Friday, August 29, 2014

Friday Five

The weeks are feeling busy and rushed so far this fall.  Can't believe it's Friday already, but am very excited about the three day weekend.

We've been hearing a lot of this song around our house. It's stuck in my head now.
I love Boden, but don't order from them often.  I am liking this tunic over a pair of leggings. Boden's Must Have Tunic

And shoes....I love this pair now, too.  I haven't ordered them yet, but they're in my cart!

I was eating these a few weeks ago and my mother-in-law looked at them with great interest.  I love these chips that make me at least feel like I am eating healthy, and have a little spice to them as well.

I've had my shoes that I use for the exercise class I take for over a year, and despite the fact that I don't want to spend money right now, have been looking at different shoes.  These Under Armour training shoes are the pair I've got my eyes on.

Happy Friday, everyone!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

My Name is Parvana

Each year I read Deborah Ellis' The Breadwinner with my fifth grade book club kids. And nearly every year that is the book they choose as their favorite one we discuss.

I always encourage them to continue reading the series themselves, and show them Parvana's Journey and Mud City, also by Ellis.

Despite the fact that the fourth book has been out for over a year AND my book club students always ask how things end for Parvana, I have held off reading it, waiting for just the right day.

Over the summer I read The Breadwinner aloud to my girls before bed.  What they resisted at first, they became totally engaged in.  And of course, like my students, wondered about sequels.  Middle Sister was able to discern from reading synopses of the second and third books that she didn't need to read them, but the fourth book is one that she requested to read.

Trying to keep one step ahead of her, I picked it up the other night.

Although it has been years since I read Parvana's Journey or Mud City, my yearly refresher of The Breadwinner has kept me thinking about this story.

As the book begins, Parvana has been arrested, or captured.  It took me a while to get things figured out, but I quickly determined that Parvana is refusing to speak to the people that have taken her.  

As Parvana sits in silence in a cell, parts of her past are remembered.  She and her mother and sister Maryam are together, running a school for girls. Nooria has gone to New York to attend college.  Men have objected to the school.  

As the story nears the end, Parvana's most recent struggle and how she came to be in prison are revealed.

Shauzia and Parvana planned to meet at the Eiffel Tower in Paris twenty years after parting in The Breadwinner.  Life has been full of twists and turns for both of them.  Their reunion is not what the planned, but Ellis has written an amazing book about Parvana (and I hoped not totally closed the door on adding another book in this series).

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday

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

This week's pick: Some Luck by Jane Smiley
Due out: October 7, 2014

Product Information taken from Amazon:

From the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of A Thousand Acres: a heartwarming, deeply engaging new novel-the life and times of an American farm family over three transformative decades-certain to become an instant classic.

On their farm in Denby, Iowa, Rosanna and Walter Langdon abide by time-honored values that they pass on to their five wildly different yet equally remarkable children: Frank, the brilliant, stubborn first-born; Joe, whose love of animals makes him the natural heir to his family's land; Lillian, an angelic child who enters a fairy-tale marriage with a man only she will fully know; Henry, the bookworm who's not afraid to be different; and Claire, who earns the highest place in her father's heart. Moving from post-World War I America through the early 1950s, Some Luck gives us an intimate look at this family's triumphs and tragedies, zooming in on the realities of farm life, while casting-as the children grow up and scatter to New York, California, and everywhere in between-a panoramic eye on the monumental changes that marked the first half of the twentieth century. Rich with humor and wisdom, twists and surprises, Some Luck takes us through deeply emotional cycles of births and deaths, passions, and betrayals, displaying Smiley's dazzling virtuosity, compassion, and understanding of human nature and the nature of history, never discounting the role of fate and chance. This potent conjuring of many lives across generations is a stunning tour de force.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Getting Life

I've read various news accounts of people wrongly convicted of murder finally being freed after spending years in prison.

Getting Life: An Innocent Man's 25-Year Journey From Prison to Peace by Michael Morton is Morton's own account of spending twenty-five years in prison for the murder of his wife.

In 1986, Michael was happily married with a three year old son, Eric.  After a night out with his wife, he left for work the next morning. By the time he returned home that night, the police were at his home, collecting evidence for the murder of his beloved wife.  

Morton cooperated with police, wanting them to find the person who committed this horrible crime.  However, because of a variety of factors- a police chief who had already decided Morton was guilty being a major contributor, Morton realized that police were not looking at anyone beside him.

Morton's account of his life is harrowing - something too horrible to imagine. And what comes through is that Morton is a person just like you or me.  That he could spend twenty five years in prison for a crime he didn't commit is terrifying.  

Morton's writing is easy to read.  He can tell his story well.  And, he manages to hit the major points, allowing the twenty five year time period to pass without belaboring what must have seemed to him the exceedingly slow passage of time.  

Morton has accepted his life and what happened to him.  He does not preach at the reader or offer religious advice, but it is evident that his faith in God-  achieved during his prison stay- is what has allowed him to move on. 

Getting Life is a book that will amaze you and make you think twice about what you believe.

Monday, August 25, 2014

All Fall Down

Jennifer Weiner's most recent book, All Fall Down, is one I devoured this past weekend.  

My friend, Kristin, read it earlier this summer and since both of us have read every book Weiner's written, I knew I would get around to it eventually. However, her endorsement did help bump it up on my TBR.

Allison Weiss has the life many people would envy.  A handsome and charming husband, a precocious daughter, and a job as a blogger on women's issues.  

However, despite all of that, or perhaps because of all of that, Allison feels overwhelmed.  When she injures her back and takes pills to help with the pain, Allison realizes that the relief she feels by taking these pills is helping her deal with the stresses of her life.

And soon the pills she is taking for the pain become a habit.  Allison finds ways to get pills from multiple doctors for a variety of reasons  She is tired al the time, her marriage suffers. But when she puts her child's safety in jeopardy, Allison begins to realize she may have a problem.

Allison's story is one many people may be able to relate to.  Seeing Allison self destruct was hard to read about, and I felt as though I was holding my breath each time she would take another handful of pills.

All Fall Down is a great quick read, and as a fan of Weiner's this one ranks near the top as one of my favorites she has written.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Sunday Salon: This Will Be Fast

The weekend has flown by, something that I'm adjusting to once again, and which means that I'm nearly ready to think about bed and have yet to blog or work on lesson plans.

With that being said... this post will be quick.  Big Sister and I spent the day running errands and birthday shopping for Little Sister who turns 8 on Friday.  We also attended a birthday party for my co-worker and friend, Crystal, who turned 50 yesterday.

We rushed home to throw some turkey burgers on the grill, start the nighttime routine, and get everything ready for the morning. 

Tomorrow Little Sister starts soccer, so soccer cleats, socks and shin guards had to be located and tried on.  

Big Sister has an early morning (6 AM) cross country practice tomorrow to avoid the afternoon heat....the rat race has begun.

I did find time to read two books this weekend, and would still like to get a few posts written before bed.  

Hope you had a relaxing weekend...although mine felt busy, I'm ready to go back to school and meet my classes again.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

The Story Hour

Lakshmi has moved from India to the United States to be with her husband, as the two work side by side in their grocery and restaurant.  An arranged marriage, Lakshmi's husband treats her more as his own personal servant than a wife. Lonely and depressed, Lakshmi attempts suicide one day.

When Maggie meets Lakshmi she is drawn to the woman.  Maggie's own husband Sudhir is from India, so she knows a little about the culture.  As her therapist, Maggie tries to keep her relationships with her patients professional, but this is nearly impossible with Lakshmi, who is lonely and needs a friend.

As Maggie treats Lakshmi for free, the two develop a friendship of sorts, and Maggie helps Lakshmi feel empowered- teaching her how to drive, helping her find a way to earn money on her own.

While Lakshmi's life is looking up, Maggie continues to involve herself in an affair with Peter, a photographer who travels the world.  Although Maggie knows in her heart that Sudhir is her true love match, she can't fight her attraction to Peter.

Lakshmi is willing to share her deepest secrets with Maggie, but when Maggie's own secret is revealed, the friendship these women have forged is jeopardized.  

The Story Hour is a novel of friendship, of love, of two worlds coming together.  Umrigar is able to skillfully alternate narrators as Lakshmi and Maggie each tell their stories, and has created a story that I am thinking about long after I am done reading. There is a little suspense as secrets are revealed that kept me turning the pages as quickly as I could.  Every characters is multifaceted and well developed, real humans that are so complex, each with their strengths and flaws.  

Umrigar's The Story Hour is a must read for fiction lovers.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Friday Five: Back to School Edition

I'm back to work this week, and there hasn't been nearly as much time to surf the web and shop online as I've had during the summer. As I adjust, my computer (and reading) time may be limited.

Here's what's been happening around here this week:

Big Sister received a birthday gift in the mail. Her new sweaty band has been added to her cross country clothes line-up.  Her aunt and uncle had it made in the team colors, a nice feature that this website has. (And, yes, she does know this is not really how to wear her new headband).

I've been busy at school.  Decorating my door like Pete the Cat

Helping a co-worker celebrate her 50th birthday.  The jar she's holding has Fireballs candy in it, with lettering on the jar that says, "50 and Hot".  She doesn't know yet that her van is full of black balloons, so driving home might be at trick.

My girls also had their first day of school yesterday. So far it's all good, which I'm grateful for.

Seriously, I think I could buy new shoes every week.  I found another pair I'd love to have.

These Keen Rose Sandals are still $85 on Zappos, but they would be a nice replacement for the Keens I've had for years.

After surviving the first week with kids, I'm ready for a weekend.  And just like predicted, our cool summer has heated up just in time for when school starts. My girls were dismissed two hours early today. For all of you who live elsewhere, this is what happens when you live in Iowa - no air conditioning in older buildings.

Happy Friday!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

We Are Called To Rise

Four characters narrate the story set in Las Vegas, that all intertwine in one life changing moment.

Bashkin is an Albanian immigrant, struggling to fit in in America. He's a hard-working student full of worry. His father was imprisoned in Albania before he was married and had children and still bears the emotional scars that are all too visible to his wife and children.  

Luis has been injured in the war, injured physically, and also emotionally. After successful tours in Iraq, he is now dealing with the loss of his friend and partner.  

Avis' own childhood was a rough one in Sin City. She has risen above it mostly, although now in middle age, her husband has decided to leave her. The two struggled through the death of a child together, but now as their son Nate returns from war and begins his career in law enforcement, Avis knows that the knot in her stomach indicates problems with Nate, who has changed much since the war.

Roberta works for a non-profit, assisting families in Las Vegas who are in need.  She, too, becomes embroiled in Bashkin, Luis, and Avis' lives when a tragic event occurs and binds them all together.

McBride has based her story on an actual event, imagining the lives of the people this happened to.  I haven't stopped thinking about this story since I began reading.  I was totally engrossed in the lives of the characters, and could visualize the ways in which they acted and reacted.

Although I loved We Are Called To Rise while reading it, I am even more impressed with it a few days after finishing it.  I simply cannot get these stories out of my mind.  I'll be recommending this to friends but I also think this will be a great book club selection, full of things to discuss.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday

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

This week's pick:  I'm Glad I Did by Cynthia Weil
Due out: January 27, 2015

Product Description taken from Amazon:
It's the summer of 1963 and JJ Green is a born songwriter—which is a major problem, considering that her family considers the music business a cesspool of lowlifes and hustlers. Defying them, she takes an internship at the Brill Building, the epicenter of a new sound called rock and roll.

JJ is finally living her dream. She even finds herself a writing partner in Luke Silver, a boy with mesmerizing green eyes who seems to connect instantly with her music. Best of all, they’ll be cutting their first demo with Dulcie Brown, a legend who’s fallen on hard times. Though Dulcie is now a custodian in the Brill Building, JJ is convinced that she can shine again. 

But Dulcie’s past is a tangle of secrets, and when events take a dark turn, JJ must navigate a web of hidden identities and shattered lives—before it snares her, too.