Saturday, December 31, 2016

Book In The Time To Read: Expanding Your Literary Horizons

Do you have an appetite to read more, but struggle to find the time?
Or perhaps you already find some time to read, but want to be able to indulge your love of all things fiction a little deeper?
Then this is the post for you!
Making time to read is something that a staggering amount of people struggle with. With the advent of e-readers, it has become easier than ever, but it's still often quoted as the hobby people wish they had more time for. When you're exhausted after a long day, it's a lot easier to stare blankly at the TV than to pick up a book and engage with it - even if you want to. Sometimes, you just don't have enough mental energy left.
It's all the more difficult when you find yourself stuck in a rut. There are only so many "must have" books that everyone is reading and talking about. If you have exhausted a supply of your favorite authors, then you can find yourself wondering where to turn.
So to refresh, find time for and indulge your love of reading, here are a few ideas to make 2017 a great year for you and the novels you can explore.
1. Find The Time
Of course, it's easier said than done!
If the only time you have to read is before bed, then you're going to struggle. You may find yourself opening a book (or your Kindle case!) and then realizing your eyes are only closing.
Reading can be classified as a viable hobby the way popular hobbies like cross-stitching or playing a sport are. You would never relegate these into the time slot of right before bed, so if you really want to expand what you're reading, you have to expand the hours available.
The best way to do this is to treat it as an incentive. If the housework is piling up or your boss has sent you home with more work than you wanted, then let the novel be the light at the end of your tunnel. Promise yourself if you get through something you don't want to do you will get half an hour (or even just 10 minutes) to read. It will make the chore pass faster and then give you some guaranteed time with eyes on the page.

2. Reading Something Different Once A Month
The old saying that you should never judge a book by its cover is a valuable one - but how many of us obey it? The truth is that a cover can be attractive, catch our eye and interest us, even if the contents subsequently don't.
Try and pledge that, once a month, you will try something that you wouldn't normally. Go and seek out the dark, small front covers that you would usually skim past. Try a different genre or an author you have never heard of.
There's also a wealth of gold to be found in books that are translated from different languages. They have usually been big hits in their home country, but aren't marketed as aggressively in the English language. Seek these out as, without looking for them, you're unlikely to stumble across them - but there are some real gems to be found. In particular, German and Swedish translations are generally excellent and contain wonderful stories you otherwise would have missed.

3. Switch The Way You Read Among the reading community, the debate over e-readers such as the Kindle and standard paper books is a raging one. For some, there is no beating the feel of turning a page and feeling the story beneath your fingers. For others, the convenience of an entire bookshelf at your fingertips and being able to read one-handed is a wondrous invention.
You probably have your own preference, too. However, there is a third way of thinking: some books suit each format.
There's no reason it should be this way, but you will see the opinion constantly if you frequent book-lover forums. The consensus is that large-scale epic fantasy books (such as Lord of the Rings or A Song of Ice and Fire) suit paperback more than they do e-readers. One-book stories tend to fare better read off a screen.
If you've been struggling to get into a book, then consider switching the format to see if it helps. Check out offers for free kindle books too - if you don’t enjoy them, you haven’t wasted a penny.

4. Use TV As An "In"
One of the worst parts of wanting to read more and struggling is when you can't get into the world of a book. It's miserable; knowing there are stories there but you can't quite gather your mind to focus on them. There's no doubt that this becomes easier with practice, but if it happens to you often, then it's time to address it.
You can warm up your ability to absorb yourself in a book by using TV shows as a way into a story. For example, Game of Thrones is based on George RR Martin's fantasy epic series A Song of Ice and Fire. However, it is significantly different, and there's still plenty of extra details to be gained from the book version. You will find it easier to fall into the plot and characters when it is familiar to you - and it gives your brain the chance to remember how to follow a storyline on the page.
A few others to consider include the "The Night Manager" by John le Carre - adapted and starring Tom Hiddleston - and there's plenty of other options.

5. Join A Book Club
It's easier than ever to join a book club, which can be a wonderful way of immersing yourself in books. You can get and share tips, talk about plot points you found confusing and pick up recommendations from people who really know what you like. It's simple, effective and can be done from the comfort of your sofa using online options. So if you've never done it before, it might be just the thing you need to inspire you back into reading.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Hidden Kitchen Nasties You Need To Know About

There's a sad truth in this world but it's one we have to acknowledge. Sometimes, people and companies will put their profit margin above all else - even if it endangers people.
The examples in popular culture are all too easy to see. A few making decisions that have massive impacts for the many. It's not a new thing, either - there will always be people with sociopathic tendencies who care little for what happens to the masses, so long as they are okay.
It's only natural that we want our homes to be safe. We want the walls to withstand winds and the materials we place within them to be fireproof. Safety is the bottom line for the consumer, but not always for the company producing the items we purchase.
An area in the home that is ripe for abuse is the kitchen. With so little time on our hands, we're all looking for solutions to make time easier. We need ways to make cooking the evening meal more convenient, turning it into an art - even when the kids are arguing and we're so exhausted we can barely stand. So we throw ourselves behind the wisdom of the manufacturers and hope they won't do us wrong.
Unfortunately, this leads to corners being cut in a continual race to the bottom. Your kitchen could be harboring items that you would never dream of selecting intentionally, but there they are anyway, hidden away and unknown - until they cause harm.
Cleaning Products - Do You Know What's In Yours?
Considering we use cleaning products on surfaces that we then use to prepare food, it's shocking that we're not more aware of what they contain.
In the quest to rid our homes of bacteria, we have allowed stronger and stronger chemicals to invade our personal space. What's the harm so long as it kills the bacteria? Well, the bacteria may be a lot less harmful than some of the most potent ingredients found in modern cleaning solutions.
Non-Stick Pots and Pans - Convenience, But At What Cost?
Non-stick cooking implements have made lives easier the world over. No more scraping food off the bottom of the pan, losing half the meal in the process! What could be better?
Nothing - except for the moment there's a problem with the seal of the non-stick coating.
Non-stick coatings tend to be made from plastic. As soon as they degrade and begin to peel (which can happen at a microscopic level; you won't necessarily know) then you could be in trouble. If the manufacturer didn't use quality components for the coating, you've got a problem. The best ceramic cookware reviews can elaborate on this problem and ensure you make the more positive choice in future.
Fragrance - Smells Nice, Bad For You
All products you use in your kitchen should be fragrance-free, from drawer liners to your dish soap. Fragrance is a catch-all term for any number of problematic chemical components, so opt for unfragranced or eco options to keep the worst of it at bay.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Review: Say Cheese and Die! by R.L. Stine

Say Cheese and Die! (Goosebumps, #4)
Cover Source:
Title: Say Cheese and Die!
Author: R.L. Stine
Series: Goosebumps #4
Version Reviewed: Finished, Paperback
I received this book as a gift.

GoodReads Synopsis:
Every Picture Tells a Story.
Greg thinks there is something wrong with the old camera he and his friends found. The photographs keep turning out wrong. Very wrong. Like the snapshot Greg took of his father's new car that shows it totalled. And then Greg's father is in a nasty wreck.
But Greg's friends don't believe him. Shari even makes Greg bring the camera to her birthday party and take her picture. Only Shari's not in the photograph when it develops. Is Shari about to be taken out of the picture permanently?
Who is going to take the next fall for...
the evil camera?
Reader beware-you're in for a scare!
I was so insanely excited to see this in the box of used Goosebumps books that my husband found and gifted me for Valentine's Day earlier this year. This is one of the many Goosebumps books that I had yet to read and I always wondered what the story was going to be like.

I love cameras and photography so it was awesome to read a spooky little book about a creepy camera that may very well be evil and I really enjoy the cover of the book. Overall, Say Cheese and Die! was a great addition to the Goosebumps series. It was loaded with twists and turns at every corner and got a bit more serious with the fact that one of the character actually went missing for a short time.

I really enjoyed Say Cheese and Die! and I can't wait to continue the series. I'm very curious about what's going to happened later down the road in the series when I come to Say Cheese and Die - Again!.

Rating: 3 Stars

Hazel Darling by Annie Rose Welch

Hazel Darling, The Ladies of Pistol Fanny’s ~ Book One
~ By Annie Rose Welch


Genre: Romance

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A pinch of a sordid past.

A dash of vices.

A heaping handful of sisters.

A bit of faith.

And a lot of baking.

Stir it all together somewhere new, somewhere like Carmel, California.

Hazel Little Darling is hoping this is a recipe for a new start. Hazel is banking on a life full of flour, sugar, butter, and fairy tales to make all her dreams come true. A life far removed from the one she had been living—a life of secrets with her infamous gang of sisters. She swears off excess food, drinks, pills, and, boys, all in hopes of living the “good life.”

California brings the mysterious Tobias Jameson, who seems to materialize in the still of the night. Their fated rendezvous under the stars is a short one, leaving Hazel to draw her own conclusions about what exactly transpired between two passing souls. After their meeting, Hazel’s sure that she’ll never again see the handsome man who seemed to understand her without truly knowing her. Tobias has other plans, though, and he fights for a place in Hazel’s life— something Hazel has never experienced before and that makes her trust him even less. So when Hazel’s history is brought to light, she’s not sure whether her past will steal her happily ever after, or become the foundation of her life’s greatest recipe.

Her sweetest remedy, or nothing but a bitter goodbye.

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Tobias studied Hazel’s eyes for a moment, but not even the fire of his gaze could penetrate Hazel’s stone wall. Years of masking her feelings had made her unreadable.

As the evening sun revolved into the depths of the sky, an outpouring of stars twinkled in the twilight’s den, over an ocean that had a pulse livelier than the two hearts that beat before it, Tobias pulled Hazel closer, putting his warm lips to hers, as if seeking answers by a deeper means, a means where words have no meaning.

A kiss cannot tell a lie.


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Born and raised in New Orleans, Annie has a habit of shortening her words and telling long stories. She speaks with a southern flair and cooks with it too. At the tender age of twenty- one, she hitched up her wagons (took her first plane ride) and moved out west to the big shake (California).

Her passion for writing began one sleepless night when she imagined a gorgeous woman and a man with maniacal hair floating above her like lightening bugs falling from the sky. Curious about them, their story, and why they were floating around in her head, she sat down and penned (typed) her first novel, Marigny Street. A dream come true for her, she hasn't stopped writing since. She loves a damn good love story, always has, no matter what the genre. She is particularly moved by imperfect love that in its own unique way is perfect, the notion of love at first sight, soul mates, and things that are generally out of the norm.

When she's not writing she enjoys dabbling in photography and finding new, inspirational music to add to her collection. Deciding on a whim to hitch up those same wagons, Annie currently resides in Texas (where everything is bigger) with her husband, daughter, and their two peculiar dogs, Boudreaux and Tabasco (who, call her crazy, bark with an accent).

For lagniappe (a little extra), a virtual cup of café au lait and beignets, please visit Annie's website:

She can also be found on Facebook & Twitter.

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Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Review: The Hands of Time by Michelle Madow

The Hands of Time (Elementals, #5)
Title: The Hands of Time
Author: Michelle Madow
Series: Elementals #5
Version Reviewed: ARC, eBook
I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review.

GoodReads Synopsis:
Time is running out. War will be waged. Sacrifices will be made.
Months ago, Nicole Cassidy’s life was turned upside-down when she discovered that she was a witch descended from the Greek gods. She and the four other witches gifted with elemental powers fought all over the world—and in another dimension—to battle the supporters of the Titans and fight for the people they love.
Now the Elementals must stop Typhon—the most dangerous monster in the world—from rising, and seal the portal to the dangerous prison world of Kerberos. But they won’t be able to do that without facing their hardest decision yet… a sacrifice so great that it may be one they’re not willing to make.
Get ready for the stunning, action-packed conclusion to the bestselling Elementals series, with twists and turns that you’ll never see coming!
Man oh man. I cannot believe we're finally at the end of this series! It's been such an amazing ride and it seems like I just started The Prophecy of Shadows not long ago. I have enjoyed the Elementals series very much and though the story rounded out nicely, I'm sad to see it go.

So for starters, let me say that this cover is my absolute favorite of the entire series. I love the greenery and the natural elements to it. The only thing I was a bit confused about is which character the girl on the cover is supposed to be. So far, each character has been represented on the cover of each book, with corresponding colors representing the element that they have control over. Kate is in control of the earth element and she hasn't been on a cover yet, so it makes sense that The Hands of Time cover would represent her. The cover model looks strikingly similar to the cover model for The Prophecy of Shadows (in my opinion) so it had me a little confused. Maybe I'm just reading too much into a cover. That's very much a possibility as well. :P Still my favorite cover though.

The Hands of Time was definitely a fast paced book that covered a lot of ground. I'm not sure on the sizes of the other books, but I wouldn't be surprised if this one was much larger. There was so much that happened in this story, from trips to the Underworld, battling monsters, losing some beloved characters, and much much more. This book definitely took the reader on an adventurous ride. Filled to the brim with greek mythology, the book was one twist and turn after another and I couldn't get enough. Michelle Madow has done a great job with this series and has created such an amazing world where the reader never quite knows what's going to happen next.

The Hands of Time was a great conclusion to a great series and I definitely recommend it to fans of Percy Jackson!

Rating: 4 Stars

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Phone Numbers Every Parent Needs In Their Cell Phone

It’s a scenario no parent wants to experience, but if something happens regarding your child’s health, then you need to be prepared. Having some emergency numbers already stored on your phone can make things much quicker, and in a crisis means you don’t have to search online and waste valuable minutes to get the information you need. Here are a few of the numbers that every parent should have stored on their phone, just in case.


The number of an emergency dentist for your child is crucial. An accident or injury knocking out a permanent tooth, for example, can be saved if it’s seen by a dentist within thirty minutes to an hour. When children can be so boisterous playing sports, running around in the playground and messing around with their friends it can be easily done. The last thing you want is for your child's second set of teeth to come through just for them to lose one! Alternatively, your child could roll out of bed in the night and knock a tooth, or experience serious dental pain which needs looking at immediately. So to save hassle and panic if a situation were to arise, have the number ready to go.

Out of Hours Doctor
If your child starts feeling unwell and it’s outside regular GP hours, you will need to call the emergency doctor. This is for times when you don’t think it’s serious enough to warrant a trip to casualty, but it’s bad enough not to be able to wait until the morning. An out of hours doctor can give you important medical advice and let you know whether the illness is ok to treat at home or if it’s more of an emergency. You always want to be on the safe side, but sometimes dragging an ill child down to accident and emergency is the worst thing for their health, if they don’t need immediate medical care. An out of hours doctor can help you to make that call.

Local Pharmacy
A pharmacy is another source of medical advice if it’s outside your regular GPs office hours. If you’re unsure if an illness is ok to treat at home or needs a visit to the doctor, a pharmacist can advise you. When a child feels unwell it can be a tough call, as many illnesses are so mild all they need is a couple of days of rest. But on the other hand, some quite serious illnesses start off mild and can quickly turn serious so getting medical advice as soon as possible is best. Having an expert on hand who can advise you on what is best is extremely helpful.

Reliable Taxi Firm
If you don’t drive, then this one is particularly important, but it’s worth having in your phone just in case. If your car is being repaired or you’re unable to get to it for any reason and an emergency arises, you’ll need a reliable taxi company. This is useful if you need to quickly get to the hospital, but it’s not severe enough to call an ambulance. For example, an accident causing a broken bone but which isn’t life threatening. Knowing you have a reliable company which will arrive quickly and get you to where you need to be can give you peace of mind.

Poison Control
A child’s body is very vulnerable to toxins. Even substances that aren’t dangerous to adults can be extremely so for children. So even if you keep all of your toxic household chemicals and medicines out of reach, there are still ways a child can get hold of things that are poisonous to them. Children may play in soil or standing water which could contain pesticides or industrial waste. They may pick or eat plants, berries or mushrooms. Plus they are less aware of how to protect themselves from risks, for example not putting their hands in their mouth. If you suspect your child could have come into poisonous substances, call poison control immediately. If they appear unwell or are displaying any symptoms, rush them to casualty right away.

It will take less than an hour to research these different numbers and store them into your phone. But if an emergency arises, it will shave off vital time allowing you to quickly access what you need. In a crisis, this could be the difference between life and death in some cases.

What numbers do you think every parent should have on their cell phone?

Saturday, December 10, 2016

2017 Reading Challenges

0/4 Challenges Completed!

btbchallengesliderBeat The Backlist Challenge
Host: NovelKnight
Goal: 10+ Books
Hogwarts House: Hufflepuff
Reading List & Progress: 0/10+

  1. Trust The Focus by Megan Erickson
  2. Menagerie by Rachel Vincent
  3. Bender by Gene Grant
  4. Last Seen Leaving by Caleb Roehrig
  5. How To Be Brave by E. Katherine Kottaras
  6. Afterward by Jennifer Mathieu
  7. The Art of Not Breathing by Sarah Alexander
  8. Forbidden by Lauren Smith
  9. You Were Here by Cory McCarthy

wintercoyer-16-17Coyer Blackout Challenge
Host: Coyer Blackout Challenge
Goal: 12 Weeks - eBooks only (less than $1.00, acquired before challenge began)
Reading List & Progress: 0/10+
  1. Spindle by Shonna Slayton (NetGalley - $0.00)
  2. Trust The Focus by Megan Erickson (NetGalley - $0.00)
  3. Menagerie by Rachel Vincent (NetGalley - $0.00)
  4. Bender by Gene Grant (NetGalley - $0.00)
  5. Last Seen Leaving by Caleb Roehrig (NetGalley - $0.00)
  6. How To Be Brave - E. Katherine Kottaras (NetGalley - $0.00)
  7. Afterward by Jennifer Mathieu (NetGalley - $0.00)
  8. The Art of Not Breathing by Sarah Alexander (NetGalley - $0.00)
  9. Forbidden by Lauren Smith (NetGalley - $0.00)
  10. You Were Here by Cory McCarthy (NetGalley -$0.00)


Contemporary Romance Reading Challenge
Host: Andi's ABCs
Goal: 0/11-15
Reading List & Progress: 1/11
  1. Trust The Focus by Megan Erickson
  2. Forbidden by Lauren Smith
  3. #Blur by Cambria Hebert

2017 Reading Challenge

Darcus has read 0 books toward her goal of 50 books.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Review: Yours To Bare by Jessica Hawkins


Yours To Bare by Jessica Hawkins
Released: December 8, 2016


  Finn No matter how cruel it’s been in the past, I’ve never been able to flip fate the bird. I’m a romantic at heart. So when fate drops a leather-bound journal at my feet, I know I should walk away.   I don't. I pick her up, bend her spine, spread her pages. From the first word, I’m a goner. The owner didn’t give me access to her most intimate desires, but I devour them anyway. Her private darkness, her candid, explicit poetry—it all goes down like warm milk. And from that point forward, I drink, eat, and sleep her.   Halston I went to his apartment and let him take my picture. Just once, to see how it would feel. I’m not his to look at, to inspire, to touch, but when he watches me through his lens, it gives me a high I don’t want to come down from…   My journal is the one place I can be myself—as long as I can tie it up and put it away when I’m finished. But when Finn undoes the bow, he pulls strings that could unravel each of us.  

Purchase Links

  Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000038_00071]  


Finn. Oh, beautiful Finn. I fell in love with him in Slip of The Tongue, the first book I ever read by Jessica Hawkins. After reading that book, I never could manage to get him out of my head. At the end of that book, the author got a lot of feedback, requesting a book for Finn, to continue his story, to give him a happier ending. When the book The First Taste was announced, we all jumped with the joy at the idea of a new story, featuring some of the characters we had gotten to meet in Slip of The Tongue.  Although that books was absolutely amazing, I was a little bummed because there was still no end in sight for Finn. And oh, how I wanted Finn to have the happily ever after that he deserved.

I was so insanely excited when the announcement when out for Yours To Bare. I was finally getting my Finn! I eagerly awaited the release of the book and, my goodness, it did not disappoint. It was strange reading Finn's story and thinking of Sadie in the past tense, reading how hurt he was by her, after everything that happened. But I think Halston (isn't that such a pretty name?) was a great addition to his life. She wasn't easy. She was a little broken herself and they balanced each other out in a way. They were an anchor for each other in the moment that they needed one the most.

Finn and Halston's story is such an amazingly beautiful one and I couldn't get enough of it. It was nice to see these characters find one another in their creativity. His photography with her writing. It was a beautiful meld of two worlds and they complimented each other well. They also displayed a great example of how two people can come together in the social media age and make something out of nothing. It was nice to see a couple of characters not be stuck in "traditional" jobs.  They did something with Instagram, something that a lot of people make a living with this day and age and it I loved that that real world aspect was included in their story.

Overall, I am insanely happy and I feel like this was a beautiful continuation of Finn's story. Halston was a little rough around the edges at times but I also think that that was part of what made her real and made her relateable.

Yours To Bare was absolutely beautiful story about two heartbreakingly beautiful characters and I couldn't get enough. 

Rating: 4 Stars
For more on Yours To Bare click here

Connect with Jessica Hawkins

Amazon Author Page ➜
Mailing List ➜

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Self Releasing Your Art: Essential Steps You Need To Take

Photo comes from Pixabay
There are many creative people out there who will never have their work seen by the public. Sometimes that's because they don't want to show anyone, but often it's because they're waiting for the right person's approval. They need someone in a suit to say that their art is worthy of being produced for people to see. However, if you truly love what you do, you don't have to wait for someone else's approval. Self-publishing or releasing your work makes it tough to get attention, but it can work out. If you're thinking of doing it, this is what you need to do.

Find Out What It Takes
Before you decide to do anything, you should find out how you can self-release your work. Whether you want to print your art, release your music or publish a book, there is a process for you to follow. You might have a few options for how to approach it. Taking a book as an example, some websites will help you crowdfund and publish your book. Other people might choose to print their book from Steuben Press here or using a similar service. Then you would be in charge of marketing and finding buyers. But before you get to the production and sales stage, you need to put the book together. That requires proofreaders and editors to help you.

Get the Funds Together
Once you understand what you need to do, you can think about the money. Self-releasing your work will have expenses, no matter what you're aiming for. If you want to release your music, you may need to hire a recording studio. If you want to create prints of your artwork, you will need your own printer or to pay for a professional service. Don't forget you will need funds for marketing too. If you don't have the cash, many people use crowdfunding. This works best if you already have a fanbase you can motivate using incentives.

Hire Help
You can try to do everything on your own, but you're probably going to need help. For example, it's not a great idea to publish a book without using a proofreader or editor. You need someone to check it for errors and make suggestions. You might not be going through professional channels to publish your work, but it should still look professional. The same goes for anything else. If you're releasing music, consider hiring a producer when you record in a studio. You can only benefit from professional advice, even if it will make your project more expensive.

Make a Sales and Marketing Plan
Once you've made what you want to make, you can't expect people to just stumble upon it. Having a plan to market and sell your work is essential. You need to think about the different channels you can use and methods that will help you. You might have places where you can sell your product physically. For example, as a musician, you can sell CDs at gigs or as an artist you could go to art fairs. The internet should also be useful, offering places you can have downloads or sell physical products, as well as marketing channels.

Self-releasing your art is hard, so you need to prepare for the realities of it. If you have the right skills, you can have some success with it.