Thursday, December 25, 2014

From My Family to Yours - Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

I'm taking a blogging break and enjoying all the wonderful moments of our children being home for Christmas break. I will be back the week of January 5th with book and product reviews, my Best of List of 2014, and my monthly post of Books that Came My Way!

Thanks to those of you who continue to check in and see what I am reading and reviewing. I look forward to sharing much more of all that I love to read and do in 2015. Thanks for being part of this adventure!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Merry Christmas to You

Merry Christmas to each one of you. 
I hope you have time for extra snuggles and laughter, 
receive lots of hugs, and feel the joy of the holiday season.

She will give birth to a son, 
and you are to give him the name Jesus,
because he will save his people from their sins.
-Matthew 1:21 NIV

Monday, December 15, 2014

X Out Review

I participated in an Influencer Activation Program on behalf of Influence-Central for X Out. I received samples of X Out to facilitate my review and a thank you item for participating.

As a mom of two teenage boys, I was anxious to check out the new product made especially for teens in their battle against acne. In the age of selfies, no one wants to share their photo with a big zit on their forehead.  Teens want to be the best and look their best at all times and even a little bit of acne on their face can affect their self-esteem.  As a mom, I believe it is my job to make sure my kids have the products they need to take care of their bodies.  My teens are busy, leaving for school before most kids are out of bed and not coming home until late in the evening. They don't want to hassle with multiple steps to wash their face and they want to keep ahead of break-outs. X Out is just that product.

X Out is a one-step wash-in treatment that washes powerful breakout fighting medicine into pores to help kill the bacteria that causes pimples, while moisturizing and helping to protect the skin. X Out is an essential product for teens because it doesn't require any other steps, so it fits into their busy lifestyle.

Actress, dancer and recording artist, Zendaya is the current spokesperson for X Out. Zendaya says, "X Out gives me the freedom to stay clear, happy and in control."  X Out is from the makers of Proactiv, America's #1 acne brand.  It doesn't just treat zits, it helps stop the cause of zits. So, as long as you continue using X Out, you will continue to prevent the blemishes from coming back.

I am fortunate that our boys do not have serious acne breakouts, but mostly just the occasional blemish. Both of our boys used the product, but my oldest son, who is fourteen, is who I am featuring in our product review.

Before - Day one of using X Out
His acne problem areas are mostly the chin area and the nose area. As you can see, he had a few blemishes in his chin area on day one of using the product.

After - One Month of using X Out
After a month of using the product, you can see there is hardly any blemishes on my son's face. He uses the product morning and night and has had no issues with skin irritation and found the product easy to use. The only thing is that you need to be very careful to not let the product touch clothing. His first time using X Out, he washed his face with a blue washcloth, that is now white. This product does contain benzoyl peroxide, which can bleach fabric. So, from then on he used white washcloths or just his hands. I neglected to see the small print on the material we were given to warm him about the bleaching affect. You should also test the product on a small area of your skin before all over use to check for an allergic reaction.

Our other son is seen here using the XOut in the video:

Overall, both boys were very pleased with X Out and their clear skin results. X Out offers a 60-Day Money Back Guarantee if you are not pleased with your results, but we certainly won't need to use it. Even without a serious acne problem, we were still able to see results in our son's complexion.

X Out offers a Wash-In Treatment, Spot Corrector, Shine Control, Body Bar, Body Scrub, and Deep Cleansing Brush.  If you would like more info about X Out, check out their website at You can also call their toll-free number at 866-466-2970.  You can also find X Out on Facebook, HERE, and Twitter, HERE.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Book Review: Little Things Long Remembered By Susan Newman, PhD

Making Your Children Feel Special Every Day

By: Susan Newman, PhD

Published: October 1, 2014

Publisher: Iron Gate Press


As part of the iRead book tour, I'm sharing my thoughts on a great book that every parent should have in their stocking this year. For more stops on the tour where you can find reviews, author interviews, and giveaways, click HERE.

Twenty years ago, Susan Newman wrote the original version of LITTLE THINGS LONG REMEMBERED. She decided to rewrite the book with some updates related to more parents working and the constant influence of technology in our lives. With busier schedules and technology making the personal interactions less relevant, this book is even more important to families. Newman shows how to carve out even five minutes of special time with your child, building memories, creating traditions, and finding ways to have fun without devices. This book is for working parents or stay-at-home parents, grandparents, godparents, aunts and uncles. Anyone who wants to make a child feel important. Newman has come up with hundreds of ideas, some taking only minutes, and many sent to her from other parents, and compiled them all into this little book. The book is divided into chapters with anywhere from five minute activities to weekend activities as well as ways to honor special days and make new traditions. There are activities you can do with your toddler as well as your high-school-age child. Your child is never to old to find a way to make them feel special.

Some of the ideas were new to me such as having each member of the family choose a stock and follow its rise and fall in the market.  Choosing companies that mean something to each person, whether it is the company that makes their favorite toy or favorite food, makes the activity more fun while also being educational. Other ideas like having a one-on-one date with your child or sharing their birth story with your child on their birthday are fun memories we have made in our family and and ones our children look forward to.

If you travel a lot for work, there are ideas for making your child feel special even while you are away. I found the Sick Day chapter especially helpful since I had a child sick at home at that time. Making even a sick day fun in the tiniest way can help break up the boredom.

I highly recommend this book as the perfect book for someone having a baby, for Christmas, or for a new grandparent. I have no doubt you will find plenty of current and fun ideas to make your child feel special.

Susan Newman, PhD

Susan Newman, a social psychologist, specializes in child development and family dynamics and has been named one of the 100 Top Psychologists to Follow on Twitter as well as one of 25 Parenting Educators to follow. She has been blogging for Psychology Today magazine about parenting and issues related to raising children for over six years. She has appeared on the Today Show, Good Morning America, CNN, MSNBC, and her work has been feature on NPR and major leading newspapers and magazines.

To connect with Susan, check out her website, HERE. You can also find her on Facebook, HERE or Twitter, HERE.

To purchase a copy of the book, click the photo below:

Thanks to iRead Book Tours for sending an autographed copy of this book to me. This review is my honest opinion. I was not compensated in any way for this review. If you choose to purchase the book through the above link, I may receive a small commission without you having to pay a cent more for your purchase. Thanks for supporting reviews. 

Friday, December 5, 2014

Children's Book Review: The Christmas Cats Encounter Bats By Constance Corcoran Wilson


By: Constance Corcoran Wilson

Illustrated By: Gary McCluskey

Published: September 13, 2014

Publisher: Quad Cities' Press

Children's Fiction

Last year I reviewed the second installment of the Christmas Cats series, THE CHRISTMAS CATS CHASE CHRISTMAS RATS. You can see that review, HERE. In the first book in the series, THE CHRISTMAS CATS WEAR SILLY HATS, children learn it is best to get along with others. In the second book, children learn to withhold judgement of others and keep an open mind. In fact, THE CHRISTMAS CATS CHASE CHRISTMAS RATS  was just named one of the 7 Best Books of 2014 published by CWA (Chicago Writers' Association) for its category out of 75 entries.  

Wilson continues the theme of teaching a lesson with rhyming prose in her third book in the series, THE CHRISTMAS CATS ENCOUNTER BATS. Wilson has written these books with the help of her young granddaughters. Each of her stories model kindness and good behavior. They teach children the importance of helping others through the telling of a silly story. This time the Christmas Cats are called to the mall to investigate a funny sound. When they find the sound is coming from a group of bats, everyone at the mall is scared and wants them taken care of. The Christmas Cats teach them all a lesson that each one of us is a part of God's creation and we all have a purpose here on Earth. The end of the book also includes a couple activity pages. This book is targeted towards the preschool - lower elementary age group. This series of books would make a great addition to your Christmas library of books.

Constance Corcoran Wilson grew up in Iowa, (Independence to be exact) and graduated from the University of Iowa.  She furthered her education and has spent her years teaching and writing.  She has received many awards including one of the "10 Most Creative Teachers in America" and a Bi-State Literacy Award for her reading program for poor children from First Lady Barbara Bush in 1993.  Constance lives in East Moline, Illinois (just across the Iowa border) with her husband Craig.  For more on Constance, visit her blog at or her website,, or  You can also find Constance on Twitter, HERE, Facebook, HERE, and Pinterest, HERE. 

If you would like to purchase a copy of THE CHRISTMAS CATS ENCOUNTER BATS, click the photo below:

I will be linking up with other bloggers on Saturdays at Booking Mama's Kid Konnection. To see other great posts and reviews about children's books, check them out, HERE

Thanks to the author for sending a copy of her book for review. This review is my honest opinion. I was not compensated in any way for this review. If you choose to purchase the book through the above link, I may receive a small commission without you having to pay a cent more for your purchase. Thanks for supporting reviews. 

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Book Review: The Story of Fester Cat By Paul Magrs

How One Remarkable Cat Changed Two Men's Lives

By: Paul Magrs

Published: November 4, 2014

Publisher: Berkley Trade Paperback


Fester Cat spends the first twelve years of his life living on the streets in Levenshulme, Manchester. Knowing Paul and his partner, Jeremy live in this delightful neighborhood with a garden and a patio, he decides to pay a visit. His visits become more frequent and after a life on the streets, he decides to move in and live a more posh life with Paul and Jeremy. So the story of Fester Cat begins. Paul, already a writer, shares the memoir of their nearly seven years with Fester. He speaks through the mind of Fester, sharing Fester's thoughts, opinions, and questions from the mind of a cat. The reader can almost imagine Fester walking through the house chatting away with Paul and Jeremy. Even the most trivial details of life with a cat are just the thing that Magrs made fascinating. Cat owners and animal lovers alike will be enamored with Fester and his life with Paul and Jeremy.

As a cat owner, I found that I looked at our own cat differently. I was nodding along when Magrs described Fester's quirky behaviors and the importance of a daily ritual for pets. I think the funniest story is Fester describing his first time at the vet and how the female vet tells Paul and Jeremy that Fester is most definitely a boy. Magrs nails the shock and embarrassment of a teenage boy into the mind of a cat.  Fester is witty, smart, and funny and if he was human, he would be the life of any party. Anyone would be proud to have Fester living with them.

The reader will cringe and feel the pain of a parent when Fester needs mouth surgery to care for his infected gums. I commiserated with the struggle to give Fester pills and will have to try their idea next time our cat needs medicine. As Fester lives his final days, I empathized with Paul and Jeremy as they made the emotional decision to let Fester go. Pet owners will understand the heartache of the owners, but also get a glimpse into what Magrs believes Fester felt in those final moments. It truly was a touching moment.

THE STORY OF FESTER CAT ultimately teaches us to live a happy life. Fester reminds us that a life with routine, treats, sunshine, naps and lots of love are all keys to living contentedly. It doesn't take much to keep a cat happy. A few tickles behind the ear or on the chin and a cat will love you forever. Fester's story will make you feel good and give you the opportunity to see your pet in a whole new way.

Paul Magrs - source
Paul Magrs is the author of many books, written for all ages and in many different genres, including the Adventures of Brenda and Effie and numerous Doctor Who novels, radio plays, and short stories. However, this is his first foray into memoirs. He taught novel writing in the MA program in Creative Writing at UEA, and then at Manchester Metropolitan. Paul lives in Manchester, England, with his partner, Jeremy, and is now a full-time writer. 

Paul Magrs first shared the story of Fester through his blog and Facebook page and then Fester's story came to life through this book. For more on Paul Magrs, check out his blog, HERE. You can also find him on Facebook, HERE and Twitter, HERE.  

To purchase a copy of THE STORY OF FESTER CAT, click the photo below:

Thanks to Penguin Group for sending an ebook copy for the purpose of this review. This review is my honest opinion. I was not compensated in any way for this review. If you choose to purchase this book through the above link, I may receive a small commission without you having to pay a cent more for your purchase. Thanks for supporting reviews. 

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Product Review: Superior Selections Original Water Crackers

I have been reviewing products for BEST CHOICE Brands for the last several months.  In the past I have compared their product to a similar brand-name product and offered my opinion on which one our family liked better. This time I am just trying out a Best Choice product and letting you know what I think.  Best Choice posts my reviews on their site and when it appears, I will share it with you here.  The cool thing is that you will always see my review, whether I liked the product or not. You are truly getting my HONEST OPINION. You can always see reviews of the Best Choice products from myself and other mom bloggers, by clicking HERE.

I am always so excited to open up the box and see what I am reviewing next.   
In our area, we can find Best Choice products at smaller independent grocery stores. 
Since I have been exposed to more Best Choice products, 
we have added several to our pantry, bumping out the regular brand-name products. 
The current product was part of the Superior Selections line of food items.
Stay tuned for more product reviews. 
I think you may be surprised by our results.

Our family always keeps cheese and crackers on hand 
for a snack, a weekend meal, or if friends come over. 
What did the family think about adding these crackers to our regular snack? 
If you would like to see what I thought about 
the Superior Selections Original Water Crackers, check out my review, HERE.

Thanks to Best Choice Brands for sending me this product for review. I was not compensated in any way for this review. This review is my honest opinion. 

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Books That Came My Way in November

I subbed a large number of days in October and November, so my reading has had to take a back seat to the rest of my commitments and responsibilities. I only committed to one review in December and one in January, but I will be bringing you a few more.  I am much pickier about the books I will read and review. If I am choosing to read a book, then be sure that I truly think it is worthy of my time. Of course, some books just find their way to my mailbox without my previous knowledge. I am only going to spend time reading and reviewing books that I enjoy. If I'm not feeling it, I'm going to put it aside. I can't get to all these great books that come my way, but at least I can tell you about them here and I hope to review them just as soon as I can! 

If you would like to purchase any of these books, clicking on the photo of the book will take you directly to Amazon.  If you choose to purchase, I will receive a small commission without you having to pay any more for your purchase.  I appreciate your support of reviews.

By: Tina Seskis
Published: January 27, 2015
Publisher: William Morrow

This came to me from the publisher. Either there is a good marketing campaign or this book is just that good. I've have been seeing posts about it everywhere and the book isn't even out yet. I am hoping to get to this one over Christmas break! 

No one has ever guessed Emily's secret.

Will you?

A happy marriage. A beautiful family. A lovely home. So what makes Emily Coleman get up one morning and walk right out of her life--to start again as someone new?

Now, Emily has become Cat, working at a hip advertising agency in London and living on the edge with her inseparable new friend, Angel. Cat's buried any trace of her old self so well, no one knows how to find her. But she can't bury the past--or her own memories.

And soon, she'll have to face the truth of what she's done--a shocking revelation that may push her one step too far

By: Jerry Anderson
Published: August 17, 2012
Publisher: Word & Image, LLC

A friend of mine asked if I would be interested in reading his friend's book and told him I would. Within days this book arrived in my mailbox. Anderson lives in Minneapolis and this is his first book. The kindle version is just $2,99 at this time. 

The Money Trader is a story about money and greed. Down and out speculator Jake Buchanan makes a comeback in the 1987 crash. But will he find love and happiness?

On a borrowed $25,000 Jake makes over five million dollars on a huge speculative trade in the silver market. Before long he is trading and making more money than he ever imagined possible. Just when he thinks he has it all—money, a drop-dead gorgeous wife and a burgeoning new career—his luck abruptly changes. 

Over a grinding three years he loses everything, his money, most of his friends, and all his self-confidence. Jake is down, but not out. The archetypal underdog hero, he’s a kind of Rocky Balboa in pinstripes. And like Rocky, Jake fights—sometimes comically but always heroically—to make a comeback. 

At the heart of the story is Jake’s involvement with two rather extraordinary women, his steely but still loyal ex-wife Janet and Denise, a vivacious Latin beauty. The Money Trader is a must-read novel for anyone who has ever known the sweet taste of success, the bitter disappointment of defeat, the empty isolation of being alone, and the pure joy of being in love.

By: J. L. Witterick
Published: October 11, 2014
Publisher: Archway Publishing 

Remember when I reviewed MY MOTHER'S SECRET? (See review, HERE) Well the author contacted me and asked if I would be interested in reading her other book. She then sent me autographed copies of this book and MY MOTHER'S SECRET. I love these types of books and look forward to checking it out. 

There is no question that J.L. Witterick is a purposeful woman. After financing her education with academic scholarships, she went on to work for one of the most brilliant investors of all time, founded an investment firm, and along the way, wrote a bestselling novel. But when the firm's largest client decided to manage their funds in-house, the business closed...putting Witterick on the other side of success and facing a new reality. Witterick's mantra of, “It’s Actually a Good Thing”—is a way of thinking that completely transforms her life.

In her compilation of inspirational sayings, Witterick shares the unexpected positives that can come from having bad things happen while introducing an innovative thought process that will help anyone facing challenging events to look at life with an entirely new perspective.

It’s Actually a Good Thing shares a successful leader’s perspectives on the good and bad while providing practical advice on how we can all put a positive spin on our stumbling blocks in life.

By: Dina Silver
Published: December 1, 2014
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing 

This book was part of the Kindle First November program. After reading the synopsis, I thought it sounded like something I would be interested in. It is currently $4.99 on Kindle. 

THE UNIMAGINABLE is a story about letting go of the past and finding bravery in the depths of fear. Set on the sun-soaked beaches of Thailand and the rough waters of the Indian Ocean, THE UNIMAGINABLE paints a vivid portrait of a young woman on a journey to find herself—and her harrowing fight for survival.
After twenty-eight years of playing by the rules, Jessica Gregory moves from her small Indiana town to Phuket, Thailand. But her newfound routine is upended with the arrival of Grant Flynn, a captivating, elusive man who is sailing around the world while trying to move on from a past tragedy. Jessica volunteers to help crew Grant’s boat, Imagine, on a passage across the Indian Ocean and finds herself falling in love with him as the voyage gets underway. But when disaster strikes, Jessica must summon her courage as the crew is confronted by unspeakable terrors—and, aboard a boat named for such promise, comes the unimaginable.

By: Duncan Barrett and Nuala Calvi
Published: September 2, 2014
Publisher: William Morrow

You know I love historical fiction and stories set during the war. Better yet, I love reading true stories about history. When I saw this was a daily Kindle deal, I knew I had to get it. 

This is an absorbing tale of romance and resilience—the true story of four British women who crossed the Atlantic for love, coming to America at the end of World War II to make a new life with the American servicemen they married.

The “friendly invasion” of Britain by over a million American G.I.s bewitched a generation of young women deprived of male company during the Second World War. With their exotic accents, smart uniforms, and aura of Hollywood glamour, the G.I.s easily conquered their hearts, leaving British boys fighting abroad green with envy. But for girls like Sylvia, Margaret, Gwendolyn, and even the skeptical Rae, American soldiers offered something even more tantalizing than chocolate, chewing gum, and nylon stockings: an escape route from Blitz-ravaged Britain, an opportunity for a new life in affluent, modern America.

Through the stories of these four women, G.I. Brides illuminates the experiences of war brides who found themselves in a foreign culture thousands of miles away from family and friends, with men they hardly knew. Some struggled with the isolation of life in rural America, or found their soldier less than heroic in civilian life. But most persevered, determined to turn their wartime romance into a lifelong love affair, and prove to those back home that a Hollywood ending of their own was possible.
G.I. Brides includes an eight-pages insert that features 45-black-and-white photos.

By: Elsa Marston
Illustrated By: Claire Ewart
Published: November 1, 2014
Publisher: Wisdom Tales

After reading the synopsis, I knew I wanted to read it. I love children's book that share a life lesson.

When Muna and her family returned after the war, Sameer thought that he would finally have someone to play with. Together they could climb and eat from the big olive tree that overlooked both their gardens. But Muna didn't want to play or share the olives. However, one night lightning struck...

By: Constance Corcoran Wilson
Illustrator: Gary McCluskey
Published: September 13, 2014
Publisher: Quad Cities' Press

I previously reviewed an earlier Christmas Cats book, CHRISTMAS CATS CHASE CHRISTMAS RATS. See that review, HERE.  Since the author is an Iowan, I am happy to help promote her stories. 

The Christmas Cats Encounter Bats is a Seuss-ical tale for young children which builds upon the morals of the first two Christmas Cats books. THE CHRISTMAS CATS ENCOUNTER BATS urges everyone to honor life in all its forms. Love and accept all God’s creatures. Some animals---(puppies and kitties come to mind)--- are popular with nearly everyone. Others (spiders, lizards, bats, etc.) may not seem as worthy, but all are small cogs in the universe. Bats serve a very useful purposes in God’s grand scheme. All life should be valued. The bats of story three are just as deserving of respect and have as much of a right to life as any other creature on the planet. 

By: Carole P Roman
Published: September 23, 2014
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform 

If you are a regular reader, you know I LOVE Roman's books, especially these that teach children about other countries and cultures. 

It’s never too early to start teaching children about the world around them. In IF YOU WERE ME AND LIVED IN...GREECE , early learners get a taste of what their life would be like if they lived in Greece while being introduced to the birthplace of democracy. This exciting visit to Greece also introduces the important concept of democracy to children and highlights some of the other cultural contributions that Greece has made to Western civilization. Basic information is offered in a playful way that won’t overwhelm children.

By: Carole P Roman
Published: October 14, 2014
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform

You’ll never guess what crazy dish the ancient Incan kings ate. But you can read all about it, and more, in IF YOU WERE ME A LIVED IN...PERU,  the latest book in Carole P. Roman’s fun travel series for kids. An exciting introduction to world cultures written for young readers ages three through eight, this new expedition takes kids to South America and gives them a colorful glimpse into what living in Peru is like. Highlighting a myriad of topics, including language, cuisine, climate, and history, this book teaches kids about diversity while also revealing to them the important truth that we are all connected.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Book Review: Every Valley: Advent with the Scriptures of Handel's Messiah

Advent with the Scriptures of Handel's Messiah

Forward by: Albert L Blackwell

Compiled by: Jessica Miller Kelley

Published: September 26, 2014

Publisher: Westminster John Knox Press


It has been years since I have heard Handel's Messiah or seen it performed live. It is one of the most beautiful musical and spiritual pieces I have ever heard. Listening to Handel's Messiah is part of many Christmas traditions and one I have enjoyed listening to the last few weeks.

EVERY VALLEY gives readers a more in depth look at the scriptures and offers insights into the history of the readings. Each movement offers a reflection on the verses the music is based on. You will understand why the music reaches highs and lows and the basis for the lyrics.

You can read it while listening to Handel's Messiah or read each chapter daily as you work your way through Advent. There are forty reflections with forty being an important biblical number. Forty is the maximum number of days in the Advent and Christmas seasons combined. This allows the book to be read through the start of Advent and continued through the twelfth day of Christmas. You could also read through before or after listening to a performance of Messiah. There isn't a better way to reflect on the real reason for the Christmas season than by reading and listening to God's word. You will never hear the Messiah the same way again.

Since the Advent and Christmas season can be hectic, stressful, and for some a difficult time, readers can find comfort in the Scripture, reflections and the music. Reading and hearing the assurance of God's promises can offer a hope and a calm like nothing else can.

I found many of the reflections on the movements interesting and once listening after reading the scripture background, I understood the meaning behind the movement even more. In fact, from Movement 11, I realized the correlation between Advent beginning during the darkest time of our year and how our days get shorter and shorter only to reverse right before Christmas. Our sunlight hours begin to lengthen and remind us that Jesus has come to be our light, leading us out of darkness.

If you are looking for a way to connect with Christ during this Christmas season, I highly recommend EVERY VALLEY as a way to dig deeper and appreciate Handel's Messiah even more.

Just this weekend, my mom sent me this amazing video of the "Hallelujah Chorus" from Handel's MessiahThis video from the small Yupiq Eskimo Village of Quinhagak, Alaska. It was a school computer project intended for the other Yupiq villages in the area. Much to the villagers' shock, over a million and a half people have viewed it.

To purchase a copy of EVERY VALLEY, click the photo below:

Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for providing an ebook copy for the purpose of this review. This review is my honest opinion. I was not compensated in any way for this review. If you choose to purchase this book through the above link, I may receive a small commission without you having to pay a cent more for your purchase. Thanks for supporting reviews.