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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Chrissy’s Review: Hello, Universe by Erin Entrada Kelly

Hello, Universe
written by Erin Entrada Kelly
published by Greenwillow Books, 2017

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

Did I enjoy this book? 
I did enjoy it. I read it in advance of giving it to my son, and I thought it was a great middle grade read.

Virgil, Valencia, Kaori, and Chet are the main characters of Hello, Universe. They live in the same area, but they don’t all attend the same school. But they run into each other often, which isn’t a good thing if Chet is involved. The story is told in alternating points of view. Each character has their own voice. The story kept me reading until the very end. I laughed, I was worried, and I hoped for these kids.

Hello, Universe is a good read that teaches about friendship, bullying, and being yourself.


Would I recommend it? I would recommend it for you and your middle grade reader.



About the book – from Goodreads: 
In one day, four lives weave together in unexpected ways. Virgil Salinas is shy and kindhearted and feels out of place in his loud and boisterous family. Valencia Somerset, who is deaf, is smart, brave, and secretly lonely, and loves everything about nature. Kaori Tanaka is a self-proclaimed psychic, whose little sister Gen is always following her around. And Chet Bullens wishes the weird kids would just act normal so that he can concentrate on basketball. They aren’t friends — at least not until Chet pulls a prank that traps Virgil and his pet guinea pig at the bottom of a well. This disaster leads Kaori, Gen, and Valencia on an epic quest to find the missing Virgil. Through luck, smarts, bravery, and a little help from the universe, a rescue is performed, a bully is put in his place, and friendship blooms.



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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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Chrissy’s Review: Swim Season by Marianne Sciucco

Swim Season
written by Marianne Sciucco
published by Bunky Press, 2016

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?
 I really did. I read it every free chance I had, and even though it came in at over 700 Nook pages, it flew.

Even though the story flew, I did skim some parts. I was mostly interested in the swimming aspects of the story. And the swimming aspects of the story–the training, the practices, the meets–were done wonderfully. The school and relationships weren’t quite as important to me . . . or to the story in my opinion. Those parts were a part of Aerin and her story, but the swimming was the focus. I just wanted to see Aerin meet her swim goals, break that record, and do her best. I was a swimmer in high school, the 500 was my race my senior year. So, I definitely felt a connection with Aerin.


Would I recommend it? If you are/were a swimmer in high school, you will enjoy this book. It did bring back memories. If you like YA books that aren’t focused on romance, then this would be a good one for you. If you are curious about competitive swimming, read Swim Season.



About the book – from Goodreads: 
Sometimes winning is everything.

Champion swimmer Aerin Keane is ready to give up her dreams of college swimming and a shot at the Olympics. As she starts senior year in her third high school, Aerin’s determined to leave her family troubles behind and be like all the other girls at Two Rivers. She’s got a new image and a new attitude. She doesn’t want to win anymore. She’s swimming for fun, no longer the freak who wins every race, every title, only to find herself alone.

But when her desire to be just one of the girls collides with her desire to be the best Two Rivers has ever seen, will Aerin sacrifice her new friendships to break a longstanding school record that comes with a $50,000 scholarship?



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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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Chrissy’s Review: Kim vs. the Mean Girl by Meredith Schorr

Kim vs. the Mean Girl
written by Meredith Schorr
published by Meredith Schorr, 2017

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: 
I really did! It was a great YA prequel to Blogger Girl and Novelista Girl. I read it every free chance I had and finished it in about a day.

I liked learning about Kim and Hannah when they were in high school. It puts the relationship between Kim and Hannah in the other books into perspective. In fact, I think I liked Kim vs. the Mean Girl more because I read the adult Kim and Hannah stories first.


Would I recommend it: I would, especially if you have read Blogger Girl and Novelista Girl.



About the book – from Goodreads: 
High school sophomore, Kim Long, is no stranger to the “mean girl” antics of Queen Bee Hannah Marshak. When Hannah steals Kim’s diary and in front of the entire class reads personal (not to mention humiliating) entries Kim wrote about her crush, Jonathan, Kim vows to enact revenge.

Kim and her loyal best friend, Bridget, come up with the perfect plan to put the evil Hannah in her place once and for all. But will their scheming have the desired effect of getting even, or will Hannah emerge more celebrated by her peers than ever?

Kim vs. The Mean Girl can be read as a young adult standalone novel, but it is also a prequel to the popular Blogger Girl adult romantic comedy series and is set in 2000. Told in the duo perspectives of teenage Kim and Hannah, fans of the series will get an inside look into Kim’s early passion for reading, writing (and Jonathan) and find out why Hannah is so darn mean.

“In Blogger Girl we meet the irrepressible Kim Long and her nemesis Hannah Marshak. Kim Vs. the Mean Girl takes us back to high school with Kim and Hannah 101 in this delightful prequel. I gobbled it up in one byte…er, I mean bite (this is the era before a cell phone was in every backpack). When Kim declares war on Hannah, it takes some unexpected, and at times amusing, turns, and though the enemies don’t emerge as friends, or even frenemies, they each come away the better for it. A fun read for all ages.” Eileen Goudge, New York Times best-selling author.



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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