Wednesday, August 26, 2015

The Nightingale - Book Review

Every single one of my friends on Goodreads rated The Nightingale 5 stars. So I bought it. How could I resist that much book love. Right? I packed it with me on vacation. I started reading it on the tail end of my road trip as we drove through the rather boring part of south eastern Oregon (every state has a boring part, right?).

Vianne and her younger sister Isabelle have had a tumultuous relationship since their mother died and their distraught, alcoholic father essentially abandoned them to live with the housekeeper. As the war heats up, Vianne's husband leaves for the front and Isabelle, kicked out of another boarding school, returns to live with her sister.

Isabelle is passionate and rebellious and her untamed spirit is especially dangerous in Nazi occupied France. Vianne is trying to keep her daughter safe. Their relationship is further tested with a Nazi officer billets in Vianne' home. Through this harrowing time, the sisters will each be tested and will do what they can to fight against the Nazis and try to survive and save those they love.

The plot was fine. The characters were fine. As I put the book aside after reading 236 pages, I wanted to tell it "It's not you. It's me." Possibly, it's my short attention span lately. Perhaps, it's that I've already read too many similar stories--stories, like Suite Francaise and The Secret Key, that captured the passion, fear and emotion better. It could be that my expectations had been too built up by all the early reviews from trusted book friends. All that combined and I honestly wasn't sure if I would pick it back up again. Still, I hate leaving things undone so weeks later, after not finishing two more books and then finally finding one I could see through to the end, I decided to give The Nightingale another chance.

I'm glad I did. Because the ending improved. The characters became richer and the emotion stronger and I finally began to care. There's a lot packed into this novel. It's ambitious. There are plenty of things to discuss and I would recommend it to book club groups--especially since it's relatively clean.

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah is published by St. Martin's Press and released on February 3, 2015

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Back to School Relaxation for Mom



The kids went back to school last week and as usual I had mixed emotions. We had such a fun summer and I enjoyed hanging out with them (mostly) and all of the exciting activities and vacations we crammed into those short weeks. On the other hand, living with frat house hours was exhausting. It was definitely time to get back to a routine.

So, trying to look on the bright side, I sent all my kids off to school last week and now I have my days to myself (you know, I can do laundry and watch my shows without interruption & after I clean the kitchen it can stay clean for 5-6 hours). It seemed like the perfect time to pamper myself. I got on the phone and scheduled an appointment for a massage at Massage Envy.

You can tell I needed a break. Getting five kids ready for school is no easy feat. All the supplies! All the clothes and shoes! Hello Kitty backpacks aren't cool in third grade. Dealing with the emotional teens and their new schools. Open Houses! PTA! You know the drill. I'm pooped (and now I sound like my grandma).

But I started to feel more relaxed as soon as I walked into Massage Envy. I got a fabulous massage that focused right on the places in my back, shoulders and neck where I store up all the tension. I could close my eyes and forget about all the stressful things at home and just enjoy the moment. Just enjoy the opportunity to be spoiled and pampered. I felt so much better immediately.

The kids are back to school and it's just the perfect time to take a moment for yourself. Do something you love. Take a break. Visit a friend. Go out for lunch or get your nails done. Go to a matinee movie. Spend time at the temple. Or give Massage Envy a call and schedule your appointment for a massage and some relaxation time. You deserve it.

#ReliefStartsHere  #MassageEnvyUtah  #MEUtah

**I received a complimentary membership to Massage Envy. No other compensation was received. All opinions are my own.**

The Truth According to Us - Book Review

I read The Truth According to Us by Annie Barrows while on vacation in July. I really wanted to tell everyone about it but a couple of things happened. First, it became August and my life became crazy, busy trying to get the kids ready to go back to school. Second, my computer started giving me fits. Every time I started working on a project, the computer would turn off. Just like that. Power down. So, I pretty much stepped away from the computer and blogged very little. Fortunately, my birthday came and I got a new computer. It's a shiny iMac and I'm seriously in love. I'm still in those early stages of romance where I haven't figured everything out but I'm learning. I think we're going to have a beautiful relationship.

Now, the kids have gone back to school; I'm armed with this fabulous computer and I'm ready to share about all the books again. Starting with The Truth According to Us.

Annie Barrows was part of the team that brought us the adorable The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society a few years back. Oh, I loved that book. So obviously, I was anxious to read The Truth According to Us. I took it with me on our family road trip to the Oregon coast. Settled into the back seat of the 15-passenger van and let it take me right through the boring drive across Nevada.

It's the hot summer of 1938 and twelve-year-old Willa is curious about all the people she's always known. Now old enough to catch snippets of adult conversation, she starts to wonder about what her father Felix really does when he travels out of town on business. She wonders if her aunt Jottie has ever been in love and she's especially suspect of Miss Layla Beck who has just arrived in Macedonia, West Virginia to write the history of the city for the WPA. Layla is boarding in Jottie's house and sparks are already flying between the beautiful stranger and Felix.

As Layla researches the history of the town, she also seeks to discover the secrets and how Felix's family has fallen from its once prominent place. Layla and Willa's separate hunts for the truth come together to change the outcomes for everyone involved.

This novel is like sitting on a rocking chair with a cold drink on a hot, sticky summer evening. The fireflies are about and the neighbors and family gather around. And someone starts to share a memory. Someone interrupts. That's not the way they remembered it. Possibly they argue for a bit. Probably it's already too hot to let the disagreement get too heated. They settle back into their individual rockers and agree to disagree.

The Truth According to Us is filled with fabulous characters so real, you're sure you saw them sitting on the porch last time you drove through town. The action never peaks or builds like a thriller but the plot slowly meanders throughout the summer as Willa lets you get another taste of that golden and confusing time between childhood and adulthood. Barrow captures the essence of Macedonia and the town becomes a character in its own right--holding tight to its citizens' secrets and never really allowing anyone to forget.

I loved this book. With all my heart.

The Truth According to Us by Annie Barrows is published by The Dial Press and released in June 2015.

**I received a complimentary copy of The Truth According to Us. No compensation was received. All opinion are my own.**

Monday, August 24, 2015

The 3rd Woman - Book Review

From the cover :

The United States and China have struck a shocking bargain: In return for forgiving trillions in debt, the People’s Republic of China—now the world’s dominant global superpower—has established a permanent military presence on US soil. Years of decline have left America economically vulnerable, and evidence of China’s cultural and political dominance is everywhere.
Journalist Madison Webb is obsessed with exposing the lies and corruption that have corroded her once great society. When her sister is savagely murdered, the police insist it’s an isolated crime. But Madison suspects the cops are hiding something. Digging for answers, she discovers her sister’s death may be one of many . . . and part of a dangerous conspiracy. Even though her life is on the line, Madison refuses to give up on the story. And sooner or later, she will have to confront the consequences of exposing the powerful forces intent on hiding the truth.

My thoughts :

The book has some issues. It's definitely not perfect, but it was the first book that I've read from start to finish during the month of August and seemed to help  me get past a horrible reading slump. So, I sort of love it.

It's exciting. The futuristic world where the United States is kowtowing to China, gives the thriller different perspective and motive and changes up things just enough to leave the reader breathlessly off balance. The novel starts right off by introducing the strong, bold and fearless Maddy. She's vulnerable but definitely won't give up on finding the killer of her sister, even when everyone is working against her.

The novel was long and lost some momentum in the middle. Not every loose end and question was wrapped up neatly at the end of the story. In fact, the ending was not at all expected. That's fine, of course. I just really wanted to know. And that's the key that kept me reading this entire novel and not tossing it on the pile of unfinished novels that has grown so tall this summer--I just really wanted to know the ending. Jonathan Freedland creates tension and mystery and keeps his reader constantly guessing and stumbling. With solid writing, interesting characters and dialogue that rings true, The 3rd Woman is a thriller to pick up this fall.

**There is some swearing throughout the novel and occasional sex scenes.**

The 3rd Woman by Jonathan Freedland is published by Harper and released August 4, 2015.

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About Jonathan Freedland31437

Jonathan Freedland is an award-winning journalist, a number one bestselling author, and a broadcaster. He is the Guardian's executive editor for Opinion and also writes a weekly column. He is a regular contributor to the New York Times and the New York Review of Books, and presents BBC Radio 4's contemporary history series The Long View. In 2014 he won the Orwell special prize for journalism.
Find out more about Jonathan at his website, and connect with him on Twitter and Facebook.

**I received a complimentary copy of The 3rd Woman from TLC Book Tours. No compensation was received. All opinions are my own.**

Saturday, August 22, 2015

FREETOWN DVD Giveaway Winners

Good morning! I'm excited to announce the winners of the 2 DVDs of FREETOWN. Chosen randomly, the winners are...

Emi Pearce


Joseph Wallace

Please contact me by email by Tuesday, August 25th with your information. If I haven't heard from you by then, new winners will be chosen.

While we're chatting about great inspirational movies, I'm looking forward to going to see Once I Was A Beehive tonight. It looks pretty funny. I'll report back next week with thoughts after I've seen it.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Freetown DVD Giveaway

You know I'm not much of a movie watcher. So when I do spend time watching a movie I really want it to be a good one. I was lucky enough to score a DVD copy of Freetown and Rand and I watched it with my parents a few weeks ago. (Gosh, its always extra nervous to watch a movie with your parents, no matter how old you are.)

"Caught in the middle of a brutal civil war, six Liberian missionaries in Monrovia flee the widespread violence in their native country. Their destination: Freetown, Sierra Leone. With the help of local church member Phillip Abubakar (Henry Adofo), the missionaries make the difficult journey, only to have their troubles compounded by a rebel fighter bent on killing one of their own. Based on incredible true events, FREETOWN is a thrilling and inspiring story of faith, hope and survival."

I enjoyed the movie's portrayal of this powerful story. It was a little slower than I expected but thankfully didn't have too much violence even though it was a very violent time in Liberia's history. I thought the movie handled the subject tastefully and yet still conveyed the terror and suffering of so many people. I appreciated the occasional humor. This movie is primarily about the faith of the LDS missionaries. I will have my older kids sit down and watch this with me but I feel like the themes and images are too much for my younger kids right now.

Freetown is another uplifting story about faithful LDS missionaries to add to the collection of others. 

I have two DVDs of Freetown to give away.

To enter leave a comment on this post. The contest will be open to entries until Friday, August 21st at 11:59pm MST. The winner will be chosen randomly and announced on Saturday, August 22nd.

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

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

As You Like It - Utah Children's Theatre

We spent last Saturday afternoon at the Shakespeare Festival at Utah Children's Theatre. The girls especially enjoyed getting their faces painted, watching the puppet show and the other activities. The boys joined us but were less enthusiastic. The cast and staff were friendly, fun and welcoming. They were almost always in character which made the kids chuckle.

Rosalind, the daughter of Duke Senior, is raised at the court of Duke Frederick, with her cousin Celia. She falls in love with a young man named Orlando, but before she can even think twice about it, she is banished by Duke Frederick, who threatens if she comes near the court again. Celia, being Rosalind's best friend, goes with Rosalind and Touchstone, the court's fool, to the forest of Arden. Upon their arrival in the forest, they happen upon Orlando and his manservant, who are fleeing the wrath of Orlando's eldest brother. What follows is an elaborate scheme devised by the cross-dressing Rosalind to find out if Orlando really loves her, and to further capture his heart, through the witty and mischievous fa├žade of Ganymede.

We were most excited to see the show As You Like It. Since Neal read a few Shakespeare plays last year in English, he was curious how they would perform a play that children would understand. As You Like It is a romantic comedy. The action is fast and silly. Performed by an enthusiastic young cast, we all found it entirely entertaining. Even the boys. Thomas (9 years old) caught on to what was happening and found it quite amusing. He actually explained it to us afterward just in case we missed the plot. I'm not sure how much Lilly and Molly understood of the plot but they thought it was funny. We are excited to go back to see Hamlet soon.

As You Like It plays on Fridays and Saturdays though mid September. It's a great way to introduce your kids (5+) to the works of the great Bard.

For ticket information :

Utah Children's Theatre :

**We received complimentary tickets to As You Like It. All opinions are my own. No other compensation received.**

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Black-Eyed Susans - Book Review

Tessa can not remember the hours before she was discovered left for dead with other corpses in a field of Black-Eyed Susan flowers. She and the Jane Does were dubbed the Black-Eyed Susans in the media and their case garnered plenty of attention. Years later, the man convicted of killing the girls is about to be put to death but Tessa is unsure of his guilt. Though she still can't remember the details of the crime and time while she was missing, someone has been planting Black-Eyed Susan flowers in her path. Tessa feels sure her killer is still out there.

Suspenseful and full of twists, Black-Eyed Susans by Julia Heaberlin is an exciting thriller that relies on plot and character instead of vulgarity and gore. The science behind the search for the real killer and the psychological aspects of Tessa's memory and fears are fascinating and lend credibility to the story.

Going back and forth between teenage Tessie's initial therapy following the crime and the trial of the man police were sure had committed it and the present day attempt to get a stay of execution and Tessa's fears, combined to build suspense and yet offer enough foreshadowing and clues to keep the mystery fresh.

I was thoroughly taken in by Tessa's fears and her search for the real killer. Tessa had tried for years to put her horrific past behind her. She is reluctant to face it but also in need of the relief answers could bring. Tessa--victim, tough-talking teenage girl, protective mom, paranoid, vulnerable and active, is a fully developed character that is open to love and safety and facing her worse fears. She is a character I loved to read about it.

Heaberlin's writing is superb--dark yet hopeful and disturbing yet not profane. I couldn't put it down once I'd started. Black-Eyed Susans was a compelling and multifaceted thriller that I thoroughly enjoyed and would have no trouble recommending to other fans of suspense.

Black-Eyed Susans by Julia Heaberlin is published by Ballantine Books and released on August 11, 2015.

**I received a complimentary copy of Black-Eyed Susans. No other compensation was received. All opinions are my own.**

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Road Trip 2015 Recap

We had a fabulous vacation.
Bonneville Salt Flats, Utah

Reno, NV LDS Temple

Lake Tahoe

Lake Tahoe
 We took the very long road to Oregon. We headed south to drive all the way around the stunning Lake Tahoe. It was beautiful but sure added time to the drive.

Driving over Donner Pass, CA - debating which family member we would eat if we got stuck there.
We took I-80 to Sacramento and then I-5 to Redding. From Redding we headed toward the coast on Hwy 299. It was the longest canyon ever! But the views were gorgeous (wish we had stopped to take pictures) and we drove through Big Foot country. We didn't see him.

We arrived at the beach house just before midnight on Monday. The kids were up at 6:30 am the next morning and ready to hit the beach. We played on the beach all day. We built a sand castle. Searched for cool pieces of drift wood, shells and rocks and got very wet.

Lilly doing her best to help Molly be less scared of the ocean. Such a great big sister.

Renting a house right on the beach was the absolute best way to vacation.

When we got tired of playing on the beach, we took a siesta at the house and then went back for more!

Oregon was experiencing a heat wave. That worked to our advantage.

The kids spent two fun days on the beach playing in the water.

The most fun ever.

Pure joy!

Stayed on the beach until the sun set both nights.

Amberly and I woke early to walk the beach to the tidal pools.

I was absolutely fascinated by Redwood National Park. We took the short hike to Stout Grove where we saw these amazing giant trees. It was otherworldly and truly remarkable.

Even our big family couldn't hug this tree.

Taking some selfies to prove I was there.

Day 3 was cool and foggy. We spent time on the rocks looking for sea creatures in the tidal pools.

Saying goodbye to our beach on Friday morning.
 We loved having a house on the beach. Besides the close proximity and that we could hear the waves crashing on the beach while we slept, we were able to cook all our meals at the house and I did a few loads of laundry. We took way more clothes than we needed.

Crater Lake National Park is breathtaking.
 We took the really long road home. By the way, Southeastern Oregon looks a lot like Duchesne, Utah. I don't need to go that way again. We squeezed in a visit to beautiful Crater Lake National Park and Sun Valley, Idaho.

Everyone was super patient in the car.

Took a ride on the Gondola and the ski lift to the top of Sun Valley Ski resort.

Beautiful views. 
 We were all very happy to be home and sleeping in our own beds. We're already discussing where we will go on our family road trip next year. We loved the beach house in Brookings, Oregon so it's a very real possibility that we will go right back. We found it on HomeAway and were very happy.