Thursday, July 14, 2016

{Book Review} - Murder Mezzo Forte by Donn Taylor

Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Litfuse Publicity Group, in order to facilitate an honest review. The opinions stated below are entirely my own.

If you haven't figured it out yet, I am very fond of the Mystery genre when it comes to book reading. I love the fast-paced, heart-thumping effect I get from reading a good mystery. Now that it is Summer, I find myself seeking out good "beach reads", although I do not have any plans to go to the beach. We have had a bit of a heat wave here lately, and that has lead to much time indoors, which for me equals cleaning, or reading (I prefer the latter of the two). My latest read was a captivating mystery called Murder Mezzo Forte by Donn Taylor.

I found that this book started a little slow for me, but I am so glad that I pressed through it, as it turned out to be a truly great read! I found myself making time throughout my day to sneak in reading breaks. This book is the second "Preston Barclay Mystery", the first being Rhapsody in Red, however, it can be read as a standalone. It does reference the other book, so if you prefer, you can read that one first. This book opens to a murder on a University campus, where Professor Preston Barclay and Professor Mara Thorn (a former Wiccan) walk into the office of Mitra Fortier and find her dead. Having been the two that solved the last campus murder, this puts them in a bit of a situation. While trying to remain inconspicuous, but also wondering what happened to their fellow professor, Preston and Mara resurrect their mystery solving skills and dig to the bottom of this mystery. However, the path they have chosen proves to be littered with mobsters, obstacles, and close encounters with death. All the while, Preston Barclay has musical hallucinations that chime in at the most inopportune time.

I would definitely recommend Murder Mezzo Forte by Donn Taylor and already have to some family and friends! I found Preston Barclay, the main character to be a comical and highly like-able character. The flow of the book was very smooth as well, and certainly contributed to my holding on in the beginning when I was questioning whether I would enjoy the book or not. If there was anything that I could change, it would be that I could have a companion for book that had sample music for each of the musical hallucinations, as I was not familiar with all of the referenced musical pieces. That being said, it also took nothing away from the book for me to be unfamiliar with some of the pieces, and had I been more inclined to do so, I could have easily looked them up on my phone. I am tempted now to read Rhapsody in Red and look forward to more Preston Barclay Mysteries!

I give Murder Mezzo Forte 8 stars:

You can read some more reviews of Murder Mezzo Forte HERE.

Monday, May 16, 2016

{Book Review} Sister Dear by Laura McNeill

Disclosure: I received an advanced reader's copy of Sister Dear from Litfuse Publicity Group and Thomas Nelson for the purpose of providing an honest review. The opinions stated here are entirely my own.

If you cannot already tell by now, I am a lover of mysteries. I am not sure if it is the plot twists or the constant suspense, but I cannot get enough! My latest mystery, Sister Dear by Laura McNeill is a true example of just that. It is an enticing tale of family, deception and secrets that will rope you in from the get-go.

Allie, the main character has just been released from prison for a crime she did not commit. When she was imprisoned, she left behind her young daughter. Emma, her kid sister, took on the responsibility of raising her daughter for her while she was gone. Once released, Allie needs to navigate this world that has seemingly become foreign to her, while also trying to piece together the mystery of who really committed the crime that she did the time for. Caroline, her now teen-aged daughter wants nothing to do with her, and let's face it, there is nothing less cool than having an assumed convict for a mother. As Allie struggles to make the most of her life and the stigma she has attached to her, she also faces some serious challenges as she tries to prove her innocence. The suspicions and suspense build throughout this novel to the very last page.

In all honesty, I really like this book. It is one of those books that would be a great vacation read, or something you can bring with you as you travel. I personally felt that there was a great amount of time devoted to character development and the little details, which also leaves room for suspense. Some readers have said that it was "slow", and I would have to agree. To me, that is not a deal-breaker, as I simply just love the act of reading. I did find the book engaging enough, and there are little "secrets" that slowly seep out as the story is told. I also really liked that the story was told in different perspectives (Allie's, Emma's, Caroline's, Sergeant Gaines') to give the reader a bird's eye view, so to speak, of the situation.

Overall, I give this book 8 stars:

Be sure to check out some of the other reviews HERE.

Friday, May 6, 2016

{Book Review} The Bachelor Girl's Guide to Murder by Rachel McMillan

Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Litfuse Publicity Group. The opinions stated within are entirely my own.

I have always had a love for all thing mystery and Sherlock Holmes since I was young. I even took a class during my undergraduate studies where we discussed mysteries and read Sherlock Holmes and Agatha Christie books. It was great! I was thrilled when  had the opportunity to review The Bachelors Guide to Murder by Rachel McMillan. With all of the crime shows on TV these days it is impossible to not get semi-interested and intrigued by this niche.

The Bachelor Girl's Guide to Murder is a Fiction-Suspense novel based in Toronto, Canada, circa the early 1900s. There are accurate historical references in this entertaining and funny murder mystery. The two main characters, Merinda Herrngford and Jemima Watts are two bachelor girls whose main interest are solving murders, not changing their bachelor status. In a time period where it was taboo to see a woman doing a "man's job", they were not only fighting off the judgmental perceptions of the people around them, but also their own families, and a group called the "Morality Squad ". Throughout the twists and turns of the initial mystery, you have humorous and informational foot notes, romance and also the artistic design of the book which truly adds to the readability.

I found this book to be quite enjoyable. I love any good mystery, but to add a couple of female detective-wannabes to the mix and it gave me a truly unique read. I really love the design of the book, inside and out, and it added to the entire reading experience. This book is, informally, part of a series, so you can read more from Rachel McMillan that also has Merinda and Jem as the main characters. I found this to be a quick read, and would be something great for a rainy day, a long plane ride, or whenever you are pressed for time but would love to fit a book in.

I highly recommend The Bachelor Girl's Guide to Murder by Rachel McMillan with 8 stars:

You can read more reviews HERE.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

{Book Review} - If I run by Terri Blackstock

Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of If I Run through Litfuse Publicity Group.

A couple times a year I come across a book that I absolutely cannot pull myself away from. Lucky for me, this happened early in the year, however, I have been experiencing such a bad "book hangover" since reading it, and I am anticipating the next book in the series to come out so I can devour it the same way I did with this one. Since having my second child (almost 4 years ago), I have not found the time to read like I used to. Between work and family and chores it has proven difficult to find enough down time for me to dive into a book. However, I've been trying to make more time for myself, and one of my favorite things to do is read. While I was reading If I Run by Terri Blackstock, I MADE time to read because I could not stop. I finished the book in 3 sittings!

If I Run is about a girl named Casey Cox who stumbles upon the dead body of her best friend, Brent. In doing so, she leaves her DNA and evidence all over the crime scene. Knowing that the cops will come looking for her, she flees and remains on the run from the potential disaster this could turn into. Back home, the parent's of her best friend hire Dylan Roberts, a war veteran and Brent's good childhood friend, to use his investigative skills to find Casey Cox and bring her back to them for proper questioning in the death of their son. As Casey Cox runs, she learns more about herself and her past than she ever expected. She also finds herself in the middle of another unsolved case. The novel is told by Casey Cox and Dylan Roberts as they navigate the death of their friend. Terri Blackstock weaves an absolutely enthralling story that keeps you hanging on to the very end. It is essential to know that this is book one in a series so the end, while conclusive, does leave you slightly hanging.

As I mentioned already, I finished this book in three sittings. I likely could have finished it in one if I had not started it shortly before I needed to leave to run errands. This was my first time reading anything by Terri Blackstock so I had no idea that I was going to be s quickly roped into the story line. The book seemed to pick up and remain very fast paced, which kept me intrigued. It was an easy read and a fast read, and with how busy things have been for me lately, it was absolutely perfect. I can, and will, honestly recommend this book to anyone! I love mysteries, thrillers, psychological thrillers, etc... so this was right up my alley, but I truly believe that most people would devour this book the same way that I did. I am anxiously anticipating the release of the second book in the series.

I give If I Run by Terri Blackstock 10 stars:

Please read what other reviewers had to say HERE. You can learn more and purchase a copy HERE.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

{Book Review} Mermaid Moon by Colleen Coble

Disclosure: Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book through LitFuse Publicity, in exchange for an honest review. The opinions stated below are entirely my own.

Each year I plan to read a ton of books because it is one of my favorite things to do. There is nothing more inviting to me than an overly soft blanket, a hot cup of coffee and a good book. For some reason my "me" time always gets cuts short, and therefore, so does my reading time. I am happy that I have been actively making sure I make more time to read, and I have been very fortunate that some of my first reads of the new year have been truly fantastic! The first book I have finished in 2016 is Mermaid Moon by Colleen Coble.

Mermaid Moon is a book about a woman named Mallory Davis who is told by her dying father to find her mother. Considering her mother had died fifteen years earlier, this seems to be a bit of a mystery. In an attempt to figure out what truly happened regarding her father's death, and what he meant by his final words to her, she goes back to the town she ran away from as a young adult, Mermaid Point. While there, she is forced to face, head on, the exact thing, and person, that she ran away from years and years ago: Kevin O'Connor, her high school love, and the game warden. While delving into the mystery of her father's death, she is faced with many challenges including the reality of what happened, and the terrifying realization that someone is after her and information she isn't even sure she has. In the midst of all of this, she has to work closely with her past love, Kevin O'Connor, which brings up their unsettled past and emotions. With a little bit of clean romance and a mystery to solve, Mermaid Moon is the second book in the Sunset Cove series by Colleen Coble.

Author Colleen Coble
This was my first time reading a Colleen Coble novel, and I really enjoyed it. While I felt it took a little bit of time to get in to the "action" part of it, it read so easily that I wanted to keep reading. The characters were interesting and easily relate-able. Once it picked up, I had to continue reading to see what was going to happen. There were a few different things going on throughout the book, including Mallory and Kevin trying to solve the mystery of her father's death, uncovering the truth about her past, and also resolving circumstance between them that stemmed from their choppy past, all while avoiding constant threat from the villains in the novel. I have to say, this book kept me guessing from the get-go. This was one mystery I could not figure out on my own before the reveal in the book. While this is the second book in the Sunset Cove series, it can certainly be read on it's own (as I did),, however, now I have found myself wanting to read the first book in the series, and more!

I highly recommend Mermaid Moon with 8 stars:

To learn more about Colleen Coble, you can explore her website, or visit her on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

In all of the excitement around Mermaid Moon, you can also enter Coleen Coble's Mystery e-Reader Prize Pack Giveaway which ends TOMORROW, so get on that!:
Mermaid Moon Colleen Coble

Monday, January 4, 2016

Enjoying the Holidays With Blue Diamond Almonds

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Blue Diamond Almonds

I must say that I absolutely adore the Holiday Season. The smell in the air, the hustle and bustle in the stores, the beautiful wintery scene outside. Except for this year, we had a snow-less Christmas. In fact, we are still pretty snow-less here in NY even though by now we should be pummeled by snow. It has made the Holiday Season feel quite strange for sure. I mean we had a 70 degree day in December! To speak to it's rarity, it was a record-breaking temperature. That being said, the one thing that did remain constant this season was the food and snacks. This time of year is never a disappointment in that respect. Especially when I always have the deliciousness that is Blue Diamond Almonds to bring fun healthy and tasteful snacks to the ones I love during this time of year.


Sometimes having visitors can be stressful when you are entertaining. When you have a larger group of people you need to consider many things like diets, restrictions and taste preferences, which can vary significantly across the board. In our family we have people who are gluten-free, low-sodium, low-potassium, vegan, vegetarian, etc... so there are several mouths and tummies that we need to please, while also keeping taste in mind too. Almost always, I keep a bowl of Blue Diamond Almonds out for people to much on. I much prefer the kids grabbing a handful of these then a handful of cookies, and with all of the sweets surrounding this time of year, I am glad that these help them fill up so they have less room for the less-than-healthy treats.

One of my favorite Blue Diamond Almonds to leave out for guests to snack on are the Honey Roasted Almonds. They are the perfect amount of sweet and nutty, while also providing support to Honeybee Research. Did you know that honeybees pollinate 1/3 of the world's food supply? We would seriously be in trouble without those little buzzers. This year I also put out the Lightly Salted Blue Diamond Almonds for my Grandmother who has to eat lower sodium products for her kidney health. Blue Diamond Almonds combine great taste with low-sugar and a healthy pop of protein. On top of that, research suggests that 1.5 ounces of most nuts, and in this case almonds, may reduce the risk of heart disease when paired with a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol. If it is important to start your New Year out healthy, I recommend grabbing some of your favorite Blue Diamond Almond flavors, and sharing them with the ones you love!

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Polishing Up With Elba Naturals Micro Dermabrasion

Disclosure: The item(s) mentioned below were provided complimentary for the purpose of an honest review. The opinions stated here are based upon my personal experience with the product(s) and are entirely my own. Regardless, I only recommend products or services that I feel would benefit my readers.

When it comes to skin care, I have to stick to a relatively strict routine. I have tried sooooooooo many different skin care products, and I have found many that work beautifully for my finicky skin, and others that almost immediately break me out. I am truly envious of those who have naturally perfect skin. One important step in my skin care routine is exfoliation. While I have been advised against it, since it can be irritating to already easily irritated skin, it is one thing that actually helps my skin for some reason. Using gel or cream cleansers does not leave my skin as squeaky clean as something with a little bit of texture to it. Plus, because I have several scars and post-acne marks, I make sure to use a micro dermabrasion once or twice per week as well. Lately, I have been using Elba Naturals n.5 Micro Dermabrasion.

Elba Naturals is a truly unique company that has formulated a number of skincare products. While they have all these products in their arsenal, they introduce products, one at a time, based on what their customers want. They claim to cater to the "green urban lifestyle" with natural skincare products made from quality ingredients. They currently offer 5 products, although I suspect that they will be launching a 6th soon, as there is a live countdown currently on their website, claiming to reveal "a surprise". When ordering products from Elba Naturals, you know you are receiving products with mostly natural and organic ingredients in them. On top of that, their products are made in the USA and are done so with cruelty-free practices.

The Elba Naturals n.5 Microdermabrasion comes in a small 1 fluid ounce jar. As you can see, it is white and has a gritty texture. It works immediately at sloughing off dead skin and making your skin feel brand new. I always love using this because my skin feels baby soft right after. This product has a very clean smell and a little goes a long way. I keep this right on my sink to remind myself to use it, and it has been there for a number of weeks. For as tiny as the jar is, I would have expected to be through it by now, however, it's still around! It is only meant to be used once or twice per week in addition to your usual skin care routine. In my experience, I have found that it is helpful in changing the overall texture in your skin. Sometimes I use this more frequently by adding a small bit of it to my regular cleanser to take it up a notch. Like I said, my skin thrives when it is being exfoliated constantly, so this product has seamlessly been added to my skincare routine. It also makes me feel like my serums and moisturizers are able to work more efficiently when they are being placed on a smooth canvas, so that is an added bonus. My one and only complaint about this product is the small size. A 1 ounce jar that retails for $58.00 is just something that would never be in my budget. I would feel too guilty. However, it is something I would check on Amazon to see when there are price drops (for example, it is currently $29.00). Overall, I would definitely recommend this product for those looking for a micro dermabrasion product that they can use at home.

You can purchase this on Amazon where it is currently 50% off HERE