Friday, May 27, 2016

Friday Five

It's Memorial Day Weekend and normally we would be very close to finishing school.  This year, however, we started a bit later in the fall. That means I am not done until June 10. It seems like forever away from now.  My girls aren't done until June 7th and were a little disgruntled this morning, jealous of the neighboring districts who are finished up.

I'm guessing there are some great Memorial Day sales this weekend, but I have found a few things this week that have caught my eye. I'm trying to not purchase anything right now, so I may have to delete all the email offers that come in over the weekend without even looking at them.

1.  Vintage Soft Split Neck Top - this comes in a few colors and looks very comfy.  I've read the reviews which are also positive.

2.  Star Mela Lina Embroidered Tunic Dress With Pockets - Big Mama featured this one on her blog and I instantly fell in love with it. However, it's out of my price range, especially since I rarely wear dresses.  

3.  Protect California Yosemite National Park T-Shirt - Who doesn't enjoy wearing a T-shirt? This is one on the Tailgate website, but honestly, I could have picked any of the shirts they have right now. 

Iowa Vintage Basketball T - I remember the original Iowa Basketball shirts that looked like this. I know they are vintage at this point, but I'd love to have one of these.

4.  Ask Me Another Podcast - I'm always on the hunt for a good podcast. This one is a quiz show. Several little mini games are played which then culminates into one final round. Each episode also features a guest.  I like using my brain to attempt to play along with the contestants.  And, the other day as I was  listening to Ask Me Another while driving home with my daughters, they asked if we could drive around a while until the game that was on concluded. They are a tough audience, and Ask Me Another won them over.

5.  Hebrew National Hot Dogs - I don't love hot dogs, but every once in a while a hot dog sounds like a great idea.  My mom's college friend introduced them to my mom when she was visiting, and since then that's all she buys.  I've been over a few times when she has them grilled, and I admit that I do enjoy them. And since it is Memorial Day weekend, and people might be grilling, these hot dogs seemed like a great food to spotlight.

So, what's caught your eye this week?

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Street of Eternal Happiness

Street of Eternal Happiness by Rob Schmitz allowed me to be an armchair traveler, taking advantage of the experience that Schmitz had with his family in Shanghai, China.

Schmitz focuses on various people that he encounters on The Street of Eternal Happiness. While sharing their personal stories, he also reveals a great deal about China and the laws and culture.

There is Zhao who left her husband - something rarely heard of in China - to find work in Shanghai. She did this to make money as well as to give her two sons a better start in life. However, the laws of China prevented her children from attending middle or high school in Shanghai, since they are required to report to their home district, which was in the rural community they left.  Zhao did not know about this when she decided to move, and believes that her children were hurt by this policy. She continues to run a flower shop, a small business that allows her to eke out a living.

Schmitz is given some letters by friends that document the husband's time in a China labor camp for capitalism in correspondence between him and his wife.  The wife's letters to him encourage him to re-educate himself and praise Chairman Mao, since these letters would have been inspected before they were allowed to reach the recipient.

These are just two stories of the people that Schmitz encounters.  Each person's story is interesting and sheds light on the Chinese way of life. Schmitz's ability to immerse himself in Shanghai has allowed him to bring to the public the stories of real Chinese people and how despite our many differences, we also have many things in common.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

TLC: The Eagle Tree

The Eagle Tree by Ned Hayes is a novel that found me at the perfect time.  Although I had signed up to be a part of the book tour for this book, I had heard nothing about it, having read only the short synopsis that TLC provided.  

Almost from the first page I fell in love with March, a fourteen year old boy on the autism spectrum.  

March loves trees. He has a wealth of knowledge that he shares, and even I who know nothing about plants or botany (and have never claimed to have a desire to know more on this topic) loved the different bits of information he shares.

March's father has moved to Arizona. His mother has had to relocate them to a smaller home, which is hard for March.  His uncle is an important presence in his life, but he is now dating their new neighbor, who happens to be the person who called 911 to report March, not realizing that he has a disability.

And, March can't stop thinking about climbing the Eagle Tree, a Ponderosa Pine that is slated to be cut down.

Climbing is March's passion.  He climbs trees every day, and has taken up tree jumping which is even more dangerous.  

March takes the Eagle Tree's future very seriously, and tries to find a way to save this tree from destruction, even presenting to the city council.

March's voice is perhaps the best thing about this novel. I loved reading his thoughts which allowed me to understand the way his brain works.  However, this novel is so perfect, it's hard to pick one best thing.  I loved the way March's knowledge of trees and nature and ecology are conveyed.  I learned a great deal in reading this story without it seeming like that was the point of The Eagle Tree.  Hayes has made me curious about the different science topics he has written about. I want to know more about the Ponderosa Pine and the Marbled Murrelet.

There are other novels narrated by a character on the autism spectrum.  This one ranks right up there with The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime by Mark Haddon and The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

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

Waiting on Wednesday: The Hopefuls

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine that highlights soon to be released books.

This week's selection:  The Hopefuls by Jennifer Close
Due out: July 19, 2016

Synopsis taken from Amazon:

A brilliantly funny novel about ambition and marriage from the best selling author ofGirls in White Dresses, The Hopefuls tells the story of a young wife who follows her husband and his political dreams to D.C., a city of idealism, gossip, and complicated friendships among young Washington's aspiring elite. 

When Beth arrives in Washington, D.C., she hates everything about it: the confusing traffic circles, the ubiquitous Ann Taylor suits, the humidity that descends each summer. At dinner parties, guests compare their security clearance levels. They leave their BlackBerrys on the table. They speak in acronyms. And once they realize Beth doesn't work in politics, they smile blandly and turn away. Soon Beth and her husband, Matt, meet a charismatic White House staffer named Jimmy and his wife, Ashleigh, and the four become inseparable, coordinating brunch, birthdays, and long weekends away. But as Jimmy's star rises higher and higher, their friendship--and Beth's relationship with Matt--is threatened by jealousy, competition and rumors. A glorious send-up of young D.C. and a blazingly honest portrait of a marriage, this is the finest work yet by one of our most beloved writers.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

TLC Book Tour: All The Single Ladies

Dorothea Benton Frank is an author that's been around for a while and consistently provides entertaining women's fiction to readers.

All The Single Ladies is just out in paperback now and is a perfect book to take to the beach.

Lisa is a single woman, a nurse, and a little lonely.  When one of the patients she helped passes away, she knows she will not only miss her, but also her friends. 

Carrie and Suzanne were great friends to Kathy, visiting every day.  Now they must settle her estate. They welcome Lisa to their group with open arms, and the three begin to spend time together.

Most problematic is Kathy's landlord who appears to be stealing her possessions and billing them for work done after Kathy's death.

While the women try to stop the landlord's thievery, they also learn more about each other.  The women are all facing getting older alone, and talk about it as well as men, and their financial future.  

I liked the plot involving the landlord which created some suspense.  I also enjoyed the fact that these women are middle aged and still looking for love- and not giving up on finding happiness.  This is a nice book - there weren't a lot of surprises, the reading was enjoyable, and I had a smile on my face at the book's end.

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

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Sunday Salon: Family Reunion, Graduation Parties and Soccer

This weekend has been full of a lot of eating.  Yesterday my mom's siblings all came back to the family farm where they grew up (which happens to be where I grew up and where my mom still lives). Most of my cousins were also back, including one who traveled from Germany with his girlfriend.  It was a good time with plenty of food.

There are a few people missing from this picture. Middle Sister, Little Sister, and my husband are already on their way to the soccer games.  My great-uncle has gone home, and my sister and her family had to drive up in the late afternoon because my nephew had a soccer game.  At one point we had 26 people gathered together.  A fun time!

Both Middle Sister and Little Sister had soccer games yesterday that we squeezed in. And we had two graduation parties yesterday and one today as well.

I haven't had to do a lot of cooking because we've been able to eat almost everywhere we go.

The weather is beautiful this weekend and I'm ready to be done with school and enjoying the outdoors.  Mostly I am a treadmill runner, but I'm trying to make an effort to do some outdoor running.  On Friday night my husband and I went running on a mountain bike trail in the woods near us. It's about 4.25 miles to run the whole thing, which I was able to do. (A few weeks earlier I only made it halfway).  I also packed the girls' bikes up today and took them to a bike trail. I ran while they biked.  

I am looking at the calendar for the week and realizing that in addition to having plenty of after school activities to attend, I am also scheduled for two blog tours this week, and my Amazon Vine items need to be reviewed soon, too.  If I didn't have to sleep, things would be looking manageable.

How have you relaxed this weekend?

Friday, May 20, 2016

Friday Five: Shoes and Books

I've been back from Chicago for almost a week, and finally got around to checking out the website of some of the exhibitors that I saw when I was there. There are plenty of book-related things to buy.  And then I started looking at shoes as well. I need a pair of sandals for summer, but I wish I could justify buying more than just one pair.  

1. Dr. Scholl's For JCrew Sandals in Hologram Glitter - I had a pair of navy Dr. Scholl's when I was a kid. Loved them.  I'm not sure they have the little bump in the middle anymore, but that was the cool thing back in the day.

2.  Paint by Sticker books - if you need a gift for someone, this is it.  Check out the website because you can see what the pages of this book look like.  I think it would be perfect for a car trip.

3.  Litograph Print - My masters thesis focused on Nancy Drew, so I am thinking having a print of Nancy Drew with the words from the book creating the picture would be perfect for me. I'm not sure my husband would think we need this hanging anywhere in our house.

4.  Nancy Drew Puzzle - I wasn't even trying to find a Nancy Drew puzzle but I was busy talking when I was googling and this is what I ended up with.  And now I want it.

5.  Canvas Chuck Taylor All Star Shoreline Slip On Sneakers - last night I took the girls sandal shopping. I have wanted a pair of Converse for a long time, but my heels are super narrow and I have a hard time with them slipping off on the back.  I feel like I might have a chance with this style.

And that's it.  What's caught your eye this week?

Thursday, May 19, 2016

TLC: The Mother

Yvvette Edwards' novel explores one mother's devastating loss and the way she deals with it.

Marcia's beautiful sixteen year old son, Ryan, was brutally murdered as he sat in a park. Attacked from behind by another young man, Marcia is now sitting through the trial to convict the killer.  She is forced to listen to the details of her son's last moments.  

Edwards develops this story by writing of Marcia's thoughts and feelings.  There is not a great deal of action. The novel is one of character development, not one of fast paced action or a mystery about who her son's killer might be.  

As the trial progresses and Marcia sits through the testimonies of various witnesses.  Her husband Lloydie chooses to not attend the trial. He, too, is devastated by the loss of their son, yet is unable to bring himself to watch the trial.  Their different ways in grieving cause a rift in their marriage, or perhaps bring to the forefront a rift that already existed. 

This novel explores the range of motions a parent would experience if forced into a situation such as Marcia's. Edwards has managed to get inside the head of a grieving mother and create a realistic portrayal of a woman who is devastated by the loss of a child, but who ultimately must go on.

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

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Waiting on Wednesday: The Book That Matters Most

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine that features titles we are anxious to read when they are published.

This week's pick:  The Book That Matters Most by Ann Hood
Due out: August 9, 2016

Product Information taken from Amazon:

An enthralling novel about love, loss, secrets, friendship, and the healing power of literature, by the bestselling author of The Knitting Circle.
Ava’s twenty-five-year marriage has fallen apart, and her two grown children are pursuing their own lives outside of the country. Ava joins a book group, not only for her love of reading but also out of sheer desperation for companionship. The group’s goal throughout the year is for each member to present the book that matters most to them. Ava rediscovers a mysterious book from her childhood―one that helped her through the traumas of the untimely deaths of her sister and mother. Alternating with Ava’s story is that of her troubled daughter Maggie, who, living in Paris, descends into a destructive relationship with an older man. Ava’s mission to find that book and its enigmatic author takes her on a quest that unravels the secrets of her past and offers her and Maggie the chance to remake their lives.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

The Boys in the Bunkhouse

The Boys in the Bunkhouse: Servitude and Salvation in the Heartland by Dan Barry is a non-fiction account of what happened in the small town of Atalissa, Iowa, for over three decades to a group of mentally handicapped men.

In 2009, twenty one men were rescued from the abandoned schoolhouse they inhabited since 1974.  Their lives consisted of working for next to nothing at a turkey plant and all living together in the schoolhouse.  Conditions in the school were unsafe and the building stunk of urine.  

Barry researches the lives of these men and that of the turkey plant and it's owner, giving a greater understanding to how something so horrific could happen without anyone stopping it.

Initially the idea of hiring men with who were mentally handicapped was done with good intentions.   The work was something they could be taught, and earning money would give them a sense of purpose and self respect.  The schoolhouse where they lived seemed a great solution because all the men could live together and be supervised by an adult who lived with them.  However, after the initial owner was no longer alive, the way the men were treated changed dramatically.  

There are many things that didn't happen (no close relationships with families, families that lived in Texas, residents in Atalissa not ever visiting the men at the school) that also played a part in the way these men were treated for such a long time.

Unfortunately, I must have my nose stuck in a book far too much, because my mother and husband both remember this story taking a prominent place in our news while I had never heard this story before and was stunned to read about it.  Barry does a great job giving background information about the turkey plant and its owner, the men and their families and the town of Atalissa, Iowa, to provide a well researched account of this sad story.  Although non-fiction, it reads much like fiction and is easy to get into and hard to put down.