Tuesday, July 31, 2012

If I Am Missing Or Dead - Janine Latus

If I Am Missing Or Dead
by Janine Latus
(2007)

In April 2002, Janine Latus's youngest sister, Amy, wrote a note and taped it to the inside of her desk drawer. Today Ron Ball and I are romantically involved, it read, but I fear I have placed myself at risk in a variety of ways. Based on his criminal past, writing this out just seems like the smart thing to do. If I am missing or dead this obviously has not protected me...

That same spring Janine Latus was struggling to leave her marriage -- a marriage to a handsome and successful man. A marriage others emulated. A marriage in which she felt she could do nothing right and everything wrong. A marriage in which she felt afraid, controlled, inadequate, and trapped.

Ten weeks later, Janine Latus had left her marriage. She was on a business trip to the East Coast, savoring her freedom, attending a work conference, when she received a call from her sister Jane asking if she'd heard from Amy. Immediately, Janine's blood ran cold. Amy was missing.

Helicopters went up and search dogs went out. Coworkers and neighbors and family members plastered missing posters with Amy's picture across the county. It took more than two weeks to find Amy's body, wrapped in a tarpaulin and buried at a building site. It took nearly two years before her killer, her former boyfriend Ron Ball, was sentenced for her murder.

Amy died in silent fear and pain. Haunted by this, Janine Latus turned her journalistic eye inward. How, she wondered, did two seemingly well-adjusted, successful women end up in strings of physically or emotionally abusive relationships with men? If I Am Missing or Dead is a heart-wrenching journey of discovery as Janine Latus traces the roots of her own -- and her sister's -- victimization with unflinching candor. This beautifully written memoir will move readers from the first to the last page. At once a confession, a call to break the cycle of abuse, and a deeply felt love letter to her baby sister, Amy Lynne Latus, If I Am Missing or Dead is an unforgettable read.


Just finished reading this book this morning and oh my, I was absolutely sobbing by the end.  It doesn't seem right to say I loved this book because it is disturbing and tragic.  After struggling so much with the last several books I've read, frustrated and disappointed in the various Young Adult trolls and angels, this one was a breath of fresh air.  I whipped through it in a smidge over two days, could not put it down, was even taking long breaks at work just so I could keep reading.

I will say though, that it was not the story I thought it would be.  The book begins way back with the birth of the kids in the Latus family.  I figured oh ok, some background to set up the story.  But when it continued to focus mainly on the growing up of the writer, Janine, I was a bit confused.  I thought this was about murdered sister Amy?  That part of the story is actually a rather small chunk of the book overall, and in the end I'm glad it wasn't what I'd originally thought it would be . . . a murder story with police records and investigation details, etc.  It's much more personal and touching, and haunting, to follow Janine's life and see Amy's life through her eyes.  And then when Amy is taken away, you feel Janine's guilt and pain of 'Did I do enough?  Did I love her enough?  Did she know I loved her?'

Janine's story is horrifying too.  Molested, raped, beaten, controlled, belittled.  Just as a mere reader, I would get so tensed up and sick to my stomach in the later years of her marriage, knowing that her crazy husband was going to fly off the handle again, worrying about how she'd get out of it this time.  At the same time you get so mad and want to scream at her to wake up and leave.  "You ARE one of those people you vow never to be!" you think over and over.

The book is quick paced, which sort of intensifies the horrors because it seems like it is bam bam bam, one strained event after another.  It also keeps to the point this way.  There is not too much dwelling on sentimental things.  I noticed there wasn't much said about several other family members and I wonder if it's because they didn't want to be involved, or if their parts overall where minimal to the stories at hand.  I do wonder how the other siblings turned out.  Were their lives average and normal and good?  Were their relationships healthy, their marriages lasting?  We see how Janine and Amy go from one crap situation to another, and we see how the roots of this probably start in the relationship with their crap father.  But we don't really know how the others turned out, and again, it may have just been their desire for privacy.

For a while, I wanted to scream at their mother just as much as I wanted to scream at them.  Just like when I read Angela's Ashes, I had a lot of hate and anger for the mom there too because I felt she didn't do enough to change or protect from situations.  People have told me I'm too harsh on poor Angela.  Yes, I realize times were different back in Angela's day and a bit later in Mrs. Latus's day.  The husband was the boss.  The wife knew her place.  Yadda yadda.  'What would you have her do?' someone had snapped at me.  I'm not sure, but obviously something more that quietly accept everything that was tossed their way.  Mrs. Latus seemed quite strong by the end though, and I liked her dignity and composure.

This book first came out in 2007.  I'm not sure why it's popping up now on the Walmart shelf, but that's where I first noticed it.  The book came out five years after Amy's death and Janine's divorce, and it's now been five more years since its release.  I find myself wondering how Janine's life has been in the past ten years.  She mentions in the final pages of the book that she's critical of men now, had dated and could see things now like the potential for jealousy or controlling.  Has she stayed single?  Is she happy?  Has she finally found a decent, loving relationship?  I hope so.

Reading this also makes me think about two different situations, two very close friends at different points in my life, each in abusive relationships.  One took her two young children and fled after only a fraction of what others suffer through.  She raised her son to know "You NEVER raise your hand to a woman!  You NEVER treat womem that way!" even when he was a child and simply fighting with his sister.  I lost touch with her eventually but I know she remarried and from all appearances seemed to have been doing great.  The other friend was not so smart, or so lucky.  She stayed in her horrid situation even when coworkers banded together and actually, physically, literally moved her and her son out of her apartment and into the safety of a family member's home.  She stayed away maybe a week or two, and then went crawling back.  Her four year old son would stand between them, trying to stand up to his shithead father, screaming as a little boy could "Don't hurt my mom!"  But it did no good.  The need for drugs and alcohol kept her there.  Many years later she eventually did leave.  I'm not sure what her breaking point was because we'd lost touch by then, but she did call me after going and snarkily announced to me, "Ha, you owe me an apology.  You said I'd never leave."  I wanted to snark back with "We'll see how long it lasts," but instead I said "Good for you.  I'm glad you finally did."  I did not apologize.  Last I heard, she was a total disaster, heavily into drugs and alcohol, in and out of jail . . . and a damaged son, doomed to repeat, already into drugs and alcohol, and already in and out of jail.

It's hard to sit on the outside and preach to the victims.  You can talk until you're blue in the face.  You can present the facts and try endlessly to open their eyes.  In the end though, they will not change things until THEY are ready.  And there is little you can do but be ready when they need you.

So while this is a sad and disturbing story, it is a good read.  Very emotional.  Very powerful.  Have YOU read this one yet?

Friday, July 27, 2012

Julep Giveaway Winner

And the winner of the Julep nail products prize package
worth over $140 . . . is . . . 

Congratulations, Ellie!!!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Rapture - Lauren Kate

Rapture
by Lauren Kate
(2012)

The sky is dark with wings. . . .

Like sand through an hourglass, time is running out for Luce and Daniel. To stop Lucifer from erasing the past, they must find the place where the angels fell to earth.


Dark forces are after them, and Daniel doesn’t know if he can do this—live only to lose Luce again and again. Yet together they face an epic battle that will end with lifeless bodies . . . and angel dust. Great sacrifices are made. Hearts are destroyed.


And suddenly Luce knows what must happen. For she was meant to be with someone other than Daniel. The curse they’ve borne has always and only been about her—and the love she cast aside. The choice she makes now is the only one that truly matters. In the fight for Luce, who will win?


The astonishing conclusion to the FALLEN series. Heaven can’t wait any longer.


*** MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS ***

I couldn't even finish this book.  The story had gotten so ridiculous to me that I was just skimming by about page 300, and plain old gave up around 390 . . . out of a 488 page book.  Yeah, I couldn't even stick with it just that much  more.  I just *hated* where the story went!  I didn't care any more about these people, about the curse, about the increasingly far fetched story.  Ok, I just noticed while paging through the end of the book that apparently the curse was not broken after all.  Hmm, well that tidbit is a little interesting to me, but everything else leading up to it was nonsense.

I know there are people who love this series.  They say it's a beautiful, epic love story.  For probably three and half of the four books I didn't feel any connection between Luce and Daniel, much less some grand, ageless love.  Too much time is spent reminding us how much they love each other, but not enough time letting them interact and showing us that love.  To have Daniel show up and hug or kiss her and have the narrative tell us yet again how their souls fit together gets old.  Too much time flying around, carrying her, and her swooning over how good it felt to be in his arms, but no real interaction.

I could just spew out all the spoilers and continue to natter on about why I hated this book, but I won't, simply because I'm sure there are more people who DO like this series.

I think what really turned it all off for me was that it became increasingly more fantasy and adventure.  You know, that's fine if the whole series is meant to be that way, but this one started out so normal . . . as in everyday common realistic life on earth.  By the end there were creatures, and no one was human anymore, and we were on Indiana Jones type quests through space and time, and we were flying through Heaven and standing in arguments between God and Lucifer, and . . . ugh.

So this was just not the series for me.  It makes me want to revisit my posts about the Hush, Hush series, and makes me look forward to the release of the final book in that one.  Where I thought I was frustrated and turned off by that series in favor of this one, I'm now seeing I very much preferred it.  And I'm definitely looking forward to starting a new book tonight, a book that is not angels or even Young Adult.  Yay!

Sweet Fixations - Large Sale Haul (Tarts)

Just last week I posted about my very first order from Sweet Fixations.  (Read that post HERE.)  I was so impressed with the few I'd gotten that when I saw she was having a sale over the weekend I went ahead and got a bunch more.  And that order arrived today.  Yay!

Lots of fall colors in there, right?  Yep, I went ahead and got those scents I've been trying to hold off on.  But even though I have them, they will still be shoved to the back of my little tart cupboard until the end of August at least.

I ordered 24 individual scallop tarts, and received four extra tarts free.  On her website, she has a thing that says if you are a YouTuber or blogger she will throw in extra goodies in return for reviews.  I sent her an email letting her know about my blog and my first post.  While she never did reply to that email, she did mention my blog in the thank you note written on the back of her business card, and I'm assuming the four extra tarts are because of that.  THANK YOU, Tia!

There is no way I'd have the patience to take pics of each individual tart and then post them all at once, so I'll just to a quick list of what I got, with the scent description from the site, and a quick first thought about each.  I'll try to do more indepth, individual posts as I melt each one.

Banana Caramel Cupcake - 'Vanilla cupcake mixed with bananas, caramel, cinnamon and topped with cream cheese frosting.'  Have had this before and LOVE it.  Sweet caramel, slight banana, and yummy cupcake.

Vanilla Bean Noel - 'Blend of buttery vanilla, cookie and caramel.'  This is a super popular Bath & Body Works scent that I'm not overly familiar with.  It's a very nice vanilla scent, almost slightly perfume-y instead of bakery.  Nice, I like it.

Cranberry Orange Spice - 'Tart cranberries, orange zests, and spiced apples.'  Ohhhh, love this one!  Very fall-like, more Halloween type than Thanksgiving type.  I don't notice the apples specifically but they do offer sweetness to the tartness of the cranberries and the zing of the orange.  It's softly spicy.

S'Mores - 'Sticky sandwich of graham crackers, toasted marshmallow, and melted chocolate. Very authentic!'  Seems everyone is all about S'mores scent, so I had to see what all the fuss was about.  This is a yummy scent.  I actually get the marshmallow scent in this, which is cool because usually marshmallow is a weak note.  I also get the chocolate and even the light graham cracker notes.  Like!

Apple Harvest - 'Apple mixed with fruity notes and touches of spice.'  Very much apple and spice, but whatever the other fruits are lend it a sort of sweet perfume type note.  Nice, but I think I prefer plain ol' cinnamon-apple type scents more.

Baked Apples - 'Baked warm spices combine with cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, fresh apple and vanilla.'  Not a heavy scent, apple-y and softly spiced, with some warm sweetness from the vanilla.

Butter Brickle Crunch - 'Vermont maple, toffee bits, and creamy butter.'  Ohhh, YUM!  Similar to that maple butterscotch something-or-other from the Walmart tarts.

Caramel - 'Rich caramel scent.'  Rather lightly scented at the moment, hope it's stronger when melted.  Basic, yummy caramel.  The color matches caramels perfectly, makes me want to bite into this one.

Chocolate Chip Cookies - 'The wonderful smell of freshly baked cookies with semi-sweet chocolate and vanilla.'  At first I thought it was just the chocolate chips scent, but then the after-notes come in and you really do get the cookie part of it.

Cranberry Marmalade - 'Spiced apples, orange zests, and tart cranberries.'  Similar to the Cranberry Orange Spice one, this one seems much more of a cranberry scent.  There is almost a wine or cider feel to this one.  I like the Cranberry Orange Spice one better.

Gingerbread - 'Richly spiced gingerbread, nutmeg, and clove with just the right hint of sweetness.'  Yummers!  This is more of a gingerbread scent, not the sweeter cookie type scent.

Graham Crackers - 'Crispy graham crackers with honey, wheat, sugar, and cinnamon.'   I probably wouldn't have even considered this one if I hadn't recently seen multiple YouTubers raving about graham scents.  It is nice, sort of sweet and 'warm,' but rather plain for me.  Maybe it will wow me when it's warm.

Hansel & Gretel's House - 'Vanilla frosting, cinnamon sticks, and toasted graham crackers with juicy raisins.'  I've had this from other vendors before and always love it.  I always thought it was just a sweet gingerbread cookie type scent until reading this particular description.  Oohhhh yeah, still love it.  It's warm and cozy and sweet, buttery and vanilla-y, and just traces of spice.  LOVE!

Harvest - 'Cinnamon bark and clove bud on a dry down of musk.'  I don't think I've ever smelled the actual Yankee scent that this is dupe of, but I'm finding I quite like this.  You'd think it would be a strong, sharp, spicy scent but it's actually quite mellow.  It's a pretty scent with some spice in it, perfect for fall.

Mulled Cider - 'Apple cider, vanilla and cinnamon. A warm and inviting aroma!'  I already have a Mulled Cider in my fall tarts stash, so I'm not sure why I ordered this one.  It's nice though, a typical apple cider scent.

Pumpkin Pie - 'A warm and scrumptious blend of pumpkin pie filling, spices, and sweet creamy vanilla.'  Of course I had to get a bunch of pumpkin scents!  This one is stronger on the pumpkin, and then the slight bakery notes from the crust sneak in behind it.  Wonderfully traditional fall scent.

Pumpkin Souffle - 'Butter, sugar, spices, vanilla cream and pumpkin.'  This is the most bakery type of the three pumpkin scents I got.  Still a great pumpkin scent.

Pumpkin Pie Spice - 'Freshly baked pie with lots of spice.'   Despite being spicier, it's sort of sweeter than the others too.

Rockin' Vanilla - 'Vanilla and hazelnut.'  Another yummalicious one!  This reminds me of the Hazelnut Cream tart I got years ago at Walmart, the one that started my whole tart addiction.  It's warm, sweet vanilla with just enough hazelnut to liven it up.  Creamy and delicious!

Spiked Eggnog - 'A yummy holiday drink with vanilla, rum, and nutmeg!'  Oh yes, the familiar rum and spice scent that makes me think of Christmas.  This is a nice, creamy version.

Sugared Spruce - 'Wonderful freshly cut spruce tree and sweet sugar crystals.'  A lot of other scents I'd consider Christmas-y were not available at the time I ordered so I just picked this, hoping for a Christmas tree scent.  This doesn't strike me as what I was looking for.  It's not like the sort of sharp-but-sweet moist, pine scent.  This is more of a slightly perfume-y Christmas tree scent.  It's nice, but not what I wanted to make me think of a twinkling tree in the living room, hehe.

Sweet Potato Pie - 'The delicious aroma of candied yams, melted marshmallows, sugar and spice on a buttery crunchy crust.'  Do yams and pumpkin smell similar?  This very much reminds me of the Pumpkin Spice one.  I like it, but I thought it would be sweeter or creamier or something.

Warm Vanilla Oak - 'Warm, rich, wood fragrance with vanilla, patchouli, raspberry,violet, and orange. A soon to be favorite.'  This one just sounded so interesting, I had to try it.  And it's very complex.  (This would make an excellent soap scent!  I'll need to look around for some!)  I'm not a big fan of patchouli, and I'm not getting a lot of that in this.  It does seem to have a sort of wood note but it's so nicely blended with the fruits and vanilla, and the floral gives it a 'pretty' factor.  This is sort of perfume-y or cologne-y.  Very interesting.

Yellow Polka Dot Bikini '(SF Blend)- Tart lemons mingle with creamy coconut.'  When I first smelled this it was like 'Eeuw, bug spray?!'  LOL!  But no, when I smelled it again I easily got both the lemon and the coconut.  This is a bright, fun, summery scent.

Freebie - Banana Zucchini Bread'(SF Blend)- Freshly baked zucchini bread and banana.'  I'm not one who is into the zucchini-everything craze in tarts.  I don't even know what zucchini smells like.  This is nice though, a yummy bread smell with slight hints of banana and something else that must be the zucchini.

Freebie - Berry Creme Brulee - 'Rich, Creamy, and Addicting. Vanilla and sugary berries with glazed caramelized topping.'  This is nice.  I get more of the sugary berries and vanilla than the caramelized topping.  It leans towards being too sweet for my liking, but it's still within 'nice' range.

Freebie - Love Spell - 'Romantic scent with light fruits, citrus, peaches, berries, and a undertone of musk.'  I'm pretty sure this is the Victoria's Secret dupe.  It's a sweet perfume scent, nice and bright and fun.

Freebie - Celtic Moonspice - 'Warm spices, cinnamon, clove, and nutmeg. Gives you that warm home and hearth feeling.'  This one is a tart that comes in the little plastic cup, not the scallop type like the rest of my order.  When I went back to the site I saw in her 'announcement' that every order from the sale would receive a free, random scent shot.  Doh!  I guess that's why I got it, and not because my blog is so awesome.  lol  Anyway, another awesome fall scent, spicy yet comforting.  Someone said this was a perfect dupe of something from B&BW or Yankee but now I can't remember what.  Hmmm.

And that is my crazy haul from my current favorite tart vendor, Sweet Fixations.  The single scallop tarts weigh right around 1 oz. (usually slightly over) and sell for $1.25 on the website.  The scent shots (in cups) are 2 oz. and sell for $1.50.  Obviously the cups are a better deal but for some reason I just don't prefer them.  I don't know why . . . they would stack nicer, and the cups are recyclable, and I'd have to cut them regardless if they are cup or scallop.  Maybe I need to order the cups next time?!  But whatever, the tarts are usually decorated, whether just with a bit of glitter or something fancier like the little pumpkin cake decoration confetti or sprinkles.  The labels are so cute, featuring a picture related to the scent.  Shipping was fast once again.  I was surprised!  Even with as busy as she was from the sale, I still got my large order five days after ordering.

Perhaps the cutest touch of all was this roll of Smarties candies she included in the package.  Too cute!!!  Ya gotta have your sweet fix, right???

If you haven't tried Sweet Fixations yet, I definitely think this shop is worth checking out.  There are still soooo many more scents I'm anxious to try, and even more fall/holiday scents when they are restocked.  Don't be surprised if there is another haul post sooner than you'd expect.  LOL!!

So what scents are YOU going to order first??

Giveaway Reminder

You still have time to enter the ginormous Julep nail products giveaway HERE on the blog.  I will be using Random.org to draw a winner tomorrow morning (Friday, July 27, 2012).

GOOD LUCK!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Front Porch Candle Co. - Tarts

Front Porch Candle Co. seems to be the wax shop that everyone is raving about at the moment.  I looked at the site, as I always do when someone mentions shops that are new to me, but had no intention of ordering for a variety of reasons.  Well obviously I caved and placed an order . . . but as you see, it was a tiny order.

I'm not sure what's going on at Front Porch but selection is iffy and limited, and the shop itself was closed the first several days I tried to order.  Maybe it's all due to an increase in business because of all the YouTubers spreading the word?  The turn around time is also a bit longer than other shops, 5-7 business days last time I checked.  I placed my order on a Thursday morning and received it the following Friday, so it was within that 5-7 days but it seemed like forever.

Well anyway, let's take a look at my micro-haul . . .

Grapes & Huckleberries - 'A sweet blend of tart ripe grapes and sour huckleberries. Wonderful fruity aroma!'  This was a funny one.  When I first opened the little baggie to sniff, I couldn't smell anything but hubby, on the other end of the couch, said "Whoooo!  That's a strong one!"  I was like, "Seriously??" and Casey, an equal distance away, also said he could smell it.  They both said it was grape, so yeah, they were smelling it.  But I smelled NOTHING?!  I can smell it now, but in those first moments I was rather freaked out.  LOL!  Anyway, yeah, it's very grape-y.  Although actually, now that I sniff it again as I write this, it seems to have morphed a bit and a more berry type note is present.  Still grape, but also more of something else now.  It's an interesting scent, fun for summer.

Cherries Jubilee Ice Cream - '(In House Blend) One of your favorite ice cream flavors in a candle. Cherries infused with rich ice cream, heavy on the cream.'  This one is really nice, sort of a cherry-vanilla type scent.  You get the cherry first and strong, but it is very nicely softened by the sweetness of the ice cream.  And this one was kind of funny too because *I* could smell it and my menfolk couldn't until I pulled it out of the baggie and waved it around.  Can't wait to melt this one.

(Funny side note - Minion does not like this one at all.  It was sitting on the desk as I wrote this, he jumped up and sniffed it, and jumped back about a foot, squinty eyed and angry looking.  LOL!)

These two scents I got might seem like odd choices but like I said, selection is iffy.  If you look at the scent descriptions list you'll find tons of amazing scents and a lot of custom blends that I would love to try, but when you get to the actual ordering area you'll find the choices are severely limited and always changing.  Shipping is always free though, so I would suggest if you see something you want, grab it immediately because it will most likely be gone next time you look.  I've heard that she does combine orders, and I've heard that people check back daily and add to their previous order, but I'm not sure if you need to send her a message about combining or what.

The tarts I got are 'Individual Grubby Tarts' and cost $1.75 each.  At first I thought this was high for one little tart, but when you figure that shipping is always free . . . it works out in the end.  They weigh 1 oz. each.  I will melt the whole thing because I like strong scents, and because I don't like messing around with cutting tarts, but I think just half a tart would be fine for smaller areas or if you like lighter scents.  They really are cute, and I like the way are packaged.  I just hope she can get settled into her business so availability is more steady and reliable.  Maybe once the rush has worn off from all the new fans from YouTube, things will even out for her.  I know what it's like to be a one woman show who also works full-time outside the home, from back in my soap making/selling days.

There were no little extras in my order . . . no samples, no business card, not even a 'Thank you' scribbled onto the invoice.  That makes things seem a little 'cold,' but again, I'm hoping it's because she's crazy busy and will settle in time.  I will melt these two that I have, and if the scent/throw is decent enough I will keep my eye on this shop to possibly nab some fall/holiday scents.

Have YOU tried Front Porch Candle Co.?  I'd love to hear about it!

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Don't forget to enter my July giveaway . . . HERE!
Your chance to win a Julep nail polish prize package worth
over $140
is just a simple comment-entry away!






Saturday, July 21, 2012

Sweet Fixations Tart - SALE!


My newly discovered favorite tart shop, Sweet Fixations, is having a weekend sale.  Use the code sweetsavings to receive 20% off your order.  Sale ends July 22/midnight.  Hurry!

I just recently posted about my very first order from this shop and so far I'm loving everything about them.  I took advantage of this sale and just placed a fairly large order.  I will definitely be posting about it when it arrives!  I tried to stock up on fall/holiday scents but there weren't as many available yet as I was hoping there would be.

So hurry over and check out Sweet Fixations.  Even if you're not sure, now would be a great time to place even a small order just to try them.  And let me know what you got!  :)

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~
Don't forget to enter my July giveaway . . . HERE!
Your chance to win a Julep nail polish prize package worth
over $140
is just a simple comment-entry away!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Cozy Moments - Tarts

I've looked at the Cozy Moments shop on Etsy many times before, but always as a bath and body shop.  Imagine my surprise when browsing online for tart shops led me back to this one?!  I don't think I ever noticed she had tarts, or maybe they're just new since the last time I looked.  *shrugs*  I'm not quite sure what made me decide to order since I don't prefer tarts that come in cups, and because I can find cheaper tarts of the same type . . . but hey, she offers single tarts, which I've been looking for, so I went for it and placed a tiny order.

Warm Maple Syrup - 'The lip-smacking sweet smell of rich maple syrup with hints of rum and vanilla.'  There is not an overwhelming scent selection but then again, this is not primarily a tart shop.  There are enough to have fun trying to choose though, and almost all of them sound like scents I'd like to try.  Of course I started out with one of my favorite scents . . . maple.  Mmmmm!  And yep, this one is a yummy maple syrup scent, not too overly sugar-sweet.  Very nice!

Maple Sugared Snickerdoodle Cupcakes - 'The scrumptious aroma of fresh from the oven snickerdoodle cupcakes frosted with a creamy sweet vanilla and rich maple icing then sprinkled with cinnamon sugar crystals.'  This one sounded all around super yummalicious, so of course I had to get it.  I mainly get cupcake from this scent.  There is a slight maple-vanilla sweetness, and the faintest hint of spice, but from the cold throw I think it is just nice, mellow bakery scent.

Frosted Pumpkin - 'A warm, delicious recipe of pumpkin, spices, honey and maple topped with sugary vanilla frosting.'  I've been avoiding fall scents until we're closer to the end of summer, but for whatever reason I went and ordered this one.  This is sort of a bright, sweet pumpkin scent.  It's not like the warmer, cozier types I'm familiar with, like Pumpkin Spice.  I still like this though because I'm such a sucker for all things fall.

Sugar Corn Pudding - I don't see this one listed in the shop, but I received it as a freebie and was very excited about that.  It's a softly sweet bakery scent.  Knowing that it's corn pudding, I do get a bit of a corn note, but it's warm, like a cornbread or something.  It kinda reminds me of Mom busy in the kitchen on Thanksgiving morning.  I like it.

These are 2 oz. tarts and sell for $2.75 in the Cozy Moments shop.  They are not super strongly scented but I think I can still get away with melting only a half at a time to get a strong enough throw.  Shipping was really quick . . . ordered Thursday night, and received it in Monday morning's mail.  And that extra tart was a greatly appreciated treat.  Thank you!

Are YOU familiar with Cozy Moments, whether it be tarts or bath and body?  I've looked at the lotions and things so many times I might have to finally give in and try some!

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~
Don't forget to enter my July giveaway . . . HERE!
Your chance to win a Julep nail polish prize package worth
over $140
is just a simple comment-entry away!

Sweet Fixations Tarts

Sweet Fixations is a tart shop I found out about from watching haul videos on YouTube.  I thought I was content with the couple of tart sources I've been using, and price really is a huge factor for me when it comes to this.  Very recently though, I've been bored . . . and boredom is dangerous for me because I tend to browse and then 'Ah what the heck'-shop online.  Lately I've also been frustrated that it seems like most shops do not sell just single tarts.  If I'm trying out a new shop, or a new scent, I don't want to have to commit to a big package.  What if it's weak?  What if I just hate the scent?  It's not like going to Walmart and being able to actually sniff the tarts and have an idea how strongly scented they are.

So anyway, I had looked at the Sweet Fixations site several times before it all smacked me in the face . . . custom blends, comparable prices, and single tarts available!  And in my heatwave induced coma of boredom I decided to go for it, and placed a tiny order just to see what these tarts would be like.

Banana Caramel Cupcake - 'Vanilla cupcake mixed with bananas, caramel, cinnamon and topped with cream cheese frosting.'  When I saw this one in the scent list I just knew I had to have it.  This was my absolute favorite scent from one of my favorite shops, but I haven't had it for a while.  I don't think they're quite the same, there is more banana in this one, but it still smells soooo yummy.  Can't wait to melt this one!

Blue Hawaii - 'Tropical fruity drink with juicy orange, pineapple, lemon,cherries, rum and coconut.'  I wanted something summery, and one of the videos I'd watched had this one so I took a chance.  Hubby likes to smell the tarts without knowing what they are first, just to see if he can identify them.  His immediate reaction to this one was 'There's coconut in there!'  (He's not fond of coconut, the food OR the scent.)  I mainly get the coconut and the rum when I sniff this one.  There is a sort of cherry/almond-y note in there, and the mix of fruits is subtle and not individually detectable.  I like it but it might run along the 'too sweet' lines.

Pink Cherries - '(SF Blend)- One of my faves! Pink Sugar and Cherries!'  I also received some freebies, which is always super exciting to me.  This one was so funny because I'm pretty sure I had this in my 'cart' at one point and then removed it before finally placing the order.  I don't know if she can see that, or if it's just coincidence but I'm happy to have gotten this!  It's an interesting one, definitely Pink Sugar, and then an extra bit of candy-like sweetness from the cherry.  I like it, but then I'm a Pink Sugar fan and I know a lot of people really don't like it.  This is a sweet perfume-y scent.

Lime Frosting'(SF Blend)- Vanilla lime and creamy frosting.'  This was another freebie, and is a smaller size, probably normally part of a multi-pack.  There is a sort of fizzy note to this, which is funny because nothing about the description would indicate there is fizziness involved.  It's much heavier on the lime than anything else, but there is a soft sweetness in the background.  It reminds me of Kool Aid or Jello.  This is a nice, bright and fun scent for summer.

Sweet Fixations has several styles of tarts to choose from.  The single scallop tarts I ordered weigh right around one ounce and cost $1.25 each.  Sniffing the ones I got, I'm pretty sure that melting just half at a time will give me a strong enough scent.  I'm thrilled with that, if it works.  Shipping was super fast!  I ordered on Friday afternoon and my package arrived in Monday morning's mail.  That is awesome!  The shipping envelope had some cute stickers on it, which is always a fun extra little touch.  And the extra tarts were a very pleasant bonus. 

Thank you, Sweet Fixations!  I'm quite sure I'll be ordering again, and am super anxious to see what fall/holiday scents will be coming!

Have YOU tried Sweet Fixations yet?

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Don't forget to enter my July giveaway . . . HERE!
Your chance to win a Julep nail polish prize package worth
over $140
is just a simple comment-entry away!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Passion - Lauren Kate

Passion
by Lauren Kate
(2011)

What if you find your soul mate . . . at the wrong time?

Luce would die for Daniel.

And she has. Over and over again. Throughout time, Luce and Daniel have found each other, only to be painfully torn apart: Luce dead, Daniel left broken and alone. But perhaps it doesn’t need to be that way. . . .

Luce is certain that something—or someone—in a past life can help her in her present one. So she begins the most important journey of this lifetime . . . going back eternities to witness firsthand her romances with Daniel . . . and finally unlock the key to making their love last.

Cam and the legions of angels and Outcasts are desperate to catch Luce, but none are as frantic as Daniel. He chases Luce through their shared pasts, terrified of what might happen if she rewrites history.

Because their romance for the ages could go up in flames . . . forever.

Sweeping across centuries, PASSION is the third novel in the unforgettably epic FALLEN series.


*** MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS ***

Ok, I'm obviously just not getting something in this series.  I liked the first book.  I couldn't decide if I was just frustrated by the second book or if I really hated it.  And now I've finished the third and, well, I just don't see how so many people can be so in love with this series.  I must be looking too hard or expecting too much.

In the first two books, we learned about the relationship between Luce and Daniel.  She is a human girl.  He is an ageless fallen angel.  Their relationship has been cursed for some reason . . . they will meet and fall in love, and she will die only to be reincarnated and have the cycle begin again.  We only know a little bit about all that from the story so far, and added to that is a mix of good angels and bad angels and a group called Outcasts, and the vague bits of information about how everyone is after Luce now but we really don't know why.  And then there are those stupid shadow 'Announcers' that seem to be whatever the author needs them to be at any given time.  And by the end of the second book we've been given tons of snippets of information about things the seem to be important, but nothing is ever fully explained or taken care of.

The end of the second book had an angry and frustrated Luce escaping the chaos by stepping into an Announcer, determined to find some answers in her past lives.  The third book begins with her trying to do just that.  She is dumped in the 1941 version of her life, in Moscow.  This could be interesting!  Right??  Nope, this book was doomed from the start for me when it became time travel that she could actively take part in.  Let me just say, I *hate* time travel.  It is one of those things where you can pretty much make up your own rules as you go, and I've found over the last few years that I need set rules and boundaries.  I need things to make sense and be explainable and complete.  So when Luce pops back to 1941 and actually interacts with her family . . . ha, nope, you've lost me already.

But ok, whatever, I'll just try to enjoy each little mini story as she hops farther and farther back, visiting a variety of her previous lives.  Except . . . there's nothing gained, nothing learned in these adventures.  Isn't she supposed to be looking for a way to break the curse?  Isn't she looking for the beginning of it all?  Then why are we just given sad story after sad story, and have to sit through her endless realizations of how much she loves and always loved Daniel.  And ooooohhhhhhhh he loves her too.  Aaawwwwwww.  Except, hello, we already knew that.  I thought she was looking for information, for a solution?!

So not only is Luce hopping from past life to past life, but we find that Daniel is too.  He set off on his journey to find her and bring her back to the present before she inadvertently does any damage in the past.  He keeps showing up one step behind her though.  What?  Why?  So the book hops from her side of things in one chapter, to his side of things in the next chapter.  We're told that the Announcers take you to a place you 'need' to go, not always where you 'want' to go.  This would mean that each of the stops on this adventure should have some point, some reason for bringing them to these particular places in time.  Luce just sees over and over again 'Oooohhhhh, we really DO love each other!' and Daniel just sees some after effect of her death.  I don't see either one of them ever gaining any knowledge from anything.

The past lives got to be ridiculous after a while too.  At first she was just a simple girl in war torn Moscow, but as the book went on it was far fetched things like being a friend of Shakespeare, or posing as the last Shang ruler, or being a Mayan sacrifice, or crazy things like that.  Daniel was always the hero of the day.  It got old fast.  And it was all very confusing.  Rules were bent or rewritten along the way . . . the typical inconsistencies I've complained about before.

And in the end I *still* don't understand what any of it proved.  It seemed like a book of fluff, of filler, to try and drag a story out.  Nothing important was learned to advance the story.  The big exciting scene where Daniel supposedly realized 'Aha, this is where I can change everything!' was so cheesy and lame  Really?  The 'conditions' that were placed on the revised curse were ridiculous.

I just. don't. get. it.

Parts of this third book, I liked.  Small bits were fabulous, like Daniel sleeping for days at one of Luce's graves.  Those bits should have been the focus, should have been built upon to make what could have been a good, emotional journey.  But the way this book is written is just a waste.  Lame, confusing bits strung together to advance a possibly good story that's bogged down with too many things left unexplained.  And the weird thing is, I feel *BAD* about just not understanding the thrill of it all.  I will read the fourth/final book because I bought it, but I'm not even excited about it.  I really don't care anymore, and that's sad because there IS a potentially good story lurking in all this.
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Don't forget to enter my July giveaway . . . HERE!
Your chance to win a Julep nail polish prize package worth
over $140
is just a simple comment-entry away!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Christmas In July - HUGE Giveaway! [CLOSED]

Back at the beginning of the year I'd had such big plans for this blog.  One of the things I'd been excited about was doing a small giveaway each month.  I'd thought that by changing up the prize category each month it would be more fun, more interesting, maybe draw in a few more people.  Sadly, no . . . interest seemed to fade more each month, to the point I'd decided to just quite doing giveaways.

Recently though, more and more people that I 'follow' have shown new interest in nail polish, and that got me thinking about a large prize package I've been holding onto, one that I wasn't sure what to do with anymore.  But now I think I"m just going to go for it . . .

Yes, that's a bunch of Julep products you see!  Back when I'd been trying Birchbox and Eco-Emi and looking for other monthly subscription boxes, I kept hearing about Julep Maven.  This one wasn't really a beauty subscription in the way of makeup and skin care and whatnot.  This one was dedicated to manicures and pedicures.  You get something like two nail polishes plus some other mani or pedi product every month.  I thought 'Hmm, well maybe if I had these fun things coming to me I'd be more inspired to really try using them.'  And since the first box only costs one penny . . . yes, ONE CENT . . . I figured it wouldn't hurt to try at least that first box.  Shortly after getting that one, there was an offer on a special St. Patrick's Day box where you paid $19.99 and your mystery box could be worth anywhere from something like $20 to over $100, or something like that.  I figured I'd go for it.  (My box was just a common, lower end range one. Bummer.)

And surprise, surprise!  I still couldn't get into wearing nail polish.  I have NOT used any of these products, by the way.  I put them off to the side and tried to force the new habit by using the few drugstore cheapies I already had.  When it became apparent that painting nails was just not for me, I wasn't too worried because I knew I had a really nice prize package now.  And it's all just been sitting since then.

But not anymore!

The lucky winner will receive everything you see in the picture above.  I'll even give you a closer look . . .

There are five bottles of polish, and one bottle of basecoat.  From left to right, they are:
  • Rachel - 'Warm rich copper shimmer.'
  • Charlotte - 'Demure lavender creme'
  • Sofia - 'Sheer spring green with a flash of aqua iridescent glitter.'
  • basecoat
  • Brooke - 'Sheer shimmery purple.'
  • Jennifer - ' Beautiful, sheer creme polish with just a hint of pink.'  

There is a full size tube of Julep glycolic hand scrub, as well as a travel size duo of the glycolic hand scrub and age defying hand brightener.


And there is a crystal nail file, and an emery board.

Bought separately from the Julep website, these items total over $144!  That's a pretty nice little prize for some lucky nail polish enthusiast out there!

I'm going to leave this contest open a bit longer than my usual giveaways, and I need to limit it to the US only because of shipping costs . . . but entering will still be just as easy as always.  Simply leave a comment below telling me one tip for great looking nails.

This giveaway will be open until the morning of Friday, July 27.  I will use Random.org to select one winner from all of the eligible comments.  Please be sure I have a way to contact you if you are chosen the winner! 

GOOD LUCK!!!!

Cravebox - July 2012

My second Cravebox arrived today.  WOOT!!  I've been good and did not look online to see what was coming in this box.  They don't actually tell you but they do give clues, and some people receive them a bit earlier than others.  I think it's more fun to be surprised.

This month's box is Summer BBQ themed.  The info card was there on top of a patriotic mix of red, white, and blue crinkle paper.  Summery indeed.  I hate summer, but I have to admit, this was a fun start to the box.

And these were the goodies inside the box.  Let's take a closer look, shall we?

There is a bag of Mighty Leaf iced tea in Sunburst Green Tea flavor, and a coupon for $1.75 off a box.  I've never heard of Mighty Leaf, or just haven't paid attention because I'm not a tea drinker, but it looks like there are four different flavors.  It's been so dang hot here lately that I might actually make up this pitcher of iced tea.

There is also a coupon for a free Bic multi-purpose lighter.  This is awesome because I use this type of lighter for my tea light tart warmers.

I'm excited about this!  It's a box of lemonade, in those single serve packets that you can just dump into a bottle of water and shake up.  I usually avoid these types of things because they are nothing but artificial sweeteners and chemicals.  I work in a fruit juice factory . . . I see what goes into Kraft/Crystal Light mixes.  But this one is 100% natural, and has a very short list of ingredients.  And I love lemonade.  The brand must be True Lemon . . . ?  I've never heard of this.  Haven't seen it either, but again, I usually don't pay attention to these types of mixes.  I'll have to look into this one more, see if they have other flavors.

This was an interesting little package to pull out of the box.  It is a 48 piece appetizer set from Mozaik.  There are 12 of the white, and 12 clear little plastic plates, and 24 tiny little forks.  The plates are only about two inches, and the forks are rather lightweight plastic.  These would have been cute to have at Casey's graduation party . . . put some olives or little pickles or a spoonful of dip or something on them.  We rarely entertain though, so I'm not sure what I'll do with these now.  I'll probably pass them on to someone who can use them.

And finally, this Flame Disk from Bic.  It is a single use tray thing that you use in your grill instead of charcoal.  Apparently you just light one of the holes and it lights the rest of itself and heats up just like charcoal, but without the hassle.

And when you're done and it's cooled, you just toss the whole thing out . . . no mess, no cleanup.  Hubby will be interested in this since he likes to grill.

So, this Summer BBQ box was quite fun.  If you're not familiar with Cravebox it is a monthly subscription box that has a wide range of product areas.  Where some monthly services are beauty based, this is more of an everyday living based type thing.  I think it's $10 a month, and the things your get are often full sized products so you are getting more than your money's worth.  And you never know what you're going to get!  This is my second box and I've enjoyed them both.  I can't wait to see what types of things will be in the fall and holiday boxes!

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Petals Bath Boutique - July Haul

I placed a small order from Petals Bath Boutique recently because soapmaker Kia had run a month long contest on YouTube, asking for viewer suggestions, and I wanted to get some of these possibly limited edition soaps.  I'd wanted to buy many more of the contest items, but I controlled that urge.  Hehe!


I'd submitted two suggestions/contest entries and this was the one she decided to make.  You might remember in my previous order I'd fallen in love with the Honey Mint Vanilla scent of that sugar scrub I'd bought.  For the contest I suggested she make soap and each of her other products in that scent.  This is the soap she came up with.  The sugar scrub version was a very pretty pastel greenish-yellow, so I'd automatically envisioned a similar soap . . . pastel colors, maybe yellow and green and white.  I'd forgotten that the vanilla content in the fragrance oils would turn the soap brown though.  Kia wanted a design to avoid that so she did bolder green and black swirls.  This is a cool looking bar, but reminds me of mint chocolate, and just doesn't seem to match the soft sweetness of the name or the pastel of the scrub. 

Oh well!  The scent is still divine!  I think she said she tweaked it a bit for the soap but it still smells amazing to me.  Described as 'Crisp and invigorating Peppermint tempered with sweet notes of golden Honey and creamy Vanilla,' this is a sweet mint scent.  I think this soap is a little stronger and sharper on the mint than the scrub was, but it's still softened nicely by the vanilla and honey.  It reminds me of the popular Jack Frost scent, but then, anything vanilla-mint reminds me of Jack Frost.  lol

So even though this was my contest entry and I was excited to buy it, this is NOT what had me most excited to order.  Ohhh no no noooo . . .


Snow White and the Huntsman!  Look at those!  How freakin' cool is that?!  A mom had entered a suggestion for a Snow White soap, and her daughter suggested a Huntsman soap.  So Kia did one for each.  I'm anxious to see this movie and have been wanting to buy the book every time I'm at Walmart, so this was just right up my dorky alley of geekiness.

Snow White is described as 'Fluffy Almond Icing "poisoned" with subtle hints of Red Apples and Oak'  I think the base of the scent is a dupe for Lush's Snowcake, and she added to it to come up with something Snow White-y.  I don't really smell apple in it at the moment but maybe that's in the chunks on top, and maybe the scent will bloom in the shower.  I do get a nice sort of softly sweet wood scent.  The bar itself is so gorgeous though . . . white for snow, obviously, and red swirl for blood.  The chunks on top might be to symbolize the poisoned apple, or just apple and darkness.  I don't know for sure, but I love themed soaps like this!

And the partner soap, Huntsman.  While the *look* of the Snow White bar is gorgeous, the *scent* of this one is amazing!  Described as 'A dark and haunting blend of spicy apples with rustic woodsy notes of sandalwood, oak and cedarwood,' this is an awesome autumn scent.  I don't know if she custom blended this one, and I don't think it was intended as a fall scent but with it sitting here on the desk while I write, that's all I can think of . . . fall, fall, fall.  You definitely get the apple notes in this one, and some spice, and it quickly blends with the wood notes.  Awesome, almost manly scent.  My menfolk sure did like it when I was showing them.  The white again symbolizes the snow, the dark greenish-gray is the woods, and the red chunks are the apple.  Love it! 

It looks like both of these are sold out already.  I don't know if she'll make them again or if it was a one-time thing just for the contest.  That's a bummer, but I hope she does more themed things like this in the future.  Maybe I can get her to do a Hobbit soap, since that movie is FINALLY coming out later this year.  Woot!

As always, there were generous samples with my order.  This is her Oats N Honey soap.  This is not like the popular, sweet Oatmeal, Milk & Honey scent that I am so in love with.  Kia's is a warmer, less sweet, more bakery type scent.  It reminds me of her Cluricaun soap.

Tiggy's Pirates is a soap that used to be made my FuturePrimitive's master soapmaker Tiggy, but it gave her headaches to make it and she passed the formula and the secrets to Kia because it was Kia's favorite.  Described as 'Gusts of Oceanic winds billowing across High Seas. Dark Cedarwood, Sandalwood & rare Musk smuggled amongst Marram grass fresh from the dunes,' it is not a type of scent I would go for, and it's hard to describe.

Finally, probably her most famous soap, this is the ever popular Cider Barrel.  Described as 'A delicious plethora of juicy Apples simmered to perfection with spicy notes of Cinnamon, Cloves and Brown Sugar,' this is another fabulous fall scent.  I've had samples of this one before but have yet to buy a full bar.  This is a custom blend scent that Kia has come up with and tweaked over the years.  I think she said this year's version is back to what her original was because that had been her favorite.  It's not overwhelmingly apple, like you might expect, and it's not a really 'sharp' spiciness.  I think that brown sugar is really toning it down and blending it all together nicely.  Always fun to get a piece of this one!

Petals Bath Boutique is going through some changes right now.  She has opened her own website and will be trying to phase away from Etsy.  She will eventually have most of her products available on her website, and only a few listed in the Etsy shop, just enough for people browsing Etsy to still find her.  As I write this post though, it looks like Etsy is still the main source, so I will link to both . . .

Petals Bath Boutique on . . . ETSY
Petals Bath Boutique on . . . WEBSITE


If you haven't tried Petals Bath Boutique yet, what on earth are you waiting for??  There are several other products besides handcrafted soaps.  There are also bath bombs, bubble bars, lotions, scrubs, and perfume oils.  Shipping is fast, customer service is fabulous, and the products are amazing. 

Let me know what you bought!  :)

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Torment - Lauren Kate

Torment
by Lauren Kate
(2010)
Hell on earth.

That’s what it’s like for Luce to be apart from her fallen angel boyfriend, Daniel.


It took them an eternity to find one another, but now he has told her he must go away. Just long enough to hunt down the Outcasts—immortals who want to kill Luce. Daniel hides Luce at Shoreline, a school on the rocky California coast with unusually gifted students: Nephilim, the offspring of fallen angels and humans.

At Shoreline, Luce learns what the Shadows are, and how she can use them as windows to her previous lives. Yet the more Luce learns, the more she suspects that Daniel hasn’t told her everything. He’s hiding something—something dangerous.


What if Daniel’s version of the past isn’t actually true? What if Luce is really meant to be with someone else?

The second novel in the addictive FALLEN series . . . where love never dies.


*** MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS ***

I liked the first book in this series.  Didn't love it like I'd hoped I would, but liked it enough that I dove right into the second book.  Finished the second book last night and  . . . I'm starting to think the young adult genre is not for me after all.  I would almost say I hated this book, but a lot of the things that bothered me are things I"m finding popping up in my gripe list from other books too.

Ok, in the first book we met Luce and a cast of characters at the reform school she'd been sent to as punishment for a crime she can't remember much about.  There we also met Daniel, who Luce was strangely attracted to, and we eventually learned they have known each other time and time again through previous lives.  Well, through Luce's previous lives anyway, because Daniel is a fallen angel, ancient and ageless, and has lived to see her die time and time again.  Sounds like a potentially fabulous story!  And while they don't go into too much detail of the past in the first book, you're kind of ok with it because you're thinking they'll get back around to it in the second book . . . that the first is for getting the basics all set up or something.  You're somewhat ok with all the unanswered questions and things unexplained in the first book because you're sure they'll be addressed in the second book.  Only then you find that no, the second book only piles loads more unanswered and unexplained things on top of everything else.

So in the first, when Daniel eventually shares some of the truth with Luce, she's kinda having a hard time taking it all in.  Then there is that big angel battle and Luce is whisked away to a secret hiding spot for safe keeping.  And that's where the first book leaves off.

The second picks up with Daniel moving Luce to a new school clear across the country, and the book takes a sort of Harry Potter turn.  Why were there so many angels at her former reform school?  We don't know.  And now she's placed in a ritzy school with a large population of Nephilim kids.  What?  Really?  Why?  So there is more magic happening in this book, what with Daniel flying Luce all over to share special moments, and the many other kids showing their different powers at one point or another.  Yeah, I didn't like it.

The 'shadows,' or 'Announcers' as we now know they are called, are a huge part of this book and I thought that was all stupid too.  What freakin' purpose do these things serve???  Apparently they are whatever you need whenever you need it because ooohhhhhhh, we could glimpse random history in the beginning, then we could glimpse what we hoped for, then we could actually step through them and travel to other places, and oh let's not forget they can save our lives too when we're about to fall off a ledge.  We're told over and over how they are soooooooo dangerous if you don't know what you're doing, yet the two main teachers bring one to class for no reason and show the kids how they can be used to glimpse the past.  And then we see anyone and everyone having knowledge of them and using them left and right.  They are not at all consistent and it seems the author is just using them as whatever is convenient.

Ok, so Luce is being hidden at this school.  Why?  For her safety is what we're told over and over.  Safety from what?  The Outcasts?  Oh, ok.  We see very little threat of them except for a couple oddball encounters, and then in the big battle (again) at the end.  I feel Luce's pain in this part of things . . . 'Explain something to me!' is sort of what she's fighting for all along and she keeps coming up the same blank spaces we are.  It got old already in the first book to hear that she can't be told the truth because she'll die.  What?  I thought when Daniel kissed her she died?  Neither one makes sense, but I wish there was some consistency here too.  And it's just plain stupid and annoying to constantly hear 'I can't tell you,' or 'It's not for you to worry about,' or whatever cop-out it's going to be this time.

Anyway, we still don't know why Luce is sooooo freakin' important that the angels and demons would need to call a truce and battle other forces together to keep her safe.  It was mentioned in the first book that the difference in her current reincarnated life is that her parents had never had her baptized this time, so if she dies this time it's for good, forever.  Ok, that's interesting.  But it does not explain why everyone wants her now and is a threat to her now.  Oooooh, it has something to do with Daniel but oooooooh, we have to wait and be patient while tiny hints are tossed to us along the way.  So far none of it makes any sense.  Luce has been trying to figure this out but of course is getting nowhere on it.  Why would some high ranking angel fall for a teenage mortal girl, so much that he's cast from his place in Heaven and cursed to watch her die over and over again whenever they meet and fall in love?  What is so important about Daniel that the fate of the whole world revolves around whether he can save Luce or not?  If she dies for good this time, he'll side with the demons and the world will explode?  Wow, that's some sway he's got.  But why????  We are given nothing to help us understand.  And it got old a long time ago.

I felt absolutely no bond between Luce and Daniel in this book.  The one good thing in this one was that Luce really starts to question her relationship with him this time around.  She is angry at him for the fact that it's his curse that . . . lifetime after lifetime . . . Luce must die, and her families must suffer.  She is so frustrated that he won't tell her anything, and she's fed up with hearing that she "can't" know the truth or the histories.  And I really do feel for her on those parts.  She questions whether she even wants to be with Daniel this time around.  She's having a normal boy-meets-girl relationship with Miles during all this and she's amazed by how easy it is, how normal, and fun and fulfilling it is.  It just adds to her anger and doubts about Daniel.  THIS part of the story is fabulous.  If the whole book could have focused more on this, it would have been awesome.  But no, for whatever reason, the author keeps throwing in that of course Luce loves Daniel with all her heart, that they were meant to be together, that no one knows her better and blah blah sappy blahbitty blah.  One of the other, lady.  One or the other.

There are all these little arguments that Daniel has been working tirelessly during these couple weeks to keep Luce safe.  Really?  Doing what?  Because we never hear about any of that.  We're just supposed to accept that oohhhh he's on a very important, time consuming mission.  Seems to me all the other little minions are doing the work and risking lives for Luce in his absence.  What does he hope to accomplish in this 18 Day Truce anyway?  We don't know.  We're never told.  Seems like it would have been a whole lot easier (and more interesting) to just keep her with you, where you KNEW she was safe because she wouldn't be running all over, and because the mystery threat isn't after you anyway, Daniel.

So yeah, there is another big battle at the end, and Luce is conveniently whisked away again so none of the loose ends need to be tied up in this one either.  So uh, what will her parents say when they return from walking the dog to find the yard and many things destroyed?  How will those who stayed behind explain that?  I guess we're just not supposed to worry about that, huh, because the story ends with the other angels telling Daniel "We'll take care of it."  And now Daniel needs to go on a search for Luce.  Why?  Because he just wants her back?  Because he just can't live without her?  Because he's afraid of what she'll see in the past?  Or because she's actually in danger?  Who freakin' knows??

Still, I bought the entire series because I had such high hopes, so I will continue reading but I have little to no hope that things will get better.

Huge bummer.

Goat Milk Stuff Mini-Haul

It's been a long time since I've ordered from Goat Milk Stuff.  They were my introduction to the amazing world of handcrafted soaps, and they have remained my sentimental favorite because of it.  I strayed away from them when I started discovering just how many other small vendors are out there.  I also strayed away because for a while their prices (both products and shipping) were high, but they finally changed their shipping policies a bit and now most other vendors have raised their prices, so really Goat Milk Stuff fits right back in.  But then there is the fact that they use tallow, which had me shying away for a while after I'd realized just what 'natural fats' meant.  Like urea, which is fine and common, tallow also kinda makes me go 'Eeuuw.'  But whatever, I'm starting to come back around to 'If I like it, I'll use it and stop worrying so much about it.'

Having said that, it wasn't even the soap that made place this order.  LOL

Goat Milk Stuff is good about sending 'We Miss You!' offers in email if you haven't ordered for a long time.  I had gotten one last week for 20% off my order, and since I'd been thinking about ordering more of their lip balms, I decided this was a good time get them.  While browsing the site, I decided to go ahead and get a bar of soap even though I certainly don't need it.  I saw they have 'travel bars' now, so I got one of those just to see how big they are.  And then you are always allowed to pick three samples with your order.

So let's see what I got in my little mini-haul . . .

Oatmeal, Milk & Honey - Ah yes, the soap that started it all for me.  There is something slightly different about their Oatmeal, Milk & Honey scent than others I have had.  Maybe it's that tallow?  Maybe it just triggers sooooo many memories and feelings of how exciting it was back then to discover handmade soap and Etsy and all the crazy days that followed.  It's the same sweet, homey scent but there is a sort of soapy or perfumey note to it that makes it GMS unique.  Love it!

These are big, chunky bars.  My sister referred to them as bricks at one point.  The full bars are 5+ oz., come in a cute muslin bag, and sell for $6.00 on the website.  They also have half bars for $3.70/bagged or $3.20/no bag.

Harvest - 'Bright and spicy, this orange highlighted soap is scented exclusively with essential oils. Hints of clove and anise combine with splashes of citrus to create a cornucopia to remind you of Autumn all year round.'  This is one of their 'travel bars.'  I was curious about just how big they really were, and I was also curious about this scent.  Since it's a fall scent, I wanted it, but I didn't want a full bar of it because I know all my other favorite vendors will be rolling out their fall scents soon.

First, this is smaller than I expected but I don't know why I expected more.  It says on the site that these are about 1/6 of a regular bar, so yeah, common sense should tell me to imagine the full bar sliced into six little pieces.  LOL  But anyway, this one weighs .7 oz and they come unlabelled.  They sell for $1.50.

It is a very light scent.  I'm barely getting anything when I sniff it, and even scratching into it doesn't bring out much more scent.  It doesn't remind me of fall at all, but again I just can't really smell anything to be able to tell what it's like.  Guess we'll have to wait until it's used.  Glad I didn't get a full bar, and I won't get this size again.

The three samples I chose are (left to right) . . .
Cranberry Spice - 'This is a great scent that is light on the cranberry and heavy on the spice. There is cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves in a red tinted bar. If you sniff very carefully, you may also be able to detect a hint of orange peel.'  I've had this scent before in a full size bar and loved it.  Although they offer it year-round, it's definitely a fall scent to me.  I just wanted a little sniffer piece to remind of fall during out current apocalyptic heatwave.
Ginger Lime - 'It's cool, it's tangy, it's calling your nose for another sniff. You can't resist so you bring it to your nose and... zing! It's as wonderful as you thought it was. Ginger lime is a favorite with noses everywhere.'   I've had this in a full bar too, but gave it to my sister.  It always sounds so interesting though, and I wanted to have this little sniffer piece to remind myself just what it smells like.  Might have to get another full one of this.
Pomegranate Lemonade - There is no scent description for this one and since it's one of their newer soaps I just wanted to get an idea of what it's like.  It's lightly scented, and sort of candy sweet.

And the whole reason I ordered . . . lip balms.  I had tried one quite some time ago and absolutely loved it, but that was back when their shipping was so high and I was not about to pay a ton of shipping for just some tubes of lip balm if I wasn't also ordering soap.  Lately though, I've been so frustrated by just about every balm I've tried that I'd been thinking more and more that I just need to go back and order more of these.  And then -ding!- that email with the discount code showed up.  Woot!  At first I was going to order a bunch of them, really stock up.  Then I thought 'No, wait.  What if they're not as good as I remember?'  So I held myself back and only got two for now.  One is Vanilla, and the other is Black Cherry.  Right now they are very soft because of our heatwave, so they want to spread on a bit mooshier than usual, but they're still awesome.  It's a light consistency but good coverage.  You don't have to mash your lips while trying to run layer upon layer of hard wax on them.  You also don't feel like you've just gobbed Vaseline all over your lips.  They're not overly scented either.  I have the Black Cherry one at the moment and while I can lightly smell it if I pay attention to it, in general I don't notice it.  Very nice.  And at $3.00 a tube, these are very comparable to even brands like Burt's Bees (my second fave at the moment).

Goat Milk Stuff is a family business based in Indiana.  They have eight children, and each of them had a job within the business . . . even the littlest girls had simple jobs like putting the soaps in the bags when they were just toddlers.  Some of the kids even have their own product projects.  I think oldest daughter Brett is the one who started and continues to make/oversee the lip balms.

There are several products available on the website.  Goat milk soap is the main part of their business (yes, they have their own goats) but they also have liquid soaps, laundry soaps, solid lotions, handmade washcloths, air fresheners, candles and more.  They have been on the Today show and in Oprah's magazine, as well as countless other interviews and articles.  While still a family, homemade business, they are not you're typical mix-a-batch-in-the-kitchen Etsy shop anymore. 

Have you tried Goat Milk Stuff yet?