Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Meal Subscription Services: Every Plate

 

Every Plate is owned by Hello Fresh, and they often have similar recipes, but Every Plate's tend to be easier, quicker, and require less ingredients (all side effects of a cheaper price tag). I really like how inexpensive this is, but it still feels like you're making a real meal, and it is always filling.

Every Plate 
($4.99/meal + $8.99 shipping)


Pros
  • They have tacos almost every, if not every, week
  • Inexpensive option
  • Good customer service- gave me $5 credit when they forgot to send a set of buns
  • Less packaging (aka less garbage)
  • Always have a great selection of good recipes - its hard to choose just three!
Cons
  • Everything comes in a box, and you have to sort through to separate the ingredients per recipe
  • They don't send vegetable oil if needed for a recipe, which I don't always keep on hand
  • The recipe cards don't give you measurements (in case you want to use the recipe again with ingredients from the grocery store), they just put "units." I try to mark how much of the ingredient it was on my recipe card if I think I will want to re-make
  • Meals are pretty basic, so if you're looking to try a lot of new foods this wouldn't be the best service for you

My Favorite Every Plate Recipes




Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Meal Subscription Services: Hello Fresh



Full disclaimer: I never pay full price for any of these meal services. I will post a discount to each service with my posts, but a great place to start looking otherwise is Groupon. Keep in mind that these deals usually only work for first time subscribers. Another trick is using MyPoints- they offer points which you can redeem for giftcards along with a discount on your order. If you download the "Honey" extension for Chrome, you can get great discounts on meal services and your regular online shopping as well. Also, since I use multiple services, I deactivate my account when I’m not using them, and they frequently send emails with deals so you will come back. 

Hello Fresh is another great meal service. The first time I tried them a couple years ago I wasn't super thrilled. The recipes seemed to lack flavor. However, I've seen a lot of improvement in this aspect since I tried them again over quarantine!


HelloFresh

($8.99/serving + $7.99 shipping)

Discount: $40 off first box


Pros
  • The ingredients for each meal come in specific bags, labeled with the recipe
  • Tracking available via UPS
  • Not overly expensive, but the ingredients are always still fresh - its a good bang for your buck
  • They always have a great selection of recipes, choosing only three can be difficult!
  • Recipe cards are provided

Cons



  • Flavoring is a little bland sometimes, but I have seen improvement recently
  • I had two boxes in a row delivered a day late, and was not compensated in any way (I also didn't ask, so maybe that would be different if I had taken the time to complain)
  • Lots of chopping - if you're looking for QUICK meals with little prep, Hello Fresh isn't your best option


My Favorite HelloFresh Recipes

    






Tuesday, September 29, 2020

#gretchensbooks2020 - September





First month back to school! I was just happy to have time to finish one book this month! I'm happy that I hit my official goal of 100 books read this year....now I need to beat last year's total of 116! Reading slowed down because of school starting, and it is likely about to slow down even more because of school starting x2...I'm going back for my second Master's degree beginning October 1! I finished my last one in ten months, and am hoping to complete this one in the same amount of time (or less!), which means dedicating much less time to reading. Luckily I found some FABULOUS audiobooks this month that I knocked out in a few days each because I couldn't stop listening!!




97. Sweet Girl by Rachel Hollis (4/5★)

Max Jennings is in a bad mood. The secrets from her past make it her natural state of being.
Max’s bad mood means that very few people actually truly understand her or know that her dream is to be a pastry chef. When a rare opportunity to work for world-famous Avis Phillips presents itself, Max jumps at the chance. Avis and her staff aren’t stingy with the tough love, so Max spends every spare minute practicing her craft.
As Max bakes brownies and custards, cookies and galettes, she builds an unlikely friendship with a man she once loathed, and finds herself falling into something she’s spent the last six years avoiding. Will she let her painful past stand in the way, or will she muster the strength to forgive herself and realize her full potential?
Okay, so I have the unpopular opinion of disliking Rachel Hollis’s self-help-y memoirs. However, her fiction I (so far) have a completely different opinion of! I bought all three books in the “Girls” series when I saw them at my hometown bookstore, and  this was the first that I read. 

It was a really sweet story, and though I don’t typically read a lot in this genre, I really enjoyed it.

I began this book in July, but set it aside last month so I could read Midnight Sun when it came out, and only just now had the time to pick it up again.

This story made my heart feel so good. I have had such a huge ball of emotions built up in my chest as of late- good emotions, I think, but ones I can’t quite put a name to. I think that made this book all the better. While the main character Max was frustrating at times, it was great to see her grow throughout the story. I usually read heavier books with more suspense, so though this book had an underlying tough topic, the overall lightness of the narration was a good change of pace. 

With my mind being so occupied with all the changes and chaos as we head back to school/work, it was good to pick this one back up again. I like having something to read that doesn’t make me think too much when I just need to relax! I’m looking forward to reading the other two books in the series!



98. Home Before Dark by Riley Sager (5/5★)

What was it like? Living in that house.
Maggie Holt is used to such questions. Twenty-five years ago, she and her parents, Ewan and Jess, moved into Baneberry Hall, a rambling Victorian estate in the Vermont woods. They spent three weeks there before fleeing in the dead of night, an ordeal Ewan later recounted in a nonfiction book called House of Horrors. His tale of ghostly happenings and encounters with malevolent spirits became a worldwide phenomenon, rivaling The Amityville Horror in popularity—and skepticism. 

Today, Maggie is a restorer of old homes and too young to remember any of the events mentioned in her father's book. But she also doesn’t believe a word of it. Ghosts, after all, don’t exist. When Maggie inherits Baneberry Hall after her father's death, she returns to renovate the place to prepare it for sale. But her homecoming is anything but warm. People from the past, chronicled in House of Horrors, lurk in the shadows. And locals aren’t thrilled that their small town has been made infamous thanks to Maggie’s father. Even more unnerving is Baneberry Hall itself—a place filled with relics from another era that hint at a history of dark deeds. As Maggie experiences strange occurrences straight out of her father’s book, she starts to believe that what he wrote was more fact than fiction. 

Alternating between Maggie’s uneasy homecoming and chapters from her father’s book, Home Before Dark is the story of a house with long-buried secrets and a woman’s quest to uncover them—even if the truth is far more terrifying than any haunting.

This book was EXACTLY what I needed! I’ve been in such a reading slump, unable to get into anything- especially audio. I got a notification for a shortened skip-the-line loan on Libby for this book at just the right time. 

I really enjoyed another book I read by Sager last September, so when this came highly recommended on the bookstagram after its publishing date I this summer, I figured I would give it a go.

Growing up, I loved ghost stories. I still do! A couple times a week I read my class short stories from the Scary Stories collection as we wait for dismissal. This book was pretty much a ghost story for grown-ups! I finished in less than a week because I listened every chance I got- arriving places was a let down because I had to get out of the car and turn the book off! 

I loved that it switched back and forth between the daughter’s perspective (present) and the father’s perspective (past). They also had a different performer for each part, and both were fabulous.

I definitely recommend this book!!





99. Three Days Missing by Kimberley Belle (4/5★)

It's every parent's worst nightmare: the call that comes in the middle of the night. When Kat Jenkins awakens to the police on her doorstep, her greatest fear is realized. Her nine-year-old son, Ethan, is missing--vanished from the cabin where he'd been on an overnight class trip. Shocked and distraught, Kat rushes to the campground, but she's too late; the authorities have returned from their search empty-handed after losing Ethan's trail in the mountain forest.

Another mother from the school, Stef Huntington, seems like she has it all: money, prominence in the community, a popular son and a loving husband. She hardly knows Kat, except for the vicious gossip that swirls around Kat's traumatic past. But as the police investigation unfolds, Ethan's disappearance has earth-shattering consequences for Stef, as her path crosses with Kat. As the two mothers race against the clock, their desperate search for answers reveals how the greatest dangers lie behind the everyday smiles of those they trust the most.

Someone on Facebook recommended this author to me this summer, and I wish I remembered who, because I’m very appreciative! This was the first I read (listened) to by her, and it won’t be the last (I’ve already downloaded two more!) 

This was more mystery than thriller, and while I had two guesses on how it would end, neither were right! It wasn’t graphic, and despite it being about a kidnapped child, it wasn’t overly morbid. The story was fast-paced, and keeps you wondering - I was hooked from the very beginning. I also love stories with multiple perspectives which this story had. 





100. The Guest List by Lucy Foley (5/5★)

The bride – The plus one – The best man – The wedding planner  – The bridesmaid – The body
On an island off the coast of Ireland, guests gather to celebrate two people joining their lives together as one. The groom: handsome and charming, a rising television star. The bride: smart and ambitious, a magazine publisher. It’s a wedding for a magazine, or for a celebrity: the designer dress, the remote location, the luxe party favors, the boutique whiskey. The cell phone service may be spotty and the waves may be rough, but every detail has been expertly planned and will be expertly executed.
But perfection is for plans, and people are all too human. As the champagne is popped and the festivities begin, resentments and petty jealousies begin to mingle with the reminiscences and well wishes. The groomsmen begin the drinking game from their school days. The bridesmaid not-so-accidentally ruins her dress. The bride’s oldest (male) friend gives an uncomfortably caring toast. 
And then someone turns up dead. Who didn’t wish the happy couple well? And perhaps more important, why?

Oh. Em. Gee. Y’all!! Another 2020 release that was raved about on the bookstagram, “The Guest List” was full of secrets and I couldn’t put it down! I was third on the waitlist at the library, but because they kept pushing back due dates it took until now to get a copy. It took only three work days for me to finish this, and if I had the time, it would have been much less!!!

Just when I thought my mind had been blown to max capacity, I was shocked by another unexpected realization - my jaw literally could not drop any lower. Have a mentioned yet that this is a MUST READ??

I liked how the book told the story essentially from the “beginning,” but also inserted random chapters towards the “end” of the plot line, so you knew where it was headed, but not how it would end up there. All of the characters seem to have their own issues and secrets, and while you can try to piece them together throughout, you really have to get to the end to make sense of it all!

I can definitely see why the book world raves about this one- highly recommend!!



101. Dear Wife by Kimberley Belle (3.5/5★)


Beth Murphy is on the run… 
For nearly a year, Beth has been planning for this day. A day some people might call any other Wednesday, but Beth prefers to see it as her new beginning—one with a new look, new name and new city. Beth has given her plan significant thought, because one small slip and her violent husband will find her. 

Sabine Hardison is missing… 
A couple hundred miles away, Jeffrey returns home from a work trip to find his wife, Sabine, is missing. Wherever she is, she’s taken almost nothing with her. Her abandoned car is the only evidence the police have, and all signs point to foul play. 

As the police search for leads, the case becomes more and more convoluted. Sabine’s carefully laid plans for her future indicate trouble at home, and a husband who would be better off with her gone. The detective on the case will stop at nothing to find out what happened and bring this missing woman home. Where is Sabine? And who is Beth? The only thing that’s certain is that someone is lying and the truth won’t stay buried for long.

Another great thriller by Belle! This story was very fast paced, and easy to follow. I had some suspicions about the plot line that turned out to be correct, which didn’t happen with the last book of hers I listened to, but I still thoroughly enjoyed it. I have one more of hers downloaded to listen to next, then I guess I’ll have to start borrowing the print copies from the library.


This reminded me of another book I’ve read about a battered woman running off from her husband, but I can’t figure out what book it is. If you happen to read this and it reminds you of another book as well, please let me know, it’s driving me crazy that I can’t figure it out!



102. The Marriage Lie by Kimberly Belle (3.5/5★)


Everyone has secrets
Iris and Will have been married for seven years, and life is as close to perfect as it can be. But on the morning Will flies out for a business trip to Florida, Iris's happy world comes to an abrupt halt: another plane headed for Seattle has crashed into a field, killing everyone on board and, according to the airline, Will was one of the passengers. 

Grief stricken and confused, Iris is convinced it all must be a huge misunderstanding. Why did Will lie about where he was going? And what else has he lied about? As Iris sets off on a desperate quest to uncover what her husband was keeping from her, the answers she finds shock her to her very core.

The third book by Belle that I’ve listened to in the past week, and the third I’ve really enjoyed!! Belle keeps her readers in suspense throughout the whole story, and like the others, you really don’t know what’s going to happen and how the problem will be resolved until the end. Libby doesn’t have anymore audiobooks by her, but I definitely want to read the rest. If you like a good mystery/thriller, I recommend Kimberly Belle. If you were the one who recommended her to me, THANK YOU!!



103. YOU by Caroline Kepnes (4/5★)

East Village bookstore where Joe Goldberg works, he does what anyone would do: he Googles the name on her credit card. 

There is only one Guinevere Beck in New York City. She has a public Facebook account and Tweets incessantly, telling Joe everything he needs to know: she is simply Beck to her friends, she went to Brown University, she lives on Bank Street, and she’ll be at a bar in Brooklyn tonight—the perfect place for a “chance” meeting. 

As Joe invisibly and obsessively takes control of Beck’s life, he orchestrates a series of events to ensure Beck finds herself in his waiting arms. Moving from stalker to boyfriend, Joe transforms himself into Beck’s perfect man, all while quietly removing the obstacles that stand in their way—even if it means murder. 

Whew! I ended up listening to most of this on audiobook, and the performer was just as creepy sounding as Penn was in the Netflix show! In fact, the character was probably even creepier, if that’s possible! The book was pretty similar to the show, and I’ve already started book two, which I’ve heard is different- I guess we will find out. I definitely recommend the audiobook for this one!




104. The Gretchen Question by Jessica Treadway (3/5★)

The Gretchen Question recounts a day in the life of Roberta Chase, who does not have much time left to make peace with the son who’s punishing her for withholding his father’s true identity. A single mother torn between protecting her only child or revealing herself fully to the people she loves most, Roberta finds herself at war with conflicting loyalties, the increasing betrayal by her own body, the confused love she feels for her oldest friend, and a trauma from her past that casts a deep and possibly permanent shadow not only over her own life, but over the legacy she will bestow upon her son. 

Portraying the most intense and even shameful moments of motherhood, and the things we leave unsaid even to those we want most to hear them, the novel is also a celebration of one woman’s private reckoning with the source of her life’s most profound pain―as well as its greatest pleasure.

Knowing nothing about this book, I bought it for obvious reasons. Essentially the whole book takes place over one day, but it was done wonderfully. It’s not the type of book I would have normally picked up, but it was an interesting change of pace. 

It was a pretty quick read, and the ending gave me some serious feels. Though, the story was depressing, and I don’t think it would be a lot of people’s cup of tea. 

Also, I learned from this book what a “Gretchen question” (die Gretchenfrage in German, because it comes from German literature) is, AND a fun European fairytale about Clever Gretchen, so that was a bonus!




*This post contains affiliate links, which means when you purchase something through that link, you're helping support this blog at no additional cost to you!*

(Summaries are from Amazon, but all reviews are my own!)

Reading Challenge: 104/100 books read in 2020

You can find previous book reviews here!

Monday, September 21, 2020

Meal Subscription Services: Home Chef





 I was originally going to make one blog post giving the pros and cons of each meal subscription service I have tried, but I just keep finding more and more to try!  The list is so long that at this point it could be another year before I am able to hit publish, so I decided instead that I would just make separate posts for each service after I had tried it.

Growing up, I could not cook to save my life. My specialty was Kraft macaroni and cheese soup. I don’t know if I was just bad at following directions, or what. It is what it is. 🤷🏼‍♀️ Luckily, that has drastically changed. I daresay I’m actually a pretty good cook now!

I’ve been enjoying learning to cook new things, but that is easier said than done when you’re a very invested full-time teacher, part-time adventurer. Once COVID settled in, I found myself with more time, but no desire to frequent the grocery store.

Anyway. I never thought I would be a meal subscription person because I couldn’t see it being worth the money. But once I realized how much extra I was spending running to grab last minute food on my way home or grabbing extra snacks from the grocery because I was shopping hungry after work, (or the cost of all the leftovers I end up throwing away) I realized that wasn’t the case. 

Though I always order the 3 meals/2 people boxes, I can get more than two servings out of a lot of meals which is helpful - especially with the pasta and taco meals! My favorite thing has been turning leftover taco fillings into omelets for breakfast. These boxes are also helpful when I am teaching because I can make dinner and have lunch ready for the next day. Another benefit for me is that it doesn’t have a ton of leftovers, only 1-2 extra meals to put in the fridge, which is great because when I cook in bulk, most my leftovers get thrown away. (Most leftovers gross me out, especially in excessive quantities).

I wanted to start with my favorite service - Home Chef. They are one of the spendier options, but the meals are always super tasty. I have never been let down from a Home Chef meal!


Home Chef 

($9.95/serving + FREE shipping for orders over $40, $10 shipping for orders under $40)

Discount: $35 off first box


Pros
  • Simple recipes that always turn out delicious
  • The ingredients for each meal come in specific bags, labeled with the recipe
  • They send vegetable oil when it is needed for a recipe, and butter too
  • Delivered by FedEx with available tracking
  • They offer oven-ready options - you just need to put the ingredients into the (provided) pan and pop it in the oven
  • The meat is SO GOOD - by far the best chicken of any of the six services I have tried so far!
  • A lot of healthy options
  • You can sub meats when you choose the meals
Cons


Sunday, September 20, 2020

Universal Yums: Snacks from Egypt! (August 2020)


                                    



I was extra excited when I opened this box, because all of the treats seemed like something I would willingly eat. I'm all for trying new things, but I do get apprehensive and tend to save the least appetizing snacks in this box for last. There were some I wasn't a fan of in this box, but none of them were absolutely awful like a few in past boxes have been!!
If you’d like to try Universal Yums, click here for $5 off your first box!


  



Chocolate Wave Hazelnut (4/5)

A milk chocolate covered wafer filled with hazelnut cream? Yum! This was super tasty (as was to be expected). The chocolate wasn’t as sweet as I’m use to, and while I love sweet chocolate, it was still good. The only downside to this treat was that is was quite messy- when you take a bite, the wafer crumbles everywhere!


Sakalans Wafer Halawa & Coffee (1/5)

I wasn't sure about this, because I do not like coffee, but it didn't have too strong of a coffee taste. I didn't eat the whole thing, but I also didn't spit out the bite I took like I thought I would.


Tiger Chili & Lemon (3/5)

Chili and lemon sounded like an interesting combination, but chili and lime are pretty common, so I wasn't too concerned. They were an odd tasting chip, but one I could grow to like. Its the perfect combination of a spicy kick and a hint of lime which I love. 

  

Cono Popcorn Burning BBQ (4/5)

BBQ chips? Good! Popcorn? Also good! Put them together - yum! This Burning BBQ popcorn lived up to their name - there was the perfect amount of kick to give it just an edge up on regular BBQ chips


Duetto (3/5)
 
This was described as a 'biscuit cookie with date filling,' and was very similar to a fig newton crossed with a Nutrigrain bar. It didn't have a whole lot of flavor, so its not something that I would choose to eat for a snack, but it wasn't bad. 


Cono Puffs Crazy Tomato (1/5)

These were similar to Cheeto Puffs, except tomato flavored. Like, tasted identical to a good tomato soup (homemade, not canned). Except, I don't like tomato soup. I could see these being a good snack for people who do, but it was a hard pass for me!

  


El Shamadan White (4/5)

This was a white chocolate covered wafer with cocoa cream, and it was tasty!! Like the first wafer treat, it wasn't super sweet chocolate like I'm use to, but that turned out to be a good thing in this case. I don't mind white chocolate on a normal day, but usually I can only eat a small amount of it because the taste is so overpowering. This wasn't such a strong taste, so I was able to eat the whole thing in one go. I would definitely eat this again!!


Gero Coconut Bar (3/5)

Coconuts are importanted to Egypt, so they were a luxury only for the very wealthy during the days of Ancient Egypt. This was a chocolate covered coconut bar, and while I don't love coconut, I do love chocolate! It reminded me of a Charleston Chew, except less chewy. The inside didn't seem like coconut at first, the taste and texture came after chewing for a couple second which was interesting.


Pretzo Original Butter and Erbs (2/5)

As far as seasoned pretzels go, these were pretty bland. There were a couple that had some seasoning on them, but the rest were fairly plain. I ended up dipping them in Nutella, which I would absolutely not do if they had some flavor because that would be weird! I gave them a rating of 2 not because they were bad, just because they were plain and boring.

  


The Cinnamon Cookie (4/5)

These cinnamon butter cookies were pretty good! They tasted like a gingerbread cookie, except less intense of a flavor. They weren't super sweet, which was a downfall from my perspective, but would be great for people who don't do super sweet.


Spaghetuss Apple (5/5)

This apple gummy is a pretty recently developed treat. It had the perfect sweet apple taste, and the perfect chewy gummy texture. I would absolutely by these to eat as a treat again. I definitely prefer the sugary treats in these boxes to the salty or savory ones. The flavors are less odd, plus, sugar!!

Cono Corn Cones Mindblowing Pizza (2.5/5)

I love pizza, but pizza flavored things usually aren't my thing. From the bag, I thought these would be like Bugels, but they actually reminded me more of those 3D Doritos that use to exist when I was a kid. They had a pizza flavor, but not like I expected. They start off with a bit of a spicy taste, then they had a very distinct black olive after taste - and not the whole black olives you get out of a can and put on your fingertips (jsut me?), but the sliced ones they have at salad bars. As far as pizza tasting things go, they weren't bad!








Stay tuned for next month's box from Colombia!!!



Saturday, September 5, 2020

#gretchensbooks2020 - August





I thought for sure I would hit 100 books this month, but I have been in such a slump. I started and quit three different audiobooks this month, which is more than I quit during the first seven months of the year all put together. The stress and chaos of going back to work probably didn't help either. Hopefully September will be my month of 100 which was my official goal for the year!


91. True Story by Kate Reed Petty (3/5★)

Tracing the fifteen-year fallout of a toxic high school rumor, a riveting, astonishingly original debut novel about the power of stories—and who gets to tell them 

2015. A gifted and reclusive ghostwriter, Alice Lovett makes a living helping other people tell their stories. But she is haunted by the one story she can't tell: the story of, as she puts it, "the things that happened while I was asleep." 

1999. Nick Brothers and his lacrosse teammates return for their senior year at their wealthy Maryland high school as the reigning state champions. They're on top of the world—until two of his friends drive a passed-out girl home from of the team's "legendary" parties, and a rumor about what happened in the backseat spreads through the town like wildfire. 

The boys deny the allegations, and, eventually, the town moves on. But not everyone can. Nick descends into alcoholism, and Alice builds a life in fits and starts, underestimating herself and placing her trust in the wrong people. When she finally gets the opportunity to confront the past she can't remember—but which has nevertheless shaped her life—will she take it? 

An inventive and breathtaking exploration of a woman finding her voice in the wake of trauma,True Story is part psychological thriller, part fever dream, and part timely comment on sexual assault, power, and the very nature of truth. Ingeniously constructed and full of twists and turns that will keep you guessing until the final pages, it marks the debut of a singular and daring new voice in fiction.

I received an ARC and finished it just in time for its publishing date on August 4. (Note: this is NOT a true story.) It was also different than I expected it to be. The story switched between a couple of perspectives, and narration styles. It’s mostly written as a narrative, but includes emails, movie scripts, etc. it also crossed multiple genres- part 

When I started the book I was pretty engaged, but my attention was lost about a quarter of the way in. Halfway through I thought it would be a 1.5-2 star read.....then the last 100 pages came along and caught my attention again. I’ve read some raving reviews on this book, and while I didn’t absolutely LOVE it, it was pretty good, and definitely written in an unusual style. I felt like it had the potential to be better though.


92. Helter Skelter: The True Story of the Manson Murders by Vincent Bugliosi (3/5★)

In the summer of 1969, in Los Angeles, a series of brutal, seemingly random murders captured headlines across America. A famous actress (and her unborn child), an heiress to a coffee fortune, a supermarket owner and his wife were among the seven victims. A thin trail of circumstances eventually tied the Tate-LeBianca murders to Charles Manson, a would-be pop singer of small talent living in the desert with his "family" of devoted young women and men. What was his hold over them? And what was the motivation behind such savagery? In the public imagination, over time, the case assumed the proportions of myth. The murders marked the end of the sixties and became an immediate symbol of the dark underside of that era.
Vincent Bugliosi was the prosecuting attorney in the Manson trial, and this book is his enthralling account of how he built his case from what a defense attorney dismissed as only "two fingerprints and Vince Bugliosi." The meticulous detective work with which the story begins, the prosecutor's view of a complex murder trial, the reconstruction of the philosophy Manson inculcated in his fervent followers…these elements make for a true crime classic. Helter Skelter is not merely a spellbinding murder case and courtroom drama but also, in the words of The New Republic, a "social document of rare importance."
True Crime has been a fascination of mine since early middle school, if not before. I grew up binging Forensic Files whenever there was a marathon, and when there wasn’t, I binged whatever was on ID. Despite my long history with consuming true crime media, I didn’t know much about the Mansion Murders (probably because the took place long before I was born), so when I saw this twenty year old book, I figured I should check it out.

I listened to it on audio, and I have to say, the performer was pretty dull. The book was written by the prosecuting attorney in the trial, so reading from his perspective was interesting, though a little dry. It was very factual, and very descriptive. It was an okay book, and I think I would have liked it better if I read a physical copy instead of listened to the audio.

93. The Gravity of Us by Phil Stamper (3.5/5★)

As a successful social media journalist with half a million followers, seventeen-year-old Cal is used to sharing his life online. But when his pilot father is selected for a highly publicized NASA mission to Mars, Cal and his family relocate from Brooklyn to Houston and are thrust into a media circus. 
  Amidst the chaos, Cal meets sensitive and mysterious Leon, another "Astrokid," and finds himself falling head over heels--fast. As the frenzy around the mission grows, so does their connection. But when secrets about the program are uncovered, Cal must find a way to reveal the truth without hurting the people who have become most important to him.   Expertly capturing the thrill of first love and the self-doubt all teens feel, debut author Phil Stamper is a new talent to watch.


Any book that throws “NASA” in the description is a book I’m going to read, even if it has virtually nothing to do with actual space travel. It wasn’t a bad book, but it did take me a while to get through- partially because the audiobook was due back before I had time to finish it.

I finally got a copy again and was able to finish it this week. This was a really sweet story, and I like the variety of writing styles in it- narration, video transcripts, etc. I also really liked how they used different voices for the varied perspectives in the audiobook. This was definitely a YA read, so though I probably wouldn’t recommend it for grown adults, I would have really appreciated it in middle school/early high school. 

94. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle (3.5/5★)

It was a dark and stormy night; Meg Murry, her small brother Charles Wallace, and her mother had come down to the kitchen for a midnight snack when they were upset by the arrival of a most disturbing stranger.
"Wild nights are my glory," the unearthly stranger told them. "I just got caught in a downdraft and blown off course. Let me sit down for a moment, and then I'll be on my way. Speaking of ways, by the way, there is such a thing as a tesseract."
A tesseract (in case the reader doesn't know) is a wrinkle in time. To tell more would rob the reader of the enjoyment of Miss L'Engle's unusual book. A Wrinkle in Time, winner of the Newbery Medal in 1963, is the story of the adventures in space and time of Meg, Charles Wallace, and Calvin O'Keefe (athlete, student, and one of the most popular boys in high school). They are in search of Meg's father, a scientist who disappeared while engaged in secret work for the government on the tesseract problem.
I owned this book as a child, but never read it because I HATED the cover of it (which is different than the one on this copy). I know, I know. I wish I would have read it them, because I think I would have liked it better. Not that I disliked it as an adult, but it’s fantasy based, which is not my typical genre. The only thing about reading it as a kid is some of the language is a little advance- I would have understood it, but I don’t think I would have fully grasped it. It is a very sweet story, and would work great as a read aloud in a classroom! I think I saw the movie on Netflix or somewhere, so now I need to go watch it to compare!

95. Dear Martin by Nic Stone (4/5★)

Justyce McAllister is a good kid, an honor student, and always there to help a friend—but none of that matters to the police officer who just put him in handcuffs. Despite leaving his rough neighborhood behind, he can't escape the scorn of his former peers or the ridicule of his new classmates. 

Justyce looks to the teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. for answers. But do they hold up anymore? He starts a journal to Dr. King to find out. 

Then comes the day Justyce goes driving with his best friend, Manny, windows rolled down, music turned up— way up, sparking the fury of a white off-duty cop beside them. Words fly. Shots are fired. Justyce and Manny are caught in the crosshairs. In the media fallout, it's Justyce who is under attack. 

I really, really liked this book. It is a YA read that addresses A LOT of prominent social issues. I liked that it went beyond the usual, and included disparities in education and opportunity. 

I enjoyed the format of the book too. Books that included a variety of styles are always more enjoyable to me. This had you typical narration, but included letters the main character was writing to Dr. King, news transcripts, etc. “Dear Martin” is definitely a book I would recommend!


96. Midnight Sun by Stephenie Meyer (4/5★)

When Edward Cullen and Bella Swan met in Twilight, an iconic love story was born. But until now, fans have heard only Bella's side of the story. At last, readers can experience Edward's version in the long-awaited companion novel, Midnight Sun.

This unforgettable tale as told through Edward's eyes takes on a new and decidedly dark twist. Meeting Bella is both the most unnerving and intriguing event he has experienced in all his years as a vampire. As we learn more fascinating details about Edward's past and the complexity of his inner thoughts, we understand why this is the defining struggle of his life. How can he justify following his heart if it means leading Bella into danger?

In Midnight Sun, Stephenie Meyer transports us back to a world that has captivated millions of readers and brings us an epic novel about the profound pleasures and devastating consequences of immortal love.

Midnight Sun was finally published a couple weeks ago, and was an absolute brick of a book. 658 pages full of text.

I was a little apprehensive about reading this. I loved the series, but I loved Fifty Shades too, and though I read that series in three days, I tried for months to get through “Grey” and couldn’t. That being said, I really liked the release of “Four” after the Divergent series.

Meyer originally began this back in like 2008 (or probably before?), but I’m glad she didn’t release it then since it is just a repeat of the story through Edward’s eyes.  I was NOT one who read the 12 chapters that were leaked back then, my conscience wouldn’t let me!

It wasn’t a FABULOUS read, probably because I already did know the story, but I’m very glad I bought/read it. And I think Meyer’s overall writing has definitely improved over the years.

Also, since I read the original saga before any of the movies came out, it was weird reading this picturing the movie characters in my head, and it made me frequently wonder how I pictured them prior. It was hard not to picture Rob & Kristin while reading, and the written characters don’t quite match the movie characters.

I enjoyed the anticipation of waiting for specific scenes to take place through Edward’s eyes. I’m very curious what it would be like to read this if you haven’t read the whole Twilight series. 

*This post contains affiliate links, which means when you purchase something through that link, you're helping support this blog at no additional cost to you!*

(Summaries are from Amazon, but all reviews are my own!)


Reading Challenge: 96/100 books read in 2020

You can find previous book reviews here!

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Universal Yums: Snacks from Thailand! (July 2020)






Month two of Universal Yums took me to Thailand! I was a little apprehensive about this one, because I know the food in Thailand is so much different than my usual snacks. As I should have expected, I liked all the sweet treats (as always!)

If you’d like to try Universal Yums, click here for $5 off your first box!




Suthera Banana Coconut Roll (4/5)

Legend has it that banana trees in Thailand are haunted by a ghost named Nang Tani! She is a good ghost though :) These banana coconut rolls were really good! They were essentially rolled up cracker/wafers that tasted just like bananas- real bananas, not the artificial flavoring. The only downside is they’re too big to fit a whole thing in your mouth (for me anyway), but if you try to bite it, all the crispies fall down your shirt.






Tasto Sweet & Spicy (3/5)

The northern cities in Thailand prefer sweeter flavors, while the southern cities indulge in all things spicy.These garlic wheat crisps are a perfect mix of the two. I don't think they are something I would eat often, but I did enjoy them. First you taste the sweet, then there is a spicy kick at the end!








Glendee Coconut Chips Sea Salt & Caramel (4/5)

Coconuts in Thailand are picked by trained monkeys. They can pick 1,600 coconuts a day, whereas a human can only pick 80! I wasn't sure if I would like these, because the texture of coconut isn't something that I love, but they weren't like that at all! I tried a few of these on their own, and they tasted more caramel-y than anything. I could only eat a few at a time without the flavor being overwhelming. I ended up using them to top my smoothie bowls which worked out great!





Tasto Devil (3/5)

Chili pepper potato chips!! Coming straight from southern Thailand, these were made with chili peppers, which I am told are 15x hotter than jalapenos. They definitely had a kick to them, but it was more of the after taste than anything. I love jalapeno chips, but I don't think I would choose these to snack on, as the heat kinda of takes over the flavor if that makes sense.







Z Roll Farm Fried Shrimp & Salad Cream (0/5)

This was a seaweed wrapped potato stick with fried shrimp and a mayo flavor and was what I was LEAST excited about in this box. Eating seaweed is freaky to me. I panic when it touches my feet in the water! I know I said I would try everything, but I could NOT try this. I opened it and immediately gagged. I just couldn't do it. 







Chocky Wafer Shibuya Honey Toasted Flavour Cream (4/5)

These were very similar to the cream filled wafers in the US, but not as sweet. The flavor kind of reminded me of Waffle Crisp. I have such a sweet tooth, so they didn’t quite meet my sugar needs, but they were still good!








Hartbeat Lime Gummy (4/5)

These were salty lime gummies, which sounds interesting, and they were! They definitely seemed like a treat to decorate a margarita with, all that was missing was the tequila. The gummies were tart like the lime, and sweet, but really didn't seem salty to me. I would absolutely eat these as a treat again. They aren't something you can inhale all at once though, so the bag lasts awhile!






Calipzo Corn Flavoured Candy (0/5)

Corn Flavored Candy? Yep. It tasted like straight up corn. I feel like I didn't get the full effect of this candy, because though it was suppose to be a chewy candy, it was rock hard. The flavor wasn't repulsive, but its also not something I would ever eat again.

Orchard Banana Chews (3/5)

These banana chews were the first candy I've had that actually tastes like real bananas which threw me off a little. They were good, just unexpected!

Hartbeat Pineapple (5/5)

These pineapple candies were SO GOOD! I want more of them already, as they were my favorite in the box. They tasted just like a pineapple (though in hard candy form), and nothing like artificial pineapple flavoring like most treats around here do. I hope Universal Yums offers them in their shop, because I definitely want to buy more!!




Sticky Rice with Coconut Cream & Mango (3/5)

In order to enjoy this treat, it had to be briefly microwaved. It was....different. Not bad, just different. The flavor was good, but mixed with the texture it was hard for me to enjoy. I'm so weird about textures, and while I like regular rice, this gooey rice was harder for me to come to terms with. I think if I tried it frequently I would learn to like it!






Stay tuned for August's box - mummies yummies from Egypt!!