Friday, May 26, 2017

After A Fashion by Jen Turano Book Review

After A Fashion, by Jen Turano, is book one in the A Class All Their Own series.  The series is three books long, and they are all re-tellings.  Book two is a Mary Poppins/The Sound of Music re-telling and book three is a Phantom of The Opera re-do.  This one is My Fair Lady/Pygmalion, with it's own thing of course (and the redo is really just of one story, because as you may, or may not, know My Fair Lady is a film version of the play Pygmalion, so they are really the same thing).

The Plot is about a girl and a boy (because it is a Romance).  Miss Harriet Peabody is the girl.  She works at a hat shop, in the back.... She never wants to take the hats to her CRAZY, rich buyers, but one day (her birthday) she has to.  She is not very happy, but she tries and things do not go as planned.  And in a turn of events, the man (Oliver Addleshaw), who she is trying to get money for the hats from, wants to give her ta job.  A man he is trying to seal a deal with prefers to work with family-men, and he wants her to pose as his intended.  I don't want to give too much away about how this comes about, because it was really fun to read and complicated to explain.

The characters are great, including the side characters who are main characters in the next two books, so of course they need to be well done in this first book to make sure that you want to read the next ones.  This book totally did that for me.  I was in love with her friends (Maybe more the Harriet, sometimes.  Shhh! Don't tell on me!!!!).

This book can be a little slow moving, because you know she is going to take Oliver up on his deal, but she is all like "NO! I WILL NEVER DO THAT, LIKE EVER!", but not like that because this is in the 1800's in New York, and that is not how they talked back then.  Anyway, it can be annoying, but for me, by the 3rd time I read this, I thought it was fast moving and did not know what 1st and 2nd read me were talking about. So, it can vary and yes, I have read this book a lot of times.

For a re-telling, there are a lot of surprises in this book.  Throughout the story, I was like "WHAT?! I LOVE THIS! and How did I NOT see this coming?!".  Also, the book included a mystery, which I really enjoyed (something not in Pygmalion at all).  But like, when do I not like a mystery?

The romance is really clean and well done; for those who may wonder, there is brief kissing.  I love this story.  Just knowing After A Fashion is a re-telling of Pygmalion gives enough of the plot away.  I highly recommend this book if you like the story of Pygmalion or My Fair Lady,  the 1880's in the New York, and if you don't know if you like those things, then read this and find out.  This book is cleaner than Pygmalion.  I have read Pygmalion, and I do NOT recommend that you read that.  After A Fashion is better content-wise.  After A Fashion is an adult book.  I do not recommend this book for under 13 (depending on the maturity of the reader, may need to be older),  because of the following reasons, which contain SPOILERS!!!!

There is an evil guy who invites others to go to a brothel (the others refuse, and there are no details about the brothel), there is extreme poverty, a white collar criminal, a kidnapper, and two reformed prostitutes (also, no details), and shooting.  The author includes the reality of the time period, just like in Pygmalion.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Why I eat gluten-free: in honor of Celiac Disease Awareness Month

Some people think eating gluten free is trendy, or like a "health/diet" food choice (Kim Ka-You-Know-Who, why did you do that to me and all of the other people who are allergic to gluten?????).  This is a life, or death, choice for some, like me.  Keep reading, and you'll find out why I eat gluten-free.

I have had awful, horrible eczema my entire life (yes, when I was a baby, too!).  My Mom and my maternal Grandma (when she babysat me) used to hold my hands when I slept, so I would not rip my skin open by scratching.  I was taken to the Family Doctor, Dermatologist, Allergist, and a Nutritionist.  NO ONE had answers for us.  I was prescribed steroid creams (which you can't use forever without side effects worse than eczema), special soaps, lotions, and allergy pills.  NO ONE got to the root of the problem, it was just a band-aid after band-aid.  The Nutritionist knew I was allergic to something, but didn't have the testing to find out what.

Here are some of the symptoms that I had, even as a small child:
Cradle cap/dandruff
Eczema/super dry skin which cracked and bled
Dark circles under my eyes
Bladder infections
Migraines (though I just thought they were regular headaches back then)
Allergies to the outdoors, indoors, and both pets and farm animals
Irregular heartbeat
Brittle nails
Pale skin
*There were other issues, but I've only recently been informed that they are symptoms of gluten intolerance, and Celiac Disease.

Little by little, I began discovering things that were an allergic trigger for me, such as corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, msg, artificial coloring, artificial flavoring.  Little did I know, that many of these things contain gluten.

Sorry, this is a little Gross!
My other symptoms that I dealt with for a long time before I went gluten-free, but were getting worse as I got older are as follows:
Headaches after eating (not a super new thing to me, because I always got horrible migraines after eating MSG).
Stomach aches and bad digestion with diarrhea.
Seasonal allergies.
Allergies to all hairy animals.
Heavy, painful periods to the point of throwing up (Who knew that could be related?!?! But it is!!!)

I wish, so much, that someone would have figured out that I needed to be gluten-free when I was younger. When I was elementary school age, I used to just get eczema on my legs and it was really easy to hide.  As I got older and, not on purpose, ate gluten-free for a while, my skin cleared up and I kind of assumed that I'd grown out of my eczema (lots of people told me it would).  But back into eating gluten, and back came the skin problems and this time on my hands, something I could not hide.  I was more than frustrated, and all my symptoms were back with a vengeance. Because I'd had a reprieve, I felt worse than ever.  I tried everything, again... the lotions, the allergy pills, watching out for the food items and other things I knew I was allergic to, but nothing worked.

I went gluten-free about a year after that.  I was watching a YouTube video one day where a 20-something girl shared about her gluten intolerance.  She had so many of the same symptoms I had.  So, in June 2014, I decided to try going gluten-free.  It was really hard, because gluten is an addictive substance (I'll share about that in a future blog post).   Also, my family didn't understand why I was doing this, even though I tried to explain it to them.  My Mom couldn't even understand how wheat/gluten could be the cause of all my problems.  I did an elimination diet, and I did reintroduce to make sure that gluten was really the issue.  Many people ask if I got tested (blood test), but tests are not 100% accurate, especially if there is just a severe intolerance, rather than one of the forms of Celiac Disease (which is, also, not 100% testable).  Doing an elimination diet made much more sense, especially because doctors had refused to give me an allergy blood-test previously.  Taking gluten out of my diet, I got 100% better.  I accidentally ate gluten after 7 months off and my allergies to dogs came back the same day.

When I stopped eating gluten, my seasonal allergies and my allergies to animals went away.  My eczema also completely cleared up (well, until I got glutened--which is what the gluten-free community calls eating gluten unknowingly).  All the symptoms I mentioned previously went away, including the intestinal problems.  I noticed positive signs after only a week, but to get the gluten fully out of your system you have be gluten-free for 6 months.

Unfortunately, about every six to eight months of being gluten-free, I am not so careful and end up accidentally getting glutened, which continually confirms that gluten is definitely the issue.  It takes me a week to a couple of months to not have seasonal and animal allergies after a glutening.  Depending on how much I consume, I will or won't have digestive problems.  My skin freaks out even if I eat the tiniest bit of gluten, or if I get glutinous flour on my skin.  I even have a reaction to gluten flour in the air.  If I use soap that has vitamin E derived from wheat germ, my skin will break out in eczema really bad.  If I use chap-stick with the same type of vitamin E, my lips and face will be in massive amounts of red, searing pain.

I am so glad I know what I was doing wrong, even if I still get glutened sometimes.  I just can not let my guard down EVER.  For a while after I was gluten-free, I would sometimes eat gluten just so I would not offend people.  That was so hard for me to stop doing, even when I was in so much pain from just eating a type of food.  I recently got over that, I think, mainly because of some people being so nice about my having to eat gluten-free (I am truly crying right now thinking about them) and making me feel like I was important enough to have something special for me to eat.  I just love all of you! (You know who you are!)

Thank you for reading.  I hate talking about why I am gluten-free.  I'm sorry if this post was blunt, it was really hard for me to write.  I just felt like I needed​ to write this all out.  I think, and talk, better after I have written everything down.  I want to say thank you to everyone that has supported me in being gluten-free.  And thank you to everyone that talked about why they were gluten-free, so that I would finally realize that might be my problem, too.

In the future, I plan to do some posts about my favorite gluten-free specialty foods (not like fruits and vegetables).  I will do a post on tips for first-timers going gluten-free, because I wish someone had told me everything I know now, back then.  Although I hate talking about why I am gluten-free, I enjoy sharing tips and all the good things I've learned.  Oh, and FYI, my entire immediate family is now gluten-free, and some of my extended family, but that's a story for another day.

Friday, May 19, 2017

The Silent Songbird by Melanie Dickerson Book Review

The Silent Songbird, by Melanie Dickerson, is the 7th book in the Hagenheim fairy tale series in published order, and book two in chronological order.  This one takes place in England when King Richard II was King.  As for what re-telling it is of?  It is a Little Mermaid redo!  Also, this story is done with no magic.  This particular re-telling is one that you do have to look for all the re-telling bits a lot more than some of Melanie Dickerson's other works.  When I read it for the 2nd time, I noticed different parts in regards to the re-telling than the 1st time.

I have reviews of all the books in this series. You can find them here, on my blog.  October 2014 is when I reviewed the first five, and this year I reviewed book six.

How The Silent Songbird connects to the series is with the main male character, Wesley.  Wesley is the Father of the hero in The Princess Spy.  Wesley is the son of the couple in The Merchant's Daughter.

Plot time!
Evangeline is King Richard's cousin and, as so, lives in the castle in England.  But she wants to be free!  Her cousin plans to marry her to a man she hates, so she runs away with her maid.  Evangeline pretends to be mute, because her singing is well known, along with her red hair. She and her maid are acting as servants, and join up with a group of people on their way home to a different part of England.  I don't want to go into to much else, because I think it is more fun to read not knowing very much.

I got this book for my birthday from my family.  I was not going to start reading that week, because it was tech week for a play I was in, and my birthday week, and I had no time.  I found time underneath my pillow.  I still started reading........ I tried to take it slow, and I did.  I so enjoyed this book.

What I loved:
I loved this book so much!  The characters are awesome.  And I loved getting more time with favorite characters from the other books! Also, loved getting one more story set in England!  I loved the retelling and the forgiveness part of the story! The history is SO WELL done!  I love following Melanie Dickerson on Facebook, because you always get the story behind the story.

Wesley is such an amazing guy, someone that is so good and loves people so much.  He has his flaws, but they're mainly ones that are not so bad, like being too nice and trusting people too much.  A big part of Evangeline's character development is that she is illegitimate and never really knew her parents, but as part of the "royal family", she has to be kept safe, so she can't be used against them.  She feels like a chess piece at the beginning of the story.  I related to Evangeline a lot, not in the being married off to a bad guy thing, but in her internal dialogue.  This book is for sure not preachy, just good morals and Christian characters and living life, trying their best, and failing sometimes.

For age recommendation, I think 12 or 13 is a good age to start. But it is a "teen" book that can be enjoyed by adults as well.  The romance is very clean (only kissing, and not too much of that).  I don't really recommend starting with this book for the series, but you can because​ they are not following the same people in every book, you just know who ends up with who in the previous novels if you don't read them in order.

Publication order is as follows:  The Healer's Apprentice, The Merchant's Daughter, The Fairest Beauty, The Captive Maiden, The Princess Spy, The Golden Braid and The Silent Songbird.

Chronological is as follows:  The Merchant's Daughter, The Silent Songbird, The Healer's Apprentice, The Fairest Beauty, The Captive Maiden, and The Princess Spy/The Golden Braid.

I read them this way:  The Fairest Beauty, The Captive Maiden, The Healer's Apprentice, The Merchant's Daughter, The Princess Spy, The Golden Braid, and The Silent Songbird.  I don't really recommend this order.  I was spoiled for The Healer's Apprentice by reading it this way, but it was okay because I just knew the end game couple, not really how they got together.

I recommend publication order, if you can get through The Healer's Apprentice, and not hate it at that time (that book is not for everyone).  Otherwise, I probably recommend chronological order, or reading The Fairest Beauty and all the books after it in publication order and then going back to read the parents/grandparents stories.

Spoilers in my content for why the age recommendation is necessary.

The main character lies, she does feel bad at the time, and has to ask for forgiveness to everyone and God. She is kidnapped for a tiny bit.  And someone tries to kill her.  An evil man tries to drown the main guy (of course he lives and is saved by Evangeline).  The man her cousin wants her to marry killed his first wife and tries to take over King Richard's castle.

Friday, May 12, 2017

The Maid Of Fairbourne Hall Book Review

The Maid Of Fairbourne Hall, by Julie Klassen, is set in England in 1815 and is about Margaret Macy.  When Margaret reaches her next birthday, she is to inherit a lot of money from her deceased Aunt (her Dad already passed away, he was an amazing Dad and a Vicar).  Margaret's Step-dad wants to have that money, so he is trying to get his nephew married to her.  She does not want to marry her step-cousin, and is forced to leave, so she does not have to.  She goes out of town with one of her servants, and Margaret ends up working at Fairbourne Hall, the country house of the Upchurch's.  But wait there's more!  At Fairbourne Hall lives the man she rejected years ago, and his brother, the man she has been wanting to marry.  Margaret learns more about both men, and truly falls in love with one.

There are many things I love about this book.  The first that there is a really cool quote at the beginning of each chapter, that pertains to the story, and most of them give you a bit more history of the time, which makes it even more enjoyable to read.  I loved having two point of views: one from Margaret Macy, and one from Nathaniel Upchurch.  The writing and character development are very well done.  Margaret does not start out as nice of a person as she could be.  In this book I learned a lot about the servants of the wealthy in Regency Era England and how they lived.  I love how Margaret had a disguise and the author wrote the disguise in a way that made it believable.  Plus, the Bible content was really well done (the reason Margaret runs away is because of a her Father's teachings on the Bible story of Joseph in the Old Testament).

I would recommend The Maid Of Fairbourne Hall for ages 14 +.  This is technically categorized as an adult book.  There is some kissing, and the "evil villain" of the story tries to compromise the reputation of Margaret to get her to marry him, so he can get all of her money (this is part of the synopsis on the back of the book).  Also, [[SPOILER ALERT]] Nathaniel's brother is kind of a bad guy, though nothing is really talked about in detail, and he does participate in a duel. *This is not a blanket recommendation for Julie Klassen's books, many of her books have content that really makes them truly adult story-lines. If I do not specifically recommend a Julie Klassen book on my blog, BEWARE the book may be too adult for younger readers, including teens.*

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Paige Rewritten By Erynn Mangum Book Review

Paige Rewritten, by Erynn Mangum, is book two in the Paige Alder series. You can read my Review of book one here!  Paige is 22 and turns 23 in the book, she lives in Texas, and has younger sister, who Paige has not seen in years. Paige works at an adoption agency, and is being offered a raise in pay for doing what she already does, and is not sure why she's not over-the-moon about the raise.  She is also being offered a job as the female teen's Youth Leader and Counselor with the church she currently goes to.  Paige's degree is actually in Counseling, so it makes sense to me why she is feels dissatisfied doing paperwork for the adoption agency.

Paige is really funny and so are her friends.  The friendship and romance are both amazing.  I love Tyler (#loveinterest), because he's a Godly man, funny, but has real flaws, too; he's a well rounded character.  Then there's Layla, best friend status (and I guess I like Layla's fiance, but he is not really in this book very much); Layla and Paige balance each other out perfectly.  Last, but not least, we have Rick (who is the Youth Pastor at her church, and the one offering her the job) and Natalie (Rick's wife) and their baby girl!

In Paige Rewritten, Paige's sister comes home and Paige is not really doing well with that, and has to learn many things about her self that she did not know.  I don't want to say too much about this story-line, because if you want to read this, I don't want to make any of the surprises less interesting. There is lot of character development in this book and a lot of it comes from here.

With the romance:  Her ex-boyfriend comes back to town (he is her best friend's brother). And she in so done with him, and loving being "who knows what" with Tyler.  But of course, you have to have conflict.

Paige is awesome, even when dealing with tons people and her own issues.  I just love reading from her point of view.  I love that she reads her Bible and prays (she goes to church, but I think that was given, with the job thing).  I especially love the Christian content in the series upon re-reading.  I love books that are re-readable, and this story is not disappointing.

I recommend this for 13 and older.  There is no inappropriate language, the romance is suitable for all ages. There is no violence, because this is a contemporary novel,  and not about war or anything. There is a part where Paige mentions the one and only time she ever used God's name in vain, but she knows it was wrong and that's the point.

Why I suggest 13 plus:  Mild Spoilers Ahead

 I put 13 because Paige is older, I think it is nice to read from characters that are within 12 years of my age (I do, of course, have exceptions).  Also, there is mentions of pads and tampons being in a cabinet and PMS.  Backstory included in this book tells about how her ex-boyfriend tried to move in with her, saying she was the denying science, and there was no point in purity and saving yourself for marriage; that was when she broke up with him.  There are no details, and he actually has changed, and comes back and apologizes for his behavior in the current time of this book.  Overall it is everyone's own decision and some kids could be ready for that at 10, but some may not, so this is only my 2¢.