Friday, March 27, 2015

A Day in the Life - Blogger Event

Trish at Love, Laughter, Insanity put together A Day in the Life Blogger Event and I decided to participate rather at the last minute. Actually, as I lay in bed last night unable to fall asleep I was looking forward to reading about my fellow blogger friends' days and I decided I'd put together my own. I did this once before years ago when my children were small and still at home but I can't find that post. It's somewhere. Things have definitely changed for me since then. Edited to add: I found the A Day in the Life post that I wrote in March 2010--I still had three little kids at home. My day was much different.

Wednesdays tend to be my craziest busy days so I figured I'd focus first on one of those.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

6:30 am - My alarm goes off. I get up. Go to the bathroom. Take my thyroid medicine. Grab a towel and go wake up Neal. He gets in the shower and I go back to bed.

7:00 am - My second alarm goes off. I get up. I wake up Thomas and pick out his clothes.  I knock on the bathroom door to remind Neal to get out of the shower. Yes, he's still in there. I wake up the girls. I pick out Lilly's clothes. I go back to my room and check email on my phone.

7:10 am - I help Lilly do her hair. I yell at Amberly to get out of bed. I iron Neal's shirt (the downside of his new wardrobe choice of button-up shirts--though I still like it better than the gym shorts and t-shirts he wore for three years). I help Neal get his hair just so. I help Thomas comb his hair.

7:25 am - I yell at Amberly to get out of bed. The rest of us go downstairs for breakfast. I make Neal his favorite omelet. Neal, Lilly and Molly request cinnamon toast.

7:35 am - Amberly wanders downstairs and gets herself a bowl of cereal.

7:45 am - We have family prayers. Neal leaves to catch his bus to the junior high. Amberly, Thomas and Lilly walk to school.

8:00 am - I've been craving Indian food for days and I discovered a slow cooker recipe for Chicken Tikka Masala. We put together the Garam Masala using this recipe. Rand and I went to the store the night before to get all the ingredients and the spices. We prep the chicken. Sautee the onions, garlic, ginger. Get it in the crock pot. This is a big deal for us. We're excited.

8:45 am - I get Molly dressed and comb her hair.

9:00 am - I walk Molly to kindergarten. Yes, I'm still wearing  my pajamas. The school is just two blocks away. Less than a thousand steps there and back. I love that I get to say hello to all the neighborhood kids walking to school.

9:15 am - I finish processing the pictures of the Primary children and send them to Costco to print.

10:10 am - I fold the laundry that has been sitting in baskets since Monday while watching an episode of Gilmore Girls on the iPad. I've never watched Gilmore Girls before and I'm only on Season 3. My friends and I text each other.

11:00 am - I take a shower. Get dressed. Get ready.

11:40 am - UPS delivers some book mail.

11:45 am - My alarm goes off to remind me to pick up Molly from Kindergarten. I walk back to the school.  We've had a lovely winter with warmish weather and I've been able to walk every day. Several of my friends also walk to school and we visit while we wait for the kids to get out of class. There are over a dozen kids from our neighborhood/ward in morning kindergarten this year (more in all-day and afternoon). Molly and her friends run home. My friends and I walk home slowly enjoying the time we get to talk with each other.

12:15 pm - I need to go to Costco to pick up the pictures. Rand is on his lunch break so he decides to come with me. The closest Costco is 14 miles away and it takes us at least a half an hour to drive there. We haven't been there since December so we spend some time eating samples and loading up our favorite Costco staples (frozen meatballs, bacon crumbles, Rhodes rolls, etc.) The strawberries look amazing and I get some muffins and danishes for the brunch I'm hosting with some friends later in the week.

2:20 pm - We pull in the driveway just as Amberly, Thomas and Lilly walk home from school. Perfect timing. The kids help unload and put away the groceries.

2:40 pm - The kids get busy on their homework and chores.

3:30 pm - Neal gets home from school. His favorite girl is moving soon so he lingers at the bus stop talking to her before walking home.

4:00 pm - I walk back to the school for the School Community Council meeting. Some local boy scouts have joined us to fulfill part of their Communication merit badge requirements. We discuss amending some of our goals for the 2015-2016 school year; the budget and the upcoming school events. We will support the PTA on the Family Art Night, the Battle of the Books and we need to attend the Collaboration Presentations coming up.

5:10 pm - I run home. Rand has finished prepping the Chicken Tikka Masala and made the rice. I shovel the amazing food into my mouth. It's missing a little kick but it turned out pretty good.

5:30 pm - My friend picks me up and we go the church to set up for Pack Meeting. I get an additional 3000 steps as I set up chairs.

6:00 pm - Pack meeting starts. Rand has dropped of Thomas just in time. I help with a station where the kids put socks over their hands and try to button shirts. We are discussing disability awareness. The evening goes pretty well and the craziness is 60% less than usual.

7:00 pm - Neal goes to his Scout activity. Rand, Thomas and I go home. We get the little girls ready for bed. We read scriptures together and have family prayer.

8:00 pm - I go to Primary Presidency Meeting. As usual, we discuss our staffing needs. Trying to get enough teachers for the 150 kids is an endless struggle. We plan dessert for the Priesthood Preview coming up and plan to go to the church the next morning to complete the bulletin board now that the pictures have been printed.

9:30 pm - I get home. Change immediately into my pajamas. Send Neal and Amberly to bed. Climb into bed. Rand and I watch an episode of Parenthood together on his computer.

10:20 pm - I read Mercy Snow by Tiffany Baker until I can't keep my eyes open for another minute.

12:00 am - Turn out the lights and fall immediately asleep.

That was a particularly busy day. Yesterday was the very opposite.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

6:30 am - 7:45 am - See above. It's the same routine every day. Except that Neal put all his jeans in the washer the night before and forgot to move them to the dryer. Neal waits for dry pants and Rand gives him a ride to school.

7:45 am - I feel lousy. Horrible headache. Cancel my scheduled walk with a friend. Cancel my meeting with the other Primary counselor to finish the bulletin board.

8:00 am - Give Molly a bath and get her ready for school.

9:00 am - Walk Molly to school.

9:15 am - Load the dishwasher. Put a load of towels in the washer.

9:45 am - Write a book review and schedule the post for the day of the release.

10:30 am - Watch an episode of Gilmore Girls while I fold laundry.

11:10 am - Take a shower and get dressed.

11:45 am - Walk to the school with some friends to pick up the kindergarteners.

12:15 pm - Make Molly lunch. She has nachos. I have a strawberry, banana, and spinach smoothie.

12:45 pm - Lay down and read The Tiger Wife by Tea Obreht. It's our book club book this month.

2:25 pm - Kids get home from school. Finish homework. Chores. My friends text each other about dinner ideas. I realize I haven't even thought about it. I put some chicken quarters in the microwave to thaw and find some red potatoes in the pantry.

3:30 pm - Neal gets home from school. Amberly cuts up the potatoes.

4:00 pm - The chicken and potatoes go into the oven. A sudden and surprising burst of energy. I play Just Dance 2 with Lilly on the Wii. I am dripping with sweat.

5:30 pm - We eat dinner.

6:00 pm - The kids play outside. Rand and I watch another episode of Parenthood. I discover that Lauren Graham and Peter Krause (actors who play siblings on the show) are a real life couple and text my friends. We're a bit freaked out by that. We're in season 5 now.

7:00 pm - The kids stink after playing outside. Amberly, Thomas and Lilly take showers.

7:45 pm - We read scriptures and have family prayer.

8:00 pm - The little girls go to bed. Thomas goes to bed to read Harry Potter. He's obsessed. It's so cute. Rand studies for the SPHR that he's scheduled to take in May. After listening to the online lectures, I think I could pass the exam. I read The Tiger Wife.

9:30 pm - Neal and Amberly go to bed. My eyes will not stay open for one more minute. I fall asleep with my book on my chest.

10:20 pm - Rand finished studying. I get up to take out my contacts and wash my face. Now I'm awake so we watch another episode of Parenthood.

11:30 pm - We're excited to actually turn out the lights before midnight. Rand uses his new CPAP machine. I can't sleep. My neck hurts and my pillows are horrible. And it's way too hot in the room.

2:30 am - Rand wakes up and takes off his CPAP mask. I'm still awake so we talk for a minute.

Sometime around 3:00 am - I fall asleep.

Most of my days fall somewhere in between those two examples. Good times.

Be sure to check out all the other blogger posts on the "Day in the Life" link-up at Love, Laughter, Insanity. It's kind of a fun project. You might even want to do your own.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Mercy Snow - Book Review

There is a tragic accident on the dangerous and windy Devil's Slide Road. The bus driver is in a coma and one teenage girl is dead. June McAllister is grateful that her son is still alive but haunted by the death of her son's friend and the possibility that her husband, the owner of the mill, had something to do with the crash.

Zeke, Mercy and their little sister Hannah, ragged and trouble, have recently moved to their deceased father's property near Devil's Slide Road. The town is already uneasy with their reputation and when Zeke's truck is found crashed into a tree near the site of the bus accident, it is easy to place the blame squarely on his shoulders. But when the authorities go to apprehend him, he disappears into the woods.

Mercy is left alone to care for Hannah; scrounge for money and food and try to clear Zeke's name. June McAllister, trying to make sure that her husband's indiscretions and careless behavior stays hidden, becomes Mercy's greatest foe in the small town still reeling from the accident.

Mercy Snow by Tiffany Baker takes place in the tiny mill town of Titan Falls, New Hampshire. In the 1990s the mills along the Androscoggin were experiencing losses now that production was moving to cheaper sources and the government was more carefully regulating pollution levels in the river. Titan Falls was wrapped up in concern for their livelihoods when the devastating accident shook the people in the small community.

It's easiest to be wary and suspecting of the newest members in town and everyone is nervous of Mercy. Mercy is a fascinating main character. Strong and capable, she's also tender and vulnerable. Her now-deceased mother had led her children on a nomadic life in the northern woods where she taught Mercy the healing arts. Using these skills, Mercy is attempts to heal the wounds of Titan Falls while protecting her siblings. Mercy is a character that it's easy to sympathize with and to champion.

I enjoyed the beautiful and haunting story. I love New Hampshire and I appreciated the details of the town and the surrounding woods, as well as the struggling river. The novel is well plotted--rather than flowing rapidly like a rushing river, it sort of meanders at a steady gentle pace allowing the reader to get to know the eccentric and unique people in town.

Mercy Snow is one of the She Reads Books of Winter. Since most of the book occurs during the freezing months of ice and snow, it was an appropriate winter choice. It's the story of a dying town; a woman who has lost herself and a young girl strong enough to show everyone the truth.

Mercy Snow by Tiffany Baker is published by Grand Central Publishing and released in January 2015.

**I received a copy from the publisher, through the She Reads Book Club. All opinions are my own.**

Friday, March 20, 2015

Finding Jake - Book Review

When Simon and his wife first found out they were expecting a child, they decided that Simon would stay at home to raise the children and write while his wife pursued her career as an attorney. Though Simon often felt awkward around the other moms at play dates and school events, being a stay-at-home dad was a job he began to love and obsess over as he spent his time with first his son Jake and then his daughter Laney.

The sudden text instructing all parents that there had been a shooting at the school sent Simon into immediate panic and as it becomes clear that Jake is implicated in the shooting, Simon becomes more and more concerned. He is determined to find his missing son and clear his name.

As he searches for Jake and deals with the police, media and emotional parents, Simon stresses about all the moments leading up to this event--what he may have done wrong and what he could have done differently as a parent. In clearer moments, he recalls those sweet, tender memories of his son and knows in his heart that Jake must be innocent.

My book club recently read Finding Jake by Bryan Reardon. Since we are all parents, we were immediately able to relate to Simon's fear and panic regarding the school shooting. Just a month ago, I glanced out my window and saw a swarm of emergency vehicles with their lights circling and their sirens blaring near the junior high my son attends. My heart momentarily seized with concern before I remembered they were in a parade honoring a fallen officer. With so many school shootings, this fear lives strong in the hearts of all parents. Simon's concerns, fears and pain were completely believable.

My book club is made up of mothers, but it was interesting to look at this subject from the perspective of a stay-at-home dad. When it appears that Jake is implicated, Simon is filled with guilt. His wife seemed to place the responsibility on him and it made me wonder if the primary care giver/nurturing parent is really more responsible for the children's behavior than the other parent. Or is a team effort? Finding Jake definitely inspired conversation and thought regarding parent responsibility and roles.

Finding Jake by Bryan Reardon was a compelling read. Through Simon's memories and the current events, the reader is able to understand Jake and the mystery of whether or not Jake could and would violently shoot his friends and fellow students starts to unfold. The heartbreak, worry and fear felt by Jake's parents was very well portrayed and I ached for them and the other parents that had lost their children.

Finding Jake is a timely novel that inspires much discussion and was great to read with our book club.

Finding Jake by Bryan Reardon is published by William Morrow and released in February 2015. Copies of the book were provided by The Book Club Girls.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

The Pocket Wife - Book Review

From the cover :

A stylish psychological thriller with the compelling intrigue of The Silent Wife and Turn of Mind and the white-knuckle pacing of Before I Go to Sleep—in which a woman suffering from bipolar disorder cannot remember if she murdered her friend.
Dana Catrell is shocked when her neighbor Celia is brutally murdered. To Dana’s horror, she was the last person to see Celia alive. Suffering from mania, the result of her bipolar disorder, she has troubling holes in her memory, including what happened on the afternoon of Celia’s death.
Her husband’s odd behavior and the probing of Detective Jack Moss create further complications as she searches for answers. The closer she comes to piecing together the shards of her broken memory, the more Dana falls apart. Is there a murderer lurking inside her . . . or is there one out there in the shadows of reality, waiting to strike again?
A story of marriage, murder, and madness, The Pocket Wife explores the world through the foggy lens of a woman on the edge.

My thoughts :

Reading The Pocket Wife by Susan Crawford, I was immediately intrigued by Dana's struggle to remember the events of the murder and her own fear that she had actually killed her neighbor. Dana was a unique and fascinating main character. Reading the novel with the understanding that seeing the events through the eyes of Dana may not be painting the most accurate picture of reality gave the novel the added appeal; the reader is always aware of being manipulated. While suspect, Dana is also terribly fragile and it's quite easy to sympathize with her.

The plot moves along at a nice pace with interesting side characters and the shadow of guilt thrown on a number of players. There are coincidences and a few unlikely details but they do not overly distract from the mystery. I was constantly compelled to continue reading and quite taken with Dana's plight. I wasn't positive but had some suspicion that the novel would end as it did. The ending is satisfactory and plausible but doesn't come with a whole lot of bang or fanfare. I think I'm actually okay with it.

I enjoy a good psychological thriller and The Pocket Wife by Susan Crawford delivered. Most novels in this genre are also quite sordid and vulgar. The Pocket Wife is really quite a refreshingly clean read. There are no sexual scenes, no torture and a rather small smattering of bad language. It's a very impressive debut and I'll be looking forward to more from Crawford.

The Pocket Wife by Susan Crawford is published by William Morrow and releases on March 17, 2015.

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

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Messenger of Truth : Maisie Dobbs - Book Review

From the cover :

London, 1931. The night before an exhibition of his artwork opens at a famed Mayfair gallery, the controversial artist Nick Bassington-Hope falls to his death. The police rule it an accident, but Nick's twin sister, Georgina, a wartime journalist and a infamous figure in her own right, isn't convinced.

When the authorities refuse to consider her theory that Nick was murdered, Georgina seeks out a fellow graduate from Girton College, Maisie Dobbs, psychologist and investigator, for help. Nick was a veteran of World War I, and before long the case leads Maisie to the desolate beaches of Dungeness in Kent, and into the sinister underbelly of the city's art world.

My thoughts:

I've read several of the Maisie Dobbs books now and while I'm not a bona fide fan, I do enjoy the mysteries and the time period. The atmosphere and history of the period between the two world wars is fascinating to read about as the people pick up the pieces from one war only to be hit by depression and the political unrest leading up to the next war. In this time period, Maisie becomes an unlikely yet worthy hero as she searches and uses her keen intellect and skills of observation and knowledge of psychology to solve the mysteries.

Maisie's back story is told in its entirety in the first Maisie Dobbs book by Jacqueline Winspear (You can read my review of that novel **here**.) and while that first story helps set the stage for the subsequent novels, each book can stand on its own fairly well. Maisie is a unique character: brilliant and wise yet understated and rarely seeking the limelight. With her vast life experiences and her career decisions, Maisie is a model of early feminism in a time when single, working women were a new phenomenon following the war. 

I found the mystery in Messenger of Truth quite fascinating. The friends and family surrounding the deceased artist were intriguing and as Maisie tries to untangle the webs to get to the truth of Nick's death, she discovers that many of his associates have secrets to hide. Even years after the war, it is clear that there was much damage to the psyche of the people who lived through the atrocities.

The novel moves at a much slower pace than most mysteries. Honestly, I was bored with Maisie's personal story and that of her employee Billy. While that story-line does much to bolster the atmosphere of the time period, it did little to further the mystery and I wished the pace would move along. 

Overall though, I did enjoy the mystery and the conclusion was exciting and fully satisfying. 

There are nine novels in the Maisie Dobbs series. Messenger of Truth is the fourth. It was published by Picador in 2006. You can find out more about the author Jacqueline Winspear on her website or Facebook page.

I received a copy of Messenger of Truth as part of the TLC Book Tours. You can check out more stops on the Maisie Dobbs tour.

Sisters of Shiloh - Book Review

Libby Beale is devastated after the death of her beloved husband at the gruesome Civil War battle of Antietam. Seeking to avenge his death, Libby schemes to join the Rebel army dressed as a man and kill Yankees. Libby's older and protective sister Josephine comes along in an attempt to keep Libby safe.

In borrowed britches and with their hair chopped, Libby and Josephine pass for young boys. The Rebel army is desperate for recruits and signs them up. Libby seems to be channeling her deceased husband; she begins to walk and talk like him. She learns to shoot to kill and thrives in the grisly battles. Josephine, however, has more difficulty adopting the habits of a man. Determined not to kill anyone, she doesn't fire her weapon and can't resist another young soldier who sees her only as a good friend.

Sisters of Shiloh is appropriately written by sisters, Kathy and Becky Hepinstall. The prose is rich and captures the imagination. The brutal truths of battle and war are laid bare on the page. They don't shy away from the violence. Perhaps because they are "the fairer sex not made for war" they are actually more aware of the horrific details..

The novel moves at a rapid pace and was engaging. There is some awkward romance between Josephine and the soldier Wesley--picture some Shakespeare Twelfth Night. Theirs is a sweet friendship and I enjoyed this plot line much more than Libby's revenge.

While Sisters of Shiloh is a Civil War novel and it describes the battles, it does not get into the politics of the war much at all. Focusing on the women and their reactions to the war, Sisters of Shiloh paints a picture of how the war effected the regular foot soldier and the people who loved them.

Sisters of Shiloh by Kathy and Becky Hepinstall is published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in March 2015.

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

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Winner of THE GOOD GIRL Give-Away

The winner of a hardcover copy of THE GOOD GIRL by Mary Kubica is...

Kelliann Barton

Please contact me within the week with your information so that you can receive this fun thriller.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

To My Friends - Book Review

Whenever Elder Jeffrey R. Holland speaks I sit up straighter and listen more carefully. He might just be my favorite speaker during LDS General Conference. I love that he brings the scriptures to life for me and reminds me of the love of our Savior Jesus Christ. I like that he pulls no punches. He means what he says and he says what he means. His words speak to my heart.

To My Friends : Messages of Counsel and Comfort is a collection of talks given by Jeffrey R. Holland over the last several years. Rand and I read them together and enjoyed being reminded of his words and his spirit as he lifts and encourages us to follow Jesus Christ.

Many of the talks we have heard before but some of them are new to us--either given at BYU and BYU-I Devotionals as well as a talk given to a national meeting of Christian evangelical leaders. It is true that these talks are available to listen to or read for free online but it is nice to have all of his important messages included in one beautiful book. Holland's testimony and spirit is strong in this collection.

To My Friends : Messages of Counsel and Comfort by Jeffrey R. Holland is published by Deseret Book in December 2014.

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

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The Good Girl - Review and Give-away

Eve was completely surprised by the phone call. The caller, her daughter's friend, had exhausted all other possibilities looking for Mia and in desperation hoped that Mia might just be with her mother. Mia has disappeared. Immediately a search is organized for the daughter of a well-known Chicago judge and his socialite wife.

Told from the perspectives of Eve, Mia's mother; Gabe, the detective assigned to the case and Colin, the man who kidnapped Mia, The Good Girl by Mary Kubica is a page-turning mystery with plenty of twists and turns.

I've been in a bit of a reading slump--my nightstand overflowing with half finished books. I knew the She Reads Twitter chat with Mary was coming up and so I pulled The Good Girl from my shelves hoping that it would keep my easily distracted mind interested to the conclusion. It was exactly what I needed to break the bad pattern.

I especially enjoyed seeing the mystery unfold from the perspective of the perpetrator. This is a rare treat and being in his confused and dangerous mind was fascinating. The structure of the novel being told by three narrators with some sections before and after enhanced the mystery and the character development. The style was different but even as a debut author, Kubica makes it work.

The mystery kept me guessing but provided enough clues so the shocking ending was still plausible. With interesting characters; a fast-paced plot and an intriguing mystery, Kubica delivers a satisfying thriller without the gore.

**There is a character who swears.**

The Good Girl is published by MIRA and released in July 2014. The paperback printing of The Good Girl by Mary Kubica is out now and to celebrate I have a hardcover copy of The Good Girl to give away to one lucky reader.

To enter leave a comment on this post. The give-away will be open to entries until Friday, February 27th at 11:59 pm MST. The winner will be chosen randomly from the comments and be announced on Saturday, February 28th. US only.

**I received a complimentary copy of The Good Girl through She Reads. The give away copy was provided by the publishers. No other compensation was received. All opinions are my own.**

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

My Sunshine Away - Book Review

The peace and security, of the people living in the beautiful Pine Creek neighborhood of Baton Rouge, are shattered when golden track-star Lindy Simpson, just fifteen years old, is raped not far from her own home. Before this moment, the neighbors have been a close group of friends. The kids have grown up playing together in the woods behind their homes. The adults have held barbecues and helped each other with their yard work. Following the violent act, everything has changed. Several neighbors are suspect. People are distrustful and guarded. But the biggest change is in Lindy, who withdraws, changes and loses that early sparkle of innocence and naivete.

The narrator of My Sunshine Away is a fourteen year old boy who has long had a secret crush on Lindy. And he's a suspect of the crime.

Using magical language, My Sunshine Away by M.O. Walsh transports the reader back to the nostalgic days of the narrator's youth. Since the narrator (I honestly can't find a mention of his name) and I are the same age, as he tells of his experiences as a fifth grader watching the Challenger Space Shuttle disaster I was mesmerized by our shared history. Full of the recent historical events that shaped the narrator and most Americans, he includes these events and the reactions and feelings to thoroughly bring his characters to life.

My Sunshine Away is a coming of age novel. Just as the tragic and horrifying events of Lindy's rape shape her youth and the lives of her family, the narrator is also deeply affected by the crime and the shattering of an ideal. His own childhood is changed by this moment. It's powerful and moving and a good reminder that and individual's choices and actions affect so many others for good or bad.

The novel is also a mystery, as doubt and suspicion is cast on several neighbors. The reader can not fully be sure that the narrator is not guilty of the crime though he frequently professes his innocence. Well plotted with just enough evidence to keep the reader guessing, My Sunshine Away is a compelling read.

At times heart wrenching and painful, the novel is also filled with heroics and hope. I hope to encourage other friends to read My Sunshine Away because I'm anxious to discuss the elements and themes of the novel that impressed me. It would be a fabulous book club read.

There is some bad language in the novel.

My Sunshine Away by M.O. Walsh is published by Putnam and released on February 10, 2015. 

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

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Winner of The Secret of Midwives Give-away

Happy Valentines Day!

The winner of an ARC copy of The Secret of Midwives 
by Sally Hepworth is...

Ashley Walker

Congratulations! Please contact me with your information within a week to claim your prize.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Crazy Love You - Book Review

Ian, a graphic novelist, has fallen in love with Megan and wants to marry her. She's beautiful, sweet and fulfills his dreams of a settling down and having a family. But Ian's past and especially his childhood friendship with Priss is getting in the way of his relationship with Megan.

Priss has been his closest friend since tragedy shook his childhood. Bullied in school, Ian was regularly defended by Priss whose violent vengeance unnerved him but inspired the popular graphic novels Ian would later write. Priss has always been his defender. His protector. And he's been grateful, but now that he's becoming closer with Megan, they seem to become the target of Priss's violence and sinister retribution.

Crazy Love You by Lisa Unger kept me on the edge for the entire book. Priss was a frightening character--dangerous and unpredictable. At the same time, Ian is a completely unreliable narrator and I couldn't quite shake the feeling that he was lying throughout the book. Combined, these elements created a rushing, thrilling read that I couldn't put down and was nervous to read at night.

With dark twists and surprises, the plot was riveting and bewildering; suspenseful and chilling. I love a great psychological thriller and Crazy Love You definitely delivered.

Crazy Love You by Lisa Unger is published by Touchstone and released on February 10, 2015.

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

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

The Marriage Game : A Novel of Queen Elizabeth I - Book Review

While reading The Marriage Game : A Novel of Queen Elizabeth I by Alison Weir, I joked that it was so suspenseful--I just couldn't wait to know who Queen Elizabeth I would marry. Of course, everyone knows that Queen Elizabeth was the famous Virgin Queen who died unmarried and without a child heir. However, I thought that she had publicly and adamantly declared that she would never marry very early in her reign. The Marriage Game by Weir details the history of the intrigue Elizabeth played with amorous and political suitors from around Europe. She kept them guessing and courting for years.

Focusing primarily on the relationship between Elizabeth and her childhood friend Robert Dudley, Weir tells the romantic and turbulent story of their courtship, friendship and working alliance. Elizabeth kept Dudley close to her for years--promoting, trusting and teasing him. Rumors of their affair were rampant within the court and Weir uses her experience as a historian and her knowledge of the Tudors to paint a very plausible account of their story.

Previously, I have only read some of Weir's history--The Six Wives of Henry the VIII--which I really enjoyed. I was definitely curious to read her fiction. Truthfully, her style still felt a bit aloof for fiction and it still felt more like a history with dialogue. Once I got used to her style, I really enjoyed learning more about Queen Elizabeth. I've been fascinated with this period of history for many years so I know the basics and political accomplishments of the queen. It was enjoyable and enlightening to read more of Elizabeth's personal relationships and the way she used her marriageability to manipulate world leaders and hold off conflicts with the European countries.

The Marriage Game : A Novel of Queen Elizabeth I by Alison Weir is published by Ballantine Books on February 10, 2015.

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

Monday, February 9, 2015

The Secrets of Midwives - Book Review & Give-away

The midwives who delivered my five babies captured my heart. Their kindness and wisdom blessed my life and the lives of my babies as the midwives shared the precious moments of birth with us. Well educated and in tune with a woman's body, one midwife I now consider a friend, also diagnosed my thyroid issue. I've written more about my experiences with childbirth, certified nurse midwives and hypnobirthing *here*.

So given my history, it was not a surprise that I really enjoyed The Secrets of Midwives by Sally Hepworth. Three women. Grandmother, mother and daughter have all become midwives. While their personal beliefs and philosophies about hospitals, doctors, birthing centers and home deliveries differ, they all share they goal of delivering healthy babies from healthy mothers.

Floss and Grace are surprised to discover that Neva is 30 weeks pregnant and that she has hidden this pregnancy from them for so long. Tuned in to the signs of pregnancy, they are shocked that they have completely missed the clues from their granddaughter and daughter. Not only has Neva kept the pregnancy from them, she is remaining mum about who the father is--insisting only that the baby has no father.

Grace is obsessed with finding out who the father of her grandchild is and Floss realizes that keeping her own secret may be hurting those she loves.

The Secrets of Midwives was a captivating read. I read the majority in one evening once I became intrigued by their characters' lives and experiences delivering babies. The women in the story are each different though they've chosen a common profession. They are at times unlikable and abrasive; occasionally soft and vulnerable. They do fall into their specific type-cast roles: the country midwife on her bicycle, the hippy midwife with her oils and massage and the certified nurse midwife delivering in hospitals near emergency medical care. Yet, each woman has an individual personality and becomes a well developed character as the plot moves forward.

There's hardly a time when a gathering of my friends doesn't end up in sharing of birth stories. These emotional moments shape us as women. They're part of our larger story. The delivery scenes in The Secrets of Midwives are dramatic, powerful and beautiful. The novel is heavy on birthing philosophy but ultimately the story wins out and the relationships between Floss, Grace and Neva become more important than the propaganda.

I thoroughly relished the novel. It's well written and perfectly plotted to be a quick, delightful read that pulled at my heartstrings.

The Secrets of Midwives by Sally Hepworth is published by St. Martin's Press on February 10, 2015.

I have an extra ARC copy of The Secrets of Midwives to give away to one lucky reader.

To enter leave a copy of this post. The contest will be open to entries until Friday, February 13th at 11:59pm MST. One winner will be chosen randomly from the comments and announced on Saturday, February 14th. Open to US only.

**I received a complimentary copy of The Secrets of Midwives. No additional compensation was received. All opinions are my own.**

Thursday, February 5, 2015

The Tutor - Book Review

From the cover :

A bold and captivating novel about love, passion, and ambition that imagines the muse of William Shakespeare and the tumultuous year they spend together.  

The year is 1590, and Queen Elizabeth’s Spanish Armada victory has done nothing to quell her brutal persecution of the English Catholics. Katharine de L’Isle is living at Lufanwal Hall, the manor of her uncle, Sir Edward. Taught by her cherished uncle to read when a child, Katharine is now a thirty-one-year-old widow. She has resigned herself to a life of reading and keeping company with her cousins and their children. But all that changes when the family’s priest, who had been performing Catholic services in secret, is found murdered. Faced with threats of imprisonment and death, Sir Edward is forced to flee the country, leaving Katharine adrift in a household rife with turmoil.

At this time of unrest, a new schoolmaster arrives from Stratford, a man named William Shakespeare. Coarse, quick-witted, and brazenly flirtatious, Shakespeare swiftly disrupts what fragile peace there is left at Lufanwal. Katharine is at first appalled by the boldness of this new tutor, but when she learns he is a poet, and one of talent, things between them begin to shift, and soon Katharine finds herself drawn into Shakespeare’s verse, and his life, in ways that will change her forever.

Inventive and absorbing, The Tutor is a masterful work of historical fiction, casting Shakespeare in a light we’ve never seen. 

My thoughts :

Just as Katherine is beguiled by the dashing poet, I was charmed and enthralled by Andrea Chapin's novel The Tutor. Katherine is a delightful character. She's smart but not flawless. She's human and susceptible to seduction and the emotions of the heart. It is delightful to see her opposite Shakespeare and imagine that a passionate and equally brilliant woman must have influenced his early poetry.

Filled with dangerous and riveting subplots--a family struggles to stay safe in an atmosphere of political and religious unrest while it appears to implode with intrigues from within--the novel moves at a thrilling pace. The supporting cast is developed enough that even with a large number of characters, they are relatively easy to keep straight.

While the novel is passionate and filled with poetry to stir the soul, I appreciate that it is free from erotic sex scenes. Chapin allows the romantic and sexual tension to build with the shared poetry between Katherine and Will. The portrayal of Will Shakespeare is remarkable. The cunning, brilliant and flamboyant man comes to life within Chapin's pages. He keeps Katherine and the reader on their toes and constantly guessing at his true intentions. 

The Tutor by Andrea Chapin is a mesmerizing and luscious novel filled with romance and mystery. I could barely put it down at night to sleep. 

The Tutor by Andrea Chapin is published by Riverhead Books and releases on February 5, 2015.

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

Friday, January 30, 2015

Foxy's Premium Frozen Yogurt

I get a lot of packages delivered to my house but it is pretty rare to get one that warns me to use gloves because dry ice burns and to put the contents immediately into the freezer. 

I was so excited that I completely ignored the advice and while I didn't touch the dry ice, I did get burned from the cold containers of frozen yogurt inside. I hardly cared. I couldn't wait to dig right into those beautiful containers of frozen deliciousness.

I have a thing for frozen treats--ice cream, sorbet, and frozen yogurt are my downfall. I can't resist. So it's pretty exciting that Foxy's Premium Frozen Yogurt is as guilt-free as it is delicious. With six delectable flavors packaged in individual containers (or enough for two) that are just so cute and witty, it wasn't hard to find a flavor that I especially loved.

After a little taste-testing party friends and my kids, each had their own favorite flavors. Amberly loves the Sassy Pash (so appropriate), a blend of vanilla bean and strawberry hunks. I fell for head over heels in love with the combination of tingly and rich flavors in Fancy Pash, dark chocolate and tangerine zest. Though the Naughty Pash, honeycomb and caramel chunks was a close second place.

Once I let the kids loose, the frozen yogurt was devoured in seconds. Made with fresh ingredients and with significantly less calories and fat content than most frozen yogurt and ice cream treats, I didn't have to feel so worried that my kids practically licked the containers clean.

In Utah, Foxy's Premium Frozen Yogurt in all the amazing flavors can now be purchased at Harmon's Groceries. 

**I received complimentary frozen yogurt in exchange for my review. No other compensation was received. All opinions are my own.**

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Miss Hazel and the Rosa Parks League - Book Review

I fell in love with The Healing by Jonathan Odell a few years ago. You can read my review *here*. I enjoyed it so much that I almost immediately ordered a copy of Odell's first book The View From Delphi and then I didn't get around to reading it. Fortunately, I was able to read the new rendering of his previous novel, Miss Hazel and the Rosa Parks League.

Miss Hazel and her husband Floyd arrive in Delphi, Mississippi newly married and determined to make their fortune. At least Floyd is determined. Until Floyd brings home a new Lincoln for his wife, Hazel feels like she's just along for the ride. Finding a bit freedom and peace, Hazel dresses up; packs her two young boys in the back seat and becomes famous for driving through town and all over the delta.

Hazel has trouble fitting in with the well bred ladies in town who see her as tacky nouveau riche and suffers from depression. After the death of her son, she drowns her sorrows in alcohol and soon finds herself nearly a prisoner in her own home when Floyd hires Vida to be her maid and make sure she takes her medicine. Vida, a young black woman, has also lost a son and harbors a deep vendetta against the crooked sheriff. The two women form an unlikely alliance as they stir things up in the already the troubled racial climate of Delphi.

Odell's characters come to life within the pages of his novel. Hazel and Vida are troubled, complex women who experience dynamic growth and react in believable ways to the sorrows and devastation in their lives. Every person feels real and not simply type cast supporting characters. They are richly developed and all their lives blend together to create the drama, tension and history familiar to those from a small town.

The pages of Miss Hazel and the Rosa Parks League are filled with beautiful images and hauntingly lyrical words. Odell is a master of writing and of  understanding human temperament and desires. He excels at telling inspiring stories that captivate the reader with a myriad of powerful emotions.

Miss Hazel and the Rosa Parks League is a beautiful and important novel. If it's possible, I may have loved it even more than I loved The Healing.

Miss Hazel and the Rosa Parks League by Jonathan Odell is published by Maiden Lane Press and released in January 2015.

**I received a complimentary copy of Miss Hazel and the Rosa Parks League. No other compensation was received. All opinions are my own.**

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

One Step Too Far - Book Review

From the cover :

The #1 international bestseller reminiscent of After I’m Gone, Sister, Before I Go to Sleep, and The Silent Wife—an intricately plotted, thoroughly addictive thriller that introduces a major new voice in suspense fiction—a mesmerizing and powerful novel that will keep you guessing to the very end.
No one has ever guessed Emily’s secret.
Will you?
A happy marriage. A beautiful family. A lovely home. So what makes Emily Coleman get up one morning and walk right out of her life—to start again as someone new?
Now, Emily has become Cat, working at a hip advertising agency in London and living on the edge with her inseparable new friend, Angel. Cat’s buried any trace of her old self so well, no one knows how to find her. But she can't bury the past—or her own memories.
And soon, she’ll have to face the truth of what she's done—a shocking revelation that may push her one step too far. . . .

My thoughts : 

I was immediately intrigued by Emily's story in One Step Too Far by Tina Seskis. What could she have done to make her walk away from the husband and child that she clearly loved? Even though the beginning felt bogged down in pointless dribble--the reader really doesn't need pages of text describing shopping at IKEA--I pressed on, determined to understand Emily's motivations. Eventually I was quite taken with Emily's transformation into the edgy Cat and finally got back into a reading groove that I've been missing lately. 

The writing style is pretty simple but Tina Seskis builds emotion and suspense with alternating chapters between the past and Emily's new present as Cat. The suspense multiplies and just as all Emily's secrets are about to be revealed, I put the book down to savor the tension. However, the next morning I was completely deflated by the ending. In light of the conclusion, so many of the alternating chapters regarding supporting characters were entertaining yet unnecessary and didn't support the plot at all. 

While I found the revelations anti-climatic and the writing sophomoric, I was constantly compelled to discover Emily's secrets and I enjoyed reading the novel.

One Step Too Far by Tina Seskis is published by William Morrow and released on January 27, 2015.

**I received a complimentary copy of One Step Too Far. No other compensation was received. All opinions are my own.**

Saturday, January 24, 2015

The winner of THE MAGICIAN'S LIE

Good morning. My house seemed colder than usual this morning when we woke up. When I checked the thermostat the temperature was 51 degrees and someone had switched off the furnace. No one here is owning up to turning it off and our only guess is that Neal flipped the switch before leaving for his scout camp. Perhaps he figured that we should all be as cold as he would be. Thankfully, the furnace is working and the house is heating up nicely.

Until it gets warmer though, I'm staying wrapped up in my robe and under the covers with a great book.

One lucky winner has just won a copy of a fabulous and exciting book to cuddle up with this winter. And the winner of an ARC copy of The Magician's Lie by Greer Macallister is...

Blogger budandlissa said...
Sounds like a fantastic read! I hope I get the chance!

Congratulations! You have one week to contact me with your information so that you can receive your prize. 

Thursday, January 22, 2015

The Dress Shop of Dreams - Book Review

If I saw this book on the shelf at the store, I would pass it right by. Based on the whimsical cover, I would have decided that this book definitely wasn't for me and moved along. Just not my cup of cocoa. However, since The Dress Shop of Dreams by Menna Van Praag is a She Reads selection this winter and I almost always like their choices, I decided to give it a chance. I had just finished The Magician's Lie and was in the mood for a little more magic.

Scientist Cora Sparks has carefully guarded and controlled her emotions since the traumatic death of her parents in a house fire. Her grandmother Etta is concerned that Cora is missing out on the love of her life by refusing to look beyond her research and see Walt, the handsome bookseller who has loved her since his childhood. Fortunately, Etta is armed with magic and with a few careful stitches in the beautiful dresses she creates and sells, she can help her customers and granddaughter see their potential.

It took me three days to read the first 70 pages. I was having a lot of trouble getting into the story and was distracted by every little thing. This is pretty unusual for me and I was just about to toss it aside when something (magically?) clicked. I devoured the last two thirds of the book in an evening.

The Dress Shop of Dreams by Menna Van Praag has a lot of characters with a lot of angst and love-sickness and drama going on in their lives. While Cora starts to feel again and open her heart to Walt, she also begins investigating her parents' deaths. Walt, believing that Cora will never return his love, tries desperately to fall in love with Milly, a young widow who is enraptured by Walt's voice and his love letters. Etta, too, is haunted by the love she gave up years ago.

A love letter to romantic classics, The Dress Shop of Dreams is filled with magic and enchantment and love.

It's a fairy tale of sorts, where all the characters' stories are woven together and wrap up with happy endings. It's fanciful, airy, and frankly, reminds me more of a perfect summer evening than a book for winter. But really The Dress Shop of Dreams would be enjoyable any time of year.

The Dress Shop of Dreams by Menna Van Praag is published by Ballantine and released in December 2014. It is one of the winter selections from She Reads.

**I received a complimentary copy of The Dress Shop of Dreams from She Reads. No other compensation was received. All opinions are my own.**

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The Magician's Lie - Book Review & Give-away

Virgil Holt, a young police officer in a small Iowa town, is completely mesmerized by the woman magician using an ax to hack through the coffin-box holding a man and drenching the stage with blood. It's impossible for Holt to look away from the Amazing Arden. Only hours later, Holt arrives on the scene to see evidence that the magician's husband has been murdered and his body shoved in the same box she had used earlier for her trick. Arden is the number one suspect.

It is only by chance that Holt is able to capture Arden and he holds her prisoner in the small jail until he can turn her over to the other authorities. Arden has only the night to tell her story and convince Holt that she is innocent of the murder of her husband.

With magic and illusion, The Magician's Lie by Greer Macallister captured my attention from the first page. 

Arden is a fascinating character who is adept at survival and self-promotion. Her story is compelling and filled with danger, intrigue, passion and love. Carefully plotted, Arden's story is beguiling and like Holt, the reader is never sure what to believe and what not to believe.

Because I was fully in love with the world created in The Magician's Lie, I was sad to see it end. With that love, I would have liked better development of some of the supporting characters. Because of the narrative style, Arden is telling her story to Holt. I would have loved to be more immersed in her world and the people she associated with on the circuit.

Macallister is at her best writing about the gruesome fire that destroyed the Iroquois Theater in Chicago. Arming herself with history, Macallister uses this as a critical point in Arden's story while bringing the reader right into the horrifying disaster. Placing historical figures at moments in Arden's life, including the relationship between Arden and the very real female magician Adelaide Herrmann also gives the story strength and credibility. The historical time period works perfectly for Adren's tale.

I was entranced by The Magician's Lie. It is beautiful, thrilling, dangerous and compelling. Talented and gifted, the Amazing Arden has a magic that is equally enthralling and horrible. It was hard to put it down and I wanted almost immediately to read it again.

The Magician's Lie by Greer Macallister is one of the SheReads selections this winter. It is published by Source Books Landmark in January 2015. 

**I received a complimentary copy of The Magician's Lie. No other compensation was received. All opinions are my own.**

Not sure how it happened, but I actually received two copies of The Magician's Lie. I'm giving the second ARC copy of the novel away to one lucky winner.

Please leave a comment on this blog post. The contest will be opened to entries until Friday, January 23rd at 11:59 MST. The winner will be chosen randomly and announced on Saturday, January 24th. Open in US only.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Belong to Me - Book Review

Cornelia Brown has just moved to the suburbs and been instantly snubbed by her neighbor Piper. Piper is the Queen Bee of the neighborhood. She's judgmental, sharp and apparently has it all together. Immediately at odds, Cornelia has found a nemesis before she's made a friend. But after a chance encounter with Lake at the grocery store, Cornelia is sure she's found the perfect friend. She and Lake have a lot in common and hit it off but she's not fully comfortable when it becomes clear that Lake isn't being fully honest with her.

Belong to Me by Marisa de los Santos is a novel about interactions and relationships. Full of flawed characters who make mistakes and keep secrets and serve a friend and comfort each other. The characters are so real that they could be people in your own neighborhood.

I was drawn to the author's style. Cornelia's tangential and self-aware voice is refreshing. She's witty and doesn't take herself too seriously. Just when you think she's impervious, she becomes entirely human and collapsible. I greatly admired her character and wished I could have been more like her when I had my own meeting with a woman I hoped would be a friend and definitely wasn't.

The story is told from the perspective of Cornelia, her nemesis Piper and Lake's thirteen year old son Dev. I instantly liked Cornelia (I am familiar with her from de los Santos's novel Love Walked In). Piper is a character that I had to grow to love but I was constantly amused by her. Piper becomes a fully fleshed-out human being. She feels real to me--imperfect, judgmental and at the same time selfless and loving.

Overall, I adored this novel. I felt empathy for the characters. There is a revelation in the novel that initially worried me that the entire book would be ruined but it came together and after rereading some earlier sections, I appreciated how the situation was handled.

There is a lot of swearing in the novel which definitely turned off several members of the book club.

Belong to Me by Marisa de los Santos was published by William Morrow in 2008. Copies of the book were provided to our book club through the Book Club Girl Blog.

House Broken - Book Review

From the cover :

In this compelling and poignant debut novel, a woman skilled at caring for animals must learn to mend the broken relationships in her family.…
For veterinarian Geneva Novak, animals can be easier to understand than people. They’re also easier to forgive. But when her mother, Helen, is injured in a vodka-fueled accident, it’s up to Geneva to give her the care she needs.
Since her teens, Geneva has kept her self-destructive mother at arm’s length. Now, with two slippery teenagers of her own at home, the last thing she wants is to add Helen to the mix. But Geneva’s husband convinces her that letting Helen live with them could be her golden chance to repair their relationship.
Geneva isn’t expecting her mother to change anytime soon, but she may finally get answers to the questions she’s been asking for so long. As the truth about her family unfolds, however, Geneva may find secrets too painful to bear and too terrible to forgive.

My thoughts :

House Broken by Sonja Yoerg is so simply and gorgeously written that it was an absolute pleasure to cuddle up and enjoy on a cold and rainy (in January!) day. With characters who are flawed and in some cases just struggling to get through each day, the story is wrapped up in their attempts to mend broken family relationships. 

While House Broken deals with family secrets, it is less a mystery and more a tale of redemption, forgiveness and love. The story is told though three characters, Geneva, her mother Helen and her daughter Ella. Each character knows her own truth. Seeing the story through the perspective of all three characters allows for empathy and understanding. 

House Broken by Sonja Yoerg is lovely, heartbreaking and joyful. Family relationships are not reconciled in an instant, yet with a bit of understanding and a change of heart, healing can begin. Sharing this truth, House Broken is powerful and compelling.

House Broken by Sonja Yoerg is published by NAL Trade and released on January 6, 2015.

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

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

After the War is Over - Book Review

From the cover :

The International bestselling author of Somewhere in France returns with her sweeping second novel—a tale of class, love, and freedom—in which a young woman must find her place in a world forever changed.
After four years as a military nurse, Charlotte Brown is ready to leave behind the devastation of the Great War. The daughter of a vicar, she has always been determined to dedicate her life to helping others. Moving to busy Liverpool, she throws herself into her work with those most in need, only tearing herself away for the lively dinners she enjoys with the women at her boarding house.
Just as Charlotte begins to settle into her new circumstances, two messages arrive that will change her life. One, from a radical young newspaper editor, offers her a chance to speak out for those who cannot. The other pulls her back to her past, and to a man she has tried, and failed, to forget.
Edward Neville-Ashford, her former employer and the brother of Charlotte’s dearest friend, is now the new Earl of Cumberland—and a shadow of the man he once was. Yet under his battle wounds and haunted eyes Charlotte sees glimpses of the charming boy who long ago claimed her foolish heart. She wants to help him, but dare she risk her future for a man who can never be hers?
As Britain seethes with unrest and post-war euphoria flattens into bitter disappointment, Charlotte must confront long-held insecurities to find her true voice . . . and the courage to decide if the life she has created is the one she truly wants.

My thoughts :

I did not read Robson's first novel Somewhere in France. While After the War is Over could be seen as a sequel to the first novel, it can stand alone as it focuses more on different characters and gives plenty of the back story. Robson's style reminded me quite a bit of Jacqueline Winspear's early Maisie Dobbs novels, just lacking the mystery. 

After the War is Over starts out strong and I read the first 100 pages in an evening. I enjoyed the atmosphere and the history of the period following World War I. But then the novel starts to get bogged down with back story and slow down significantly. Charlotte Brown is just too perfect and a little dull. Her relationships with Lord Ashford and the newspaper editor show promise and I kept reading hoping for a glimmer of chemistry. The ending wraps up so conveniently and nicely that all the previous drama and conflict suddenly seem overblown.

After the War is Over by Jennifer Robson does a good job of showing the pain and suffering and struggle to recover in Great Britain following World War I. I'm always moved by the stories of people from this era and my heart always breaks knowing that these people will eventually face another horrendous war. The nice character and feel-good ending leave After the War is Over feeling like a good comfort read, though it might just put you to sleep.

After the War is Over by Jennifer Robson is published by William Morrow and releases on January 6, 2015.

**I received a complimentary copy of After the War is Over. No additional compensation was received. All opinions are my own.**