Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Family Pictures

Not the very most successful experience but better than nothing.
I didn't turn into a raving lunatic but I didn't win the "Nicest Mother in the World" award either.
Neal reminded me 18 million times that I should have waited until next month when his braces come off.
Having one kid in kindergarten this year and one kid going to kindergarten next year means that I get lots of "kindergarten camera smiles". 
Or no smiles.
A three year old girl has strong opinions.
At least we now have a family picture that includes Lilly and Molly.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Afterwards - Book Review

Grace, a devoted mother of two, narrates Afterwards, a compulsively readable thriller from the Rosamund Lupton of Sister fame. Grace is in a coma resulting from her heroic efforts to rescue her children from the burning school. In her current out-of-body state, Grace will become obsessed with finding out who is to blame for setting the fire that has devastated her happy family.

The point-of-view in this novel is very unique. Grace is nearly omnipresent and can overhear conversations that in life she wouldn't be privy too. This makes her an interesting investigator because while she is at that advantage, she can't let the others know the things she has learned. Grace is telling the story to her husband and  while the novel is a crime thriller it is also a love story. I was surprised just how well the style worked for this novel.

Sister is still waiting on my to-read shelf but I after hearing so much praise, I was excited to be able to read Afterwards. Once I started I really couldn't put it down, much to Utah Dad's chagrin. It's been awhile since I've read a thriller so completely captivating. The mystery kept me guessing until the very end. Grace is a likable narrator--emotional yet witty; tender and insightful.

While I appreciated Grace's thoughts on love for her family and her willingness to admit that she has wrongfully judged plenty of people during her life, she does repeat herself quite often and at times it become redundant. There is some swearing in the book that might be offensive to some readers. The swearing doesn't really fit the character's style and because of that it draws attention to it. In fact, the characters themselves talk about swearing which makes it pretty hard to miss but does fit with the story line.

Overall, Afterwards is the kind of crime-novel thriller that I especially enjoy. It isn't overly graphic or gory and has lighter moments. With a near-perfect pace, it keeps the reader engrossed in the mystery and also becomes a testament to the eternal love of one's family.

**I received a complimentary copy of Afterwards in exchange for this honest review. No other compensation was received.**

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

A Town Like Alice - Book Review

Jean Paget is a young English woman working in Malaya when the Japanese invade during World War II. Forced with other women and children prisoners to march for months, Jean Paget develops inner strength and the ability to lead. In A Town Like Alice by Nevil Shute the story of Jean Paget will follow her home to England and then on to the outback of Australia.

With spare prose, Nevil Shute is a fabulous story teller. He keeps nicely to the action and the development of his courageous and admirable yet human characters and doesn't get mired in the meticulous details of the landscape. I was completely enamored with Jean and her tale of survival, strength and love and devoured this novel.

I was a bit disappointed by the brevity of the ending, however. The development of Willstown takes center stage over the human characters. After so much passionate build up between the characters, it feel flat by the conclusion.

In spite of this complaint, I thoroughly loved A Town Like Alice and would highly recommend it.

To The Rescue : The Biography of Thomas S. Monson - Book Review

Utah Dad and I recently finished reading To The Rescue : The Biography of Thomas S. Monson by Heidi Swinton. We've spent the last few months reading a chapter together at least once a week. It is always entertaining to read the stories of the charismatic and fun-loving President Monson (president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints). Many of the stories were ones we had heard before in his talks and I was frequently reminded of his personal speaking style. He has always been the quintessential story teller.

We were most enthralled with the stories of his childhood and also the chapters that go into depth about the growth of the church in East Germany throughout the decades before the fall of the wall. President Monson's role in that growth is inspiring. It is clear to see that he is an instrument in the hands of God.

Many of the stories of President Monson's call to follow inspiration and touch the individual person moved me to tears. He is truly an inspired man and my testimony of him as a prophet of God grew as we read more about his amazing life.

Utah Dad and I have joked over the years that President Monson is the "angel of death". If he suddenly shows up to visit you, watch out, your time is limited. So many of his stories involve following the spirit to the bedside of a dying friend or stranger and then of speaking at funerals. But what a touching, tender mercy of the Lord to send his servant to comfort many of those in their final hours. Really, President Monson is so close to the spirit that he knows just where he is most needed.

Heidi Swinton is a good story teller in her own right and has written a very approachable, readable book. This book is not a scholarly explanation. There are questions left unanswered (such as why his father was not active in the church) and it does not go deep into the emotions and feelings of President Monson. What it does do is include many of President Monson's stories in one volume and give a lovely over view of his history. It is also encouraging and motivating. President Monson exemplifies a Christ-like life. He cares about people. He is in tune with the spirit and follows it so that he can touch people just when they need it most.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Terry Top Give-away Winner

The winner of the Terry Top give-away is . . . 1955nurse Congratulations! Please email me your contact information soon.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The Secrets of Mary Bowser - Book Review

Mary Bowser grows up as a house slave for the wealthy Van Lew family in Richmond, Virginia. Bet Van Lew, the fiery, headstrong daughter, recognizes Mary's great intelligence so Bet sends Mary to Philadelphia for a proper education.

Mary Bowser, free and educated, risks everything to return to Richmond and her family just as the country is heating up to war. Posing as a slave in the Confederate White House, Mary Bowser spies on Jefferson Davis and his cabinet, passing details to the Union.

Based on a true story of the incredible bravery of Mary Bowser, Bet Van Lew and others that worked the Underground Railroad and later as spies during the Civil War, Lois Leveen takes the few known facts and reworks them as the marvelously enjoyable The Secrets of Mary Bowser.

Rich with details of life in Richmond and Philadelphia and a lively dialogue on the very diverse feelings regarding slavery and black people by whites, blacks, slave-owners, abolitionists, free and enslaved, The Secrets of Mary Bowser brings this era to life. Mary Bowser and Bet Van Lew are dynamic characters that demonstrate bravery and determination in the face of horror and sorrow.

The novel is a little lengthy and does drag on a bit during Mary's years in Philadelphia but the paces picks up after Mary moves back to Richmond. While Leveen probably gives a little too much credit to Mary for some things--such as purposely prolonging the war and forcing Lincoln into the Emancipation Proclamation--The Secrets of Mary Bowser tell a marvelously inspiring story of an admirable heroine.

The Secrets of Mary Bowser will be released next week.

**I received a complimentary copy of The Secrets of Mary Bowser in exchange for an honest review. No additional compensation was received.**

Monday, May 7, 2012

Terry Top Review and Give-away

Until last month, my get-ready routine (I almost referred to it as my "morning routine" but let's be honest, I don't always get a shower in the morning) involved drying off with a giant fluffy towel and then wrapping my hair in it. The towel on my head was bulky, cumbersome and I had to redo the wrap at least once while I applied my make-up. 

I have been "testing" out the Terry Top for a month now and I love it! Instead of wrapping my hair up in a big towel after my shower and dealing with the slippage and the neck pain, I can quickly pull on the Terry Top. It keeps my wet hair out of my face comfortably and easily while I apply make-up.

The Terry Top is so simple and so handy, I can hardly believe that I haven't already had one for years. Seriously ingenious! It's so lightweight, I hardly remember it's there. The Terry Top stays firmly and comfortably on my head and keeps my wet hair out of my face even when I have to bend over.

The Terry Top is easy to care for too. Just throw it in the wash with a batch of towels. The price is fairly reasonable, which of course, is always important.

And I love the bright colors. My Terry Top makes me happy!

Lucky readers, Terry Top has also graciously offered to give-away one Terry Top to a winning reader selected at random.

All you have to do is go to the Terry Top websitehttp://terrytop.compick out the color Terry Top you would want if you were to win the contest.

Come back to this post and leave me a comment with your color selection. Voila! You are entered to win the fabulous, innovative Terry Top.

This contest is open to entries until Friday, May 11th at 11:59 pm MST. The winner, chosen randomly, will be announced on Saturday, May 12th.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Kick-off Summer at the Grand Opening of Utah Valley Convention Center

The mild winter and peaking temperatures means summer is kick-starting a little earlier this year; so come celebrate with us and plan the rest of your summer out during the biggest free party in Utah Valley, the grand opening of the Utah Valley Convention Center happening on May 12, 10am to 4pm.

Enjoy a free day full of entertainment, food, and giveaways with the entire family. Find out what’s happening in the valley this summer at the business expo featuring local businesses and hot spots, including Sundance Resort and John Hutchins Museum.  Don’t worry; there will be plenty of FREE giveaways from the vendors!

Additionally, local award-winning groups will be performing and answering all your questions about summer camps, programs, and lessons that are filling up fast! Beat the rush before school’s out, and get your kids involved. Companies attending include:
o The Pointe Academy
o Wasatch Contemporary Dance Company
o Champions Karate West
o Shelly School of Irish Dance
o Beyond Sports Taekwondo
o On Broadway Music Theatre
o Viva el Folklore

Throughout the day the Utah County bomb squad, K-9 unit, and fire department will be demonstrating their skills.  A free kid’s craft corner for the little ones and an art exhibit is also set.

The party will continue the entire day with entertainment provided by a variety of local favorites that include:
o Dave Stemmons
o SYT Music Theatre Solos
o Cindy Simmons
o Brandie Frampton
o Timpview Ballroom
o Maddie Wilson
o And more!

There is something for everyone at the grand opening of the Utah Valley Convention Center.  Mark your calendars and get ready to kick-start your summer! For more information visit http://www.utahvalleyconventioncenter.com/

Friday, May 4, 2012

Katherine Nelson New Release "Beautiful"

Katherine Nelson has released a new single : Beautiful. Her song, about how women and girls are naturally beautiful without the modern day pressures from media, is inspiring. Be sure to check it out and download it free from Katherine's website : http://katherinenelson.com/