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May 2018 Reads

(This post contains affiliate links.  Please read our disclosure policy for additional information.)

It’s time to share my May 2018 Reads with Steph and Jana’s monthly Show Us Your Books linkup.  May was a slow reading month for me.  I was busy and when I did have some free time, I was just not motivated to read.  June is off to a great start though, so hopefully my reading mojo is back!  Here are my May reads:
3 Stars

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One Of Us Is Lying by Karen McManus – I started this book months ago, wasn’t into it and returned it to the library unfinished.  Then, several SUYB bloggers raved about it.  So I decided that I needed to give it another try.  It was Breakfast Club-esque.  It’s also a YA book and I feel like it read like a YA book.  Overall, it was an okay read for me but I’m glad that I went back and finished it.

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Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler – I hadn’t heard of this book until I discovered that Starz was creating a television show based on it. I’m all about reading the book before the show or movie so I had to give it a try.  As a foodie, I loved reading about the food and getting a behind the scenes look at the restaurant.  However, I found the writing to be overly-wordy and I found none of the characters really likeable.  I’m curious to see what the show is like though.  Has anyone seen it?!

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You Are a Badass at Making Money by Jen Sincero – I really liked Sincero’s first book, You Are a Badass.  Her second book focuses on bringing more money into your life via manifesting and mindset.  Not a bad book if you are into that type of thing.

4 Stars

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Now That You Mention It by Kristan Higgins – When Nora Stuart is injured in an accident, she moves from Boston back to her small hometown of Maine to recover.  While there, she ends up discovering things about her past and forges new relationships.  I enjoyed this book and think it would make a good summer read.  This was my first Higgins book, but I think I may check some of her other books out.

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Your Best Year Ever by Michael Hyatt – This was the second non-fiction book that I read this month.  Your Best Year Ever provides an actionable 5-step plan to reach your goals.  It’s motivational and helpful in goal setting.  However, I think I’d get more out of this book if I owned it, rather than borrowed it from the library.

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Recent Tween Reads

(This post contains affiliate links. Please read our disclosure policy for more details.)

School has been busy but my tweens have still been reading up a storm.  Here is a look at some of the recent books that my 9 and 12-year-old children have been reading.  With summer vacation soon approaching, maybe some of these reads will interest your own tweens.

The 9-year-old:

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Big Nate on a Roll by Lincoln Peirce
Published: HarperCollins, August 2011
Pages: 224
Source: borrowed from the library
Rating: 4/5 stars

This is the third book in the Big Nate series.  This series is similar to the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series in that there are lots of cartoon-like illustrations mixed with the text.  In this book, Nate’s Timber Scouts troop is selling wall hangings.  The grand prize is a customized skate board that Nate really wants.  But he has major competition from new troop member Artur.  Who will win the grand prize?! As a fan of cartoons and comics, my son likes this series.  He’s read a couple of other books in the Big Nate series and thinks Nate is a funny character.

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Bunny vs. Monkey: Book Two by Jamie Smart
Published by: David Fickling Books, August 2015
Pages: 64
Source: borrowed from the library
Rating: 4.5/5 stars

This is the second book in the Bunny vs. Monkey children’s graphic novel series.  Bunny fights for good while Monkey fights for evil.  This book is broken up by seasons, with several comics for each month.  Each comic stars Bunny, Monkey, Pig and Squirrel along with some other woodland creatures. Monkey is always unsuccessfully trying to destroy the forest. My son found this book to be hilarious.

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The Lost Hero: The Graphic Novel adapted by Robert Venditti
Art by:  Nate Powell
Published by: Disney-Hyperion, October 2014
Pages: 192
Source: borrowed from the library
Rating: 4/5 stars

My son and I read The Lost Hero by Rick Riordan together a couple of months ago.  When he saw this graphic novel at the library, he of course had to check it out.  This book combines his love of comics with the great story of The Lost Hero.

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Middle School Get Me Out of Here by James Patterson and Chris Tebbetts
Published by: Jimmy Patterson, May 2012
Pages: 288
Source: borrowed from the library
Rating: 4/5 stars

This is the follow-up book to Middle School, The Worst Years of My Life.  Rafe is now in 7th grade and has been accepted into art school.  The family is now living with Rafe’s grandmother in the city, after there’s a fire in the restaurant where his mom worked.  His new school isn’t all that Rafe expected it to be and he deals with bullying and trying to make new friends and fit in.  There are plenty of illustrations in this book that help add to the story.  Fans of the first book will likely enjoy this book as well.

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Stick Dog Slurps Spaghetti (#6) by Tom Waston
Published by: HarperCollins, March 2016
Pages: 240
Source: borrowed from the library
Rating: 3/5 stars

This is the sixth book in the Stick Dog series. This is another series with lots of simple drawings. Can you tell the type of books my son enjoys reading?!   In this book after Stick Dog and his friends get a small taste of spaghetti, they go on a search to get more.  He enjoyed this book as much as the others that he read.

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Zach King: My Magical Life 
Illustrated by:  Beverly Arce
Published by: HarperCollins, September 2017
Pages: 208
Source: borrowed from library
Rating: 5/5 stars

Zach King is a social media star and magician.  My Magical Life is his debut novel targeted for middle grade readers.  Everyone in Zach’s family has a magical power, but he hasn’t discovered his yet. So, his parents decide to stop homeschooling him and send him to a regular middle school.  This book comes with a free downloadable app and it will eventually be coming to the big screen. Prior to reading the book my son was familiar with Zach King from YouTube.  He loved this book and thought it was a fun read.

The 12-year-old:

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30 People Who Changed the World – Edited by Jean Reynolds
Published by: Seagrass Press, October 2017
Pages: 144
Source:  c/o publisher
Rating: 3.5/5 stars

This is a non-fiction book that includes 30 “bite-sized essay from award-winning writers.”  Biographies include Julius Caesar, Cesar Chavez, Rosa Park, Sally Ride, Queen Victoria, Malala Yousafzai and many more.  Each essay includes photographs and additional print and media resources to learn more information about the individual.  My daughter found this book to be very educational.  This isn’t a book that she read straight through, but rather would read an essay every now and then.  Her favorites include Sally Ride and Malala Yousafzai.

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The Flip Side by Shawn Johnson
Published by: Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers, June 2016
Pages: 309
Source: borrowed from library
Rating:  4/5 stars

This is Olympic gold medalist Shawn Johnson’s first YA novel.  In this book, high school sophomore Charlie is training to be an Olympic gymnast.  But she really wants to do normal high school things like date boys and go to prom.   I read this book when it was first published.  I had to remind myself that it is a YA book, intended for younger readers.  However, the writing and story is appropriate for even middle school readers.  My daughter really liked this book.  She liked Charlie and found her double life intriguing.

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Kate Walden Directs: Night of the Zombie Chickens by Julie Mata
Published by: Disney-Hyperion, May 2014
Pages: 288
Source: borrowed from library
Rating: 3/5 stars

This middle-grade fiction book is about Kate Walden, a seventh-grade film fanatic.  She’s working on her breakout film Night of the Zombie Chickens starring her mom’s organic hens.  Then her best friend ditches her for the “cool kids” and Kate ends up alone at the loser table during lunch.  Kate ends up dealing with both family issues and friendship issues all while trying to finish her film. My daughter thought this was an okay book about perseverance.

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Out of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper
Published by: Atheneum Books for Young Readers, March 2010
Pages: 295
Source: borrowed from library
Rating: 5/5 stars

11-year-old Melody has cerebral palsy and cannot walk or talk.  However, Melody refuses to be defined by her disability.  My daughter loves this book so much and has read it multiple times.  She finds it very inspirational and highly recommends this book to middle school-aged readers.

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Pottymouth and Stoopid by James Patterson and Chris Grabenstein
Published by: Jimmy Patterson, June 2017
Pages: 336
Source: borrowed from library
Rating: 3/5 stars

Seventh graders David and Michael are still stuck with the nicknames they received in preschool, “Pottymouth” and “Stoopid.”  When a new show on the Cartoon Network debuts, with the name “Pottymouth & Stoopid” the two become very popular.  Who is making the television show and how do they know so much about David and Michael’s life?  This book is a humorous take on the serious topic of bullying.  My daughter thought that this was an okay read.  She’s read several other of James Patterson’s series and this wasn’t her favorite.

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The Power of Poppy Pendle by Natasha Lowe
Published  by: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, September 2012
Pages: 268
Source:  Courtesy of the author
Rating:  3/5 stars

Poppy is born into a long line of witches and has inherited great powers. Even though she’s a talented witch, she really wants to be a baker. However, her parents disagree and will do anything to keep her away from baking.  That’s when Poppy decides to take matters into her own hands.  This is the first book of three books in the Poppy Pendle series.  Several recipes that Poppy makes in the book are included in the back of the book.  My daughter thought this was a good book.  She liked when Poppy stands up for herself and makes new friends.  She also enjoyed reading about all of the delicious things that Poppy made.

 

 

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Birchbox {April 2018}

I’ve always been a fan of subscription boxes.  There’s just something about getting a surprise package in the mail every month that’s just for me.  I finally broke down and started a Birchbox subscription.  For the rare few who may have not heard of Birchbox, it’s a monthly subscription that sends you five sample-sized beauty products.  After hearing so much about it for so long, I decided to give it a go.

When you sign up for Birchbox you complete a Beauty Profile that covers your skin, hair and beauty style and knowledge.  FYI, I’m very low-maintenance with barely any beauty knowledge.  My almost non-existent beauty and make-up routine is very minimalist.

I was hesitant to try Birchbox because the products they send are sample-sized.  However, I have to say that I was impressed with what was sent.  The samples are big enough to get several uses out of each product.  Plus, I also like that if you love one of the products in the box, you can purchase the full-size item through the website.  And the best part, the boxes are only $10 a month! And aren’t the boxes themselves so pretty?!  I plan on keeping these to store things in.

My April 2018 box included:

Beautaniq Beauty: Fill + Tame Brow Gel (full-size $12) – I have never used brow gel and have to admit that I still haven’t tried this.  As far as beauty and makeup go, I’m a super minimalist and brow gel seems a little too much for me.

Dr. Lipp: Miracle Balm (full-size $16.50)- This product is one that would get a lot more use from me in the winter.  That’s when my lips and especially my hands get super dry.  This Miracle Balm is thick and has the consistency of petroleum jelly.  I’ve only used it a couple of times on my lips, but so far, so good.

jane iredale:  Just Kissed Lip and Cheek Stain in Forever Pink (full-size $25) – I don’t wear blush or “cheek stain.”  I also don’t normally wear lipstick during the week.  If I wear lipstick before going out, I want it to stand out a little bit.  I found this shade to be a little too light for me.  The color was barely noticeable, but gave my lips a little shine.

Marcelle: BB Cream Golden Glow (full-size $29) – As I’ve mentioned, I’m late to the make-up game.  Can I admit that I’ve never used a BB cream until now?!  BB creams have become super popular because they are a multi-functional product.  They moisturize, provide light foundation coverage and many also have sun protection.  I received the Golden Glow shade in my box and have to say that I do like it.  I think I’m a BB cream convert, but am going to experiment with some different brands.

Vasanti:  BrightenUp! Enzymatic Face Rejuvenator (full-size $34) – I have been using this a couple of times a week in the shower.  I only use a pea size amount each time, so I’ve been able to get a number of uses out of this sample.  I’m not sure I notice a big difference when I use this, so this is something I’d probably not buy the full-size version of.

As you can see, the price of the full-size products of some of these samples are a lot more than I’d be willing to pay to try a product and not know if I’ll love it.  I also believe that as you rate and review your samples, Birchbox can get a better sense of what you like and don’t like.  This will hopefully help your box get better and better each month!  I’m planning on getting the May Birchbox but will likely put my subscription on hold for the summer.

Do you subscribe to Birchbox? What was in your April box?

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April 2018 Reads

(This post contains affiliate links.  Please read our disclosure policy for additional information.)

It’s the second Tuesday of the month which means that I’m sharing my April reads with Jana and Steph’s Show Us Your Books linkup.  It was a slow reading month for me.  I only read five books, but all but one were great reads.  Here are my April 2018 reads in least to most liked.

3 stars
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Soulful Simplicity  by Courtney Carver – This was my only non-fiction book of the month.  After being diagnosed with MS, Carver reassessed her life and decided to live a more minimalist life.  Her book gives tips and strategies on how to pursue minimalism.  I found it to be too autobiographical and the advice was pretty basic.  

4 stars

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The Family Next Door by Sally Hepworth – This book is about Pleasant Court and three women, Essie, Ange and Fran, who live with their families there.  When Isabelle, a single woman, moves into the neighborhood the women are on high alert.  Each of the women, including Isabelle, are each dealing with their own struggles.  While it appears to the others that their lives are perfect they are indeed not.  The story line and writing style of this book reminded me of Liane Moriarty.  While Hepworth has become a recent favorite author, this book had a different writing style/feel than her other books that I’ve read.  It was still an enjoyable read for me though.

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The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah – Hannah has been a favorite author for awhile.   I found this book to start off slow.  At first, I was thinking this wasn’t my kind of read.  However, once I got about half-way through I got really invested into Leni’s life, rooting for her and her mom.

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The Other Mother by Carol Goodman – Daphne meets Laurel at a postpartum mother’s support group.  The two both have daughters named Chloe.  Soon Daphne starts dressing and looking like Laurel.  Their intense friendship has some drastic consequences. When I picked up this book, I realized that I had read one of Goodman’s books many years ago and wasn’t a big fan of it.  So, I wasn’t sure how much I’d enjoy this book.  However, I was pleasantly surprised to discover this was a decent suspense read.

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Sometimes I Lie by Alice Feeney – Amber wakes up in the hospital, unable to see or speak. However, she can hear everything going on around her.  As the story unfolds between the past, the week before her accident and the present, we discover what really happened.  I feel like I’ve read a couple of books recently where the wife was in an accident and can’t remember what happened prior to it and I wasn’t impressed.  This book though had lots of twists and I found it to be an enjoyable read.

STRONG self(ie) Subscription Box Review

(This STRONG self(ie) quarterly subscription box was provided to NY Foodie Family for review purposes.  As usual, all opinions are our own.)  

Subscription boxes are a lot of fun.  In the past, we’ve received food-related subscription boxes that the whole family could enjoy (MunchPak, Empire Crate, Universal Yums).  Most recently, I signed up for Birchbox and Ipsy as a fun treat for me.  My daughter sees me getting these boxes in the mail and gets as excited as I do to see what’s inside.  When I heard about the STRONG self(ie) subscription box for tween and teen girls, I was very interested.

I was first intrigued by the name of the box – STRONG self(ie).  Just the name is very empowering.  Co-founders and moms Kristen and Stephanie created this subscription box as a means to teach their daughters, “the importance of being strong, confident, and proud of who they are.”

The STRONG self(ie) box is a quarterly box that ships out during the first two weeks in March, June, September and December.  There are two different box choices, BLOOM for ages 8-12 and BURST for ages 13- 17.  Each box includes 4-6 products that inspire girls to be their best self(ie) in four different areas – smart(ie), funn(ie), health(ie) and beaut(ie). Based on the products we received in the spring box, it appears that Kristen and Stephanie try to source many of the products from small start-up and/or family-run businesses.

Each box also goes #beyondthebox and includes a card that showcases a STRONG girl.  The spring box featured 13-year-old Nandi Weziwe Hildebrand and described how she fulfills the four different self(ie) areas.  I also love the note cards included in the box.  There were four cards (pictured above) in the parent envelope that I can give to my daughter, offering words of encouragement and positivity.  There were also four note cards in an envelope for her, that she can give to friends.

The boxes cost $59.95 per quarter.  But readers, you can save 20% off your first box by using code:  “Foodie20”.  You can subscribe or gift a box to your favorite girl.  I think any tween or young teen would enjoy a STRONG self(ie) subscription!

My daughter just turned twelve and the spring BLOOM box was perfect for her!  No joke, it’s like they made this box especially for her.  The spring box included:

BOLD Bandz Headband –  (BEAUT)IE – BOLD Bandz are non-slip headbands that don’t hurt your head.  They come in a variety of designs and patterns.  I’m not sure if the band that we received in the box is a child-size headband.  Although the headband is not supposed to hurt, my daughter complained that it was a bit tight.  I think these headbands would be perfect for girls who play sports and want to keep their hair out of their faces. ($8.99)

Fashion Angels: Organize & Chill Planner – SMART(IE) Since my daughter started middle school last year, organization has been one of her biggest challenges.  I live by my planner and I’m hoping this Fashion Angels planner will help her keep track of her school assignments and after-school activities.  I like that the planner isn’t dated.  Since the school year is almost over, we are debating whether she should hold off on using this until September. ($12.99)

Hayden Girl Ruffle Jacket – FUNN(IE) Having a tween daughter, I can tell you that clothing shop is difficult at this age.  I try not to even mention that I like something because my daughter will automatically not like it!  I have to say that we are both fans of this Molly satin jacket.  She likes the bomber style jacket, I like the feminine details like the ruffle and the color.  This is a size 11/12 and just fits.  She’d probably get more use out of 13/14 but they were out.  I had not heard of Hayden Girls prior to receiving this box, but after checking out their site, I am LOVING all of their clothes!  They have such stylish pieces that are reasonably priced! ($37.95)

Lovely Candy Company:  Sour Honey Gummy Bears – (HEALTH)IE – Sour gummy candies are a family favorite.  We all helped to devour this bag! Lovely is a family owned business and these sour honey gummy bears are one of the most recent additions to their candy line.  These are all-natural gummies made with honey!  So good! ($4.99)

Luv Ur Skin Face Skincare Set – (HEALTH)IE – My daughter has just started getting into the routine of washing her face and moisturizing.  I hadn’t really taken the time to find a skincare line targeted for her age group and she’s been using whatever I use.    This three piece skincare set includes a face wash, a moisturizer and a lip balm, as well as a cloth headband.  My daughter has sensitive skin and had no problems using these products.  I am impressed that the Australian-based company Luv Ur Skin was founded by a 13-year-old girl and uses all-natural ingredients! ($18.50)

Altogether, the value of this box totaled approximately $84, which is more than the $59.99 that you pay for it.  Like I mentioned, my tween daughter was HUGE fan of the STRONG self(ie) box!  Remember, use code “Foodie20” to get 20% off your first box!

 

 

 

 

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February 2018 Reads

Ratings and reviews of my February2018 reads.

(This post contains affiliate links.  Please read our disclosure policy for more information.)

It’s one of my favorite days of the month, Steph and Jana’s Shows Us Your Books link up!  I love getting to share my recent reads as well as get a bunch of new reading recommendations.  Although February is a short month, I think I read a decent amount.  Especially since I returned to work full-time at the end of January, which means my reading time has substantially decreased.  Even better, most of my February 2018 reads were 4 stars!

3 Stars

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52 Ways to Live a Kick-Ass Life by Andrea Owen – This was my only non-fiction read this month.  So far, I’ve been good with my goal of reading at least one non-fiction book a month.  This book is made up of 52 very short chapters, where each chapter is a different tip.  While this book didn’t really tell me anything new or wow me, Owen provided lots of reminders on how to live your best life.

4 Stars

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The Butterfly Garden by Dot Hutchinson  – The “gardener” has created a beautiful garden of butterflies.  The butterflies just happen to be kidnapped young girls.  But something has happened and the garden is no more.  The FBI question Maya, one of the survivors where we are told about the gardener via her stories and flashbacks.  After reading about this book from several bloggers in past linkups, I had to read it.  This is a disturbing story, yet I had to continue reading it to see how it all unfolded.  It’s the first in a three book series, which I now want to continue.

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Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman – I have read so many rave reviews of this book on these linkups and I can finally understand why.  Eleanor is such a quirky, likeable character.  I enjoyed this book and can see how she has been compared to Ove in A Man Called Ove.

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Live to Tell by Lisa Gardner – I thought I’d start listening to audio books on my commute to work.  I listened to this book and then my cd player/radio died.  I’ve been two weeks now without any radio/cd player as we wait for one more part my husband needs to replace it. So, no more audio books after this one for awhile. Live to Tell is the fourth book in the D.D. Warren series.  In this book an entire family is murdered, with the father as the primary suspect.  Detective D.D. Warren is assigned to the case and as she starts investigating, realizes that there’s more going on. I’ve been trying to avoid starting new series, especially those with a lot of books in them.  However, I had started this series way back and it was nice to start back up with Gardner’s Detective D.D. Warren series.  This was a really good book to listen to on audio, with multiple narrators.

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Stillhouse Lake by Rachel Caine – Gina Royal accidentally discovers her husband’s secret…..that he is a serial killer.  Even though he’s in prison, people still think that she was involved with her husband’s crimes and have targeted her and her children.  They have been living a life on the run, constantly changing names and moving.  Stillhouse Lake is actually starting to feel like home when a dead body turns up and they start receiving threatening letters.  This is the first book in a series, which I didn’t know until I read it…..it ends with a cliffhanger!  The author includes a soundtrack at the end of the book of songs that accompanied her during the writing of this book.  I found it to be a unique concept to include and had fun listening to the songs on YouTube, though some were too heavy metal for my liking.  Overall, a great, suspense read for those that like this genre.

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The Wife Between Us by Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen – This story revolves around three characters, the husband, the ex-wife and the new fiancee.  It’s hard to say much more without giving away spoilers.  This was a surprisingly enjoyable suspense read with several plot twists that kept me guessing. I recently read that it’s going to be made into a movie, which I think will be pretty good.

 

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August 2017 Reads

It’s the second Tuesday of the month and I’m sharing my August 2017 reads in Steph and Jana’s monthly Show Us Your Books linkup. I was traveling with the kids a lot in August and did not get in a lot of reading time.  I’m hoping next month turns out better in terms of both quantity and quality of books read.  There was only one book this month that I loved and the rest were all so-so reads.

3 Stars

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Bull by David Elliott – This is a YA book told in poetic form.  It’s a retelling of the Greek myth Theseus and the Minotaur.  I was unfamiliar with the original version and had to do a quick Wikapedia search to catch me up.  I found the language in this book to be a bit much for a YA book but enjoyed the writing style.  The author even used a different poetic form for each character.  So, if you’re into Greek mythology or books in poetic form are your thing than give it a go. I read and reviewed this book for Kiss the Book where you can find my full review.

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The Crush by Sandra Brown – As jury forewoman, after delivering a not guilty verdict during contract killer Ricky Lozada’s trial, Dr. Rennie Newton becomes the object of his affection.  Soon after Dr. Newton’s co-worker is brutally murdered and Lozada is a suspect……along with Dr. Newton.  As Detective Oren Wesley works the case, he calls in his friend and ex-partner Wick Threadgill, who has personal reasons for Lozada’s capture. I’ve owned this book forever and it was on my summer reading list. It’s been awhile since I’ve read Sandra Brown.  Her books have been either hit or miss with me.  This one was a so-so romantic suspense read.

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Emma In the Night by Wendy Walker – (c/o Netgalley) – Three years ago, fifteen-year-old Cass and seventeen-year-old Emma disappear.  But Cass has returned without her sister and tells a crazy kidnapping tale.  Normally I like a good suspense book.  However, I found this to be a pretty unrealistic story with manipulative, psychotic characters. I read Walker’s previous book All is Not Forgotten and enjoyed that one a lot more.

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One Summer by David Baldacci – Jack is terminally ill and does not have much time left to live.  One night when his wife, Lizzie goes out to get him his medicine she ends up dying in car accident.  Their three kids are separated and sent to live with family members in different parts of the country.  Living out his last days alone in a hospice facility, a miracle happens and Jack somehow makes a full recovery.  He reunites his family at Lizzie’s childhood home in South Carolina, hoping to rebuild his family.  This book was off my own bookshelf and also part of my summer reading list.  Baldacci is an author known for his mystery thrillers, none of which I have read.  While the book reminded me of Nicholas Sparks and the romance/love stories by James Patterson, I didn’t enjoy it as much as I thought I would.

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Something Like Family by Heather Burch – (c/o Netgalley)  Tuck hires a private investigator to find his grandson, Rave. When he’s found in a small town working as a waiter, Rave agrees to meet Tuck, the grandfather he didn’t know he had.  Abandoned by his drug addict mother, Rave has never really known what it’s like to have family.  He ends up creating a life with Tuck and learns a lot from his grandfather.  This is the first Netgalley book that I’ve read for review. While I enjoy a good family drama, it felt at times like I was reading a Christian fiction book.  This was another so-so read for me.

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The View From Penthouse B by Elinor Lipman – Sisters Margot and Gwen are living in Penthouse B at the Batavia. Gwen is a widow of two years and Margot’s husband is in prison.  After Margot lost all her money in Madoff’s Ponzi scheme, the two sisters decide to have gay, 20-something-year-old Anthony move in to help with the rent.  The three roommates become good friends as they try to help each other improve their lives.  This was my first Lipman novel and will probably be my last.  While Lipman is considered to be an author of “humorous novels” I didn’t think this book was that funny.

5 Stars

1

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling – During our summer travel around New York state we finally finished listening to Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince on CD.  I had previously only ever read up to the Order of the Phoenix, so this was new to me.  Wow, did so much happen in this book!  Once we got home, we had to immediately get the last book on CD and start it.

What are you currently reading?

 

Back-to-School Snacks From Hain Celestial

{Sponsored post – all opinions are my own}

September is fast approaching and for those of us in New York state, that means the new school year will soon begin. This also means it’s back to packing school lunches. My kids hate when I give them the same thing to eat every day, so I’m always on the lookout for new snack options.  Hain Celestial kindly sent me a sample of some of their products which will make great back-to-school snacks for the kids!

Hain Celestial is headquartered in Lake Success, New York.  Celestial Seasonings, alba Botanica, Earth’s Best Organic, Garden of Eatin, Ella’s Kitchen, Soy Dream and Terra are only a sample of the companies that Hain Celestial markets, manufactures and sells. The company, founded in 1993, aims to, “make it easier for people around the world to adopt healthier lifestyles through foods they eat and the personal care products they use.” They use responsibly sourced ingredients and are mindful of their environmental footprint.  Basically, you can feel good about using their products.

Here is a review of some of the snacks that we sampled:

Garden of Eatin’ Organic Tortilla Chips – These tortilla chips are made from organic corn.  I find them to be thicker and denser than other tortilla chips on the market.  We tried both the nacho and ranch flavors of these chips. The nacho chips have a light cheese flavor.  We found the ranch chips to be more flavorful, but beware, they had a strong garlic flavor.  Be sure to have some mints ready after eating these!

Sensible Portions Stacked Veggie Chips – While our family is familiar with veggie straws (see below), we had never seen veggie chips before! These are stackable chips made with a combination of potatoes and vegetables.  We tried the sour cream & onion variety and liked them.  The chips are crispy with a light, sour cream flavor.  Other flavors available include BBQ, Sea Salt, Cheddar Cheese and Sea Salt & Vinegar.

Sensible Portions Garden Veggie Straws – My children are no stranger to veggie straws.  However, we had never seen flavored ones before.  They were excited to try these cheddar cheese flavored straws as well as ranch and sea salt.  We have found new flavors to incorporate into our veggie straw snack rotation!

Terra Plantain Chips –  I was already familiar with Terra and love the brand’s vegetable chips.   My kids are familiar with plantains and have had tostones and sweet plantains.  Although I’ve had plantain chips in the past, I had never tried the Terra brand.  After trying these, my daughter’s exact words were, “I’m addicted to these!”  These chips are small and bite-sized.  They are thinner than other plantain chips that I’ve tried but still tasty.

Thank you Hain Celestial for introducing our family to so many new items to add to our back-to-school snack rotation!

What are some of your favorite school snacks?

Conveyor Belt Sushi at east Japanese Restaurant {Updated}

Conveyor belt sushi used to be a rare dining experience that I only saw on television.  Luckily, it’s becoming more popular and now, even us suburbanites can partake in the conveyor belt sushi experience.  If you are shopping at the Palisades Mall in West Nyack, New York and are looking for a family-friendly, non-chain, unique dining experience, east Japanese Restaurant is the place to go.

Guests are seated in booths around the sushi chefs, who have their prep stations located in the center of the dining space. As they prepare different rolls and sushi, they cover and place them on the conveyor belt.  The labeled plates travel around the restaurant, and diners take the items they want.

The different patterned and colored plates are priced differently.  White plates cost $1.75 each while the gold plates cost $8.00 each.  Most plates include two pieces of sushi or three pieces of roll.  There are many types of sushi available from the California roll to the specialty Big Thunder Mountain roll. Non-sushi dishes like seaweed salad and fried chicken are also offered.  If you do not see what you want or prefer not to go the sushi route, the restaurant offers a full Japanese menu including teriyaki and tempura dishes.  At the end of your meal, your plates are collected and you are charged accordingly.

What we love about this restaurant is that we are able to try new dishes without a huge commitment.  For a couple of dollars a plate, if we like it, we’ll take another plate of it.  If we didn’t like it we at least tried something new!  This is a great way to introduce your kids to different types of sushi.  Plus, like our kids, they will most likely enjoy grabbing the dishes off the conveyor belt.  It definitely makes for a unique and fun dining experience, which we highly recommend! Unfortunately, the only conveyor belt sushi restaurants that we are aware of that are not located in the city are this one and YO! Sushi at Woodbury Common Premium Outlets.

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May 2017 Reads

It’s one of my favorite times of the month, Steph and Jana’s Show Us Your Books link up!  This is perfect timing for me as I’m starting to compile a summer reading list.  No better day to get great reading recommendations!  As I wrote this post I realized that I didn’t have the best of reading months.  I read seven books in May, but only one of them rated 4 stars.  Hopefully June will turn out to be a better month of reading! Here are my May 2017 reads:

3 Stars:

 

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The Circle by Dave Eggers –  With the help of her friend Annie, Mae Holland goes to work at the Circle, a powerful internet company.  As she works there, Mae sees the Circle is very Big Brotherish and only getting bigger and more powerful.  As she becomes more involved with the Circle, she has less contact with the outside world.  Should there be worldwide transparency?  At what cost will one go to have privacy?  These are some of the questions that arise in this book.  The book had me totally engaged, but I was super disappointed with the ending.  This book was a book of the month pick for one of the Goodreads groups I’m in.  Otherwise, I probably would have never even known about this book.  It was also made into a movie, starring Tom Hanks and Emma Watson that I want to see, once it comes out on DVD.

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A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles – This book opens in 1922 Russia, when Count Alexander Rostov is placed under house arrest at the hotel Metropol.  The book follows him over the next thirty years as he lives in the hotel, meeting in a interesting cast of characters.  This was another book of the month pick for a Goodreads group that I wouldn’t have otherwise picked up on my own.  It was slow in spots but engrossing in others.  Overall, I think it was an okay historical fiction read.

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Into the Water by Paula Hawkins –  Unfortunately, when you write a bestseller like The Girl on the Train, there’s no doubt that your next book will be compared to it.  While I loved The Girl on the Train, I really didn’t like this book. The beginning is very confusing with all of the different characters.  And the storyline just didn’t interest me.   I honestly couldn’t care why the river has been the source of the deaths of several women.

3 Stars

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Never Let You Go by Chevy Stevens – Lindsey Nash takes her six-year-old daughter Sophie and escapes from her abusive husband.  Fast forward ten years later where Lindsey has created a new life with her now teenage daughter. But she learns that Andrew, the ex, has been released from jail, and she keeps sensing someone watching her.  Her home is invaded and her daughter is followed.  Is it Andrew, coming back for revenge?  I’ve read a couple of Stevens other books and have had mixed reviews, liking some better than others.  In this book I feel like the author purposefully set it up to throw the reader off track, which annoyed me.  This was an okay thriller/suspense read.

 

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The Perfect Stranger by Megan Miranda – I have not read Miranda’s recent book All the Missing Girls, so I was unfamiliar with her writing. This was a pretty good suspense read that had me guessing until the end.  No one is who they seem, which adds to the suspense of the book.  However, I felt like there was almost too much going on.

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The Whole Thing Together by Ann Brashares – Sasha and Ray share a room in the family’s Long Island beach house.  They have just have never met each other.  Ray’s mom and Sasha’s dad used to be married and had three daughters before a bitter divorce.  They both remarried, and had children with their new spouses (Ray and Sasha) but neither were willing to give up the house. (Not sure I explained the complicated family tree well there!)  This summer, the families lives intersect as drama occurs and secrets are revealed.  While I enjoyed Brashares YA Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series, this book was a bit disappointing.

4 Stars

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I Found You by Lisa Jewell –  Alice finds a man sitting on the beach in the pouring rain.  He has no memory of who he is or how he got there.  In a London suburb, Lily’s husband doesn’t return home from work one night.  Back in 1993, siblings Gray and Kirsty are vacationing with their family when Kirsty meets a guy who just doesn’t sit right with Gray.  Told between the past and present, with multiple points of view, the three different storylines intertwine. This was a suspenseful read that had me guessing until the end.