Thursday, April 16, 2015

Review: Trisha's Table

Trisha's Table: My Feel-Good Favorites for a Balanced LifeTrisha's Table: My Feel-Good Favorites for a Balanced Life by Trisha Yearwood
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is my first Trisha Yearwood cookbook. I really enjoy her show on the Food Network so I was eager to check this out. Overall, this is a good cookbook, not great but quite good.

The book itself is constructed very well - the photos are fantastic as is the design. I do wish every recipe had a photo but most of them do in this cookbook. The quality is high on the production of this cookbook. It looks and feels great.

Although there were quite a few recipes that I liked, there were more that didn't appeal to me. I was hoping for something that I didn't find ... I liked that they are fairly simple and easy recipes. But, nothing really jumped out at me as I looked through it. I found it to be more basic in its approach so perhaps it's better for those who aren't as experienced in cooking.

But, I do think it's worth checking out if you're a Trisha fan and enjoy her style of food (from her show). It's not a bad cookbook but it just wasn't what I was hoping for.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Blog Tour, Giveaway & Revie: The One That Got Away by Bethany Chase



Publication Date: March 31, 2015
Publisher: Ballantine Books

Synopsis:

Perfect for fans of Emily Giffin and Jennifer Weiner, this bright, funny debut from a fresh voice in fiction offers a delicious take on love, family, and what it means to build a home of one’s own.

Sarina Mahler thinks she has her life all nailed down: a growing architecture practice in Austin, Texas, and an any-day-now proposal from her loving boyfriend, Noah. She’s well on her way to having the family she’s hoped for since her mother’s death ten years ago. But with Noah on a temporary assignment abroad and retired Olympic swimmer—and former flame—Eamon Roy back in town asking her to renovate his new fixer-upper, Sarina’s life takes an unexpected turn. Eamon proves to be Sarina’s dream client, someone who instinctively trusts every one of her choices—and Sarina is reminded of all the reasons she was first drawn to him back in the day. Suddenly her carefully planned future with Noah seems a little less than perfect. And when tragedy strikes, Sarina is left reeling. With her world completely upended, she is forced to question what she truly wants in life—and in love.

Full of both humor and heartbreak, The One That Got Away is the story of one woman’s discovery that, sometimes, life is what happens when you leave the blueprints behind.

About the Author:

A native of Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, Bethany Chase headed to Williams College for an English degree and somehow came out the other side an interior designer. When she’s not writing or designing, you can usually find her in a karaoke bar. She lives with her lovely husband and occasionally psychotic cat in Brooklyn, three flights up. This is her first novel.

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Giveaway:

If you're interested in a chance to win a free copy of this book, please go here!

My review:

What a wonderful novel! The original description that I read indicated that it might be a good book for fans of Emily Giffen and Jennifer Weiner which drew me in as I love Emily Giffen, in particular. Given this is a debut novel, I was hesitant that this one would have a lot of the problems that I often find in debuts but this one is a solid effort! I honestly COULD NOT PUT THIS DOWN! It was so fantastic! The story was charming, heartwarming, funny and entertaining!

I loved the characters and how Bethany Chase brought them all alive on the page. They felt like flesh and blood to me. I could relate to them and what they were experiencing. The pacing of the novel was really good - building interest and intrigue. Overall, I felt that Bethany Chase took a fairly common romance plot and improved it! She made it funny, endearing and charming! I really enjoyed this story so much and cannot wait to see what Bethany Chase has in store for us in the future! If this book is any indication, I suspect she is going to be added to my list of favorite contemporary romance authors! Really enjoyed this and definitely recommend it!

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

NOTE: I received this book via e-gallery from the publisher for an honest review!

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Review: Clean Slate by Martha Stewart

Clean Slate: A Cookbook and Guide: Reset Your Health, Detox Your Body, and Feel Your BestClean Slate: A Cookbook and Guide: Reset Your Health, Detox Your Body, and Feel Your Best by Martha Stewart
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I was really hopeful about this cookbook but it wasn't quite what I was expecting based on the description. Although I think this cookbook offers a lot, particularly to those interested in healthy eating and increasing whole foods in your diet. There are a lot of resources in the book that can help clarify and educate the reader on all things whole foods. The book itself is well made with nice, heavy pages and contains great photographs of the food. I really like that there are photos for almost all of the recipes in the cookbook which is always a plus for me. All in all, I recommend this to those who are serious about whole foods and healthy eating, particularly those interested in a comprehensive resource, including recipes.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Mini Reviews, Romance & A General Update

Hi everyone! I have been reading a TON but I haven't been posting a lot of detailed reviews because I've been reading primarily what I'd consider chick lit or romance novels which are a lot of fun and easy to read but there typically isn't a ton to reflect on or note in a review.  I've had a lot of stuff going on and I have just needed some light reading to escape from the busyness of life! But, I thought I'd do a post here to share what I have been reading (in case you also need something more lighthearted and fun to read) lately ...  quick note: I just checked and I've already read 53 books in 2015. That is a ton considering we're just in mid-March at this point!

My romance/chick-lit focus began with the 50 Shades trilogy because I really felt like I couldn't be critical of a series unless I'd actually read them ... so I jumped in and have basically read almost all romance since mid-February.

Mini Reviews -

NOTE: Although I'm not rating the Fifty Shades trilogy very high, I do understand why they are so beloved to some - the story really is engaging. My ratings are more focused on the actual writing of the books which I just don't think is good! I will say that I was drawn into the story and if I ignore the glaring annoyances - the bad writing, the inner goddess crap, etc - I can completely understand why so many love this series. I should also mention that I do not, in any way, think that these books glorify abuse in any way whatsoever. In fact, just the opposite. I think it's clear in the novels that Ana is the one with the power and any of the sexual experiences that they share in the novels were completely consensual and in no way abusive. Is Christian obsessive of Ana? Um, yes. But she pushes back on that aspect of his personality time and time again ... she is in no way his victim. Anyway, enough commentary. I just wanted to be clear that I'm not saying they are horrible stories - just poorly written stories, which is kind of sad because I can see the potential in the trilogy.

Fifty Shades of Grey (Fifty Shades, #1)Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I was talking about this book and someone asked me if I'd read it and I realized that I should read it before I comment on it.

Well, the first time I started it, I gave up in 3 pages because the writing is sooooo bad. And then I tried again. And I stuck through it and finished it. It's just not a well written book. It's silly, repetitive, unrealistic and poorly developed. I have to believe that there are better written novels about this BSDM topic. Not my kind of thing so I have no recommendations but I have to believe THIS isn't the best in the genre. I totally get why some women might like the idea of a Christian and this whole thing. But, I really struggled with this one - it's just not good.

I will, however, watch the film ... mostly because I'm a huge fan of Jamie Dornan and I'm interested to see what he can do with this material. I wasn't interested until he became attached to it. I'm not going to the theater ,.. I will wait until its on cable but I will see it. I'm doubting I'll read more of these.

NOTE: I did indeed see the movie after all and I actually really loved it. I think it was MUCH better written than the novel was and I think the casting was spot on! Jamie Dornan just BECAME Christian for me and I think Dakota Johnson was just adorable and funny. Many of the bad reviews of the movie must be by people who did not read the book - I keep hearing how wooden Jamie was but I thought he portrayed Christian exactly as he was written in the novels. Anyway, I was surprised how much I liked the movie!

Fifty Shades Darker (Fifty Shades, #2)Fifty Shades Darker by E.L. James
My rating: 1 of 5 stars



See notes above ...





Fifty Shades Freed (Fifty Shades, #3)Fifty Shades Freed by E.L. James
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

See notes above ...







Slammed (Slammed, #1)Slammed by Colleen Hoover
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Oh Colleen Hoover! You are killing me! Yet another wonderful novel that made me cry like a baby! I read it in one sitting.





Bared to You (Crossfire, #1)Bared to You by Sylvia Day
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Ugh! I only read this as someone told me I might like it better than 50 Shades as it was written better. Yeah, not so much. In fact, I think 50 Shades was far superior to this one, despite it's flaws. At least I somewhat bought the Christian/Ana relationship. This entire book felt like a rip-off of the 50 Shades story. And it wasn't even a good one. And the writing was just as bad, just different. I'm still looking for more decently written and well told romance ... This was not it.

 Maybe Someday (Maybe, #1)Maybe Someday by Colleen Hoover
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Yet another really great book. It was a quick read but had a great deal of emotional punch! Colleen Hoover really knows how to write a compelling story!





 Beautiful Disaster (Beautiful, #1)Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Another easy read - I liked this one but didn't love it. These easy to read romances are hitting the spot lately!





Anna and the French Kiss (Anna and the French Kiss, #1)Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What a pleasant surprise this book was ... very well written, well constructed, good character development, there was humor and good dialogue. Can't complain one bit! A nice little romance!




One Plus OneOne Plus One by Jojo Moyes
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

It took me a really long time to get into this book and care at all about the characters and their journey.I think this one suffered from my having read Me Before You prior to this one. It just isn't as good as that one ... at all. But, in the end, this one was a good book that I enjoyed. I just wish I'd been engaged earlier in the story and the characters as it would have been more impactful!



Lola and the Boy Next Door (Anna and the French Kiss, #2)Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins
My rating: 4 of 5 stars









Isla and the Happily Ever After (Anna and the French Kiss, #3)Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins
My rating: 4 of 5 stars









 ConfessConfess by Colleen Hoover
My rating: 4 of 5 stars









The Devil in Denim (New York Saints, #1)The Devil in Denim by Melanie Scott
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Really enjoyed this sports focused romance.








 Angel in Armani (New York Saints, #2)Angel in Armani by Melanie Scott
My rating: 4 of 5 stars










 Seeing Me NakedSeeing Me Naked by Liza Palmer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This little book really surprised me - it was a light read but not at all simple. There was complexity and character development in this one that stands out among similar books!




 Nowhere But HomeNowhere But Home by Liza Palmer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really enjoyed this novel. Although it's a light read, there was a lot of complexity in this one. Very compelling story and multi-faceted characters. I really enjoyed how this explored themes of home, family and identity. Definitely recommend.



Ok, I think that's it for now. Sorry for the long post but I did want to share some of my recent reads in case you were interested in the whole romance genre and trying something new. I think that reading romance is really about finding what works for you and what doesn't. I've been pleasantly surprised by how much really good storytelling is in the genre ... I think I had some negative connotations with the whole 'romance' thing. It's been nice to discover that there is quite a bit of romance that I really do enjoy!

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Review: All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

All the Bright PlacesAll the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wow! This book blew me away! This is some of the most well-written and brilliantly conceived young adult fiction that I've read. So good.

It's a novel about mental health, adolescence, suicide, friendship and grief. And it's amazing! I have lost two people to suicide and I am very aware of the messiness that surrounds it. And I feel this novel handles both mental health and suicide so effectively and honestly.

One of my favorite quotes from the novel captures it's take on mental health so well ... As someone who suffers from depression, this quote particularly resonated with me.
It's my experience that people are a lot more sympathetic if they can see you hurting, and for the millionth time in my life I wish for measles or smallpox or some other easily understood disease just to make it easier on me and also on them.
The relationships in the book felt very honest and real. The novel made me feel raw and emotionally impacted beyond what I typically feel. I suspect Finch will be a character who will stay with me for a long time. He almost felt like an old friend as I felt in him some of what I felt for people I've cared for in my life.

Although not a joyful novel, particularly given the very raw and emotional core of the story, it is a hopeful one. One that spoke to me as a human being and made the issues of the mentally ill very real.

I highly, highly recommend this one. Very good - well written, plotted so well, and ultimately gave me a great deal to think about.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Mini Reviews

I've been really busy and haven't had time to write the more detailed reviews that I typically shared but I still wanted to share my thoughts on a few of the books that I have read lately ... hence, the mini reviews ...

ChesapeakeChesapeake by James A. Michener
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is my first Michener novel and I really enjoyed it. It wasn't a quick read due to its size but the stories within this novel were informative and interesting! Michener does an amazing job of including all the detail you could ever want without weighing it down and making it boring. I love the Chesapeake and spent almost every summer of my entire life on the Bay so this novel was a true home run for me. The only reason it's 4 stars is that the last couple of parts of the novel weren't nearly as interesting as the first 3/4 of the book. It felt as if they were weighed down in some way and much less compelling. However, the success of the first 3/4 of the novel makes it well worth the read!

Ugly LoveUgly Love by Colleen Hoover
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I have had a number of bookish friends recommend that I read Colleen Hoover so I picked this one up to giver her a try. And, WOW, I am so happy that I did. Although this novel is technically a romance novel, it's so much more than that. Colleen Hoover can write - it's not deep literary fiction but it's really well written romance. I was really surprised by how much I loved this novel and how much Hoover made me FEEL as I read it.

This book just killed me. Had me sobbing on the couch as I read ... in that way that only a great romance can do! These characters were really compelling and I enjoyed the story quite a bit. All in all, a great read! I read it in almost one sitting - I could not put it down!

Hopeless (Hopeless, #1)Hopeless by Colleen Hoover
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

My second Colleen Hoover novel and another great read! Although I didn't love this one quite as much as the last, this one was also fantastic! If you want unique romance that is well written, interesting and keeps you emotionally compelled, I have to recommend this and/or Colleen Hoover.

I'm grabbing up more of her work because I'm so happy with the first two reads! I read this in just a day ... immensely readable, fascinating, and kept me on the edge of my seat! Definitely recommend!


Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Review: Supermarket Healthy by Melissa d'Arabian

Supermarket Healthy: Recipes and Know-How for Eating Well Without Spending a LotSupermarket Healthy: Recipes and Know-How for Eating Well Without Spending a Lot by Melissa d'Arabian
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This rating makes me so sad because I love Melissa d'Arabian and was so hoping this would be a great cookbook for our family. Perhaps I'm not the right person for it and that's why it didn't resonate? I'm not sure but this one just didn't wow me.

It is definitely a well produced book.The paper is fine, the book binding is also fine. The photography is really good - I enjoyed the overall design of the cookbook.

I think that what I wasn't a fan of is really the types of dishes explored in this book. I was viewing this as a resource for our family - a cookbook to help me find interesting dishes that won't break the bank. Dishes geared towards families. And I didn't find the dishes featured to be particularly family friendly in some places. Although my family is far from picky, I had a hard time finding anything here that isn't either already on our usual dinner list (things I already cook) or things that I felt like my kids would enjoy.

In my reviews of cookbooks, I always try to outline the recipes that caught my eye but I'm having a hard time doing that with this cookbook. I am going to go through and pick a couple of things to try despite their not initially jumping out at me and I hope that will help me begin to find more value in this one.

I suggest that you take a look at this one in a bookstore before purchasing to be sure that what you see offered here is something you're interested in. I'm really bummed that I didn't love this one given how much I enjoy d'Arabian's show on the Food Network!

NOTE: This book was offered to me for free by the publisher for an honest review.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Review: Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande

Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the EndBeing Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wow! This is one of those books that I think everyone should read. It is such a thoughtful exploration of death and end of life. I keep thinking back to this book and the things it made me think about. It helped me see that I need to have a different kind of conversation with my family about end of life than I probably would have before reading this book. And I think back to the end of life experiences of my grandparents and wish I'd had this book to lean on as I watched them face death. This book is about what it is to be human today and how medicine can help and hurt those facing death. I just can't get over how readable and interesting this book was ... I highly recommend it. It's a must read, in my opinion!

Monday, February 2, 2015

Review: Glory O'Brien's History of the Future by A.S. King

Glory O'Brien's History of the FutureGlory O'Brien's History of the Future by A.S. King
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Now THIS is what YA should be ... A.S. King is one of the best YA authors that I've read. She writes realistic characters that feel true to life. I found the themes of this novel to be particularly interesting given what sort of future it imagines, particularly given the political issues of today. This novel was thoughtful, well written, and gave me a great deal to think about. This is a novel that I think most teenage girls would get a lot out of ... it's entertaining AND intellectually stimulating.

I have read one other novel by King but I plan to dig in to some of her other novels soon. She's such a breath of fresh air to me. This novel has some magical realism that is critical to the overall plot and I found it to be very reasonable and understandable within the context of the overall story. I'm not usually a fan of magical realism but when it's done this well, I really enjoy it.

I highly recommend this to teens and adults alike! Really good book!

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Mini Review: Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult

Leaving TimeLeaving Time by Jodi Picoult
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really enjoyed this novel, much more than I expected based on the synopsis. I'm not going to talk much about this one because I think it's best to go into it not knowing much. Great story, great characters, gave me a greater appreciation for elephants. Jodi Picoult is always a great storyteller and this novel is yet another great read! I definitely recommend this one!

Sorry for the mini review but I think this is one that is too easy to spoil so I kept it short and sweet!

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Review: The Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henriquez

The Book of Unknown AmericansThe Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henriquez
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I am really struggling with rating this novel. It falls somewhere between a 3 and a 4 for me. There were some aspects of this novel that I think were fantastic but others just didn't resonate with me.

The exploration of the immigrant experience was very interesting to me and I think Henriquez did a good job of offering a myriad of experiences in order to give the reader a fairly comprehensive idea of what immigrating to America looks and feels like. This novel definitely gives the reader an opportunity to an opportunity to better understand the difficulties facing immigrants ... putting a 'human' face to the issue of immigration.

Much of the story centers around a teen romance which is one of the things that felt off for me. The romance itself was fine but I feel like it ended up taking away some of the impact of the overall story of immigration rather than support it effectively. It just didn't feel like it helped bring the overall story together in a way I would have liked. Henriquez seemed to focus the novel around the romance but I can't help but wonder if it would have been better to have focused the novel around the immigrant families in another way?

Either way, I am really happy to have read this and definitely recommend it if you are interested in better understanding immigration in America. It's a fairly quick read and doesn't require a huge commitment from the reader.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Review: An Untamed State by Roxane Gay

An Untamed StateAn Untamed State by Roxane Gay
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wow. This book is one of those books that stand out from others because it's brutal in content but also beautifully written. Despite the very real horrors in the story, I could not stop reading. I am rarely moved by a novel like I was by this one. I cried a number of times and had my breath taken away many times. After years of working with sexual abuse victims as they heal, I was very taken by how very real this novel felt - raw, honest, and brutal. I feel like Gay has expertly captured the experience and feelings of someone being violated in this way. I feel like this sort of thing is rarely done well in the novels that I've read ... and this novel blows almost all of those out of the park.

Roxane Gay has an incredible voice. The things she explores through the experiences of Mireille really resonate with me as a woman ... and as a human. Although this is in no way an easy read, I think it is a very important one. I haven't been able to get it off my mind since finishing ... it's truly stuck with me and continues to make me think.

I don't think this is a book that's for everyone. If you're a survivor of sexual abuse, this novel may be too difficult for you to read. If you're uncomfortable with themes of abuse, especially those graphically depicted, you may want to skip this book. But, if you can get through it, it is definitely worth taking the time. I feel strange saying that I loved this novel (given its content) but I am very glad that I read it.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Review: The Romanovs: The Final Chapter by Robert K. Massie

The Romanovs: The Final ChapterThe Romanovs: The Final Chapter by Robert K. Massie
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I've always had a bit of fascination about the Romanovs, especially the fact that there are so many who claimed to be the children. My dad suggested that I might like this book, especially if I was interested in the imposter piece since a large chunk of the book focuses on those individuals.

I found this book to be very informative and I feel like it gave me a great sense of what took place and how everything flowed from that. There was so much detail explored in this book, that it sometimes even felt too detailed.

If you have interest in this family, what happened when they were executed and how it was possible that so many claimed to be members of this family, this is probably the perfect book for you! If you aren't interested in any of that, this book won't be particularly interesting to you!

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Review: You by Caroline Kepnes

You (You #1)You by Caroline Kepnes
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Although it took awhile for me to adjust to the second person narrative, I ultimately think it was perfect for this particular novel. This is a disturbing, twisted novel about obsession, stalking, and psychopathology. It's definitely not for everyone. If you are disturbed by graphic violence, sexuality and language, I'd avoid this novel completely.

If you are OK with the graphic content, I think this is a really well-told, compelling novel that lets the reader get into the head of a stalker/psychopath. The story is multi-faceted with a lot of twists and turns ... all of them dark. This is a quick book that I read in just a couple of days. Very compelling and interesting read. Very creepy and thought provoking. There is a lot of interesting stuff about technology that intertwines with the plot and that gave me a whole new perspective on how social media opens us up in so many new ways.

All in all, I recommend this one if you can handle the graphic nature of the novel.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Review: The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

The Girl on the TrainThe Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a really good thriller - fast paced, interesting characters, solid story. It certainly didn't blow me away but I really liked it. I hate that it keeps getting compared to Gone Girl because I think that is an unfair comparison. This is a solid book on it's own and I think the Gone Girl comparison comes with expectations that are unnecessary.

I definitely think this one is worth reading but I suggest you don't read a lot about it before you start. This is one that is better enjoyed with no information. And so I am keeping this review vague and non-specific.

I enjoyed how the story was told in alternating voices and I think the pacing was spot on. I will say that I felt the ending came together a bit too precisely for my taste but I still enjoyed the book overall. I love an unreliable narrator and this is a really good one! I recommend you give it a shot!
 

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