Thursday, April 27, 2017

TLC Book Tour: The Forbidden Garden

Ellen Herrick's book has such a beautiful cover that readers will find hard to resist.  The story inside will keep readers interested and entertained, too.

Just so readers are aware, The Forbidden Garden is the second novel by Herrick featuring the Sparrow Sisters.  I don't think it's an absolute must that you read The Sparrow Sisters before enjoying The Forbidden Garden, but it took me a while to figure out that there was a backstory I didn't know anything about.

Sorrel Sparrow and her sisters manage a garden in New England and have a gift for growing and nurturing plants.  Because of this gift, Sorrel has been invited to take over the care of a Shakespearean garden in England that is in disrepair.  Sorrel is alarmed by the state of the garden when she first arrives, and then learns that many have tried to fix the garden, but without luck.

Apparently there is a family secret that has poisoned the garden, and Sorrel is left to figure things out as she cares for the plants, providing them love and a chance to flourish.

Herrick's descriptions are beautiful and I could almost feel myself transported to the English countryside.  The mystery surrounding the garden drew me in and made me curious to know more about what had happened in the Kirkwood family's past.  There is the idea that the Sorrel sisters possess some form of magic that allows them to be able to grow gardens the way they do, but that is hinted at more than anything.

This novel was a pleasure to curl up with. I liked leaving the world behind to spend time in a beautiful English garden with some interesting characters.  I wasn't surprised by the ending, but that didn't disappoint me at all.  Herrick's novel is charming and fun.

Thanks to TLC Book Tours for providing a copy of this book for my review.  All opinions expressed are, as always, my own.

For more information visit the HarperCollins website.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Waiting on Wednesday: The Lost History of Stars

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme that was hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine. Jill no longer hosts this meme, but I am continuing to feature a new book each Wednesday that I am looking forward to seeing published.

This week's pick: The Lost History of Stars by Dave Boling
Due out:  June 6, 2017

Synopsis taken from Goodreads:

From a forgotten moment in history comes an inspiring novel about finding strength and courage in the most unimaginable places. 

In turn-of-the-century South Africa, fourteen-year-old Lettie, her younger brother, and her mother are Dutch Afrikaner settlers who have been taken from their farm by British soldiers and are being held in a concentration camp. It is early in the Boer War, and Lettie’s father, grandfather, and brother are off fighting the British as thousands of Afrikaner women and children are detained. The camps are cramped and disease ridden; the threat of illness and starvation are ever present. Determined to dictate their own fate, Lettie and her family give each other strength and hope as they fight to survive amid increasingly dire conditions.

Brave and defiant, Lettie finds comfort in memories of stargazing with her grandfather, in her plan to be a writer, and in surprising new friendships that will both nourish and challenge her. A beautiful testament to love, family, and sheer force of will, The Lost History of Stars was inspired by Dave Boling’s grandfather’s own experience as a soldier during the Boer War. Lettie is a figure of abiding grace, and her story is richly drawn and impossible to forget.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Tween Novel: Me and Marvin Gardens

I started reading this novel on a Friday night.  A few chapters in I did a little investigation and discovered that Amy Sarig King also writes as A.S. King and I have read and enjoyed some of her YA novels.  The bar was set pretty high for this book.

Me and Marvin Gardens is a great tween book that explores a lot of really important topics. 

Obe's family has lost their farmland to a new housing development that is being built.  As new kids arrive in the neighborhood, Obe's best friend Tommy deserts Obe for the new kids.  

Obe spends time wandering around by the creek near his home, only to discover one day that there is a strange animal he can't identify living there.  

This animal looks a little like a dog, a little like a pig, yet is slimy and eats plastic.  Obe decides to name this animal Marvin Gardens and looks forward to seeing him every day.

However, he is aware that others might not be so kind to Marvin Gardens. And keeping this animal a secret might not be the best decision for Marvin.

King brings up issues of bullying, environmental issues with animals, and the idea of how one feels such ties and love for their land and way of life.

This is a great tween read with plenty of talking points and things to think about.  I have this one on my fourth grader's nightstand in hopes that we can read this together soon.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Friday Five

TGIF! Despite the fact that I wasn't all that excited to go back to work on Monday (I could have used a day off to recover from Easter), this week has gone by quickly.  It's kind of amazing how these Fridays seem to keep rolling around, which means that soon it will be summer vacation!  Thank goodness!

Here are a few things that caught my eye this week:

1.  Denim Raw Hem Bermuda Shorts - after listening to Big Mama and Boo Mama on their podcast, I need to get with it.  Apparently denim shorts are big this year.  That's good news for me since I never stopped wearing them entirely when they weren't so in style.  This pair looks pretty versatile to me and not super short.

2.   Breeze Skirt - Print - when Big Sister was inducted into the Cyclone Achievement Club a few weeks ago at school it became painfully obvious how few dressy things I own.  I find lots of cute stuff, but since I wear a skirt or dress infrequently, it's hard to justify the purchase.  I do love this outfit and think I could even wear it on vacation this summer.

 and Breeze Top

3.  Bernardo Monica Thongs - and sandals...this area of my wardrobe is also lacking.  These are some I could wear with jean shorts or a skirt. 

4.  Embroidered Gauze Tunic  - Embroidery must be on my list of things I love - right along with fur and sequins.  Love this top.

5.  Melody 1963 an Amazon Prime special  - when I was perusing Amazon Prime I noticed that American Girl has a few cute shows for girls. My ten year old and I could spend some quality time watching a few of them. This one set in 1963 caught my eye simply because of the time period.

6.  Beans Means Heinz  - this is a video that my pen-pal (who I have now "known" but never met for over 30 years) posted on Facebook. Apparently they have these restaurants in England.  I'm intrigued to say the least.

And that's it, folks.  And how about you? What's caught your eye this week?

Thursday, April 20, 2017

TLC Book Tour: Beyond the Label

Maureen Chiquet and I really don't have much in common - at least from an initial glance.  However, as soon as I started reading, I could tell that this was someone who faced the same struggles and challenges that women the world over face on a daily basis.  She gets it.

Chiquet's book reads more like a story, beginning with some background information on her childhood, but really starting in on her first trip to France where she truly found her passion and place in the world.  

She chronicles her moves up the ladder to success in the workplace. And she also discusses honestly how that impacted her children and husband.  I could really relate to her as a mother. Even though my job doesn't take me away from my girls for extended periods of time, it is still a juggling act to get to where is needed all the time.

The title Beyond the Label encourages us to take a look at the various roles we each play.  A mother isn't necessarily someone who does the majority of parenting.  Although that is what society expects and what most think it means to be a mom, Chiquet encourages us all to look beyond the norms and find what works for us as individuals. 

Chiquet's book reminds me a little of Sheryl Sandberg's Lean In, which I read and enjoyed.  In addition to providing a good message for women who are conflicted about how they can have it all, this was also a fun inside look at The Gap and Old Navy, two stores I enjoy purchasing from.

Chiquet's Beyond the Label is a quick read and women will find much they can identify with in it.

Thanks to TLC Book Tours for providing a copy of Beyond the Label for my review.  All opinions expressed are, as always, my own.

Visit the HarperCollins website to learn more about Beyond the Label.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

TLC Book Tour: Head Strong

Every once in a while a self-help book really resonates with me.  Head Strong is definitely a thought provoking book and I could find many points in this book I could identify with.

Who hasn't felt exhausted or felt like they weren't at their sharpest?  Dave Asprey begins this book by sharing his own story. He was overweight and just not feeling like his brain was working to the best of it's ability, and he set out to do something about it.  

There is quite a bit of scientific information, but the general public and people without a science background can still grasp what Asprey is talking about.  I didn't read this entire book in one sitting or even a day, but worked on over several days.  

Just a few tidbits I've taken away from this book:

  • the light you take in can affect your brain.  "Junk light" is just as bad as junk food. To counteract some of the junk light you will be exposed to, begin your day with some natural sunlight.
  • some foods may be toxic to your body.  In 2016, a sample of more than eight thousand grains found that 96% contained at least ten types of mycotoxin.  
  • Exercise is one of the best ways to stimulate the release of an important protein and encourages the survival of the fittest mitochondria.
  • Asprey offers information about HIT workouts vs. endurance workouts, something that I often question myself. 
There is so much in Head Strong to think about and plenty of ways I can make small changes in my life.  

I wish making changes were as easy as reading a self-help books, but it certainly is good to re-fresh and and re-think certain habits.

Thanks to TLC Book Tours for providing a copy of this book for my review.  All opinions expressed are, as always, my own.

Visit HarperCollins website to find out more about this book.

Waiting on Wednesday: The Alice Network

Waiting on Wednesday was a weekly meme that Jill from the Breaking the Spine hosted. Although Jill no longer hosts this meme, I'm continuing to post information about a soon to be released title each Wednesday.

This week's pick: The Alice Network by Kate Quinn

Due out: June 6, 2017 

Product Information taken from Goodreads: 

1947. In the chaotic aftermath of World War II, American college girl Charlie St. Clair is pregnant, unmarried, and on the verge of being thrown out of her very proper family. She's also nursing a desperate hope that her beloved cousin Rose, who disappeared in Nazi-occupied France during the war, might still be alive. So when Charlie's parents banish her to Europe to have her "little problem" taken care of, Charlie breaks free and heads to London, determined to find out what happened to the cousin she loves like a sister.

1915. A year into the Great War, Eve Gardiner burns to join the fight against the Germans and unexpectedly gets her chance when she's recruited to work as a spy. Sent into enemy-occupied France, she's trained by the mesmerizing Lili, the "Queen of Spies", who manages a vast network of secret agents right under the enemy's nose.

Thirty years later, haunted by the betrayal that ultimately tore apart the Alice Network, Eve spends her days drunk and secluded in her crumbling London house. Until a young American barges in uttering a name Eve hasn't heard in decades, and launches them both on a mission to find the truth matter where it leads.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

TLC Book Tour: Miss You

Kate Eberlen's novel is a quick read.  As light-hearted and fun as this novel is, I finished it with plenty of thoughts running through  my mind.

First off, while this novel is fun, light-hearted and entertaining, there's a lot more to it than that. Tess and Gus have both been through huge losses in their lives. Gus' brother died in a skiing accident and Tess' mother died of breast cancer. Both characters struggle to go on after that.

Topics like the breast cancer gene and autism are tackled and developed accurately and realistically.

This novel left me thinking about the small choices we each make in our daily lives and how these seemingly meaningless decisions can have an impact on our future.  Tess and Gus met in 1997, yet despite the fact that they were meant to be together, didn't even really connect until years later.  Are all of us missing small events that could be life changing?

I didn't love Tess or Gus.  Both make some pretty bad decisions - infidelity being a big turn-off for me.  It made me question their character throughout the rest of the book and left me not really trusting either of them.  

Sophie Kinsella's quote on the cover of Miss You talks about the many near-misses of this meant to be couple and their lives criss-crossing over the years, yet I never felt that this story was that of a couple. The chapters, which alternate between Tess and Gus seem separate, and perhaps my quick reading caused me to miss some of the near-connections.  

While I didn't love this novel, I loved that it gave me things to think about and characters that caused me to feel something.  Although I enjoy likable characters and happily ever afters, I also enjoy a bit of a different perspective as well, and writers who make a reader think and feel something about what they are reading.  For that, Miss You does a great job.

Thanks to TLC Book Tours for providing a copy of this book for my review. All opinions expressed are, as always, my own.

Visit the HarperCollins website for more information about Miss You.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Three Fun YA Reads

I have been churning through some great YA novels lately.  Middle Sister has a group of friends that regularly visit her and go through her bookshelves to find something good to read.  So, since summer is approaching and that happens more frequently, I have enjoyed putting a few new things on her shelves.

Windfall by Jennifer E Smith- is a fun novel. Alice has long had a crush on her best friend, Teddy, who doesn't seem to notice. Things get more complicated when Teddy wins the lottery and must make some big decisions.

Waking in Time by Angie Stanton -this is a little bit romance, a little bit history, a little bit time travel.  Abbi is mourning the loss of her grandmother when she moves to college, the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  When she wakes up on her second day there she finds herself in 1983. That's just the beginning of her time travel which allows her to know her grandmother as a young woman and piece together some family secrets.

Things I Should Have Known by Claire LaZebnik is a touching novel that covers the love between siblings, a little romance, and challenges some families face.  Chloe's the younger sister, but she's always been helping her older sister, Ivy, who is autistic. As Ivy begins to wonder about things like romance, Chloe decides to help her sister find a boyfriend.  

All three of these were enjoyable and fun. I am excited to see which of Middle Sister's friends decide to read these over the summer months.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Friday Five: Easter Edition

Easter weekend used to mean getting each daughter a new dress for church. That's kind of gone by the wayside for us over the years. It seems to be cold on Easter usually--- too cold for a spring dress.  And honestly, not all of my girls want to wear a dress to church, so it seems like a poor investment.  

I did go shopping last weekend and found a few things that worked for my girls - and a few things to put in their Easter baskets.  

I also found some great things online.  Here are a few that excited me this week:

1. Ruffled Alma Tunic Dress - I realized recently how few dresses/dressy clothes I have anymore.  I like this one a lot.

2.  Libbie Dress - and this one, too.  

3.  Minette Shoes - and I  might night have picked these shoes out had I not seen them with the dress (above), but once I saw the model wearing them with the dress, I realized how fantastic it looked.

4.   Stitch Stripe Sweater - I'd like to say it's too warm for a sweater, but that isn't true at all. Unfortunately. I do like the blue of this sweater, although the neckline looks wide, which is something that usually doesn't work for me.  I'm just ignoring that aspect right now and enjoying the color and lightweight-ness of it.

5. Women's Eddie Bauer Haller Slip-on - I wouldn't mind having these to slip on quickly as I take the dog out, or go and run errands.  

6.  Grace and Frankie on Netflix - I caught the first episode of Grace and Frankie and laughed a lot.  I have several people who would enjoy this show and am excited to find some time to watch it myself.

So, how about you? What's caught your eye this week?