Tuesday, September 30, 2014

September Favorites




I say this every month. Heck, I say this just about every day, time is going by so fast. I can't believe October is here and it's time to get ready for the holiday season.

We lost all of our Fall/Autumn/Harvest/Halloween decorations in the flood so we have to shop for new stuff this year. This is the second time I've had to replace these decorations. The first time, movers lost our box. Maybe the universe is trying to tell me something. 

September was rather uneventful if I stop and think about it. Lots of job searching going on for both myself and the Mister. His official last day as an active duty Marine is today, September 30th. We're still figuring out health insurance, retirement pay, VA benefits, etc. Making this transition is daunting to say the least. Anyway...

Books and TV

Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi is by far, my favorite read for September. I remember when this graphic novel was first published and EVERYone was talking about it. I read the synopsis out of curiosity and didn't like the sound of it at all. It sounded all political and dull. This year, I decided to read it for Banned Books Week and because I'm trying to find graphic novels that I like. I love this. Persepolis is a story that is going to stay with me a really long time. 

It's about an Iranian girl and her family and how they experienced, lived, and survived the Islamic Revolutions. It's a first person memoir told from Marjane's perspective from the ages of six to fourteen. As an American, I see the news reports on the Middle East and the places that we are bombing and the terrorists that we're fighting against and it makes it very easy to forget that normal people and families have to live this life. Marjane tells her story without any "woe is me" despite the hardships and losses she and her family experienced. Can you imagine being a teenager in the early 80's and being assaulted for wearing a jean jacket with a Michael Jackson button on it? If that had been happening here in America at the same time, just about every teenager would have been accosted on the street. Marjane brings these realities to life in her memoir and makes her experiences relatable to all her readers. 

I also remember thumbing through this novel ten years ago and not being very impressed with the artwork. You have to read the story to appreciate the artwork that goes along with it. I can be a real numskull sometimes. The artwork, in its black and white simplicity, is poignant and portrays the emotions of the characters and the starkness of living in a city under attack without taking your focus away from the words. 

As for TV, basically, I got caught up on The Big Bang Theory and watched its season premier and watched the season premier of The Goldbergs. Frankly, TV holds very little interest for me these days unless I'm watching old sitcom reruns on Netflix. Since we've been back in our house, we've probably watched less than 24 hours of new TV. Not counting sports and news. I really wonder why we continue to pay for cable.
undefined - Face - L'Oreal Paris

Health and Beauty

smooth operator™ micronized clay finishing powder with PM20™
After many years of looking, I have found a liquid foundation that I can actually stand to wear! It's L'Oreal's Magic Nude Liquid Powder Bare Skin Perfecting Makeup SPF 18. It's a medium coverage foundation that applies very easily with a brush and feels so lightweight. It comes out of the bottle as a liquid and dries to a powdery finish. I LURRRVE it! I also love, love, love my Tarte Smooth Operator Finishing Powder, which I apply on top of my foundation and the combo leaves my skin feeling soft and smooth. There are other liquid to powder foundations out there that I plan on trying just to see if they're any better than a drug store brand, but I'm pretty happy with this one.

The Internets

Another booktuber I'd like to tell you all about is Sanne from booksandquills. Sanne is fantastic. It really helps that I don't think I have completely disagreed with any of her book reviews that I've watched so far. Also, she can be so funny. She's originally from the Netherlands and occasionally, she'll do a video on Dutch "speakwords" and I find them very entertaining. Sanne is living the life that I want, in London working at a book publishing company, so I hate her just a little bit. Don't let that stop you from checking out her channel.

Food and Drink

I have to tell you all about another wine that the Mister and I discovered at the Vine. It's the Grand Barossa Cabernet Sauvignon. Omg people! This is such a great wine. "Lifted aromas of blackcurrant, blackberry and vanilla are accompanied by vibrant, dark berry fruits on the palate. The finish is long with fine-grained tannins from sixteen months maturation in a combination of new and older French oak hogsheads. Although drinking well now this wine may be cellared for up to ten years from vintage." I love the blueberry notes in this wine. Yum. This is such a good wine, that the Vine can't keep it in stock. I have no idea where you can buy this wine. Sorry. A "specialist" at www.wine.com says this wine is similar and this wine too but I haven't tried either so I can't say one way or the other.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

A Review of MateVana Herbal Tea

This post is a little different for my blog. I don't think I've ever reviewed a tea before and this is more or less a reference for me so that I can remember my first impressions of this tea. My memory isn't what it used to be, lol. I've probably reviewed a tea and just can't remember and I'm too lazy to look.

I had a tea haul from Teavana delivered yesterday. This is probably one of the most missed stores that I miss from San Diego. There are some things that you should buy in person rather than over the internet and loose leaf teas are definitely something that you should buy in person. I really hate Teavana's high-pressure sales techniques, but seeing and smelling loose leaf tea in person is a great experience. When you live in the boonies, what are ya gonna do?

I loved the sound of the description of this tea from Teavana's website:

It’s not coffee, is it tea? Taste this coffee-like maté and red rooibos blend. Sweetened with cocoa and chocolate chips, this mochaccino inspired blend infuses smooth, dark rich sips that are soft and robust. 
Roasted infusion with rich chocolaty overtones
A palmful of MateVana Tea. You can see the marigold and chocolate chunks clearly.

This Mate tea has a bit of caffeine in it and I love a tea that I can drink in place of a morning cup of coffee because some days, I'm just not in a coffee mood but can use an energy boost. This is a very aromatic tea with strong chocolate overtones and nutty undertones. It has a strong tea flavor with chocolaty/nutty flavors. I think it also has a bit of a light anise taste to it as well. Something that bothers me about this tea is that I can swear that I'm tasting an artificial sweetener but it isn't listed in the ingredients. I would almost put money on this tea having an artificial sweetener in it.The ingredients do list sugar and "artificial flavors" soooo... Despite the troubling sweetener taste, I have enjoyed this tea this morning. While the chocolate comes through very strongly, I would not compare this tea to a mochaccino. It's just not what I think of when drinking this tea. It's very tea-y versus having a coffee flavor. It's also something that I would rather drink on a cold morning and/or evening rather than a hot and humid morning like we had today at my house. 

Very dark brew. It looks like coffee but tastes like tea.

Friday, September 05, 2014

Esther Ehrlich: Nest

Disclaimer:  I was given a free copy of this book by the publisher for my honest review. Everything written below is my honest opinion and of my own free will.

Title:  Nest

Author:  Esther Ehrlich

Publisher: Random House Children's Books

Pages:  336

Genre:  Middle school fiction

Setting:  Cape Cod in 1972

Where did you get it? This is an ARC from Netgalley.

Why did you read it? If I remember correctly, I was invited to read this book. That being said, I read it because I liked the sound of the book from the blurb. I also thought the cover was pretty.

From the publisher:  For fans of Jennifer Holm (Penny from Heaven, Turtle in Paradise), a heartfelt and unforgettable middle-grade novel about an irresistible girl and her family, tragic change, and the healing power of love and friendship. In 1972 home is a cozy nest on Cape Cod for eleven-year-old Naomi “Chirp” Orenstein, her older sister, Rachel; her psychiatrist father; and her dancer mother. But then Chirp’s mom develops symptoms of a serious disease, and everything changes.
   Chirp finds comfort in watching her beloved wild birds. She also finds a true friend in Joey, the mysterious boy who lives across the street. Together they create their own private world and come up with the perfect plan: Escape. Adventure. Discovery.
   Nest is Esther Ehrlich’s stunning debut novel. Her lyrical writing is honest, humorous, and deeply affecting. Chirp and Joey will steal your heart. Long after you finish Nest, the spirit of Chirp and her loving family will stay with you.

What did you think? I loved this book. I had reservations about reading a book intended for such a young audience, but Esther Ehrlich doesn't "write down" to her readers. I thoroughly enjoyed every page of Nest. This books was full of "feels" and normally, I'm not into that. While Chirp and her family deals with illness, which is a serious subject, you aren't left with a heavy feeling after reading Nest. Quite the opposite. 

I absolutely fell in love with all of the characters in this book, even the sometimes annoying psychiatrist dad. This family is so real because they are a family in the very real sense of the word but they aren't perfect either. Ehrlich's writing is so spot on that you identify with their angst, but it's their perfection that makes you completely feel their losses. 

For a debut novel, well, you can't even tell this is a debut novel. It's really amazing and I am so a fan of Esther Ehrlich. I can't wait to see what she publishes in the future. I am also totally buying a copy of this book when it comes out so that my kids can read it. 

You can read the intro to Nest by clicking on the author's name above and visiting her website. Click on the book cover to head on over to B&N to preorder.

Thursday, September 04, 2014

Faux Autumn Day

You know when you wake up to a day that is completely gloomy? It's all dark and gray and the clouds look heavy and ominous.Without checking the weather or stepping outside, you just know that it must be chilly outside and so you lay in bed just a couple minutes longer anticipating a cozy day filled with tea, warm socks, and a good book.

This is just the morning that I had. Oh! But wait! It was gloomy and dark and drizzly outside however this is FLORIDA and it's still almost 90 degrees outside. What does dark, gloomy, drizzle mean in Florida? Not only is it hot, but the drizzle adds to the humidity. ::sigh::

I didn't indulge in fuzzy socks, jeans, and a sweatshirt (not wanting to die of heat exhaustion) but I did haul out my tea. Oh tea! How I missed you! First, I made a tumbler of a peach blended tea. After guzzling that down, I made a tumbler of seven berry sangria rooibos and blackberry mojito green tea blend. I'm also drinking my tea out of my favorite teacup. Do you enjoy teas?



I'm also indulging in my book and books in general today. I'm currently reading Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood. I had a really hard time getting into this one but I'm finding it interesting now that I'm smack dab in the middle of it. It's definitely different from what I normally read. As for as "books in general" goes, I got myself organized to do a Goodreads challenge called The Seasonal Reading Challenge. I know that I'm not good at these things, but this is so different with so many varied tasks that you can pick and choose from, that I want to give it a try. Plus, the challenge runs for the entirety of the Fall season, Sept 1 - Nov 30 so I'll have a lot of time to play. You all should give it a look see if you need something to do with your time.

Friday, August 29, 2014

August Favorites



This month went by so fast. I have to say, I'm glad that it's over and we're moving into September and the Fall. I officially hate tourists. They freaking clog everything:  the roads, stores and shops, restaurants, and the beaches. Go home! And stay there. It's also been really hot in August in Florida. We had heat advisories for several days. If you have heat advisories in the summer, in Florida, you know it's hellishly hot. Anyway, I'm going to highlight some of the things that I have enjoyed in August.

Books and TV




My favorite book that I read this month was Landline by Rainbow Rowell. This book is about Georgie and her husband Neal. Georgie has a job writing and creating TV shows. She and her long-time writing partner finally get a break with an opportunity to present four episodes of their "baby" to a producer. The only problem is that while they have been nurturing the idea for this show for years, they still need to write the scripts for those four episodes. It's Christmas and Georgie decides she can't pass up this opportunity and opts to stay behind in California and work while Neal and her daughters fly to Omaha to spend the holiday with family.
This separation makes Georgie fear for her marriage which had already been in trouble for some time. To help stave off this fear and loneliness, Georgie spends some time at her mother's house. Here, she tries and tries to connect with Neal via cell phone but her calls either keep getting sent to voicemail or her daughters and/or mother-in-law keeps answering. Out of desperation, Georgie plugs in an old yellow telephone and tries reaching her husband landline to landline. It turns out that this phone is connection to the past and she reaches Neal back during the time before their engagement.

It's through these conversations with the past that Georgie has revelations about herself, Neal, and their marriage. Is true love enough to hold a marriage together?

My favorite TV show that I watched this month would have to be Outlander on Starz. This is an adaptation of Diana Gabaldon's series of books. At the time of this writing, I have only watched the first three episodes. I am really loving this series so far. Director Rob Moore has done a fantastic job of translating book to screen. Considering that these books take place in both the 18th and 20th centuries, I think that it's a testament to his skill how fantastic this show is. He pays great attention to detail down to ensuring that the herbs Claire, our female protagonist, uses for 18th century medicine are correct, both in use and as they are seen on screen. I've only noticed a few deviations in the show from the book, but I wanted to love this show so much, that I'm willing to give Moore a little leeway. So yeah, my opinion is biased, lol.

I've been a huge fan of the Outlander series for years. I don't think I've ever read a book with science fictional elements in it that are as well-written as they are in Gabaldon's books. By that, I mean that she incorporates time travel into her novels so that it's not silly or fantastical, but explained in such a way that the reader is able to believe that touching these standing stones would send them hurtling through the past.

Back to the show, I love the costumes, the sets, the language, basically everything about it. I have, at this point, no complaints. I'm thrilled that it's already been renewed for a second season.

Health and Beauty



I've made quite a few beauty purchases this month, but picking only one, Tarte's Lights, Camera, Splashes 4-in-1 Waterproof Mascara is the standout. I've tried several new waterproof mascaras this summer to try and combat makeup meltage from the heat, humidity, beach, and sweating. This mascara is fantastic. I love the classic bristle brush that grabs my lashes and coats them evenly, without clumping. It leaves my lashes softer than other waterproof mascaras do. I have to say, I'm not a fan of crunchy lashes. The staying power is phenomenal. It stays put until I go after it with an eye makeup remover. It retails for $20.00 at Ulta and is worth every penny. What's more, the packaging is totally cute.

The Internets


I discovered a new Booktuber this month that is so adorable. Her name is Jean and her channel is Jean Bookishthoughts. Jean is Scottish ya'll. I could listen to her read a recipe for hours and be happy. Fortunately, her booktube channel is more interesting than that. Jean really knows her books. No offense to booktubers out there, but the ones that seem to be more into performing than reviewing/talking about books are annoying. At least to me. I'm sure some people find them vastly entertaining. Jean is knowledgeable about books and her reviews are entertaining without being over-the-top silly. Plus, she's Scottish. I love the way she says "baby", lol.

My favorite Facebook page of the month is Coffee and a Good Book. It's rare to find a group of strangers online who are civil, respectful, fun, share the same interests, and actually interact positively. This group is all those things. Maybe it's because the moderators are so strict, but I have yet to see any bickering, judging, or drama in this group. I've gotten tons of book recommendations though. Great Facebook group.

Food and Drink


My favorite food that I can't seem to get enough of this month is Ben & Jerry's Half Baked. It has both cookie dough and brownie chunks in chocolate and vanilla ice cream. I may like this flavor even better than Coffee Toffee Bar Crunch, my favorite until I tried Half Baked.

The Mister and I have been frequenting a local wine bar called VINE Wine Bar & Shop. It's a laid back wine bar with a really nice selection of wines, small plates, and wine merchandise. We really like it. We've been going so much this month that they know us by name now, lol. ::cough:: Anyway, I discovered a great bottle of wine there called Thorny Rose and it's a Cabernet Sauvignon. It's a very unassuming wine. I love how it's fruit forward with cherries, blackberries, and strawberries coming through. It's an inexpensive wine too but I have no idea where you can pick it up. I've never seen it in a store and I absolutely love the label, so there's a good chance I'd remember. Ordering online is my only suggestion.We've also tried their red blend. It was okay and probably my favorite red blend, but I'm not a huge fan of blends. They have several other varieties that I'd love to try out some time.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Kat Spears: Sway

Sway



Title:  Sway

Author:  Kat Spears

Publisher:  St. Martin's Press (set to release on Sept 16, 2014)

Pages:  320

Genre:  Young adult/fiction

Setting:  Modern day American suburbs

Where did you get it? This is an ARC from Netgalley.

Why did you read it? I chose to apply for this book because I loved the description of a "modern day Cyrano de Bergerac. Recently, I've felt compelled to pick up young adult novels. I have been enjoying the simplicity and straightforwardness that is more prevalent in young adult fiction.

From the publisher:  In Kat Spears’s hilarious and often poignant debut, high school senior Jesse Alderman, or "Sway," as he’s known, could sell hell to a bishop. He also specializes in getting things people want—-term papers, a date with the prom queen, fake IDs. He has few close friends and he never EVER lets emotions get in the way. For Jesse, life is simply a series of business transactions.
But when Ken Foster, captain of the football team, leading candidate for homecoming king, and all-around jerk, hires Jesse to help him win the heart of the angelic Bridget Smalley, Jesse finds himself feeling all sorts of things. While following Bridget and learning the intimate details of her life, he falls helplessly in love for the very first time. He also finds himself in an accidental friendship with Bridget’s belligerent and self-pitying younger brother who has cerebral palsy. Suddenly, Jesse is visiting old folks at a nursing home in order to run into Bridget, and offering his time to help the less fortunate, all the while developing a bond with this young man who idolizes him. Could the tin man really have a heart after all?
A Cyrano de Bergerac story with a modern twist, Sway is told from Jesse’s point of view with unapologetic truth and biting humor, his observations about the world around him untempered by empathy or compassion—-until Bridget’s presence in his life forces him to confront his quiet devastation over a life-changing event a year earlier and maybe, just maybe, feel something again.
What did you think? First of all, I want to make clear that while the publisher has marketed this novel to 14-17 year olds, I, as a parent of teens, would be incredibly uncomfortable with my 15 year old (and even my 18 year old if I'm completely honest with myself) reading this book. The profanity, drug use, and the casual references to teen sex combined with the language used to describe sex are, in my opinion, too prolific. If this book were made into a movie without any changes, it'd be rated R. Okay then...
On the whole, I enjoyed this book. Spears' writing makes it so that I can hear Jesse's voice clear as day. He is hilarious, damaged, and has had to grow up too soon. He is definitely, out of all the characters in this book, the most memorable. I think that every 17 year old who reads this would wish that Jesse were their friend. 
Is Jesse the modern day Cyrano? Maybe but I think Jesse's motives were a little more selfish and definitely more dark. I think what really makes this book interesting and unique is that the reader roots for Jesse to get the girl but not, necessarily, for the girl to get the guy. 
For a debut novel, Kat Spears has a well-written and edited book that's unique and fun to read. Still, my "reader discretion" message above keeps me from saying that I would highly recommend this book. To whom? I'd recommend it to my friends before my daughters or their friends. 3 out of 5 stars.


Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Sharon Gosling: The Diamond Thief


Title:  The Diamond Thief

Author:  Sharon Gosling

Publisher:  Capstone Pr Inc. Set to be released Oct 1, 2014.

Pages:  335 (This was a digital ARC so the final, printed copy might have a different page length.)

Genre:  Young adult/steampunk

Setting:  Victorian London, England

Where did you get it:  This was an ARC from Netgalley

Why did you read it:  First of all, I love the cover. It appealed to me while I was searching for titles on Netgalley. Then I had to read it so that I could submit feedback on Netgalley's website. 

From the publisher:  The Diamond Thief is set in Victorian England and follows the exploits of sixteen-year-old circus performer and jewel thief, Remy Brunel. Brought to London from France to steal a famous diamond on behalf of her evil circus master, Remy finds herself pitted against determined young detective, Thaddeus Rec. Together they are drawn into a dastardly plot that will take them into the heart of the city's criminal world…

What did you think? Overall, I enjoyed this novel. I liked all of the main characters:  16 year old Remy Brunel who is an orphan, trapeze artist, and skilled thief. Thaddeus Rec, a policeman for Scotland Yard who is out to turn Remy in. J, loveable scamp and Dickens-esque orphan. I loved the steampunk elements, as I always do, and the suspenseful edge as Remy's adventure progresses through the story. However, I thought parts of the book were rushed and/or underdeveloped. I didn't feel like I completely understood the villain's motivation nor was Remy's background fully explained. Remy's being a circus trapeze artist was emphasized by the author, yet it played a minor role in the book. Additionally, the reader is not fully introduced to Thaddeus or J. 

The romance between 16 year old Remy and 20-something Thaddeus (I'm guessing here. The author doesn't give us Thaddeus' age and I just assumed he was in his 20s since he was interested in a 16 year old girl yet he was already working at Scotland Yard.) bugged me a bit. I know this is Victorian England and people married much younger than they do in the present day, but still. Aside from that, I oftentimes had a hard time remembering Remy was only 16. Again, I am aware of the setting, but it felt like Gosling made Remy 16 solely so that she could call this a young adult novel. 

So, maybe it sounds like I didn't like this book, but I really did. It was a fun book and for being young adult and steampunk, it was unique and by no means a cookie cutter YA novel. It's impossible not to like Remy, Thaddeus, and J and you root for them to make it out alive and overcome evil. I think this would be a great book for a middle school child. I give it a 4 out of 5 stars.