Friday, 18 December 2015

The Christmas Bridge - Book Review

I wrote recently that my newest favourite guilty pleasure book genre is romance books. These sweet books are perfect reads when you're curled up with a cozy blanket on a cold, winter night.

The Christmas Bridge is contemporary Christmas romance novel by Elyse Douglas. In this story we meet Olivia who always wondered if she forever lost her first, real love. Or is there a possibility for a second chance at first love? She also meets Brett who is both charming and quite charismatic. A few special moments on Bow Bridge in Central Park, NYC help Olivia forge a new path and find the love that is right for her.

I enjoyed reading The Christmas Bridge. I found Olivia and Brett to be very likeable, and I was cheering them on, even when Olivia had doubts herself.

I was hooked from the beginning and read this fast-paced book in a few nights. There were a few tasteful love scenes and many sweet moments in this book where Olivia learns that she deserves to be loved like crazy, even if that maybe wasn't the path she chose originally in life. This book also had a few very unpredictable moments that made me both extremely angry and very happy.

The events in this book could have really happened anywhere, but using Christmas in New York as a background setting just added to the atmosphere of this story.

The Christmas Bridge is a lovely, quick, holiday read when you're able to steal a few moments away for yourself during this busy season. Given that it is about lost loves and new passions, it pairs particularly well with a glass of wine and an Adele album.


Disclaimer - I was given a copy of The Christmas Bridge by TLC Book Tours in exchange for my review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Staying Calm During the Holidays from A to Z

'Tis the season to feel totally overwhelmed and stretched in all directions. The past few years, I've been taking a stance against holiday stress. If Christmas baking doesn't happen, that's fine by me. I'll pick up something delicious from the bakery. I avoid Costco in December like the plague and do 90% of my holiday shopping online. The holidays are supposed to be about being with family and friends and celebrating wonderful things in our lives. We can't do those things if we're stressed out. Here's a list I brainstormed (with my mom actually!) of ways to keep calm and carry on this Christmas season.

A - Actually nap.

B - Breathe deeply.

C - Count your blessings.

D - Don't over commit. Keep a few days and nights free just for you.

E - Exercise (even just a little).

F - Find a way to give back to others.

G - Get enough sleep.

H - Have a glass of wine.

I - Invite friends for an open house to cut down on individual visits.

J - Joyfully add a treat for yourself when online shopping. I call it "Elf Tax".

K - Kiss someone you love.

L - Listen to music. Christmas-themed or not.

M - Make yourself a cup of tea.

N - Nourish your soul with some yoga.

O - Order out for dinner. You don't need to make a feast every night.

P - Prioritize. What really needs to happen? What could you let go?

Q - Quilt, sew, or do another crafty activity that makes you feel good.

R - Read a romance novel.

S - Schedule a massage.

T - Treat yourself to an adult advent calendar.

U - Use a budget for gift-buying and stick to it.

V - Vent to a friend when you start to feel overwhelmed.

W - Watch something you consider a guilty pleasure. 

X - X out the toxic people in your life. Find ways to cleverly avoid them during the holidays.

Y - Yield to your children. Spend time with them. The number of Christmases in which they are little
are few.

Z - Zone out in the bathtub.


Friday, 11 December 2015

Book Review and Author Interview - The Thread That Binds by Alice Hayes

I just finished reading The Thread that Binds, by Alice Hayes. A book that demands to be read with a hot cup of tea or coffee by your side.

This is Alice's first published novel. Last year it won third place in the World's Best Story contest.

The Thread That Binds is the story of five women who are either new mothers or mothers-to-be. These five women don't know each other at the beginning of the story, but through different circumstances, their paths cross and friendships form. Sherice is a new mom herself, coming to terms with an illness that is changing her own mother. Sylvie is a French woman who fell in love and now lives in the US. She and her husband are stricken by poverty as she tries to find prenatal care. Joanne is single and determined to have a baby, so enlists her gay best friend, Marty to help her. Payton is 17 years old, pregnant, and on the run from a family that has all but disowned her. And Gloria is trapped in a loveless and abusive marriage, in love with another, and pregnant with a baby that could belong to one of two men.

The Thread That Binds is told from the perspective of each of these five women. I loved that we only were introduced to a few characters at a time so I could really get to know two or three of the women before she added the other narrators. The book is fast-paced and really kept me wondering how each of the women's stories would end. I was easily invested in them and their babies and was wishing for things to work out. I loved how the women's lives wove together, and I could really see these women building new friendships with each other. The overall message is that kindness and empathy can triumph over situations that feel hopeless.

Reading this book has the potential to make you laugh, cry, feel distressed, and feel joy. The Thread That Binds is a perfect book for anyone who enjoys contemporary women's fiction.

To learn a bit more about the author, Alice Hayes, I hope you enjoy this interview with her:

Where do you get inspiration for your stories?
A lot of it comes from music and poetry. The Thread That Binds was hugely influenced by country music and my own experiences living in Georgia. Another novel I’ve written, War Wounds, was inspired by the Gillian Clarke poem On The Train. My current project is a novel set in Northern Ireland during The Troubles, heavily inspired by the history of the conflict and the Seamus Heaney poem Whatever You Say, Say Nothing.

Do you ever get writer’s block? What helps you overcome it?
I think we all do. I’ll take a break and work on another project, whether it be my blog or a different novel or even a short story. Usually it helps things to come unstuck.

You’re a single mom writer. How do you balance your time?
With a type-A personality and a strict schedule… I write when my daughter is in bed. I do homework on my lunch break at work. I cook and clean and run on my downtime, and sleep… Well, virtually never. Honestly, though, it helps that her dad and his family are in the picture. She’ll visit him most weekends, and I get to recharge.

Do you have another profession besides writing?
I work in a law office. The big dream is to finish my Bachelor’s degree by the time my daughter starts school, and then to go to law school.

In today’s tech-savvy world, most writers use a computer or laptop. Have you ever written parts of your book on paper?
I keep a journal by the side of my bed to scribble down any ideas that come to me in the middle of the night, but that’s the extent of my hand-writing. I prefer to edit on paper, though. I print my work and then edit by hand with my trusty red pen. I have a typewriter in excellent working condition, but I definitely prefer the comfort of having my work saved and backed up on a computer.

What advice would you give to budding writers?
Keep at it! It’s hard to get motivated sometimes, especially when writer’s block sets in. But the only way you can make any improvement is if you keep working at it. Cherish your writing time, and don’t let anyone tell you it’s not important.

About the Author:
Originally from Winchester, England, Alice's plans to read law at a British university were disrupted when she fell deeply in love with Georgia, USA while studying abroad. After moving all over Georgia, Alice has finally settled in Athens and has no plans to go anywhere else.

She is a single mother to a three-year-old girl and a 65lb hound dog. She likes coffee, wine, and anything edible with the words "salted caramel" in its description.

At the time of publication, Alice is a 24-year-old history student working full-time in a law office, and writing fiction at every stolen moment. She hasn't slept in approximately two years. You can find her on Twitter or over at her blog.



Giveaway time!

Win one of five copies of the Thread That Binds
Open to residents of the US and Canada.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclaimer - I received a copy of The Thread that Binds from TLC Book Tours. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Mask Maven Subscription Box Review

Mask Maven is a monthly subscription box from Beautique that sends you 9-11 masks each month. They could be any combination of sheet masks, wash off masks, hair masks or even masks for your hands or feet.

The cost is $15/month plus shipping. ($3.95 to US, $6.95 to Canada)

Each month has a particular theme. November's theme was Fresh Produce, so each mask has a different food in it.

Here's what was in my package!

This month I received a combination of 7 sheet masks and 2 wash off masks.

Top Row:
Pureness 100 Collagen Mask Sheet Elasticity by Tony Moly
Vitality I'm Real Broccoli Mask Sheet by Tony Moly
Blueberry Natural Essence Mask for skin smoothing and lustrous skin by Foodaholic
Orange Natural Essence Mask for clear skin and cleaning pores by Foodaholic
Real Nature Mask sheet with Avocado by Natural Republic

Middle Row:
Anti-Pore Healing Mask in apple by NOHJ
Lustre Healing Mask Pack in grapefruit gold by NOHJ

Bottom Row:
2 wash off masks in pumpkin and pear by Green Harmony

At about $2/mask, even after I factored in Canadian shipping, that's a pretty great value for such a wide variety of face masks.

What do you think? Would you try Mask Maven?