Tuesday, March 28, 2017

An Easter Surprise: Personalized Book Review + Giveaway

An Easter Surprise - personalized book from Put Me in the Story

Review by Lauren

I was given the opportunity to personalize and review one of the Easter books from Put Me in the Story. Despite this, all opinions are still my own. I actually decided to let a friend of mine from work choose the book she wanted and since she has two young boys, we finally figured that we'd put "Andrew 'n Adam" as the name. I've done this in the past with my two nieces, but with this new book, we needed one more character to be able to put "and" in the middle and obviously we didn't have that. Hence, the "n" in the middle instead of an "and." Regardless, I think it works okay and it's kind of a cute way to put the two boy's names together!

Now, part of this is my fault because they allow you to read some of the story before you order, but I didn't realize that the name was going to be associated with the Easter Bunny. Basically, whatever name you choose to have this book personalized with- that's the Easter Bunny's name. So basically, I've given him the name Andrew 'n Adam. I think it's still kind of cute, and a bit unique. Plus, with the 'n instead of the and, the names run a bit smoother when reading aloud so it almost seems like one full name.

The actual story is really cute though. It's all about this little bunny who is actually the Easter Bunny and it takes you on his journey as he delivers all the eggs on Easter-eve. The illustrations are bright and fun! You even get to pick the city, so that's shown a couple time in the book too, which is fun, especially if your child is old enough to know what city they live in. There are a variety of numbered eggs throughout the book that your child can find, which is a really fun activity! Don't worry if they can't find them all...the answers (with photos) are in the back!

As with all Put Me in the Story books, you get to choose a photo for the inside of the book and you can even have a little message. As you can see from the front, the name's of the kid(s) is on the front, as well as whoever the book is from. I don't have a picture - but the kid's photos as well as their mom and dad's personal message is at the beginning of the book. I ordered the hardback, but there are paperbacks available too!

Put Me in the Story also has other Easter books, plus animals that got with the books (you can get this book with the bunny plush if you want!), and even some fun Easter baskets. Don't delay though - shipping for Easter ends Friday, March 31st! Want to know something even BETTER? You can get $10 off all hardcover Easter books by using the code SUNNY

If you want to try your hand at winning An Easter Surprise Book and Plush Set, then enter the following giveaway by the end of the day, Thursday, March 30th! If you don't win, you still have a day left to order.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Terms and Conditions OPEN TO U.S. ONLY No purchase necessary to enter or win. A purchase does not improve your chances of winning. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW. Open to legal residents of USA who are 18 years or older. Giveaway begins 2/27/2017 at 12:00am EST and ends at 3/30/2017 at 11:59pm EST (“Promotion Period”). Enter the Giveaway during the Promotion Period online by submitting the entry form. The entry form can be found on the following website at http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/54ca7af7490/. Winner will be selected by Random.org and be notified by email. Winner has 48 hours to respond before a new winner is selected. One (1) winner will receive one (1) personalized gift set "An Easter Surprise and Plush Gift Set" (approximate retail value or "ARV": $44.99). By providing your information in this form, you are providing your information to Put Me In The Story. Put Me In The Story does not share or sell information and will use any information only for the purpose of this giveaway. (Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads) are in no way associated with this giveaway.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Bake Sale Murder + Easter Bunny Murder by Leslie Meier

Bake Sale Murder by Leslie Meier 

Review by Lauren

source: e-copy from library; all opinions are my own

Official Summary: Ever since local developer Fred Stanton and his wife, Mimi, built five modular homes next door to Lucy Stone’s farmhouse, life just hasn’t been the same. With Mimi complaining about everything from the state of Lucy’s lawn to another neighbor’s lovable dog, quaint Tinker’s Cove, Maine, is now entangled in cul-de-sac politics and backstabbing. And when Mimi doesn’t show up for her shift at The Hat and Mitten Fund bake sale, the scent of burnt sugar leads Lucy to a shocking discovery: Mimi, face down on her kitchen floor—with a knife in her back.

While the police start their investigation, Lucy gets busy writing up the murder for the local Pennysaver—and following a few leads of her own. Lucy knows the women in her neighborhood didn’t like Mimi, but they certainly didn’t want her dead…right?

Review: This is the second book in the cozy mystery series following Lucy Stone that I've read. Technically, it's the 13th in the series though. While cozy mysteries are nice to read in order because you get the everyday life progression of the main character, it's not entirely necessary. This book did a great job showing you who Lucy was, as well as her family and neighbors. Each book also contains a separate mystery, so if you want something quick, then grab a cozy. I do recommend the Lucy Stone books as it's nice to place yourself in Lucy's shoes for a bit. While Lucy is not involved in law enforcement, she is a part-time reporter for her local newspaper. This job certainly helps her use her more curious side, so when there is an obvious murder in her own, Lucy is dead set on investigating. There were times where I thought Lucy should have been more careful, but all in all, she's not terribly reckless. Some of her digging in Bake Sale Murder contained her own daughter, after all, so it makes sense that a parent would go searching for information.

I thought Bake Sale Murder was a great look at neighborhoods and how you don't necessarily know someone just because they live next door. Readers get to know a lot about Mimi in her family but also the other neighbors nearby. A lot of people have possible motives, so it's not easy to guess the culprit. As the book nears the end, most of the mystery begins to become clear. This doesn't ruin the big surprise though. Instead, I think it makes a reader feel like Lucy. All the facts and information have been laid out and the culprit(s) suddenly come to light! 

A fun read! Oh, and in case you're wondering, the first Lucy Stone book  I read was actually the first book in the series! Now check out my next review, which is another Lucy Stone novel! 

Interested in reading? I'm an amazon affiliate- I get a small percent of any sale. Check out the print copy of Bake Sale Murder or the e-book copy

Easter Bunny Murder by Leslie Meier

Review by Lauren

source: e-copy from library; all opinions are my own

Official Summary: Spring has sprung in Tinker's Cove, and Lucy Stone has a mile-long to-do list. From painting eggs with her grandson, to preparing the perfect Easter feast, to reviving her garden after a long, cold winter, she hardly has time to hunt for a killer with a deadly case of spring fever... Lucy has always loved covering the annual Easter egg hunt for the Pennysaver. Hosted by elderly socialite Vivian Van Vorst at Pine Point, her luxurious oceanfront estate, it's a swanky event where the grown-ups sip cocktails while their children search for eggs that are as likely to contain savings bonds as they are jelly beans. But when Lucy arrives with her three-year-old grandson, VV's normally welcoming gates are locked, and a man dressed as the Easter Bunny emerges only to drop dead moments later… Lucy discovers that the victim is Van Vorst Duff, VV's grandson, and soon learns that not all is as it seems at idyllic Pine Point, where the champagne and caviar seem to be running dry. Always a social butterfly, VV has been skipping lunch dates with friends, and her much-needed donations to local charities have stopped with no explanation. Maybe she's going senile, or maybe her heirs are getting a little too anxious to take over her estate… As Lucy gathers a basketful of suspects, she's convinced someone's been hunting for a lot more than eggs, and she'll have to chase the truth down a rabbit hole before the killer claims another victim…

Review: This is the 19th book in the Lucy Stone cozy mystery series, and it's now the third book I've read featured the protagonist. This is obviously a suitable novel for the time of the year, which is a big reason I decided to read it. It's fun to read the holiday themed cozies around that actual holiday. Easter Bunny Murder was one that had a lot of possible suspects and honestly, I had no idea who it would be until right before the reveal. 

This book is definitely full of suspense and dealt with a lot of different issues and mysteries. First you have VV who is possibly a victim of elder abuse. Then you have the death of her grandson, which is how the alleged abuse ends up getting out. What makes this a more thrilling read - and not in a gory, really scary way - is that Van isn't the only victim in this book. Instead of just one murder to puzzle out, Lucy has well...I'm not going to say. You'll just have to read it to find out! I liked how concerned Lucy was about VV, even though it's noted that some people might find her too rich and stingy to really care about. Lucy understands that VV wasn't the best person, but that doesn't mean she deserves to be treated harshly in her old age - especially not by relatives! It's definitely not always to be rich. 

Another aspect of Easter Bunny Murder that I enjoyed is that it features a bit of a court case in the book. From the two previous Lucy Stone novels I've read the book always tends to wrap up soon after the culprit is revealed. This was a nice addition! 

Between the two, I liked Easter Bunny Murder better than Bake Sale Murder, but I recommend these books regardless. They are quick, fun reads with a nice mystery! 

Interested in reading? I'm an amazon affiliate- I get a small percent of any sale. Check out the print copy of Easter Bunny Murder or the e-book copy

Saturday, March 25, 2017

A Bit More About Usborne Books and More

I mentioned this last week, but I thought it deserved it's very own post. A friend of mine inspired me to ALSO start selling for Usborne Books and More. I've always seen people becoming a consultant for a variety of companies, and while I sometimes liked the products, I never really thought I'd be one of them. However, I LOVE these books. We all know that I'm a big book person in general, but I'm a strong proponent of literacy and getting kids reading young. I'm always giving my nieces and nephew books for their birthdays and Christmas. They love them, and that makes me really happy! In fact, I bought a book from this company for my niece's upcoming birthday. I think she'll love it.

Anyway, if you're curious about the books, please feel free to use my shop here. If you want to buy something, that would be amazing. I can also make a wish list for you if you are looking for certain types of books - I'd just need the age/gender and any preferences and the wish list will help narrow things down for you! These wish lists are actually attached to the store, so when I send you the link, it will allow you to click on the titles and learn more and even buy right there if you want!

Beyond that, since I'm just starting out, I'm really looking for people to do a Facebook party with me! You don't have to do too much work beyond inviting people. Plus, if enough sales are generated during your party, you can win lots of free and awesome books! Definitely think about hosting! I'll had to add you on Facebook for party purposes, but you're welcome to de-friend me after the party is over if you don't like adding people from the internet! I won't be offended; I know everyone uses social media different! There isn't really a precedent for Twitter parties, but I'm willing to do one if you think that would be better for you!

Since Easter is fast approaching, I'll just leave you with this graphic of some great Easter book suggestions. Books make the best gifts! I'm also planning on reviewing some of the books I buy from the company too to help give you a better look at the titles, so look out for those!

Friday, March 24, 2017

Fair Chance by Josh Lanyon + The Otto Digmore Difference by Brent Hartinger

Fair Chance by Josh Lanyon

Review by Lauren

source: copy from Netgalley; all opinions are my own

Official SummaryEx–FBI agent Elliot Mills thought he was done with the most brutal case of his career. The Sculptor, the serial killer he spent years hunting, is finally in jail. But Elliot's hope dies when he learns the murderer wasn't acting alone. Now everyone is at risk once again—thanks to a madman determined to finish his partner's gruesome mission.  
When the lead agent on the case, Special Agent Tucker Lance, goes missing, Elliot knows it's the killer at work. After all, abducting the love of his life is the quickest way to hurt him.  
The chances of finding Tucker are all but impossible without the help of the Sculptor—but the Sculptor is in no position to talk. Critically injured in a prison fight, he lies comatose and dying while the clock ticks down. Elliot has no choice but to play this killer's twisted game and hope he can find Tucker in time.
Review: This is the third book in the All's Fair series. For whatever reason, I must not have realized this when I requested the book from Netgalley as I have not read the previous two. Regardless, I think you can read Fair Chance on its own and still follow the story just fine. I might have to go back and read the first two at some point though, as I really do like Josh Lanyon's writing.

Anyway, back to Fair Chance! Elliot Mills is an Ex-FBI agent who is still stuck in the midst of a case as the serial killer he helped catch, while in jail now, is still toying with him. The Sculptor won't talk to anyone but Elliot, and when Elliot goes to visit him in jail, he's given information that may or may not be true, but if it is true? It changes the game...and not in any way the FBI is happy about.

Special Agent Tucker Lance is Elliot's partner and none too thrilled that Elliot is still involved in the case. He wants him to be separate from all of this. However, when Tucker ends up going missing, Elliot is determined to do everything he can to figure out just where Tucker went and if it's at all connected to The Sculptor.

This was an exciting read with plenty of suspense and mystery. I thought I had an idea of what was happening, but then new information was revealed and things change again. I love this in a good mystery! It keeps the reader on their toes and that's never a bad thing. I thought the characters were well-rounded and wonderfully written. It was easy to get into Elliot's head and feel his fears and emotions, especially when Tucker goes missing.

While this book is mostly a mystery, there is a bit of romance and it all balances itself out well. Definitely recommended!

Want to read? I'm an amazon affiliate; I get a small percent of any sale. Check out Fair Chance in print or as an e-copy.

The Otto Digmore Difference by Brent Hartinger 

Review by Lauren

source: copy from author; all opinions are my own

Official Summary“Road trip!” 

Otto Digmore is a 26-year-old gay guy with dreams of being a successful actor, and he’s finally getting some attention as a result of his supporting role on a struggling sitcom. But he’s also a burn survivor with scars on half his face, and all indications are that he’s just too different to ever find real Hollywood success. 

Now he’s up for an amazing new role that could change everything. Problem is, he and his best friend Russel Middlebrook have to drive all the way across the country in order to get to the audition on time. 

It’s hard to say which is worse: the fact that so many things go wrong, or that Russel, an aspiring screenwriter, keeps comparing their experiences to some kind of road trip movie. 

There’s also the fact that Otto and Russel were once boyfriends, and Otto is starting to realize that he still might have romantic feelings for his best friend. 

Just how far will Otto go to get the role, and maybe the guy, of his dreams? 

Review: I read all of the YA Russel Middlebrook series - which began with Geography Club - and I was equally thrilled when the author brought Russel into his twenties in the more new adult trilogy. Now, Brent Hartinger is back with a series of books following Otto Digmore, one of Russel's high school boyfriends and current best friend. To ease the transition between Russel and Otto, The Otto Digmore Difference actually features a lot of both. For those that never read about Otto before, be assured that it's fine to just start here. You get enough background information on Otto and Russel to understand their relationship. For the sake of this review, though, I'll mention that Otto was a burn victim at the age of seven and has severe burns on half of his face as well as elsewhere on his body. Him and Russel met as camp counselors during high school and started a relationship, which ended up being long-distance when camp ended. The two drifted apart for awhile until they both landed in California - Russel for screenwriting and Otto for acting. The two became fast friends once again, except when The Otto Digmore Difference starts, Russel has just recently married his husband Kevin. Now, on to the book!

Otto has had fairly quick success on a TV show called Hammered but bad news suddenly feels like all Otto is getting. People are harassing him online about his looks, the person he was seeing ghosted him (just stopped talking to him), and now his best friend Russel is happily married without realizing that Otto still harbors feelings for him. Now before you worry - there is no cheating whatsoever in this book. Neither character would do that. That doesn't mean that Otto isn't jealous of Russel's happiness or feeling a bit hurt because he wasn't the guy that Russel - or anyone else - chooses. The main narrative of this book is Otto and Russel going on a road trip together so that Otto can meet the director of a film that he really wants to star in. He's read the script, he auditioned for other people on the film, and they all agree he would be great. Unfortunately, the director had a family emergency and so Otto decides to go to him - with the director's permission of course - to see if he could land this dream role and use his scars for something other than a Freddy Krueger remake. 

The book is full of road trip cliches, and I say this lovingly, because it's something that Russel constantly brings up and thinks is wonderful. He's a screenwriter, after all. While not all the cliches are great - they do allow the two friends to get to know each other at these new stages in their lives. They aren't high school kids anymore, after all. I liked all that Russel and Otto experienced because while the road trip metaphor is one of adventure and self-discovery, that's exactly what I hope to find in most contemporary novels! Otto is a great character. It's easy to feel bad for the things he has to deal with in his life, but at the same time, it's made known that Otto isn't always perfect. He can mess up too and has to be called out on it. 

The Otto Digmore Difference is a quick, fun read, and I really can't wait to read more about Otto in the next book! I was given a copy of this book to read/review by the author, but all opinions are my own. I am working with the author on getting reviews for this novel so if you're interested, we'd love to hear from you! E-books only, I'm afraid, but you don't have to be a strict book blogger to ask for a copy! We just ask that you review it on your blog at the very least, and Goodreads and Amazon if you cross-post. 

Want your own copy? I'm an affiliate for amazon, so if you use my links, I get a small percent. Check the paperback copy here and the e-book copy here

Thursday, March 23, 2017

A Film Review: Beauty and the Beast

Beauty and the Beast Film Review by Lauren

I purchased the ticket to see the film; all opinions are my own

To be honest, Beauty and the Beast has never been one of my favorite Disney animated films. I always related to Belle and her love of books though. When I heard the film was going to be turned into a live-action movie and that Emma Watson would be playing Belle, I immediately knew I had to see it! This past Saturday I was finally able to watch the movie, after what seemed like years of waiting, with my mom and sister. By the time the credits rolled - and they are really cool looking credits - all three of us knew that we'd fallen in love with the story of Beauty and her Beast. I thought the acting was done well, and I loved all the songs. I'm a big musical fan so it was exciting to see mostly real people sing these beloved songs, including a few new ones that really added to the film! I especially loved the song that the Beast sings alone. It really makes you feel for the guy beneath the rough exterior. Dan Stevens did a great job as the Beast. It can't be easy to play that role, and I know he had to do a lot to bring the character to life, such as learning to use stilts. As for Emma, I thought she made a lovely Belle. She was smart and eccentric, and always a genuinely nice person. I thought her singing was lovely and I liked that it sounded like her - it made her seem young and approachable, like Beauty should be in my opinion.

The sets were just breath taking and I love that they actually created these rooms. I'm sure it really helped bring the whole world to life for the actors. The costumes were wonderful - matching the animated film without being corny. As for the secondary characters, I thought everyone was perfectly cast. Luke Evans was a handsome, yet overly irritating (in all the right ways) Gaston and his companion, LeFou was wonderfully played by Josh Gad (the voice of Olaf). If you heard any of the press surrounding the film, then you already know that LeFou was going to be shown as openly gay in the film and that this upset a lot of people. I thought it was great that Disney was going to finally have an openly gay character, but I understand the criticism that LeFou wasn't "one of the good guys" so to speak or that he was a stereotypical gay man. I can't speak for everyone, of course, but after seeing the movie, I believe that Josh and the film's creators did the character of LeFou well and made his character - gay or otherwise - one to rejoice! 

Finally, I have to mention the castle's inhabitants. In an animated film, it's easy to have a singing/talking tea pot and candlestick, but when bringing these elements in a live-action film, it's easy to see it being done wrong or coming across as corny. However, I think Beauty and the Beast did a great job. All of these characters felt and seemed like people, yet still containing their distinct look of a clock or dresser drawers. The voices for these characters were also fantastic additions to the cast and who included many people I love like Emma Thompson and Ewan McGregor. 

Beauty and the Beast was a fantastic addition to the Disney canon and it's one I'll definitely buy on DVD for my personal collection! 

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

I Love Cincinnati: What's Community Mean To You?

Community comes in many different forms, and it can be something you find where you live or something you create online. Throughout my life, I've been part of different communities and I do believe in the value of finding your own. These days, I'd say I'm in the community of bloggers, I'm in a community with the people that I work with, and on a much larger scale, I'm in the community of my city of Cincinnati, Ohio. This city has afforded me many opportunities to find communities within the city too, like the Geek Girl Brunch of Cincinnati where area females that love all things geeky come together every other month. There is also GLSEN Cincinnati where I try and find time to volunteer for when I can because I believe in LGBT+ rights for everyone, and being part of that group allows to take part in the community of other people that identify as LGBT+.

Because of my strong belief in Cincinnati, I believe in the important work that Cincinnati Bell is doing. They do a lot to give back to the place that they call home, especially with their "Home" Campaign. A limited edition t-shirt was created and fellow Cincinnati-ans can buy it, with Cincinnati Bell giving proceeds to some amazing charities: CancerFree KIDS, The Dragonfly Foundation, USO of Central and Southern Ohio, and SPCA Cincinnati. If you live in the area or simply want to help support these great causes, then visit the CincyGive page to purchase this awesome shirt for only $20.

Another way that Cincinnati Bell is giving back to their community is by the creation of Connect Cincinnati. This is an amazing app that keeps the community of Cincinnati connected to each other and all things Cincy. By downloading the app, you are provided with FREE Wi-Fi at various hotspots across the city, location-based recommendations, wonderful deals, and even some fun chances to win prizes! Cincinnati Bell created this app to connect the city and it shows their dedication to serving the city they love!

Along with all of these extra initiatives, Cincinnati Bell has invested time and money in Fioptics for years to make sure that their customers receive the best television and the fastest internet services. I've been a customer with Cincinnati Bell and I've always had wonderful service. I couldn't be the blogger that I am without fast internet service, and as I focus so much on entertainment, all of the service that Cincinnati Bell provides is important for me - and my family too! All our devices are supported at the same, we can easily stream Netflix, and when it comes to television - they offer a variety of great programming packages so you can pay for the channels YOU want and nothing else! Everything is quick, reliable, and easy to use and that's just what I need in my busy life, whether I'm doing business or relaxing!

Because Cincinnati Bell allows me to save time, especially when using the internet, I can put more time and effort into the things that I love. This includes my blog, side businesses, and keeping in touch with friends and family! Saved time means a happier me!

If you'd like to know more about Cincinnati Bell and their services/initiatives, please visit the following links - Cincinnati Bell information page, CincyGive - where you can buy a great t-shirt that gives back, and Connect Cincinnati - the awesome app that brings the community to you!

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Weight Loss With Lauren: An Introduction

I'm starting my new series today called Weight Loss With Lauren. I hope to have at least one post a month, but it may be more depending on what ideas I come up with, or what questions you all ask me! A lot of you have already heard me talk about my weight loss journey, but for those that aren't aware, I'll use this post to explain what I'm doing!

(please use the following image to Pin!)

Weight Loss Program: This program is through my local hospital. I'm not in the medical field, so anything I share here is based on my own experience and you should never overhaul your diet or health without medical supervision. For me, I started out by seeing a doctor who decided to put me on the Low Calorie Diet (about 1,000 calories a day). There is also a Very Low Calorie Diet. Mine is where I have two meal replacements a day along with one regular meal and any snacks I include. Once I was ready, I saw a dietitian every week to get weighed and discuss how things were going. About a month in, I started seeing a dietitian every other week. The week I didn't see them, I went to a class that was hosted by a dietitian, so I still get weighed every week and can ask questions if I want.

What Are Meal Replacements?: Like I said above, I get two meal replacements which I tend to use as breakfast and lunch, so I can eat an actual dinner, but you're allowed to switch this around and I have before. The brand of the replacement is called New Direction, which always makes me think of Glee. The meal replacement options are soup, beverages, and pudding. I tried one of the soups and it made me feel really sick, so that was out. I didn't try any of the pudding because I've never liked pudding. That means I get two beverages as my replacements. It took about a week before I found the flavors that I liked and those are Mocha and Vanilla. I like mocha the best, but vanilla isn't too bad. You can add a little extract to change the flavor if you want - I've done orange, but I'd like to try something else soon and see what it tastes like.

What About Dinner?: Since I typically save my actual meal for dinner, it's been interesting trying to find what I can actually eat. Veggies are a big one, except I've never really loved veggies, so if anyone has ideas of how to cook them, let me know! At any rate, I've eaten a lot of pork chops when I want something relatively easy. I've tried various recipes though too - some I've gotten from the hospital and others I have found online through the Diabetes website, etc. I even got a couple cookbooks that I hope to use soon. All of these recipes have to have exchanges listed though, as it makes it much easier for me to figure out what I'm eating.

Exchanges: These are typically called Diabetic Exchanges, so you're likely to find them in Diabetic cookbooks, etc. My exchanges everyday are the following:

Starch: 2
Meat: 4
Veggies: 2
Fruit: 2
Milk: 0
Fat: 1

I have a binder that I got when I first joined the program that breaks down various food and sizes to let you know how much equals one exchange. For example, 14 tiny pretzels is 1 starch. If you eat a 4 oz piece of meat, that's 4 exchanges (for meat, try and keep it at very lean or lean). Peanut butter is a fat, so you only get 2 teaspoons before you've reached 1 fat. I tend to keep my fats for a dessert because I like apples and peanut butter. A large apple is 2 fruits, so that snack/dessert takes your fruit and your fat. It was a bit hard to follow at first, but I've gotten better at it and I have an idea of what most things fall under now. At any rate, having the exchanges listed on a recipe helps me figure out which ones are suitable for me and my current diet.

What Now?: As you read this, I'll be on my 8th week. I've lost almost 19 pounds so far which is amazing. I can tell a little bit, but it's still not terribly noticeable to me. Certain things are fitting better though and that's always a sure sign that something is going right!

I'll stop now because I don't want this to be too long of a post. I have one recipe that I hope to share sometime in the future, and I have a few ideas for other posts to include too, but please let me know if you have questions about this program or anything else I've discussed. I'd love to answer them in a future post!

I'm linking up today with Ashley and Erika for Tuesday Talk - where you talk about anything and everything!

Friday, March 17, 2017

Friday Favorites: Usborne Books, Beauty and the Beast, and More!

Happy St. Patrick's Day! I'm back today sharing five things that I've been doing/loving in the past couple weeks! I'll be including some amazon links; I'm an affiliate, so if you purchase from them, I get a small percent.

Number 1: Beauty and the Beast (and giveaway)

I didn't do a Friday Favorites post last week because I shared a GIANT giveaway for Beauty and the Beast that I'm part of and I want to make sure you all get a shot to enter. You have one more week! This is also one of my favorites this week because I've been waiting for this movie for SUCH a long time and I can't wait to finally see it this weekend. Anyone else planning to see it this weekend?

Some items you may be interested in:

Beauty and the Beast: 25th Anniversary Edition DVD
Beauty and the Beast Live-Action Movie Soundtrack
Belle's Library: A Collection of Literary Quotes and Inspirational Musings

Number 2: I'm Selling for Usborne Books and More

If you haven't heard of Usborne Books and More, then I'm here to introduce you. They sell books for kids aged birth to middle school and there are a variety of fun titles - fiction, nonfiction, etc. We even have books called Shine-A-Light and each one is a nonfiction title but if your child shines a flashlight or the light on your phone over the pages, a secret image will appear! I LOVE this. There are also some cute additional items like sticker books, coloring books, stuffed animals, backpacks, etc. I'm having my launch party this Sunday at 8 p.m. EST on Facebook - if you want an invite, let me know and we can get that rolling!

If you can't make it Sunday or you want to do your own party, get in touch! I'd LOVE to help set up a party for you - don't worry, it's all done on Facebook so no having to get out of your PJ's. I know so many of us love to read and I think these books are awesome, so I really hope you'll want to host a party or buy books. And if you don't like friending people on Facebook that you don't know in person, you can always defriend me after your party. I won't be offended!

You can browse or buy books by visiting this link.

Number 3: Flea Market Flip Obsessed

If you don't know this show, it's where two teams of two go up against each other at Flea Markets. They attend and are given 1 hour and $500 to find at least three items to complete three types of projects. Then they get one day and another $100 to help enhance/flip their finds. Finally, they go to the same flea market another day and have to sell all of their new pieces. Based on how much they spent on an item and how much it sold for, their money is added up and whoever made the most wins! Whew - summary over!

Basically, my mom and I spend hours every Friday night watching this show. Yes, I'm secretly an old lady, but it's SO good. I love seeing what they can turn these things into like a bar bicycle? Or using old ladders to make a really awesome shelf? Good stuff here people!

Number 4: Out of Print Clothing Celebrates Women!

For Women's History Month, the awesome Out of Print clothing (they sell more than just clothes - but it's all book themed) has created items based around four awesome authors/books. If you are interested in buying anything from them, use this link and we'll both save money! I personally want that Agatha Christie shirt!

Number 5: All the Twitter Giveaways!

If you're on Twitter, I am kindly asking you to follow me. Why, you may ask? Well, one of the things that I really like to post is giveaways that are happening via Twitter. Usually the entries are simple like follow and RT, so if you'd like to find these giveaways, follow me! Also, I've been doing some random giveaways lately on Twitter and I think I'll have a new one up soon. Once I reach 3k, I'll do a slightly bigger giveaway - what would you like to win?!

Follow me on Twitter here.

That's it for me! I hope you enjoyed my Top 5 of the past week! I'm linking up to the following blogs:

Friday Favorites- http://meetat-thebarre.com/
High Five for Friday- http://www.ktcupoftea.com/
Friday Favorites- http://tabanderika.blogspot.com/ 
Oh Hey, Friday- http://www.farmerswifeamy.com/
Five on Friday- http://www.northcarolinacharm.com/

Thursday, March 16, 2017

California Dreamin': Cass Elliot Before The Mamas the Papas by Penelope Bagieu

California Dreamin': Cass Elliot Before The Mamas and the Papas by Penelope Bagieu

Review by Lauren

source: copy from publisher; all opinions are my own

Official SummaryBefore she became the legendary Mama Cass—one quarter of the mega-huge folk group The Mamas and the Papas—Cass Eliot was a girl from Baltimore trying to make it in the big city. After losing parts to stars like Barbra Streisand on the Broadway circuit, Cass found her place in the music world with an unlikely group of cohorts.

The Mamas and the Papas released five studio albums in their three years of existence. It was at once one of the most productive (and profitable) three years any band has ever had, and also one of the most bizarre and dysfunctional groups of people to ever come together to make music. Through it all, Cass struggled to keep sight of her dreams—and her very identity.

Review: I knew of The Mamas and the Papas, but I didn't know anything specific about the band members. This graphic novel brings you through the life of Cass Elliot, from young child to burgeoning stardom. It was definitely a fascinating book and I really like graphic novels that are also biographies, because you learn a lot about the people but in a fun, easy-to-read medium.

One of my favorite aspects of this book is that each chapter is told in a different point of view, therefore they are all named after a person. This was almost like an oral history of Cass in that respect. Obviously the writer/artist didn't talk to these people - she got her information from other biographies, etc. - but it still really worked. It gave the book a unique spin as well!

The illustrations are really well done. They are all in black and white, which worked well since it takes place in the past. While most pages follow the classic comic style with panels, there are some chapters that break away from that a bit and it's definitely a cool addition to the book! It makes those moments feel more free-flowing. Definitely a good one, all in all!

Want to read? Check it out here! I'm an amazon affiliate - I get a small percent of any sale!

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Two Reviews: Embers and Darkness by Kate Sherwood

Embers by Kate Sherwood

Review by Lauren

source: copy from Netgalley; all opinions are my own

Official SummarySmall town—big problems. Jericho Crewe is back in Mosely, Montana, trying to deal with police corruption, interfering feds, his newly discovered family members, and, of course, Wade Granger.

He doesn’t really need a biker war on top of it all, but as the bodies start to pile up, it becomes pretty clear that’s what he’s got. Not only that, but Wade’s involved somehow, and as soon as Wade is a part of something, things that seemed clear become cloudy.

With the feds breathing down his neck, Jericho has to find his way through Wade’s maze of half truths and manipulations. It would all be so much easier if Jericho could think straight in the other man’s presence. So much easier if their passionate past could be forgotten, and if he could be sure he’s strong enough to resist the temptation of a passionate present.

Review: The first book in the Common Law series was Long Shadows, and it was one that I really loved. There was a slight hint of romance but it was mostly focused on the mystery. With Embers, we get a bit more physical romance but again, it focuses more on the overall mystery. This doesn't bother me because it's nice to have an m/m book that's not strictly about the romance. I also love that this is an actual series and not just companion novels. Each book focuses on Jericho Crewe who is now back in Mosely, Montana to help the local police force. He also has Wade Granger to worry about - a career criminal who used to be Jericho's lover. Jericho knows him and Wade aren't a good match, but he can't get the guy out of his head...and Wade definitely plays with that.

Despite Wade's criminal reputation, it's hard not to like the guy at least a little bit. He seems to have some sort of conscience on what he will or will not do and I don't believe his affection for Jericho is a complete act. Embers really shows how hard he tries to keep Jericho safe, giving him clues to help further the investigation of a possible biker war.

This is a great series and I'd definitely recommend it. If you're fairly new to m/m romance, this might be a good place to start!

Want to read Long Shadows, the first book in the series? Check it out on Amazon. You can check out Embers here too. I'm an affiliate; I get a small percent of any sale.

Darkness by Kate Sherwood

Review by Lauren

source: copy from Netgalley; all opinions are my own

Official SummaryA murdered prostitute. An obvious suspect. Clear evidence. For once, Jericho Crewe has a straightforward crime to investigate, and Wade Granger isn’t involved.

It all seems so simple, but Jericho’s instincts won’t let him rest. As he investigates, he finds troubling suggestions that the murder is a part of something larger and more sinister. But working within the boundaries of the law may keep him from finding the truth. If Jericho doesn’t break the rules, an innocent man may rot in jail while a killer remains free to strike again.

Inevitably, it all comes back to Wade. Because who else knows as much about breaking rules? And who else knows Jericho the way Wade does—not wisely, but far, far too well?

Review: I'm writing this review immediately after I finished the book, which almost never happens. At any rate, I can definitely say this was another wonderful addition to the Common Law series. I love learning more about Jericho and his past. I find it interesting how his sense of right and wrong is different from what you expect from a cop. It makes you think because while it's different, that doesn't always mean he's wrong.

This was a really intriguing novel as well, as the mystery added a lot of suspense to the novel. It doesn't take too long for certain secrets to be revealed but it just adds more intrigue to the novel. Knowing something isn't the same as fixing something. The truth doesn't always come out in the way one wants.

Also, this novel had a lot of more of Wade Granger and despite all of his problems - if you want to call them out - he's still obviously someone that cares about Jericho. He's not on the same side as the cops, but is he really that far away from them? Everyone suspects him when things go wrong, but Darkness shows more of his inner character, I believe, and I found it fascinating.

Want to check out Darkness? You can get it on Amazon here. I'm an affiliate - I get a small percent of any sale.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Show Us Your Books: A Nice Mix of Genres

Linking up with Jana and Steph today to show off all my book reviews from the past month! 

First off, I wanted to let you know that I have an auction going on for an AUTOGRAPHED copy of Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult. I know there are many fans of her work out there, so think about bidding. All the money will benefit the wonderful charity First Book. It ends this Sunday, March 19 at 9 p.m. EST!

And now, let's get to all the books I read/reviewed since my previous Show Us Your Books post! I hope you find something that intrigues you - let me know in the comments! Also, I'm an amazon affiliate, so I'll include links for you to buy the various books - every sale gives me a small percent.

Loved These!!

River Road by Carol Goodman - book review 

Interested? Check out the book here! Check it out as an e-book here!

Peter Darling by Austin Chant - book review 

Interested? Check out the book here

The Best We Could Do: An Illustrated Memoir by Thi Bui - book review

Want to read? Check it out here 

Working It by Christine D'Abo - book review

Want to read? Check it out on Amazon

Guarding Mr. Fine by HelenKay Dimon - book review 

Check out the Tough Love series on Amazon: 

Mr. and Mr. Smith - check it out
The Talented Mr. Rivers - check it out
Guarding Mr. Fine - check it out 

Liked These!!

Our Own Private Universe by Robin Talley - book review

Interested? Check it out on Amazon 

When Did 30 Become a Big Deal? by Alessandra Ebulu - book review

Interested? Check it out on Amazon here

Honey Girl: The Hawaiian Monk Seal by Jeanne Walker Harvey - book review

Interested? Check it out on Amazon here

Block and Strike by Kelly Jensen - book review

Want to check it out on Amazon?

Secret Coders: Secrets and Sequences by Gene Luen Yang and Mike Holmes - book review

Interested in the series? The review above is the third book in the graphic novel series:

Secret Coders - Book 1

Secret Coders - Book 2

Secret Coders - Book 3

Meh Books!!

Sound Proof by C.A. Blocke - book review 

If you're interested, though, you can check it out on Amazon

Monday, March 13, 2017

Working It by Christine D'Abo + Guarding Mr. Fine by HelenKay Dimon

Working It by Christine D'Abo 

Review by Lauren

source: copy from Netgalley; all opinions are my own

Official Summary: Nolan Carmichael is getting a fresh start—new career, new company, new life. The only problem is, he liked his old life just fine . . . until an accident robbed him of his health, his job, his self-confidence, and his ability to go out in public without having anxiety attacks.

Zack Anderson has scared away his last four administrative assistants. So when he hires Nolan on a whim, he’s not too worried, since Nolan will be gone within the week anyway. Two weeks later, Nolan has made himself indispensable, completely reforming Zack’s schedule, life . . . and libido.

But in a company already torn by internal politics, one wrong step could ruin both their careers. And not only are they working to reopen Ringside Gym, Zack’s retreat when he was a troubled teen, but they also can’t help themselves falling for each other. If only the rest of their lives could go as smoothly as things do when they’re alone together.

Review: Oh, I really loved this one! I really loved Nolan and Zack. They both have issues they are working through -Nolan has extreme anxiety attacks and Zack has a definite attitude/anger issue - but these aren't things they are willing to let hold them back. When Nolan gets the job as Zack's assistant, he's determined to do the best he can and show his sister that he can make it on his own. As for Zack, his surly demeanor has obviously started to change after working with Nolan.

Working It is essentially a story of moving forward after tragedy, finding a reason to change your life, and going after one's dreams. Since Zack is essentially Nolan's boss, he knows that he shouldn't start anything with him, but he can't help but be drawn to him. I'm a big fan of drama in books and relationships as long as it's not drawn out by not talking or is something completely unrealistic. I thought the drama was done really well in this book and it just made me root harder for Zack and Nolan to be with each other, and to have their future be what they always imagined. I do recommend, and I'm curious to read the second book in this series!

Want to read? Check it out on Amazon, where I'm an affiliate and get a small percent of any sale.

Guarding Mr. Fine by HelenKay Dimon

Review by Lauren

source: copy from Netgalley; all opinions are my own

Official SummaryAs an agent with the CIA’s special activities division, Seth Lang lives for risk—and yet he’s stuck playing bodyguard to the U.S. consul general in Munich. Although Seth’s last assignment nearly killed him, babysitting some desk jockey in a suit sounds way too easy. But when he lays eyes on the new top man, tactical expert Rick Fine, Seth’s thrilled to see just how hard this job is going to get. Mr. Tall, Dark, and Quiet has a body worth guarding—and he requires hands-on attention day and night.
Dispatched to a German consulate to expose the murder of his predecessor, Rick finds himself in an extremely vulnerable position. He needs a man like Seth—in so many ways. This mission will inevitably plunge them both into jeopardy, but each new threat only brings them closer. Rick just hopes that he can keep his deepest, darkest secret hidden—or else risk imperiling a relationship they’re both fighting for their lives to protect.

Review: Guarding Mr. Fine is the third book in the Tough Love series, and while I've loved them all, I think this might be my favorite. I just loved the relationship between Rick and Seth. There is a big secret that involves both of them - which only Rick is aware of - but it's a secret that makes sense to be kept, at least while the mission is happening. It adds drama to the end of the book, but nothing unwarranted or too over the top.

As for the rest of the book, this is essentially a mystery novel, and I loved that. Sure, it has plenty of romance, but it also has suspense and intrigue. Rick is sure that the former ambassador to Germany was involved in something shady and that his death is more than a suicide. He has to keep this theory mostly a secret though, so that if something is going on, they aren't spooked and hide away. It soon becomes clear that Rick is correct as someone tries to take Rick out. They don't know Seth though. He's been in the CIA for years and he's an excellent "body guard." He may have feelings for Rick, but that doesn't distract Seth. It might just make him more determined to bring down whoever would dare kill Rick.

Definitely a great read! I'll include links to the other books in the series below in case you want to read in order!

Check out the Tough Love series on Amazon - I'm an affiliate; I get a small percent of any sale.

Mr. and Mr. Smith - check it out
The Talented Mr. Rivers - check it out
Guarding Mr. Fine - check it out 

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Unique Baby Gifts for the Family That Has Everything!

Unique Baby Gifts for the Family That Has Everything

When a family has a new baby on the way, the child might be the second or third for the mother. Loved ones don't need to fill the home with all of the basics because the family has nearly every critical item ready to go. However, there are a few products that may not be on the radar. To please the family that seems to have it all, consider these baby gifts when the shower approaches.

The Gift of Life

A gift that's sure to please is a stem-cell storage gift certificate. As the baby is born, doctors save the placenta and ship it to the storage facility. Your gift allows the materials to be saved for a certain time period. The stem cells within the placenta might be used for medical purposes in the future if the child or close family member becomes ill.

Sports Gear

Everyone in the family might have their sports gear on, but the baby is left out because of sizing issues. Surprise the family with baby sports apparel that's perfectly sized for the age. Be sure to pick a favorite team along with various sizes as the baby grows. Each sports season can be reflected on baby's tummy.

Never-Spill Bowls

As the baby grows into a toddler, spills are inevitable. Grab several gyroscopic bowls that come with lids. In essence, the bowls look like the planet Saturn as toddlers hold onto the exterior rings. Regardless of the bowl's position, it remains upright as the gyroscopic components do their job. The parents will be thrilled to see a spotless floor at home or in the car.

An Egg Crate of Surprises

Mom might have dozens of baby socks at home, but none of them match. Stock the home with an egg crate that you fill with matching socks in various sizes. Newborn, three-month and 12-month sized socks can easily fit into an egg crate. This unique gift can be automatically placed in a drawer so that it's handy for those cold days.

In reality, any experienced family will love the gift of diapers. Be aware of preferences, such as choosing between reusable or disposable diapers. Regardless of how many children are already in the family, fresh diapers are always a necessity. Fill a basket with diapers, and you'll end up being the star of the shower with simplicity as your guide.

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post, but I made the decision to post on my site because I think my readers could benefit from the ideas! I love shopping for the kids in my life, and I hope you enjoyed this!