Author: cvegnad

The Golden Empire Book Review

Don’t miss this stunning conclusing to the Dragon Artifacts; a magical tale of dragons, wizards, good vs. evil, greed, and friendship.

About The Golden Empire

With the Dragon King on the brink of death and Alli and the other dragon riders falling by the way, Roland Trye tries to unify the kingdoms against the threat coming from the east. Both arrogant and charming, Roland’s thirst for power has no limit. But will it be enough?

The power to win the war may fall on Gabby, a young wizard with a mission to find the mythical Phoenix. With its power she hopes to save the Dragon King and put up a united front against the aggressors.

But in the end the magic needed to win may require the ultimate sacrifice. Who will take up the cause and give up all they have to save the people?

Will the Dragon King survive? Will Alli and the other riders rejoin their dragons, and will Roland Tyre become what he has always wanted to be—the most powerful wizard alive?

My Thoughts

This is the stunning and powerful conclusion of this amazing series. It blew me away, I don’t think I was quite ready for all of the adventure, sacrifice, forgiveness and love that I found in this book.

With so much packed into this novel and a breath taking conclusion, it was not rushed nor was any part looked over. In this book, the invaders from the East are getting closer and closer. Our Dragon King is still on death’s door and their dragons seem all but lost. The only thing holding their land together? Roland Tyre and the Golden Scepter. He has turned into quite the young man who will make you proud. While he seems at times to do things for his own glory, he truly acts in the best interest of ALL of his people.

You are left on the edge of your seat throughout this novel – I actually finished it in one night and then re-read the book the next day. It was just too moving and fast paced that you didn’t want to miss what was next. You had to know if Alli would be able to remember her past and remove the hold that was on her, would the dragon bonds return to the Dragon Riders, would the Dragon King die, would Roland be able to hold up against the pressure and would they all survive the attack from the invaders of the East. There are so many little plots intertwined in this story but all necessary to understand the ending.

The ending of this story made the series for me. It was not what I was expecting but it was the ending the story deserves. The sacrifice, love and forgiveness touches you deeply and right when you think it is over, we are once again surprised with another little twist (you have to read the book to understand – telling you would give it away!).

This is a definite must read novel and series, you will not be disappointed. It is perfect for pre-teens, teens and adults alike.

You can purchase a copy of this book on Amazon.

Rating: 5/5

About the Author

Mike is now on his fourth YA fantasy series. For information on his new releases, book reviews, and other relevant info, please join him at www.MichaelSheltonBooks.com.

Mike was born in California and has lived in multiple states from the west coast to the east coast. He cannot remember a time when he wasn’t reading a book. At school, home, on vacation, at work at lunch time, and yes even a few pages in the car (at times when he just couldn’t put that great book down).

Other than reading, Mike enjoys the outdoors, disc golf, and spending time with his family. He has worked in corporate finance for most of his career, publishing his first books in 2016. He has now published 15 YA fantasy books full of adventure, magic, and wizards!

Disclosure: I received a digital copy of this book in order to facilitate this review. All opinions expressed are my own.

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The Ultimate Busy Family Snack: Slammers Superfood Snacks

We are constantly on the go in our house. Both my husband and I work full time  and our boys are both in competitive soccer. This means that we are up and on the move around seven in the morning and somedays not quite home until after nine at night.

While we have a very busy lifestyle, there are a few things that I will not compromise on and that is nutrition. My kids need good food choices in order to fuel their minds and bodies.

I was recently introduced to Slammers Snacks which are organic, no added sugar snacks that are easy to take on the go. They are peanut and gluten free and contain no artificial colours or flavours – a complete package for planning out school lunches and sport snacks!

Slammers Snacks come in six flavours with very unique names that your child will love:

  • Epic contains mangoes, bananas, carrots, orange, Greek yogurt and real vanilla.
  • Awesome contains bananas, blueberries, strawberries, beets, acai and amaranth.
  • Chill’N contains bananas, blueberries, butternut squash, Greek Yogurt and yumberry.
  • Amped contains apples, strawberries, cherries, chia and purple carrot.
  • Pomegranate Grape Crush (superfood smoothie) contains grape, pomegranate, coconut, apple, banana and purple carrot.
  • Watermelon Kiwi Burst (superfood smoothie) contains strawberry, kiwi, watermelon, apple, banana and beet.
The Ultimate Busy Family Snack: Slammers Superfood Snacks

We tried out the Awesome and Chill’N Slammers Snacks and fell in love with the rich taste, each to open lid and just the convenience in general of the packaging. The packaging allowed us to throw it in the side of our son’s soccer bag and run out the door or if we were running late in the morning, they were a perfect early morning snack to have on the way to before school care (both of my kids do not like breakfast so we try to get them to eat anything before they leave).

I loved the ingredient list – there is no way I can get my youngest to eat some of those listed vegetables (beets – no way!) and I love how this is snuck in there and it still tastes amazing. He has no idea he is eating vegetables – parent win!. There are four pouches to a box and make a fantastic addition to school lunches, after school activities and sports (we also brought some for his team mates as an after game snack and the kids loved it and bonus is they can’t make a mess in your car with it!).

The Ultimate Busy Family Snack: Slammers Superfood Snacks

Make sure to check out Slammers Snacks website – it is full of helpful information and recipes that your child will love (we can’t wait to try Slammers Muffins ). Make sure to follow them on Facebook and Twitter!

Disclosure: I received the above mentioned product in order to facilitate this review. All opinions expressed are my own.

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Magical Picture Books Perfect for the Holiday Season from Raincoast Books

Raincoast Books

Books have a magical quality about them, they take you on adventures to far off places, they encourage you to do use your imagination and foster a love of learning and education. Each book is special in its own manner.

Every holiday season, I ensure that I pick two books each for my nephews and niece, along with my own boys. I try to find a book that will capture their interest and spark a flame. Two new titles from Raincoast Books will make a perfect gift under the tree this year, Ara the Star Engineer and Mary Poppins, as they inspire, excite and encourage.

Magical Picture Books Perfect for the Holiday Season from Raincoast Books

Ara the Star Engineer is a great gift for young girls who want to explore the world of technology or perhaps a parent who wants to encourage their child to think big!

Ara is a young girl who loves BIG numbers. She wants to count all the stars in the sky… but how? This is an upbeat adventure of Ara and her sidekick droid, DeeDee (“Beep!”). They use smarts and grit to solve a BIG problem and discover an amazing algorithm. A quest that takes them through a whirlwind of intriguing locations at Innovation Plex – Data Centre, Ideas Lab, Coding Pods, and X-Space. Along the way, they encounter real-life women tech trailblazers of diverse backgrounds, including a Tenacious Troubleshooter, an Intrepid Innovator, a Code Commander, and a Prolific Problem Solver. They tinker-and-tailor, build-and-fail, launch-and-iterate, and in the end discover an amazing algorithm of success – coding, courage, creativity and collaboration.

This is an incredible, must read book for all young girls. It breaks my heart just a little on how this book was developed – she was inspired to write this book when her daughter stated that ‘engineers are boys’. Too often young girls are told either verbally or through visuals and media that they are not meant to participate in STEM or that this is a male dominated field. That flame is extinguished before it is even given a chance to spark. Girls should be encouraged to participate in STEM activities, books and classes. This book follows Ara, a young and inquisitive young girl, as she tours the Innovation Plex Data Centre in order to solve her own tech problem of counting the stars. She meets with four incredible women who show her how to solve her problem and these women help to inspire young girls who have an interest in those fields. It is so important to show young girls that other women have and are succeeding in this field and that they should always aim for the stars. No challenge is too big for any young girl (or child) when they put their mind to it. This is a definite must have book item for all young children and to be read over and over again.

You can find more about Ara the Star Engineer on the Raincoast Books website. You can purchase a copy of this book on Amazon and Chapters.

About the Author

Komal Singh is a techie by day and a storyteller mom by night , one who loves coding and cupcakes, data crunching and day dreaming, pottery making and program planning. She was inspired to write this book when a hypothesis put forth by her four year old daughter stunned her: ‘Engineers are Boys’.

Singh is passionate about using technology as an enabler and an equalizer for all. She takes part in kids’ coding clubs, sits on hackathon judge panels, and volunteers with nonprofits on technology development.

Komal grew up in India and studied Computer Science at Delhi University and later moved to Canada to complete her Masters’ degree in C.S from Simon Fraser University. She has worked as a software engineer with tech consulting firms and is currently an Engineering Program Manager at Google. Komal lives in Waterloo, Canada, with her husband and two kids.

Magical Picture Books Perfect for the Holiday Season from Raincoast Books

Mary Poppins, the illustrated gift edition, is a full-color illustrated edition of the classic novel about the magical nanny who has delighted children and adults the world over for many years.

Experience the adventures of the magical nanny who inspired the classic film, stage show, and young imaginations around the world in a whole new way. This illustrated gift edition features silver foil on the cover and beautiful artwork by Julia Sarda that re-imagines Mary’s London in rich, full color. Ideal for the lifelong Mary Poppins fan or serious collector, this edition also makes for a lovely family read-aloud book.

I loved Mary Poppins as a child, it was by far one of my favourite movies of all time. She was such a special person and sparked your imagination. I am sure the minute you hear her name, you are transported to your childhood and can sing all of the songs all over again. I could not wait to get my hands on this book. It is such a treasure from its magical cover (honestly I kept running my hands all over it, it is so beautifully done) to each and every page – it can be both a collectors item and a soon to be cherished book for a child. I almost didn’t want to share it with my own kids, it felt so special!

I loved reading the stories out loud to my son, it was easy to follow along and even easier to make silly voices to keep him entertained. There was an excellent balance of images throughout the book to keep your child entertained visually (but the stories are so vivid, you could almost get away with none). This is honestly a truly special book that will make adults and children alike happy.

You can find out more about this book on the Raincoast Books website. You can purchase a copy of this book on Amazon and Chapters.

About the Author

P. L. Travers (1899-1996) was a drama critic, travel essayist, reviewer, lecturer, and the creator of Mary Poppins. Ms. Travers wrote several other books for adults and children, but it is for the character of Mary Poppins that she is best remembered.

About the Illustrator

Julia Sarda has illustrated everything from classic children’s books to concept art for merchandise and video games. She lives in Barcelona.

What do you look for in a book as a gift for a young child?

Disclosure: I received the above mentioned products in order to facilitate this review. All opinions expressed are my own.

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Good, Better, Best Wines Book Review

DK Canada

Love wine? Then get ready for the Good, Better, Best Wines book!

Good, Better, Best Wines Book Review

About Good, Better, Best Wines

While wine snobs are swirling and sniffing expensive wines that are tediously hard to find, the rest of us are just drinking wine. Popular wine. Big-brand wine. Big brands can spell terrific value, but you need to know which bottles to buy. That’s where Good Better Best Wines, 2e comes in. It’s small enough to pop in your pocket and take with you to the store. And it’s user-friendly enough to flip through on the fly.

This book ranks the best-selling wines in North America by grape variety and price point up to $15 (USD). And every bottle listed comes with a color photograph for quick and easy identification, so you can buy and run before getting stuck in a conversation with someone eager to share their vast wine knowledge with you! Of course, you’ll also get other important details, such as what ingredients created each wine, flavor and smell profiles, and alcohol content by volume–but in Carolyn’s relaxed, friendly tone.

My Thoughts

It wasn’t until I reached my late twenties that I began to appreciate a good glass of wine. I think my problem in the beginning was that I had no idea about the differences between the different types of wine and would just randomly choose a bottle based on price. This usually meant I grabbed a wine that tasted sour and was not easy to finish. Over the last years, I have learned to appreciate and develop a preference for specific brands and types of wine. I am in no way an expert but I do know what I like and what I don’t like (I like a sweet, smooth taste with not too strong of an alcohol taste).

This well written and witty guide is the perfect guide book for those who love their wine but by no  means want to be an expert – they want to find a great bottle of wine at the right price point.

Carolyn breaks down everything you ever wanted to know about wine – from just the basics about prices, the battle of the cap to how to get the  most out of a bottle (which fortunately we have never had to worry about as we always finish a bottle once it is opened!). She then dives right into the world of white, reds, rose and sparkling as well as bargain, dessert and party wines. The book is roughly 238 pages long and each two page section carries information on three types of wines. My mind was officially blown at the sheer volume of wine brands she shared! Some of them were familiar but some were new to me. She gives a great background on what each wine tastes and I love how visual her description is (you can almost taste it) as well as sharing pretty neat did you know facts and food pairing tips (although I could have used without the amount of calories in wine – just joking!).

Carolyn has done an incredible job with this guide – she gives you advice that you didn’t even know you needed to know, like how full to make the glass to ensure you can fully appreciate the taste and aroma of the wine and the perfect temperature to serve each wine at. She gives you such a great variety and different price points, I found a few wines in there that I have been hesitant to try but actually did after reading her work, I was not disappointed at all!

You can learn more about this book on DK Canada’s website and purchase a copy of this book here.

Rating: 4.5/5

About the Author

Carolyn Evans Hammond is a two-time bestselling wine book author, the wine columnist for the Toronto Star (syndicated), and a seasoned wine judge.

Over the past 15 years, she has appeared on CNN International, BON TV (China), GoingGlobalTV.com, Canada AM, and CITY-TV; she has been a guest on radio stations all over the United States; and she has written for top publications, including Decanter, Wine Spectator, Wine & Spirit International, The Times(London), Maclean’s, Quench, Taste magazine, and others.

Constantly learning, Carolyn spends much of her time tasting wine, judging wine, and meeting with winemakers to keep abreast of the industry. She’s a longstanding member of the Circle of Wine Writers, holds a diploma from the Wine & Spirit Education Trust in the UK, and earned a BA from York University, where she studied English and philosophy. She has lived in many cities in North America and Europe and now resides in Toronto, where she was born.

Her message is simple: Living well doesn’t have to be pricey or pretentious. It just takes a little know-how—and maybe a corkscrew.

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book in order to facilitate this review. All opinions expressed are my own.

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Spirit of the Fox Book Review

Spirit of the Fox Book Review

She’s lost her mother and her memory. And if she fails to escape – she’ll lose herself.

Spirit of the Fox Book Review

About Spirit of the Fox

Meiko Wright wants nothing to do with the mother who abandoned her nine years ago. Spending a year in Tokyo, where her mother lives, will not change that fact. But when she takes a nasty fall in a Shinto temple, she wakes with no memory of her mother or anything of her past life. Without any idea who she is, she must rely on the kindness of a local priest who offers to help her as best he can. When the amnesiac Meiko wakes with a strange suspicion that something isn’t right, she vows to escape from a bond she doesn’t truly understand.

After years apart, Meiko’s mother Chieko is determined to make up for lost time. But when her daughter mysteriously disappears, Chieko promises she won’t lose her again. Along the trail of clues, the detectives working Meiko’s case discover a pair of suicides linked by a strange seductress and matching fox tattoos. Afraid her daughter may be next, Chieko visits a local shaman who tells her dark spirits could make her attempt for a rescue impossible.

With time running out, Meiko and her family must uncover the mystery of her mental captivity before she loses herself and her only way home forever.

My Thoughts

Spirit of the Fox is an amazing, thrilling novel from start to finish – I never knew quite what to expect next in this story.

We have Meiko, one of our main characters in this story, who is the daughter of an anthropology professor who specializes in folklore and a psychologist. Her mother (the psychologist) left her at an early age to return to Japan after she divorced her father. Meiko was raised primarily by her father in America (or perhaps she raised him a bit) and she has turned into a responsible, organized, cultured young woman who wants to continue in her graduate studies but needs some time to reflect and figure out what that would look like. She travels to Japan with her father (who will be teaching there) and plans to use this time to reflect on her future, document her journey on her blog and perhaps re-build her relationship with her mother. This is when everything makes a turn in the novel.

This is when we are introduced to some of the folklore of the Japanese culture which sends Meiko down a destructive path that we hope her family can rescue her from. The fox plays an interesting role in Japanese culture with both a good fox and an evil fox that plays on men and can be manipulative and destructive. The fox will possess a woman (who is very attractive and has a manipulative personality) and she will spell the ruin of any man. Throughout the novel, we are shown how many times this woman, at no fault of her own, will be ostracized from the community and sometimes forced to leave her home. Her history will follow her everywhere and she is doomed to a life of hatred from other women and never belonging.

It is the symbol of the fox (controlled by one man) and Meiko’s family history that is the center of the story as we soon find out. Meiko is “captured” by a person using the history of the fox and branded with the fox tattoo. She takes on the persona of a controlling, manipulative woman who is out to financially ruin the men on her list. The death toll starts to rise and Meiko’s parents must work together despite their history in order to save their daughter and bring her back to them.

This was an amazing book from start to finish, it was refreshingly different and exciting. I loved how he intertwined the culture and beliefs into the story for some additional learning. Meiko and her captor keep you on your toes, right when you think she may be coming back – he pulls her back into his evil plot. You almost feel lost at the end, that she may never come back but you keep praying that her parents and Grandmother can solve the case. This is a definite must read novel.

You can purchase a copy of this book on Amazon.

Rating: 5/5

About the Author

I’m not exactly sure when I decided to become a novelist, but I have always loved fiction. I read it slowly, a plodder in fact as I delve into the dialogue, the descriptions, the scene and setting. While my tastes are pretty eclectic, I am definitely drawn to books that push the limits of reality.

I recently sold the company, Select International, that I co-founded in 1993. We started the company in Guadalajara, Mexico where my wife Mari and I lived and worked for a little over two years with a wonderful group of employees. It was a phenomenal experience; we both learned not only to speak the language but also to embrace the Mexican culture and people.

In the past twenty years I’ve written over a hundred white papers, journal articles, book chapters and even a book, Hiring Great People. But writing technical papers is far removed from writing fiction. There are more constraints — the need to back up your text with results or references and the format is usually clearly outlined, and frankly, somewhat rigid. Fiction, though, is truly a blank page, which is both liberating and terrifying.

Almost ten years ago I got the idea for The Painter of Time, my debut novel. Then, of course, it was just a concept that needed a lot of fleshing out. It meant a lot of research on art history and art restoration, neither of which I had any formal training or experience. But I love doing research and learning new things so it was a natural fit. What I didn’t realize is how hard it is to actually write a good novel. There’s much more involved in the actual craft of writing that I ever expected.

I recently finished my second novel, Spirit of the Fox, which takes place in Japan. It is now available on Amazon!

Disclosure: I received a digital copy of this book in order to facilitate this review. All opinions expressed are my own.

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