Nourishing Meals: Healthy Gluten-Free Meals for the Whole family by Alissa Segersten and Tom Malterre

16240550A whole foods cookbook and guide to raising healthy children including over 300 nourishing gluten-free, dairy-free, and soy-free recipes. – Goodreads

This one is tough. On one hand, it’s definitely chock-full of allergy-friendly recipes; the recipes I tried were delicious, easy to make, and the ingredients were easy to find (IE, no special trips to any specialty stores). It’s organized well and there are plenty of recipes to choose from.

However, the book is simply overwhelming. I have no doubt that there are more than 300 recipes; I haven’t counted, but the sheer size of the book is intense and took me several times to go through and bookmark.

The other downside is the lack of photography; I like to be able to see what I’m going to be making, and the sparse few pages of photos in this volume do not do it justice.

I rated it a 3/5; the recipes are great and there are plenty to choose from, but the overwhelming amount of recipes and lack of photos lost it two points.

I received this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.

Brace Yourself: NaNoWriMo Is Coming

First — how the hell is it November already? This year has flown by. They say it only gets worse as you get older — and I believe it. This year has been a crazy year — full of major life changes, challenges and risks. LBR has definitely suffered as a result, but I’m looking forward to getting it back on track.

Speaking of LBR suffering — I’ll be participating in NaNoWriMo again this year, meaning reviews will be rather slow this month. I anticipate some cookbook reviews (because I need writing fuel, obviously) but I’m trying to limit my novel consumption so I can focus on production.

If you’re unfamiliar with NaNoWriMo, it’s essentially a month from hell where you write a 50,000 word novel…in a month. That’s about 1,667 words a day. This is (I believe) my sixth year participating, and I’ve only ever finished once. I usually peter out at the 20,000-30,000 word point because I fall behind. I’m hoping this time will be different, but I’ve also lost the shiny eyed, bright, optimistic attitude about it😉

Wish me luck! Who else is participating?

Friday Favorites

8f74b74832a9ae4d749d40cb5a82a050I’m really loving this list of 50 Powerful Brené Brown Quotes That Will Lift You Up When You’re Shame Spiraling by Heidi Priebe. I’m still halfway through Daring Greatly and love Brown’s work; sometimes you just need a little snippet of pick-me-up when you’re beating yourself up — something I’ve been doing a lot of lately.

Epic Reads just released their list of The 17 Most Anticipated YA Books To Read in November 2016. So many books, not enough time! Heartless, Of Fire & Stars, The Diabolic…and so many more. Bye, money.

I’ve been drinking a cup of Yogi Bedtime tea before bed with my before-bed reading material. I’m definitely a habit person, and this immediately puts me in a sleepy, relaxed mood.

I’m digging this article from The Everygirl about Why Lifelong Learning Is Key To Becoming Your Best Self. I love to learn and often find that I’m happiest when learning new things on a regular basis. How do you continue to learn even when you’re not in school? I enjoy watching TED Talks, listening to podcasts and reading various blogs on subject matter I’m interested in (law enforcement, public relations, current events, lifestyle).

The Secret History: A Novel of Empress Theodora by Stephanie Thornton

15808671Where Theodora went, trouble followed…

In sixth-century Constantinople, one woman, Theodora, defied every convention and all the odds and rose from common theater tart to empress of a great kingdom, the most powerful woman the Roman Empire would ever know. The woman whose image was later immortalized in glittering mosaic was a scrappy, clever, conniving, flesh-and-blood woman full of sensuality and spirit whose real story is as surprising as any ever told….

After her father dies suddenly, Theodora and her sisters face starvation and a life on the streets. Determined to survive, Theodora makes a living any way she can—first on her back with every man who will have her, then on the stage in a scandalous dramatization of her own invention. When her daring performance grants her a backdoor entry into the halls of power, she seizes the chance to win a wealthy protector—only to face heartbreak and betrayal.

Ever resilient, Theodora rises above such trials and, by a twist of fate, meets her most passionate admirer yet: the emperor’s nephew. She thrives as his confidant and courtesan, but many challenges lie ahead. For one day this man will hand her a crown. And all the empire will wonder—is she bold enough, shrewd enough, and strong enough to keep it? – Goodreads

I ate this up in an all-consuming-couldn’t-put-it-down kind of way. I was on vacation when I read this, so I was able to binge read the hell out of it while the graveshift boyfriend slept until noon.

To put it simply, Theodora’s life kind of sucks for, well, most of her life. The suffering was almost too much (rape, prostitution, poverty, abuse, etc.) — but her resiliency and strength was what kept me reading. Rather than accepting her fate, she took matters into her own hands and made it work.

Thornton navigates these topics expertly and in a non-exploitative manner — these events are what shaped this woman and drove her to take her future into her own hands, to refuse to be a pawn.

The book is in first-person through Theodora’s eyes — this gives the reader a firsthand account of her emotions, thought process and world. She is a multi-dimensional character, and I came to really care about her and her future by the end of the book. I hurt when she hurt. I was upset when she was upset.

If you’re looking for a fabulous historical read on a woman who rose from the bottom — this is it. It’s powerful, it’s well written. I rated it a 5/5.

Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter

25574782#1 internationally bestselling author Karin Slaughter returns with a sophisticated and chilling psychological thriller of dangerous secrets, cold vengeance, and unexpected absolution, in which two estranged sisters must come together to find truth about two harrowing tragedies, twenty years apart, that devastate their lives.

Sisters. Strangers. Survivors.

More than twenty years ago, Claire and Lydia’s teenaged sister Julia vanished without a trace. The two women have not spoken since, and now their lives could not be more different. Claire is the glamorous trophy wife of an Atlanta millionaire. Lydia, a single mother, dates an ex-con and struggles to make ends meet. But neither has recovered from the horror and heartbreak of their shared loss—a devastating wound that’s cruelly ripped open when Claire’s husband is killed.

The disappearance of a teenage girl and the murder of a middle-aged man, almost a quarter-century apart: what could connect them? Forming a wary truce, the surviving sisters look to the past to find the truth, unearthing the secrets that destroyed their family all those years ago . . . and uncovering the possibility of redemption, and revenge, where they least expect it. – Goodreads

Damn it, I’m so torn on this one. On one hand, yes, I finished the massive 688 pages of this. On the other, I was horrified and only kept reading because I paid $10 for the damn thing.

The story is told from three points of view: third-person POV from Claire (wealthy, wife of dude who is killed in the beginning), third-person POV from Lydia (Claire’s estranged sister) and first-person POV from their father, who committed suicide many years prior. His POV is told through letters to their dead sister, Julia.

Claire is the stereotypical trophy wife — thin, wears expensive clothes, plays tennis, lives in a big house, super gorgeous, etc., etc. I found her to be a little unbelievable most of the time — she came from humble beginnings yet seemed to forget literally everything about that and has zero regard the wealth around her.

Lydia is also an annoying stereotype. Single mom, dating an ex-con, she’s an ex-drug addict, all she does is complain about her weight.

Lydia and Claire haven’t spoken in years (as in — Claire doesn’t even know Lydia has a teenage daughter). But after Claire’s husband is murdered, they run into each other, some crazy ish goes down and they *sort of* become friends again. For the sake of not ruining the plot, we won’t go into that much more.

Anyway, the characters were okay. Some were flatter than others. I really hated the extreme corrupt cop vibe throughout the entire book. That also wasn’t believable to me.

I don’t mind thrillers. I don’t mind blood and gore. But the blood, gore and sexual violence in this book was over the freakin’ top. There is torture, murder, rape…usually in that order. Slaughter’s descriptions in these passages are very detailed and definitely paint a picture — though graphic — for the reader, so I can’t really fault her writing there.

I will give her credit — there were some twists and turns that I wasn’t expecting. The second half of the book definitely made it difficult for me to put it down — I think I was desensitized to the graphic material by that point (though every time I thought that, something else would happen and I’d be all surprised again).

My personal rating of this book? 3/5. However, if you like graphic violence in your psychological thrillers, you might enjoy this one. I will definitely be checking out other Karin Slaughter books.

The Comprehensive INFP Survival Guide by Heidi Priebe

32319547Despite their agreeable demeanor, INFPs represent one of the most passionate and complex personality types within the Myers-Briggs Inventory. Employing a wholly unique stack of cognitive functions, this type sees the world around them not just as it is but also as it could be—making them a deeply imaginative and highly idealistic personality.

In this detailed, type-based survival guide, seasoned MBTI author Heidi Priebe explains the strengths and struggles INFPs face as they navigate the world around them as one of the most creative and emotionally intense personality types. – Goodreads

I know, I know. Another MBTI book, Lauren, really? Weren’t you an ENFP? Literally, didn’t you just read Priebe’s ENFP book?

Okay, okay. Yes. Yes, I did. However, after reading this, I’m 99% I mistyped myself, as INFPs are prone to do. Afterall, I’ve been testing as an INFP for YEARS. What, suddenly I like to surround myself with people and I’m an extrovert? Yeah, so I retook the test and answered all questions with an extrovert angle. Thus, ENFP. I’m dumb. Apparently we’re also guilty of mistyping often.

This type lives in a world of identity possibilities and they are constantly shifting their perspective and redefining exactly what it means to be themselves.

Anyway, this book made me realize I’m just not operating on a healthy level as an INFP, which is really messing with me.

One thing that I have a difficult time coming to terms with — especially pursuing the career path that I am — is that I am a very emotional person, in the sense that I feel deeply and am constantly processing everything around me on an emotional level.

emotional intensity of the INFP is this type’s greatest blessing as well as their greatest curse.

But enough about me. The book was good — though I did enjoy the ENFP guide better. This one was VERY heavy on the cognitive functions and I found myself flipping back and forth to make sure I was getting it all. I had to stop often to make sure I was absorbing the information; it was a lot of heavy stuff to take in, whereas the ENFP guide was a lot more fun-centric. This one was very deep and definitely hit the darker points of my type, which was needed. If you’re looking for a funny read on what your type does at a party, though, THIS IS NOT IT.

One of my favorite parts of the book was how INFPs work with other types — though it was phrased in the context of relationships, it was pretty easy to ignore that language and relate it to how I interact with other types in a day-to-day sense. It was also helpful from a romantic angle, though, as my boyfriend is an ENTP and we often see the world very differently. All of our challenges were spot on and provided helpful tips on how to understand where the other type is coming from.

The ENTP may feel smothered by the INFP’s need for reassurance and commitment, whereas the INFP may feel neglected by the ENTP’s need for independence and freedom.

#needyAF

Overall, the book was exactly what I needed to identify my funk and figure out a plan of action on how to get out of it. I’ve definitely been rolling in a tertiary loop and need to work on strengthening my functions.

If you’re an INFP, I recommend this. If you are close with an INFP, I recommend this. I rated it a 4/5 on Goodreads.

Cleopatra’s Daughter by Michelle Moran

6340471At the dawn of the Roman Empire, when tyranny ruled, a daughter of Egypt and a son of Rome found each other…

Selene’s legendary parents are gone. Her country taken, she has been brought to the city of Rome in chains, with only her twin brother, Alexander, to remind her of home and all she once had.

Living under the watchful eyes of the ruling family, Selene and her brother must quickly learn how to be Roman – and how to be useful to Caesar. She puts her artistry to work, in the hope of staying alive and being allowed to return to Egypt. Before long, however, she is distracted by the young and handsome heir to the empire…

When the elusive ‘Red Eagle’ starts calling for the end of slavery, Selene and Alexander are in grave danger. Will this mysterious figure bring their liberation, or their demise? – Goodreads

I have pretty mixed feelings about this book. On one hand, I’m a biased, loyal Michelle Moran reader who adores reading historical fiction about Ancient Egypt.

On the other hand, this one definitely wasn’t my favorite.

One thing I typically love about Moran’s books is the strong sense of connection to the main character. I found that I didn’t really care about Selene that much. Sure, I appreciated the fact that she was smart and cared about her studies, whereas other women were only interested in parties (I identified with Selene a bit there), but that was where it ended. I had a difficult time with believing their emotions when they were sent to Rome and how quickly they bonded with the people there.

Many of the characters fell flat and were obnoxiously predictable. Actually, much of the story was predictable, down to the identity of the Red Eagle, which was a pretty big plotline.

I was also a bit sad at the lack of romance. There was some, but not a lot. Mostly the love interests annoyed me.

It was an okay read — I read it in Mexico and finished it in a day, but I definitely recommend Moran’s other books more. I rated this a 3/5.