My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout {Book Review and Giveaway}

2.10.2016

The simple and direct prose of this novel, with its deceptively simple storyline and characters, will suck you in. It's a quick read!


Don't miss the giveaway at the end of this post!


My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout was a breath of fresh air. Lucy Barton is stuck in a hospital room with an unexplained illness when her mother suddenly appears to stay with her. Lucy is looking back on her experience and writing down her memories, with the knowledge of how things turned out offered in dribs and drabs.

Having read many books lately that were convoluted and quirky, the simple prose in this novel was just lovely. I can't say the writing is raw because it is too subtle and restrained for that, but it could easily be described as clean and stark.

This is my first novel from Strout and I found that it struck the perfect balance between withholding information and offering facts. I really had to think about whether I needed to know things that I was curious about. Lucy didn't seem to think they were important, so were they?

The best way I can describe this novel is that it felt like running downhill. I could not wait to see which mysteries would be explained and which would remain shrouded in the past.

Elizabeth Strout won the Pulitzer Prize for Olive Kitteredge and is also well known for The Burgess Boys, so I'm off to add those to my TBR List! If you'd like to read My Name is Lucy Barton, enter here for a chance to win a hardcover copy:

a Rafflecopter giveaway


{I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The links in this post contain affiliate links and I will receive a small commission if you make a purchase after clicking on my link. Thank you for your support!}



Mr. Splitfoot by Samantha Hunt {Book Review}

2.09.2016

This book was quirky, but man was it beautifully written. It includes both a religious fanatic and a mysterious journey with a mute woman. Can't ask for more than that, people.


Mr. Splitfoot is a meandering, quirky, and rich novel by Samantha Hunt. The story jumps back and forth between two storylines. The first is the story of Ruth and Nat, who are growing up in a foster home under the care of a religious fanatic. In the second, we meet Ruth later in her life. She is now mute and on a journey to an unknown destination with her niece Cora.

Hunt's writing just tugs at the heartstrings. While there were times that the story moved at a slower pace, the lyrical quality of the writing propelled me forward. Fair warning though, portions of this novel are graphic and some dark, but not in a salacious way. These portions are tempered with passages suffused with a wry sense of humor, bringing balance to the narrative.

Mr. Splitfoot by Samantha Hunt was quirky, but man was it beautifully written. It includes both a religious fanatic and a mysterious journey with a mute woman. Can't ask for more than that, people.

This is not a story of sunshine and rainbows. Instead, it is the story of characters who struggle with how to move past the disappointment of their pasts and find a direction in which to move forward. By the end of this novel, you will feel invested in these characters and will be hoping that Ruth and Cora find their happy endings. You'll have to read Mr. Splitfoot to find out if they do!

{I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The links in this post contain affiliate links and I will receive a small commission if you make a purchase after clicking on my link. Thank you for your support!}

Recipes for Your Meal Plan {Menu Plan Monday 2/8/16}

2.08.2016

Check out these dinner recipes for your family meal plan, including Chicken and Dumplings, Buffalo Wings, and Breakfast Tacos. These are easy dinners also work on a budget!


Here is my weekly contribution to Menu Plan Monday - I'm sharing recipes I tried and loved last week, so you can trust that these are keepers and perfect recipes for your meal plan!

Perfect Chicken and Dumplings {Taste of Home}

Check out these dinner recipes for your family meal plan, including Chicken and Dumplings, Buffalo Wings, and Breakfast Tacos. These are easy dinners also work on a budget!
This recipe for The Best Chicken and Dumplings hit the spot on a cold Winter night. It's relatively easy to make, especially given that it's made from scratch, and is comfort food at its finest.

Buffalo Wings {Alton Brown}



Okay, maybe these aren't really for dinner, but bring these Buffalo Wings to any party and you will be idolized. I am telling you - you will not want to order wings at a restaurant anymore because these will ruin you forever! The trick is that Alton Brown figured out to steam them first, then bake. The result is crispy skin and moist meat. Try these and you won't regret it.

Breakfast Tacos {Me}

Check out these dinner recipes for your family meal plan, including Chicken and Dumplings, Buffalo Wings, and Breakfast Tacos. These are easy dinners also work on a budget!
I don't really have a recipe for this one, but it would be a perfect "breakfast for dinner" meal, especially on a busy night. Just fry up some corn tortillas, some bacon, and some eggs. Add whatever toppings you can find in the fridge (we usually do cheese, salsa, and sour cream) and ta da! You have a lovely dinner. Some fresh fruit on the side would round it out.

Find more meal planning ideas over at Meal Plan Monday!

For more recipe ideas, here's my Recipes for Your Meal Plan Pinterest Board:

Kawaii Box {Subscription Box Review and Giveaway}

2.04.2016

 The Kawaii Box is the perfect subscription box for teens or women who love Kawaii items!

I am so excited to team up with Kawaii Box to bring you this review and giveaway. This box was really outside the norm for me, so was a real treat to explore. Make sure you enter the giveaway at the end of this post!

The Box:


The Cost:

  • Starting at $17.30/month

What's Included:

  • 10-12 hand-picked Japanese and Korean kawaii items directly to your home every month. Everything from Japanese candy to stationery & beauty accessories.

Kawaii Box Review:

Okay, am I the only one who had no idea what "kawaii" is? I was so intrigued when the Kawaii Box approached me to review one of their boxes. It was a complete mystery to me, but I am so glad I gave it a try. Check out what was inside the box I received and you'll see exactly what kawaii means.

The Kawaii Box is the perfect subscription box for teens or women who love Kawaii items!
This information card lists all eleven items included in the September 2015 box that I received. Even the information card is cute!

The Kawaii Box is the perfect subscription box for teens or women who love Kawaii items!
Isn't that a full box?

The Kawaii Box is the perfect subscription box for teens or women who love Kawaii items!
Here are a few of the stationery items and the fragrance beads. I think the beads are watermelon scented, but I can't be sure. The stickers and card are both great quality. I am not sure about the stretchy bear pen. Doesn't he look sorta injured?

The Kawaii Box is the perfect subscription box for teens or women who love Kawaii items!
Here are a few of the treats that were included. On the far left was an ice cream cone flavored candy, then gummies. The necklace set was adorable, with a great variety of beads and cord for making jewelry.

The Kawaii Box is the perfect subscription box for teens or women who love Kawaii items!
Are these sheep? Alpaca? I'm not sure, bu the saying on it is pretty deep.

The Kawaii Box is the perfect subscription box for teens or women who love Kawaii items!
These little squishies were the biggest hits with my kids. The green one was a coin purse type of thing.

So, if you haven't figured it out already, I'll let you know that kawaii means "cute." The Kawaii Box certainly lived up to its name. It was a box packed full or adorable, cute, squishy, yummy, fun stuff. While it wasn't really my thing, my kids were (literally) fighting over the contents!

Would you like to try out Kawaii Box? Enter to win one here!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Subscription Box Directory Update {February 2016}

2.03.2016


It's shocking how many new subscription boxes are out there! Come check out what boxes were added over the past month. There are a couple for book lovers!

{The links in this post contain affiliate links and I will receive a small commission if you make a purchase after clicking on my link. Thank you for your support!}

Here are the updates I made to the Subscription Box Directory this month!

Read These Books: Visions of the Future

2.02.2016

I'm sharing book reviews of two trilogies about alternate futures. Read these books!


This is the first in a new installment at Plan to Happy! I love to read my way through a theme, so now and then I'll offer some suggestions for new books and books to take off the shelf from years past that all contain the same theme.

This week, the theme is the future. These books involve the worlds of virtual reality, computer hacking, and criminal masterminds. Given the headlines today, some of these story lines hit a bit too close to home....

{I received an ARC of many of these book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The links in this post contain affiliate links and I will receive a small commission if you make a purchase after clicking on my link. Thank you for your support!}

Review of The Mortality Doctrine Series by James Dashner

The Mortality Doctrine Series


The Mortality Doctrine is the latest series from the creator of The Maze Runner, James Dashner. I seriously loved entire Maze Runner Series and The Mortality Doctrine has the same fast-paced, detailed-oriented, plot. This whole series is a page turner, but fits squarely in the YA genre. This series begins with The Eye of Minds, where we are introduced to Michael, who is a gamer in the VirtNet and its most important game, Lifeblood.

This series is set in a world where people go about their daily lives, just going through the motions until they can re-enter the VirtNet, a virtual world that seems completely real. In fact, there are even attachments directly to the nervous system, nutrients to replace food, and, um, bathroom facilities for your body while your mind participates in the virtual reality. Ick.

As a result of the reality of the VirtNet, the running theme throughout this novel is a consideration of what reality is. I was constantly questioning if Michael was experiencing real life or the VirtNet, which kept me on the edge of my seat. Wound up in all of that, the characters become fully fleshed out and rooting for them, and against the bad guys, is a natural reaction.

My only warning with this series is that some suspension of disbelief is required. Yes, you could get all persnickety about the plot and question some decisions made by characters, but just go with it and enjoy the ride.
The Brilliance Series by Marcus Sakey

The Brilliance Trilogy


Marcus Sakey's Brilliance Trilogy recently concluded this month with Written in Fire, which I completely gobbled up. This trilogy is in development for a future movie (and you may recognize Sakey's name from the recent movie adaptation of his novel Good People), which is no surprise. The genre here is decidedly science-fiction thriller and you're going to need to set aside some time to read all three in a row. Also, this one is not for the kiddies.

In the first book of the trilogy, Brilliance, we are introduced to a new development in human evolution - the Brilliants. Interestingly, this development only began about 30 years before the present day, where the books pick up the action. These are people with extraordinary talents, which take varied forms, from seeing patterns to physical skill.

As you may expect, government agencies are scrambling to figure out how to control (and harness) these talents, while individual people are grappling with how to deal with them in their everyday lives. Like any good thriller, this is a page turner, with the added bonus of a sci-fi twist.

Sakey really shifts gears in A Better World, though the same characters are there, as is the sense of humor. In fact, the gear shift is so pronounced that it almost felt like a stand-alone book. I wanted more of the characters I knew and loved from the first novel, but the last 25 percent of the book was such a roller coaster that I immediately dived into the third.

Written in Fire continues the trend. This was a truly satisfying conclusion to a series filled with non-stop action. Characters were pushed to their breaking point, then past it, all while the plot surged forward. I never have the expectation that a series will end with all story lines tied up in little bows, but this came pretty close to that for me.

The imagery in these novels is so vivid that you will completely get why they are already in development for a movie despite the fact that the third novel was just released. There are letter, articles, and advertisements interspersed in the story to offer a different perspective from that offered by the narrator. I highly recommend this series, especially if you are intrigued by the picture of an entirely different America.

Recipes for Your Meal Plan {Menu Plan Monday 2/1/16}

2.01.2016

This week, find quick and easy dinner recipes for your meal plan: Hearty Sausage Stew {Taste of Home} and Man-Pleasing Chicken {Witty in the City}!

This week brings two outstanding recipes. You'll have to give both of these a try. The first is from one of my favorite food magazines, Taste of Home. The second is an old favorite that really made the rounds on Pinterest. If you are a Pinterest user, check out the link to my dinner recipes board at the bottom of this post!

The first recipe is Hearty Sausage Stew. I could not believe how darn yummy this turned out in only 30 minutes. I never really believe the 30 minute thing, but this one delivered! As you can see below, I just thew some Saltines on a plate with it for some dipping and some crunch.

Quick and easy dinner recipes for your meal plan: Hearty Sausage Stew {Taste of Home} and Man-Pleasing Chicken {Witty in the City}!

Next up is one of the most popular pins you'll see on Pinterest: Man Pleasing Chicken. For the life of me, I could not find my Dijon mustard in the fridge, so I used Honey Mustard and it was still outstanding. (Of course, I found the Dijon the next day.) I served this with a great side dish that used up a bunch of stuff in my freezer and fridge: Sauteed Bacon, Corn, and Scallions from Martha Stewart. I wanted something to sop up the sauce, so I also warmed up a baguette. A great dinner!

Quick and easy dinner recipes for your meal plan: Hearty Sausage Stew {Taste of Home} and Man-Pleasing Chicken {Witty in the City}!

I pin like crazy all week to my Recipes for Your Meal Plan Pinterest Board. Follow it here:



Find more recipes over at Menu Plan Monday. I've teamed up with Plan to Eat to promote my favorite meal planning service EVER!:

Simple Meal Planning - Plan to Eat