2018 Reading Challenges & 2017 Wrap-Up

2018 is here and let me tell you, 2017 was no joke when it came to reading! Below I’ve linked the challenges that I participated in in 2017 and whether or not I am participating in 2018.

Flights of Fantasy Challenge

Runs: January-December

Challenge: Read as many fantasy books as possible in 2017. There is also a FOF book club book picked quarterly

Goal: My personal goal that I’ve set is 20 books, I’m pretty sure I can meet that and even exceed it but I don’t want to get too carried away.

Outcome: 42 books read! I’m super sad to say this challenge is not continuing this year, but I’ll still be reading Fantasy like no tomorrow.


New Release Challenge

Runs: January-December

Challenge: Read and review 2017 new releases

Goal: There are different levels to this challenge and I’m thinking I’ll probably be level one since I get most of my books from the library.

  1. 1-30 books per year – New Release Newbie
  2. 31-60 books per year – New Release Pro
  3. 61-100 books per year – New Release Veteran
  4. 101-200 books per year – New Release Enthusiast
  5. 200+ books per year – New Release Obsessed

Outcome: 41 books read! I did not think I would read this many, but thankfully my library received a ton of new releases and I also found some good deals on books I was hoping to read. I’ll be continuing this challenge in 2018.

2017 Library Love Challenge

Library Love Challenge

Runs: January-December

Challenge: Read books borrowed from your library instead of buying them

Goal: I’m hoping to reach at least 36 books read that were from the library, while I get most of my books from the library to save money I have a feeling this year I may be buying more as well to compete in these other challenges.

  • Dewey Decimal: read 12 books
  • Thrifty Reader: read 24 books
  • Overdrive Junkie: read 36 books
  • Library Card on Fire: read 50+ books

Outcome: 24 books read! Not exactly the range I thought I would be in but still respectable and I will be continuing this challenge in 2018.



Blue Apron vs. HelloFresh Review Part 2

Welcome back to part 2 of my Blue Apron vs. HelloFresh review. Today’s post will be about our HelloFresh experience. To recap we received a coupon to try HelloFresh for free from a friend.

We received our meals again on Monday and I was excited to see what this box would bring.


We tried the Chicken Cheddar Fajitas first because seriously who doesn’t love fajitas? This meal was quick and delicious and the serving size was perfect for us. We each got 3 fajitas and I was so happy that I tried the Lime Crema. Normally it wouldn’t be something I would try, but because I made it myself I wasn’t as hesitant as I normally would be. This is absolutely a meal that we will be making again.

Next we tried the Cherry Balsamic Pork, full disclosure we have not eaten pork in the almost 3 years that we have lived together. I’ve always been afraid to under cook the pork and get a worm in my brain! I was pretty scared making this and also nervous because I wasn’t sure how I would feel about the cherry glaze. This one again was relatively quick to make and they gave us small fingerling potatoes which made the prep time quicker and also more food than Blue Apron. The glaze wasn’t overpowering and I liked that I could choose how much glaze I wanted to put on my pork. This meal was amazing and the one that made us decide to continue ordering HelloFresh when we like the menu options.

Also side note, for the thyme that was on the potatoes it came in a pack ready to spread over them. No pulling little thyme leaves off the branch for this box!


Last but not least was the Japanese Panko Chicken. I didn’t love this meal and it felt like it took the longest to cook. The serving sizes were great and I blame my dislike of this one on myself because I didn’t chop the ginger as small as I should have. The sauce was just a personal preference, but again super easy to whip up. My husband absolutely loved the chicken and ate both of ours.

I also really like that each meal has a vegetable side, something that we don’t always do when were cooking dinner on the fly. You can use our referral link to get $40 off your first week of meals. I would highly recommend trying HelloFresh as I think the meals would work for a lot of people and don’t take a lot of time to prepare. I would love to know if any of you have tried either box and what you thought. Or maybe there’s another box out there that would be better for us? Let me know!


Blue Apron vs. HelloFresh Review Part 1

Recently I was gifted a coupon to try both Blue Apron and HelloFresh. I’ve always thought about trying out the meal delivery service, but with a $50+ price tag I was iffy. I received a coupon to try Blue Apron for $9.99 for 3 meals and I received a coupon to try HelloFresh completely free for 3 meals. I’m a pretty picky eater so it made me really nervous to only have a couple of things to choose from.

Week 1 we chose Blue Apron and received our 3 meals on Monday. I have to admit that I was happy to not have to stop at the grocery store on the way home from work and fight over what we should have for dinner.


We tried the Cheeseburgers first thinking this would be the least out of my comfort zone. I didn’t realize how much work actually has to be put into making these dinners and was immediately overwhelmed. I didn’t end up making the pickled beets that go on top of the burger because to be honest it was too much work. Additionally they only gave us 1 potato to make wedges which frankly is not enough for 2 people in my mind. We should of at least got 2 potatoes. For the hamburger itself it was just ground beef and garlic, not exactly a flavorful burger. I ended up not eating this meal as the first bite turned me off.

Next we made the Chicken & Stewed White Beans, while cooking this it smelled awful to me and I was positive I was going to hate this. This one also took a lot of time to prepare and was very overwhelming. Instead of sending me a packet of thyme they sent me thyme still on the branch and I had to pull it off one by one. I’m not going to lie, this was the moment I knew this box was not for us. We work 45 minutes away so coming home to a meal that needs extensive prep is not ideal. I served the chicken and was terrified to try it, but once I did I was pleasantly surprised. I’m glad I have the recipe card for this one because I’ll probably make it again.

Finally the Stir-Fried Beef and Broccoli. I’m sad to say that we didn’t end up making this one. I had every intention of making it as it seemed the most promising to me, however life got in the way and we ended up not cooking it before the meat went bad.

Me and the Mr. both felt meh about this box and decided we would just skip weeks until we saw something we were excited to try. However I happened to check my credit card statement and saw that I got charged full price for the box that was supposed to be $9.99. This immediately put a sour taste in my mouth and I decided I needed to cancel our account before we randomly got charged again. I emailed them in regards to overcharging me and heard back a couple of days later that the full price would be refunded to me which I appreciated. When trying to cancel our “subscription” I was even further turned off because you can’t just click a button and cancel. You have to email them and they will send you “directions”. Really all they do is send you the link that they don’t post on their site, but this just seems sketchy to me and I don’t like companies that hope you’ll be too frustrated to cancel and then eventually forget to keep skipping and get charged for a box you didn’t even want in the first place.

My final verdict on Blue Apron is most definitely a pass. While it is fun to try new foods and not have to shop for groceries or go through the dreaded what’s for dinner argument it just wasn’t practical for us.

Check back tomorrow for my HelloFresh review.


DIY * Rustic Harvest Centerpiece

I have the perfect rustic DIY centerpiece for your Thanksgiving get together in 2 weeks! It’s crazy how fast the holiday is approaching and this craft will make life easier because it’s cheap and super easy to make. Total cost for this project was $4!



It may even be cheaper now if the carveable pumpkins at Dollar Tree are on clearance.

First I cut the top off the pumpkin then painted it white and let it dry, this will probably take 2 coats.

While your paint dries you can clip your flowers off the stem. Once everything is dry using your flowers poke holes near the top and space your flowers out evenly. Using a glue gun add a dollop of hot glue and insert flowers so they will stay in place. Place candle in the center and you are good to go!

I hope everyone has a great Thanksgiving and I would love to see your centerpieces if you decide to make this so tag me on instagram @itsmandyj


Release Week & Giveaway – Haven by Mary Lindsey

Welcome to the Release Week Blitz for

Haven by Mary Lindsey

presented by Entangled Teen!

Grab your copy today!

Congratulations Mary!

“We all hold a beast inside. The only difference is what form it takes when freed.”

Rain Ryland has never belonged anywhere, He’s use to people judging him for his rough background, his intimidating size, and now, his orphan status. He’s always been on the outside, looking in, and he’s fine with that. Until he moves to New Wurzburg and meets Friederike Burkhart.

Freddie isn’t like normal teen girls, though. And someone wants her dead for it. Freddie warns he’d better stay far away if he wants to stay alive, but Rain’s never been good at running rom trouble. For the first time, Rain has something worth fighting for, worth living for. Worth dying for.

Ancient magic and modern society collide in a sexy, spellbinding romance perfect for fans of C. C. Hunter and Maggie Stiefvater that proves sometimes beauty is the beast…

Haven by Mary Lindsey
Publication Date: November 7, 2017
Publisher: Entangled Teen

Amazon | Amazon Australia | Amazon UK | Amazon Canada | B&N | iBooks | Kobo

Mary Lindsey is a multi award-winning, RITA® nominated author of romance for adults and teens. She lives on an island in the middle of a river. Seriously, she does. When not writing, she wrangles her rowdy pack of three teens, two Cairn Terriers, and one husband. Inexplicably, her favorite animal is the giant anteater and at one point, she had over 200 “pet” Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches. The roaches are a long story involving three science-crazed kids and a soft spot for rescue animals. The good news is, the “pet” roaches found a home… somewhere else.

Website | Blog | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | Pinterest | Goodreads

Enter a Rafflecopter giveaway to win a swag box of books!


Book Review – A Curse So Dark by Heather Davis


You can never really hide from what you’re meant to be…

A blood curse. Deadly secrets. A dark stranger.

When her deputy sheriff father goes missing, Lily Turner learns the quaint logging town of Pioneer Falls harbors terrible secrets– an unspeakable past connected to her family and a blood curse her father has hidden from his three daughters.

When Morgan McAllister arrives in town, Lily can’t deny their mutual attraction. But falling for Morgan may derail Lily’s efforts to find her father and to save her younger sisters from the family fate.

Searching for answers deep in the shadowy forests that surround the town, Lily will risk everything to uncover the truth. As hunters are exposed and rivals for the territory circle the Turner sisters, no one in Pioneer Falls is safe– especially with the full moon rising.

From the author of Never Cry Werewolf comes this suspenseful new series full of dark secrets and heartfelt romance.

A Curse So Dark.png

Purchase Links:

Chapters |Amazon | B&N | Kobo | iBooks

Review: A Curse So Dark is a quick, fun paranormal read. I was super excited to read this book and couldn’t put it down. The setting as well as the characters were very well developed and I really loved the main character Lily and her relationship with Morgan.

I’m excited to see  where this trilogy goes and can’t wait to see what happens.

About the Author:


Heather Davis is the author of The Pioneer Falls series, a new Young Adult Paranormal Romance trilogy set in the dark forests of the Pacific Northwest.


Her previous books include Never Cry Werewolf and its two novella sequels, Sometimes by Moonlight and Always in Shadow. Heather is also the author of Wherever You Go, and the RITA Award finalist for Best Young Adult Romance, The Clearing.

Heather loves writing about strong, smart heroines and the dark heroes that challenge them. In every book you’ll find suspense, a touch of humor, and tons of heartfelt romance.

She is obsessed with good coffee, books, indie bands, and perfect chocolate chip cookies.

Visit her at www.heatherdavisbooks.com

Website • Twitter • Facebook • Goodreads


DIY Skull Decor

I didn’t realize how long it’s actually been since I posted a DIY until I started scrolling through my blog. I am so excited to share this DIY with you guys. First off, Halloween is my favorite holiday ever and since I’ve moved a million times I haven’t really been able to decorate much or buy much. Secondly, this DIY is so super cheap! I’m talking $4 for the whole thing!



I bought the skulls from Dollar Tree, they were originally a silver color, but I spray painted them black. I got the plant saucer from Home Depot for .77 and also sprayed it black.

Once everything is dry use a hot glue gun to glue everything in place. You can do them all straight on or have them all facing different ways, whatever works best for you. Additionally you could also drill a hole into the top skull before gluing everything together so you could put a taper candle in the top.

For only $4 you can’t go wrong with this piece. Plus you can make them as tall or as short as you want. I hope you all liked this DIY and I have another more fall themed DIY coming up as well.

Happy haunting!