Friday, July 31, 2015

Friday's Fave Five #339

Welcome to Friday's Fave Five everyone!  Hope you are having a wonderful week, but if it's not one of the best I hope you will still join in and look for good blessings even in the midst of the hard.  That's what it's all about.  Sometimes it's easy and sometimes one has to really dig deep.   But there are good things if we but look for them.

For the most part I've been off the computer as my hand heals from surgery but I'll try to get through the five again today.  

1.  Bike Rack.  I love to bike.  And hubby and I take advantage on nice weekend mornings and try to get out on the bikes.  I love the trails around my city and we have favourite neighborhoods that we also like to ride through.  But I've always thought it would be fun if we could take our bikes to different places and explore them while riding.  So we finally splurged and bought a bike rack.  I'm so excited.  Now I just need this hand to be able to support me holding the handles and we're off.

2.  Rogue Restaurant.  Hubby and I tried a new restaurant in town.  It's located in an unusual location.  The city's old water tower.  There is already a restaurant in there but we rarely get to that one as it's quite expensive being fine dining and all, but now they have put another one on the level below and it's more of a casual type place.  It's a grand view of the city and the food was absolutely delicious.  It's got quite the concept.   The menu will be changing completely every four months or so, and we heard that possibly the decor would too, to match the menus.  Right now it was Americana.  Hubby had an absolutely unique and delicious burger and I had butter chicken with saffron rice (I've never had saffron rice before), and the absolute best naan bread I've ever tasted!  And bonus we could see a bit of the air show happening off in the distance.

3.   My Happy Place.  This year was a staycation for me because of the hand, but my dear Hubby made sure I got to my happy place once again, the mountains.  We went with my sis and her hubby and it was a really nice day trip.  We hiked a trail we've never done before and it took us to a gorgeous lake.  My crazy dog was sooo happy that as soon as he saw the lake he jumped right in like a nut.  I think it's his happy place too.

4.  Lots and lots of reading.  With me having to take it a bit easy with the hand, there has been lots of time for reading.  I've finished 3 books so far, working on the 4th.   I don't know what I would do without books.  They are such a wonderful way to pass time.  Inside and outside!

5.  Extra friend time.  With a 2 week staycation it has given me time to have friend time that is usually harder to come by when I am working.  I got to have coffee with a good friend whom I don't see that often twice in this time and it's been so nice to catch up without being super tired in an evening visit or rushed on a weekend visit.  I could get used to not working, I think!

Of course, like last week, I have to give my wonderful hubby a medal.  He has been so helpful.  He's taken me out to eat I don't know how many times, he's cleaned the playroom carpet which is always done on my maintenance week, he's done dishes, painted the swingset and pretty much waited on me hand and foot.  I am truly blessed to have him.

What were your favorites this week?

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Her Brother's Keeper by Beth Wiseman ~ Book Tour and Review

Publisher's Description:  

Charlotte came to Amish country to find answers. What she never expected to find was peace.

 Charlotte Dolinsky is not above playing dress-up and telling a few lies to find out what happened to her only brother. In fact, that is exactly what she’s come to Lancaster County to do. Now, calling herself Mary and slipping on a kapp, Charlotte will lie her way into the confidence of anyone who knows why Ethan had to die. Unless she gets found out first. But when Charlotte befriends a quiet Amish man named Isaac Miller, she begins to rethink her motives. And with a little help from a friend back home, Charlotte might find out that love comes packaged in ways she couldn’t have foreseen.

 Isaac’s been caring for his cancer-stricken father and sympathizing with his frustrated mother for three difficult years. And that means he hasn’t been dating. He believes Hannah King is the woman for him, but Hannah is still grieving the loss of her fiancĂ©, and Isaac has all he can handle on the farm. When Hannah’s family plays host to a woman named Mary, their new cousin shakes things up for all of them. As Charlotte digs deeper into the mystery of Ethan’s death, she finds more than she’d bargained for in the community he once called home. But will she ever learn the truth? And what will the community—and her new family—do if they learn the truth about her?

My Thoughts:

I really enjoyed this story by Beth Wiseman.  I love her contemporary stories and this was the first Amish based story I've read by her though she has written quite a few.  The story was so much more than the description implies.  The whole premise of a worldly "Englisher" trying to pose as an Amish person was interesting.  As Charlotte lies her way into the Amish community that her brother chose to adopt and then died in, her determination to find what really happened to him to make him take his own life supercedes sometimes even her common sense.  She operates from a standpoint of deep hurt and is looking for someone to blame.  Her brother was her only family and now he is gone and she is alone.   In her sights first is her brother's fiance.  But as Charlotte gets to know her and her family whom she's staying with she sees there is more to the story and as her lies compound she realizes that she has put herself into a precarious position.  The love and acceptance the family has given her, though they innocently believe she is someone else, has shown her what real family is about.  As her and her brother have never really had a family life, this starts to play on her guilt.   And the more she finds out about what happened the more people she realizes are going to be hurt with the truth.   Her dilemma becomes not why her brother had to die but when and if she should even really tell the truth. And will they just cast her away like her mother did when she was little.

There was a bit of mystery to the story but it really was a book about family and faith and what love really is and what forgiveness looks like.  I felt for all the characters, which is something I love in a book.  The author also tackles the subject of suicide and if the person goes to heaven, which I thought she did with grace.  There was moments that made me laugh as Charlotte tries to fit in with the community  but her language and lack of domesticity raises eyebrows and questions.   This was a perfect summer read for me.

Thanks to BookLook Bloggers for providing me with a copy free of charge for my honest opinion.  I was not required to post a positive review.

Her Brother's Keeper is available for purchase here

Linked to Semicolon Saturday Review of Books

Friday, July 24, 2015

Friday's Fave Five #338

Hi everyone...welcome to Friday's Fave Five.  I hope you're having a lazy dazy summer so far.  I know this week definitely has been like that for me.  On Monday, I had carpal tunnel surgery so I've been doing pretty much nothing the whole week.  I also tell you that to say that I might not make it 5 favourites because I don't know how long my hand will hold up.  It tires and gets achy quite quickly so we shall see how long I can type.  And one handed typing, especially one handed/left handed typing is for the birds.  So no more intro, let's get right to it!

1.  Biking date and lunch.  So, because we knew the surgery would sideline me for a little bit hubby and I fit quite a bit of bike riding into the weekend.  It was so wonderful.  We rode city trails all over the west side of the city and then we went to the golf course located in the river bottom for lunch.  We sat on the patio and just enjoyed the view.  It was a perfect date with the perfect guy on a perfectly gorgeous day.  The only downfall was those golfers and their language.  Yowzers, they turned the air blue.  But the sunset totally made up for that and gave me a beautiful ending to a beautiful day

2.  Really great church service where everything  was good from worship to offering to message.  Everything just seemed to flow that day.  I love when that happens.

3.  Book Haul arrived.  My daughter got me onto this site  (American site is here) that is an outlet store for books and goodness me, I think I am quite addicted.  I had my order arrive last week just in time for my week of recuperation and staycation.  Am I excited much?  Oh yeah!  I got all these books for under $50 Canadian, which means it would be even less for you Americans!, and that included shipping and handling and our GST and 2 of them were hardcovers.  Sigh, I'm going to have to really control myself because they have new arrivals every day!

4.  Helpful Hubby.  So thankful for my hubby for all his help and indulgence this week.  Because my dominant hand up till now has been a pretty much out of commission he's done pretty much everything.  Without a word of complaint or impatience.  He's kept my coffee cup filled, taken me for lunch to get me out of the house, taken me to the lake so I could just sit and read, and that was his idea at that!, and not even breathed a word of frustration with my pillows that my hand has rested on during the night taking up way more than half the bed.  He truly deserves a medal this week!

view from my chair

5.  Sweet card and Starbucks gift card left in my mailbox by one of my dayhome parents, telling me to put my feet up and relax.  What a blessing that was!  And yes, I've already used it.  Tried their Shaken Mango Black Tea Lemonade.  Yum, yum.

Whew I made it through!  And now I think I'll go sit outside and watch all the aircraft arriving for the Air Show in town this weekend.  I love watching those planes coming in and even though I've seen them many times,  I still get thrilled every single time the Canadian Forces Snowbirds whiz by over top of the house!

What were your favourites this week?

Friday, July 17, 2015

Friday's Fave Fave #337

Well the best of intentions sometimes just doesn't translate into the action that produces the product and unfortunately that is exactly what happened with my FFF last week.  I never did get back on the computer to get to it.  Oh well, today's another FFF so let's get to it!

1.  Of course even though she has gone home and the week is past I must mention that my oldest child's visit tops my list.  I just don't get to see that girl enough.   But even though she is going to Europe for 2 weeks next month, she still took a week to come home and spend time with us.  It was a lovely week spent together.  A shopping trip to Calgary,  time spent in a book store together trying to choose just one book (Yeah, that didn't happen!), dinners together and just spending time being together as a family is a blessing I never take for granted. 

2.  A haul of spices to bring flavorful meals to my family.  Of course on our trip to Calgary a stop at the Farmer's Market is imperative and I went prepared with list in hand to the little spice booth that I love.  The grocery store variety does not compare!  I came home with a great haul and have already used several of spices in my cooking.   So many yummy meals to make!  I better be careful or I'm going to end up being a spice collector. 

3.  High Quality Olive Oil and Balsamic Vinegar.  My daughter is a fan of doing the mixing of the two and dipping bread into them.  I've tried it once before and didn't care much for it, but at the Farmer's Market there is Olive Oil and Balsamic Vinegar Bar.  It is always busy but I've never thought to check it out.  But because our daughter was with us this time, we sorta followed her in there.  Okay, now I'm totally hooked!  The number of flavors of high quaility olive oil and balsamic vinegars was astonishing.  And you were able to taste however many you wanted.  I always wondered how on earth anyone could put balsamic vinegar on ice cream and now I totally get it.  They were delicious.  And the great thing about it, other than the tasting of course, was that they sold little $5 bottles so seeing we only get there a couple of times a year, I came home with a few choices.  I finally tore myself away after choosing Persian Lime Infused Olive Oil, Herbes de Provence infused olive oil, Mandarin Infused Olive Oil, Blackberry Ginger balsamic vinegar, Black Cherry balsamic vinegar, Alfoos Mango balsamic vinegar, and Espresso balsamic vinegar.  I also came away with a ton of ideas on how to use them in cooking other than bread dipping from the chef that worked at the booth.  And yes, I am totally going to try the Espresso vinegar on ice cream as soon as I buy some.  

4.  Celebrating my mom's birthday with her family around her.  My mom is now in her '80's and so every year is worth celebrating with her.  This year was special because K, our oldest and her first grandchild, was here for her birthday for the first time since she moved a province away.  They really have a special bond and it was wonderful that they were together for this birthday.  The whole family took her for Chinese food, one of her favorites and we had a really nice time together.  I know it blessed her having her family all together surrounding her.

5.  A new Thai Fusion restaurant in town.   Every once in a while we like a good feed of sushi and asian foods and this new restaurant has all you can eat lunch and dinner menus with a great variety of foods even if you're not a sushi fan.  And the food is quite delicious.  Hubby had bought me home a salmon bento box one day and I couldn't believe the amount of food.   A new restaurant to add to our date night favorites.

What have been your favourite blessings this week?

Thursday, July 16, 2015

The Girl on the Train ~ Book Review

Rachel commutes on the same train every day at the same time.  The train always makes the same stop at a particular signal close to a a row of houses that back onto the the tracks.  In one of these houses lives her ex husband and his new family.  In another of the houses lives a couple Rachel doesn't know personally but she feels like she totally does know them.  Each day Rachel sees them interact on their back deck and from her perspective on the train, it looks like they have the perfect relationship and the perfect life, certainly very different from her own.  She looks forward to seeing them each day and has even given them her own made up names, Jess and Jason.   She's imagined lives for them which she believes suits them.  Their love is everything she doesn't have.  But in reality all is not perfect in this couple's world and on one of those stops, Rachel witnesses something that she, in her made up world for the couple, sees as not right.  And when news headlines reveal that "her" Jess is missing, Rachel knows she must go tell the police what she saw.   But the trouble is Rachel hasn't been quite honest about things and that, coupled with her drinking has not only the police but her very own self wondering how reliable her memory is.  As the investigation deepens Rachel finds herself obsessively drawn to the situation but her compulsive actions while drunk or not,  only seem to make things worse yet she can't seem to help herself.

This psychological thriller has a lot of hype surrounding it right now.  It is told in the first person narrative of three different women, Rachel, Megan and Anna.  Three perspectives and back stories. Yet none of the narratives is reliable as each woman is hiding something.  The premise of the story seemed so interesting to me, I do love a good thriller with twists and turns but I have to admit I was wondering if I would be setting this book aside.  It started off a bit slow and it is a very dark, dismal and depressive kind of story.   Each of the women's stories are sad and there is nothing giving or loving it seems about any of the characters within the story.  They all seem selfish and wrapped up in themselves.  The only bright light amongst the characters, I thought, seems to be the woman that Rachel rents a room from.  The story started with an f-bomb or sexual reference dropped here or there but by the end there was quite a bit of language.  I would normally have set aside a book that does that but this one did it so infrequent in the beginning that I ignored it and kept going as the story started to entangle the perspectives of the three women and then it started to hook me.  From a Christian world view, I would have to say that it was a bit like a "train wreck", so to speak. in that you know it's going be bad and you totally know you won't like what you'll see but you just can't help yourself from keeping on looking.  It deals with alcoholism, self-esteem, lies and deception, divorce, depression, adultery, and murder.  Not a whole lot of anything light.  I was hoping that at some point there would be some kind of redemption for any of the characters so I kept on reading.  The ending I didn't like at all.   From a psychological thriller perspective I would say it did it's job well.  Suspenseful with lots of twists and turns and just enough info given at any point to keep the reader hooked because you just have to know how it all ends up.  It was hard to put down, I totally admit.  Though I will also say that until one gets rolling in the story the timelines of the women telling the story was a bit confusing and I had to keep referring back to the dates on each entry.   So when it was all over and I did set it down, I had totally mixed feelings about it.  Totally addictive to read but on the other side of the coin I said to my daughter who is a fellow reader that I really felt like I needed a light, sweet and totally cheesy story with a generous dose of heartwarming after this one. 

Reading Challenge Goals Met:  Book by a female author, A book set somewhere you've always wanted to visit, A book by an author I've never read before, a mystery or thriller, a book set in a different country,

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Still Alice by Lisa Genova ~ Book Review

Alice Howland is a brilliant professor of cognitive psychology at Harvard and is world renowned for her research into linguistics.  Being a sought after lecturer she has a very busy schedule teaching her classes, lecturing at conferences all over the world and conducting research.  It is a life she loves.  Her husband is also a busy Harvard professor of science conducting cancer research.  Study and learning are very important to them and they have tried to pass that on to their adult children.  Their oldest has become a lawyer, the middle child a doctor but it is their youngest whom Alice locks horns with constantly as she has no interest in academia and has chosen instead to pursue a career in acting.  While her husband is supportive of this, she just cannot help constantly questioning her daughter's decisions. As Alice prepares for a new semester at work, small incidences of forgetfulness and disorientation start to show up in her days.  When she becomes lost in a part of town that she knows like the back of her hand it truly frightens her, she makes an appointment at her doctor's thinking she is experiencing a bad case of menopause.  It is then that she is handed the diagnosis of early onset Alzheimers at the age of 49.

This book was very moving and chilling in it's story.  It is taken from the viewpoint of Alice which is an approach that I've never read before.  I've read other stories that deal with this horrendous disease but always from the spouse, caretaker's or family members points of view.  I cried through out the book as Alice's frustration and fear of what was happening was tangible through the words.  Her having to slowly let go of life as she knows it and loves it as the disease quickly progresses is truly heart breaking.   It is so well written in it's attempt to show the reader what a person going through this disease might go through and feel.  It describes the disease, it's consequences and progression so well yet never gets bogged down in super scientific terminology so even someone like myself easy was able to understand what Alice was experiencing.  The author herself has a Ph.D in neuroscience from Harvard and is an online columnist for the National Alzheimer's Association so the story rang very true in it's descriptions.  She also mentions several areas of drug testing within the scope of the story that was interesting.

I don't think I'm giving anything away when I say I especially liked the progression of Alice and Lydia's (the actress daughter) relationship in the story.  It was moving to have privy to the change even though they are fictional characters.  The story ended in a way I was not expecting at all.    

I saw this book mentioned on Faith's website, she highly recommended it, and I was also interested when I saw that Julianne Moore had won the academy award for her portrayal of Alice in the film.  I determined to read the book first so that I could get the author's original intents and story rather than Hollywood's version and I'm so glad I did.  It was heart breaking, beautifully written, sensitive, intelligent, compassionate and informative.  I, also,  highly recommend this book to everyone.  It will change how you view and relate to someone going through Alzheimers and/or Dementia.

Rating:  10/10

Reading Challenge Goals Met:  A book a friend recommended, A book that scares me, A book that made me cry, A book by an author I've never read before, A book that became a movie

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Refining Fire by Tracie Peterson ~ Book Tour and Review

Publisher's Description:  
Twenty two year old Militine Scott is in training at the Madison Bridal School in Seattle, yet she has no intention of pursuing marriage.  What respectable man would have her?  But she has found the school provides the perfect opportunity to keep her unsavory past hidden.

Thane Patton, though fun-loving and fiercely loyal to his friends, hides a dark secret, as well.  He finds himself drawn to Militine, sensing that she harbors a haunting pain similar to his own.

Will they allow God to make something new and beautiful from the debris of their past?

My Thoughts:
Abrianna Cunningham and Militine Scott both attend the Madison Bridal School in Seattle.  Having met there they have become best friends.  Abrianna was adopted by the 3 single sisters who own the school when her parents died and Militine basically attends the school so that she can hide from her past.   The school is a training ground for young women to prepare them for marriage but Militine has no intention of ever marrying.   Abrianna is very strong in her Christian faith and very purposefully pushes onto what she feels is her calling and will do anything to accomplish that purpose,  There is nothing that will stand in her way of helping the poor including a new pastor whom she doesn't trust.  Militine is very hesitant about God because of her past.  She can't reconcile what has happened to her with a loving God.

Thane Patton also has trouble believing because of his own past but he is drawn to Militine.  Though she attends a bridal school she has no intention of ever marrying.  In spite of her resolve she agrees to court Thane being totally honest with where she stands on the issue.  Thane's heart however is also being drawn by God and his best friend, Wade, is a strong Christian who shares his faith in a real and authentic way with him.

 From the publisher's description on the back, this story was supposed to be about Militine and Thane.  While Militine and Thane's story did play out in the book I wish there would have been more focus on how they worked through their painful pasts while coming together as a couple and confronting their beliefs. I really thought that their stories only scratched the surface.  I found that the character of Abrianna who was not even mentioned on the back of the book,  totally usurped the lead role in the story.  She was a very strong personality in the story and I found all others took a back seat to her and her escapades.  The story, for me, was very conversation driven, again mostly because of Abrianna, and I found I kept wondering when and if  anything was really going to happen.  That being said, it was an interesting setting being Seattle 1889 and a time period when strong women were not really tolerated.  The attitudes of the times were written into the story well and I really got a sense of what it might have been like.  Abrianna's total commitment to doing the Lord's work was to be admired and desired though some of her decisions to accomplish the work were not wise at best.  There is a bit of a twist concerning Abrianna that played in nicely to the story that I didn't see coming at all.   The Great Seattle Fire was included and that was really interesting and provided the tension the story needed.

Thanks to Bethany House Publishers for providing the book free of charge for an honest review.  I was not required to give a positive review and all thoughts and opinions are my own.