Monday, March 31, 2014

Heat Wave Torches Vegetables, Crops in Tennessee

On Jul 3, 2012 my husband put together a video about what the heat wave was doing to our backyard garden. Our sunflowers flourished, while other pants did not fare so well.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

CLEVER GIRL by Tessa Hadley

All the qualities that readers praised in The London Train are present in CLEVER GIRL, Tessa Hadley's brilliant new novel. It follows the story of Stella, from her childhood as the daughter of a single mother in a Bristol bedsit in the 1960s into the mysterious shallows of her middle age. The story is full of drama - violent deaths, an abrupt end to Stella's schooldays, two sons by different fathers who aren't around to see the boys grow up - but as ever it is her observation of ordinary lives, of the way men and women think and feel and relate to one another, that dazzles. Yes, you think. This is how it is.

My thoughts:
I have not read Tessa Hadley before, but I do have more than one of her books on my wishlist. I have to say this novel was a bit different. It's written almost like a diary or a memoir where she is retelling her story. She was a young girl growing up in the 60's in England. Her father is dead (but she wonders if he really is) and her mom is single. Her mother eventually remarries and moves Stella to the suburbs. She always seems a bit of an outcast, but finds a place in the new generation. She becomes a sort of hippie. There is sex and drugs without commitment. She moves along in her life determined to not be her mother--to be more, because she is clever. She has two children without being married and no real support system in place. Stella eventually finds her way.

For me CLEVER GIRL is a mixed bag. Tessa Hadley had me thoroughly convinced with Stella's story. Completely believable. I can't say I liked Stella nor can I say I thought she made good decisions, but Tessa wrote a character who felt so true and Stella was always true to character. Not only was Stella's character real, but the world around her. I could almost feel the avocado shag carpeting under my feet as I read. I was transported into Stella's story. I didn't like Stella. I wanted better for Stella. But Stella carves out a life, which is true to her. It's hard to explain, you have to read it.

I felt I walked away from CLEVER GIRL understanding people a bit more. Her choices and life path are foreign to me, but she made me respect her differences. I feel like I understand a generation I didn't know before. For as much as I didn't like the story, I loved it. For as much as I didn't like Stella, I loved her. I recommend you take a trip to your local bookstore and open CLEVER GIRL up. This isn't a 'typical' read, not a 'typical' story. It is very good, but may not be for everyone. I do want to say I think you should take time and read a few chapters. CLEVER GIRL by Tessa Hadley is the exact reason why I became a book reviewer. I knew I wanted to experience new genres and writing techniques, I may have otherwise not tried. If you are looking for a more unique experience in your reading selections, than I recommend CLEVER GIRL.

What others are saying about CLEVER GIRL by Tessa Hadley:
“Hadley displays the keen insight and masterful portrayal of the domestic life for which she has become known.”

Ron Rash
“One woman’s story comes to exemplify a whole era in this marvelous novel. Tessa Hadley writes with a poet’s attentiveness to language, and finds the profound and wondrous in the seemingly quietest of lives.”

Carol Anshaw
“With Clever Girl, Tessa Hadley examines the blunt force of young adulthood. She deftly portrays this short stretch of time in which we make many of the most important decisions of our lives, all while driving under the influence of ignorance and inchoate sexuality.”

Sunday Times (London)
“Quietly brilliant….Hadley has always been adept at drawing out the unrecognisable from the everyday….Domestic fiction is often disparaged as less than serious, but Hadley demonstrates admirably that the genre can carry weight.”

Buy your copy of CLEVER GIRL by Tessa Hadley

Thursday, March 13, 2014

A Ball for Daisy by Chris Raschka

OVERVIEW (Barnes & Noble):

Here's a story about love and loss as only Chris Rashcka can tell it. Any child who has ever had a beloved toy break will relate to Daisy's anguish when her favorite ball is destroyed by a bigger dog. In the tradition of his nearly wordless picture book Yo! Yes?, Caldecott Medalist Chris Raschka explores in pictures the joy and sadness that having a special toy can bring. Raschka's signature swirling, impressionistic illustrations and his affectionate story will particularly appeal to young dog lovers and teachers and parents who have children dealing with the loss of something special.

Winner of the 2012 Caldecott Medal
A New York Times Best Illustrated Children's Book of 2011

A BALL FOR DAISY, is a hardbound wordless book. From the illustrations the story is that of a dog who loves his ball, loses his ball and gains a new friend.

I sat down with my 5 and 3 year old and really wasn't sure what to expect. I can't say I've ever bought a book without words, I sure didn't expect much to be honest with you. Wow was I wrong! Both kids LOVED this book! With each picture they started telling me the story they say on the pages (and yes most of the time telling me at the same time, lol). Not only were they extra animated, but we easily discussed "feelings of losing a toy" and "how do we behave when someone accidentally breaks something of ours." Not only did they both enjoy it, but my three year old has been dragging it around the house so she can "read" it by herself!

This would make a fantastic gift for your pre-readers! Definite recommend!

Buy a copy for a little one at Barnes & Noble or Amazon!

The books we review on this site (A NOVEL REVIEW) are sent to us by publishers, authors or downloaded from Netgalley. This is a very common practice.  We never take payments for these reviews and all the reviews on this site are our own thoughts and feelings and are not influenced.

Easy weekly menu and what I need to buy!

Meal planning, oh how I hate thee. Let's be honest it is necessary if you want to stay at all on top of your grocery spending and avoid eating out. I find if I know first thing in the morning what I'm going to make for dinner, my day runs a little more smoothly. I know what time I need to get started. I know we have soccer at five on Thursday nights, so I will make something in the crock pot. If I know ahead of time what I'm going to make and actually have everything I need--presto better day. Whereas, when I'm not meal planning it may slip my mind it's Thursday and at 4:30 I'm throwing together sandwiches or running to Sonic.

An important aspect of meal planning, is getting the right groceries. I know I've stood many times in the middle of Krogger wondering if I have refried beans at home or not. Then getting home and finding no I don't and didn't buy them or I do buy them and I already have six cans, but I didn't buy the olives I need. With meal planning, I simply right down what I want to make each night (make sure you do this next to your weekly calendar). Then I take my list and go through the cabinets and fridge and see what I have and what I need. Now I know what I need to buy. If I was really good I'd do this for lunches too, but one thing at a time!

All I did I was go into Word and type this up. Took all of five mins, but will save me time and money.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Return to Tradd Street by Karen White

Facing her future as a single mother, psychic Realtor Melanie Middleton is determined to be strong and leave her past with writer Jack Trenholm behind her. But history has a tendency of catching up with Melanie, whether she likes it or not.…

Melanie is only going through the motions of living since refusing Jack’s marriage proposal. She misses him desperately, but her broken heart is the least of her problems. Despite an insistence that she can raise their child alone, Melanie is completely unprepared for motherhood, and she struggles to complete renovations on her house on Tradd Street before the baby arrives.

When Melanie is roused one night by the sound of a ghostly infant crying, she chooses to ignore it. She simply does not have the energy to deal with one more crisis. That is, until the remains of a newborn buried in an old christening gown are found hidden in the foundation of her house.

As the hauntings on Tradd Street slowly become more violent, Melanie decides to find out what caused the baby’s untimely death, uncovering the love, loss, and betrayal that color the house’s history—and threaten her claim of ownership. But can she seek Jack’s help without risking her heart? For in revealing the secrets of the past, Melanie also awakens the malevolent presence that has tried to keep the truth hidden for decades.…

I recently 'found' Karen White books and have added her as one of my favorite authors. However, I haven't read all of her books nor had I read any of the previous books, which are a part of this series. Whenever I am asked to review a later book in a series I'm hesitant. I like to let the readers know if they can follow the story having not read the previous books, as well as what I thought of the book itself.

Having not read the three previous books, I had no problem jumping right into RETURN TO TRADD STREET. White shares enough history to allow you to follow along, but not too much to bore those who have read the series. I very much enjoyed getting to know the cast of characters in this novel, especially Melanie and Jack. I actually kinda loved the characters in this book. If the other books in the series are as good as this one it is no wonder why people wanted Karen White to continue the series.

The novel has a paranormal element to it and I found it was a very balanced story. The paranormal was just enough, the story between characters was perfect, the right amount of mystery,  just a great balance to a really good book. The setting is in Charleston, South Carolina and White did a fantastic job of making me 'see' Charleston as I read. There was nothing about this book I didn't enjoy. You could read it as a stand alone, but gosh why would you? I am HIGHLY recommending RETURN TO TRADD STREET!

When the book ended, I didn't want to leave. I wanted more-- Honestly, if I didn't have stacks of books to review I would go buy the entire series, pop some popcorn and sit up all night reading the series!

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Love Water Memory by Jennie Shortridge

At age thirty-nine, Lucie Walker has no choice but to start her life over when she comes to, up to her knees in the chilly San Francisco Bay, with no idea how she got there or who she is. Her memory loss is caused by an emotional trauma she knows nothing about, and only when handsome, quiet Grady Goodall arrives at the hospital does she learn she has a home, a career, and a wedding just two months away. What went wrong? Grady seems to care for her, but Lucie is no more sure of him than she is of anything. As she collects the clues of her past self, she unlocks the mystery of what happened to her. The painful secrets she uncovers could hold the key to her future—if she trusts her heart enough to guide her.

The amnesia story is not an uncommon theme, and LOVE WATER MEMORY felt more genuine than most I've read. Lucie 'wakes up' for lack of a better word, and no longer knows who she is. She knows somethings to be true about the world around her, but that's it. She finds herself being led into this new world by a man she has no memory of. Her fiance, Grady, seems to be holding something back from the very beginning. The novel moves back and forth from Lucie to Grady's perspective, so we the reader find out what right away. But like the two characters we somehow can't put all the pieces together.

When Lucie comes back, she comes back as a very different woman...almost like she got to reset. Lucie had what seemed to be a hard edge to her before and a soft Lucie has taken her place. But it leaves the question: What had made Lucie so hard before? Grady didn't have the answers, as he realizes how little he knew the 'real' Lucie.

I would say LOVE WATER MEMORY is one of my favorite books to date. I loved how both Lucie and Grady had to look at themselves, dig deep into their own pasts to see what defined who they were and why, not only that, but did they want those incidents to define who they were? Could they learn to love each other again? Could they? Were they even still compatible? Not only was this a great story, I thought it was very well written. I became emotionally invested in what happened to Lucie (past and present). I am highly recommending LOVE WATER MEMORY!

Buy  Love Water Memory by Jennie Shortridge
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Review: Lake Como by Anita Hughes

Hallie Elliot has a perfect life. She is an up-and-coming interior designer in one of San Francisco’s most sought after firms, and has just recently become engaged to Peter, a brilliant young journalist. But when she stumbles upon Peter and her boss in what seems to be a compromising position, her trust in her perfect life is shaken.

So Hallie escapes to Lake Como, Italy to spend time with her half-sister, Portia Tesoro, an Italian blueblood dealing with the scandal of a public estrangement from her cheating husband. While staying in the Tesoro villa, Hallie falls in love with the splendor and beauty of Lake Como, and finds work designing the lakeside estate of a reclusive American tech mogul. The caretaker of this beautiful estate is a handsome man named Angus, and Hallie finds herself drawn to his charm and kindness, despite hints of a dark secret in his past.

But just as Hallie is beginning to find her footing on Italian soil, she uncovers a family secret that upends all the truths she’s believed about herself, and calls into question the new life she’s built in Lake Como.

Sisterhood, family, career, and sumptuous descriptions of Italian life fill the pages of this newest offering by Anita Hughes. Lake Como is a heartbreaking and heartwarming story of love, self-discovery, and the quest for truth.

Love, sisterhood, and sumptuous descriptions of la dolce vita fill the pages of Anita Hughes' Lake Como, a heartwarming story of romance, self-discovery, and the quest for truth.

My thoughts:

I was very fond of Hallie, she didn't just side step what Peter did nor did she go crazy. I liked how she wasn't hard nor a pushover. She does give herself some space and goes to Italy. Her sister, Portia has a lot on her plate and Hallie can center on her rather than herself. When she gets there Portia ends up taking off and the Italian men in the area have taken notice of Hallie. Before she knows it, Hallie has landed herself a job of a lifetime and the attraction of a new man.

Just as everything seems to be as it should be, when Hallie stumbles onto some unexpected secrets. Secrets when revealed changes lives.

I have read and enjoyed all of Anita Hughes books, but I have to say this is my favorite! Always Hughes opens the door to an upper class elite. I love how Hallie seems so down to earth even though she is has this amazing lifestyle. It makes me able to really connect to the characters. The issues of an overbearing family member, cheating husbands and boyfriends, sisters needing help, lies being told to matter what we can all relate (but truthfully dealing with it while staying at Lake Como would help to soften the blow).

I felt Lake Como moved right along, it had an easy flow. The twists and turns were very natural. I didn't see everything coming the way it did.  I love how Hughes seems to answer those questions that pop up for me while reading. I normally try to write my reviews right after I read the book, but this time I didn't have a chance to. As I began writing my review, I found myself enjoying the story all over again. A great book and I'm recommending! (hey it's cold outside, so warm up with Lake Como!)

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