Book Review: I Love My Computer Because My Friends Live in It by Jess Kimball Leslie

Title: I Love My Computer Because My Friends Live in It
Author: Jess Kimball Leslie
Publisher: Running Press
Paperback: 240 pages
Source: NetGalley
Summary: (taken from Goodreads)

Love My Computer Because My Friends Live in It is tech analyst Jess Kimball Leslie’s hilarious, frank homage to the technology that contributed so significantly to the person she is today. From accounts of the lawless chat rooms of early AOL to the perpetual high school reunions that are modern-day Facebook and Instagram, her essays paint a clear picture: That all of us have a much more twisted, meaningful, emotional relationship with the online world than we realize or let on.

Coming of age in suburban Connecticut in the late ’80s and early ’90s, Jess looked to the nascent Internet to find the tribes she couldn’t find IRL: fellow Bette Midler fans; women who seemed impossibly sure of their sexuality; people who worked with computers every day as part of their actual jobs without being ridiculed as nerds. It’s in large part because of her embrace of an online life that Jess is where she is now, happily married, with a wife, son, and dog, and making a living of analyzing Internet trends and forecasting the future of tech. She bets most people would credit technology for many of their successes, too, if they could only shed the notion that it’s as a mind-numbing drug on which we’re all overdosing.

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*I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review through NetGalley.*

Overall Rating: 3.5 out of 5

For those of us who are part of the generation that remembers the internet suddenly being a thing in their pre-teen/teen years and embracing it wholeheartedly, I’m sure we can all relate to what Jess Kimball Leslie’s thoughts and feelings about growing up in a sudden digital age. When I saw this title, I had to read it, because I am definitely a computer geek and very proud of it. This is a collection of essays that details Leslie’s personal experiences around how her social life has been shaped by the internet while also giving some brief historical details about how the internet was back in its early days.

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Book Review: Baby-Sitting is a Dangerous Job by Willo Davis Roberts

Title: Baby-Sitting is a Dangerous Job
Author: Willo Davis Roberts
Publisher: Aladdin
Paperback: 161 pages
Source: Chicago Public Library
Summary: (taken from Goodreads)

From the moment she set eyes on the three Foster kids, Darcy knew being their baby-sitter would be no picnic. But the pay was twice her usual rate, and the job was only for a few hours a day – surely an experienced baby-sitter like her could handle it.

But Darcy hadn’t counted on the mysterious things that started happening at the Fosters’ home after she took the job. She did everything a good baby-sitter was supposed to do: she didn’t let the stranger claiming to be from the gas company into the house and she called the police when the burglar alarm went off in the middle of the afternoon. But that wasn’t enough to prevent a baby-sitter’s worst nightmare from coming true. Now it’s up to Darcy to rescue the Foster kids – and herself – from three ruthless kidnappers.

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Overall Rating: 3 out of 5

This was a book that somehow ended up in my family’s bookshelves when I was a kid and I never got around to reading it, but the title stuck around with me, so I finally decided to request it from the library.

Overall, it was fine. It’s a children’s thriller about a young teenage girl named Darcy who baby-sits to earn herself a little extra money. She decides to take on the Foster job, even though she knows the kids are going to be bratty, but she’s getting a lot of money out of it, so why not? Right from the start, weird things start happening in the book — she and her brother seem to be followed by a black car on their way back from the Foster home to their home; and later, while walking with her friend, Darcy sees the same black car. At the same time, her friend has run away from home to escape her father’s abuse, so she tries to help her out. The main conflict of the story, though, is that Darcy and the Foster kids get kidnapped to earn a ransom and they want to figure out a way to escape from the kidnappers before they get hurt, or worse.

Basically, there’s a lot going on in this book and I’m not sure it holds up. It was written in the 80’s, and a lot of stuff is thrown out that isn’t taken very seriously. And yes, this is a thriller and not a Judy Blume book, but it’s troubling to see abuse get thrown out and not really addressed properly. It seems like the book’s message is: no, don’t talk to the proper authorities, running away is a good option sometimes, which isn’t a great message for kids. Even later, when the kidnapping is resolved, Darcy talks about it like she just had a daring adventure, calling her friend late at night to fill her in on all the “drama.” No mention of trauma? No parental check-ups? They hug her, give her an extra dessert, and let her talk on the phone. It’s all very strange.

With that said, it’s a fairly enjoyable story if you don’t think about it too much, which pretty much fits into the thriller genre overall, in my opinion. It’s nice to see Darcy realize that the kids she watches are more than burdens, so her character growth is interesting in that she starts actually caring for the kids she baby-sits rather than inwardly complain about how spoiled they are. And it’s nice to see the kids go through a change with how they treat her. This is an entertaining story, but not one I think kids today would enjoy, and not something I’d recommend as a “good read” to anyone, but it’s not bad either.

Cookbook Review: Eat What You Love – Quick and Easy Recipes Low in Sugar, Fat, and Calories by Marlene Koch

Title: Eat What You Love – Quick and Easy Recipes Low in Sugar, Fat, and Calories
Author: Marlene Koch
Publisher: Running Press
Hardcover: 336 pages
Source: BEA
Summary: (taken from Goodreads)

Great-tasting, guilt-free favorites—in a flash!
From creamy No-Bake Cherry-Topped Cheesecake to Cheesy Bacon Chicken, Deep-Dish Skillet Pizza, and 2-Minute Chocolate “Cup” Cakes for One, every speedy crave-worthy recipe in this book is low in sugar, fat, and calories—but you would NEVER know by tasting them! In Eat What You Love: Quick & Easy, New York Times bestselling author Marlene Koch proves once again why she’s called “a Magician in the Kitchen!”
Readers rave about Marlene’s amazing recipes, and in her quickest, easiest collection of recipes ever, she makes eating what you love a snap with flavor-packed favorites like:
Crispy Teriyaki Fried Chicken – 10 minutes prep and only 205 calories
Quick-Fix Quesadilla Burgers – 320 calories instead of the usual 1,420!
15-Minute Coconut Cream Candy Bar Pie – 190 calories and 70% less sugar
With more than 180 super-satisfying family-friendly recipes for every meal of the day—this cookbook is perfect for everyone, and every diet!

Plus:
Every recipe can be made in 30 minutes – or less!
Gluten-free recipes, all-natural sweetening, and cooking for two included
Gorgeous full-color photographs throughout
Nutritional information for every recipe with diabetic exchanges, carb choices, and Weight Watcher point comparisons.

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*I received a free copy of this book from the publisher at BEA.*

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5

I love food, so having recipes for delicious food that cuts down on calories, fats, and sugar is a huge plus for me. I like to be healthy, but not at the expense of not being able to eat the things that I love to eat. When I saw this cookbook, I knew that I had to have it.

The book starts off with information about how to live/eat with diabetes, as well as giving some easy substitutes and nutritional information. It also provides guidance for creating a meal plan, and the back has quick-and-easy meal plans already created for you from recipes from the book. I love this, because it’s more than just a cookbook, it actually teaches you about nutrition and putting together a fully balanced meal.

However, what makes a good cookbook is great recipes; the recipes in here are delicious and I love that they all offer different options for tweaking the recipe to your liking. While I don’t agree with some of the substitutions (some recipes call for artificial sweetener, which I refuse to ever use, instead of sugar), I’m able to take them and leave them as I like and still create a meal that is healthier than it would have been. My absolute favorite (low-calorie!) dishes that we’ve made from this book are the Almond Tea Cakes and the Turkey Chili.

Image of almond tea cakes
Almond Tea Cakes

If you’re looking for a comprehensive cookbook with great ideas for keeping things healthy, this is the book for you. The dishes have a good balance with how much time it takes to make them and I have yet to dislike anything we’ve made from this. Such a great collection!

Beauty Review: Fresh Vitamin Nectar Vibrancy-Boosting Face Mask

This was very much a “meh” for me. While it’s a gentle face mask and certainly didn’t harm my skin, I really didn’t see any difference after I used it. The smell is DIVINE, but the texture is chunky with the fruits they put in it, which was kind of gross. Not my thing at all. It does what any sort of vitamin A/E infusion would do — make skin a little bit brighter and plumper, but for $62 for 3.3oz/100mL? No thank you. Not worth the price AT ALL. Just break open some Vitamin E capsules and rub it on your skin to get the same results.

Book Review: The One That Got Away by Leigh Himes

Title: The One That Got Away
Author: Leigh Himes
Publisher: Hachette
Hardcover: 384 pages
Source: BookCon
Summary: (taken from Goodreads)

Meet Abbey Lahey . . .

Overworked mom. Underappreciated publicist. Frazzled wife of an out-of-work landscaper. A woman desperately in need of a vacation from life–and who is about to get one, thanks to an unexpected tumble down a Nordstrom escalator.

Meet Abbey van Holt . . .

The woman whose life Abbey suddenly finds herself inhabiting when she wakes up. Married to handsome congressional candidate Alex van Holt. Living in a lavish penthouse. Wearing ball gowns and being feted by the crème of Philadelphia society. Luxuriating in the kind of fourteen-karat lifestyle she’s only read about in the pages of Town & Country.

The woman Abbey might have been . . . if she had said yes to a date with Alex van Holt all those years ago.

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*I received a free copy of this book from the publisher at BEA.*

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5

When I was a couple of chapters into this, if you told me I’d end up liking it, I’d laugh in your face. But, wow, what a surprise! This turned out to be an enjoyable read! Basically, it starts out with Abbey feeling stressed and disappointed by how her life is turning out. Her husband’s business is failing, she hates her job, and she’s just so TIRED. She sees a guy she once turned down for a date in a magazine and wonders what would happen if she had said yes to that date and ended up marrying him instead. Then Poof! Freaky Friday/13 Going on 30-esque magic happens, and her wish comes true — she gets to live the life of rich Abbey married to a successful husband.

I had a very strong feeling about where this would go. She’d realize that all people have problems, learn her lesson, and be grateful for her regular, ordinary life. And it was kind of like that, but the journey there was a lot more interesting than I thought it would be. It wasn’t the hokey over-the-top after school special that I thought, but much more human and aware than that. Abbey goes on a self-discovery tour and realizes that while rich Abbey may seem different, they are really the same person; just different versions of each other. This book is less about learning to not take what we have for granted, but more about that who we are is a culmination of the choices we make, and we make choices ALL THE TIME. Those choices — even the small ones like what food you decide to eat for breakfast, what you snack on, or even whether or not you allow yourself to snack — are what make you the person you are and shape the life you live.

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Beauty Review: Formula X Nail Polish Effects – Thunder

Sometimes, your nails need just a touch of glitter or something to complete the look. I love adding little effects (usually in the form of glitter) to my nail polish, and I thought I’d branch out and try this one.

The Thunder Nail Polish Effect is very different than what I’m used to. It’s not metallic or glittery at all, it’s super matte, but I completely love it for what it is. It completely transformed my nails and while I don’t think it’ll work for every color, it totally worked for the color I first tried it on.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

See? The look goes from “Eh, that’s fine with that right outfit” to completely cute for an every day look. It’s basically confetti for your nails — I love this!

It glided right on and it was easy for me to place the large polka dots where I wanted them, which is important. You can customize the look by adding as many or as few little dots as you want for yourself. I’m excited to try this again to see how it looks with other colors.

Possessions: My Complicated Relationship with Books

I love books, the way they smell, the way they look, and how they make me feel when I’m surrounded by them; at my workplaces, I seek out libraries and rooms with books in them, just to be able to sit with them near. It’s one of the few ways I’m able to relax.

Naturally, my apartment is also filled with books. Though my husband doesn’t feel quite the same way about them, he enjoys them too. We have them piled up on a chest of drawers beside our bed, they’re piled on shelves in our office, and stacks of them line some parts of the wall. When I was little, my entire Christmas list consisted of books. I would just hand my parents a list of some of my favorite authors, and they’d go out and buy me piles of them. Most of my Christmas morning was spent organizing my new acquisitions, perusing the covers, deciding in which order I’d read them. I dreamed of the day when I had a job and be able to join some sort of book-of-the-month club, where I could look forward to some reasonably priced books every month.

Then, I moved, and my relationship with books (and all possessions, really) changed. I moved from California to Chicago and realized that possessions were quite the burden when faced with moving them halfway across the country. I didn’t have room in the car to bring my 8 large bins of books that I’d been collecting since childhood; I barely had room to fit all my clothes, kitchenware, and linens. Then, I got tired of Chicago and moved yet again; that time, I purged what I had — giving my now-husband, then-boyfriend anything that I wanted to save, but only saving truly important things, because we weren’t sure where we were going to live in the future. All the books I’d acquired in Chicago ended up in used bookstores, high school classrooms, take-one, leave-one shelves in my apartment building. At that point, I stopped trying to acquire books. Where was I supposed to put them all? How can I move them yet again? I’ve been through 3 large, across-country moves now in my life, and I’m so tired of worrying about that stuff. It’s stressful getting a new load of books and looking at my cramped apartment, with various items lying along the walls of my office, wondering where I can possibly squeeze these new additions.

Despite my heavy reliance on the library, and our much-needed weekly visits to that glorious place that is filled to the brim with bookshelves and books, we still somehow manage to gain more and more, and I’m still trying to figure out how we’re supposed to fit it all into where we live. I have complicated relationship with possessions now. I love new things; I love new books, but I hate acquiring them, because it requires either a laissez-faire attitude towards how much stuff I’m piling up in the spare room or some very clever, tricky arranging mechanism that I still can’t figure out no matter how much I think about it. I love the idea of getting my books back from California, where my parents are loyally storing them; I love the idea of getting a place big enough to install floor-to-ceiling shelves on the walls and filling them up with the books I have (I’m willfully ignoring the fact that I have many more years ahead of me of acquiring new ones), but how is that ever going to happen? When is that going to happen? Buying large houses is expensive! So is buying all those bookshelves! Where is that money going to come from?

Basically, lately, I’ve been having a sort of existential crisis with myself over my relationship with books. I love them, I want them, I need them to be happy, but they’re stressing me out! It’s hard to find the balance between having some favorites and accumulating all the books I’ve ever wanted to read but will probably only touch once. I’m hoping that by not buying so much and feeding into that sort-of addiction, I’ll be able to handle the urge to get books a little better; I’m hoping that we somehow luck into a huge house that I’ll be able to fill with all the items I want (but I’m not holding my breath on that one).

Book Review: Cork Dork by Bianca Bosker

Title: Cork Dork
Author: Bianca Bosker
Publisher: Penguin Books
Paperback: 352 pages
Source: NetGalley
Summary: (taken from Goodreads)

Like many of us, tech reporter Bianca Bosker saw wine as a way to unwind at the end of a long day, or a nice thing to have with dinner and that was about it. Until she stumbled on an alternate universe where taste reigned supreme, a world in which people could, after a single sip of wine, identify the grape it was made from, in what year, and where it was produced down to the exact location, within acres. Where she tasted wine, these people detected not only complex flavor profiles, but entire histories and geographies. Astounded by their fanatical dedication and seemingly superhuman sensory powers, Bosker abandoned her screen-centric life and set out to discover what drove their obsession, and whether she, too, could become a cork dork.

Thus begins a year and a half long adventure that takes the reader inside elite tasting groups, exclusive New York City restaurants, a California winery that manipulates the flavor of its bottles with ingredients like Mega Purple, and even a neuroscientist s fMRI machine as Bosker attempts to answer the most nagging question of all: what s the big deal about wine? Funny, counterintuitive, and compulsively readable, Cork Dork illuminates not only the complex web of wine production and consumption, but how tasting better can change our brains and help us live better.

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*I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review through NetGalley.*

Overall Rating: 5 out of 5

Andrew and I started learning more about wine when we first read The Judgment of Paris by George M. Taber. Once we started earning money from having jobs (rather than being rather poor full-time students), wine became a favorite drink of ours to start off and end our weekends. We were fascinated with the history of winemaking and the culture that surrounds it. We’ve lately taken our drinking a step further and joined a wine club where we very rarely drink the same bottle twice — we love trying new wines, seeing what they pair with, and comparing them to other wines we’ve had. So, when I saw Cork Dork available on Netgalley, it seemed like the perfect fit.

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Beauty Review: Formula X Full Strength Nail Polish – Pink Prowess

I love nail polish and recently started trying to build up my nail polish collection in an effort to save money by doing my nails myself — when Sephora  had a sale on these, I had to try them out! Unfortunately, Sephora recently stopped selling these, but you can find great deals for them right now on Ebay.

I’m very neutral about this nail polish. While I think the color is fairly pretty, it’s sort of plain by itself. It’s incredibly creamy-looking and brushes on rather thickly — I only needed one coat for complete coverage! You definitely need a top coat for this one, first to add some shine, and second to protect it. I experimented with it and the nail polish started to crack and chip almost immediately after it dried. The color itself is kind of weird. Too pink for me to wear “just because,” but something that would definitely work with the right outfit/look.

Live shot of the nail polish at work (please excuse the very messy pinky)

In terms of the strengthening effect it’s supposed to have on your nails, I would say that it’s not a miracle worker by any means, but it certainly doesn’t weaken the nails like many nail polishes do. I think that’s sort of the trade-off between how creamy/chip-able it is.

Overall, I’d say this is fine. If you get it on sale, like I did, it’s a pretty good bargain. A slight step up from a drugstore brand. But, it’s nothing I would pay top-dollar for.

Book Review: Industrial Magic by Kelley Armstrong

Title: Industrial Magic
Author: Kelley Armstrong
Series: Women of the Otherworld, Book 4
Publisher: Spectra Books
Paperback: 528 pages
Source: Chicago OverDrive
Summary: (taken from Goodreads)

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Paige Winterbourne, a headstrong young woman haunted by a dark legacy, is now put to the ultimate test as she fights to save innocents from the most insidious evil of all…

In the aftermath of her mother’s murder, Paige broke with the elite, ultraconservative American Coven of Witches. Now her goal is to start a new Coven for a new generation. But while Paige pitches her vision to uptight thirty-something witches in business suits, a more urgent matter commands her attention.

Someone is murdering the teenage offspring of the underworld’s most influential Cabals—a circle of families that makes the mob look like amateurs. And none is more powerful than the Cortez Cabal, a faction Paige is intimately acquainted with. Lucas Cortez, the rebel son and unwilling heir, is none other than her boyfriend. But love isn’t blind, and Paige has her eyes wide open as she is drawn into a hunt for an unnatural-born killer. Pitted against shamans, demons, and goons, it’s a battle chilling enough to make a wild young woman grow up in a hurry. If she gets the chance.

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5

While I am usually very strict about only reading series in order, for some reason, I’ve skipped around in this one a lot. Maybe because different books are from different perspectives? Anyway, I picked this up after being away from this series for a while, so it took me a bit to figure out exactly where I was in each character’s storylines. Having already read sequels, I must say it was way too much fun meeting Jaime the necromancer for the first time. Her first impression is as ridiculous and wonderful as I wanted it.

This book is a fun mystery/thriller with supernatural aspects involved, and of course, it includes all of our favorite characters from the Otherworld series; I love that the werewolves make an appearance in this novel. (Since the series started with Elena, I have a feeling that she and Clay will always be my ultimate favorites.) But I really would recommend this book for thriller lovers, I kept referring to it as the “supernatural serial killer” novel I was reading, and it fits so perfectly. Basically, Paige and Lucas agree to help the Cabals (supernatural mafia-like groups) to help find the person who’s been killing teenagers of Cabal employees. It follows the typical thriller-style of stories where they think they have the whole thing solved, but it turns out that they were missing a couple pieces of the puzzle, which makes for an interesting, surprising read.

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