How to simplify the Holiday Card Madness and Help Local Charities

Tuesday, December 18, 2018



Yeah, I guess I can say I joined the movement and will no longer be sending Holiday Cards! 
You think that's rude?
Well, I tend to disagree with that, but before we start arguing and you call me Scrooge, let me tell you why I decided to take the road less traveled...

I enjoy the Holidays and Love Christmas, thank you very much, but the past several years I always found myself stressing out just thinking of the whole Holiday Cards project.  Planning the right family picture. Finding the best, cutest, possibly funny, politically correct template to have the cards printed on, which, as it turns out, is a lot of actual work.  And we have to get it all done, addressed, and mailed before a certain deadline, otherwise the cards might not arrive before Christmas (Ugh!).

Of course it's lovely to receive cards with pictures of our friend's newborn babies, the dogs, the cats and grandmas alike, but let's be honest, come the first week of January and all those cards end up in the trash!
What a waste of energy and money.

So how can we simplify this madness and still feel good about ourselves?  How about donating to a charity of your choice in lieu of buying overpriced holiday cards + postage?

Little did I know there's an entire movement in the UK about this already.  A whole study about the greeting card industry, where they claim a total of 2 billion cards are sold just in the UK every year! Check out the site and view their infographic on the environmental impact of sending each card.  The numbers blew my mind!

I know what you're going to say: that I'm a book blogger and own hundreds of books, so who am I to talk about the environment?  Yes, I love books. And yes, I buy more than a few (and I also get some free books from publishers), but I don't throw them in the trash.  I keep most of those books, and the ones I don't keep, I donate to the library, so chances are, they don't end up in a landfill. created a fantastic concept of making it easy for charities to receive donations in lieu of greeting cards.
It's the card that actually Gives Back!

Anyway, the name of my blog is Trendy Simple Life, so I wouldn't be true to my personal "brand" if I couldn't come up with a reason to simplify my life (and who knows, maybe start a new TREND?).

Unfortunately, there's nothing similar in the US, which I'm still trying to figure out why the heck not, so until someone creates an eco-friendly company to provide this service (hint, hint),  I decided to improvise based on the idea.

 Here are the main 3 reasons why I am officially greeting card free:

My total cost of sending Holiday Cards is usually around $60 to $80 (printing cards + Domestic and International postage).  Sending cards might be the traditional thing, but I'd rather donate this cost to a local charity, who rely on the financial support from donors to keep their doors open. 

According to study, for every greeting card not sent, 140g of CO2e (carbon dioxide equivalent) is saved. It may not sound like much individually, but imagine what we can accomplish together!

I actually felt really good about making this decision.  It made me think of the meaning of Christmas! About being grateful for what I have and helping others.  I chose to support a local charity called MEND (Meeting Essential Needs with Dignity), which is an interfaith network of 17 member food pantries located throughout Essex County, NJ.  They run the local food pantry where I often volunteer, so I know the impact that my donation made.

I developed my e-card on and even added the logo of the local charity I'm supporting.
Here's the final work:

True Meaning of Christmas

What do you think about this idea?  
Would you consider jumping on this train with me?  
Be a trailblazer and say NO to Holiday Cards

Happy Holidays Everyone!  

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The Neighbors by Hannah Mary McKinnon

Sunday, December 16, 2018


Book Review

BOOK REVIEW: The Neighbors by Hannah Mary McKinnon

Release Date: March 13th, 2018
Genre: Fiction
377 pages
Published by MIRA
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️My Goodreads rating


After a night of fun, Abby was responsible for the car crash that killed her beloved brother. It is a sin she can never forgive herself for, so she pushes away the man she loves most, knowing that he would eventually hate her for what she’s done, the same way she hates herself.

Twenty years later, Abby’s husband, Nate, is also living with a deep sense of guilt. He was the driver who first came upon the scene of Abby’s accident, the man who pulled her to safety before the car erupted in flames, the man who could not save her brother in time. It’s this guilt, this regret that binds them together. They understand each other. Or so Nate believes.

In a strange twist of fate, Liam (her old lover—possibly her true soulmate) moves in with his own family next door, releasing a flood of memories that Abby has been trying to keep buried all these years. Abby and Liam, in a complicit agreement, pretend never to have met, yet cannot resist the pull of the past—nor the repercussions of the dark secrets they’ve both been carrying…


This book was deliciously scandalous!!!

We all know secrets have a way of surfacing and marriages built on secrets are usually recipes for disaster, but these secrets are what made this book so addictive!

Told in the present with 1992 flashbacks, we learn different points of view: Abby, her husband Nate, their daughter Sarah, and the new neighbors, Liam, Nancy and Zac. All of the characters were well developed, each with their own set of secrets, told in a fast pace family suspense-drama, without making the reader confused.
And one of the things I loved the most about this book was the fact they were all lovable in their own way. I usually find the one character that I dislike and hope that they pay for their mistakes in the end, but that was not the case in this novel. And the twists in the end? Oh my oh my!

Like I said in the beginning...deliciously scandalous!

Book Review

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Spotlight: Two Thousand Years by M. Dalto

Tuesday, December 11, 2018


I am so excited that TWO THOUSAND YEARS by M. Dalto is available now and that I get to share the news!
If you haven’t yet heard about this wonderful book by Author M. Dalto, be sure to check out all the details below.
This blitz also includes a giveaway for a $15 Amazon Gift Card, International, courtesy of M., The Parliament House Press, and Rockstar Book Tours. So if you’d like a chance to win, enter in the Rafflecopter at the bottom of this post.

About the Book:

 Author: M. Dalto
 Pub. Date: December 11, 2018
 Publisher: Parliament House Publishing
 Formats: Paperback, eBook
 Pages: 310
 Find it: GoodreadsAmazonB&NiBooks

   Two thousand years ago, the Prophecy of Fire and  Light foretold the coming of the Queen Empress who would lead the Empire into a time of peace and tranquility. But instead of the coming of a prosperous world, a forbidden love for the Empress waged a war that ravaged the land, creating a chasm between the factions, raising the death toll of innocent lives until the final, bloody battle.
   Centuries later, Alexandra, a twenty-two-year-old barista living in Boston, is taken to an unfamiliar realm of mystery and magic where her life is threatened by Reylor, its banished Lord Steward.    She crosses paths with Treyan, the arrogant and seductive Crown Prince of the Empire, and together they discover how their lives, and their love, are so intricately intertwined by a Prophecy set in motion so many years ago.
Alex, now the predestined Queen Empress Alexstrayna, whose arrival was foretold by the Annals of the Empire, controls the fate of her new home as war rages between the Crown Prince and Lord Steward. Either choice could tear her world apart as she attempts to keep the Empire's torrid history from repeating itself. In a realm where betrayal and revenge will be as crucial to her survival as love and honor, Alex must discover whether it is her choice - or her fate - that determines how she survives the Empire's rising conflicts.


The streets were quiet for a Friday night in the city. Alexandra Ross clenched her collar tighter around her neck as the wind began to pick up, unseasonably cool for so early in Boston’s September. Her heels clicked along the damp cobblestones of the old sidewalks as she headed towards her apartment. She had to take extra care while walking in her four-inch heels.
Especially when she knew she was being followed.
The city had been her home for three years now, so the late-night trek home remained familiar, almost a comfort. In the now twenty-two years of her life, maintaining her independence was as much of a priority as the switchblade in her jacket pocket was a security. There was a part of her that truly enjoyed the peaceful solitude these walks could bring, but she wasn’t stupid enough to do it without protection.
She was aware he remained a short distance behind her ever since she left Faneuil Hall.
This evening was no different, except that she was celebrating her twenty-second birthday, which also may have involved too much alcohol. Perhaps it was the intoxicated appreciation of her city within the quiet of the early morning hours that distracted her from her surroundings.
Even the reflections in the familiar storefront windows she passed by reminded her of the fact she that wasn’t alone.
Either way, her attention was focused anywhere but where it belonged. It wasn’t until her heel caught in the sidewalk, and a hand grabbed her arm to keep her upright, that she realized she tripped and started to fall.
And that the one she believed to be a stalker turned out to actually be a rescuer.
His grip remained firm as his other arm wrapped around her waist to steady her on her feet. As she composed herself, trying to clear her head, her hand went towards the knife in her pocket while she glanced towards the individual who just saved her from needing a nose job.
The stranger’s hair was dark under the streetlights, side swept and held loosely in a ponytail at the nape of his neck. He was dressed casually: wearing a dark, button-down shirt over clean denim jeans and sensible dress shoes as if he, too, had just emerged from the bustling social atmosphere that brought so many to Boston’s Faneuil Hall Marketplace.
His features were thin with chiseled cheekbones beneath skin too tanned to be local, but then she looked into his eyes. They were the most piercing blue she had ever seen—almost too blue, especially without the sunlight’s shining assistance. They radiated with their own luminescence; which was odd at first, but the color was as though they were refractions off of the ocean’s waves. As she continued to stare, the more familiar they seemed. Looking up and into his eyes felt as if she had stared into those eyes before—been lost within them too many times to count.
The feeling was almost nostalgic, though she was certain she’d never met him before. She would have remembered those eyes, regardless of how many cosmopolitans she may have drank.
By the time she realized she was staring, he had already released her from his grasp.
“I—” She blinked, struggling for words as her grip tightened around her knife.
“A simple ‘thank you’ would suffice.” His words purred with a foreign accent—familiar, but she couldn’t place it. Irish? Scottish? Perhaps Welsh, she thought to herself, though she wasn’t even certain if it was European at all.
“Oh,” she spoke, clearing her throat. “Thank you.” She moved to smooth out the short, black dress she wore, awkwardly running her hands over her legs, her ass—anything she could do to avoid his gaze. “I didn’t even hear you behind me.”
“I know.” He smirked. Again, that sense of nostalgia clenched at her chest, her stomach, lower. Before she could inquire further, or at least find out where he came from, he had already moved past her, continuing on his way down the street.
“Happy birthday, Alex.” He waved back to her without another glance.
How did he know?
“Hey, wait!” she called after him, her voice laced with panic, but he disappeared out of sight as quickly as he arrived.
Deciding she had had enough excitement for one birthday, Alex slowly, and far more cautiously, finished her walk home. Occasionally, she would chance a glance behind her to ensure she wasn’t followed again. He was just some creep who must have been too close for comfort while they were drinking the bar, she convinced herself as she turned the corner onto the street that led to her apartment. Or merely a lonely someone who overheard her saying her goodbyes to her friends on the way out and thought he’d get lucky.
She came to the gate that barred the walkway leading to her apartment, the skin on her neck prickled and the hairs on her arms stood on end. Something was off. The familiarity of home felt wrong, like a lost memory, just within reach moments ago, now nowhere to be found. Her hand had been stuffed into her jacket pocket ever since her encounter with the dark-haired stranger, and she continued to grip the knife tightly as she opened the gate and she headed down the final stretch.
Her apartment was situated in one of the older colonial row houses within Boston’s North End that later converted into apartments and condominiums as the years went on and the economy grew. She rented out the bottom floor of the building, with her ground-level entrance beneath the building’s main stairway barred behind a wrought-iron gate. Taking another look around her surroundings, she approached her door as her other hand managed to find her keys, but nearly dropped them as she stopped to survey the scene before her.
The light from a nearby street lamp shone on the damage that had been done. The gate was bent in a fashion that looked as though a gorilla took a bar in each hand and spread them apart. Through the warped iron, she could see the lock to her apartment had been destroyed, the surrounding door blown apart with it, shattered beyond easy repair.
“Fuck,” she whispered, taking a step back to as she glanced to see if there was anyone around, but not a soul was in sight. With a shaking hand, she reached for her phone. Did she call the police on the off-chance her father’s colleagues would report back to him and have to hear another lecture from her about the horrors of living in the city? Or hell, ensure the potential of seeing any of them the next morning while she was at work, having them remind her of her over-exaggerations while she served them their overpriced coffee?
No. No, she did not. So, she rang her best friend instead.
“Hello?” Crystal answered on the third ring.
“Crystal!” Alex whispered harshly into her phone. “Someone’s broken into my apartment!”
“So, call the police,” Crystal reminded her lazily, her tone muddled by the evening’s inebriation.
“You know I can’t do that,” she snapped. “Besides, what if they’re already gone? It would be a waste of time and effort.”
“And your pride?”
“That too.”
“What if they’re not?” Crystal queried. “Your father will be pissed, and your mother—”
“You are no help; do you know that?”
“You’re the one calling me, thinking someone broke into her house!”
Before Alex could continue to interrogate her friend, the slightest sound of movement from the other side of the door caught her attention, and her knife was out of her pocket and at the ready, her heart pounding.
“Crystal, I’ve got to go,” she murmured into the phone.
“What? Wait—” Alex hung up before Crystal could finish her sentence.
Reaching the warped gate, she slowly pushed open the ruined door that led into her apartment. She listened again, waiting for a repeat of movement, and quietly stepped through and into the mudroom once she decided it was safe to do so. Everything was dark and quiet, just as she left it, which gave her even more cause for concern. Whoever was there, whether they remained or not, they weren’t there with robbery as their intention…not that she had much to steal, anyway, beyond an expansive collection of epic fantasy books and Harlequin romance novels.
Liquid courage—that was stupidity. At least that’s what she convinced herself as she tiptoed through the kitchen, her ears still perked when she heard a subtle creak of a floorboard and she tightened her grip on the knife. Peeking around the corner, she noticed a dull light emitted from her living room, appearing as though a flame flickered in the darkness.
Except Alex’s fireplace was only decoration and never once actually contained a fire.
Despite the nauseating curiosity that gripped her and tightened her stomach into knots, she approached the living room, lingering just outside the entryway. The flickering light made it difficult to adjust her eyes to the darkness, but she was certain she could hear bits and pieces of a conversation within an unknown language between two individuals whose voices she didn’t recognize.
Holding her breath, Alex glanced into the living room. Crouched before the fireplace was a figure in black with its back turned to her. Male in appearance, he was too focused on an orb floating before him to notice her. The swirling red flames neither burned nor emanated heat as they hovered over the ground, and her attention was caught upon their pulsating beat as it communicated with her apartment’s intruder, like the blood flowing through her veins.
And the foreign language, unfamiliar to her in every possible manner, resounded through her like a jolt—as though a part of her memory had been previously locked away, and hearing it again was the key. No different to her mind than English, she could understand every word they were saying as if it was her native tongue.
“You are certain you’ve secured the perimeter?”
“Yes, my Lord,” the figure spoke into the flame-less conflagration. “There’s been no sign of the Empress. She will be none the wiser that the Key is in place.”
“You best hope so, for where she will be, the Prince will follow. The Empress must be in my possession before he can make his next move.”
“Of course, my Lord, but what shall I do in the meantime?”
“Be patient. Be vigilant. And so help me, when the Empress returns, do not allow her to leave that apartment.”
“And the Key?”
“You will wait until it activates within the next moon cycle. Until then, remember that she will be your only way home. Do you understand me?”
The figure bowed his head. “Understood, my Lord. And should the Prince interfere?”
Alex could almost feel the simmer through whatever allowed such a floating object to exist, and a shiver trickled down her spin as she watched the dark figure finally stand and turn in her direction.
Red eyes glowed in the darkness, like dying embers fighting to remain lit. Being distracted by the earlier conversation, she hadn’t noticed how far she stepped into the room. Whatever courage she may have had before entering her apartment dissipated as those red eyed focused on her. She tried to take a step back, but hit the wall, jarring her elbow in the process and hissing of pain at the impact.
“Well, it appears my job just became a hell of a lot easier,” he slurred in English, though drawling with an accent both foreign and familiar.
Not unlike her would-be stalker-savior’s.
“Sorry to interrupt,” she announced as she pushed off from her spot against the wall, remembering the knife in her hand and willing her fingers to steady themselves as she pointed it at the head of the intruder. “But I think it’s time you removed yourself from my apartment.”
“The Empress?” The voice from the flames sounded pleased, and the orb’s size and power intensified as it emitted an almost demonic chuckle.
At the words of whatever master presided on the other side of that communication device, the intruder rose to his full height as he turned around to face her fully. The amplified light from the orb finally displayed his features. Other than his eyes, there was nothing extraordinary about him. Pale in the pulsating red light, with a shock of black hair and thin lips. He wore unremarkable clothing—a black shirt over black pants that could have come from anywhere—but still it was his eyes that held her attention, creating an otherworldly presence about him.
He paused his approach, however, when he saw the knife, cocking his head to the side as though in silent challenge. Instinctively, she sliced it through the air in his general direction, and the unexpected action seemed to surprise him as much as it had her. Taking a reflexive step back, his legs hit a side table next to her couch, knocking a lamp to the floor.
The orb ceased its laugher at the commotion.
“It’s a pleasure, Empress Alexstrayna," the voice said while the intruder continued his retreat, falling into the fireplace as if the orb would give him protection or a quick escape out of the room.
Alex rolled her eyes at the intruder’s pathetic attempts to escape through a brick wall, though her attention was caught at the greeting from the orb. It wasn’t her name, but it was close, and she didn’t want to know how or why. Before she could inquire, the voice behind the floating ball of flame seemed to realize he was losing his local support, and the fire erupted once again. “Where the hell do you think you’re going? The Prince is following her. Find him before he finds you first! Do not let the Empress out of your sight!”
The flaming orb allowed his threat to linger as its flames continued to rant and rave, all while the intruder composed himself and again began to approach her. The orb’s light now reflected off of claw-like talons extending from each finger on both hands of the intruder, and his teeth grew into a predator’s fangs. Every bit of his deadly intention was focused solely on her.
Alex felt the sweat form on her brow as her heart beat with a terrified fury. Even as she held the knife up to defend herself, it shook between her fingers. The intruder merely gave her a knowing smirk before he reared back on his legs and leaped into the air with feline grace, lunging across the room with his claws extended, aiming directly for her over-exposed chest.
Frozen in the spot where she stood, Alex’s eyes were wide as she watched death approach. She remained where she was even as a sudden bolt of cold, blue flame shot over her shoulder, knocking the attacker hard against the wall next to the fireplace. The plaster splintered on impact, causing the intruder to crumple to the floor, unmoving once he hit the ground.
Alex thought her heart was going to pound through her ribcage; she made herself take one deep breath, and then another before she looked over her shoulder toward the direction of the flash. In the lingering blue glow stood the stranger who helped her in the street. Those same cold flames appeared to grow from his right hand as he was poised in a battle-ready position, preparing for another strike as his attention focused deeper within the room.
Following his glance, she saw that the intruder remained still and motionless, remnants of the blast that sent him there the only movement coming from his body. She wanted to say something—perhaps she should thank him? Too many questions began to cross her mind as she shifted towards him, needing to know more, that same pull of nostalgia almost drawing her in. No sooner had she opened her mouth than did the red orb cease its ranting to greet the new arrival.
“I was wondering when you were going to show your face, Treyan. Unfortunately, you’re too late. My Key is in place, and come the next moon cycle, the Empress will rightfully be mine.”
“Sorry to disappoint you, Reylor, but my Key has been in place for years.” Treyan walked forward, outstretched his right hand where again blue flames sprung from it, this time engulfing the red orb. Not a moment later, it was extinguished. Without delay, he turned towards her and began to approach her. “I am sorry about all of this, Alex—”
“You!” She raised her knife between them, the point hitting his chest before he could move another inch. “Who are you? What are you doing here?”
Sighing, he brought his hand to the blade, his blue flames warming the metal to the point of nearly burning Alex’s hand, forcing her to drop the knife. She moved to run, but he grabbed hold of her forearm and he pulled her face to him.
Alex caught herself getting lost in his blue eyes again and he watched her with an enthusiasm that was unwarranted given their sudden meeting. It was a feeling of intense warmth throughout her body, akin to the comfort of a lover’s embrace. A feeling she had met him before but knew their paths had never crossed before in her life. And yet, some part of her knew him, or knew of him, and that terrified her.
Who are you?
Unfortunately, the question never left her. Before she could break his intense stare and begin to protest further, he brought a hand to her face, gently cupping her cheek, and after a few murmured words, Alex’s world fell to darkness.

About M.:

M. Dalto is a Young Adult / New Adult fiction writer of adventurous romantic fantasy stories, and her debut, TWO THOUSAND YEARS, won one of’s coveted Watty Awards in 2016. She continues to volunteer her time as a Wattpad Ambassador, where she engages and hopes to inspire new writers, and also mentors authors through the #WriteMentor program.

As a mentor, MB is on the lookout for YA and NA novels heavy in plot with the ability to make her fall in love with its characters. Her favorite tropes include love triangles of all kinds, enemies to lovers, dream sequences, and prophecies. She always wants villains you can’t help but be attracted to, redemption arcs or otherwise. She loves novels with deep character development, a setting where she can get lost, and plot twists that make her want to throw the book across the room. Give her main characters you love to hate, but can’t help but hate to love.

She spends her days as a full-time residential real estate paralegal, using her evenings to hone her craft. When she’s not writing, she enjoys reading fantasy novels, playing video games, and drinking coffee. She currently lives in Massachusetts with her husband, their daughter, and their corgi named Loki.

Giveaway Details:

1 winner will win a $15 Amazon Gift Card, INTERNATIONAL.

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Book Lovers 2018 YE Tag

Wednesday, December 5, 2018


I can't believe it's actually December already!!!   2018 went by so fast, and even though I did complete my Goodreads Reading Challenge in November, I'm actually glad I still have 26 days to read a few more books before we ring in 2019...

 πŸ™‹πŸ»I created a Book Tag and would LOVE to have a few Book Lovers (and my fellow bloggers) participate and share their answers.  Feel free to tag yourself and have some fun looking back on what you read and planning ahead on what to read in 2019!
Don't forget to use the #BookLovers2018YE and link back to this post!

Here are the questions:

1) Three BEST books you read in 2018 (all 5 Stars):

Click on any of the above books to read my reviews

2) Did you have any books that were #DNF ? Which ones?

Unfortunately I did, but I'm a firm believer that if I'm not enjoying the book, I need to stop and devote my time to a book that will bring me Joy!  The book I didn't finish was Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson.  It's a very popular book, but I couldn't get into it :-(

3) What are your three most anticipated books of 2019?

I can't wait for the release of the following 3 books, which all happen to be #2 of a series (and I loved all of their first books)...


4) Have you completed your personal reading challenge?  If so, what are you reading now till the end of the year?

Woohoo! Yes I did!
Right now I'm finishing a Buddy Read of Six of Crows, which is taking me a lot longer than I expected, mainly because I have been so busy with planning and shopping for the holidays, that I haven't been actually "reading"...
I haven't decided what I'll read after Six of Crows, but probably something Christmas related.

5) What genre did you read this year that you hope to read more in 2019?

 Not necessarily a "genre", but I really enjoyed reading The Darkest Star by Jennifer L. Armentrout, and I'm planning on reading the Lux Series in 2019.  With that said, I'm looking forward to her writing style and sense of humor πŸ˜‰

6) How's your reading list for 2019?

2019 will be a combination of Book club reads + Buddy Reads + as many books as I can read from my TBR list.  Of course any books I receive for review will be given priority reading.


What about you?  What are your reading plans for the end of the year?
Please share them below!

One reader suggested to have the questions listed for easy copy/paste, so here they are and Thanks for the excellent suggestion!

1) Three BEST books you read in 2018 (all 5 Stars):
2) Did you have any books that were #DNF ? Which ones?
3) What are your three most anticipated books of 2019?
4) Have you completed your personal reading challenge? If so, what are you reading now till the end of the year?
5) What genre did you read this year that you hope to read more in 2019?
6) How's your reading list for 2019?
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Monday, December 3, 2018

Coping with the Holidays

I saw a sticker on Pinterest the other day that said "Be grateful for another day. Not everybody made it, so don't take it for granted." 

That hit me like an emotional Tsunami.  It's that Wonderful Time of the Year but I am not  really feeling the "Joy" of the Holidays. 
I lost my dad on New Year's Eve 15 years ago, so this time of the year is always tough for me, especially when it's a time to be happy, to feel Joyful and embrace family...

I am usually very private about this and have told very few people (but the secret is out now).  It took me many years to understand that it's ok to still cry, miss him and think about him.  I used to avoid calling my mom around the Holidays because I knew we would both cry and get emotional.  I realized that was selfish of me so the past few years I always made sure to call her and listen to her tell me how much she misses him.  The key word here is LISTEN.  She needs someone to listen to her so I make sure that I'm available to her (because she is the only parent I have left).

This time of the year can be tough on people for other reasons: feeling lonely, the unrealistic expectation of being perfect (what is perfect anyway?), family disagreements, political madness and the list goes on and on...

And even though everyone seems to be SO happy on their social media pages, the truth is not always so clear.  

So how can we cope?  Instead of feeling sorry, stressed, depressed, lonely, overworked, under appreciated, why not try something like this:

  1. Call a friend and honestly tell him/her how you're feeling.  Vent. Rant.  You might be surprised at the support you get back.  Even if you don't, you already got it out of your chest!
  2. Walk into a church, temple, synagogue, or don't have to be religious.  You just need to have some peace of mind and these places usually give you that.  No strings attached.  I always go in and have quiet conversations with my dad.  I tell him what's going on with his granddaughter.  How much she grew and how much she would have loved to meet him.  It might sound silly, but I'd like to think he's listening.  
  3. Volunteer.  Why?  Because it makes you feel good.  I volunteer at a local food pantry and that experience always brings me back to reality.  Find someone in need and lend a hand.  Be the hero for that person.
  4. Be kind.  Everyone is fighting a different battle.  Don't judge.  Be gracious.  Don't act like the Grinch.
  5. Be grateful.  That goes back to the sticker I read the other day.  It's true.  What's the alternative? I'm not ready to hand in my time card just yet.  So everyday when I wake up I'm going to say Thanks I'm still here.
  6. Remember, don't take life too serious.  Enjoy it.  Laugh. Love. Have FUN! 

How about you?  How do you cope with the season?

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Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue

Thursday, November 29, 2018


AUDIO BOOK REVIEW: Behold the Dreamers 

by Imbolo Moue

Release Date: June 26th, 2017
Genre: Fiction, Contemporary
12 hours and 14 minutes (400 Pages)
Published by Random House Audio
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ My Goodreads Rating


Jende Jonga, a Cameroonian immigrant living in Harlem, has come to the United States to provide a better life for himself, his wife, Neni, and their six-year-old son. In the fall of 2007, Jende can hardly believe his luck when he lands a job as a chauffeur for Clark Edwards, a senior executive at Lehman Brothers. Clark demands punctuality, discretion, and loyalty—and Jende is eager to please. Clark’s wife, Cindy, even offers Neni temporary work at the Edwardses’ summer home in the Hamptons. With these opportunities, Jende and Neni can at last gain a foothold in America and imagine a brighter future.

However, the world of great power and privilege conceals troubling secrets, and soon Jende and Neni notice cracks in their employers’ faΓ§ades.

When the financial world is rocked by the collapse of Lehman Brothers, the Jongas are desperate to keep Jende’s job—even as their marriage threatens to fall apart. As all four lives are dramatically upended, Jende and Neni are forced to make an impossible choice.


This book has been on my shelf for a while now, but one of my book clubs recently chose it as part of 2019 picks. I felt the beginning of the actual book was very slow, so I was able to get the audiobook version from the library and that made a tremendous difference! The audiobook narrator, Prentice Onayemi, did such an incredible job, I was impressed! If you have a chance to listen to the audiobook, do so.

Being a naturalized immigrant myself, there were a lot of parts of the book I could relate to: from the shady immigration lawyer to the several wrong pieces of advice people decide to just give you, I don't think people that have not gone through the "system" truly understand the struggle that Jende and Neni were going through. 

With that said, it's a heartfelt story, very relevant to today's society, and very truthful to the millions of immigrants trying to survive with the promise of a better future for their children.

I would like to have seen more character development, and I wasn't satisfied with Neni's explanation of why she wanted to become a pharmacist. There was no passion put into her chosen path and I feel that it should've been there (although, that so-called "guidance counselor" resembles one that I met years ago)...UGH!

Some other characters, like the secretary, Leah, could have been explored more, while others, didn't really have a purpose.
Anyway, this is a good book and a GREAT audiobook ❤️.  I highly recommend it.

"I'm not ashamed of wanting many things in life. Tomorrow when my daughter grows up I will tell her to want whatever she wants, the same thing I will tell my son." 

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Bone Music by Christopher Rice

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Book Review

BOOK REVIEW: Bone Music by Christopher Rice (Burning Girl #1)

Release Date: March 1st, 2018
Genre: Mystery Thriller, Fiction
455 Pages (Kindle Edition)
Published by Thomas & Mercer
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ My rating on Goodreads


There’s more than one way to stoke the flames of revenge…

Charlotte Rowe spent the first seven years of her life in the hands of the only parents she knew—a pair of serial killers who murdered her mother and tried to shape Charlotte in their own twisted image. If only the nightmare had ended when she was rescued. Instead, her real father exploited her tabloid-ready story for fame and profit—until Charlotte finally broke free from her ghoulish past and fled. Just when she thinks she has buried her personal hell forever, Charlotte is swept into a frightening new ordeal. Secretly dosed with an experimental drug, she’s endowed with a shocking new power—but pursued by a treacherous corporation desperate to control her.

Except from now on, if anybody is going to control Charlotte, it’s going to be Charlotte herself. She’s determined to use the extraordinary ability she now possesses to fight the kind of evil that shattered her life—by drawing a serial killer out from the shadows to face the righteous fury of a victim turned avenger.



Just WOW.

I had no clue what I was getting into when I picked up this book. This was my first book by Christopher Rice, and I got hooked on the first page! I literally could not put it down. I was up until 3:30am one weekend to finish it and I don't regret one minute of it!  This is the magic potion that stirs my love of reading...

The idea of a baby spared and raised by serial killers, finally rescued at 7 yrs old, forced to live with the shadows and grief of that experience....yet, Charlotte seems destined to have no peace and perpetually attract psychotic people in her life, no matter what.  Add to that a pharmaceutical test drug used in her without her knowledge, that makes her "super-hero like strong" and I was jumping with joy when she finally started kicking ass!!!

The story concept is fantastic. It's believable. All of the characters have flaws, which made me like them even more. The result is a fast-paced, engaging story, that is a lot of fun to read.  Charlotte tries really hard to prove that she's not evil, despite of being raised by serial killers, but I'm not going to spoil it for you, so you'll have to read it to find out what happens in the end...

As for me, I can't wait for book 2, Blood Echo, which will come out in February 2019.

"And that’s when I realized, we don’t get to pick the other survivors of the shipwreck, and on our darkest days, they’re all we have..."

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#T5W - Characters You'd Want at FriendsGiving

Wednesday, November 21, 2018


Characters You'd Want at FriendsGiving

It's time for another TOP 5 Wednesday!

This week also happens to be a special time for us in the US, because we celebrate Thanksgiving with our in the spirit of being Thankful, our theme this week is Which Characters would you invite to your FriendsGiving? 

But what is FriendsGiving exactly?

"The name Friendsgiving is a mashup of “friends” and “Thanksgiving,” and the idea is to spend an evening with the holiday’s classic dishes and your best buds. There isn’t a strict, enduring set of guidelines—Friendsgiving is a totally customizable modern tradition that’s taken off in recent years"  (excerpt from Real Simple).

I would actually love to have an informal FriendsGiving celebration with some of my favorite characters...let me know if you agree with my choices ♥

1. Gallowglass from the All Souls trilogy by Deborah Harkness, because he's not just a drop-dead gorgeous vampire, but he's also sweet and in love with the wrong person.  He deserves a hug...

2. Tom Sawyer from the Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain, because that little troublemaker kept me company for many years during my childhood and we sure have a lot of tales to share.

3. Jude from The Cruel Prince by Holly Black, because I just love a girl that can kick-ass and doesn't follow all the rules!

4. Jules Ember from Everless by Sara Holland, a girl that can stop time might become extremely useful at the dinner table :-)

5. Fat Charlie Nancy from the Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman, because he made me laugh out loud, and we all need a funny friend at the table...


Do you play games with your guests during dinner and/or events?  How about a "What If" scenario game?  Click this link to download it for free (no strings attached).


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The Female Persuasion by Meg Wolitzer

Wednesday, November 14, 2018


Book Review

BOOK REVIEW: The Female Persuasion by Meg Wolitzer

Release Date: April 3rd, 2018
Genre: Fiction, Contemporary
454 Pages
Published by Riverhead Books
My rating on Goodreads ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️


Greer Kadetsky is a shy college freshman when she meets the woman she hopes will change her life. Faith Frank, dazzlingly persuasive and elegant at sixty-three, has been a central pillar of the women's movement for decades, a figure who inspires others to influence the world. Upon hearing Faith speak for the first time, Greer--madly in love with her boyfriend, Cory, but still full of longing for an ambition that she can't quite place--feels her inner world light up. Then, astonishingly, Faith invites Greer to make something out of that sense of purpose, leading Greer down the most exciting path of her life as it winds toward and away from her meant-to-be love story with Cory and the future she'd always imagined.


I finished it a while ago but didn't want to post a review right away because I needed time to think this through and take it all in.

I enjoyed this book but I didn't love it. But why didn't I love it? I couldn't figure out why. The book is too long (and I had both the physical book and the audiobook). Her writing is phenomenal, let's get that out of the way. Maybe I dove into this book with hopes of experiencing an "A-Ha" moment OR maybe it was because the book tackles situations that are SO real and yet, there are no simple solutions, no formulas to fix them all.

Meg Wolitzer's novel follows four personalities: Faith, Greer, Zee and Cory. Their paths, personalities and experiences are very real to our modern day lives. They experience trauma, privilege, betrayal, acceptance, being judged, feeling lost and the question that burdens us all:
"am I making a difference?"

So that's when I finally realized the brilliant pattern of this book: I walked away from it confused and with more questions, and maybe that was Wolitzer's intention (maybe not). I don't think it was a bad thing. It's life. It's how it is. We do what we can and in the end, "the turtle might outlive us all"...(you'll understand the quote once you read the book).

If you're looking for a book to spin your thoughts around and turn your feelings upside down, this is it.  Grab a copy and read it before the movie comes out :-)

"But she thought that maybe there had been a series of moments, and that this was the way it was for most people: the small realizations leading you first toward an important understanding and then toward doing something about it. Along the way, too, there would be people you would meet who would affect you and turn you ever so slightly in a different direction. Suddenly you knew what you were working for, and you didn't feel as if you were wasting your time."
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The Girl They Left Behind by Roxanne Veletzos

Sunday, November 11, 2018


Book Review

BOOK REVIEW: The Girl They Left Behind by Roxanne Veletzos

Release Date: October 9th, 2018
Genre: Historical Fiction, World War II
345 Pages
Published by Atria Books
My Rating on Goodreads ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️


On a freezing night in January 1941, a little Jewish girl is found on the steps of an apartment building in Bucharest. With Romania recently allied with the Nazis, the Jewish population is in grave danger, undergoing increasingly violent persecution. The girl is placed in an orphanage and eventually adopted by a wealthy childless couple who name her Natalia. As she assimilates into her new life, she all but forgets the parents who were forced to leave her behind. They are even further from her mind when Romania falls under Soviet occupation.
Yet, as Natalia comes of age in a bleak and hopeless world, traces of her identity pierce the surface of her everyday life, leading gradually to a discovery that will change her destiny. She has a secret crush on Victor, an intense young man who as an impoverished student befriended her family long ago. Years later, when Natalia is in her early twenties and working at a warehouse packing fruit, she and Victor, now an important official in the Communist regime, cross paths again. This time they are fatefully drawn into a passionate affair despite the obstacles swirling around them and Victor’s dark secrets.
When Natalia is suddenly offered a one-time chance at freedom, Victor is determined to help her escape, even if it means losing her. Natalia must make an agonizing decision: remain in Bucharest with her beloved adoptive parents and the man she has come to love, or seize the chance to finally live life on her own terms, and to confront the painful enigma of her past.


Based on the true story of her mother's life, Veletzos was able to piece together a beautifully written, emotional page-turner, filled with historical details about the WWII and the Soviet rule on Romania.  The result was an impossible to put down book, showing the sacrifice, perseverance, hope and love of two mothers for the child they shared.

The novel is separated into three parts (Anton & Despina, Natalia, Victor), which perfectly paints the picture of  wealth, reversal of fortune and rise to top at a time of war.   The characters are well developed and Veletzos' descriptive writing style allow the reader to imagine the smells and sounds both at happy and tragic times. 

What I loved the most about the story was how both set of parents loved and cherished Natalia.  How they vowed to protect her at all costs.  Their ultimate sacrifice is an inspiration for the human kind.

I truly enjoyed this debut novel and will be looking forward for the author's next book! 

"To love is much easier than to despair, even when all of your hope has been burned to ashes."

To learn more about the author and in case you're looking for the "reading group guide" for book clubs, click here for  Roxanne Veletzos website.

I received a copy of the book from JKS Communications in exchange for an honest review.  All opinions are my own.
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#T5W Largest Books on TBR

Wednesday, November 7, 2018


Yay! Guess what day it is?  It's time for TOP 5 Wednesday!

Top 5 Wednesday is a Book Meme hosted by Samantha on Goodreads Groups.  If you're interested in joining the group, and/or find out what the other weekly topics are, click here.

This week, we're covering the Largest Books on TBR, so before jumping into my list, I have to tell you a little secret: I don't usually pick up books that have more than 600 pages.  In order for me to read a book that is something like 600 pages, it would have to be Extraordinary!
Just saying...

485 pages
I just got this book at a local Book Festival and it will be my first book by this author, so I am really looking forward to reading it. 

"In the summer of 1862, a group of young artists led by the passionate and talented Edward Radcliffe descends upon Birchwood Manor on the banks of the Upper Thames. Their plan: to spend a secluded summer month in a haze of inspiration and creativity. But by the time their stay is over, one woman has been shot dead while another has disappeared; a priceless heirloom is missing; and Edward Radcliffe’s life is in ruins."

THE FALLEN by David Baldacci
421 pages
I attended an event where David Baldacci was the speaker and I was impressed by both his personality and the fact that he donated his time to help raise funds for a library.  The man won my admiration right there and then.

"Something sinister is going on in Baronville. The rust belt town has seen four bizarre murders in the space of two weeks. Cryptic clues left at the scenes--obscure bible verses, odd symbols--have the police stumped."

THE WOODS by Harlan Coben
405 pages
I'm ashamed to admit that I never read any of Harlan Coben's books but after watching the adaptation of one of his books on Netflix, I finally decided to give this book a try.

"Twenty years ago at summer camp, Paul Copeland's sister died in the woods, the alleged victim of a serial killer. Her body was never found. Now, Paul is the prosecutor for Essex County, New Jersey, immersed in one of the biggest cases of his career-a case that will change everything he believes about the past...and the truth"

HOUSE RULES by Jodi Picoult
532 pages
I lost count of how many Jodi Picoult's books I've read, and when I saw this one at a library sale, I couldn't resist buying it.

"Jacob Hunt is a teen with Asperger's syndrome. He's hopeless at reading social cues or expressing himself well to others, though he is brilliant in many ways. But he has a special focus on one subject - forensic analysis. A police scanner in his room clues him in to crime scenes, and he's always showing up and telling the cops what to do. And he's usually right."

LEGENDARY by Stephanie Garber (book 2 of Caraval Series)
451 pages
My local book club picked up this book for our 2019 list, so I'll be reading this one soon.

"A heart to protect. A debt to repay. A game to win.
After being swept up in the magical world of Caraval, Donatella Dragna has finally escaped her father and saved her sister, Scarlett, from a disastrous arranged marriage. The girls should be celebrating, but Tella isn’t yet free. She made a desperate bargain with a mysterious criminal, and what Tella owes him no one has ever been able to deliver: Caraval Master Legend’s true name."

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A Spark of Light by Jodi Picoult

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Book Review


Release Date: October 2nd, 2018
Genre: Adult Fiction
352 Pages
Published by Ballantine Books
My rating on Goodreads: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️


The warm fall day starts like any other at the Center—a women’s reproductive health services clinic—its staff offering care to anyone who passes through its doors. Then, in late morning, a desperate and distraught gunman bursts in and opens fire, taking all inside hostage.

After rushing to the scene, Hugh McElroy, a police hostage negotiator, sets up a perimeter and begins making a plan to communicate with the gunman. As his phone vibrates with incoming text messages he glances at it and, to his horror, finds out that his fifteen-year-old daughter, Wren, is inside the clinic.

But Wren is not alone. She will share the next and tensest few hours of her young life with a cast of unforgettable characters: A nurse who calms her own panic in order save the life of a wounded woman. A doctor who does his work not in spite of his faith but because of it, and who will find that faith tested as never before. A pro-life protester disguised as a patient, who now stands in the cross hairs of the same rage she herself has felt. A young woman who has come to terminate her pregnancy.

And the disturbed individual himself, vowing to be heard.
Told in a daring and enthralling narrative structure that counts backward through the hours of the standoff, this is a story that traces its way back to what brought each of these very different individuals to the same place on this fateful day.


Jodi Picoult tackled yet another controversial issue with this novel.  Abortion is not a simple "black and white" conversation and even as she points out in the book, "I don't think we, as a society will ever see eye-to-eye on this issue".

Only a skillful writer such as Picoult would be able to write about a controversial item without taking sides and/or trying to persuade the reader.  If you think you know every possible angle that involves abortion, think again, because as we get to hear the different thoughts and reasonings from opposite sides in this story, we remember how different we are from one another.   

The story is told in a reverse chronological order, so the first chapter is the end of the hostage negotiation with a cliffhanger.  Of course, as a reader, I just wanted to read fast, absorb it all and find out what happened.  At first, I didn't quite appreciate the reversal time aspect, but towards the end of the book I felt that the plot made a lot more sense this way, as we understood the paths each character took that brought them to that specific situation.

This book is emotionally profound, and like every Picoult's book, it is a necessary reading, that opens the possibility of both discussion and understanding of women's rights. 

It's a story that I highly recommend, but please do me a favor, read it with an open mind and maybe, just maybe, we, as a society, can start to understand and accept each other...

Book Review

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