Friday, June 10, 2016

Late SIgn-Up: Contemporary Romance 2016 Reading Challenge

For the past few years, I have fallen into a world of fantasy, dystopian, and historical fiction and while I love, love, love those genres, I tend to push contemporary reads to the back of my list. But then, I pick up a contemporary read and fall madly in love and decide I need to read ALL THE CONTEMPORARY. And that is was happened as soon as I started Breathe, Annie, Breathe by Miranda Kenneally (review to come!). I got wrapped up in the world of Hundred Oaks and contemporary YA that I now need to read all of the books that I have been putting off for other genres.

And, then I came across another reading challenge. The Contemporary Romance 2016 Reading Challenge is hosted by Love at First Page and Gone With the Words. You can head over to one of their blogs to check out all the nitty-gritty details. All you really need to know is that I'm shooting for 1st Base: 1-5 books, but I'm really hoping I can make it to 2nd! ;)

Now, I'm not doing great keeping up with link-ups for my other challenges, but I'm really hoping I get get on it with this one.

Wish me luck!

Until next time,

Friday, May 20, 2016

The Crown: Review

The Crown (The Selection, #5)Title: The Crown
Author: Kiera Cass
Series: The Selection #5 (Final!)
Published: May 3, 2016
Read: May 14, 2016
Source: Purchased copy
Rating: 3 stars

When Eadlyn became the first princess of IllĂ©a to hold her own Selection, she didn’t think she would fall in love with any of her thirty-five suitors. She spent the first few weeks of the competition counting down the days until she could send them all home. But as events at the palace force Eadlyn even further into the spotlight, she realizes that she might not be content remaining alone.

Eadlyn still isn’t sure she’ll find the fairytale ending her parents did twenty years ago. But sometimes the heart has a way of surprising you…and soon Eadlyn must make a choice that feels more impossible—and more important—than she ever imagined.

I wanted to love this. I wanted to love it so much. I read The Selection right when it came out and fell in love with America and Maxon. When it was announced that Kiera Cass would be continuing the series with The Heir, I was equally excited. I know there was some debate about Eadlyn, but I loved her! I was so ready to get the conclusion of her story in The Crown.

But, I was sadly disappointed by this finale. It moved so fast, and I felt like things kept coming up that didn't really have any basis from earlier in the book or the series. I thought they were great plot points, but they just didn't feel grounded in the world.

Then the boys. I wanted so much more. With so many leaving early in The Heir, I thought we would get to know the ones left a lot more, but I still felt like there just wasn't enough by the end.

After The Heir, we know that Eadlyn needs to make a decision about a husband quickly, and we all assume it will happen but the lead up to the end of the book just flew and, again, I felt like things happened that I wanted a ton more on.

Overall, I enjoyed the actual outcome of the book and I love the series still, which is why it gets 3 stars.

I really hope Kiera Cass will come out with some more novellas for this world. I'd love to see Ahren and Camille! Or what about the boys? We know what happened to some of the most popular girls that didn't make the cut from Maxon's selection and I'd love to get some of the same this time around.

Even though it wasn't my favorite from the series, I'd still recommend The Crown and The Selection series for you all to read!

Until next time,

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Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Top 10 Books I Bought on a Whim

TTT is hosted over at The Broke and the Bookish.

I really love the topic for this week’s TTT. While I love reading books that have really strong recommendations and that I have heard dozens of rave reviews on, I also have this tendency to pick up a random book and start reading. I browse book sales and libraries and find books that I’ve never heard about and just want to buy or borrow. I have a lot of books on my shelves because of this and have found a lot of favorites just picking up a book on a whim.

One - Twilight: Stephanie Meyer - I picked this up at the library when I was 16 (before I really got into the YA universe) because I loved the cover. It hadn’t been out for more than a year and while I’ve grown away from Twilight, it will always be one of those series that I remember and the first book I think about when I hear “on a whim”.

Two - Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief: Rick Riordan - I came across this one at B&N and was intrigued enough to find it at the library without looking into it anymore. It is now one of my favorite series and I continue to love everything Rick Riordan puts out.

Three - The Selection: Kiera Cass - When I first saw the cover of The Selection, I knew I needed to read it. I hadn’t heard anything about it and bought it when it first came out. I just finished The Crown this weekend and am sad to see the series end.

Four - Uglies: Scott Westerfeld - Another book I picked up before really following YA. This was my first dystopian series and will always be one of my favorites. I'm about to start the audiobook and am so excited to get back into the Uglies world.

Five - Throne of Glass: Sarah J. Maas - Surprisingly, I hadn’t heard anything about this book before I saw it on a New Releases shelf at B&N. I loved the synopsis and had to have it. I’m a little behind in the series now, but am so glad I picked this one up.

Six - Heist Society: Ally Carter - I saw I’d Tell You I Love You, But Then I’d Have to Kill You at the library for years but never picked it up. It sounded good, but I just kept going for other books. Then I saw Heist Society and knew I needed to read it. I grabbed it from the library then and there and I’m so glad I did! And I finally read the Gallagher Girls series after that.

Seven - The Pledge: Kimberly Derting - I actually entered the goodreads giveaway for The Pledge on a whim - it sounded like a good book but I never won anything so I didn’t look at the reviews, not expecting to get it. Go figure, I actually won!

Eight - Sarah’s Key: Tatiana de Rosnay - If you want a book to give you all the feels, this one will do just that. I’m fascinated by books about the Holocaust and this one instantly caught my eye, so I bought it right away. So amazing!

Nine - Delirium: Lauren Oliver - I really didn’t pay attention to new releases when the big YA dystopian movement started. Another book I came across at the library that I knew nothing about but had to read. I really liked the first two, but was a bit disappointed by the third.

Ten - Scintilate: Tracy Clark - This was an ebook I bought on a whim because it was $0.99. There was a reason. I couldn’t even finish this book. For me, the writing was bad and I couldn’t get beyond it. Sadly, this whim purchase didn’t work out.

Until next time,

Whole30: Day 15

Hey folks. It is just after lunch on day 15, which means I am officially halfway through my first Whole30!

I’m feeling really proud of myself for sticking with it for the last 15 days and am looking forward to everything that is still to come in the next 15.

Honestly, changing my diet so drastically hasn’t been as hard as I thought. I’ve stocked our fridge with plenty of meat and veggies, made my own mayo and dressings, and have been so happy to know that I am putting only good, whole foods into my body.

Now, that’s not to say it has been a piece of cake either. I mean, I can’t even have cake! (#sorrynotsorry)

In all seriousness though, there have been moments that have been harder than others.

Getting the hang of planning out meals for the week was a challenge at first. I needed to think about 3 meals a day, every day, for 2 people. The boyfriend can’t just have a bowl of cereal before work and I can’t toast some bread and grab a banana on my way out the door. He can’t buy one of the pre-made salads from the market he works at and I can’t run to Panera if I forget my lunch.

Last week I felt overwhelmed by the amount of prep work and cooking I was doing. I ended up cooking every night of the week because we were eating our leftovers for lunch the next day instead of having a separate lunch meal planned out. I was prepping food every night of the week. By Wednesday, I just couldn’t handle it (plus throw in a broken dishwasher) and was ready to just hide until the weekend.

But it got better. This weekend, I spent a little more time planning, making sure we had easy things for lunch like hard boiled eggs, tuna and cooked chicken. That way, dinner could be had as leftovers the following day, instead of lunch. I prepped food on Sunday so that I won’t have nearly as much to do during the week, except pack up our lunches the night before - I like to give myself a little flexibility with what we want so I don’t plan out every single lunch on Sunday.

I know it’s only Tuesday, but I’m feeling so much better knowing I have leftover meatballs and spaghetti sauce waiting for me at home and just need to spiralize and sautee some zoodles when I’m ready to eat.

I even have a meal planner printed out and stuck to the fridge for easy viewing. It seemed a little silly at first, but has been so helpful!

Have any of you whole30-ers experienced  something similar? What have you done to help with meal planning and not being overwhelmed by meal prep? I’d love to hear from you!

Until next time,

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Sweet Potato Apple Bake

I love baked apples. LOVE them. I'm not a pie person at all, but I will devour a piece of apple pie just for the gooey delicious-ness that is baked apples. There will probably be crust left but never apples. I don't even need vanilla ice cream (though I won't turn it down).

Now, since I am currently 9 days into a Whole30, dousing apples in sugar and baking them (even without an nice topping of vanilla ice cream) isn't exactly going to fly. But that doesn't mean I can't still bake something delicious and whole30 with apples.

That brings me to a super tasty, anytime of day dish:

Sweet Potato Apple Bake

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Before baking.
I'm still new to the sweet potato train, but I've been eating them more lately, with the BF loving them and being a nice partner with eggs for breakfast.

So last night, I'm lounging on the couch, reading The Crown by Kiera Cass that had just come in the mail that day, and I realize I don't have anything prepared for breakfast in the morning. I don't have a ton of time to make anything before work so I knew I needed something quick to throw together, since it was already almost 9 and I just didn't want to spend the rest of my evening in the kitchen - especially after having to rewash all the dishes that had been in the dishwasher the night before because my two month old dishwasher decided to stop working. But I'm not bitter.

(It is being looked at today - thank god for factory warranties.)

Anyway, I had seen apples and sweet potatoes together before and thought it sounded like a great combo so I marched into the kitchen without much planning other than sweet potatoes, apples, and cinnamon.

And this is what happened.
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Ingredients (minus pink Himalayan salt - added later)
Sweet Potato Apple Bake
  • 2 sweet potatoes
  • 1 apple (I used Pink Lady but any kind would work - I'm partial to Honeycrisp as well)
  • 2 tbsp ghee; melted (coconut oil, olive oil, or regular butter [not whole30] would all work too)
  • 1 tbsp ghee (not melted)
  • 2 tbsp cinnamon (more or less to your taste. we love cinnamon in our house so we tend to do more than most)
  • 1/4 tsp-ish pink Himalayan salt (or whatever kind of salt you like - I just bought Trader Joe's and wanted to try it out)

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Hot, out of the oven.
  1. Preheat oven to 400F.
  2. Wash and peel sweet potatoes. Cut into bit-sized cubes and place in an oven-safe 8x8 dish (or 9x9 - whatever you have that will hold everything).
  3. Wash apple (I left the skin on because I like them but feel free to peel the apple too if you want) and cut into cubes a little smaller than the potatoes (I did this because I wanted the potatoes to be dominant and the apples as an added taste and texture - not overpowering the dish). Add to the potatoes.
  4. Pour your melted ghee over the potatoes and apples and mix them all together. Hands or spoons work for this.
  5. Sprinkle the potato/apple mix generously with cinnamon and a little salt. Mix again.
  6. Leave dish uncovered and put in the oven. Cook for 40-45 minutes, stirring halfway through cooking.

    Optional: If you want to crisp the potatoes and apples a little more, put them under the broiler for a few minutes, making sure to check them so they don't burn. I did this for a little, but was impatient and ready to be done in the kitchen so they didn't crisp as much as I would have liked.
  7. Let sit for 5 minutes before serving or let cool completely and reheat for breakfast the next morning :) Or lunch. Whatever.
What's your favorite sweet potato dish to make? What about apples? I'd love to hear from you!

Until next time,

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

March/April Wrap-Up

Hey folks! Time for another two-month reading wrap-up. I'm hoping to move to monthly starting with May, but we'll see how that goes :)

For now, here's what I read in March and April (plus one from February that I apparently missed :|)

Passenger (Passenger, #1)Title: Passenger
Author: Alexandra Bracken
Series: Passenger #1
Published: January 5, 2016
Read: February 14, 2016
Rating: 5 stars
Challenge: PopSugar
Quick Review: Oh man! Did I love this book! I'm a sucker for time travel after devouring the Outlander series and this did not disappoint. Etta is an amazing, strong female character and her growing relationship with Nicholas throughout the book was everything I could have hoped. It does jump around from time and place a lot, but it make sense for the plot. I only wish we could have spent a little more time in some places. I cannot wait for Wayfarer to come out, currently scheduled for January 3, 2017. Too long!

Cruel Crown (Red Queen, #0.1-#0.2)Title: Cruel Crown
Author: Victoria Aveyard
Series: Red Queen #0.1 & 0.2
Published: January 5, 2016
Read: March 8, 2016
Rating: 4 stars
Challenge: PopSugar
Quick Review: I loved Red Queen so much and this novella collection was a great inside look into the world a little more. I love getting some background on Farley and how she teamed up with Shade. And Corianne's story - oh man was the good. I would love to get more from that time of the books, before her death and everything goes to hell.

Dorothy Must Die (Dorothy Must Die, #1)Title: Dorothy Must Die
Author: Danielle Paige
Series: Dorothy Must Die #1
Published: April 1, 2014
Read: March 18, 2016
Rating: 3 stars
Challenge: TBR Pile
Quick Review: I was pleasantly surprised by Dorothy Must Die. I love The Wizard of Oz and of course was worried that a retelling with Dorothy as the villain might be a turn off, but it was an enjoyable read. It was a little strange seeing these beloved characters in a different light though.

Red Queen (Red Queen, #1)

Title: Red Queen
Author: Victoria Aveyard
Series: Red Queen #1
Published: February 10, 2015
Rating: 5 stars
Challenge: None
Quick Review: I read this last year when it came out and to prepare for Glass Sword, I listened to the audio book on my way to work. I'm so glad I did! I had forgotten a few big things that happened because it had been so long, and I loved it even more than the first time!

Wolf by Wolf (Wolf by Wolf, #1)Title: Wolf By Wolf
Author: Ryan Graudin
Series: Wolf By Wolf #1
Published: October 20, 2015
Read: April 19, 2016
Rating: 5 stars
Challenge: TBR Pile
Quick Review: I received this in my first (and so far only) Uppercasse. It is a great book subscription box, that I would love to get all the time, but just isn't in the cards right now. Anyway, Wolf by Wolf was a fabulous read! I love reading about WWII and the Holocaust, tragic as it was, and this alternate history with fantasy elements was the perfect book for me. Yael is a fascinating character and even early on in the book, surprises are thrown at her and the reader. Plus that ending!! I can't wait to see what comes next in Blood For Blood, current release set for November 1, 2016. Plus, there's a novel, Iron to Iron, that I'm hoping to get my hands on soon.

Glass Sword (Red Queen, #2)Title: Glass Sword
Author: Victoria Aveyard
Series: Red Queen #2
Published: Februar 9, 2016
Read: April
Rating: 5 stars
Challenge: PopSugar
Quick Review: Oh. My God. Why does Victoria Aveyard keep doing this to me? To us?? Another ending that just hit me in the gut. I don't want to say anything more for those that haven't read it, but seriously, why haven't you? This is an amazing series!!

What have you been reading recently? I'd love to hear from you!

Until next time,

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Top 10 Website I Love That Aren’t About Books

TTT is hosted over at The Broke and the Bookish. This week is all about non-book websites. This was a little harder for me, because A LOT of my websites are bookish. I've only just started following some other ones that I really enjoy. Here's what I came up with:

Amazon - I mean, really, who doesn’t love amazon? Free 2-day shipping with prime? Yes please. Prime music and video? I’ll take it! I won’t deny that I buy a lot of my books through amazon, but I buy so much more than that! Kitchen gadgets (hello spiralizer!), pet water fountain filters, leggings, dryer parts (yes, I fixed my own dryer - like a boss). You name it, amazon has it.

Whole30 - If you’ve been following any of my recent posts, you’ll know that I’m currently a week into my first whole30. Things are going great and I wouldn’t be where I’m at in the program without the official website. It has everything to help you through the program from start to finish, first or tenth whole30.

Real Food With Dana - I just started following this one after prepping for my whole30. Dana not only has amazing paleo and whole30 recipes, but she is also always dropping pop culture references. Especially Mean Girls and HP. And she LOVES guacamole. A girl after my own <3

Pinterest - What can I say, I’m a pinterest junkie. Recipes, clothes, DIY, quotes, movies… the list never ends. I have to watch myself or I can get lost in a sea of pins.

gimme some oven - Speaking of pinterest, I first found Gimme Some Oven through pinterest looking for recipes and after pinning a few, I started following. Great recipes!

Target - I love Target. That big red bullseye pulls me and and begs me to spend my money. Shopping online at Target, honestly, keeps me in check a little more. I don’t find myself randomly pulling things off shelves and into my cart, but just order what I need and move on. Plus, if I really need something ASAP, I can usually pick it up in store, like the curtains from the room divider I just put up in the basement. Buy 3, get 1 free!

Wayfair & Overstock - I’m grouping these two together because they share a lot of the same products. One site tends to be a good amount cheaper than the other  (at least $20 or more difference) but not always the same one. So, I’m constantly checking prices at both and buying from whichever is cheaper that day. I’m on these sites way more than I buy from them, which is really lucky. But I have bought some great things, like my blue Rachel Ray plates (wayfair) and a gorgeous new mirror (overstock).

Crazy Together - I came across this blog on pinterest as well when I was looking into Stitchfix. Maria’s Stitchfix posts are great and I love seeing what she was sent. I just found out she has done a whole30 and I love her posts on that as well. Plus, I learned that we live in the same area and even shop at the same local Amish market. Maybe one day I’ll run into her!

Life in Pearls and Sports Bras - Another blog I started following because of Stitchfix and the one that convinced me to try Trunk Club. A’s reviews are always fun and I love her Fab Finds posts!

Spiritual Gangster - If I could buy my entire wardrobe from Spiritual Gangster, I would. Their yoga inspired clothes are amazing and I could easily go broke buying everything that I like. Plus, their name is awesome.

I'd love to hear what your favorite non-bookish websites are! Until next time,