Tuesday, 25 October 2016

The Survivor's Guide to Family Happiness - Book Review + Giveaway

It's publication day for Maddie Dawson and The Survivor's Guide to Family Happiness!

Newly orphaned, recently divorced, and semiadrift, Nina Popkin is on a search for her birth mother. She's spent her life looking into strangers' faces, fantasizing they're related to her, and now, at 35, she's ready for answers.

Meanwhile, the last thing Lindy McIntyre wants is someone like Nina bursting into her life, announcing that they're sisters and campaigning to track down their mother. She's too busy with her successful salon, three children, beautiful home, and ... oh yes, some pesky little anxiety attacks.

But Nina is determine to reassemble her birth family. Her search turns up Phoebe Mullen, a guarded, hard-talking woman convinced she has nothing to offer. Gradually sharing stories and secrets, the three women make for a messy, unpredictable family that looks nothing like Nina had pictured...but may be exactly what they all need.

I enjoyed how different the two sisters were. Nina, desperate to fill the void left by her adoptive mother, was so carefree about all of the major events happening in her life - moving in with her new older boyfriend, meeting her sister, finding her birth mother, etc. And Lindy seems to have it all, but is balancing everything in such a way that she can't help but constantly feel anxious.  These women are clearly destined to save each other, and I loved that.

The Survivor's Guide to Family Happiness wasn't a book I felt pulled to as I began it, but I enjoyed the story whenever I was reading, and it captured my interest more and more as I continued.

The author's writing was both witty and heart-warming, and made for a book that was very easy to read. The main message I take away from this novel is that if we refuse to accept rejection and open ourselves to new possibilities, our lives could change in the most unexpected and amazing ways.

"So this was love, I had decided. Sometimes you just have to make up your mind to let it in."

You can connect with Maddie Dawson on her website, Facebook, and Twitter.


Thanks to Maddie Dawson, TLC Book Tours, and Lake Union Publishing, I have one copy of The Survivor's Guide to Family Happiness to giveaway.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclaimer - I was sent a complementary copy of The Survivor's Guide to Family Happiness from the publisher and TLC Book tours. All thoughts and opinions are entirely my own. To see what other bloggers had to say about this book, you can check out the full book tour here.

Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Setting Up a #creativetable For The Little Makers In Your Home

I'm not the most creative when it comes to playing and designing. Or at least, I often feel like I'm not. If someone was to give me a bunch of art supplies, I would probably panic if I didn't have direct instructions on what to build or make or feel overwhelmed by looking at an end product that seemed impossible to achieve.

And when I'm playing with Sebastian, sometimes I feel that same "uncreativeness". So instead of scanning Pinterest with projects that look totally over the top, I've been making more of an effort to think of creative play from the perspective of the maker movement. I discovered this amazing book by Rachelle Doorley. It's called Tinkerlab: A Hands-On Guide for Little Inventors - 55 Playful Experiments that Encourage Tinkering, Curiosity, and Creative Thinking.

One of my favourite things is that this book is specifically designed for children between the ages of 2 and 6. At this age children may not exactly wander into their craft supplies and start creating on their own, but they will happily play if given a little nudge. An invitation.

A play invitation is basically setting out a specific number of art or building supplies for your child to encourage exploration.

Then, and this is the hardest part, once everything is set up and your child comes to play, keep your mouth shut. You are not there to direct their play, just to give them an offering to begin. "I wonder what would happen if...."

And once Sebastian dives into an invitation, I get to enjoy my tea while it's still hot.

There are no specific end projects in mind with each invitation. We never know what the result of our play will look like. Rather, the goal is to give our children the space to discover, to create, and to explore.

As he was playing with glue and paper (above) Sebastian said to be, "I'm making a volcano. This is the lava." It is so amazing to watch how he sees the world.

Giving children the space to explore and discover (without getting all up in their business) allows them to develop into the best kind of adults: innovative ones.

Here's how to set up your own super easy #creativetable at home

If you can setup an uncluttered space in your home, that is ideal. We've turned the sunroom beside our kitchen into a craft room and even added a chalkboard wall as a bonus. Then we went to Ikea and got this table with these chairs and this amazing utility cart

You can search #creativetable on Instagram to find loads of play invitation ideas, and I strongly suggest picking up the Tinkerlab book. It has so many fantastic ideas of how to stock your creative play space (such as stickers, washi tape, crayons, glue, ribbon, or even container of corks which is the perfect reason to drink more wine). I also make sure there is a package of baby wipes nearby for quick cleanup.

The invitations described in the book are so simple to prepare. I promise! And this is coming from a non-crafty person. They are easy to set up, and they build upon each other as you progress through each section for older makers.

Tinkerlab is divided into sections on designing, building, concocting and discovering. The invitations described are often the perfect blend of art and science without any of the pressure to create a perfect product at the end. 

Sebastian and I have enjoyed exploring with invitations we try in the book, and I've seen it inspire him to create the invitation again more independently now that he has a few ideas to work with. This is an excellent book to add to your home library.

"Regardless of the outcome...a good creative experience is one that gives children the opportunity to solve problems and think independently. When a child exercises flexible thinking in a project without a predetermined outcome, then the experience is a success." - Rachelle Doorley, Tinkerlab


Friday, 16 September 2016

The Things We Wish Were True - Book Review + Giveaway

"Did life add to or take away from who we are at sixteen?"  This one line from Marybeth Mayhew Whalen's new book, The Things We Wish Were True, has really stayed with me. I think because it really connects all of the themes from this story: trust, friendship, courage, secrets, loss, change. Both as an adult and as a sixteen year old we face these aspects of life. But what happened in between?

This is what we see when Jencey returns home after a failed marriage to her small town in The Things We Wish Were True. Take one suburb, add a number of distinctive small-town characters, along with a near tragedy at the local swimming pool, and secrets are bound to be revealed. Both within their community and within their own homes, things aren't always what they seem for the townspeople of Sycamore Glen, North Carolina. But maybe not all of these secrets are really so terrible. Maybe some of our relationships have to hit rock bottom before they can rise again.

The narrative shifts to focus on different characters for each chapter, and I enjoy books told from multiple perspectives. The writing is excellent. Whalen is able to tell the stories of very distinct adults, as well as give a clear voice to a young child in an uncomplicated way that flows seamlessly. And as the book progresses, all of the puzzle pieces and characters fit together in a satisfying, though not "tidy" way.

I always find it fascinating to hear how authors come up for ideas for their books. For The Things We Wish Were True, the author shares that this story was inspired by a real near-drowning in her own neighbourhood, and how that event united and changed their community.

I was engaged from the beginning and though the book is about a near-drowning, as well as suburban "secrets", it is not a thriller. The Things We Wish Were True was very well-paced, interesting, and anyone interested in contemporary or women's fiction will very much enjoy reading this book.

Check out this @asplendidmessylife Instagram post to enter to win a copy of The Things We Wish Were True. Giveaway ends Tuesday, September 20, 2016.


Disclaimer - I received a copy of The Things We Wish Were True from the author and TLC Book Tours in exchange for my review. All thoughts and opinions are entirely my own. To hear what other bloggers had to say about this great book, visit the whole book tour here.

Tuesday, 6 September 2016

My Book Box Review

Next up as I play around with different book subscription boxes is My Book Box.

My Book Box is unique because you will receive two books in each box from different genres. You can select genres from: Women's Fiction, Mystery, Non-Fiction, Young Adult, Children 8-12, and Children 3-7.

Cost - $39.95 Shipping is included in the U.S. (and a steep $19 to Canada unfortunately).
You can use the code GROOVY5 to save $5 on your first order.

I love this because a package arrived with a book for me and a book for Sebastian! All books are also always new releases as well, released within the last two months.

We selected books Women's Fiction and Children 3-7. Here's what was in the box!

The Women's Fiction book was Can I See You Again? by Allison Morgan. Bree is an excellent matchmaker, until it comes to her own love life. What I found so interesting about this book is that Allison Morgan got the idea as she was completing a mud/obstacle run (my fav) and thought, "How did I get myself into this 'muddy' situation?" And an idea for a book was born!

The young children's book was My Friend Maggie by Hannah E. Harrison. It's a very sweet story about bullying and friendship. Plus it's a hardcover book, and I think that is always a nice touch in book subscription boxes.

Also included were a couple of cute stationery items for me.....

And an activity package for Sebastian connected to the storybook.....

My Book Box is a great treat that I absolutely would sign up for regularly if I lived in the US and could avoid the shipping charges. I love that they've combined books for mama and little ones together. Such a brilliant idea!


Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Am I Not Really A Mother?

This is not easy for me to write.

I have so many friends having second babies. I love them and their little ones dearly. But it just leaves me with so many questions.

Does having "only" one child mean I'm not really a mother?

Does it mean I'm taking it easy?

Do I not have a full and beautiful life?

Do I not have sleepless nights or early mornings?

Do I not work hard to balance my career, marriage, friendships, and family?

Do I not cry sometimes because I feel overwhelmed?

Does having "only" one child mean I am weaker?

I have to believe the answer to that last question is no, but it's hard not to feel that way sometimes. It's hard not to yearn when things don't go as planned. My mind knows this is best for my family, but when will my heart catch up?

I wrestle with these questions.

Maybe some of you do too.


Monday, 29 August 2016

August Romance Reveal Book Box Review

I'm super excited to be trying out the Romance Reveal Book Box today! The Romance Reveal Box is perfect for lovers of contemporary romance. Each box includes two signed paperback romance novels, bookish treats, and even a few non-bookish goodies.

Cost is $24.95 USD + shipping.

The books included this month were:

Broken Love by Jillian Dodd

After years of crushing and many failed seduction attempts, Palmer Montlake had finally scored the sexy Cade Crawford. Both a little drunk when they got back to her place, they were frantic with need, their desire intense. But as the night progressed, the hot-mess hookup morphed to sweet lovemaking. The kind neither had ever experienced. But they were destined for heartbreak.

Will they get a second chance? Or will they be left with a broken love?

The Sapphire Affair by Lauren Blakey

Bounty hunter Jake Harlowe knows how to track a criminal. So when a group of swindled shareholders hire him to trail their former CEO, Jake expects a quick trip to the Cayman Islands to close another case. Until a devastatingly beautiful woman gets in the way.

Along with the books there were a few product samples (the candies and nail polish) along with some promotional material from other authors. Green isn't exactly my jam for nail polish, but I saw that everyone received different colours, so this was just the luck of the draw.

The button that says My Book Boyfriend Is Better Than Yours from Harper Sloan is really cute, and the lip balm from Elizabeth Johns is genius because I will actually carry this around with me, use it tons, and hopefully remember to check out her books! Plus Lauren Blakely sent, what is now, my new favourite magnet ;)

These books sound like so much fun! I love second chance romance stories and both covers are smoking hot!  Unsigned paperback copies of these books retail at about $20 CAD each, so the value of this box is great. I was actually impressed that they are such new releases as well. The books were just published in June and July 2016.

The Romance Reveal Box is such a fun way to find out about new romance authors. Making sure that each book sent is signed by the author is a special touch that you don't often see in book subscription boxes!


Disclaimer - I was sent a complementary Romance Reveal Book Box for review. All thoughts, opinions, and cravings for romance novels are entirely my own.

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

The Bookish Box Review - Fairy Tale Edition

What was in the mail this week? The latest Bookish Box! The Bookish Box (from Appraising Pages) is perfect for any bibliophiles out there who love literary goodies. Each month you'll receive a t-shirt and bookish treats based on a particular theme and your favourite reads.

This month's theme was fairy tales.

Cost - $29.99 USD. Shipping to Canada is $10.00.
There is also a no-shirt option for $18.99 if you'd prefer just the goodies, but I really do love the shirts. They are stylish, soft, and very unique. I'm a size large for reference.

What was inside the box??
The photo above shows a picture of the t-shirt that has quote from the book A Court of Midst and Fury by Sarah J. Mass. I've been seeing this book everywhere, and this quote really makes me want to read it soon!

Next was a Peter Pan necklace from Appraising Pages. Not really my style personally, but it will make a cute gift.

Next is a mug inspired by the book Cinder by Marissa Meyer. Created by Evie Seo, the mug image wraps around to both sides and has the quotation, "I would rather die because I betrayed them than live because I betrayed you." My friend Dani has been telling me for months to read this book, so now that I have a mug inspired by Cinder, it's even more motivating to finally pick up a copy.

Then there are post-it notes with the Walt Disney quotation, "Laughter is timeless, imagination has no age and dreams are forever." I can always use more post-it notes at work, so these are coming to school with me asap!

I saved my favourite for last. It's a hand-painted Beauty and the Beast bookmark from Lexy Olivia. This bookmark is so beautiful and every time I look at it I just get more and more excited for the new Beauty and the Beast movie coming out next year!!

This has been my second Bookish Box, and I think the value is fantastic. I'm not certain, but I estimate the retail value of the items to be about $55. I love that the items are a mix of new and old fairy tales, and that it also reminded me of a few books I've been meaning to add to my TBR pile.

If you're interested in signing up for The Bookish Box, you can check out their website. Next month the theme is "literary ladies". Fun!