Literary Heroines – My Dream Crate

Last week I was contacted by Loot Crate after they read my review on Poldark.  It’s always nice to hear that someone read AND liked one of your posts.  After seeing me gush over Poldark – and viewing my blog – they probably guessed I am a nerd and bookish!  They asked me if I would want to create my own Dream Crate and share it with my readers.  The most important part of the appeal…after sharing all the dream crates on their social media they will pick one to be an actual Crate in the future.  Someone could be getting the crate I created!  Of course I am in for the challenge.  I had a week to think about what I would put in this crate – 100% my choice on products from anywhere.  So as I looked to see what subscription boxes looked like and what I would want I came up with my theme.

LITERARY HEROINES

One thing I would NEED in my Dream Crate – and the one small luxury I allow myself – is Pop! Funkos.  My three favourite bookish heroines are Belle (Beauty and the Beast), Willow (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) and Hermione (Harry Potter).  Finding any one these gals in the crate would be awesome.  They may be the only ones who read more than me…but you can find us all in a library of some sort!

The next must-have items are of course books, and what are two books that encompass literary heroines but, Anne of Green Gables (Lucy Maud Montgomery) and Little Women (Louisa May Alcott).  Either book would be welcomed into my library:

When I am deep in my reading mode I usually have a cup of tea beside me.  I cannot just have an ordinary mug, of course, but a Jane Austen’s heroines mugs:

mug

Found on Etsy

As I am sipping my tea and enjoying the warmth, it would be lovely to have one of these, Jane Eyre (Charlotte Bronte), Anne of Green Gables or Little Women scarf (Storiats):

When my tea finishes, and I need to put the kettle on, I need a bookmark to keep my place:

A nice journal to keep all my thoughts on my reading and books:

fly_paper_author_of_her_own_biography_notebook_large

Found on Bookish Gifts

Lastly, one must have a tote to keep your books, journal, and scarf with you (Out of Print):

I have not used Loot Crate, and to be honest until I was approached I had not heard of them.  As I perused on their site, it has some great boxes and subscriptions! It is also great for gifts – have a geek/nerd in your life bit have no clue where to start let Loot Crate figure it out, lol.

Any questions about Loot Crate please visit them on their Help page! Any questions on the product above, please email me and I will let you know where to contact them.

Happy Reading!

Rapid Review: Victoria

30841109VICTORIA Written by Daisy Goodwin

2016; 404 Pages (St. Martin’s Press)
Genre: historical fiction, biography, based on true events, fiction, royalty

(I received an ARC from the NETGALLEY)

RATING: ★★★

In 1836, Victoria turns eighteen and becomes the Queen of Great Britain.  In Daisy Goodwin’s novel we see the young princess become a Queen and try to rule a country.  As a woman becomes a ruler we see how the players around her scramble and manipulate to be her right hand “man” or her puppet master.  I have always found Queen Victoria fascinating so I was looking forward to this book, but unfortunately I found it slow and I started to lose interest quickly.  As I was supposed to read this book for review and a group read I forced myself to finish it.  At the time Goodwin was writing this novel she was also at the same time writing the screenplay for the miniseries.  I have not heard good things about the show so I am going to skip it for now.   I am still interested in Victoria and am looking forward to reading other books on her.

Series Review: Samantha Brinkman

*Blood Defense review originally published 2016/05/16

On occasion NetGalley will have books listed on their site that are not available to request but you can “wish for it.” The publisher/author may later decide to grant a reviewer wish.  (I am not at all sure how this decided).    I have “wished” for a few books and not really thought much about it.  I was so excited to see one of my favourite authors, Marcia Clark, had her newest book on NetGalley.  And, then I saw it was a “wish for it” item. SIIIIIIGH. Less than a week later I get an email entitled….You Wish Has Been Granted! I finally got my wish 🙂

27207654BLOOD DEFENSE (Samantha Brinkman #1) Written by Marcia Clark

MAY 1, 2016; 400 Pages (Thomas & Mercer)

Genre: legal drama, suspense, mystery


(I received an ARC from the NETGALLEY)

Rating: ★★★★

Samantha Brinkman is a defense attorney in Los Angeles and striving to hit the big leagues. She has a part-time gig on HLN that doesn’t pay the bills but may help her get bigger clients. Helping her along is her Gal Friday and childhood friend, Michelle and former-client-turned-new-not-legally-an-investigator, Alex.

Soon all news networks are airing the case of a popular young TV actress who is found murdered in her apartment.  Her roommate and inspiring model is also found murdered with all clues pointing to  the actress’s older boyfriend, a LAPD cop.  As all defense attorney’s vie for the high profile case, the defendant, Dale comes to Samantha to take his case.  Even after saying yes, on the urging of Michelle and their mounting bills, to taking the case Sam is not entirely sure she believes in Dale’s innocence.  As she starts to investigate the case, talk to Dale and interview witnesses she is finding that nothing in this case is straightforward.  And, if Dale is not the murderer, is the real murderer watching her?

Ever since I read Clark’s first book, Guilt by Association I have been a big fan of her legal thrillers.  They are a more stylish Grisham that has you hanging on every suspense moment and twist.  I love that Rachel Knight is so realistic and easily to relate to.  When I saw that Clark had a new book out this year, and was not a Rachel Knight book, I was a little disappointed.  And, seeing that Samantha Brinkman was to be a new series I worried over the future fate of Rachel.  I, of course, was going to read Blood Defense either way – and did enjoy this book.  I really liked that we got to see the defense side of things (as Rachel was a prosecutor) and Samantha was a likeable character.  Like in the other series, friendship is the key to making Sam successful.  Characterizations by Clark are always well done in my opinion.  What I did think lacked in this book was a romantic interest…or maybe even banter with a frenemy.  I recommend this book, and any other Marcia Clark book, to fans of legal thrillers, suspense and mystery.

 

29756063MORAL DEFENSE (Samantha Brinkman: #2) Written by Marcia Clark

2016; 426 Pages (Thomas & Mercer)

Genre: legal drama, suspense, mystery


(I received an ARC from the NETGALLEY)

Rating: ★★★★

Defense attorney, Sam Brinkman is back and finds herself with another sticky case to defend.  Her newest client, Cassie Sonnenberg, a teenager is charged with murder and attempted murder.  She is accused of stabbing both her adoptive father and brother, and savagely attacking her adoptive mother.  Her mother is clinging to life and is the only one who could clear or damn Cassie.  This case is already being aired everywhere and as accusation of sexual abuse and other secrets come out, Sam is no longer sure if she is protecting the innocent or the killer.

While I still miss Rachel Knight, I am now a fan of Sam, though I don’t always agree with her.  She is more of a flawed character and as I started this book I found myself relating to her.  I also liked the crazy plot as it could be realistic.  I will not say too much about the plot as I am always scared I am going to accidentally include a spoiler.   Like her last case, Sam is not always sure if her client is really innocent.  As she veers between providing a good defense and her own morals, I find that there is where we get to know Sam.  I would recommend this book, and series, if you enjoy legal suspense thrillers told from the defense side.

 

 

Buddy Read Review: All the Pretty Girls

1861196ALL THE PRETTY GIRLS (Taylor Jackson: #1) Written by J.T. Ellison

2007; 411 Pages (Mira/Harlequin)

Genre: suspense, mystery, series, fiction, serial killers

RATING: 3.5 STARS

I have been wanting to read All the Pretty Girls since it first came out.  I love the suspense books that Mira publishing puts out, so I bought this one without even reading the synopsis.  Many moons later, I actually got to it when a friend suggested a buddy read.

Taylor Jackson, a Homicide Lieutenant in Nashville, is keeping her relationship with FBI profiler, John Baldwin a secret.  They now find themselves involved in the same case.  They are hunting a serial killer, The Southern Strangler who viciously kills women and leaves the former victim’s severed hands as a clue.  Also chasing the killer is journalist, Whitney Connolly.  Is just steps away from breaking it big and she thinks this case will help her get there.   Getting closer to the killer might just be her undoing.

If this was a standalone novel I would probably rate it lower as there are so many questions about Baldwin and Jackson.  As a series I am willing to wait a few books for the characters to develop more.  I am also hoping that we will see more development in their relationship too.  In this book it wasn’t as present. You could sense the chemistry but we just didn’t get much passion.  As we did not get much of character or romance development I thought the plot and suspense would be stronger.  This book was a bit predictable but it was interesting to see where it went and how it would get resolved.  The killer’s identity became apparent a bit too early as there were several clues.  I liked Taylor but John seems a more intriguing character, so I do hope we see more of him in the next several books.  I gave this book a three instead of a four because it was a goo book but nothing exceptional.

Literary Nonfiction: Beverly Lowry

crossed overCROSSED OVER: A MURDER, A MEMOIR Written by Beverly Lowry

1992 (reissued in 2002); 272 Pages (Knopf Doubleday/ Vintage)
Genre: literary nonfiction, true crime
RATING: 3.5 STARS

In 2002, I watched a “based on true events” TV movie, starring Diane Keaton and Jennifer Jason Leigh. The title of the movie, Crossed Over was also the title of the book this movie was based on. Of course, then I had to read the book. Crossed Over is what I would call a memoir of violence. Beverly Lowry loses her son in a hit-and-run accident, and tries to process the grief and move forward with her life. During this process she comes across an article about Karla Faye Tucker, a murderer that committed her crimes with a pick-axe. Now on death row, Tucker was going through a spirituality process and seeing the errors of her way. If executed, Tucker was to be the first woman to be executed in Texas since the 1800s. Lowry drawn to this case met with the killer and continued to visit for several years.

crossed over 2As Lowry begins to explore violence and what drives people to do what they do, we begin to see Lowry change. She starts off angry and confused and soon moves to compassion and purpose. We see Tucker through Lowry’s eyes and with what Karla herself says and facts from the case. If you are looking for definitive answers, you may wish to pass on this one. It is not your traditional true crime book as the facts are not the main focus, but I like that about this book. I also liked that it made me think a lot about compassion and forgiveness. It reminded me a bit of Dead Man Walking (by Sister Helen Prejean) in that way. If you can take the subject matter I would recommend this book.

yogurt shop murdersWHO KILLED THESE GIRLS? THE TWENTY-FIVE-YEAR HISTORY OF AUSTIN’S YOGURT SHOP MURDER Written by Beverly Lowry

2016; 377 Pages (Knopf)
Genre: literary nonfiction, true crime, history
RATING: 3 STARS

Since I enjoyed Lowry’s previous book, Crossed Over, I was so happy to see that the library had her newest book, Who Killed These Girls?  I have also been following this case on 48 Hours: Mystery so I was interested to see what Lowry’s thought in the case were.

The Case:
Four young teens, two being sisters and one girl was just 13, were brutally murdered and then set on fire.  This took place in Austin, Texas in 1991.  The brutality of the crime shook Austin, but the young ages of the victims just about broke everyone on the case.  While this case has continually been active, no one has been convicted as of yet.  Lowry provides the entirety of the case from 1991 to present day.  We learn about the victims, the families, the investigators and the suspects.

The Verdict:
Maybe I already know too much about this case but I found it too dense and stretched out.  I think this book could have been better edited – at least a hundred pages less.  Lowry’s past book was more about the people and the emotions.  In this book, we get more facts and descriptions.  Lowry still has that literary style of writing that aided me in finishing the book.  I almost gave up halfway through because I was finding myself skimming some pages that seemed redundant.  Still, I did find the book interesting as I wanted to know more about this case.  I do hope this case gets solved someday…those girls deserve at least that.

Goal for May 2017

My big goal for May 2017 is to work on REVIEWS!!! I am going to try to keep up with reviewing books that I recently read, but also writing reviews for books I have read in the past.  I want to do a better job with capturing why I did or didn’t like the book.  I will be working on this year’s reviews this week.  Thank you to everyone that takes the time to stop and read my posts! I love reading, writing and passing on my thoughts and experience so it is nice to know that someone cares to use their time on me.

One Month Later…Viva Organics

It has been a month since I started my new beauty regime with Viva Organics and I have to give it 4 stars so far.  Surprisingly, I have only missed one night routine!  I had put on the facial toner and was going apply the rest after and totally forgot 😦  There are some nights I want to be lazy and skip it, but it is so quick and easy I haven’t given into my laziness. See April’s Post.

THE ROUTINE:

In the morning I wash my face with milk facial cleanser, then spray on my facial toner.  Before I get ready in the morning apply moisturizer – I mix the concentrated antioxidant serum with pure hylauronic acid serum and use the eye firming cream.  THEN at night I use the amaze exfoliating gel either when I shower or before I fall asleep.  I again spray the facial toner.  I then mix he concentrated antioxidant serum with pure hylauronic acid serum AND also Bio Brightening C Serum (which is only for nighttime use).  I then finish it off with the eye firming cream.

 

FIRST IMPRESSIONS:

I did break out a little in the second week, but I think it was due the change in my routine.  My skin never feels greasy or oily in my t-zone nor to I have dry patches on my face anymore.  My skin feels soft and I’ve not had any issues arise.   While I don’t directly apply any of the products on my lips, it does sometimes get on them, and again no issues.  I use lip balm here and there it seems like I need it less.  I don’t know if there has been major improvements to my skin, but it hasn’t gotten worse, so that’s a win 🙂 I will post a pic every month so you can see if there are any changes.

Next I am tacking natural deodorant.  I have not had luck in the past but there seems to be hope on the horizon…stay tuned!

CLOSED! Giveaway for USA Residents Only – Monday Matinee

Simon and Schuster (Gallery) has been extremely kind in hosting a GIVEAWAY!  They will be giving away a copy of Mariah Stewart’s newest novel, The Last Chance Matinee. This is the first book in a new series.  Unfortunately, since the company is in States only USA residents can participate.  All you need to do is leave a comment below and I will randomly select a number.  Good luck to everyone 🙂

last chance matinee

Read my review!

*Contest ends in 24 hours!

 

 

Sugar…less…Adult…more

types-of-sugar

Image: Stony Plain Wellness & Compounding Pharmacy

Ahhhh, sugar…oh, how you make me feel good and give me a jolt of energy…and then leave me feeling gross and tired.  I can’t say it is sugar that has gotten me, ahem, a bit chubby, though it hasn’t helped, that’s for sure.  I am pretty good about not having sugar in my teas and try to stay away from sweets.  Yet, there are SO many other things that have sugar.  Even when it says sugar: 0, you still have to investigate the ingredients.  People are up in arms over vaccines conspiracies, why aren’t we just as concerned about sugar (and salt).  I have cut sugar, dairy and bread before due to an unknown allergy issue so I know I can do it.  But that damn 3 o’clock lull in the day makes me want to hunt, neanderthal-style, for anything that gives me a zip.  Or when I am on my period I want chocolate so bad I would steal it from a baby and maybe not feel bad about it.  Now that I am 36, I kind of gotta do the adult thing and look after my body.  Ugh, adulting is so harrrrrrrd!

One thing about being honest I know that I am clever at justifying and deflecting when it comes to eating.  So that means I got to catch the bullshit things I say,

“It’s a birthday thing, so I had to have cake”

“Hmmm, but did you?  Did you really have to?”

“Birthday, I said”

Or, my favorite is the fries justification.  Everyone loves fries so you don’t even have to really make sense for the other person to agree.

“It’s Wednesday so I’m going to have fries instead of the salad”

Other person, “You go girl! Fries are like the best.”

The other thing have to be aware of is playing the victim.  I was never an average weight – I was underweight or overweight.  Meals have always been stressful as I felt like someone was always critiquing me.  And, then I use the “everyone is so mean and against me so I am going to eat everything on my plate and have seconds.  That will show them when I am so full I can only roll away.”  I also inhale food, hungry or not, because dinner time wasn’t always a fun time at my house.  I wanted to eat and get out of dodge.  Any criticism or stress while I am eating is a food trigger.  Now don’t get the tissues out.  I know what I am doing and still do it, and that is what I need to fix.

Food is not a friend.  While I think it comforts me, it only hurts me in the end.  It’s not even an ex you can rid of, but more like a family member you have to compromise with to co-exist.  When my grandmother passed away and I lost my job..I ate.  I also stopped exercising and just felt bad about everything.  When my ex-boyfriend would get on me about not exercising and eating too much I would only feel hurt and angry.  He then would get frustrated and mean.  I would get even more…fat.  Hence, now I need more food.  Also, again, I will show him by getting super fat.  Ha, there!

Oh wait, I am the one who is now huffing after walking a few steps.  That wasn’t how it was in my head.   I am uncomfortable in my body.  This is not about wanting to fit in size 00 so I can take selfies about how thin and suddenly amazing I am and look.  I’m starting to get bad posture, my bad knee is aching from the extra weight, I feel bloated and nothing fits like it used to and then that just makes me buy bigger clothes to hide myself.  I’m deflecting not solving anything.  Now I can be the “poor me” and someday appear on My 600-lb life, or I can use tough love.

I’m starting slow…painfully slow.  On May 1st, I will be giving up as much sugar as I can.  This means no sweets or actual sugar products but may still eat other foods with sugar in it.  Since I am sensitive to it anyway I am giving up milk products,  except cheese and yogurt (this is just for everyone’s safety).  Bread is my love…I can have dry toast and it’s like heaven.  Alas, I will be eating bread only 3 times a week.  (I mentally just cried after a small montage of different kinds of bread played in my head).  I am going to try this for a month and see how it goes and will let you know my progress – good or bad.  In June, I will be trying yoga…which might make for a good YouTube video.

 

 

 

Book Review: Poldark

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Image from PBS

I am a big fan of British mysteries, comedies and dramas so it is no surprise that I am a fan of Masterpiece Theater.  I recorded Poldark when it appeared on PBS and enjoyed the series, but did find it a bit on the slow side.  I heard that there was also another “mini-series” done in the 1970s.  I knew that both were based on a book so I looked it up and saw that the first book was published in 1945 (post-world war II) and the last book was published in 2002.  I was really curious in reading Ross Poldark and suggested it for my online reading group.  It won the poll so I was motivated in reading it.

Poldark

An older edition

ROSS POLDARK (The Poldark Saga: #1) Written by Winston Graham

1945 (reissued: 2015); 393 Pages (Pan/Sourcebook Landmark)

Genre: historical fiction, romance, saga, series

RATING: ★★★★1/2

Cornwall, 1783-1787

Tired from a grim war in America, Ross Poldark returns to his land and family, only to find his father has died, his estate is derelict, and the girl he loved is engaged to another. But then he rescues a half-starved urchin girl and takes her home; an act which, it turns out, will alter his life.” (From Publisher)

poldark-1

2015 TV tie-in cover

I started this book thinking it would an okay family saga, but was really surprised on how much I loved this book.  For me it was a bit like the first moment I read Outlander.  I could reread this book a few time like I did with Outlander.  it is because I really connected with this novel.  The character development throughout the book was so well-written.  You were given more than just a snippet of the person and their life. Throughout the book we would visit key characters and learn more about them this way. Ross is what I would call a “Bronte/Austen” hero in that he is brooding, flawed but also wants redemption.  I liked him as a character and a hero. I was always rooting for him, but also had a bit of a crush on how he wants to help others.

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1970s TV Tie-in cover

Graham is also great with the dialogue and interactions between the characters.  It is through different characters that we also get the whole of who Ross is.  His genuine affection for his cousin Verity shows his sensitive caring ways.  You see the vulnerability and yet strength when he interacts with Elizabeth.  I also liked that Graham did not turn characters in caricatures or one dimensional.  Even the “villains” and “quirky” characters have all sides.  I wanted to have constant hate-on with Elizabeth but you do see how she gets the way she does and I end up feeling pity for her.

Books defined as “sagas” can either be angsty dramas, sex and gossip or really gripping portraits. Or it is for me.  This one worked for me because it was well-researched in the historical time it took place.  You didn’t just get the sense of the time, but what was going on in those days – politics, social norms, courtships, war, etc.  Ross Poldark has a great mix of drama, action, romance and history.  It balances out perfectly so that you just really are entertained by a well-written book.  I highly recommend you just try this book as it may be better than you think it will.