Sunday, November 30, 2014

In My Mailbox


In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren.

FROM EDELWEISS:



The Intern by Gabrielle Tozer
The Spiritglass Charade (Stoker & Holmes #2) by Colleen Gleason
I'll Have What She's Having: My Adventures in Celebrity Dieting by Rebecca Harrington
Photobucket

Note: This post may contain Amazon affiliate links.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Review: Baby It's Cold Outside by Kerry Barrett


SUMMARY FROM NETGALLEY.COM:
For better or much, much worse...
Esme and Jamie have finally got their perfect wedding day planned. Beautiful snowy landscape – check. Amazing venue – check. Stunning dress – check.
But when an avalanche seals off their gorgeous mountain hometown from the outside world, their dream day starts to look more like a nightmare. Especially when Jamie’s ex turns up on their doorstep with a surprise neither of them expected!
Esme’s magical powers can solve a lot of problems, but it looks like their big day is doomed! Is Esme and Jamie’s wedding simply not meant to be, or can they still make it down the aisle, against all the odds?
MY TAKE:
I haven't read the other books in this series, so when I saw the blurb for this book, my first thought was "Oh, is Esme like Elsa in Frozen?"

In Baby It's Cold Outside, Esme and Jamie are finally getting married. However, Jamie's ex suddenly appears with a young boy in tow whom she claims is Jamie's son. Before things can get properly sorted out, an avalanche occurs, closing off the road that leads in and out of their town. This means that not only is Jamie's ex and son trapped with them, but a lot of their wedding supplies and suppliers won't be able to come. Can everything be fixed in time?

As it turns out, Esme and her family are witches and not an ice princess like Queen Elsa. On hindsight, not that surprising since the blurb does say "magical powers" and not "ice powers." So the whole book bears more of a resemblance to Bewitched than the beloved Disney movie. Not that I'm disappointed, though, as I enjoyed the book.

There were plenty of plot twists and spanners thrown in the works, but the book never felt dark or heavy. There was something about it, or maybe the characters, that made you feel like there really was nothing to worry about. It's clearly tailor-made for moments when you just want some light reading with a happy ending.

It's kind of funny, though, since the idea of your future spouse's ex popping up with a surprise child isn't exactly something that will inspire laughter in anyone. Esme's handling of the situation, as well as her feelings about everything, however, seemed realistic. Yes, some might say she had her selfish moments, but I felt that they were all within reason. That's probably why I liked Esme rather than was annoyed by her.

Esme's family was interesting as well. The family dynamics were fun to watch, and reading about all the things they did made me seriously consider moving to a small town for a little while just to see if it's as fun as they make it seem.

Thanks to NetGalley and Carina UK for the e-ARC.

THE GOOD:

  1. Esme's reactions were realistic.
  2. The secondary characters were all pretty likable.
  3. It makes living in a small town seem like a must-try experience. 

THE BAD:

  1. There are a lot of characters so you might get confused sometimes as to who those characters are. 

READ IT IF:

  1. You come from or are part of a non-traditional family.
  2. You like winter and everything associated with it.
  3. You like stories featuring tight-knit families.

RATING:
Photobucket

SOUNDS INTERESTING?

Photobucket

Note: This post may contain Amazon affiliate links.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Review: Lessons I Never Learned at Meadowbrook Academy by Liz Maccie


SUMMARY FROM NETGALLEY.COM:
"Liz Maccie's debut novel is as tough, optimistic, and beautiful as her heroine, Roberta Romano. Roberta's voice is heartfelt and funny. Her story is exceptionally moving and honest. I love this book and the hope it has for young women everywhere." —Stephen Chbosky, New York Times bestselling author of The Perks of Being a Wallflower
The most important lessons aren't learned in the classroom.
It’s the first day of sophomore year for Roberta Romano, but instead of the comfort of her local high school, she's been thrust into the elitist embrace of the affluent Meadowbrook Academy.
Surrounded by wealth, Roberta battles her own insecurities to prove her worth and maybe land the boy of her dreams. With the help of two unlikely allies—and an inflatable toy raft—Roberta embarks upon a journey of dark secrets and self-discovery to learn the true meaning of friendship and acceptance.

MY TAKE:
This is one of those books that I can objectively say is good, but at the same time, it didn't work for me.

In Lessons I Never Learned at Meadowbrook Academy, Roberta is sent to Meadowbrook Academy after doing some bad things at her old school, thanks to her only friend there. At first, Roberta hates her school, but as she bonds with two other misfits, she learns what true friendship really means.

The overall feel of the book reminds me of Mean Girls with just a hint of Girl, Interrupted. Everyone here has problems, some with bigger problems than others. It's realistic in the sense that everyone you meet has struggles, even if it's not obvious. Thus, there was sort of a dark cloud hovering over the book in the sense that the subject matter was pretty heavy.

There are plenty of lessons here, mostly about struggles and friendship, some about family and sacrifices, and a little bit about romance too. It's nice to see a YA book that was more about friendship and personal growth than romance.

I liked the secondary characters a lot. Mervin and Annie are both scarred, in their own ways, but it's hard to tell because they've managed to find coping mechanisms that work for them. Well, for the most part, anyway. The teachers at the school are quite interesting as well. They are more complex than the typical teachers you usually encounter in YA books these days.

I think my biggest problem with the book was Roberta herself. I understand that much of her problems and her attitude comes from her low self-esteem and her desperation to be accepted. However, it just rubs me the wrong way, even if I know that it's a perfectly logical reaction on her part. I guess it just comes across as extremely selfish to me. Thankfully, she does achieve some personal growth by the conclusion of the book, so in the end, she was okay by me.

I usually rate books by how much I enjoyed them, but occasionally I make exceptions for books that I think a lot of people might like even if I personally am not a fan. This book is in the latter category.

Thanks to NetGalley and Diversion Books for the e-ARC.

THE GOOD:

  1. It's about friendship, growth, and growing up.
  2. There are funny moments.
  3. The characters are relatively complex. 

THE BAD:

  1. The subjects discussed in the book give it a somber mood throughout. 

READ IT IF:

  1. You like books that are about more than just romance.
  2. You've been bullied.
  3. You feel like you're the only one who is suffering or struggling.

RATING:
Photobucket

SOUNDS INTERESTING?
Photobucket

Note: This post may contain Amazon affiliate links.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Review: The Babylon Contingency by Clifford Longley


SUMMARY FROM NETGALLEY.COM:
Investigating a burglary at an English country house, DCI Robbie Peele comes face to face with one of the most mysterious objects in world archaeology, the Phaestos Disk - and with a Middle Eastern terrorist cell determined to steal it. Why - and why are Mossad involved?. The vital clue is a long abandoned Muslim village in Crete, where terrible things happened more than a century ago, witnessed by a Victorian gentleman explorer who recorded what he saw in coded diaries. Seeking the truth about the Phaestos Disk, Peele and his assistant, Sarah Shipton, are on the cusp of solving the mystery when they are caught in an ancient Egyptian burial chamber during an earthquake. In the end Peele has to ask far harder questions than simply who did the original burglary - the answer to which infuriates him. What does the Phaestos Disk really say, in what language, and who made it? And why is the answer so dangerous to peace in the Middle East?
MY TAKE:
Over the years, I've greatly enjoyed books by Dan Brown and Steve Berry, and from the sound of the summary, this was my kind of book.

In The Babylon Contingency, DCI Peele is called to investigate a burglary at a Manor. While there, he spots another burglary in progress. As he and his colleagues continue the investigation, it becomes clear that this is no ordinary burglary. International organizations are interested in what the thieves are after, and what they represent, for one reason or another. Are DCI Peele and his team in over their heads?

I rather enjoyed the topic and theme of the book. The objects at the center of the novel are vital because of what they could mean to Islam, Judaism, Israel and Palestine, especially. It's not exactly a religion-centered novel. It's more equal parts archaelogy, politics and religion. That's why it helps to have at least a basic understanding of history or at least a cursory knowledge of recent events in the Middle East.

Today's media (news, movies, shows, etc.) tend to focus on extremists to the point that some people assume that all people from that religion or who look like they could be of that religion are automatically bad people. That's why I appreciate that this book makes it clear that there are moderates too and people who denounce what these extremists do in the name of their God. The book also has characters that are all for Christianity, Judaism and Islam coexisting peacefully, which I am all for.

The action starts off right away, but for me, the tension and suspense is at a simmer for most of the book, with occasional heat spikes here and there. It isn't until about 3/4th or 4/5th of the way through the book that the action boils over. I loved the plot twists at the end. I wasn't too sold on the villain, funnily enough, but everything else about this book was great for me. There are some things here, however, that may be controversial in the sense that authorities tend to deny they happen or downplay it, but personally, I think these things are possible, and not just in the conspiracy theory kind of way.

As for the characters, I liked DCI Peele and Douraid. DCI Peele, who also serves as the narrator, has the same sense of humor as I do and I liked that his tone was different from the other detectives I've read before. He's like Sam Spade but portrayed by Colin Firth, if that makes sense.

Thanks to NetGalley and Lion Fiction for the e-ARC.

THE GOOD:

  1. It doesn't demonize any religion.
  2. It's able to deftly mix archaeology, politics and diplomacy.
  3. It has an interesting premise.

THE BAD:

  1. Perhaps it's because I've been desensitized by watching CNN too much, but I didn't truly fear the main villain.

READ IT IF:

  1. You're fascinated by the Middle East and its politics.
  2. You've wondered if the events of the Bible could be real.
  3. You believe that religions can exist in harmony.

RATING:
Photobucket

SOUNDS INTERESTING?

Photobucket

Note: This post may contain Amazon affiliate links.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Winter Wolf by RJ Blain Book Blast

 Today, we have a book blast featuring Winter Wolf by RJ Blain.

Winter Wolf

Winter Wolf (Witch & Wolf Book 2) by R.J. Blain

The Hunted Wizard

When Nicole dabbled in the occult, she lost it all: Her voice, her family, and her name. Now on the run from the Inquisition, she must prove to herself—and the world—that not all wizards are too dangerous to let live.

The savage murder of a bookstore employee throws Nicole into the middle of Inquisition business, like it or not. Driven by her inability to save the young man’s life, she decides to hunt the killer on her own. Using forbidden magic to investigate the past, she learns that the murderer is in fact a disease that could kill the entire werewolf race.

Forced to choose between saving lives and preserving her own, Nicole embraces the magic that sent her into exile. Without werewolves, the power of the Inquisition would dwindle, and she could live without being hunted.

Nicole’s only hope for success lies in the hands of the werewolves she hates and the Inquisition she fears, but finding someone to trust is only the beginning of her problems. There are those who want to ensure that the werewolves go extinct and that the Inquisition falls.

But, if she fails to find a cure, her family—including her twin sister—will perish…


Excerpt

Almost everyone in the store had a phone. Dormant devices, from reading lights to mobile chargers, littered the tables. One woman, browsing books nearby, had four battery-powered devices in her purse. One was a phone, and like mine, it hungered. Its need was strong; its battery waned to the point of failure.

If I wanted, I could charge it for her.

No one would notice if I did. Maybe the woman would wonder how her phone hadn’t died before she got home. It only had a few minutes left. It’d take me all of ten seconds to fix it for her. If I did, I wouldn’t be so aware of it. But to do so, I’d have to touch her—or her phone. Some things I could manipulate without having a direct conduit, but cell phone batteries were tricky, greedy things.

I cringed a little, setting the thriller book down. I picked up the next nearest title. I flipped it over, not reading the text on the back. Did I dare? Out of the corner of my eye, I watched the woman browsing through the books. All it would take was a few seconds. I could charge it without her noticing.

That was one thing I was actually good at.

I put the novel I held down and wandered to the same table, careful not to look at her. Book by book, I investigated the titles, circling to where she stood.

“You’re Nicole Thomas, aren’t you? The actress. You’re her.” My quarry appraised me with a pleased expression.

People normally recognized the mainliners, people with beautiful faces and voices to match, people who didn’t avoid crowds.

In short, people other than me.

I met her gaze, abandoning my perusal of novels. “I am,” I replied, wincing a little at the sandpaper-rough quality of my voice. At least I hadn’t been reduced to a whisper—yet. My fatal flaw was my rough, grating voice. Chronic laryngitis did that to a person. It ruined careers, as it had mine, though I hadn’t quite given up on being an actress. I’d already lost the ability to sing.

I wasn’t going to let a stupid disease take everything away from me.

The woman smiled, not seeming to mind talking to someone who sounded more like a zombie than a human. “You’re taller than I expected. It’s a pleasure to meet you.”

She thrust out her hand.

We shook.

I left her phone alone.

“They keep putting me next to giants,” I quipped. It was true. When I did manage to get on the silver screen, I worked alongside actors easily a foot-and-a-half taller than me. “It’s a pleasure to meet you too.” I matched her smile. She didn’t tell me her name, and I didn’t ask for it.

It took all of my will not to fiddle with her phone. All it would take was a murmured word and a thought, and it’d be done. It would have been easy to charge the battery when our hands had been clasped together, but I hadn’t dared.

If, sometime later, she noticed her phone had magically been charged—literally—she might remember me. She knew my name.

And in true cowardice, I couldn’t bring myself to help her. If she connected the strange behavior of her phone with me, she might tell someone. If she did, I’d be as good as dead—or worse. I had dabbled in the occult, and the occult had dabbled back, and there were those who didn’t like when that happened.

The last thing I needed was them finding me.

Excerpt

I slammed my car’s door, spun on a heel, and swore I would have a perfectly normal visit to the mall. All I needed was one little book. Even I could walk into a bookstore, pick up a novel, and leave without causing any trouble.
This time, I wouldn’t blow out the lights. There wouldn’t be a single power surge. I wouldn’t turn on every unplugged device in the electronics store on my way across the mall. In the ten minutes it would take me to get in and out, the only thing anyone would notice about me was the fact that I wore a high-collared sweater in late summer. I had a mission, and I would complete it without fail. The novel my agent insisted I read would be mine.
For a long moment, I considered turning around and getting back into my car. Dominic would forgive me if I didn’t start reading the book until tomorrow. I could call in a favor and ask someone to pick up a copy for me. Then I definitely wouldn’t run any risk of blowing anything up. If I had been smart, I would’ve just ordered the damned thing on the internet, but I had waited too long.
Fishing my cell out of my pocket, I unlocked the screen with a swipe of my finger. The charging icon mocked me. Despite running every battery-draining app I could find, the battery held a full charge. I opened another app, a devilish program capable of killing the battery in ten minutes. It wouldn’t, not with me around, but if I was too busy keeping my phone topped up, maybe my mall shopping trip would prove to be mundane.
I shook my head, laughing at my foolishness.
No one would notice my phone. No one would notice me for more than a second. They’d notice my clothes, and then they’d file me away as yet another weirdo wearing something strange to catch attention. L.A. was full of people like that.
I had no reason to worry. Even if I managed to embarrass myself yet again by losing control of my powers, no one would know I was the cause of unplugged electronics turning on or unusual power surges.
Straightening my shoulders, I fixed my eyes on the line of glass doors and marched my way across the parking lot.
In and out. No blown lights. No power surges. No feeding power to unplugged electrical devices. No charging batteries for strangers. I was in control, and I would charge only my phone.
Making my way to the entry, I paused long enough to hold the door for a little old lady who insisted on making her way through the regular doors despite her walker. I couldn’t blame her. If I lived to be her age, I wouldn’t want to rely on automatic doors either.
She thanked me with a pat on the arm. Flashing her my best smile, I slipped inside.
Nothing happened.
Perfect.
I could handle ten minutes in the crowded corridors. Maybe if I told myself that enough times, I’d believe it.

Author RJ Blain

Author R.J. Blain

RJ Blain suffers from a Moleskine journal obsession, a pen fixation, and a terrible tendency to pun without warning.

When she isn't playing pretend, she likes to think she's a cartographer and a sumi-e painter. In reality, she herds cats and a husband. She is currently on a quest for a new warrior fish.

In her spare time, she daydreams about being a spy. Should that fail, her contingency plan involves tying her best of enemies to spinning wheels and quoting James Bond villains until she is satisfied.

Favorite Books & Series

In no particular order:

Anne McCaffrey's Pern
Mercedes Lackey's Valdemar & Gryphon Series
Jim Butcher's Codex Alera & The Dresden Files
Brandon Sanderson's Elantris
Patricia Briggs' Alpha and Omega, Dragon Bones, & The Mercy Thompson series
Madeline L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time

book blast button










Blast Giveaway

$100 Amazon Gift Card or Paypal Cash

Ends 12/16/14

Open only to those who can legally enter, receive and use an Amazon.com Gift Code or Paypal Cash. Winning Entry will be verified prior to prize being awarded. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 or older to enter or have your parent enter for you. The winner will be chosen by rafflecopter and announced here as well as emailed and will have 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen. This giveaway is in no way associated with Facebook, Twitter, Rafflecopter or any other entity unless otherwise specified. The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning. Giveaway was organized by Kathy from I Am A Reader, Not A Writer and sponsored by the author. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW.




Photobucket

Note: This post may contain Amazon affiliate links.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Teaser Tuesdays

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

I was watching the window so intently that I nearly missed the figure suddenly made visible in the shadows below by the flare of a match.

Photobucket

Note: This post may contain Amazon affiliate links.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Review: Clear the Clutter, Find Happiness One-Minute Tips for Decluttering and Refreshing Your Home and Your Life by Donna Smallin


SUMMARY FROM NETGALLEY.COM:
Finally, a way to get rid of the clutter -- and keep it away -- without making the process a full-time job! Organizing and cleaning expert Donna Smallin shows you how to enjoy the happy, healthy, inviting home you long for with hundreds of time-saving tips and solutions to your clutter and cleaning problems. Her approach is manageable and simple, helping you focus on the things that will make the biggest difference with the least amount of effort and time. You'll discover small, quick routines that will keep your spaces clean and clutter-free over time, as well as lots of things that you can do to introduce order and serenity in just one minute! Clear away the clutter once and for all, and enjoy the happiness you'll find hiding underneath!
MY TAKE:
This is probably one of the best cleaning-and-organizing-tips book out there.

In Clear the Clutter, Find Happiness One-Minute Tips for Decluttering and Refreshing Your Home and Your Life, cleaning and organizing tips are given out in little tidbits to make for easier digestion and follow through.

This format is perfect for me as I have a pretty short attention span and because each tip is pretty self-contained, you don't even have to read the whole book at once. You can just go through it one tip at a time, one per day, or just pick out a tip to try at random.

This book is part-self-help, part-motivation and part-how-to guide. It's got some pretty good tips and quotes. There are specific tips like how to clean microwaves and what to put in your cleaning caddy, but there are also tips that will make cleaning more enjoyable or at least feel less like a chore. For example, I like the idea of rewarding yourself for tasks and using the hot, warm or cold system when deciding where to put things.

The idea of using varying fonts, font size and page layout was a good idea too since it breaks the monotony and makes it feel less like a boring read.

Thanks to NetGalley and Storey Publishing, LLC. for the e-ARC.

THE GOOD:

  1. There are plenty of useful tips here.
  2. The presentation isn't boring.
  3. You don't have to read it in one go. 

THE BAD:

  1. If you do read it in one sitting, you may feel like the tips aren't grouped together in a particular way. 

FAVORITE QUOTE/S:
If it fits and makes you feel fabulous, hang it back up. It's a keeper.
READ IT IF:

  1. You need motivation for cleaning your house.
  2. You are looking for a book on organizing and cleaning tips that isn't boring to read.
  3. You want to be better organized but don't know where to start.

RATING:
Photobucket

SOUNDS INTERESTING?

Photobucket

Note: This post may contain Amazon affiliate links.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

In My Mailbox


In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren.

FROM NETGALLEY:



The Rosie Effect: A Novel by Graeme Simsion
The Magical Animal Adoption Agency, Book 1 Clover's Luck by Kallie George
Lessons I Never Learned at Meadowbrook Academy by Liz Maccie
Photobucket

Note: This post may contain Amazon affiliate links.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Review: The Good Girl's Guide to Bad Boys by Katie Hart


SUMMARY FROM NETGALLEY.COM:
When feisty break dancer Andrea left for university, she thought she was ready to step into the real world. But she wasn’t prepared for meeting her new neighbour, Hunter.
Arrogant, dangerous and a bit too sexy, Hunter’s everything Andrea knows she should resist…and can’t.
But when she gets swept up into Hunter’s dark, mysterious family, it seems that falling for a seductive rebel might not be all it’s cracked up to be. Is this good girl really ready to take on a bad boy?
Wattpad sensation Katie Hart is the queen of bad boys! Her debut, The Good Girl's Guide to Bad Boys, is perfect for fans of Kirsty Moseley.

MY TAKE:
If The Godfather and Step Up movies had a British book for a child, it would be this book.

In The Good Girl's Guide to Bad Boys, Andy is starting her first year at university. With costs being high at student housing, she decides to share an apartment with Hunter, who had no idea she was a girl when he agreed for her to be his roommate. Sparks fly between the two, and soon enough a romance between them begins. Hunter, however, is not an ordinary guy and he and his family's activities could put Andy in danger.

As I wrote earlier, this book reminded me at first of the Step Up movies, then later on by The Godfather books and movies. Honestly, with a lot more dancing, this could be the plot of a much darker and more adult Step Up movie.

The story starts relatively light-hearted, with some dancing, descriptions of university life, and the heating up of Hunter and Andy's romance. As more of Hunter's past is revealed, the story starts to head down the thriller/action-adventure path.

Hunter is much more of a bad boy than I originally thought. By that, I mean, he's not just a rebel without a cause. He's not evil, though. If you've read The Godfather or you've seen the movie, he's more early Michael Corleone than Sonny.

Andy, on the other hand, is as advertised. She is quite feisty and says what's on her mind. When I started to get distracted by the number of times the word "smirk(ed)" was used, I tried to picture an actor and actress playing Hunter and Andy. The actress who came to mind immediately was Caitlin Stasey, who plays Kenna on Reign. Naturally, Hunter, in my mind, became Torrance Coombs, who plays Bash on Reign.

The constant banter between Hunter and Andy actually reminds me of Kenna and Bash during the early stages of their relationship. Even some of their sweeter moments vaguely reminds me of some scenes between Kenna and Bash when they got things sorted out between them. Really, if you liked Hunter and Andy's relationship, and you haven't seen Reign, go watch Reign.

The only thing that I wasn't too sure of is the ending. It was a logical ending, but it left me feeling a little cold. Maybe you'll feel differently?

Thanks to NetGalley and Carina UK for the e-copy.

THE GOOD:

  1. Andy and Hunter's romance was pretty hot.
  2. It's not your typical romance story.
  3. Andy can be pretty funny. 

THE BAD:

  1. It was a lot darker than I thought it would be. 

READ IT IF:

  1. You liked The Godfather.
  2. You like bad boys with a good heart.
  3. You like feisty heroines. 

RATING:
Photobucket

SOUNDS INTERESTING?

Photobucket

Note: This post may contain Amazon affiliate links.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Review: Cooking Allergy-Free: Simple Inspired Meals for Everyone by Jenna Short


SUMMARY FROM NETGALLEY.COM:
Jenna Short is on a mission--to help home cooks create meals that are safe--and delicious--for anyone who suffers from food allergies or who follows a special diet. As a caterer who specializes in events suitable for those who choose a gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan, or kosher lifestyle, Jenna knows it's not easy to meet these different needs at the same time. In Cooking Allergy-Free, Jenna comes to the rescue, with 150 recipes that are suitable for weeknight cooking as well as entertaining. Each recipe is free of one or more of the most popular food allergens--wheat, milk, eggs, nuts, shellfish, fish, soy and corn--easily identified by colorful icons, and includes substitutions to convert the recipe for other allergens. Icons also indicate recipes appropriate for those who follow a gluten-free, vegetarian, or vegan diet.
Jenna's collection of recipes include starters, soups, salads, main dishes, sides, desserts, and breads. Sample the Mustard Raisin Marmalade on Toasted Crostini, Moroccan Stuffed Tomatoes, Rosemary Skillet Chicken with Mushrooms and Potatoes, Sloppy Joes, Sweet and Sour Meatballs, Blackened Fish Tacos with Guacamole and Cilantro-Lime Slaw, Blueberry Lemon Crumble Pie, Mini Fudge Brownie Bites, Granola Bars, and more. With Cooking Allergy-Free in hand, you'll discover flavorful, easy-to-make dishes that aren't off limits.
Menu suggestions for setting up a kitchen to be allergen-friendly, and essentials for stocking your pantry will make Cooking Allergy-Free your most trusted source for delicious cooking.

MY TAKE:
This is, quite possibly, the best cookbook I've read all year.

Cooking Allergy-Free: Simple Inspired Meals for Everyone contains recipes for starters, soups & salads, mains, sides, desserts, breads & breakfasts, and dressings, sauces & dips that have modified to have as few allergy-inducing ingredients as possible. The first part of the book contains discussions about allergies versus food sensitivity, vegetarianism versus veganism, things to stock in your pantry, among others.

There are several things I liked about the book. First, of course, are the Pinterest-worthy food pictures. If you weren't hungry when you started reading this, by the time you're halfway through, you're probably going to be heading to the kitchen to get a snack.

I also liked that each recipe had serving sizes, nutritional information and icons for easy reference of which allergens aren't in them. Some of the recipes also had variations (what you can remove or change in order to address another allergy), as well as cook tips and wine pairing suggestions.

The last part of the book contains suggestions for menu combinations given certain occasions or themes like Asian Feast, Gluten-Free Menu, and New Year's Brunch. The idea to arrange the recipes in the index by allergen was pretty smart too.

At the moment, since it's the end of the week, my pantry isn't well-stocked so cooking from the book will have to wait. I did spot a few recipes I wanted to try, though. These are: Israeli Meatballs with Tahini Glaze, Grilled Chicken with Pistachio Pesto, Rosemary Skillet Chicken with Mushrooms and Potatoes, Garlic Mashed Potatoes, and Peanut Butter Huhus.

Thanks to NetGalley and Taunton Press for the e-ARC.

THE GOOD:

  1. There's a wide variety of recipes.
  2. It's easy to see which recipes don't have certain allergens.
  3. The food photography is superb. 

THE BAD:

  1. There were some recipes that looked a little intimidating for beginners. 

READ IT IF:

  1. Someone in your family has allergies.
  2. You have diet restrictions.
  3. You want to eat healthier. 

RATING:
Photobucket

SOUNDS INTERESTING?

Photobucket

Note: This post may contain Amazon affiliate links.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Review: The Littlest Pet Shop by Georgia Ball and Nico Peña


SUMMARY FROM NETGALLEY.COM:
Join Russell, Penny, Blythe, and all of the pets for these brand-new adventures based on the hit animated TV series and toy line.
MY TAKE:
I don't think I've ever actually seen the TV show, but I couldn't resist giving this a try anyway.

In The Littlest Pet Shop, readers join Blythe and the different pets that stay at The Littlest Pet Shop on their adventures.

This book contains 10 (if I counted correctly) stories. Most of the stories focus on the pets, but there's one story, plus several other subplots that focus on Blythe.

One good thing about this comic is that even if you haven't seen the show or aren't familiar with the toy line, it's easy enough to learn and remember who the different pets are.

The stories are all pretty amusing and fun to read. My favorite, though, is the one that had Blythe doing a Great Gatsby class project with the Biskit twins. The ending to that story was a little unexpected but definitely made me smile.

The book makes use of vibrant colors and illustrations that wouldn't be out of place in those Disney comics magazines I used to read when I was a kid. That's a good thing, though, since kids tend to be drawn to this style.

Thanks to NetGalley and IDW Publishing for the e-ARC.

THE GOOD:

  1. The pets have some funny lines.
  2. The illustrations are eye-catching.
  3. You don't have to be a fan of the series to enjoy this. 

THE BAD:

  1.  I would have preferred more stories featuring Blythe.

FAVORITE QUOTE/S:
And how about those people who talk to themselves, amiright? I like to play a little game I call "Cuckoo or Bluetooth?" 
READ IT IF:

  1. You're a fan of The Littlest Pet Shop.
  2. You've always wanted to talk to animals.
  3. You like watching cartoons. 

RATING:
Photobucket

SOUNDS INTERESTING?

Photobucket

Note: This post may contain Amazon affiliate links.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Review: SHERLOCK HOLMES The Hound of the Baskervilles (Dover Graphic Novel Classics) by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle


SUMMARY FROM NETGALLEY.COM:
The intrepid detective and his faithful assistant take on a supernatural challenge in one of Arthur Conan Doyle's most popular mysteries. This graphic novel's original illustrations accompany an easy-to-read account of Holmes and Watson's investigation of a family curse. Readers will be irresistibly drawn into the search for a giant spectral hound that haunts the fog-shrouded moors.
This Dover Graphic Novel Classic offers readers ages 8 and up an exciting introduction to a time-honored tale. Expertly abridged and packed with dramatic illustrations, this version offers a streamlined narrative that retains all of the storytelling essentials.

MY TAKE:
I'm a Sherlock Holmes fan so I'm always eager to read adaptations and any sort of material about Sherlock Holmes.

SHERLOCK HOLMES The Hound of the Baskervilles is the abridged version of the Sherlock Holmes story The Hound of the Baskervilles. The story is recreated in graphic novel form so it reads like a comic book.

As you can see from the cover image, the book isn't colored in. There's a note in the book saying "The evocative illustrations enable colorists to vividly bring this compelling story to life by using crayons, colored pencils or markers." If you're the type who likes coloring in picture books, or if graphic novels or comics never seem to be to your liking, then you'll probably enjoy reading and coloring in this book.

Personally, I like seeing what the colorists do. I don't know if it's because the novel was just in black and white but the illustration style wasn't my style at all. Perhaps I would have liked it more if it were in color.

The Hound of the Baskervilles was the first Sherlock Holmes story I ever read so I already knew how the story would turn out. Obviously, descriptions are richer and emotions are clearer in the original, but this book is still true to the original, and since it's a graphic novel, it's easy to see what is happening.

Thanks to NetGalley and Dover Publications for the e-ARC.

THE GOOD:

  1. All the important elements of the story are present.
  2. It's easy to follow the story.
  3. You can decide for yourself how you would like to color in the characters and settings.

THE BAD:

  1. The lack of color feels noticeable. 

FAVORITE QUOTE/S:
We are both men of science, doctor. This is nought but a fairy tale.
READ IT IF:

  1. You want to introduce your child to Sherlock Holmes.
  2. Your child prefers coloring books to actual novels.
  3. Your child likes reading comic books. 

RATING:
Photobucket

SOUNDS INTERESTING?
Photobucket

Note: This post may contain Amazon affiliate links.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Teaser Tuesdays

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

Just keep in mind that the substitute you choose may effect the flavor of the dish, so be sure to taste your food-- you may need to add a bit more salt, sugar, or lemon juice.

Photobucket

Note: This post may contain Amazon affiliate links.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Review: The Fine Art of Pretending by Rachel Harris


SUMMARY FROM NETGALLEY.COM:
According to the guys at Fairfield Academy, there are two types of girls: the kind you hook up with, and the kind you're friends with. Seventeen-year-old Alyssa Reed is the second type. And she hates it. With just one year left to change her rank, she devises a plan to become the first type by homecoming, and she sets her sights on the perfect date-Justin Carter, Fairfield Academy's biggest hottie and most notorious player. With 57 days until the dance, Aly launches Operation Sex Appeal and sheds her tomboy image. The only thing left is for Justin actually to notice her. Enter best friend Brandon Taylor, the school's second biggest hottie, and now Aly's pretend boyfriend. With his help, elevating from funny friend to tempting vixen is only a matter of time. But when everything goes according to plan, the inevitable break up leaves their friendship in shambles, and Aly and Brandon with feelings they can't explain. And the fake couple discovers pretending can sometimes cost you the one thing you never expected to want.
MY TAKE:
My excitement to read this book came from the fact that it combines two of my favorite tropes: best friends becoming something more and pretend relationships becoming real relationships.

In The Fine Art of Pretending, Ashley has spent the first three years of high school as a bit of a tomboy and the kind of girl that you date long-term rather than just hook up with. She gets it into her head, however, that maybe becoming the hook-up kind of girl would mean that she finally gets guys to notice her and think of her as someone worth dating. After getting a makeover from her friends, she enlists her best friend Brandon to be her pretend boyfriend. Guys do end up noticing her, but as time goes by, her relationship with Brandon becomes more and more complicated.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. It wasn't the deepest or most thought-provoking YA book I've read, but it was certainly a lot of fun and it definitely delivered in terms of romance.

There have been plenty of books, movies, etc., that feature best friends falling in love with each other. There have also been plenty of books, movies, etc. that have characters pretending to be in a relationship only for them to actually develop feelings for each other. Despite the many permutations of these tropes I've seen, this book still manages to be sweet and entertaining. The fact that this is the kind of book with an ending you've probably predicted before you even started doesn't take away from the story itself.

The story alternates between Aly's and Brandon's points-of-view. This allows us to see the thoughts of both characters and helps us know what they're thinking and fuels the urge to cheer them on.

While I found Aly irritating at first due to her insistence that dressing risque and hooking up will result in a better life experience for her, eventually I warmed up to her and started sympathizing with her. Brandon, on the other hand, was a sweet guy whom I liked from the get-go. He gets jealous several times and pretty protective/possessive, but personally, as long as he isn't the "don't-be-friends-with-him-anymore"-type, aka the controlling type, it's actually pretty cute.

I also liked Aly's friend Gabi and Brandon's friend Carlos. Those two are great together but didn't get as much page time as I'd hoped. If the author decides to write a sequel featuring Gabi and Carlos, I would definitely read it.

Thanks to NetGalley and Spencer Hill Contemporary for the e-ARC.

THE GOOD:

  1. The chemistry between Aly and Brandon is practically palpable.
  2. There were plenty of laugh-out-loud moments.
  3. The author managed to turn possibly cliche moments into something that felt genuine.

THE BAD:

  1. Aly's quest isn't really a good plan. 

FAVORITE QUOTE/S:
Say all you want about guys, but I've learned the way to a girl's heart is through her stomach. Especially when French fries or chocolate are involved.
READ IT IF:

  1. You like stories where best friends become more than friends.
  2. You like stories wherein the main characters in a pretend relationship actually fall in love.
  3. You have feelings for your best friend. 

RATING:
Photobucket

SOUNDS INTERESTING?
Photobucket

Note: This post may contain Amazon affiliate links.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

In My Mailbox


In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren.

FROM NETGALLEY:



The Fine Art of Pretending by Rachel Harris
The Good Girl's Guide to Bad Boys by Katie Hart
The Babylon Contingency by Clifford Longley
Photobucket

Note: This post may contain Amazon affiliate links.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Review: The Top 10 Most Outrageous Couples of the Bible: And How Their Stories Can Revolutionize Your Marriage by David Clarke


SUMMARY FROM NETGALLEY.COM:
Improve your marriage—and have some fun along the way—with Christian psychologist David Clarke’s latest book, The Top 10 Most Outrageous Couples of the Bible. Drawing on the stories of Adam and Eve, Abraham and Sarah, Jacob and Rachel and Leah (yeah, one guy with two wives), and several others, Clarke provides both biblical teaching and real-life counseling expertise to help you see what will work—and not work—in your marriage today. Written with plenty of humor, The Top 10 Most Outrageous Couples of the Bible proves that “outrageous” isn’t a bad thing—as Clarke says, “It’s not always pretty. But it’s always powerful.”
MY TAKE:
The simplest way for me to describe this book is "a do-it-yourself couples therapy guide and workbook."

In The Top 10 Most Outrageous Couples of the Bible: And How Their Stories Can Revolutionize Your Marriage, the author discusses various couples found in the Bible and what husbands and wives can learn from both their good and their bad behaviors. The couples' stories serve as a starting point for discussions on how to improve yourself and your marriage.

Like most Christian relationship advice books I've read, the book mentions putting God in the center of your relationship. However, that's only a small part of the book. The focus of the book are the things that husbands and wives can do individually and as a couple to better themselves and their relationship.

The author is a psychologist with extensive experience and it shows. Some people may say he makes generalizations which may or may not be fair. Personally, though, he says a number of things that are applicable or similar to how my husband and I are like during both our good and bad moments.

There are plenty of useful tips, steps and suggestions here. Some of them may feel difficult to do, but if you really want to change for the better, it's probably not as hard as you think it is. One example is Couple Talk Time. When you don't have kids, you probably still have time to do this, but if you have kids, especially young kids who need your attention a lot, it becomes harder to feel like you can make the time for it.

One of the parts I enjoyed most was the discussion on divorce. The author doesn't believe in divorce even though he acknowledges that there are a couple of biblical reasons for divorce (adultery and physical desertion). He lists several reasons couples or individuals have given him over the years and his usual response to these reasons. I found his responses on point. Of course, in my country, these responses won't even matter that much, since the Philippines is only one of two countries (the other is Vatican City) that doesn't allow married couples to divorce. What we do have is annulment and legal separation. Annulments are tricky, though, and if you are only legally separated, you're not allowed to remarry. There are congressmen who have tried to introduce divorce bills, but so far they haven't prospered.

Anyway, back to the book. I found the book to be entertaining and funny. The author managed to turn what could have been a boring and dry topic into something interesting, practical and accessible to every Christian.

Thanks to NetGalley and Shiloh Run Press for the e-copy.

THE GOOD:

  1. There's plenty of good advice and tips here.
  2. The anecdotes of Dave and Sandy's married life is always interesting.
  3. The author makes a lot of good points. 

THE BAD:

  1. It's more of a couples book than something for just one individual. 

FAVORITE QUOTE/S:
After one month of doing everything, Sandy opened her mouth andsaid the four words that turna husband's insides to jelly: "We need to talk."
READ IT IF:

  1. You feel like your marriage could be improved upon.
  2. You feel disappointed in your spouse.
  3. You are engaged or newly married.

RATING:
Photobucket

SOUNDS INTERESTING?
Photobucket

Note: This post may contain Amazon affiliate links.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Review: Every Ugly Word by Aimee Salter


SUMMARY FROM NETGALLEY.COM:
When seventeen-year-old Ashley Watson walks through the halls of her high school, bullies taunt and shove her. She can't go a day without fighting with her mother. And no matter how hard she tries, she can't make her best friend, Matt, fall in love with her. But Ashley also has something no one else does: a literal glimpse into the future. When Ashley looks into the mirror, she can see her twenty-three-year-old self.
Her older self has been through it all already--she endured the bullying, survived the heartbreak, and heard every ugly word her classmates threw at her. But her older self is also keeping a dark secret: Something terrible is about to happen to Ashley. Something that will change her life forever. Something even her older self is powerless to stop.
Perfect for fans of Thirteen Reasons Why and The List, Every Ugly Word is a gripping and emotional story about the devastating consequences of bullying.
This is a new release of the previously self-published title Breakable.

MY TAKE:
When it came time to decide what to rate this book, I was torn between giving it 4 stars or 5 stars.

In Every Ugly Word, Ashley Watson is bullied relentlessly at her high school. Her only solace is her best friend Matt, her art, and an older version of herself that she speaks with through her mirror. Her older self knows something big is coming soon, but won't tell Ashley. Is there still any hope for her?

If there was one word I would use to describe this book, it's "raw." Not raw, as in unfinished, although there were moments and characters that didn't feel polished or real to me. By raw, I mean the emotions are real and heartwrenching and "unpretty" in the best possible way. That's why, after a bit of reflection, I decided to give this book five stars.

The story shifts from an older Ashley Watson to the 17-year-old Ashley Watson. The older Ashley starts to recount, or reacts to, the experiences of her seventeen-year-old self to a therapist while the younger Ashley lives through it in the next scene. It's probably not the neatest sounding thing, but it serves the story's purpose and the biggest plot twist. Although that particular plot twist was more magical than realistic, the rest of the story does feel real, like it really is someone's story.

There were several scenes near the end that brought me to tears. I was bullied in high school and there was one particular scene (the one with the vandalized art) that brought back some major feelings. I don't know if these scenes would have a similar effect on people who weren't bullied, but speaking from experience, it does make you feel what Ashley is feeling.

I liked the ending, even though it was expected. It was a nice way to end a story on a positive and hopeful note.

Thanks to NetGalley and Alloy Entertainment for the e-copy.

THE GOOD:

  1. It's raw and real.
  2. It has a positive message.
  3. Ashley can be irritating at first, but she'll grow on you.  

THE BAD:

  1. There were a couple of characters that felt cliched. 

READ IT IF:

  1. You've been bullied before.
  2. You are being bullied now.
  3. Your child is being bullied. 

RATING:
Photobucket

SOUNDS INTERESTING?

Photobucket

Note: This post may contain Amazon affiliate links.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...