Monday, April 30, 2012

Perla : Book Review

Perla by Carolina De Robertis is why I read books. Mesmerizing, poetic, enthralling, emotionally consuming, and heart breaking, Perla touched my heart, opened my mind and then reminded me of the power of hope and redemption.

Perla is a young woman in Argentina, born during the "Dirty War" in the late 1970's and early 1980's. 30,000 civilians disappeared at the hands of the military regime. Perla's father is just one of the Navy officers granted immunity for the terrible crimes against humanity. Perla, shunned by classmates as a girl, alternately loves and hates her parents for their involvement. Now, a stranger will help her grow and become who she is meant to be.

I was ashamed to just learn about this time in history. It took place during my own lifetime, yet I had never heard of the atrocities and horrors committed against those who dared speak out against the coup. I mentioned it to Utah Dad. I shouldn't have been surprised that he knew much about it. He did study history, after all.

De Robertis is a poet. In haunting, yet beautiful language, she reveals a period of recent history that is shocking, horrifying and heart breaking. The novel is, at times, graphic but always true to the painful conflict and ultimate healing of Perla.

**I received a complimentary copy of Perla in exchange for an honest review. No additional compensation was received.**

Spring Break Miracle

We have been looking forward to our trip to Southern California for Spring Break for awhile. The kids were excited and we were very excited. In the days before we were to depart, I did laundry and prepared the house. We bought Dramamine, sunscreen, flip flops and Capri's. We were ready for the fun and the sun we assumed we would have in California.

On the Thursday before we left, Molly had a little friend over to play. Susie is an adorable little girl and the girls played nicely and I was able to get the last few things ready.

Thursday night, I heard that Susie was very sick. She was throwing up and miserable. I felt so bad for the little thing and then I started to worry. We were leaving on our trip on Saturday. I worried that Molly would get sick and spread the dreaded stomach bug to the rest of us. I worried that we wouldn't be able to go on our trip at all. Or worse -- we would leave and get sick in the car or at my sister-in-law's house, spreading the bug to innocent victims.

I didn't even dare mention it to Utah Dad. He has hypochondriac tendencies, after all. I prayed all day Friday that we would be spared the illness. By Saturday, no one was sick and we were busy. I forgot all about poor Susie as we packed up the car and headed south.

In fact, Susie didn't cross my mind at all while we were in California. No one got sick (Lilly and Molly already had a bit of a cold--they got rid of the rest of their snot at the beach on Monday and were better the rest of the trip) and we had a marvelous time. The kids have been after me to blog more about our trip, so I'll be sharing more this week.

I didn't think about Susie and her bug until we returned home the next week. And then I realized just how blessed we had been to be spared the sickness. Susie vomited for five days. Her brother and sister had both gotten sick too. Several other families in our neighborhood had also suffered over Spring Break from this horrible stomach bug that lasted, in each case, five days.

I felt so bad for the families who had been so miserable during their break from school but I was also infinitely grateful for this small (maybe not so small) miracle that had blessed my family. After learning just how sick others had been, I came home and shared our miracle with Utah Dad and my children. As a family, we gave thanks to our loving Heavenly Father, who smiled his great mercy upon us and allowed us to have a wonderful vacation together.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Day Out With Thomas Contest

Calling all train lovers!!! You will not want to miss this exciting event hosted by Heber Valley Railroad

Day Out With Thomas offers an opportunity for children and their families to take a ride with Thomas the Tank Engine™ and to meet Sir Topham Hatt™, the Controller of the Railway. The event will be this Memorial Day weekend, May 25-28. We are running a contest on the Heber Valley Railroad Facebook page May 1-14 to find the biggest Thomas the Tank Engine fan to be named the honorary conductor. This honorary conductor will be selected from video submissions on the Facebook page (an example of a video submission will be posted). The honorary conductor will be the first on board and will get to pull the train horn and say, “All aboard!”
Details for honorary conductor contest:
·         May 1-14, post a video on Heber Valley Railroad’s Facebook page of your little conductor and why he or she is the biggest Thomas fan

·         Get others to “like” your video submission

·         One winner will be selected each week for a family four-pack of tickets to Day Out With Thomas

·         One winner will be selected on May 15 to be named the honorary conductor and win a family four-pack of tickets to Day Out With Thomas.

Here is some more information regarding Day Out With Thomas :

Day Out With Thomas
Day Out With Thomas™ offers an opportunity for children and their families to take a 25-minute ride with Thomas the Tank Engine™ and to meet Sir Topham Hatt™, the Controller of the Railway. Every event has a Thomas & Friends Imagination Station with Thomas-themed activities, including stamps, temporary tattoos, hands-on arts and crafts, and a Thomas storytelling and video viewing area.
Activities Include:
Giant hay bale maze
Miniature golf course (putt-putt)
Balloon tying clown
Musical entertainment by “The Pied Piper of Percussion”
Motor-car rides
Magic shows
“Imagination Station” play area
Temporary tattoos
Storytelling and video
Bubbles and sidewalk chalk
Friday and Saturday
Event Hours: 10:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.
Train Departures: 10:30 a.m. - 6:00 p.m. (Train departs from the Depot every 45 minutes.)
Sunday and Monday
Event Hours: 10:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Train Departures: 10:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. (Train departs from the Depot every 45 minutes.)
Length of Train Ride: 25 minutes round trip
Ticket Price: $18 per person (All seats are General Admission. Ages 2+ require a ticket.)
To Purchase Tickets: Tickets are available through
For more information and to buy tickets, visit

** In exchange for posting this information, I received a family 4-pack to attend Day Out With Thomas. No additional compensation was received. **

Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Solitary House - Book Review

Styled after Dickens and other writers from that period, Lynn Shepherd's newest murder mystery The Solitary House is creepy, dark and intoxicating. While literary lovers may recognize some characters and themes from Victorian-era classics, it has been a long while since I've read Dickens. Therefore, my review will be based only on the stand-alone literary success of The Solitary House.

Young Charles Maddox is a private detective who received training from his uncle, one of the greats. Recently, removed from the police force, Maddox has just one case when he is contacted by the famous and powerful attorney Tulkinghorn and hired to investigate some threatening letters received by a client. The investigation soon proves complicated and deadly as Maddox's contacts are viciously murdered. Violently warned against further inquiry, Maddox will risk his own life to uncover the crimes and the truth.

The Solitary House is just what you want from a mystery. Filled with ominous characters and atrocious crimes, the seedy underbelly of Dicken's London is revived in Shepherd's newest novel. Charles Maddox is a likable and sympathetic protagonist, just flawed enough to be believable. Those he seeks are perfectly depraved and the secret they attempt to conceal is horrifying. Well paced, the plot is thrilling and frightening and just what one wants from a murder mystery.

** I received a complimentary copy of The Solitary House in exchange for my honest review. No other compensation was received. **

Monday, April 23, 2012


First it was the owls earlier this winter. Their hoots woke us many mornings as the parent Great Horned Owls taught their offspring how to fly and hunt from the roof of my house and our neighbors' houses.

Then a month ago we started hearing the strangled and angry cry of what we initially believed to be a bird (though what kind of bird, we had no idea) each evening around 10 pm. We have still been unable to identify it and we even wondered if it wasn't some very disturbed dog. We're still working to track down the culprit.

We forgot to set the alarm. Fortunately, yesterday morning we were awoken by the caws of the local gang of crows that have taken over the neighborhood. They got us up in time for church and for that we are grateful. However, I am a bit disturbed each evening as they dive bomb my house and are constant with their screeching caws.

But the ultimate in recent bird attacks. While at Disneyland for Spring Break, I was hit in the head by not one but two different birds on two separate occasions. Actually the birds ran right into my head!

I can only say that I feel much like Elaine. The birds ran into my giant head.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

The Winners of the William Joseph CDs

Two winners will each receive a copy of William Joseph's newest CD : Be Still. And they are . . .




Congratulations! Please contact me as soon as possible with your information so that you can start listening to this beautiful music very soon.

Monday, April 2, 2012

March Madness - Family Style

Frankly, I could care less about March Madness NCAA Men's Basketball. BYU is the only team that I follow and I rarely even watch their games. But for the past few years my extended family has filled out brackets before the tournament and we have a friendly game. Because Neal got so into following the games and our brackets a few years ago, my dad decided to let him play.

This was Neal's second year filling out his bracket. Neal has the tendency to be obsessive and he was definitely obsessive about this tournament. I filled out my bracket, picking mostly the top seeded teams to win (I mean, really, what do I know?). I filled out the bracket before BYU beat Iona and I had the winner of that game losing in the first round. After BYU beat Iona, I briefly considered modifying my bracket out of loyalty to my Alma mater but decided against it. Neal, however, is a much more loyal fan. He had BYU going much farther.

For most of the game play, I was nicely in the lead. I had the most wins and was alone in first place. But by the time we got to the Final Four, Neal started telling me that it was now "impossible for me to win." I only had Kentucky left and while I had picked Kentucky to win even this would not give me enough points to beat either Neal or my brother Nate. I was really starting to get tired of Neal reminding me at every possible moment that it was indeed "impossible for me to win." Annoying!

Saturday night was the Ohio State vs. Kansas game. Neal had picked Kansas to go to the finals with Kentucky. Nate had picked Ohio to go to the finals with Kentucky. For a moment I was confused who I should cheer for. Who would be less obnoxious to lose to? After all, Nate and I have had a long running, friendly rivalry (he cheers for Utah). On the other hand, I had to live with Neal and he was getting increasingly annoying. I decided it would be much nicer for me if Ohio won (I really couldn't believe that the day had come that I was looking forward to losing to my brother). Unfortunately, that was not the case.

Neal, having picked both teams in the final and Kentucky for the win, has secured bragging rights and the win.

Heaven help me! Until next year . . .

William Joseph CD Give-away

Last Wednesday night I was privileged to be invited to a small private house concert with William Joseph - the piano playing composer recently discovered by David Foster. I decided to take Neal with me. Neal is taking a little "break" from piano lessons and I hoped that he might be inspired. How ironic that Neal's piano teacher won tickets to the concert. She is a huge fan of William Joseph.

William Joseph was definitely inspiring. Personable, funny and definitely cool, William Joseph shattered Neal's perception that playing the piano isn't "cool".

Besides being cool and extremely good looking, William Joseph creates amazing music. I was in awe of the incredible talent in the house. Together with Aaron Ashton, on the violin, William Joseph moved me to tears, rocked the house, and inspired patriotism and devotion with his music. Watch video clips from some of William Joseph's performances here, here and here.

I must also give a shout-out to the hosts for the evening. The Dyers were gracious and thoughtful as they offered their beautiful home for the concert. And not only that, we got to hear a performance from their very talented daughters - Tian and Mady, part of the amazing country band Dyer Highway (brother Tel is in the MTC preparing to serve an LDS mission. He was part of the Missionary Choir that sang during the Saturday afternoon session of General Conference this past weekend). Dyer Highway is a young and upcoming country band. I got to hear them for the first time last summer when they opened for The Nashville Tribute Band. These siblings are awesome! Watch their video here.

Anyway, I also have the privilege to give away two copies of William Joseph's newest CD - Be Still. Be Still is a collection of arrangements of sacred hymns. Inspiring and spiritual, Be Still invokes a calmness and peace that is so appreciated in the chaos of our days.

To enter to win one CD of Be Still by William Joseph :

1. Leave a comment on this post.
2. Share this give-away with your friends and family on Facebook and Twitter for extra chances to win. Leave additional comments on this post.
3. Be a follower of Utah Mom's Life Blog.

The give-away will be open to entries until Friday, April 6th at 11:59 pm MST. The two winners will be chosen randomly from the comments and announced on the morning of Saturday, April 7th.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

I Am Forbidden - Book Review

Josef is a young boy when he survives the massacre of his family in Transylvania during World War II. Hidden and raised by a non-Jewish woman for several years, Josef is eventually discovered by other Jews and sent to live with the Rebbe in New York City. Mila, a young Jewish girl is orphaned when her parents are brutally killed. She is taken in by another Jewish family and raised in Paris.

Thus begins I Am Forbidden by Anouk Markovits.

Eventually, Josef and Mila, Satmar Jews, will marry and entwine their lives together in New York. Their peace and security in this insular Hasidic sect is threatened by a secret they will keep for generations.

Markovits writing is abstract and illusive and at the beginning of the novel, my background with the history of Transylvania and Hungary during World War II was not significant enough for me to fully grasp what was happening. I did a little research on my own and found that it helped in the understanding of the novel.

It was not long into the novel before I was completely entranced by the story and characters. I couldn't put the novel down and I was literally weeping for Mila and her struggles with infertility, her desperate act and the ultimate consequences.

I Am Forbidden is a heart breaking novel that follows generations through pain, death, love and joy. While the novel opens a window on this intriguing and secluded group of people, the novel is ultimately about human desire which is, of course, universal.

** I received a free copy of I Am Forbidden in exchange for my honest review. No additional compensation was received. 

The One and Only Ivan - Book Review

I've been reading The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate to my boys this last month or so. It's a clever and fast-paced novel about Ivan, a silver back gorilla that has spent most of his life in captivity. He lives in a small cage in a circus-themed mall with an aging elephant and a stray dog to keep him company. When the mall acquires a sensitive and curious baby elephant named Ruby, Ivan comes up with a plan to improve Ruby's life.

Neal is not a fan of books that feature animals. He made me stop reading Jungle Book because it regularly refers to the various jungle animals as "people". I told him to chill out. It's Kipling, after all. Neal informed me that he would listen to The One and Only Ivan until it called animals "people". He stayed to listen until page 233.

Thomas and I, however, enjoyed the entire book. Ivan is a likable and sympathetic character. It tugs at your heart-strings without making all humans the enemy. It is occasionally witty and clever and the writing style is very readable. In fact, I would heartily suggest reading this one aloud to younger elementary-aged children.

**I received a free copy of The One and Only Ivan in exchange for an honest review. No additional compensation was received.**