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Viva Labs Organic Coconut Flour: Non-GMO, and Gluten-Free, 4 lb Bag
Viva Labs Organic Coconut Flour: Non-GMO, and Gluten-Free, 4 lb Bag
Offered by Premium Vitamins
Price: $23.95
4 used & new from $15.99

1.0 out of 5 stars Awful, but probably nothing wrong with this brand, October 14, 2014
Full disclosure: I received a sample free for review. This in no way affected my review and I have not been compensated for this review.

I haven't had much luck with this flour. Since this is my first time experimenting with coconut flour, I can't say one way or the other how this particular brand compares to others. That said, I would not buy this product. Everything I made came out terrible- awful consistency, "diet" food taste. It felt like I was trying to take something largely inedible and force a substitution. I used only "tried and true" coconut flour recipes and the end results seemed to come out as intended. So, either my tastes just do not align with those of coconut flour fans or this brand isn't very good. Judging by the other reviews here, I'd say it's probably the former.

Viva Labs Organic Cacao Powder: Raw and Non-GMO, 1lb Bag
Viva Labs Organic Cacao Powder: Raw and Non-GMO, 1lb Bag
Offered by Premium Vitamins
Price: $18.95
6 used & new from $10.00

5.0 out of 5 stars I was very pleased and will be using this cacao powder again, October 14, 2014
Full disclosure: I received a sample for review, however this in no way affects my review and I was not compensated for this review.

I used the cacao powder to make brownies and they came out very rich with a deep, dark almost bitter chocolatey flavor. This is a cacao powder for fans of dark, dark chocolate because if that's the flavor you're looking for, then you can certainly achieve it with this cacao powder. I was very pleased and will be using this cacao powder again.

Grimmtastic Girls #1: Cinderella Stays Late
Grimmtastic Girls #1: Cinderella Stays Late
by Suzanne Williams
Edition: Paperback
Price: $5.99
96 used & new from $0.01

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic series!, March 28, 2014
I'm a huge fan of the Goddess Girls series by authors Joan Holub and Suzanne Williams, so when I heard they were not only writing yet another series for late-elementary school readers, but it was a FAIRY TALE RETELLING series (my favorite!) I'm pretty sure the noises I made could most accurately be described as "squeals of joy."

After reading the first two installments, its official: I'm hooked. I'm also half tempted to fly back to NY just so I can see the expressions of pure elation on my little library girls' faces because they are going to LOVE this series.

I'm feeling kinda listy, so here's what you can expect from the Grimmtastic Girls:

1. Four main characters, with each book focusing on a different girl from the core group. The girls all have different personalities and lite issues (dealing with step-siblings, stage fright, etc) so most readers should find at least one character they click with. I think Rapunzel might be the Grimmtastic Girl I connect with the most (honey, I don't like heights either!).

2. Adorable secondary characters! Though they're not the main focus, just enough is disclosed about them to make the world feel like it has depth and life outside of the core characters. I hope the series grows like Goddess Girls did so we get to read about these secondary characters. I definitely want to read Mermily's story (the little mermaid!).

3. The world is fabulous and filled with "I wish that was real!" inventions. My favorite is (surprise, surprise) the library. Imagine a cross between the library in The Grimm Legacy and Hogwart's Room of Hidden Things. And in addition to all the cool fairy tale stuff, it also has sparkly ball gowns made to order! AAAhh I was in heaven!

I also loved the school book. You press a button on the cover, recite a spell, and tell it what text you want to appear inside. And then it does! So it's one book, but it can be any book you want. I know e-readers basically do the same thing, but it seems so much cooler when it's a paperbound book and there are magical incantations involved.

4. Fairy tale retellings. Obviously. There isn't as much meat to fairy tales compared to the Greek gods and goddesses (they got into all sorts of adventures), and that is definitely a limitation. One of my favorite things about the Goddess Girls series were all of the little retelling references scattered throughout each book. The Grimmtastic Girls books have a lot less of that, which is totally understandable, but also a little disappointing.

(Though probably only disappointing to ME, an adult reader. I don't think the intended audience would care at all—I know my library girls weren't even aware of half of the original stories referenced in Goddess Girls, especially if they didn't appear in Percy Jackson).

5. To make up for this, Joan Holub an Suzanne Williams packed in more original material and it is awesome. There's a villain society wrapped up in a mystery (several mysteries!) and missing treasure! So lots of sleuthing, which is always a plus in my book.

6. Did I mention princes (and non-prince crushes)? These are fairy tale retellings, so of course there are boys! And, it's adorable.

7. But, because of the sleuthing and such, unlike Goddess Girls, I highly recommend reading this series in order. The mysteries carry over from book to book with progress made along the way and new questions opening up. While each book focuses on an individual girl and while her fairy tale is mostly wrapped up in her own book, the overarching storyline definitely is not.

8. The vocabulary is surprisingly advanced.

9. "Collect the whole set" events. There are a few recurring things that I found myself looking forward to discovering how it would play out for each character. In this world there are magical objects that are basically trying to find a Grimmtastic Girl who "fits" them. I really got into trying to figure out which magical object would bond with each girl and discovering what magical properties it would bring to the table.

10. It takes place in a boarding school. Do I need to elaborate on why that's pure win?

Bottom line

When it comes to young middle grade girls, Joan Holub and Suzanne Williams RULE. Whether it's Goddess Girls or Grimmtastic Girls, you can count on them to deliver age-appropriate stories with inventive worlds, nifty objects, creative spins on classic stories, and characters that feel real.

If you have a Goddess Girl fan in your life, buy her Grimmtastic Girls and she will love you forever.

I received these books for review purposes, however this in no way influenced my review and I was in no way compensated for my review.

CoverGirl Outlast Lipcolor Blossom Berry 555
CoverGirl Outlast Lipcolor Blossom Berry 555
Offered by Larcade (Ship within 1 Business Day)
Price: $4.50
32 used & new from $1.79

5.0 out of 5 stars Only lipstick I'll wear!, September 28, 2013
I've always loved the way lipstick looks, but hated actually wearing it because it rubs off so quickly. No more! I put on Covergirl Outlast once in the morning and it stays on all day without smudging off on anything.

That said, it's important to follow the right steps:

1. Apply to dry lips with NOTHING on them. No chap stick, residue, water, etc.

2. I wipe off all the excess color from the wand using the rim of the tube. This allows me to apply a thin layer that does not goop up or spread unevenly but still delivers a smooth, solid color.

3. Wait one full minute, keeping lips from touching. This allows the color to dry and not flake off.

4. Apply the clear coat.

5. Don't eat or drink for at least a half hour.

6. Reapply the clear coat throughout the day to keep lips shiny and moist. Do not use any other product or it will cause the color to flake off.

7. Remove with vaseline.

I've bought four different colors and the color as it appears in the tube is the same as it appeared on my lips (the color on the box is pretty off though).

The only downside for me is that I go through the clear coat so much faster than the color. Thankfully you can now buy the clear coat separately, so it's not a big issue.

Grave Mercy: His Fair Assassin, Book I (His Fair Assassin Trilogy)
Grave Mercy: His Fair Assassin, Book I (His Fair Assassin Trilogy)
by R. L. LaFevers
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $12.59
163 used & new from $1.89

5.0 out of 5 stars Special Shelf book!, April 22, 2012
I had perfectly moderate hopes for Grave Mercy after having enjoyed Robin LaFever's MG book Theodosia and the Serpents of Chaos but not really having any idea what to expect from her foray into YA.

Apparently what I should have expected was the answer to all of my bookish prayers, because that's exactly what I got! It was like Robin LaFevers looked directly into my heart and then wrote out the story of my dreams.

I have a fascination with assassins, probably because they both do what I will never experience (um, killing people) and they are experts at stealth and physical prowess (I'm about as stealthy as a puppy, which is, yeah, not very).

Ismae is totally badass when it comes to her assassin skills. She is a master at poisons and pretty handy with physical combat. Need someone killed? Ismae is your girl! But when Ismae is assigned to play the part of a mistress in order to ferret out deadly court secrets, she's a total fish out of water.

I adored her! She's one of those MCs who is imperfect--she makes mistakes, she isn't always right, she puts her foot in her mouth when talking to the guy she likes, and I love her for her imperfections. Her first person narration was especially wonderful in showing her embarrassment over her social flubs.

I'm super picky about romance, but Grave Mercy dished up my absolute favorite kind. The guy, Duval, isn't a weenie (auto-points for that!). To prove this, he totally held his own when he and Ismae were attacked (Hot guy with sword alert!!). And this is just one example among many other wonderfully manly actions.

Of course he's physically attractive, but I fell in love with him because he's also smart, strong, unwaveringly loyal, and the type of person who inspires that same loyalty in return.

He didn't exactly like or trust Ismae when they first met (hate turned love--more points!!), but he still treated her with respect because he's classy like that. Their romance evolved slowly across the book and never overwhelmed the plot. But did I get *that* kiss at the end?

OH YEAH, and a lot more than that! My favorite parts were actually the non-kissing parts when Duval visits Ismae's bedroom at night (no, not how you're thinking). Those scenes crackled with romantic tension. This book is probably more like Poison Study where it is an adult/YA crossover instead of straight YA. Some of the themes and events may be a little mature for younger YA audiences.

The political intrigue is ramped up to 11 and with all the twists and turns, I rarely knew who to trust. So many people had motives, and many of them were engaged in smaller side schemes. As the story came together I was able to deduce the ultimate bad guy before Ismae, which might have been a little frustrating but really didn't bug me in the face of all the other awesomeness.

The pacing isn't super fast, but it isn't slow either. It's what I'd call "slow-burn pacing." There was always something that held my interest and the secrets behind the political intrigue were unraveled at a pace somewhere between tantalizingly slow and satisfyingly fast. Though, honestly, these characters could sit around watching grass grow and I would still be interested in reading about them.

Grave Mercy is the first book in the His Fair Assassin trilogy, but it reads like a standalone. The next book will take place in the same setting, but will focus on a different girl and the final book on a third girl. I can't recommend Grave Mercy highly enough! I am so, so happy there will be more books in this fantastically wonderful new series.

I received a complimentary copy of the book in exchange for an honest review. This in no way influenced my review.

The False Prince: Book 1 of the Ascendance Trilogy
The False Prince: Book 1 of the Ascendance Trilogy
by Jennifer Nielsen
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $12.59
85 used & new from $0.90

17 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Perfect!, April 1, 2012
I knew this was going to be a Special Shelf book as soon as I "heard" Sage's voice narrating. Sage is one of those characters who has Sherlock Holmes Superpowers of Observation and Fantasticness. Which is to say, he's always about ten steps ahead of everyone, can deduce master plans from a discarded gum wrapper, and pulls it all off with the type of suave demeanor that never fails to make my knees wobble.

Plus, he's an underdog with attitude and I have a massive weakness for hot underdogs with swaggering attitude. Sage never seems to be able to resist needling those who lord over him, even if it means he'll get a bruise for his quip. He also lies like a pro, so that combined with his stealth and sneakiness make him the type of character that makes a great thief or conman.

Basically, think Han Solo plus Sherlock Holmes' brains plus extra hotness and a smidgen of vulnerability and you've pretty much got Sage.

As much as I love fast-paced books, my favorite kinds of books actually have a slow-burn pace (NOT to be confused with a sloooow pace, which is chock full of a lot of boring filler). In a slow-burn pace, plot details come together like a puzzle, with intrigue building steadily and keeping me on my toes throughout the whole book. Like a slow-burn romance, slow-burn pacing strings me along with delicious little morsels and makes me beg for more and more.

The majority of The False Prince takes place in Conner's castle (the noble with The Plan) as he trains the boys and maliciously toys with their emotions (because, you see, only the guy that's picked to impersonate the prince gets to live).

Backstabbing (literally!) and shaky alliances abound amid secrets, lies, and a truth you may or may not see coming but is so astoundingly great that surprise level doesn't even matter (I did guess the broad strokes early on, but the details were a surprise that darn near broke my heart).

This is the first book in a series and it's very clear by the end of the book that there's a lot more to come in this story. Thankfully there isn't a dangling-by-your-fingertips cliffhanger. I'm satisfied with everything I got and I can wait without suffering a heart attack because I know Sage is ok, but BIG STUFF is coming and I cannot wait to be a part of it!

The plot isn't the only thing set on slow burn. Slow-burn romance! But really, it's very slow burn because not much happens in this first book outside of lots of scenes with delicious tension. There's even a touch of, well, it's not quite hate-turned-love, but there's a little combativeness there and she isn't exactly falling all over herself to be with him.

Really though, I'm not complaining at all. I'm firmly on the side that thinks it's much better to have the romance come together later on in the series.

I received a complimentary copy of the book in exchange for an honest review. This in no way influenced my review.

A Breath of Eyre
A Breath of Eyre
by Eve Marie Mont
Edition: Paperback
Price: $8.67
75 used & new from $0.01

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars 3.5 stars from Small Review blog, March 28, 2012
This review is from: A Breath of Eyre (Paperback)
My ratings are my personal, subjective reaction to the book I read. It's a measure of how much I enjoyed it, or not. My ratings are NOT objective critiques on the worthiness of a book. So that's why it would be a really bad idea to look at my 3.5 rating here and think A Breath of Eyre is only a slightly above average book. It's not. It's a good, solid book and I do recommend it. It's just not really MY kind of book.

I gravitate toward time travel (book travel?) stories like this because I like to laugh and I automatically assume this plot will come with a hefty dose of sarcasm, funny observations, and "fish out of water" hilarity.

Barring that, I was expecting to get caught up in the Gothic romance of Jane Eyre. Which, to be honest, is probably me setting myself up for a fall because I've, um, neveractuallyreadJaneEyre. So I really don't think I was in a position to have accurate expectations.

But either way I figured I'd spend a chapter or two in the modern world before Emma was whisked into the pages of Jane Eyre where I would then spend the rest of the story.

And of course all my expectations were completely wrong.

First off, the vast majority of the book takes place in modern times. Jane Eyre is more of a metaphor that helps Emma deal with the events in her real life. It is NOT the focal point of the story (though if you haven't read the original, prepare yourself for massive spoilers).

And that humor I was expecting? Definitely NOT there. The meat of the story is Emma's real life relationship with her father, her two friends, and her maybe crush. All of these relationships are fraught with Serious Issues like the specter of dead mothers, suicide, depression, mental illness, death, classism, insecurity, and racism.

Heavy, right? For a contemporary issues reader, this book will be a treasured gem. But for me, I was lost. I'm not an issues reader, and these issues are all WAY too heavy for me. I may have even teared up a little at one point.

So why didn't I just stop reading? Honestly, I was tempted. For me, reading issues books is like wearing an itchy wool sweater. Everything feels forced and uncomfortable.

But narrator Emma was like a pair of super comfy fuzzy socks and that is why I kept reading. There was something about her that felt right and made me want to be her friend. She's shy and unsure and sort of floundering around, but she has a strength to her that made me proud. I could relate to Emma's fears and her desire to conquer them.

The pacing was also sort of slow, but there was interpersonal stuff going on all the time and I was curious to see how it would all unfold. I was antsy in the beginning because it takes a long time before Emma gets sucked into the book, but that's mostly because I was expecting a different sort of book at that time.

The narrative then bounces back and forth with Emma traveling from our world to Jane's, back to ours, then back to Jane's, and then back to ours again. The biggest surprise to me was that I actually enjoyed the parts in our world more than those in Jane's. I was completely caught up in Emma's interpersonal growth and her friends' various dramas.

I think it's not necessary to have read the original. I never felt lost or left out for having not read Jane Eyre. Emma's journey stands well on its own, and if her growth takes a cue from Jane, it does not diminish Emma's triumphs.

Bottom line

This isn't my kind of book at all, so the fact that I read it cover to cover, loved the narrator, and actually found enjoyment is saying something. Contemporary issues readers should like it a whole lot more and will probably really appreciate the way Jane Eyre was used to guide Emma.

Eve Marie Mont's sensitive handling of intense issues, beautiful writing, creativity, and ability to craft well-developed characters make her a welcome addition to the ranks of YA authors. There will be two more books in this series as Emma gets sucked into The Scarlet Letter and The Phantom of the Opera. I'm not really sure how that will work given Emma's mode of travel in A Breath of Eyre, but I have faith that Eve Marie Mont will pull it off.

I received a complimentary copy of the book in exchange for an honest review. This in no way influenced my review.

Bourne (River of Time 3.1 Novella)
Bourne (River of Time 3.1 Novella)
Price: $2.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars From Small Review blog, March 25, 2012
Whenever I read an "extra" like a novella or short story, I always have a few nagging questions and, ok, I'll admit it, fears. The worst thing an author can do to a beloved story is stretch it beyond its limits, and oftentimes that's exactly what happens with little extras like this.

I'm also super picky and because I love these characters so much, I'm really protective over them. I can't bear to see them fall victim to series stretching. My heart would break to see them in filler stories or, worse, forced rehashes of the same old plotline. So it was with an emotional mess of unbridled elation and gut-punch dread that I entered Bourne.

And thankfully, I had nothing to fear!

Is there a point to the story?

Yes! The fact that this is a novella and not a full-length novel plays zero part in the story's construction. This is not an "add on for fans"--the plot is original and makes sense as the logical fallout of the events in Torrent. I also finally got to learn more about the mysterious brotherhood! The best way to think of Bourne is to just forget that it is a novella and treat it like part one of the next full book in the series.

The story picks up almost immediately after the end of Torrent and it is essential that you read Waterfall, Cascade, and Torrent before reading Bourne (unless you want massive spoilers for the first three books). The same breakneck pacing mixed with tender character moments and thoughtful soul searching that characterized the first three books is present again in Bourne.

The only time I felt the limitations of the novella length was at the end. Yes, there is resolution, but the greater story arc that has been set in motion promises MUCH more to come. Seeds have been planted and threads have been left dangling, and of course I am dying to find out what happens next! I wouldn't say the end is a cliffhanger exactly, but Lisa is certainly a diabolical tease.

Do I get to see the characters I know and love?

Yes! All of my favorite characters make an appearance (except the ones who have DIED! Oh Fortino!), although for many it is a tantalizingly small appearance. Marcello, Gabi, and Greco all play a decent role but the meat of this story is Lia and Luca (yay!). Though, even there, the short nature of the book makes it so that none of the characters get as much page time as I wanted (but that's because I want endless amounts of pages!).

I have always been a huge Lia and Luca fan, and I am VERY happy with the events of Bourne. It wasn't just that things finally happened (but, total YAY for things finally happening!), it was HOW they happened. Luca's personality was so perfectly displayed in the most adorable, swoony, heart-melting, giggle-inducing scenes of PURE WIN. The witty banter between Lia and Luca was everything I had been hoping for and more. I couldn't have daydreamed it better.

Does the author mess with a good thing?

Not much is different from the first three books, and that is a very good thing. There isn't any new girl causing love drama, Marcello and Gabi don't have a "misunderstanding" to carry the plot, and the characters don't suffer mysterious personality transplants.

What IS different is the inclusion of Lia's perspective! Gabi still narrates plenty (and it was such a comfort to be back in her head again), but the introduction of Lia's POV was thoroughly welcome.

I'll blushingly admit that Lia left me a little star struck in the first three books. She was just so darn cool with her arrows and calm reserve. I loved this opportunity to get into her head and see the "woman behind the mask."

Her voice is similar to Gabi's, but her caution and control seen in the previous books came through in her narrative as well. While I can't help but get swept up in Gabi's romantic view of the 14th century, Lia has always been the character my practical side can relate to. I hope more books are told from her POV in the future.

FYI, the length is about 160 pages.

Athena the Wise (Goddess Girls)
Athena the Wise (Goddess Girls)
by Suzanne Williams
Edition: Paperback
Price: $6.99
164 used & new from $0.01

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Goddess Girls are an essential addition to youngsters' libraries!, March 7, 2012
Like all the books in the Goddess Girls series, Athena the Wise can be read as a standalone and it is not necessary to have read the previous books.

This series gets better and better with each book! Athena again narrates and she solidifies her spot as my favorite Goddess Girl with her brainy approach and ongoing struggles juggling all of her many activities (I can SO relate with her "more is more" approach!).

The twelve labors of Heracles takes center stage, with Athena filling her classic role as guide (this time on "dear ol' dad" Zeus's instruction). This myth translated well, keeping excitement and momentum high as Heracles grappled with each labor. Always packed to the brim with mythology, Athena the Wise does not limit itself to this tale, incorporating Athena's famed encounter with Arachne as well.

Complementing the mythology are the real world problems Athena faces, with which readers of all ages can easily relate. In addition to her over-achiever stresses, Athena grapples with the difference between revenge and vengeance and how to appropriately stand up for oneself.

Inventive melding of myth and modernity, adorably named objects (Zeus Juice, Teen Scrollazine), and hilarious puns make this series a sure thing. The honest portrayal of real-world feelings and problems youngsters face takes Goddess Girls to the next level and makes them an essential addition to youngsters' libraries.

Aphrodite the Diva (Goddess Girls)
Aphrodite the Diva (Goddess Girls)
by Suzanne Williams
Edition: Paperback
Price: $5.99
127 used & new from $0.01

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A consistently strong series for young readers, March 7, 2012
Like all the books in the Goddess Girls series, Aphrodite the Diva can be read as a standalone and it is not necessary to have read the previous books.

As much as I adore this series, Aphrodite seems to be the character I connect with the least. As in her first book Aphrodite the Beauty, it was clear to me that our personalities were not aligned. Consequently, the problems she faced were not problems I could empathize with as much as I could with, say, Athena.

But, this is part of the beauty of the Goddess Girls series. Like The Babysitters' Club of my youth, each character has their own unique personality, and so readers of equally varied personalities can easily find a character with which they will be able to relate. Aphrodite's experiences with popularity, (MG-level) romance, and struggles with low grades are sure to resonate with many girls.

I had to force my interest for the first few chapters, but after rivals Aphrodite and Isis reach an agreement and Aphrodite remarks that "Pinky swear was obviously a universal language," I knew I was hooked! She must be right, because the pinky swear part was when I finally GOT Aphrodite. It was smooth sailing for me after that point.

The myth of Pygmalion is explored in typical Goddess Girls fashion with all of the humor, heart, and updated realism I have come to expect from this series. The more modern issue of parents divorcing was also explored (though I won't say through who--spoilers!), and we finally get a peek into the softer side of Medusa. Particularly welcome was the introduction of the Egyptian Goddess Girls. I am crossing my fingers that an Egyptian Goddess Girls spinoff series is in the works!

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