Thursday, March 27, 2014

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: A Terrible Love, ends 4/4

A Terrible Love, by Marata Eros.

"We're terrible together," I say, meeting his eyes, the savage truth hanging between us like an unmovable weight.

"It's not about true love, Jess." I see the conviction in his eyes and it is equal parts horrible and a comfort. I don't want a relationship, I want this burning ache to abate. The fire for him to subside.

I answer even though it's not required, jerking my backpack up off the ground as I begin to walk away. "If it were love then it would be a terrible love."

I don't wait for his response.

I've had this novel in my book pile for a while, and am just now getting to it - and now I wish I had read it sooner, as it was fantastic. I have another book by the same author, The Darkest Joy, that I will also be reviewing soon, as well as giving away two copies. This novel followed Jewell MacLeod, self-renamed Jess Mackey, a college student hiding from an abusive past and trying to connect without giving away too much information about herself to others.

Official synopsis:
A Terrible Love by Marata Eros review and giveawayJess Mackey is living a meticulously fabricated lie of necessity. She's left the secret tragedy of her past behind along with who she was and is forging ahead with a clean slate. Jess soon discovers that passion can't be left behind; her own and that of the one man that sees who she really is. Whose presence caresses her soul in a way that may breach the peaceful life Jess has made for herself.

Devin Castile sees a young woman that is the missing puzzle piece to his existence and who is also the victim to a heinous crime. Devin convinces himself that he can remain emotionally distant even while indulging his physical desire for her. When the lies that Jess has made crumble before their attraction and the truth is revealed, one of them might pay with their life... or their very being.

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I seem to be reading a lot of YA/NA books lately where the main character has an interesting or secretive past (here and here, for example), and this one was no exception. Jess's stepdad is a senator who is now running for president, and his son used to sexually abuse her. She ran away from them but has to keep a low profile, since her stepdad is constantly on the news, talking about his campaign and also how the search for Jess is going. Her mother chose to ignore what was going on - she "made her choice," Jess repeats throughout - and there was no other option for Jess except to run away.

Jess finds herself caught between two guys: Mitch, the "safe" option, who wants to be her boyfriend, and Devin Castile, "Cas" for short, who just wants sex, no strings attached. Jess opts to partake in both of these choices, until she learns some things about both men that make her reevaluate.

My *only* complaint about this novel is that we don't get to see into Devin's psyche as much as I'd like - however, I think the reason for this is because of A Brutal Tenderness, released recently on e-book ($5.99), which is this same story but from his point-of-view. I will definitely be adding that to my TBR list, as Cas continues to be a mystery to me after reading A Terrible Love, for the most part.

4.5 stars out of 5.

*Disclosure: I received a copy of this novel for reviewing purposes. The opinions expressed here, however, are my own.


GIVEAWAY:

Enter via the Rafflecopter form below. Two winners will each receive one paperback copy of the novel. Contest will end Friday, April 4th, at 11:59pm EST, and winners will be emailed on April 5th and have 24 hours to respond, or alternate winner(s) will be chosen. U.S. and Canada residents only, please.

Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

GIVEAWAY: win $300 Paypal cash to celebrate the release of Michael Thomas Cash's newest novel, ends 4/8

win $300 Paypal cash


Welcome to the $300 Cash Giveaway!


Schism was recently chosen as a BOTYA 2013 Finalist in Science Fiction. To celebrate, Michael Cash would like to offer a everyone a chance to win $300 Paypal cash. I am partnering up with other bloggers to host this giveaway!

On the planet Darracia, an ever-widening social gap between its inhabitants is causing turmoil that is fracturing a once peaceful world. Struggling with his identity, nineteen year old Prince V'sair must harness the power of the elusive Fireblade, the secret to a warrior's heart, in order to overcome his uncle Staf Nuen's lust for supremacy. Will the energy of the Elements guide the young prince to his true destiny or will Staf Nuen conquer Darracia?

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: The Blood Guard, ends 4/1, two winners

The Blood Guard, by Carter Roy.

She ran straight at the police car.

The blade she carried gleamed blue, like it had stored up the light of a full moon. Every sweep of its point left a bright, burning arc in the air.

But that wasn't what made my jaw drop with wonder.

When my mom ran, she blurred. There was a moment when her legs were visible; then something shifted, and she was a smear of color streaking across the pavement, halving the distance between us and the police car in a single breath. No regular person moves that fast.

This novel is the first in a trilogy about the Blood Guard, a group of people who guard the Pure - thirty-six people who must survive if the world is to survive, too. I actually started reading this book a while ago, then put it down, and then returned to it, which I usually don't do, but I'm glad I did, because the second half was more interesting and action-packed than the first.

Official synopsis:
The Blood Guard book review and giveawayWhen thirteen-year-old Ronan Truelove's seemingly ordinary mom snatches him from school, then sets off on a high speed car chase, Ronan is shocked. His quiet, nerdy dad has been kidnapped? And the kidnappers are after him, too? His mom, he quickly learns, is anything but ordinary. In fact, she's a member of an ancient order of knights, the Blood Guard, a sword-wielding secret society sworn to protect the Pure—thirty-six noble souls whose safety is crucial if the world as we know it is to survive. Now all those after-school activities—gymnastics, judo, survival training—she made him take make sense. For suddenly Ronan is swept up in a sometimes funny, sometimes scary, but always thrilling adventure—dashing from one danger to the next, using his wits to escape the Bend Sinister, a posse of evil doers with strange powers. 

Falling in with two unlikely companions, Greta, a scrappy, strong-willed girl he's never much liked and Jack, a devil-may-care teenage pickpocket, Ronan is left with only his wits and his mom's last words of advice: Trust no one. That's a lot for an ordinary kid to deal with. But then again, maybe Ronan's not ordinary at all.
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This is supposed to be a "middle-grade contemporary" read (aka, for middle-schoolers and up) but I found that anyone can enjoy it, especially if you enjoy fantasy, sci-fi, or books like Harry Potter, that involve a bit of magic in them.

Ronon finds out randomly one day that his mom is a member of this Blood Guard, and he must set off on a trip when, at the beginning of the novel, he and his mother's safety is jeopardized. He meets up with Greta, an old classmate of his, as well as Dawkins, another member of the Guard, and they must work together to put a stop to the Bend Sinister, an evil group who wants to kill the Pure.

I'm a fan of the Harry Potter series and other fantasy/sci-fi, and I enjoyed this novel overall. The book is very cleanly-written (easy to get through) and the characters were interesting - by the end of the novel, you were invested in their fates and whether or not they lived another day, though I assumed they would since this is the first novel of three about Ronan and the Blood Guard.

3.5 stars out of 5.

GIVEAWAY:

I have two copies of this novel to give away to my lucky readers - one hard copy (U.S. only) and one e-copy (open to international). Enter via the Rafflecopter below. Contest will end on Tuesday, April 1st, at 11:59pm EST, and winners will be notified on April 2nd via email and have 24 hours to respond, or alternate winner(s) will be chosen.

Good luck!

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Sunday, March 23, 2014

Quick Pick: Insurgent (Divergent #2)

    Insurgent book review
  • Opening line: "I wake with my name in his mouth."
  • Reason I picked up the book: I read Divergent back in 2011 and saw the movie version this past week. I had been meaning to read books 2 and 3 in the series, which came out in 2012 and '13, but had not yet read them.
  • And what's this book about?
  • One choice can transform you—or it can destroy you. But every choice has consequences, and as unrest surges in the factions all around her, Tris Prior must continue trying to save those she loves—and herself—while grappling with haunting questions of grief and forgiveness, identity and loyalty, politics and love. Tris's initiation day should have been marked by celebration and victory with her chosen faction; instead, the day ended with unspeakable horrors. War now looms as conflict between the factions and their ideologies grows. And in times of war, sides must be chosen, secrets will emerge, and choices will become even more irrevocable—and even more powerful. Transformed by her own decisions but also by haunting grief and guilt, radical new discoveries, and shifting relationships, Tris must fully embrace her Divergence, even if she does not know what she may lose by doing so.
  • Favorite paragraph: 
Tobias looks at me. I can't be popular with the Dauntless, because Tobias is right - I'm not Dauntless; I'm Divergent. I am whatever I choose to be. And I can't choose to be this. I have to stay separate from them.
"No," I say. I clear my throat and say it louder. "No, you don't have to vote. I refuse my nomination."  
Tori raises her eyebrows at me. "Are you sure, Tris?" 
"Yes," I say. "I don't want it. I'm sure." 
And then, without argument and without ceremony, Tobias is elected to be a leader of Dauntless. And I am not. 
  • Recommended for: fans of dystopian books (such as The Hunger Games series) and/or fans of the first Divergent book.
  • Something to know: The book starts immediately after the events of Divergent, so I waited until I got a bit of a refresh from the movie to start this novel, as I had read the first book in 2011.
  • What I would have changed: Nothing, actually! The end is definitely a cliffhanger, though, so I'm glad that I have Allegiant on hold at the library to read next.
  • Overall rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Book Review and Giveaway: Every Shattered Thing, ends 3/25

Every Shattered Thing book review and contest


Every Shattered Thing, by Elora Ramirez.

I glare at him and sit down in the grass, the icy blades poking through my jeans. I grimace and shift around before deciding to lay straight on my back so I'm facing the meteor shower. It looks like tiny pieces of glass tearing themselves against a black velvet tapestry. 

"It's beautiful," I whisper.

He sits down besides me and rests his hand on mine. 

"I figured you might like it," Kevin says. "It seems to be something you would understand - complete beauty found in the darkest of places."

This book makes every other YA/NA (Young Adult/New Adult) book I've read in the past seem like their characters lead charmed lives. Ever since she was young, Stephanie has been used by her father as a prostitute - he runs a ring that's now online, too - and she dreams of escaping their grasp. However, she wouldn't dream of leaving her 4-year-old brother, Pacey, alone in that household. Eventually, however, her life begins to get worse and worse, and measures must be taken before the worst can happen.

Official synopsis:
Every Shattered thing book review and contestStephanie fights reality every day. The voices inside, the ones declaring her worth, deem her broken, used and dirty. She is an object. A toy. Something to be tossed aside when bored. Who will believe her if she whispers the truth about her wrecking ball of a family? Eventually, her secret explodes and the person who means the most to her knows just how shattered she is and why she's so afraid. But rescue is closer than she realizes. Hidden in plain sight, her horror hasn’t been ignored by everyone. Racing against the truth of what she faces, forces are joining together and developing a plan to free her from the hell in her own backyard. And while she’s at her lowest point, she’s hit with the beauty of love at any cost - redemption in the face of ruin. Will it be enough?
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Before I delve into this book, I should say that everyone should read it - it was rather eye-opening to realize that so many girls, even in our country, are going through this. Ramirez has created characters that could be ripped from the headlines, and their situations are unfathomable.

At the same time, I was very frustrated with some of these characters. Kevin, Stephanie's boyfriend, knows what's going on in her household, yet she tells him over and over not to get involved. They're both in high school, so you could argue that he's too young to know better ... but Stephanie's former teacher, Emma, and her husband Jude, are not. The problem is that Stephanie's father has half of the town police force in the palm of his hand - they're actually taking part in the prostitution ring, in some cases - so when the police or CPS (Child Protective Services) come to visit her house, it's actually only making Stephanie's situation worse.

However, I was rather appalled that it took so long for Stephanie to get out of her parents' grip. Perhaps that IS real life, but I thought she shouldn't have been left to get beaten up and raped so many times, that something could have been done earlier about the situation. That could just be me being naive, but it's my opinion.

Another small complaint is the ending; I am not sure if there's a sequel, but if there's not, it ended rather abruptly. I wanted to know more about what happens to Stephanie, her family, and Kevin. There's also a small twist at the ending that I didn't see coming, and that also seemed a little unbelievable, too.

Overall, though, I did think this novel was interesting, and like I said before, it's definitely one that should be read - or at least check out similar reads - to broaden your horizons and learn more about these girls' plight, both here at home and overseas.

3 stars out of 5.

*Disclosure: I received an e-galley of this book to facilitate this review. The opinions expressed here, however, are my own.

GIVEAWAY:

Enter via the Rafflecopter form below. Prizes include a $30 Amazon gift card and a chapter of Every Shattered Thing with author notes and a story coaching session. Contest ends Tuesday, March 25th at 11:59pm EST.

Good luck!

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Saturday, March 22, 2014

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Reclaiming the Sand, ends 3/25

Reclaiming the Sand book review and giveaway

Reclaiming the Sand, by A. Meredith Walters.

I wanted to tell him. But I wanted to lie as well. I liked the way he looked at me. To Flynn Hendrick, Ellie McCallum was important. She was wanted. If I told him the truth about that night, I was sure that would all change.

My self-destructive side urged me to tell him everything. To sever the delicate bond that was forming between us. 

But I had another side that insisted on silence. 

I think this is maybe the first YA/NA book (it's classified as New Adult, but is really more Young Adult, in my opinion) I've read that has a character with a disability in it. Flynn, the main male character, has Asperger's, which makes him seem a bit different than others; Ellie and her friends in high school call him "Freaky Flynn," but she actually really likes him, and starts to spend time with him. She does something that impacts her life a lot and then doesn't see him for six years, when he returns to the small town they live in ... and ends up changing her worldview yet again.

Official synopsis:
Bully and victim.
Tormenter and tormented.
Villain and hero.

Ellie Mccallum was the bully. The Tormenter. The Villain. Taking what she wanted, stomping over anyone that got in her way. Feelings, futures, and relationships be damned. She felt no emotional connection to anyone or anything. A sad and lonely existence for a young woman who had come to expect nothing more for herself. Her only happiness coming from making others miserable.

Particularly Freaky Flynn.
Reclaiming the Sand book cover
Growing up, Flynn Hendrick was known only as “Freaky Flynn.” He lived a life completely disconnected even as he struggled to become something more than that boy with Asperger's. He was taunted and teased, bearing the brunt of systematic and calculated cruelty, ultimately culminating in a catastrophic turn of events that brought Ellie and Flynn’s worlds crashing down.

But then Flynn and Ellie grew up.

And moved on.

Until years later when their paths unexpectedly cross again and the bully and the freak are face to face once more.

When labels come to define you, finding yourself feels impossible. Particularly for two people disconnected from the world who inexplicably find a connection in each other.

And out of the wreckage of their tragic beginnings, an unlikely love story unfolds.

But a painful past doesn’t always want to let go. And old wounds are never truly healed…and sometimes the farther you try to run from yourself the closer you come to who you really are.
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I really loved this book. This is one of the reasons I'm so glad I take part in blog tours, because this book is not one that I would have necessarily found on my own; I haven't read anything else by the author.

A. Meredith Walters, author of Reclaiming the Sand
A. Meredith Walters, author
This novel is, at its core, a love story, but it's also about acceptance and growing up/moving on with your life. Ellie still hangs out with the same group she did in high school, and she slowly realizes that if she wants to get anywhere in life, she has to stop repeating the same patterns (getting drunk/high every weekend, etc.) and behavior. She enrolls in an English class at the local community college which starts to change this for her, and at the same time, Flynn Hendrick moves back to town, and they strike up a relationship.

Ellie was the narrator in this novel and I really liked how the reader was able to get into her head. Sometimes she got frustrated with Flynn, because he has mood swings, but she always reminds herself that it's not his fault, it's just how he's "hardwired"; she also loves the way she feels special and loved when she's with him, because growing up as a foster kid, she never had that kind of relationship in her life before.

4.5 stars out of 5.

*Disclosure: I received an e-galley of this novel for reviewing purposes. The opinions expressed here, however, are my own.


GIVEAWAY:

The other book tour bloggers and I are hosting a giveaway with many prizes! You can win one of the following:

  • $50 Amazon gift card
  • $20 Amazon gift card and SIGNED paperback of Reclaiming the Sand
  • $10 Amazon gift card and e-book of Reclaiming the Sand

Enter via the Rafflecopter below. Contest ends on Tuesday, March 25th at 11:59pm EST.

Good luck!

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Thursday, March 20, 2014

Book Review and Signed Copy GIVEAWAY: Fate of the Vampire (Vanderlind Castle #3), ends 3/28

Fate of the Vampire, by Gayla Twist.

There are things most teenage girls really need to hear. Obvious things like don't text while driving. Or don't blow off your friends just because you're dating some guy. Or, advice that I could have benefited from, don't date a vampire. Because even though Jessie had never even come close to hurting me, and even though he was one of the nicest and most generous people on the planet, and even though he wasn't one of those jealous control-freak vampires that you're always reading about in romance novels, he was still a vampire. Which meant he had vampire friends. And vampire enemies. So I was constantly under threat from this or that member of the undead whom I wasn't even dating.

As you can tell from that excerpt, this book is no Twilight, and it's the third (and final, sadly) book in the Vanderlind Castle series from Gayla Twist. I love these books because not only do they have supernatural elements, but they're also very well-written, and the narrator, Aurora, has an awesome sense of humor.

Official synopsis:
Fate of the Vampire by Gayla Twist book giveawayJust when Aurora and Jessie start to date like a normal couple, things go horribly wrong in the town of Tiburon, Ohio. People are disappearing, and Aurora knows it’s all her fault. She is, after all, in love with a vampire.

Fate of the Vampire is the final book in the Vanderlind Castle trilogy.
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Despite that very short synopsis, this book was great. If you like novels with strong heroines that fall in the supernatural/paranormal genre, I highly encourage you to check out these books - but start at the beginning, with Call of the Vampire (click here for review), so you can read Aurora and Jessie's story chronologically.

In this installment, teens start disappearing from Tiburon, the small town in Ohio where Aurora lives, and she has a nagging suspicion that it's vampire-related. Jessie's grandfather, whom everyone thought was dead a long time ago, also randomly shows up, and demands that Jessie never see Aurora again, which of course she's NOT okay about. And her mother has been dating a man who wants to propose to her - except, Aurora has yet to meet him.

It would be hard for me to pick a favorite of the three books, so I'll go ahead and say I liked all the novels in this series equally; I did give all 4 out of 5 stars, which is what I would give this book too. Heart of the Vampire, book 2 (click here for review), took place in both Tiburon and also Europe, but in Fate, they're back in Tiburon for the duration of the story.

Gayla Twist has created some memorable characters here, and although we do get our HEA (Happily Ever After) ending, I definitely wouldn't mind if there were more books in this series, though unfortunately there will not be.

4 stars out of 5.

*Disclosure: I received an e-copy of this novel from the author in exchange for an honest review. The opinions expressed here are my own.

GIVEAWAY:

Enter via the Rafflecopter form below. One winner will receive a paperback copy of Fate of the Vampire signed by Gayla Twist! Contest will end Friday, March 28th, at 11:59pm EST, and winner will be emailed on March 29th and have 24 hours to respond, or an alternate winner will be chosen. U.S. and Canada residents only, please.

Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, March 10, 2014

Book Review and Giveaway: Letting Go, ends 3/17

Letting Go, by Maya Banks (Surrender trilogy, book #1).

Josslyn Breckenridge surveyed her appearance in the mirror, nervous though no one would see her. Except Dash. She knew without confirming that he'd be here, just as he'd been here on this day for the previous two years, waiting to take her to the cemetery to visit and put fresh flowers on her husband's grave.

The flowers were on the counter beside her, just waiting for her to pick up and carry out of the house. But she hesitated because this year ... This year was different. 

This book is erotica similar to Fifty Shades but with a much more interesting back story: Joss has been widowed for three years now. She had a great marriage with the love of her life, Carson, but there was one thing always missing, and she was afraid to ask him for it. Now, she has to decide if she wants to pursue that, and if so, how she should go about doing that.

Official synopsis:
Letting Go by Maya Banks (Surrender trilogy #1)Josslyn found perfection once, and she knows she’ll never find it again. Now widowed, she seeks the one thing her beloved husband couldn’t give her. Dominance. Lonely and searching for an outlet for her grief and wanting only a brief taste of the perfection she once enjoyed, she seeks what she’s looking for at an exclusive club that caters to people indulging in their most hedonistic fantasies. She never imagined that what she’d find is the one man who’s long been a source of comfort—and secret longing. Her husband’s best friend.

Dash has lived in an untenable position for years. In love with his best friend’s wife and unwilling to act on that attraction. He’d never betray his best friend. And so he’s waited in the wings, offering Joss unconditional support and comfort as she works past her grief, hoping for the day when he can offer her more.

When he finds her in a club devoted to the darker edges of desire, he’s furious because he thinks she has no idea what she’s getting herself into. Until she explains in detail what it is she wants. What she needs. As realization sets in, he is gripped by fierce, unwavering determination. If she wants dominance, he is the only man who will introduce her to that world. He is the only man who will touch her, cherish her…love her. And the only man she’ll ever submit to.
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There were a lot of things I liked about this book and a few I did not.

Likes: The story was good, like I mentioned before. It was a little 50 Shades-esque in that Joss was super "innocent" and had never been initiated into this world before, so Dash has to teach her everything, but it also has different elements as well. There's a host of supporting characters too that will get their own novels in books 2 and 3 of the series, out in May and September 2014.

Dislikes: Joss almost seems TOO easily manipulated at times. She and Dash get into a fight later on in the book, and within four days, he misses her so much that he's practically groveling at her feet, which of course wins her back. He calls her "honey" a lot as a term of endearment, but I found this a little annoying, as it repeats a lot throughout the book. She also makes the switch to seeing him just as a friend - her dead husband's best friend, actually - to a "virile man" as I think she calls him at one point.

Overall, though, I enjoyed this story, and would recommend it to anyone who likes or is interested in this genre. I already have Giving In (book #2) to review as well, so check back closer to May for a review and giveaway of that novel too.

3.5 stars out of 5.

*Disclosure: I received a copy of this book for reviewing purposes. The opinions expressed here, however, are my own.


GIVEAWAY:


Enter via the Rafflecopter below. Contest ends on Monday, March 17th at 11:59pm EST, and winner will be emailed on March 18th and have 24 hours to respond, or an alternate winner will be chosen. Winner will receive 1 paperback copy of the book. U.S. residents only, please.

Good luck!

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Wednesday, March 5, 2014

GIVEAWAY: win The Book Thief on Blu-ray/DVD + the novel, ends 3/14

*Disclosure: I am a Fox Home Entertainment Insider and will be provided with a review copy of The Book Thief in exchange for this post. The opinions expressed here, however, are my own.

I reviewed The Book Thief back in November 2013 on my film blog, and now I have a copy for one of my lucky readers to win. The Book Thief comes to Blu-ray/DVD on March 11th.

*EDIT, 3/6: I now have a copy of the novel to give away as well! One winner will win The Book Thief Blu-ray/DVD and The Book Thief novel.

About the movie:
The Book Thief Blu-ray/DVD contestBased on the beloved best-selling book comes an “extremely moving” (Leonard Maltin, Indiewire) story of a girl who transforms the lives of those around her during World War II, Germany. When her mother can no longer care for her, Liesel (Sophie Nélisse) is adopted by a German couple (OSCAR® Winner Geoffrey Rush* and OSCAR® Nominee Emily Watson). Although she arrives illiterate, Liesel is encouraged to learn to read by her adoptive father. When the couple then takes in Max (Ben Schnetzer), a Jew hiding from Hitler’s army, Liesel befriends him. Ultimately, words and imagination provide the friends with an escape from the events unfolding around them in this extraordinary, acclaimed film directed by Brian Percival (Downton Abbey).

Blu-ray Special Features:

• Deleted Scenes
• A Hidden Truth: Bringing The Book Thief To Life
• Theatrical Trailer

First, check out the book-to-film discussion guide below:






GIVEAWAY:

Enter via the Rafflecopter form below. Contest will end on Friday, March 14th, at 11:59pm EST, and winner will be notified via email on March 15th, and have 24 hours to respond, or an alternate winner will be chosen. Contest is open to U.S./Canada residents only, please.

Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Review: Curl up with your favorite book and Crio Bru brewed cocoa

*Disclosure: I am a participating Influencer at The Entertainment New Media Network. I have received free product for review to facilitate this post. I was not compensated for this review and all expressed opinions are strictly my own.


This post was originally going to go on my film blog, and I was going to say how it would be great to watch a movie and drink some Crio Brü cocoa. But then I realized that drinking hot chocolate (or eating cookies, in this case) would be a great activity to do while reading, as well.

To make Crio Brü, you need a coffeemaker or a French press, neither of which I have, since I dislike coffee. So I headed over to fellow ENMN blogger Justynn's house to make the cocoa, since we each received a package with two varieties: Cavalla and Maya.

Well ... you know what they say about the best laid plans. We tried a few times to make the hot chocolate, but I have a feeling we were not following the instructions 100% - the batch that we ended up trying was very bitter and hopefully not what the hot chocolate normally tastes like.

However, I was in luck, because Justynn had recently made these, using the Maya hot chocolate powder:


Yes, those are COOKIES, and they were delicious. She made them using the recipe on her blog, which you can find here; the substitution she made was to use 1/3 cup cocoa powder and 1/3 cup of the Maya hot chocolate powder, rather than 2/3 cup cocoa powder.

Some things you should know about Crio Brü:

  • It's made from 100% roasted cocoa beans - that means no sugar, chemicals, gluten, or dairy. The product contains many antioxidants, abundant minerals, and "healthy energy."
  • Raw cocoa beans have more antioxidants than almost any food in the world
  • Cocoa is an appetite suppressant (really?! who knew!), and for a 6 oz. cup of Crio Brü, it's only 10 calories (as well as 0g of fat, 0g of sugar, 0mg of sodium, and 1.5g of carbohydrates)
  • Crio Brü carries seven varieties, including the two we received to try: the Cavalla (with notes of coconut and cinnamon) and the Maya (notes of cinnamon, ground vanilla, and cayenne - but the cookies didn't taste that spicy).

Cocoa powder varieties we received to try

I'd like to try brewing the Cavalla variety again sometime, or maybe including it in a smoothie or another baked good. According to Crio Brü, you can actually reuse the grounds too with less water or by adding 50% new grounds ... and you can even use the Crio Brü powder to exfoliate and moisturize your hands!

(I'm pretty sure smelling like chocolate all day would not be a good thing, at least for me ... I'd be craving chocolate! But it would definitely be interesting to see if my hands became softer/more moisturized)

What's your favorite winter treat or hot drink? Any hot chocolate fans here?

Monday, March 3, 2014

GIVEAWAY: Dog Gone, Back Soon, by Nick Trout, ends 3/10

Did you know that April is Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Month, and April 11th is National Pet Day? Author Nick Trout has a new book out, Dog Gone, Back Soon, and I have three paperback copies to give away to my readers.

Official synopsis:
Maybe the cutest cover ever ...
DOG GONE, BACK SOON brings readers back to the quaint and idyllic town of Eden Falls, Vermont, where Dr. Cyrus Mills, an introverted animal pathologist, has reluctantly returned to take over his recently deceased father’s veterinary practice - The Bedside Manor for Sick Animals. In a true “fish out of water” scenario, Cyrus struggles to fit into his new community, with its colorful and quirky cast of characters and to cure various tricky pet ailments. But he’s determined to make a go of it, especially since he’s smitten with a local waitress, which means he must thwart the aggressive and underhanded efforts of Healthy Paws (the big chain competition across town) to put Bedside Manor out of business.

A charming and heartwarming tale of new beginnings, DOG GONE, BACK SOON celebrates the wisdom to be gained from furry friends and one man’s discovery that you can, indeed, go home again.
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GIVEAWAY:


Enter via the Rafflecopter form below. Contest will end on Monday, March 10th, at 11:59pm EST, and winners will be notified via email on March 11th, and have 24 hours to respond, or an alternate winner(s) will be selected. U.S. residents only, please.

Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Saturday, March 1, 2014

GIVEAWAY: HP ENVY 5530 e-All-in-One Printer, ends 3/16

HP ENVY 5530 e-All-in-One Printer

As you might have seen in Cori of Cori’s Cozy Corner’s review of the HP ENVY 5530 e-All-in-One Printer, it is a great printer with lots of great features. It's also great for saving time and money - check out Cori’s Cozy Corner’s HP ENVY 5530 e-All-in-One Printer review to see how.

I used to have to lug my laptop across my living room every time I wanted to print ... I splurged on a wireless printer on Amazon a few months ago and it's pretty much the best thing EVER. I no longer have to do the "laptop dance" across the room whenever I want to print something - I just hit "Print" and voila, I soon have my printed item.

HP has given Cori one HP ENVY 5530 e-All-in-One Printer away and she has asked me to share, too! So I am able to join up with Cori and several of her blogger friends to take part in this amazing giveaway.

Enter below. Giveaway ends on 3/16/14 at 11:59pm EST, and is open to U.S. readers only. Good luck!