Thursday, April 17, 2014

The Virgin Diet Cookbook by J.J. Virgin (Cookbook Review)

*Disclosure of material connection- I received a copy of the book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for my honest thoughts. I was not required to write a positive review and all opinions stated are 100% my own.

About the book-

The companion to the New York Times bestseller The Virgin Diet brings the groundbreaking health and weight loss program into your kitchen. With more than 150 delicious and practical recipes, The Virgin Diet Cookbook is designed to show you how to incorporate anti-inflammatory, healing foods into your diet to reclaim your health and reset your metabolism, while avoiding the 7 foods that are most likely to cause food intolerance.

These tasty, easy-to-make recipes are free of gluten, soy, dairy, eggs, corn, peanuts, and sugar and artificial sweeteners. With mouthwatering suggestions for breakfast, lunch, dinner, dessert and snacks, you'll lose weight fast while enjoying what you eat!. The Virgin Diet Cookbook will also help you to stock your kitchen, provide delicious substitutes for common ingredients, and offer easy swaps for eating out and on-the-go.

My thoughts-

I have been meaning to read The Virgin Diet ever since I heard about because J.J. Virgin is someone I look up to and I trust the information that she puts out will have my overall health in mind and not just some sort of quick fix for fast weight loss that I will just gain back. I was excited to see that this companion cookbook came out and I decided that I would just go ahead and check this one out because I thought it would likely have enough information for me to follow the diet within the book's introduction and I was right. I definitely think you could skip the more in depth version and just got straight for this one. The thought behind this "diet" is eliminating foods that are commonly not tolerated well. I think it is genius. It makes sense to me that there would be gut issues (and maybe even neurological issues like sleep deprivation, depression ect.) when our body is trying to process something it just can't. The idea is to eliminate all of the common low tolerance foods for a few weeks and introduce them back into your diet slowly to see what your triggers are. In the process, you are eating healthy, clean meals and hopefully it will get you in the habit of doing that on a regular basis. As far as the actual recipes, there are so many tasty options which is nice. There is no deprivation going on and something else that is really cool is that this diet would not be difficult to follow even if you are on a specialty diet (paleo, gluten free, vegetarian, vegan). I think that if you are looking to lose a little weight, improve your overall health and maybe gain some healthier eating habits, definitely pick up a copy of this book!

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Monday, April 14, 2014

We Are the Goldens by Dana Reinhardt (Book Review)

*Disclosure of material connection- I was provided an e-arc of the book from the publisher via Netgalley. I was not required to write a positive review and all opinions stated are 100% my own.

About the book-

Nell knows a secret about her perfect, beautiful sister Layla. If she tells, it could blow their world apart. When Nell and Layla were little, Nell used to call them Nellaya. Because to Nell, there was no difference between where she started and her adored big sister ended. They're a unit; divorce made them rely on each other early on, so when one pulls away, what is the other to do? But now, Nell's a freshman in high school and Layla is changing, secretive. And then Nell discovers why. Layla is involved with one of their teachers. And even though Nell tries to support Layla, to understand that she's happy and in love, Nell struggles with her true feelings: it's wrong, and she must do something about it.

My thoughts-

I am always excited when there is a YA title to review from Random House Children's division. It is a rarity for me to read something from this particular publisher that I don't enjoy. We Are the Goldens seemed like an interesting story and I liked that the plot was going to focus on the two sisters. It was a refreshing change of pace. Don't get me wrong, I love a great love story and there was definitely one in We Are the Goldens, but it was nice to see this different type of relationship explored. The novel is written sort of like a long letter from younger sister Nell to her older sister Layla. In Nell's commentary we learn that her story begins as she begins her Freshman year of high school. We learn that older sister Layla is a junior and has a big secret...the secret was easy to figure out pretty early on and I was kind of bummed about that because I love a good amount of suspense, but there was so much emotion to be felt while reading this novel that it didn't really make that big of a difference to me. I still devoured the book in 2 days time. Nell and Layla have always been close, but the big secret is putting a wedge through them, especially as Nell wonders whether she should be keeping such a thing to herself. I found myself annoyed at Nell several times through the book, but I had to remind myself that her character is only 15 years old and when I remember that, the things she thinks and does make sense. I absolutely love Felix, Nell's best friend and confidant and my favorite scenes from the book were the ones that the two shared. I would recommend this book to fans of John Green's The Fault in Our Stars and Stephen Chbosky's The Perks of Being a Wallflower. It is an absolute page turner.

About the author-

DANA REINHARDT is the author of A Brief Chapter in My Impossible Life, Harmless, How to Build a House, The Things a Brother Knows, The Summer I Learned to Fly, and Odessa Again. She lives in San Francisco with her husband and their two daughters.

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http://danareinhardt.net/We Are the Goldens will be available on May 27, 2014. You can pre-order it on Amazon.com.

Almondina Review & Giveaway

*Disclosure of material connection- I was provided with cookies from the Almondina product line for the purpose of this review. I was not required to write a positive review and all opinions stated are my own.

Almondina cookies are one of those products that got my attention easily. First of all, this is a family company started by Yuval Zaliouk, an internationally known symphony conductor and gourmet chef. His grandmother Dina had a secret cookie recipe. She called these cookies Petit Gateau Sec and kept the recipe a total secret until the very end of her life when she decided that she would finally share the recipe with her family. She gave Zaliouk her blessing to share these cookies with the world and that is exactly what he has done! Renamed AlmondDINA (a nod to Zaliouk's aforementioned grandmother) are sweet, crunchy little snacks. They are free of cholesterol, added fat, salt, and preservatives. The ingredient lists on the Almondina packages are short, full of recognizable words (all food, no chemicals or preservatives, so hard to find these days, especially when it comes to a dessert that leans on the healthier side of things)! I was excited to have the opportunity to try all of the different varieties of this cookie. As you can tell from the picture to the left, there are lots of flavors to choose from! You can see that we had already got into a few of them before I even had a chance to take the picture. My kids all are HUGE fan of the chocolate cherry flavor and I loved looking on the back of the package and seeing all natural ingredients plus a clear label of possible allergens. I agree with the kids as well chocolate cherry Almondia is delicious, but I also really like the almond duo (I am a sucker for anything involving pistachios)! The serving size for these cookies 4, but I have never even needed to eat that many. I think the most I have eaten at a time before my sweet tooth was satisfied was too. These are all bursting with flavor and have just the right combination of sweetness and crunch to be incredibly satisfying. I am glad to have such a sweet yet healthy treat to offer my kids for a snack or a little dessert after a meal. I absolutely recommend giving these a try. You can find online, at Walmart, Whole Foods or at other select retailers near you.

The awesome people at Almondina want to give one of my lucky readers the same sampler pack as pictured above! Enter below via Rafflecopter for your chance to win!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

A Broken Kind of Beautiful by Katie Ganshert (Book Review)

*Disclosure of material connection- I received a copy of the book from the publisher in exchange for my honest thoughts. I was not required to write a positive review and all opinions stated are 100% my own.

About the book (from Goodreads)-

Fashion is a fickle industry, a frightening fact for twenty-four-year-old model Ivy Clark. Ten years in and she's learned a sacred truth -- appearance is everything. Nobody cares about her broken past as long as she looks beautiful for the camera. This is the only life Ivy knows -- so when it starts to unravel, she'll do anything to hold on. Even if that means moving to the quaint island town of Greenbrier, South Carolina, to be the new face of her stepmother's bridal wear line -- an irony too rich for words, since Ivy is far from the pure bride in white.

My thoughts-

This is the third novel released by author Katie Ganshert. I read and reviewed her first two novels and count both among some of my favorite books. She has a knack for writing believable, interesting characters. A Broken Kind of Beautiful is a novel I couldn't put down. I think I read it in two or three days and I started reading it the day it arrived. I get a lot of books in the mail to read and while I love to ready pretty much anything, it is a rarity that I am so excited that I have to devour it the very day it shows up. I knew from the previous two novels by Ganshert that I absolutely would love this one. This was also a departure from a typical Christian novel. Set in the world of modeling, these are flawed characters, they could be real life people, they are relatable. My heart breaks for Ivy almost from the get-go, after all the opening scene is at her father's funeral and you can just tell right away that there is something about her that is sad, so it is interesting to learn her story. Ivy doesn't want to stick around Greenbrier, she'd rather be back in the New York, but her life just kind of snowballs all at once and the perfect place for her to be is right where she is. It takes a while for her to really open her eyes and see the love around her. Besides seeing Ivy grow immensely through the story, I absolutely LOVE to see her relationship with Davis grow. I am a sucker for a good romance and Ganshert is a master at creating swoon worthy men for her heroines. Davis has his own flaws, but it is nice to see how he and Ivy learn from each other through the story. The best thing about A Broken Kind of Beautiful is that it is the type of novel that really makes you think.  This novel will definitely strike a chord with those who read it! I recommend A Broken Kind of Beautiful to anyone who enjoys a good romance or who has ever felt  they weren't pretty enough or good enough and haven't we all felt that way? This is by far my favorite novel so far by Katie Ganshert and that is saying a lot because I really enjoyed the first two quite a bit! In fact, I recommend you read Wildflowers from Winter and Wishing on Willows as well!
******************SAVE THE DATE********************
Head over to Katie Ganshert's author page on Facebook and RSVP for the live webcast that will take place Monday April 21st! There will be a live video feed, a chat room for mingling and 6 prize packages to be given away! Hope to see you there!
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About the author-

Katie Ganshert is the author of Wildflowers for Winter and Wishing on WillowsA Broken Kind of Beautiful is her third novel. She lives in Iowa with her husband and son.

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A Broken Kind of Beautiful will be available April 15, 2014. You can pre-order it on Amazon.com.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

The Kissing Bridge by Tricia Goyer (Book Review)

*Disclosure of material connection- I received a copy of the book from the publisher via Book Look. I was not required to write a positive review and all opinions stated are 100% my own.

About the book-

In the third book in the Seven Brides for Seven Bachelors series, award-winning author Tricia Goyer introduces a surprising new resident to West Kootenai as a young woman escapes from her stifling conservative Amish community to find a new life. Rebecca is an Amish woman whose pained past compels her to leave everything to become a nurse—abandoning her family and community. Caleb is an Amish man who is counting down the days until hunting season. At a crossroads in his own life, the excitement of hunting game is all he looks forward to. All the while he wonders what to do with the rest of his life. Even though he likes the Amish lifestyle, what good is an Amish man without faith in God?

An unexpected meeting pushes them together, and they embark with friends on a two-week-long wilderness wagon journey. Hardship tears down the flimsy walls of protection they've placed around their hearts, and as their friendship grows they open up to each other and eventually reveal their deepest secrets. While on the outside they appear to be traditional Amish people, inside they both know they are anything but that. Will their secrets pull them together or draw them apart? And will their faith in God grow? There is a bridge to cross at the end of the journey. Will true love take them across?

My thoughts-

This is the third installment in the Seven Brides for Seven Bachelors series written by Tricia Goyer. All of the books stand alone well, but it is fun to see random characters from the first book show up from the previous books, so I hope that continues on in the series. I really like Amish fiction, so I read a lot of books in this genre and without a doubt Tricia Goyer is my favorite Amish fiction writer. I am always counting down the days until her new book will come out the second I am done with the previous book!

I really enjoyed The Kissing Bridge. The characters are easy to relate to, although it is so difficult to "see" them struggle internally when if they would just reach out to someone, maybe they would be able to work through their issues better. Rebecca's pretty much running from the life she knows because she wants to better herself after the death of her sister because she feels like she might have been able to help if she would have been more educated. On the way to the school she is going to attend, she makes an impromptu stop at her friend Marianne, who has recently left the Amish church to marry her husband. It is while visiting Marianne that she meets Caleb and begins to struggle with whether she is doing the right thing by going to school because she feels an immediate attraction to Caleb. The best part of Amish novels is always the romance that develops between the central characters and this is no exception. I love seeing the relationship develop between Caleb and Marianne, but I think the love story in this novel goes even further showing the deep love of friendship and, of course, the love of God. One of my favorite parts of the book was toward the end when Caleb and Rebecca are by the river and some young boys are being wild. It is great to see the story come full circle and reiterate that God has a purpose for every single thing that happens in our life, even if it doesn't seem apparent at the time. As usual, I am already ready for the next installment in this series and I will be counting down the days until the 5th book makes it's way to the retail shelves. I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a good love story or a story about faith.


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Friday, April 4, 2014

The Devil Walks in Mattingly by Billy Coffey Blog Tour & Book Review + Win a Kindle HDX

About the book-For the three people tortured by their secret complicity in a young man's untimely death, redemption is what they most long for . . . and the last thing they expect to receive.
It has been twenty years since Philip McBride's body was found along the riverbank in the dark woods known as Happy Hollow. His death was ruled a suicide. But three people have carried the truth ever since---Philip didn't kill himself that day. He was murdered.
Each of the three have wilted in the shadow of their sins. Jake Barnett is Mattingly's sheriff, where he spends his days polishing the fragile shell of the man he pretends to be. His wife, Kate, has convinced herself the good she does for the poor will someday wash the blood from her hands. And high in the mountains, Taylor Hathcock lives in seclusion and fear, fueled by madness and hatred.
Yet what cannot be laid to rest is bound to rise again. Philip McBride has haunted Jake's dreams for weeks, warning that he is coming back for them all. When Taylor finds mysterious footprints leading from the Hollow, he believes his redemption has come. His actions will plunge the quiet town of Mattingly into darkness. These three will be drawn together for a final confrontation between life and death . . . Between truth and lies.

My thoughts-
 
I am a huge fan of suspense novels. To me, one of the best signs of a good novel is one that has something that keeps me turning the pages to find out what happens next and The Devil Walks in Mattingly did just that.  I wanted to know what happened on that day so long ago that was torturing these people all of their adult lives and what exactly did happen to Philip McBride. It was interesting to meet the characters in the present day not knowing exactly what happened in the past until the end because it gives the reader an opportunity to sympathize with what they are going through and feel the torture that they are feeling and by the time you find out what did happen, you realize that everyone's perception of what happened is a little different than what actually went down. I felt bad for both Kate and Jake, but I felt if they would have both been more honest with each other, maybe the dark secret they both carried might not have been such a burden, but then that wouldn't make for a page turner. I enjoyed that there was a little bit of intensity to this novel with the character of Taylor and the madness he carries, some pretty bad things happen when he comes around. Ultimately, my favorite part of the book was trying to figure out what happened to Philip and how it is resolved at the end of the book. I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a page turning suspense novel and who can handle a tiny bit of violence that occurs in the novel. This was the first book I have read by Billy Coffey, but he has written a few more and I definitely plan on reading those as well!


About the author-

Billy Coffey's critically-acclaimed books combine rural Southern charm with a vision far beyond the ordinary. He is a regular contributor to several publications, where he writes about faith and life. Billy lives with his wife and two children in Virginia's Blue Ridge Mountains.

Learn more about Billy at: http://billycoffey.com

**********Enter to win a Kindle HDX**********


Billy Coffey is celebrating his new book, The Devil Walks in Mattingly, with a Kindle Fire HDX giveaway.
mattingly-400-click
 
  One winner will receive:
  • A Kindle Fire HDX
  • The Devil Walks in Mattingly by Billy Coffey
Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on April 5th. Winner will be announced April  7th on Billy's blog. Watch Billy give the backstory of the book here.

Don't miss a moment of the fun; enter today and be sure to stop by Billy's blog on April 7th to see if you won.


Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Quality Encapsulations Yacon Syrup Review

*Disclosure of material connection- I received a bottle of yacon syrup in exchange for my honest thoughts. I was not required to write a positive review and all opinions stated are 100% my own.

I am always on the lookout for things to improve my overall health and since I have a stubborn pounds hanging on that I want to get rid of, one of those things is finding natural supplements that aide weight loss endeavors. I have tried many natural weight loss supplements and the biggest problem I have had with most is that they just taste gross so I can't choke them down. I am so thrilled to have found Quality Encapsulations Yacon Syrup because not only does it do the things it claims to do, it is a sweetener and it is delicious. It takes like a syrupy version of brown sugar. It tastes like sugar without the calories and it is 100% natural from the roots of the yacon plant. A sweetener to help weight loss? Yes, please, sign me up! As someone with a very strong sweet tooth, it is very appealing to "have" to take this syrup three times a day. There are a lot of ways you can use it- in your coffee or tea, as a replacement in baked goods like you would use honey or maple syrup or just straight up- which is the way I chose to take it. The back of the bottle says to take a teaspoon 3 times a day, so I have been taking it before each meal of the day, this is an easy way for me to remember to actually take it. I have been taking the yacon syrup for about a week and a half now and I have definitely noticed some changes-

  • My appetite is smaller. I got full halfway through a hamburger. True story.
  • I have more energy, this is a HUGE deal for me since a. I don't sleep well and b. I have 3 small children, I need all of the extra energy I can get!
  • While minimal, I have noticed a bit of weight loss
  • My very heavy sweet tooth has been noticeably less ravenous. I do not crave sweets constantly and can go without eating them for several days. This alone will help me lose extra pounds!
I am so excited to see how much progress I will make with the yacon syrup once I get through the whole bottle. Maybe I will finally get rid of those stubborn 10 extra pounds! I am definitely going to try it in some recipes as well instead of always just taking it by itself. I am pretty sure it would be to die for in oatmeal and would make a great addition to smoothies or protein drinks.

Speaking of recipes, if you enter your recipe into Quality Encapsulations Yacon Syrup recipe contest, you could win a $50 gift card to Amazon.com. They pick a winner each time they get 20 new entries!

You can purchase Quality Encapsulations Yacon Syrup on Amazon.com

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