Wednesday, May 16, 2018

How to Date Your Dragon by Molly Harper

Concerned that technology is about to creatures out into the open (how long can Sasquatch stay hidden from Google maps?), the League for Interspecies Cooperation is sending Jillian to Louisiana on a fact-finding mission. While the League hopes to hold on to secrecy for a little bit longer, they're preparing for the worst in terms of human reactions. They need a plan, so they look to Mystic Bayou, a tiny town hidden in the swamp where humans and supernatural residents have been living in harmony for generations. Mermaids and gator shifters swim in the bayou. Spirit bottles light the front porches after twilight. Dragons light the fires under crayfish pots.  

Jillian's first assignment for the League could be her last. Mystic Bayou is wary of outsiders, and she has difficulty getting locals to talk to her. And she can't get the gruff town sheriff, Bael Boone, off of her back or out of her mind. Bael is the finest male specimen she's seen in a long time, even though he might not be human. Soon their flirtation is hotter than a dragon's breath, which Bael just might turn out to be....


Series: Mystic Bayou #1 | Publisher: Audible | Narrators: Amanda Ronconi & Jonathan Davis | Length: 6 hrs 33 min | Genre: Paranormal Romance | Source: Publisher | Rating: 4.5 Cups 

Challenges Read For:  Literary Pickers: Specialty Tea or Coffee
 
I’m not going to lie, I get a little giddy when a new Molly Harper book comes out so I was ecstatic when I received an audio copy of How to Date Your Dragon.
 
This is the first book in her new Mystic Bayou series but, don’t fear, it still has that charming Molly Harper snark, which I can’t seem to get enough of.
 
Here’s what’s happening. When the League for Interspecies Cooperation sends Jillian Ramsay to the small town of Mystic Bayou, Louisiana to observe how the human and supernaturals have been living in harmony, Jillian discovers more than she’s counted on. Namely, the town’s sexy but gruff sheriff. As Jillian starts feeling more comfortable in town and more turned on by the sexy sheriff, whose supernatural being she can’t seem to identify, things take a creepy turn when a few of the residents she’s spoken with turns up dead.
 
Okay, so *cue the happy little Snoopy dance* lol. I loved this one.
 
Jillian and Beal were such fun. I think they’ve edged their way into being on my top five list of favorite Molly Harper characters. They were such a hoot and I loved their snarky banter.
 
The residents of Mystic Bayou were the classic mix of zany and snarky that makes them rather endearing.
 
So, there was a mystery aspect in this book and, while I found it entertaining, I had the who and why figured out pretty much from the start. But don’t let the easy whodunit dissuade you from devouring this novel.
 
Amanda Ronconi (always a delight to listen to) and Jonathan Davis were brilliant at bringing the characters to life. There was a bit of an audio problem with the first copy but that has now been fixed so it’s good to go.
 
Overall, such a great start to a new series and I’m looking forward to the next book, which I believe will be Zed’s story (yay!).




Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Boxy Charm April Box Review

In each box you will receive 4 to 5 full-size beauty items ranging from makeup to skincare, beauty tools to color cosmetics and each box has a value of $100 and up. Brands range from emerging to established, and you're guaranteed to find a few new favorites in each box.
 
Subscription Price: $21/month (Free US Shipping)

 

I’ve been hearing so many people rave about Boxy Charm and for $21 a month for 4-5 full-size products (one of which is usually an eyeshadow palette), I decided to give it a go. So, I filled out a lengthy beauty survey then waited for my first box to arrive.
 
While I was waiting for my box, I spotted a teaser on Instagram saying that the April boxes would include 1of 5 ColourPop eyeshadow palettes. That was great; I’d heard good things about their eyeshadows, so I was thrilled. Then I spotted the My Little Pony (yes, you read that right) eyeshadow palette—honestly, I don’t know any adult that would want a My Little Pony eyeshadow palette. Thankfully, I didn’t received that one.
 
I was rather disappointed with what I did receive. Not only will I not use three of the five products I received, two were in the wrong shade and one I’m allergic to. I specifically marked no cleaners or peels because my skin is way too sensitive for these types of products.
 
I do like the lipstick—it’s not something I would normally buy just because it feels more like a gloss than a liquid lipstick but I like the shade. The eyeshadow palette is nice but a bit bolder and more sparkly than I normally wear. So, it’s not a palette I would use on it’s own but rather layer a few of the shades with something I already have.
 
Here’s what I received in my April box: (Prices found on product’s website)
Adesse in Haute Cocoa (liquid lipstick) $24
Dr. Brandt Pores No More Vacuum Cleaner (pore purifying mask) $42
ColourPop Eyeshadow in Element of Surprise $16
Tarte Tarteist Pro Glow in Stunner (highlighter) $29
The BrowGal Tinted Eyebrow Gel in Light Hair $22
 
Total of Products I received according to product’s website $133
Total of Products I received according to Boxy Charm card $138 (they marked up the Pores No More Vacuum Cleaner by a few dollars)
 
Overall: While paying $21 for $133 worth of makeup/beauty products seems like a good deal on paper, I will only use 2 out of the 5 products I received. This one just seemed like it was curated for teens rather than adults. I’m not into the sparkly highlighted look.
 
Apparently, I’m the odd one out because this one was definitely a cancel. 3 out 5 were products I said I didn't want and never used. And they obviously paid no attention to the fact I ticked the box saying I had dark brown hair because they sent me brow gel (which I never use) for light hair.
 
So, out of 5 products, I’ll only use the lipstick and a few of the eyeshadows.



Other Subscription Box Reviews: 


Monday, April 30, 2018

Times Change by Nora Roberts

Twenty-third century cynic Jacob Hornblower followed his brother Caleb into the past, determined to bring him home. But when Jacob meets Sunny Stone, he suddenly loses track of his mission, and begins to wonder if all of his opinions about love are wrong.

 
Series: Time and Again, Book 2 | Publisher: Brilliance Audio | Narrator: Luke Daniels | Length: 7 hrs and 12 mins | Genre: Time Travel Romance/ Sci-Fi | Source: Purchased | Ratings: 1.5 Cups

Challenges Read For: All About the Trope  Forced Proximity -  Literary Pickers  Shuttle/Small Space Ship - Reading Through Nora Roberts 
 
Apparently, this series isn’t my cup of tea. Time Was, which was the first book, didn’t thrill me and, sadly, Times Change pretty much bored me.
 
Here’s what’s going on. Jacob Hornblower’s on mission to bring his brother back to the twenty-third century but he when arrives in the past and ends up spending a few weeks with Sunny Stone he finds himself falling for the sister of the woman he believes trapped his brother.
 
I really struggled with this one. I pretty much had to force myself to finish this one and it seemed to take forever.
 
I wasn’t overly fond of Jacob or Sunny. Rather than being one of those cocky yet lovable alpha male types, he was over the top and just plain annoying. Sunny was just too unsettle and unfocused for me. Together they were just annoying. It was a constant argument. Not only was Jacob fighting his feelings for Sunny, he was determined to fight with Sunny every time he opened his mouth. And Sunny was just bent on claiming Jacob as her own.
 
Overall, I just couldn’t get into this one. The characters were annoying, the romance lacked believability, and the plot was predictable.




Time and Again Series

Times Change

Friday, April 20, 2018

The Child in Time (Movie Review)


Adapted from Ian McEwan’s Whitbread Prize winning novel, and directed by Julian Farino (The Newsroom, Entourage), The Child In Time is a lyrical and heart-breaking exploration of love, loss and the power of things unseen.
 
Benedict Cumberbatch (Sherlock, Parade’s End) stars as Stephen Lewis, a successful writer of children’s books, who is confronted with the unthinkable: the loss of a child.
 
With tenderness and insight, the film explores the dark territory of a marriage devastated by the loss of a child. Kate’s absence sets Stephen and his wife on diverging paths as both struggle with an all-consuming grief. With the passage of time, a balance of sorts returns, until hope surfaces and triumphs unexpectedly.

 
So, this was part of review package I received from PBS and I was immediately intrigued when I noticed it starred Benedict Cumberbatch, but I was also a bit hesitant because, honestly, his movies can go either way for me. It was pretty much the same with Kelly Macdonald.

Here’s what the film’s about. When Stephen Lewis loses his young daughter in a grocery store, he and his wife are thrown into a tailspin of grief. As the years tick on, he and his wife bounce back and forth searching for a bit of hope until they find it in an unexpected way.

Okay, so I spent the majority of this movie wondering why a father would deem it fit to let their three-year-old daughter wonder to the front of the grocery store by the doors while they were still at the cash register ringing up and paying for their groceries. Seriously, you would leave your crap and go get your kid.

I wasn’t impressed with this one. It sort of felt like this was one of those movies that kept going but didn’t go anywhere. I think I was expecting something different more along the lines of a mystery type rather than what felt like an odd study of human emotions.

Mixed in with the anguish and guilt is a side story involving the mental breakdown of Stephen’s editor as well as what I can only describe as a bit of woo-woo involving a place Stephen had thought he had been before but had only been there in utero. Yeah, like I said, it was an odd movie.

This was one of those come to your own conclusion movies as nothing about Kate’s disappearance is addresses. I have my own thoughts regarding what happened and that’s all I’m going to have.

Overall, this was 90 minutes I’ll never get back. I had intended to read the book this was based on but that’s not going to happen now for fear of wasting more of my time.





What’s the last movie or show you’ve enjoyed?

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Lone Wolf (Shifters Unbound #4.6) By Jennifer Ashley

 
Ellison Rowe, a Lupine Shifter, makes it his goal to protect Maria, once held captive by ferals, from male Shifters looking for mates. He likes Maria's resilience and fire, but she's been broken, and Ellison wants more than anything to heal her. When a new danger threatens Shiftertown's cubs, Maria partners with Ellison to stop a cold-blooded criminal.
 
Series: Shifters Unbound #4.6 | Publisher: Penguin | Genre:  Paranormal Romance | Source: Purchased | Rating: 4 Cups

Challenges Read For: Literary Pickers  - Motorcycle
 
I’m finally working my way through the Shifters Unbound books that I’ve missed and I’m enjoying every minute of it. This one is Ellison and Maria’s story and I couldn’t put it down.
 
I loved Ellison and Maria together. She’s been through so much having been held captive by a pack of feral shifters so, even though Ellison’s attracted to her, he’s been holding back allowing her to get comfortable around him. Although when Broderick starts sniffing around Maria and threatening to claim her as his mate, Ellison’s not about to let that happen. And now that there’s a group of criminals kidnapping their cubs, Ellison and Maria find themselves growing closer as they work together to bring down the kidnappers.
 
Ellison has to be one of my favorites. He knows what he wants but he also knows that he needs to let Maria heal before making his move. Ellison is also dealing with his sister, Deni, who has been having bouts of going feral after having been hit by car. So, he’s got a lot going on but he’s always there for Maria and she knows she can turn to him. And I have to say, he had some adorable moments while figuring out how to handle his relationship with Maria.
 
Maria’s a tough cookie. She’s broken and unsure but she ready to step up and fight for the cubs and I have to admire her fighting spirit. She’s also willing to let others in and I like that she hasn’t cut herself off from other people.
 
Okay, so I’m probably the only person who will admit this, but I like Broderick. It could be because I’ve already read his story but, I can’t help it, I like him.  Yes, he’s a bit of a wanker most of the time but there’s just something about him. When he pops up in a book, I know something interesting is going to happen.
 
Overall, another great novella in this amazing series. The pacing was the spot on and the characters were fleshed-out. And it gave just enough information on Deni to make me want to pick up her story.



Shifters Unbound Series

Shifter Made #0.5 novella 
Pride Mates #1
Primal Bonds #2
Bodyguard #2.5 novella
Wild Cat #3 
Hard Mated #3.5 novella
Mate Claimed #4 
Perfect Mate  #4.5 novella
Lone Wolf  #4.6 novella
Tiger Magic #5 
Feral Heat  #5.5  novella
Wild Wolf  #6
Bear Attraction #6.5 novella
Mate Bond #7 
Lion Eyes #7.25 novella
Bad Wolf #7.5 novella
Wild Things #7.75 novella
Guardian's Mate #9 
Red Wolf  #10
Midnight Wolf  #11
Tiger Striped #11.5 novella

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Julep Beauty Box Review


Subscription Price: $24.99/month Shipping: Free in the US Subscription Price: $24.99/month
Sales Tax: Orders shipped to the states of Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia, and Washington will be charged sales tax.
Rewards Offered: Points for each box purchased which is cashed in for a free sixth box.
Options: Choose between a pre-curated box or pick and choose what you like.
Option Selected: Nail Polish Only (Pick & Choose option)
Keep or Cancel? Cancel due to lousy Customer Service

I’ve been looking for a few beauty boxes to try because, let’s face it, it’s just easier when your beauty products come to you rather than having to go store to store in search for them. So, when I received an email offer from Julep to try my first Maven box for just a little over $4 rather than their standard $24.99, I jumped at the chance!
 
Things were going pretty good. I filled out a quick beauty/preference questionnaire then had to select which box option I wanted: Nails, Beauty, or a Mix of both. I opted for the Nails only.
 
With the Nails only option, you can select 4 products (3 polishes and 1 extra item such nail file, decals, polish corrector, and such). So, I selected my products: 3 nail polishes (shades: Danni, London, Blushing) and the Clean Slate polish corrector pen.
 
Things started going wrong when I opened my box. Instead of receiving Danni, they sent me Stick It To Me (a basecoat). I called the company several times before finally speaking with someone who told me I would have to call back at a later time because they were having computer trouble. I called back a few days later and they kept putting me off telling me I needed to email them with the problem. I’ve emailed them several times still haven’t received a response.
 
Now I’m going through the same drama of canceling my subscription because there is no unsubscribe or cancel button on the website, instead you have to either call or email them.
 
The Products: All Julep polishes are Five-Free (free of formaldehyde, toluene, dibutyl phthalate, formaldehyde resin, and camphor) and vegan-friendly, which is what prompted me to try this box. The polishes are lovely; they go on smooth and are quick drying. And I’ve always been a fan of Polish Corrector Pens (this one came with three extra replacement tips, which is always a plus). I’m just not too thrilled with the base coat, I have a particular brand that I like to use, which is why I didn’t choose one for my selection.
 
Overall, the products were lovely but I wasn’t thrilled with their customer service. In this case, it would be easier to go to the store and get what I wanted rather than subscribing and getting something different from what you ordered. 

Monday, April 16, 2018

Pins + Needles Kits: A Sewing Project Subscription Review

If you’re looking for a cute and quick sewing project but don’t want to pile up fabric and notions, then the Pins + Needles box is for you. There’s two options a small box or a premium box, both contain the materials and notions needed to complete one project.


Pins + Needles kindly sent me the smaller project box to review and I had so much fun with it.
 

Here’s what I received:
Store It Reversible Nesting Basket Pattern from Sew Many Creations
2 Fat Quarters from Cotton + Steel
1 Yard of Solid fabric Moda  (technically this wasn’t a true yard, it was a yard, length-wise but it had been cut in half height-wise)
1 Spool of Thread
Fusible Interfacing
Grabbit Magnetic Pincushion-the extra gift included
 

Here’s what was needed to complete the project:
Sewing machine
Tailor’s chalk—or some other removable marking tool
Measuring tape
Pins or Fabric clips
Acrylic ruler
Cutting mat
Rotary cutter

 

This one was a quick and easy little project—it took me less than an hour to complete it. The fabrics were a lovely quality and the designs were a bit different from what I normally lean to but I liked that it adds a pop of something different. 
 


The pattern that I received was for a set of three nesting baskets although there was only enough material and interfacing to make the smallest of the three baskets. I did have a fat quarter left over as well as a bit of the solid print so I whipped up a quick sewing machine mat.
 


While I ended up with a lovely basket that’s perfect for holding the leftover bits from my fat quarters I just feel that at $30 a month this was just slightly overpriced.


Small Project Box: $25 plus $5 US shipping or $15 International
This box will be for smaller projects, like zipper bags, mug rugs, etc.... You will always receive at least: Up to 1 yard of fabric 1 spool of thread 1 pattern and any notion to complete the pattern. Ships between the 21st-24th of every month U.S. $5 FLAT RATE SHIPPING ,$15 INTERNATIONAL SHIPPING
 
Premium Project Box: $40
This box will be for bigger projects, like tote bags, wall hangings, etc.... You will always receive at least: Up to 2 yards of fabric, 1 spool of thread,1 Pattern and any notion to complete the pattern. Ships between the 5th-8th of every month U.S. FREE SHIPPING $15 INTERNATIONAL SHIPPING





Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Wallis in Love: The Untold Life of the Duchess of Windsor, the Woman Who Changed the Monarchy by Andrew Morton





"You have no idea how hard it is to live out a great romance." -Wallis Simpson


Everyone has heard of Wallis Simpson, the woman for whom Edward VIII so infamously abdicated his throne and birthright. But although her life has constantly been the subject of much fascination, gossip, and speculation, her whole story has yet to be told. Now historical biographer Andrew Morton uses diary entries, letters, and other never-before-seen records to offer a fresh portrait of Wallis Simpson in all her vibrancy and brazenness as she climbed the social ladder, transforming from a hard-nosed gold digger to charming chatelaine.


Morton takes us through the cacophonous Jazz Age, a period of casual sex, cocaine, and screeching trombones; Wallis's romantic adventures in Washington and friendship with Eleanor Roosevelt; her exploits in China and beyond; to her entrance into the strange wonderland that is London Society. During her journey, we meet an extraordinary array of characters, many of whom smoothed the way for her dalliance with the king of England, Edward VIII, and we gain insights into the personality and motivations of a complex, domineering woman striving to determine her own fate in a harsh, turbulent world.

 
Publisher: Grand Central|Genre: Non-Fiction/Biography | Source: Publisher| Rating: 4 Cups


She was the American divorcée who captured an English King and caused an unrepairable rift in the House of Windsor. But who was Wallis Warfield Spencer Simpson?

According to the rumored ‘China dossier’ (a file supposedly composed by the British Secret Service for PM Baldwin and King George V) she was a sexual enchantress who learned her craft while working in an oriental brothel. Others claim that she was lesbian or even a man. Some say she was a Nazi spy.

While it’s hard to separate rumors from reality when it comes to Wallis—she herself was an unreliable narrator of her own story—what we know for certain is Wallis was selfish, brash, a social climber who eagerly used those around her to gain a better advantage. And perhaps the most telling truth we know about Wallis is, she was never happy or satisfied.

In Wallis in Love biographer Andrew Morton helps separate fact from fiction as he delves into Wallis’ life and loves. He paints a vivid portrait of the twice-divorced American who snagged a king but ended up in exile.

I’ve always found Wallis Simpson to be an interesting woman. Likable, no—even the one man she held dearest to her heart, Herman Livingston Rogers, who stood by her side when a whole nation seemed against her, ultimately found her to be insufferable but she’s fascinating. So when I was offered a chance to review this new biography, I jumped at it.

If you’re a Wallis newbie and you’ve gained interest in her from watching The Crown or if you’re following the upcoming Royal Wedding and are wondering who the other American divorcée to snag a royal was then Wallis in Love is the perfect book to introduce you to the woman who rocked the monarchy. Not only does it provide information about Wallis from the very start of her life, it also introduces the vast amount of people who came and went throughout her life. The background information is pertinent when it comes to understanding how Wallis ended up where she did.

Although if you’re looking for a great love story between Wallis and Edward, you’re not going to find it because it in this book because it doesn’t exist. Wallis wasn’t in love with Edward, she was in love/obsessed with becoming the Queen of England. When she learned of Edward’s plans to abdicate, she tried her best to flee from the situation, but, as they say, her bed was made—and more importantly, her dear Herman was married—and she was more or less forced to go along with it. And I honestly do not believe Edward was in love with Wallis. Fascinated? Yes. In love? No. I think he viewed Wallis as his way out from the oppression of the Crown. Basically, he was born into a job he didn’t want and Wallis was his out.

If you’re a Wallis enthusiast this book is still an interesting read yet I found it to be a bit of a run on. Having come into this book knowing the story of Wallis, her circle of friends, and the workings of the Crown, I found the extensive backstories regarding those in her circle to be a bit of a drag. I would be right in the middle of an interesting bit about Wallis and suddenly the book would veer off to something about Courtney Letts, Freda Dudley Ward, Thelma Furness or some other mover and shaker of the era and by the time we were back on topic, I had grown bored.

I feel like this book could have benefited by having those things as footnotes rather than ingrained into the text. An example of such would be the opening of chapter eleven. Rather than giving the history of Gunpowder Plot, it could have been addressed as a footnote.

While I was able to glean new snippets of information—excerpts regarding Wallis from the diary of Courtney Letts de Espil, a few tidbits of information regarding Wallis and Herman, and such—I feel like a few things could have been addressed in more detail. Such as her first marriage.

I do have one complaint; I wish they would print the color pictures in color, especially when referenced in the book. There’s a painting by Klots of the Duke and Duchess that’s addressed in the book, Morton even talks about the Duchess wearing a canary yellow dress, but, sadly, it’s in black and white rather than color so it’s a bit irksome that I have to consult another source to find this in color.

Overall, Wallis in Love provided an interesting picture of the woman who changed the monarchy. Newbies will gain a wealth of knowledge while enthusiasts will enjoy the introduction of the new information.


Tea Pairing

There’s only one tea that sprang to mind when this book arrived: Prince of Wales Tea from Twinings of London. Twinings originally created this tea for Edward, who at that time was still the Prince of Wales. In 1921, he gave Twinings permission to sell his personal blend under his royal title.

 
This one’s a bit mild in taste with a slightly woodsy aroma. This one falls in the middle of the tea spectrum right between a bold breakfast/morning blend and a mellow afternoon blend. It pairs nicely with shortbread cookies, scones, or a nice mild cheese.