Friday, November 21, 2014

Euphoria - Book Review

In the 1930s, three anthropologists, Nell, Fen, and Bankson, are exploring the indigenous tribes of the Territory of New Guinea in Lily King's novel Euphoria. Nell and Fen (an American and an Australian) are married and trying to have a baby in the midst of living in the jungles and studying and befriending the native peoples. Bankson (a Brit) is exploring and studying on his own, which makes him want to kill himself, but meeting up with Nell and Fen revives him. He is eager to have their company, Nell's in particular.

Unfortunately, tensions among the three of them begin to arise. Fen resents the success of Nell's books and how easy she and Bankson seem to get along and think alike. He has his own idea of how to achieve published success, but he doesn't take into account what it might cost him.

This is a really beautifully written story about love and passion (passion for people and for knowledge) in a remote and sometimes unknown setting. The story is told through the eyes of Bankson and through Nell's diary entries, which is a really nice juxtaposition.

While a work of fiction, the story is inspired by the life of revolutionary anthropologist Margaret Mead and her few months together with Reo Fortune and Gregory Bateson in 1933 on the Sepik River of what was then called the Territory of New Guinea. Definitely makes me want to read more about these real people.

Euphoria is published by Atlantic Monthly Press and is on bookshelves now. I picked up a free review copy at Book Expo America with no obligation to review.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Top 10 Gifts for Book Lovers - Holiday Gift Guide

How could I, a book reviewer, NOT include books in my holiday gift guide? So far this year, I've read 67 books. (Not my best year, actually.) I decided to pick my top 10 books for book lovers out of all the books I've read in 2014. Hopefully, my list contains something for every type of reader. Check it out and see for yourself!

(Links take you to my reviews of the books on GoodReads. If we're not GoodReads friends already, let's be friends!)

1. The Book Thief - Markus Zusak
Perfect for: people who have the patience to get through 550 pages, people who saw the movie, all people

2. Before I Go to Sleep - S.J. Watson
Perfect for: people who plan on seeing the movie (Nicole Kidman! Colin Firth!), people who like thrillers

3. Bringing Up Bebe - Pamela Druckerman
Perfect for: new parents - moms especially

4. Returning to Shore - Corinne Demas
Perfect for: teen girls who aren't into all that mushy romance nonsense, real girls

5. The Final Silence - Stuart Neville
Perfect for: people who like thrillers, people who like detective novels

6. Soldier of Change - Stephen Snyder-Hill
Perfect for: activists, gay rights supporters, people on the fence about supporting gay rights (if you're feeling bold in your gift-giving)

7. Falling from Horses - Molly Glass
Perfect for: people who appreciate great literature, a grandparent who might remember the 1930s

8. How Star Wars Conquered the Universe - Chris Taylor
Perfect for: Star Wars fans, of course, and anyone who enjoys reading about how movies get made

9. Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can't Stop Talking - Susan Cain
Perfect for: introverts, people who need to understand how introverts can contribute even though introverts might not be talking

10. Life After Life - Kate Atkinson
Perfect for: people looking for a good book club discussion

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

2-Page Layouts & Kit Copying

I decided to try my hand at copying another scrapbook kit. This time I went for another Scrapbook & Cards Today kit. Here is the fall 2014 kit:

And here is my kit: 

This time, I didn't look through my stash. I actually went to my local Michael's because at one time, that particular store had an amazing selection of scrapbook paper. But I found putting this kit together very difficult because the selection just wasn't there. I did find some good stuff, though, and for about $12 cheaper than ordering the actual kit. (Next time I might attempt using I'm all for experimentation.)

Here are the 2-page layouts I made using this kit. "Gravesites of the Rich & Famous" is a bunch of pictures from the self-guided tour my husband and I took of the Sleepy Hollow cemetery last year. We saw Washington Irving's grave! (It's picture No. 2.)

And "Headless" has the map of the cemetery on it along with some of the Headless Horsemen stuff in the cemetery and in the area:

I still got to use up pieces in my stash, including some excess embellishments, which is always nice. Are there any kit clubs you like to copy? Any kit in particular that you want to see how to copy? Let me know, and I'll do a blog post about it!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Top 4 Tech Gifts - Holiday Gift Guide

Technology makes our lives easier, and it also makes a great Christmas gift! But just what do you get for the technophile on your list this year?

Whether you need accessories or an actual device, I've gotten the chance to test out some pretty cool items that fit into both categories.

1. The Nest Earbud Case - Digital Innovations
I use The Nest all the time! If you or someone you know is tired of having twisted earbud cords all the time, then you have to check out this awesome product. It fully protects your earbuds, releases the earbuds easily and tangle-free, and fits easily in a pocket or purse. Plus, it's under $10!

2. Scratch Wireless
If you've got a teenager who wants his or her own phone, but you don't want to pay lots of money on a phone AND an expensive data plan, then check out Scratch Wireless. You buy the Android phone and ... THAT'S IT! Connect to a wireless network (either at home or on-the-go) for texting, surfing the web, and making phone calls. But even if you're not near wi-fi, you can still text for free! You can also purchase voice and data passes so your teen can make a phone call even when not near wi-fi.

3. Fire HD 6 and 7 - Amazon
Amazon has two new tablets out right now: the Fire HD 6 and the Fire HD 7 (pictured). The difference betwen the two? Screen size. One is six inches and the other is seven inches. (I bet you can figure out which is which.) You get wi-fi, front- and rear-facing cameras, a Gorilla Glass display, cool colors, 8 or 16 GB, and all starting at $99!

4. The Original Pocket Port - SCS Direct
If your phone is always losing battery power while you're on the go, then you might want to invest in SCS Direct's line of Pocket Ports, portable chargers for phones, tablets, and MP3 players. There are four sizes to choose from depending on how many devices you need to charge, but they all fit in a pocket, backpack, or purse. They work with your existing chargers and remain fully charged for months when not in use.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Meal Plan Monday - November 17

Thanksgiving is next week! Are you guys all prepared with what you have to make for the big feast? If you need some ideas that are gluten-free, don't forget to check out my gluten-free Thanksgiving tips.

So here is what we're eating in the week leading up to Thanksgiving:

Sunday: fettucine alfredo

Monday: tilapia with corn, mashed potatoes, and sage buttermilk biscuits

Tuesday: tuna sandwiches and fries

Wednesday: leftover stuffing frittata

Thursday: tacos

Friday: on our own

Saturday: out

Friday, November 14, 2014

Jex Malone - YA Book Review

image credit
If you enjoy reading Nancy Drew and watch episodes of Murder, She Wrote, then you might be eligible for induction into the Drew-Ids, the fictional all-girl detective agency in the new YA novel Jex Malone by C.L. Gaber and V.C. Stanley. This book is basically a tribute to all the great fictional female detectives, from literature to TV.

Jessica "Jex" Malone has to spend the summer in Nevada with her estranged father, and she's not happy about it. But she quickly makes some friends and they just as quickly decide to spend their summer not being bored and instead investigating a cold case that Jex's detective father was never able to solve - the same case that caused Jex's mom and dad to divorce in the first place.

I have to say, there should be a disclaimer on this book for teens: DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME. For instance, Jex and her friends break into someone's house. Jex and her friends run off to California in search of clues. I don't remember Nancy Drew ever breaking laws or trafficking minors across state lines. Maybe Jessica Fletcher did, but she was old and didn't have anxious parents to answer to.

So kids, read the book, enjoy the fiction, but do not ever break into someone's home even if you think they killed someone 13 years ago. ESPECIALLY if you think they killed someone 13 years ago. It's just not going to end up well for you in the real world.

Oh, there's also a little bit of "bad boy" romance, but it doesn't dominate the story, so that's good. Jex and her friends are pretty capable of taking care of themselves without boys. (Or rather, maybe Deva's parents' AmEx card is taking care of them. Read the book. You'll understand.)

The characters in this book are all in high school, so I think the book would appeal most and be most appropriate to kids ages 14 and up.

Jex Malone is published by Merit Press and is on bookstore shelves now. I received a free review copy for my honest review.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Top 4 Gifts that Give Back - Holiday Gift Guide

If you're looking to be more charitable with your gifts this holiday season, there are several companies who make it easy for you to give back.

Of course, you can always donate money in someone's name, but if you think they'd rather receive something tangible in their gift box than a piece of paper, you can purchase something for them that is cool but that also supports a cause.

Check out these awesome gifts that your gift recipients are sure to enjoy. You'll feel good about making the purchase and your gift recipient will feel good about wearing/using it!

1. Hickory Farms
Hickory Farms sausage is one of my favorite things to eat, and the company always has great gift baskets for the holiday season. The company is also introducing new cheese flavors, including my favorite Apple Smoked Cheddar with Paprika. Hickory Farms also has a "give back" program. For every Party Planner Gift Box sold this year, Hickory Farms will donate $5 to Share Our Strength's No Kid Hungry Campaign, which provides funding for summer meal programs, emergency food assistance, nutrition education, and long-term solutions for families in need.

2. Banded 2gether
These colorful and fashion-forward elastic headbands not only look great on your head (especially for my favorite tuck-and-roll hairstyle), but they are also a "give back" purchase. Partnered with Amazima Ministries, Banded headbands are making a difference for children in Uganda. Each headband purchased helps Banded support Amazima's feeding programs. One headband equals three meals.

3. World Vision
World Vision is a Christian humanitarian organization dedicated to working with communities, families, and children worldwide to help them reach their full potential by tackling the causes of injustice and poverty. There are several handcrafted gifts to choose from this holiday season, and each one benefits a different community and cause. For instance, the deliciously fragrant Prosperity Cinnamon (Vietnam's renewable resource collected from the Cassia tree) is sold to benefit generations of hardworking families.
4. SoapBox
Not only is SoapBox a gluten-free, cruelty-free, vegan-certified soap company (which you can read more about in my full review here), but the company also works to save and improve lives around the world and in the U.S. Whether you purchase the all-natural bar soap, liquid hand soap, or body wash, for each purchase, SoapBox will donate either a bar of soap, a month's supply of clean water, or a year's supply of vitamins.