Damned [Review + GIVEAWAY]

Disclaimer: This post was sponsored as part of the Xpresso Book Tours Blog Tour. To check out what other blogs have posted (including excerpts and interviews), please visit their website. I received this product for free in exchange for a honest and unbiased review.

I love reading books that deal with the supernatural. It’s sort of my guilty pleasure. Earlier in the year, I discovered (and devoured) the novel “Blackwell: Prequel to the Magnus Blackwell Series” written by Alexandrea Weis and Lucas Astor. Simply put, it was a good read. In the back of that novel, there was a teaser for the next novel, “Damned”. I thought that its October release would never get here. But I was finally able to get my hands on a copy, just in time to put me in the Halloween spirit.

So what is “Damned” about?

Over a hundred years after the death of Magnus Blackwell, Altmover Manor sits abandoned.

Lexie Arden and her fiancé, Will Bennet, are determined to rescue the neglected Mount Desert Island landmark. They want to make Altmover Manor their home. But Magnus has other plans.

A spirit bound to his former residence, Magnus finds himself inexplicably drawn to the young woman. She has a supernatural gift; a gift Magnus wants to exploit.

As Lexie and Will settle in, secrets from Magnus’s past begin to surface. Compelled to learn all she can about the former owner, Lexie becomes immersed in a world of voodoo, curses, and the whereabouts of a mysterious dragon cane.

Magnus’s crimes won’t be so easily forgotten, and what Lexie unearths is going to change the future … for everyone.

I enjoyed “Damned”. It contained the same elements of the supernatural as the prequel, but with a likable twist to the main character. In Lexie Arden, I could find a character that I was able to relate to. She was just a bit different and I like that. The second half of this novel also takes us back to New Orleans, which serves as more of a central location (there’s a soft spot in my heart for New Orleans). The story went differently that I thought it would – I love novels that keep me guessing.

Without giving too much away, I liked how the character of Magnus developed over the course of the story and I enjoyed seeing how he interacted with the other characters, including some returning ones from the first novel.

The novel itself was very well written and I appreciate the amount of detail that the authors put into it – not just the characters but in the settings as well. Like its predecessor, it was an easy read that I couldn’t put down until I had finished. I think that I actually stayed up most of the night in order to finish it as soon as I received it.

It is certainly worth a read!

For more about “Damned”, please visit any of the following websites: Goodreads / Website / Amazon / Barnes & Noble / iBooks / Kobo

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Yes to Tomatoes 2-Step Nose Kit: Buh-Bye Blackheads [Review]

I’ve been pretty fortunate throughout the years that I’ve never really had issues with my skin. Even now, being pregnant, I’ve been able to use the same cleanser that I’ve used for the past year or so. Every now and then (especially during the winter), my skin will start to look dry and thirsty so I’ll perk it up with a sugar scrub and a moisturizer, but that’s rarely.

One thing that I love to do for my skin on a regular basis (meaning every 4 months or so) are those nose strips that are supposed to help remove black heads. I love those things and it is so freaky to see what sort of gunk the strips pull out. I think of it as a mini “spa day” for myself.

While at Target the other day, I came across the Yes to Tomatoes 2-Step Nose Kit: Buh-Bye Blackheads and decided to give it a whirl. I don’t use the Yes to products normally but I do love how the company is against animal testing and is a member of the Leaping Bunny Program.

The two-step kit comes with a detoxifying charcoal cleanser that is applied with a large Q-tip and a charcoal nose strip. One thing that I noticed right away was how much excess packaging there was and even now, I wonder how necessary the Q-tip is.

When using any sort of pore strip or skin mask, I’ll always wait until after my shower to use it so that the warm water will open my pores. I started with the charcoal cleanser and found that there was enough cleanser in the package to probably last me all week. It felt like a waste of product so I did try to place it somewhere where the cleanser wouldn’t dry out.

It felt a bit clunky to apply it with the Q-tip so after a few moments, I ended up using my fingers. The strip itself was easy to apply but didn’t seem to really fit on my face well enough. Strips from other companies sometimes have tears in them to help the strip adjust to your face better and I couldn’t find any on this strip.

After letting it sit for 10 minutes, I can attest that the strip definitely worked and I could see the difference on my nose. I’ll spare you the gruesome up-close shots of my pore strip and instead just leave you with this fresh out of the shower picture of me. All in all, this was a neat product to try but I would probably stick to my usual line of pore strips for now.

The Flour Girls Cafe and Bakery [Elizabeth City]

I think that I have found my new favorite lunch destination.

The Flour Girls Cafe and Bakery is another one of those newly opened places to eat at in Elizabeth City that I’ve been wanting to try out but haven’t gotten around to. Okay, so really they opened back in mid-2016 and they aren’t that new but new enough that I don’t feel bad about taking so long to try them out.

The Flour Girls Cafe and Bakery serves breakfast and lunch along with a delicious looking assortment of baked goods – they also cater and can do special order cakes/cookies. On top of everything else, they host cookie/cake decorating classes! The owners were winners of the 2016 Jump-Start Elizabeth City Downtown Business Plan Competition which works to bring new businesses to the downtown area.

For lunch I order the half of the Pilgrim sandwich [turkey, provolone cheese, pesto, cranberry sauce, and maybe on homemade bread]. It’s served with house pickles and your choice of sides – I went with chips.

Let’s start with the pickles. I cannot say enough about their house pickles. Those suckers are delicious. I could eat a whole jar full. After eating a couple, I knew that I needed to share some with my boyfriend (he loves pickles) but the thought of those tasty little nuggets sitting just feet away from me right now is torture. The pickles are a perfectly balanced blend of sweetness and crunch. I’m not a pickle aficionado (other than the sweet pickles that my mom makes) but these may be bread and butter type pickles?

Ordering the half size of a sandwich gives you plenty of food in my mind. My sandwich was delicious and in each bite I was able to snag a little turkey, a little pesto, a little cheese and cranberry sauce. The bread is crisp and serves as a great vehicle to transport everything into the mouth.

Being in a bakery, I of course had to order dessert so I went with one of their daily cupcakes – this one had a delicious lemon frosting (with lemon zest flecked throughout it) and coconut flakes. The cupcake itself wasn’t dry or crumbly, the frosting wasn’t too sweet and even better, they added a logical (i.e. proportionate) amount of frosting on top!

Since I only had the opportunity to run down there on my lunch break, I called in my order ahead of time. There is plenty of seating available in the cafe however and the service was quick. Everything was nice and clean and if I were to find out that they had free WiFi, I would make this my morning place to bring my laptop on the weekends (note to self: look into that update: they do!).

Located in downtown Elizabeth City, right on the waterfront, this is a great place to stop, grab a bite to eat, and mosey around some of the little shops in town. You should definitely give it a shot!

The Flour Girls Cafe and Bakery
102 Water St.

Elizabeth City, NC 27909
Monday 7:30 am to 5:00 pm
Tuesday – Friday 7:30 am to 3:30 pm
Saturday 8:00 am to 2:00 pm

The Farmette Cookbook [Review]

I fell in love with Imen McDonnell’s blog Farmette long before she released her cookbook early 2016. Originally working in broadcast production, Imen met and married an Irish farmer and essentially uprooted her life to move to Ireland. Looking at the gorgeous photos that she posts on her blog of her life in the Irish countryside – who wouldn’t?

When I heard about The Farmette Cookbook, I knew that I wanted to get my hands on it. In the age of the internet and Pinterest with its slew of yummy recipes, for me to actually want to own physical cookbook is proof as to how magical her writing is. I added the book to my Christmas list and was thrilled when it appeared under my Christmas tree. Traveling home with my boyfriend from my mom’s house, I couldn’t help but to share my excitement with him as I flipped through the pages.

“Oh my god babe! There is a chapter on making items from dairy.”

A few minutes later.

“Oh my god babe! There is an ENTIRE chapter on just potatoes!”

I’m sure it was a long ride back home for him.

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Even months later as I flipped through it yet again, I found myself still completely in love with every page. This cookbook can easily be considered one of my favorite cookbooks. The recipes tend to be more on the simple side (i.e. rustic) but produce fantastic results (such as the dairy section which shows you how to make items such as cream cheese or sour cream). The ingredients either already exist in my pantry or could be picked up at my local grocery store.

Some of my personal picks from this cookbook are:

  • Buttered Eggs (page 10) – A seemingly simple recipe that produces a rich, buttery flavor in eggs. This is a great recipe to use the fresh eggs from our girls.
  • Best Brown Bread (page 41) – Long before Imen’s cookbook was published, I found her blog by doing a search for an Irish brown bread recipe. I came across this easy recipe and fell in love with her blog.
  • Sweet Farmer Cheese Danish with Elderflower Glaze (page 135) – A danish is the perfect addition to a weekend breakfast and the idea of making it from scratch tickles me. Plus, you get to use the Basic Farmer Cheese recipe from page 12 as well! The use of Elderflower in recipes is still a bit of a novelty stateside I think.
  • Pasty Pies (page 185) – I love anything wrapped in pie dough and this recipe will lead to a delicious end product without a lot of work.
  • Buttermilk Fried Chicken (page 237) – Now this might get my Southern card revoked, but I have never made fried chicken. It just seems so labor intensive to me (even though I know it’s not). Imen’s recipe looks so nice and crispy that I think I’ll give it a shot one day.

I can’t say this enough – go and buy this book. You won’t regret it.

Two Roads Tavern [Outer Banks]

This weekend was a cold, rainy weekend in Northeastern North Carolina. We even experienced snow flurries on Sunday (none of the snow flurries had the opportunity to stick as the ground was already so saturated). My initial plan for this weekend was to venture up to Williamsburg, Virginia to scoop out their farmer’s market but once I saw the weather forecast, I changed my plans and decided to take a drive to the Outer Banks.

Our agenda was simple: Duck Donuts, Two Roads Tavern, and the Manteo Aquarium. I came across Two Roads Tavern’s website a few months ago and have been interested in trying their food since then. Two Roads Tavern is a burger joint with a neat retro vibe inside. But the burgers aren’t just your regular run of the meal burgers. They are a mix of 80/20 Hereford ground chuck combined with amazing toppings. Now, you can build your own burger but I scoped out the menu and knew I wanted one of their Specialty Burgers.

We started with the Cajun Fried Cheese Curds served with a Jamaican jerk aioli that we couldn’t get enough of. The cheese curds were crunchy and flavorful and the gooey cheese inside was just what we needed on a dreary day.

I ordered the Hangover [bacon, hash browns, fried egg, and cheddar cheese with maple bacon jam] while Robb ordered the Sounds Good [American cheese, BBQ sauce, bacon, onion rings, jalapenos, and a fried egg]. I ended up stealing a couple of Robb’s jalapenos (I trades him a hash brown for some) and he opted out of the BBQ sauce, instead requesting Jamaican jerk aioli on his burger – the sauce was that good. Even though the menu says no substitutions, they were willing to accommodate his request.

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“Sounds Good”
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“Hangover”

Though I didn’t try Robb’s burger, mine was absolutely delicious. The meat was juicy and the flavors melded together well. The maple bacon jam gave my burger a whole “French toast” vibe that I loved. It was like eating breakfast!

The burgers come with hand-cut fries that were perfect. I couldn’t get enough of them and continued to shove them in to my mouth like I was starving.

All in all, this place is awesome. The food is delicious and the entire staff is great. It’s been awhile since I’ve been this excited about eating out at a place.

We followed up our lunch with a quick jaunt to Duck Donuts. I cannot say enough good things about this place and I plan my Outer Banks trips around getting my donuts. Even though we showed up near closing time, they had donuts left and were more than happy to fix us right up.

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Don’t worry – it rained on the box but the donuts were safe and warm inside.
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Cinnamon Sugar | Chocolate Glazed with Peanuts| Powdered Sugar | Blueberry with Powdered Sugar (a surprise favorite)

Continuing our beach adventure, we made our way down to the Manteo Aquarium. I hadn’t been there since they completed the sea turtle conversation area and enjoyed looking at their work. The last time I was at the aquarium, the otters weren’t out so I was tickled when I saw them swimming about. Robb attempted to touch a sting ray at the touch tank but every time one drew close, they would suddenly realize he was there and ran away from him.

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Sharks!
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The sea turtle conservation area – and I managed not to be a single good shot of a sea turtle.
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Alligators!

Even though it was raining, we didn’t let it ruin our fun and explored the Nature Play Area/Nature Trail. It was great fun and made us both feel like children again! I can’t wait to go back to the aquarium once they have their jellyfish exhibit complete.

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[Note: I just got a new cellphone on Friday so during this trip, I relied only on my cellphone for photos. I still need to play with the built-in camera so that I can take better quality photos without lugging around my big camera. I might have accidentally turned on MACRO for some of these.]

Two Roads Tavern
3105 N. Croatan Hwy (Milepost 5.5)

Kill Devil Hills, NC 27948
In The Seagate North Shopping Center
Monday – Saturday 11:30 am to 9:00 pm