Thursday, July 2, 2015

Sworkit

So, my review is going to be a little different today. I have shared a little bit of my health journey with you guys and an important part of getting healthy is exercising and being active. I am not very imaginative when it comes to working out. I can't just conjure up a routine in my head and do it. That doesn't work for me. I like to be shown what to do, how long to do it for, and how to do it. In fitness, I am a follower more than I am a leader.

When I was offered the chance to try out Sworkit, I just couldn't refuse. It sounded like something that was right up my alley and that would help me stay motivated and reach my goals. I have never been one to work out or go to the gym so I don't know a bunch of different workouts. Luckily, Sworkit has a huge list of exercises and they include a video demonstration for each one. I have found this feature to be extremely valuable. 


You can create your own workout routine and only include the exercises that you want or you can choose from a bunch of premade, targeted routines. Everything from yoga to core to cardio routines are included and have premade routines to help you get moving. Also, on the home screen, there is a Fit in Five Minutes button that seems to be a randomized five minute workout if you want to try new things and see what you like. You can set goals for yourself and even keep track of how much you work out over different time periods. I also found that setting a reminder kept me coming back.


Within the routine you choose, you can customize the timing of each exercise, how long your rests are and how often they occur. I think this is great because not everyone, especially beginners, are physically fit enough to keep going without a rest period. During your routine, there is also a video demonstration playing and it has voice cues to let you know what your next exercise is.

I absolutely love this app and it has helped me tremendously. I love all of the features that are included and how expansive and customizable it is. Whether you have been working out for years, or are just getting started, I can see this being an invaluable resource. As with most apps, there is a "lite" version that you can try for free before you decide to purchase the full app and unlock all of the features. Sworkit and Sworkit Lite are available for Apple, Android, and Amazon and the full app is only $3.99! You can also learn more on the Sworkit website.


Disclosure: I may receive products in exchange for an honest review. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I personally believe will be good for my readers.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Ultimate Tunisian Crochet Value Pack from Leisure Arts

Hello crafty crochet cats! I have something super special to share with you today. I have been eyeing some lovely Tunisian crochet projects lately. Sadly, I hadn't been able to start them because my Tunisian is a bit rusty. In fact, I have only made one very small project and it was way back when I first learned to crochet. So I didn't even remember how to do the basic Tunisian stitches. Now, that is problem because you know I am never drawn to basic patterns, so not only do I need a refresher, I need a crash course in how to be awesome at Tunisian.    

My favorite resource for patterns and pattern books has a wonderful bundle, Ultimate Tunisian Crochet Value Pack, that includes six of their bestselling Tunisian books. By the time I studied the concepts in these books, I was ready for any Tunisian project... maybe even ready to design my own. 


Included are:


Ultimate Beginners Guide to Tunisian Crochet

This was the logical one for me to start with, since, essentially, I have no skill set with this technique. "Award-winning teacher, Kim Guzman, walks you through the basics and takes you through each step with clear photos and friendly instructions. Nine fresh projects for you to explore will help you develop the skills you need... Projects include Stockinette Scarf and Hat, Seed Stitch Ruana, Drop Stitch Cowl, Diagonal Hearts Crib Cover, Felted Duffel, Cabled Mitts, Hoodie Vest, and Mitered Vest."



Practice Practice!

I have always admired, and made many of, Kim Guzman's patterns. She is very clear and easy to follow. Plus, she designs some really breathtaking things. I spent a lot of time reading and practicing and re-reading the opening part because all of the basic stitches are very well explained as are some extra things you will need to know. This will be my go to resource until I commit things to memory - which can take awhile with my memory. 



TUNISIAN DISHCLOTHS

This is a fabulous way to learn new stitch patterns and the end of your practice leaves you with a usable item which are great for quick gifts. There are 16 designs with step-by-step instructions, close-up photos of stitch details, and online technique videos! 

The dishcloths, designed by Becky Stevens and made using cotton medium weight yarn, are Easy Peasy, Basket Weave, Crossed Stitch, Open Boxes, Lacework, Double Stitch Stripes, Extended Stitch, Double Stitch, Mesh, Diagonal Duo, Americana, Wavy Wonder, Bright Wipes, Lattice, Brocade, and Snowflakes.


TUNISIAN CROCHET STITCH GUIDE

This is a great resource with 61 pattern stitches to add texture and beauty to your Tunisian Crochet projects. Plus, a complete scarf pattern is included to show how to incorporate the pattern stitches in your fashion accessories, afghans, and other projects. At the start there are stitches that are the building blocks of Tunisian Crochet stitch patterns. I spent a lot of time practicing these.  After you have those mastered, you will find more complex and really stunning stitches to play with. I am so excited about the design possibilities. 

SHORT ROW TUNISIAN FASHION

Now that you have mastered the basics you are ready for something more interesting. Each project in this book from Kim Guzman is actually made with a series of small fabric segments that are quick to complete. To help you get a good grasp on how to do short row projects, you will find several great projects including a fun scarf and beret, a beanie, a lacy wrap, a feminine cardigan, and a romantic two-piece cape. I need that cape in my life... time to go yarn shopping I think. 

TUNISIAN SHAWLS

You know I love shawls, they are my weakness, I never have less than two in my UFO stack. This great book has shawls using yarns from fine weight to bulky. There are eight diverse wraps in Tunisian Shawls will take you through the seasons in style and comfort. Designer Sharon H. Silverman says the variety of shapes and styles make shawls the perfect opportunity for crocheters to master Tunisian techniques while creating beautiful fashions. Designs include Autumn Embrace, Cables and Heart, Expanding Vees, Hot Pink Lace, Silver Shimmer, Popover Wedges, Red Hot Wrap, and Fair Isle Winter Capelet.


You have to start somewhere! 

I instantly started one and will let you know how it progresses... my skills are yelling at me to pick an easier one so cross your fingers. Thankfully, the instructions are well written and there is video help available. 


TUNISIAN CROCHET BABY BLANKETS

Tunisian Crochet Baby Blankets has eight original designs in contemporary colors by Sharon H. Silverman. Whether you’re looking for classic cables, ripples, stripes, bobbles, or basket weave blocks, you’ll find projects to suit your taste and become heirlooms for that special baby. In addition to having good instructions and photographs, there are free online technique videos are also available.

I really like that they are organized from Easy to Intermediate-Plus, the designs included are: Basket Weave Blocks, Purple Garden, Frosted Stitch Stripes, Color Waves, Bubbling Bobbles, Telegram, Cables and Honeycomb, and Bright Strands. Once I finish my shawl, I will start one of these too. 

I felt like I needed to have a play with the things I learned from this value bundle of books and so I made this awesome little project bag tote. That is a lot of Tunisian SS... which you will learn to do in the first book. Now I feel ready for the more complex projects I told you about in the other books! 


Not bad for a beginner! 

Have you made anything using the Tunisian techniques? I sure would love to hear about it. 


Take some time to browse Leisure Arts' great selection and make sure you also connect with Leisure Arts on Facebook and Twitter so that you never miss a special or new pattern! Also, if you sign up for their knitting or crochet newsletters, you get a free pattern on Fridays!

Disclosure: I may receive products in exchange for an honest review. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I personally believe will be good for my readers.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

A Batter of Life and Death by Ellie Alexander

You may recall, not too long ago, I told you about a great new series: Bakeshop Mysteries by Ellie Alexander.... well the second part, A Batter of Life and Death, was just released today and it is just as fabulous as the first!!


From the back of the book: 

Welcome to Torte-a small-town family bakeshop where the coffee is hot, the muffins are fresh, and the cakes are definitely to die for...

It's autumn in Ashland, Oregon-'tis the season for a spiced hot apple cider with a serving (or two) of Torte's famous peach cobbler. It's also the perfect time for Jules Capshaw to promote her family's beloved bake shop by competing in The Pastry Channel's reality show, Take the Cake. The prize is $25,000. But as Jules quickly learns, some people would kill for that kind of dough. Literally.

Then, just as Jules dusts off her Bavarian Chocolate Cake recipe and cinches up her apron, the corpse of a fellow contestant is discovered-death by buttercream. What began as a fun, tasteful televised adventure has morphed into something of a true-crime detective show for Jules and everybody else on set. Who could have killed Chef Marco, and why? Can Jules sift out the killer before someone else gets burned?

My thoughts:

I may have mentioned before, I am a huge fan of Shakespeare so the setting, of course, appeals greatly to me, as do the occasional quotes and references. Being a second part, this still read with all of the excitement of the first part and it really stands alone - but you will still want to read the first one because it is that much fun. 

I really do love Juliet and her mom, the professor and Thomas. Okay, I guess they all have grown on me! When you have characters that are as well written as these, it makes the mystery more fun and the tension more effective because you really care about what happens. As with the last one, this was paced perfectly and had me turning pages all night long. The conclusion was satisfying even though I didn't figure it out as quickly as I should have... I was enjoying the story so much it kind of sneaked up on me. 

Also, make sure you check the back of the book! There are a lot of really awesome recipes there. I mean really awesome. Plus, there is a teaser for the next part. 

You can keep up with this series on the website or on Facebook so you never miss a tasty release. 


Disclosure: I may receive products in exchange for an honest review. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I personally believe will be good for my readers.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Hiss and Tell by Claire Donally

Cat lovers and mysteries lovers gather around. I have a lovely book to tell you about that has the most adorable cat and a fabulous mystery. Hiss and Tell is the fourth part in the Sunny & Shadow Mystery series.


From the back of the book:

In this Sunny & Shadow Mystery from the New York Times bestselling author of Last Licks, a fat-cat wedding is making waves in Kittery Harbor, Maine.

Political heiress Priscilla Kingsbury is about to marry Carson de Kruk, son of business mogul Augustus de Kruk, at the Kingsburys’ waterfront compound. For reporter Sunny Coolidge, an assignment from the Harbor Courier to cover the event is like catnip.

But when Sunny photographs men pulling the body of a dead woman out of the water, the Kingsburys’ private security isn’t happy. They claim the woman’s death was an accident, but the story seems fishy. Now, with a little help from her police officer boyfriend and her cunning cat Shadow, Sunny is determined to get the scoop on a killer.

My thoughts: I absolutely loved every aspect of this story. I was jumping in having not read the first three parts but I did not feel like I was missing a thing. Sunny is a wonderful character and her cat Shadow is too sweet. I loved getting to hear the unique interpretation of what the cat thought about human activities and interactions. He added so much to the story, the bit where he was being chased by Lee and the security staff was hilarious.

The mystery was nicely paced and there were enough clues to point you in the right direction without being glaringly obvious. I wasn't convinced I knew who done it, but I had my suspicions and I was right and to me that makes for a fun, satisfying read, which I can give my full recommendation to.

Take some time to browse the other great mysteries available from Berkley Prime Crime. While you are there, you can sign up for the newsletter so you never miss a new release. I must warn you though, after browsing my wish list is longer than I could probably read. You can also connect with them on Twitter where can happen across a fun giveaway as well. 

Disclosure: I may receive products in exchange for an honest review. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I personally believe will be good for my readers.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Catnapped! by Elaine Viets

I thought I pampered my fur-babies but seriously the prize winning pedigree cats in this book are beyond pampered. I absolutely love a cozy with a kitty or two so I was pretty excited about reading Catnapped! which is part of the Dead-End Job Mystery series by Elaine Viets. 


From the back of the book:

No more pussyfooting around! Husband and wife PI team Helen Hawthorne and Phil Sagemont have barely scratched the surface of the world of show cats when a cornered kitty kidnapper’s claws come out....

The one thing celebrity Trish Barrymore and her no-account accountant husband, Mort, can agree on in their bitter divorce is shared cat custody. But when Mort is found brained by a mahogany cat tower, their pedigreed Chartreux show cat, goes missing, Trish calls on Helen and Phil to find the feline filcher and let the cat out of the bag.

Discovering that Mort had some shady dealings within cat show circles, Helen goes undercover as an assistant for a woman who shows prizewinning Persians. As Phil and she get deeper into a high-pressure world of primping, posing, and purring to collar a killer, they get caught up in a cat-and-mouse game where the stakes are literally life and death...

My thoughts:

As a cozy lover, I am pretty accustomed to reading about amateur sleuths and the troubles they get into while investigating things they shouldn't be investigating. This cozy was different in that the main characters were not amateurs, they were actually private investigators and both of the murders they are aiming to solve happen to be cases they are working. It takes out all of the often illegal snooping/sleuthing and leaves them free to really search out the facts, which was a refreshing change. 

I loved that Helen went deep undercover with the cats; it was interesting to see that side of cat shows. Helen and Phil were absolutely charming as were the supporting cast, especially Margery who was my favorite, she sure was a fiery lady. The story had great pacing along with wonderful settings which made for a fun read. I will be looking for in this series, I would love to see what other jobs Helen takes in order to catch a killer.  

Take some time to browse the other great mysteries available from Berkley Prime Crime. While you are there, you can sign up for the newsletter so you never miss a new release. I must warn you though, after browsing my wish list is longer than I could probably read. You can also connect with them on Twitter where you can happen across a fun giveaway as well. 

Disclosure: I may receive products in exchange for an honest review. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I personally believe will be good for my readers.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Death at the Door by Carolyn Hart

I love a good mystery as you know, and would really enjoy browsing the shelves at Death on Demand, the bookstore run by Anne and Max, which is featured in Death on Demand by Carolyn Hart.


From the back of the book:

Annie Darling—owner of the mystery bookstore, Death on Demand—prefers fictional crimes as opposed to the real things. But in one tragic week, two acts of violence shake the island community of Broward’s Rock. First, a beloved doctor is found shot dead, seemingly by his own hand. Only days later, a local artist is arrested after his wife is found murdered, bludgeoned by her husband’s sculpting mallet.

Convinced her brother did not commit suicide, the doctor’s sister turns to Annie and her husband, Max, for help. She has found a cryptic sketch her brother drew, linking him with the murdered woman. Did someone want them both out of the picture?
                                                                                                 
With the police considering both cases as good as closed, it’s up to Annie and Max to sort through a rogues’ gallery of suspects to see if someone is trying to frame the artist. But if Annie isn’t careful, she may find herself having her own brush with death…

My thoughts:

Annie and Max are fabulous together and also fabulous at sorting out suspects. Suspects are everywhere in this story and each one has enough reason and also reasonable doubt to make thinking about who done it, and there are more than one whodunits, fun right up until the very end. 

There is a fun cast of supporting characters and the 'facts' are presented in a unique way that makes this stand out from other cozies. Carolyn Hart has wonderful gift for story telling, that ended up with a well paced, engaging story. Since this is a long lived series, there are loads of parts for me to track down too while I await the next part.  


Take some time to browse the other great mysteries available from Berkley Prime Crime. While you are there, you can sign up for the newsletter so you never miss a new release. I must warn you though, after browsing my wish list is longer than I could probably read. You can also connect with them on Twitter where you can happen across a fun giveaway as well. 

Disclosure: I may receive products in exchange for an honest review. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I personally believe will be good for my readers.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Two Winners From Nancy J. Parra

Finding an author that gets the perfect formula for making a cozy exciting and cozy at the same time is always great. It is even more exciting when you find out that they have more than one fabulous series. I was so excited when I read Flourless To Stop Him from the Baker's Treat Mystery series by Nancy J. Parra and even more excited when I saw I had another book by her on my nightstand reading stack, Bodice of Evidence from the Perfect Proposals Mystery series! I want to take a moment to tell you about them both. 


From the back of the book:

The author of Murder Gone A-Rye and Gluten for Punishment returns to Oiltop, Kansas, where gluten-free baker Toni Holmes has to separate the wheat from the chaff to clear her brother of murder…

It’s never a good time for a crisis. Toni’s busy whipping up gluten-free holiday treats when a murder forces her to put baking on the back burner. A dead man has been found in the bathtub of a local inn—in a room registered to her brother, Tim.

With her sibling now a prime suspect in a mysterious homicide, Toni is determined to find out who set him up. But she’s about to get some unwanted assistance from former investigative journalist Grandma Ruth, who won’t let anything slow her progress in running down a killer…

My thoughts:

For me this had a perfect blend of cozy and thrill. I absolutely loved the characters from the main ones all the way though to the walk-ons. Toni is fabulous and I must say Grandma Ruth really steals the show, what a character see is!! I would love to know a family like this.

The mystery was paced beautifully and at the reveal there was some real tension created. I was seriously worried for Toni and that is a hard feeling to achieve since we all know in most cozies all ends well. I'm not sure how I missed the first two parts but I will fix that quickly. Nancy J. Parra knows exactly how to blend the ingredients to make a cozy work... perfect from start to finish. Oh and being gluten free myself, the recipes in the back will be a valuable resource. I really can't recommend this enough...

From the back of the book:

The author of Engaged in Murder returns with her second Perfect Proposals Mystery. This time Pepper Pomeroy discovers that shopping for the dream wedding dress can be a nightmare…

Pepper’s new wedding proposal planning business, Perfect Proposals, seems like a perfect fit. If only shopping for her sister Felicity’s bridal gown could be so simple.

After a long day of lace, tulle, and tears, Pepper, Felicity, and their mother pull it together to try one last bridal boutique. Maybe they’ll be surprised. And indeed they are—when they enter a deserted shop and soon discover the owner of the boutique slain in the alley out back.

Distressed by their proximity to the crime, Pepper vows to unveil the killer. As difficult as it is to draw a pattern from the clues, it’s still easier than finding Felicity’s perfect wedding gown. But as the killer begins to feel hemmed in, Pepper may be the one brought to her knees…

My thoughts:

This is another winner, also filled with characters that are so endearing and so much fun to read about. Pepper is a feisty fun heroine who is supported by a great cast. I loved the relationships that were developed and really look forward to seeing how they continue. 

Even the suspects were interesting and well rounded, and the outcome was an intense surprise. I loved the pace in which the mystery unfolded; it kept me up late, turning pages. I would strongly recommend this fabulous book and will be searching for more from both of these series. 

Take some time to browse the other great mysteries available from Berkley Prime Crime. While you are there, you can sign up for the newsletter so you never miss a new release. I must warn you though, after browsing my wish list is longer than I could probably read. You can also connect with them on Twitter where can happen across a fun giveaway as well. 

Disclosure: I may receive products in exchange for an honest review. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I personally believe will be good for my readers.