Winter Reading Challenge: Navigating Life by Margaux Bergen (spotlight)

Navigating Life: Things I Wish My Mother Had Told MeNavigating Life
written by Margaux Bergen
published by Penguin Press, 2016

find it here: (affiliate links) Barnes & Noble, Amazon, iBooks, TargetBook DepositoryGoodreads

About the book – from Amazon: An inspiring, piercingly honest user’s guide to life, written for the author’s daughter and given to her on her first day of college, reflecting tough lessons about family, work, and marriage.

You learn a few useful things at school–the three Rs come in handy, and it’s good to know how to perform under pressure and wait your turn–but most of what matters, what makes you into a functioning human being, able to hold your own in conversation, find your path, know what to avoid in relationships and secure a meaningful job, no teacher will ever tell you. This diamond-sharp, gut-punchingly honest book of hard-earned wisdom is one mother’s effort to equip her daughter for survival in the real world.

Margaux Bergen began writing this book when her daughter Charlotte turned nine and gave it to her right after graduation from high school, when she was setting off for her first day of college. “I am not writing this to groom or guide you to professional or academic success,” she writes. “My goal is rather to give you tools that might help you engage with the world and flourish. . . . Think of this as a kind of developing bath-time wisdom.”

Wise, heartbreakingly funny, and resonantly true, Navigating Life has invaluable lessons for students of life of all ages. It will challenge you to lead a more meaningful life and to tackle the bumps along the way with grace, grit, style, and ingenuity. What The Blessings of a Skinned Knee did for the early years of parenting, Navigating Life does for the next, far more perilous chapter, when new graduates are cast out on the high seas and have to learn to swim and find their way by themselves.

 

Margaux Bergen

About the author: Born in Paris and raised in London, educated at Edinburgh University and living in Washington D.C., Margaux Bergen is the mother of three Millennials. She has worked in international development and women’s leadership. And is still learning the extreme sports of raising three children.

Find Ms. Bergen here: webFacebookTwitterGoodreads

 

 

Happy 2

 

In the Kitchen: Blue Apron: Indonesian Spiced Salmon

In theKitchen

 

Hi, Everyone!

In an effort to spend less time meal planning and more time reading, I decided to give Blue Apron 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: Indonesian Spiced Salmon with Freekeh & Marinated Radishes

 

 

Okay. I made this on a weeknight, so instead of spending the time to peel, mince, chop, etc while my children volunteered to clean their rooms and my husband encouraged me to take a long nap while he looked after the kids, I did this:

Delicately chop? Nah. We scissored the scallions quick and dirty like.

Marinade for sixteen hours? Nope. Toss those onions in a bag and let the 4-year-old shake the heck out of it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to peel and mince garlic: Step 1: Use a squeezy bottle instead. 2. Take a bath with the time you just saved yourself. Laugh at the haters.

 

If I make it again: So this dish was actually quite good. My favorite part was the radish and onion slaw, which I unceremoniously dumped on top of the salmon because wow. So. Good. I don’t think the salmon spices were make-or-break, nor was the freekeh (rice would’ve been just fine), but overall it was a decent meal. It’s not something I’ll be adding to the regular rotation, but I AM going to store that onion slaw in my memory banks. DELICIOUS side. Really. YUM.

Did my kids eat it: I mean, they really WANTED to, what with the weirdly named grains and six kinds of onions, but I forced them to eat peanut butter sandwiches and strawberries instead. They may never forgive me.

Melissa kitchen

 

 

 

Gina’s Review: The Nix by Nathan Hill

The NixThe Nix 
written by Nathan Hill
published by Knopf, 2016

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


Did I enjoy this book: 
This book is an EXPERIENCE. It’s a slow start, but as it progresses it gets better and better. There are a lot of details you have to keep straight, and the cast of characters is a mix of ones you’ll love and ones you won’t. There’s some mystery, and as you uncover more and more of the story, you’ll be excited to piece it together. You’ll get a look into the world of a protesting hippie–it isn’t always pretty, but it feels real. The way Nathan Hill mirrors some of today’s political climate with that of years ago is eerie. It’s truly an awesome book, although it is over six hundred pages, so prepare yourself for a long read.

GOLDEN LINE

“Sometimes we’re so wrapped up in our own story that we don’t see how we’re supporting characters in someone else’s.”

 

 

Would I recommend it: Yes! This is definitely a book I think everyone should try and read.

 

Gina

About the book – from Goodreads: It’s 2011, and Samuel Andresen-Anderson—college professor, stalled writer—has a Nix of his own: his mother, Faye. He hasn’t seen her in decades, not since she abandoned the family when he was a boy. Now she’s re-appeared, having committed an absurd crime that electrifies the nightly news, beguiles the internet, and inflames a politically divided country. The media paint Faye as a radical hippie with a sordid past, but as far as Samuel knows, his mother was an ordinary girl who married her high-school sweetheart. Which version of his mother is true? Two facts are certain: she’s facing some serious charges, and she needs Samuel’s help.

To save her, Samuel will have to embark on his own journey, uncovering long-buried secrets about the woman he thought he knew, secrets that stretch across generations and have their origin all the way back in Norway, home of the mysterious Nix. As he does so, Samuel will confront not only Faye’s losses but also his own lost love and will relearn everything he thought he knew about his mother and himself.

 

Happy 2

DNF: Dreams of Youth by Christopher Abraham

Dreams of Youth: The Vindicated

Dreams of Youth 
written by Christopher Abraham
published by Christopher Abraham, 2015

find it here: (affiliate links)  Amazon, Goodreads

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

Where I stopped reading: page 132

Why I stopped reading: I tried. I really did. I tried to get past the grammar issues and enjoy the What Dreams May Come vibe, but then I got to chapter 13, where Abraham introduces a third set of unrelated characters, bringing the total character count up to what seemed like seventy zillion. I felt like I was starting all over at the beginning of an entirely different book, and I’ll be honest, the plot lines of the first two sets of characters are so weird I just couldn’t take anymore.

 

Melissa

 

What others have rated this book: There are no ratings and no reviews on Goodreads.  There was one 4-star review and one 3-star review on Amazon. Just because I didn’t finish this book doesn’t mean you won’t.

About the book – from Goodreads: The first novel in the Dreams of Youth Series.

“From vindicated actions to twisted hearts, the shooting stars form our destiny.”

It’s a sickening feeling in ones core when ones life cannot be defined. Dusk Hollow, a young man living on the planet known as Eryu, experiences this first hand. When someone precious to him is taken, Dusk must face the trials and tribulations of that undeniable truth. He will do all that he can to get her back. He will journey through landscapes he could only picture in his head. He will defy the odds against those who wish to crush him. He will deny death.

——-

There sits a girl who always gazes at the stars, wishing they would take her someplace far away. Her mother disappears one afternoon and her story unfolds thereafter. Through blank pages and close friends, Essa Starlight begins to understand who she is. She learns sometimes that harsh words are said with good intentions.

This is a story where a dream can shape everything.

This is a story, where what’s inside matters most.

 

Happy 2

 

Winter Reading Challenge: It Happens All the Time by Amy Hatvany (spotlight)

It Happens All the TimeIt Happens All the Time
written by Amy Hatvany
published by Atria Books, 2017

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

About the book – from Goodreads: From master storyteller Amy Hatvany—whose writing has been hailed as “gripping and emotionally honest” (Stephanie Evanovich, New York Times betselling author)—comes a provocative and compelling novel about two friends whose lives are changed by a drunken kiss.

I want to rewind the clock, take back the night when the world shattered. I want to erase everything that went wrong.

Amber Bryant and Tyler Hicks have been best friends since they were teenagers—trusting and depending on each other through some of the darkest periods of their young lives. And while Amber has always felt that their relationship is strictly platonic, Tyler has long harbored the secret desire that they might one day become more than friends.

Returning home for the summer after her college graduation, Amber begins spending more time with Tyler than she has in years. Despite the fact that Amber is engaged to her college sweetheart, a flirtation begins to grow between them. One night, fueled by alcohol and concerns about whether she’s getting married too young, Amber kisses Tyler.

What happens next will change them forever.

In alternating points of view, It Happens All the Time examines the complexity of sexual dynamics between men and women and offers an incisive exploration of gender roles, expectations, and the ever-timely issue of consent.

Amy HatvanyAbout the author: Amy Hatvany was born in Seattle, WA in 1972, the youngest of three children. She graduated from Western Washington University in 1994 with a degree in Sociology only to discover most sociologists are unemployed. Soon followed a variety of jobs – some of which she loved, like decorating wedding cakes; others which she merely tolerated, like receptionist. In 1998, Amy finally decided to sell her car, quit her job, and take a chance on writing books.

The literary gods took kindly to her aspirations and THE KIND OF LOVE THAT SAVES YOU was published in 2000 by Bantam Doubleday. THE LANGUAGE OF SISTERS was picked up by NAL in 2002. (Both titles published under “Yurk.”)

Amy spends most of her time today with her second and final husband, Stephan. (Seriously, if this one doesn’t work out, she’s done.) She stays busy with her two children, Scarlett and Miles, and her “bonus child,” Anna. Their blended family also includes two four-legged hairy children, commonly known as Black Lab mutts, Kenda and Dolcé. When Amy’s not with friends or family, she is most likely reading, cooking or zoning out on certain reality television shows. Top Chef is a current favorite. She eagerly awaits auditions for the cast of “Top Author.” (“Quick Edit” instead of “Quick Fire” Challenge? C’mon, producers! That’s gripping television!)

Find Ms. Hatvany here: web, FacebookTwitter, Goodreads

 

 

Happy 2

 

Winter Reading Challenge: Drop In by Sara Harvey Yao (spotlight)

 

 

Drop in: Lead with Clarity, Connection, and CourageDrop In
written by Sara Harvey Yao
published by She Writes Press, 2016

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

About the book – from Goodreads: In a society that deeply values productivity, speed, and external rewards, we often find ourselves with less of what we really long for: space, clarity, connection with others, and a sense of well-being. Our attempts to improve our lives and bottom lines by adding more to our calendars, expanding our to-do lists, and constantly being plugged in to technology is backfiring. Instead of getting more done, our minds are spinning, leaving us stressed, disconnected, and unable to focus.

Drop In challenges our assumptions about the effectiveness of our busy lives and offers a compelling alternative approach to success by inviting people to learn how to drop in to the present moment. Deepening our awareness of the present moment, asserts Sara Harvey Yao, is the most efficient and sustainable way to navigate the complexities of work and life and to access our clarity, connection, and courage so we can lead more powerfully. Full of practical tools, Drop In will help busy professionals get out of the spin cycle of their minds and tune in to their already-existing wisdom and clarity”

 

 

Sara Harvey Yao

About the author: Sara Harvey Yao is the founder of Yao Consulting Group and has personally developed more than 4,000 leaders across the globe and specializes in the area of executive leadership and presence. Sara’s skills are favored by countless executives from leading companies – among them Microsoft, Brooks Athletics and Coinstar. Whether working one-on-one with clients, as a team facilitator or as an inspiring speaker, Sara is deeply committed to guiding clients to deeper awareness and clarity about unconscious behaviors, ego tactics and communication styles that hamper aware leadership.

Sara’s Background and Education: In 2002, Sara left her decade-long career as a Leadership Development Director for several technology and communications firms. During her role as an internal consultant and coach, she earned her frequent flyer gold status on dozens of trips to work with leaders in places as far-flung as London, Lubbock, Seoul and St. Paul. She earned a bachelor’s degree in Organizational Communications and a master’s degree in Organizational Management.

Find Ms. Yao here: webFacebook, Twitter

 

 

Happy 2

 

Jaclyn’s Review: What’s Left of Us by Amanda Maxlyn

What's Left of Us (What's Left of Me, #2)What’s Left of Us
written by Amanda Maxlyn
published by Amanda Maxlyn, LLC, 2014

find it here: (affiliate links) Barnes & NobleAmazon, iBooksBook Depository, Goodreads

Did I enjoy this book: Yes! This one was another good read! I like the idea of following up on characters after the end of a story I enjoy, so I’m a big fan of sequels. This one definitely delivered. This book kept things (mostly) light and happy, with enough drama to keep the story moving forward. It became a little predictable–around the middle of the book, you could tell how it was going to end. This book is also just as steamy as the first book–whew!

You can read my review of the first book, What’s Left of Me, here.

 

Would I recommend it: Absolutely. This was a quick and easy read. Like the first book, this leaves you feeling connected to the characters and happy at the end. Sometimes it’s nice to read a book that doesn’t make you think too hard and just lets you happily escape into someone else’s world–this is that book.

 

jaclyn

 

About the book – from Goodreads:

The heartwarming conclusion to What’s Left of Me.

Love found me three years ago.

I’m cancer free, happily married to the love of my life, and working toward my dream career.

Our life is complete. Perfect, really.

Or is it?

I’ve always wanted a family of my own, but never dreamed I could have one. Now Parker’s ready to make my dream our reality.

But sometimes our dreams are haunted by our deepest fears. Fears of failure, having a child, and in our case … death. How do I help the person I love get over his fear when I’m still trying to overcome that same fear myself?

Together we must learn What’s Left of Us.

 

Happy 2

Jaclyn’s Review: The Next by Stephanie Gangi

The Next 
written by Stephanie Gangi
published by St. Martin’s Press, 2016

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

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

Did I enjoy this book: 
This one is tough. I love the plot of this book–I love the idea of it. The first 1/3 of this book was written SO WELL. This book frequently switches voices/perspectives, so you’ll see the same scene played out through the eyes of different characters. I love this approach to writing. This was especially great at the beginning of this book, since Joanna is dying of cancer and doesn’t speak–you get her inner monologue as well as the external view of the situation from her daughters.

 Unfortunately, the writing really dragged down the plot of the story for the rest of the book. Once Joanna dies, you get her perspective as a ghost (not a spoiler, since this book is described as a “ghost story”). The writer spends so much time describing mundane details and, essentially, whining through Joanna’s voice–the book just gets difficult to read. The plot is still good, and I think it was a good decision to keep part of it told through Joanna’s voice–it just wasn’t executed well.

 

All in all, this book was OK. I wanted to like it more than I did.

 

Would I recommend it: I struggled with this, but I would not recommend this book. I would return to this book night after night, but not to find out what happens next–only to get to the end.

 

jaclyn

About the book – from Goodreads: Is there a right way to die? If so, Joanna DeAngelis has it all wrong. She’s consumed by betrayal, spending her numbered days obsessing over Ned McGowan, her much younger ex, and watching him thrive in the spotlight with someone new, while she wastes away. She’s every woman scorned, fantasizing about revenge … except she’s out of time.

Joanna falls from her life, from the love of her daughters and devoted dog, into an otherworldly landscape, a bleak infinity she can’t escape until she rises up and returns and sets it right―makes Ned pay―so she can truly move on.

From the other side into right this minute, Jo embarks on a sexy, spiritual odyssey. As she travels beyond memory, beyond desire, she is transformed into a fierce female force of life, determined to know how to die, happily ever after.

 

Happy 2

Melissa’s Review: Caught Between Two Curses by Margo L. Dill

Caught Between Two Curses
written by Margo L. Dill
published by Rocking Horse Publishing, 2014

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

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

Did I enjoy this book: 
I’ll be honest with you: If I’d have seen the cover of this book before I started reading, I’d have given it a pass. I know, I know, you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but yeesh. So yeah. It’s . . . cute, I guess. Utterly predictable but fun. Maybe I’d have enjoyed it more if I was a baseball fan.

 

Would I recommend it: Not really.

 

 

Melissa

 

About the book – from Goodreads: Seventeen-year-old Julie Nigelson is cursed. So is her entire family. And it’s not just any-old-regular curse, either-it’s strangely connected to the famous “Curse of the Billy Goat” on the Chicago Cubs. Julie must figure out this mystery while her uncle lies in a coma and her entire love life is in ruins: her boyfriend Gus is pressuring her to have sex, while her best friend Matt is growing more attractive to her all the time. Somehow, Julie must figure out how to save her uncle, her family’s future, and her own love life-and time is running out!

 

Happy 2

DNF: Black and Gold: Formation by General Asa

Black and Gold: FormationBlack & Gold: Formation 
written by General Asa
published by General Asa, 2015

find it here: (affiliate links) AmazonGoodreads

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

Where I stopped reading: location 48 of 2414 on my e-reader

Why I stopped reading: General Asa published this book too soon. It’s in serious need of several more rounds of editing, revising, and proofreading. The story has potential, but it also has a plethora of grammatical errors, punctuation misses, and unwieldy prose.

 

Melissa

 

What others have rated this book: According to Goodreads, the average rating for Black and Gold: Formation is 4.5 stars. There were 2 ratings and 1 review on Goodreads. There was 1 4-star and 1 5-star review on Amazon. Just because I didn’t finish this book doesn’t mean you won’t.

About the book – from Goodreads: Malvia is a world caught in constant war. The three remaining races slaughter their way towards a victory that has escaped them and others for over a thousand years. In the west exists a great Kingdom belonging to the horned, grey skinned race of the Rell. To the north, behind walls of jagged steel and rock, are the Orc Territories where the savage Greenskins live. In the west, ever fortified and watched over by the Inquisition, is the Empire of the humans.

As the war continues there are many who seek to capitalise on its carnage, its pain, and its horror. One such man is the Summoner: a mysterious warrior whose name and past is well known to all in every corner of this violent world. But what plan has he concocted to make his mark on Malvia and what is in store for not only those who stand in his way but those he desperately seeks?

(The world of the Black and Gold is a large and vibrant one. If at any point you feel confused or lacking in knowledge feel free to dive into the Imperial Encyclopedia found at the back of the novel which can assist you with all you find in the story).

 

Happy 2