Friday, August 29, 2014

Brunette Ambition {by Lea Michele}

Title: Brunette Ambition
Author: Lea Michele
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Received from publisher

The star of the hit show Glee shares her experiences and insider tips on beauty, fashion, inner strength, and more in an illustrated book that’s part memoir, part how-to, and part style guide.
Lea Michele is one of the hardest working performers in show business. Whether she’s starring as Rachel Berry on Glee, rocking a glamorous look on the red carpet, recording her solo album, or acting as the spokesperson for L’Oreal, Lea is the ultimate multi-tasker. She knows better than anyone that it is difficult to be your best self and keep things in perspective when your to-do list is overflowing and you are faced with challenges, so she’s developed a foolproof system for remaining healthy and centered. In Brunette Ambition, she reveals the lessons and advice that have worked for her--from beauty and fashion secrets to fitness tips, and career insights. Supplemented with never-before-seen photos and revealing anecdotes, it’s the book Lea wishes she’d had in her teens and early twenties: A practical and inspirational guide to harnessing tenacity and passion and living the fullest life, no matter what obstacles life puts in your way.

Okay, I really don't know why I originally picked this up. It is definitely not the type of thing I read, and I'm not really a Lea Michele fangirl or anything. But I've had a thing for memoirs lately, and I must admit, I was curious. But I found that I really did enjoy this.

First, this isn't just a memoir. Yes, she talks about her start on Broadway, Glee, but it's also more of a lifestyle book. She talks about health, fitness, food, and fashion. And those parts were really enjoyable. 

I tend to not really keep up with celebrities, but I have to say I really admire Lea Michele. She works hard for what she has, and she takes her work seriously. You can see a genuine appreciation for what she has been given in life. She also knows the importance of taking care of herself and her body so she can continue doing her art. So much today, we see celebs in the news for partying or going into rehab, etc. They take their stardom for granted. I thought Lea's attitude and perspective were very refreshing and inspiring. 

I also love how casual and low-key she is. She freely admits to not being a party girl, preferring to stay in with a movie and go to sleep early. I also loved her tips, from hair masques to food recipes to her style and makeup tips, even workout excercises. Not going to lie, this is a book that I will pick up again and again to reference these tips. 

I loved this personal insight into the life of Lea Michele. I really believe that she is an inspiring role model, one that girls should look up to. She's very open about her family, friends, and keeping a healthy lifestyle, and I think that is something that needs to be talked about more. 

Lea Michele:

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Love, Skip, Jump {by Shelene Bryan}
Title: Love, Skip, Jump: Start Living the Adventure of Yes
Author: Shelene Bryan
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Received from publisher 

Every significant event in the Bible happened because someone said "yes" to God. Start living the adventure of "yes" today!
In this whimsical yet inspiring book," " Shelene tells the stories of real-life paths God took her on to learn some simple truths that changed everything in her life--everything for the better. By "loving" how our Creator made us to "love"; "skipping" comfort and safety to help those who can never repay us; and taking a risk to "jump" into the epic journey God has for our lives, the reality is we are all just one "yes" away from changing everything. Don't miss out on the incredible adventure God has for you. Say "yes" to God--love, skip, and jump your way to his plans for you!

I would like to start by saying, this is not the type of book I usually read. Yet, I felt compelled to pick it up. It did take me awhile to get into it, but once I did I finished it in one sitting. 

Shelene was your average American woman, with a job, nice house, husband, kids, the usual. Then, she felt an urging to go to Africa to see if the kids she sponsored were real, that they actually received her money. 

Shelene's experiences were real, honest, and captivating. She drew you in with her genuine thoughts and feelings. This wasn't a book to make you feel bad about not doing any of the things she did, this wasn't about her saying that she was a better Christian. This was just her being real. 

This story was so inspiring, and will change the way you think. I know I've already started thinking more about my life, and how it can change. Shelene backs up every point with Scripture, and really hammers the theme home. It isn't repetitive to the point of annoyance, but firm. 

And before you think it, this wasn't a books just to support her charity, Skip1. While obviously that is a natural part of her story, and was included, she's not asking for your money. She's just asking you to love, skip, jump. Shelene highlights this point with experiences from her life, but she asks each one of us to evaluate the calling God has placed on our life. 

So, are you willing to love, skip, jump?

Shelene Bryan:

Website | Skip1 | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

Monday, August 18, 2014

A Bouquet of Love {by Janice Thompson}

Title: A Bouquet of Love
Author: Janice Thompson
Series: Weddings by Design #4
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Cassia Pappas has found herself in a nearly impossible situation. She wants to spend her time immersed in her new job at a Galveston Island floral shop, arranging blooms and brightening occasions with her lovely creations. But her huge Greek family–especially her father–has other ideas. They’ve all relocated to Galveston to open up a new family restaurant location on the Strand– directly across the street from the Rossis’ popular pizza place–and they want Cassia’s full participation.
To make matters worse, as Cassia is trying to develop a strong professional relationship with Galveston’s premier wedding coordinator, Bella Neeley, her own father is intent on stealing all of the Rossi family’s faithful customers. Not exactly the best way to get into Bella’s good graces!
Still, at least Alex, that hot delivery guy from the nursery, is always hanging around the flower shop . . .

Ah, Janice Thompson  has done it again. I don't know what it is about this author, and this series, but it has completely won over my heart, and this latest installment did not disappoint. In fact, this may be one of my favorites. Favorite main character, favorite family, favorite swoony love interest.

I've mentioned before, in my review of The Dream Dress, how my favorite part of this series and Janice Thompson's books are the characters, the family, and this one was definitely no different. Babbas and his antics had me cracking up. I will say, I wish there had been some more on the sibling side. I don't think we ever heard the little brother's name until finally at the end, he was always just the younger brother, and I was confused for a while on how many of them there actually was. But other than that, I loved it. I will say, I think I have a weakness for anything Greek, so this was destined to be a sure favorite. Did I mention I think he's my favorite love interest so far? Well, he is. I did have the same issue that I've had with the other books, on how it seemed too insta-lovey. I mean, it wasn't the annoying kind of insta-love (insta-lust), but it did seem to move really fast. But whatever. The romance did seem more developed and substantial than in others, though.

And of course, the culture. Loved it. I loved the everyday family interactions, the "battle" between Babbas and Uncle Laz had me cracking up, and of course our lovely Splendora Sisters were back in action. My favorite Rossis were back, as well as Scarlet, Hannah, Gabi and yes, even Guido the parrot. Even Brock and some characters from Thompson's other series, Backstage Pass, (which I haven't read so wasn't too concerned with) made an appearance.

So yes, this book was everything I have come to expect from this series and this author. It made me smile, laugh, swoon. But, as I guess this is the last in this series, I neeeed her to write another spin-off. I'm not ready to say goodbye to these characters!

Weddings by Bella:

Weddings by Design:

Janice Thompson:

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Branded {by Abi Ketner and Missy Kalicicki}
Title: Branded
Authors: Abi Kenner and Missy Kalicicki
Series: Sinners, #1
Rating: 2 out of 5 stars
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Fifty years ago The Commander came into power and murdered all who opposed him. In his warped mind, the seven deadly sins were the downfall of society. 
To punish the guilty, he created the Hole, a place where sinners are branded according to their sins. Sinners are forced to live a less than human existence in deplorable conditions, under the watchful eye of guards who are ready to kill anyone who steps out of line.
Now, LUST wraps around my neck like thick, blue fingers, threatening to choke the life out of me. I’ve been accused of a crime I didn’t commit, and the Hole is my new home. 
Constant darkness. 
Brutal and savage violence. 
Excruciating pain. 
Every day is a fight for survival. 
But I won’t let them win. I will not die in the Hole.
I am more than my brand. I’m a fighter. My name is Lexi Hamilton, and this is my story.

I have mixed feelings about this book. While I did finish it, there were many times when I considered not finishing. I just, I don't know. It was frustrating at many points, but ultimately was interesting. 
Branded starts with an interesting concept. In a futuristic society where the Commander has taken over, the modern day judicial system has been overthrown. Instead, sinners are "branded"--a different color depending on which of the seven deadly sins they have committed. Except, they just have to be accused, not proven. Which means innocents, like Lexi, also find themselves in the Hole (oooh, ominous...). 
My biggest issue I think was that, for the longest time, I didnt know what was going on. There is a difference between an aura of mystery, and just being frustratingly annoying. Nothing was explained, and Lexi didn't do anything. 
Another thing I hated, and almost made me stop reading (many a time) was the forbidden romance. I realize some people love forbidden romances, but I just can't stand them. Not to mention, it just made both main characters, Lexi and Cole, make dumb decision. This could have been so much more, about the actual rebellion, but instead it was a lot of romantic tension, staring into each other eyes, and a rushed ending. I didn't find the romance believable, and I did not enjoy it. 
Also, the plot pacing. The beginning dragged on, and then the ending, the rebellion, was really rushed. I was bored enough that, like I mentioned, I almost gave up. But, the end was enough to keep me reading just to find out what happened. 
It was a unique concept, but I just think it could have been executed much better. While the ending did make it a little better, I still am not sure that I would read the second book. 
Abi Ketner and Missy Kalicicki:

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Abi's Goodreads | Missy's Goodreads

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Exquisite Captive trailer reveal!

Hey guys! Today, I am so excited to help Heather Demetrios reveal the trailer for her upcoming book, Exquisite Captive! This trailer is freaking GORGEOUS and I hope you all enjoy it! I am so unbelievable excited for this book, and, well, you should be too! Exactly TWO months until release, so not much longer to wait! So... enjoy!

The Book:
Title: Exquisite Captive
Author: Heather Demetrius
Series: Dark Caravan Cycle #1

Publisher: Balzer+Bray
Expected Publication: October 7, 2014

Forced to obey her master.
Compelled to help her enemy.
Determined to free herself. 
Nalia is a jinni of tremendous ancient power, the only survivor of a coup that killed nearly everyone she loved. Stuffed into a bottle and sold by a slave trader, she’s now in hiding on the dark caravan, the lucrative jinni slave trade between Arjinna and Earth, where jinn are forced to grant wishes and obey their human masters’ every command. She’d give almost anything to be free of the golden shackles that bind her to Malek, her handsome, cruel master, and his lavish Hollywood lifestyle.
Enter Raif, the enigmatic leader of Arjinna’s revolution and Nalia’s sworn enemy. He promises to free Nalia from her master so that she can return to her ravaged homeland and free her imprisoned brother—all for an unbearably high price. Nalia’s not sure she can trust him, but Raif’s her only hope of escape. With her enemies on the hunt, Earth has become more perilous than ever for Nalia. There’s just one catch: for Raif’s unbinding magic to work, Nalia must gain possession of her bottle…and convince the dangerously persuasive Malek that she truly loves him. Battling a dark past and harboring a terrible secret, Nalia soon realizes her freedom may come at a price too terrible to pay: but how far is she willing to go for it?
Inspired by Arabian Nights, EXQUISITE CAPTIVE brings to life a deliciously seductive world where a wish can be a curse and shadows are sometimes safer than the light.

The author:

Heather  Demetrios:

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | tumblr | YouTube | Pinterest | Goodreads

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

The Family of Jesus {by Karen Kingsbury}
Title: The Family of Jesus
Author: Karen Kingsbury
Series: Heart of the Story #1
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Received from publisher

Through The Family of Jesus readers will develop an emotional connection to the family members of Jesus, learning about their lives and falling in love with Scripture along the way. Bible studies and devotionals abound, and in churches everywhere people gather to seek a deeper understanding of God’s word and its application to their lives. But too often these studies engage only the analytic approach to Bible learning.
In The Family of Jesus, #1 New York Times bestselling novelist Karen Kingsbury will make you laugh, cry, and ultimately care more deeply about the Bible by helping you grasp the truths in Scripture not just with your mind, but with your heart. The characters in these short stories were among those closest to Jesus—Mary, Joseph, Jesus’ brother James, John the Baptist, Zechariah, and Elizabeth. Each has a compelling tale to tell. Kingsbury intersperses fictional, emotionally gripping details anchored in Scripture with historical and theological insights and questions that will guide soul-searching and reflection.
The Family of Jesus not only provides a deeper understanding of the relatives of our Savior, but also helps readers acquire tools that will draw them closer to Christ, to the Scriptures, and to each other.

Okay, as I know I've mentioned before on this blog, I love Biblical historical fiction. There's just something so interesting about imagining what it was really like way back when. So when I saw that one of my favorite Christian fiction authors was coming out with one about the family of Jesus, of course I had to read it. 

I loved how this book was split into 6 different stories--Joseph, Zacharias, John the Baptist, Elizabeth, James, and Mary. We got to see Jesus's life through the perspectives of those who loved Him most. We also got to see those stories intertwine with each other. 

I will say, sometimes I have issues with retellings like this, because really, who are we to say what these people were like, how they acted, what they thought? Especially Jesus. There were some parts where I maybe had some issues, because we don't know that they were like that, or that they would have said things like that. I guess it's because some people, like Jesus, are put on such a high pedestal that it's just weird to see them, well, human. But, it's all in the name of fiction, and so was not too big of a deal.

I liked the different perspectives and will admit, there were some parts that had me thinking. I suppose I never thought about Joseph as a stepfather, although that's exactly what he was. And to see John and Jesus's relationship through the eyes of so many different people was super interesting and eye-opening. I think these stories really helped me to see things in a different light and was so inspiring.

I thought I wouldn't read the study part, but I actually did. I didn't split it up into the days (or read the assigned Bible portions...oops). I found them to actually be interesting. I actually think this would be a great Bible study to work through with a group of people, although you can get a lot out of it by yourself.&nbsp All in all, I really enjoyed this one. It was interesting, and still fun, but very inspiring. It made me think about the Bible and the stories we are all familiar with in a different way. 

 Karen Kingsbury:

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads
And, I'll be giving away a hardcover copy! A few rules though: US only // Must be 13 years or older or have parent's permission // Winner will be notified by email and have 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen // Entries will be checked. False entries will cause ALL entries for that person to be disqualified. // I am not responsible to lost packages.

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Friday, August 1, 2014

{Blog Tour} Review: The Husband Maker by Karey White

The Husband Maker by Karey White 
Title: The Husband Maker
Author: Karey White
Series: The Husband Maker, #1
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Purchase: Amazon | Kobo | iTunes | Barnes & Noble

 Charlotte’s a girl with nicknames. She may not love being called Charles or Chuck, but the hardest nickname to take is the one she was given in college, the one that’s followed her now for too many years. They call her “the husband maker” and sadly, it fits. Every guy she’s dated since high school has become his next girlfriend’s husband. Not hers. Not three girlfriends down the road. The next. Is she doing something wrong or is she just cursed? When Kyle Aldsworth enters the picture and sweeps her off her feet, Charlotte begins to hope that maybe she's not destined to be single forever. A senator’s son with political aspirations of his own, Kyle's wealthy, handsome, and in need of a wife. Will Charlotte be disappointed yet again, or will she finally be able to make a husband for herself?

I loved this. It was hilarious, and all around just a lot of fun. It was definitely a cute, fluffy book and was just pure enjoyable to read.

Charlotte--Charlie, Chuck, Chuckers--has been given the nickname "the husband maker" because literally every single guy she has dated has gone on to marry the very next girl he dates. It's one thing for Charlotte to notice, it's quite another for other people to notice the trend. But Charlotte can't help but hope that one day, there will be someone that can break the "curse". Enter Kyle Aldsworth, who just might seem like The One to do that. 

Not going to lie, I thought this was going to be one of those best-friend romances, where she is trying to find someone and then realizes that she's been in love with her best friend the whole time. And while this didn't not end up being that, hey, there's more to the series. Because I am definitely #teamAngus ;)

Charlotte was a very fun character, easy to relate to and read about. She was funny, but also strong and could be serious when she needed to be. The stories of her athletic fails and romantic misses were funny and an interesting way to add in flashbacks. It was also kind of sad, and made you feel for her. 

I loved the other characters as well. Even though I was initially rooting for Angus, I did also like Kyle. I also loved the family dynamic, as Charlotte's parents and siblings were focal parts of the story. 

The story line was very entertaining and will keep you interested, as well as definitely make you laugh. As Kyle and Charlotte go through one mishap after another, you find yourself rooting for them and just hoping they get their happily ever after. 

I will say, I loved this ending. It was a bit non-traditional, but I loved the way Charlotte handled things. I liked the conclusions she came to, and it really showcased the kind of person she is. And now I want book 2!!

All in all, this was a very light, cute read that I would definitely recommend for anyone who loves their chick-lit.

The Matchmaker final ebook cover
Book 2: Coming Fall 2014

Karey White Karey White

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads

Karey White grew up in Utah, Idaho, Oregon, and Missouri. She attended Ricks College and Brigham Young University. Her first novel, Gifted, was a Whitney Award Finalist. She loves to travel, read, bake treats, and spend time with family and friends. She and her husband are the parents of four great children. She teaches summer creative writing courses to young people and is currently working on her next book.  


 $25 Blog Tour Giveaway $25 Amazon Gift Card or Paypal Cash Ends 8/15/14 Open only to those who can legally enter, receive and use an Gift Code or Paypal Cash. Winning Entry will be verified prior to prize being awarded. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 or older to enter or have your parent enter for you. The winner will be chosen by rafflecopter and announced here as well as emailed and will have 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen. This giveaway is in no way associated with Facebook, Twitter, Rafflecopter or any other entity unless otherwise specified. The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning. Giveaway was organized by Kathy from I Am A Reader and sponsored by the publisher. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW. a Rafflecopter giveaway

Beach Reads in August Giveaway Hop! [CLOSED]

Hey guys! I think its about time for another giveaway hop, dontcha think? 

First, unpopular opinion time: I don't really like the beach. I know, I know, that's totally crazy. But I'm not really a summer person. I don't know, I just don't like the heat. But the beach is always associated with summer, and when I think "summer reads" I immediately think of Sarah Dessen. So as soon as I saw this hop, I just knew that I was going to give away a Sarah Dessen book. Any of her books are perfect beach reads, or lazy summer day reads.

One INT winner will receive a (paperback) copy of their choice of Sarah Dessen book!
All covers linked to Goodreads. Enough choices for ya?

Oh, and Sarah Dessen fans, what do you think of the paperback cover redesigns? I used the redesigns here, because that's what you'll be getting, but I like the old covers better. Also, which is your favorite Sarah Dessen book? Which would you recommend to someone who hasn't read any?  My favorites are This Lullaby, Along for the Ride, and The Truth About Forever. What Happened to Goodbye and The Moon and More are close seconds.

And as always, a few pesky rules:

  • This giveaway is open until August 15, 11:59 pm CST
  • This giveaway is INT, as long as the Book Depository ships to you, so please check that here
  • Must be at least 13 years old, or have parents permission
  • I WILL be checking entries. Any entry found to be falsified will result in ALL entries for that person being deleted.
  • Winner will be notified via email, and will have 48 hours to respond before a new winner is chosen. So please check your spam folders!
  • I am not responsible for lost packages.
Now that all of that is out of the way...go forth and enter!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

And visit all the other stops on this hop to enter to win even more things!