul, was when I was first captivated by these characters author Joanne Bischoff so graciously brought into my life. I’ve loved each one.

Though My Heart is Torn is good to its name as it will tear at your heart as you read the hardships your beloved characters must endure. Main characters Lonnie and Gideon have been through their share of trials, but nothing compares to the heartbreaking separation they must face when Cassie Allan claims to be Gideon’s first wife, and wants him back. How can Lonnie and Gideon simply fall out of love with each other and move on with their lives? You’ll soon find out.

Monday, February 24, 2014

children’s book that takes you back in time.

Annie never knew her grandmother since her mother didn’t talk much about her family and her childhood. But when her grandma got sick, Annie and her mother traveled to Baltimore to take care of her because no matter what happened in the past, you take care of family. The grandmother lived in an old hotel, which Annie thought to be very fascinating. However, the grandmother wasn’t exactly excited to see her long lost daughter who she hasn’t seen or heard from in years. But Annie was able to see a different side to the women when she was transported in time to 1937, and was able to get to know her grandmother when she was a sweet little girl named Molly who was trapped in her room due to illness.

Seven Stories Up by Laurel Snyder is such a charming little grades 4-6 novel about friendship and understanding. If only we could all visit our family trees like Annie.

Friday, February 21, 2014

let god come to you.

I don’t hear many stories about people chasing God. I mean, not in a bad way.  However, Angie Smith insists that many Christians are using the wrong approach to reach God in her self-help titled Chasing God, and it makes sense to me now.

This resource is for those of you who have this idea of what your relationship with God should look like, but aren’t able to achieve it. In a way, you are chasing Him, trying to become closer, but it’s not working. Smith states that “when we spend more of our time searching for assurance than we do acting out of belief, we are chasing God”. Trusting in God and his purpose for your life will stop the chase that leaves many Christians doubting God’s love for them, showing the difference between religion and a relationship when it comes to our Heavenly Father. Smith weaves in her life experiences with the scripture stories beautifully throughout the book, and she’s a funny girl to boot!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

and then there were three.

SPOILER ALERT! (do not read if you haven’t finished Flowers in the Attic)

I know you all have been waiting patiently for me to finish the second installment of the Dollanganger Series, Petals on the Wind by V. C. Andrews, and lucky for you, I did so a few days ago. It was better than the first book, in my opinion. The Dresdsen Dolls picked up right where they left off on their escape to the south. After realizing their mother had begun poisoning them little by little with arsenic, killing their beloved brother, Cory, they got the hellllll out of Foxworth Hall. Cathy is still our narrator and the three Dolls finally see a light at the end of the tunnel when Carrie gets sick on the bus and the children are saved by a mute housekeeper named Henny who brings them to her “doctor-son” or boss Paul Sheffield to take care of little Carrie. Paul ends up taking them in and giving each the opportunity to follow their dreams. Chris to be a doctor, Cathy to become a prima ballerina, and Carrie to try to find her way in the world without her twin brother by her side. I don’t want to get into too many details, as a lot happens to the children during this novel. They all grow to their twenties (although Carrie doesn’t grow much at all), and Chris to thirty, and it doesn’t seem that Cathy will ever stop planning revenge on their mother who is now married to the handsome Bart Winslow who’s family lives only a town away from them in South Carolina. Cathy’s obsession with payback ultimately causes ruin to much of her own life. Leaving us to wonder if forgiving and forgetting really IS the best course of action. Because revenge doesn’t taste quite as sweet as Cathy thought it would.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

the arizona wilderness.

If you’re planning a hiking trip in Arizona, anywhere in Arizona really, then Matthew J Nelson’s Your Complete Guide to the Arizona National Scenic Trail is an absolute necessity. The guide is packed into 43 pages, making it easy to carry along on any trip, and those 43 pages are jam packed let me tell ya. And I will.

Nelson has included all sections worth exploring in the Arizona National Scenic Trail and divided them into appropriate sections. This includes Central, North to South trails, backcountry safety and other advice so that you can have an enjoyable experience and still live to tell the tale. Each section also includes what you can find in said area, for example, plants, bodies of water, rock classifications, and alternate routes. Also where to mountain bike and where not to mountain bike. I personally thought the overviews of each area were extremely useful, as they included level of difficulty, distance, maps and photos. It’s never bad to be overly prepared for anything!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

real talk.

The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills drama queen Brandi Glanville is quite the comedian in her hilarious tell all titled Drinking and Tweeting: And Other Brandi Blunders. I know her best from the tabloids when her hubby Eddie Cibrian and LeAnn Rimes had a secret affair that wasn’t so secret. Brandi leaves nothing out about that awful time in her life let me tell you, she gets right down to the nitty gritty of being royally effed, and not in a good way. I love her candidness, this woman scorned means business. She’s all eff this and eff that, saying whatever she feels. Whenever I do that, I lose my job. This chick becomes an author. What is my life?

Anyways, some of you may find this book to be a tad redundant if you have watched Brandi’s show and know all about her breakup with Eddie. I don’t watch the show, so her feelings and personality were all news to me. She’s a little nutty and needs all sorts of therapy, but who doesn’t? Drinking and Tweeting was a super entertaining read in this crazy girl’s opinion.

Monday, February 17, 2014

grade 3-7 suspense series.

The Wavering Werewolf is the latest installment in David Lubar's Monsterrific Tales series. I haven't read the previous books, but the premise is pretty easy to follow. In each book a kid is accidentally turned into a monster and must choose whether to remain a monster or turn back into a human. You know, typically decisions kids have to make these days.

This particular story is narrated by Norman, who is attacked in the woods and turns into a werewolf. Now our friend Norman has a pretty big decision to make. Spend the rest of his days hollowing at the full moon, or change back into a regular kid. The werewolf hunter who is making his way through the area should make Norman’s decision pretty easy, unless he doesn’t change back before he gets hunted down!

Friday, February 14, 2014

nothing like a catholic YA novel to make you feel romantic.

Gloria Jean has a lot going on for a fourteen year old girl. She’s facing the normal adolescent stuff like being curious about boys and dating, and being exposed to Sex Ed which is super confusing. She’s also beginning Confirmation classes like many do her age and then on top of all of her growing pains she’s diagnosed celiac disease, which causes her to totally revamp her diet, making it impossible for her to take Communion at her Catholic Church. Gloria Jean also has to delay her search for the perfect first kiss, because with celiac disease you have to stay away from germs. Which leads us to the title of Britt Leigh’s debut novel, Ten Commandments for Kissing Gloria Jean, she’s already smarter than I was at her age, I didn’t even have one commandment. Ultimately this is a charming story of a girl who is trying to understand God, herself, and where everything else in her teenage world fits in.

Win a FREE copy of Ten Commandments for Kissing Gloria Jean!
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3. Contest ends 3/10

Thursday, February 13, 2014

dollanganger series.

Flowers in the Attic is a 1979 novel by V.C. Andrews, and I am totally freaking out about it. Both my mother and grandmother read this first installment of the series years ago, and for some reason my grandmother decided to randomly begin the second book, Petals on the Wind, and when they were talking about it, I felt like I was missing out, so here we are.

Two beautiful blonde parents fell in love, got married, and had four beautiful blonde children. Their lives were pretty blissful; there was so much love and plenty to go around for everyone. Until the unthinkable happened. Chris, the father, got into a horrific car accident and died, leaving behind his extremely unprepared wife, Corrine, adolescents Christopher and Cathy and four-year-old twins Carrie and Cory. They had a lot of debt, so Corrine was forced to contact her parents who lived in Virginia whom she had a major falling out with when she married Chris. When she finally heard back from her mother, she told the children that their lives were going to change for the better under the current circumstances. For her parents were filthy rich and lived in a huge house. And Corrine had every intention of winning back her ill father’s affections so that she could inherit everything. So that THEY could inherit everything. The children believed in their mother, they trusted her to make the right decision, and off they went. Things started getting stranger and stranger as Cathy narrated their journey to Virginia, and how they were ushered in the grand mansion in the middle of the night, given one room with a bathroom attached, where they were expected to stay, and not come out. Their mother assured them that everything would be fine, but the next morning their evil grandmother came in with a basket full of food, a long list of rules, and locking the door behind her, giving the four children the impression that they wouldn’t be leaving that small room, for a long, long time.

This novel is very much a psychological thriller, although the author did allude to some of the awfulness that came about, I never actually expected it to happen! I never dreamed that…okay wait; I’m going to stop talking now.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

if you’re fat, if you’re sick, if you’re fat AND sick.

I never really looked past the calorie count on nutrition labels until I started dating manfriend. He is pretty psychotic about all things sugar, carb and honestly believes that high fructose corn syrup is the devil. We even buy a special kind of ketchup. He would be best buds with Doctor Robert H. Lustig who came out with a health resource titled Fat Chance: Beating the Odds Against Sugar, Processed Food, Obesity and Disease.

Dr. Lustig explains how different types of dietary fats/fatty acids affect the human body. Apparently, the energy metabolism of modern man is driven into imbalance through high levels of fructose, a double-sugar that is EVERYWHERE. In your fast food, in your soft drinks, even in your ketchup because it’s cheap! The doc also provides scientific evidence explaining the who, what, where, why, and how’s of the ever increasing obesity epidemic and its associated chronic diseases.
My mom recently started removing all processed food from her diet. She’s 51, so it’s not as easy for her to drop the pounds as it used to be, but just cutting out processed food alone helped her drop like 6 pounds so far, and she just started this as a New Year kind of thing. It’s pretty amazing what cutting out the crap can do. And if you’re looking to be more knowledgeable on the subject, then Fat Chance is absolutely the resource for

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

nom nom.

I haven’t converted fully to the paleo lifestyle, but I have been making a conscious effort to get that caveman style protein in my system. I just love hot fries too much. There are so many recipe books out there today that are making this lifestyle change super easy for everyone. However, Nom Nom Paleo: Food for Humans by Michelle Tam and Henry Fong is the paleo treasure that EVERYONE has been waiting for. Half of the 100+ recipes are from Michelle’s bestselling cooking app, the other half are brand new to even her biggest fans!

Included is an introduction to paleo for the beginners out there. I especially enjoy the section full of condiments and ideas to quickly and easily boost the flavors of your meal, I currently use hot fries for that. I’ve had to go a little out of my comfort zone with some of these recipes, as I’m a pretty simple eater who doesn’t like mushrooms unlike these authors, but so far so good. The Vietnamese lettuce cups and the Asian Cauliflower Fried "Rice" are favorites in my house. Manfriend is obsessed with the cauliflower, I cook it right up in coconut oil and he loves me more after.

Nom Nom Paleo is a memoir, cookbook, health resource, comic strip, all rolled into one. You’ll love it.

Monday, February 10, 2014

how being a decent human being does lead to the big bucks.

Educator and author Zeynep Ton has exposed the myth that companies need to pay their employees the least amount legally possible to make their companies profitable. The strategy of paying employees less and expecting more has actually proven to harm businesses. In her book, The Good Jobs Strategy, Ton gives multiple examples of businesses that operate under the “good jobs strategy” for example, Costco and Trader Joes, and are extremely successful. There is also ten years of research to back up every single one of her claims and strategies. Southwest Airlines, ranked super high yearly says it best: "We take great care of our people, they take great care of our customers, and our customers take great care of our shareholders." Well that sounds easy enough.

The point is that a company CAN turn a profit while paying employees a living wage and treating them like valued members of the enterprise, from the stock room to the cashiers. Get a load of this, Walmart.

Win a FREE copy of The Good Jobs Strategy!
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1. Follow this blog :)
2. E-mail your name and this book title to: to enter!
3. Contest ends 2/19

Friday, February 7, 2014

well this is sure to terrify some of my girlfriends.

Tanya Selvaratnam’s The Big Lie is about the realities of trying to get and stay pregnant when you wait beyond your most fertile years. This is a concern for a lot of women today who are getting married later and later in life, thus starting their families even later. Although Tanya has done an excellent job with her medical research on the subject of a woman’s biological clock, it is her personal story of her own fertility issues after 37 that make this book a real resource to women who are struggling to conceive. And to remind younger women that they need to begin planning their futures earlier than they might think.

My only issue with The Big Lie is the examples of women who were unaware that they would have fertility issues after 30, when I consider that common knowledge. I have girlfriends who are 33, being told by their OBG-YN’s that they need to get pregnant soon or they’re going to be out of luck. Who are these doctors who are telling their 37-year-old patients that they “have time”? They should lose their licenses.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

imaginative debut novel.

In John Dixon’s debut novel, Phoenix Island, our main character is a troubled teen named Carl Freeman. After his latest stunt that lands him into trouble, the judge offers 16-year-old orphaned Carl a chance to reform himself on Phoenix Island, a military style boot camp that is supposed to keep teens out of trouble until they turn 18. If he chooses the island, his record will be wiped clean, and as soon as he becomes a legal adult, he’s set to continue living his life. Sounds like a pretty good deal right? I mean, it’s the camp or jail.

Carl travels to the island determined stay out of trouble and be on his best behavior. Even when trying to be good, Carl still manages to piss off his drill sergeant, and realizes that he needs to watch his back. Because it doesn’t take long to discover that Phoenix Island is hiding something disturbing. They aren’t reforming troubled teenagers; they are actually training kids to become mercenaries and killers.

I can’t wait to bring in this rollercoaster ride for some of my hood rats at school.

Win a FREE copy of Phoenix Island!
Contest Rules:
1. Follow this blog :)
2. E-mail your name and this book title to: to enter!
3. Contest ends 2/12

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

a memoir about finding your way.

When her only child leaves for college, author Lynn Darling considers this the perfect time to contemplate her past roles as a mother, widow, etc. and figure out her next step. In her memoir Out of the Woods, Darling shares her story as she begins this new life. First, she decides to move away from her Manhattan condo full-time into a cottage she had bought some years ago in a very remote part of Vermont. Her goal is to come to terms with growing older and finding new purpose that fits her current empty nest situation.

When she decided to live off the grid, she had craved solitude. Darling soon realized that it was much lonelier than she expected. To solve this she decided to get a puppy, which had its own set of difficulties. Darling also shares her struggles with making friends with her new neighbors, confidently walking in the woods, fighting cancer, gaining her sense of direction, and making peace with her choices. Something in this memoir is sure to reach out and grab you middle aged bunch.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

an eye for hearts.

The ever so charming actress, Drew Barrymore who went from amateur photographer to pro over the last several years has come out with a small book of photographs titled Find it in Everything. Hearts are the main focus of this book, showing us that we can find love everywhere. In nature, on the street, in our homes, where we least expect it. Keep in mind that this isn’t an extremely sophisticated collection. However, it is artistic and very pleasing to the eye. You won’t be able to help looking at the world a little differently after viewing these 96 pages. 

If hearts are your thing, then this is the perfect photography book for your coffee table.

Monday, February 3, 2014

a philly area mystery.

Accused by Lisa Scottoline is part of the series featuring Rosato and Associates, an all-women law firm in Philadelphia. Mary DiNunzio has just been promoted to partner at the firm, cause for celebration in the office conference room. As the party is winding down, a potential client appears. Thirteen-year-old Allegra Garder, who is from an extremely prestigious family, wants to hire a law firm to investigate the real circumstances that surrounded the murder of her beloved, older sister Fiona. Although the murder happened six years ago, and appeared to be an open and shut case, Allegra's thirteenth birthday has given her some control of a trust fund, so she finally has the means to hire Rosato and Associates, but her parents fear she is obsessed by her sister's death and do everything they can to hinder the investigation.

On a sidebar, Mary’s hunky boyfriend Anthony has proposed, and with her promotion, and this crazy case that she can’t seem to turn down, has her feeling a bit overwhelmed. She’s got 99 problems and her man is definitely one. Accused is definitely a standalone novel for you newbies, and those who already love this series will not be disappointed.