Archives for August 2016

In the Kitchen: Hello Fresh: Chicken & Nectarine Panzanella

In theKitchen


Hi, Everyone!

In an effort to spend less time meal planning and more time reading, I decided to give Hello Fresh a try. It costs less than taking the whole family to a restaurant, and it seemed like a fun way to add some new recipes to my repertoire.

Tonight: Chicken and Nectarine Panzanella with Mint, Zucchini, and fresh Mozzarella



I’ll admit I’m less than impressed with Hello Fresh’s customer service (every e-mail they sent me was either a day late or for the previous week, plus my first shipment arrived damaged), but this meal was quite tasty.

It’s hard to go wrong with salad, I suppose.


As usual I tried to stretch the recipe to feed not only Husband and myself, but our two kidlets as well. I tossed an extra yellow squash and an extra nectarine into the mix, added some string cheese and veggie nuggets, and voila: the kid version!




If I make it again: I’m learning that most of what makes these meal delivery recipes special is wording, so from now on I’m going to refer to any salad with croutons as “panzanella.” Thanks for the tip, Hello Fresh!




Did my kids eat it: The whole family loves nectarines and zucchini, and the kiddos love nuggets (I love that they don’t care if they’re made with chicken or soy & mushrooms), so this was a big hit all around.


Melissa kitchen

Spotlight: If You Left by Ashley Prentice Norton (interview)

If You LeftIf You Left
written by Ashley Prentice Norton
published by Mariner Books, 2016

find it here: (affiliate links) Barnes & Noble, Amazon, iBooks, Book Depository, Goodreads

About the book – from Goodreads:

A seductive novel about a privileged but damaged Manhattan wife whose main source of stability — her marriage — comes under threat, from forces both without and within.

For most of their marriage, Althea has fluctuated between extreme depressive and manic states — what she calls “the Tombs” and “the Visions” — and Oliver has been the steady hand that guided her to safety. This summer, Althea decides that she will be different from here on. She will be the loving, sexy wife Oliver wants, and the reliable, affectionate mother their nine year-old daughter Clem deserves. Her plan: to bring Clem to their Easthampton home once school is out — with no “summer girl” to care for her this time — and become “normal.”

But Oliver is distant and controlling, and his relationship with their interior decorator seems a bit too close; Clem has learned to be self-sufficient, and getting to know her now feels like very hard work for Althea. Into this scene enters the much younger, David Foster Wallace–reading house painter, who reaches something in Althea that has been long buried.

Fearless, darkly funny, and compulsively readable, If You Left explores the complex dance that is the bipolar marriage, and the possibility that to move forward, we might have to destroy the very things we’ve worked hardest to build.



So, when people ask, how do you answer the “what’s your book about?” question? 

I usually make something much more interesting up because people never remember anyway.  No, seriously, IF YOU LEFT is about the effect manic-depression has on a marriage. Oliver is a fabulous caretaker when Althea has episodes of mania or depression, but during periods of  stability he’s patronizing and acts out by having affairs because he’s furious at how her disease has taken their life hostage. 

The book takes place over one summer in East Hampton when the situation comes to a head and they must decide whether or not they can save their marriage. There is also the issue of their adopted daughter, Clem. Althea knows that if there its any chance for things to work out between her and Oliver, she must finally try and break out of her self-absorption and mother the girl, who she has up until now, mostly ignored. 

Sounds pretty heavy.

Well, it’s definitely dark at times, but also funny. It’s told from Althea’s point of view and she is able to see how ridiculous and small her life is at times. She doesn’t even know where the mugs are kept in her own kitchen for example, but even she can see how laughable this is. She lacks so many skills, emotional and practical, because she has been ill for so long, but never feels sorry for herself. At least that’s the way I wrote it.

What interested you about manic-depression? 

People always ask me if I had to do a lot of research on the topic to write this. Usually when we are chatting at a cocktail party. Rather than generate an “awkward moment” and explain that, like Althea, I have manic-depression myself, I usually just say I know a lot of people with the illness, which I do. My experience is both similar and different than Althea’s though. I’ve also been hospitalized for clinical depression and undergone ECT, but I’m also lucky enough to be highly functional with a stable, loving marriage, three wonderful children, and a career. I guess I wanted to write this book and tell it from the point of view of the manic-depressive because usually the story comes from the partner’s POV. 

Are you trying to educate people about bipolar illness with this book?

Yes and no. IF YOU LEFT is like any kind of book. It’s about something, and if the subject is new to the reader, they will learn something. But IF YOU LEFT is a novel, not a manifesto or textbook. And Althea doesn’t represent an archetype. For the first time in forever, she is waking up to her true self, her goals and desires, after years of being stymied by Oliver. The challenge facing Althea, however, is to see if she can finally stand up for herself, if it is not too late. I won’t say any more for fear of spoiling the book.

Was this a hard book to write?

It’s never the subject of the book, it’s the discipline. But I have a friend who I send daily logs to tracking how many hours spent, how many pages written, etc. When there is enough we go over them. Keeps me honest.

Do you have a writing routine?

I write anywhere from three to four hours a day during the school year, either on my bed with my pug, or downtown in the Writers Room. In the summer, I can write up to five to six hours at the East Hampton library, much to the consternation of my family who thinks I should be at the beach or playing tennis. When I’m working, I can’t. I just can’t.

Are you working on anything right now?

Sure. It’s about intimacy and friendship. At least for now.

ashley prentice nortonAbout the Author: Ashley Prentice Norton is the author of If You Left and the critically acclaimed novel The Chocolate Money. She is a graduate of Exeter, Georgetown, and the creative writing program at New York University. She lives in New York with her husband and three children.

Find Ms. Norton here: web, Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads






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Julie’s Review: Veronica’s Grave by Barbara Bracht Donsky

Veronica's Grave: A Daughter's Memoir

Veronica’s Grave: A Daughter’s Memoir
written by Barbara Bracht Donsky
published by She Writes Press, 2016

find it here: (affiliate links) Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Book Depository, Goodreads

Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange  for an honest review.

Did I enjoy this book: 
Yes. I’m not a big reader of memoirs, but I was quickly drawn into to this one. Barbara (nicknamed Bob) is a protagonist you can’t help but cheer for as she navigates life without her mother in the fifties and sixties. I especially enjoyed Bob’s experience as a TWA hostess replete with her two piece jade green gabardine uniform!



“People say marriage is a fifty-fifty proposition, but that’s not true. Marriage has to be 100 percent all the time, otherwise it doesn’t work.”


4 stars


Would I recommend it: Yes! It reads like a poignant coming-of-age novel sprinkled with humor.




About the book – from Goodreads: When Barbara Bracht’s mother disappears, no one tells the young girl that her mother has died. She is left a confused child whose father is intent upon erasing any memory of his dead wife. Forced to keep the truth of her mother s existence from her younger brother, Barbara struggles to keep from being crushed under the weight of family secrets as she comes of age and strives to educate herself despite her father’s stance against women s education.

Veronica s Grave tells of the psychological cost of families who keep secrets and the importance of pursuing one’s dreams and passions. Told in the young girl’s voice, the memoir asks the reader to consider what parents owe their children, and how far a child need go to make things right for her family.

Ultimately, it’s a tale of loss and resilience, showing the power of literature– from Orphan Annie and Prince Valiant to the incomparable Nancy Drew — to offer hope where there is little.


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Gina’s Review: A Frozen Heart by Elizabeth Rudnick

A Frozen Heart

A Frozen Heart 
written by Elizabeth Rudnick
published by Disney Press, 2015

find it here: (affiliate links) Barnes & Noble, Amazon, iBooks, Book Depository, Goodreads

Did I enjoy this book: 
I liked it, but I didn’t love it. The book was mostly just the whole movie of Frozen retold from Anna and Hans’s point of view. There were whole scenes just plucked from the movie and dropped into the book. Sure there were some original thoughts from the characters, but it really wasn’t anything special. The only parts I really liked to read were the ones with Hans, but even they sometimes lacked in detail and depth. I have to say I was a bit disappointed with this one.


“It never ceased to surprise him how easily people could be manipulated.”


3.5 stars


Would I recommend it: I think if you like Frozen and you don’t mind a retelling from Hans & Anna’s point of view then this will be a good one.



About the book – from Goodreads: Told in alternating chapters from both Anna’s and Hans’ perspectives, A Frozen Heart takes a sophisticated look at events of Frozen, exploring the couple’s backstories, motivations, and doomed relationship.


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Back to Books $250 Cash Giveaway


Back to Books


It’s the Back to the Books $250 Cash Giveaway!


I’m excited to participate in this event again this year!


An Awesome Group of Authors & Bloggers have joined with me to bring you 1 fabulous prize!! We’re giving away $250 in Paypal Cash! Or alternately you can choose a $250 Gift Code!

Sponsor List
I Am A Reader
Here We Go Again…Ready?
Hall Ways Blog
Kindle and Me
Kimber Leigh Wheaton
Bound 4 Escape
Every Free Chance Books
Laurie Here – Cont Fiction and More
Krysten Lindsay Hager author
Heather Boyd, Historical Romance Author
The Page Unbound
Author Mary Ting/M. Clarke
Rockin’ Book Reviews
Lori’s Reading Corner
Rice & Rocks, by Sandra L. Richards
Simple Wyrdings
D.S. Venetta
Author Dorothy Dreyer
Diana’s Book Reviews
MK McClintock
Books & Benches
Kasey Cocoa
Heather @ Townsend House
Glistering Bs Blog
Paisley Piranha YA Book Blog
Cool Cat Mysteries
Bella Street Time Travel Romance
Bonnie Blythe Faith Based Romance
The Candid Cover
Talia Jager
Lise McClendon – Author
Laurie Here – Cont Fiction and More


Giveaway Details: $250 in Paypal Cash (alternately the winner can choose a $250 Gift Code)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Ends 9/7/16: Open only to those who can legally enter, receive and use money sent via PayPal. 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 authors, bloggers and publishers on the sponsor list. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW.

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Summer Reading Challenge: Swear On This Life by Renee Carlino (spotlight)

Summer Reading Challenge


Swear on This LifeSwear On This Life
written by Renee Carlino
published by Atria Books, 2016

find it here: (affiliate links) Barnes & Noble, Amazon, iBooks, Target, WalmartBook Depository, Goodreads

About the book – from Goodreads: When a bestselling debut novel from mysterious author J.Colby becomes the literary event of the year, Emiline reads it reluctantly. As an adjunct writing instructor at UC San Diego with her own stalled literary career and a bumpy long-term relationship, Emiline isn’t thrilled to celebrate the accomplishments of a young and gifted writer.

Yet from the very first page, Emiline is entranced by the story of Emerson and Jackson, two childhood best friends who fall in love and dream of a better life beyond the long dirt road that winds through their impoverished town in rural Ohio.

That’s because the novel is patterned on Emiline’s own dark and desperate childhood, which means that “J. Colby” must be Jase: the best friend and first love she hasn’t seen in over a decade. Far from being flattered that he wrote the novel from her perspective, Emiline is furious that he co-opted her painful past and took some dramatic creative liberties with the ending.

The only way she can put her mind at ease is to find and confront “J. Colby,” but is she prepared to learn the truth behind the fiction?






About the author: Renée Carlino is a screenwriter and bestselling author of romantic women’s novels and new adult fiction. She lives in Southern California with her husband and two sons. When she’s not at the beach with her boys or working on her next project, she likes to spend her time reading, going to concerts, and eating dark chocolate.

Find Ms. Carlino here: webTwitter, Goodreads



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Melissa’s Review: The Labyrinth by Allen Houston

The Labyrinth (Nightfall Gardens, #3)

The Labyrinth
written by Allen Houston
published by Flycatcher Books, 2014

find it here: (affiliate links) AmazonGoodreads

Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Did I enjoy this book: 
I adored the first book in this series. The second book needed some serious revision work, and this one . . . this one was downright badly written. There were words missing, typos, tense problems, and some seriously anachronistic language choices. The plot got a bit redundant, and I’m still not sure what the difference is between destroying Pandora’s Box and, um, destroying Pandora’s Box. I’m disappointed we didn’t learn more about the purple necklace, too. I felt like the whole “secret died with her grandmother” was an excuse for “I couldn’t think of anything.” Had I not already read the first two books in the series this would be on my DNF list.

1.5 stars

Would I recommend it: Listen, the ending is predictable enough, so unless you want to know which secondary characters live and which ones die, save yourself the heartache of a poorly edited book.



About the book – from Goodreads: 
Time is running out for Lily and Silas Blackwood in their hunt to destroy Pandora’s Box before the beings of Nightfall Gardens unleash its evil upon an unsuspecting world.

Loyalties will be tested and friends will make the ultimate sacrifice as the two face off against an army of horrors that live in the Gardens.

At the center of it all stands the Labyrinth, a maze haunted by dying gods and startling secrets that Lily must navigate to find Pandora’s Box. But will she be too late?

“The Labyrinth” is the nail-biting conclusion to the “Nightfall Gardens” trilogy.


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In the Kitchen: Home Chef Subscription: Steelhead Trout in Shallot-Butter Sauce

In theKitchen


Hi, Everyone!

In an effort to spend less time meal planning and more time reading, I decided to give Home Chef a try. It costs less than taking the whole family to a restaurant, and it seemed like a fun way to add some new recipes to my repertoire.

Tonight: Steelhead Trout in Shallot-Butter Sauce






I learned something tonight. Steelhead trout looks a lot like salmon. However, it doesn’t really have a taste, but it was very good. It went well with the sauce and it cooked up nicely in the pan. Quick and easy.

If I make it again: I will definitely add more capers to the sauce, and I will take those roasted tomatoes and crush them into the sauce. The acidity from the tomatoes really made the sauce sing. I’d also do more green beans and/or asparagus.

Did my kids eat it: We made this meal after the kids went to bed. It was just for us. =)

Chrissy kitchen


EFC Promotions Review Query: The Dragons of Alsace Farm by Laurie Lewis

The Dragons of Alsace Farm

The Dragons of Alsace Farm
written by Laurie Lewis
published by Willowsport Press, 2016

find it here: (affiliate links) Barnes & Noble, AmazonBook Depository, Goodreads

Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book as part of an EFC Promotions Review Query.

Did I enjoy this book: 
It took me awhile to get used to Ms. Lewis’s long sentence structures (and I’m still cringing a little at the spelling of Tayte’s name), but it was worth it. The characters are lovely and real, and for once I didn’t see the plot twist coming. There was a bit too much angst for me, but then I’m an “any angst is too much” sort of gal. The Dragons of Alsace Farm made my heart happy.



“Being needed makes you brave.”

4 stars

Would I recommend it: Absolutely.



If you would like to review this book, please email us at


About the book – from Goodreads: Fears and secrets are the dragons we each must face. . .

In need of his own redemption, Noah Carter finally confronts his childhood hero, the once-beloved uncle who betrayed him. Instead of vengeance, he offers forgiveness, also granting Uncle John a most curious request—for Noah to work on the ramshackle farm of Agnes Deveraux Keller, a French WWII survivor with dementia.

Despite all Agnes has lost, she still has much to teach Noah. But the pair’s unique friendship is threatened when Tayte, Agnes’s estranged granddaughter, arrives to claim a woman whose circumstances and abilities are far different from those of the grandmother she once knew.

Items hidden in Agnes’s attic raise painful questions about Tayte’s dead parents, steeling Tayte’s determination to save Agnes, even if it requires her to betray the very woman she came to save, and the secret her proud grandmother has guarded for seventy years.

The issue strains the fragile trust between Tayte and Noah, who now realizes Tayte is fighting her own secrets, her own dragons. Weighed down by past guilt and failures, he feels ill-equipped to help either woman, until he remembers Agnes’s lessons about courage and love. In order to save Agnes, the student must now become the teacher, helping Tayte heal—for Agnes’s sake, and for his.





About the author:

Ms. Lewis is a craft-challenged, fifty-something LDS wife, mother, grandmother and novelist. Her eighth novel, “The Dragons of Alsace Farm,” debuted July 1st of 2016.

Find Ms./Mr. here: web,  Twitter, Goodreads,



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July 2016 Subscription Boxes

what's in the box 4

Hi, Everyone!

Here are our subscriptions from the month of July:





The Stars Hollow box! I love the T-shirt!!


The ring is cute, too!




This is the regular Lit-Cube box for July! Gotta love the Peter Pan theme!



I love this ring! Faith Trust and Pixie Dust!




DSCN3060 DSCN3061

Owl Crate



Another Funko POP to add to my Harry Potter collection!


Book Riot YA Quarterly



July 2016 Koala Crate


What do you think of month’s boxes?

Do you subscribe to any boxes? If so, which ones? I did include my referral links, so if you’re interested, please feel free to use them! I know I would appreciate it.




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