Book Review: The Financially Confident Woman

The Financially Confident Woman by Mary Hunt
Release Date ~ December 2014 (Reprint)
Baker Publishing Group
ISBN13:  9780800721466
Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc. 
Available at your favourite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group. 

Goodreads Synopsis:
Too many women feel like they lack the know-how to take control of their financial lives. But it's not the level of their knowledge that's the problem, says personal financial expert Mary Hunt; it's their lack of confidence. Being in debt isn't a money problem--it's an attitude problem. And Hunt is here to help women develop a confident, capable attitude toward money so that they can take control of their finances. 
Using the lessons she's learned from her own hard-fought battle with debt, Hunt empowers women to develop nine essential money habits, including giving, saving, investing, rejecting unsecured debt, preparing for emergencies, getting what you pay for, and more. She also includes a six-week action plan to help women get started right away.

Happy New Year! I'm back in 2015 with a brand new book review, featuring a book that's a little bit different from what I typically review here.

Like many others, I like to use the ending of one year and the beginning of a new year as a time to reflect and focus on my goals. As I've gotten older, one of those goals has involved finances. The Financially Confident Woman appealed to me for that reason.

  1. Pragmatic advice for women:

    One of my favourite aspects of this book is that Mary Hunt writes to women to provide her readers with some basic financial knowledge and tips. Her advice is practical and clear, which is particularly important when finances can be confusing for some people. I appreciated that Mary Hunt dealt with more than simple budgeting or healthy attitudes towards money (which are important), but she delves further into the topic. She also approaches important topics like investing and retirement savings.
  2. An important read for her target audience:

    There is clearly a target audience for that book, and if you don't fall within that category, then this isn't the right book for you. But for everyone else, this is a worthwhile read. It's concise and I liked the attention placed on long-term finances (which many people don't consider early enough on in life). Mary Hunt writes from a Christian perspective so she places a heavier emphasis on giving via tithing and donations, for example. But she's also writing to women who do not have much experience with managing finances - whether it's because of youth or the fact that they've had their husband manage finances.
  3. Clear writing:

    Mary Hunt writes in a very straightforward, engaging manner. She tells stories from her own life, including her past mistakes and what she learned from them. I liked that she was upfront about her shortcomings, because it shows that she doesn't have a self-righteous attitude. 
This is a reprint of Mary Hunt's book that was written years ago, and the one thing I would have liked to have seen was a more intensive update to the book. Finances and banking has changed rather dramatically in recent years, particularly when it comes to common payment methods and banking. As an example, she focuses a fair amount of timing on cheques which just aren't as common as they used to be. Regardless, it's helpful information for the few times I'm likely to run into using cheques. 

This is a book that I think has something to offer for just about anyone; the attitudes towards money which are identified in this book are still relevant and important today for many people. In particular, this is a book that I think would be great for young women/teenagers just starting to learn how to manage their money while in post-secondary or in some of their first full-time jobs. 


Blog Tour: This Shattered World

I'm really looking forward to sharing my review of This Shattered World with you today as part of the blog tour hosted by The Midnight Garden! Keep an eye out for some special news (and a giveaway) at the end of this post!

Make sure you visit the kickoff post over at The Midnight Garden for other special features and links to other posts on the tour!

This Shattered World (Starbound #2) by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner
Release Date ~ December 23, 2014
ISBN13: 9781423171034
e-galley received from publisher via NetGalley

Goodreads Synopsis:
The second installment in the epic Starbound trilogy introduces a new pair of star-crossed lovers on two sides of a bloody war.

Jubilee Chase and Flynn Cormac should never have met.

Lee is captain of the forces sent to Avon to crush the terraformed planet's rebellious colonists, but she has her own reasons for hating the insurgents.

Rebellion is in Flynn's blood. Terraforming corporations make their fortune by recruiting colonists to make the inhospitable planets livable, with the promise of a better life for their children. But they never fulfilled their promise on Avon, and decades later, Flynn is leading the rebellion.

Desperate for any advantage in a bloody and unrelentingly war, Flynn does the only thing that makes sense when he and Lee cross paths: he returns to base with her as prisoner. But as his fellow rebels prepare to execute this tough-talking girl with nerves of steel, Flynn makes another choice that will change him forever. He and Lee escape the rebel base together, caught between two sides of a senseless war.

After reading (and adoring) These Broken Stars earlier this year, I've basically been sitting around and twiddling my thumbs while waiting for This Shattered World. The second book in the Starbound trilogy features two new protagonists and takes place on a different planet, but it's also different from TBS with slightly different pacing and a distinct storyline. Where TBS was a lonely survival story, TSW is a war story. But Amie and Meagan thoughtfully weave the two books together to create a much larger story.

  1. A rare set of protagonists: 

    Jubilee is a capable, hard-working soldier who's always ready to take the lead and get the job done. In contrast, Flynn is a gracious and brave pacifist. And together they make quite the interesting pair. You can see how well they balance each other out and truly bring out the best qualities in one another. In particular, they're both so conscientious when it comes to their personal roles on Avon, that they regularly think through the consequences of their actions and show incredible maturity. They're such rare types of characters to find in books, that it sets the tone of TSW apart from many others I read.
  2. Fast-paced action:

    Avon is a hostile world with an ongoing battle between the rebels and the military. This is evident from the very first chapter and it sets the stage for the rest of the book. Jubilee and Flynn barely have time to stop and catch their breath, as the secrets on Avon begin to unravel and the discovery of a conspiracy larger than they could have imagined is found. The pacing is even and quick, and it doesn't really end until the book does.
  3. Political science fiction:

    One of the things I've really loved about the Starbound trilogy so far is how well it combines my love for political intrigue and science fiction in books. I love that these books are set on distant, mysterious planets that are both familiar yet strange to me. I love the rippling excitement that comes with the political upheaval taking place on Avon. And the really nice thing about the combination of the two is that it keeps either one from becoming dull - the two merge seamlessly to create a more complex story. 
I like that TSW has light-romance, in the sense that it doesn't take over the rest of the story. Both Flynn and Jubilee are very focused on what they feel they need to accomplish, and they let very little interfere with that purpose. Because of how well this fits in with their characters, the romance feels natural and well-developed. 

I also love the little hints and nods that we find in TSW which will be familiar to those who have read TBS. While I wouldn't say it's necessary to read TBS first, I think readers will better enjoy TSW with the background of TBS. 

My only small issue is that I feel like at some point in the Starbound trilogy, we need some greater reveals as to the overall plot and more knowledge with respect to the world. In TBS, it was less of an issue that the world-building was rather minimal (although it was there to an extent), but in TSW I was more aware at how little development there was in this sense. I still have so many questions about what's going in with LaRoux and how the situation on Avon began. There are small hints, but it seemed like there were a few questions that could have been answered but were swept aside. 

But to be honest, this felt like such a minor issue to me I really don't feel like it majorly detracted from my reading experience in any way! These are great, exciting books that I highly recommend and I love that the newest release didn't disappoint me.

Visit the These Broken Stars website for the latest news on the series and follow the authors on Twitter at @AmieKaufman and @MeaganSpoonerThis Shattered World is available for pre-order (with fun swag!) and will be released in North America on December 23, 2014. 

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DVD Review: Burning Questions

I'm a person who wrestles with a number of philosophical (or religious) questions in real life, and in the interest of full disclosure I'm also an open Chrisitan.

I was thrilled when I was offered a chance to review a new DVD documentary entitled "Burning Questions" which wrestles with a number of common, difficult questions about the deeper meaning of life.

With all of that being said, I also consider myself to be somewhat of an intellectual. I'm about to complete my second university degree, and I can appreciate both an intellectual and faith-filled response to these questions.

That is precisely where "Burning Questions" fits in for me. I appreciate the fact that the documentary makes use of a number of different thinkers in this area: it isn't merely restricted to Christian apologists despite being a Christian-focused documentary.

The first video session, entitled "Is there a god?" includes well-known thinkers such as Dr. Peter Atkins (an atheist), Dr. Chrisitan Sinkinson (Christian), Professor Richard Swinburne (Christian), Dr. Anna Robbins (Christian), Rabbi Mendel Kaplan (Jew), Dr. Stephen Law (atheist), Sensei Taigen Henderson (Buddhist), Pandit Roopnauth Sharma (Hindu), and Shabir Ally (Mulsim - who I'm previously famliar with, as he's spoken on The Agenda with Steve Paikan a few times), Dr. Stan Fowler (Christian), and Professor Alister McGrath (Christian).

While "Burning Questions" will have a greater appeal to Christians, it still has a place for those who may be seeking to hear from different perspectives. Even from within a religious perspective, this is an important documentary to hear from because of how it includes a number of different perspectives. It clearly focuses in on the Judeo-Christian God, and offers an explanation as to why they choose to focus on this one interpretation.

Some viewers may benefit from further explanation by way of a primer to explain some of the basic ideas being discussed here; the first session launches into a fairly involves discussion on philosophy about the existence (or lack) of god. Much of it focuses on the identity of god, as perceived by the guest speakers.

DVD set has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.  All of my thoughts and opinions here are my own.


Book Review: Black Ice

Black Ice by Becca Fitzpatrick
Release Date ~ October 7, 2014
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
ISBN13: 9781442474260
ARC received from S&S Canada for review

Goodreads Synopsis:
Danger is hard to resist in this sexy thriller from Becca Fitzpatrick, the New York Times bestselling author of the Hush, Hush saga.

Brit Pheiffer has trained to backpack the Teton Range, but she isn't prepared when her ex-boyfriend, who still haunts her every thought, wants to join her. Before Britt can explore her feelings for Calvin, an unexpected blizzard forces her to seek shelter in a remote cabin, accepting the hospitality of its two very handsome occupants but these men are fugitives, and they take her hostage.

Britt is forced to guide the men off the mountain, and knows she must stay alive long enough for Calvin to find her. The task is made even more complicated when Britt finds chilling evidence of a series of murders that have taken place there and in uncovering this, she may become the killer's next target.

But nothing is as it seems, and everyone is keeping secrets, including Mason, one of her kidnappers. His kindness is confusing Britt. Is he an enemy? Or an ally?

Black Ice is New York Times bestselling author Becca Fitzpatrick's riveting romantic thriller set against the treacherous backdrop of the mountains of Wyoming. Falling in love should never be this dangerous. 

Black Ice is a fast-paced, mysterious read that left me guessing the whole time I was reading it; as much as I thought I had predicted all the twists, I usually ended up being surprised by one reveal or another. I never read Hush, Hush so this was my first impression of one of Becca Fitzpatrick's books.

  1. Britt's natural growth and changes:

    Britt's character is going to bother some readers, I knew that from the very first chapter. She isn't your standard character who's easy to like or maybe even identify with - she's definitely spoiled and rather immature because she hasn't had to figure out much of life for herself yet. But the idea behind Black Ice is that Britt is forced to go through a situation where she can only rely on herself - and you can see her fight that at times. She doesn't have a clue what to do or how to deal. And by the end of the book, I'm not sure I'd say that she's figured that out entirely - but she's clearly changed and there is improvement. She's flawed and far from perfect, but that made the story seem more real to me.
  2. A story with a heavy crime element:

    I am one of those people who has always enjoyed crime stories (weird? maybe a little) so these elements in Black Ice really worked for me. There's a larger part of the plot devoted to a big mystery, but there are a few smaller ones as well. I liked how suspenseful the book was (particularly in a few scenes), but it also doesn't cross that line in to horror/scary territory for readers who are wary of that. 
I had a much harder time with some of the secondary characters - a couple of them are left without any redemption (which is fine) but it can feel awkward when other "bad" characters get their moment to explain at least some of their poor behaviour and actions. It's one of the main ways that a character instantly feels shallow to me. 

I'm not too sure where to include this in my review, but I had very mixed feelings about Mason. I wasn't entirely sold on his character but I also didn't hate him. He clearly had his own issues to work through, and I almost wish I could have a book about Mason in order to see his development - he's certainly not a lost cause and there were many times when I liked him. But by the end of the book, I just wasn't wholly convinced. 

The simplest way of putting it is that while I enjoyed Black Ice as a thriller, I had a harder time with it as a romantic book. Depending on how you feel about either of those genres (and the types of elements you like in those genres) will likely determine your thoughts on Black Ice. 


Sleeping Secrets

I have had trouble sleeping soundly for as long as I can remember. But lately, it's been worse. Sleeping pills are a last option for me - I always try other things before resorting to those. Along the way, I've picked up a few different tricks to help with this and I'm sharing my secrets with the hope that some of you might find them helpful!

Secret #1 ~ Tea to make you feel sleep-tea 

I'm a big fan of tea (all tea, all day!) and it's a normal part of my bedtime ritual to have a cup of caffeine-free tea before bed.

I love DavidsTea because they sell good tea, and I love supporting Canadian brands. There are two options which include valerian root: their organic Mother's Little Helper and The Big Chill (also organic). If valerian root is an ingredient you'd rather avoid, try the herbal Sweet Dreams (which is somewhat similar to Mother's Little Helper with its chamomile and lemongrass flavour) or Jessie's Tea (a rooibos with lavender and coconut).

I've been eyeing the Relaxed Collection, which includes smaller bags of Sweet Dreams, Mother's Little Helper, and Jessie's Tea - I've been meaning to try Jessie's Tea and I can always use a refill of Little Helper!

Secret #2 ~ White noise and music

I actually like a little bit of background noise while I'm falling asleep so I have two picks for this - first, a handy white noise app for my phone and second, a great music album. I've grown accustomed to the Thunderstorm setting on iHome Zen, but I'm also not very picky. My A/C works too (in the summer).

But on a more exciting note, lately I've been listening to Ellie Holcomb's latest album titled As Sure As the Sun and letting Night Song repeat about three times - works like a charm.  Her voice is so gorgeous and soothing. This song is peaceful for me, and very calming when I often feel anxious at night.

Secret #3 ~ A silk eye mask

Even though I like a little background noise while drifting off, I need darkness! Since I'm a die-hard Audrey Hepburn fan, I'm currently using this Breakfast at Tiffany's-inspired mask which I purchased from AdorabellaBaby on Etsy. I love that it's large so it covers my eyes well, it has an adjustable strap, and it's silk which is nice for my facial skin! (I have one tiny little complaint which is the plastic connector on my strap broke after a couple of months - it's an easy enough fix, but still disappointing.)

Do you have any tips or suggestions that work for you? 
I'm always on the look out for new things to try. Lately I've been thinking I'd like to try some lavender scented body lotion before bed - I've always heard that lavender can help, but I haven't been a big fan of floral scents until this year. I've been using a nice vanilla body lotion from LOVEFRESH (another Canadian brand! The vanilla scent is divine, FYI) and I'm dying for their lavender body butter. Well, I'm actually dying to try out a whole bunch of their products but the lavender is first on my list!


Book Review: Stitching Snow

Stitching Snow by R.C. Lewis
Release Date ~ October 14, 2014
Disney-Hyperion ~ Hachette Book Group Canada
ISBN13: 9781423187974
ARC received from HBG Canada for review

Goodreads Synopsis:
Princess Snow is missing.

Her home planet is filled with violence and corruption at the hands of King Matthias and his wife as they attempt to punish her captors. The king will stop at nothing to get his beloved daughter back—but that’s assuming she wants to return at all.

Essie has grown used to being cold. Temperatures on the planet Thanda are always sub-zero, and she fills her days with coding and repairs for the seven loyal drones that run the local mines.

When a mysterious young man named Dane crash-lands near her home, Essie agrees to help the pilot repair his ship. But soon she realizes that Dane’s arrival was far from accidental, and she’s pulled into the heart of a war she’s risked everything to avoid. With the galaxy’s future—and her own—in jeopardy, Essie must choose who to trust in a fiery fight for survival.

Science-fiction infused fairytale retellings are no longer completely out of the ordinary, thanks to the popularity of Marissa Meyer's Lunar Chronicles books, but R.C. Lewis makes Stitching Snow all her own. Despite the popularity of both sci fi and fairytale retellings right now, Stitching Snow is a refreshing story that is thrilling from the very start with memorable characters.

  1. A truly creative take on Snow White:

    I love when an author can take a story readers are familiar with and then write a completely unique spin on that same story. The trick is to maintain enough of the familiar features while infusing them with different explanations and purposes. Stitching Snow is a perfect example of how well this can work, because while it's very clearly a "Snow White" story, at the same time... well, it isn't. It's Essie's story and her adventures as she's plucked from her familiar life and thrown into a political mess.
  2. Essie's independent personality:

    When we first meet Essie, she's living on the snow planet Thanda (let's be honest, I'm picturing Hoth in my mind when I think of Thanda) and the icy temperatures are only partially responsible for her icy heart. She's fine with her mundane and mostly isolated life. And this is precisely what makes it interesting to see her emotional walls begin to crumble in Stitching Snow. She's forced out of the life she's built for herself, and thrust into a life she's been trying to avoid. I love that throughout all of this, Essie continues to take control of her situation - she's an assertive young woman!
  3. Exciting sci fi elements:

    I'm a fan of science fiction, so it is extremely pleasing to me when I read a book that reads like true sci fi and Stitching Snow is a recent addition to my collection of fantastic YA science fiction. I loved learning about the different planets, and I thought it was very cool that Essie was a mechanic who's great at computer programming. 
Once I started reading Stitching Snow, I had a hard time putting it down. I devoured it fairly quickly, and the pacing was perfect for me - there's tension gradually building throughout the story, yet there's action from the very beginning and enough hinting at secrets to grab my interest and hold it. Stitching Snow also has excellent romance - it doesn't overpower the entire story, and it has a nice, natural build to it. 

My only (small) issue was that this is the type of story that I could easily live in if it was spread out over a few books - I would be happy if this was a series. There are some interesting secondary characters introduced, and I think they could have benefited from further development (but I understand, books can only be a certain length before it's ridiculous). Some parts of the plot are fairly predictable, but it didn't bother me since the story was still interesting and there were still a few surprises for me.


Book Cover Reveal: Anne and Henry

I'm very excited to share with you the cover reveal for Dawn Ius' upcoming 2015 release, Anne and Henry! But first the description:

A love worth losing your head over

Wild, brazen, mischievous, bewitching

Driven, haunted, charming, magnetic

Apart they are bound to destroy themselves. Together, they are bound to destroy each other.

HENRY TUDOR’S LIFE HAS BEEN mapped out since the day he was born: student president, valedictorian, Harvard Law School, and a stunning political career just like his father’s. 

But ever since the death of Henry’s brother—perfect, high-achieving Arthur—his family has been twice as demanding. And now Henry’s trapped: forbidden from pursuing a life as an artist or dating any girl who’s not Tudor-approved.

Then Anne Boleyn crashes into his life. 

Anne is wild, brash, and outspoken. She is everything Henry is not allowed to be—or to want. But soon Anne is all he can think about. His mother, his friends, and even his girlfriend warn him away, yet his desire for Anne consumes him. Henry is willing to do anything to be with her. But once he has her, their romance could destroy them both. 

Inspired by the true story of Anne Boleyn and King Henry VIII, ANNE & HENRY reimagines the intensity, love, and betrayal between one of the most infamous couples of all time.

Interesting, yeah? You can really tell that it's a modern story, and I'm curious to see Dawn's take on Henry VIII's relationship with Anne in a contemporary, updated setting.

You can add Anne & Henry to your Goodreads shelf here!

About the Author
DAWN IUS is a short-story author, novelist, screenwriter, professional editor, and communications specialist. She is an active member of the International Thriller Writers association, co-founder and senior editor of Vine Leaves Literary Journal, and the author of nine educational graphic novels published by the Alberta Canola Producers Commission. When she’s not slaying fictional monsters, she’s geeking out over fairy tales, Jack Bauer, Halloween, sports cars, and all things that go bump in the night. Dawn lives in Alberta, Canada, with her husband, Jeff, and their giant English Mastiff, Roarke. 

Connect with Dawn:
Twitter: @dawnmius

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