Using Grammarly!

A few weeks back, I was contacted by Nikolas Baron to see if I would like to try out “Grammarly”, an online grammar check. He offered me a small gift if I would check it out and blog about it. Of course I wanted to use it a bit so that I could give an honest review.

Grammarly is located at It “catches” over 250 grammatical mistakes and also has an online plagiarism check (wish I had that when I was teaching college!). I put a few different items into Grammarly (you cut and paste your doc onto the screen) to see what would happen. A blog post came up as having pronoun usage (“you”) and sentence fragments, among other things. That’s true, as my posts are chatty and certainly not formal. A report I was writing for “real work” came up as verbose (moi?!) with lengthy sentences. That sounds about right. When I get technical, I’m the queen of the semi-colon. I clicked on the plagiarism check to see what would happen (with my blog post) and it immediately hit on my website as a match. I was impressed with the speed of it!

Grammarly is running a contest for a clever response to “I use Grammarly’s plagiarism checker because…” Of course cleverness is not my strong suit (though I will admit to being occasionally humorous), however, I would say that I used Grammarly’s plagiarism check to make sure that I (and no one else!) was sounding like myself that day!

I got a free trial to Grammarly, and you can, too. According to the website, you can try it free for 7 days. Then the cost varies, with the best deal being if you sign up for a year ($139.95).

If you do a lot of writing, and grammar is important to you (and it should be), then you should check out Grammarly. It’s more complete than any grammar check I’ve used, has an easy format, and it’s user-friendly.

Thanks, Nick, for having me try it out!

Grammarly — at

Review: THE SECRETS OF CASANOVA by Greg Michaels

I was recently approached to read and review Greg Michaels’ new novel: THE SECRETS OF CASANOVA. It sounded fun and interesting (and to be honest, I know very little about the real Casanova – a great lover, right? And always makes me think of Greg Brady in the Brady Bunch?). This was a rollicking, fun, adventure story, with a little history and a lot of fiction thrown in.

Giacomo Casanova was a real person who lived in the mid to late 1700’s (see Wikipedia at He was known for having many affairs with women and this reputation continues today when we call someone “a Casanova”. However, he was an interesting figure, intelligent and well-known, who wrote many works (best known is his autobiography), was imprisoned in Venice, lived in Paris, and knew many famous people of his era.
Michaels makes Casanova come alive as a flesh and blood man – part swindler, part earnest young man. He’s a bit of a lovable rogue who shows his more sensitive side in his relationships. He is on a quest for a holy relic, complete with “treasure map”, and his adventures take him and his companions across Europe with various close calls along the way.

As I read this book, I thought of what a fun movie it would make! I kept seeing Robert Downey Junior in the lead (call me a child of the 80’s). If you like swashbuckling adventure, you would probably like this book. There are some sexual scenes (not many, but they are there) or I would suggest it to the younger crowd as well.

I wasn’t sure by the ending if we might be hearing more from Mr. Michaels and Casanova. I would look forward to seeing his adventures continue!

Thanks for the opportunity to share your book, Greg!

“All Recipes” Magazine

In our house, we love food. We all enjoy watching the Food Network, and my daughter is completely obsessed with Pioneer Woman and her family (I can see why!). We love to cook, especially my ten year old. So, when I got an offer in the mail to order “All Recipes” magazine for a low price I did it.

Now I don’t usually review magazines, and I’ve only reviewed a few cookbooks, but I can’t express to you how much I LOVE this magazine! It has the BEST recipes, culled from the free All site. Most of them have been reviewed hundreds if not thousands of times, and they put the most popular ones in the magazine. Along with the recipe are reader comments and test kitchen notes. We have made several dinners, easily and quickly, from entrees featured and each one is a hit out of the ballpark (and I have two PICKY kids!). While I bought the magazine for $10/year, you can also just use the free site (I like the magazine, though, as it gives me suggestions; I often have a blank mind about what to make for dinner).

Anyhow, I just had to share my enthusiasm about our favorite cooking magazine. The best thing: we eat out less (in part because the recipes usually are comprised of things I have around the house). Even better, the kids actually ask me to cook and don’t want takeout!

Check it out at

All Recipes did not contribute to this post or give me anything for free (though I’m a happy taker of free things if offered!). They probably don’t know who I am unless they check their paid magazine subscriber roll (or they read my blog!).

Here’s their You Tube channel:


The winner of our OBSTACLES by Chris Reardon giveaway is Sheila from Book Journey ( Congrats to her!! Stop on over and check out her blog and say hi!

YA Review: The Unseemly Education of Anne Merchant by Joanna Wiebe

I chose this paranormal YA romance from Net Galley because, ever since middle school, I am a sucker for books that take place in boarding schools! THE UNSEEMLY EDUCATION OF ANNE MERCHANT is the first in a trilogy (wish I had known this going in to it as the ending disappointed me due to lack of resolution!). Undertaker’s daughter, Anne Merchant, is sent from her humble home in a very wealthy area of California to an island off Maine to the  elite Cania Christie boarding school. Right away she notices that everyone there is almost creepily perfect, and they all are bent on an almost ridiculous race to become valedictorian. Anne soon realizes that nothing is as it seems, that valedictorian means much more than grades, and that getting in to Cania Christie is so difficult and expensive, well let’s just say that people are dying to get in!

I can’t say too much more without giving it all away, but Anne works with new friends to explore and understand the mysteries of the school and the island (and villagers) where they live. The more she finds out, the more terrifying it all becomes. Add in some romance, teen angst, and conflict and you have fun (older – due to sexual content) YA fare. I can see this book as a movie – sort of Twilight meets Hunger Games.

Thanks, Net Galley and BenBella Books for my copy!

Quick Review: ELIZABETH OF YORK by Alison Weir

Alison Weir is an amazing historian, having written non-fiction books on a variety of British history subjects, including Henry VIII and Elizabeth I. I’ve read most of her work and while it is dense, it is fascinating.

I received ELIZABETH OF YORK from Net Galley. To be honest, I had no idea who she was (except that with that name, she was British). The subtitle of this book is “A Tudor Queen and Her World”. Elizabeth was Henry VIII’s mother. Her brothers were the little princes in the Tower (who disappeared). Elizabeth lived in a somewhat chaotic and violent time in British history in the late 1400’s. After a variety of ups and downs, she became a beloved and reigning queen, and the grandmother of Elizabeth I.

While I love reading these type of books, it is dense reading! It was also quite long. I read a Kindle version, but Amazon says over 600 pages. It is filled with facts that I would have been better served to write down into a genealogy. (I also struggle with the fact that a LOT of British queens/ladies shared the same three names: Elizabeth, Anne, or Jane, with an occasional Margaret thrown in).

If you don’t know much about Elizabeth of York and enjoy historical biography of the Tudors, then this is one for you!

Thanks, Net Galley and Ballantine Books, for my copy!

Saturday Snapshot: Three More of NYC

Here are a couple more pictures from NYC.

In this one Jack has climbed a big rock hill in Central Park. (Shortly after this picture, his sister tried to join him, but tumbled down instead!).

IMG_1884Notice he’s eating that most New York of treats: the soft pretzel from a lunch cart!

Next the kids watched others ice skating on the pond on Central Park West:

IMG_1888Mean Mom and Dad would not rent them skates or skate with them (mainly because none of us have ice skated and it was quite crowded!).

Then the next morning I ran down to NBC Studios as I’ve always wanted to be on the Today Show in the background. Alas – the weekend hours were different and they were already gone:

IMG_1883I pictured a cute pic of me and Al Roper standing around chatting about the weather – but unfortunately, you get a dark stage set with drizzle. Maybe next year!!

Saturday Snapshot is hosted by Melinda at See her site for participation and linking!




Review: THE INVENTION OF WINGS by Sue Monk Kidd

Oh my. This is a book I can hardly do justice to. It will truly be on my “Best of 2014” list this year!

I loved Sue Monk Kidd’s THE SECRET LIFE OF BEES (and I enjoyed her other two books as well), so I was very excited to get an ARC of her new publication THE INVENTION OF WINGS from Net Galley.

This historical novel tells the story of Sarah Grimké, a young girl of Charleston, SC. Starting in the 1830’s. Sarah receives a personal slave, a young girl named Handful (Hetty), as a gift for her eleventh birthday, and upsets her parents by trying to grant her her freedom. Young Sarah dreams of being a lawyer. Plain and intelligent, she doesn’t fit with the Southern belles of her peer group. She forms a friendship with Handful and almost immediately gets them both into serious trouble when she teaches Handful to read. The story follows Sarah, and Handful, as they grow up and become adults. Sarah evolves (along with her younger sister Angelina) into a passionate abolitionist and worker for women’s rights. Handful and her mother dream of one day being free.

While I loved this story, I was absolutely amazed to discover that Sarah Grimké and her sister Angelina were real people and that Sue Monk Kidd had based her novel on historical facts. How had I never heard of them?? This is a story that must be told. If you enjoy historical fiction, women’s studies, Civil War genre, and/or basically strong female protagonists who are based in reality, then you will enjoy this well-written and well-researched book.

Do yourself a favor and read this book!

Thanks, Net Galley and Viking, for my copy! Looks like it’s a pick for Oprah’s Book Club, too.

Giveaway! OBSTACLES by Christopher Reardon

I was recently contacted by Chris Reardon to see if I wanted to post about his book, OBSTACLES. Here’s how he describes it to me (Amazon blurb):

A child will die. You’re afraid to live. Would you go to all lengths to save him? Darkness knows no bounds, as Alcott, an African American doctor sees all too well. The man is petrified by death. His fragile existence rests at the mercy of the universe. This fact is far too much for him to handle. From unyielding nightmares to elevator terrors, he’s lost in paranoia.

Assigned to look after an ill child, Alcott’s horrors only heighten. Gari is a nine-year-old boy with a fatal disease. He will surely pass on within the year. Alcott bonds with him more and more each day. Part of him knows this grim fate just isn’t right.

Alcott befriends a hospital patient. This lunatic forces him to lug home an ancient text on bringing back the dead. Despite the man’s obvious dementia, Alcott attempts the scheme. Charging up a cliff, he recites the chant over ocean gusts.

A god woman glides in from the horizon. She instructs Alcott on the trials to save Gari’s life. These fearsome Obstacles require true strength. From battling sharks to wielding a flail, he must prove fortitude against genuine danger. Alcott decides his fate at this moment.

Death’s claws shall not grasp Gari’s soul.

Chris is willing to ship a copy of his book anywhere in the world (yeah, for my Brit, Canadian, and Australian regulars!). I haven’t read his book myself – I’m not a big paranormal/fantasy reader – but I’m happy to hear what YOU think about it if you read it.

Just leave me a comment, let me know how you got here, and I will choose one winner using This contest is open until SUNDAY, JANUARY 19. Good Luck!