Everyday Tidbits...

Be Kind. Do Good. Love is a Verb.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Happy New Year 2016

A book and a soft, cozy blanket. Add a cup of hot chocolate and I'd say this is my kind of rockin' New Year's Eve. Happy New Year. May your 2016 be everything you hope it is!

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

I love the Library

I love my library. I love that I can reserve books online and then just walk in and pick them up. I love that I can reserve books, take them home and read them and take them back. I love browsing the aisles or the new book shelf. I love seeing families in the library. I love the sense of community that a library brings.

What about you? Do you visit your library?

Friday, December 25, 2015

Merry Christmas

The secret of Christmas,
Is not the things you do at Christmas time
But the Christmas things you do
All year through.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Weekend Reflections 11/14

Looking outside....it's sunny, but cold. Currently 39 degrees.

Listening...to silence. I like slow Saturday mornings. The Doctor is at work and The Artist is helping with Scouting for Food and The Boy is helping at a fundraiser for the high school golf team.

Loving...friends and family and a comfortable, warm home. 

Thinking...that can't stop thinking about the attacks on Paris. I love that beautiful city. I have wonderful memories of walking her streets with family and friends. My heart breaks for her people.

In my kitchen...a cup of hot chocolate and a piece of warm, grilled naan bread right now and no idea what to do for dinner.

Wearing...BSU pajama pants and a gray turtleneck with gray fuzzy socks.

Needing...to clean the kitchen and go to the grocery store.

Reading...I have several that are overdue to be reviewed.

Today...is still somewhat up in the air.

Hoping...to relax a bit.

Planning...the next week. It's college application time. Strange to think I have one old enough to apply to colleges!

Gratitude...for a world filled with amazing, compassionate people. For all the horror of yesterday, I love the reminders that there are good people everywhere. The people of Paris opened their homes to those who were stranded by tweeting the hashtag #PorteOuverte to let others know that there were safe homes for them to stay in. Beautiful.

From my world... 

Confession time: back in our high school days, my best friend and I watched Days of Our Lives. We had our schedules figured so we could leave school, grab lunch and go to her house to watch it and then go back to school. I even watched it into my college years. While it's been a good 25 years since I've seen an episode, I well remember Days in the 80s: Bo & Hope's wedding (best television wedding ever!)...Roman and Marlena...Eugene and Calliope and...my list goes on. This fun surprise arrived in my mailbox yesterday with little post-it note memories from my girlfriend. It was a sweet walk down memory lane!

What about you? What are you reflecting on this week? How has your week gone?

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Plain Return...Review

About the book:
Amanda Beiler, a young woman raised Amish, is determined to make her marriage to internationally beloved Cuban singer Alejandro Diaz work. Since they spend more time apart than together, she decides to join her superstar husband in the spotlight and accompany him on his South American tour.

Despite their deep love for each other, the pressures of maintaining Alejandro’s fame and the media’s constant hounding begin to take a toll on the young couple. When someone from his past makes a startling appearance during the tour, Amanda is forced to face not only the complexities of his hedonistic past—and the unexpected responsibilities that accompany it—but also her own desire to return to a simple life rooted in devotion to family and God. As Amanda’s needs start to conflict with Alejandro’s obligations, the couple must decide if their love is strong enough to save their new marriage.

Just as the previous books in this series do, this one picks up where Plain Again leaves off. Amanda has returned to her husband's side while he is on his South American tour. In love with Alejandro, Amanda wants nothing more than to become pregnant and start a family with him. But, as pregnancy eludes her, Alejandro's secret daughter comes back into his life when he discovers that the child's mother has died.

Amanda embraces the child and grows to love her. When she realizes that a life on tour is no place to raise a little girl, she takes the child back to the farm. Alejandro struggles to accept his daughter's place in his life, but he resents it and believes he is losing Amanda's love and affections.

Alejandro has never been my favorite character and I think he's incredibly selfish and self-centered. He has improved since the first book, but not enough. The story ends with somewhat of a cliff-hanger and you must read the fifth one to know what happens. Unfortunately, the fifth one hasn't been published yet and so we're all left hanging, which you know is a huge pet peeve of mine.

Thanks to Netgalley for the opportunity to review this book. You can learn more about Sarah Price here. You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 9/15

* * *
3/5 Stars

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Secrets of a Charmed Life...Review

About the book:
She stood at a crossroads, half-aware that her choice would send her down a path from which there could be no turning back. But instead of two choices, she saw only one—because it was all she really wanted to see…

Current day, Oxford, England. Young American scholar Kendra Van Zant, eager to pursue her vision of a perfect life, interviews Isabel McFarland just when the elderly woman is ready to give up secrets about the war that she has kept for decades...beginning with who she really is. What Kendra receives from Isabel is both a gift and a burden--one that will test her convictions and her heart.

1940s, England. As Hitler wages an unprecedented war against London’s civilian population, hundreds of thousands of children are evacuated to foster homes in the rural countryside. But even as fifteen-year-old Emmy Downtree and her much younger sister Julia find refuge in a charming Cotswold cottage, Emmy’s burning ambition to return to the city and apprentice with a fashion designer pits her against Julia’s profound need for her sister’s presence. Acting at cross purposes just as the Luftwaffe rains down its terrible destruction, the sisters are cruelly separated, and their lives are transformed…

England, during World War 2 is one of my favorite literary settings. The perspective is so different from what Americans know about the war and the resilience of Londoners during war time still amazes me. Books about sisters are high on my list because I am the oldest of 4 sisters.

I loved the alternating past/present perspective here. And how Kendra had all these questions to ask Isabel, but when she simply said, "What do you want to tell me about the war?", that is when the story flowed and Isabel shared her secrets.

War time stories are compelling and this one captured me right from the start. I literally read it in two sittings. This isn't simply a war story although Emmy's experience during a bombing raid was certainly harrowing and her fear for her sister palpable. This is a story about relationships: mothers and daughters; sister and sister; friends and acquaintances. It is a story about love and loss; regret and contentment.

I'm part of a newly formed book club and this was our first read. The discussions that followed were fantastic and I so enjoyed hearing the viewpoints and thoughts from these other women. We had a delightful evening and the consensus from everyone was that they loved the story. I don't give many books 5 stars, but this one? This one deserves it.

Thanks to my local library for having a copy I could borrow. You can learn more about Susan Meissner here. You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 11/15

* * * * *
5/5 Stars

Monday, November 9, 2015

Plain Again...Review

About the book:
Young Amish woman Amanda and international Cuban superstar Alejandro surprised the world by tying the knot. But for the celebrated singer, time doesn’t stand still after the big “I do.” Alejandro must return to his life on the road and into the fray of a demanding tour and his adoring fans. After their brief period of marital bliss, the new couple struggles under the media’s constant intrusion into their romance and fights to sustain the bond they first discovered at Amanda’s Pennsylvanian farmland home.

When the paparazzi report a juicy story that could threaten Alejandro’s reputation and cause Amanda to doubt their promises to each other, the two face a hardship that may put their budding union at risk. Can their love survive worldwide scrutiny and the distance his stardom creates between them?

Continuing off from Plain Change, Amanda struggles with Alejandro's fame and notoriety. When she must return home to the family farm because of her father's illness, she worries about the separation from Alejandro.

What I found most enlightening was Amanda's response and impressions to once again return to her Amish roots, after having lived so much in the world. Her awareness at the darkness inside her parents home because of no electricity, for example. Her gratitude that her husband offered financial help and hired a man to help on the farm. I did appreciate that Alejandro finally realized his manager was a jerk and disrespectful to Amanda and her faith. I enjoyed the honest discussions Amanda could have with her sister.

This is book 3 in the Plain Fame series, and it really doesn't stand alone. They are meant to be read in order. This one has more of an ending and from what I can gather, it was originally a trilogy. However, there is a fourth book in the series.

Thanks to Netgalley for the opportunity to review this book. You can learn more about Sarah Price here. You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 9/15

* * *
3/5 Stars

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Weekend Reflections 11/7

Looking outside....fall has arrived. Leaves cover the ground and the temperature has definitely dropped.

Listening...to blissful silence. I like slow Saturday mornings. The Doctor is at work and the boys are at the church for a youth leadership training activity.

Loving...good friends, good books, good discussions.

Thinking...that I'm already thinking ahead to Christmas gifts.

In my kitchen...a cup of hot chocolate right now and Grilled Lime Chicken for dinner.

Wearing...BSU pajama pants and a black turtleneck with fuzzy socks.

Needing...to do some housework.

Reading...I just finished Secrets of a Charmed Life by Susan Meissner. Loved it!

Today...movie night with the family. I think we're finally going to see The Martian.

Hoping...to relax a bit.

Planning...the next week. Deciding on Thanksgiving plans.

Gratitude...for an amazing IEP meeting at the high school. The Artist is doing amazingly well and his transition from middle school to high school as been fantastic. I am so grateful for the teachers and administrators who work with us as a team in his behalf.

From my world... 

Received this surprise package in the mail from a dear friend. As children, we loved the Nancy Drew stories and would act them out in the backyard. She was Nancy and I was George. Over 35 years later, we still call each other Nancy and George on occasion. 

What about you? What are you reflecting on this week? How has your week gone?

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Mother and Girls Reading

Mother Reading with Two Girls by Lee Lufkin Kaula born 1865 in Erie (Pennsylvania), USA died 1957


Friday, October 23, 2015

The Girl on the Train...Review

About the book:
A debut psychological thriller that will forever change the way you look at other people’s lives.

Rachel takes the same commuter train every morning. Every day she rattles down the track, flashes past a stretch of cozy suburban homes, and stops at the signal that allows her to daily watch the same couple breakfasting on their deck. She’s even started to feel like she knows them. “Jess and Jason,” she calls them. Their life—as she sees it—is perfect. Not unlike the life she recently lost.

And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough. Now everything’s changed. Unable to keep it to herself, Rachel offers what she knows to the police, and becomes inextricably entwined in what happens next, as well as in the lives of everyone involved. Has she done more harm than good?

Compulsively readable, The Girl on the Train is an emotionally immersive, Hitchcockian thriller and an electrifying debut.

As is often the case with a popular mainstream novel, my opinion is going to be in the minority, but I did not love this story and am reminded, yet again, why I don't pick up thrillers very often.

The story alternates between the three first-person narratives of Rachel, the ex-wife; Anna, the new wife; and Megan, the neighbor. Rachel is a depressed alcoholic, obsessed with Megan who lives on the street where she used to live and where her ex-husband still lives with Anna his mistress-turned-wife and their baby.

This novel is a compelling train wreck. It's dreary and negative. There is no hope, no sunshine and nothing to make me care about any of these people. It is a promising debut and there are psychological aspects that show potential, but the Hitchhockian feel is about the only thing this novel has going for it.

I will confess that the rumors of who might be starring in the film adaptation of this novel are what motivated me to pick it up. And this is one of the rare times where I hope the film is better than the book.

Excessive profanity, non-explicit adultery.

Thanks to my local library for having a copy I could borrow. You can learn more about Paula Hawkins here. You can purchase your own copy here.

For a different opinion and perspective check out the reviews from some of my blog friends: A Literary Vacation, Layered Pages.

Read 10/15

* *
2/5 Stars

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Before We Go...Film Review

About the film:
Before We Go, the directorial debut of Chris Evans, follows the journey of two strangers stuck in New York City for the night. Starting as convenient acquaintances, the two soon grow into each other's most trusted confidants when a night of unexpected adventure forces them to confront their fears and take control of their lives.

I am not one to normally write movie reviews. But, I adored Before We Go. I haven't seen all of Chris Evans' films and I haven't loved every one that I have watched. Trust me when I tell you to skip London, but watch Snowpiercer. It will frak with your mind, and I could only watch it once because it affected me so much. But it's absolutely amazing and devastating at the same time.

I have enjoyed the two films I saw that Alice Eve was in: The Decoy Bride and Star Trek: Into Darkness.

Before We Go was quite simply, a delight. It is so refreshing to watch a truly romantic movie that doesn't rely on sex to sell it. Instead, the film relied on a sweet, sincere intimacy because the chemistry between Nick and Brooke was so believable. I enjoy dialogue-centric films and this one was perfect in that sense. Discussion and conversations; explanations and confession; friendship and a hint at falling in love.

Well worth the instant video purchase, this is one I've watched several times. I can't pick a favorite scene as there is something in nearly every one that I liked: the hotel scene was beautifully intimate as they shared some of their most honest thoughts and the pay phone scenes were funny with the last one being especially poignant.

It's a fantastic debut film for a first-time director and I think Chris Evans has a terrific eye for scene setting. I look forward to more from him as a director.

Spoiler alert: the ending is appropriate to the story, but does leave you craving more. I'm dying to know what Nick wrote on the back of the card!!

I purchased my copy from Amazon and just wanted to share how much I liked it. You can get your own copy here.

5/5 Stars

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Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Plain Change...Review

About the book:
Amanda Beiler could never have imagined the course her life would take when she happened to meet Alejandro Diaz. After catching the eye of the Cuban superstar, she hesitantly decides to leave her small Amish community in order to save it from the relentless attention of the paparazzi. Away from her close-knit family and the familiar rituals of her faith for the first time, Amanda goes on tour with the famous singer, and as she begins to see the world under Alejandro’s care, she starts to appreciate life beyond the boundaries of home. Meanwhile, Alejandro is changing, too, and remembering what it feels like to be with someone who wants him despite—not because of—his celebrity.

As their connection grows stronger and their differences shrink, Amanda will have to make a difficult choice: Return to her old life among the Plain, or stay in the limelight with the man she loves?

In book 2 of the Plain Fame series, Amanda Beiler is forced to leave her Amish community because the invasive press attention. Being on tour with Alejandro and married to him opens up her world to a new and unfamiliar perspective. Amanda appreciates much of it, but also misses her home and family and the more simple ways of life.

The cultural differences are intense and are heightened by Amanda's flashbacks to life and experiences back home. When her father becomes ill and she returns home to help them, those differences are even more extreme.

I felt like Amanda abandoned her plainness very easily. There were times too where I felt like Alejandro was not respectful of her. He took away her choices and forced her into the spotlight and into his lifestyle, regardless of what she wanted or what she was comfortable with. The idea that celebrities don't have any control over their own lives is misleading.

The story has a sensuality to it that is not often found in Amish or Christian novels and it was refreshing and appreciated rather than tawdry or improper. Like the first one, I enjoyed the story and was compelled to finish it. And, like the previous book, this one doesn't have a resolved ending and instead you must read the third one to find out what happens with Amanda and Alejandro.

Thanks to Netgalley for the opportunity to review this book. You can learn more about Sarah Price here. You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 9/15

* * *
3/5 Stars

Monday, October 19, 2015

Plain Fame...Review

About the book:
While traveling through Manhattan on the way back to her Amish community, young Amanda Beiler is struck by a limousine. The limo’s passenger, Cuban-born superstar Alejandro Diaz, takes responsibility for her injuries and vows to oversee her recovery. Leaving the fame circuit behind, Alejandro returns Amanda to her family in Lititz, Pennsylvania.

Desperate for a break from the stress of the spotlight, the famous singer offers to stay on the family farm for a week to help—an offer guardedly accepted by the deeply religious kin who surround and protect Amanda. As different as they are, she and Alejandro find that a genuine friendship begins to blossom, along with the realization that it might be something more. But if the paparazzi get wind of the superstar’s whereabouts, will they threaten the peace of the faithful community for a sensational story? And in the glare of an unwelcome spotlight, and with the unexpected feelings between them, can this couple build a lasting bridge between their vastly different worlds?

I enjoy Amish books but I wasn't familiar with Sarah Price as an author prior to reading Amish Fame. The premise of the book is certainly different: a famous musician falling for an Amish girl. If you accept a willful suspension of disbelief, then the story is plausible.

The culture clash was dramatic and extreme. I liked the story. I liked Amanda and Alejandro. I have never understood the Amish way of shunning and I never will and the idea that Amanda's parents practically encouraged her to leave because the press was hounding their community was a little far-fetched for me.  Still the story has its heartwarming parts and was compelling enough that I was anxious to finish it.

The story is written with an unresolved ending and you must read the next one in the series to find any closure. This is a serious pet peeve of mine, but something I am finding all too common in these days of digital publishing.

Thanks to Netgalley for the opportunity to review this book. You can learn more about Sarah Price here. You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 9/15

* * *
3/5 Stars

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

London Tides...Review

About the book:
Irish photojournalist Grace Brennan travels the world’s war zones documenting the helpless and forgotten. After the death of her friend and mentor in the field, Grace is shaken.

She returns to London hoping to rekindle the spark with the only man she ever loved—Scottish businessman Ian MacDonald. But he gave up his championship rowing career and dreams of Olympic gold years ago for Grace ... only for her to choose career over him. Will life’s tides bring them back together ... or tear them apart for good this time?

Grace chose her career over her boyfriend and went off to photograph war.  Ian went to work and never forgot her. After the tragic death of her mentor, Grace finds her way back to London and her path crosses Ian's. Still in love, they wonder if they can overcome past choices and experiences and find happiness together.

I enjoyed reading Ian's story after meeting him in Five Days in Skye. I liked Grace and her experiences in the Middle East were compelling. As with many romance novels, I found myself frustrated at the assumptions made and the lack of communciation, but I found myself cheering these two on anyway.

A quick enjoyable read. This is a sequel to Five Days in Skye and is second in the MacDonald Family Trilogy, and while the story can stand alone, read the first one!

Thanks to Netgalley for the opportunity to review this book, You can learn ,ore about Carla Laureano here. You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 8/15

* * * *
4/5 Stars

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

The Girl from the Train...Review

About the book:
Six-year-old Gretl Schmidt is on a train bound for Auschwitz. Jakób Kowalski is planting a bomb on the tracks.

As World War II draws to a close, Jakób fights with the Polish resistance against the crushing forces of Germany and Russia. They mean to destroy a German troop transport, but Gretl’s unscheduled train reaches the bomb first.

Gretl is the only survivor. Though spared from the concentration camp, the orphaned German Jew finds herself lost in a country hostile to her people. When Jakób discovers her, guilt and fatherly compassion prompt him to take her home. For three years, the young man and little girl form a bond over the secrets they must hide from his Catholic family.

But she can’t stay with him forever. Jakób sends Gretl to South Africa, where German war orphans are promised bright futures with adoptive Protestant families—so long as Gretl’s Jewish roots, Catholic education, and connections to communist Poland are never discovered.

Separated by continents, politics, religion, language, and years, Jakób and Gretl will likely never see each other again. But the events they have both survived and their belief that the human spirit can triumph over the ravages of war have formed a bond of love that no circumstances can overcome.

When a Polish man saves a young German girl from a train explosion that he caused, neither could ever anticipate the life experiences that await them. But, Jakób brings Gretl home and offers her protection and safety for as long as he can. When the day comes where he realizes he can no longer safely look after her, Jakób sends Gretl to South Africa and a family anxious to adopt a little girl.

Historically, World War 2 is one of my favorite literary subjects. The experiences both in Europe and the Pacific during that time fascinate me. The perspective here was different and amazing. I had never heard of German war orphans being sent to South Africa for adoption. So Gretl's perspective as a Jewish girl in a Protestant country offered a contrast. Jakób's view from the Polish aspect offered a new perspective as well.

While I didn't completely love the writing style, I did love the story. It was at once compelling and heartbreaking and yet touched me in a way that stayed with me for days afterwards.

Thanks to Netgalley for the opportunity to review this book. You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 7/15

* * * *
4/5 Stars

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Promises to Keep...Review

 About the books:
The painful memories from her life back in Toronto will never be distant enough, but Katherine Price finds peace under the autumn sky in the South of France…and a deepening, dizzying love with Philippe. Together, they savor the delicacies and splendor of life, toasting to a future filled with happiness and hope—a life far away from the heartache they both knew so well.

But during a trip to the charming village of Entrevaux, a strange note turns into a dangerous car chase. Philippe reveals he has a troubling secret—and the couple’s new life together threatens to crumble before it can begin. Now that Katherine has everything she’s ever wanted, is she about to lose it all?

Promises to Keep is the heartfelt second addition to award-winning author Patricia Sands’s Love in Provence trilogy—and a stirring reminder that it’s never too late to be joyfully surprised by love, life, or even yourself.

I loved Kat's story in A Promise of Provence and was anxious to learn more about her story after she stays in France with Philippe. And like the first novel, this one is rich with vivid description of scents and sights and food. I haven't visited southern France, but I sure want to. And unlike A Promise of Provence, this one has more adventure and intrigue as Kat tries to learn what Philippe's secrets are.

My disappointment in this story is the abrupt ending. The first one ended in an appropriate place, logical, but leaving you wanting more.  This one just ended, abruptly and unresolved. Now, I understand why the author might have done this, but one of my biggest pet peeves is when I have to get the sequel simply to finish the story. There were two plots here and at least one of them could have been resolved without leaving the reader completely hanging. I will look for the third installment in this trilogy, but I don't like having to buy an additional book just to finish the story. I wish that authors would instead create a story that resonates with me and leaves me wanting more.

Thanks to Netgalley for the opportunity to review this book. You can learn more about Patricia Sands here. You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 9/15

* * *
3/5 Stars

Monday, September 21, 2015

Five Days in Skye...Review

About the book:
Hospitality consultant Andrea Sullivan has one last chance to snag a high-profile client or she'll have to kiss her dreams of promotion good-bye. When she's sent to meet Scottish celebrity chef James MacDonald on the Isle of Skye, she just wants to finish her work as efficiently as possible. Yet her client is not the opportunistic womanizer he portrays himself to be, and her attraction to him soon dredges up memories she'd rather leave buried. 

For James, renovating the family hotel is a fulfillment of his late father's dreams. When his hired consultant turns out to be beautiful, intelligent, and completely unimpressed by his public persona, he makes it his mission to win her over. He just never expects to fall under her spell.

Soon, both Andrea and James must face the reality that God may have a far different purpose for their lives—and that five days in Skye will forever change their outlook on life and love.

Andrea Sullivan needs to sign a high-profile client in order to gain her dream promotion. So she travels to the Isle of Skye to see a new hotel and to try and sign Scottish celebrity chef James MacDonald to a contract. Believing him to be a womanizer, he spends the next 5 days convincing her he's not.

Scotland is one of my favorite literary settings and this did not disappoint. The story covers five days and getting to know Andrea and James was fun. Loved their families, loved the story. This was a great beach read. The Christian aspects are light.

First in the McDonald Family Trilogy. I look forward to more.

Thanks to Netgalley for the opportunity to review this book. You can learn more about Carla Laureano here. You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 8/15

* * * *
4/5 Stars

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Weekend Reflections 9/19

Looking outside....it's feeling like fall. We've had some rain and the air is definitely cooler.

Listening...to blissful silence. I like slow Saturday mornings.

Loving...a warm home, a fireplace and people to share it with.

Thinking...that I can't believe we're halfway through September already.

In my kitchen...a cup of hot chocolate. Always. For dinner? I'm not sure. We may grill some steak. We've grilled chicken and pork chops this week already.

Wearing...red penguin pajamas and a black t-shirt.

Needing...to finish my dictation tape. 

Reading...I have had a slow reading year. Seriously, I think I'm only up to 30 books. I've had some health issues and have really stepped back from reading, blogging and reviewing. I should feel more remorse about that, but I don't.

Today...Doctor Who is back!!

Hoping...to get some work done on the car and some shingles on the roof fixed. The Doctor and The Boy, not me. :) I still have a kitchen to clean. I sort of left it all last night...

Planning...the next week. Some professional changes are coming and I'm a bit apprehensive, but excited at the same time.

Gratitude...for a warm and comfortable home and a family I adore.

From my world... 

I love the wide open Idaho sky. It's never ending and gorgeous.

What about you? What are you reflecting on this week? How has your week gone?