Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Zupa's Introduces a New Salad Menu

I'll admit I'm a soup and sandwich type of girl whenever I lunch at Cafe Zupas. I just love that lobster bisque and the wild mushroom bisque (I sound like that bisque guy from Studio C). Bisque! However, not long ago I was invited to try some of the new salads that will be appearing on the menu at Cafe Zupas this month. I'm pretty sure that I've just become a soup and salad type of girl on my future visits to Zupas.




I love that as consumers have begun to demand a healthier and fresher fare, fast and casual dining restaurants have started to answer that call. Zupas' new salads are offering healthy, made in-house salad choices that are pretty impressive considering the relatively low cost. Introducing ingredients such as kale, goat cheese, baby field greens, edamame and quinoa to their salads adds to the flavor and the nutrition. They're upgrading other ingredients including fire-roasted corn and sliced grape tomatoes.

Eight new house-made dressings will be offered, such as my favorite the cherry balsamic vinaigrette. Care and consideration has been made to the visual appeal of the salads and believe me, when you see them you are going to want to eat them.






The nine new salads will be introduced at Cafe Zupas locations around Utah by the end of October and will be in Arizona and Nevada in early November. I need to go back and decide which one I like most. Right now it's definitely a toss up between the Cherry Balsamic with it's delicious Anjou Pears or the Citrus Berry Spinach salad with the amazing Blood Orange Vinaigrette. But you know, I am a sucker for anything chipotle. Wow! This is going to be tough to decide which of the new salads I love the most.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

The Silent Sister - Book Review


Riley has returned home to clean out her childhood home and settle her father's will following his recent death. Her angry, older brother lives like a hermit in his trailer nearby but isn't much help. Though Riley remembers her parents fondly, her brother doesn't have such good memories. He was old enough to remember when their older sister Lisa killed herself and their family fell into sorrow and depression.

Riley may not remember Lisa but the knowledge that her sister was depressed enough to take her own life has inspired Riley's career as a high school counselor. Now, as Riley sifts through the paperwork and detritus of her parents' lives she discovers clues that perhaps Lisa didn't take her own life. Perhaps Lisa is still alive.

The Silent Sister by Diane Chamberlain is one of the She Reads Book Club fall reads. It's one of those nicely paced mysteries that just begs to be read in one sitting. Riley is a likable character and she was easy to root for as she searched for the truth. I figured out the entirety of the mystery fairly early in the story but I still enjoyed reading the follow-through and the drama. I'm sure my family members have their share of secrets but I can't even imagine being in a family so full of deception. It's no wonder Riley's brother has such a hard time.

Chamberlain has a comfortable style and writes an exciting plot-driven story. While there are some holes and unanswered questions, I enjoyed reading The Silent Sister this week. It was perfect to snuggle up with as I recovered from a head cold.

The Silent Sister by Diane Chamberlain is published by St. Martin's Press on October 7, 2014.

**I received a complimentary copy of The Silent Sister from the She Reads Book Club. No compensation was received. All opinions are my own.**

Monday, October 6, 2014

Winner of the Schwan's Gift Card Give-away


And the winner of the $25 gift card to Schwan's Online Grocery is... 

corey1971

Congratulations! Please contact me by Friday, October 10th to claim your prize.


Thursday, October 2, 2014

Rocking the To Be Read Shelves in September

The month of September was a very good reading month for me. I read 10 books during the month. It helped that I got a horrible cold that has hung on for weeks and made me not want to leave the house.

I'm also pretty excited that I managed to read off my overflowing To Be Read Shelves.



I bought a copy of Sarah Water's The Little Stranger for myself for my Mother's Day gift. (I know my husband and kids love me and I'm never disappointed when I just get my own gift. Honestly, I'd have bought the book anyway but I just excused it as my Mother's Day gift.) Anyway, as far as my To Be Read Shelves (aka the Black Hole for Books) this book has been on my shelf for a relatively short time.

The Little Stranger is suspenseful and atmospheric. Though it takes place after World War II, the crumbling old manor lends the house at Gothic feeling. Dr. Farraday is called out on a house call to administer to the sick maid but become embroiled in the strange and mysterious happenings at Hundreds Hall as he befriends the family trying to maintain their estate.

I love a good ghost story and I enjoyed The Little Stranger. It's frightening and violent yet lacking gruesome descriptions. It's more of a psychological thrilled a long the lines of Jane Eyre or Rebecca. It's nice and spooky for this time of  year.

I figured out that I can read while on the elliptical if I read an ebook on my phone. My phone is the perfect size to fit in my hand comfortably so that I can still exercise. I get so darn bored on the elliptical so being able to read has definitely encouraged me to work out more. I would have read more ebooks if the cold hadn't curtailed my work out plans.

Anyway, I read Labor Day by Joyce Maynard as an ebook. I had heard good things. It was made into a movie and I rather enjoyed Maynard's After Her. Henry and his mother become the hostages of a man escaping from the hospital of the prison. Over the Labor Day weekend, Frank hides out at their home.

A quick and easy read, I was initially taken in by the characters. The plot was interesting and I was intrigued to read of the budding relationship between Frank and Henry's mother. His mother was a unique character, lost in grief and strangely brought to the surface by her kidnapper. I had expected more action and drama.

Ultimately, this is a coming-of-age story and Henry's preoccupation with sex (normal for his age) is often overwhelming and at the same time integral to the way he observes and interprets the relationship between his mother and Frank. The emotions that Henry feels during this period of his life are confusing and contrasting. Maynard excels at creating the conflicted young boy.





The Leftovers by Tom Perrotta was the choice of the month for my local book club. Admittedly, it's pretty different from most of the books we read at book club--an interesting change of pace. The Leftovers follows the people who are still left on earth after many people simply disappear in a  Rapture-like experience. 

While I was taken with the writing and was intrigued by the story, overall The Leftovers was dark and cynical. We're going to discuss it next week and I'm curious to see what others thought about it.


Serena by Ron Rash has been on my radar since it was published in 2008 but I didn't get a copy for myself until a few years ago at the Salt Lake City Library Used Book Sale. Ever since then, it is the book I look at longingly whenever I'm in the middle of another book that I'm not loving.

Serena has all the elements that appeal to me. I am a sucker for stories that take place in Appalachia and during the Depression. The characters are strong. It's violent, dark and tragic. (As I'm writing this, I can't explain why these stories appeal, but they do. They really do.)

Serena and her new husband Mr. Pemberton are the owners of a logging operation in North Carolina. They are ruthless and powerful and greedy. Yet, they employ many men who are desperate for a wage. Serena did not disappoint. I was enthralled and disgusted. I've been wanting so much to talk about it with Rand but I don't want to spoil the ending. While he probably won't have a chance to read the book, the movie version is releasing soon. I am very anxious to see it. I love the casting already so I really hope they do the book justice with the movie.


I am still coughing and not in the mood to get out much, so maybe October will be a great reading month too. I'm already planning a spooky stack of books that hopefully I'll get to this month.

What are you planning to read in October?

Monday, September 29, 2014

Schwan's Online Grocery Home Delivery - Review & Giveaway

 

Confession:
I don't love grocery shopping. Who does? 
I also don't love meal planning. 
I don't mind cooking.
I just hate trying to come up with dinner ideas every single night
 only to have a kid turn up his/her nose at the offerings.

I was excited to try Schwan's Home Delivery. I've seen the Schwan's trucks around but we'd never ordered food from them before. Rand and I looked over their website together. It's easy to navigate, understand and has a wide variety of offerings. Rand's tummy was rumbling and he wanted a little of everything.

Our order arrived in a special insulated pouch. Molly was initially disappointed because she was just sure they were delivering her an actual swan. 

The evening that I attended the KSL Preview was a perfect night for Rand to introduce some of the offerings from Schwan's. He didn't have to freak out about what was for dinner and even though he's a pretty good cook and knows his way around the kitchen, the hot & spicy chicken breast fillets turned out perfectly. They put them on buns with some fresh sliced tomatoes and a little cheese and they all agreed that they were just as good as our favorite fast food chicken sandwiches. They saved me half a piece to try when I got home that night. So generous.



The Triple Berry Blend turned into delicious smoothies. The berries were plump and ripe and I could pretty much eat them all day.


I'm not a fan of frozen pizza. I don't buy it. Ever. However, as far as frozen pizzas go, the Special Recipe Sausage and Pepperoni Pizza was pretty good. The price was fairly reasonable for a frozen pizza though it really only fed three of us for lunch. (Shh! Don't tell the other kids.)


Our family loves fish. Seriously loves it. It's actually one of the only foods that all of my kids will eat without complaining. Needless to say, we were super excited to try the Wild-Caught Alaskan Salmon. But really, we weren't overly impressed. It was OK but for the price we weren't over-the-moon about it.



Overall, our experience with Schwan's Home Delivery Groceries was positive. It would be nice to have our freezer full of some easy, time-saving entrees on those nights when we're running to meetings or feeling sick (like this entire last two weeks) and not really in the mood to cook. The website is easy to use and well designed. Schwan's offers a wide variety of foods that are easy and can definitely save a family time. For busy families Schwan's can be a life saver!

Even better, if you order now you can save at Schwan's.

Use discount code:   MYESHA2 for $10 off a $50 order

And enter here for a chance to win
 a $25 gift card to use at Schwan's.

Simply leave a comment on this post about what you might order for dinner from Schwan's. The contest will be opened to entries until Friday, October 3, 2014 at 11:59 pm MST. One winner will be chosen randomly from the comments and announced here on Saturday, October 4th. The winner will have one week to respond to me or another winner will be chosen. US only.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Kidecals - Review

Last year Thomas lost three jackets at school. Lilly lost her backpack (and the jacket inside). We looked in the coat room and in the lost and found. We looked all over the playground. It was as if they had disappeared. Vanished.

I hate losing things. It's one of my pet peeves. Yet, it's so easy for kids to do. They set down their water bottle at soccer practice or leave their basketball at the gym. When they visit their grandparents they leave socks and underwear and jackets. It gets so annoying.

Needless to say, I was excited to have the opportunity to try out the name labels from Kidecals.

Adhering to any surface, Kidecals can go through the dishwasher or the washing machine and stay firmly attached. I ordered a bunch of pretty generic circle decals with our last night and my phone number and when school started I attached them everywhere--to their jackets, backpacks, water bottles and lunch boxes.



Thomas was especially excited to get a new jacket for school. He typically wears Neal's hand-me-down jackets but since he lost so many last year, he needed a new one. I found a great one on sale and Thomas loved it. He kept telling me how amazingly soft it was and it's orange which is his favorite color. The Thursday before Labor Day, Thomas and Lilly didn't come straight home from school. We were hurrying to pack to leave for our vacation that night so I was getting antsy. Finally, I saw Thomas and Lilly slowly and sadly walking toward home. The morning was chilly so Thomas had worn his new jacket to school but now he couldn't find it anywhere. Lilly had even helped him look. He was crying and I promised to head back after B track to help him look. He was sure that if he didn't find his jacket before we went to Wyoming on vacation that he would never see it again.

Later that afternoon, Thomas and I returned to the school to search. We searched his classroom and the coatroom. We talked to his teacher. We talked to the other third grade teachers and looked in their classroom. We looked in the classroom where he had gone to art. We looked in the lunchroom and all over the playground. We checked the lost and found. For crying out loud! The jacket is orange. It shouldn't be that difficult to find. Finally, we gave up. Thomas insisted that we had to buy a new jacket exactly the same.

Later the next week, after we had returned from vacation and the kids were in school, I had to take a forgotten lunch box to Amberly at school. I stopped by the lost and found and lo and behold there was Thomas's beloved orange jacket with the Kidecal label right inside. We had found the jacket!!!

Not sure the Kidecal label had much to do with that long story, but it still helps me feel better to know that my kids' belongings are properly labeled. The labels are cute and trendy and can be personalized. There are so many options.




I also bought some really cute blackboard labels that I put on the jars  filled with crayons, colored pencils and other school supplies. I love them.


Kidecals has the cutest personalized labels for canning and other DIY projects.


Or personalize your computer laptop with decals for the back or keyboard stickers.


Really the creative possibilities are endless with Kidecals
Check them out today. 
Use the code : ilovelabels to receive a special 15% discount on any Kidecal order.


Monday, September 22, 2014

KSL Fall Preview for Bloggers

Usually, I just go on and on about books around here, as you know. 
But let's talk television for just a bit
Last week another blogger friend (Jen from Utah Queen of Chaos) and I went to the Fall Preview at KSL. 
It sounded like an awesome chance to get away from the craziness for an evening and have some adult conversation. To make it even better, there was a delicious spread of appetizers. 


I'm not really a television watcher. Utah Dad and I have a handful (literally less than five) shows that we binge watch. Lately, as a family we've been watching the first three seasons of Little House on the Prairie. 
I know. Really. Fortunately, it's an NBC show. 

While I may not watch many shows, I am an avid news watcher and I faithfully watch the KSL team every evening. I follow them all on Twitter. As a weather fan, I've had a crush on a Eubank since I was a little girl. Deanie Wimmer and I share a love for books. So, I was pretty excited to meet the news team at the soiree. 


Temperatures are going back up for the week.


Brooke Walker from Studio 5 is so personable and just lovely. 
Jen and I enjoyed hanging out with her much of the evening.




During the evening, we got a tour of the Studio 5 set, the newsroom and the radio.
  Ethan and Alex from the Nightside Project on KSLradio invited us in during their live show. They had some strong opinions about the movies coming out lately. 


They also filled us in on some of the new fall programming from NBC.  
Marry Me and A to Z are fun and fresh romantic comedies. We watched the pilot for A to Z. Andrew and Zelda are pretty adorable characters with a supporting cast of goofballs. The show has potential.

The new show that intrigues me to the most is The Mysteries of Laura starring the stunning Debra Messing.
Laura is a smart detective and a mom to naughty twins. She appears to be a strong, female character and I'm anxious to watch.



To top off our fun evening, I won the trip to see The Voice!!! Exciting, right?
Anyone want to tell me what The Voice is?




Saturday, September 20, 2014

A Song for Issy Bradley - Book Review



For years I've longed to see literature written for a wider audience featuring members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or at the very least some LDS characters. I hoped to see accurate and fair portrayals so that readers could get a glimpse of the lives of members.

A Song for Issy Bradley by Carys Bray is about a Latter-day Saint family living in Great Britian. Bishop Bradley leads his family as he strives to follow each commandment and rule with exactness and his loving wife Claire, a convert to the church, works hard to support him. When their youngest daughter, four year old Issy dies from meningitis, their family faces a crisis of faith as they each struggle to overcome their sorrow and the tragic changes to their family.

Bray excels at creating emotion. The heartache and depression faced by Claire is tangible and heartfelt. As a mother I could so easily understand her reactions to the death of her little girl. Crumbling in on herself, Claire has nothing left to give the rest of her family. The other members of the Bradley family face the trial in their own ways. Bishop Bradley is determined to carry on and pushes his grief aside to continue serving the congregation. Zippy feels lost as she needs the comfort and advice from her mother and can't reach her. Alma, or Al as he would prefer to be called, is resentful and snarky. Sweet, seven year old Jacob is praying for a miracle. As simply a discussion of death and healing and mourning, A Song of Issy Bradley is a beautiful and tender novel.

Where Bray strays is in her basic representation of the church and its membership. Determined to give an overview of every curious religious practice, she fills the books with details that have no bearing to the story and doesn't provide a reasonable explanation. Also, they tend to be described by the characters that are having issues or doubts about the practice and so the derision is evident. There is very little kindness offered in the characterization of Bishop Bradley. He is presented as the ultimate misogynist. The other LDS characters in the book are caricatures--they are exaggerated and ridiculous. Most members would concede that we may have met a person similar to some of the people in the book but they are rare and usually considered "lovable nuts" even by the other members. Yet, in Bray's book we meet only these folks. Where, I wonder, are all the thoughtful and caring members of the church that I know and have associated with over the years? These characters represent the work of a propagandist, not a novelist.

I had trouble placing the novel in the proper time period. While it was intended to be contemporary, so much of the church "culture" described felt like the 1980's or 90's--especially in the representation of the way morality was taught to the youth by some shortsighted local leaders and how mental illness and depression are treated within the church. The church, just like all society, has come a long way in the past decades about how to treat mental illness. Also, quite often the church's doctrine presented in the novel was simply wrong.

Overall, what could have been a moving and emotional story about a family's struggle with grief and their faith, was overshadowed by the constant and subtle disparaging of the religion.

A Song for Issy Bradley by Carys Bray was published by Ballantine Books in August 2014.

**I received a complimentary copy of A Song for Issy Bradley. No compensation was received. All opinions are my own.**

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Five Days Left - Book Review


Mara has five days left. Diagnosed with Huntington's Disease, the cruel and fatal disease is methodically destroying her life. Already she has been forced to retire from her career as a successful lawyer and now she feels the symptoms breaking down her cherished relationships with her husband and her young daughter. Determined to make the choice while she is still able to do something about it, Mara is planning her suicide.

For the past year, Scott and his wife have been fostering eight year old Curtis whose mother is in jail. Scott has developed a rich and meaningful relationship with the boy and is devastated by the fact that Curtis will soon be returning to live with his mother who has been released. They have five days left.

Julie Lawson Timmer ties the two stories together in her debut novel Five Days Left. Definitely the more dominant of the two is the detailing of the hellish symptoms of Huntington's Disease and laying Mara's tender and conflicted emotions bare. Timmer doesn't tell the most easy-to-read story. It's brutal and it will rip your heart out. It might cause a lump in your throat and an uncomfortable sinking feeling in your gut. But it allows the reader to have empathy. To experience. To comprehend.

After the recent and tragic death of beloved actor Robin Williams and the suggestion that the diagnosis of Parkinson's disease influenced William's choice, Five Days Left becomes an even more timely story. Mara's story is compelling. Confronted by her conflicting thoughts and justifications, I still don't fully feel comfortable with her decision but I could sympathize with her. I could understand better.

Before reading this novel, I knew very little about the horrors of Huntington's Disease. Five Days Left definitely opened my eyes. It's a novel that forces the reader to feel and to think. It challenges my preconceived ideas. This is the power of the novel and why I love to read.

Five Days Left by Julie Lawson Timmer is published by Putnam and released on September 9, 2014.

**I received a complimentary copy of Five Days Left. No other compensation was received. All opinions are my own.**



Monday, September 8, 2014

Glorious - Book Review


My grandpa raised me on good western movies. His favorite was Lonesome Dove and we watched it nearly every time we went to visit (this also may be because he owned only a handful of movies on VHS). His book shelves were also full of Louis L'Amour novels and I smuggled them (and the Danielle Steele novels) up to read in bed at night in the sloped ceiling guest bedroom of his snug little Wyoming house. The room was even decorated in a cowboy theme, so you know, it was an appropriate setting to get lost in the wilds of the west.

I was looking forward to Glorious by Jeff Guinn. Cash McLendon is on the run from St. Louis after his carelessness results in the death of his young bride and his wealthy father-in-law/employer is after his hide. Escaping the city and the clutches of his father-in-law's henchmen, Cash heads to the territory of Arizona in search of Gabrielle, the woman he still loves yet turned his back on to marry for financial security.

Cash ends up in the dusty little town of Glorious where every day the prospectors load up their mules and head into the hills in search of silver. Spurned by the woman he hurt, Cash is determined to leave right away but the members of the new community--owners of the few fledgling businesses--accept him quickly into their fold. Cash's experience with his former father-in-law also allows him to see the truth of situation between the little town and the nearby ranch whose owner has pledged to keep them safe from the marauding Apaches. When silver is discovered in the nearby mountains, Glorious becomes a genuine boom town and the stakes are raised for everyone.

In Glorious, Guinn introduces the reader to an unusual western hero. He can't ride a horse. He can't shoot straight. What he has, is a gift for scrutiny and observation of other people. He can read the situation and the actions of others. He knows how to deflect anger with a quick diversion of the conversation. With these skills and his street smarts, Cash is a unique and entertaining hero.

The pace of the story moves along at a comfortable speed. It's steady and engaging. The supporting characters are an amusing group of eccentric folks whose wide-eyed hope for the future is refreshing. The villain stays mostly in the shadows and seems pretty type cast. The main love interest has a touch of sass that is invigorating. However, there is little passion to the relationship between Cash and Gabrielle. I didn't really care if he got the girl. Frankly, I didn't see it happening.

I was pretty absorbed in the story but as I realized that the remaining pages were dwindling and I felt like surely the book needed more to adequately wrap up the tale, I began to worry. Sure enough, the action was rushed and I turned the final page to discover that the novel wasn't finished--it was just the beginning of a series. And right at this moment I'm not sure I care enough about Cash and Gabrielle and the other fine folks of Glorious to pick up the next novel. I suppose only time will tell.

Glorious by Jeff Guinn was published by Putnam in May 2014.

**I received a complimentary copy of Glorious. No other compensation was received. All opinions are my own.**



Friday, September 5, 2014

We Are Not Ourselves - Book Review



Eileen Tumulty is determined to have a better life. Growing up in Queens with her alcoholic parents, Eileen envisions a higher quality life for herself. She wants to own a house; provide a college education for her children. She wants a steady, supportive husband. Ed Leary seems the perfect man to help her fulfill her dreams. He's a bright star in science research with a lot of potential.

Eileen is a hardworking woman who always has her eye out for the next opportunity to rise. She encourages Ed in his own career but Ed seems content with his current station. Together and with their marked differences, Eileen and Ed will forge ahead with their marriage and family--facing the joys and tragedies of life.

Eileen is one of those unforgettable literary characters. She's wholly human and remarkable for doing the things that people do. She works hard. She cherishes her family. She gets frustrated. She mourns. She pulls herself up by the boot straps and does what is required of her. She makes hard choices. She makes mistakes. She repents. She keeps moving forward. She gives of herself. She resents it a little. She falls. She gets back up. She loves deeply. She lives.

We Are Not Ourselves by Matthew Thomas is a hefty novel. Because of its length and not as much time to read lately, I spent more time reading it than I do most novels. I appreciated every minute I could spend with Eileen. She is inspirational and I grew to love this woman.

Every page is an exquisite and astute tribute to life. 

Reminding me of the beloved novel A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith in the beginning, We Are Not Ourselves soon transforms from a coming-of-age novel to a tender and graceful look at aging. As Eileen cares for Ed in their later years and as he suffers from Alzheimer's, the novel is empathetic and tragic while showing how a relationship can be strengthened especially in times of adversity. We Are Not Ourselves is an emotional journey. It is a lovely novel. A heartbreaking story. A powerful story. A gift.

We Are Not Ourselves by Matthew Thomas was published by Simon and Schuster in August 2014.

**I received a complimentary copy of We Are Not Ourselves. No additional compensation was received. All opinions are my own.**





Thursday, August 21, 2014

The Pearl That Broke Its Shell - Book Review


From the cover :

In Kabul, 2007, with a drug-addicted father and no brothers, Rahima and her sisters can only sporadically attend school, and can rarely leave the house. Their only hope lies in the ancient custom of bacha posh, which allows young Rahima to dress and be treated as a boy until she is of marriageable age. As a son, she can attend school, go to the market, and chaperone her older sisters.
But Rahima is not the first in her family to adopt this unusual custom. A century earlier, her great-great grandmother, Shekiba, left orphaned by an epidemic, saved herself and built a new life the same way.
Crisscrossing in time, The Pearl the Broke Its Shell interweaves the tales of these two women separated by a century who share similar destinies. But what will happen once Rahima is of marriageable age? Will Shekiba always live as a man? And if Rahima cannot adapt to life as a bride, how will she survive?

My thoughts :

I enjoy a novel that transports me across continents to another time and place and allows me to feel and empathize with the people in a situation so varied from my own. The Pearl that Broke Its Shell by Nadia Hashimi is successful at bringing to life the struggles of women in Afghanistan, a land so far removed yet brought to our attention by the recent history and the coverage in the news. Hashimi's novel gives a human face to the news reports of the politics and wars. It opens the reader's eyes to the suffering and resilience of people. 

By telling both the modern story of Rahima and the earlier story of her ancestor Shekiba, Hashimi is able to tell both histories of the country. Separated by a hundred years, their stories are not that different. Both women lived at a time of change and progression (albeit slow) for the country and for the women who live there. The Pearl That Broke Its Shell is often heart breaking and painful. Ultimately, it's a powerful story of personal triumph and of being brave enough to make choices to change one's destiny or naseeb.

While at times the novel's pace tends to drag, overall The Pearl That Broke Its Shell is a beautiful and haunting story of the subservient and enslaved women who occupy the embattled country and will do what they can to survive and advance.


The Pearl That Broke Its Shell by Nadia Hashimi is published by William Morrow and released in May 2014.

**I received a complimentary copy of The Pearl That Broke Its Shell. No compensation was received. All opinions are my own.**

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Friendswood - Book Review



From the cover :

Friendswood, Texas, is a small Gulf Coast town of church suppers, oil rigs on the horizon, hurricane weather, and high school football games. When tragedy rears its head with an industrial leak that kills and sickens residents, it pulls on the common thread that runs through the community, intensifying everything. From a confused fifteen-year-old girl beset by visions, to a high school football star tormented by his actions, to a mother galvanized by the death of her teen daughter, to a morally bankrupt father trying to survive his mistakes, René Steinke explores what happens when families are trapped in the ambiguity of history’s missteps—when the actions of a few change the lives and well-being of many.

My thoughts :

In Friendswood, debut author René Steinke tells the story of the people that live in the town. It’s familiar to those from small towns. The people are connected. They have histories with one another that bind and divide. But like people anywhere, they have complicated pasts, heartaches and dreams. They have suffered. They have passions and are passionate about their causes. They hide. They choose the easy path. They choose to take risks. They just try to survive.

Friendswood is a morality play with complicated leading actors. While exposing their weaknesses and failings, Steinke also shows them in the sympathetic light to her readers. People are more than their choices and yet our choices often define us. Will we be brave? Will we be cowardly? How will we justify our choices?

Causing the reader to ponder and reflect, Steinke weaves a story with powerful themes and harrowing outcomes. As a mother of children who are growing up and too quickly becoming teenagers, the plot line surrounding the high school students was disturbing and caused me to think about my own possible reactions and the way I will educate both my sons and daughters.

Friendswood is a definitely page turner from a talented new author. It’s rich and complex; exquisite and controlled—a model of brilliant literary fiction.


Friendswood by René Steinke is published by Riverhead Books and released on August 14, 2014.

**I received a complimentary copy of Friendswood. No compensation was received. All opinions are my own.**

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Story Hour - Book Review


From the cover :

An experienced psychologist, Maggie carefully maintains emotional distance from her patients. But when she meets a young Indian woman who tried to kill herself, her professional detachment disintegrates. Cut off from her family in India, Lakshmi is desperately lonely and trapped in a loveless marriage to a domineering man who limits her world to their small restaurant and grocery store.
Moved by her plight, Maggie treats Lakshmi in her home office for free, quickly realizing that the despondent woman doesn’t need a shrink; she needs a friend. Determined to empower Lakshmi as a woman who feels valued in her own right, Maggie abandons protocol, and soon doctor and patient have become close friends.
But while their relationship is deeply affectionate, it is also warped by conflicting expectations. When Maggie and Lakshmi open up and share long-buried secrets, the revelations will jeopardize their close bond, shake their faith in each other, and force them to confront painful choices.

My thoughts :
In her latest novel The Story Hour, Thrity Umrigar offers a unique perspective on the plight of the emigrant. Lakshmi is struggling to break free from the bounds of her oppressive husband but as she recognizes her own talents and capabilities and learns to act for herself, she is also give power to face her secrets and overcome their chains.
The strongest aspect of this very readable and enjoyable novel is the characterization. Neither Maggie or Lakshmi are perfect characters. They are flawed. At times they make horrible choices. Umrigar creates very human characters who are not villains yet do not always act in the best interest of themselves or others. They are at times abrupt, impulsive and narcissistic yet they are worth rooting for. There is the opportunity for redemption and restitution. 
The story is powerful. Umrigar grants insight into the human soul and the strong emotions and influences that often motivate us to act contrary to the best interests of others. Thrity Umrigar is a very talented writer. She has a way with words and she has a deep understanding of human nature. She combines these talents to create a lovely masterpiece in The Story Hour.

The Story Hour by Thrity Umrigar is published by Harper on August 19, 2014. 

**I received a complimentary copy of The Story Hour in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own. No compensation was received.**





Monday, August 18, 2014

Bout of Books Goals

I realized last night that Bout of Books starts today. I haven't had as much time to read lately. I've been terribly busy spending the last days of summer vacation with my kids and also preparing them for school. However, school starts tomorrow and I plan to spend some extra time catching up more books.

Bout of Books

The Bout of Books read-a-thon is organized by Amanda @ On a Book Bender and Kelly @ Reading the Paranormal. It is a week long read-a-thon that begins 12:01am Monday, August 18th and runs through Sunday, August 24th in whatever time zone you are in. Bout of Books is low-pressure, and the only reading competition is between you and your usual number of books read in a week. There are challenges, giveaways, and a grand prize, but all of these are completely optional. For all Bout of Books 11 information and updates, be sure to visit the Bout of Books blog. - From the Bout of Books team

My goals for this week are fairly conservative. I'm trying to be realistic.

Today I'm starting to read Five Days Left the highly anticipated debut novel from my fabulous Twitter friend Julie Lawson Timmer.



 Then, what better way to say goodbye to our summer vacation with The Last Summer by Judith Kinghorn.


And then if I have time, I'd love to squeeze in the rather thick We are Not Ourselves by Matthew Thomas.


Monday, August 11, 2014

Getting Ready for Kindergarten

We've done the shopping. 
She's got bright new shoes.
She got her hair cut.

This girl is ready for kindergarten.
She had her assessment today and I asked if I could take a picture.
She started hamming it up.
Watch out world, this girl is something else.