Thursday, September 13, 2018

Semi-Healthy Banana Muffins {dairy free, lower carb}

Semi-Healthy Lower Carb  Banana Muffins Dairy Free.  Delicious muffins, and using Truvia and Coconut Oil make it light but healthier. Amazing muffins.  So yummy. Use ripe overripe bananas. Can Freeze them. Recipe. Alohamora Open a Book

My family ADORES these muffins, and I love that I was able to take a recipe we love and make it just a little healthier.  I feel that is my constant mission in life.  I love to take recipes and dishes my family loves and make them healthier.  

These muffins are lower carb (they aren't low carb b/c bananas in general are not low carb) using an erythritol baking blend.  The coconut oil also helps keep the muffins light and fluffy even with half the sugar amount.  It took a few tries to perfect the recipe, but once I did I'm pretty sure my kids stopped eating bananas so I'd have plenty of ripe bananas to bake with.  So thoughtful... or smart. 

Enjoy and happy baking! 

Semi-Healthy Banana Muffins
Recipe: Alohamora
Active Time: 15 minutes 
Inactive Time: 20 minutes
Servings: 12-14 muffins

*A note about your bananas.  Use those ripe/overripe bananas that are black and brown.  You can even peel the bananas and freeze them in bags with 3 bananas each.  If you are using bananas frozen in your freezer make sure you thaw them before.  There will be thawed juice and soggy bananas in your bag, but that is okay, just pour out the excess water, mash them in the bag, and dump the bananas right in your bowl. 

1/2 c. Truvia Baking Blend or another 
erythritol baking blend
1/2 c. coconut oil, melted
3 ripe bananas, mashed
2 eggs, large at room temperature
1 c. flour
1/4 c. cake flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Either grease/flour 12 muffin cups or place cupcake liners/papers in your muffin/cupcake tin. 
  2. In a medium bowl or a stand mixer cream the Truvia or similar sugar and melted coconut oil until mixed well. 
  3. Add the ripe bananas one at a time mixing between each addition. 
  4. Add the eggs one at time mixing between additions. If your eggs are not at room temperature the coconut oil may solidify on your mixer paddle or spoon.  I find sticking my metal bowl in the oven that is preheating for a couple minutes warms the coconut oil again and allows me to mix the muffins well.   
  5. Add the remaining ingredients in the order listed.  Mix the batter together until everything is just combined.  Don't over mix the batter. 
  6. Use a large cookie scoop, or pour approximately 3 tablespoons of batter into each muffin cup.  You don't want the muffins more than 3/4 full.   
  7. Bake the muffins at 350 for 15-20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.  17 minutes was my magic number. 
  8. Remove pans from the oven and allow them to cool.
  9. Enjoy banana muffins warm or cold. 
  10. Store your completely cooled muffins in an airtight container on the counter or in the refrigerator.  You can freeze banana muffins in small freezer bags and take them out of the freezer as you desire. 

Happy Semi-Healthy Banana Muffin eating!

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Dream Country gets 4.5 Stars {ya, historical fiction}

Blog Tour for the publishing of Dream Country by Shannon Gibney. A teen read/ya (young adult) historical fiction about a Liberian family.  It takes place in current time, but also goes back to the 1820s.  Fabulous book earning 4.5 out of 5 stars. Page Turner, Enlightening, Eye-opening, Excellent.  Emotional. Sad. Alohamora Open a Book alohamoraopenabook

Dream Country comes out today!  On this day, when in America we think about freedom, you can grab a copy from Amazon, the library, or your favorite bookshop to read about a Liberian family (5 generations) searching and fighting for freedom. 

A Blog Tour means you get a chance to read what many of us thought of this newly published book by touring the participating blogs.  Yesterday, An Existence Transcribed shared her thoughts, and tomorrow you can head over to Jena Brown Writes to see what she thought of the the book.  Though this teen read is distressing, it is fantastic and adults as well as teens should give it a read.  

Dream Country by Shannon Gibney. A teen read/ya (young adult) historical fiction about a Liberian family.  It takes place in current time, but also goes back to the 1820s.  Fabulous book earning 4.5 out of 5 stars. Page Turner, Enlightening, Eye-opening, Excellent.  Emotional. Sad. Alohamora Open a Book alohamoraopenabook new book 2018

Dream Country  by Shannon Gibney is well deserving of it's 4.5 out of 5 stars in my review.  I found this young adult book to be a page turner.  It's a fascinating and enlightening story, that had me feeling for each of the characters in each of the parts of the story.   Dream Country is truly eye-opening to experiences and journey that spans almost 200 years for a family.

This book was broken up into 5 parts, each section was set during a different time with a different main character.  The parts of the story connect b/c they are all one family, but it isn't until you are in the last 2 sections you see how it all intertwines.  Too be honest, I loved the different sections of the story and the history that I learned with not only the historical events but how the people and main characters were treated.  The facts make the story interesting, but the character's feelings make the story powerful.  I loved the complex nature of the story that brought everything together.  I loved that the story of her family was created by Angel, a character you meet in the beginning.  She wrote the story for therapeutic purposes to help her understand not only her family, but also herself.  

Truly, Dream Country is a great book; it is well written (only one typo found).  The only improvement to the story would've been the curse words.  I felt the swearing was a bit excessive at the beginning, and a bit out of place in other sections.  Sometimes, I feel writing a book with that much language is in an effort to attract teen readers.  The story would've been just as powerful, if not more so, with less language.

Shannon Gibney's author note, at the end, explains how compelled she felt to write the story and who she hopes will read it.  "It is for anyone anywhere who has tried to make themselves whole through small pieces of a larger story they could cobble together.  It is for everything we have forgotten, and what we dream."

Dream Country is really great; I hope you get a chance to check it out.  I learned a ton, and found myself completely engrossed in Angel, Kollie, Togar, Yasmine, and Ujay's stories. 

My main thoughts while reading this book: Sad. Eye-Opening. Appreciative to know their stories. Sad tho.  Can't wait to her what you think of it. 

Happy Deep Insightful Distressing YA Historical Fiction Reading!  

Dream Country by Shannon Gibney
Rating: 4.5/5 stars
Best For: 15 and up, 9th grade and up

# of Pages:  337
Clean Read: No, a lot of language with mentions, though little detail, of violence and raping. 
Worth a Check Out: Yes, this book is deep and sad, but so very good.
Buy It or Not: This book is well written with a beautiful story entwined. Definitely worth a purchase.   

Book Club Discussion: What do you think of the term fictional canvas of fact in regards to the narrative family history Angel wrote?  Why do you think it was therapeutic for Angel to find out where she came from?  The author stated that "some stories you choose, and others choose you. How do you think that would change the writing experience?  Do you think Yasmine changed b/c of where she was at, or b/c of the experiences she had? 

Lesson Ideas: Refugees. Refugee Camps. Liberia/Congo conflict. American Colonization Society. Forced Labor Period. Liberian Civil War. Immigrants. African Americans and Black Americans. Monrovia. Slavery vs. Poor Wages. Racism.  

Once you read Dream Country, I'd love to hear what you thought of it.

More than a few quotes I loved from Dream Country

"They {curse words} were like ketchup on a hamburger or pepper in soup- they gave everything flavor." -Kollie

"The brilliant younger daughter who everyone liked, and the disappointing older son who just wouldn't try. Those had been their identities and their relationship to each other as long as he could remember." - referencing Angel and Kollie


"They say that America is the Land of Opportunity, and I suppose that it is.  If you want to better yourself, they will give you the opportunity to do so. But if you want to destroy yourself, they will give you that opportunity too."

"I worry I done wrong, brining you here," Yasmine said. "I worry that this place making you-making us-different. Meaner. Smaller, somehow."

"Time for allowing and forbidding and punishing's long gone. Now's the time for acceptance. And happiness for what's to be, and what already is." - Lani

"This was his favorite part of being a father; the physical closeness between him and the child. They way it inexplicably, magically translate into emotional closeness." - Ujay

"Our bodies enclose the twisted threads of history- passes flesh to flesh, from parent to child, conquer to conquered, lover to beloved." -Angel 

I received an ARC from Penguin Young Readers in exchange for my review and honest opinion.  All of my thoughts, opinions, and words are my own.  

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Love and Gelato gets 4 Stars {ya lit, contemporary fiction, romance}

Love and Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch is a cute teen read/young adult chick-lit with romance, Tuscany Italy, and a fun likable girl.  Lina has to work through the recent death of her mother to cancer.  Great read. Great character development. Coming of Age. Check it out. What to read next. Alohamora Open a Book, Alohamoraopenabook

Tuscany. Romance. Sweet story. Delicious bakeries. Gelato.  

Seriously, there's not much you can't like about this sweet young adult book.  

Love and Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch is a fun book that any teenage girl would enjoy.  There's romance, mystery, great character development, and some deep subjects, like cancer, as well.  A fun book with some depth in topics is hard to find.  There's a lot to love with Love and Gelato, and therefore it's well deserving of it's 4 out of 5 stars rating.  

This novel is a quick read, and even though the story line was almost completely predictable, I'm pretty sure only adults reading this ya book would care about that.  I did feel the growth Lina experienced in the story was great.  I loved seeing, in a glossed over way I believe, how Lina dealt with her mother's death from cancer.  I loved seeing Lina find a father-like figure.  I believe there's a good chance this book could benefit others who have to deal and work through a death in the family especially a parent. 

Overall, this book was the light fun read I was looking for after a heavy book like Ghost Boy

If you pick this YA book up, enjoy! 

Happy Fun Light Romance in Tuscany YA Reading!  

Love and Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch
Rating: 4/5 stars
Best For: 13-18 year old girls, 7th grade and up 

Clean Read: Yes, a little language.   
Worth a Check Out: Yes, when you are looking for a fun light read.
Buy It or Not: Yes if you like chick-lit, Meg Cabot, or Ally Carter type of books.  

Book Club Discussion: Did Lina feel obligated to go to Tuscany b/c it was her mother's wish, or her mother's death-bed wish?  Why do you think Lina felt like it was difficult to be social after her mother's death? Cancer is always tough, but do you think it was tougher on Lina b/c she was a teenager?  Would you consider this story a "coming of age" story, if so why?

Did you read Love and Gelato?  What did you think? 

A quote I loved from Love and Gelato

"You know, people come to Italy for all sorts of reasons, but when they stay, it's for the same two things." 
"Love and gelato."

Monday, September 3, 2018

Ghost Boy gets 4 Stars {nonfiction, biography, memoir, adult, inspiring}

Ghost Boy: My Miraculous Escape from a Life Locked Inside My Own Body by Martin Pistorius inspiring thought provoking emotional read.  There's abuse in there and therefore not clean, but what Martin overcomes definitely causes you to be grateful and hopeful you can overcome even the hardest things. Adult memoir, non fiction, biography, Alohamora Open a Book, alohamoraopenabook

When I began this book, I had no idea what this book was about.  I picked it up b/c it was an upcoming Book Club book; that is one reason I love Book Club.  Sure the conversation is great and the food is fun, but I love the fact that I get to read books I normally wouldn't have picked up.  

I had no idea this book was going to be so thought provoking.  I had no idea I was going to be so shocked by how people treated Martin.  I had no idea the abuse Martin went through.  I had no idea someone could go through so much and still come out on top and even happy.

Ghost Boy: My Miraculous Escape from a Life Locked Inside My Own Body by Martin Pistorius gets 4 out of 5 stars in my review of this adult memoir.  The book is inspiring. Martin's story is inspiring and eye-opening.  I had no idea a 12 year old boy that complained of a sore throat could suddenly stop moving and talking and appear in a vegetative state.  I had no idea people abused, physical and sexual, the vulnerable (aka those that can't talk or don't seem to have a high IQ).  

The abuse was disturbing, but all of the challenges Martin overcame were inspiring.  I was amazed Martin was able to communicate and even hold a job when at one point he couldn't move any part of his body.  Though, love is what I found to be most amazing.  I love that Martin overcame his fears of love; he loved and let someone love him completely for who he is.  

A couple aspects I thought could've been better were the ramblings and skipping around which made figuring out the timeline difficult.  I also felt the development of secondary characters, like his parents, lacking and it could've added to the power of the story.  

Ghost Boy is a great book, and I'm sure it'll provide a lot of great discussion at Book Club.  Though, I'm needed a lighter book to balance out all of these emotions.  

Happy Inspiring, Emotional, and Thought Provoking Book Reading!  

Ghost Boy: My Miraculous Escape from a Life Locked Inside My Own Body by Martin Pistorius
Rating: 4/5 stars
Best For: 18+, adults  

Clean Read: No, language, sexual abuse, and physical abuse.  
Worth a Check Out: Yes, it's Inspiring and sad all at the same time.
Buy It or Not: No. 

Book Club Discussion: Would you react more like Martin's mom or dad with his diagnosis?  What part of Martin's story is most inspiring/impressive? Were you glad you read this book, or did it skew you a bit? What is Martin's most admirable quality in your opinion? Was there anything in the story that most surprised you?  What do you think motivated Martin to share his story?   

Did you read Ghost Boy?  What did you think? 

A few quotes I loved from Ghost Boy

“I’d been put into a box long before, after all. Each of us has. Are you the “difficult” child or the “histrionic” lover, the “argumentative” sibling or the “long-suffering” spouse? Boxes make us easier to understand, but they also imprison us because people don’t see past them.”

“God and I didn’t talk about the big things in life—we didn’t engage in philosophical debates or argue about religion—but I talked to Him endlessly because I knew we shared something important. I didn’t have proof that He existed, but I believed in Him anyway because I knew He was real. God did the same for me. Unlike people, He didn’t need proof that I existed—He knew I did.”

“Dreams can be any size you want them to be. But the important thing is that you have one that is yours.” 

“None of us knows what we can bear until we’re asked.” 

"I've lived my whole life as a burden, she makes me feel weightless." 

"Life can't be experienced at arms length, it must be lived." 

"Life is about shades of gray; it isn't black and white." 

As you can tell from the number of quotes I have that this book was inspiring and thought provoking. As always, I'd love to hear what you thought. 

Saturday, September 1, 2018

Surprise Me gets 4 Stars {adult fiction, contemporary lit}

Surprise Me by Sophie Kinsella adult fiction contemporary lit fun easy read. England, exaggerated, if you like Moriarty's books like "Big Little Lies" check this one out.  Alohamora Open a Book Alohamoraopenabook

Surprise Me by Sophie Kinsella is fun.  It's a fun read where the main character, Sylvie, is a bit ridiculous at times.  However, she is relatable with her thoughts and feelings, but her actions are a bit more extreme than the average Jane. 

Surprise Me earns 4 out of 5 stars in my review. This novel has some great aspects, but my favorite was the fact that it wasn't predictable.  There were some aspects of the story I saw coming from a mile away, but there were a few things (like the BIG thing in the story) that surprised me.  I love being surprised in a story, and I think that is part of what makes a great author. 

If you are looking for a fun adult fiction book, with a great story you'll enjoy and want to keep turning the pages, then check this book out.  I don't think men will enjoy this story, but if they do read it they may commiserate with Dan, Sylvie's husband, a little. 😉   

Happy Fun Adult Contemporary Lit Reading with a Bit of a Twist. 

Surpise Me by Sophie Kinsella
Rating: 4/5 stars
Best For: 18+, adult women.  

Clean Read: No, quite a bit of language.  
Worth a Check Out: Yes. Readers who like Big Little Lies or other Liane Moriarty books will like this one.
Buy It or Not: No, unless you love Sophie Kinsella. 
Book Club Discussion: Was Sylvie and Dan's reaction on par or exaggerated?  How did your feelings to Dan change throughout the book?  What did you think of the different relationships and friendships Sylvie had throughout the book (her best friend, the professor, her parents, boss and coworkers)? Does everyone have an ah-ha moment, like Sylvie had, in their life?  Why is communication such a big deal in this story, and in your lives? 

Did you read this new Sophie Kinsella book?  What did you think? 

A few quotes I loved from Surprise Me:

"She who conquers, conquers herself." 

"Nothing changes if nothing changes." 

"If we don't stick up for the ones we love then what are we good for." 

"Sometimes I wonder how we get anything done as a human race. There's always so many misunderstandings." 

Any favs I missed???

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Long Way Down gets 5 Stars {poetry, newbery, printz, award book, contemporary lit}

Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds gets 5 stars in this book review.  Newbery Medal Winner, Printz Honor book, this Free Verse Contemporary Lit is a fast read, perfect for the reluctant reader, and a book with depth and meaning.  A great read aloud for the classroom. Young Adult, high school, teachers, librarians, great book, Alohamoraopenabook, Alohamora Open a Book, Alohamoraopenabook books for boys

Reluctant readers is a term to describe those that don't enjoy reading. Reluctant readers often have reasons for not enjoying reading.  Maybe they have only read for assignments and never found anything that interest them.  Maybe they struggle to read for one reason or another, or they struggle with comprehending what they are reading.  Once upon a time I was a reluctant reader.  I struggled understanding what I read b/c of a learning disability.

Obviously, I'm not a reluctant reader any longer, and I most definitely feel it is never too late to become a reader.  A way to help those reluctant readers become readers is to find books that are fast reads, that grab the readers attention, and keep them turning the page.  Graphic novels and books written in free verse are usually great choices for reluctant readers.  

Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds is a young adult novel written in free verse poetry.  Now, don't let the word poetry scare you.  Free verse poetry is basically short thoughts that take out a bunch of the filler words not needed to understand the characters or story.  It's tough to write a great book in free verse, but Reynolds did it well.  Hence, the reason Long Way Down won Newbery and Printz Honor awards.  The two most prestigious awards for an author, Jason Reynolds came in as a runner-up.  Amazing!  That's something that rarely happens.  

Another thing that doesn't happen everyday, but far more often than earning a Newbery and a Printz, is getting 5 out of 5 stars from me in a book review.  Though, I guess it's not super surprising since it's quite the award winning book.  #sogood

Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds gets 5 stars in this book review.  Newbery Medal Winner, Printz Honor book, this Free Verse Contemporary Lit is a fast read, perfect for the reluctant reader, and a book with depth and meaning.  A great read aloud for the classroom. Young Adult, high school, teachers, librarians, great book, Alohamoraopenabook, Alohamora Open a Book, Alohamoraopenabook

Long Way Down is a fantastic book.  The story is interesting b/c the entire story takes place in an elevator.  The story is enlightening into the life of an inner city teen.  The story has depth with great character development and discussions of expectations and revenge.  The story is a fast read many readers and reluctant readers alike will enjoy.  This story would be a great book for high school teachers to use, read, and discuss in the classroom.    

Happy Young Adult Powerful Fast Free Verse Reading!

Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds

Rating: 5/5 stars
Best For: 13-18 years old, 8th to 12th grade. 

Clean Read: Violence.  
Worth a Check Out: Yes. Readers who like The Crossover will like this one.
Buy It or Not: Yes. Definitely a purchase for a library collection, English Teacher, and those looking for a great book.
Read Aloud: Yes. This fast read would make a great classroom read aloud for a high school or 8th grade classroom.    

Lesson Ideas: Inner city, poetry, family relationships, revenge, expectations, obligations. 

Did you read this well deserved Newbery and Printz Honor book?   What did you think? 

A few quotes I loved from Long Way Down b/c they made me laugh, I could relate to them, or there was depth to it. 

"People always love more when they are dead." 

"Laughed so hard I farted." 🤣

"Head lock that felt like a hug." Oh siblings and their special way of showing love. 

"You coming?"  Read the book to get the depth of this last question. 

Did you have a favorite quote?


Thursday, August 23, 2018

Not If I Save You First gets 3.5 Stars {ya lit, action, romance, contemporary lit}

Not If I Save You First gets 3.5 out of 5 stars book review rating.  YA Lit, Action, Romance, Clean Read, Short and Sweet fast read for the reluctant reader.  Best for teenage girls looking for a fun book with girl power, Alaska wilderness Survival, the President's son, and a kidnapping plot. Alohamora Open a Book alohamoraopenabook

Ally Carter has written A LOT of books, and I always enjoy the action, girl power, and slight romance found in them.  Not If I Save You First  is no different.  

This book is short, aka fast read, sweet, aka fun story with a touch of romance, and perfect for the teenage girl, even the reluctant reader, to pick up and read.  

Not If I Save Your First gets 3.5 out of 5 stars in my review.  I enjoyed the flash back letters, and Maddie's humor through out the story.  I love that Maddie, a teenage girl, saved the day over and over again with her wit, brains, and wilderness survival skills.  I enjoyed this lighthearted book with great pacing.  Though, the story and the characters lacked depth, and there were more than a couple unrealistic moments which caused me to knock off a star and a half from my rating.

Overall, Not If I Save You First is another fun read by Ally Carter. Which Ally Carter book is your favorite? 

Not If I Save You First by Ally Carter
Rating: 3.5/5 stars
Best For: 12-18 year old girls.
Clean Read: Yes.  There's action and kissing.
Worth a Check Out: Yes.
Buy It or Not: No.
Read Aloud: Possibly, depending on the class.
Lesson Ideas: Alaska, Wilderness Survival, Foreign Relations, Letters.

This short and sweet YA book had my favorite line in the author's acknowledgements when she discussed the research that went into this book. "To the end, I went where people should always go for reliable answers: to librarians!"

Happy YA Easy, Fun, Clean Love Story Reading!  As always, I love hearing your thoughts on the book.