Two Mini Book Reviews {Year of No Sugar // What Makes Olga Run?}


My last two mini reviews were in September, so today’s post is long overdue! I have been challenging myself to read more nonfiction lately {I aim for at least one book a month} because I rarely venture into that genre. It’s been fun so far, and it’s a nice change of pace from my usual YA and middle grade choices! Anyhoo, my first two choices both discuss health in some way AND have bright blue covers, so that was good enough for me :) Do you have any nonfiction recommendations?

Year of No SugarTitle: Year of No Sugar

Author: Eve O. Schaub

Published: April 8th, 2014 by Sourcebooks

Pages: 303

Genre: Adult / Memoir

Source: Library / Paperback

Summary: It’s dinnertime. Do you know where your sugar is coming from? Most likely everywhere. Sure, it’s in ice cream and cookies, but what scared Eve O. Schaub was the secret world of sugar–hidden in bacon, crackers, salad dressing, pasta sauce, chicken broth, and baby food. With her eyes open by the work of obesity expert Dr. Robert Lustig and others, Eve challenged her husband and two school-age daughters to join her on a quest to eat no added sugar for an entire year.

Along the way, Eve uncovered the real costs of our sugar-heavy American diet – including diabetes, obesity, and increased incidences of health problems such as heart disease and cancer. The stories, tips, and recipes she shares throw fresh light on questionable nutritional advice we’ve been following for years and show that it is possible to eat at restaurants and go grocery shopping – with less and even no added sugar. Year of No Sugar is what the conversation about “kicking the sugar addiction” looks like for a real American family–a roller coaster of unexpected discoveries and challenges. {Goodreads}

My Thoughts: As a type one diabetic, keeping track of what I eat and learning what’s in my food has simply become routine, but it has also led to my fascination with studies on food, health, and the relationship between the two. And so, I think it was only natural that my first pick for my little nonfiction challenge was a memoir on eating no sugar. Unfortunately, despite my initial interest and excitement over finding a book that screamed “me,” I never found myself invested in the author and her family’s story. I can’t put my finger on the exact reason, but I suspect that my less-than-stellar impression stems from the sense of disconnect between Schaub and the reader {of course, this will be different for each individual, but I personally wasn’t feeling it} and there being so many “cheats,” for lack of a better word, that I began questioning whether you could really call their project a year of no sugar.

On a more positive note, I do appreciate the no-sugar recipes included in the back of the book; this memoir could serve as inspiration for others, so having resources readily available might be the final push they need to embark on their own no sugar adventure. I also admire the amount of facts and statistics the author uses to back up her claims. You could tell that Schaub learned a LOT from this project, and the information she included helped to support her story.

While I still think what the author and her family did was a terrific experiment, I struggled to push past reading a single chapter in one sitting. Even with a few positive elements, the book’s list-like style of writing {i.e more telling, little showing}, misleading promotion, and odd disconnect between author and reader makes this one a miss, not a hit, for me.

Pros: The recipes and tips included in the back of the book are helpful and fit the purpose of the memoir. The author also supports her claims with a good amount of information.

Cons: As mentioned above, the memoir is much more telling instead of showing. I felt disconnected from the author’s story as well.

Heads Up: Some language, but nothing major!

Overall: I give it 2 1/2 stars {** 1/2}.

What Makes Olga Run?Title: What Makes Olga Run?: The Mystery of the Ninety-Something Track Star and What She Can Teach Us About Living Longer, Happier Lives

Author: Bruce Grierson

Published: February 18th, 2014 by Henry Holt and Co.

Pages: 224

Genre: Adult / Nonfiction

Source: Library / Hardcover

Summary: In What Makes Olga Run? Bruce Grierson explores what the wild success of a ninety-three-year-old track star can tell us about how our bodies and minds age. Olga Kotelko is not your average ninety-three-year-old. She not only looks and acts like a much younger woman, she holds over twenty-three world records in track and field, seventeen in her current ninety to ninety-five category. Convinced that this remarkable woman could help unlock many of the mysteries of aging, Grierson set out to uncover what it is that’s driving Olga. He considers every piece of the puzzle, from her diet and sleep habits to how she scores on various personality traits, from what she does in her spare time to her family history. Olga participates in tests administered by some of the world’s leading scientists and offers her DNA to groundbreaking research trials.

What emerges is not only a tremendously uplifting personal story but a look at the extent to which our health and longevity are determined by the DNA we inherit at birth, and the extent to which we can shape that inheritance. It examines the sum of our genes, opportunities, and choices, and the factors that forge the course of any life, especially during our golden years{Goodreads}

My Thoughts: What Makes Olga Run? certainly isn’t my typical reading choice, but I am so happy that I picked it up! Like Year of No Sugar, I was really excited to get to this one based on the intriguing premise, but unlike my first nonfiction pick, this one managed to keep my interest.

Bruce Grierson’s relaxed style of writing best shows the two main focuses of the book: his exploration on how to live longer based on Olga’s successful track career and his personal connection with Olga that is formed out of these studies. It’s informative, but never boring, and I don’t think you’ll realize just how much information the author packs in until you’re done reading. The scientific side {which Grierson does a terrific job explaining in terms that are easy to understand} is balanced out with anecdotes from Olga and other track stars. This may be a study on how to live a longer life, but what I loved most was reading about Olga’s own experiences. Even better was seeing the friendship that develops between Olga and the author throughout the course of the study; I think it was that personal touch that helped to better shape the book.

In the very end, Grierson wraps up the book with nine rules based on Olga’s lifestyle and scientific studies. The tips are nothing new, but they are good reminders that to live a better and longer life, it starts by taking care of the body you have. To end this satisfying read on such a positive note was a welcome surprise and reinforced my overall impression of What Makes Olga Run?. 

Pros: The author strikes a nice balance between informative and entertaining. I also liked the personal touches weaved throughout the book.

Cons: Nothing comes to mind!

Heads Up: I can’t think of anything that would raise concern at the moment.

Overall: I give it 5 stars {*****}.

Have a wonderful evening!


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loving >> week 128


The Love ListI’m loving…

Drawing Type: An Introduction to Illustrating Letterforms1 ♥ Drawing Type: An Introduction to Illustrating Letterforms I received Drawing Type yesterday as a birthday present, and even after reading just the first chapter, I can tell you it’s worth getting for yourself {in other words, it’s a must if you too are a budding graphic designer}. Whether you’re in need of gorgeous typography inspiration or if, like me, you want to master the art of “illustrating letterforms,” Drawing Type explores it all. My favorite part is reading the thought process behind the different pieces included, all done by various graphic designers, although I also can’t wait to try my hand at the exercises in the back of the book. Easily recommended!

Providence Coal-Fired Pizza2 ♥ Providence Coal-Fired Pizza I like to feature local restaurants, bakeries, and cafés whenever I can, so I couldn’t let this week’s Love List go by without mentioning Providence Coal-Fired Pizza! It was the perfect spot for a birthday lunch, and I know I {and my sister} would love to go back. We enjoyed the Margherita Pizza, in case you want to check it out as well.

Mean Girls3 ♥ Mean Girls My good friend was appalled that I hadn’t seen Mean Girls, so we made a goal to watch it together sometime this year. I finally saw it this week, and I now understand many of the quotes behind it! :) However, I’ve been warned to stay away from Mean Girls 2, so perhaps I will just watch the first one again instead.

Boden Fall 2014 Line4 ♥ Boden’s Autumn 2014 Line Boden’s release days are some of my most favorite times of the year! :) I had been eagerly awaiting this past Monday, as that was the day Boden would roll out their fall items; thankfully, the line didn’t disappoint. There’s so much that I LOVE, but my four favorite pieces are shown above! In the top left is the Matilda Dress, which has both a cute silhouette and a stylish pattern. On the top right is the Embellished Scoop Neck Tee, which I am convinced would look fantastic with a cream lace skirt {Right?!}. Continuing clockwise is the Toggle Coat, which I adored the second I saw it, but, sadly, is a bit too expensive. Finally, I picked out the Clara Sweater. I like the color the best of all – I’m sure the bright flecks are pretty in person!

Lilly Pulitzer Trippin and Sippin Planner5 ♥ My Lilly Pulitzer Planner! Last, but not least, I received a Lilly Pulitzer agenda yesterday {first featured on my b-day wishlist here}, and I absolutely adore it! I’ve already started filling in blog posts to schedule, my school calendar, and other events with my favorite colorful pens. Do you own anything from Lilly Pulitzer?

Have a wonderful start to your weekend!



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Pros & Cons / Rebel Belle by Rachel Hawkins


Pros and ConsI choose books based on a variety of reasons, but the one that first led me to Rebel Belle, by Rachel Hawkins, was the gorgeous and intriguing cover. From the title treatment to the contrast between the knife and pearls {weapon-wielding southern belle? how could you not pick this one up?!}, I was hooked. Thankfully, the story didn’t disappoint – I’m already planning to read more of Rachel Hawkins’ novels based on my enjoyment of this one! It’s fluffy, fun, and oh-so entertaining, so I suggest moving this one to the top of your to-be-read list.

Here’s your quick summary, as always: Harper Price, peerless southern belle, was born ready for a Homecoming tiara. But after a strange run-in at the dance imbues her with incredible abilities, Harper’s destiny takes a turn for the seriously weird. She becomes a Paladin, one of an ancient line of guardians with agility, super strength and lethal fighting instincts. Just when life can’t get any more disastrously crazy, Harper finds out who she’s charged to protect: David Stark, school reporter, subject of a mysterious prophecy and possibly Harper’s least favorite person. But things get complicated when Harper starts falling for him—and discovers that David’s own fate could very well be to destroy Earth. {Goodreads}

Rebel Belle Pros and ConsLet’s discuss! Have you read Rebel Belle or any of the novels in the Hawkins’ Hex Hall series? I haven’t come across many YA books that use the southern belle storyline; the only few that are coming to mind are this one and the Belles series {reviews here, here, and here}. Finally, according to Goodreads, the second book in this trilogy, Miss Mayhem, will come out next April. I’m extremely happy and quite excited to read it! :)


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S’mores Cookies

Hi!S'mores CookiesMy love for s’mores should come as no surprise, given the number of tasty recipes I’ve shared featuring their signature ingredients {really, though, if you haven’t whipped up a batch of S’mores Brownies before, you’re missing out}. Today, I have another recipe to add to the mix – and it’s a good one! I’ve been meaning to make these treats ever since I saw them in the July/August edition of Country Living, but a broken oven and hot weather delayed my baking plans for a bit. However, the wait was entirely worth it. Topped with melted chocolate and marshmallow fluff, these cookies are indulgent, messy, but, most importantly, oh-so tasty. The cookies themselves are a great base – I can’t wait to try them with a chocolate chip addition – and the topping practically begs to be eaten. There’s nothing to lose by making a batch, so let’s get right to it! :)

S'mores CookiesS’mores Cookies Adapted from the July/August 2014 issue of Country Living {available online here!}


  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 3/4 cup graham cracker crumbs
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 sticks butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup dark chocolate baking chips
  • 1 jar marshmallow creme {also known as Fluff}

to make

  1. Preheat oven to 350ºF. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. In a medium-sized bowl, mix the flours, graham crackers, baking soda, and salt.
  3. In an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugars together until smooth and fluffy. Add in the vanilla and eggs. Slowly beat in the dry ingredients. Dough should be incredibly sticky.
  4. Scoop out heaping tablespoons of cookie dough, and place on baking sheets in four rows of four. Use your hand to flatten balls of dough to 1/2 inch thick.
  5. Bake for fourteen to fifteen minutes, or until cookies are light brown around the edges. Let cool on a wire rack.
  6. Once cookies have cooled, melt chocolate chips in thirty second increments in the microwave. Stir as needed, and let cool for two minutes before using.
  7. For each cookie, scoop a dollop of marshmallow creme onto the top of it; use a small spatula to spread it in a neat circle. Using a spoon, sprinkle melted chocolate over the marshmallow creme. Place it back on a parchment paper lined baking sheet to harden for at least thirty minutes. Repeat for the rest of the cookies.
  8. Enjoy!

Have a wonderful rest of your day!

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Making the Grade / Absolutely Almost


Making the GradeLisa Graff instantly made my author “auto-buy” list after I finished and LOVED A Tangle of Knots last year. Furthermore, I confidently recommend her to middle grade fans all the time, so you can imagine my high expectations going into her newest novel, Absolutely Almost. Thankfully, she didn’t disappoint with this wonderfully written, incredibly realistic, and often bittersweet story {who knows what I would do if I didn’t like the book?}. I share my full thoughts below!

Making the Grade Absolutely AlmostSummary: Albie has never been the smartest kid in his class. He has never been the tallest. Or the best at gym. Or the greatest artist. Or the most musical. In fact, Albie has a long list of the things he’s not very good at. But then Albie gets a new babysitter, Calista, who helps him figure out all of the things he is good at and how he can take pride in himself. {Goodreads}

Main Character Development {A+}: Oh, Albie. There are some characters that just get to you the moment you begin reading, and such was the case when I started Albie’s story. He isn’t extraordinary. He is no genius or superhero or child prodigy. He has no special talent, which goes against what the middle grade genre often relies on – kids with impressive powers or skills to set the background for the story to happen. Yet Albie is still someone with a range of emotions deserving to be heard, and Graff tackles this idea perfectly. On top of this, he’s portrayed in such a realistic light as a fifth grader trying to find his place in the world {Did I also mention that he fits the bill for diverse characters in kids’ books?!}. For Albie’s development alone, Lisa Graff will forever be a favorite author of mine.

Supporting Character Development {A-}: Whereas Albie’s development is above and beyond what I originally expected, the supporting characters are just what is needed to move the story along. This isn’t a bad thing, but when you compare the two categories, the secondary characters don’t shine as much as Albie does. I wish that Graff delved deeper into a few of their stories, especially with such interesting topics at hand {for example, reality television and how it affects a family}. However, the most important supporting character – Calista – shows many layers, and I think she will hit different feelings for parents and kids, and the same goes for Albie’s own mom and dad.

Engaging and Well-Paced Plot {A}: What I find most difficult about realistic fiction for this particular audience is keeping the reader interested. With stories about magic, adventure, and mysteries abound, contemporary books have to grab the attention of the reader and maintain it for them to keep reading. Lisa Graff does this, despite what may at first seem like a bland story. The short chapters flow together well too; the story moves right along at a good pace.

Interesting and Consistent Voice {A+}: This goes right back to Albie’s character development, because in creating such a layered and complex character, Graff also manages to write Albie’s story with a unique voice. An easy A+ right there! :)

Vivid Writing and Language {A+}: I don’t write down my favorite quotes from novels, nor do I mark up books, but gosh, I was close with Absolutely Almost. It may seem like an easy read, but a closer look will tell you that it takes a talented writer to craft such an outstanding novel. I have loved following Lisa Graff’s works over the years, and if her past few works are any indication, she is getting better with each one!

Memorability/Lasting Impact {A+}: Overall, Absolutely Almost left me feeling happy, upset, frustrated, surprised, but most importantly, satisfied. As much as I would have loved to read more about Albie, I think Graff left the story on the perfect note. Definitely recommended – you won’t regret reading it.

Final Grade: A+

Have a lovely rest of your day!

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