Friday, December 9, 2016

Luminaria at Thanksgiving Point

Last week, Lily and I went on a special date night to Luminaria at Thanksgiving Point Gardens. She was very excited to spend some one-on-one time with me since she was terribly disappointed that Thomas got to go with me to see Fabulous Beasts. She's kind of a middle kid and totally keeps track of what she sees as fair or not. Good thing she's absolutely adorable about it.

Anyway, it was her turn to go. It worked out perfectly because earlier in the afternoon she got orthodontic braces. She's nervous, excited and all around "wired" up.

The Luminaria light display replaces the former light show at Thanksgiving Point where you stayed in your car to drive through the kitschy displays (I can see that in my neighborhood). I successfully avoided that particular show for years. Seeing the long lines of cars from the freeway was a complete deterrent for this holiday bah humbug.

Lily and I arrived for the event one minute before the time on our ticket and we weren't allowed into the building until the time on our ticket. The staff was very friendly and literally anxious for us to see the displays that have obviously taken a lot of time, preparation and passion.

We started in the Poinsettia House where we enjoyed the relative warmth for a bit as we waited for it to get just a little darker. It was a chilly night but thankfully dry, so we bundled up to enjoy the peaceful walk. It had snowed the day before and the layer of white stuff added to the winter beauty. We really lucked out.

I don't know how they will manage the crowds throughout December, but being able to just ramble through the gardens at our own pace and without crowds of people to push us through was delightful.

The use of lights and the natural environments of the garden were so impressive. It was so beautiful. Different areas had various themes with music piped in to match. There were fun areas, peaceful areas and places to contemplate the holiday and the meaning of Christmas. My personal favorite was definitely the Light of the World exhibit that focused on the Savior.

My family has enjoyed the I Am the Light of the World Sculpture exhibit at Ashton Gardens during the spring and summer but it was magically and impressively transformed with lights. It was a wonderful place to feel the peace and talk with Lily about our Savior and His life and ministry.

There are several places throughout the garden to buy treats and warm up with your family and friends. Lily was a little rushed throughout the entire walk. She had this "hurry up" attitude. Whether she was cold or just wasn't as impressed as I was, I'm not sure.

The Luminaria light display was my favorite "pay-to-see" Christmas event that I've ever been to. I'd love to take my entire family. But here's the thing, it's costly. And at this time of year when I'm trying desperately to stick to a budget to buy gifts for my family and help the needy, it's hard to justify the cost to take my big family. 

It would make a fabulous date night and I'm tempted to take Rand back because I desperately want to see it again this season. It really is quite incredible.

Tickets are now on sale for
The display runs through the end of December. Dates and times are limited so it's best to buy tickets in advance.

**Lily and I were guests of Thanksgiving Point and received complimentary tickets. This review reflects my honest opinions. No compensation was received.**

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

The Ramblers - Book Review

The Ramblers follows three college friends--roommates Clio and Smith and their friend Tate, years after graduation as they are still trying and fumbling to make their way through life in New York City. Clio is an ornithologist at the American Museum of Natural History. She's grieving the loss of her mother and dating a fascinating older man. Is she ready to commit? Smith is still mourning the demise of her engagement to the man of her dreams and now has to prepare for her younger sister's wedding. Tate stumbles back into their lives after his marriage to his college sweetheart dissolves in infidelity and divorce.

I missed The Ramblers by Aidan Donnelley Rowley last year so I was thrilled to get a copy of it's paperback release this fall. I heard many good things about it even though the subject didn't seem to be my thing. Initially, I wasn't sure how I felt about these floundering characters but it wasn't long before they wormed their way into my heart with their vulnerability and sensitivity. Rowley gets right to their aching breaking hearts and explores where they have halted in their progression towards adulthood, their dreams and feeling confident with their choices. They each have their own internal demons to face and occasionally, they're even really annoying. I rather enjoyed reading this character-driven novel last week while I nursed a head cold and hid from the world.

The writing is lovely and at times powerful. I like that the novel is divided into parts and each part is from the perspective of a single character rather than just focusing on one or shifting perspective too frequently. It allowed for more introspection into each character. There's quite a bit of swearing from some of the characters and the occasional sexts are distracting from the plot and the emotions going on between the people.

The Ramblers by Aidan Donnelley Rowley is a novel that insists that you stay up late reading because the characters are so entrancing in their personal crises that I just couldn't put it down. If you missed this novel earlier, be sure to pick up this captivating paperback.

The Ramblers by Aidan Donnelley Rowley is published by William Morrow and the paperback released in October 2016.

**I received a complimentary copy of The Ramblers. This review reflects my honest opinions. No compensation was received.**

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Winter Sky - Book Review

A young man has spent World War II as a resistance fighter with the "Devil's Rebels" in Poland. Now, a brain injury has left him with amnesia and alone in a small mostly destroyed village caught between two enemies--the advancing Russian army and the retreating German army. The Germans are still seeking to punish the rebels who fought so fiercely against their army. The only possession he has is a torn photograph and the hope offered by a young mysterious woman.

I read Chris Stewart's spare novel Winter Sky in a single afternoon. It's a beautiful story of faith and promise even in the ugly conclusion of an ugly war. The young man's journey is fraught with peril and those around him, would-be helpers and traitors, are not unaffected by hate, love and sacrifice that come in his wake. The writing captures the intensity of emotion as the reader roots for the sympathetic young man. There are twists and turns and surprises within this inspiring and poignant story.

I love brevity, but in this particular case, Winter Sky would have been better served with more time to get to know the characters. I didn't have time to care deeply enough about the young man and the others he meets, so that the gripping ending isn't as heartrending as it could have been.

Ultimately, Stewart is successful at telling a dark story of war without getting oppressively desolate. It's meaningful and hopeful and encouraging even in the midst of hate and carnage of war. Winter Sky is a powerful story that I won't soon forget. 

Winter Sky by Christ Stewart was published by Shadow Mountain and released in September 2016.

**I received a complimentary copy. This review reflects my honest opinions. No compensation was received.**