Jaclyn’s Review: Lessons From A Kindred Sister by Neeta Nahta

Lessons From A Kindred Sister
written by Neeta Nahta
published by CreateSpace, 2013

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? 
This book grabs at your heart strings from the start. Sarah’s fiancee has just dumped her and she is devastated. She is drinking bottles of wine, hiding under the covers, ignoring phone calls–kind of devastated. Her mother sends her a diary written by some mysterious woman who offers advice on how to recover from this kind of disappointment.

The advice that the mysterious woman offers is truly good advice. Unfortunately, as Sarah attempts to follow this advice, you quickly learn that she is intolerable and probably deserved to be dumped. With every layer that we peel back and learn more about Sarah, we find out that she is shallow, has poor taste in friends, is a rich, entitled brat . . . the list goes on. As if that weren’t enough, she then stumbles into an invitation to a billionaire’s party–and he suddenly falls in love with her. While this is all written in a realistic manner, the life that the author describes is very hard for most people to relate to.


Would I recommend it? All in all, I did enjoy reading it. I was genuinely sad that I started to hate Sarah, and she definitely became more likable by the end of the story. I would recommend reading the story for the advice from the Kindred Sister: it’s universal and a good reminder of how to live life.



About the book – from Goodreads: A delightfully decadent tale of dishy drama, feel-good inspiration, and saucy humor…

Intelligent, fun-loving Sarah Evans is in need of a glass of wine. After all, being unceremoniously dumped by your fiancé who leaves you with a ridiculously expensive apartment that makes you even more of a slave to a job you hate can really put a damper on things. (If you think that last sentence was a lot to take in, try living it…hmmm, better make that two glasses of wine.) As her sips turn to gulps, Sarah receives a journal from a mysterious Parisian woman known only as a ‘kindred sister’. What lies inside has the power to change her life forever. Before Sarah’s world can begin to sparkle like champagne, things take a decidedly vinegary twist when she learns of a dear friend’s horrible betrayal. Will the journal be enough to keep Sarah’s life from fully uncorking, or will her glass of cabernet be relegated to being forever half-empty?


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Jaclyn’s Review: Grace Not Perfection by Emily Ley

Grace, Not Perfection: Embracing Simplicity, Celebrating JoyGrace Not Perfection 
written by Emily Ley
published by Thomas Nelson, 2016

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

Did I enjoy this book: Oh my goodness, I NEEDED to read this book! This book was the wake-up call I needed–a reminder to live life purposefully. It is so easy to get caught up in the need to be busy, the need to do it all (sound familiar?). This really hit home with me. The author does a great job sharing stories from her own experience without sounding “preachy.” She doesn’t tell you how to live your life, but she gives you a gentle push to look at things from a different perspective. I related so much to this book. There were times I broke down in tears because I have actually said the same words as she has in moments of exasperation, specifically, “I can do this. I can MAKE this work. I just need to try harder.” Newsflash–that usually doesn’t work!

This book is broken down into easy to digest chapters. They contain stories about the author’s life, suggestions for how to change your own life, and a whole lot of positive thinking. I finished reading each chapter feeling more empowered than after the last chapter. Loved it!


Would I recommend it: Yes! Read this book–now! I plan to skim back through it and take some notes, then hand off my copy for others to read. Someone blessed me by sending me this book, and I want to bless others by passing along this wisdom. Please go, read this book, then let me know so we can talk about it!




About the book – from Goodreads: I will hold myself to a standard of grace, not perfection.

As a busy wife, new mother, business owner, and designer, Emily Ley came to a point when she suddenly realized she couldn’t do it all. She needed to simplify her life, organize her days, and prioritize the priorities. She decided to hold herself to a standard of grace rather than perfection. This mantra led to the creation of her bestselling Simplified Planner®, a favorite among busy women everywhere—from mamas to executives and everywhere in between.

Grace, Not Perfection takes this message from a daily planner to an inspirational book that encourages women to simplify and prioritize. Designed with Emily Ley’s signature aesthetic, this book gives women tangible ways to simplify their lives to give space to what matters most. With a focus on faith, Emily reminds readers that God abundantly pours out grace on us—and that surely we can extend grace to ourselves.

Have you been told you can have it all, only to end up exhausted and occasionally out of sorts with the people you love? Are you ready for a new way of seeing your time? Learn to live a little more simply. Hold yourself and those you love to a more life-giving standard in Grace Not Perfection,and allow that grace to seep into your days, your family, and your heart.

Ideas include:

List Making 101—tips to create effective to-do lists and get through them one step at a time
Simplify your life by simplifying the three major areas: your space, your time, and your mind
Strategies to center your day around an intentionally slower rhythm of life


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Jaclyn’s Review: How Meg West Was Won by Libby Mercer

How Meg West Was WonHow Meg West Was Won
written by Libby Mercer
published by Libby Mercer, 2016

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

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

Did I enjoy this book? 
I did like this. It was a cute, quick read. This isn’t some deep novel with hidden meanings and plot twists. This is exactly what it promises to be–light, fun, and a little predictable. Heading to the beach this summer? Grab this book for an afternoon distraction. The characters were likable and the plot was (somewhat) believable.


Would I recommend it? I would recommend this to anyone looking for some light, no stress reading. Would I talk to random strangers about how awesome this book is? Probably not. But if you are debating picking this up–I say go for it! You won’t regret it!




About the book – from Goodreads: Whoever heard of a white knight showing up in a pair of old, scuffed cowboy boots?

She may be smart as a whip, but Meg West’s co-op is in a heap of financial trouble. When sexy and rugged cattle rancher, Dutch Hargrave, makes her a job offer, the vegetarian California girl can’t afford to refuse. And quite frankly, she hasn’t got the strength to turn down a man with a slow, Texan drawl that makes her toes curl.

Enlisting the help of the feisty bombshell is the answer to Dutch’s prayers—and his fantasies. Meg has the professional know-how to help lead his ranch into the 21st Century.

Before long, Meg and Dutch are as busy as a stump-tailed bull in fly season, working around the clock trying to preserve Dutch’s heritage. But while the grueling work brings them closer together, the heat on the ranch starts to rise. Will Dutch find a way to win over Meg West while saving his family’s farm?


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Melissa’s Review: What We Leave Behind by Matthew Alan

What We Leave BehindWhat We Leave Behind
written by Matthew Alan
published by Createspace, 2014

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

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

Did I enjoy this book: 
No, but in my defense I likely should not have tried to read it while on vacation.


Here’s a synopsis: Jane undergoes scores of tragic, stereotypical events and becomes a strong, beautiful, selfless, wonderful, amazingly loving person with no flaws. Then, she dies. It’s depressingly predictable. Maybe if I’d have read this while PMSing after just having been dumped I might have enjoyed it more. Maybe.

Would I recommend it: No.


About the book – from Goodreads: 
What We Leave Behind – A story about struggle, a story of hope, and mostly, a story about love. A journey with a unique young girl who is so sure of what is out there waiting for her, that she never compromises her belief in finding it. Jane Rawley Solomon’s humor, character, and passion for others, serve as a reminder that we choose our own path to happiness, regardless of the events that impact our lives.


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Melissa’s Review: Mad by Chloe Esposito

Mad (Mad, Bad, and Dangerous to Know Trilogy #1)

written by Chloe Esposito
published by Expected Publication June 13th, 2017 by Dutton Books

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

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

Did I enjoy this book: 
It was an interesting way to spend a Sunday. If you don’t get scared off by Alvie’s Howard Stern-esque storytelling you’re in for an exciting read. It’s a bit far-fetched–you’re definitely going to have to wear your “willing suspension of disbelief” hat, but it’s fun. Alvie is, well, she’s Alvie: irreverent–evil, even–but endearingly so. And in a heap of trouble.


“Oh well, at least my inner goddess is dead; she was really starting to piss me off.”



Would I recommend it: Yeah. It’s a trip!



About the book – from Goodreads:

In this compulsively readable debut, set between London and Sicily over one blood-drenched week in the dead of summer, an identical twin reveals the crazy lies and twists she’ll go through to not only steal her sister’s perfect life, but to keep on living it.

Alvie Knightly is a trainwreck: aimless, haphazard, and pretty much constantly drunk. Alvie’s existence is made even more futile in contrast to that of her identical and perfect twin sister, Beth. Alvie lives on social media, eats kebabs for breakfast, and gets stopped at security when the sex toy in her carry-on starts buzzing. Beth is married to a hot, rich Italian, dotes on her beautiful baby boy, and has always been their mother’s favorite. The twins’ days of having anything in common besides their looks are long gone.
When Beth sends Alvie a first-class plane ticket to visit her in Italy, Alvie is reluctant to go. But when she gets fired from the job she hates and her flatmates kick her out on the streets, a luxury villa in glitzy Taormina suddenly sounds more appealing. Beth asks Alvie to swap places with her for just a few hours so she can go out unnoticed by her husband. Alvie jumps at the chance to take over her sister’s life–if only temporarily. But when the night ends with Beth dead at the bottom of the pool, Alvie realizes that this is her chance to change her life.
Alvie quickly discovers that living Beth’s life is harder than she thought. What was her sister hiding from her husband? And why did Beth invite her to Italy at all? As Alvie digs deeper, she uncovers Mafia connections, secret lovers, attractive hitmen, and one extremely corrupt priest, all of whom are starting to catch on to her charade. Now Alvie has to rely on all the skills that made her unemployable–a turned-to-11 sex drive, a love of guns, lying to her mother–if she wants to keep her million-dollar prize. She is uncensored, unhinged, and unforgettable.


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Melissa’s Review: Incarnadine by S.M. Guariento

written by S.M. Guariento
published by CreateSpace, 2014

find it here: (affiliate links) Amazon, Goodreads

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

Did I enjoy this book: 
Yes and no.

You know that one friend you have that calls movies “films” and books “tomes” in a non-ironic way? You let it slide because he’s mostly a cool dude, but deep down you sort of want to smack him. This book is like that. The story itself is awesome–disappeared people, Rome, alchemy–very cool. But the prose. Man, the prose is nearly inaccessible. It’s lovely, don’t get me wrong, but without a dictionary I suspect the average reader would give up before the story gets good.


Would I recommend it: Not without an embedded dictionary app.




About the book – from Goodreads: *WINNER OF THE 2016 QUAGGA PRIZE FOR FANTASY*

“The ridiculous, in particular, has the right to exist.”

The time: an alternative present still ruled by Imperial Rome. Over half the world’s people have vanished overnight, in a forgotten catastrophe known only as the Amnesis. The survivors share a common affliction: a pervasive sense of déjà vu, making the faces of strangers seem oddly familiar…

Stranger still is the Paradigma: a formula devised by elusive magus Zerkalo Incarnadine, and delivered to Caesar in his underground fortress. Before long, the true power of the Paradigma begins to reveal itself. It can turn the written word into a force for creation – or destruction.

When alchemist, intriguer and full-time rogue Andreas Stahlherz learns of the Paradigma, he is catapulted into an adventure that will soon see him fighting for his life. Darkly obsessed with the sister he has lost, and resolved to see her live again, Stahlherz must track down Incarnadine to find the answers he needs. His search will take him beyond the limits of the known cosmos – and further still, towards his own forgotten heart of darkness…

A wildly original and gripping debut, INCARNADINE is a novel of murder, obsession – and transformation.


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In the Kitchen: Blue Apron: Fresh Fettuccine with Beet, Goat Cheese, & Poppy Seeds

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: Fresh Fettuccine with Beet, Goat Cheese, & Poppy Seeds 

Pink Noodles! I was so excited for this meal! Husband announced he wouldn’t be trying it no matter what I told him, so I made this to treat myself to a fun lunch. Just look at those yummy beets sparkling in the afternoon sun. Plus fresh pasta . . . I can’t remember the last time I had fresh pasta!

But here’s the thing. Pink pasta is not yummy. In fact, it’s downright . . . bland. I was so disappointed. I mean, it’s PRETTY, but . . . the doughiness (is that a word?) of the pasta overwhelmed the beets, and the only flavor I really tasted was the few crumbles of goat cheese. It was a bummer.

If I make it again: Not going to happen.

Did my kids eat it: I didn’t even eat it. I scraped the goat cheese off the top, tossed the rest, and made myself a sandwich.

Pretty and Tasty are not the same. 🙁

Melissa kitchen




Melissa’s Review: The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

The Hobbit The Hobbit
written by J.R.R. Tolkien
published by Harper Collins, 2012

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

Did I enjoy this book: 
I’ve read it before and enjoyed it. This time my husband and I decided to introduce it to our 5-year-old via audiobook on a road trip. I have two comments about what I think everyone agrees is an excellent book:

1 – I always forget how FUNNY this book is. I can’t tell you how many times I giggled.

2 – It’s super cool to watch your son fall in love with the same books you love.


Would I recommend it: Of course!



About the book – from Goodreads: 
This is the story of how a Baggins had an adventure, and found himself doing and saying things altogether unexpected…

Bilbo Baggins is a hobbit who enjoys a comfortable, unambitious life, rarely travelling further then the pantry of his hobbit-hole in Bag-End. But his contentment is disturbed when the wizard, Gandalf, and a company of thirteen dwarves arrive on his doorstep one day, to whisk him away on a journey ‘there and back again’. They have a plot to raid the treasure hoard of Smaug the Magnificent, a large and very dangerous dragon…


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Melissa’s Review: Kept In The Dark by J. Ronald M. York

Kept in the DarkKept In The Dark
written by J. Ronald M. York
published by St. Broadway Press, LLC, 2016

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

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

Did I enjoy this book: 
This book is complicated, and not just because of the subject matter. I’ll try to be succinct.

Mr. York is a brave man to shout his family’s dirty secrets so loudly, and I applaud his courage. It must be heartbreaking and frustrating to have such important questions go unanswered, and I hope writing this book gives him a bit of the peace I’m sure he’s seeking.


It’s often difficult to draw the line between what you are passionate about and what makes a good story, and while I mean no disrespect to Mr. York, his family, or the people he writes about, as an avid reader I have a few concerns. This story is riveting; I know why Mr. York wanted to tell it. His delivery, though, leaves me a bit disappointed. It must have been difficult for him to sift through his parents’ letters and choose the ones he thought most pertinent, but I think York’s narrative is a much better (and more interesting) perspective for this story. I would love to see this book reworked: York’s narrative interspersed with powerful quotes from the letters rather than the bulk of the letters themselves. Barring that (and hopefully this is a problem I experienced because I was given an Advanced Reading Copy), the letters ought to at least switch fonts with each writer. It’s a more distinct difference, and it would help a lot with those of us who tend to skip over headers and chapter numbers while reading. I would also have appreciated the character description at the beginning of the book so I could easily refer back to it.

I don’t know what to say about the subject matter. I want to say it would make a great movie, but I’m afraid that’s insensitive. I want to (and don’t want to) know the details of what happened so I can draw my own conclusions. The fifties were not kind to the LGBTQ. Is this an excuse? No. Could it be an explanation? Yes. On the other hand, molesting children is never, ever, EVER okay. I don’t know, and will never know, what actually happened, and so I feel some sense of the frustration Mr. York must deal with daily. This is not a happy story, but not every good story is.


Would I recommend it: I honestly don’t know.




About the book – from Goodreads: The jail was located on the top 9 floors of the Dade County Courthouse in downtown Miami. The young father could look down from the 21st floor, to the street below. His wife and child would come each night, stand on the sidewalk and wave to him. They would flash the car lights to signal they were there and he, in return, would strike a match from his window to let them know he was watching. Although separated by just a few miles, they were only able to see each other each Sunday, for 2 hours, through glass and wire. Writing letters became their way of communicating and 100 letters were exchanged during an 8-week period.

This was a secret my parents, family and a few close friends took to their graves. No one ever told me and I was too young to remember. And yet, a box containing the letters, yellowed newspaper clippings, faded photographs and cards of encouragement from friends was left for me after everyone was gone.

Although the crime took place more than 60 years ago, it is still as current as today’s headlines. After much thought and reflection, I am ready to share this story. Controversial and uncomfortable, it is still deeply rooted in unwavering love. A horrific mistake was made leaving a family to heal, rebuild their lives and hopefully, forgive.


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It’s Raining Books: The Absence of Evelyn by Jackie Townsend (spotlight, giveaway)


The Absence of EvelynThe Absence of Evelyn
written by Jackie Townsend
published by Sparkpress, 2017

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

About the book – from Goodreads: Newly divorced Rhonda, haunted by her sister Evelyn’s ghost, travels to an old palazzo in Rome to confront Marco, the man who stole her sister’s heart–only to find out he’s vanished in the wake of Evelyn’s death. Meanwhile, Rhonda’s nineteen-year-old daughter Olivia, adopted by Rhonda at birth, travels to the mysterious and lush waters of northern Vietnam, where she’s been summoned by the missing Marco–a man she only knows from her parents’ whispers, a man she has never met or seen. Soon, truths are exposed and lives unraveled, and the real journey begins. Four lives in all, spanning three continents, are now bound together in an unfathomable way–and they tell a powerful story about love in all its incarnations, filial and amorous, healing and destructive.

AboJackie Townsendut the author: Jackie received her MBA from U.C. Berkeley and spent eight years on the fast track with a financial services consulting company before burning out. After coming to terms with what is important in life (being married to an Italian didn’t hurt!), she began writing and hasn’t stopped since.

A native of Southern California, she spends a lot of her time in places not her own. As the youngest of four children, she carries with her a strong sense of family to these places, often foreign, and writes about belonging (or not belonging), loss, and love. She lives in New York with her husband.

Find Ms. Townsend here: webblogFacebookTwitterGoodreads

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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