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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The Island of Doves by Kelly O'Connor McNees Spotlight & Giveaway

Vivid and enthralling, Island of the Doves tells the story of a courageous woman who is desperate for freedom and of those who will risk everything to help her…

Susannah Fraser lives in one of Buffalo’s finest mansions, but her monstrous husband makes the home a terrible prison. When a local nun offers to help her escape, Susannah boards a steamship headed for Mackinac Island and a chance at freedom.

Magdelaine Fonteneau has seen her share of tragedy—a husband murdered before her eyes, two sisters lost—and she sees offering Susannah refuge in her island home as atonement for her many regrets. This act of kindness changes Susannah in ways she never could have imagined as she finds solace in the company of others who carry their own secrets and scars. Only together can they untangle their pasts—and find a future bright with the promise of new life…


One lucky reader will win their own copy of The Island of Doves!

*Fill out the Rafflecopter to enter
*USA only
*Contest ends May 1, 2014

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The Next Big Thing (The Start-Up #2) by Sadie Hayes

Amelia and Adam’s new company, Doreye, may have won over Silicon Valley, but the trouble is far from over. After facing down skepticism, a meddler from their past and a saboteur who makes their app malfunction right when it matters most, drama suddenly seems to be brewing within the ranks. While Adam has money signs in his eyes and enough charm to win over the investors, Amelia decides she wants to give away their app for free, leading to discord and a separation of responsibilities—and power.

As if that weren’t hard enough on their relationship, Adam and Amelia are both keeping secrets from each other, the kinds of secrets that could change everything if revealed. As they grow farther apart, others grow closer together. Patty finds a new boyfriend—and a fascinating new job—to distract her from Chad; Adam becomes involved with an older woman who seems to be as interested in Doreye as he is; and TJ starts to notice that Amelia is more than just a computer nerd with the tensions running high, Adam makes a decision that topples Amelia’s carefully constructed life and sets off a chain of events that could threaten the future of Doreye. Can Amelia find a way to save their company before it’s too late?

    Upon finishing this book I wasn’t very confused about exactly who the main characters were or their personalities. I saw on the front cover that it’s part of a series called Social Code; I had never heard of this series before and when I read about what this book was supposed to be about on a different website it sounded like it would be a really good book.  I was a little off on my assumption about this book. 

I started reading it and the characters voices in my head sounded like snobby kids and those who don’t have a thought in their heads. I thought they sounded exactly like rich, spoiled, disrespectful kids from California (i.e. “Adam” gets pulled over for speeding and the cop explains why he’s giving Adam the ticket and the price for it and Adam is surprised!)   

    At the end of the story however I found that I liked Amelia a little more than I did when I set out to read this book.  I didn’t completely understand her personality but I found that she had some more humane qualities than her brother Adam.  I think if I had read other books in this series then I might have enjoyed this story and possibly understood the characters more.  

     One thing I did like was how each chapter had a different subtitle than just the chapter #.  I think it helps the reader know more or less where they are in the story and what that certain part is about. I really like how Ms. Hayes wrote this story; I find that she makes it easy to read the story rather quickly.  Other than the few things that I didn’t like I still think Sadie Hayes is a wonderful and promising author and I would love to see her write some more interesting stories!!       Overall I give this story a “B” and the author an “A-.”

*I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.  Tiffany

Monday, April 21, 2014

Skinny Jane's "Skinny Blend Protein Shake" Review

Skinny Blend is a shake powder that is formulated to nourish your body and help you lose weight.  It provides hours of energy and has seven different proteins in it.  For those of you with allergies, it is manufactured on equipment which processes products with milk, eggs, soybeans, what, shellfish, fish oil, tree nuts and peanut flavor.  Basically, if you have any food allergies, be cautious.

I tried the strawberry flavored blend.  One serving is a fourth cup of blend and so I added another 3/4 cup of milk and some ice in my blender.  I couldn't drink the entire shake.  I was full about half-way through.  It had a pleasing strawberry taste that was much more similar to the taste of fresh-picked strawberries verses strawberry flavoring.  I did stay full for quite awhile and I did seem to have a boost in energy.

I also had everyone else in my house try it.  One person compared it to Spark shakes by Advocare.  Another one said it was about the same as a McDonald's strawberry shake.  The teenagers enjoyed it, but didn't give much feedback.  When my eight-year old tried it, he wasn't impressed.  He added a strawberry-flavored Crystal Light packet to it, which caused it to solidify.  After that, he happily sat down and spooned it into his mouth.  I tried his version, and I thought it rather gross.  I prefer just the plain shake.  

I like that Skinny Jane is a local company for me, coming from Evansville, Indiana.  On the package it has all of the nutrition facts listed so that I know exactly what I'm getting in my blend.  It's incredibly low sugar and sodium, which are huge triggers in my household.  If you're looking for a good addition to your diet, this could be great for you.  It is a nutritious blend that would be great for breakfast or afternoon energy.  I did check out the 'diet' that goes along with it for weight loss, and I believe that if you're looking for a hard-core diet that will help you lose weight and cleanse your body it would be great.  I'm not interested in losing weight, but rather in being more nutritionally conscious.  The diet wouldn't work well for me, but the Skinny Blend is a great nutritious addition to my lifestyle.

Disclosure: I got this product as part of an advertorial.

I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free using Tomoson.com. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.

Friday, April 18, 2014

After I'm Gone by Laura Lippman

 Felix Brewer is not exactly what you would call an ethical businessman.  Though some might frown on his ethics, his works has enabled his family to have a quite comfortable life.  His wife, Bambi, who Felix met at a Valentine’s Day dance years before, has given him three beautiful daughters.  He even has enough money to keep his mistress, the former dancer Julie Saxony, happy.  When Felix is convicted and jail is imminent that is when After I’m Gone by Laura Lippman really gets started.
         Felix decides to flee before he can begin serving time, and his decision leaves a wake of misery behind it.   Is he alive and living it up somewhere?  Will he send for Bambi or Julie to join him?  Ten years passes, and when Julie Saxony is murdered ten years after Felix leaves, a retired detective tries to get to the bottom of the story.

         Roberto “Sandy” Sanchez, is working as a consultant for the police department when the Julie Saxony case catches his attention.  Sandy, who has suffered losses of his own, tries to pin down the complicated lives of each member of the Brewer family and how each has learned to cope with Felix’s abandonment.  As he gets closer to solving the mystery of Julie’s disappearance, he also comes to terms with his own past.

         I would not call After I’m Gone a mystery so much as I would call it a family drama.  While the mystery of what happened to Julie is a thread of the novel, far more important is the effect that Felix’s leaving had upon his family.  Each of the Brewer women is affected by this abandonment and betrayal.  Bambi, left financially strapped by Felix, tries to hold her family together and to reassure herself of her significance in her husband’s life.  The three daughters try to make sense of an adulterous father who left them without looking back.

         After I’m Gone was not at all the book that I was expecting it to be.  While I concede it was well written, the characters seemed to go nowhere for me.  I think this is because of the frequent changes in timeline and character point of view.  I never did get the daughters straight, and I think I ended up with reader’s whiplash from the back and forth of the timeline.  Though we did not hear from Felix for most of the novel, I felt that some input from him would have made the story better.

         I did not care much about these people and though I felt as though there were some points to be made about keeping secrets, family and the roles within it, and integrity, I just was too confused and uninterested to care much.    I have read other Laura Lippman books that were awesome, but After I’m Gone was a pass for me.

*I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.  Regina

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Silence the Dead by Simone St. James Spotlight & Giveaway

In 1919, Kitty Weekes, pretty, resourceful, and on the run, falsifies her background to obtain a nursing position at Portis House, a remote hospital for soldiers left shell-shocked by the horrors of the Great War. Hiding the shame of their mental instability in what was once a magnificent private estate, the patients suffer from nervous attacks and tormenting dreams. But something more is going on at Portis House—its plaster is crumbling, its plumbing makes eerie noises, and strange breaths of cold waft through the empty rooms. It’s known that the former occupants left abruptly, but where did they go? And why do the patients all seem to share the same nightmare, one so horrific that they dare not speak of it?

Kitty finds a dangerous ally in Jack Yates, an inmate who may be a war hero, a madman… or maybe both. But even as Kitty and Jack create a secret, intimate alliance to uncover the truth, disturbing revelations suggest the presence of powerful spectral forces. And when a medical catastrophe leaves them even more isolated, they must battle the menace on their own, caught in the heart of a mystery that could destroy them both.

Simone St. James is a lifelong reader of ghost stories and other spooky reads, but it wasn’t until she was an adult that she discovered two wonderful genres: romances and old, classic gothics.
Wishing she could read something that combined the three, with a 1920′s setting thrown in as well (and having written two full novels that were rightfully rejected everywhere and will forever live under the bed), she wrote THE HAUNTING OF MADDY CLARE, which was the book she really wished to read. An agent’s representation and a publishing contract soon followed, and she has been happily writing in her chosen, made-up genre ever since. THE HAUNTING OF MADDY CLARE won two of Romance Writers of America’s prestigious RITA® awards, as well as Crime Writers of Canada’s Arthur Ellis Award for Best First Book.

Simone spent twenty years behind the scenes in the television business before leaving to become a full-time writer. She lives just outside Toronto with her husband and an elderly cat who is probably sleeping as we speak. When not writing, Simone can be found traveling, cooking, staying active and healthy, gardening badly, and reading, reading, reading. Among her favorite authors (besides the geeky history and research books she loves) are Mary Stewart, Daphne duMaurier, Deanna Raybourn, Susanna Kearsley, Jacqueline Winspear, Victoria Holt, Kate Morton, George R. R. Martin, and Stephen King. How’s that for a mix? And of course, along with the rest of the planet, she is eagerly awaiting the next season of Downton Abbey and Sherlock on the BBC.

Simone loves to chat with readers on Facebook and Twitter, or through her contact page. You can also see her reading lists on Goodreads and the latest behind the scenes pictures she’s pinned on Pinterest.

One lucky reader will win their own copy of Silence the Dead

*USA only
*Fill out the Rafflecopter
*Contest ends April 28, 2014

Hoppy Easter Eggstravaganza Giveaway Hop

Welcome to the Hoppy Easter Eggstravaganza Giveaway Hop hosted by I Am A Reader & Read Now, Sleep Later! This hop runs from April 17 -24th!

I'm offering a $10 Amazon Gift Card!

*Fill out the Rafflecopter below to enter and then hop on over to the next blog on the hop!

Happy Easter and Happy Hopping!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Scott's Liquid Gold Review & Giveaway

Liquid Gold is a cleaning and protecting product that you can use on your wood.  As opposed to other products, it fills in nicks and cracks.  It doesn't just make your furniture dust-free, but the oils also sink into the wood, helping it to be 'healthier'.

I started with using this on my old buffet china cabinet.  You can see by the picture the amazing difference.  The 'before' side was previously dusted.  Not only that, but it's been two weeks since I dusted the buffet and it still has the same clean shine to it.  I took an old useful piece and turned it into an object of beauty with a little Liquid Gold and a cleaning rag.  Also, considering the fact that I do dust it weekly, I couldn't believe the amount of ground-in dirt and grime that came off on my cloth.  

I was so impressed by the change in my buffet, that I grabbed my can and a few clean cleaning cloths and went in search of more items in my house to clean.  I started with obvious items, like the dresser.  Then I went on to the not-so-obvious.  It added a new depth and shine to my counter tops.  It made my 70's chandelier look like brand new.  It removed all of the dirt and added a new look to my hinges and drawer pulls.  Then I turned it to my window sills and that metal part surrounding the window glass.  Again, I was rewarded with a deep clean and shiny look.

Before trying out Liquid Gold, I'd obviously heard of it, but it was something that people used who had expensive and fancy wood to protect.  I'm a normal girl with hand-me-downs and child-safe furniture.  I whole-heartedly admit that I was wrong.  I'm now a Liquid Gold addict.  From large pieces of furniture to candle-holders to exercise equipment, this stuff cleans and shines everything.  It does get smeary on glass, so be sure to have some glass cleaner nearby just in case you overspray.  It's quick.  It's easy.  It restores and protects without stripping and staining.  It has a light almond scent that makes it pleasant to use.  Also, it's made from natural and organic oils, contains no CFC's, and is made right here in America.
One lucky reader will win their own can of Scott's Liquid Gold
*Fill out the Rafflecopter to enter
*USA only
*Ends April 21, 2014

Monday, April 14, 2014

Adovia Dead Sea Mud Mask Review

Adovia Mineral Skin Care is made in Israel with minerals from the Dead Sea. The Dead Sea differs from oceans in many ways. It has a much higher salt content but it also has a much lower sodium chloride measurement.  For normal ocean water, 85 percent of the salt is sodium chloride while the Dead Sea salt is measured to only have 2.5 percent sodium chloride.  This means more of other minerals since there is less sodium chloride.

Historically people have visited the Dead Sea for therapeutic reasons, dating back to the ancient Egyptians. Soaking in the minerals can reduce pain from different types of arthritis.  It can be a huge aid for psoriasis and acne and is reported to reduce the depth of wrinkles from aging by 40 percent. 

Purifying Mud Mask is made with Dead Sea Mud, Aloe Vera and Vitamins A and C.  You can tell how good this is for your skin, just by me telling you that much.  Then they add in Beeswax, Jojoba Oil, Evening PrimroseOil and other soothing natural ingredients.  The purpose is to renew and rebuild your skin to make it smoother, healthier and younger looking.  The nutrients replenish your skin cells to give you a rejuvenated and healthy complexion.  

Putting the mud mask on is both cooling and soothing.  It actually has a fine mud texture rather than feeling like chemical goop.  It has a pleasant, earthy scent.  Instead of getting a dry, tight feeling while the mud mask is drying, it actually feels like it's sending moisture into your skin while removing the dryness.  After rinsing, pores are noticeably smaller and skin has a much healthier look.  My face actually became radiant.  It also felt soft to the touch.

Disclosure: I got this product as part of an advertorial.

I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free using Tomoson.com. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. Shawn

Sapphires Are an Earl's Best Friend (Jewels of the Ton #3) by Shana Galen

She Wants Him...

She Wants Him Not...

Lily Dawson, dubbed the Countess of Charm by the Prince Regent himself, plays the role of the courtesan flawlessly while her real purpose is spying in the service of the Crown. Her mission now is to seduce a duke to test his true loyalties. She'll do it, even though the man she really wants is Andrew Booth-Payne, Earl of Darlington—the duke's son.

Andrew is furious when he finds himself rivaling his father for Lily's attention. When he uncovers Lily's mission, Andrew is faced with impossible choices. It seems he is destined to betray either his family, his country, or the longings of his own heart...

Sapphires are an Earl’s Best Friend is the third in the Jewels of the Ton series.  I haven’t read the first two books, but did see a couple of really good reviews for them.  So I was excited to start this book.  Unfortunately it didn’t exactly match my expectations.  Right from the beginning I was a little lost about events that had happened in the other two books.  Lily and Andrew had a back story that I knew nothing about and was hoping that as I kept reading Shana Galen would fill in the blanks, but unfortunately they didn’t get answered. 

The plot of this book is the typical romance novel format.  Boy and girl don’t like each other, but are attracted to one another; boy and girl have a fight and end up in bed and love each other happily ever after.  I really don’t mind those kinds of romances, unless the main story is a bit forced.  Which this one is. 

Lily is supposed to be a spy and good at her job, but at all turns she is.  She is constantly “rescued” by Andrew; and really isn’t a well-developed character that you can relate too.   
Andrew is a typical male who wants to be right at every turn; and must rescue someone in the process.   

I really wanted to like Lily and Andrew together.  I thought they would be strong and fun to be around, but they didn’t seem to click.  They went on a few adventures but after this story I don’t think they would live “happily ever after”.   Even the villains in this story didn’t seem to have any punch.  They just sort of showed up to give Lily and Andrew something to do. 

Shana Galen is a good writer, and this book was good to read.  Unfortunately I think this was a little forced and not up to her usual standard.   If you have nothing else to read and have read the other two books in this series, pick it up.  It wasn’t a bad read, just not an exciting one. 

Shana Galen is the bestselling author of fast-paced adventurous Regency historicals, including the RT Reviewers' Choice The Making of a Gentleman. Her books are published all over the world and have been featured in the Rhapsody and Doubleday Book Clubs. She taught English at the middle and high school level off and on for eleven years. Most of those years were spent working in Houston's inner city. Now she writes full time. She's happily married and has a daughter who is most definitely a romance heroine in the making. Shana loves to hear from readers: visit her website at www.shanagalen.com or see what she's up to daily on Facebook and Twitter.  

*I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.  Stephanie

Out of the Shadows by Pam Thorson - Book Spotlight!

“I heartily recommend this book for anyone and everyone who deals with disability in the family!” ~ Joni Eareckson Tada, Joni and Friends International Disability Center

No place is so dark, no shadow so deep, that God can’t find us.

Does the suffering you witness or experience seem pointless? Do you feel like your problems are endless? Do you wonder if God cares about you?

Caregivers live in the daily shadows of death, countless duties, and shattered dreams. But they don’t have to exist in the shadows of their faith.

Nurse and veteran caregiver Pam Thorson offers weary families hope and insights gained from her own struggles. Out from the Shadows is a collection of thirty-one stories that pull back the veil on the unique joys and challenges of caregiving. Each devotion draws from the author’s own experiences to reveal a fresh understanding of Jesus’ call upon our lives as we care for others.

Pamela Thorson is a licensed practical nurse, author, speaker, and full-time caregiver. She pioneered in the homeschooling movement from 1982-2006 and authored her first book, Song in the Night, in 2008. She resides in the Pacific Northwest with her family. Contact her at pamthorson.com.