Monday, April 29, 2013

Call Me Zelda - Book Review

Zelda Fitzgerald, wife of F. Scott Fitzgerald, was famous for her shenanigans as a flapper and ex-patriot during the roaring 20's. She and Scott traveled through Europe playing with Hemingway and other wealthy artists. But her later life was not so rosy. In Call Me Zelda, Erika Robuck presents Zelda's harrowing, manic struggles with mental illness and Scott's terrible alcoholism through the eyes of Anna, a loyal nurse. The novel shows an interesting view of Zelda's life, far removed from the fast-paced Jazz Age.

Similar in style Robuck's Hemingway's Girl, which I read last fall and very much enjoyed, Call Me Zelda is as much or more about Anna than Zelda. In fact, I didn't feel very connected to Zelda or Scott in this book. They felt like only prop characters in the background and even though the events they were going through at the time were terribly emotional, there were only brief moments in this novel that seemed to adequately capture their passion.

Anna's story never grasped by attention as well as Mariella's story in Hemingway's Girl. In Call Me Zelda, the writing is crisp and fine tuned but seems to skirt upon the surface of the deeper feelings and emotions of the characters. The ending feels completely disconnected with the rest of the novel and at several points the pace lagged. I had very high hopes for this novel, since I am a fan of Hemingway's Girl and because I am fascinated by the Fitzgeralds, but ultimately Call Me Zelda was just not as good.

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

Saturday, April 27, 2013

The Winners of Violin Lullabies by Rachel Barton Pine

Congratulations to the following winners of Violin Lullabies by Rachel Barton Pine :

lonnie braby
Jennifer Davis

I am so excited for you to start enjoying the beautiful, soothing music by Rachel Barton Pine. Please email me with your information as soon as possible so that you can receive your CD.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Violin Lullabies by Rachel Barton Pine - Give-away!

When Neal was first born someone gave us a CD of classical music that was supposed to calm him when he was fussy. Utah Dad and I fell in love with that CD during the first few month's of parenthood. We played it nearly every evening during dinner prep--you know, that especially fussy time for babies. Not only did the music sooth Neal but it helped to calm Utah Dad and I as well. We became convinced of the magical powers of beautiful, classic music.

Rachel Barton Pine is an international concert violinist and a new mom. While she, her husband and her new baby travel around the world performing her music, she found that music also soothed her baby. For them, music became a way to relax and reconnect. Even though my babies are getting so big and are all at school, I've been listening to Rachel's music and I find that I enjoy it so much. 

Rachel has put together her own CD of Violin Lullabies, which features 25 songs that will help make bedtime  (or dinner time) with your little one that much more enjoyable. And believe me, this CD would make a great gift for any new mom.

In anticipation and celebration of the release of Rachel's new CD, there are five copies of Violin Lullabies available for give-away to my lucky readers.

To enter to win one of five copies of Violin Lullabies, leave a comment on this post. You can get extra entries by sharing this contest on Facebook or Twitter or other social media outlets. Leave an additional entry for each time you share.

The contest will be open to entries until Friday, April 26th 11:59 pm MST. The winners will be chosen randomly from the entries and announced on Saturday, April 27th.

Benediction - Book Review

Over the years I've been told that if I loved Peace Like A River by Lief Enger (and I do) that I would love Plainsong and Eventide by Kent Haruf. I've purchased the books with the desire to read them but they joined the other books on my to-read shelf and have waited patiently. However, when I got the chance to read and review Haruf's newest work Benediction, I jumped at the chance. I spent two days this weekend completely enthralled by Haruf's novel.

Dad Lewis has owned and managed the hardware store in his small hometown a few hours west of Denver for years. Now, he's been diagnosed with terminal cancer and has just weeks to live. His daughter comes home to help her parents and spend the last days with her father while he attempts to reconcile his life and his strained relationship with his son. Other characters in town, rally around Dad and their stories blend with his in this final chapter of a life.

Reminding me so much of my own hometown and childhood in Eastern Utah, in Benediction, Haruf creates a town and  characters so simple and complex to be absolutely believable. It's a quiet, unassuming story of terrible importance. It is lovely, tender, beautiful. It's a study of character, integrity, regrets, and those things that quietly bind and destroy relationships.

While the ending left me wanting so much more, it was accurate in simulating that feeling of loss and desire for more that we often feel at the death of a loved one. Yet, even then, life goes on.

Haruf's other works have just been moved higher on my to-read shelf.

There is some swearing.

**I received a complimentary copy of Benediction is exchange for my review. No other compensation was received.**

The Winner of The Unlikely Gift of Treasure Blume Give-away

The winner of a copy of The Unlikely Gift of Treasure Blume by Lisa Harris is . . .

Congratulations, Stephanie. Please send me your mailing address so that you can received your new book. I hope you enjoy it.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Photo Bomb of Our Spring

I just realized that the only thing I've kept up on the blog lately is the reviews for books I've read lately. This should not be an indication that the only thing I've been doing lately is laying around in my pajamas reading books (I really wish). So, here's just a little photo bomb, if you will, of our lives lately.

All pictures here were taken with my iPhone because my camera hasn't been functioning well. I got my new camera late last week, so I'm very excited about that.

Amberly participated in our ward's first (and possibly only) Activity Days Powder Puff Pinewood Derby.

Our neighbor Kathryn recreated this pig cake for Molly's 4th birthday and her sister Jessica's 16th birthday. We celebrated their shared birthday together with dinner and cake.

Molly's Primary teachers surprised her with a balloon and her favorite candy. She was beyond thrilled.

Molly started preschool. One of her field trips was to Home Depot where she got to build a bulletin board. She also had a fun Easter party at school. When she got home she announced: "Daddy! I have a bowl with eggs and belly jeans!"

Lilly, Molly and I went to the park on one of the few warm days. Lilly has been sick so much lately. She's missed school because of a cold, influenza and later an ear infection. She's still so sweet though.

We went to my parents' home in Vernal for Easter weekend. My grandma was also there (isn't she so cute? Can you believe she's almost 89?!). She's a great sport and we all love spending time with her. We had a great Easter Egg hunt and all my parents' 23 grandchildren were there, though they didn't all get in the picture. Fortunately, we had absolutely beautiful weather so that we could spend most of the weekend outside. I got a little sunburn, of course.

My brothers got creative hiding the eggs.

The guys built a sandbox under the tree house. The kids were happy and dirty.

All the kids took turns riding Cookie, their favorite horse. Cookie was born on Easter weekend when I was just a girl and is very old now. We took lots of photos since this may be their last time seeing Cookie. Honestly, it was a little distressing. She was my favorite horse. The horse I "claimed" as my own. She was the foal of my dad's favorite horse Ginger and it was that much more distressing to see my dad so sad. We get a little attached to our horses.

And we ate of course. We had an awesome crowd for dinner on Saturday. All six of my siblings, their spouses and our 23 kids were there with my parents and my grandmother. I love a full house.

Lilly was not feeling well at all (turns out that she had an ear infection) so she didn't get to go to church on Easter Sunday. But the rest of the kids got dressed up in their new clothes and we headed to church with my parents.

The horses are still looking scraggly after a long, hard winter. Amberly was excited to help grandma brush them out.

During Spring Break, we spent an evening enjoying the beautiful grounds at Temple Square.

We went to Utah Dad's parents' home for LDS General Conference. As is tradition, Utah Dad joined his dad, brothers and nephews for the Priesthood session. We all really enjoyed conference again this year.

Once the kids went back to school after Spring Break, Utah Dad and I got busy on our bedroom remodel. We ripped out the carpet and tore out the base boards and molding around the doors and windows.

Then we painted the walls gray. Technically the color is called "Shaken Not Stirred" which makes Utah Dad ridiculously happy.

It took us another day to lay the new laminate flooring and put new baseboards and molding around the doors and windows.

We're still deciding what to put on the walls, since I have decided that 17 years with George Washington hanging over my bed is enough.

Amberly was honored this week as Student of the Month. Yesterday was also her 10th birthday. She's growing up so crazy fast. Just love her.

So there you have it, just a little proof (even though I'm not in the pictures) that I've gotten dressed lately. Hope everyone else is having a great Spring.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Interview with Local Author Lisa Harris - Give-away!!

Lisa Harris is a new Utah mom and the author of The Unlikely Gift of Treasure Bloom a humorous, clean romance set in an elementary school. As part of her blog tour, she is being interviewed here today. 

How did you come up with the idea for the book your book?
Treasure Blume was born when I had a no good, very bad, horrible day, during which I felt like everyone I met hated me. I remember coming home and thinking, “Wow, I’m glad everyday isn’t like today.” And then I began to wonder, “But what if it was?” I spent hours digging in my garden that afternoon, and when I came in, Treasure came with me. That night, I wrote about 15 pages of background material (that never made it into the book) just so I could get to know her better.

When and why did you first start writing?
Honestly, I can’t not write. It’s always been part of who I am. When I was seven, I won a young author’s award for my elementary school. Looking back, I realize that my story, titled Locked in the Room of December, was a bit edgy for a second grader. But instead of sending me to the school psychologist, they sent me to a writer’s day camp where I met real live published authors. Thanks, Mrs. Brim, for giving me that opportunity.

When do you write?

I’m an owl. I write from about 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. usually during the summer months (in fall and winter, I’m teaching and that absorbs my focus). During the day, I keep a notebook within reach so I can jot down ideas or scenes or dialogue. Sometimes, when my husband gets home early, he’ll give me a gift: several hours of uninterrupted daylight writing time. When that happens, I grab my laptop and run away from home.

What is the hardest part of the writing for you?
The hardest part of writing for me is not checking my email and looking at Facebook. It takes some time to immerse myself in the world of book. But once I’m there, it’s hard to come back out of it. That’s why I try to write at night, when my children won’t need me. During the day, I’ll go somewhere that I know doesn’t have wifi so that I won’t be distracted.

Are you a big reader? If so, what are you reading now?
Yes, I love reading. My kindle is my lifeline. I have to have a book or I feel panicky. I’m usually reading several books at once. Right now, I’m reading Anne Perry’s Charlotte and Thomas Monk series and Jacqueline Winspear’s Maisie Dobbs series. And I just finished Cassandra Clare’s Clockwork Princess.

What is something people would be surprised to know about you?  
My first job was as a trail guide for Robert Redford’s Stables in Sundance, Utah. It meant I got to ride horses every day in the most beautiful surroundings in the world, but it also meant I had to muck out 30+ stalls twice a day.  It taught me a valuable lesson: most amazing experiences are accompanied by manure and a lot of hard work. 

Anything else you would like to add?
I am just so grateful to the people who have embraced Treasure, quirks and all. It's been such an adventure to bring her to life.  You can find more Treasure at and on facebook at

The publishers of The Unlikely Gift of Treasure Bloom by Lisa Harris are generously offering a copy of the book to one reader as a give-away. To enter please leave a comment on this post. The contest will be open to entries until Sunday, April 21st at 11:59 pm MST. The winner will be chosen randomly and announced on Monday, April 22nd.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

There Was An Old Woman - Book Review

There Was An Old Woman by Hallie Ephron is a psychological thriller with a unique protagonist. Mina is ninety-one years old and living in the home her father built on the marshes of Long Island. As her neighbor is being taken away in an ambulance, she asks Mina to give a message to her daughter and consequently Evie reenters Mina's life. While Evie is trying to clean up the mess her mother has made of her home and life, mistakes and accidents make Mina begin to wonder if her nephew isn't right about moving her to an assisted-living home. But perhaps the events surrounding Evie's mother's illness and Mina's mental decline are connected and more sinister than they originally think.

I was immediately drawn into the story of Mina and Evie. It has the right blend of suspense and character development. I found that I cared deeply about Mina and was moved by her story of aging and the way others treated her. The side story about the B25 crashing into the Empire State Building in 1945 was fascinating and weaved into the tale seamlessly.

However, the ending was rushed and didn't completely make sense. I certainly don't want to give away any plot developments but I wasn't totally buying it. The rest of the story is so good that I'm willing to forgive some craziness at the conclusion but I felt a little let down.

** I received a complimentary copy of There Was An Old Woman in exchange for an honest review. No other compensation was received. **

Friday, April 5, 2013

The Fever Tree - Book Review

The Fever Tree, a debut novel by Jennifer McVeigh, is a sweeping, epic romantic drama. It's easiest to compare to movies like Gone with the Wind or Australia. Frances is a spoiled, pampered daughter of an English businessman who suddenly finds herself orphaned, impoverished and without many choices. A distant relative proposes marriage and Frances is soon heading to South Africa, a harsh and undeveloped land where the English are flocking hoping to make their fortunes in the diamond mines. In this rough, barely civilized land, Frances will have to choose between her fiance Edwin, a stalwart and moral man whose ideals may ruin them or William, a dashing and rich man who knows just how to get to Frances.

The story is exciting as Frances deals with the dangers of the land, the men and disease in South Africa. Frances, as a character, is flawed and foolish initially but she grows and becomes wiser as the harsh realities of her situation force her to grow up.

McVeigh creates one of those stories that thrills and entrances her reader. She brings the barren landscape to life as the drought and the small pox epidemic threaten to destroy the industry and livelihoods of the inhabitants.

McVeigh has done her research and excels at mixing the history with the story which always and appropriately remains the most important aspect of the novel. I was sad when the novel was finished as I had become emotionally invested in Frances and her hope for survival and love. I couldn't help but picture it on the screen and look forward to seeing The Fever Tree in it's cinematic glory.

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