Dec 12, 2011

Book Review: Faithful, Fit, & Fabulous

Author: Connie E. Sokol 
Author's Website: 
Genre: Non-fiction Self-help 

About the book:
Filled with humor and "I can relate" life experiences, Faithful, Fit & Fabulous is the ideal life boost--no guilt, no feeling overwhelmed, and no reaching for that pan of brownies.  Connie E. Sokol shares gospel principles from scriptures, priceless gems from general conference addresses, and much more along with ways to readily apply them in your busy daily life.  Finally focus on priorities while enjoying the process.  Goal-setting has never been more simple, fun, and rewarding!  Let Faithful, Fit & Fabulous show you how!

My Review: 

Lately, I've been at a point in my life where I feel ready for a change.  I'm so happily married that I can hardly see straight, I have great kids who for the most part make good choices, I have a great job, yet I still often feel unsettled.  I feel this need for personal growth.  I'm ready to find my purpose in life and become the person I know that I truly am.

This is exactly what Faithful, Fit & Fabulous is all about.  It identifies the following eight areas that profoundly affect our happiness:

Holy Habits
A Personal Life Plan
Being Fit and Fabulous
Joy in Womanhood
Balance in Motherhood

Sokol focuses one chapter on each of these essential topics.  The great thing about the book is that you can start exactly where you are.  Pick the chapter that speaks to you and start there!  For me it was Balance in Motherhood.  I picked up some great ideas and have made some goals to implement them.

The book includes timeless counsel from LDS leaders, but does not come across as overly religious.  There's something in it for everyone and I highly recommend it.  It is available on Amazon.  You can also learn more about the author at her website, where she has many other resources for getting back to the basics and transforming your life.  

Nov 13, 2011

Book Review: No Holly for Christmas

Author:  Julie N. Ford
Author's Website: 
Genre:  Romantic Suspense

About the book:
As Brian McAlister struggles to move past being jilted not once, but twice by the only woman he's ever loved, he's all but given up on relationships. Then, on special assignment for the DA's office, he crosses paths with ex-socialite turned social worker, Holly Cavanaugh Winter-and romance blossoms. Widowed, practically penniless, and reduced to shopping at WalMart, Holly is dreading the approaching Holiday Season. However, her angst isn't due to her husband's untimely death the previous December 25th, but because of a secret that could reveal itself unless she can find a way to avoid the coming Christmas. Love at first sight quickly turns frigid for Brian and Holly when Holly gets pulled into a manhunt for an accused murderer who now has his sights set on her. His case unraveling, Brian finds himself tasked with keeping Holly and her two daughters safe while bringing an assassin and the powerful man who hired him to justice. A heart-warming story of suspense, healing, giving and receiving, No Holly for Christmas is the perfect addition to everyone's holiday reading list.

My Review:
No Holly for Christmas is not your traditional feel good Christmas story, but it's definitely an engaging read.  In my opinion, characterization is the strongest element of the story.  The two main characters each had unique personality quirks that made them authentic and appealing.  I enjoyed seeing their growth throughout the book.  The supporting characters were also well-portrayed and a valuable addition.  The romantic elements were well-developed, including obstacles to be overcome, and some heart-racing sexual tension between the characters.

I thought the pacing of the story could have been somewhat improved.  I was over 100 pages into the story before I felt like I couldn't put it down and wanted to read more.   But, overall, I would definitely recommend the book, and look forward to reading more by Julie N. Ford.

To learn more about the author, please visit her website and blog.  No Holly for Christmas can be purchased on Amazon.

Nov 5, 2011

Book Review: Six Weeks to Skinny Jeans

Author:  Amy Cotta 
Author's Website: 
Publication Date:  December 2011 
Publisher:  Rodale

About the Book:
We all have a pair: those frumpy, roomy, "fat jeans" we reach for when a few (or more than a few) extra pounds have banished our favorite "skinny jeans" to the back of the closet. Well, get ready to toss those fat jeans, because personal trainer and fitness expert Amy Cotta is here to help you tone up, slim down, and stay motivated until you can shimmy back into those sexy skinny jeans for good. Cotta believes that the key to skinny jeans success is threefold: diet, exercise, and attitude. Her 6-week eating plan trims fast-burning carbohydrates for the first 3 weeks, ignites weight loss, then reintroduces and manages those carbs for the second half of the plan. Her graduated fitness plan offers three styles of cardio and strength-training exercises that get progressively more challenging to keep you from getting bored or hitting a plateau while you sculpt those curves. Both plans are simple to follow in your own home--no gym, fancy equipment, or expensive food deliveries required--and there are calendars, food logs, and meal plans to help you stay upbeat and organized. Packed with dynamic, down-to-earth strategies, Six Weeks to Skinny Jeans will inspire you to take control of your lifestyle and feel younger, sexier, and fitter than ever before.
My review:

I love reading books about fitness and nutrition.  I really enjoyed Six Weeks to Skinny Jeans.  It is full of helpful information and inspiring real-life stories.  Amy Cotta starts out with her own personal story which gives her credibility.  Cotta's three tier-philosophy to fitness includes diet, exercise, and attitude (DEA).  She argues that with only one or two of these elements you can make a small change temporarily, but that all three are required for long-term success.

The book is set up to read week-by-week.  Each week includes elements from Cotta's DEA philosophy, as well as a detailed action plan, workout schedule, and checklist to complete at the end of the week to track your progress. Perhaps the most unique thing about the Six Weeks to Skinny Jeans plan are the workouts.  First, they are designed to be completed at home, so anyone can do it.  All you need is a pair or dumbbells or a resistance band.  Three workouts are included: blast, firm, and burn.  The book includes photos of each exercise, and suggestions are given to make them easier or harder based on your own fitness level.  There is also a stretching routine Cotta calls The Daily Lube to help prevent muscle soreness and to thank your body for all of its hard work.

I've read a lot of fitness books and was pleasantly surprised with all the new information presented in Six Weeks to Skinny Jeans.  It's definitely worth adding to your fitness library.  The book promises that you'll drop two pant sizes in six weeks by following the plan.  Unfortunately, for me, two pant sizes still doesn't equate to "skinny jeans."  But progress, not perfection, right?

Six Weeks to Skinny Jeans will be released December 20, 2011.  It is now available for pre-order on Amazon.  Learn more about the book and register to win a copy by visiting Six Weeks to Skinny Jeans on facebook.  You can also join the Amy Cotta Challenge.

For more health and fitness information, visit my new blog at

Oct 31, 2011

The best present EVER!!

Yesterday was my birthday.  I'm not a huge fan of birthdays, and even less a fan of presents.  I'm not really sure why.  Perhaps it's because one thing I hate more than anything is being the center of attention.  But this year I received the best present EVER!  My oldest daughter made me a book.  You'll see as we move further into this journey how much I love books.  But this wasn't just any kind of book.  It was a book all about me!  She titled it 100 Reasons . . .


 It was a list of 100 things that she loves about me.  Now, seriously, what parent of a teenager thinks their child could come up with 100 things?  That being said, my daughter is not really your typical teen.  She doesn't talk back, disobey, or be respectful.  In fact, I don't think we even got in any kind of disagreement until a couple years ago.  And even then, it wasn't severe. I won't bore you with the whole list of 100, but here are some of my favorite:

  • I can talk to you about anything.
  • You're sensitive to my being sensitive.
  • You help me learn to love myself.
  • You always remind me that everything happens for a reason.
  • You taught me what real beauty is.
  • You don't get mad when I butcher vegetables when we are making dinner.
  • You've shared your love of books with me.
  • You say sorry even when it's hard.
  • You've helped me learn how to be independent.

  • What a great kid!  She's such a blessing in my life.


     Now, you are probably wondering how all of this applies to you, right?  I'm sure that each of you have people in your life who give you compliments, or tell you good things about yourself.  A few months ago, I started a folder in my email titled, "Feel Good Emails." Anytime I receive something that uplifts my spirit, whether it's directed specifically at me, or just feel good information, I drop it into that folder.  I even move all my favorite text messages into it.  On days when I need a pick-me-up, I read through that folder.  Sounds kind of hokey, but it really helps!  Try it and let me know how it works.

    What do you do on days when you need your spirits lifted?

    Oct 4, 2011

    Deal of the Day - 3D Photos!

    Your in 3D! 

    Today's deal features one of the hottest trends right now...3D photo gifts from Snapily! These are not your typical greeting card. Instead, Snapily uses lenticular printing that simulate 3D effects and animated images! These products are not available anywhere else and feature two of the most unique offerings...  

    1) Personalized 3D glasses required. The images on the page jump out at you! 

    2) Animated /Motion photo gifts...where 2 images are displayed in the space of a single picture. This is great for before /after, siblings, naughty/nice, and when you can't decide which picture you love best! 
    This is your chance to stock up on these great products! From greeting cards, t-shirts and even ornaments and a GREAT price!   
     Today's Deal of the Day: $9 for $20 of products at 

    *Deal will end 10/5/11 at 11:59pm MST
    *Shipping not included  
    *Coupon valid for 6 months from purchase date
    *Limit of 3
    *One coupon redeemable per transaction

    What a fun way to send your Christmas cards this year!  Click here to order yours now.

    Oct 2, 2011

    The Story of My Life

    Autobiography in Five Short Chapters
    By Portia Nelson

    Chapter 1

    I walk down the street.
    There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
    I fall in
    I am lost . . . I am helpless
    It isn’t my fault.
    It takes forever to find a way out.

    Chapter 2

    I walk down the same street.
    There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
    I pretend I don’t see it.
    I fall in again.
    I can’t believe I am in the same place.
    But, it isn’t my fault.
    It still takes a long time to get out.

    Chapter 3

    I walk down the same street
    There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
    I see it is there.
    I still fall in . . . it’s a habit.
    My eyes are open.
    I know where I am.
    It is my fault.
    I get out immediately.

    Chapter 4

    I walk down the same street.
    There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
    I walk around it.

    Chapter 5

    I walk down another street.

    Luckily, I think I'm in Chapter 4.  I can't wait to see what Chapter 5 brings!

    Book Review: The Alias

    Author: Mandi Tucker Slack
    Genre: Suspense

    About the Book:

    Jacey Grayson is an average, young, divorced mother struggling to build a new life for her son, Blaze.  But when the FBI discloses some disturbing information about her ex-husband, Jacey's life becomes anything but average.  At the risk of losing her identity, her future, and her heart, Jacey and Blaze flee to Utah, hoping to hide and start over once again.  But no matter how far she runs or who she pretends to be, her past is always lurking nearby, bringing old fears with it.  Thrilling action and a suspenseful plot make this novel an edge-of-your-seat read.

    My opinion:

    I was very interested in reading The Alias.  It tackles the subject of domestic abuse, which is what my 2010 release, I'll Know You by Heart, was about.  It's always interesting to see how another author approaches a similar type of story.

    The Alias is a true-to-life look at the emotions and fears that are inevitable as someone tries to escape an abusive situation.  I loved Jacey's character and found myself empathizing with her situation.  Mandi did a great job with pacing throughout this story.  The book catches your attention in the very first chapter and is hard to put down.

    I appreciated the growth evident in Jacey and her son, Blaze.  Their experiences as they carved a new life for themselves were realistic and touching.  As a mother, I understood Jacey's desire to protect her son at all costs.  If you like a story that includes some heart-racing suspense as well as personal growth of the characters, I highly recommend The Alias.

    To learn more about Mandi Tucker Slack, please visit her website.  The Alias is available for purchase on Amazon.  The Kindle edition is only $3.99 which is a great price for an LDS book!

    Sep 30, 2011

    Book Review: The Key of Kilenya

    Author: Andrea Pearson
    Genre: YA Fantasy
    Authors' Website:

    About the Book:
    When two vicious wolves chase fourteen-year-old Jacob Clark down a path from our world into another, his life is forever changed.  He has no idea they have been sent by the Lorkon--evil, immortal beings who are jealous of powers he doesn't know he possesses--powers they desire to control.
    The inhabitants of the new world desperately need Jacob's help in recovering a magical key that was stolen by the Lorkon and is somehow linked to him.  If he helps them, both our world and theirs will be in danger.  The Lorkon will stop at nothing to unleash the power of the key--and Jacob's special abilities.
    My Review:

    I was excited to get the opportunity to read this debut novel from author, Andrea Pearson.  Let me preface my comments by saying that I'm not a huge fan of fantasy.  I think it's because I don't like thinking outside the box and having to keep all the details of another, unfamiliar, world straight in my head.

    The Key of Kilenya was a refreshing change of pace from my normal reading.  While it did involve a new world, and a variety of strange characters, it also included references to things with which I am familiar, like the NBA, cell phones, etc., so it was easier for me to relate to the story , and especially the main character, Jacob.  He was no different than any other 14 year old I know.   Okay, there are a few significant differences, but I'll let you discover those for yourself by reading the book.

    I'm always amazed at the ingenuity of fantasy writers because my mind just does not think that way.  Andrea included many very creative elements in her book, like the glowing blue ring fingers, bears with human hands, mud bubbles, and more.

    In my opinion, the Key of Kilenya is perfect for the younger YA reader.  It's a story full of adventure and twists and turns.  As a mother, it's refreshing to know there are authors writing fantasy, like The Key of Kilenya, that is not dark and depressing.  And now that I'm done with it, I can't wait to turn it over to my son.

    If you'd like to learn more about Andrea Pearson and her upcoming books in this fun series, please visit her website.

    The Key of Kilenya can be purchased here.

    Sep 28, 2011

    Deal of the Day!

    What's at the bottom of your purse, backpack or laptop bag? Probably everything but the kitchen sink! Today's deal eliminates the "fumbling around your purse trying to find your lipstick/lotion/bandaid" problem!  

    PAK (Personal Accessories Kit) comes LOADED with all the must have essentials that YOU need.  

    Each PAK comes stocked with personal-care products and first-aid accessories, all designed to fit inside convenient kits sized for suitcases, gym bags, and purses. Available in three sizes and two colors, the PAK can carry myriad grooming trinkets, each slotted into its own retaining loop to prevent clutter, spillage, and inter-accouterment mingling.

    More than 30 items come in the largest PAK ($50), from tweezers and nail clippers to bandages and a set of five miniature toiletry bottles. The vessels come prefilled-with body mist, hair spray, lotion, hand sanitizer, and breath spray-but boast screw tops and wide openings for easy refilling with your favorite products!  
    The midsize mini PAK ($40) stows 23 goodies, and the wallet-sized micro PAK ($30) holds 16 on-the-go essentials. All three models feature a transparent window, perfect for displaying a driver's license or a wallet-size snapshot!  

     Today's Deal of the Day: $25 for $50 at

    Click here to make a purchase or learn more!

    That means you can SNAG these MUST have kits for 50% off! These are PERFECT gifts for the holiday season...from your hard to buy for mother-in-law, to your babysitter...everyone NEEDS a PAK of their own! And with three different sizes, there is a PAK for everyone!

    *Deal will end 9/30/11 at 11:59pm MST
    *Offer valid only to address in the U.S.
    *Refill (RePAK) items not included in promotion 
    *Shipping not included
    *Texas Residents 8.25% sales tax at checkout

    Book Review: Hang 'Em High

    Author: Tristi Pinkston
    Genre: Cozy Mystery

    About the Book:
    When Ida Mae Babbitt receives an invitation to visit her son Keith's dude ranch in Montana, she's excited to mend their broken relationship, but not so excited about spending time with cows. Arlette and Tansy go along with her, ready to take a vacation that does not involve dead bodies or mysteries of any sort - one must have a break from time to time. But it seems a no-good scoundrel has moseyed into Dodge City and is bent on causing all sorts of trouble for the ranch. Unable to keep her curiosity in check - especially when it seems her own son is the most likely culprit - Ida Mae decides to investigate. Can she lasso the varmint and get him to the sheriff in time?
    My Review:
    First of all, for those who don't already know, a cozy mystery is a book involving a crime solver (generally a woman) who is an amateur sleuth.  It usually takes place in a small setting where the suspects know each other, and with characters you could envision as neighbors or friends.  The amateur sleuth is a likable character who is usually not taken very seriously.  Cozies are often written in a series, giving the reader time to fall in love with the characters.  Tristi Pinkston has accomplished all of this and more in her Secret Sisters mystery series.

    Hang 'Em High is the third book in the series.  It's a fun read as Ida Mae and her cohorts, Arlette and Tansy, visit a Montana dude ranch.  In no time at all, they're sleuthing around trying to solve a mystery before it's too late.

    The reader can't help falling in love with these little old ladies and their hilarious antics as they unknowingly gets themselves into difficult situations.  The book is humorous, and I found myself chuckling throughout the entire thing.  Hang 'Em High also includes some tender moments between Ida Mae and her son, Keith.  I think this is what made it my favorite book in the series so far, as it added depth to the story.

    Tristi Pinkston is an outstanding author.  She has a well-developed voice and is an expert at characterization.   Throw in her amazing sense of humor, and you'll wish her stories extended far beyond the last page.  But lucky for you, there are two more books in the series which will be published soon.

    Hang 'Em High can be purchased online at Deseret Book or Amazon.

    Tristi is seriously one of the most talented people I know.  Not only is she a succesful author, but she's the mother of four beautiful children whom she homeschools, a cheerleader (no, not the short skirt and pom-poms kind) and friend, and the most awesome editor around!  I know because she was mine.  If you are a writer or know one, please read the details about Tristi's contest below.  She's giving away an amazing prize.

    Contest Details:

    To celebrate the release of Tristi's eighth book, she's holding a contest! If you leave a comment on this review, you will be entered into a drawing for a free manuscript evaluation, done by Tristi Pinkston Editing In fact, you can leave comments on all the blogs participating in this virtual book tour! Go to Tristi Pinkston's blog at for a list. The deadline is October 5th at midnight MST. If you win and you're not a writer, you can give this evaluation to a friend.

    Apr 16, 2011

    Book Review: The Crazy Daze of Motherhood

    Author:  Jane Isfeld Still
    Publication Date:  August 2010
    Authors' Website:

    About the Book:

    A mother's day is filled with all kinds of emergencies, from bumps and bruises to hospital stays. Find the perfect way to recover from your own family's little emergencies with Jane Isfeld Still's latest book on the hilarious daily challenges of a mother in the fray. You're sure to laugh and cry as you celebrate the joys of motherhood.

    About the Author:

    Jane is married to Rick Still, who she believes has the distinction of being the only man in history brave enough to give her earwax candles for her birthday. They had six children in eight years, and while her children were growing up, she discovered she had a great sense of humor. At least that was her take. Rick once said to her, "Honey, you know all those real corny things you say all the time? Who ever thought you could make money at it?" Her son Adam once told her, "Mom could you please stop telling jokes to my friends? It's really embarrassing." One of Jane's philosophies is, "You're not doing your job unless your children are worried about being seen in public with you.

    My Opinion:

    I have ten kids myself, so the stories in The Crazy Days of Motherhood seemed all too familiar.  Jane has a delightful sense of humor as she recounts some of her experiences with motherhood.  Her lighthearted look at the foibles of motherhood made me decide not to take myself so seriously.  Jane's positive attitude about life shines through in every story.  I loved it!  

    This book was so much fun to read.  It would be the perfect Mother's Day gift for the women in your life and is sure to put a smile on their faces.

    Fun Stuff:

    You can win a fun prize from Jane to help celebrate the release of her book.  Just go to her blog at and become a follower, and then leave her a comment and tell her that you're a new follower.  You could win: 

    1. Mother's Daze basket, soap, chocolate, lotion, decorative candles, and recipe cards
    2. Box of blank cards with a smattering of Canadian chocolate
    3. Chocolate

    Mar 6, 2011

    Book Review: Journey of Honor

    Author:  Jaclyn M. Hawkes
    Genre:  Historical Romance
    Publication Date:  August 2010
    Authors' Website:

    About the Book:
    Disowned, she came to America anyway. Attacked and left pregnant by a vicious mob, she still pressed on. Finally, in spite of being accused of theft by the vilest of her attackers, Giselle tries to remain as upbeat and uncomplaining as a prairie wildflower as she travels on to Zion.Thoroughly disillusioned with the ugliness and cruelty of slavery in the South, Trace Grayson leaves his young medical career to go west, hoping to leave bigotry and hatred behind. He begins taking goods by teamster train to sell in the territories. However, this fourth time across, in July of 1848, he’s stuck in St. Joseph, Missouri, waiting for enough wagons to join the train so that they can leave.Knowing that if they don’t start west soon, they’ll be caught by snow in the mountains, Trace is thrilled when the final wagon signs on. Then, when the beautiful, young Dutch girl traveling with the last wagon is falsely accused of stealing and is detained, the whole trip is jeopardized. Thrown together by circumstance, Trace and Giselle team up to begin to figure out just how to make this epic journey across a continent a success.With a deep sense of honor and an equally strong sense of humor, together they learn to deal with everything except the one trial that neither of them can overcome.
    My opinion:

    I love stories about relationships.  It's what I write, and my favorite thing to read.  That being said, historical romance is usually not my favorite genre.  However, Journey of Honor was a delightful read.  I've read a lot of pioneer stories, so I picked this book up expecting it to be heavy.  It's not.  The book follows the story of two young people who are thrown into a situation they probably would not have chosen, but they both make the best of it.

    The most delightful thing about this story is its characters.  The main characters are well developed and very likeable.  My favorite supporting character is Mose, Trace's best friend.  I loved how the author showed a secret that he and Giselle shared and the way he kept that secret while still being loyal to both of them.

    The book drags a little bit as we read about the daily life on a pioneer trek over and over.  They get up, cook, drive for the day, make dinner, and go to bed.  There is some action interspersed throughout, but also a lot of repetition.  I also feel the book could have benefitted from a good edit.  There were a lot of point of view switches mid-scene and quite a few repetetive words.

    Overall, I was pleasantly surprised by Journey of Honor.  The author did a great job showing the building relationship between Giselle and Trace.  I definitely wanted to keep reading to see how their relationship progressed.  It's an interesting story that I wouldn't hesitate to recommend.

    To learn more about the author, please visit her website.  You can purchase Journey of Honor here.

    Jan 30, 2011

    Perfect Just the Way I Am

    Well, January is almost over, and my New Year's Resolutions have officially been broken! I started out the new year with grand ideas of what I was going to accomplish this year. They were the usual things--be better, thinner, more organized, and just a wee bit closer to perfect. It didn't take long for me to fall short of these ideals and feel like giving up.

    I seriously struggle with perfection. If I can't doing something perfect, or at least better than most, I don't want to do it at all. This causes me a TON of frustration and feelings of inadequacy.

    I was discussing this with my critique group, and my friend Nichole asked, "Who are you trying to impress?" I've thought a lot about that question since then. The answer I came up with is that I'm simply trying to feel good about myself. Several childhood experiences caused me to doubt my own worth and so I'm continually trying to prove that I'm worthwhile.

    Like another friend told me, I've finally decided to just "Stop it!" I've been reading a lot about personal motivation, happiness, and change. I've discovered that I'm perfect and worthwhile just the way I am. Let me repeat that . . .

    I'm perfect and worthwhile just the way I am.

    And so are you!!

    I think it's time that we all resolve to accept and love ourselves exactly where we are. Without all the improvements that we could doubtless make, without the pressure to be better. Without the voice of our mother, or father, or third grade teacher that we carry in our head. What a concept, to just be at peace with who and what we are right now.

    Does this mean that we should remain stagnant or refuse to make changes that would benefit our lives? Not at all! It simply means loving yourself now! As President Gordon B. Hinckley said, "You are doing better than you think you are."

    I've decided that 2011 is going to be the year of me. I'm bound and determined to learn to love myself this year. I'll let you know how it goes.

    The day will come when the risk it takes to remain tight inside the bud is more painful than the risk it takes to bloom.

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