27

October Reads {2018}

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It’s the second Tuesday of the month and time to share my October Reads with Steph and Jana’s Show Us Your Books linkup.  I’m going to be honest, October was a pretty disappointing reading month for me.  Almost all of my reads were 3 stars and just okay reads.  And it was a slow reading month for me with only five books read.  Here they are from least to most liked:

3 stars:
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All We Ever Wanted by Emily Giffin – I used to be a big Emily Giffin fan and have read almost every one of her books.  I actually enjoyed this story that shows the divide between the wealthy and the not-so-wealthy and the effects that bad decisions teens make can have on their peers and families.  My only issue was that the story felt unresolved to me and rushed at the end.

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The Girlfriend by Michelle Frances – Laura is happy to meet her son’s new girlfriend.  But she doesn’t get good vibes from Cherry (yes, I had a problem with this name!), and thinks that she’s a manipulative gold digger.  But her son has fallen for her and now must choose between his girlfriend and mother.  When Daniel is injured in an accident, Laura makes a decision that she thinks is in his best interest….but ultimately there are consequences.  Some things in this book were a bit far fetched, but overall an okay suspense read.

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Next of Kin by James Tucker – This is the first book in the Detective Buddy Lock series.  I’ve been avoiding starting a new series, but decided to give this one a go.  Detective Lock investigates the murder of the prestigious Brook family.  Their 10-year-old son Ben, is the only survivor, but someone wants him dead too.  Buddy tries to keep Ben safe while finding the murderer.  This was a quick read and an okay mystery.  I’m willing to give the next book in the series a try.

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The Other Woman by Sandie Jones – I didn’t realize when I put this book on hold that it had a very similar premise to The Girlfriend – son has a girlfriend, mom is jealous.  So, I might have tired of the plot line and thus my 3 star rating.  But I don’t know.  The story had me interested, but questioning why does Emily stay with Adam?  Pammie did some shady things to keep Emily away from her son.  This was a suspenseful read and the ending totally surprised me….so it may be worth the read if you like suspense books.  Of the two, I’d recommend this one over The Girlfriend.

4 stars:
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Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis – This was my non-fiction read of the month.  I have become a fan of Rachel Hollis after listening to the Rise Together podcast that she does with her husband.  Then I learned that she has her own podcast Rise and realized that I read one of her fiction books Party Girl and really liked it.  In this book, she talks about the lies that we tell ourselves and how we need to get over them to live our best life.  It’s an inspiring read told in a very down-to-earth way.

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September Reads 2018

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Last month, I remember thinking that my reading time would decrease drastically come the fall.  With school back in session and driving the kids to their various activities, I didn’t think I’d be able to read a lot.  So, I was greatly surprised to discover that I read ten books last month!  Once again, I’m linking up with Steph and Jana who are celebrating the 4 year anniversary of the Show Us Your Books linkup!  This linkup is where I get most of my reading recommendations and what has made my to-read list triple in length.  Congrats ladies!  I enjoy reading all the book  blog posts every month!

3 stars:

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Always Never Yours by Emily Wibberley & Austin Siegemund-Broka – High school senior, Megan, likes to direct theater but needs an acting credit for her college admission requirement.  When she’s cast as the lead, Juliet, in her school’s production of Romeo & Juliet, she is not happy.  Of course drama happens both on and off the stage as friendships and relationships are tested.  This was a cute YA drama story written by a couple.

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Her Pretty Face by Robyn Harding – Frances and Kate are unlikely friends.  Kate is beautiful, confident and charming, while Frances is overweight and insecure.  But their sons become best friends and the two women do too.  Both are keeping dark secrets that eventually come to light and change their worlds.  I found this to be pretty good suspense read that kept me interested.

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Slow:  Simple Living for a Frantic World by Brooke McAlary – McAlary hosts The Slow Home podcast and has a blog with the same name.  This book is her guide to living a slower, more minimalist lifestyle.  This was my only non-fiction read of the month.  I’ve really been into learning more about minimalism and slowing down.  I just need to start putting it into practice.

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Something in the Water by Catherine Steadman – Erin and Mark are honeymooning in Bora Bora when they make an unexpected discovery in the water.  Their decision regarding what to do with said discovery leads to secrets and lies, taking them down a dark path.

4 stars:

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All Your Perfects by Colleen Hoover – I love Colleen Hoover’s books and her newest didn’t disappoint.  This emotional read focused on infertility and the effects it has on a marriage.

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And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer by Fredrik Backman – This is only my third Backman book but so far he hasn’t disappointed.  This novella is really a goodbye love letter between a grandfather/grandson and father/son where memories are brought up.  It was a sad, short read that reminded me of my grandmother’s struggle with Alzheimer’s.

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How to Keep a Secret by Sarah Morgan – This story follows three generations of women who are all on Martha’s Vineyard after a crisis.  Each woman is struggling with her own problems and secrets but focuses on the importance of family bonds.  This was my first book by Sarah Morgan.  It seems she’s written a lot of romance books, but this one is more contemporary fiction.

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Love and Other Words by Christina Lauren – After seeing this book show up so many times on the link up I finally got a hold of it.  I’m so glad that I read it and can’t wait to read more books by this duo.  This contemporary romance is all about love and loss.  I loved Ethan and Macy’s relationship and their favorite word game.

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Now is Everything by Amy Giles – Hadley McCauley is the perfect daughter, smart, star lacrosse player, etc. Because when she’s not, she gets punished by her father.  But when he starts getting on her younger sister, Lila, Hadley will do anything to protect her.  When there’s a horrible accident, Hadley is the only who knows what happened.  And after attempting to take her own life, she’s not talking.  This was a powerful, emotional YA read.  The father’s behavior really angered me and it’s sickening to know that there are really father’s out there that behave like he did.

5 Stars:

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The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins – I read this book with 10-year-old son. It was a reread for me, but a YA book that I thought might interest him, which it did.  As he’s getting older, I’m finding it more difficult to find “reading” books that hold his interest that aren’t graphic novels or manga.  This was motivating because we are going to watch the movie together.

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Food Buys & Tries {Volume 3}

It’s been a couple of months since I wrote a Food Buys and Tries post.  As much as our family loves to eat out, we also love trying new food products that we find in the supermarket or that companies are kind enough to send us to sample.  Here are some of our recent food buys and tries winners:

Coolhaus Awesome Ice Cream: Dirty Mint Chip – Coolhaus Awesome Ice Cream has shops in California and Texas.  For those of us not lucky enough to live in these areas, we can now buy pints of their ice cream at our local grocery store!  My husband loves mint ice cream so I got the Dirty Mint Chip.  This flavor is fresh mint ice cream with brown sugar and dark chocolate chips.  The fresh mint flavor is very evident and my husband loved this ice cream.  While I’m not a huge mint ice cream fan, I am excited to try some of their other flavors like Milkshake & Fries, Balsamic Fig and Mascarpone and Campfire S’mores.

 

Dole Acai Bowls – I have to fully disclose that I have never tried an acai bowl before trying this Dole one.  I found this bowl in the frozen fruit section of the grocery store.  The directions state that it should thaw for 45 minutes or you can microwave it.  We opted to thaw it but even after an hour it didn’t defrost all the way.  The original has acai, bananas and honey topped with strawberries, blueberries, coconut and honey oat granola.  It also comes in protein and tropical varieties. My son loved this bowl and has asked for more.  This makes a convenient quick and easy breakfast, if we go the microwave defrost route.

Emerald Glazed Walnuts – I’ve been taking nuts with me to work as a snack.  I tried these glazed walnuts for the first time and they taste like candy. And they are very addicting!  It definitely satisfies a sweet and crunchy craving.  I will be buying these again.  I just have to watch how often I eat these!

       

Jimmy Dean Delights Egg’wich – My usual morning routine involves eating breakfast in the car during my commute to work.  I cannot eat first thing in the morning and I hate eating at my desk.  So, I have gotten used to eating while driving.  It’s not horrible, but I am limited to portable foods.  Often, I eat a sandwich (PB&J, cold cuts, etc.).  Sometimes I eat a frozen breakfast item liked this Jimmy Dean Delights Egg’wich.  This is turkey sausage and cheese sandwiched between two bacon, spinach, caramelized onion and parmesan egg frittatas.  I heat it up and then wrap it in foil until I’m ready to eat it.  This sandwich has decent flavor, but I must say that I found it to be a little on the salty side.  While I don’t recommend eating these everyday, I’ve found it to be a good portable breakfast.  I haven’t tried the other flavors – broccoli and cheese and ham, bell peppers, mushroom, bacon and onion.

Setton Farms Pistachio Chewy Bites – (c/o Setton Farms)  Setton Farms kindly sent me samples of their Pistachio Chewy Bites.  I tried the pistachios + plums variety.  I like that they are individually wrapped and can take a couple of them to work with me as a snack.  They are all-natural and make a great snack for the kids, who enjoy these bites as well.  Just a note, that these are a bit sticky and I do have to wash my hands after enjoying them at work. However, getting to enjoy the pistachio and fruit combo is worth it!

Shoprite Trading Company Pre-cooked Basmati White Rice – Shoprite Trading Company is the grocery store’s private label line of artisanal international foods.  I usually cook rice in a rice cooker, which takes about 20+ minutes to cook.  I was using a simmer sauce and wanted a quick and easy Indian-inspired meal and purchased this rice to try.  It only takes 90 seconds to heat up in the microwave.  While it doesn’t taste as fresh and authentic as what you get at an Indian restaurant, it was surprisingly not bad.

 

I have also become a fan of the Shoprite Trading Company Naan as well.  These are frozen and come with 3 in a package.  I usually make two and cut them in half for our family of four.

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August Reads {2018}

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It’s hard to believe that summer is over.  And it with it, the lazy weekends and extra time to read. Although my schedule doesn’t change come the fall, the kids’ schedules get filled up with their activities, and my reading time seems to decrease drastically!  I feel like I read a good amount over the summer but know I won’t be able to keep up reading 6-8 books a month.  See that library haul of books in that photo above?  Sadly, half of them will be returned unread.  Last month was great in both quantity and quality of reads.  Here are my August reads from least to most liked that I’m sharing with Steph and Jana’s monthly Show Us Your Books linkup.

3 Stars

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The Favorite Sister by Jessica Knoll – I read Knoll’s other novel, Luckiest Girl Alive and only gave it three stars as well.  That should have been a warning, but I decided to give this book a go.  For some reason, it’s categorized as a mystery/thriller, but I do not think it should be.  This book follows several different women in a reality television show called “Goal Diggers.”  There is of course drama and each woman is harboring secrets.  I love a good reality television show.  I think because I went into it expecting something else I was a bit disappointed.

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Promises by Belva Plain – When I was growing up my mom used to read a lot of Belva Plain’s books.  By default, since they were around, I also read her books and found them enjoyable.  Somehow, a couple of Plain’s books have been sitting on my bookshelf for YEARS.  In an effort to clear off my bookshelves I decided to read Promises. It appears my reading tastes have changed drastically from those college years.  Even though most of the story takes place in the 90’s, it felt so antiquated.  What wife says, “Oh darling” when referring to her husband?!! And nowadays, I don’t believe a woman would put her career on hold for her husband’s advancement (or I hope she wouldn’t).  This book probably rates close to 2.5 than 3 stars for me, but Goodreads doesn’t allow me to give half star ratings.

4 Stars

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The Countdown Conspiracy by Katie Slivensky – Miranda Regent is one of 6 kids chosen around the world to prep for a mission to Mars.  The only American chosen, she soon starts receiving threatening messages.  Is she in danger? This is a middle grade fiction book that I picked up at the library for my son to read.  He wasn’t that into it and didn’t finish it.  However, if it’s not manga or a graphic novel, I’ve been having difficulty getting him to read it.  I read it and thought it was a pretty good read.  You have to go in with the expectation that it is geared toward children and fiction.  Like, super smart teenagers going into space fiction.  But there was a lot of action and adventure.  So, if you know of kids who like this type of book I’d have them give this one a try.

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Jar of Hearts by Jennifer Hiller – Georgina “Geo”, Angela and Kai were high school best friends. One night Angela disappears and is never seen again.  Fourteen years later her remains are discovered and Kai, now a police detective discovers that she was a victim of serial killer Calvin James.  Calvin just happened to be Geo’s girlfriend at the time of Angela’s disappearance.  This book had lots of secrets and hidden surprises.  This is the type of book that I think of when I think of a mystery/thriller.

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The Neighbors by Hannah Mary McKinnon – In 1992, Abby and Liam were dating and in love.  But when her brother dies in a car accident, Abby feels responsible and pushes Liam away.  Fast forward to present day and Abby is married to Nate, the man who came upon the accident and actually saved Abby’s life. They have a teenage daughter and are happily married.  But then, Liam and his family end up moving in next door.  Will their past be discovered?  Again, I didn’t really find this book to much of a mystery/thriller.  But about half-way through it became a page-turner.

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Reading People by Anne Bogel – This a collection of different personality tests/frameworks that Bogel explains in hopes of helping the reader learn more about herself and others.  Personality frameworks have always interested me and I found this book to be enjoyable and insightful.  This was my non-fiction read of the month.

 

GoSu: An Asian Fusion Dining Experience

(Thank you to GoSu and Lifestyle Westchester for hosting NY Foodie Family.  As always, all opinions are our own.)

I was recently invited to a menu tasting at Asian fusion restaurant, GoSu.  This Irvington eatery opened in February 2017 and is located a short distance from the Irvington train station.  It’s a perfect place to dine with friends visiting from NYC, or for a quick dinner on the way home from work.

While the owner, Tony Kim, is Korean his menu is a mixture of both Korean and Japanese cuisines.  His Korean cooking skills were learned from his mom and grandmother but his first restaurant job was in a sushi restaurant.  He combined his two experiences and created GoSu.

 

Taken literally, the name of the restaurant translates to: card shark or cocky person.  Tony chose GoSu, from the Korean words GoGi (meats) and GookSu (noodles) to mean Meats and Noodles. When envisioning a traditional Korean restaurant, BBQ that is cooked right at the table often comes to mind.  However, GoSu was created with an emphasis on family-friendly dining.  No table-top grills are found here.  Likewise, you won’t be served banchan (the collection of small side dishes served with traditional Koran cuisine).  Instead, GoSu serves lots of delicious comfort food with plenty of kid-friendly options.

GoSu features so many tasty appetizers on their menu.  From left to right, I tasted the Agedashi Tofu (fried soft tofu in tempura sauce), Bulgogi Tacos (marinated sliced ribeye with house pico and cheese), Chicken Katsu (panko breaded chicken breast with Japanese BBQ sauce & chipotle mayo), Shrimp Shumai (with ginger soy vinaigrette) and Ika Yaki (broiled whole marinated squid with teriyaki glaze).  The chicken katsu and shrimp shumai are two of the most popular appetizers and will likely be enjoyed by most children.  I usually prefer firm tofu, but enjoyed the soft tofu in the tempura sauce.  Other appetizers on the menu that sound delicious include: Tatsutage (bite-sized Japanese fried chicken), Spicy Pork Buns and Loaded Fries (bulgogi, cheese and jalapeno on a bed of waffle fries).  These will definitely have to be tried on my next visit!

While you can make a meal out of appetizers, I strongly recommend you leave room for the “Meats & Noodles.”  My favorite meat dish was the Spicy Pork Sizzle Bop.  This Korean style marinated sliced pork was slightly sweet but had a nice spicy kick.  While some of my table mates found this dish to be a bit too spicy, if you like a little heat, I highly recommend this!  There are several other Sizzle Bop entrees including Galbi (marinated short rib), Bulgogi (soy marinated sliced rib eye), Beef Teriyaki, Beef Negimaki (asparagus & scallion wrapped with thinly sliced rib eye in teriyaki sauce), Chicken Teriyaki and Salmon Teriyaki.  I sampled the Salmon Teriyaki Sizzle Bop, which was a crowd favorite the night that I dined.  All Sizzle Bops are served with white or brown rice and vegetables, as well as a choice of miso soup or a side salad.

My favorite noodle dish of the evening was the Curry Udon.  This dish has bulgogi in a mild, Japanese curry broth.  This curry isn’t spicy like many Indian or Thai curries.  It has barely any heat but is packed with flavor.  It’s literally a bowl of pure comfort food.  When the cold weather comes, you will want to eat bowlfuls of this udon!  This dish was also a favorite of my fellow foodies.

Although GoSu prides itself on its “Meats & Noodles,” it accommodates those with dietary restrictions.  Several dishes on the menu can be made gluten-free and there are plenty of vegetarian options. The restaurant has several vegetarian main dishes including Tofu Steak (seared, sliced organic soft tofu w/a ginger teriyaki sauce), pictured above, Yaki Udon (sauteed udon noodles with cabbage and onion in a house special sauce) and pictured below, Spicy Soba (cold soba noodles on a bed of mixed veggies with House gochujang sauce).  Gochujang is a red pepper paste, and yes, is a bit on the spicy side.  Again, I like a bit of spice and think this dish is perfect for summer.

There is a children’s menu for kids 8 and under with favorites like Chicken Teriyaki, Bulgogi and Tatsutage.  Kids will likely enjoy ramune, a Japanese “marble soda.”  Nicknamed so, because of the Codd-neck bottle, GoSu sells several varieties of this fun drink.

The adults may prefer to enjoy some soju.  Soju is a very popular Korean spirit.  Similar to vodka, it’s a mild tasting alcohol.  But don’t be deceived, a little goes a long way.  Many bottles of soju have 20-40% alcohol!  This was my first time trying soju and even better, it was pineapple flavored!  Since I was driving, I only had a couple of sips, but I found it to be smooth with a slightly sweet taste.

For dessert we had NY-Style Cheesecake Tempura with green tea powder. This was a pleasant surprise, since most Asian restaurants I’ve been to don’t offer much more than ice cream for dessert. The tempura gave this treat a nice crunch while inside the cheesecake was nice and creamy.

As seen, the restaurant is furnished in mostly black and white.  A variety of live plants decorate the space and red spoons add a little pop of color.  Tony put a lot of thought into his restaurant decor, including benches that lift up so you can store your jacket and purse.  Plus, the bathroom has one of the coolest sinks I’ve seen as well as jars of toothpicks and mints.

Tony does a great job of combining Korean and Japanese flavors in his dishes and he is currently revising the menu for the fall/winter.  GoSu is definitely a restaurant in Westchester County worth checking out!

The Details:

GoSu (Asian Fusion Restaurant)
5o South Buckhout Street (entrance is on Astor Street)
Irvington, NY 10533
(914) 479-5898

Hours: Monday – Saturday 12 PM – 9:30 PM, closed Sundays

Parking:  Across the street and along Buckhout Street

Price:  $$ (most main dishes priced between $12 – $19)

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June Reads 2018

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It’s the second Tuesday of the month and time to share my June Reads with Jana and Steph’s monthly Show Us Your Books linkup.  I thought June was off to a great start.  But in the end, like last month, I only read five books.  Quality-wise, most weren’t even that great.  But, July is  a new month.  I feel like I read more in the summer, so I’m hoping that still remains true! Here are my June reads:

2 stars

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The Perfect Nanny by Leiia Slimani – This was one of the times that I should have relied on the goodreads rating of this book.  This book was translated from French and I was interested in seeing what kind of thriller this would be.  Let’s just say this wasn’t suspenseful at all.  I felt like it didn’t go anywhere and there were no likable characters.  Overall, this was a big disappointment.

3 stars

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A Secret Kept by Tatiana de Rosnay – I got this book years ago after reading and loving de Rosnay’s book Sarah’s Key.  The book focuses on the complexity of family relationships but the secret was a bit of a letdown.  I’m happy to have finally read a book off my own bookshelf though and can now pass it on.

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The Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod – This was my non-fiction book of the month.  At age 20, Elrod was clinically dead for 6 minutes after being hit head-on by a drunk driver.  This accident made him reevaluate his life.  He realized the power of getting up early and performing a consistent morning ritual. His morning practice, L.I.F.E.S.A.V.E.R.S., is the foundation of The Miracle Morning.   I found Elrod’s story inspiring.  And I really believe there’s a connection between being an early riser and success.  I just need to actually put this book into practice!

 4 stars

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How to Walk Away by Katherine Center –  Maggie had it all – a dream job, a nice apartment and an amazing boyfriend.  However, everything changes on the night of her engagement.  She wakes up in a hospital having to face that her life will never be the same.  She does a lot of growing and a majority of the book focuses on her coming to terms with her new life.  I believe that this book was recommended in the last SUYB.  I had wanted to read one of Center’s other books, Happiness for Beginners, for awhile now.  I am hopefully going to get to that one sooner than later now, since I enjoyed this book.

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The Recipe Box by Viola Shipman – I’ve been a big Viola Shipman fan since I read The Charm Bracelet.  Her books tend to have a formulaic quality, with objects, or in this case recipes, leading to a story.  This book in particular felt a little repetitive to me at times, but overall it was an enjoyable story.

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May 2018 Reads

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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.

Recent Tween Reads

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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

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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.