Thursday, June 2, 2011

Book Review: Summer in the South by Cathy Holton

"After a personal tragedy, Chicago writer Ava Dabrowski quits her job to spend the summer in Woodburn, Tennessee, at the invitation of her old college friend Will Fraser and his two great-aunts, Josephine and Fanny Woodburn. Her charming hosts offer Ava a chance to relax at their idyllic ancestral estate, Woodburn Hall, while working on her first novel. But Woodburn is anything but quiet: Ancient feuds lurk just beneath its placid surface, and modern-day rivalries emerge as Ava finds herself caught between the competing attentions of Will and his black-sheep cousin Jake. Fascinated by the family’s impressive history—their imposing house filled with treasures, and their mingling with literary lions Fitzgerald, Hemingway, and Faulkner—Ava stumbles onto rumors about the darker side of the Woodburns’ legacy. Putting aside her planned novel, she turns her creative attentions to the eccentric and tragic clan, a family with more skeletons (and ghosts) in their closets than anyone could possibly imagine. As Ava struggles to write the true story of the Woodburns, she finds herself tangled in the tragic history of a mysterious Southern family whose secrets mirror her own."

 As I read Summer in the South, I felt as though I was reading two different stories that were barely connected.  One -- the Woodburns' past --was intriguing and had me racing through the book to find out their secrets --  and the other -- Ava's past and present - was tiresome and made me want to put the book down. Quite honestly, I did not connect with Ava at all and felt as though she got in the way of the real story, which involved the skeletons in the Woodburns' closets.  Yes, I admit that part of my disinterest in Ava was that she is a Yankee who doesn't understand the ways of the "Old South," but that's not entirely it.  Ava's story is one that has been done too many times (girl dragged around a migrant mother; girl turns into woman with issues) and nothing really tied her story to the story of the Woodburns.  Ava's character is never really fleshed out, and despite a set up of a romance between Will and her, nothing ever happens.  In fact, Will eventually becomes someone in the background, a character who is mentioned as being in the room, but whose interactions are never shown until he's needed to do something for the plot. As for the romance between Ava and Jake, it doesn't create much of a spark either.

Other characters in the present are bought in for a plot point and then dropped without any explanation.  Only the Woodburns who are seen in both the flashbacks and in the present, seem to have a purpose in the world in which the novel is set that is not just to move the plot along. Other characters pop up for a plot point and then are forgotten until they pop up again for another plot point.  Too many loose ends are left this way.

I know, it sounds like I don't like the book. That's true just for all the parts involving Ava.  I thoroughly enjoyed the story involving the Woodburns' history. Even though their story may be a familiar one, it is still interesting and different enough to keep the reader from guessing the twist ending.   Had the author focused on the Wooodburns and left Ava alone, I'd probably be singing its praises. As it is...meh.

If you’re interested in reading other reviews of Summer in the South, you can find them here at Goodreads.  Or, if you’re interesting in purchasing the book or reading reviews of Amazon customers, you can buy the hardcover here and the ebook here.

Pssst....I received an ARC (advanced readers copy) of Summer in the South in a giveaway at Goodreads. This opinions expressed in this post are 100% mine. 

Posts may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure policy.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Thanks to all of you who entered my Kiss My Face giveaway! The winner has been chosen using, and an email notification has been sent.

The winner is:

#18 Molly B.


The winner has 24 hours to contact me with shipping information, or I will choose another winner.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Simple & Easy Frugal-ish Christmas Tree Makeover

I just got through putting my Christmas tree up.  I know, I know.  As a child, I used to wonder why families on TV and movies put up their trees on Christmas Eve, but now that I am a very busy working mom, I totally understand!  Those families lives may have looked perfect, but when he didn't see them, they were running around like chickens with their heads cut off just like the rest of us!

Since we're basically only a week away from Christmas, I really didn't want to fool with getting the ornaments out and putting them up.  My OCD tendencies makes the whole randomness of hanging ornaments fairly stressful.  (I feel anxious just thinking about it!)  So, while I was wandering around n Hobby Lobby last night, I got an idea of what to do with the tree.

I bought two packs of nice gift tags,

two things (stem? bunch? ??) of flowers,

and two packs of stringed golden beads.

I put them on our tree topped with the angel that was on the Christmas tree at our wedding reception (our anniversary is this week!), and Viola!

I have to say that I am rather proud of myself because I am not any sort of creative in a crafty or decorating sense.  Too bad I haven't suddenly been able to take really good pictures, eh??

(Oh, do you see the beautiful green Santa ornament?  I do an ornament exchange with a group of awesome moms whomI met on a message board when I was pregnant with my daughter, and this Santa ornament is what I received this year.  I think it might have inspired me to use the gift tags with Santa.)

What makes me even happier about my tree "makeover" is that I only spent $22!  Hobby Lobby had all their Christmas stuff on 50%, so I paid

$2.99 for 2 packs of 24 gift tags
$5.99 for 2 packs of gold beads
$11.99 for 2 flower bunches
$22.37 (including tax)!!

(Pssst...Don't forget to enter my giveaway for products from the Kiss My Face Holiday Peace Collection!)

Monday, December 13, 2010

It DOES Pay to Play the Sweeps! Thanks, Little Debbie!!

I was so surprised to see a box from Little Debbie on my doorstep today!  Even though I have been playing their Million Smile Mission giveaway on Facebook every day, I'd neither won a daily prize nor been given any indication that I'd won anything else.  Well, guess what?!  I actually won a Little Debbie Giftbox!

Yep, SIX full size boxes of Little Debbie snack cakes!  Yummy!!

So, if you play the sweeps, don't give up if it seems like you never win!  You might come home to find something awesome on your doorstop!

P.S.  I use Freebies4Mom and Sweeties Sweeps to find sweeps to enter. 

Kiss My Face Peace Collection - Review & Giveaway!!

 I had heard of Kiss My Face, but I had not tried any of their products until I was sent some from their Holiday Peace Collection to review and host a giveaway.  After trying them, I am SO excited to share them with you!

The Product

The Holiday Peace Collection from Kiss My Face is available in 34 oz and 17 oz bottles and 8 oz self-foaming bottle of 100% natural castile liquid soap and hand-poured soy wax candles.  Each product comes in four fragrances: Pomegranate Acai, Lemongrass Clary Sage, Lavender Mandarin, and Grassy Mint.

The 100% natural all-purpose castile soap boasts 101 uses -- everything from laundry to floors to pots and pans.  I love that is created from a vegetable-based vegan formula and contains no artificial fragrances.

The soy wax candles are environmentally safe and contain an unbleached cotton wick.  They come in four different colors (depending on the scent) and have a peace sign design. 

While the all the features of the products are awesome, what makes the Holiday Peace Collection even more special is that 10% of the profits go to Seeds of Peace, a camp in Maine which brings "together teens from countries of conflict to build a new generation of peace."  

My Review

I do have to say that I was a little hesitant about the fragrances before I smelled them.  I do not have a strong sense of smell at all, but flowery scents really mess with my sinuses.  Words like "lavender" and "grassy" had me a bit worried; HOWEVER, there was no need to fear.  I LOVED all the three scents I was tried! I actually think the lavender mandarin is my favorite!

I haven't tried all 101 uses of the castile liquid soap, but I did try several.   I washed laundry with it, I washed dishes with it, and I washed the kitchen counters and stove with it.  I think it is my absolute favorite thing to use on the stove because no matter how stubborn the stuck-on food was, the soap cut right through it!

The foaming castile soap is awesome, too.  We use it to wash our hands in the kitchen.  And the candle is very cute and very fragrant!

The Giveaway

I have a set of 3 Holiday Peace Collection products to give away: one 17 ounce liquid 100% natural all-purpose castile soap in lavender mandarin, one soy wax candle in lemongrass clary sage, and one 100% natural foaming castile hand soap in pomegranate acai.  I also have samples of various other Kiss My Face products.

To enter, fill out the form below.

****You must complete the form to be entered into the giveaway.  Only one entry per person. Names and emails collected will be used ONLY for the purpose of the giveaway. I will draw the names of the winners by using the random number generator at from the eligible entries received. After the giveaway closes, I will post the first name and last initial of the winner, as well as email the winner. If a winner does not contact me within 24 hours by email, I will draw a new winner. This giveaway is only open to residents of the United States who are 18 years of age or older.


Disclosure:  I was provided with a set of products to review, a set of products to give away, and some samples of various other Kiss My Face products.  All opinions of the products are 100% honest and 100% mine.  Please see my disclosure policy for more information.

Monday, October 18, 2010

CafePress Groupon - $50 for $25 + 20% off Sweatshirts and Hoodies @ CafePress

Get a $50 CafePress Groupon for only $25 today!  Find it under "Memphis".   This Groupon will expire in three months.

Hoodies and sweatshirts are currently 20% off (prices marked), and select Halloween tees are $15 (prices marked). 

If I were pregnant, I would SO get this shirt:

Also, in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, CafePress is giving a portion of the proceeds from Breast Cancer Awareness merchandise to   I'm thinking of getting this:

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Intervention (Intervention Series Book 1)

Terri Blackstock, a Christian fiction writer who lives in Mississippi, is one of my favorite authors, so I was very excited to see that her latest novel Intervention is FREE for Kindle right now.   What I love about Blackstock's books is that they are mysteries/thrillers that contain a wonderful Christian message.  If you like Intervention, I highly recommend that you read her other books, especially the Newpointe 911 series. 

Don't have a Kindle?  Click here to download Kindle to your iPhone, PC, Blackberry, iPad, or Mac. 

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Toys ' R' Us & the Beauty and the Beast Internet Coupon - It's a No Go for Me!

After last week's TRU Internet Printable experience, I was extremely interested to see this deal in today's ad:

If Corporate can't take IPs, then why are they advertising it???   My husband called our local TRU, and they said that they would NOT honor the IP, even though it was in the ad.

Now I'm weighing my options:
  • Buy Beauty and the Beast from TRU anyway.  I've already put down $5, so I'd just have to pay $17.99.  If I pre-order Toy Story 3, I'll get $10 off making my purchase only $7.99 + $5 for pre-ordering Toy Story 3.   $12.99 (plus free coupon book) in all,  and I'll have to buy TS3 from TRU without a coupon.
  •  Buy Beauty and the Beast from Target for $14.99 after $10 IP.  I'd receive a free CD, which I know my daughter would love.  I'd be free to buy TS3 from any store, and I'm sure there will be some neat promos with that.  (Wonder what TRU's promo will be??)
After being bummed about the not-so-great deal I'll be getting when purchasing the movie, I was glad to see info about a $5 rebate for Beauty and the Beast (or Toy Story 3) at Couponing to Disney!

I'm interesting in hearing your stories with using the Beauty and the Beast $10 coupon at TRU!

Today Only: Download Janis Joplin's Pearl Album for Only $3.99 @ Amazon


This is one of my favorite albums!  It contains Me and Bobby McGee, Cry Baby, Move Over, and Mercedes Benz.   If you don't already own it, you should! 

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Toys 'R' Us Coupon Policy -- or Lack Thereof

Last Saturday I went to Toys 'R' Us to complete the Tinkerbell Blu-ray/DVD Combo pack deal.  I was prepared for problems getting all the discounts applied, but I was not prepared for what I experienced.

I checked out with my pre-ordered Tink movie, my free watch, and some books, and when I gave the cashier my $10 off IP for the movie, she told me that they do not accept IPs that are not from the TRU or BRU website.  What??  She double-checked with her manager, and her manager confirmed.  She said it had been in affect since August or so. I checked out without the coupon, but I stopped and called TRU Customer Service before leaving.

The CS rep could not find any information on IPs, so she asked someone to help.  That person did not find anything either.  Her "official" response was that there was no policy concerning IPs, but individual stores can decide not to accept coupons, especially for items that are part of a promotion.

I went to the CS desk, and I asked the manager to please explain the coupon policy to me again so that I could understand.  I shared the information that CS gave me on the phone.  I have to say that the manager was very professional throughout our whole conversation.  She showed me an SOP (Yeah, I don't know what that is either.  Standard of Practice??) dated 7/14 that listed the types of coupons TRU accepted.  To be honest, I felt that the list could be interpreted two different ways -- one in which all IPs were accepted and one in which only IPs from TRU/BRU website were accepted.  I chose not to push the issue further in the store.

In the parking lot, I called CS again.  I explained the situation and asked that they clarify one more time.  The CS could not find anything, so she asked her supervisor for help.  After about 20 minutes, I remembered the date on the SOP and told the CS.  Only a few moments later, she told me that IPs from outside sources were not accepted.

Still not satisfied, I filled out the contact form on the TRU website. Explaining my experience in-store and with CS, I requested an official coupon policy.  I specifically stated that people across the country were receiving conflicting information as to Corp's policy from TRU store managers and CS reps. (Read two experiences here and here.  I also mentioned that the current ad says to look for coupons on Hasbro's website.   Here is the response I received

We appreciate you reaching out to us regarding our coupon acceptance policy. Unfortunately, we do not have a corporate acceptance policy. In general most stores do accept coupons from the manufacturer. However, few accept coupons that are printed from the internet. Also, in most cases we do not accept coupons on top of any current promotions. Please contact your local store for more specific acceptance policies. I apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused you.

What???  Obviously, this email does not address the concern that managers are telling people that Corporate would not allow them to take IPs or manufacturer's coupon.  If there is no official policy from Corp., who sent out the SOP I saw? 

Sigh.  I'm really bummed because I only have one TRU in the vicinity, and I was really looking foward to the awesome deals on Disney Combo Packs!

I'd love to hear other people's experiences with coupons at TRU.  What are the managers telling you?  What is CS telling you if you contact them?

Monday, September 27, 2010

Jen's Book Review: The Other Queen by Phillippa Gregory

 The Other Queen: A Novel
Queen Elizabeth feels her reign is threatened by her cousin, Mary Queen of Scots. Elizabeth is a bastard child of Henry VIII, but Mary is of royal blood and really should wear the crown for England. Mary is accused of plotting to have her husband murdered and is banished from Scotland. Elizabeth vows to keep her safe and hidden until the court determines if she is innocent and should be returned to the throne. As long as Mary is in captivity, Elizabeth's reign over England is safe. Elizabeth has the Earl of Shrewsbury, George Talbot, and his new wife Bess house Mary in their country home. George has no idea that Elizabeth and her close advisor William Cecil plan to eliminate Mary. Cecil has many spies that he uses to monitor Mary's captivity, one of which is Bess. Poor George is clueless. George is surprised to find himself favoring Mary, causing him to question his political loyalties, and making Bess very unhappy. Mary will not go down without a fight and has many supporters who vow to free her. Who will succeed in the end, Elizabeth or Mary? Only history will tell.

This book is one big history lesson, which always appeals to the history minor in me. While I did enjoy the book, it was nowhere near as good as Gregory's other queen books (The Other Boleyn Girl and The Boleyn Inheritance) or her fictional Wideacre series. The book has three narrators, George, Bess, and Mary. Each chapter is from one of their points of view. This really bothered me in the beginning, but as I settled into the book, I found it easier to transition from chapter to chapter. Gregory does a great job of making you feel sorry for Mary, and you can understand George's confusion over who to follow. As always, Gregory has great historical accuracy. There is no doubt she does tons of research for her books. I'm actually curious to learn more about Bess of Hardwick after reading this book. Apparently she had a reputation.

I just discovered Gregory has a new series following the history of the famous feuds in England known as the War of the Roses. The first in the series was released in 2009 and is called The White Queen. It follows Elizabeth of Woodville who secretly marries a boy king and rises to royalty. Apparently there has always been a mystery over her two sons who went missing in the Tower of London. The second in the series is called The Red Queen and tells the story of Margaret Beaufort and her quest to get her son Henry on the throne of England. She will stop at no ends to have her family rule over England. I will definitely have to check those out soon! Isn't history exciting?

Monday, September 20, 2010

Pink Nation Members: 8/$25 Panties with Coupon

Log in to your Pink Nation account to print your coupon for 8 panties for $25.  While you're there, check to see if there is a Member's Only Private Shopping Event in your area on October 10.  (None in Mississippi, darn it!) 

If you are not a Pink Nation member, I highly recommend signing up!  Right now, new members can get a free Pink body lotion with any pink purchase and $10 off any $50 purchase.  You'll also get free products and great deals at Victoria's Secret in the future! 

Get From Dust and Ashes by Tricia Goyer for Kindle FREE *limited time*

 From Dust and Ashes: A Story of Liberation

You know I love free Kindle books, but I am even more excited because this free book is a historical romance that takes place in Austria in 1945.  The main character is a woman who is abandoned by her husband, an SS officer who worked in the town's concentration camp.  After the woman begins helping the survivors once they are released by American GIs, she experiences her own personal liberation.  Tricia Goyer was inspired to write this novel after hearing the true story of an SS officer's wife who helped the survivors of a camp in Gusen, a sub-camp of the well-known Mauthausen camp.

If you want to learn more about the book and its background, check out this website.

Don't have a Kindle?  Click here to download Kindle to your iPhone, PC, Blackberry, iPad, or Mac.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Jen's Book Review: American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld

 American Wife: A Novel (New York Times Notable Books)

American Wife follows the life of Alice Blackwell as she grows up in Wisconsin where she lives with her parents and her grandmother. Alice leads a pretty quiet life until one evening when she is driving alone to a party to which she has been invited by her crush, Andrew. The tragic accident that night will forever change and shape her life. Several years later she is at a party with her best friend and meets Charlie Blackwell, son of a wealthy family. Charlie and Alice are complete opposites. Charlie is careless and comes from a family that is involved in the Republican party, while Alice tends to be more serious and is a registered Democrat, but somehow they click. Alice tolerates their differences, both in lifestyle and politics, and manages to fit in with his family, but it's Charlie's terms as President that wear Alice down. Alice struggles with her personal beliefs which contradict her husband's political beliefs.

This is Sittenfeld's third book and is by far the most dynamic. Throughout her life Alice has conflicts between public and private life. After her car accident, she struggles with how to act, worrying about how other people view her, not knowing what to keep to herself or what to voice to others. Her inner struggle magnifies to a national level when she is First Lady. Alice's personal and political beliefs are more liberal than her husband's, but she must hide her true feelings and put on a veil of support for his decisions. Every day she walks a fine line between her more liberal convictions and the wifely duty of supporting the husband. Sittenfeld makes Alice's struggle so realistic. She also does a great job of revealing the unglamorous life of the President and First Lady. Friends and acquaintances treat you completely different, any move made is viewed by the world, actions and words can be skewed, there's a pressure to make everyone happy, privacy is no longer, etc.
American Wife is loosely based on the life of a particular First Lady. Sittenfeld says that "her husband, his parents, and certain prominent members of his administration are recognizable." After the first few chapters, my curiosity got me, and in my research I found that it's Laura Bush. I don't know much about Laura's background, but this book definitely has me interested in reading more about her life. As I was reading, I couldn't help but wonder how Laura would feel about this book.

Monday, September 13, 2010

New FREE Kindle Downloads!

I absolutely LOVE the Kindle app on my iPhone because I am constantly finding free books on Amazon.  I just recently downloaded the following FREE books:






 Romantic Mystery

Romantic Comedy

Religious Historical Fiction

 Celebrity Memoir

Christian Memoir

There are many, many more free books for Kindle on Amazon, but please be sure to read the descriptions and the reviews before downloading so that you don't accidentally get something (like the many erotic fiction offerings) that you don't want!

Also, remember that free titles change frequently!  Four other books that I downloaded at the same time as these are no longer free, but there are some books that have been free for months. I recommend checking out the Top 100 Bestsellers.  The list is shown with the top 100 paid, so you can easily check it for cheap downloads.

Don't have a Kindle?  Click here to download Kindle to your iPhone, PC, Blackberry, iPad, or Mac.


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