Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.

This week's pick: The Last Breath by Kimberly Belle
Due out: September 30, 2014

Product Description taken from Amazon:
From a remarkable new voice in suspenseful women's fiction comes an emotionally searing drama about a woman who risks her life to discover the devastating truth about her family… 
Humanitarian aid worker Gia Andrews chases disasters around the globe for a living. It's the perfect lifestyle to keep her far away from her own personal ground zero. Sixteen years ago, Gia's father was imprisoned for brutally killing her stepmother. Now he's come home to die of cancer, and she's responsible for his care—and coming to terms with his guilt. 
Gia reluctantly resumes the role of daughter to the town's most infamous murderer, a part complete with protesters on the lawn and death threats that are turning tragedy into front-page news. Returning to life in small-town Tennessee involves rebuilding relationships that distance and turmoil have strained, though finding an emotional anchor in the attractive hometown bartender is certainly helping Gia cope. 
As the past unravels before her, Gia will find herself torn between the stories that her family, their friends and neighbors, and even her long-departed stepmother have believed to be real all these years. But in the end, the truth—and all the lies that came before—may have deadlier consequences than she could have ever anticipated….

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Everything I Never Told You

Celeste Ng's novel Everything I Never Told You was nearly impossible to put down. 

From the beginning line, "Lydia is dead. But they don't know this yet," we are introduced to the Lee family, living in the 1970s in Ohio.

Lydia's death is devastating to her parents, and as they are left to cope with their grief, they are shocked to learn who their daughter really was. The brainy girl with friends covered up her failing grades, and never acknowledged the fact that there were no friends at all.

Ng explores the Lee family, starting from revealing more about Lydia's parents, James and Marilyn.  Their past is an important part of how Lydia has turned out.  Marilyn's dream was to become a doctor, something unheard of for women of that era.  James, as a Chinese American, was snubbed by nearly everyone, and despite his intelligence found it difficult to find work in academia.

Their own failures are part of what makes Lydia who she is.  

Although we know Lydia has died, it is unclear if her death was an accident, or suicide.  Through Ng's novel we are given more information about Lydia, allowing us to really know her and understand her.

Everything I Never Told You had me hooked from the very first page.  Ng's characters are human, and I was pulled into their lives, irritated with them at times, angry at other, but ultimately, wanting them to find happiness together.

I'm not in love with the cover, so I hope those readers who do judge a book by it's cover will still give this one a chance. Ng's novel is worth every minute.

Monday, July 28, 2014

The Sweet Spot

I absolutely loved Big Girls Panties by Stephanie Evanovich and was excited to see that The Sweet Spot would feature the love story of Amanda and Chase, characters I was already familiar with.

The love story is sweet - the way Chase pursues Amanda who wants nothing to do with him, believing he will use her and then discard her for some beautiful model.  Amanda is a successful woman on her own, and owns and operates a successful restaurant. She doesn't need to hang on Chase.  Yet their attraction persists, and eventually the two begin dating.

Chase seems almost too good to be true. He's gorgeously handsome, a famous baseball player. However, Chase is hiding one thing from Amanda initially, he likes things kinky in the bedroom.  

I like a good romance, but this is where things started to feel a bit Fifty Shades of Gray-ish to me.  In addition to the kinky bedroom antics, Chase tries to control Amanda, and Amanda who had been this wonderful strong female, becomes a wimp.

Their relationship goes through some rough water, and I kept reading eagerly hoping the two could turn things around.

This was an enjoyable read, although I did like Big Girl Panties more. I am still looking forward to anything written by Stephanie Evanovich, who is a talented writer and has created some great stories.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Sunday Salon: Visitors

This past week we have been lucky enough to catch up with good friends and family members who have visited us.

One of my best friends from high school came back for a visit. Her brother still lives in the area, so she and three of her four kids came over for supper and a few games (pick up sticks above).

 Here we are...twenty-five years(give or take a few) after meeting

The girls have been especially excited to catch up with their cousin.  My brother-in-law, his wife, and daughter (above with Little Sister) are back from Montana for a visit.  We have had lots of time together, and the cousins have all enjoyed playing with each other.

Today it is cool and breezy.  We're all exhausted from a week of being busy, so I have girls sprawled out watching television and playing on their ipods.  Little do they know they are going to have to do a bit of work soon, but I am enjoying the peacefulness of the moment.

Yesterday I participated in a meal prep party hosted by Next Level Xtreme Fitness where I take classes.  I now have twelve healthy meals in my freezer waiting to be cooked for supper some night. It almost makes me look forward to going back to school just so I have an excuse to make them!

August is literally just around the corner, so this upcoming week will be spent cramming things in as the countdown to the school year begins.  Hope everyone is enjoying their last few days of July!

Friday, July 25, 2014

Friday Five:Summer In Iowa

Iowa isn't known for being an exciting place to vacation.  However, for those of us who live here, there are some very attractive parts of summer in Iowa.  Aside from the humidity, that is.

My brother-in-law and family are visiting from Montana for a week. My sister-in-law snapped this picture from the plane as they were getting ready to land.  Yes, Iowa is beautiful from the sky.

RAGBRAI stopped over in Waverly this year.  We stopped for a bit yesterday and enjoyed the bikers riding into town, the many food vendors, and people watching.  We even came back later to hear Arch Allies play.

Little Sister enjoyed a sno-cone on the hot day.  Flavor: cotton candy

It wouldn't be summer if there wasn't a sports camp or two or three to participate in.  Middle Sister and her friend attended a soccer camp all week put on by the British Soccer Club.  I love the accents!

And, of course, living practically in the woods means there are more creepy crawly things around.  Especially when children don't seem to shut doors.  I wasn't sure what the clicking sound was a few days ago, but eventually found this little guy when the singing started.  Of course, he was high up by a beam at the top of our vaulted ceiling. So, I just enjoyed his performance.  Yesterday morning he was perched on the top of the mirror in the bathroom, so I nicely trapped him in a container and moved him back outside.

There are still a few weeks of summer vacation left.  Which means I need to cram a few months activities into less than half that time.  

Enjoy your weekend, everyone!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

An Italian Wife

An Italian Wife is Ann Hood's latest novel - a story centering around Josephine Rimaldi and her family over the course of many decades.  

As a young girl in Italy, Josephine is married off by her family. Her husband leaves her to go to America and plans to soon send for her. Years go by before she travels to America to reacquaint herself with this man she barely knows.  They have many children, yet the marriage is loveless.

Hood continues to share Josephine's story through vignettes of her childrens' and grandchildrens' lives. Although I enjoyed Josephine's voice, her story felt lost to me as her offspring became the focus.

Although An Italian Wife started out strong, I felt lost when Josephine was no longer the focus.  Hood does bring it back together for a stronger finish, as Josephine's life draws to a close, one hundred years after it had begun.

Ann Hood is a talented writer. A few of her previous books, The Red Thread, Comfort, and The Knitting Circle are ones I continue to recommend to friends.  Maybe because the bar is set so high, An Italian Wife had a hard time measuring up.  Even though this novel is not one of my favorites by Hood, I am still excited to read anything she writes.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.

This week's selection: Shopaholic to the Stars by Sophie Kinsella
Due out: October 21, 2014

Product Description taken from Amazon:

Becky Brandon (née Bloomwood) has stars in her eyes. She and her daughter, Minnie, have joined husband Luke in LA—city of herbal smoothies, multimillion-dollar yoga retreats, and the lure of celebrity. Luke is there to help manage the career of famous actress Sage Seymour—and Becky is convinced she is destined to be Sage’s personal stylist, and go from there to every A-list celebrity in Hollywood! But things become complicated when Becky joins the team of Sage’s archrival. How will charming and supportive Luke deal with this conflict? Is it possible that what Becky wants most will end up hurting those she loves most? Shopaholic fans old and new will devour Sophie Kinsella’s newest adventure!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Since Last Summer

Joanna Philbin's Daughters series is one I recommend to my upper elementary/tween readers, knowing they will enjoy the glamour of the characters and not have content that is too adult.

Philbin's latest series, is geared toward a more grown-up audience. The second installment Since Last Summer, picks up one summer later as Rory heads back to East Hampton again. This year Rory is no longer just hired help. She and Connor have been dating since the summer before, and Rory is thrilled to get to spend the summer as guest of the Rules.  Isabella, Conner's sister, is Rory's best friend, and this summer gives the two a chance to catch up with each other.

Except things aren't going as Rory dreamed. Conner seems more interested in a group of school friends. When Rory is with them she is left out of conversations and just doesn't fit in.  And keeping the secret of Isabella's paternity from Conner is making things difficult as well. Mr. and Mrs. Rule are separated, and Conner is having a hard time understanding how this could be happening. And, as a Rule, he has been well schooled in how to put on a good show.

Isabella is having her own struggles over the summer. Mike, the guy she hooked up with keeps turning up unexpectedly, and despite the fact that Isabella has a really great new boyfriend, she can't help thinking about Mike. 

There's plenty of drama in Since Last Summer.  Although the content is more adult than Philbin's previous series, I still give her credit for somehow sneaking in some good discussion points/life lessons without seeming preachy.   I didn't agree with all of Rory's decisions - or Isabella's - but somehow Philbin is able to capture the confusion and emotions that are universal to the teen experience and create characters that are so relateable. 

I can't wait to see what Rory and Isabella are up to next summer in East Hampton.

Monday, July 21, 2014

The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry

Book lovers everywhere should grab a copy of Gabrielle Zevin's latest book. I've read some of Zevin's books before, and there are a few I enjoyed more than others, but The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry is going at the very top of my list.  Love, love, love!

I'll tell you that even after I read the inside flap I was skeptical.  I don't love the cover, and Zevin is a name I associate with fantasy/dystopian writing. Imagine my surprise when I began reading and couldn't put this book down.

A.J. Fikry and his wife decided to open a book store on Alice Island, and life is good.  And then Fikry's wife dies in an accident, which also kills their unborn child.  Now Fikry has alienated himself from nearly everyone, although he does still communicate with his wife's sister, Ismay.  

Amelia, the rep from Knightly Press tries to recommend some new titles to Fikry when she stops at his book store, but there are a lot of books he isn't interested in - or actually, just a few kinds he is interested in.

When a child is abandoned in his book store with a note asking him to please keep her and raise her, Fikry's life begins to change for the better.  He and his bookstore become a mainstay of their small island community.  And life is good.

This is mostly a feel good story, although there are some challenges and sorrows thrown in - along with a lot of book titles and references that the reader in me fell in love with.

If there is a book this summer that surprised me, that I fell in love with, that I have been telling others to read, The Storied Life of AJ Fikry is that book.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Sunday Salon

Happy Sunday!  We've had a week of cool weather- almost fall like, which I am not ready for. This next week we will be back to the hot, humid summer-like weather I love.

I've been trying out some new recipes I've found online.  Iowa Girl Eats has tons of fantastic recipes I have enjoyed . However, when I explained this salad recipe to my sister and a few friends, they commented on how time intensive it seemed.  Which I suppose is true.  Nothing took too long, but I did have to candy walnuts myself.  (To think - I was once challenged by making mac and cheese. I've come a long way!)  However, I would happily make, or eat, this salad again.  

Although summer is all about reading books - at least to me - I have had to spend some time this past week organizing the library books I have checked out.

Here's part of the mess as we organized them into stacks based on their due date.  I posted a similar picture on facebook which many friends commented on.  Yes, I am crazy.

What is summer in Iowa without getting to see the parade of tractors cross the state?  Each year a group of people drive their tractors across the state of Iowa. We never know when this big event is going to occur, but our town seems to be on their parade route. We had just gone to the grocery store on Friday and were on our way home when we encountered fifty tractors (give or take a few) coming in our direction. The first thing we did was remarked how thankful we were that we weren't stuck behind them all trying to get into town. And the second thing we did was pull over and watch the parade.  Exciting, I know.

I'm getting ready to try out a recipe my sister gave to my mom, and then hope to find time to read yet today.  It's gorgeous out.