Book review

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Homemade Pumpkin Spice Latte Paired with a Great Book

Published August 31, 2013 by Jennifer Elizabeth

This past week I noticed several Facebook updates from friends who purchased their first Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte (A BIG fan favorite!) for the upcoming Fall season. It makes sense.  School started and we all know that once that happens, Fall arrives immediately! (Well, at least where I live it does!)

Homemade Pumpkin Spice Latte

Homemade Pumpkin Spice Latte

So what is better than curling up with a great book and pairing it with a warm,  pumpkin spice latte? Even better, make it yourself and save yourself A LOT of money!

And so, since I am also a coffee and pumpkin lover (but am not a fan of spending money on things I can make myself), I decided to go recipe exploring for a homemade pumpkin spice latter and I discovered this one.

It’s a great recipe, but I decided to adapt it a bit ;).

Please note, my pumpkin spice latte recipe is HALF the original. I also decreased the amount of canned pumpkin by more than half because I am not a big fan of drinking liquid pumpkin ;). I think the recipe I developed tastes great. It’s not overwhelming in the pumpkin department and you can still taste the coffee–but it also is not overpowering.

AND, the end result is just sweet enough ;). Both my husband and my 3 year-old tried it and loved it. So, I think this pumpkin spice latte recipe is a success!

OK, so below is the recipe that I created. 😉 For those interested, I have posted images of the ingredients I used to create this recipe at the bottom of the post, as well as where I purchased them. ENJOY! 

Warm Pumpkin Spice Latte

1 Cup Almond Milk

1 1/2 tbsp. canned pumpkin

1 tsp. raw honey

1 tsp. organic vanilla extract

1/4 tsp. pumpkin pie spice

6 oz. Brewed Coffee or Expresso

First, prepare your coffee:

I used 2 scoops of Maxwell House Coffee (original roast) and about 1 cup (6 oz.) water. I made my coffee is an Imusa stove top espresso maker (I found one at the Grove City outlets for under $5!!)

But you if have no idea what I’m talking about, you can find the Imusa stove top expresso maker here. Basically, it’s a percolator. It makes your coffee much stronger than a regular old coffee maker.

I love mine!

Imusa stovetop expresso maker


While  coffee is getting ready, combine the almond milk, pumpkin and raw honey in a small saucepan, and cook it on medium heat, stirring until steaming.

mix pumpkin, almond milk and raw honey

Next, remove saucepan from heat, stir in vanilla and spice. Then, grab your whisk and get to it! When a lot of foam is created, you’re ready to transfer to your cup 🙂

mixing in vanilla and spices

Pour pumpkin mix into one large mug or two mugs.

Then, add the hot espresso or coffee on top. Once poured, you can top with whipped cream and sprinkle pumpkin pie spice, nutmeg or cinnamon on top.

I just left my plain. 🙂

The end result


Friendly Farms Almond Milk found at Aldi's grocery

Friendly Farms regular Almond Milk found at Aldi’s grocery store

Libby's Pure Pumpkin

Libby’s Pure Pumpkin

Crystal's All Natural Raw Honey found at Wegman's

Crystal’s All Natural Raw Honey found at Wegman’s

McCormick Pumpkin Pie Spice (found at Walmart)

McCormick Pumpkin Pie Spice (found at Walmart)

Simply Organic Pure Vanilla Extract

Simply Organic Pure Vanilla Extract


Before I Fall: An Unenthusiastic Book Review

Published July 29, 2013 by Jennifer Elizabeth
Lauren Oliver

Before I Fall, by Lauren Oliver
Image Courtesy: Goodreads

Lauren Oliver is one very talented writer. I adore her Delirium Series, and have had “Before I Fall” on my TBR list for over a year. A few weeks ago I discovered it cheap on Amazon and enthusiastically downloaded it to my Kindle. I was stoked.  I have read  many positive reviews on blogs, and so my expectations were fairly high. I was ready to jump into another Lauren Oliver masterpiece.

Unfortunately, that was not the case in regards to my experience. While I read, something kept nagging at me in the back of my head. I couldn’t quite put my finger on what it was…there was something so familiar about this story…

OH RIGHT. “Groundhog Day.”  I knew the storyline all too well…saw that movie at least 30 times, if not many many more.

Only this version wasn’t about a middle-aged disgruntled weatherman. It was about a popular teenage girl.

But the similarities didn’t stop there…something else was still not right.

The storyline wasn’t just familiar because of its super similar storyline  “Groundhog Day.” There was something else very familiar… I couldn’t quite pin-point what it was…until I was up late one night, flipping channels on my TV. And then this movie popped up–OH SNAP!

Ah yes. Our main character, Samantha Kingston, is a plastic (although, not referred to as such in “Before I Fall,” but in general, she is definitely one.) And her best friends are “plastics” as well.

Problem #1: I’m not a big fan of reading a story from the “popular” girl’s POV. For about 60% of the book, I couldn’t stand Sam. I don’t like that “popular girl” attitude. In fact, I despise it. I had to force myself to keep reading…and yet, because of the “Groundhog Day” storyline, I knew where the storyline was going…so I really had to push myself to keep reading. I was sadly close to closing my Kindle and calling this one a wash.

But I didn’t.

And  I didn’t gain anything from finishing the book either.

Problem #2: The ending was pretty much what I  expected. I wanted to read more about Sam and Kent. I was hopeful. Of course there was progression…but truthfully, it was completely unrealistic.

After 7 years of not talking to someone, you can’t suddenly show extreme interest in a person. Sam hadn’t spoken to Kent in years, and had made fun of him despite his persistence towards her. And although their relationship progressed with each “rerun” day, it was one-sided.

Days weren’t repeating for Kent. They were repeating for Sam. So in reality, this would never have happened. A real person would have questioned Sam’s intentions (specifically within those 24 hours…and over a few days, this change of heart would have been believable. Kent would have accepted Sam’s change of heart. But not in a few hours…and not after years of mockery.)

Problem #3: When I read this book, I was coming off of a Colleen Hoover high. I had just finished reading “Hopeless” and was left breathless. That book was awesome. (See my review here.) So, again, expectations were high. Sadly, those expectations were not met.

Had I never seen “Groundhog Day” or “Mean Girls,” this book would have appealed a lot more. Sam progresses, evolves, and changes her life and outlook on others. There is a very beautiful, positive message in “Before I Fall.” But, (and sadly, there is a but) the book did not appeal to me at all.

Book Synopsis (via Goodreads):

What if you only had one day to live? What would you do? Who would you kiss? And how far would you go to save your own life?

Samantha Kingston has it all: looks, popularity, the perfect boyfriend. Friday, February 12, should be just another day in her charmed life. Instead, it turns out to be her last.

The catch: Samantha still wakes up the next morning. Living the last day of her life seven times during one miraculous week, she will untangle the mystery surrounding her death—and discover the true value of everything she is in danger of losing. 

Have you read “Before I Fall” …What’s your take?

What are you reading? I’d love some fresh suggestions!

Ties that Bind: Reflections on Life and Death

Published June 10, 2013 by Jennifer Elizabeth

Tonight I finished reading “If I Stay,” by Gayle Forman. Talk about tear jerker! Phew! There is so much in this book that forced me to think about life, relationships, love and most importantly, death.

When I was little, I was always aware of time and how quickly it passes. As an adult, I’m even more aware. I often find myself caught in a moment of watching my little boys, trying my hardest to embed a memory of their six and three year-old selves.

You never know when a moment might be the last moment.

When I first started to write this post, I had to take a brief break to put my sons to bed. My oldest, Noah, has the gift of gab (just like his mother at his age ;)), and he began talking about school and listed all the grades he’d be in one day. And then he asked my husband, “Will you be alive when I’m done with 12th grade?”

Any question that starts with “Will you be alive when…” is the most heart wrenching question when it comes from your child–specifically because you don’t know. No one knows. 

At that moment, his question stuck me as WOW. At six years-old, he too is clearly aware of time and death. (Not to mention the fact that I was also writing this post about life and death.)

So back to Gayle Forman and “If I Stay.” If put in the same position as the main character, Mia, what do you do? It is impossible to not ask yourself this question when reading this book. What do you do when tragedy hits, and you are given a choice: do I live or do I die?

The ties that bind us are those things which hold us together…

If my family was taken from me, I know I would lose it. Despite my faith, I’m not sure I’d be able to keep it together and carry on. And if my family was taken from me and I was on the edge, barely hanging on, I’m not sure I’d want to hang on, you know?

I have both family and friends who have suffered the loss of a child–both outside the womb and inside the womb. I’ve often wondered, how do they keep it together? I also have friends who lost parents at a young age–and there’s that unspoken understanding that they have to carry on because it is absolutely what their parent/parents would want.

Gayle Forman’s beautiful story forced me to think about life and death and the ties that bind. The little family that I have created is what keeps me living and breathing each day. I love my family. I am immensely thankful for all that I have been blessed–and the love, generated from my family, are those ties that hold me together.

And sometimes that love and those ties are what continue to hold us together even when severed by tragedy.

Have you read “If I Stay” by Gayle Forman? How did it influence you?


Synopsis of “If I Stay” by Gayle Forman

In a single moment, everything changes. Seventeen-year-old Mia has no memory of the accident; she can only recall riding along the snow-wet Oregon road with her family. Then, in a blink, she finds herself watching as her own damaged body is taken from the wreck…

A sophisticated, layered, and heart-achingly beautiful story about the power of family and friends, the choices we all make, and the ultimate choice Mia commands.

#Bookreview Tiger’s Destiny: Wha?

Published February 5, 2013 by Jennifer Elizabeth

Tiger's Destiny by Colleen HouckI started reading Colleen Houck’s “Tiger’s Destiny” in October of last year. I finally finished it a few weeks ago. Two family members of mine also read the book and finished before me.

Both said the exact same thing when they ended the book. I won’t go into detail, because I am NOT one to give away endings ;).

However, the main question floating around is: Where can the story go from here?

Have you read this series? If so, what were you left thinking?

My eyeballs started to drag a bit throughout the vampire scenes…it honestly took A LOT for me to keep reading. I was left feeling OK at the end of the book…wasn’t super excited, wasn’t terribly disappointed. In general, I just “wasn’t” anything.

I recently read on Author Colleen Houck’s Website that she is embarking on a new book, and is still currently writing “Tiger’s Dreams”. Perhaps she has lost some steam for the story and is ready to move on. I for one, am ready to move on.

The series started out great–I was hopeful, excited, eager for more. Then, I became bored and found myself saying,

“Well, no surprise there.”

I want to love it and keep loving it. I’m just not here anymore :(. I love the characters…but feel there could have been more…there SHOULD have been more…specifically more depth.

We are in the 4th book. Has Kelsey grown as a character? Yes. I think she did…but in my opinion, she should have grown A LOT more. There were times I wanted to slap her for her arrogance and whiny mouth.

Did she really deserve either Ren or Kishan? Maybe…maybe not.


The Evolution of Mara Dyer: Holy Freaking Awesome!

Published December 31, 2012 by Jennifer Elizabeth

Reading En Vogue Gives this book 5 Stars!

didn't like it it was ok liked it (my current rating) really liked it liked it (my current rating)

First, if you haven’t read “The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer,” do so. And do it now. Second, this book is ridiculous! Michelle Hodkin is hands down one of my new favorite authors.

It’s probably safe to say that I read “The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer” nearly a year ago. I thought that book was fantastic. I honestly didn’t expect to be as impressed with book #2. I’m sure you all can relate. You read #1 and fall in love with the storyline, characters, setting, etc. The you read #2 and something leaves you with that bad taste in your mouth, never fully satisfied and sometimes wishing you didn’t even open #2.

YA Book The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle HodkinThis sequel does NOT leave that bad taste in your mouth. This book leaves you craving MORE!! And dang it, Hodkin, I want more. Like NOW! I haven’t even looked into when/if a #3 is coming out. But if I have to wait another year, I think I may start dreaming creepy nightmares about this book!

OK, here is the synopsis for “The Evolution of Mara Dyer“:

Mara Dyer once believed she could run from her past. She can’t. She used to think her problems were all in her head. They aren’t. She couldn’t imagine that after everything she’s been through, the boy she loves would still be keeping secrets. She’s wrong. In this gripping sequel to “The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer,” the truth evolves and choices prove deadly. What will become of Mara Dyer next?

Continuing with the review:

Mara and Noah: This relationship has it all and not enough. Read it. You’ll know exactly what I mean!

Dolls: I will never look at dolls again in the same way…and burning hair…lets not even go there 😉 I am forever creeped out.

Psychologists/psycho-therapy: I have never been comfortable with aspect of medical treatment. And now, even less so!

The storyline flows beautifully and there is never a dull moment. Read it and you won’t want to put it down! If you’ve read Becca Fitzpatrick‘s “Hush, Hush” series and enjoyed the thrill-tastic storyline of Nora and Patch, you WILL love this!

Recommended Reading Level: Ages 15 and Up (language, sexual content, creepiness (ha!))

Teaser Tuesday #2: Farsighted by Emlyn Chand

Published July 3, 2012 by Jennifer Elizabeth

This week is my second Teaser Tuesday post, and I chose Emlyn Chand‘s, Farsighted.  I read this book in one day, over this past weekend, and I will be posting a book review on July 13th for the Orangeberry Book Tour.  Honestly, I couldn’t wait to post something, anything, about this book :).  So here’s a little teaser for you!  And, I would have posted a page number, however, I read it in eBook format and there were no page numbers to post ;).


“They say that right before you die your whole life flashes before you – a medley of your own personal greatest hits. Well then, I must be about to live, because events that haven’t happened yet are constantly pushing themselves into my head.”
Emlyn Chand, Farsighted, 2011


Alex Kosmitoras’s life has never been easy. The only other student who will talk to him is the school bully, his parents are dead broke and insanely overprotective, and to complicate matters even more, he’s blind. Just when he thinks he’ll never have a shot at a normal life, an enticing new girl comes to their small Midwest town all the way from India. Simmi is smart, nice, and actually wants to be friends with Alex. Plus she smells like an Almond Joy bar. Sophomore year might not be so bad after all. eBook Edition,

Unfortunately, Alex is in store for another new arrival—an unexpected and often embarrassing ability to “see” the future. Try as he may, Alex is unable to ignore his visions, especially when they suggest Simmi is in mortal danger. With the help of the mysterious psychic next door and friends who come bearing gifts of their own, Alex embarks on his journey to change the future. –Goodreads

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along!  Just do the following:

• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

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