Friday, August 19, 2016

Constant Reminder

I'm Southern, and proud of it. One of the first things people think of when they think of Southern are the Southern Belles. These ladies were grace and elegance. They were charming and genteel. But they weren't pushovers. They knew how to stand their ground, and they did. They were Velvet over Steel, Steel Magnolias, if you prefer, and they are my inspiration to be who I am and fight for what I believe in - but to be kind and gentle and caring. Grit with Grace is the perfect way to express that sentiment and the necklace would remind myself of my heritage and my future.

Every day, every moment we are making history. Every choice affects our next. We all dream of doing great things, but we often get caught up in the mundane and trivial. While these daily tasks are molding us, we should never let them hold us back. We have the power to change our lives. We have the power to change those around us. This necklace is the perfect reminder that we make history every moment. And we can make it good.

Cents of Style has expanded their incredibly popular Tribe line to include necklaces! There are so many different sayings to choose from!

And this weekend (8/5-8/7) you can get these necklaces for only $11.99 + FREE SHIPPING with the code TRIBE4! Huge savings since each necklace is usually $25! 

We all have something that resonates with us that we want constant reminders of. What in this collection speaks to you?

Monday, August 15, 2016

Reading Challenge 2016: Bat Dad (a parody)

Week 30: A photo essay book

Bat Dad (a parody)
by Blake Wilson


I was unfamiliar with Blake's videos online as Bat Dad, or I would've looked them up before getting this book. I expected a funny book about the adventures of Bat Dad. What we get instead is one picture a page of Bat Dad in various situations with an added caption, sometimes featuring cuss words. I was hoping this would be a cute book to gift a friend who loves batman and is a dad, but with the swearing and the only mildly funny content, it doesn't make the cut. Love the idea, but it just wasn't implemented well.

Advice: If you love his stuff online, you'll probably love this. If you don't like his online content, you probably won't like this. So check that out first. Don't be like me and get it unaware.

2 stars.

This review appears as part of the Reading Challenge 2016. To see the other books in the challenge, click here.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest opinion.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Reading Challenge 2016: The Doll Shop Downstairs

Week 29: A book based on a true story

The Doll Shop Downstairs
by Yona Zeldis McDonough

Wanted to like it

The Doll Shop Downstairs is the fictional story of a Jewish family in New York who has to make changes to keep their business going during WWII. It is inspired by a true story (the author has a nice note in the back of the book about that).

I thought it was cute and predictable. The story is told from the perspective of the middle child, and while I certainly understood her thoughts and perspective the dedicated voice has the potential to alienate a lot of readers ... mainly those who aren't middle children.

I picked this book up for free and really debated about whether to hold on to it or not. Our heroine ends of stealing a stamp from her parents (saying she's going to replace it) and there are never any ramifications for that act. I just didn't like planting that idea in kids' heads. A trivial thing, perhaps, but I never think stealing should be painted in a forgiveable light like that. I think the story would have worked just as well if she had asked her parents for a stamp.

Maybe I'll regret letting go of this book one day, but I think it's mostly forgettable anyway. Maybe if I read this as a child and had nostalgia attached to it I wouldn't feel that way. I wanted to like this book, but I just didn't connect with it.

3 stars.

This review appears as part of the Reading Challenge 2016. To see the other books in the challenge, click here.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Reading Challenge 2016: Avenue of Spies

Week 28: A book about the second World War

Avenue of Spies: A True Story of Terror, Espionage, and One American Family's Heroic Resistance in Nazi-Occupied Paris
by Alex Kershaw

Easy to Read

Given several reviews stated this book read like a thriller, I was mildly disappointed that it didn't. It is engaging, but there's very little emotional attachment to our real-life actors. Everything is presentably readbly factual. We don't feel the terror or the tension they must've felt living on the Paris Gestapo's street. Honestly, for most of the book, I would've had just as much emotionally invested if it had been about the Jackson's neighbor Dr. Kronos (Gestapo) and what he was trying to do during this time.

About halfway through the book things actually start moving and you have a few page turner chapters, but then it moves back to the easy to read - but no longer gripping - story.

I think the pacing could be better. We have vingettes that tie in to the story of the Jackson's, but they feel more like rabbit trails at times. Then we have focus on one member of the family back and forth between that and vignettes ... and I just wanted to know what was happening to the rest of the family!

This book is categorized as a biography. For a biography it is very engaging. Not boring or stuffy. The only problem is I'm not sure whose biography it is. If its the Jackson family's collective biography, we're missing too much information about the parent's early life, and if it's about their son, there is not enough focus on him. And, there is no information at all about the Jackson's religious persuasion, if they had one. Since religion is a major part of many people's lives I felt this was a terrific oversight. If they weren't religious, that should have also been made clear.

Questions about book categorization aside, the book is engaging enough to keep one reading, and it provides another look at the heroes fighting the Nazis from within. The Jackson's took on incredible risk, and they paid a price for that risk. Their commitment to their cause and each other is inspiring and heart breaking.

You get an excellent picture of the Parisian dilemma. What should your average Joe do? Cooperate with the change? Hold out? What was morally right? What was pragmatic? Could you successfully lead a double life? Were the resistance France's saviors? So much conflict and indecision and resentment.

After Berlin, Hitler consider Paris the Third Reich's best jewel. He planned to raze it if he couldn't hold it. Why didn't he?

Kershaw did a great job of weaving all of these elements together. Even though Paris, and not concentration camps, is the book's main setting, we still get a glimpse of the horrors other's have gone on about at great length.

All in all, while there are some pacing and trailing issues, this provides an excellent look at a different aspect of WWII than is usually addressed. I learned a lot. It is particularly nice to have a historical/biographical work be engaging and easy to read, instead of having to force one's way through the pages.

4 stars

This review appears as part of the Reading Challenge 2016. To see the other books in the challenge, click here.

I received a complimentary copy of this work from Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest review.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Reading Challenge 2016: Teenage Treasure Hunter

Week 26: A book published in 2016

Teenage Treasure Hunter
by: Daniel Kenney


While this book could be better, I've definitely read worse. The mystery is impossibly solved basically over a weekend by three kids while being chased and threatened. If you're going to make kids solve a decades old mystery, at least draw it out a little to make it believeable. But I reckon the target audience won't care about details like that.

The main character being black (& it being repeatedly brought up that he was black) got to be annoying. I don't care what color your skin is, it never needs to brought up ad nauseum.

Do we always have to have guy and girl liking each other? Can't we just have friends? Is it too much to ask?? OK so techincally there's nothing between these two, so I guess that's an improvement over most novels.

So all of those objections aside, it was a fun, fast paced story. I could be wrong on this part, but it seems set up to be a series...and I'm going to guess a formulaic one. But fun.

My only real complaint with the book is that the son and father pretty much have no relationship. Son disobeys his dad, his dad is all business and unpersonable. If this is a series, I hope their relationship improves with time.

3 stars

This reviews is part of the Reading Challenge 2016. To see all books in the challenge, click here.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Reading Challenge 2016: Trim Healthy Mama Plan

Week 26: A book about food

Trim Healthy Mama Plan
by: Pearl Barrett and Serene Allison

I have been a lurker on the Trim Healthy Mama (THM) facebook page for a few years now. I've read so many success stories and gathered what I thought was basic information about the plan, but still had questions. So, when Blogging for Books offered me this book for free in exchange for my honest review, I jumped at it.

The basic idea is that your body's fuel sources need to be kept separate so both can be burned. These are called satisfying (S) and energizing (E) meals. This means all food groups and most foods are allowed. The exception to this are things like pasta, white rice, and white potatoes. This is because your body converts these into sugar, and sugar is the big, bad wolf.

I had figured out the part about sugar being bad before reading the book, and it was honestly where a large portion of my concern about the plan stemmed from. I am adamantly against artificial sweeteners. I understand people with diabetes needing them,  but I find it highly concerning when so many people volitionally use them. Some have been linked with cancer. Plus they're used in more than diet soft drinks. I know, because some of them give me an instant headache so I've found out the hard way. I will ALWAYS choose sugar over those little packets of artificial stuff.

When I first heard about stevia I just assumed it was yet another artificial sweetener on the market. I was wrong, its from leaves that are naturally sweet tasting. Now, I'm not sure I want to use it and make the switch from sugar to stevia, but I have been thinking about it and researching it. It's just sooo expensive! I know its supposed to last a lot longer than sugar because it tastes so much sweeter, but I just have a hard time swallowing the investment for something I may not like. Then there are other sweeteners on the plan that are theoretically natural, but I'm even less convinced about them. If I did make the switch it would solely be to stevia for the time being while I did more research on those other ones.

Even with my concern over the sugar substitute, there is a lot of good and helpful information here that I plan on implementing, even if I don't do the THM plan. Simple things like switching from canola or vegetable oil to olive, coconut, or red palm oil can help your waistline. If I do hop on the THM bandwagon, I'm not convinced it will be for life. I'm not a "food purist." I don't believe organic is necessarily better for you; I don't believe all GMO foods are bad for you. Good news is, you don't have to believe exactly like they do to still be on the plan.

I also appreciate that they recognize that trim looks different for everybody because we all have unique needs, struggles, and body types. That's why they call it a food freedom movement, and it extends to our bodies themselves. It is refreshing to see our health and waistline dealt in such a manner instead of having the idea rammed down our throats that we all need to be size 2s or smaller.

When I married, I was about 10 lbs over my ideal weight, because I had stopped exercising. Then I got pregnant and even though I breastfed, the pounds clung on. I'm not one of those people where bf makes the pounds melt away. I had 10 unlost pounds when I conceived #2. And another 10 unshed when I started carrying #3. And I'm 20 lbs away from that weight now. That makes 40 pounds over when I got married (less than 4 years ago). My body has changed so I'm not going to say I should weigh what I did at my old ideal weight, I don't know, but I'd at least like to drop these forty pounds. And its hard.

Now, since I married I've always eaten way more pasta, white rice, white potatoes and drank more sweet tea than ever before. Those are cheap foods and I have at least one of those every day, plus a glass or two of the tea. So it's easy for me to believe when those are listed as foods to avoid. The problem is knowing how to change a large part of how I cook. That's where the THM Cookbook comes in. I'm going to try checking it out of the library, but I will probably end up buying it and making what I can without special ingredients to see if there's a change. If there is I may buy some of the THM special ingredients, but I have to be able to justify the investment. After all, we are on a tight budget!

Even if you are unsure about jumping on with the plan, like I am, I think the book is a valuable resource. Try checking it out of your local library if you don't want to buy a copy.

This post appears as part of the Reading Challenge 2016. To see all books in the challenge, click here.

Saturday, July 16, 2016


North Carolina is home. It's not just a place to live, work, exist. It's a part of who I am, woven inside of me. It has the best lighthouses, wonderful beaches, sandy country, gorgeous azaleas, full hydrangeas, and breathtaking mountain vistas. It has the hustle of the cities balanced with the oak trees and flowers. It stands for freedom. For authenticity - it's part of who we are. Esse Quam Vederi is our motto. To be, rather than to seem. Travelling is fun, but when I move away, North Carolina always calls me back. It always calls me home. And home? Well, you always brag about your home. And that's just what this necklace does.

And you can get this necklace for any state! Maybe you want to remember home, or maybe you want to remember a special trip, a memory that a necklace will always bring to mind. 

The second tag of the necklace features the rough coordinates for that state's capitol city. 

Don't these look great layered with the shape-of-your-state necklaces? Too cute.

What state holds your heart? What's your story behind your state necklace?