Thursday, April 26, 2018

What I'm Watching Now

A year ago if someone would have asked me what I was watching, I am not sure I could have answered that question.  I am famous for watching an episode or two of a show and then never watching any more.  This year I have tried to make more of an effort to actually watch an entire series - to finally look at my list on Netflix and select something I've added to my list of things I want to watch - and actually watch it.

So, here's what I've been spending my time watching:

1.  The West Wing 

This series first aired from 1999-2006, so according to my kids it is an old show.  (I suppose when they see the flip phones and large desktop computer monitors it does look old to them).  I am totally in love with pretty much everything about West Wing. I love the entire cast, I love the idea of a show depicting life in the White House, I love how every show gives me a chill at some point in time as it shows what being an American is all about.  I'm midway through season 4, and although it might take me a few more months to get through this whole series, I'm hooked.

2.  Flint Town

I read a book about the water crisis in Flint, and couldn't help but be sucked in to this documentary on Netflix.  I'm only midway through this, too, but so far it appears to be more about the time after the water crisis, and life in a tough city.  There are eight episodes in the first season which are largely spent depicting life in the police force in Flint.

3. American Idol - Maddie Poppe - I don't watch much television, but a little over a year ago I heard that a local girl was trying to make it big.  Then she came and performed at a concert in our city park last summer.  And I thoroughly enjoyed her singing, and the fact that she is a little bit quirky and unique, and totally fine with that.  A few weeks ago she came again and performed.  She is on American Idol right now and has made it to the Top 10.  I am so hoping she does well.  Go, Maddie!  

And for me, having three things I'm watching is pretty impressive.  What recommendations do you have for me?

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Waiting on Wednesday: The Myth of Perpetual Summer

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly post where I highlight a soon to be released title. 

This week's pick:  The Myth of Perpetual Summer by Susan Crandall
Due out: June 19, 2018

Synopsis taken from Goodreads:

A struggling girl uncovers her family’s history and sees how the lies of the past echo throughout their dysfunctional lives today. From the national bestselling author of Whistling Past the Graveyard comes a moving coming-of-age tale set in the tumultuous sixties that harkens to both Ordinary Grace and The Secret Life of Bees.

Tallulah James’s parents’ volatile relationship, erratic behavior, and hands-off approach to child rearing set tongues to wagging in their staid Mississippi town, complicating her already uncertain life. She takes the responsibility of shielding her family’s reputation and raising her younger twin siblings onto her youthful shoulders.

If not for the emotional constants of her older brother, Griff, and her old guard Southern grandmother, she would be lost. When betrayal and death arrive hand in hand, she takes to the road, headed to what turns out to be the not-so-promised land of Southern California. Seven years later, she’s drawn home when her younger brother is accused of murder. Finally, she learns the truth of the terrible tragedy that has lain hidden for so long.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

TLC Book Tour: You All Grow Up and Leave Me

I love a good memoir, and Piper Weiss' account of growing up in New York City's upper class is interesting by itself.  But Weiss also recounts her relationship with her tennis coach, a man that she has fond memories of, but who (in a bizarre twist) attempts to abduct a young woman and commits suicide afterward.

Weiss does a great job of making me nostalgic for the early 90s, describing this time period and dropping pop culture references that I haven't thought of in a long while.  I could easily relate to Weiss and her need to fit in and have friends, the insecurities of a teenage girl.

Her private school, Park Avenue childhood isn't one that is familiar to me, yet Weiss is able to write of this lifestyle without making it seem as though her privilege made her better than anyone else.

This memoir of Weiss' life was interesting enough to me, and yet she also incorporates the real life saga of her tennis coach, Gary Wilensky, who coached her and other teenage girls.  His suicide after trying to abduct a teenage girl shocked Weiss, and now years later, she has decided to investigate what happened in the 1990s when she knew this man.  

Weiss' memoir made me feel as though the two of us could have been friends.  I could easily understand her interest in a portion of her adolescence that was never fully explained or disclosed to her, and how she wanted to know more about a person she was close to at one time.  Her portrayal of Gary Wilensky piqued my interest so that I have done some research myself into the events she described.  As a reader I love adding to my experience with a book by finding more ways to learn about them.

This is a memoir I will gladly recommend to friends.  It's interesting, easy to read, and Weiss is a person readers can relate to.

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.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Monday Mini Reviews: Three Grown-Up Reads

This was a week where I actually read some of the library books I checked out before I took them back.  Lately I have lots of books checked out to me, but my stack of ARCs is so overwhelming, I just look at the library books, then take them back and put them on hold again.  

1.  Sisters First: Stories From Our Wild and Wonderful Life by Jenna Bush Hager and Barbara Pierce Bush - I got to meet the Bush twins last year at BEA and was looking forward to this book since then.  I started to read it and then saw that I could get it on Audible and hear the twins narrate it themselves.  I loved it.  I didn't think anything they said was earth-shattering and I have heard many of their anecdotes before, but it was fun to hear about their childhood and listen to their perspective of growing up in the White House.  I finished this up on the day their Ganny passed away, and especially appreciated their memories of her.

2.  Force of Nature by Jane Harper - this is the second in the Aaron Falk series set in Australia, following The Dry that was published last year.  Aside from presence of Falk in both books, Force of Nature could certainly stand alone.  I liked this one more than The Dry (although that novel is also enjoyable), and was sucked in to trying to figure out what happened to Alice, a woman who embarks on a work trip/survival camp weekend, but doesn't come back with the rest of the women in the group.  The book moves back and forth between the search for Alice, and the events as they unfolded as the group set out for their survival weekend.  Secrets, a long ago crime, the Australian bush all help make this novel enjoyable. I have high hopes for this series and can't wait for the next installment.

3.  The Female Persuasion by Meg Wolitzer - I have tried reading other books by Wolitzer without a great deal of success.  However, Annie B. Jones gushes about this book on her podcast From the Front Porch, admitting similar feelings about other Wolitzer books, so I thought I should give it a chance.  I liked the Female Persuasion and give it a sold four stars.  But I didn't love it.  Wolitzer's characters are perhaps what I enjoyed the most.  They are fully developed, real, flawed and interesting.  Greer's story is the focus for much of the novel.  She is a college freshman when she meets Faith Frank, a famous woman who has been a leading figure in the women's movement. Their chance encounter in the women's room eventually impacts Greer's entire life.  We see Greer and her friend, Zee, grow up, and make their own way in the world, their dreams changing over time.  I love writers who can create such real characters. I am still thinking about this book after finishing it several days ago, and think it might be one of those stories that continue to grow better in my mind as I keep thinking about it.

I've got lots in store for this week: soccer practices and games, track meets, golf meets, driver's ed classes for Middle Sister and a lot of organizing and ordering to do at work.  I hope I can work in some time for reading as well.

Any recommendations for me?

Friday, April 20, 2018

Friday Five: I Think Spring Might Have Finally Sprung

I am hopeful that we have finally seen the last of our winter weather.  We had a snow day (?!?) on Wednesday which just drags the school year on an extra day in June, but was actually a nice little break in the middle of a bunch of weeks of school that seem endless.  

Anyway, this morning it's a balmy 19 degrees, but I've heard that from here on out it might actually feel like spring.

Fingers crossed.

1.  Vera Bradley Blanket - Little Sister picked up a nasty cold and along with the snow she decided to look for a new blanket online. Vera Bradley has some great sales, so she was happy to have a new cozy blanket to cuddle up in.  I'll admit, I am a little bit jealous. It's super soft.

2.  Embroidered Denim Skirt - so I would probably never buy this for myself because I feel like people might judge it as being too short for someone in their forties. And I would be self conscious the entire time. But a younger me would have loved this skirt.  I wish I could convince one of my girls that they like it.

3.  Pom pom and bead layered necklace - I didn't buy the pom pom necklace I fell in love with last year.  Who knew they would still be advertising pom pom necklaces a year later?  And who knew I would still want one?

4.  Ruffle Sleeve Eyelet Top - I love eyelet. And this comes in plain white or white with the pink stitching.  

5.  Strappy Platform Espadrilles - at first I thought these were black, but they are navy and since everything I own for summer seems to me navy, I might have to check these out.

6.  Bombas socks - apparently these socks are something I need to investigate. I keep hearing about them and the extra cushioning in certain areas.  

7.    Bell Sleeve French Terry Jacket - I have looked at this a few times and still like it.  At one point, it also came in gray.

8.  Canvas Stacking Bracelets - and a few bracelets......something I like looking at yet never think to wear.

9.  Hunter Pouch - I haven't been to Target since Hunter came out.  I'm excited to see what they've got.  These pouches are just $9, and who couldn't use a little pouch to store things in?

10.  Barbara Bush Tribute - Barbara Bush's death just makes me so sad.  What an amazing lady.  

11.  Maddie Poppe - Maddie Poppe is a local now performing on American Idol. I've seen her perform twice and she has a quirkiness about her I appreciate.  Help an Iowa girl out and listen to her perform. She's now in the top 14.

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

Thursday, April 19, 2018

TLC Book Tours: Fox Hunt

Mohammed Al Samawi's memoir begins at a critical moment: he is trapped in his bathroom, desperately fearing for his life as he tries to leave Yemen.  I was immediately drawn in and invested in finding out what happened to this man.

Al Samawi goes back in time from that point to write about his childhood, how his arm was damaged, his relationship with his sisters and brothers, and his family's devout Muslim faith.

Then Mohammed is given a Bible, and in reading it he begins to doubt the beliefs he has held his entire life.  He has grown up believing that Christians and Jews were horrible people, but the Bible casts doubts on that as well.  Mohammed can't help himself; he begins to meet Christians and Jews via social media.

His activity online brings death threats, and he is forced into hiding in Aden, Yemen's capital city.  However, Yemen is in the midst of a civil war, and Aden isn't a safe place to find shelter.

And that is where a group of people Mohammed barely knows try to get him out of the country and to safety.  Any one of these people could have ignored his pleas for help, but chose to believe that their actions may make a difference in someone else's life.  

This book is uplifting and suspenseful. I found it difficult not to skim at points simply because I needed to know that Mohammed was okay.  It is a story of how, as human beings, we must care about each other despite our differences.  It is the story of how one person can make an impact.  The Fox Hunt is a great memoir, a great look at what refugees experience to come to the United States, and a great lesson for us all.

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 18, 2018

Waiting on Wednesday: The Masterpiece

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly post where I feature a soon to be released title I'm excited to read.  

This week's pick: The Masterpiece by Fiona Davis
Due out: August 7, 2018

Synopsis taken from Amazon:

In her latest captivating novel, nationally bestselling author Fiona Davis takes readers into the glamorous lost art school within Grand Central Terminal, where two very different women, fifty years apart, strive to make their mark on a world set against them.

For the nearly nine million people who live in New York City, Grand Central Terminal is a crown jewel, a masterpiece of design. But for Clara Darden and Virginia Clay, it represents something quite different.

For Clara, the terminal is the stepping stone to her future, which she is certain will shine as the brightly as the constellations on the main concourse ceiling. It is 1928, and twenty-five-year-old Clara is teaching at the lauded Grand Central School of Art. A talented illustrator, she has dreams of creating cover art for Vogue, but not even the prestige of the school can override the public's disdain for a "woman artist." Brash, fiery, confident, and single-minded--even while juggling the affections of two men, a wealthy would-be poet and a brilliant experimental painter--Clara is determined to achieve every creative success. But she and her bohemian friends have no idea that they'll soon be blindsided by the looming Great Depression, an insatiable monster with the power to destroy the entire art scene. And even poverty and hunger will do little to prepare Clara for the greater tragedy yet to come.

Nearly fifty years later, in 1974, the terminal has declined almost as sharply as Virginia Clay's life. Full of grime and danger, from the smoke-blackened ceiling to the pickpockets and drug dealers who roam the floor, Grand Central is at the center of a fierce lawsuit: Is the once-grand building a landmark to be preserved, or a cancer to be demolished? For Virginia, it is simply her last resort. Recently divorced, she has just accepted a job in the information booth in order to support herself and her college-age daughter, Ruby. But when Virginia stumbles upon an abandoned art school within the terminal and discovers a striking watercolor hidden under the dust, her eyes are opened to the elegance beneath the decay. She embarks on a quest to find the artist of the unsigned masterpiece--an impassioned chase that draws Virginia not only into the battle to save Grand Central but deep into the mystery of Clara Darden, the famed 1920s illustrator who disappeared from history in 1931.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

TLC Book Tour: My Dear Hamilton

I'm still waiting to see Hamilton, the musical (and it looks like I'll be waiting for years at this point), but I am enjoying all the books being published about this person who played such an integral role in our nation's creation.  

My Dear Hamilton is the second novel I've read about Hamilton's wife, Eliza.  It has been interesting comparing the two books as both are fictionalized versions of who this woman was.  

This is a magnificent recounting of not only Eliza Hamilton's life but also of the early days of the newly created United States of America.  Although this is a work of historical fiction, Dray and Kamoie have done extensive research about Eliza and offer historical notes at the end that explain certain differences between their version of events and other accounts of her life.  Because she lived so long ago, records do not exist about some of the events that have written about, but they have done their best to provide a realistic interpretation of this woman.

My Dear Hamilton was a novel that I wanted to just curl up with for an afternoon. I was transported back in time and could imagine the homes, the clothing, and life in the late 1700s and early 1800s.  Eliza rubbed elbows with so many important historical figures that I found myself exclaiming over each familiar name I recognized. I loved seeing how these people were connected to each other.

My favorite parts were about Eliza as a wife and mother. I loved hearing about her children and she was a compelling narrator of her life story. Although Eliza's relationships with both James Monroe and Lafayette are worthy of mention, these were not the portions of this book that appealed to me the most.  

With all the buzz about Hamilton, My Dear Hamilton would be a great place for anyone who wants to know more about Mrs. Alexander Hamilton.  People who already know a great deal about this woman should also find this book fascinating, and book clubs might want to consider it as well.

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

Monday, April 16, 2018

Monday Mini-Reviews: Outstanding Forthcoming Non-Fiction

I've read some YA, some adult fiction and some non-fiction over the past week.  Most of it was fine.  Enjoyable, even.  But the two non-fiction books were ones that really stood out to me. Neither is published yet, which gives you plenty of time to pre-order them from somewhere or reserve them at your library.

What The Eyes Don't See: A Story of Crisis, Resistance, and Hope in an American City by Mona Hanna-Attisha is set for release in June.  Hanna-Attisha is a pediatrician in Flint, Michigan, who writes passionately of her discovery of the lead polluting the water that she was recommending her young, innocent patients drink.  Once she discovers the crisis she is sure it will only take notifying the right people, and this wrong will be righted.  Unfortunately, it is not that easy, and there are many roadblocks, including the government who turned a blind eye to the data presented to them.  The crisis in Flint has finally gained national attention (there's a Netflix documentary and a movie already out about this tragedy), and it's a fascinating - and disturbing- story about a town that already is so rife with poverty being ignored and mistreated even more.  This book is well written. The author tells of her own background - her family leaving Saddam Hussein's Iraq - which helped me identify with her. She's able to use her own life story as the backdrop for the Flint water crisis, and ties it all in nicely by book's end.  Reading this piqued my curiosity even further and I am needing to find time to watch the documentary about this soon.

There Are No Grown-ups: A Midlife Coming of Age Story by Pamela Druckerman - Druckerman's book, Bringing Up Bebe was one I read and enjoyed when it was first published. I had young children at the time and could easily relate to her anecdotes and advice.  In this book, I am feeling Druckerman is once again a kindred spirit.  She writes of the surprise she felt when she realized that she was no longer being called mademoiselle, but madame instead.  She shares anecdotes, advice and includes "you know you're in your forties" lists between chapters.  And to almost all of them, I found myself nodding along.  (There is one chapter where she sets up a threesome for her husband for his fortieth birthday that made me wonder what in the world I felt I had in common with this woman).  I feel like most of my friends would find something interesting in this book and nod their heads as they read, just like I have.  I appreciate there is someone out there who is my age and not afraid to write about what the forties are like.  

Do either of these appeal to you? What non-fiction have you read that I need to put on my TBR?

Friday, April 13, 2018

Friday Five

All week long I have procrastinated putting together my Friday post.  Even last night I just couldn't get it together enough to browse online.  That made for a hurried morning especially since I was totally sucked in to a book that I wanted to finish.

So, here are a few things that have caught my eye this week:

1.  Textured Organic Linen Cardigan - I love linen- especially on other people. I feel like every time I wear linen it is a big wrinkly mess before long.  Maybe this sweater doesn't have the wrinkling capabilities of other linen items.

2.  Johnny Was Austeen Top - I didn't realize that Garnet Hill carried Johnny Was.  I love embroidery. 

3.  Donald Pliner Fifi Sandals - several years ago my school came out with a new dress code that included the "no open toed shoes" rule.  Since then, my sandal collection has been going downhill.  I loved this sandal for the past few years.  I still want a pair.

4.  Birkenstock Arizona Slide Sandal - these Birkenstocks come in several colors - and for a low price - because they are a plastic and more of a pool shoe that you can throw on when you make your many trips to the pool with your kids in the summer.

5.  Sam Edelman Bernice Sandal - as I've been looking at sandals, I can see that I am getting pickier about any I might buy.  I don't want anything with a big heel - I'm just uncoordinated enough that I might fall over or sprain my ankle.  I also don't want anything too flimsy looking. I feel like these are a nice compromise.

6.  Striped Tie-Neck Tunic - I love a good striped top and this one in red and navy would be perfect with white pants or capris - or even shorts.

7.  Lacy Cut-out Back Shell - I love the color of this shirt and the front detail - the back cut-out is just an added bonus.

8.  Women's Stripe Kona Maxi Skirt - I think I've featured this skirt before, but Eddie Bauer has it in their spring catalog again, and it's one that I've admired for a few years now.  I might break down and buy it especially since they have it on sale for $49 now.

9.  Barkley Marathon - I'm trying to watch a few things on Netflix this year (as opposed to just adding things to my "to watch" list and watching nothing) and am enjoying West Wing immensely.  My friend, Kristin, recommended this documentary on Amazon Prime to me. And I promise I'll get around to watching it - as soon as I watch the four remaining seasons of WW.

10.  Bubly Water - I've seen some bloggers mention Bubly as a nice alternative to La Croix. I think it is very similar, but in my quest to eat healthier, I've enjoyed having this as an option at home.

That's it for me this week. What's caught your eye?