August 30, 2012

Gem Water by Michael Gienger and Joachim Goebel

Gem Water by Michael Gienger and Joachim Goebel takes using gemstones to the next level. As someone who has loved wearing gemstones and having them around my home, this is just the book I was looking for to use them in a whole new way.

Book Description
Adding crystals to water is both visually appealing and healthy. The water becomes infused with crystalline energy. Water contains minerals and Gem Waters provide effective remedies, acting quickly on a physical level. Taking Gem Water acts in a way, which is complimentary to the wearing of crystals, though the effects are not necessarily the same.” – Gem Water

My Thoughts
This isn’t a large book, but it delivers a big dose of information on using gemstones in water. It covers everything you would need to know about how to prepare the Gem Water, and the importance of which crystals to use and which not to use. Some are poisonous to use, so be very careful and refer to this guide before using any crystals.

The second part in the book covers over 100 usable crystals and 34 mixtures with their effects. It is a very handy reference tool for making Gem Water. Once you read about which crystals to avoid, you could of course make your own mixtures and use them accordingly.

Overall, I think that this is the perfect book on making and using Gem Water. Everyone who uses crystals and gemstones should definitely read this book. I highly recommend it.

* Thank you to the publisher of Gem Water, Findhorn Press, for providing me with a copy of this book for review. All opinions expressed are my own.

August 24, 2012

Ghost Dances by Josh Garrett-Davis

Ghost Dances by Josh Garrett-Davis is a story about the Great Plains woven in with a coming of age tale about the author himself. Sometimes places you grow up in have a way of calling you back, and this story shows how special places can indeed do just that.

Book Description
Growing up in South Dakota, Josh Garrett-Davis always knew he would leave. But as a young adult, he kept going back-in dreams and reality and by way of books. With this beautifully written narrative about a seemingly empty but actually rich and complex place, he has reclaimed his childhood, his unusual family-and the Great Plains.

Among the subjects and people who bring his Plains to life are the destruction and resurgence of the American bison; his great-great-grandparents' twenty-year sojourn in Nebraska as homesteaders; Native American "Ghost Dancers," who attempted to ward off destruction by supernatural means before the 1890 massacre at Wounded Knee; the political allegory to be found in The Wizard of Oz; and current attempts by ecologists to "rewild" the Plains. GHOST DANCES is a fluid combination of memoir and history and reportage that reminds us that our roots matter-and might even be inspiring and fascinating.” – Ghost Dances

My Thoughts
Ghost Dances is a book I really wanted to enjoy. It was written with fresh prose and was significantly detailed. However, I just couldn’t get into it. I wanted to enjoy it, but found myself wandering off thinking about different things instead of just focusing on the book while reading it. I’m not sure exactly what it was that had me so disconnected from it, perhaps it is the way in which he wrote, or the subject matter. Maybe a combination of the two.

The author is a good writer, but lacked the capacity to hold my attention. I wouldn’t say it is a terrible book, just not one that I enjoyed reading. It felt more like a chore than reading for fun.  

* Thank you to the publisher of Ghost Dances, Little, Brown and Company, for providing me with a copy of this book for review. All opinions expressed are my own.

August 23, 2012

The Kingmaker’s Daughter by Philippa Gregory

The Kingmaker’s Daughter by Philippa Gregory is the first sister story since The Other Boleyn Girl. In this one, Anne Neville and her sister Isabel’s fate is held in the hands of their “Kingmaker” father, the Earl of Warwick.

Book Description
The Kingmaker’s Daughter is the gripping story of the daughters of the man known as the “Kingmaker,” Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick: the most powerful magnate in fifteenth-century England. Without a son and heir, he uses his daughters Anne and Isabel as pawns in his political games, and they grow up to be influential players in their own right. In this novel, her first sister story since The Other Boleyn Girl, Philippa Gregory explores the lives of two fascinating young women. 

At the court of Edward IV and his beautiful queen, Elizabeth Woodville, Anne grows from a delightful child to become ever more fearful and desperate when her father makes war on his former friends. Married at age fourteen, she is soon left widowed and fatherless, her mother in sanctuary and her sister married to the enemy. Anne manages her own escape by marrying Richard, Duke of Gloucester, but her choice will set her on a collision course with the overwhelming power of the royal family and will cost the lives of those she loves most in the world, including her precious only son, Prince Edward. Ultimately, the kingmaker’s daughter will achieve her father’s greatest ambition.” – The Kingmaker’s Daughter

My Thoughts
The Kingmaker’s Daughter is a truly exciting and intriguing novel set in 15th-century England. Gregory is one of the masters of writing for this time period, and this novel doesn’t disappoint at all. The scenes are detailed beautifully and the characters are so well crafted, it feels like you are watching a movie as you read it.

The politics, court intrigue, family bonds and issues, and superstition weaved in magically is the perfect mixture for this novel. The characters really make the book for me, and Anne Neville really holds her own in it even though women don’t hold the same type of power that men do.

This piece of historical fiction is written beautifully, and I highly recommend it for fans of the author and those who are also intrigued by this time in history.

* Thank you to the publisher of The Kingmaker’s Daughter, Touchstone, for providing me with a copy of this book for review. All opinions expressed are my own.

August 22, 2012

Going to the Bad by Nora McFarland

Going to the Bad: A Lilly Hawkins Mystery by Nora McFarland is the newest book in the series featuring a TV news photographer. Lilly is a seriously funny and structured character that truly deserves a serious based on her. If you’re a fan of the series, or new to it, this book will give you suspense, and a good old fashioned mystery case to follow along with Lilly.

Book Description
Working as a TV news photographer at her hometown television station, Lilly has documented Bakersfield’s most violent crimes and tragic accidents. To stay sane and avoid burnout, she’s developed a wicked sense of humor and a very thick skin. For her, a vicious shooting is just another day on the job. But what if the victim is someone she loves? Thrown off balance by the brutal attack on her uncle Bud in her own home, Lilly decides to handle the tragedy the only way she knows how. Using all her TV station’s resources and her own considerable skills, Lilly dives headlong into the investigation. But even with the assistance of her well-meaning but eccentric coworkers, this story may prove her last. Because as Lilly untangles a history of her uncle’s misdeeds and betrayals, a clever killer is preparing to strike again. Can she break the story in time to prevent another murder, or will Lilly be the next victim?” – Going to the Bad

My Thoughts
Going to the Bad is a well written novel that follows Lilly Hawkins trying to find the murderer of someone in her own family. She is used to covering the news, and shootings and murders is nothing new, but when it is her uncle murdered in her own home, it is very different. Lilly uses the resources at her disposal to hunt down the killer before they strike again. This time, it could be that the killer is actually targeting her. Can she figure it all out before she is the next victim?

The author’s personal experience working as a TV news photographer definitely shines through in her writing. Her perspective on it gives a very in-depth and realistic viewpoint to the characters and the storyline.

Overall, I found this to be a very enjoyable read. There are a few places in it that could have moved faster, but it didn’t happen too often to be annoying. It also is written over a two day timespan, and the author does very well with such a short timeframe. I think that people who like mystery and suspense novels featuring a female heroine will enjoy it.

* Thank you to the publisher of Going to the Bad, Touchstone, for providing me with a copy of this book for review. All opinions expressed are my own.

The Pleasures of Men by Kate Williams

The Pleasures of Men by Kate Williams is a thriller set in the late 1800s in London. It features a young woman who becomes obsessed with a serial killer that is going after “working girls.” This chilling book is one readers will want to devour quickly, so be sure you have set time aside to do just that before starting it.

Book Description
July 1840: The young Queen Victoria has just entered her third year on the throne when a major recession brings London’s desperate and destitute into its sweltering streets. While the city crackles with tension, orphaned Catherine Sorgeiul stays locked away in her uncle’s home, a peculiar place where death masks adorn the walls and certain rooms are strictly forbidden. Nineteen years old and haunted by a dark past, Catherine becomes obsessed with a series of terrible murders of young girls sweeping the city. Details of the crimes are especially gruesome—the victims’ hair has been newly plaited and thrust into their mouths, and their limbs are grotesquely folded behind them, like wounded birds—and the serial killer is soon nicknamed the Man of Crows.

Catherine begins writing stories about the victims—women on their own and vulnerable in the big city—and gradually the story of the murderer as well. But she soon realizes that she has involved herself in a web of betrayal, deceit, and terror that threatens her and all those around her. A remarkable fiction debut, The Pleasures of Men is a gripping and spine-tingling thriller.” – The Pleasures of Men

My Thoughts
This is a book set in the 1840s London. Some authors have good intentions to do a period style book, but don’t quite deliver. Kate Williams is able to fully deliver with Pleasures of Men. Perhaps it is because she lives in London, England and is also a historian. Whatever magic she has, it is entwined in her writings, and the reader fully benefits from this.

This author is able to captivate her readers with finely tuned details and suspense that holds the reader’s interest throughout the novel. This is such a good thriller and mystery novel that I honestly don’t want to give anything way in this review. It would ruin it if I were to give any spoilers, so I won’t be doing that.

Overall, I think this is an excellent novel. Be prepared to read this story deep into the night for the biggest surprise of all in the end. I highly recommend it.

* Thank you to the publisher of The Pleasures of Men, Voice, for providing me with a copy of this book for review. All opinions expressed are my own.

August 21, 2012

Video Game Review - The Sims 3: Diesel Stuff Pack

The Sims 3: Diesel Stuff Pack is an addition to the hit simulation game “The Sims 3.” It does require the base game in order for you to add it to your game, so be sure you have it before getting this “Stuff Pack.” The Diesel brand brought their fashions into the game with this addition, so get ready for your Sims to start strutting their stuff and living life like a model.

Game Description
Style your Sims with the latest Diesel apparel, accessories and furniture and get ready for successful living. This Stuff Pack contains the hottest fashions and home furnishings for your Sims from one of the world’s most popular lifestyle brands. Update your Sims’ wardrobes with Diesel styles straight off the runway. Dress your Sims in Diesel’s iconic cutting-edge pieces that have made it a go-to brand for denim apparel. Complete your Sims’ transformation with fashionable designs for the home featuring distinctive Diesel furniture. The Sims 3: Diesel Stuff Pack preps your Sims for the look and the lifestyle they’ve always wanted no matter what neighborhood they live in.

o     Dress to impress! Fit your Sims’ attitude with hot styles straight from the Diesel runway. Outfit your Sims in stylish Diesel fashions showcasing the trends that are all the rage this season!
o     Be chic, casual, and confident. Be tough, rugged, and modern. Upgrade your Sims’ style with the latest women’s and men’s fashions from Diesel.
o     Customize your Sims’ homes with industrial Diesel furnishings and décor from the showrooms of Milan to your ultimate urban loft. 
o     Make your living room party ready, serve-up a second-date-worthy dining room or freshen up your bedroom with furnishings that reflect an edgy, urban, sophisticated style made possible by Diesel. 
o     Bring a mix of rock and roll attitude and refined denim quality to your Sims this summer with The Sims 3: Diesel Stuff Pack.

My Thoughts
This “Stuff Pack” is a fashion forward gaming experience. Diesel is a very popular and stylish designer brand, so I was really excited to have my Sims step their style up a few notches in the game. When I was going through the new clothing options, I was a little bit disappointed though. Not as many items were added in as I thought would have been. Also, the majority of the clothing wasn’t as appealing as I had hoped. Sure, some are fabulous and make for some stunning outfits. However, most won’t be used by me.

The home décor items that were added are more on the urban side. This isn’t my style of choice. However, some do work very well for certain Sims in my neighborhoods. Again, not as many of these objects were added as I would have thought.

Overall, this is a good “Stuff Pack” but it isn’t one that I would call a favorite. It offers a variety of clothing and home décor items, but doesn’t add enough to really justify the price. If you are looking for more, I’d suggest going with another one such as “The Sims 3: Town Life Stuff Pack.”

* Thank you to the publisher of The Sims 3: Diesel Stuff Pack, Electronic Arts, and Gamers Gate for providing me with a digital copy of this game and allowing me to review it. All experiences and opinions expressed are my own.

What in God’s Name by Simon Rich

What in God’s Name by Simon Rich is a comedic novel about Heaven, angels, and God. This is a funny take on the heavenly realm which may be a little bit too much for some people to see the humor in. However, if you can poke fun at things, and even yourself, this is a good book to read to enjoy a few laughs and forget about daily stresses in your own life.

Book Description
Welcome to Heaven, Inc., the grossly mismanaged corporation in the sky. For as long as anyone can remember, the founder and CEO (known in some circles as "God") has been phoning it in. Lately, he's been spending most of his time on the golf course. And when he does show up at work, it's not to resolve wars or end famines, but to Google himself and read what humans have been blogging about him.

When God decides to retire (to pursue his lifelong dream of opening an Asian Fusion restaurant), he also decides to destroy Earth. His employees take the news in stride, except for Craig and Eliza, two underpaid angels in the lowly Department of Miracles. Unlike their boss, Craig and Eliza love their jobs - uncapping city fire hydrants on hot days, revealing lost keys in snow banks - and they refuse to accept that earth is going under.

The angels manage to strike a deal with their boss. He'll call off his Armageddon, if they can solve their toughest miracle yet: getting the two most socially awkward humans on the planet to fall in love. With doomsday fast approaching, and the humans ignoring every chance for happiness thrown their way, Craig and Eliza must move heaven and earth to rescue them - and the rest of us, too.” – What in God’s Name

My Thoughts
What in God’s Name is the kind of book you can read in a day. It isn’t too long, but isn’t too short to not be called a novel, either. The characters (including God) are funny and written to be extreme versions of their personalities.

God is bored and is close to destroying Earth. The only way he’ll stop Armageddon is if two angels can make two very socially awkward humans fall in love before the big day. Will the angels be able to play cupid and make them happy and in love before Earth is ruined? I’m not one to spoil the ending, so you’ll need to read this one to find out!

Overall, I enjoyed this book. It is funny in all the right ways and I quite liked it. I think that people with a good sense of humor will like this book, just don’t take anything too seriously in it, of course.

* Thank you to the publisher of What in God’s Name, Little, Brown and Company, for providing me with a copy of this book for review. All opinions expressed are my own.

The Book of Tomorrow by Cecelia Ahern

The Book of Tomorrow by Cecelia Ahern is a fascinating novel set in Ireland with many mysteries hidden inside it. When a family’s life is ruined emotionally and financially, they move out to the countryside leaving their former luxurious lifestyle. Can change be good, and can life really move on in a new direction so different from what they were used to?

Book Description
Raised in the lap of luxury, spoiled and tempestuous sixteen-year-old Tamara Goodwin has never had to think about tomorrow. But when her world is irrevocably shaken by her father's self-imposed death, she and her mother are left drowning in debt and forced to move in with Tamara's peculiar aunt and uncle in a tiny countryside village.

Lonely and bored, Tamara's sole diversion is a traveling library. There she finds a large leather-bound book with a gold clasp and padlock, but no author name or title. Intrigued, she pries open the lock, and what she finds takes her breath away—for what's written inside is not only impossible and magical . . . it's her future.” – The Book of Tomorrow

My Thoughts
The Book of Tomorrow is set in Ireland. However, the only real indication for me that it is set there is the ruined old castle that is in the countryside by where Tamara and her mom move to after they leave Dublin. I would have liked more Irish details and lore.

The main character, Tamara Goodwin wasn’t very likeable for me. I found her to be annoying, and took much too long to find any resemblance of hope for her. She is snarky, rude, and even when poor, acts like she is entitled to everything. Her mother isn’t any better.

The magical book Tamara finds that has her future diary pages in it, could have been such a good idea for a story. However, with this one, it falls flat.

Overall, this is a decent book. It is readable, but it wouldn’t be the one I’d pick to read first.

* Thank you to the publisher of The Book of Tomorrow, William Morrow, for providing me with a copy of this book for review. All opinions expressed are my own.

The Money Smart Family System by Steve & Annette Economides

The Money Smart Family System by Steve & Annette Economides is a family guide to help you get your family’s finances better handled, and also teaches you how to raise financially smart and responsible children.

Book Description
Is it possible to raise financially responsible kids of any age in a society filled with consumerism and entitlement?
 New York Times best-selling authors Steve and Annette Economides raised their five kids while spending 77 percent less than the USDA predicted. And the money they did spend was also used to train their children to become financially independent. The MoneySmart Family System will show you how to teach your children to manage money and have a good attitude while they’re learning to earn, budget, and spend wisely.
 Learn how to:
*Get the kids out the door for school with less stress. *End the battle over clothing—forever *Teach your children to be grateful and generous. *Inspire your kids to help with chores as a member of a winning team. *Prepare your kids for their first paying job. *Help your kids pay for their own auto insurance, and even pay cash for their own cars. *Employ strategies for debt-free college educations. *Truly help your adult children when they want to move back home. *Be prepared to deal with your adult children when they ask for bailouts.
 With clear steps for children of every age, The MoneySmart Family System proves that it’s never too early, too late, or too hard to start learning financial responsibility.” – The Money Smart Family System

 My Thoughts
The Money Smart Family System is a smart resource for managing money for the entire family. With the economy being as unstable as it is, saving money and not wasting it on things that aren’t necessary is essential. With so many young kids feeling entitled to the newest video game console, games, shoes, cell phones, and newest gadgets, can parents really make these changes? Yes, I think they can. This book could definitely help with that battle, but it will only work if the parents actually enforce and go through with these ideals.

Overall, I think this is a good book to help with raising money smart kids, and parents will also benefit from reading it to help their finances, too. I don’t think that too many “new” ways to save money were necessarily brought forward in this book. People aren’t going to find lost money in it, and it won’t magically make you earn more money to take care of your family. It will however, help you to save more money and spend a lot less.

* Thank you to the publisher of The Money Smart Family System, Thomas Nelson, for providing me with a copy of this book for review as part of their BookSneeze program. All opinions expressed are my own.

August 20, 2012

Inside the Other Side by Concetta Bertoldi

Inside the Other Side by Concetta Bertoldi is an excellent resource guide for beginners to learn about the “other side.” Bertoldi is a celebrity psychic medium, and in this book she shares what she knows about a variety of subjects on the other side. If you’ve ever been curious to what is going on over there, this is a book you must read.

Book Description
Psychic medium Concetta Bertoldi knows how it is: Heaven is perfection. Life on Earth is the tough part.

It's here we need to meet challenges, learn lessons, and grow spiritually even as we cope with our sense of "aloneness" and "not enough-ness" or the loss of a loved one. Through all of this our guardian angels, those who have crossed to the Other Side—or "the dead guys," as Concetta calls them—offer us loving, behind-the-scenes assistance.

In Inside the Other Side, Concetta explains the importance of the agreements we make with God before being born into a new physical life. She gives advice on dealing with life's difficult issues: from relationships to a lack of abundance, from illness and aging to coping with loss. Concetta's wise, witty, and uplifting assistance will help you get more in touch with the Other Side so that you can call on your own angels whenever they are needed the most.” – Inside the Other Side

My Thoughts
Inside the Other Side is written in a very easy to read way. Concetta Bertoldi is caring, and reading this book makes you feel like you know her, or are a longtime client of hers. In this volume she shares the basics of such things as: soul contracts, life lessons, mission entities, mystical travelers, angels, energy, negativity, and much more.

My favorite part in this text is the chapter on “How to Be an Angel on Earth.” She explains that everyone has the capability to be an angel right here on Earth. We all have the qualities and abilities to change even one person’s life for the better, and we need to do it.

Although this is a very good beginner book to the “other side” it doesn’t quite give enough in-depth information for non-beginners. All of the information is covered in a very limited basis, just scratching the surface. It is perfect for the beginner, but again, not much different than other books on the subject. If you’ve read similar books, it isn’t likely you’ll learn too much new in this one.

* Thank you to the publisher of Inside the Other Side, William Morrow, for providing me with a copy of this book for review. All opinions expressed are my own.

August 16, 2012

We're NASA and We Know It (Mars Curiosity)

I love geeky things, and this fun video proves that advances in science can make great spoofs, too.  Check out the “We’re NASA and We Know It (Mars Curiosity)” video spoofing LMFAO’s “Sexy and I Know It” tune.

Did you watch it? What do you think of this video? Do you have any favorite spoofs that can be found on YouTube? If so, post them here, I’d love to see them!

August 13, 2012

Sentinel by Matthew Dunn

Sentinel by Matthew Dunn is a suspenseful novel about spies. The United States and Russia are almost at war, and the United States is counting on Will Cochrane to find the double agent, and hopefully stop the war from starting.

Book Description
The United States and Russia are on the brink of war and only Will Cochrane—the master spy introduced in the critically acclaimed Spycatcher—can find and unmask the diabolical double agent responsible for it all in this enthralling espionage thriller, written by a real-life former field officer.

Fourteen days ago, CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia, received a cryptic message from an agent operating deep undercover in Russia: "He has betrayed us and wants to go to war." Unable to make contact, the director of operations is forced to turn to one of his most deadly field officers—Will Cochrane. His mission is simple: infiltrate the remote submarine base in eastern Russia's Avacha Bay, locate the MI6 agent operating under the code name Svelte, and decode his message—or die trying.

It's a near-impossible task-even for a man who carries the code name Spartan, a title given to the most effective and deadliest Western intelligence officers. Will successfully locates the base but finds Svelte near death, his last words a final clue: Only Sentinel can stop him.

Meanwhile, political and economic tensions between the United States and Russia are rising by the day, with both sides rounding up known enemy sleeper agents within their borders for interrogation. Now it's up to Will—with the help of the top-secret joint CIA-MI6 Spartan Section—to uncover the true meaning of Svelte's message . . . and discover the identity of the legendary operative known only as Sentinel.” – Sentinel

My Thoughts
This is an exciting novel that will keep you in suspense right up to the end. This isn’t a world that the vast majority of the population would ever experience or fully understand. It is however, fully intriguing. This is espionage at its best.

The author, Matthew Dunn was in the British Secret Intelligent Service as a field operative. So he knows the subject matter very well, and is able to write about it in such a way that is believable. I think that this really helps the storyline, but sometimes might also be a reason it trails off on too many insignificant details for an average reader to care about.

Overall, I think this is a good book that is relevant today. Although the “Cold War” is over, Russia is still a very real threat to the United States, and Matthew Dunn does a very good job driving this point home through his fictional story.

* Thank you to the publisher of Sentinel, William Morrow, for providing me with a copy of this book for review. All opinions expressed are my own.

August 10, 2012

The Upside of Down Times by Lisa Ryan

The Upside of Down Times by Lisa Ryan is a book about gratitude that explains how being positive, appreciating people more, and just being grateful for things in your life can make a big change. With how things are going in the world today, this is a book that could make a huge difference in so many people’s lives.

Book Description
One of the downsides of life is that we rarely have to deal with an overabundance of gratitude. Most of us tend to focus on the negative. We don’t receive nearly as much acknowledgment as we would like, and we don’t give as much recognition as others deserve. Now for the upside! When we learn to harness the power of gratefulness, we can make a major positive difference in so many areas of our lives, as well as the lives of those around us—and The Upside of Down Times is your first step toward making that happen.” – The Upside of Down Times

My Thoughts
This book reminded me that just having good manners and saying “Thanks” isn’t enough to be truly grateful. I also was reminded that when I do something for someone to say “Thank You” to me, I should say “You’re Welcome” and not “No problem” or “It was nothing.”

I consider myself to be a positive person, but there are times when it is hard to stay that way all day. Lisa Ryan did an excellent job reminding me that even that extra smile or waiting to hold the door open for someone is a little thing that could change the attitude of that other person’s day, and also help to uplift my day, too. Smiles are contagious.

There are many personal experiences in the book for us to read, and also places where we can journal places of gratitude for our own progression with being grateful. I especially liked how the author told the story about her own journaling experience with fancy journals, and how she just uses binders with loose-leaf paper now.

The Upside of Down Times is a book that I am grateful to have read. I enjoy reading and am so appreciative and grateful to be a book reviewer. This is a book that I highly recommend to everyone to read – it might just be the pick-up you need to change your outlook on life and make those big changes for the better.

* Thank you to the author of The Upside of Down Times, Lisa Ryan, for providing me with a copy of this book for review. All opinions expressed are my own.

August 8, 2012

Charlotte Markham and the House of Darkling by Michael Boccacino

Charlotte Markham and the House of Darkling by Michael Boccacino is an intriguing Gothic tale about family and the mystery of things that are there, but unseen by most of the world. This author writes like Edgar Allan Poe and Tim Burton rolled into one.

Book Description
When the nanny to the young Darrow boys is found mysteriously murdered on the outskirts of the village of Blackfield, Charlotte Markham, the recently hired governess, steps in to take over their care. During an outing in the forest, they find themselves crossing over into The Ending, "the place for the Things Above Death," where Lily Darrow, the late mother of the children, has been waiting. She invites them into the House of Darkling, a wondrous place filled with enchantment, mystery, and strange creatures that appear to be, but are not quite, human.

However, everything comes with a price, and as Charlotte begins to understand the unspeakable bargain Mrs. Darrow has made for a second chance at motherhood, she uncovers a connection to the sinister occurrences in Blackfield and enters into a deadly game with the master of Darkling—one whose outcome will determine the fate of not just the Darrows but the world itself.

Charlotte Markham and the House of Darkling is a Victorian Gothic tale about family ties, the realm beyond the living, and the price you pay to save those you love.” – Charlotte Markham and the House of Darkling

My Thoughts
Charlotte Markham and the House of Darkling was written by a fellow University of Central Florida alumni, so naturally I wanted to read what he wrote. Although I never met him while attending school there, and we didn’t graduate in the same departments, it is the first UCF graduate I’ve ever read a book by, so I personally find that to be a very cool thing.

That being said, this isn’t the normal style of a novel that I would gravitate towards reading for fun. Although I do enjoy gothic tales and stories involving the paranormal, I honestly would have just passed this one up. I am so glad I didn’t do that! This is an exceptionally well written book in a style that may not be the most popular, but it is a creepily good read. I would have enjoyed it being a bit more scary, but it was still good.

Overall, I think Boccacino did an excellent job with this novel. The characters were all intriguing and developed well enough for me to care about (which is crucial for me finished a novel). I definitely recommend it to people who like stories told in a “Gothic” style.

* Thank you to the publisher of Charlotte Markham and the House of Darkling, William Morrow, for providing me with a copy of this book for review. All opinions expressed are my own.

Ask the Angels by Rosemary Ellen Guiley

Ask the Angels by Rosemary Ellen Guiley is a beautifully written book about angels. In this excellent guide, you’ll learn who and what are angels, how we know if we’ve encountered one, their relationship to us, what they do in heaven, who guardian angels are, and much more!

Book Description
It is true! Billions of angels populate the universe. Whether their presence takes the form of a disembodied voice, a divine light, a mysterious stranger, or an invisible guardian, angels have always participated in human affairs.

Ask the Angels is a friendly and accessible guide to the wisdom and lore of angels. Guiley provides an introduction for readers to the whole hierarchy of angels, from the twenty-two Master Angels of Life who govern aspects of daily life to the Nine Angels of the Higher Order who guide spiritual growth. In addition, she provides a series of meditations and exercises for working with angels.” – Ask the Angels

My Thoughts
Ask the Angels is one of my favorite books about angels, and I’ve read a lot of them. This one is covered in such a way that people who are new to angels can enjoy, and those who have read about them for years (such as myself) can also enjoy.

The author answers common questions about angels, such as “Do angels really have wings” and “Is it possible to become an angel after death?” She also covers how we can experience angels in our lives, which gives very good examples and guides to doing so. The sections I most enjoyed was the ones on working with your guardian angel and the other types of angels.

Overall, I think this is an outstanding book that really helped me get back in touch with my spirituality. I highly recommend it.

* Thank you to the publisher of Ask the Angels, Hampton Roads, for providing me with a copy of this book for review. All opinions expressed are my own.

The Violinist’s Thumb by Sam Kean

The Violinist’s Thumb by Sam Kean is a book about DNA that is highly entertaining and also manages to teach you quite a lot about the subject. This one is for fellow geeks like me, and also those who just want to sound like they know about DNA the next time it comes up in conversation.

Book Description
In The Disappearing Spoon, bestselling author Sam Kean unlocked the mysteries of the periodic table. In THE VIOLINIST'S THUMB, he explores the wonders of the magical building block of life: DNA.

There are genes to explain crazy cat ladies, why other people have no fingerprints, and why some people survive nuclear bombs. Genes illuminate everything from JFK's bronze skin (it wasn't a tan) to Einstein's genius. They prove that Neanderthals and humans bred thousands of years more recently than any of us would feel comfortable thinking. They can even allow some people, because of the exceptional flexibility of their thumbs and fingers, to become truly singular violinists.

Kean's vibrant storytelling once again makes science entertaining, explaining human history and whimsy while showing how DNA will influence our species' future.” – The Violinist’s Thumb

My Thoughts
The Violinist’s Thumb is a book about DNA that is fun to read. This isn’t a college textbook that will bore you to death. Although I have read many of those boring college science books that will in fact put you to sleep without the use of melatonin, this one is entertaining to read.

I’ve taken quite a few college science courses, so this was an easy book for me to read and understand. However, for people who haven’t taken any of these courses, or it has been awhile, it might be a little bit hard to understand in a few places. It isn’t enough for someone to not be able to get the main idea though, so don’t let this stop you from reading it.

Overall, I found this to be a fun science book that I actually enjoyed reading and learning from. I highly recommend it.

* Thank you to the publisher of The Violinist’s Thumb, Little, Brown and Company, for providing me with a copy of this book for review. All opinions expressed are my own.

August 7, 2012

Judgment Call by J.A. Jance

Judgment Call: A Brady Novel of Suspense by J.A. Jance is a murder mystery novel that stars County Sheriff Joanna Brady. This is the fifteenth book in the series, and this time Joanna is tracking down a tech-savvy killer after her daughter finds her high school principal dead. If you like the “Joanna Brady Mysteries” or just enjoy murder mystery novels, this may be the book for you.

Book Description
When Joanna Brady's daughter, Jenny, stumbles across the body of her high school principal, Debra Highsmith, in the desert, the Cochise County sheriff's personal and professional worlds collide, forcing her to tread the difficult middle ground between being an officer of the law and a mother. While investigating murders has always meant discovering unpleasant facts and disquieting truths, the experienced Joanna isn't prepared for the knowledge she's about to uncover. Though she's tried to protect her children from the dangers of the grown-up world, the search for justice leads straight to her own door and forces her to face the possibility that her beloved daughter may be less perfect than she seems—especially when a photo from the crime scene ends up on Facebook. A photo only one person close to the crime scene could have taken.

The gruesome picture is just the tip of the iceberg. Even a small, close-knit town like Bisbee has its secrets. Navigating her way through the unfamiliar world of social media, Joanna discovers shocking—and incriminating—information. The details build, from a hushed-up suspension, to a group of teenagers with a grudge against the late Ms. Highsmith, to a hateful video calling for the principal's death. The video evidence points to one particular privileged boy, who's already lawyered up thanks to his father, a well-to-do doctor determined to protect his son's reputation. Yet the deeper Joanna digs, the more complications she uncovers. It seems the quiet, upstanding principal had a hidden past, full of mysterious secrets she'd successfully kept buried for years.

As the seasoned sheriff juggles professional constraints and personal demands—budget cuts, new team members, an arrogant coroner, a confused teenager, a precocious toddler, and a high-maintenance mother—she finds herself walking a fine line between justice and family that has never been so blurred.” – Judgment Call

My Thoughts
Judgment Call is a well written mystery novel that continues the story of Cochise County Sheriff Joanna Brady. Before reading this novel, I had never read any of the other novels featuring this character. However, it is so well written, I don’t feel like I was missing out on any essential storylines for missing them.

This one features a killer that is technically knowledgeable about things like “Facebook” which helps spread the images of the murder scene online. Police work this time is focused on online social networks and also old-fashioned police detective work. It is a good mix that should be used now with the advancement in technology.

Overall, I found the book is a good read, but could have been paced a little bit faster. There were many times where it seemed to drag on for quite a lot longer than it needed to. Some of the stereotypes of teenagers and older people were also too cliché, but didn’t really pull the story down. If you like mysteries, I think you’ll enjoy this one.

* Thank you to the publisher of Judgment Call, William Morrow, for providing me with a copy of this book for review. All opinions expressed are my own.

Winner for the Fiber One Nutty Clusters & Almonds Giveaway

Thank you to everyone who entered this giveaway. All valid entries have been put into a random generator and the winner is: Tina! I will contact you to find out where to send this right now.

Check back again soon for more giveaways!

August 6, 2012

Tigers in Red Weather by Liza Klaussmann

Tigers in Red Weather is the debut novel by Liza Klaussmann who was a journalist for the New York Times. It starts off at the end of World War II and follows the lives of the five main characters. When secrets are revealed, and things don’t go according to plan, what will happen to them?

Book Description
Nick and her cousin, Helena, have grown up sharing sultry summer heat, sunbleached boat docks, and midnight gin parties on Martha's Vineyard in a glorious old family estate known as Tiger House. In the days following the end of the Second World War, the world seems to offer itself up, and the two women are on the cusp of their 'real lives': Helena is off to Hollywood and a new marriage, while Nick is heading for a reunion with her own young husband, Hughes, about to return from the war. 

Soon the gilt begins to crack. Helena's husband is not the man he seemed to be, and Hughes has returned from the war distant, his inner light curtained over. On the brink of the 1960s, back at Tiger House, Nick and Helena--with their children, Daisy and Ed--try to recapture that sense of possibility. But when Daisy and Ed discover the victim of a brutal murder, the intrusion of violence causes everything to unravel. The members of the family spin out of their prescribed orbits, secrets come to light, and nothing about their lives will ever be the same.

Brilliantly told from five points of view, with a magical elegance and suspenseful dark longing, Tigers in Red Weather is an unforgettable debut novel from a writer of extraordinary insight and accomplishment.” – Tigers in Red Weather

My Thoughts
Tigers in Red Weather is told from the point of view of five of the characters. Some books that attempt doing this, don’t work out. However, this one does a very good job with it. It is more of a character driven book than one with huge amounts of action. There is a murder and some violence in it, but it isn’t a huge part of the story for me.

Another risky thing that happens in this book, is that it spans not just years, but decades in the character’s lives. Again, sometimes books that do this don’t work out. This one does, at least for me. It helps to create even more depth of each of the characters and unfolds the story in a very readable way.

This is a coming of age story that is told by an excellent author. If you enjoy reading character driven books that are told during this time period, this is definitely a book worth reading.

* Thank you to the publisher of Tigers in Red Weather, Little, Brown, for providing me with a copy of this book for review. All opinions expressed are my own.

Do You Wear Socks With UGGs?

I know I’m a little behind with the whole UGG popularity thing, but I have a serious question for my fashionable Blog readers.  What socks can you wear with UGGs? Or… do you wear socks with UGGs?

I just bought two pairs of the boots, and I am hoping that one of them fit me. I wasn’t sure which size would fit me best because I am in a half size normally, and they don’t offer that. Their calf circumference is also different. Plus, their reviews were a bit mixed on both pairs.

These are the two I’m trying out:

I like the purple pair more, so I hope those at least fit. I’m still wondering though, to wear socks or not to wear socks. Normally I do with all shoes, but from what I’ve been reading it can go either way with these. So, if you happen to also wear UGGs, please let me know what socks you can wear with UGGs or if you even wear socks with UGGs.

August 3, 2012

Globe Quake by Wallace Henley

Globe Quake by Wallace Henley is a guide to help us navigate all of the changes going on in our world in a Godly manner. Everything from globalization to the digital revolution and the tough times most are facing with the economy, Wallace Henley has something to say to help us through it. If you need guidance on topics such as this, Globe Quake may be the book you want to read next.

Book Description
Biblically based, practical strategies to stabilize your life, church, home, school, government, and business during global turmoil.
 People across the globe sense something big is shaping up. The anxiety is over the fact that they don’t know what. Global collapse? Fiery wars? Worldwide depression? It’s as if the tectonic plates of society and culture are being reshaped right under our feet! Turbulence and change have gone viral, and can only be described as a “globequake.” How can we be stable personally and anchor our families, schools, governments, churches, and businesses in the middle of such upheaval? People wonder:
How can I protect my children from all the thunderous change? 
Who can I trust for leadership in the pulpit, in the schoolroom, in the courthouse, in the CEO’s office?
Where is God in the middle of this upheaval? 
The good news is that behind the anxiety-stirring uncertainties about the future there are wonderful, strong certainties given by the Lord of history himself! Globequake presents answers to the troubling questions with solid biblical truth on which we can ground our lives when the times are shifting at what seems like light-speed.” – Globe Quake

My Thoughts
Globe Quake is a well written wakeup call that many are in serious need of reading. The author does a very good job of summarizing the current problems in the world and how having faith can help you through it all.

Unlike some religious authors on the subject, Wallace Henley didn’t feel too preachy and sending the fiery pits of hell to people who may not be on the right course right now. Instead, he gives motivation and inspiration to get back on track and gives courage to live through these hard times.

Not everyone will get or agree with what the author says 100% (not even me), it is one of those things that you can take what resonates with you and leave what doesn’t. I find that is the best way (for me) to read spiritual or religious texts. If you do as well, or have a strong and unshakable religious faith, this is definitely a book you’ll want to read.

* Thank you to the publisher of Globe Quake, Thomas Nelson, for providing me with a copy of this book for review as part of their BookSneeze program. All opinions expressed are my own.

August 1, 2012

2012 Olympics – Gymnastics, Michael Phelps and a Swimming Video – Oh My!

I love the Olympics. I remember watching it when I was a little kid and just being so fascinated with all of the amazing athletes.  It was this reason I wanted to swim all the time (plus I loved swimming) and why I wanted to be in gymnastics. Although I was never an all-star athlete or Olympian, I enjoyed it and have been watching both sports ever since. My favorite is gymnastics and rhythmic gymnastics (in case you were wondering).

This year the Olympics is in London, which is on a side note, somewhere I really have to go one day. If you haven’t been watching any of the Olympics, it is aired on NBC in the USA, and you should really put it on. I’ve been TiVo’ing it so I don’t miss any of my favorite competitions that are aired. We don’t get to watch it live, but that is okay with me. I am a nervous wreck when not knowing if we’ll win things like the Women’s Gymnastic team competition which we won gold in!

I’m so proud of Team USA being so amazing and winning the gold. HUGE congratulations to the Fab Five! Gabrielle Douglas, Aly Raisman, Jordyn Wieber, McKayla Maroney and Kyla Ross are amazing! I can’t wait to see what else they win in.

Also, Michael Phelps is now the most decorated Olympian from his 19th medal win yesterday! He is a beast! A sexy swimming beast that is!

Team USA doesn’t just win medals though; they also have fun and make YouTube spoofs like this one on the song that’ll stay in your head all day. “Call Me Maybe” Olympic swimmer version (really, watch it)!

Are you watching the Olympics? Who are you cheering for? Do you have a favorite sport?

I’m Team USA!