Beautiful, Affordable Special Occasion Dresses

Beautiful, budget friendly dresses for those special occasions when you want to dress up!
This post has been sponsored by NeeSee’s Dresses.  All opinions are 100% mine.

At least a couple of times a year, I have an event I need to attend that requires me to wear something a little more fancy, beyond my normal church dress.  And every year I struggle to put something together that feels dressy enough for the occasion.  Because I don’t have a need for nicer dresses very often, I hesitate to spend a lot of money on something that won’t be worn more than a handful of times a year (at most).  To add to my troubles, I am tall (5’9″) and many dresses aren’t long enough for me.

This post contains affiliate links which if clicked on and a purchase is made, I will receive a small commission at no additional cost to you.

So when I spotted NeeSee’s Dresses through a Facebook ad about three years ago, I clicked on the link and found a number of dresses and other clothes that were a) cute, b) affordable and c) long enough,.  Let me tell you, I was sold!  I’ve ordered dresses, shirts, skirts, cardigans and other accessories from them and have been thrilled with every order.

One of my favorite products NeeSee’s carries is their dresses.  They are classy, beautiful and completely affordable.  I feel totally comfortable spending money on a dress (or two) from them because I know they are well made and the styles are classic.  Plus, they won’t break the bank.

Last week, I attended the wedding of one of my husband’s best friends.  I picked out the The Emmy in navy to wear and I absolutely love the color and the fit.  The lace overlay is beautiful and I felt amazing wearing it.

Beautiful, budget friendly dresses for those special occasions when you want to dress up!

I did end up ordering a silver belt to wear because I wanted to create the illusion of a slightly lower waistline.  You can order the belt HERE.

Beautiful, budget friendly dresses for those special occasions when you want to dress up!

One thing I want to mention is that I had our kids with me and I was still able to move around and be comfortable dealing with them.  This is a huge benefit to us moms!

Beautiful, budget friendly dresses for those special occasions when you want to dress up!

Tonight, I am going to my husband’s Christmas party which is always a fun excuse to dress up.  The dress I’m wearing is The Elsa Maxi Dress in Champagne Pink.

Beautiful, budget friendly dresses for those special occasions when you want to dress up!

As I said earlier, I’m fairly tall, but this dress easily touches the ground when I don’t have shoes on.  I have 3 inch heels on in the pictures below and you can see that it is still long.  (If you’re shorter, you could have the dress hemmed to fit you.  One thing I’ve learned is that it’s a lot harder to add length to clothes.)

Beautiful, budget friendly dresses for those special occasions when you want to dress up!

I love the gold sequins and the soft pink of the chiffon.  And the dress is super comfortable!  The whole thing is lined and the sequins weren’t scratchy at all.

NeeSee’s carries styles for everyone and their dresses range from comfy and casual to dressy and formal.  If you have questions, their customer service is extremely helpful.  If you’re looking for something besides a dress, you can check out their tops, skirts, shoes and even swimwear.  When you sign up for their emails, you’ll find out about amazing sales and they often offer free products (dresses, shirts, beanies, etc) when you spend a certain amount.  On top of that, they offer free shipping on orders over $75.  Right now, they are doing 12 Days of Amazing Sales and let me tell you, they really are amazing!

With all the holiday parties coming up this month, treat yourself to a little something that will make you feel good about yourself, pretty and comfortable in your skin.  So hop on over to NeeSee’s Dresses and find something you love!

As an extra incentive, NeeSee’s has kindly provided an exclusive code for my readers: use SUNSHINE at checkout for 15% off your entire order until Sunday, December 4 at midnight MST.  Couple this with the 12 Days of Amazing Sales I mentioned earlier and you are getting a killer deal!

I also have to say thank you to my friend Kendra from Kendra Leigh Photography and Video for taking these pictures.  She is an amazing photographer and she made me feel at ease during these pictures.  I’m not usually the one in front of the camera and I appreciate her skill and talent in making me look good.  If you live in Utah County, definitely ask her to be your next photographer.

Happy weekend and I hope you enjoy the upcoming holidays!

Book Review: Disneyland On Any Budget by Jessica Sanders

Disneyland On Any Budget is a must have for the latest and most up-to-date information on Disneyland!  It is packed with information!

Before my family and I went to Disneyland last fall, I did a TON of research on a million different website and blogs trying to learn as much as possible about lodging and food and travel and strollers and souvenirs and anything else I could think of that I might need to know about when planning a trip to Disneyland.  I learned a lot and everything I found was really helpful.  Our trip to Disneyland was a huge success and I even learned a few things that I’ve been able to share with others.

I received a complimentary copy of Disneyland On Any Budget for review.  All opinions are 100% mine.
Disneyland On Any Budget is a must have for the latest and most up-to-date information on Disneyland!  It is packed with information!

But what if you don’t have the time to to sift through all that information and find what’s really relevant?  That’s where Disneyland On Any Budget comes in handy.  Jessica Sanders from The Happiest Blog on Earth is all about all things Disney.  She and her family go to Disneyland several times a year and she is always up to date on the latest changes and updates to the park.

This post contains affiliate links which if clicked on and a purchase is made, I will receive a small commission at no additional cost to you.

I received a copy of Disneyland On Any Budget and was able to read through it in less than an hour.  But all the information Jessica packs into this little book is well worth the read (and re-read)!  She covers ways to save for Disneyland, where to get discount tickets, how to save money on food, where to start your day, hotel accommodations, grocery stores, best places to find souvenirs and on and on.  Jessica really knows her stuff!

Disneyland On Any Budget is a must have for the latest and most up-to-date information on Disneyland!  It is packed with information!
Used by permission from The Happiest Blog on Earth

One thing I loved and thought was a great little touch is that each chapter/section starts off with a fun quote from a Disney movie that goes along with what the chapter is about.  Jessica also shares examples and real life experiences (both her own and others) to help illustrate her points.  At the end of each section, she gives a little recap.  If you buy the book, you also have access to bonus content on her website!

I would definitely recommend this book to anyone looking to plan a trip to Disneyland in the coming year.  The information you’ll learn is invaluable to making your experience the best possible.  No matter what your budget is, Disneyland On Any Budget is a great tool to help you and your family visit the happiest place on earth!

To buy the paperback version, click HERE.
To buy the Kindle version, click HERE.

To visit The Happiest Blog on Earth, click HERE.

What has been most helpful to you when planning a trip to Disneyland?

Book Review: The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh {Plus Book Club Discussion/Questions}

Review of Vanessa Diffenbaugh's The Language of Flowers

At the beginning of the summer, I put together a summer reading list and challenged myself to get all the way through the list before the official start of fall.  I’m happy to say that I made it through almost all of them, plus a few others that weren’t originally on my list!  (You can find the list HERE and my reviews HERE.) The very first book I picked from my list was The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh.  I hadn’t heard anything about it other than the synopsis I read on Goodreads.

This post contains affiliate links which if clicked on and a purchase is made I will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.

In June of this year, we took a vacation with my husband’s family (parents, siblings/spouses and kids).  It was a lot of fun, but after being with everyone all day, I needed a little bit of time to unwind and relax.  I’d brought The Language of Flowers with me and found myself trying to find time to read it over the course of our vacation.  Everyone else would be inside visiting or watching a show and I was outside on the porch reading my book.  I was instantly caught up in Victoria’s story and knew within a few chapters that I wanted to suggest it for our book club.

My Summary and Review (5 stars):
Victoria Jones grew up in the foster care system bouncing from home to home, only finding comfort in flowers and their meanings.  Now eighteen and emancipated from the system, Victoria must find a way to make a living or be homeless.  She is offered a job working at Bloom and she soon discovers she has a gift for helping others through the flowers she chooses for them.  Unexpectedly, someone from her past emerges and she’s forced to confront issues that have haunted her for years.  Victoria must decide if it’s worth the risk to delve deeper, and possibly lose what stability she’s found, for a second chance at happiness.

The Language of Flowers could have been a depressing story, but instead it was thought provoking and beautifully written.

Book Club Discussion Questions:

  • What did you think about the story telling style of the book? (switching from past to present)
  • Do you think the novel provided a fair depiction of the foster care system?
  • Why was Victoria so empathetic to the needs of others and is able to pick them the perfect flowers to express their feelings, but she has no sense of love or empathy for herself?
  • Do you agree with Victoria’s decision to give her baby to Grant?  Can you empathize with some of her feelings as a new mother?
  • Use one or two words to describe the book as a whole.
  • What do you think about the language of flowers?  Do you think the meaning a flower has gives some kind of power?
  • What would your wedding bouquet say about you and your spouse?  Is there any truth to it?
  • Do you like the openness of the ending?

If you’d like to read the other book reviews and questions/discussion I’ve posted about, you can click on the links below.

*May contain spoilers*

Summer 2016 Reading List Reviews and Ratings
My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton and Jodi Meadows
Shatter Me by Tahera Mafi

Happy reading!

Thankful, Grateful, Blessed

I have a stack of quote cards that I keep in my bathroom.  Each week or so, I move the one on top to the back of the stack and read the next one, trying to keep it in my thoughts throughout the day and coming week.  Right now, the one on top says, “How quick we are to find the rainbow before being thankful for the rain.” (Dieter F. Uchtdorf)

As we develop an attitude of gratitude, we are better able to weather the storms of life.

So often, we are looking for the rainbow or the light at the end of the tunnel because we just want to get through whatever we are facing and just be done with it so we can move on to other, happier things.  And don’t get me wrong.  It’s not like I think we should enjoy going through hard things or that we shouldn’t feel relieved when they are over.  I like feeling happy and strive for it.

I’ll be honest: my life is pretty easy most of the time.  My husband has a job that supports our family, which means I’m able to stay at home with our kids.  We have a full fridge, freezer and cold storage.  My children have clothes to wear and shoes on their feet.  When they grow out of them, I can easily go buy more.  My family is healthy and strong.  My list of troubles is fairly short and for that I am grateful.

But I’ve been thinking about gratitude a lot lately and how easy it is to forget to show gratitude.  I mean, sure, I regularly say thank you to my family and friends and people who hold the door for me on the way in/out of a store.  I say my prayers and thank God for my home, my family, my husband’s job and food on the table.  But what I mean is, it’s easy to be thankful when things are easy.  When things are going well.  Nothing major is going on.  Nothing that makes me stop and think about what it is that I have in my life because it’s just part of my life, you know?

As we move into the holiday season, I am making a more concentrated effort to look for the things I am thankful for and write them down.  I want to take special note of what I am grateful for in my life.  And by doing these things, I hope to better remember how very blessed I am.  My hope is to establish a habit and attitude of gratitude that carries beyond the holiday season and becomes a deeper part of me.

Here are a few ways I’ve thought of to help myself.  Maybe one of these will ring true for you as well:

Gratitude Journal:  I have a journal that only has lists of what I’m grateful for in it.  As I look back through it, I can see that I get more specific with what I’m thankful for the most consistently I write things down and it often reflects what was going on in my life at the time.  I have also seen people write down one or two things they are thankful for in their planner, which I think is a neat idea as well.

Thankful Tree:  Last year, we started a Thankful Tree as one of our Thanksgiving traditions.  I made a tree out of brown paper sacks and cut leaves out of construction paper.  Each day, we would write down what we were thankful for and put it on the tree.  By the end of the month, the entire tree was covered by all the things we were thankful for.  Definitely one of my favorite traditions we’ve started.

As we develop an attitude of gratitude, we are better able to weather the storms of life.

Say Thank You (Be Specific):  This suggestion steers away from writing things down, but I think it’s equally important to say out loud what we are thankful for and to tell people what about them we are thankful for.  Try thinking of one person each day that you are thankful for and then think of something specific about them that you are thankful for and then tell them!  I’m sure it will make their day.

To help celebrate the season of thankfulness and gratitude, Cents of Style has designed this cute shirt that simply says “thankful, grateful, blessed” on the front.  It is perfect for any time of year, but it’s getting quite a bit cooler here in Utah so I’m layering it.  You can get this shirt in 2 colors: gold/white and wine/white.  I had the hardest time deciding which one to get but ultimately chose the darker color.  Another thing I love about this shirt is how long it is!  I am tall (5’9″) and sometimes I have a hard time finding shirts that fit my long torso but the size small fit great with a little bit of breathing room.

As we develop an attitude of gratitude, we are better able to weather the storms of life.

If you’d like to grab one of these shirts for yourself, Cents of Style is running a promotion from 11/4/16 to 11/6/16 where you can get either shirt (or both!) for FREE with any $25 purchase using the coupon code THANKFUL1.  And, as always, they offer free shipping!

As we develop an attitude of gratitude, we are better able to weather the storms of life.

Click HERE to go to their website and see what great stuff you can find.  (And I promise you that finding $25 worth of clothing and/or accessories is not hard.)  Did you see the Remi Swing Dress I wore a couple of weeks ago?  Or the ‘uplift’ bracelet from their tribe jewelry collection?  The ‘Thankful, Grateful, Blessed’ shirt normally sells for $29.95 so you could even grab one in one color and then get the other one free with the coupon code.

As we develop an attitude of gratitude, we are better able to weather the storms of life.

Before you leave today, share a comment below about something you are thankful for, grateful for, or blessed to have.  I’d love to hear from you!

Have a great weekend!

I received this shirt in exchange for my review and promotion but all thoughts and opinions are 100% mine.

This post contains affiliate links, which if you click on them and make a purchase, I will receive a small commission at no additional cost to you.

3 Ways To Feel Good About Yourself

We are our own worst critics and focusing on our flaws isn't going to promote a healthy self image.  These are 3 things you can do to feel good about yourself.

When I was going through my awkward pre-teen and teenage years, I received a lot of comments about my size and weight.  I’ve always been tall and thin.  I have a high metabolism as well as being active.  Some of the comments I got were positive: “Wow, you look great!”  (Thank you.)  Others were stereotypical: “Are you trying out for cheerleading?”  (No, I’m not.)  And others implied that I had an eating disorder: “What do you eat everyday?  An apple?”  (I actually ate more than some grown men.)

Thankfully, I’d been raised by a mother who had dealt with many of the same things growing up so I wasn’t affected by their comments as much as I could have been.  (I’d be lying if I said I was completely immune from their words.)  Despite having a difficult time finding pants long enough for my tall frame or shirts that weren’t too short, I had a positive body image, which I’m grateful for.

Now that I’m older and have had a couple of kids, my body has changed a bit.  I’m still tall and thin.  My metabolism is still high and I try to be active.  But there are parts of my body that I’m not nearly as happy with as I used to be.  I’ve nursed both my kids and that part of my body never recovered from that.  I’ve got more wrinkles than I used to have.  And the clothes that I could have worn five years ago just don’t fit the same way they used to.

Becoming used to these changes hasn’t come overnight.  I’ve had moments where I’ve been unhappy with what I’ve seen in the mirror and wished for my own fairy godmother to give me a little boost or tuck in a few select areas.  (Am I right, ladies?)  But for the most part, I’ve come to love and accept and appreciate this body I’ve been given.

As women, as mothers, as wives, we want to feel beautiful and attractive and desired.  Granted, we are all our own worst critics and it can be difficult to train ourselves to look beyond the imperfections (real or perceived).  But it’s important that we do this because, as I mentioned above, everyone wants to feel good about themselves (and they should!).  So how do we do that?  I’ve got a few ideas.

Trust the opinions of those you trust
There are a handful of people that I really trust.  They are the people I can go to when I need an honest opinion or a little pick me up.  People who have my best interest at heart and want to see me happy and succeed in life.  Think about who these people are in your own life and trust them when they say you are beautiful, or kind, or funny, or creative, or whatever makes you YOU.  Lock those compliments away or maybe even write them down.  And when you’re feeling down, think about those words, lift up your chin and keep moving forward.

We are our own worst critics and focusing on our flaws isn't going to promote a healthy self image.  These are 3 things you can do to feel good about yourself.

Take time for yourself
Regardless of where you are in your life, you need to take time to take care of yourself.  I had a conversation with someone once about the importance of doing this and they asked, in all honesty, “But isn’t that selfish?”   My answer to them was “No!  It’s called self-care and everyone has to do it if they want to stay healthy: mentally, physically, spiritually and emotionally.”  What you do to take time for yourself is going to be different for everyone, because everyone has something different that makes them feel happy, uplifted and rejuvenated.  For some of you, it might be a bubble bath and a book.  For others, it’s taking the time to put on a little make up and fixing your hair.  Getting your nails done, a treat from the bakery, lunch with a friend, exercising.  Think about what makes you feel good about yourself when you do it, and then do it.

Create opportunities to dress up
Being a stay-at-home mom, the opportunity to dress up doesn’t come very often.  I have church on Sunday where I put on a dress or skirt, but it has to be practical and easy to move in since I have young children.  Around the holidays, my husband has a work party.  We have a few date nights scattered here and there, but they’re not as often as we’d like and even then, they might be something as simple as grabbing a treat and coming home and watching a movie.  Not really something to dress up for.  So what’s a girl to do?  See if you can create opportunities to dress up.  For me, this means taking a little extra time on Sunday mornings to shower and (gasp!) actually blow dry my hair.  Or maybe I curl it.  Maybe I put on some eye shadow or experiment with a new hairstyle.  Put on some high heels instead of flats (even though they’ll come off in a couple hours).  What makes you feel like you are dressing up?

This last Sunday, I did just what I mentioned above: I showered, blow dried my hair, put on some eye shadow and wore heels.  I felt awesome!  (But I was definitely done with the heels after three hours…)  I wore this darling swing dress that I received from Cents of Style along with a bracelet from their tribe jewelry line that simply says “uplift”.

We are our own worst critics and focusing on our flaws isn't going to promote a healthy self image.  These are 3 things you can do to feel good about yourself.

To be totally honest, I wasn’t sure how I’d like the dress on me.  I generally go for dresses that have more of a shape and the Remi Swing Dress doesn’t.  But when I put it on, I felt both comfortable and beautiful.  I could have worn it all day.  The color is perfect for fall.  Plus it is long enough for my tall frame both in the length and in the arms.  (I am 5’9″ and I got a medium.)  Definitely a win in my book!

We are our own worst critics and focusing on our flaws isn't going to promote a healthy self image.  These are 3 things you can do to feel good about yourself.

If you’ve been looking for a new dress, I recommend looking into this one.  They have 17 colors and sizes ranging from small to 3XL.  The are running a Fashion Friday sale on this dress from 10/21/16 to 10/23/16 for $21.95 with code DRESS2016.  Another bonus is that they offer FREE shipping!  How often do you find that from a clothing store anymore?

We are our own worst critics and focusing on our flaws isn't going to promote a healthy self image.  These are 3 things you can do to feel good about yourself.

This post contains affiliate links.  If you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive a small commission at no cost to you.
I received the dress and bracelet for free as part of this promotion.  All opinions expressed are my own.
I’d love to hear what you do to help yourself feel good!

Fall 2016 Walmart Beauty Box Review

Fall 2016 Walmart Beauty Box Review--Is it worth $5?

*I am reviewing this box by choice and have not received it for free, nor have I received any other compensation from Walmart.  All opinions are my own.*

I still can’t believe that we are already into our second full week of Fall.  The weather here in Utah has definitely taken on a cooler feel with highs in the 60s last week.  Thankfully it’s supposed to be in the 70s this week because I’m not quite ready to let go of the warmer weather.  Last week I received my Fall 2016 Walmart Beauty Box.  When I did a review of the Summer 2016 Beauty Box, I got a lot of interest in the post, so I thought I’d do a review of the Fall beauty box.

What is the Walmart Beauty Box?

For $5, you receive one beauty box every three months filled with various beauty items ranging from full size to travel size to sample size.  You can cancel the subscription at any time.

I’ve had my subscription for a little over a year and a half and I’ve enjoyed the items enough not to cancel.  Some boxes are better than others, but the items that I’ve received have been worth more than the $5 it costs for the box itself.  It’s fun to get a little surprise in the mail every few months and I can totally see the appeal of monthly/quarterly subscriptions.

Here’s what I got this time around:

Fall 2016 Walmart Beauty Box Review--Is it worth $5?

  • Village Naturals Therapy Aches + Pains Muscle Relief Concentrated Mineral Bath Soak (single use)
  • Dove Nutrium Moisture Body Wash (travel size)
  • Nature’s Bounty Hair, Skin and Nails Gummies with Biotin (sample size)
  • Biore Deep Cleaning Charcoal Pore Strips (single use)
  • EcoTools Single Pack Makeup Brush Cleansing Cloths (single use)
  • Batiste Dry Shampoo (travel size)
  • Cetaphil Moisturizing Body Cream (sample size)
  • Hello Pure Mint Toothpaste (travel size)
  • Clean & Clear Deep Action 60 Second Shower Mask (travel size)

My Review:

  • Village Naturals Therapy Aches + Pains Muscle Relief Concentrated Mineral Bath Soak–I’ve never tried a mineral bath soak, so I’m not sure what to expect but it does smell good  (mint, eucalyptus, spearmint).  I want to try it out when I have some aches and pains that need soothing, so I will update this once I’ve used it.
    • Would I recommend it: UNDECIDED
  • Dove Nutrium Moisture Body Wash–I’ve used this body wash before in a different scent.  The scent is very subtle and nice but I like more of the fruity or clean scents rather than flowery for my body wash.  I don’t think it necessarily does any better at moisturizing my skin than what I’m currently using (Olay) but it would be a good alternative if it happens to be on sale.  I’m not loyal to any one brand when it comes to body wash as long as it doesn’t dry my skin out.
    • Would I recommend it: YES
  • Nature’s Bounty Hair, Skin and Nails Gummies with Biotin–I’ve wondered about the supplements for hair, skin and nails but not enough to go out and buy any.  This came in a single sample size pack, which was 2 gummies and obviously not enough to actually tell a difference.  So I’m guessing they were hoping to sell me on the texture and flavor, which the package says was Strawberry.  I didn’t think they tasted like strawberry but it wasn’t an unpleasant flavor.  The texture was soft and not too chewy or sticky.
    • Would I recommend it: NO, because I would rather pay less for the same supplement that I could just swallow with the rest of my vitamins.
  • Biore Deep Cleaning Charcoal Pore Strips–I actually saw these in the store the other day and almost bought a pack.  (Instead I bought the regular pore cleansing strips.)  I’ve been hearing a lot about charcoal masks and wondered if a charcoal strip would do anything different than their regular cleansing strip.  To be honest, I didn’t think it was any different/better than their regular ones.  Because of the dark color, I could see the stuff it pulled out of my skin easier, but I don’t think it was more than other strips.
    • Would I recommend it:  NO, because it appears to work the same as the regular pore strips.
  • EcoTools Single Pack Makeup Brush Cleansing Cloths–I don’t have any special makeup brushes that I use so this sample was useless to me.
    • Would I recommend it: UNDECIDED
  • Batiste Dry Shampoo–I’ve been really wanting to try out some dry shampoo and I’ve heard a lot of people really like Batiste so I was pretty excited to see this little travel size can in my box.  It didn’t include any directions for use on the can so I had to look it up online to make sure I used it correctly.  Maybe they figure that if you’re buying the travel size, you already know you like the product…?  Either way, I loved it!  I’m definitely going to buy a bigger can and maybe try out some of their other scents.
    • Would I recommend it:  YES
  • Cetaphil Moisturizing Body Cream–To see if this lotion was any better than what I’m currently using (Aveeno), I took a shower at night and put the Aveeno on one leg and the Cetaphil on the other leg and checked how they felt in the morning.  The Cetaphil was thicker than the Aveeno but still soaked in without a residue.  I couldn’t tell a difference in how they felt the next morning though.
    • Would I recommend it: YES
  • Hello Pure Mint Toothpaste–According to the box, this toothpaste uses natural ingredients and is free from dyes, artificial sweeteners/flavors, preservatives, etc.  I haven’t tried it out yet, but will probably just put it with my travel size stuff to take with me when I need some toothpaste.
    • Would I recommend it:  UNDECIDED
  • Clean & Clear Deep Action 60 Second Shower Mask–I really love Clean & Clear products.  I’ve used them for years, so I was super happy to see this brand in my beauty box.  I was thinking the other day about how nice it would be to have a mask that I could put on in the shower and then rinse off before I got out.  So when I got this, it was like Clean & Clear read my mind!  I’ve used the mask a couple of times now and I love the tingly feeling I get while it does its thing.  My face does feel cleaner after using it.
    • Would I recommend it: YES

Well there you have it!  I hope my little review was helpful to you.  If you want to find out more about the Walmart Beauty box, go HERE.  You can sign up and check out the FAQ.  Since the Fall Beauty Box has already shipped out, you would receive the Winter Beauty Box next if you choose to sign up.

Have you signed up for other beauty boxes?  What is your favorite/least favorite?

Summer 2016 Reading List Book Reviews and Ratings

Reviews and ratings on each of the books on my summer 2016 reading list

At the beginning of the summer, I put out a reading list with all the books I hoped to read during the summer.  I loved being exposed to new genres that I wouldn’t have normally picked up, although for the most part my favorites were still the young adult fiction that I stick to.  I did stray from my reading list a bit due to my book club, otherwise, I feel sure I would have finished all the books on my list.  I’ve included a short review for each book along with a rating out of 5 stars.  (If you want to read more about any given book, click on the title to be taken to the Goodreads summary.)

Reading List (11 out of 14 finished)

Austenland (4/5 stars)
I thought this modern day Pride and Prejudice retelling was really sweet.  The characters are likeable and relate-able.  It was an easy read and I finished it quickly.  (Side note: I also watched the 2013 movie adaptation of the book and thought it was cute, but preferred the book.)

The Language of Flowers (5/5 stars)
I didn’t know what to expect from this book when I started, but it quickly became one that I had to drag myself away from.  The author wrote it in part to bring some awareness to the foster care system and how difficult it can be for the children placed in it.  One thing that I loved about this book is that the characters evolve over time.  Sometimes you really dislike them, but other times you can’t help but like or admire them.  (Side note: I recommended this book for book club and we’ll be discussing it in November so I will put a full review of it up then along with some book club discussion/questions.)

The Time Keeper (3/5 stars)
The main purpose of this book was to show that no matter who you are, everyone is affected by the thief of time.  In addition, what we do with that time and learn from it is important.  I thought the story around how the information was presented was interesting, but I viewed the book more as one to get through so I could start on the next one.

Six of Crows (5/5 stars)
This book reminded me of the Oceans 11 movie series in that there is a group of people who each have really specific skills and are trying to accomplish an impossible heist.  The story is set in an alternate world and the author did a great job of creating it.  I liked the characters and although the narrative jumps around between a few main characters, I liked the change of perspective it brought to the story as a whole.  (This is a duology and the second book is called Crooked Kingdom.)

The Night Circus (5/5 stars)
I was really looking forward to this book due to so many good review from my own friends.  I was not disappointed.  The Night Circus weaves magic into the world in a seamless way that makes you believe that it just might actually exist.

Where’d You Go Bernadette? (4/5 stars)
Using a compilation of emails, notes and letters, Bee searches for her mother, Bernadette, who has inexplicably disappeared just at the time when they are supposed to be going on a cruise to Antarctica.  This book had me laughing at times or simply shaking my head in disbelief.  It was a different sort of book than I usually read and while it’s not at the top of my list of recommendations, I did enjoy it.

Sorcery and Cecilia, or The Enchanted Chocolate Pot (4/5 stars)
Set in England during 1817, the entire book is comprised of letters between Cecilia and her cousin, Kate, who is enduring her first season in London.  By accident, Kate gets caught up in a plot involving witches and wizards who are attempting to solve a feud surrounding an enchanted chocolate pot.  I loved each character and laughed out loud several times.

Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother (4.5/5 stars)
I don’t generally read non-fiction, but Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother appealed to me because she writes it as a memoir about the differences between her own Chinese parenting style and what she calls Western parenting.  At times, you will be completely shocked by the things she does and other times you want to side with her.  It made me reflect on my own parenting style.

The Invention of Wings (4/5 stars)
This book is set in Charleston, North Carolina during the early nineteenth century.  It is the story of Hetty “Handful” Grimke who is a slave in the Grimke household.  One of the daughters of the house, Sarah is uncomfortable with slavery and grows up wanting to do something about it, but unsure of what to do in a time when women didn’t have much influence in the ways of politics.  The story starts when Hetty is “given” to Sarah at the age of 10 and continues over the next 35 years and covers love, loss, pain, guilt and defiance.  Parts of the book were difficult to read because I know that those things actually happened and they are so sad, but it also gave me greater insight into what life was like during that time period.

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan (3.5/5 stars)
Set during a time when the size of a woman’s feet determined their beauty and marriageability, Lily is born to a poor family in a remote Hunan village in China.  At the age of seven she is paired with a laotong, or “old same” named Snow Flower.  Together they grow into women, share their sorrows and find comfort in loneliness.  They mainly communicate using a secret written language known only by women called nu shu but a miscommunication arises and threatens to damage their relationship.  I enjoyed learning about a culture and time that I was previously unfamiliar with but the story didn’t resonate with me on an emotional level.

The Thirteenth Tale (3.5/5 stars)
A famous writer named Vida Winter has a mysterious past that no one can trace.  When she becomes terminally ill, she invites a biographer named Margaret Lea to her home so that she can share her hidden past and put her mind at peace.  Margaret gets drawn into the story and mysteries as they unfold to her and also reaches some conclusions about her own past.  I liked the way the story unfolded and how I found out things at the same time as Margaret, but towards the end, the story drug on a bit and I found myself just trying to push through to the end.

The Art of Hearing Heartbeats (didn’t read)
I’ve been on a waiting list for this book so I haven’t been able to read it yet.  I will update this post once I’ve read it.

Me Before You (didn’t read)
Ultimately, I decided not to read this book as many of the other books on my list interested me more.

The Maze Runner (didn’t read)
I will probably read this at a later date.

As I mentioned, there were a few other books that I read throughout the summer that weren’t part of my original summer reading list.  I’ve included those books below with my summary and rating.

Other books I read:

Midnight In Austenland (4/5 stars)
A few of the same characters appear in this book as were in Austenland, but it is not a sequel and could be read independently.  This retelling of Pride and Prejudice has a mystery element to it and the ending made me smile.

First Love and Forever (3/5 stars)
A woman in an unhappy marriage meets a man from her past that she almost married and begins to have doubts about continuing with her current marriage.  The setting doesn’t necessarily translate to modern day (no cell phones, no computers, no social media), but the feelings that the main character struggles with and the decisions she ultimately makes will get you thinking.  (LDS fiction)

A Date with Danger (4/5 stars)
An acquaintance from high school actually wrote this book so I was excited to get my hands on it shortly after it came out.  The story follows Jacklyn (Jack), a typical twenty-five year old single woman whose had some bad luck when it comes to dating.  Then she is contacted by the FBI to assist with a case where a woman has gone missing and the only link they have is that her online dating profile is similar to the missing woman’s.  Jack agrees but finds that pinpointing the culprit is harder than she expected.  Plus, the handsome FBI agent whose been assigned to work with her has made it difficult to keep her attention focused on the case.  I loved this book and thought it was funny and witty.  (LDS fiction)

My Lady Jane (5/5 stars)
If you haven’t seen my review on My Lady Jane, go check it out HERE.  It has easily become one of my favorite books and I haven’t hesitated to recommend it to anyone who likes a good laugh, a little bit of magic and happy endings.

Graceling (4.5/5 stars)
Katsa has been “graced” with the gift of killing.  As the niece of a king, she is sent to do his dirty work.  But behind his back, she and a select few men are disobeying the king and trying to assist those in need.  During one night on a secret mission, she meets a mysterious stranger who later comes to the king’s court in search of someone and he believes Katsa can help.  Prince Po and Katsa slowly become friends and she learns to trust him as they set off on a journey to uncover a terrible secret.  I loved the characters and thought the author did a great job showing the conflicts they face (both internal and external) and how they resolve them.

So there you have it!  I hope you enjoyed reading my reviews and hopefully they got you interested enough to read the books.

Let me know what other books I should put on my reading list in the comments!

Book Review: My Lady Jane by Hand, Ashton and Meadows {plus Book Club Discussion/Questions}

If you like The Princess Bride, you can't help but like My Lady Jane! (Book Review and Book Club Discussion and Questions)

At the beginning of the summer, I mentioned that I am in a young adult fiction book club.  Each book we read is suggested by another member of the group and then we meet every other month to discuss it and, of course, visit and eat treats.

This month at our book club we talked about the book My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton and Jodi Meadows.  After reading it, I have to say that it is easily one of my favorite books and I don’t hesitate to recommend it to anyone.

This post contains affiliate links which if clicked on and a purchase is made I will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.

My Summary and Review (5 stars):
My Lady Jane is based loosely on the historical figure Lady Jane Grey, who was Queen of England for nine days due to being named successor by her first cousin once removed and current king, Edward VI, who was dying.  On the ninth day, she was removed from the throne by those who wished for Edward’s half-sister, Mary (also known as Bloody Mary), to be queen and charged with high treason.  Ultimately, she and her husband were executed.

Not a very happy story is it?  Well the authors didn’t think so either, so they decided to rewrite history to their liking, while including some elements of magic.  They tweaked some of the details and changed some of the timeline so that ultimately there was a happy ending.

My Lady Jane is funny and will have you laughing out loud throughout the book.  It is an easy and light read that you won’t be able to put down.  If you like The Princess Bride, you will love My Lady Jane.

Book Club Discussion Questions:

  • How does sexism come into play between the characters?  
  • How/where is sexism seen in the world today?
  • What did you think about Edward’s inner struggle? (desire to be king/not be king, Verities vs Edians, etc)
  • Did you trust Gracie?  Why or why not?
  • Did the characters show characteristics of their animal form when they were in their human form?

Happy reading!

Summer 2016 Walmart Beauty Box Review

Summer 2016 Walmart Beauty Box Review--Is it worth $5?

*I am reviewing this box by choice and have not received it for free, nor have I received any other compensation from Walmart.  All opinions are my own.*

A year and a half ago, I got an email from Walmart about signing up for a quarterly/seasonal beauty box.  It boasted full size beauty products and lots of other great samples for free plus $5 shipping.  I was intrigued so I signed up with the knowledge that I could cancel the subscription at any time if I didn’t think the products I received were worth the $5.

Since then, I’ve received a new beauty box every three months filled with goodies.  Some boxes have been better than others, which I think is to be expected, but overall I’ve enjoyed getting them.  It’s been fun to get a little surprise in the mail and I can totally see the appeal of subscribing to other beauty boxes/monthly subscription boxes.

This last week, I got my most recent beauty box in the mail.  I’d received an email from Walmart letting me know that my card had been charged and my box was on its way with a tracking number.  When I got it, I took it into my bathroom to open it up and shut the door because my kids would have opened it up and pulled it out faster than a kid stealing candy. *wink*

Here’s what I got:

  • Goody SlideProof hair elastics (full size)
  • Lady Gaga Fame Black Fluid perfume (sample size)
  • Sally Hansen Airbrush Legs leg makeup (sample size)
  • Vaseline Intensive Care Advanced Repair lotion (travel size)
  • Nivea In-Shower Cocoa Butter Body Lotion (single use) w/coupon
  • Simple Micellar Cleansing Water (single use)
  • Schwarzkopf Essence Ultime Diamond Color & Radiance Shampoo and Conditioner (travel size)
  • Arm & Hammer Truly Radiant toothpaste (travel size) w/coupon
  • Incoco Coconut Nail Art (full size)
Summer 2016 Walmart Beauty Box Review--Is it worth $5?

My review:

  • Goody SlideProof hair elastics–I actually received these in a beauty box in the fall or winter of last year, but I really like them so I was happy to have more that I didn’t have to pay full price for in the store (retail is around $4).  They hold a ponytail in all day because of the little rubber grippers and I love them.
    • Would I recommend it: YES
  • Lady Gaga Fame Black Fluid perfume–I was a little skeptical about this perfume and sprayed a little bit of it on my wrist before jumping in the shower so I could wash it off in case I didn’t like it.  I was pleasantly surprised because it’s pretty subtle (unlike Lady Gaga herself) and the scent actually stayed on my wrist even after my shower.
    • Would I recommend it: YES
  • Sally Hansen Airbrush Legs leg makeup–Leg makeup??  I didn’t even know this was a thing.  I’ve heard of self tanner and tinted lotion but not leg makeup.  To be honest, I’m not sure if I’ll be trying this out any time soon, especially since it’s summer time and I tan very easily.  So using a product to make my legs look darker isn’t really useful to me.  Maybe I’ll keep it and try it out in the winter when I don’t really need it and see how I like it then.
    • Would I recommend it: UNDECIDED
  • Vaseline Intensive Care Advanced Repair lotion–In the summer, I wear flip flops or have bare feet all. the. time.  As a result, I get callouses and my heels sometimes crack.  I haven’t tried this lotion out yet, but I plan on using it on my feet, knees and elbows this summer since they get the most dry.  Vaseline is a pretty good brand when it comes to keeping in moisture, so I would expect it to work well.
    • Would I recommend it: UNDECIDED
  • Nivea In-Shower Cocoa Butter Body Lotion–I brought this into the shower with me to try out after I sprayed the Lady Gaga perfume on.  I’ve never tried an in-shower body lotion before so I wasn’t sure how I’d like it.  The instructions said to wash your body like normal, rub it onto wet skin, then rinse it off while still in the shower.  Because it was only a single use sample, there wasn’t much in the pouch.  I used it all up and barely had enough for my entire body.  I dried off and got out my regular lotion, but was surprised to find that I actually didn’t need it.  The in-shower body lotion had moisturized my skin just as well, if not better, than putting lotion on after getting out.  Not only that, but it kept my skin soft throughout the day.  Not bad, Nivea.
    • Would I recommend it: YES
  • Simple Micellar Cleansing Water–I have a few different face cleansers that I rotate through.  Most of them have little microbeads and/or an astringent and are either liquid or gel/cream.  Plus I also have a separate eye makeup remover.  I was curious to see how this cleansing water would work for me so I tried it out.  I squirted a little on a cotton square and started wiping my face.  The makeup came right off.  I used it on my entire face (except my eyes, even though you can use it on your eyes).  I liked that it felt like water, but I didn’t have to scrub to get the makeup off.
    • Would I recommend it: YES
  • Schwarzkopf Essence Ultime Diamond Color & Radiance Shampoo and Conditioner–Honestly, I don’t know when I’ll get around to using these samples.  I usually just pack these away in a bin I have for sample/travel size shampoos/conditioners that I pull out and pack with me on vacations, camping trips or if we have company.
    • Would I recommend it: NO
  • Arm & Hammer Truly Radiant toothpaste–I’ve bought this brand of toothpaste before and haven’t been overly impressed.  It is usually too grainy or the flavor is a little off.  This will go in the same bin as the sample size shampoos/conditioners for use at a later date.
    • Would I recommend it: NO
  • Incoco Coconut Nail Art–I’m really excited to try this product out.  I was happy to see that it was full size.  Each strip is long enough that it’s possible to do all ten fingers and toes, even though there are only 12 strips total.  I’ve tried out other store-bought press on nail polish products before and they usually peel off after a couple of days.  If these stay on, I’ll be really impressed.
    • Would I recommend it: UNDECIDED (will update when I try it out)

Well there you have it!  I hope my little review was helpful to you.  If you want to find out more about the Walmart Beauty box, go HERE.  You can sign up and check out the FAQ.  Since the Summer Beauty Box has already shipped out, you would receive the Fall Beauty Box next if you choose to sign up.

Have you signed up for other beauty boxes?  What is your favorite/least favorite?

Summer 2016 Reading List

One thing you should know about me is that I LOVE to read.  I learned how to read before starting kindergarten and I’ve been devouring books ever since then.  Lots of late nights and too-soon mornings because I can’t seem to put a good book down.  I mentioned a couple weeks ago that I am part of a book club.  It is so much fun for me to read books and discuss them.  I even considered getting a degree in English when I went to college.

This summer, I’d like to continue reading, so I’ve put together a Summer 2016 Reading List.  At the end of the summer, I’ll let you know if I made it through my list.  (I am a super fast reader so if you’re a betting kind of person, put your money on me. *wink*)  You can click on the title of each book to go to Goodreads and read a synopsis.

Me Before You by JoJo Moyes
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
The Maze Runner by James Dashner
The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd
Sorcery & Cecilia: or The Enchanted Chocolate Pot by Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer
Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua
The Art of Hearing Heartbeats by Jan-Phillipp Sendker
The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh
Austenland by Shannon Hale
The Time Keeper by Mitch Albom
Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See
Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple
The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

If you like to read too, check out these books and let me know which ones you’re interested in reading or have already read in the comments below!