June 25, 2013

Logitech G430 Surround Sound Gaming Headset Review

Looking for a new gaming headset with great audio capabilities and a mic for others to hear you talk with? The “Logitech G430 Surround Sound Gaming Headset” is a great option for gamers, and non-gamers alike that can appreciate good headsets. Take a look at the features and see for yourself why this could be the best gaming headset for you to use next.

Logitech G430 Surround Sound Gaming Headset Features
On-Cable Controls Keep the mute switch and volume dial close at hand for quick, precise audio adjustments. All attached to an extra long, x-meter cable.

Dolby Headphone 7.1 Surround SoundYou can hear up to seven discrete channels of audio data plus the low-frequency effects (LFE) channel, known as 7.1 surround sound. Dolby Headphone technology perceptually positions each channel in the correct location to reproduce multi-channel content the way developers intended.

Lay-Flat EarpiecesWe know even twin gamers are one-of-a-kind. For a personalized fit, the earpieces swivel up to 90 degrees. And because they can turn to lay flat, they’re less prone to breakage from everyday wear and tear.

Sports Performance Cloth Ear Cups - Marathon gaming sessions mean heat and sweat. We covered the G430 ear cups with carefully selected sports performance cloth for a comfortable, soft touch even after hours of use. And they slip off easily for washing to keep the headset in top shape.

Lightweight DesignThe G430 earpieces have been designed to be slimmer and lighter, without skimping on audio quality. A lighter, balanced assembly means you stay focused on the game. You might even forget you’re wearing a headset.

Folding, Noise-Cancelling Mic - When you want to be heard, you will be—loudly and clearly. The noise-cancelling mic can be adjusted to pick up your voice alone. Don’t feel like talking? Easily fold it up and out of the way.

Full-Speed, All-Digital USB In-game sound isn’t an effect. It’s a critical component of game play. Our USB headphones surround you with aural information. The sound is crisp and clear, and the jack on your sound card stays open for desktop speakers.Logitech G430 Surround Sound Gaming Headset

My Thoughts
This headset is designed with the gamer in mind. It has features designed extensively for long hours of gaming, and of course, use of both the earpieces and the mic. It is designed to last and hold up for serious gamers, and anyone who wants to use this stylish headset.

Headsets have a love/hate relationship with me. I really love to use them, but often they make me uncomfortable. My head is sensitive, and I can’t withstand lots of pressure on it or anything too heavy. The first few days that I wore this headset, it was a little uncomfortable. However, after wearing them for about 1-3 hours each day, after about a week, I was able to wear them without any issues. I only heard clear audio and was able to talk in TeamSpeak clearly.

The audio quality of the surround sound earpieces is really amazing. It is very high quality and I love just listening to music with them. I use the headset when gaming too though, and it works flawlessly for that as well. I don’t really see the need for surround sound with things like TeamSpeak, but it of course works well in there as well, and some of the voices from people sound clearer with this too.

The mic works well and I’ve had no complaints of coming in too soft or too loud on anybody’s systems, so it gets an A+ from me on that. I also like how I can mute the mic or adjust the volume right on the headset’s cable.

One of my favorite features I haven’t actually tried out yet, but the fact that the ear cups can come off to be washed is amazing. I’m a Nursing student that has taken Microbiology, so trust me – this is something all headsets need!

Overall, this is a high quality headset with superior performance at a very reasonable price. If you want a new headset, this is one that you should seriously look into. I highly recommend it.

Disclosure: Thank you to Logitech for providing me with the product for review. All opinions, experiences, and thoughts about the product being reviewed are my own.

June 24, 2013

Intentional Walk by Rob Rains

Intentional Walk by Rob Rains is an inspirational read about how baseball and faith can go hand in hand. This book looks at how St. Louis Cardinals players, management, and staff have had faith influence them in their lives.

Book Description
Intentional Walk features the stories of Adam Wainwright, David Freese, Lance Berkman, Matt Holliday, Carlos Beltran, Jason Motte and other members of the 2012 Cardinals, written as those players and the rest of the team tried to repeat the 2011 world championship. The book talks about how they became Christians and offers their testimony about what it means for them to have God play such a prominent role in their lives.

Playing for first-year manager Mike Matheny, a strong Christian as well, these men talk about their success and failure, about the challenges that come from playing baseball at the highest level, and how thankful and blessed they are to have that God-given ability. In the end, however, what is far more important to them is their life-long relationship they have established with Jesus Christ.” – Intentional Walk

My Thoughts
Intentional Walk is a look into how the Christian faith plays an important part of some of the St. Louis Cardinals players, management, and staff. Even if you aren’t a fan of the team, this book isn’t really about that. It is about faith, baseball, and how their beliefs get them through injuries, tragedies in their lives, wins, losses, and much more.

I found this book to be a really uplifting account on how religion is still found in sports, and how faith can help people through such a wide array of situations in life. If you are a baseball fan, fan of the St. Louis Cardinals, and have a strong faith, and/or are a Christian, this book will be worthy of your time to read. I definitely recommend it.

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

My Animal, My Self by Marta Williams

My Animal, My Self by Marta Williams is a wonderful book that animal lovers will greatly enjoy. The author is an animal communicator that helps us to see how our relationships with our animals often reflect ourselves.

Book Description
In this groundbreaking book, animal communicator Marta Williams brings into focus an unexamined dynamic in our relationships with our animals: the idea that our animals are often our mirrors. Deeply and inextricably connected to us on the physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual levels, they can pick up and reflect back to us the issues and events of our lives. Through stories, exercises, and an extensive questionnaire, you will gain unique insight into the healing and teaching roles of your companion animals, both past and current, and the profound gifts they offer.” – My Animal, My Self

My Thoughts
My Animal, My Self is a book for true animal lovers. As an animal lover myself, I really enjoyed this book and learned quite a lot about my animals, and myself. Learning how animals can mirror us and how they can teach us many lessons in life, is a joyful and insightful read.

Some companion animals can mirror us in negative ways though, and this is of course not a good thing for us or them. The author gives examples of how to change this situation for both the human and the animal, which will hopefully help many humans and animals alike out there.

I found this book to be really interesting and would love to see this researched in more depth. The topic is truly worth looking into, and if you are an animal lover, this is definitely a book that you want to read! I highly recommend it.

* Thank you to the publisher of My Animal, My Self, New World Library, for providing me with a copy of this book for review. All opinions expressed are my own.

June 20, 2013

I Never Promised You A Goodie Bag by Jennifer Gilbert

I Never Promised You A Goodie Bag by Jennifer Gilbert is an honest memoir written by a very strong woman who willingly opened up about her life. On the surface it seems like it is a cute and interesting read, but it is so much more than that. It is inspiring, heartfelt, and one of the best memoirs I have read in a long time.

Book Description
When Jennifer Gilbert was twenty-two years old, someone tried to cut her life short in the most violent way. Not wanting this traumatic encounter to define her life, she buried it within and bravely launched a fabulous career in New York as an event planner. Always the calm in the storm—from fixing a ripped dress to relocating a lavish party on two days' notice—she was convinced she'd never again feel joy herself. Yet these weddings, anniversaries, and holiday parties slowly brought her back to life. No one's entitled to an easy road, Gilbert learned, but instead of anticipating our present in a goodie bag, it's our presence that is the real gift.” – I Never Promised You A Goodie Bag

My Thoughts
I Never Promised You A Goodie Bag is a look into the life of a woman who was attacked violently, lived through it, and instead of just giving up on everything (including herself) – she moved on and created a business, a family, and finally, decided to write about it. I applaud her greatly for having the strength to share her experiences with us in a very honest and real way throughout the book.

Sometimes memoirs can be a little dry, but this one was written in a very easy to read manner, and fully kept my interest throughout the book. I enjoyed more about the author’s personal life and story than about the nightclubs or parties. That is just me though.

If you enjoy memoirs and reading courageous stories by women, this is definitely one you need to read. I highly recommend it.

* Thank you to the publisher of I Never Promised You A Goodie Bag, Harper, for providing me with a copy of this book for review. All opinions expressed are my own.

June 19, 2013

A Half Forgotten Song by Katherine Webb

A Half Forgotten Song by Katherine Webb is a beautifully written novel that is set in a small village in 1937. It is a passionate, and haunting tale of love, obsession, and is much more than meets the eye.

Book Description
A spellbinding tale about the power of love, the danger of obsession, and the unfaithful nature of memory, A Half Forgotten Song is by turns haunting, joyous, and heartbreaking.

1937. In a windswept village on the Dorset coast, fourteen-year-old Mitzy Hatcher has endured a wild and lonely upbringing. But the arrival of renowned artist Charles Aubrey, along with his exotic mistress and their two daughters, changes everything. Over the course of three summers, Mitzy develops a deep and abiding bond with the Aubrey household, gradually becoming Charles's muse. Slowly, she begins to perceive a future she had never thought possible—and a powerful love is kindled in her. A love that will grow as she does: from innocence to obsession; from childish infatuation to something far more dangerous.

Years later, a young man in an art gallery happens upon a hastily drawn portrait and is intrigued by its curious intensity. The questions he asks lead him to the seaside village—and to the truth about those fevered summers of long ago.” – A Half Forgotten Song

My Thoughts
A Half Forgotten Song is the type of book that transports the reader back in time to live with the characters while unraveling their story. Mitzy Hatcher is a memorable and very detailed character that captures the spirit of the novel for me. However, the other characters aren’t just supporting roles with bleakly created profiles – these are unique characters that could have novels of their own, too. This is a very detailed story that is woven around similar threads, but captures the imagination of this story long after you finished reading the last page.

The beginning of the story is a little slow, but it intensifies as the story is laid out. The twists and turns along the way show how brilliant this writer is, and the ending is just superb. This is truly a work of art that anyone who enjoys reading should definitely read. I highly recommend it.

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

Time Flies by Claire Cook

Time Flies by Claire Cook is a novel that has a heartfelt story at the center with memorable characters that come to life through the pages. It is a humorous look at how life can go, and what a high school reunion can resurface in people.

Book Description
Years ago, Melanie followed her husband, Kurt, from the New England beach town where their two young sons were thriving to the suburbs of Atlanta. She’s carved out a life as a successful metal sculptor, but when Kurt leaves her for another woman, having the tools to cut up their marriage bed is small consolation. She’s old enough to know that high school reunions are often a big disappointment, but when her best friend makes her buy a ticket and an old flame gets in touch to see if she’ll be going, she fantasizes that returning to her past might help her find her future . . . until her highway driving phobia resurfaces and threatens to hold her back from the adventure of a lifetime.

Time Flies is an epic trip filled with fun, heartbreak, and friendship that explores what it takes to conquer your worst fears . . . so you can start living your future.” – Time Flies

My Thoughts
Time Flies is a book that takes you on an emotional rollercoaster right along with the characters. Melanie is rightfully hurt after her husband leaves her, and quite literally chainsaws their bed after he leaves. Having the tools (and knowing how to use them) surely helped with this, and she seizes the moment to use the springs in a project. It is a humorous, yet very real look at this character and her journey.

Claire Cook writes in a fun to read style that makes it easy for the reader to get lost in. You can start reading one of her novels only expecting to read a few chapters, and get sucked into reading half the book without even noticing how late it is in real life. This book is no exception, so be prepared to read this for hours before putting it down. I really enjoyed this book, and highly recommend it.

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

June 18, 2013

Sniper Elite: One Way Trip by Scott McEwen

Sniper Elite: One Way Trip by Scott McEwen is an intense adventure novel that is full of action. This story focuses on the military in great detail, while still making it intense and a very compelling read. If action and adventure is your thing, this is a book you’ll definitely want to read.

Book Description
In direct defiance of the president’s orders, Navy Master Chief Gil Shannon, one of America’s most lethal Seal snipers, launches a bold mission comprised of Seal Team Six and Delta Force fighters to free a captured female helicopter pilot being held by Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan.

The president is afraid a botched rescue could jeopardize US foreign policy as well as end his presidency. But once the special ops community learns that one of their own—the first female helicopter pilot of the Army’s elite 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (SOAR)—is being held and brutally mistreated, there is no executive order strong enough to stop them from attempting to rescue her.

This fast-paced, action-packed thriller with incredibly realistic and blistering battles introduces a new American hero, Gil Shannon, whose iron will and expertise with the .308 Remington Modular sniper rifle will spell the difference between freedom and an ignoble death for America’s female POW.” – Sniper Elite: One Way Trip

My Thoughts
Sniper Elite: One Way Trip is the type of story that makes it easy to see the “good” guys from the “bad.” However, it also makes you look at how our government is able to handle black ops type missions, and how all of the different types of military personnel thinks differently, ultimately leading to friction and drama from within.

This is not your typical action or thriller novel. This is timely, intense, and very realistic. The novel itself is very well written, and the characters are well developed although sometimes a bit stereotypical based on their roles. If you enjoy novels based on military ops, action, thrillers, adventures, or just a good story, this is definitely a book you want to add to your must-read list.

* Thank you to the publisher of Sniper Elite: One Way Trip, Touchstone, for providing me with a copy of this book for review. All opinions expressed are my own.

Francis Man of Prayer by Mario Escobar

Francis Man of Prayer by Mario Escobar is a good introduction to the new Pope. His journey may not be an easy one, but Pope Francis is a welcome change within the Catholic Church that the faithful have been waiting for.

Book Description
First Jesuit. First Latin American. And a new pope who chose as his first act a simple request: please pray for me.
The recent resignation of Pope Benedict XVI took the world by surprise and for good reason. More than 600 years had passed since a pope last left his post.
 Jorge Mario Bergoglio, now Pope Francis, is a man of prayer, a man of action, and a humble man who has always promoted others over himself. In fact, it was Bergoglio who bowed out of the running in the papal election of 2005 to facilitate the rise of Benedict XVI.
 However, the new pope faces a Catholic Church in crisis—a church that has lost the media pull of John Paul II and is still hounded by pedophile scandals and the filtration of documents from former papal administrations. His first year may not be an easy one, but neither this man nor the church itself has ever shied away from the challenges thrust upon them.
 Pope Francis is austere and simple but has vast theological training. He is a man of his time but one who also travels by subway and bus just like any other citizen. Tirelessly fighting poverty and marginalization, he is a beacon of hope for the poor, persecuted sectors of the church. Has a Catholic spring finally arrived after a very long winter?
 Francis is the complete biography of a humble man who has suddenly become one of the most powerful and influential men on the planet.” – Francis Man of Prayer

My Thoughts
Francis Man of Prayer is a biography of Pope Francis. It isn’t quite as detailed as I would have liked, but I did learn a lot more about him, and grew to respect him even more than I did before reading this about him. I was raised Catholic, and although I consider myself more “spiritual” than “religious” I do still consider myself Catholic when it comes to religion. Just like any religion, it helps to have a priest and church that is a good fit with you. I think Pope Francis is the perfect fit for Pope in this day and time.

To say that he will have a hard road ahead of him is an understatement. He realizes this, but has the faith to help bring in changes for the better. He is also genuine, humble and shows deep care and concern for the people in the world. I highly respect him, and am glad I learned more about him from this book.

* Thank you to the publisher of Francis Man of Prayer, 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.

June 17, 2013

Astor Place Vintage by Stephanie Lehmann

Astor Place Vintage by Stephanie Lehmann blends New York City and vintage fashion into a marvelous book that transports you to NYC 100 years ago, as well as modern day NYC, and keeps it current with memorable characters in both eras.

Book Description
Amanda Rosenbloom, proprietor of Astor Place Vintage, thinks she’son just another call to appraise and possibly purchase clothing from a wealthy, elderly woman. But after discovering a journal sewn into a fur muff, Amanda gets much more than she anticipated. The pages of the journal reveal the life of Olive Westcott, a young woman who had moved to Manhattan in 1907. Olive was set on pursuing a career as a department store buyer in an era when Victorian ideas, limiting a woman’s sphere to marriage and motherhood, were only beginning to give way to modern ways of thinking. As Amanda reads the journal, her life begins to unravel until she can no longer ignore this voice from the past. Despite being separated by one hundred years, Amanda finds she’s connected to Olive in ways neither could ever have imagined.” – Astor Place Vintage

My Thoughts
Astor Place Vintage is the type of book that you can get lost in. The author is able to artfully weave the story around 1907 and 2007 NYC without making it feel like two very different stories within the same book.

Amanda finds an old journal written by a woman who moved to Manhattan 100 years ago. As a store owner of a vintage clothing boutique, you never know what gems you’ll uncover when out buying clothes, but this find becomes much more than she could ever expect.

On the surface, reading this book and thinking back about what life was like 100 years ago, it is very different. However, much remains the same and will probably be similar even 100 years from now. This is what makes the book so heartfelt and relatable. Sure, the scenes in NYC, and reading about fabulous clothes is fun, but the people and their relationships is the real story.

If you love reading about fashion or New York City, this is definitely a book you will want to read! I highly recommend it.

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

June 16, 2013

True Blood – Season 6

One of my favorite TV shows is HBO’s True Blood. I have watched all of the seasons and own all of the current ones that are out on DVD or Blu-Ray. I’ve read all of the books that the TV series are based on, and I can actually appreciate that the show has taken a very different storyline. I have a poster of Eric in my bedroom, and I am not ashamed about that one bit. I also wear quite a few different True Blood shirts as part of my normal attire. I’m a True Blood addict.

The premiere of True Blood Season 6 starts in about an hour on HBO. Are you watching it? Drinking True Blood, wine, or some other tasty beverage? Is this your favorite time of year because the show has returned, too?

Share in the comments how much you love it too, and what you think of the show and/or this season’s premiere episode after it airs.

The Sexy Vegan’s Happy Hour at Home by Brian L. Patton

The Sexy Vegan’s Happy Hour at Home by Brian L. Patton is the second cookbook by the author featuring vegan dishes. This time, it focuses on themed menus that work well for “happy hour” and includes beverages to be a part of the vegan meals.

Book Description
What started as a casual weekly tradition at the Patton household resulted in these twenty delectably diverse happy hour menus. From yamburger sliders, samosa pizzas, and green bean fries to rigatoni poppers and a variety of innovative cocktails, this is seriously fun food for Friday — or any — night!

Wow your friends! Impress your family! Woo that special someone who might need a little convincing of your specialness! Open The Sexy Vegan’s Happy Hour at Home and:

• learn the ninja time-management skills of professional chefs to whip up snacking feasts in about an hour 
• make your produce procurement easier with handy-dandy premade shopping lists
• concoct unique potent potables and lovable libations
• travel the world without leaving your balcony, from Little India to New New England to Really Little Italy 
• fill your belly with fabulous food that’s free of your furry friends” – The Sexy Vegan’s Happy Hour at Home

My Thoughts
The Sexy Vegan’s Happy Hour at Home is a cookbook that is designed with menus in mind for four people that take about an hour to make. Everything is vegan, and you may be surprised by how much you might like that is vegan, if you aren’t fully devoted to the vegan lifestyle.

The cookbook itself is also not in full color. However, you can go to www.thesexyvegan.com/gallery to view some of the dishes in the book in full color photos. I like this a lot because I’m a visual person who probably wouldn’t try to cook something if I only saw it in black and white. There are also QR codes throughout the book to offer videos of the author showing recipes and tips.

I’ll be honest, the author’s first cookbook was not one that I am a big fan of. However, this one feels more genuine to me and isn’t quite as forced. The recipes are also better and probably a lot easier to try out for starter chefs like myself. For the most part, I could replace many of the things that contained gluten with something else (I can’t eat gluten), and they were quite good!

I was pleasantly surprised by this cookbook and would definitely recommend it to anyone who wants to try to cook vegan dishes for happy hour.

* Thank you to the publisher of The Sexy Vegan’s Happy Hour at Home, New World Library, for providing me with a copy of this book for review. All opinions expressed are my own.

Never Say Never by Victoria Christopher Murray

Never Say Never by Victoria Christopher Murray is an emotionally believable story that involves love, friendship, death, betrayal, and forgiveness. This love triangle isn’t your typical story, but this isn’t your typical author either. Be prepared for a very memorable story that will keep you engrossed in the story for longer than you expected.

Book Description
In this emotionally charged and inspiring novel about a love triangle, secrets between best friends threaten to blow up friendships and a marriage and change lives forever.

When Miriam’s fireman husband, Chauncey, dies while rescuing students from a school fire, Miriam feels like her life is over. How is she going to raise her three children all by herself? How will she survive without the love of her life? Luckily, Miriam’s sister-friend Emily and Emily’s husband, Jamal, are there to comfort her. Jamal and Chauncey grew up together and were best friends; Jamal and Emily know they will do all they can to support Miriam through her grief. Jamal steps in and helps Miriam with the funeral arrangements and with her children, plus he gives her hope that she has a future. But all the time that they spend together—grieving, sharing, and reminiscing—brings the two closer in ways they never planned.” – Never Say Never

My Thoughts
Never Say Never is a novel that shows the bonds of friendship, family, and shows infidelity in a different light than you’d normally read about it. I don’t like to give spoilers in my reviews, so I won’t do that. I am also not condoning being unfaithful at all, but this novel is artfully crafted by the author to show that it can sometimes be understood, even if it isn’t morally right.

Victoria Christopher Murray does an excellent job in this book with the characters. They are emotionally driven and as a reader, you care about them. The story itself is interesting yet very real. This is something that can (and does) happen in real life. People die, love, cheat, and everything in-between. This isn’t a fantasy world, but one where you can probably relate to at least one of the characters.

If you enjoy good novels that are highly character driven, this is definitely one you’ll want to read.

* Thank you to the publisher of Never Say Never, Touchstone, for providing me with a copy of this book for review. All opinions expressed are my own.

June 12, 2013

Sight Reading by Daphne Kalotay

Sight Reading by Daphne Kalotay is draws you into the lives of three characters who are involved in the competitive world of the classical music. Spanning from 1987 to 2007, you’ll follow their lives and ambitions to places from America to Europe.

Book Description
The critically acclaimed author of Russian Winter turns her "sure and suspenseful artistry" (Boston Globe) to the lives of three colleagues and lovers in the world of classical music.

On a Boston street one warm spring day, Hazel and Remy spot each other for the first time in years. Although their brief meeting may seem insignificant, behind them lie two decades in which their life paths have crisscrossed, diverged, and ultimately interlaced. Remy, a gifted violinist, is married to the composer Nicholas Elko—once the love of Hazel's life.

It has been twenty years since Remy, an ambitious conservatory student; Nicholas, a wunderkind launching an international career; and his wife, the beautiful and fragile Hazel, first came together, tipping their collective world on its axis. As their story unfolds from 1987 to 2007, from Europe to America, from conservatory life to the Boston Symphony Orchestra, each discovers the surprising ways in which the quest to create something real and true—be it a work of art or one's own life—can lead to the most personal of revelations.

Lyrical and evocative, Sight Reading explores the role of art and beauty in everyday life, while unspooling a transporting story of marriage, family, and the secrets we keep, even from ourselves.” – Sight Reading

My Thoughts
Sight Reading spans from 1987 to 2007. It covers the lives of Hazel, Remy, and Nicholas. Striving to be the first chair and as successful as possible, is fun and exciting, but it can’t last forever. This is a story that takes you inside the world of the highly competitive and ambitious Symphony Orchestra, and much, much more.

I really like how you learn all sides to the story with this novel. We are used to reading just one side of a story with most novels, so this is an ambitious change which worked out very well in that respect. However, even with this I don’t feel that the characters were all fully developed to their potential. They are a bit cliché and predictable with their given roles.

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

American Phoenix by Jane Cook

American Phoenix by Jane Cook is a well-researched book about John Quincy Adams and his wife, Louisa. If you are interested in American history, and presidential biographies, this is a book you’ll want to read.

Book Description
American Phoenix tells the gripping story of John Quincy Adams’s “honorable exile” during the War of 1812 and the harrowing journey of his wife, Louisa, to be reunited with her family.

American diplomat John Quincy Adams and his wife, Louisa, had two things in common with the audacious Napoleon Bonaparte—speaking perfect French and living in exile. American Phoenix reveals the untold true story of Quincy’s unexpected nomination as the top US envoy to Russia in 1809, and Louisa’s agony at being forced to leave their six- and eight-year old boys behind in Boston. Believing that ambition can never repay such sacrifice, she clings to the hope of reuniting with her sons in a year. Pretention, royal dissipation, extreme weather, covert political maneuvers, French interference, private tragedy, and two great wars trap them in St. Petersburg longer than their worst fears. Their personal story is soon swept into the public drama of Napoleon’s war with Russia and America’s war with Great Britain, which ultimately force John Quincy and Louisa to live apart. When Napoleon escapes his exile, his march to reclaim Paris threatens to forever separate John Quincy and Louisa from each other and their children back home.
American Phoenix uncovers the challenges, fears, sorrows, joys, triumphs, and faith that come when life—no matter the era—takes an unexpected journey.” – American Phoenix

My Thoughts
American Phoenix is a really good historical memoir about the President and the first lady in the 1800s. Admittedly, I did not know very much about them until I read this book. This book is focused on their years from 1809 to 1812. It is filled with a sense of historical patriotism and intrigue that history buffs will enjoy.

Although it isn’t fully a memoir, as the author did make up some of the content, I can tell that is was thoroughly researched, and the quality of the writing makes it an easy and educational read. I enjoyed reading it, and would definitely recommend it for all Americans, and of course, people who enjoy reading historical novels and biographies.

* Thank you to the publisher of American Phoenix, Thomas Nelson for providing me with a copy of this book for review as part of their “Book Sneeze” program. All opinions expressed are my own.

June 11, 2013

Gluten Free Baking with Betty Crocker

I am gluten free because I have to be. If I eat something with gluten (even just a few crumbs) I get terribly sick. One of the hardest things about staying gluten free is all of the things that I used to eat (and love) don’t taste like “normal” foods anymore. Gluten free bread, gluten free cakes, and the like usually taste a little dry and “strange.”

It has been a few years since I’ve been fully gluten free now, and I have discovered a few amazing replacements to eat that are gluten free and still taste almost 100% like normal foods that contain gluten. One of them is the Betty Crocker baking mixes. These are a lifesaver, especially during holidays or events because I can make these, bring them to the party (or keep at home) and still feel like I’m able to have a relatively normal birthday, Christmas, or whatever. They are delicious and gluten free, so it is really a win-win for everybody who gets to eat it!

Betty Crocker Gluten Free Info

Now, Gluten Free baking gets even easier (and tastier!) with two all-new additions to the delicious line of Betty Crocker Gluten Free baking products – introducing Gluten Free Sugar Cookie mix and All-Purpose Gluten Free Rice Flour Blend. 

Smart moms already trust the great taste of Betty Crocker Gluten Free Brownie, Cookie and Cake mixes that the whole family can enjoy, and now beginner-to-expert bakers can use mixes or create from scratch delicious recipes year-round! 

So why are Gluten Free moms choosing Betty Crocker?
  • Taste – Our consumers rave about the great taste of our Gluten Free products. Check out some of the great comments here.
  • Shareable – You can make one dessert for the whole family.
  • Normalcy – You can feel “normal again” baking for your family just like before you went gluten free.

To find out more about Betty Crocker gluten free mixes, check out their website.

My favorite mixes are the brownie and cookie mixes (made into chocolate chip cookies of course)! Have you tried any of these gluten free mixes? Have any recipes or funny baking stories to share? I’d love to hear all about it!

Disclosure: The information and prize pack have been provided by General Mills through MyBlogSpark.

June 10, 2013

A Place at the Table by Susan Rebecca White

A Place at the Table by Susan Rebecca White is a delicious novel about three characters who moved to New York City for various reasons, only to find themselves again through cooking inspirationally well.

Book Description
Celebrating the healing power of food and the magic of New York City, A Place at the Table follows the lives of three seekers who come together in the understanding that when you embrace the thing that makes you different, you become whole. A Place at the Table tells the story of three unforgettable characters whose paths converge in a storied Manhattan café: Bobby, a young gay man from Georgia who has been ostracized by his family; Amelia, a wealthy Connecticut woman whose life is upended when a family secret comes to light; and Alice, an African-American chef from North Carolina whose heritage is the basis of a renowned cookbook but whose past is a mystery to those who know her. These characters are exiles—from homeland, from marriage, from family. While they all find companionship and careers through cooking, they hunger for the deeper nourishment of communion. As the narrative sweeps from a freed-slave settlement in 1920s North Carolina to Manhattan during the deadly AIDS epidemic of the 1980s to the well-heeled hamlet of contemporary Old Greenwich, Connecticut, Bobby, Amelia, and Alice are asked to sacrifice everything they ever knew or cared about to find authenticity and fulfillment.” – A Place at the Table

My Thoughts
A Place at the Table is a book that moves through different times, different characters, and different locations. Bobby, Amelia, and Alice are all people who found their true selves only after embracing what made them different. Each were forced to leave their safe surroundings in the South to move to New York City – where they found not only amazing food, but also real opportunities for personal growth.

It is an interesting story that will leave you hungry for more (pun intended). If you like food, novels, character driven stories, and of course, New York City, this is a book you’ll want to read.

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

June 9, 2013

All the Summer Girls by Meg Donohue

All the Summer Girls by Meg Donohue is a perfect summer novel for women. It features friendships, loves, losses, secrets and much more. Plus, it takes place during the summer on the New Jersey shore.

Book Description
In Philadelphia, good girl Kate is dumped by her fiancé the day she learns she is pregnant with his child. In New York City, beautiful stay-at-home mom Vanessa finds herself obsessively searching the Internet for news of an old flame. And in San Francisco, Dani, an aspiring writer who can't seem to put down a book—or a cocktail—long enough to open her laptop, has just been fired . . . again.

In an effort to regroup, Kate, Vanessa, and Dani retreat to the New Jersey beach town where they once spent their summers. Emboldened by the seductive cadences of the shore, the women begin to realize just how much their lives, and friendships, have been shaped by the choices they made one fateful night on the beach eight years earlier—and the secrets that now threaten to surface.” – All the Summer Girls

My Thoughts
All the Summer Girls is a true summer read. Perfect for a beach trip or summer vacation at a resort, or anywhere this summer. If you can’t get to a beachy summer vacation spot, this book will transport you there while you read it. You will get lost in this book for a while though, so if you are outside in the sun while reading it, be sure to apply plenty of lotion with SPF in it (or get in the shade).

The three main women in the story all come back together to this New Jersey shore town where they hold deep secrets that tie them together. You’ll learn more about this through well-crafted flashback scenes in the novel. Although the women weren’t so close in their adult years, they all find themselves back together for the summer. Their lives have changed dramatically since their teenage years and the trauma that has been haunting them ever since.

This novel is an excellent story about friendships, secrets, and lives that can be ruined if deep secrets and traumas aren’t dealt with. This is a beach read that is more than just fun and sexy, it has a true story that will keep you reading longer than you planned for each sitting. I definitely recommend this book for your summer reading list!

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

June 7, 2013

Kicking in the Wall by Barbara Abercrombie

Kicking in the Wall by Barbara Abercrombie is a book for all writers to help kick in that frustrating wall that blocks their writing process. If you are looking for writing prompts and inspirations to write, this is the book to help you get started writing again!

Book Description
Kicking in the Wall includes quotes from famous writers to accompany the exercises, as well as real-world examples of completed exercises by the author’s students in the UCLA Extension Writer’s Program. Though Abercrombie says readers need only commit to five minutes per exercise, she writes, “I’ve seen novels, memoirs, and many essays get started in those five minutes, and a lot ended up being published.” Her playful method is essential fuel for writers trying to get off the starting block, persevere through challenges, and cross their personal creativity finish lines.” – Kicking in the Wall

My Thoughts
Kicking in the Wall is a fun guide to help you get creative with your writing. The writing prompts in it are only aimed to have you write for five minutes at a time. Of course, you could write for much longer if you are inspired to do so. Even better though, if you can’t get anything going on that prompt, well it was only five minutes wasted, so no big deal.

I also like how the book is setup to first show you the writing prompts and then to see examples of what people wrote on some of the prompts in another section. I suggest writing the prompts first, and then seeing what someone else wrote on it, but you might get inspired by doing it the other way, too. Whichever works for you!

I think that this book is an excellent resource for writers in all stages of their career. No matter what type of writer you are, you have probably gone through some form of writer’s block before. This book can help you so much with it. I highly recommend it for all writers out there.

* Thank you to the publisher of Kicking in the Wall, New World Library, for providing me with a copy of this book for review. All opinions expressed are my own.

June 5, 2013

The Perfume Collector by Kathleen Tessaro

The Perfume Collector by Kathleen Tessaro is a wonderful piece of historical fiction that weaves love, loss, sacrifice, desire, and good perfume into a memorable novel that fans of this genre will enjoy for years to come.

Book Description
An inheritance from a mysterious stranger . . .
An abandoned perfume shop on the Left Bank of Paris . . .
And three exquisite perfumes that hold a memory . . . and a secret.

London, 1955: Grace Monroe is a fortunate young woman. Despite her sheltered upbringing in Oxford, her recent marriage has thrust her into the heart of London's most refined and ambitious social circles. However, playing the role of the sophisticated socialite her husband would like her to be doesn't come easily to her—and perhaps never will.

Then one evening a letter arrives from France that will change everything. Grace has received an inheritance. There's only one problem: she has never heard of her benefactor, the mysterious Eva d'Orsey.

So begins a journey that takes Grace to Paris in search of Eva. There, in a long-abandoned perfume shop on the Left Bank, she discovers the seductive world of perfumers and their muses, and a surprising, complex love story. Told by invoking the three distinctive perfumes she inspired, Eva d'Orsey's story weaves through the decades, from 1920s New York to Monte Carlo, Paris, and London.

But these three perfumes hold secrets. And as Eva's past and Grace's future intersect, Grace realizes she must choose between the life she thinks she should live and the person she is truly meant to be.

Illuminating the lives and challenging times of two fascinating women, The Perfume Collector weaves a haunting, imaginative, and beautifully written tale filled with passion and possibility, heartbreak and hope.” – The Perfume Collector

My Thoughts
The Perfume Collector is a well written book that transports you back in time and thrusts you into the story. Perfumes and scents in general help to remember things, both positive and negative. I love how the author used scents to trigger memories. I don’t think I’ve ever read something where an author has used this method before, and it worked out very well with this novel.

The characters in the book are well developed, especially Eva d’Orsey and Grace Monroe. They are dynamic, and as a reader, you care to read more about their journeys. Although each woman is truly unique, their story weaves together beautifully.

This is a fabulous piece of historical fiction that fans of this genre will definitely enjoy. I highly recommend it.

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

June 3, 2013

Red Wedding on Game of Thrones - Spoilers!

I am finding it really quite funny that so many people are so shocked by the Red Wedding episode of Game of Thrones on HBO. I read the series that George R.R. Martin wrote that the show is based on (quite closely may I add) and it happened very similarly in there, too.

Yes, Robb Stark dies. Catelyn Stark dies. Everyone pretty much at the wedding dies. Oh, and Arya Stark never makes it to see her family before they died. She ends up becoming a little fireball across the sea though, but that hasn’t happened yet in the show. Robb doesn’t come back from the dead, but guess who will? Catelyn – but if it is anything like the book series of it, she is grotesque and can’t talk very well because her throat was slashed.

People claiming on various social media platforms about how much they hate the show now and are going to boycott it is ridiculous. Honestly, you should have known from the first season that the writer doesn’t care to save his beloved characters – remember Ned Stark?

There is still hope for this season though. There is another wedding in which the groom dies that will be coming up very shortly. His death has been a long time coming, and I can’t wait to never have to see him in the series again. I just hope they don’t prolong it to next season.

For more spoilers and to save yourself any upcoming shock and disappointment of your beloved characters, I suggest reading the books or at least checking out the Game of Thrones Wiki

Logitech G19s Gaming Keyboard Review

Looking for a new gaming keyboard that will give you that extra edge to extend your games to the next level? The Logitech G19s Gaming Keyboard may be the perfect fit for your gaming needs, find out if it is for you with this review.

Logitech G19s Gaming Keyboard Features
Adjustable, Color Gamepanel LCDExtend your cockpit with the G19s GamePanel LCD*. Stay informed with real-time game stats, background system information, VoIP communication data, video playback and image slide shows. Add community-developed applets to work with your GamePanel monitor or create your own.

Custom Color BacklightingLocate keys in any room with custom backlit keys. Choose 1 out of 16 million colors and assign a unique color to each profile, profile mode, and mode style in the same game. You can tell, without looking down, which mode you’re in to ensure your setup is optimized.

12 Fully Programmable G-KeysG19s includes 12 programmable G-keys** that simplify complex actions by allowing you to configure up to 36 unique functions across three different modes with three macros per key. With G-keys, instant access to a variety of customizable functions is just a click away. Program G-keys to interact with your mouse to change DPI levels on the fly and instantly switch from lightning-fast speed to pixel-perfect precision. Assign a G-key to open microphone channels and talk to friends through Ventrilo or to record your play on the fly. You can even assign a G-key to send a text broadcast to your team. Harness the power of G-keys to configure single key presses, complex macros or intricate LUA scripts on the fly, and quickly simplify actions to stay immersed in your game and never lose a step.

Advanced Surface MaterialsUsing infrared technology, we studied the interaction between hand and keyboard, and then added advanced surface materials to strategic zones for improved durability and comfort. A hydrophobic coating helps keep hands from sticking to the palm rest. Double UV coating on the keys provides extra long life durability. In addition, fingerprint-resistant coating on the faceplate helps maintain a fresh look. Details make the difference.

Two Hi-Speed USB PortsThe powered USB ports let you transfer data to and from peripherals, like MP3 players and flash drives, while also charging battery-powered devices.

Six Key Anti-GhostingAnti-ghosting means every key you press is registered even when you press more than one key at the same time. G19s not only includes anti-ghosting on common multi-key inputs such as control-alt-delete, it includes it over all 26 keys so you can perform multiple complex actions, such as pressing six keys at once, without interference or ghosting.

Game Mode SwitchYou’re about to record a record high number of perfect headshots when an accidental keystroke sends you on an unplanned, unwanted trip to your desktop. Don’t let this kind of mistake ruin your streak or your game—easily disable the Windows key with one button so your game won’t be interrupted. You can thank us later.

Intelligent Cable Management - You can keep mouse, headset and other cords out of the way by routing them through channels on the underside of G19s.

Public Software Development Kit (SDK)You can upload the latest enhancements developed exclusively for GamePanel by the Logitech open-source community.

Onboard MemoryG19s saves your profiles so you never lose your settings, even when you bring it to other PCs.

Dedicated Media ControlsConvenient one-touch controls give you instant access to volume control and media playback without needing to press a function key.” – Logitech G19s Gaming Keyboard

My Thoughts
Before I started using this keyboard, I was using the Logitech Gaming Keyboard G110 and the Logitech G710+ Mechanical Gaming Keyboard. Depending on what I was doing with it, I’d switch back and forth, but for the most part I was using the G110 because I could make the keyboard have a backlight color other than white. I really liked both of these keyboards because they were able to get the job done and easy to setup and use.

I was really excited to try the new Logitech G19s Gaming Keyboard because it was like the best of both of the previous versions I was using rolled into one. I never used a keyboard with a LCD screen either, so to be honest, to start with, I was a little confused on what the big fuss about it would be. I mean, would it really make that much of a difference?

The Gamepanel LCD screen on the keyboard is without a doubt the coolest feature on this gaming keyboard. It does indeed help you to instantly see certain aspects to the game you are playing, system information, or any of the other option you choose. It is also very easy to setup and use, so don’t be intimidated with this feature at all.

My next favorite feature on this keyboard is the ability to change the backlight color to any option I wish. I’ve messed around with it just about every day I’ve been using it, and it looks great in all of the hues I’ve tried. My favorite is a light blue, pink, purple, and aqua or teal shade. You can easily change it to match your mood or your room.

The G-Keys are also easy to setup and use for gaming. I don’t use too many, but they are quite helpful for certain things. The advanced surface materials also work quite well to keep the keyboard looking fresh, but don’t forget to also clean it with appropriate antimicrobial wipes for electronics, too.

This is seriously the best keyboard I have ever used for a PC. It is perfect for gamers, but I could see how it could also be a favorite for people who just casually use the PC for other things as well. It is designed with the user in mind, and features intelligent options for people to get the most use out of it. I highly recommend it.

Disclosure: Thank you to Logitech for providing me with the product for review. All opinions, experiences, and thoughts about the product being reviewed are my own.