Thursday, December 31, 2015

The Light Between Oceans: Book Club

 Could you live alone on an island?

This novel is set on a very southern island of Australia, Janus, where two oceans merge.  The main character, Tom, becomes a lighthouse ward after the war.  After a whirlwind romance with Isabel, the two move out to Janus to live, alone.

Map of Australia. Obviously.

A ship visits twice a year to provide provisions and mail supply.  They have telegram services, but that is their only means of communication.  In today’s day and age, this idea is nearly inconceivable to me.  I can’t tell you how many times a day I check email.  It’s a lot.  And I don’t have a smart phone.

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I like our little plot of land, isolated from the crush of neighbors, but I also like being 15 minutes from a very fancy Kroger and 20 minutes from Target and our specialty pet store.  I’d also love a high speed internet option that was not data driven.  While the mystic of island living certainly hits a spot with me, I doubt I would last very long.

thailand islands: one of the top 10 world's cheapest exotic travel destinations.

How about you?  Need an isolation reboot?

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

The Light Between Oceans: Review

The Light Between Oceans

By ML Stedman

I unintentionally kept putting this read off.  I thought I had already read it.  Somewhere along the line of 2015, I merged The Light Between Oceans and All the Light We Cannot See in my mind.  They have a similar theme in title, and their covers are very similar.

All the Light We Cannot See

I’m glad I finally got myself straightened out, because I really enjoyed this novel.  This is the type of read I yearn for.  The writing was eloquent if a bit brief rather than descriptive.  The characters were deliciously flawed and pitiable.  The plot was tantalizing as I experienced the consequences of the main characters’ “adoption.”

The tragedy of the story reminded me a great deal of Jodi Picoult as well as the pretty writing.  Stedman kept the story very trimmed up and on point.  I often find myself enjoying more back story, description, and flowery language.  This book didn’t need it, but a tad more might have filled it out.

The Light Between Oceans Couple that runs lighthouse finds a baby washed up on shore and how they deal with it for years to come. Jan 2014 3.5 stars. Very slow beginning but glad I stuck it out..:

Over all, a very beautiful read if not a happy go lucky, beach read.

Happy reading.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

American Wife: Book Club

Giving Birth

I already felt a kinship with Taya Kyle reading this novel because of our shared military wife experience.  The way she writes about it and marriage so candidly made me almost declare out loud, “Yes, that’s exactly how it was!”

I was surprised that we also shared some similar aspects giving birth to our children – her first and my only one.  Her first child, her son, had to be induced due to distress.  My little girl was also induced due to distress but different issues.  Luckily I was in the very early stages of labor already so technically it was called an augmented birth.

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What was particularly poignant were her descriptions of her recollections of a medicated free birth due to a low platelet counts.  I electively decided to skip the epidural but did end up having some pain medication toward the end of the labor.  The way she writes about it was very reminiscent of mine, so if you are interested in reading an account of a medicated free birth, read this one.

I am still completely torn about how I will give birth if my husband and I decide to have another child.  I wanted to go epidural free because many studies suggest that the likelihood that the birth will end in a c-section increases anywhere from 40-60%.  My sister had just gone down that path, and her recovery story was enough to want me to avoid that path with a ten foot pole.

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My recovery was almost non-existent.  I did tear, so I had some pain a few hours later.  However, I was up walking, visiting with baby and family, and alert almost immediately after our little one entered this world.  The recovery was awesome.  I have very fond memories of the recovery.

However, I had a Pitocin induced labor and was being continuously monitored because little one had 1 distressed heart rate reaction which meant no hot shower, no pacing about, and difficulty moving around in general.  Even now, I lean towards a natural birth if I could have a full natural birth… no induction.  However, I am completely torn about epidural or no epidural if I need to be induced again.

Baby Fashion, baby clothes,  Outfit details @

I have completely settled on using a midwife birthing center next go round – if there is another go round – rather than a traditional OBGYN who was very sweet but intervened several times in my pregnancy that in hindsight I wish she wouldn’t  have done.

How about you?  Do you have a positive or negative birth story?  Epidural or no epidural?

Monday, December 28, 2015

American Wife: Book Club

Care Packages

Taya Kyle briefly mentions the care packages she would send her husband, but I know what a welcome respite these little trinkets are to soldiers.  I’m not sure exactly how to go about giving a random care package, but I know what my husband continues to remember about his.

Next time you create a care package, be sure to include some of these things to make it your best care package ever.:

He remembers the packages of girl scout cookies he got, Christmas cookies and fudge.  When in doubt, send sweets.  Just the other day he was telling us, once again, of how all his buddies gathered around his baked goodies.  They were always good to share.  I think.

It was the little things that I enjoyed sending him most.  Those little things that only I knew he would need.  For example, fingernail clippers were always disappearing and continue to disappear even today so every care package had fingernail clippers in them.

Cookie care package- I included nesquik chocolate milk, chips ahoy, Oreos, wafflers, butter butters and a cup so he can dip his milk:

I also sent letters nearly every day while he was deployed.  Being his girlfriend then fiancĂ© then wife, this is probably no surprise.  I was surprised when he came home with letters from people he barely knew or didn’t know at all.  It didn’t surprise me that he got them, but it surprised me that he kept them.

During this time of year, it is nice to remember that this is a small thing my family can do for other families.  And I hope to have my ducks enough in a row next year to get a care package together either for one of his buddies still serving or just anyone.

Distance is just a test to see how far love can travel Care package for Military Deployment:

What would you send to a soldier overseas?

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

American Wife: Review

American Wife: Love, War, Faith and Renewal by Taya Kyle

American Wife: Love, War, Faith, and Renewal

Not to confuse with American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld which is another novel I greatly enjoyed, but this autobiography is a very different kind of story.

This book is written simply, somewhat haphazardly, and not particularly noteworthy in a literary sense.  However, Kyle’s story is nothing short of breathtaking.

I have seen American Sniper with Bradley Cooper but did not pick up the book that inspired the movie.  I remember sitting in the theater watching this with my husband who was probably three or four years past his honorable discharge from the US Army and feeling emotions that I hadn’t felt since our Army years.

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While the Kyle’s story is more glamorous than a traditional service member’s, there are still familiar veins regardless of the personal journey through post 9/11 military service.  Taya Kyle’s novel brought it all back plus some since her experience would naturally be more similar to mine than Chris Kyle’s.

However, her story ends tragically, and the autobiography details how she claws her way back from her loss.  I loved relating to her military experience in the first part of the book, but I do think the second half could have used a little trimming.  Taya Kyle’s resilience amazed and awed me.

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If you love reading about personal stories, especially personal success and faith stories, this is an easy, moving read.  If you prefer a polished, well written literary piece or would find yourself overly emotional reading about military life – i.e. current military spouses – then skip this one.

Do you need a book to have it all or can you enjoy a book that manages to do 1 or 2 things really well?

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

First Frost: Recommendations

The Bean Trees (Greer Family, #1)

The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver
I am amazed at Kingsolver's ability to write such widely varied types of stories with different writing styles to boot.  The Bean Trees is another feel good, wholesome novel where the characters find a place to fit in this hectic, crazy world we live in.  Just because you like The Bean Trees is no true reflection on liking The Poisonwood Bible (one of my and my husband's favorites), Prodigal Summer, or The Lacuna.  Each are so different it feels as if a different author wrote each one of them.

Where the Heart Is

Where the Heart Is by Billie Letts
This book reminds me a lot of The Bean Trees.  This was also the first book I picked up that was an Oprah's Book Club pick.  To me, this novel is a lot richer than First Frost, but it has that same comforting factor.

Big Stone Gap (Big Stone Gap, #1)

Anything by Adriana Trigiani
I go through phases where I will read everything new she has written like a lifetime movie addiction and then promptly lose interest.  All of her novels - that I have currently read - are family, feel good reads.

Dance Upon the Air (Three Sisters Island, #1)

Three Sisters Island Trilogy by Nora Roberts
I went through a Nora Roberts phase a good 10 years ago while I was likewise going through a Romance phase.  I read a lot of Romance novels and a lot of Nora Roberts' novels.  Some were good, most were lukewarm, and some were complete trash.  I still read them.  This series and The Reef are the only ones that stick out in my mind by Nora Roberts.  This was a good series that has the magical element that we see in First Frost with the added Romance element.

Home Safe

Home Safe by Elizabeth Berg
This was another novel I read right after giving birth to my first little 14 weeks ago.  I needed something easy to read, easy to keep up with, and feel good.  This novel delivered on all those counts.

What feel good novels have you read?

Monday, December 21, 2015

First Frost: Book Club

This series is special to me because of Allen’s savory descriptions of wildly eclectic, botanical culinary creations.  It just seems fitting to explore and share some of my other favorite culinary inspirations.

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As a wedding gift, my mother got me a subscription to Cooking Light which remains to this day one of the best gifts I have ever received.  The monthly new ideas, drool worthy pictures, and easy to follow recipes easily had my husband tricked into thinking I actually know how to cook.  Ha. 

As my diet has changed – coming closer and closer to vegan after I realized I had a dairy allergy over 5 years ago – the magazine has less useful ideas for me than it once did.  However, I’ve never thrown away an issue without taking at least 1 recipe idea from it.

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For always delectable vegan cooking, I found the Oh She Glows website shortly before she published her first cookbook, the Oh She Glows cookbook.  Everything I tried from the website was delicious, but I was torn about purchasing the book. 

My health goals are centered around whole, plant based foods.  I had already made the mistake of spending money on vegan cookbooks that relied heavily on tofu, tempeh, seitan, and Earth Balance “butter.”  I didn’t want vegan processed food.  In fact, I feel like non-vegan whole foods are still a better option than vegan processed.

Rad Rainbow Raw Pad Thai by Oh She Glows.  Such a refreshing dish for these 100 degree days!!!:

That is not to say I don’t eat some of all of it – minus the dairy that would send me to the hospital after a very unpleasant epi-pen adventure.  If I’m going to spend my money on a cookbook, I want whole foods.  After spending two months following bloggers and tweeters raving about the book, I finally gave in and purchased it.  It was the best cookbook purchase I have ever made, and she needs to hurry up with the next one already.

For vegan breakfast and dessert ideas, I always head to Chocolate Covered Katie’s website.  I love that she has options for baking.  If you’re like me and unable to spend the money on almond flour – yikes- then, there’s a flour option.

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Where do you go for cooking inspiration?

Friday, December 18, 2015

First Frost: Review

First Frost by Sarah Addison Allen

First Frost (Waverley Family, #2)

I completely missed that this was a sequel to Garden Spells.  I was 10 pages into First Frost and felt as if I had already read the book before.  If I was still a book hoarder, I would have tracked down Garden Spells to compare.  I am not. 

After a frustrating evening of double and triple checking the jacket cover – is this a sequel???? – I finally got down to the computer and my goodreads account to confirm – after it was painfully obvious – that this is the Waverly Family#2 edition of the series?  Maybe a series.  I don’t know.

Garden Spells (Waverley Family, #1)

Anyway, I liked Garden Spells.  I wasn’t over the moon with it.  It didn’t change my life.  It was comfortable, cozy and fun.  Equate it to a well broken in sweatshirt.  Maybe so broken in that it has a coffee stain and a little tear in the hem.

When I saw another of her novels recommended, I went back and forth on if I wanted to read it.  I ended up grabbing it at the library since I was deliberately looking for something light hearted and cozy.  Something where everything wraps up all neat and tidy, and everyone is happy at the end.  In that, it did not disappoint.

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The plot is very similar to the first novel, but the Waverly’s special gifts are what make these novels a little bit more fun for me.  That and descriptions like “lasagna cooked in miniature pumpkins,” “pumpkin seed brittle,” and “spiced caramel potato cakes.”  This book absolutely made me salivate.

Pumpkin Dreamboat Dessert. The best dessert recipe ever.
Happy reading.

Do you ever just need a book that you know will have a happy ending?

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Favorite Young Adult Series

Song of the Lioness Series by Tamora Pierce

I was at our city's best used bookstore a few weeks ago looking for Christmas gift gems.  In particular I was trying to hunt down something for an almost middle school girl and my husband.  I had no luck on the husband front, although he did which means I still got his Christmas presents taken care of.

I was perusing the young adult books considering how comfortable I was giving a young girl a book on reputation alone.  After all, I haven't read very many middle grade or young adult books, and a used book store - even an awesome one - is limited in options.  Then God took care of it for me - as he tends to do when I just leave myself open to any possibility.

Alanna from the Song of the Lioness Quartet by Tamora Pierce:
When I was about the same age as this young girl I was shopping for, my sister found this series by Tamora Pierce.  At the time, I was immersed in the worlds of John Grisham and Michael Crichton.  Yes, I was a weird kid.  This was one of the first young adult books that caught my attention and utter devotion.  I had completely forgotten about them as it's been 15 plus years since I've read them and life is crazy right now.

When I happened upon the 2nd and 3rd of these series at the bookstore, I knew this was the gift I had to give.  I immediately scooped them up and ordered the 1st and 4th on amazon.

The King's Champion Sir Alanna The Lioness of Trebond and Olau, The Woman Who Rides Like A Man of the Bloody Hawk (with Faithful, her Goddess-given cat) FROM THE SONG OF THE LIONESS QUARTET

This first series of Pierce's - by far my favorite - is an adventure tale of a young lady in a fantasy land with knights, wizards, and castles who is slotted into a role that she refuses to accept.  Instead of attending a lady finishing school, she trades places with her twin brother to attend warrior training while he goes on to wizard school.  Her adventures and travel were magical to me, and I have put these books on a list to re-read if I ever get around to re-reading anything.

Wild Magic (Immortals, #1)

Immortals Series by Tamora Pierce

This is Pierce's second series which is almost as good.  I continued to read Pierce's novels for a few novels after this series, but they were not nearly as well done as these two debut series.

While I love the Song of the Lioness series for the strong, stubborn woman I wished I would have been, I love the Immortal Series for who I actually am.  The main young lady character has a special gift with animals.  She was so much like me that I likewise devoured this series as well.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (Harry Potter, #1)

Harry Potter Series by JK Rowling

Enough said.

Shadow and Bone (The Grisha, #1)

The Grisha Series by Leigh Bardugo

I have recently read this series which actually reminded me a great deal of the Song of the Lioness series.  This series also boasts a strong heroine, but she is forced into her powerful position rather than taking it by force.  This series also has a slightly more science fiction feel than the Song of the Lioness series, but if liked one, you'll enjoy the other.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Cinder: Recommendations

It was not easy to scour the ranks of books I have read - of which there are many - to pick recommendations for Cinder fans.  To start, I haven't read nearly as many young adult books as any other fiction type of book.  When I was young, there was not the variety of selection of young adult novels as there is now.  Now that I am an adult, it takes a special young adult novel to catch my attention.

Young Adult books that adults will LOVE! The best list!! So many good books. YA isn't just for kids.:

I'm also planning to publish my favorite young adult series tomorrow which just about cleared out my good options.  As a result, there are only three books I have to recommend, but I recommend them wholeheartedly.

The Hunger Games (The Hunger Games, #1)

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins: These books have probably been read by anyone who would already have any interest in reading them.  However, the adventure, lovable characters, and fantasy aspects are a dead ringer if you liked Cinder.

Bridge to Terabithia

Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson: It has been awhile since I've read this one, but I remember it fondly where few stand out.  It is written for a slightly younger audience than Cinder and The Hunger Games.  It is still a feel good, sweet, fantastical adventure.

Looking for Alaska

Looking for Alaska by John Green: This young adult novel is a realistic portrayal of teenagers at a private boarding school.  While I probably would not actually recommend it for a young adult - as it deals with some very heady, difficult topics - it is a very well written, adventure novel.  It is not a feel good read, however.

Do you prefer feel good young adult reads?  Or more realistic ones that deal with tough topics?

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Cinder: Book Club

In Cinder by Marissa Meyer, Prince Kai is being pressured by the Lunar Queen to marry and make an advantageous alliance between the countries.  Prince Kai is still a teenager.  I cannot remember a specific age being mentioned, but Cinder and her step sisters are all portrayed as teenagers and wards of their mother as well.

Cinder ("Cinder" by Marissa Meyer) as Cinderella:

I was not thrilled about this theme of teenage marriage.  Please rest assured this is not a spoiler.  The pressure of marriage in this first book got me considering how common this scenario is in young adult literature.

After all, we see Bella in twilight not only marry as a teenager but have a child.  The Selection by Kiera Cass is another Cinderella and possibly Bachelor spin off centering around marrying off the Prince through a Selection of the local teenage girls.

Twilight Inspired: Edward and Bella married under an arch of wisteria and freesia.

While I can appreciate and would expect romance to play a significant role in most young adult fiction as it is a significant interest to teenagers, I worry about the glamorization these particular novels are portraying.

I enjoy the stories, and I can appreciate their fancifulness but would I hand them to my daughter to read?  I don’t know.

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What do you think?  Are you concerned with overly romanticizing teenage marriage and pregnancy in young adult fiction?

Monday, December 14, 2015

Cinder: Review

Cinder: The Lunar Chronicles Book 1 by Marissa Meyer

Cinder (The Lunar Chronicles, #1)

Upon repeated recommendations of this young adult novel, I finally gave it a try without reading the jacket cover or having any other expectations of its premise other than it was clearly a Cinderella spin off.

The first 20 pages I thought I would throw in the towel and call this one a spade.  I am not the intended audience for young adult novels anyway, so it takes a special one to catch my interest.  Generally – Cinder being no exclusion – the writing is simpler for a lower reading level and the story line is fairly predictable.

Cinder is set in the future and the main character, Cinder, is a cyborg.  I am not terribly interested in robots and hover crafts in any form of entertainment.  However, unexpectedly the Plague entered the story line.

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As a teenager, my favorite movie was Outbreak, and I LOVED biology class.  I especially loved diseases and viruses, the deadlier the better.  If not for my equal distaste for Chemistry, I could have pictured myself working at the CDC.

When Cinder took this slant, I was hooked, and by the end the subtle but teasing plot line and characters had me hooked.  If I didn’t already have two different library books sitting on my table to read, I would already have rushed back to the library to check out the next one in the series.  It will be on my list for my next trip.

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Cinder is for you if you like adventure, science fiction stories.  While I flew through this book – both because the simple language makes it an easy read and I wanted to know how it turned out – it was still relatively predictable.  I still enjoyed it, but if you’re looking for a literary masterpiece this is not it.  If you’re looking for a nail biter, edge of your seat kind of book, this is not it.

If you’re looking for a light hearted, lose yourself in a different world read, give this one a try.

Happy reading.

Friday, December 11, 2015

The Lake House: Book Club

In The Lake House by Kate Morton, the mother, Eleanor, protects a family secret even from her own family.  In fact, she goes to great lengths to preserve this secret to great personal sacrifices.  She would rather endure selflessly than put the family to shame.

"Her heart was a secret garden, and the walls were very high." William Goldman, The Princess Bride:

In this day and age of bloggers – hello! – and social media where we share a lot, I wonder to what lengths I would go to preserve a squeaky clean family image.

My personal preference falls somewhere in the middle ground between these two extremes.

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I have been party to family members trying to keep an unpleasant situation under wraps.  It was hurtful to feel that they couldn’t trust us to understand and be empathic to their troubles.  It also put great strains on the relationships because of the lack of clear communication.

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I also know that I enjoy the connection I feel with others when we share over common victories and challenges.  I find that there is not much I keep close to my chest these days.  I feel there is nothing to be embarrassed about even if I am struggling with something.  Those I care about and care about me respond with loving kindness and prayers.

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I see a more distinct line when it comes to social media.  I still like sharing – clearly.  However, I’ve come to a place where I want to keep my family life quieter in the great world wide web.  While I like sharing anecdotes, I try to keep it more generalized for the greater world to see.  This stems from my personal feeling that it is not my place to share others’ stories.

Where do you fall?  Do you like to keep certain things private?

Thursday, December 10, 2015

The Lake House: Recommendations

If you liked The Lake House by Kate Morton…

The Lake House

Complex Mysteries
The Girl on the Train

Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins: This murder mystery reminded greatly of the first half of Gone Girl.  I didn't finish Gone Girl because I had already seen the movie, and they were almost identical.  This novel lends itself even more traditionally in the mystery genre, but it had just enough depth that I really enjoyed it.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Millennium, #1)

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo Series by Steig Larson: These novels had a completely different feel than The Lake House.  Where The Lake House had a soft, almost homey atmospheric feel to it, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is raw and masculine.  I recommend it for two reasons.  One: I don't generally like mysteries so my options were very limited.  Two: This twisting, turning suspenseful plot is very complex and entertaining.  Be warned that it took me at least half the novel to really get hooked on this series.  After that, I devoured all three like they were going out of style.

Based in pastoral England

The Shell Seekers

The Shell Seekers by Rosamunde Pilcher: This novel has the same atmospheric feel as The Lake House.  The reader is transported to pastoral England.  The descriptions are so lovely and vivid I can see the English cottages, the lush but pristine gardens, the English sea shores.  It lacks the murder mystery aspect but is probably the closest match in recommendations.

Jane Austen complete Penguin book set.:
Anything by Jane Austen

By Kate Morton

Kate Morton books :)- These were all so good:

Trust me, if you liked The Lake House, you will like any of Kate Morton's novels.  They all have unique stories and characters, but have the same basic skeleton.  You'll love them all or none of them.

Do you have any recommendations if you like Kate Morton?