Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The Rosie Effect - Book Review

I adored The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion. It even made my top books of 2013 list. Don Tillman is a refreshing, unique and likable character and I enjoyed the mishaps, humor and chemistry as he fell in love with Rosie. I was excited to hear that Simsion had written a sequel and looked forward to reading more about Don and Rosie.

The Rosie Effect by Graeme Simsion rejoins Don and Rosie after they have been married for 10 months and moved their lives to New York City. Don has been trying to adjust to a shared life with another human being. Even though it takes effort, his love for Rosie outweighs the cons of giving up the Standardized Meal System and scheduling every last detail. Then, Rosie surprises him with the announcement that they are expecting a baby and Don's life must drastically shift again.

The Rosie Effect is tender and sweet and Don is still Don. The novel is filled with humorous calamities due to Don's social awkwardness. There is a scene early in the novel where the irony is so thick, I just had to read it aloud. I thoroughly enjoyed reading of Don and his desires to do right. He's a character worth rooting for because he never intentionally does harm.

What I missed through much of this novel was the interactions with Rosie. The chemistry between Don and Rosie in The Rosie Project was unmistakable and she brought out the best in him. Rosie's focus in this novel has shifted and though I fully understood her concerns, I was sad by how little effort she seemed to take in resolving the crises.

However, just as in the first novel, Don Tillman is a fabulous character. He keeps a plot moving simply by being himself. The Rosie Effect by Graeme Simsion is another fun ride with Don.

The Rosie Effect by Graeme Simsion is published by Simon & Schuster and releases on December 30, 2014.

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

My Top Ten Books of 2014

I had the privilege of reading a lot of great books this year. 
The following list includes the books that I just couldn't stop talking about or thinking about 
or in some cases, dreaming about.
They moved me or entertained. Made me laugh or thrilled. Taught me something or fascinated.

 We Are Not Ourselves by Matthew Thomas
'Read my review *here*

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
Read my review *here*

Evergreen by Rebecca Rasmussen
Read my review *here*

The Story Hour by Thrity Umrigar
Read my review *here*

One Plus One by Jojo Moyes
Read my review *here*

Still Life with Bread Crumbs by Anna Quindlen
Read my review *here*

The Wife, The Maid and the Mistress by Ariel Lawhon
Read my review *here*

Island of a Thousand Mirrors by Nayomi Munaweera
Read my review *here*

Wake by Anna Hope
Read my review *here*

Gemini by Carol Cassella
Read my review *here*

The following are books that I read and loved this year but did not come out in 2014.

A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra
The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker
Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
Serena by Ron Rash
Unbroken, Laura Hillenbrand

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Redeemer - Nashville Tribute Band - Review

We've reached the point in December where we begin the frantic Christmas shopping to hurry and fulfill all the requests on our gift lists. But as we're rushing about, that doesn't mean our gifts need to be any less meaningful. For the country music lover on your list, consider the  newest album from the Nashville Tribute Band--Redeemer : A Nashville Tribute to Jesus Christ.

Fans of the Nashville Tribute Band (and you already know I am one) will recognize their familiar sound and their familiar spirit as they bare testimony of Jesus Christ through their signature sound. Many of the songs are written from the perspective of men and women from the bible. The song "Pilate's Wife" performed by Katherine Nelson is particularly moving as is the song "Tears on His Feet" with Cardin Lopez (I'm obviously drawn to the songs by women). NTB collaborates with a number of other well known artists. I especially enjoy "When the Son of Man Comes" featuring David Archuleta.

With thoughtful and moving lyrics and the unique country sound, Redeemer will surely be loved by fans, new and old. NTB has an incredible spirit and their testimonies can be felt through their music. Redeemer is a beautiful tribute to our Savior and Redeemer Jesus Christ.

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

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

A Year With Frog and Toad - Salt Lake Acting Company

Last weekend I announced to my family that we we would be going to see A Year with Frog and Toad by the Salt Lake Acting Company. My kids were not excited to go. Rand was not excited to go. Even though they whined and moaned, I gave them no option. They piled in the car and we headed to Salt Lake. I adore the Frog and Toad children's books by Arnold Lobel but the text is subtle and low key and I had no idea how it would translate on the stage. 

As soon as we arrived, I was impressed. The neighborhood is charming and the theater is inviting. Every seat is a good seat. We found our seats and settled in. The crew was friendly and knew that their audience was full of children.

Immediately, I was taken by the enthusiasm of the actors and the charming lyrics of the songs. I sat between Thomas and Lilly. They were completely engaged by the colors and fun songs and dancing (the kids have been singing snippets of the songs ever since). The show only lasts an hour and the audience was entranced for the entirety.

The cast is passionate and energetic. They were absolutely entertaining. We laughed at the brilliant, ironic and perfectly appropriate humor and fell in love with the delightful and beloved characters brought to life. Pretty sure we smiled solidly for an hour.

At thirteen years old, Neal is definitely at his most sarcastic phase and he even admitted that he was surprised how much he enjoyed the show. After the show we went to visit Rand's parents and the kids couldn't wait to tell them all the details about the show. Thomas even said it was pretty good, and if you know Thomas that is HUGE!

When the kids got home, they pulled out the familiar books and their Frog stuffed animal complete with his little brown coat. We've been recalling the humor and last night we couldn't go long before someone sang out "Toad looks funny in a bathing suit".

A Year with Frog and Toad would be a great addition to your family plans this Christmas season. I cannot sing its praises enough. And if you tell them that you heard about the play from me, you can get $3 off ticket. Take your favorite little people and go see the show. You won't regret it.

Tickets can be purchased online at : http://www.saltlakeactingcompany.org/

**I received complimentary tickets to A Year with Frog and Toad. No additional compensation was received. All opinions are my own.**

Thursday, December 4, 2014

The House We Grew Up In - Book Review

November ended up not being my best month for reading. I didn't read nearly as many books as usual and I wasn't blown away by any of them. As the Thanksgiving holiday approached and we prepared to join my siblings at my parents' house, I was finally able to pick up The House We Grew Up In by Lisa Jewell. Perfect timing--a novel about a dysfunctional family would surely make my own wonderful family seem even greater.

Lorelei has worked hard to provide a cozy and happy childhood for her four children. With two daughters who inherit their mother's beauty, glowing twin boys, and a kind husband, Lorelei seems to be succeeding at her goal. Unfortunately, a tragedy shatters their family one Easter. Lorelei struggles desperately to hang on to her children and everything else as the children grow up and put as much space between themselves and home.

The House We Grew Up In shows the hoarder from an interesting perspective. As her children sift through the colossal amount of detritus and things that their mother has "collected" and literally filled the house with, the reader sees glimpses into the mind of the hoarder and the motivations and feelings behind what is ultimately a mental illness. It is hard not to sympathize with Lorelei even as the consequences of her illness are difficult to fathom. Jewell successfully puts a human face on the problem.

The other members of the family react to the tragedy and to the ensuing issues with Lorelei in various ways. Each character is very individual and I appreciated the distinctions between the siblings. Fully formed, they are at times despicable, careless and selfish. The actions, reactions, choices and consequences of each character effects the other members of their family. As hard as they pull apart, there is still a pull that binds them together.

With rich writing and strong characters, Jewell creates a novel that is compelling and heartbreaking. It's an interesting study of another broken family--the guilt, pain, mourning and sorrow that follows tragedy and the hope for reconciliation and forgiveness.

The House We Grew Up In by Lisa Jewell is a She Reads book choice this fall. Many other reviewers have shared their feelings about the novel. Be sure to check them out. The novel was published by Atria Books in August 2014.

**I received a complimentary copy of The House We Grew Up In through www.shereads.com**