Holiday Gift Idea: Personalized Children’s Books and More from I See Me!

We received the book mentioned to facilitate this review. All opinions are my own.

Kids love themselves. And they should- they’re adorable. Whether they’re watching a video of themselves, taking dozens of selfies, or just dancing in front of a mirror, kids just can’t seem to give enough of themselves. So it’s no wonder that some of Shane’s favorite gifts in the past have been his personalized books from I See Me!

We first discovered I See Me! a few years ago when we got Shane a book for his 3rd birthday and we now read it on his birthday every year! {We read it throughout the year, too-  it’s actually one of his favorites.} So when I See Me! asked if I’d like to check out another book this holiday season, I couldn’t say no- but this time, it was Zac’s turn!

Who Loves Me Personalized Book and Blanket Gift Set from I See Me!

Zac has gotten really into books lately- and not just eating them {anymore}. He likes to listen to stories and turn pages, and he even claps when the book is over. So I know he will just love his new book, Who Loves Me?{In our case, it’s titled Who Loves Zachary?} It’s not a holiday book but it makes a great personalized gift because it comes with a super soft blanket that’s embroidered with his name. {Please note: This unique gift is brought especially to you by our friends at internationally award-winning publisher Chronicle Books.}

Dedication and Page

The book itself is so cute and allowed me to add several family members to it- it includes Justin & me, Shane, all four of his grandparents, and his aunts and uncles. Each page includes a beautiful illustration and a reminder that many people love him!

I See Me! has something for everyone- books for every occasion or just because, lunchboxes, puzzles, coloring books, placemats, and even growth charts. They can all be personalized to make the recipient feel really special! The quality of every book I’ve gotten from them has surpassed my expectations, with pages that have held up for years through hundreds of story times.

Zachary blanket

Buy It: To purchase your own personalized books for the holidays, be sure to order by TODAY! If you don’t have time today, you can always give the gift of a gift certificate- depending on the age of the child, maybe you could let them help you make the book and make it a fun experience! You can also check out their holiday gift guide to help make your shopping list!

Learn more: You can learn more about I See Me! on their website, Facebook, and Twitter. You can also check out my friend Alesha’s review of the book My Very Own Pirate Tale here!

readingismagical

Win It: Right now, I See Me! is hosting a giveaway where one lucky Grand Prize winner will score a $500 Pottery Barn Gift Card + M is for Me Personalized Book! 25 Runners Up will get a personalized book of their choice from ISeeMe.com. You can learn more and enter the Reading is Magical Sweepstakes here!

Have you ever given a personalized book?

Dark Hope: Book One of the Archangel Prophecies Review

I have always loved to read. I was sick a lot as a kid and every time that I stayed home sick from school, I would curl up on the couch with a stack of my favorite books and just read one after the other, all day long. I discovered “chick lit” in college and like that genre, but I have always loved YA {Young Adult} novels. I particularly like YA Series, because once I connect with characters I always have a hard time saying goodbye! That’s why I was so excited to have the chance to review the first book in a brand new series- Dark Hope: Book One of the Archangel Prophecies.

Dark Hope- Book One of the Archangel Prophecies - Book Cover

About the book:

For years, Hope Carmichael, survivor of a shocking child abduction, has lived a sheltered existence under the protection of her fanatically religious father. Now, liberated by her mother, Hope prepares to start life over as a normal kid in an Atlanta, Georgia, high school.

Normal, that is, until Hope meets Michael, a gorgeous emancipated teen with a mysterious past and a strong interest in Hope. And soon, Hope’s life is filled with questions. What’s behind the angry looks Hope gets from Lucas, leader of a gang of students? Who’s responsible for sending Hope a strange valentine inscribed with Bible quotations? How does this relate to the sinister business of human trafficking that operates on the periphery of Hope’s suburban world? And is Michael really a protector, or something more sinister—and just why does he seem so familiar?

In an epic narrative that takes readers from the back streets of Atlanta to the height of Vegas penthouses and beyond, Dark Hope introduces readers to The Archangel Prophecies, a new young adult saga that blends the feeling of Twilight with a vast mythological scope and moral urgency, as well as to Hope Carmichael—a young woman instantly memorable for her endurance, heart, and determination—and Michael, Hope’s dangerous companion who’s fated either to save Hope—or to kill her.

So what did I think of the book? I couldn’t put it down! When I am picking up a new series, it typically takes me a few chapters to really get into it. This was not a typical book in that way- I was hooked from the very first page. It starts off with a horrific, gruesome scene that took place in the past, and then skips ahead to the present where Hope, the victim, is about to make a huge change in her life.

While the book is heavy with mythology, the character of Hope seems like your everyday teenager- in a very relatable way. I could see a bit of my teenage self in her- although maybe not quite so sheltered, and without the whole, child abduction thing.

It’s very fitting to me that the book’s summary makes a mention of Twilight, because that’s the best way to describe it. It really is like Twilight but with an Archangel instead of a vampire. That said, it’s not a rip-off, either- it stands on its own! {Fun fact about author Monica McGurk: She received the 2013 Twific Fandom “Undiscovered Gem” award for Morning Star, her alternate ending to the Twilight series, written before the release of Breaking Dawn.}

If you’re looking for a great book, be sure to check out Dark Hope! You can find it at a bookstore near you or on Amazon {it’s also available on Kindle}. The book is the first in a trilogy so keep an eye on the author’s Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest for more info on books 2 & 3!

Do you like YA novels?

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls Collective and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

Great Summer Reading: “All the Pieces” by Mary E. Kingsley

I love to read, and am always working on some book or another. I don’t get as much time to read as I’d like though, so sometimes I like to read shorter stories, or novellas. They’re longer than actual “short stories”, but not quite as long as a typical novel. I recently read Mary E. Kingsley’s novella “All the Pieces” and absolutely loved it!

All The Pieces A Novella by Mary E Kingsley

About the novella:

Sometimes there are stories floating around about things that happened a long time ago, which nobody can explain. When eight-year-old Anna Lee takes off running one day, fleeing a painful scene and seeking refuge from her family’s lingering grief, she unknowingly brings to the surface some questions that this small, southern Appalachian community had long ago buried.

Who was the stranger that appeared at the midwife’s door one distant winter’s night and disappeared again silently, leaving a mystery that had remained for over a generation? Who was the child that was born with eyes the color of a harvest moon, that only wanted to sing, and the boy that would grow to love her beyond himself? What was the reason for the brutal murder in the woods that left one man dead, another sentenced to life in prison and a young woman to die months later, without ever uttering another word? And who was the man that came face to face with Anna Lee in a place she was certain no one would find her, each of them in their hour of greatest need, each with their own pain and secrets to be revealed–and perhaps healed?

The desperate search for the runaway, Anna Lee, is paralled by the storyteller’s version of a mystery that most folks around have long forgotten. All the while Anna Lee struggles within a situation that holds danger beyond what she can imagine, and it is only in her innocence, even in the face of death, that she becomes the key to a revelation and the answer to a longing.

All the Pieces is not only a tale of birth, death and grief, but is also the story of profound love and a journey’s end.

I have to admit, there were a couple of times when I totally teared up reading this book, like when I realized what truly went down all those years ago &what was sacrificed in the name of love. The story is set up where it goes back & forth in time, and identities aren’t revealed right away, so there came a moment when I stopped reading & literally said out loud, “Ohhhhh!” It wasn’t that I didn’t get the book, it was meant to be a lightbulb moment, and it definitely was!

Both of the central characters of the book have suffered tremendous loss & find a mutual ground between them, even though they hold seemingly opposite roles in their current situation. Anna Lee, being a kind soul, helps a man in need even when she doesn’t know of his intentions, and without giving anything away, she is somehow rewarded for it in the long run.

I read this book very quickly because I just couldn’t put it down! If you are looking for one more quick story to read on the beach {or anytime!} be sure to check it out- it’s only $2.99 on Amazon!

Giveaway: One winner is going to win their own copy, including a personalized note from the author! Just enter using the form below. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Note: I was compensated for my work on this campaign. All opinions are authentic & my own.

Hope Conquers All with CaringBridge!

I participated in a campaign on behalf of Mom Central Consulting for CaringBridge. I received a promotional item as a thank you for participating.

Have you ever had a friend or family member who had been through an accident or was fighting a long-term battle against illness? I think all of us have at some point or another. I know my family has been full of tragedy, as I’ve lost countless relatives to cancer & diabetes. Sometimes, we’re luckier, and the person we love is afflicted but survives, like in the case of my grandmother who fought breast cancer & lived almost two decades after her diagnosis & mastectomy, or my uncle who had a stroke a few years back.

But before we knew they would make it okay, we were all in a constant state of worry. If we’d known about CaringBridge, it could have eased our minds a bit. For over 15 years, the nonprofit CaringBridge has provided an outlet for those whose loved ones are suffering tragedies. I have used the site to memorialize some friends that I’ve lost, but you can also start a site for those who are fighting a battle & families can connect and find out more about their struggle.

hope conquers all caringbridge book

Over the years, CaringBridge has seen lots of stories have happy endings, from young children with cancer to adults awaiting transplants. Sona Mehring, founder of CaringBridge, just wrote a book called Hope Conquers All & shares a collection of these inspirational stories in first-person accounts. This is the perfect read for someone whose loved one is currently battling an illness or injury, or just as a means of inspiration. You can pick up the book online here- and all author proceeds will go to CaringBridge!

If you have a loved one who is fighting a battle right now, please know that my thoughts are with you & your loved ones.

Holiday Gift Guide: Over the Moon- The Broadway Lullaby Project

I’ve always loved musicals. Sound of Music, West Side Story, Wicked- you name it, I love it. That’s why I’m so excited about Over the Moon: The Broadway Lullaby Project.

Over the Moon is a project that is really a multimedia experience. The project includes a 2-CD set that includes 26 songs, an illustrated hardcover book that features 17 of those 26 songs, an e-book that includes all of the songs, and a documentary film & web series. It features many of today’s most loved composers & vocalists {and some amazing illustrators}, all of whom have donated their talent to a set of new lullabies, including some written just for this project.

The project raises funds for The Breast Cancer Research Foundation and Young Survival Coalition, which alone makes it worth the purchase to me. Even better, the music is beautiful & very well done, and the book is gorgeous to look at.

over the moon cd

Track List

Disc 1:

1. Little Sleepy Eyes -  Marva Hicks
Music & Lyrics by Nona Hendryx, Marva Hicks & Charles Randolph-Wright

2. Think of the Moon – Brian d’Arcy James
Music & Lyrics by Adam Gwon

3. A Lullaby for Midnight – Vanessa Williams
Music & Lyrics by Rupert Holmes

4. Lucky – Donna Murphy
(from the opera Séance on a Wet Afternoon)
Music & Lyrics by Stephen Schwartz

5. How Much Love -  Audra McDonald
Music & Lyrics by Michael John LaChiusa

6. Onesie – Michael Cerveris
Music by Wayne Barker; Lyrics by BD Wong

7. It’s Time, Little Man – Rebecca Luker
Music by Jenny Giering; Lyrics by Sean Barry

8. Lullaby to Mr. Waggles – Kelli O’Hara
Music & Lyrics by Dan Lipton & David Rossmer; Lyrics by Sandy Rustin

9. Look (A Rainbow) – Christiane Noll
Music & Lyrics by Scott Alan

10. Everything I Do You Do -  Sutton Foster & Stephanie Bast
Music by Timothy Huang; Lyrics by Timothy Huang & Sara Wordsworth

11. I Love You -  Laura Osnes
Music & Lyrics by Kristen Anderson-Lopez & Robert Lopez

12. Over the Moon – Caesar Samayoa
Music by Zina Goldrich; Lyrics by Marcy Heisler

13. A Father’s Lullaby – Marc Kudisch
Music & Lyrics by David Shire

Disc 2:

1. Jadelyn’s Song – Anika Noni Rose
Music & Lyrics by Christopher Jackson

2. Every Breath and Thought – Anastasia Barzee
Music by Henry Krieger; Lyrics by Bill Russell

3. I’ll Always Be There – Victoria Clark
Music & Lyrics by Jeff Blumenkrantz

4. This Little World -  Raul Esparza
Music & Lyrics by Michael Friedman

5. It Takes All Kinds – Dana Ivey & Walter Charles
Music & Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim

6. Poppy, the Little Brown Bear – Janet Dacal
Music & Lyrics by Jeff Bowen

7. Riding a White Horse – Will Swenson
Music by Jill Santoriello; Lyrics by John Patrick Shanley

8. Yolanda – Judy Kuhn
(From an adaptation of St. Cecilia, or the Power of Music by Heinrich von Kleist)
Music by Ricky Ian Gordon; Lyrics by Tony Kushner

9. All New – Nikki M. James
Music by Marisa Michelson; Lyrics by Joshua H. Cohen

10. First Sonogram – Peter Sachon  & Kathleen Tagg
Music by Tom Kitt

11. Sweet Child – Kate Dawson & Jed Cohen
Music by Lucy Simon; Lyrics by Susan Birkenhead

12. Winding Down to Sleep (Lullaby With No Words) -  Luke Kolbe Mannikus
Music by Maury Yeston

13. The Man Who Invented Ice Cream – Tillie, Keegan & Zi Glucksman
Music by Charles Strouse; Lyrics by Sammy Cahn

Buy It: You can find the Album, Hardcover Book & eBook on the Over The Moon website {where you can also view the documentary!}

Note: I received the book & CD to include this Holiday Gift Guide feature. All opinions are my own.

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