29 August 2014

Uncorked Ventures - Luxury Wine Club and Gifts! #Wine

Check out my review of Uncorked Ventures, an amazing wine subscription and luxury gift company with an amazing blog filled with vivid descriptions of their wine adventures!


28 August 2014

5 Things That Make me Re-Read a Book (And One Bonus Reason!) #AmReading

I'm re-reading a book right now for the third (yes, third) time. It's called "And Then We Came to the End" by Joshua Ferris. The main reason for the third round of reading is because I haven't stopped at the library for a new batch and want something - ANYTHING - to read.

There's more to it than that though. I have an overflowing bookshelf filled with books that I've read and some I probably haven't. So why this book? It made me wonder the reasons behind why I choose certain books to read twice (even three times) and others I don't ever crack open the spine to bother with again.

Mind you, this is a rarity itself. I almost never re-read a book.

So here's my top five reasons why I will re-read a book (with one bonus reason thrown in there too) -

1) I love the characters.

This is the reason I'm re-reading 'And Then We Came to the End.' I love the characters in this book so much that reading this book makes them come alive for me all over again. Their lovable and hate-able all at the same time. For that reason, I will probably read this book a fourth time in the future.

So if a book has vivid, memorable characters, I will more than likely return and revisit them again. That's partially why I love books that are series related because these characters DO come back to you!

2) I love the setting.

I personally love the office setting in this book I'm re-reading. Not enough authors use that setting. It's so real to me and fun that I can almost walk up to the water cooler myself and gossip with the characters. Also, another book I plan to re-read soon is "The Man in the Picture" by Susan Hill who uses the winter setting and the desolation that surrounds her characters to enhance the creepiness of her stories.

Another setting I love is a school or college setting. And one writer who does this effectively is Will Lavender! These are mysteries, but I just love the setting and this may be the exception to "not re-reading whodunit books," (see number 3) because the use of the college setting just takes me away.

3) There is more to the story than "whodunit" (once you know whodunit, what's the point?).

I hope to be proved wrong, but part of the thrill of reading murder mysteries and other books like that is the excitement in figuring out who the killer is. This may not always be the case, but the book I'm re-reading now doesn't have a big mystery to solve. This helps keep the entertainment fresh every time I return to it.

The exception here is if the book has other intriguing factors that draws me back in again! So far I haven't re-read a "whodunit" type of book yet, but there's always a first for everything!

4) Short story collections.

Another book that I've read a couple of times is "Twice Upon a Time" by Denise Little. I love the variety of short story collections and usually my first time around reading it, I don't read every story. So the second (or even third) I'll get something new out of it!

5) Seeing the movie.

Sometimes seeing the movie for a book I know I've read inspires me to re-read it. Because the second round of reading will let me compare the book from the movie! And I can learn why books are always better than the movie all over again (not all the time, but most times anyway!).

One book I've read before and now I really want to re-read is Amityville Horror! I saw the movie again recently and it's so creepy! Creepier this time around! So now I want to re-read the book.

6) BONUS REASON: Five or so years go by, and I still remember the book. Or I own it and have forgotten I read it.

I recently remembered the title "The Phantom Tollbooth" which is a book I read as a kid. I don't really remember a lot of the books I finished and I'm not too great about keeping track of them, so if a book stays with me over the years, I plan on going back at least once and re-reading it, just to refresh my memory!

Or if I'm browsing through my own bookshelf, if I spot a book that I can't remember reading, it may have a shot on getting in re-read VIP list. 

Do you ever re-read books? What reasons do you have for giving a book the second go around?

25 August 2014

Dark Hope by Monica McGurk #DarkHopeBook #AmReading [Book Review + Giveaway]

Author: Monica McGurk

About the Book
(read complete synopsis on Monica McGurk's website)

Years following a bizarre child abduction, Hope Carmichael lived a sheltered life with her father. Now as a teenager, Hope returns to her mother in Atlanta, Georgia to start her life as a "regular teen."  Not everything is quite what it seems, though. After getting hassled by a guy named Lucas, Hope meets an attractive rebel named Michael. He becomes her savior in more ways than one, beginning with an offer to drive her home, saving her from the bus bullies making her life hell. Things change once Hope starts working with class partner - and new friend - on a class assignment about human trafficking and discovers this cruel, criminal business is close to home. From the streets of Atlanta to the gritty glimmer of Las Vegas, Dark Hope by Monica McGurk "introduces The Archangel Prophecies, a saga of extraordinary love, vast mythological scope, and great moral urgency."

My Review

I was immediately taken with the high school world the author created. Although I never really took the bus as a kid, the few times I did in high school - usually during field trips - were awful and I felt Hope's isolating pain as she was picked on by a few selective bus bullies. One in particular named Lucas stands out and he never really goes away throughout the book. Another guy gets close to Hope, a rebel named Michael who stands between her and the hassles of Lucas and his minions.

All of these initial events have much more meaning as the book goes on, and I thought the book picked up speed once she gets the assignment to work with a partner on a topic of their choice. That's when Hope meets Tabitha, a goth preacher's daughter, who encourages the topic of human trafficking. This hits close to home for Hope and despite her reluctance, she accepts the topic. This sends the book into high speed and what was once just traditional high school hell becomes much more.

I did spot a few holes in the initial part of the book, but this didn't prevent me from enjoying myself. This book was quite a ride and I admittedly read this in one day. Also, there were biblical references throughout the book, if you aren't familiar with them, don't worry. They don't distract from the story and they certainly don't distract from the exciting and intense plot line. Either way, you will want to finish this (probably in one day, like I did!) I loved the character Michael especially and thought he was such a vividly written character (and especially enjoyed it when Tabitha came on the scene!).

I can't wait to read the second book and find out what happens to Hope, Michael, and everyone else that is impacted by the events surrounding her story.  Dark Hope is the first book in the Archangel Prophecies triology.

Visit this link to purchase your copy of Dark Hope by Monica McGurk.

Also, Monica McGurk is on social media! So, make sure to follow her on Twitter,  Facebook, and Pinterest.

And best of all, I get to giveaway a copy of Dark Hope by Monica McGurk! Enter via Rafflecopter below. This giveaway ends on 9/5.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls Collective and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own. I received compensation and a free copy of the book in exchange for my honest review.

16 August 2014

4 Complaints about Writing in the Summer

writing in the summer

My best motivation comes from writing during the cold seasons. It hasn't helped that since the beginning of July, it's been close to 90 and above nearly everyday here in Portland.

And as mid-August roles on by and September peeks it's ahead around the corner, I'm looking forward to the colder fall and winter seasons.

Since I'm about to bid adieu to the long, hot days of summer, I'd like to tell you my five biggest complaints about writing during the summertime -

1) The laptop heats up like a fireplace whenever I use it.

The fact that I don't have air conditioning at home (can't afford it) makes my laptop the enemy in the summertime. The ideal is that I trek to the local Starbucks/bookstore/library to borrow their air conditioning, but that isn't always possible (or all that fun).

2) That feeling of restlessness doesn't go away even though I no longer have summers off.

I absolutely hated having all that time off during the summer as a kid, but now as an adult I wish I had those days back. Even now, I tend to be more restless during the summer. Although that DOES lead me towards writing new stories (I have a wonderful collection of short stories written out because of that), it doesn't inspire me to settle and edit (all of those stories are still handwritten).

3) Things just seem scarier in the winter than the summer.

Blame my enjoyment of the dark and cold winter days, but it's tough to get into the mood of horror and other paranormal stories when it's a glorious sunshining day with kids laughing and playing outside and conversations of barbecues and picnics all around.

4) Winter allows me to slow down and become introspective (or so confirms Psychology Today).

I'm sort of agreeing with the logic that I found on Psychology Today about winter time and it's affects on creativity (especially for "winter people" like me). For me, there aren't too many "winter blues" to deal with, but the burrowing feeling of hibernation and wanting to shut the world away.

Do you like writing during the summer? Or does the restless, stifling heat get to you after a while? What season is your best writing self?

01 August 2014

Addictive Reading Habits - The Best Worst Times to Read #AmReading

Link: http://xkcd.com/238/

I just finished reading the book, "The Woman in Black" by Susan Hill. She's one of the few authors I've read regularly (I've read about four or five of her books!) and although I hate to use the word favorite about any author or book (I don't want anyone to get jealous), she comes pretty close. The stories she writes are creepy and the settings are so vivid.

And once I started reading this book, I could barely put it down, it was that addictive. It made me wonder though about everyone else's reading habits. I had started this book over the weekend and I usually bring a book to work so I can read it on my way home. But I almost didn't have the patience with this one, I was so tempted to sneak it into a trip to the bathroom and read it in the stall!

I didn't, of course. I worried that someone would assume I was going # 2 and we wouldn't want that.

I decided to ask around to some other bookworms and see where their reading obsessions have taken them!

"I used to read while I was breastfeeding at night but they certainly weren't addictive books, they were all rubbish but my brain was mush and all I could cope with! I did see a woman walking along the street reading a book the other day - I thought to myself that must be a good book!"
-Clara W.

"Most awkward time? Probably at work and having my manager walk into my office and seeing me with book and bookmark in hand!"
-Michael L. 

"At a religious ceremony. I was 15 and was dying to see how this romance novel I was reading would end. I covered it up really well. Bad right? Lol. Sorry."
-Omi J. M. 

"I started a book then I had to take it to an awards dinner because I couldn't put it down."
-Gabrielle P. 

"When I've been stuck on hold waiting for a company to answer the phone... "You are tenth in the queue..." - time to read and stick phone on speaker phone while I wait!"
-Chrissie P. 

"I started a book on a trip to Italy. Arrived in Italy and stayed up all night to read it. Then I was too exhausted to appreciate the sights of Venice."
-Wendy J. 

"I discovered the Harry Potter books while working as an AV tech at the University of North Texas. I walked all over campus as part of the job, and so I just walked around campus carrying the books in front of my face and reading straight through, even reading while I did maintenance, etc., on the equipment. I may or may not have even read some while driving. I actually read through the first five books in a week."
-S. Kyle D.

"A wedding. I had my book in the car, and every little lull in activity I would duck out for 5 minutes for book time. I think people started thinking I was a closet smoker." -Jamie Jordan

I found these stories hilarious! Makes me feel a bit better about my reading habits!

This post contains an affiliate link for which I receive small compensation if a purchase is made.
Do you have any weird reading habits? What is the most awkward time you've pulled out a book to read it? 

31 July 2014

Want to Win Some California Ranch Olive Oil? [Giveaway ends 8/20]

Over on my review blog, Fancy That! I am reviewing California Olive Oil and I want to invite all my readers to hop on over and see what I think of this tasty olive oil and enter to win a bottle of your own!

For anyone just quickly stopping by, enter via Rafflecopter below!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

I received a complimentary bottle of olive oil in exchange for my honest review (linked above).

18 July 2014

The Point by G. Nykanen [Book Blast] (And Win a $25 Gift Card) #AmReading

dark journey through madness...

Publication Date: May 30, 2014
Genre: Psychological Thriller

Befuddled by her current relationship woes, Nora Reynolds leaves college at semester’s end to drive north of nowhere to her hometown of Iron Bay. Vulnerable and on the rebound, she is the perfect prey for fledgling felon Dane Buchman. Dane takes advantage of the unaware young woman, feeding his appetite for mischief until a rather violent shift in their relationship reveals to him what he’s really been craving. Driven by his new found hunger, Dane feels unstoppable, until former high school rival and town deputy, Doug Sanders, navigates the trail of Dane’s destruction.

The Point is a dark thriller that will allow you to witness a truly dangerous sociopath wander through madness guided by a treasured family heirloom, and a pensive young woman find her way after discovering, that which doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger. With echoes of the Coen brothers’ Fargo, the folksy town of Iron Bay and the nearby north-woods community of Deer Lake are the destinations for Mr. Buchman’s many misdeeds.

G. Nykanen was born and raised in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. This small, rural land mass seems to cultivate a wide variety of colorful characters who provide a plethora of inspiration. The Point, Nykanen’s first novel, is filled with nuances of these local characters and the landscapes one might find in the north woods. 

Well traveled thanks to her husband’s government career, she has lived in Europe and many of our United States over the last twenty years. She has recently returned home, moving back to her beloved Upper Peninsula where she resides with her husband and three children.

With The Point now completed, she will continue working on her next novel, Accumulation, along with continuing to develop other stories in the works.

16 July 2014

Five Things Going Through My Head During My Commute Home

So I'm on my bus right now going home and a few things popped into my head that I was going vent about to my personal Facebook page, but I decided to share with you instead.

So here's five observations and thoughts rolling through my head on my way home today -

1) I wish the guy sitting next to me on my bus home would stop falling asleep. He leans on my arm occasionally and it's getting very irritating.

2) I spilled hot sauce in my bag (brought it to work cause of lunch) and I hope no one smells it.

3) I spotted a cop nearby in his car texting while we were at red light.

4) I also have coffee spilled on my pants earlier and have a desperate need to put on clean clothes.

5) I have that song "Work" by Iggy Azalea in my head and it's serving up weird motivation to write when I get home.

What's on your mind?

5 Best Tips on Getting Productive with #WhatMatters

The past few weeks I have been talking about getting productive in your life (as well as how important organization is to the overall goal of productivity!). I wanted to end my four part series with looking back at some of the best advice I've discovered on productivity and how a great new product may just help you with that.

1) Set small attainable goals for each project.

It's the little things you do that make a big difference. Sometimes I go after the biggest projects first because I assume that I will get more done if I conquer those. In reality, if I can complete small tasks first, and get the little things done, I will feel really good about myself.

When you have a big project ahead of you, is there any way you can break it down into smaller portions? Are there also little things you have in the way that you may "wait until later" (and we know how that goes - later usually means never, right?).

2) Don't multi-task.

This is the best tip I've learned. When you "multi-task" you are simply interrupting progress to start on something else. It's like when you turn off a car and turn it back on, you are using the most gas. The same idea goes with projects. If you are turning off your momentum for a project to start on something new, you are using too much gas.

Stay with one thing - and this is when small goals help - and once you are done with that particular task, then move onto something new.

3) Use technology to your advantage.

Whether it's using products that help your organization or email reminders (and this is where the newest tool I discovered GoBoxi comes in!), technology can help you get things done. I'm a huge fan of creating folders in my personal email and re-directing any (usually unread) emails to folders so I can just look over them later. It unclogs my inbox and helps me figure out what is important.

Find out ways technology can reduce distractions (like turn off that wi-fi to work on that novel), help you organize (using tools like GoBoxi), or set reminders and deadlines for you (which Goboxi can also help with!).

4) Set up scheduled "work" sessions.

I found this to be a great tip if you have a lot going on and are having a hard time prioritizing. Set a buzzer to go off in 45 minutes if you are starting on a project. If you are like me, once you get started on something, it can be hard to stop. But breaking up the day like this can do wonders.

5) Learn to say "no."

I've had to let go of a lot of projects this past year and it's been very healthy to the things that I want to work on the most. Learning to say no is a fantastic skill to have - you don't always have to take on a new project or task.

So everyone, this ends my productivity series. I had an awesome time talking about this with you and I hope this has helped you. So, with that said, like Larry the Cable Guy, "Git'r done!"

This four-part series was sponsored by GoBoxi, an amazing service that helps you organize, prioritize, and even help you set reminders for what needs to get done based off the emails you get each day. Sign up for information by visiting their website!

07 July 2014

Share Your Favorite Productivity Tips! [Part 3] #WhatMatters

We're onto week three of my productivity posts, and I am amazed by how many of us are struggling day to day with getting productive and how much of it has to do with the level of organization involved.

So I want to compile some of the advice I've received in the comments and feedback over the last couple of weeks and see what you think is the best advice!

"Too many things to commit to only slows you down." - William Kendall

You know, I find this is a big issue for me. Do you have trouble saying 'no'?  I know I do. I tend to overextend myself and take on too much than NOTHING really gets done. This is what I want to work on the rest of this year - cutting back on the crap.

"I prioritize things. The things lower on the list just don't have to be done." - Charity Lyman

I agree with this one to a point, but you know there are some easy quick things I like to make a priority first point in the day because when I get SOME things done, no matter how small, they tend to push me forward to do the bigger projects.

"I try to get my must haves done and then step away from my desk at a reasonable time."
 - Kristen

Taking breaks is SO important. I find when I take little breaks throughout a project I get way more done and I come back clearer headed. If I try to work straight through nothing gets done and that's not good for anyone, is it?

"My calendar is a great friend, espeially combined with my tasks-to-do. Also, keeping everything tidy and organized saves tons of time - my inbox, my desk, my notes. Not cleaning up every once in a while, but keeping it that way all the time (sometimes difficult, but worth it)." - Judit

I am a big to do list girl. I keep my reminder list on my iPhone pretty packed full. Also, like Judit said, keeping my inbox organized regularly can do me wonders for getting things done.

"A list, a timer and no clocks. One hour to finish each task, and if it doesn't get finished, too bad, onto the next one. Ice coffee on hand and all times for the inevitable energy crashes, but never once slow down until everything on the list has had an hour out of the day. Manic fuels manic. It's the only way to feel productive." - NJMagas

Wow, I loved this because it really spoke to my method (especially the coffee part!). But setting a time limit on projects can get you speedy and get you faster to that deadline. The only concern would be increasing number of errors but I tend to get pretty good at avoiding that stuff.

"I've been cutting back on my email notifications (searching out that heartbreaking 'unsubscribe' button) -- too easy to get sucked into checking to make sure I'm not missing anything! I'm better off not knowing. Then I sit down, absolutely FORBID myself to open up the Solitaire, not even to "warm up" (a favorite lie of mine). And start writing. I then find that when I'm called for dinner, I'm right in the middle of something productive and hate to leave. Such a great feeling, but it only happens when I open Word and NOTHING ELSE."  - Eugenia Parrish 

I think that cutting back on distractions (like social media, or books, or cat videos, or...the list could go on) and disciplining myself not to go to those distractions really helps me stay productive. I think this is excellent advice.

I'd love to know what your favorite productivity tip you've ever been told. Make sure to leave a comment below and I might feature you in part 4 of the productivity series!

Also, Goboxi is a brand new service to help you get your email inbox organized and also sets reminders for you based on software that will learn which emails and tasks are most important to you. Subscribe to their site via email to get updates and more info on when you can sign up!

This is a sponsored post and I will receive compensation. All opinions are my own.
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