Friday, August 31, 2012

Fitness Friday: When illness and life get in the way

My poor baby is sick. What I thought was a serious case of teething is actually a double ear infection AND teething. The child has been crazy fussy since Monday, but today and yesterday were absolutely terrible. He was in tears, I was in tears, and we finally went to the doctor today and were given antibiotics. Thanks goodness for modern medicine. He's been giving his lungs a workout.  

In the midst of all of this I've been trying really hard to still fit in workouts for bootcamp. I spent many of these fussy-child days walking around the neighborhood, trying to keep Elliott distracted. It worked (most of the time) and helped to get a bit of cardio in at the same time. I'm determined to get all of my entries in for the prizes at the end of the camp! I did manage to get all of the time in, but it was mindless working out this heart was just not in it. I'm really hoping next week will be back to normal! 

The good news is, I lost another 2lbs last week. Hooray for that! Getting closer and closer to that comfortable weight range.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Midwife of Hope River review

Patience Murphy has been a practicing midwife for several years. In Depression-era times, Patience is all many mothers have when it comes to assistance with their births, especially in Appalachia where everyone is poor -- even Patience. She takes payment in the form of food, chickens, and blankets, if she's lucky to receive payment at all and she's resigned to the idea of always being poor. She still loves her work and is passionately dedicated to delivering babies and helping their mothers. 

Coming from a trouble background herself, Patience opens her heart and her skills to those in need, often landing her in hot water. She not only has to deal with survival on very little money in the depths of cold winters and harsh summers, but after taking in a friend's daughter, she ends up with the Ku Klux Klan paying close attention to her actions. There's also a man who keeps coming around (though his trouble is the good kind), and a woman whose husband is abusive that runs to Patience's home. On her toes is where Patience stays. 

Bits of Patience's old life are revealed throughout the story and we come to learn why she wanted to be a midwife and why she now lives alone in an old farmhouse, as well as where her intense passion for her profession comes from. The writing is incredibly heartfelt and honest and the details truly create scenes that can be easily imagined. 

I loved reading each account of a birth and how Patience handled each particular situation, because as each one happened, we were given more of glimpse into her personality, her reasons for doing what she does, and her heart. She's a courageous character, one filled with realistic qualities given her past, and though a lot of topics are covered, the way the author has written Patience brings it all together in an inspirational way. Patience Murphy is one of my favorite characters of the year. 

Everything about this book impressed me and I can't wait to discuss it with someone else that has read it! It was obvious that the author had some sort of background with delivering children and after reading her bio, she definitely did. It was very well plotted and realistic in that manner and I look forward to reading more from her!

Patricia is on a book tour now, so if you've read the book or are interested in seeing her speak, her schedule is here.

The Midwife of Hope River
Patricia Harman
400 pages
Adult Fiction
William Morrow
August 2012
Review copy

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Toon Books!

I love any type of book that encourages reluctant readers to pick up and book and go to town. It seems that graphic novels tend to draw in these kids with their appearance of being mainly pictures...and then once the story starts the reader is just sucked in. Gotcha! 

Toon Books have been awesome sellers at the bookstore for this very reason and they just keep getting better as new ones are published. They come in Levels 1-3, for approximately a Kindergarten reading level to about grade 3, give or take based on individual reading levels, of course. Excellent tips for parents and teachers regarding reading comics with kids are included in the back, which I found extremely helpful. 

Candlewick sent me the two latest ones to review and I was incredibly happy with the stories and the comics in each. 

"Benny and Penny in Lights Out" by Geoffrey Hayes was a sweet story about a brother and sister that can't seem to get along while trying to get ready for bed. Penny, obviously the more "Type A" bunny, has her teeth brushed, her pajamas on, and simply wants to hunker down in her comfy bed with her book. Benny, on the other hand, wants to play, play, play! It was adorable and I could see how easy it would be to both read and to follow along for those kids that are really just starting to practice their reading.  

"Maya Makes a Mess" by Rutu Modan was a great lesson in manners. Maya isn't known for her cleanliness while eating, but when an unexpected invitation to dine with the Queen arrives, she knows she'd better whip the manners into shape. She has to improvise a bit and the results are very funny...made me chuckle! The illustrations were silly and made the story easy to follow and the text will have readers giggling. 

I've yet to encounter a Toon Book I don't like and I'm so glad more and more books are being published. I can see every reader being able to find one to enjoy -- and that doesn't happen with a series very often! 

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Week in Review

It was an eventful week! We're closing out summer with a bang. Elliott is crawling everywhere, my small group is beginning our meetings again, and today I hosted a yard sale for a friend. Sold a few of my own goodies too! I also busted my booty in bootcamp!

This week was about drop-sets (doing 6-8 reps of a high weight, then dropping the weight 30-40% and doing more reps until fatigue), plus cardio intervals. I'm not sure if it was all the interval work or what, but I managed to lose 2lbs this week! That's the most since beginning the weight loss journey 5 months ago. Hooray!

I'm still struggling a bit with endurance during my runs, but with the interval training it doesn't matter quite as much. I'm stopping and starting a lot to follow the plan and it's definitely a good feeling to get my heart rate up high and be able to take a breather. Wishing bootcamp could last forever...

On the blog:

I raved about one of my favorite books of the year, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry.

I took a little trip back to the Gold Rush with The Quilt Walk by Sandra Dallas.

I reviewed The Roots of the Olive Tree by Courtney Miller Santo.

I talked about the "Croc Capers" series by Bindi Irwin. I'm also giving away the entire set!

For Picture Book Saturday I featured a couple of my favorites that have recently been reissued.

And because I just love showing off my little guy:

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Picture Book Saturday: My choice!

I've been sharing Elliott's new favorites lately, but this week I have two of my own favorites. I've always loved both of these stories and am so glad to have my own copies to share with my son now.

As a kid, I loved both of these books and was really excited to see them being reissued! Both are about wondering what it would be like in the city and realizing that the country isn't so bad after all. Story of my life.

Originally published in 1978 and winner of the Caldecott Medal, The Little House by Virginia Burton is the story of exactly what the title states: a little house. The house loves living in the countryside, but has always wondered what it would be like to live in the big city. As times change and years pass, the city ends up surrounding the little house, taking over the countryside, until the poor house can't see any green space at all. Be careful what you wish for!

It has a happy ending, I promise! I love the pure classic feel of this one and the illustrations are lovely. My husband thinks it's too long and sentimental, but he's just doesn't get it. Elliott and I have been reading this one at least once a week before naptime and WE love it. It's a nice, quiet excitement here...and I think every once in awhile we need to slow down and read a good long picture book. 

The reissued hardcover is available in mid-April!

The Little House
Virginia Lee Burton
44 pages
Picture Book
Houghton Mifflin
April 2012
Review copy

The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse by Paul Galdone was originally published in 1971. This was really one of my favorites when I was growing up, because I lived in the country and always had dreams about what it would be like to live in a city. Or just a place that it didn't take an hour to find a grocery store. You know...perspective. 

Most of you probably know the story: the town mouse doesn't understand how the country mouse could stand living in the country, with it being the dullest place on Earth and all, and invites his friend to come stay with him in the city. The fancy life is too crazy for the country mouse, so he hightails it right back to where he came from, happy to live a boring life. 

A simple story, with a nice message. Just be happy where you are!

The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse
Paul Galdone
40 pages
Picture Book
Houghton Mifflin
April 2012
Review copy

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Croc Capers review and a big giveaway!

 Bindi Irwin has a new book! This is the 7th entry in her Wildlife Adventures series and it's filled with the typical fun animal facts and the cute mystery that Bindi and her brother Robert have to solve. This time, the mystery surrounds crocodiles and some strange campers!

A quick and easy read, the story is an excellent intro to mysteries for young readers and has great facts about crocodiles woven in. Learning while reading...imagine that! Included in the back of the book is more information on becoming a Wildlife Warrior, which may appeal to the animal lover in your life or to the kids in your class or library.

Bindi Irwin is a great role model for young girls and she juts keeps getting better and better. She's smart, curious, and definitely adventurous like her father, the late Steve Irwin. Even if your children have never heard of Steve Irwin and his awesome animal adventures, they'll still appreciate Bindi and her manner of teaching them about animals, while still giving them a cute story. Bits of non-fiction mixed with a fiction chapter book make a really great combination.

The amazing people at Sourcebooks are giving YOU a chance to win the ENTIRE SET of Wildlife Adventures books!! What a great holiday or birthday gift this would make for a special child in your life! 

To enter, simply leave a comment on this post by Sunday night and I'll choose a winner Monday morning. Please make sure I have a way to contact you! U.S. and Canada only please. 

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Roots of the Olive Tree review

In a Northern California olive grove lives the Keller family. Five generations of firstborn women. A remarkable family that has managed to catch the attention of a geneticist that wishes to learn how these women are aging so gracefully and staying alive for so long. 

Anna, the head of the family, is 112, the second oldest woman in the world, with no sign of her spark going out anytime soon. She shares her home with her daughter, granddaughter, great granddaughter, and great great granddaughter. It's quite amazing! She knows that she's living longer than most women could ever dream to live, but she has no interest in having someone uncover the secrets to her longevity. In fact, she'd rather ALL of her secrets stayed buried deep. 

The matriarch of the family isn't the only one carrying around secrets. Each of the women chooses to hide her true self from one another, made all the more complicated by the youngest woman, Erin, coming home pregnant. Oh, the drama!

Though, a quiet story, each of these women will get into your heart as they tell their stories. The setting within the olive orchard is no accident, bringing to light the deep roots of the family and the strong ties they have to one another, even if they can't always get along. Each woman is very different and well-developed, making it easy to tell one from the other and see the situation from each side. 

I absolutely loved all the talk about the olive grove and oil and the different uses for it. Those aspects blend seamlessly into the family story, giving an extra dimension to the lives of these women. I really enjoyed it! Beautiful cover too!

Lots of other blogs are coving this awesome book too...check out the list here

The Roots of the Olive Tree
Courtney Miller Santo
320 pages
Adult Fiction
William Morrow
August 2012
Review copy

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Quilt Walk review

10-year-old Emmy Hatchett is about to embark on the journey of a lifetime. Her father has decided that the best chance for his family to be successful is to pack up their home in Illinois and travel the Overland Trail to Colorado, where he'll begin a business catering to the needs of gold miners. 

Emmy is both terrified and terrifically excited about the trip and the idea of starting over in a new home. She's devastated, however, that she must leave behind her grandmother. Her wonderful Grandma Mouse doesn't let Emmy leave without telling her that a sweet surprise awaits once she has crossed the Missouri River. When, on the journey, Emmy opens the surprise, she finds all the supplies she needs to make a quilt...not exactly the surprise Emmy wanted. She hated quilting!

As the family travels on, Emmy begins to quilt and also begins to grow up a bit. The quilting gets her through a few rough times and also helps to create a memory of a very important time in her life. Once they arrive in Colorado, Emmy realizes what an amazing gift her Grandma Mouse actually gave her. 

Sandra Dallas' descriptions of the time period and setting really placed me in 1864, on a journey to the west. I felt as if Emmy were my friend or sister, telling me her experiences and how she was dealing with them. This is the mark of a true storyteller. Being able to feel a part of the story is a huge part of loving a book for me and I definitely walked away from this one, loving what I had read. 

I was able to feel for all of the characters involved in the decision to head west. Ma didn't want to go, Pa didn't believe he had another choice to provide for his family, and Emmy is torn. She wants to go to Colorado, but she doesn't want to leave everything she knows behind, including her beloved Grandma Mouse. 

This would be a great book for kids that enjoyed A Little House on the Prairie series and are looking for something with a little more meat. It would also make a great teaching tool for teachers and homeschooling parents. 

The Quilt Walk
Sandra Dallas
212 pages
Middle Grade
Sleeping Bear Press
September 2012
Review copy

Monday, August 20, 2012

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry review

Harold Fry and his wife Maureen live in a quaint English village. Harold is recently retired and not quite sure what to do with himself, but appears to be somewhat content with his life.  Maureen is a cold woman, easily irritated with her husband and quite obsessed with cleaning the house. You can instantly tell they do not have a typical marriage. 

When the mail arrives one afternoon, Harold receives a letter from his former coworker, Queenie, stating that she is dying of cancer. Not quite sure what to say to Queenie, a woman he hasn't heard from in years, he manages to write out a quick note and plans to walk down to the post office box and deliver it. Instead, Harold keeps walking. He decides to walk all the way to her hospice facility, hundreds of miles away, in a pair of yacht shoes, and without any supplies. This is the story of Harold's walk to Queenie. 

I loved the idea of the novel and the description reminded me a bit of Major Pettigrew's Last Stand, a book I was totally charmed by last year. Harold is an incredibly likeable character and you want him to make it to Queenie, so badly. He becomes a media sensation...walking across the English countryside as he is, never knowing if Queenie is still waiting for him to arrive or if she has passed away. He meets incredible characters along the way, each interesting and inspiring in their own way.  Every time it seems like he should just give up, the right person comes along to convince him otherwise. 

Maureen was the most complex of the characters and I found her journey my favorite part of the book. Her husband just walks out of the house one day and decides to walk to another woman. She is a hard woman, but you can slowly see her interior emotions breaking through as the books goes on and it's her breakthroughs that I kept looking forward to the most. 

This was an utterly charming story and perfect to gift to those hard-to-buy-for friends and family. There is so much to like about Harold's story that everyone could learn a thing or two from him. 

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry
Rachel Joyce
336 pages
Adult Fiction 
Random House
July 2012
Review copy

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Week in Review

It's been a pretty slow week around here, but with a cranky (possibly teething) child, it's certainly seemed crazy. I'm spending my Sunday catching up on books and sleep! It's been in the low 70s today, with on and off rain, making it really seem like summer is on its way out the door...I can't say I'm sad to see it go! Though I know being confined to the house with a child in the chilly fall and winter months isn't exactly a cake walk, I'm ready for the challenge. I'm really just ready for the cool weather, pumpkin-flavored everything, walks with crunchy leaves under foot, and the approach of the holiday season. Can't wait!

This week on the blog:

I shared my thoughts on Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn and Wild by Cheryl Strayed.

I filled you in on a couple exciting New Releases that I'm itching to have time to read.

I reviewed Palace of Stone by Shannon  Hale.

For Fitness Friday, I talked about the last two weeks of Best Body Bootcamp and how I feel my endurance levels are diminishing. If you have any thoughts on that, head on over to the post and leave a comment. I need all the help I can get!

I hope you have a wonderful week and start to finish up that summer reading before fall really hits us!

Friday, August 17, 2012

Fitness Friday: Endurance problems

First, a bootcamp check-in! 

The last two weeks have been focused on tempo training and I've definitely been feeling the muscle burn. Tina defines tempo training as "using slow and controlled counts to target different parts of the movement in each exercise." I've never done this type of training before, but it's making my arms and legs shake by the third set, so it's obviously working!

I love how much motivation and encouragement I'm receiving from the other bootcamp participants and I'm thrilled with the results I'm already gaining...and we're only halfway through! Tina announced this week that there is definitely going to be a Best Body Bootcamp 3 & 4 and the dates have been set. Very excited about this!

Since the beginning of bootcamp I've lost about 5lbs. Not too shabby for a month! Down approximately 22lbs since March. 

I've been trying to figure out what's going on with my endurance levels, because something is definitely up. I've been exercising at least 4 days a week since March and up until a month ago, those 4 days consisted mainly of running. Once bootcamp started, I added the strength training a few days a week. For the last 2 weeks, my endurance while running has gone waaaay down. I was finally up to almost being able to run 3 miles without any sort of walk break and now, I can barely make it a mile. Last night I needed to walk at a half mile. It's more than a little discouraging. 

I totally understand the first week bootcamp started making my muscles incredibly sore, so the running was much more of a "very slow jog/walk." But, once I started to get into doing strength training again, I really thought my endurance would pick back up. Any ideas? Any tips?

Have a wonderful weekend everyone! Take a walk with your family or a bike ride. Something to get your heart pumping :)

Palace of Stone review

Picking up pretty much right where Princess Academy left off, readers get to return to Mt. Eskell and jump right back in with Miri and her friends. Several of the former academy attendees have been asked to go to Asland to assist Britta in preparing for her nuptials to the Prince and though Miri is sad to once again leave her father and her sister, she's thrilled to begin a new life in the big city. 

Once in Asland, Miri begins to make new friends, some of whom wish to rebel against the palace authority. They don't believe the King is doing what is best for Asland and are plotting a revolution. At first, Miri wholeheartedly defends the King, Britta, and the Prince, but as she begins to learn more about what the palace is and is not doing for the people of Asland, she starts to question who is right and what that means for her friendship with Britta. 

I loved Princess Academy and I was so excited to hear about this sequel. One can never have too much Shannon Hale in my opinion! It was great to be back in the world of Mt. Eskell and Asland and it felt like catching up with old friends when it came to Miri, Britta, and the other girls. 

The plot moves a bit slower in this one and the subject is darker and heavier, but it makes sense. I could see the author writing this for the girls that read and loved Princess Academy several years ago and are now a little older and ready for more mature subjects. The amazing world-building talent that Hale has in all her books is definitely present and I was still charmed by the people, the setting, and the plot, even if it wasn't as magical as the first book. 

I would definitely recommend starting with Princess Academy, but if you liked that one, you should definitely pick this up and spend more time with sweet Miri. 

Princess Academy: Palace of Stone
Shannon Hale
336 pages
Middle Grade 
Bloomsbury USA
August 2012
Review copy

Thursday, August 16, 2012

New Releases (5)

New Releases is a feature that I began once Elliott was born. Having an infant in the house seriously cuts down on my reading time...imagine that. These are a few titles that I am really excited to read, but just haven't had the chance to pick up quite yet. I know I'll enjoy them though, so I want to make sure you all know about them!

The Secret of the Fortune Wookiee by Tom Angleburger (8/7/12)

Love this series! I still think the first is my favorite, but I'm anxious to see what's happening at McQuarrie Middle School.

Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley (paperback release 7/24)

I actually have read (and loved) this one back when the hardcover came out, but I wanted to make sure you all knew the paperback is now available. I really like this new cover!

Thanks to Abrams and Atheneum for the review copies!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Thoughts on Gone Girl and Wild

There have been some really BIG books that have come out lately that I've been slightly afraid of, but ended up really liking. Books get a whole lot of buzz and then I just end up not being nearly as impressed as I think I would have been had they NOT been talked up by every blogger/magazine/etc. 
Both Wild by Cheryl Stayed and Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn managed to impress me, even with all the talk surrounding them. 

I ended up reading Wild right when Oprah chose it as her latest book club selection. I didn't plan it that way, but had been on the hold list at the library for a month or two and it showed up the day after the announcement. Though Oprah doesn't sway my opinion one way or another, I've ended up really enjoying most of her choices, so I was excited to start reading it. Whether you like Oprah or not, the woman does have great taste in books. 

So, I thought Strayed's memoir was pretty awesome. The idea of just deciding to walk all that way, alone and without much education regarding hiking is not only insane, but absolutely remarkable. Her descriptions regarding the hike itself, the people she met, and the emotions she was dealing with along the way made me cheer for her and hurt for her. She was obviously so incredibly broken when she began her journey and though the walk didn't solve things, she was able to grieve in her own way. 

I would highly recommend this one, though have a tissue box handy. Or your hiking'll feel like exercising after you read all she does! 

Gone Girl was as suspenseful as you all promised me it would be. I read it in less than a day, starting it when we left for NY last week and finishing it the next morning. I'm typically a conservative reader...meaning...I don't like a whole lot of language and sex in my stories. Just personal preference. This one has tooooons of language, but it works within the story, so I was ok with it. 

I knew, from hearing all the talk about the book, that it was one with lots of twists and turns and it most definitely was. I was impressed with Flynn's ability to make you believe in each character and what they're role in the plot was, so you almost didn't want to believe how things kept turning. It was a great read. 

What's going to be the next BIG book? Any ideas??

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Week in Review: Links, Bootcamp, and shiny things

It's been a crazy, but fantastic week. We "vacationed" at my in-laws house in NY and really enjoyed doing a lot of nothing. The husband and I are lucky enough to be from the Fingerlakes area and so we went on our own little winery tour, as well as having the family reunion, seeing some of my family, and doing a whole lot of picture-taking. Some of the gems from the trip:

I also read a couple of books, babysat for my niece and nephew, and ate a lot of sweet corn. A great week! Ooh and let's not forget about bootcamp!

This was week 3 of Best Body Bootcamp and though it was definitely more difficult to get motivated on vacation, I had 2 of my Biggest Loser competitors staying in the house with me, so it was easy to turn down the desserts and bad food choices and get out for a few runs. I knocked out my bootcamp workouts in the basement while everyone else snacked on birthday cake ;)

Being from the country, it was a great change of scenery to run near my in-laws home. No sidewalks, just a road and fields of corn and cabbage. I definitely had to watch out for the speeding cars and the Mennonite carts, but the calm and peacefulness of the evenings there is unmatched. Loved getting sweaty in the wide open spaces! (Cue the Dixie Chicks song)

Adding to my week of relaxation, was the blog reading that I didn't get done. Hehe. I did find a few awesome posts that I was excited about and wanted to share: 

The best review of Gone Girl yet.

Diana over at Hormonal Imbalances wrote about something very close to my heart this week. I've never been quite sure what to say when someone asks if Elliott is my only child.

One of my favorite blogs, Enjoying the Small Things, talked about one of her sponsors, The Shine Project. I love their mission and quickly snatched up the prettiest bracelet! Waiting for this new and shiny bauble to show up in my mailbox soon:

Such a great cause! I love supporting projects like this one or Etsy shops. Feel good shopping!

On the blog:

A review of The Homecoming of Samuel Lake. Such a good book!

A review of Survive by Alex Morel.

A Picture Book Saturday post.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Picture Book Saturday

Time for another update on what Elliott and I are enjoying together. Today's post is all board books. E seems to be getting more and more interested in grabbing and eating whatever we're attempting to "read," so the sturdier books are what's working for now.

On our daily reading agenda:

Go! Go! Go! by Cartwheel Books

This one has been SO much fun to look at for the little guy. Every page is filled with super bold colors and fun textures to touch (and attempt to chew). The tabs on the sides of the pages make it easier for him to try and turn the pages himself and the sound effects I made as we read each vehicle type was amusing to him, as well. At least it appeared to be. :)

I loved the concept of different colors, patterns, and textures helping to teach about vehicle types and simple vocabulary. Go! Go! Go! is a big winner in our house!

Baby Faces by Mallory Loehr and illustrator Vanessa Brantley Newton

I have to admit, this one isn't MY favorite, but it sure has been a hit with the age level it was meant for! Both Elliott and his cousin loved seeing each new baby face and were fascinated by what the interactive tabs would do. The babies sneeze, wink, chew, etc. and each right page is a full baby face (the aspect I DID like).

I just felt the interactive portion was a little forced. The movement of the faces when the tabs were pulled wasn't the most realistic, but it got the point across.  E was happy, so I'll keep it around!

My Dad is the Best Playground by Luciana Navarro Powell

We are always on the lookout for a good "dad" book and this one fits the bill. Elliott sees his daddy come home in a suit and tie every day and proceeds to climb all over him for about an hour before it's bedtime. The illustrations were perfectly similar to our own routine, which I point out to E each time I read. 

The text is simple and fits into the board book format very well. This would be a really nice gift for the dad at a baby shower or for Father's Day.  

God is Good...All the Time by Dr. Margi McCombs and illustrators Olga and Aleksey Ivanov

I know that God-talk isn't on the table in everyone's home, but it definitely is in ours. This particular board book has the concept simplicity I'm looking for in books about religion, paired with bold illustrations. Perfect for E right now. 

Though I liked the parts that explained what God has given us to make us smile, I really just loved the statement of God being good all the time. It's repetitive in a childlike way and we've been loving reading it before naptime every day. 

Thanks to Scholastic and Random House for the review copies!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Survive review

Jane wants to end her life, plain and simple. She's come from a long line of people who kill themselves and even though she's tried herself several times and ended up in rehab, determination has a hold of her now. On leave from rehab, she plans to kill herself while flying home. Fortunately or unfortunately for Jane, her plane never makes it home.

After the crash, Jane and her seatmate Parker are the only two left alive. With someone else that needs her help, Jane forgets about the need to kill herself and instantly decides she and Parker both need to survive. The mountaintop is relentless with its wind, snow, and well-below-freezing temperatures and the pair have few supplies and little hope of being rescued. 

A super fast read, you'll rip through this one in no time, wanting to know what fate awaits Jane and Parker. Besides all the action and constant fear for these characters, I really appreciated how the author managed to turn hopelessness into pure courage. Anyone can pick this up and be inspired...a great quality in a novel. 

The back cover describes Survive as being "Hatchet for a new generation" and I totally agree. I was definitely satisfied by adventure, thrills, and a believable bit of romance.

Alex Morel
272 pages
Young Adult
August 2012

Monday, August 6, 2012

The Homecoming of Samuel Lake review

 Willadee and Samuel are returning to her parent's home for a reunion, hopeful for a wonderful time filled with family and relaxation. What happens instead, is the shocking and tragic death of Willadee's father and very soon after, the loss of Samuel's parish. A whole lot of doom and gloom seems to be sitting on top of this family, but Willadee and Samuel's daughter Swan, becomes the shining star.

With nowhere else to go, Samuel and Willadee move in temporarily with Willadee's mother and all the problems surrounding this family also become theirs. But, everywhere she goes, Swan manages to make life a little bit better. She brings together a family torn apart and continues to be hopeful even in the worst of situations. She focuses a lot of her time on a neighbor boy that she believes is being harmed at home...a belief that is very much correct...and Swan is determined to save him. She's so, so good, while still being a complete innocent.

Talk about the perfect read for summer. The Homecoming of Samuel Lake packed in fabulously rich characters with an incredibly intriguing family story, all while making me feel just about every emotion possibly. I was angry at times, I felt hopeful at others, and even found myself laughing quite a bit. 

Swan's character is just so touching and lovely and real. You'll want to scoop her up and bring her home with you. She haunted my thoughts for days after I finished the story and I still think about her at times...sometimes with a little chuckle and others I have a heavy heart. For such a little girl, she had a lot on her shoulders. 

Though tough subjects are explored within the story, I highly recommend picking this one up this summer. The setting and time period and sense of close family ties made me think of summer and picnics and reading on the porch (which is exactly where I read this). I wouldn't exactly call it a "beach read," but certainly a book to read in the hammock with your lemonade on a hot and sunny afternoon.

The Homecoming of Samuel Lake
Jenny Wingfield
352 pages
Adult Fiction
Random House
July 2012 (paperback)
TLC tours

Friday, August 3, 2012

Fitness Friday: Hitting a plateau

Week Two of bootcamp has been conquered!! 

After taking Sunday as my rest day, I started my work out week off with an arm workout and then some HIIT training. 60 seconds as fast as I could then 60 seconds walking. I repeated for 20 minutes. When I was finished I was still a good half mile from home, so I jogged the rest of the way. Those intervals really work my legs and I ended up sitting with ice packs for a good 45 minutes after. 

The rest of the week I did short runs for my cardio (between 2-3 miles) and attempted one long run that I failed miserably at completing. Too humid. The humidity makes me nauseous and adding in running doesn't really help that at all. I think I managed to run about 1.2 miles and then alternated jogging and slow walking the rest of the way. At least it was some form of exercise. 

The workouts Tina is having us do are no joke! My muscles are burning and I love it. Loving the new weight set too.

On the down side, I've seemed to hit the expected weight-loss plateau. No movement for 2 weeks. I'm a little surprised that it's happening now, since I've added in bootcamp to change things up a bit and was hoping you all might have some suggestions as to how to overcome this hurtle. I'm still in the midst of my Biggest Loser competition and not losing weight isn't good!

Hope you all had a great Fitness Week!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Wonder: The book you must read this year

It's been said quite a few times by quite a few bloggers, but I figure it can't possibly hurt to say it again. You have to read Wonder by R.J. Palacio. It's honestly one of the most inspiring, powerful books I've ever read and I think every single adult, teen, and child could benefit from reading Auggie's story. 

Such a beautiful, beautiful book. Just read it.