Tuesday, July 16, 2013

We Need New Names - Book Review

In We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo, Darling and her friends sneak into the the city to steal guavas from the trees before returning to the shacks where they live in a place called Paradise. Everything has changed for them. Their homes were bulldozed. Their teachers have left the country. The schools have closed. Essentially homeless, the children play games to occupy their time, wait for the NGO to bring them candy, care for parents dying from AIDS and dream of leaving Zimbabwe for America.

Darling is able to join her aunt in Detroit, Michigan. In America she will find that not everything is as it appears on television. She struggles to fit into America while feeling the pull from her family and homeland and knowing that she cannot return.

Darling is a young narrator and I so appreciated her voice. It is authentic and innocent. She tells about what she observes and sees in the language and understanding available to a child. She is a remarkable character with determination to survive. Sometimes funny and often heartbreaking, Darling is an unforgettable character.

While the early chapters of the book were especially enlightening about Darling's childhood in Zimbabwe, I also found it interesting to read the perspective of the refugees and immigrants coming to America and trying desperately to fulfill their dreams here. Darling experiences culture shock and works to adapt to the use of technology, the cold snow of Michigan and the language.

We Need New Names is a powerful novel from a talented new author.

There is some swearing in this novel and graphic images.

**I received a complimentary copy of We Need New Names in exchange for my honest review.**

Friday, July 12, 2013

The Engagements - Book Review

17 years ago today, Utah Dad proposed to me. We were sitting together beside the fire pit in my parents' back yard. We had about five minutes before my younger brothers and sisters joined us. He didn't have a ring. It was spontaneous. After all, we had only known each other for two weeks.

(picture taken shortly after our engagement, circa 1996)

When we went a few weeks later to buy a ring, I was flabbergasted by the prices. At the time, I thought of everything as the price of tuition. I could go to college for years on the price of those rings! I was sure that I didn't need a ring. We left the jewelry store empty handed. When my mother-in-law heard our plan, she insisted that I did need a ring. I had to have a ring! I ended up with a beautiful diamond ring on my finger. It had a delicate gold band with a round diamond and four smaller marquise-cut diamonds as "leaves" around it (very 1990's).

Even though I was positive that I didn't "need" a diamond ring, I remember distinctly sitting in the temple before my wedding and admiring the way the light reflected from the stunning diamond. I wore it every day for the first few years of our marriage. After all, we were still students at BYU and the ring was an important symbol that you were "taken".

About two years after we were married, I was tired of snagging the diamond on everything. I took it off; put it in the jewelry box it came in and I haven't worn it since. Now, I just wear a tiny gold band to symbolize my marriage to Utah Dad.

So, it's perfect timing that I'm reviewing The Engagements by J. Courtney Sullivan on the anniversary of my own engagement.

Focusing on the relationships and marriages of several characters in The Engagements, Sullivan writes a novel about how marriage has evolved in our society throughout the years and ties it in with the history of the diamond as a symbol of love and marriage.

I found the story and information about Frances Gerety who created the famous line "A Diamond is Forever" and the advertising campaign that convinced a nation that the diamond ring was necessary very intriguing. The history of the diamond is also drenched in the bloody and horrific things that happen in the diamond mines of Africa (the book The Fever Tree goes into this a little) yet through the genius of advertising still symbolizes love. Sullivan weaves the research and facts in with the tales of of her characters and their marriages.

The Engagements seemed to have a pretty cynical view of marriage. Since I believe in the sanctity of marriage, I thought the book was very depressing at times. However, the writing is strong and the character development drew me in. I especially liked some of the characters and found myself genuinely caring about them. By the end of the novel, the stories had come together nicely and I was mostly satisfied.

There is some swearing in the book and brief sexual scenes.

**I received a complimentary copy of The Engagements in exchange for my honest review.**

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Salt Lake Bees - Out and About in Utah

Tonight, the kids and I got to join other fellow Utah bloggers and their families at a
Salt Lake Bees (Utah's Triple-A Baseball team) game. 
Utah Dad had a work meeting this evening and couldn't attend so his dad came with us.

Today was really hot but fortunately our seats were in the shade and it was quite pleasant. 
We actually had really awesome seats with a fabulous view. 
We arrived early, got some dinner/snacks at the concessions and settled in to wait for the game to begin.

I was rather enjoying watching the baseball game. 
The Bees played the Las Vegas 51s and unfortunately trailed most of the game, ultimately losing 8 to 5.
 The Bees made some good hits though. 
Utah Dad always gives me a hard time for not loving baseball as much as he does.
It's patriotic. It's America's game. It's too bad he couldn't join us tonight.
But I was enjoying myself. Really.

My kids were interested in other things besides the game.
The watched the Bees' Mascot.
They wanted snow cones and cotton candy.
They were hot and wiggly.
They needed to go the restroom (which was pretty clean).

The kids LOVED riding on the Bumble Express.
It's free for kids under 12 and it runs along the back of the berm.

After their ride on the Bumble Express train, we spread out a blanket and sat on the berm. It was getting dark by then and cooler on the ground. I could still enjoy the ball game.

And the kids enjoyed, well, being kids. *Sigh*

Monday, July 8, 2013

Happy 6th Birthday to Lilly

While she's demanding the sun, moon and stars for her birthday and I'm feeling guilty for not delivering, I thought I would at least honor my Lilly's 6th birthday with a few pictures of her throughout the years. Happy birthday, dear Lilly.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Goat Mountain - Book Review

The annual deer hunt on the family's large ranch in North California turns to tragedy when they spot a poacher on their land. The father, siting the poacher in the scope of his gun, invites his 11 year old son to have a look. The boy, excited for his first chance to kill a buck and jumpy, pulls the trigger and kills the man.

An accident or an act of violence? David Vann brings to the surface the raw and painful emotions of survival, primal urges, loyalty, and morality in his newest novel Goat Mountain. The men, a grandfather, father, son and a close friend will be forced to make brutal decisions. They will discover just what caliber of men they are.

I was drawn to this novel because of my own experiences of deer hunting with my father as a young teenager. I still remember the morning of my first hunt. Waking before dawn and driving to the mountain. The  lights of the Aurora Borealis stretched across the Northern sky. I was excited to be with my dad. I felt like we were alone, secluded from the world as we hiked through the low brush to a steep ravine. A herd of deer ran down the slope on the other side of the hill. The firing started and I realized that we were far from alone on that mountain. As the deer fell, the hunters who had flushed them out, appeared with guns drawn behind the deer on the horizon. The exhilaration of shooting my first buck turned to fear. I never took to hunting--didn't care for it. And as my brothers got older, I didn't get to enjoy the time alone with my dad.

Fortunately, my own experiences were much less violent than the story in Goat Mountain. My dad was a kind, gentle man. However, some of the images created by David Vann of the hunt are so familiar and so real. His prose is beautiful and tragic. His characters are not likable. They are brutal and savage. Vann examines the philosophy of killing and combines the ancient Bible stories in his tale. The story is equally compelling and repulsive.

This story will probably not resonate with many of my readers. It is violent and there is some language.

**I received a complimentary copy of Goat Mountain in exchange for my honest review.**

The Winner of the Rubio's Gift Certificate

The winner of the $20 gift certificate to Rubio's is ...

Blogger Laura said...
Always wanting to try new places-especially with fish tacos!!

Congratulations! Please contact me with your information so you can enjoy an Original Fish Taco right away!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Rubio's - Review and Give-away

Home of the Original Fish Taco

It was so hot on Friday. Nothing sounded good for dinner. I certainly didn't want to cook. We loaded up the kids and went to town for dinner (so unusual that the kids were literally shocked).

The sign said Rubio's Fresh Mexican Grill and I wondered how different it could be from the other "Fresh Mexican Grill" restaurants that I've tried. I'm a fan of the others so I was fully expecting to love Rubio's too. What I wasn't expecting was that Rubio's offers a very different menu and that I loved it even more than I thought I would. The restaurant had a beachy, California feel with lots of natural light and plenty of seating.

Rubio's was empty when we arrived with our entire family last Friday afternoon. The restaurant was clean (including the bathrooms) and the servers were happy to help us. The friendly server helped us go over the menu and made suggestions for our brood. With so many of us, we ended up ordering a little of practically everything.

After we ordered our food, the restaurant started to fill up with other patrons. We found a quieter back corner to settle in and wait for our food.

I ordered the Pacific Mahi Mahi Burrito. It was filled with blackened fish, corn, rice, onions, cabbage, guacamole and delicious chile sauces. I shared with Utah Dad. We both loved it. He was supposed to give me one of his Grill Gourmet Steak Tacos but he was enjoying them so much that he only remembered to give me half of one. It was so delicious that I was a little irritated.

Thomas loved his chicken quesadilla and the fresh made guacamole and only had a little leftover to share.

Amberly, always adventurous with food and a lover of seafood, enjoyed the Atlantic Salmon Burrito.

Neal is super picky about food but he devoured the Classic Steak Tacos.

The little girls shared a plate of Classic Steak Tacos. They especially enjoyed the chips.

Since, Rubio's is famous for the Original Fish Taco, I got one to go with my meal. I've never had anything like it before. I wasn't sure what to expect. But I loved it and have been craving another one ever since.

The fare was perfect for a hot summer day. Fresh and filling without being heavy, we all enjoyed the blending of exciting flavors.

Have you eaten at Rubio's before? It is time to stop in and get some lunch. Try the fish taco. Really.

One reader will win a 
$20 gift certificate to Rubio's

To enter leave a comment on this post. You can get up to 2 additional entries by sharing this contest on social media. Just leave an additional comment for each time you share. The contest will be open to entries until Friday, July 5th at 11:59 pm MST. The winner will be chosen randomly from the comments and announced on the blog on Saturday, July 6th.

She Reads July Selection - The Firebird - Book Review

Nicola works for an art dealer in London but she has a secret. She's a psychic and when she touches an object she can see images from its past. So, when a desperate woman comes with a wooden carving called The Firebird and claims that it was given to her ancestor Anna by the Empress Catherine from Russia, Nicola touches the object and knows the story is true. Unfortunately, there is no way to prove it.

Nicola enlists the help of Rob, another psychic and her once boyfriend, to help her find some evidence to prove that The Firebird did once belong to Catherine. Their quest will take them to Russia where they discover Anna's history among the Jacobites living there in the early 1700's.

I wasn't overly thrilled when I read the back cover of The Firebird by Susanna Kearsley and even the first few chapters did little to intrigue me. However, the skilled writing and the fact that it was the She Reads book for July, kept me reading. I am so glad I did because I quickly became captivated by the story of Anna. The history of the Jacobites and their struggle to return the "True King" to the throne of England is fascinating and I always enjoy a good Russian novel.

There is mystery and a Pride and Prejudice-type love story to enhance the historical nature of the tale. Also, the renewing romance between Nicola and Rob is sweet and while their story is secondary to Anna's, the two stories weave together seamlessly.

The Firebird is the kind of novel that despite its size, you read quickly and then mourn when it's over. The characters are captivating and the story engaging. The history is well researched. I haven't read any of Kearsley's previous novels but I am definitely adding them to my to-read list.

She Reads is currently having a give-away to win all five of Kearsley's novels. Click **here** to enter on She Reads.

**I received a complimentary copy of The Firebird from the publishers in exchange for an honest review.**

Monday, July 1, 2013

Winners of The Last Camellia

The five winners of a copy of The Last Camellia by Sarah Jio are :

Alicia Seeley
Jess Bair
Lauren W.

Congratulations! Please contact me with your information so that you can receive and enjoy your new book right away.