Thursday, April 27, 2017

Mini Reviews (18)

I have a back log of NetGalley reads so I thought I would do a Mini Review post.

Stolen Beauty by Laurie Lico Albanese

I am fascinated by the story of the Adele Bloch-Bauer painting by Gustav Klimt so I was very excited to read this book.  I've seen the movie and a couple documentaries, read some books and even have some Klimt reproductions in my office.   I enjoyed the discussion of fin de siecle Vienna and all the creative movements (artistic and otherwise) that were blossoming during Klimt's life.  It was really interesting to read about how society was changing and art was changing with it.  As a whole, I enjoyed the story but I think the characters were hard to relate to.  At times, I really liked Adele's character and other times, she seemed very whiny and I had a hard time feeling sympathetic to her plight.  The story also jumped back and forth between different time periods and that transition wasn't very smooth.  It was an interesting story as a whole, there were just some things that bugged me a bit.  3 stars.

Daughter of a Thousand Years by Amalia Carosella

I'm not familiar with this period of history and because of that I was drawn to this story.  It was nice to read something different.  This was another book that bounced between past and present and I think it was pretty well done.  Freydis was a very cool and complex character; I liked that she stuck by her beliefs even when it brought her grief.  I also liked the emphasis on religious tolerance in both the past and present stories; it seemed to be very timely.  Overall, a good book with an important message. 3 stars.

This was a really unique historical novel.  The supernatural aspect to the story was compelling; Brette's ability to see spirits and her journey were my favorite part of the story.  I enjoyed watching Brette learn more about her abilities, her family and herself.  I liked the historical side of the story but it felt really rushed and more of an afterthought.  It just didn't mesh well with the rest of the story.  I did really enjoy the ending though.  3 stars.

I received all of these books from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Mailbox Monday (74)

I really didn't want to have another Mailbox Monday post for a long while but I caved and bought a couple of books this week.  YIKES.  I think I only made it two or three weeks without buying books. 

Work continues to be busy and and the week was crazy with house hunting.  We looked at several houses and even put an offer on one but nothing came of it.  So back to the drawing board! I also started watching '13 Reasons Why' on NetFlix and then the hubs got really into it and binge watched the whole season.  I didn't see all of it but I'm pretty sure I've seen enough.  I didn't dislike it but it was pretty dark and makes me terrified of sending my daughter to school.  I think I'll just stick with getting caught up on 'This is Us'.  Because of all that, it was a really slow reading week. I'd like to finish two more books before the month is over so I better get on it!

Finished Reading:

A Bridge Across the Ocean by Susan Meissner

Currently Reading:

The Shadow Land by Elizabeth Kostova
Under the Approaching Dark by Anna Belfrage

Purchased (for kindle):

What books did you get this week?


Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Book Blast: "Lilli de Jong" by Janet Benton

Lilli de Jong
by Janet Benton

Publication Date: May 16, 2017
Nan A. Talese
Hardcover & eBook; 352 Pages

Genre: Fiction/Historical/Literary


A young woman finds the most powerful love of her life when she gives birth at an institution for unwed mothers in 1883 Philadelphia. She is told she must give up her daughter to avoid lifelong poverty and shame. But she chooses to keep her.

Pregnant, left behind by her lover, and banished from her Quaker home and teaching position, Lilli de Jong enters a home for wronged women to deliver her child. She is stunned at how much her infant needs her and at how quickly their bond overtakes her heart. Mothers in her position face disabling prejudice, which is why most give up their newborns. But Lilli can’t accept such an outcome. Instead, she braves moral condemnation and financial ruin in a quest to keep herself and her baby alive.

Confiding their story to her diary as it unfolds, Lilli takes readers from an impoverished charity to a wealthy family's home to the streets of a burgeoning American city. Drawing on rich history, Lilli de Jong is both an intimate portrait of loves lost and found and a testament to the work of mothers. "So little is permissible for a woman," writes Lilli, “yet on her back every human climbs to adulthood.”

Available for Pre-Order at
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | iTunes | IndieBound | Kobo | Powell's

Praise for Lilli de Jong

"Lilli de Jong, discharged from her teaching job and banished from Quaker meetings because of her father's selfish choice, finds comfort in the affections of her father's apprentice, Johan. The night before he leaves to embark on a new life, she succumbs to his embrace with his promise that he will send for her. Soon thereafter, a pregnant Lilli finds herself shunned and alone, her only option a Philadelphia charity for wronged women. Knowing that she must relinquish her newborn, she is unprepared for the love that she feels for her daughter. Lilli quickly decides to fight to keep her, but in 1883 that means a life of hardship and deprivation. Telling Lilli's story in diary form, debut author Benton has written a captivating, page-turning, and well-researched novel about the power of a mother's love and the stark reality of the choices she must make. VERDICT A great choice for book clubs and readers of Geraldine Brooks." - Library Journal, Starred Review

“A powerful, authentic voice for a generation of women whose struggles were erased from history—a heart-smashing debut that completely satisfies.” —Jamie Ford, New York Times bestselling author of Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

“Beautifully written, emotionally resonant, and psychologically astute, Lilli de Jong is the story of an unwed mother in late 19th-century Philadelphia who, facing peril at every turn, will do almost anything to keep her daughter alive. Benton turns a laser eye to her subject, exposing the sanctimony, hypocrisies, and pervasive sexism that kept women confined and unequal in the Victorian era—and that still bedevil many women today. A gripping read.” —Christina Baker Kline, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Orphan Train and A Piece of the World

“A stunning ode to motherhood. Lilli de Jong reminds us that there is no formula to being a good mother. Love is the essential ingredient, and only it gives everlasting life to our legacies. A debut of robust heart that will stay with me for a very long time.” —Sarah McCoy, author of The Mapmaker’s Children

“Janet Benton’s remarkable novel Lilli de Jong is historical fiction that transcends the genre and recalls a past world so thoroughly that it breathes upon the page. From the first sentence, Lilli’s sensitive, observant, determined voice casts an irresistible spell. Benton combines rich, carefully researched detail with an imaginative boldness that is a joy to behold—though reader, be warned: Lilli’s story may break your heart.” —Valerie Martin, author of The Ghost of the Mary Celeste

“[A] gorgeously written debut . . . Lilli’s fight to craft her own life and nurture her bond with her baby is both devastatingly relevant and achingly beautiful. A stunning read about the fierceness of love triumphing over a rigid society.” —Caroline Leavitt, author of Is This Tomorrow

“The trials Lilli undertakes to keep her baby are heart-rending, and it's a testament to Benton's skill as a writer that the reader cannot help but bear witness. In a style reminiscent of Geraldine Brooks, she seamlessly weaves accurate historical detail as well as disturbing societal norms into the protagonist's struggles . . . An absorbing debut from a writer to watch.” —Kirkus Reviews

“A heartrending debut . . . Benton’s exacting research fuels Lilli’s passionate, authentic voice that is ‘as strong as a hand on a drum . . . that pounds its urgent messages across a distance’ . . . Lilli’s inspiring power and touching determination are timeless.” —Publishers Weekly

“A harrowing look at the strictures of nineteenth-century American society. . . . [Lilli] is a full-fledged heroine, persevering despite seemingly insurmountable odds. . . her voice is distinctive, her fierceness driven by a mother’s love.” —Booklist

“I loved this novel. Lilli de Jong is deeply moving and richly imagined, both tragic and joyous. Janet Benton has an exceptional ability to bring history to life . . . It's not only a compelling, beautifully crafted historical novel, however: it's also important . . . Lilli's life-and-death struggle is shockingly common to women even today.” —Sandra Gulland, author of the internationally bestselling Josephine B. Trilogy

“Writing with a historical eye akin to Geraldine Brooks and incisive prose matching that of Anthony Doerr, debut novelist Janet Benton magically weaves a gripping narrative of hardship, redemption, and hope while illuminating a portrait of little-known history. The result is an unforgettable and important reflection on the maternal and, ultimately, the human bond. Stunning!” —Pam Jenoff, author of The Kommandant’s Girl

“A confident debut . . . Sentence by carefully-crafted sentence, Benton ensnares the reader.” —The Millions

About the Author

Janet Benton’s work has appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Glimmer Train, and many other publications. She has co-written and edited historical documentaries for television. She holds a B.A. in religious studies from Oberlin College and an M.F.A. in creative writing from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and for decades she has taught writing and helped individuals and organizations craft their stories. She lives in Philadelphia with her husband and daughter. Lilli de Jong is her first novel.

Visit Janet Benton's website for more information and updates. You can also connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Goodreads.

Book Blast Schedule

Monday, April 17

Tuesday, April 18
So Many Books, So Little Time

Wednesday, April 19
Luxury Reading

Thursday, April 20
100 Pages a Day
The Never-Ending Book

Friday, April 21
A Book Geek
Caryn, The Book Whisperer

Saturday, April 22
History From a Woman's Perspective

Monday, April 24
Creating Herstory

Tuesday, April 25
The Book Junkie Reads

Wednesday, April 26
SJ2B House of Books

Thursday, April 27
A Fold in the Spine
One Book Shy of a Full Shelf

Friday, April 28
Just One More Chapter

Monday, May 1
Back Porchervations

Tuesday, May 2
Books & Benches
Oh, for the Hook of a Book

Wednesday, May 3
The Lit Bitch
Unabridged Chick

Thursday, May 4
Beth's Book Nook Blog

Friday, May 5
Brooke Blogs
Trisha Jenn Reads

Sunday, May 7
A Dream within a Dream

Monday, May 8
Book Nerd

Tuesday, May 9
Broken Teepee
The True Book Addict

Wednesday, May 10
What Is That Book About

Thursday, May 11
CelticLady's Reviews

Friday, May 12
A Literary Vacation

Monday, May 15
Passages to the Past

Monday, April 17, 2017

My Whole30 Reintroduction Fail

So I have to be honest, we completely bombed the reintroduction period.  I really don't want to post about my epic fail but I figure it's best to be honest.  We started reintroducing legumes and it went okay though they gave me a stomachache and I thought the peanut butter was bland.  Then we went on to non-gluten grains and that's where things went wrong.  We went to Chipotle for dinner that night and were able to add in rice and tortilla chips. Bad move.  I think tortilla chips are a gateway drug for me.  I ate so many chips and then I couldn't stop craving ice we went to Dairy Queen.  And then it was all down hill from there. 

I'm bummed about this up because now I don't have a good handle on what upsets my stomach.  My husband has been having a really hard time since we've stopped doing Whole30 a hundred percent of the time and it would be nice to know what his problem foods are (we think gluten but we can't be sure).  I also tend to get a headache after eating a non-compliant food and I wish I knew what specifically was causing it. 

We have been eating Whole30 most of the time but I've really struggled with the 'food freedom' aspect.  Once I start eating something off plan, it gets ugly really quick.  This past week was rough; I went out to lunch with friends twice and then we went out to dinner twice because we were in a hurry after looking at houses.  And then Easter hit.  BLECH.  Needless to say, the hubs and I feel like crap right now.  I'm back to eating on plan as much as possible and I'm considering doing another round of Whole30 beginning in the middle of May.  I think it would be a good way to get back on track for the summer.

I do really enjoy eating Whole30; it makes me feel better and it has helped me understand a bit better how the food I eat affects my body and mindset.  I'm sure you're probably bored of these posts by now but I do have one more planned for later this week and then you don't have to hear about Whole30 anymore.

My Whole30 Experience:

Whole 30 Week 1

Whole 30 Week 2

Whole 30 Week 3

Whole 30 Week 4

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Mailbox Monday (73)

 Hello!  I think this may be one of my last Mailbox Monday posts for a while as I transition to just reading books I own and catching up on reviews.  I got some great books this week so I just had to share.

This week was a whirlwind!  I work at a university and it was the first week of enrollment so we were incredibly busy.  I'm also planning some big family celebrations in the next few months so it feels like there is always something that needs to be done.  I only finished one book this week (Forever A Hero by Linda Lael Miller) and barely made progress on anything else.  I'm hoping that next week will be a tiny bit less busy but we'll see!  

Goodreads Giveaway:

 I hardly ever enter giveaways on goodreads anymore because I haven't won in years. I was so excited to win this book because it sounds so good.

For Review (from HFBVT):
I've read all of Ms. Belfrage's books and they are AMAZING.  I can't wait to read this one!

For Review (From NetGalley):
This is the third book in the Daughters of La Lune series.  I really loved the last book so I'm eager to see where the story will go.

What books were in your mailbox this week?

Thursday, April 6, 2017

January - March Reading Wrap Up & Some Plans

2017 is already a quarter of the way over!  That's nuts!

I did a terrible job of keeping up with my monthly wrap up posts this year so I decided to combine the first three months into a wrap up of the whole quarter.  I'm doing great with reading so far this year and when March was over, I was perfectly on track to meet my reading goal for the year.  I'm shooting for 100 books again this year and I finished March with 25 so I'm very pleased. 

Stats for January through March:

-25 books read
   - 6 non-fiction
   - 6 historical fiction
   - 2 review books
   -16 library books
   -5 books I own
   -17 ebooks

While I'm staying on track with my main reading goal, I'm really slacking in other areas.  I started a reading journal (which I've been neglecting) and for this year I set out to read 25 non-fiction books and 30 books I own.  I'm doing okay with making the non-fiction book goal but I really need to work on reading books I own.

I've been purchasing books indiscriminately all year.  Some have been books I've purchased with Christmas and birthday gift cards but for the most part, I've just been buying every book I see.  I've been terrible with kindle deals; I used to really think about it before I purchased something and would even check the library but lately, I've been buying anything that sounds good.  And then (as you can see above), I went to the library book sale and bought way more books than I needed to.  YIKES.

So, my goal for this quarter is to focus solely on reading books I own and catching up on review books.  I have one library book on hold and I have one pre-order book coming (A Court of Wings and Ruin, YEAH!) but otherwise, I will focus on books that I already have in my possession.  I'm excited about a lot of the books I bought and this will help me focus on them since I tend to get distracted by library books and new purchases.

I'm also going to try to post on the blog more. I took a small break and now I kind of miss it. I have lots of review books to read so there will be some reviews to post and I'd like to start posting about non-bookish things too.  I really enjoyed blogging about my Whole30 experience and still need to post about my failed re-intro phase (fun times!) so I'm going to try some new things around here.

I hope everyone is having a wonderful April so far!  

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Whole30 - Crushed It!

That's a wrap folks! I survived week 4!  It was spring break so I was home most of the time and it was a challenge not to want to eat my way through the week.  We also started house hunting so that created challenges with late dinners and such.  I was glad that I had done some meal prep or we would have been in a real bind. 

This past Monday, the hubs and I finished our first Whole30.  I'm so incredibly glad I did it.  It was difficult at times but so worth it.  I ended up losing a total of 11.2 pounds and I feel great.  My clothes fit better, I feel more awake and I'm not dealing with constant bloat which is awesome.

Now that it's over, I'm a little apprehensive.  I started the 10 day reintroduction plan just so I know how things like dairy and gluten affect me but overall, I plan to stick with eating Whole30 most of the time.  (I'll post more about the reintro next week when I'm done).  I liked that I didn't constantly feel hungry and that I was eating real food instead of all processed food.  Even Julia started eating better along with us which is an added bonus. This eating plan really works for me and my diet is way better than it probably ever has been.

Things I loved: 

- My instant pot - This made my life so much easier.  I could through some potatos and sweet potatos in it and 'bake' them in less than half the time it takes in the oven.  I could also poach frozen chicken breasts in 10 minutes!  It was nice to have that option when I needed to throw something together quickly; some poached chicken and salsa on a salad is a fast and yummy dinner.

- Hazelnut Nutpods Creamer - Now I know in one of my previous posts I said I was pretty meh about this.  However, at that point, I had only tried one flavor.  The Hazelnut flavor is actually really good and even the Original one is good (French Vanilla not so much).

-Le Croix water - I don't think I would have survived without this stuff.  It really helped me cut some sweet cravings and it was nice to have an option other than plain water.

-Pinterest - There is so much information about Whole30 and so many recipes on Pinterest.  It was such a great resource to have.

I'm not ready to go out and eat all the cookies right now but I am kind of looking forward to my first sweet treat.  I read Melissa Hartwig's Food Freedom Forever and I found it super helpful as I move forward.  I definitely plan to follow her plan for life after Whole30.

I posted all of the recipes I tried in my weekly posts but below are my favorites.  The two recipes I made over the weekend were absolutely delicious and definitely make my favorite list.

Instant Pot Beef Stew

Baked Buffalo Wings 

Mini Egg Frittatas


Roasted sausage, peppers and potatos 

Paleo/Whole30 chili 

Easy Paleo Pot Roast

 I'll be back next weekend with updates on the reintro process!

Check out how each week went:

Week 1
Week 2
Week 3

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Mailbox Monday (72)

Hey y'all! Today is the last day of spring break for me and Julia so I'm having a lazy, relaxing day.  It was a much busier week than I expected so spring break flew by.  I only had to work one day this past week but I worked from home a lot and we started house hunting which was a wild ride.  I'm kind of glad to go back to work and get back into our routine.  I did manage to get caught up on a lot of reading so overall, not a bad week.  

I picked up some books from the library and a few kindle deals so I'm linking up with Mailbox Monday again today.

From the Library (physical books):

From the Library (ebook):

I love this series and I think this one is my favorite book so far!

Purchased (for kindle):

Have you read any of these? What books did you get this week? 

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Quick Review: "We Were the Lucky Ones"

From Goodreads:  It is the spring of 1939 and three generations of the Kurc family are doing their best to live normal lives, even as the shadow of war grows closer. The talk around the family Seder table is of new babies and budding romance, not of the increasing hardships threatening Jews in their hometown of Radom, Poland. But soon the horrors overtaking Europe will become inescapable and the Kurcs will be flung to the far corners of the world, each desperately trying to navigate his or her own path to safety.

As one sibling is forced into exile, another attempts to flee the continent, while others struggle to escape certain death, either by working grueling hours on empty stomachs in the factories of the ghetto or by hiding as gentiles in plain sight. Driven by an unwavering will to survive and by the fear that they may never see one another again, the Kurcs must rely on hope, ingenuity, and inner strength to persevere. 

My Thoughts:   This was quite the story!  I almost don't know where to start.  We Were the Lucky Ones follows every member of the large Kurc family throughout the course of World War II.  There story is an extraordinary one and I was shocked to see how it all turned out for them considering the circumstances they had to overcome.  Each chapter was told from a different characters' point of view and since each one was living somewhere different and experiencing their own unique struggles, it made for a very exciting read.  Sometimes jumping around between characters can get complicated but I think the author did a good job of creating a smooth transition between each chapter.  At times, it felt like the story dragged on a bit but I think it was necessary because there was so much happening.

The Kurc family's Holocaust experience is a very unique and unusual one and what I enjoyed most about the book is that it was based on true events.  The story is about the author's grandfather and his family and she wrote an extensive author's note at the end of the book explaining her writing process and the extensive research she did.  I've seen a lot of hype surrounding this book and I definitely think that the story lives up to it.  4 stars. 

I received a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Mailbox Monday (71)

Today is the first day of Spring Break for me...yay!  My daughter's daycare is closed all week so I'm only working on Tuesday.  I have to work from home a little bit but for the most part, I get a break.  I'm looking forward to sleeping and getting caught up on my reading.  Goodreads keeps telling me that I'm behind on my reading goal so I'm hoping this week will help.

I won an Amazon gift card in a raffle so I've been stocking up on ebooks this week.  Because I totally need more books!

Purchased (for Kindle):

From the Library (ebook):

What books did you pick up this week?

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Whole30 - In the home stretch!

Just finished week 3 of the Whole30!  I can't believe I only half one week left.  I'm really looking forward to being done but I'm also super nervous about it.

The Good: I know you aren't supposed to weigh yourself but I have been doing it anyway.  I've lost 8 pounds!  My clothes fit so much better and I have so much less bloating.  Yesterday I wore an outfit that had been snug for a while and it was nice to be comfortable in it and not feel like a stuffed sausage! 

Also, I found a Lara bar that doesn't taste like dirt.  Score!  (Coconut Cream Pie - winner winner,chicken dinner!)

The Bad: There was a ton of temptation at work this week. My office had a pie day celebration on March 14 and there was a going away potluck for a colleague.  There was so much yummy food that I had to ignore.  It wasn't as hard to say no to it but it still sucked to have to eat my healthy apple instead of big piece of pie.

The Ugly: I'm very nervous about the reintroduction period after my 30 days is up.  I'm worried that I'm just going to go nuts and eat a bunch of Easter candy until I'm sick.  I've been reading Food Freedom Forever which is written by one of the Whole30 founders and it's helping my mindset some but I still don't know how I'm going to handle things when it's over.

Recipes I tried this week:

 Slow Cooker Chicken Chili Verde

Whole30 Breakfast Casserole

Paleo/Whole30 Chili

Easy Paleo Pot Roast

Monday, March 13, 2017

Mailbox Monday (70)

This is the last week before our spring break.  It will be a busy week but it will make it easier to get through it knowing that spring break is almost here!

This past week was a slow reading week for me.  I've been reading the same book for a long time and finally finished it.  I'm hoping now I can start getting caught up on my reading again.  Goodreads says I'm two books behind schedule so I need to get on it.

I picked up a few more books this week and now I"m kind of overwhelmed.  I need to stay away from NetGalley for a while.

Purchased (for nook):

I love this book so much! I read it years ago and have been wanting to do a reread for a long time.  I couldn't resist the $1.99 price tag!

For Review (from NetGalley):

What books did you pick up this week?

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Whole30 - Half way done!

Today is day 15 so when I go to bed tonight, I will be half way done with the Whole 30!

So in week 1, I felt really good.  Week 2, not so much.  Week 2 was really hard and I'm not sure why.  The calendar I have does say that days 9-11 are the worst and I would agree.  I just felt sluggish all week and had some mild stomach issues.  Also, the recipes I picked for the week didn't turn out as good as I expected.  There were some winners but some duds too.  It's bad enough not being able to have a cookie but then eating bad food just makes it worse.

That being said, I felt better by Saturday and the scale is still saying nice things to me.  My clothes seem to fit a bit better and I really love that I don't have a constant bloated feeling.  I know you're not supposed to weigh yourself for the entire 30 days but I really need the motivation that the scale provides to keep me going.  Also, this week I started to not need to snack so much.  I usually eat 3 meals a day with a morning and afternoon snack.  With eating real filling food this week, I haven't needed those snacks (most days).  That's a huge deal for me.  I'm usually always hungry and now I'm seeing that it's probably because of all the junk I ate.

I ran on the treadmill three days this week and even though it's not as much as I wanted to do, I'm really happy that I'm fitting exercise back into my life.  I've definitely missed it!

Things I'm loving: Sweet potatos, Gala apples with almond butter, Tessamae's barbecue sauce (made my BBQ chicken soooo good!) and roasted cashews.  I also found compliant bacon and andouille sausage at Natural Grocers and they are AMAZING.

Things that make me go 'meh':

- Nutpods creamer - It's better than nothing but it definitely isn't as good as I'd hoped .
- Cauliflower rice - It's not bad but it's definitely one of the weirder things I've eaten.
- So much cooking. - Tonight we had to eat a quick dinner and even just trying to prep some veggies with leftovers was a hassle.  I really want to keep eating this way after the 30 days is over but man, I feel like I'm always in the kitchen.

 Recipes I tried: 

While I didn't love everything I made, I thought I would share them all because everyone has different tastes.

Slow Cooker Beef Stroganoff

Korean Beef Bowl

Loaded Taco Breakfast Casserole 


Roasted potatos, peppers and sausage

I'm looking forward to the next week!

Monday, March 6, 2017

Mailbox Monday (69)

I got way too many books this week so I am linking up with Mailbox Monday again!  I haven't had much time to read lately but I'm hoping to change that this month.  I think I have more books than I know what to do with but it doesn't hurt to have options!

My daughter was sick all last week so I've been mostly cooped up with her and I'm actually glad to be back at work today!  She was pretty sick so except for trips to the doctor and Walgreens, we were pretty much home bound.  I'm glad that she's finally feeling better, it got a little scary there for a bit.  

March will be busy at work but it will be fun too so I'm ready for the challenge.  Here's to a good week and month! 

From the Library:

For Review (from NetGalley):


Purchased for Kindle:

Ebook Freebies:

What books did you pick up this week?

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Whole30 - Week 1 in the books!

I really want to start posting on this blog more.  I promise to keep it mostly about books but I want to include some posts about what's happening in my life too.

Last Sunday, I started the Whole30 program and have am now on my 8th day of following the program.  If you haven't heard of it yet, you basically give up dairy, gluten, legumes, sugar, alcohol and processed foods for 30 days.  There are a lot of reasons that I've been wanting to do this program but I would be lying if I wasn't hoping to lose some pounds along the way.  The main reason I'm doing this is because my diet is terrible!  Even when 'dieting' I mostly just eat low calorie processed foods and very few (if any) fruits and veggies.  I'm hoping this will give me a kick in the pants to start eating better food.

How was the first week?

Not nearly as bad as I thought.  I did have a headache for the first couple of days but otherwise, I've felt fine.  I feel a ton less bloated and the scale says that I've lost a few pounds (though I'm sure they're mostly water).  The food has been really good too!

Is it hard?

It has been a somewhat of a challenge.  I used to cook a lot more before I had Julia but most of what I've been cooking have been easy, dump in the crockpot meals.  I have had to deal a lot of meal prep on the weekends to make sure we have food for the week.  I've been making a lot of recipes I've found on pinterest and the nice thing is that, so far, they make a large quantity so we can eat them for lunches or other dinners throughout the week.  (Our dinner last night made enough for 6 meals!)

One of the hardest things has been looking at my mindset.  My daughter was sick last week and so I was home with her for four days; usually when I'm at home, I mindlessly snack.  I also had to make a million trips to Walgreens and I used to not leave the store without a soda and a treat of some kind.  It felt weird not partaking in these 'normal' rituals for me but I realized that these things are all mental and not things I do because I'm actually hungry.  I'm hoping to continue to have a better mindset with food when all is said and done.

What have you been eating?

I now have a new love of cashews!  I found some roasted 'compliant' cashews at Natural Grocers and they are delicious.  A few go a long way to filling me up!  I've also been embracing my love of sweet potatos.  My husband hates them so I usually don't make them but I ate them a lot last week.  They cook up so well (and so fast) in my instant pot!  We've had things like 'spaghetti' with spaghetti squash instead of noodles and fajitas with lettuce wraps.  Super yummy!  I have also made the recipes below and all were really good.

Crockpot Hamburger Stew

Mexican Chicken Soup

Mini Egg Frittatas

 Is it expensive?

It has been a bit expensive but since we aren't eating out much, stopping at the snack shop or making ice cream runs, I'm not too sad about it.  Aldi has been a lifesaver with their inexpensive produce.  I'm going to try to shop at Wal-Mart instead of Target next week and see if that helps.


I'm pretty happy with the program so far.  Yes, I would still like a big cookie but I can handle it.  (I made cookies yesterday for a family dinner and it was pure torture!)  I'm looking forward to the next week!

Monday, February 27, 2017

Mailbox Monday (68)

Good morning y'all!  I hope your Monday is off to a great start.  I'm so ready for this new week.  Last week was a little rough and I'm super behind on everything.  That being said, I'm working on having a good attitude so I can get all caught up.  The hubs and I started the Whole30 yesterday so I feel like I spent all weekend in the kitchen prepping meals so it's kind of nice being at work today. 

I linking up with Mailbox Monday today.  I picked up a couple new books last week and I think they all look really good.  

For Review (from NetGalley):

Purchased (for nook):

Have you read any of these?  What books did you get this week?

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Review: "The Orphan's Tale" by Pam Jenoff

From Goodreads: 

Sixteen-year-old Noa has been cast out in disgrace after becoming pregnant by a Nazi soldier and being forced to give up her baby. She lives above a small rail station, which she cleans in order to earn her keep… When Noa discovers a boxcar containing dozens of Jewish infants bound for a concentration camp, she is reminded of the child that was taken from her. And in a moment that will change the course of her life, she snatches one of the babies and flees into the snowy night.

Noa finds refuge with a German circus, but she must learn the flying trapeze act so she can blend in undetected, spurning the resentment of the lead aerialist, Astrid. At first rivals, Noa and Astrid soon forge a powerful bond. But as the facade that protects them proves increasingly tenuous, Noa and Astrid must decide whether their friendship is enough to save one another—or if the secrets that burn between them will destroy everything.

My Thoughts:  I love Pam Jenoff's books.  They're so good and The Orphan's Tale is no exception.  I really enjoyed this story.  I've read a lot of books set in World War II and I thought that this was really unique and made for an interesting story.
All of the characters in this story were fascinating and very well-developed.  Noa and Astrid were so complex and they each grew so much throughout the story.  I found the discussion of Astrid's first marriage to be interesting and something that I haven't seen in a work of fiction before.  I loved Noa; despite everything that had happened to her, she retained the naivete of a young girl.  It got her in trouble a bit but I liked that she wasn't portrayed as being 'old' for her age.

I'm not usually that into the circus but I loved the circus setting in this book.  Everyone seemed so much like a family and each performer had their own little eccentricities and story.  I really enjoyed reading about how Noa was trained to perform on the trapeze and the kinds of tricks Astrid had perfected.

I don't know if it was intentional or not but I felt like the author conveyed a kind of urgency throughout the story.  It was almost like you knew from the beginning that time was going to run out for these people and big and scary changes were coming.  I think that urgency definitely sucked me in.  The ending was a huge surprise to me! I didn't expect it all but I think it worked really well.  There was one loose end that I know couldn't have really been tied up but I still kind of wondered about it.  

Overall, this was a great book and I would definitely recommend it to anyone who enjoys reading about this period in history. 4 stars.

I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Mailbox Monday (67)

Hello everyone! It's been a very long time since I posted last!  January was a ridiculous month and February has been eventful so I haven't had much time to get on here.  I have a few reviews to post in the next week or two so I'm hoping this mailbox post will help me get back in the swing of things.

With Christmas, my birthday and then Valentine's Day, I have received a lot of books in the past two months but I'm only going to share what I got this week. Otherwise this post would be super long!

So, here's my Mailbox Monday haul. 


Purchased ebooks:

I got an instant pot for Christmas and finally used it for the first time last weekend.  I'm kind of obsessed with it now and can't wait to use it some more!  This cookbook was a great deal so I couldn't resist.
What books did you get this week?
Imagination Designs