Friday, July 21, 2017

Friday Five x 2 on Saturday

Time got away from me yesterday somehow.  And so here it is, Saturday morning, and I'm just now working on a Friday Five post.  There are lots of cute things I'm eyeing right now, and sadly, many of them are with the "I can wear that to school" mindset, which I guess means that school is right around the corner.

So, here is what I've found this week:

1.  Soft Sophisticate T - simple, yet a little bit dressy, and perfect to wear to work or with jeans.

2.  Striped Tie-Back Shell - I can't wear anything sleeveless to work, so this would have to be for weekends or something else, but I love the idea of the tie in the back.

3.  Sarabeth Tunic - way out of my price range at $235, this is a beautiful shirt. I'll just keep admiring it from afar.

4.  Personalized Library Card Pillow - this pillow on the Uncommon Goods website caught my eye....perfect for all the book lovers out there.

5.  Embroidered Flutter Sleeve Dress for Women - I saw this one hanging up at Old Navy last weekend and thought it looked super cute.  And comfortable.

6.  Faux Leather Leggings - I'm not sure how many places (if any at all) I would find to wear leather leggings, but I do think they look cute. And they're on sale at Nordstroms right now.

7.  Camo Girlfriend Chino - these were in the Gap store a few weeks ago when I was in Des Moines visiting my sister. They had every size available, except the one I needed. So, when I finally saw them online I figured it was a sign. Right?  And Gap is having a sale (when aren't they having a sale?), so I had to order a pair.  

8.  Happy Birthday, Prince George.  CUTE! All week I've enjoyed seeing the royal family on the news as they show clips from their European tour, and now they have released a picture of Prince George for his fourth birthday.  

9.  Halo Top Ice Cream - this ice cream may not be quite like visiting my local ice cream place, but it's at least relatively healthy, so I've been keeping some on hand, just in case I need to have a late night snack.

10.  Thirty For Thirty podcast - I've listened to two episodes and enjoyed them both.  Interesting true stories.  Definitely worth a listen.

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

Thursday, July 20, 2017

TLC Book Tour : My Sister's Bones

Nuala Ellwood's debut novel kept me turning pages long past my bedtime a few nights ago.  There's a lot to enjoy about this first novel.

Synopsis taken from the HarperCollins website:

In the vein of Fiona Barton's The Widow and Renée Knight's Disclaimer, a psychological thriller about a war reporter who returns to her childhood home after her mother's death but becomes convinced that all is not well in the house next door—but is what she’s seeing real or a symptom of the trauma she suffered in Syria?
The One Person You Should Trust Is Lying to You…Kate has spent fifteen years bringing global injustice home: as a decorated war reporter, she’s always in a place of conflict, writing about ordinary people in unimaginable situations. When her mother dies, Kate returns home from Syria for the funeral. But an incident with a young Syrian boy haunts her dreams, and when Kate sees a boy in the garden of the house next door—a house inhabited by an Iraqi refugee who claims her husband is away and she has no children—Kate becomes convinced that something is very wrong.
As she struggles to separate her memories of Syria from the quiet town in which she grew up—and also to reconcile her memories of a traumatic childhood with her sister’s insistence that all was not as Kate remembers—she begins to wonder what is actually true…and what is just in her mind.

In this gripping, timely debut, Nuala Ellwood brings us an unforgettable damaged character, a haunting , humanizing look at the Syrian conflict, and a deeply harrowing psychological thriller that readers won’t be able to put down.

My Thoughts:

I can't write a synopsis any better than the one from the publisher.  There are lots of twists and turns to this story, and my attempting to write a synopsis wold no doubt lead to forgetting something important, or including a spoiler.

More than psychological suspense, I feel like this book falls under the family drama umbrella.  Although there is some suspense, it occurs later in the book, and by that point the resolution of the story was no surprise.  That doesn't mean I didn't like this book, because I did enjoy it a great deal, but I read a lot of books termed psychological thrillers. With so many experiences reading these novels, I'm getting rather good at predicting endings.

Ellwood's novel includes a few things not found in most novels of this type: the inclusion of information on world/current events.  Kate's job as a journalist in a war zone brings a bit of reality to this novel that many of this genre lack.  In addition, I found the way the plot moves between Kate to her sister Sally to be another rather novel approach to telling this story.  It kept me guessing a bit as to who the story was focusing on and what the resolution would be.

Because this is Ellwood's debut novel, I'm hopeful she has a few more ideas she wants to share with readers in the future.

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

Visit the HarperCollins website for more information about this book.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Waiting on Wednesday: George and Lizzie

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly post where I highlight a soon to be published title I can't wait to read.

This week's selection: George and Lizzie by Nancy Pearl
Due out: September 5, 2017

Product information taken from Amazon:

From “America’s librarian” and NPR books commentator Nancy Pearl comes an emotionally riveting debut novel about an unlikely marriage at a crossroads.

George and Lizzie have radically different understandings of what love and marriage should be. George grew up in a warm and loving family—his father an orthodontist, his mother a stay-at-home mom—while Lizzie grew up as the only child of two famous psychologists, who viewed her more as an in-house experiment than a child to love.

Over the course of their marriage, nothing has changed—George is happy; Lizzie remains…unfulfilled. When a shameful secret from Lizzie’s past resurfaces, she’ll need to face her fears in order to accept the true nature of the relationship she and George have built over a decade together.

With pitch-perfect prose and compassion and humor to spare, George and Lizzie is an intimate story of new and past loves, the scars of childhood, and an imperfect marriage at its defining moments.

Monday, July 17, 2017

TLC Book Tour: The Almost Sisters

Joshilyn Jackson's latest book has been given high praise by many readers.  I agree wholeheartedly. I've read nearly all of Jackson's books and this is one of the best.  

Almost Sisters is set in the South and I felt like I was a part of tiny Birchville, Alabama, and the goings on there.

Leia is a comic book illustrator/graphic novelist, single, thirty-eight, and newly pregnant as the result of a one night stand at a recent comic con where she met up with a handsome Batman.  Her grandmother is aging and possibly needing her help so Leia heads off to Birchville to help Birchie, her grandmother.

She arrives in Birchville to find that her grandmother is suffering from dementia and shouldn't be living on her own any longer.  Wattie, her grandmother's lifelong friend and companion resists this idea as she can see their independence ending.

While Leia is back in Birchville trying to help these two women and come to terms with her pregnancy, a secret that Birchie had been hiding in the attic is uncovered, changing the way most people viewed past events.

Jackson's novel is a five star read for me.  I loved how she revealed some secrets slowly. I loved Birdie and Wattie's relationship.  I loved that the title's significance had different meaning for me as I continued to read and things were revealed.  I loved Leia's relationship with the father of her baby and how high my hopes were for them to find happiness together.

Although I have enjoyed all of Joshilyn Jackson's books, this is at the top of the list.  

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

For more information visit the HarperCollins website.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Happy Sunday

I may not be getting around to posting every Sunday, but at least I'm finding some time every once in a while.  It's very hot and humid here and I'm happy to report that I've started walking with a friend in the evenings when it is a little cooler in addition to my morning workout.  I love summer.

Here are a few things I've read online that have stuck with me this week as I am enjoying not having to be at work and have a little more "free" time.

I love vacation - if only taking trips didn't cost money. The Today Show had a feature this week with forty vacation must-sees for your family before your children are grown.  Sadly I think we've only hit six of the forty, although I do think we have taken our kids on some great trips.

Earlier this week I made a recipe I pinned on Pinterest quite a while ago.  It is a family favorite, although it is not my favorite to make simply because it involves a lot of dishes getting dirty.  Anyway, I had Middle Sister looking up the recipe only to discover that the site it was on has been removed.  Talk about bad news.  Luckily I searched for a while and found an identical recipe on a different site.  Click here for this creamy chicken asparagus recipe. My husband suggested I take the time to write the recipe on a piece of paper because it is too good to get lost.

The ESPY awards were earlier this week. I can't even begin to convey how amazing I feel their pick for the Pat Tillman award is. Watch the video of his acceptance speech.  What an amazing person!

I shared an article on Facebook earlier this week that resonated with me.  I have few pictures of myself -  mostly because my husband doesn't ever think to take any of me with the kids when we are on trips.  Although some of that happens just naturally because I usually am the one doing the picture taking, some of it happens because I don't particularly think I look very good in pictures.  My husband doesn't really like to have pictures taken, but not for the same reasons I have.  

And here are a few pictures to leave you with this week:

A stop at Cracker Barrel for a big plate of pancakes 

Slip-n-Slide in Des Moines on a hot summer evening 

Afternoons at the pool 

Some cake baking and frosting when it's too humid to want to play outside

Have a great week, everyone!

Friday, July 14, 2017

Friday Five

I've read on a few blogs this week that summer is half over, but that seems nearly impossible to me.  I feel like I'm just now getting in the swing of things: lots of walks at night with a friend, sleeping late, reading lots of books, trips to the's hard to believe that school might be right around the corner.  So, I'm going to pretend that I've got plenty of summer left and enjoy every single minute.

I did find a few things this week (of course).  So, here they are:

1.  Garment Died Utility Popover - I saw this at the JCrew store last week when I was in Des Moines and was so in love with the rugby I saw (featured last week).  Maybe the rugby started it all, transporting me to 1993, but I saw thsi shirt and was reminded of a shirt I had in 1987 that I was in love with.

2.  Altar'd State You're The One Bag - I think this purse is so cute, but probably not big enough for me.  Maybe one of my girls would like it, though, and then they could let me borrow it.

3.  Girlfriend Twill Striped Chinos - I've had good luck with this style in the past and there are a few color options as well. Gap always has 40% off which makes them a nice, fairly cheap pant option.

4.  Ravello Top - I made the mistake of opening my new Boden catalog and found several things I really like. This top is at the top of my list.

5.  Women's Summer Sandals by Plaka - Melanie over at The Big Mama Blog featured these sandals today. I really need a new pair of sandals and these are not expensive at all and have lots of good reviews.

6.  Bai Bubbles Drink - when I was visiting my sister last week she had a variety pack of these drinks in her fridge. I tried one and was in love.  I have my own variety pack now and will admit I don't like the coconut at all, but the rest are fantastic.  Unfortunately I have to limit myself on these or I would drink them all the time.

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

Thursday, July 13, 2017

TLC Book Tour: Dunkirk

I love learning more about World War II. Dunkirk is an amazing (and new to me) true story of a rescue that saved thousands of lives.

Synopsis taken from Amazon:

The Battle of Dunkirk, in May/June 1940, is remembered as a stunning defeat, yet a major victory as well. The Nazis had beaten back the Allies and pushed them across France to the northern port of Dunkirk. In the ultimate race against time, more than 300,000 Allied soldiers were daringly evacuated across the Channel. This moment of German aggression was used by Winston Churchill as a call to Franklin Roosevelt to enter the war. Now, historian Joshua Levine explores the real lives of those soldiers, bombed and strafed on the beaches for days on end, without food or ammunition; the civilians whose boats were overloaded; the airmen who risked their lives to buy their companions on the ground precious time; and those who did not escape.

My Thoughts:

Because this is now a movie, this updated version of Dunkirk, which was initially released in 2011 features an interview with the producer, Christopher Nolan, giving background information on why he chose this project. I loved reading this and getting Nolan's insight.

I don't have a lot of knowledge about the British military during World War II, so this was a new to me story, although the "Dunkirk Spirit" is still referred to in England.

This book focuses on how England worked to evacuate soldiers from Dunkirk to bring them back to England, rescuing 260,000 soldiers in all - an amazing feat.  Men waited along the shore, some for days, waiting to be rescued, forming a little society of their own.

The whole story is incredible and one that will hopefully become well known with the release of the movie.  I'm a "read the book before you see the movie" type of person, oftentimes skipping the "see the movie" portion altogether. However, I think this would be a great film to see, and be even more meaningful having read the book.

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 Dunkirk by Joshua Levine.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Waiting on Wednesday: See What I Have Done

Waiting on Wednesday was a meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine. Although her site is no longer active, I am continuing to post each Wednesday about a new book that I can't wait to be published.

This week's pick: See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt
Due out: August 1, 2017

Synopsis taken from Amazon:

Lizzie Borden took an ax
And gave her mother forty whacks
When she saw what she had done,
She gave her father forty-one.

Or did she?

In this riveting debut novel, See What I Have Done, Sarah Schmidt recasts one of the most fascinating murder cases of all time into an intimate story of a volatile household and a family devoid of love.

On the morning of August 4, 1892, Lizzie Borden calls out to her maid: Someone’s killed Father. The brutal ax-murder of Andrew and Abby Borden in their home in Fall River, Massachusetts, leaves little evidence and many unanswered questions. While neighbors struggle to understand why anyone would want to harm the respected Bordens, those close to the family have a different tale to tell―of a father with an explosive temper; a spiteful stepmother; and two spinster sisters, with a bond even stronger than blood, desperate for their independence.

As the police search for clues, Emma comforts an increasingly distraught Lizzie whose memories of that morning flash in scattered fragments. Had she been in the barn or the pear arbor to escape the stifling heat of the house? When did she last speak to her stepmother? Were they really gone and would everything be better now? Shifting among the perspectives of the unreliable Lizzie, her older sister Emma, the housemaid Bridget, and the enigmatic stranger Benjamin, the events of that fateful day are slowly revealed through a high-wire feat 

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Releasing Today: American Fire

Monica Hesse's book American Fire: Love, Arson and Life in a Vanishing Land is one I've been hearing about for a while.  I love good non-fiction writing and this is certainly one of the best non-fiction reads of 2017 for me.

Hesse is a journalist, and this book is easy to read as the things unfold at a natural pace.  In late 2012 fires were being started in Accomack County Virginia in abandoned buildings.  Eventually the arsons numbered more than seventy and law enforcement officials raced to uncover who was responsible.  Firemen were on duty nearly every night, busily putting out fires.  What Hesse shares is the story of the fires and also of the couple responsible for setting them. She provides background information about this area in Virginia, which was a well-to-do county at one point and what went into the investigation to stop the arsonists.

Although this book is suspenseful, I appreciated Hesse's portrayal of this small rural Virginia area and it's residents as she shared the good and bad honestly and fairly. I had a hard time putting this book down and read it in one sitting.

Monday, July 10, 2017

TLC Book Tour: The Cafe By the Sea

The Cafe by the Sea by Jenny Colgan was my first experience with this author. It certainly will not be my last.

Summary taken from Amazon:

The beloved author of The Bookshop on the Corner returns with a sparkling, sunny, soulful new novel perfect for fans of Elin Hilderbrand.
Years ago, Flora fled the quiet Scottish island where she grew up -- and she hasn't looked back. What would she have done on Mure? It's a place where everyone has known her all her life, where no one will let her forget the past. In bright, bustling London, she can be anonymous, ambitious... and hopelessly in love with her boss.
But when fate brings Flora back to the island, she's suddenly swept once more into life with her brothers (all strapping, loud and seemingly incapable of basic housework) and her father. Yet even amid the chaos of their reunion, Flora discovers a passion for cooking -- and finds herself restoring dusty little pink-fronted shop on the harbour: a café by the sea.
But with the seasons changing, Flora must come to terms with past mistakes... and work out exactly where her future lies...
Funny and heartfelt, The Café by the Sea is a delightful summertime novel that puts a modern twist on the classic Seven Brides for Seven Brothers story. 

My Thoughts:

I loved the Scottish setting of this novel. Colgan's story resonated with me because small towns the world over are struggling to survive as more people move to cities where there are different opportunities. Despite the fact that this novel is set in a foreign country, I think the story will be familiar to many readers.   

Colgan's novel is easy to read, easy to get into and enjoyable.  I appreciate a book that is just a pleasant reading experience, and The Cafe by the Sea provided this over the weekend as I relaxed in a lawn chair to enjoy it.  Colgan's descriptions of Scotland are lovely, and despite the fact that the weather seems harsh, sounds like a beautiful place to visit.

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 to find out more about this book.