Friday, May 30, 2014

Mrs. Hemingway review

Summer, 1926. Ernest Hemingway and his wife Hadley take refuge from the blazing heat of Paris in a villa in the south of France. They swim and play bridge and drink gin with abandon. But wherever they go they are accompanied by the glamourous and irrepressible Fife. Fife is Hadley's best friend. She is also Ernest's lover. Hadley is the first Mrs. Hemingway, but neither she nor Fife will be the last.

I was absolutely fascinated with this story. I fell for the life of Ernest Hemingway after reading Hemingway's Girl by Erika Robuck a couple of years ago and now I love to read anything I can about him and his lifestyle. Though fiction, this novel was a great look into the world of the women who surrounded him and what their thoughts of the famous man may have been as they were caught up in his lavish life and eventually tossed aside. 

The writing was atmospheric and beautiful, though, at times a little confusing with the back and forth of present and past. I felt the flow was sometimes a little off. Once I made it a few chapters in, I found the rhythm and enjoyed the story. 

Thanks to Penguin for the review copy!

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The Year She Left Us review

Thank you all for your kind comments regarding my thoughts in my last post. I'm still not sure what I'll do, but taking things slowly is definitely my plan. I don't want to give up something I love, but I do want to make sure I have plenty of time for enjoying books without obligation. You all are amazing!

Today, I have a review of a book that will make those readers who are drawn to detailed characters very happy. I found myself totally wrapped up in this family and their journey of healing and growth. 

From the publisher:

The Kong women are in crisis. A disastrous trip to visit her "home" orphanage in China has plunged eighteen-year-old Ari into a self-destructive spiral. Her adoptive mother, Charlie, a lawyer with a great heart, is desperate to keep her daughter safe. Meanwhile, Charlie must endure the prickly scrutiny of her beautiful, Bryn Mawr-educated mother, Gran--who, as the daughter of a cultured Chinese doctor, came to America to survive Mao's Revolution--and her sister, Les, a brilliant judge with a penchant for ruling over eery thing's lives.

The story is, at times, humorous, while being an incredible family story. There's a bit of mystery, a lot of heartbreak, and a great examination of what one's culture means to daily life. I loved the book and can't wait to see what this author brings to us next! 

To stop by the rest of the tour, check out the other blogs participating here.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

To blog or not to blog.

This year has been a tough one for me. Lots of changes with our extended family, friendships ending, and just a whole lot of chaos that I wasn't quite expecting to have to deal with, all while I attempted to lead a group of 50 women and be their encourager... plus mom to a toddler and working at the bookstore more. Whew. I'm just tired writing it and it has truly been mentally and emotionally exhausting. It wasn't all bad things happening -- though there were definitely some of those -- but, just a lot in general and something needs to give.

Lately, I've been doing a lot of reading whatever I want and just reflecting on my days, along with a little journaling, and it's perfect for my current state of mind. I'm not passionate about blogging right now and I'm not sure if it will return. I'm not sure what that means for this blog... I've been at it 7 years and letting go would be a very difficult decision. So, for now, I'm going to blog when I feel like it and start to say no to review copies, so obligations will be gone. Maybe taking any pressure off will help. This is supposed to simply be a hobby, after all. 

If this year has taught me anything, it's that I want to be ALL IN with everything I do in this short life. I want to love every aspect of my days (even the temper tantrums), because I'm only on this earth for so long. That meant letting go of a difficult friendship. It meant deciding to make the right choices for our family, despite my own opposition. It may mean being done with this blog, so I can just focus on reading what I want, when I want. 

I'm not putting a timeline on this decision, because I'm just honestly not sure. I'm going to finish up a few review obligations and then see what happens. If I just write once in awhile, maybe the passion for reviewing books will come back. If not, I'm still on Twitter constantly chatting up what I'm reading, so I won't totally disappear. Can't get rid of me that easily! 

Sunday, May 18, 2014

A break of sorts

Life got crazy and blogging, once again, took a backseat. I'm hoping to be back before much longer, but for now, I'm enjoying my family and LOTS of books. See you soon!

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

One Hundred Names by Cecelia Ahern

After a scandal rocks the world of journalist Kitty Logan, she's pretty sure her career is over. Add that to the fact one of her best friends and mentors is dying of cancer and Kitty isn't exactly having a great time in her life. Which might just be the understatement of the year. 

When Constance does pass away, Kitty finds herself recalling one of their last conversations - when she asked Constance what was one story she had always wanted to write. Kitty convinces her boss to let her turn the answer Constance gave into a story and thus sets off on a wild goose chase of what turns out to be a list of one hundred names of random people Kitty has never heard of. 

As Kitty tracks down the people on the list and learns about them and their seemingly ordinary lives, she also learns a lot about her friend and ultimately, herself. 

I had good and bad moments with this book. I really want to like Cecelia Ahern's books, since I fell in love with P.S. I Love You so many years ago, but I've yet to find another that I really connect with. This one was close. I loved the concept and the wild goose chase Kitty was forced to go on and I really liked the connections she made with all of these crazy people. I thought it was original and fun and it made me want to keep reading. 

I also thought the book was much too long and reached it's ending point probably 75 pages before the book actually ended. The scandal Kitty was involved in wasn't quite focused on enough and though I definitely realize it wasn't meant to be the central focus of the story, it did play a huge role in why she was falling apart in the beginning of her journey. I just wish more had been done with it. 

If you've loved Cecelia Ahern before, give this one a try. If you've never read her, I'd still give it a try, because of the interesting plot turns. It's not one I loved, but I can see others really enjoying it. 

You can find more stops on this blog tour here

Thanks to TLC Books for the review copy!

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Coffee and a chat

It's been awhile since we've had a chat over coffee! So many fun things have been happening over here and it's definitely time for an update, so grab your coffee and let's have a chat!

If we were having coffee... I'd share a few of the beautiful family photos we had taken a couple of weeks ago. 

Seriously... is my child not the cutest? We ended up with some really beautiful shots, but it definitely took effort on all parts. Elliott was not thrilled with anything to do with posing, so the family shots are few and far between -- give him a wagon or a tree to hide behind (or a flower to destroy) and he was happy. 

If you're local, check out Portraits by Inga. She's AMAZING and affordable and so, so sweet. Many of our friends have used her services and she's become a friend to all of us. 

If we were having coffee... I'd have to show you the beautiful new earrings I won! One of my favorite local businesses, Apple and Pear Wardrobe Design, ran a Facebook contest for a pair of handmade earrings from the lovely Etsy shop: Jocelyn Brown Jewelry. I picked the pair I wanted and they arrived last week. 

So pretty! They'll be great for spring. Check her out!

Even if you aren't local, I definitely recommend liking Apple and Pear Wardrobe Design on FB. She gives great styling tips and fashion tips for different body types and runs an awesome Style Chat every Wednesday night. Fun and informative!

Not paid ads, just my love for two awesome local businesses! 

If we were having coffee... I'd share my latest Stitch Fix box with you! I haven't ordered a fix in a couple of months, but I'm so glad I got one for May. I loved every single item in the box and had a very hard time choosing which to go with. 

In the box were 3 striped tops, a white cardigan, and an abstract print dress. I honestly loved all of it, but only kept the coral striped top. It worked well with jeans or capris, which I wear almost every day, so it will fit nicely into my current wardrobe. 

My favorite piece in the box was probably the white cardigan -- really lightweight with a nice, draped effect in the front, but I couldn't get over the white. Elliott would ruin it on me in 5 minutes. If it had been any other color I would have kept it. 

If you're interested in getting your own personalized stylist via Stitch Fix, just click here. If you do sign up, I get a small referral credit, so thank you in advance!

Thanks for chatting with me! If you do a similar coffee and chat, link back in the comments!

Saturday, May 3, 2014

My latest picture book picks

I read a lot of books with Elliott, but there are some picture books that make their way to my mailbox that I love, but are just a tad bit above his interest level at this point. These 2 are ones that will hang out on the higher shelves for another year or two before I read them to him, but they're definitely worth having!

At the Same Moment, Around the World by Clotilde Perrin takes a fascinating look at children in different parts of the world going through an average day. 24 different time zones are covered and readers can visit these exciting places and get a glimpse into what it might be like to actually be a child there. France, Vietnam, Hawaii, Australia, Bulgaria, and Greenland are just a few of the places the book explores, with illustrations exhibiting what exactly might be taking place at that time of day. Pretty neat! 

I love the concept and all the different learning opportunities presented. Time zones, cultural differences, how to tell time, how many hours in a day, etc. A very cool book! 

I also really love a great anti-princess story (Paper Bag Princess, is a classic fave) and The Worst Princess by Anna Kemp is a fun new one on the shelves. Let's celebrate girl power, shall we? Author Anna Kemp has created a spunky character in Princess Sue and girls will cheer for her quick-thinking and quirky attitude when the Prince she believes is bringing her to freedom, actually just wants her to hang out in the castle trying on fancy clothes. 

Illustrations, done by Sara Ogilvie, are bright and fun, which add to the charm of this smart book. I loved it and will definitely be adding it to my list of smart-girl picture books!

Thanks to Chronicle and Random House for the review copies!