April Favorites

April is coming to an end, so I guess that means a little recap of my favorites from the month!

Book of the Month

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I had an incredible reading month.  I don’t know if it was because I finally put down a book I wasn’t enjoying or if my body is prepping for the baby and knowing that I won’t have a lot of time to read (although maybe I will, I’m hopeful).  But I managed to complete four books this month (instead of the one book last month).  My favorite of the four was definitely Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi.  I shared a review of this book here.

Baby-Related

I’ve been ordering a lot of baby-related items this month.  Of course, most of them I haven’t used yet since the baby isn’t here yet.  But one item that I’m already loving because it is SO comfortable is the Abbyson Hampton Beige Nursery Swivel Glider Recliner Chair.  Michael and I went to a baby store in March and tried out all of the gliders/rockers.  This was a definite hit with both of us.  Plus, it reclines all the way back, which I think will come in handy sometime soon.  It’s probably the most expensive piece that we have purchased this year for the baby, but I’m thinking that it will be worth the price.

Beauty-Related

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I’ve been using the Aveeno Positively Nourishing Antioxidant Infused Moisturizing Body Wash for two months now, and I absolutely love it.  I think I’m slowly becoming an Aveeno fan (not sponsored, of course).  I use their shampoo and this body wash.  It smells so amazing.  It’s a mix of peach and ginger (I smell the peach much more than the ginger).  It’s a perfect spring/summer scent for me.  Plus, I really like the way my skin feels after I use it.  I was using another kind of body soap before this one that dried out my skin and caused it to break out.  But only after a few uses of this soap, my skin was back to normal.

Food-Related

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I saw this Twinings of London Buttermint Herbal Tea advertised at my local grocery store as a new product from Twinings.  I love their decaf English breakfast tea, so I thought I would try this one as well.  I have to be careful with herbal teas during pregnancy, but with just peppermint and vanilla as the main ingredients, this one was quite safe.  Usually, in the evening, I enjoy a cup of peppermint tea, but this is a perfect alternative when I want something that is a little different, but still minty.  The vanilla is not overpowering at all but almost gives a different, warmer texture to the tea.  And I don’t steep this tea for very long because the taste can be quite strong, but it’s really good.

What are some favorites you have been enjoying this month?

All disclaimers have now moved to my About Me page.

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Page Habit Review

My fascination with subscription boxes continues.  Instead of a food box, this time I asked for a book subscription box from Michael for Easter called Page Habit.

There are so many book subscription boxes to choose from.  There are ones that only send books for you to choose.  And there are several that have bookish items that sometimes follow a theme and sometimes do not.  Each box has a kind of gimmick to it.

Page Habit has two “gimmicks,” if you will.  First, with each box, they donate towards children’s literacy.  In my particular box, Page habit partnered with Books for Africa to donate books to the Kiangua community in Kenya.  They gave a little information about the area’s statistics.20180411_152611

The other “gimmick” that Page Habit has is that the book in the box is annotated with small notes from the author.  So, as you read through the book, there will be these little notes on certain pages that tell you what the author felt while writing that particular piece of the story (all of the annotations are put on post-it notes so your book is not actually written in unless you want to write in it).  Also, the book is going to be one that has come out recently.

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In this box, I received the book The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo, a YA contemporary written entirely in poetic form that was released in March.  I really liked this kind of storytelling, and it was perfect to read this month since it’s National Poetry Month.  I will probably have a review on my blog at some point in the future.

But that’s not all that it’s the box.  There were several other items included.  A letter from the author.  A pad of adult coloring pages.  A cable photo hanger.  A bookworm beanie.  Stickers.  And a Page Habit bookmark.  I was impressed with the selection of items as well as the quality.  The only item I wasn’t really interested in was the collection on stickers, but the rest I’m definitely going to use.

I got the YA box, but they have other genres as well – literary fiction, fantasy, mystery, horror, romance and historical fiction.  They also have quarterly boxes for YA (young adult), literary fiction and cookbooks.  The monthly boxes are $30.  If you want to try it yourself, you can use this link.   It is a subscription service, so it signs you up to automatically get one each month, but just like Hello Fresh, you can skip months that don’t pique your interest, and you can change genres if you like.  You get an email before the next box comes out describing the next book.  They don’t tell you what the title is, so the surprise isn’t ruined.

I really liked that there is a cause behind this box, plus the annotated book is a plus as well.  And it’s a neat way to be introduced to books you might not have heard of or may not have picked up.  It’s a definite recommend from me!

 

 

Children of Blood and Bone: A Review

Children of Blood and Bone (Legacy of Orïsha, #1)Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was an incredibly entertaining and beautiful story set in African mythology (West African, I believe). I love mythology, but I had never really been exposed to mythology from this part of the world, so it was a real treat. Besides that aspect, the story itself is an epic quest adventure within a vibrant world with an amazing cast of characters.
The writing is told from three perspectives. Zelie, a diviner. Amari, a princess. And Inan, a prince, and brother to Amari. Diviners are known for their white hair and silver eyes. They would have inherited magic if it did not mysteriously disappear from this world. When magic disappeared, all of those who had already had magic when it disappeared were rounded up and killed – including Zelie’s mother – in the Raid. Amari and Inan grew up in the palace. Their father was the one who initiated the Raid and taught them that magic was evil.
The story begins when the magic starts to resurface, and the king is bent on snuffing magic out again, no matter the cost. There are themes of how power and strength are defined. As well as what is truly evil or not.
The characters in the story are so diverse and flawed. They each face their own cowardice and don’t always make the right choices, which can affect outcomes beyond themselves. Even when motivations and intentions are pure, decisions can still be wrong.
One aspect of the writing that I really enjoyed was the use of chapter lengths. The author would write longer chapters when deeper issues and themes or descriptions of worlds were being discussed. But, when the plot picked up or there were fight or action scenes, the chapters would get shorter. It felt like you were rushing with the characters themselves.

There wasn’t a lot of profanity as we know it. A diviner was referred to as a maggot which was a slur. They also had blasphemous words, like Skies or Oh my gods, which would be different words in our culture, but used the same way.
There was one sex scene toward the last third of the book, but it wasn’t graphic. A lot of it was implied, but it would not be hard to know what was implied.
There is a lot of violence in the book. Lots of people are killed, by sword or magic, and some of those deaths and fight scenes are pretty detailed. There is a lot of talk about scars that different characters had.

Overall, I definitely recommend this book. You don’t have to be knowledgeable in West African culture to understand what’s going on, what’s important, and what’s impactful. I can see some glimpses, some foreshadowing into the next book, which I’m not sure when that would come out, but I’m definitely going to put it on my list!

Hello Fresh Update

I ended up using my little credit from my first foray into this meal delivery service to try another week of Hello Fresh.  Actually, I did this last month, but I didn’t actually have time to write about it then.

Anyway.

This time I had no problem with food allergy contaminants, so these meals were rated based on my actual impression of them.

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The first was a Carolina Barbecue chicken with mac n’ cheese and green beans.  I gave it 4 out of 5 stars.  The chicken was okay.  The mac n’ cheese was spicy.  And the green beans were pretty standard.  Although, one tip I got from this meal was to boil the pasta and throw the green beans in while it was cooking.  It didn’t affect the taste pasta, and it was nice to not use an extra pot!  I think boiling the green beans in the pasta water did add a bit of something extra which was nice.

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The second meal was the Tuscan-spiced Shrimp and Orzo, which I rated 3 out of 5 stars.  And this is one of the reasons I really like using the Hello Fresh delivery.  Turns out, I don’t really like orzo.  I’m not a fan of the texture.  The shrimp and tomatoes were okay, but it just really wasn’t my preference.  I’m glad I learned this through Hello Fresh so I don’t still have a bag of Orzo in my pantry.

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But the last meal was a 5 out of 5 home run!  It was Caprese Steak with Roasted Potatoes.  In fact, I made this meal again, purchasing the ingredients on my own.  I never thought to put a Caprese salad on a steak, though I have eaten feta on steak before, which is delish!  Really, anything Caprese will probably be a win for me.

I’m not really planning on ordering again until maybe some time in mid to late summer.  Since the baby is coming, I just don’t know how that will fit into the crazy chaos and transitions that are coming.  But I will be interested to know how it would work with a baby around.  One of the first people I watched on YouTube that did Hello Fresh videos had the toddler and baby chaos and still managed not to burn or overcook things.  This gives me a bit of hope.  I guess we shall see!

By the way, I do have code that can get you $40 off your first box if you want to try it for yourself.

https://www.hellofresh.com?c=KATYVEN&utm_source=raf-share&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=clipboard

Anna and the Swallow Man: A Review

Anna and the Swallow ManAnna and the Swallow Man by Gavriel Savit

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I read this book for Holocaust Remembrance Day (April 12, 2018). The story takes place mostly in Poland from the perspective of a girl named Anna. At the beginning of the story, she is 7 years old when her father, an academic professor, leaves for work one day and is taken by the Nazis to an internment camp. The friend that he leaves Anna with is unable to care for her, so she finds herself on the streets where she meets a mysterious man she calls the Swallow Man. She follows him outside of the city and that’s where the adventure begins.
It’s written in the 3rd person, though it is all from the perspective of this little girl. There are only a few times that the author breaks that fourth wall to explain something, such as the fate of her father early in the story. Other than that, we are only privy to her knowledge of the world around her, which is limited by what she understands.
The story covers several years of the travels of Anna and the Swallow Man, so she does grow up throughout the story. The writing doesn’t change, really, to reflect that, though the conversations and interactions with others do as she physically matures. Also, her perspective of the Swallow Man changes throughout the story as she grows up, and we do see some transformation that both of these characters go through on this adventure.
The plot is pretty fast moving. They interact with various parts of the war and witness several of the well-known Holocaust events, but a lot of it is again taken from the perspective of a young girl. She refers to these factories and encampments that keep popping up that the Swallow Man tends to avoid, but concentration camps are never really named that in their travels. So, having some basic knowledge of the Holocaust can help pick up on a few of these clues.

There wasn’t really any profanity that stood out, but the book did have some adult themes. As Anna’s body matures, there are implications from some of the men they encounter that suggest how womanly she had become. Also, there is a scene towards the end where she has to undress in front of a man in order to obtain something she needs. While there was no touching, the whole scene made me feel uncomfortable.
Also, there is a lot of violence and death. None of it was particularly graphic, most of the violence was done off screen, but there is a lot of death, which considering it was World War II and the Holocaust in Poland, it’s too be expected. It was interesting how Anna interprets the death that is happening around her.

I think, overall, it’s an excellent but hard read. It’s the kind of story that starts out quite light and calm and evolves into quite a dark story by the end.  Not normally a book I would pick up, but definitely a good read for this particular time of the year.

Library of Souls: A Review

This is actually the third book in the series, as I mention at the beginning of the review.  I don’t have an actual review of the entire series, but if I were to give this series a rating, it would be 4 out of 5 stars.  I didn’t enjoy the second book as much as the first and third.

Library of Souls (Miss Peregrine's Peculiar Children, #3)Library of Souls by Ransom Riggs

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I don’t know why I waited so long to complete this trilogy. I had read the other two books when they came out, but for some reason, I didn’t pick this one up until this year. Nevertheless, I thoroughly enjoyed the end of this trilogy.
The author, Ransom Riggs, wrote this story based on old photographs that he had collected over the years. It’s a story about a group of people named Peculiars, each having a special power like super strength, or the ability to create fire from their hands or be invisible. Within the story, these peculiars tend to hide from the public (or normals) in these time loops created by ymbrynes, women who can turn into birds and are the caretakers for peculiars. The trilogy follows the main character, Jacob, as he discovers this world, discovers his place in it, and ends up going on an adventure to save not only peculiars but the world in general.
The writing is well done as the stories incorporate various photographs sprinkled throughout the book. Although, by this third book, I was less interested in the pictures as I was the story. Compared to the other two books, I felt that this final book was very plot driven, very action driven. The story moved very quickly, which I think was easily done since the other books were more descriptive and world building.
The character development was very transparent in the final book. Jacob even starts to refer to himself as two different Jacobs, the old one that was unsure and indecisive, versus the new Jacob who was more confident and brave. The relationship between him and Emma also evolves throughout this last book, and I really liked the way it ended for them as well.

I don’t remember there being any significant use of profanity. Also, the sexual content was very mild – there were a few kisses and a moment when two characters fell asleep together (but all they did was sleep). I think the time period that the peculiars came from affected their behavior in that department.
There was a lot of violence, as this was the final showdown between the good and bad guys. There were some details on experiments done of peculiars, drug addiction (although it was a drug called ambrosia), and lots of blood, broken bones, and cuts. But even so, it was handled pretty well and was pretty mild.

I definitely recommend the series. It was a fun read. I know that the first book was made into a movie, but it is not very much like the movie at all. The relationships are all different in the book and movie. And I don’t see how they could have continued making those into film especially with this last book. But this is a definitely a favorite series of mine!

My Current Playlist

I feel like it’s been a hot minute since I shared what I’m currently listening to.  And usually, it’s in the realm of pregnancy loss or anxiety.  While I do have a few songs that are under that theme on my playlist, I thought I would also share a couple songs that just get my foot tapping as well.

I found this song to be perfect for me during the Lent season.  “Help us with our unbelief” has been something I’ve written more than once in my prayer journal during the pregnancy.  Plus, the video is beautiful and simple.

This song is always playing in my car, turned up and blasting.  The first verse made my breath catch and I knew I would love the song.  Amazingly, the first time I heard this song was on the radio at a low moment of doubt and fear.  It was exactly. what. I. needed.

 

Pivoting from the Christian themed songs, I heard this one on the radio as well.  I’ve never heard any other songs from Lovely the Band, but I really this one.  The beat is great.  Plus, I can relate to connecting with others through brokenness and loneliness.

And finally, the happy sunshine song I’ve been loving this Spring.  This was another radio introduction and it’s so catchy.  It’s just one of those fun, lovey-dovey songs that I like to blast when I’m working on projects or cleaning or driving.  And I will end the playlist here.

What are you listening to lately?