Sunday, February 28, 2016

Influenster's #CheersVoxBox Review and Discussion

I know I normally review books and things that have to do with books, but I couldn't pass up sharing this with you.  At the suggestion of a very awesome friend, who I will call KitKat, I signed up over at Influenster.

Influenster is a lovely place where you can review things and share tips and recommendations with others.  It is actually pretty cool and pretty extensive.  What is more awesome is they like to send out packages that they call a Vox Box!

What is a Vox Box?  It is a box filled with things that they send you for free for testing and review purposes!  And they aren't tiny sample sized things either.  They are full blown normal product size.

That is pretty epic if you ask me.

I never really thought I was going to actually get a Vox Box, but then I got a surprise email telling me that they were going to be sending me the #CheersVoxBox!!!  They told me most of what was going to be in it, but not everything.  Needless to say, I was very excited to get my box.

So I waited some what impatiently for it to finally get to me, but it got here.  The picture above is what was in this fabulous box.  I was pretty excited (still am honestly).

In return for this box full of awesome I am to review them, blog, tweet, IG, facebook, all that wonderful stuff.  Totally do able if you ask me.  They actually have a good handful of tasks for each item for me to do to open up some badges on my Influenster account.

So what was in this box exactly?  Lots of awesome!  Here is the list!

  • A full sized bottle of Suave Moroccan Shampoo
  • A full sized bottle of Suave Moroccan Conditioner
  • A snack sized bag of Sweet Chili flavored Way Better Snacks chips
  • A full sized bag of Dr. Teals soaking solution for relaxation (lavender scented)
  • A coupon to get a free Hormel Taco Meat product (normal sized)
  • A thing from Yaye letting me know about their free exercise app

So let us start with talking about the Suave Moraccan Shampoo and Conditioner:

I have to say, I really really like these two products.  I think that they smell absolutely fantastic.  The best thing about the smell is that it isn't over powering and it lingers on my hair for a good while.  I find it almost soothing.  They also leave my hair feeling nice and clean and I must say that I am pretty sure that they are living up to their potential and leaving my hair shinier like they claim that they will!

Way Better Snacks Chips:

Upon opening this bag of chips I was a little skeptical.  They smelled a little weird and looked kind of strange.  My opinion did not change after the first bite.  However, after I ate a couple, I decided that I did like them.  The flavor level was nice.  Not too much where the flavor was overwhelming and just enough for them to not taste bland.  They also have a very nice crunch to them.

Also, this snack is gluten free!  Yay!  A good gluten free snack!

There is a possibility that I will be buying these in the future.  However, I am trying not to eat chips and am trying to prevent myself from having snack foods in my house.  I tend to eat them all until they no longer exist.

Dr. Teals Soaking Solution:

I am not much of a bath taker, so it was nice getting the chance to relax (and I may or may not have played with my daughters bath toys while doing so).

I really enjoyed the smell and enjoyed the soak.  It was a nice experience.  I may need to start taking baths more often than not! I also really like that the package tells you that if you don't want to use it in a bath that you can use a handful to exfoliate your skin while you take a shower.

Hormel Taco Meat:

I have to admit, I am a bit disappointed with this product.  Mainly because of its price.  I received a coupon for this product so that I could get it for "free" to try out.  Even on sale, the Hormel Taco Meats product was more than what the coupon was worth, so I had to pay a bit out of pocket.  This product is pretty pricey when it isn't on sale, and it isn't even like the package is all that huge.

Also, I had to try like every grocery store in my area before I finally located this little guy.  For awhile there it seemed like I wasn't going to get to review this product at all.  Thankfully I did manage to find it thanks to the handy dandy product locator on the Hormel website.

All in all, the taco meat was decent.  I am not a huge fan of packaged meat in the first place, so that was already going against it.  I would much rather spend a little more for a piece of beef and stick it in my crock pot with some seasoning to cook it.  I would have gotten a lot more for my money too.

Influenster also asks that we create a recipe for you.  Well, I am not that much of a chef, so my recipe is for TACOS!

What you need is:

Taco shells - hard or soft, whatever you like best
Your choice of Hormel Taco Meats
Salsa or hot sauce

The proportions are simple.  Put however much of each thing you want into the taco shell and chow down!


I like the idea behind this app.  You are supposed to use it along with your friends - near or far -  to help motivate each other to exercise.

However, there is a HUGE downfall to this app.  If your friends aren't using it or do not have any interest in it whatsoever, it is kind of pointless.

I am very thankful for Influenster sending me this package of things to try out.  I have definitely found some new favorites in it!

Friday, February 26, 2016

H2O by Virginia Bergin

Title: H2O
Author: Virginia Bergin
Series: The Rain #1
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Publication Date: October 7, 2014
Source: Purchased

Imagine if all the water in the world suddenly became poisonous.  You couldn't drink it or drink anything containing it.  It didn't matter if you boiled it beforehand or ran it through a filter.

Now imagine that you can't even let the tiniest speck of water touch your skin - directly or through clothing.

Not a very fun sounding situation huh?

That is what H2O is about.  At some point the world had been hit by a meteor, but more or less everything was ok....until it wasn't.  Apparently there were tiny alien microbes on that meteor that released into Earths atmosphere and mixed with the water.

The microbes eventually permeated all of the clouds and the water in the sky and started falling down to the ground in the form of rain.  The rain then covered everything.  The plants and animals seem to be okay with drinking the water....or having the water touch them, but that could not be said for the human population.

Where the water touches the persons skin they start scratching uncontrollably, causing themselves to bleed.  Other things happen too aside from that, but all in all it isn't pretty.

Water has become something that can pretty much melt your face off if you touch it.

Pretty cool sounding premise don't you think?

I find it very hard to tell you what my feelings for H2O actually are.  I had SO MANY problems with it, yet I couldn't put it down and had to finish the story.  I just had to!


First our main character Ruby.  Ruby is a self centered egotistical selfish brat.  The whole time she is worried more for herself than anyone else.  I guess that can be forgiven, since she is trying to stay alive just like everyone else, but at some point you really get sick of hearing it.  She is also totally stuck on her looks and appearance.  THE WHOLE TIME.  Geez kid.  Get over yourself.  No one can take a dang shower.  WHO THE HECK CARES IF YOU ARE WEARING MAKE UP?  Really?  You need to be wearing designer clothes and shoes?  The world is in complete chaos.  UGH UGH UGH.

Oh and Ruby.  Ruby is kind of stupid.  So many times she tells us how she went outside but forgot to look at the sky to see if there were any clouds in the sky and if it looked like it could rain.  FOR THE LOVE OF EVERYTHING IF IT RAINS ON YOU, YOU WILL DIE.  Self centered brat.  And she was obsessed about finding her stupid cell phone despite the fact that the phone lines have been dead since pretty much the beginning of the book.  She eventually tells you why it was so important to her, but you have to wait like half the book to find out.  And even then you have to kind of be paying attention or you will miss it.  Thank you editor for trying to save this part of the story, but probably should have tried it earlier on.

Also, WTF is a scab from making out?  On your chin?  WHAT?!


So this book takes place in England.  In England.  I don't know about you, but I would expect something about the narration to speak to that.  Some lingo or something.  However, while reading this if you happened to forget that it was England you would think that your main character was American (she isn't).  Throughout the whole story the only thing that really reminds you that the book is taking place in England is the name of cities/locations.

Also, this book is supposed to be a diary of sorts for Ruby as if she is writing a book about the whole situation.  There are a few hiccups that don't really flow very well with this.  For example, all of a sudden the girl knows the names of different types of clouds and starts using them often.  APPARENTLY there is a book that she started reading at some unknown point in time while she is writing this story that she started reading a book about clouds and is learning all about them.  Really, we could have done without this random cloud talk.  It was weird and awkward.


If you follow me on Twitter (and if you don't you should!! @cupcakes_books) you may recall the butterfly picture.  Here it is if you missed it or have forgotten the glory that is the stupid butterflies.

This book is riddled with these stupid butterflies.  What is the point you ask?  Well... apparently a lot of swearing happened and Ruby wanted to stay true to the story, but didn't want to swear.  So instead she decided to put these lovely butterflies in place of swear words.

No people, I am not kidding.  The butterflies were an intentional annoyance.  Instead of writing the story where you don't need to have swear words in it, but to keep it clean, Virginia Bergin has placed these lovely butterflies throughout the story.  There is one instance where she allows the word "God" to show through.

So at least I can tell you, that if you are worried about swear words that there are not any in the story.  HOWEVER, this does allow you to be as crass as you want if you so desire.  You can also tell which words were intended for a particular really it was kind of pointless.

And you finished this why?

Again, I still have no answer to this.  None.  I just really had to know where the story was going and how it got there.  Will I read the sequel?  Yeah, I most probably will.  Am I insane?  Highly likely as it is quite obvious that I had issues with this book, but still some how enjoyed it at the same time.

My Rating
3 Stars

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Blog Tour: The Smell of Other Peoples Houses by Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock

Title: The Smell of Other People's Houses
Author: Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock
Series: Stand Alone
Publisher: Wendy Lamb Books
Publication Date: February 23, 2016
Source: Netgalley

I have to say, I wasn't really sure what this book was going to be about/be like based off of the title.  The Smell of Other People's Houses?  Ummm okay...but the cover was gorgeous and grabbed my attention.  So I gave it a go.


The Smell of Other People's Houses contains the stories of 4 different characters.  Each with their own heart wrenching tale.

First there is Ruth.  Ruth is harboring a secret.  One that she is afraid to share.

Then there is Alyce.  Alyce just wants to dance, but she has to choose between dance and what she thinks her father wants.

And there is Dora.  The poor girl.  She thinks she has managed to get away from the hell that was her life, but did she really?

Then finally we have Hank who has run away from a bad life with his two brothers in tow.

Each tale is different.  Each character takes their own path.  Yet some how all of these characters stories get entangled with the others.

This story is filled with so many feels.  You cannot help but feel for each character individually.  There were points where I just wanted to hug them and be there for them.  I was that drawn in.

Not only are the stories for all the main characters great, but a lot of side characters get stories filled out too.  I am very impressed with how Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock was able to put it all together and to keep them all straight.

I will warn you that this story is told from 4 different viewpoints.  So you will have 4 different narrators.  I only warn you of this because I know there are those out there that do not like having so many narrators to story.  This being said, I did not have difficult following along with each character.  I felt each had their own unique voice.

This is a story that you want to pay attention to as you read it.  It is the kind of story where you will miss something if you don't.  I am sure that when I finally do a reread of this beautiful tale I will find so much stuff that I didn't even realize I missed.  Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock is a fantastic story weaver.

My Rating
5 Stars

This review is based on an eARC provided by the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Blog Tour: Firstlife by Gena Showalter - A Pocket Letter

Title: Firstlife
Author: Gena Showalter
Series: Everlife #1
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Publication Date: February 23, 2016

Hi everyone!  I am back with another fabulous pocket letter for all of you.  This time themed off of Gena Showalter's new book Firstlife!

Here is the pocket letter in all of its glory.  Nine individual pockets all themed off of the book.  Okay, 8 pockets.  One of the pockets reads my blogs title :)

So this pocket here.  You will notice that there are a few phrases.  This is how I feel about this book.  I thought it was pretty good.  It also caused me to think long and hard after it I was done reading it.  Weeks later, I am still stuck on thinking about things.  Needless to say, this one got to me and whenever a book gets to me like this one does I find myself needing to share it with others.

This is the obligatory pocket with the washi samples.  I did the color based off of the book cover.  Also, I put white for Troika - the side I would totally sign with btw.

Ten stands for our main character Tenley.  However, only her friends are allowed to call her Ten.  So make sure you  refer to her appropriately.

Troika is one of the two sides you can sign with for your Second Life.  This is the side for light and all things associated with this.  This is my attempt to draw the symbol that was in my ARC that is meant to represent Troika.  Yeah.  I don't think it is all that good either.

This one here is quite simply the title of the book.  Not much more that I can say about it than that...

This pocket represents Tenley's fascination with numbers.  It is a theme that runs through the entire book.  It would have been very wrong of me to not put a pocket representing this!!

Myriad is the other side that you can sign with for your Second Life.  This is the side that represents dark.  I tried to draw the symbol that my ARC had for them, but yeah....that turned out pretty horribad.

This final card is for my favorite boy character.  The bad boy!  Gah.  I just...yeah :)


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Also, you can win this pocket letter! I will stuff it with some goodies and mail it off to the winner.  However, this time around I am not doing a rafflecopter for it.  To enter go ahead and comment on this blog post with which side you would choose - Myriad or Troika...or if you would choose to stay unsigned!  I will close this contest on 2/29/16 at 11:59pm pst.

I will use a random number generator to choose the winner of the pocket letter.  You must be 13+ and in the US to enter.  Reading is Better With Cupcakes will not be responsible for any lost or damaged items :)

Visit the Tour Stops!
Tour Schedule:
Week 1:

Week 2:

Monday, February 15, 2016

The Picture Book Wall (#7)

My bug turned 1 only a few days ago and something I want to really start focusing on is storytime.  I have been reading to her some already, but I want to increase it.  I think I am also going to start taking her to the storytime at our local BN.  She is still a bit too young for the crafts that they do along with them, but I think the exposure to the stories, other people reading them, and the other kids will do her some good.  I am also going to be trying to do more storytimes within my MOMs Club chapter that I started in my area.

All of these are excellent goals, I think at least.  Now I just have to actually have to take steps in achieving them.

How have your storytimes with your littles been going?  Read any fantastic books lately?  Tell me!

And without further ado, here are this months picture book reviews!

Title: Little Bitty Friends
Author: Elizabeth McPike
Illustrator: Patrice Barton
Series: Stand Alone
Publisher: G.P Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: February 2, 2016
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4 Stars

This one is really cute and relatively simple.  Great for the younger crowd as it wont take too long to read through the whole story - perfect for those shorter attention spans!

Despite the simplistic story, it was still super cute and super fun to read through.  It was all about little friends such as caterpillars, dogs, etc.  Things that are our friends even though they don't look like us.  

The pictures were not overly detailed either, but they were still very pleasant to look at.

This review is based on a copy provided by the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Title: The Importance of Being 3
Author: Lindsay Ward
Series: Stand Alone
Publisher: Dial Books
Publication Date: February 16, 2016
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5 Stars

Technically this book would be the best for a 3 year old as this story is all about the number 3 and what is so awesome about it (including being 3 yourself).  However, don't let that stop you from reading this story to kids of other ages.  It covers a lot of different things that deal with the number 3.  A great lesson told in a super fun way if you ask me.

The pictures are fun to look at too, which doesn't hurt at all either!

This review is based on a copy provided by the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Title: Mr. Tod's Trap
Author: Frederick Warne
Series: Peter Rabbit Animation
Publisher: Warne
Publication Date: January 19, 2016
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4 Stars

Do you remember Peter Rabbit from when you were little?  Well he is still around and has some new stories!  Mr. Tod's Trap is one of those!

This story is about Peter Rabbit and a couple of his friends.  They find some radishes, but they figure it must be a trap set by Mr. Tod!  They try to avoid it, but the call of the radishes is too strong.  One of the friends actually get caught in the trap!  The friends must then work together before Mr. Tod can get a hold of them and eat them for dinner!

This book isn't technically a picture book.  It is one of those 4 x 4 square books.  However, it would still be great for a storytime or for a beginning reader.

I wasn't a huge fan of the illustrations.  They are computer graphic animation style.  That is just my personal preference though.

This review is based on a copy provided by the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Concentr8 by William Sutcliffe

Title: Concentr8
Author: William Sutcliffe
Series: Stand Alone
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Publication Date: January 19, 2016
Source: Irish Banana Blog Tours

Have you ever put off a review because you don't want to write it?  That is how it has been with me and my review for Concentr8.  I have been trying to get myself to write it for weeks.  Actually, to be totally honest, this is not the only review I have been putting off.  Well, I decided that I am going to open up where I write my reviews and just write it.  I need to get it done.

For those who follow me, you may recall that I actually posted something for Concentr8 a few weeks back - a pocket letter that I made themed off of it.  If you want to see it again, don't remember, or this is your first time visiting my little blog, you can find that post right HERE.

Now on to the review.

Concentr8 takes place in London England in the not so distant future.  Or maybe it is distant.  It is kind of hard to tell.  The city is currently under going a riot of epic proportions.  Why?  The government decided that it would stop supplying the medication Concentr8, used to treat ADHD, to the people.  This medication is so wide spread and used by so many people that they all freak out and riot.  A lot of them being teenagers.

Teenagers like our main characters.  Our story follows a group of them.  We start out at the riot, where they aren't doing much at all, and then the ring leader decides to kidnap a random government employee.  The other kids don't know why, but they follow along anyways.

Then they take the kidnapped employee into an abandoned warehouse.  They become public news.  The mayor gets involved.  Things happen.  The whole story takes place over the course of 6 days.

I personally thought that this story sounded like an interesting one.  I had such faith going into it that it was going to be good.  I was so bitterly disappointed.

There are a lot of different narratives to follow with in this story.  While this is not normally a thing that turns me off, when all the narratives essentially sound like I am following the same person when I am not supposed to be, I find them a horrible drag.  And that is how they were in Concentr8.  Unfortunately, I found them to be very poorly executed.  To make matters worse, I felt like the author had tried too hard with it.  So many of the sentences ended with "?"s when they really didn't need to.  It made that particular person's narrative very hard to read in my personal opinion.

Aside from the narration, the whole story felt very flat.  As I was reading along I kept waiting for something to happen, but nothing ever really did.  I felt like I read a whole book where nothing really ever went down.  It was quite disappointing.

I will give Concentr8 and William Sutcliffe this though.  There was a message to his story, and I think it was a great message.  Unfortunately though, I think it was just not executed very well.

My Rating
2 stars

This review is based on an eARC provided by the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Friday, February 5, 2016

The Radiant Road by Katherine Catmull

Title: The Radiant Road
Author: Katherine Catmull
Series: Stand Alone
Publisher: Dutton Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: January 19, 2016
Source: Publisher

I have a fondness for stories that take place in Ireland.  It is a place that I wish to some day visit.  So until I can actually make it there, I like visiting through books.

This book didn't disappoint me whatsoever.  While I read it, I could imagine the beautiful scenery.  I wanted to live in Clare's underground one giant room house where one wall is comprised entirely of a giant ancient tree.  I could imagine myself standing in the rolling green fields watching the ocean waves crashing against the shore.

In short, the imagery for The Radiant Road was very well done.

The Radiant Road is a fairytale.  It took me a while to realize that though.  At first I just thought that the narrative was a little strange to read.  Then at some point it clicked.  It is supposed to be reading as if there is a storyteller making (reading the story will make that term make sense to you!) a story and sharing it with you.  Even though I was very used to the narrative by the time I came to this realization, the realization increased my appreciation and understanding of this story.  I mean, I don't know about you, but for me a weird narrator can make it hard for me to really get into a book.

So you might be wondering at this point what The Radiant Road is actually about.  And, my friends, that is a difficult question to answer.  However, in short, it is about Clare MacLeod, who is the protector of the tree - a piece of the Strange as she calls it.  This is hard for her to swallow, as she has been running from the Strange all her life.  It has made her different and an outcast as her father and her have moved around.

There is a whole lot more to the story, but I really want you to read it, to experience it how I got to.  I don't want to ruin the storytellers making by giving too much of it away.

Overall, I found this story beautiful.  It made me want to create and make.  It also made me wish I could travel to the land of Faerie.

My Rating
4 Stars

This review is based on an ARC provided by the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

We Are The Ants - Shaun David Huthinson

Title: We Are The Ants
Author: Shaun David Hutchinson
Series: Stand Alone
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Publication Date: January 19, 2016
Source: Irish Banana Blog Tours

Guys.  This book.  OMG this book.

See the beautiful cover?  Despite how beautiful this cover is, it does not do this book justice.  I don't think any cover really truly could.


A few weeks ago I was a part of the blog tour for We Are The Ants through Irish Banana Blot Tours.  I made a pocket letter themed off this wonderful, amazing, brilliant book.  If you missed it you can find that post HERE.

If you haven't figure it out yet, I absolutely loved this book.  I have been raving about it since I read it.  I have been telling everyone that I know that they need to read it.  Now I am here telling you.

This book.  It is hard to put words to it.  It is beautiful.  It is heart wrenching.  It is mind blowing.

So what is this book about?  It is about Henry.  Henry gets abducted by aliens.  The aliens have told him he has until January 29, 2016 to choose if he wants to push the button.  If he pushes the button, he will save the world.  If he doesn't, the world will come to an end.

At a point before the story begins, Henry's boyfriend committed suicide.  He left no note, nothing.  Now Henry is in a secret relationship with his arch nemesis.  People ridicule him.  Call him Space Boy and his home life is far from perfect.

So much happens in this book.  There are certain parts of it I would love to tell you about, but can't.   Once you do read the book though, please feel free to contact me so we can discuss the brilliance of We Are The Ants.

There isn't anything I didn't like about this book.  The pacing was fantastic.  I loved the characters.  I felt very connected to Henry.

We Are The Ants contains a story that is going to stick with you for a long time after you finish.  Please read it.  And please come find me when you are done so we can talk about it.

My Rating
5 Stars!

This review is based on an eARC provided by the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.