Book Reviews, Uncategorized

Summer Book Review – To Live and Die in Dixie

I must admit, the pink VW an on the cover helped me choose this book!

To Live & Die in Dixie (Callahan Garrity Mystery, #2)To Live & Die in Dixie by Kathy Hogan Trocheck

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I picked this up at the library because it was the first fiction book in author alpha order that seemed light and interesting enough to get through quickly and give me some reading momentum. I picked well! I will now have to go back and read the first of the Callahan Garrity series, Every Crooked Nanny.

This is a quick, enjoyable read with likable characters. It is not the greatest “mystery”. It is predictable and I figured out the killer about half way through, but the characters were enough to make me want to keep reading. I think the cop gone cleaning lady gone PI is interesting to set the story. There is a little bit of romance, a little bit of family drama, a little bit of suspenseful action and a lot of entertaining dialogue. Perfect light summer read if you like a character driven murder mystery. I will definitely be reading more of the series.

View all my reviews

Simplicity Sunday

Simplicity Sunday – Five Reasons to Visit Your Local Library

This week is focused on a simple resource you probably have in your community, but may not be utilizing.  Your public library.

Summer 2014 Library Reading Log
My DD’s Summer Reading Log at start of Summer 2014.  We got another yesterday for this summer!

My DD and I then went to our county library yesterday.  We used to go the library once or twice a week before she started school, but we’ve not been going as much in the past year and a half or so.  I’ve missed it.  I love the library.  I have talked about it in a previous Sunday post (over a year and a half ago) and nothing has really changed.  I realize that some people have not been library goers for their entire lives (my mom started me quite young), so I thought I would share my top five reasons (there are so many) to visit your local library and check it out:

First, it is FREE!  No strings attached (other than meeting return deadlines).  No free today, but your credit card will be charged in four weeks and for the remainder of your natural life.  Every library offers slightly different services, but our library has movies, audio CDs, ebooks, book clubs, activities for kids, etc.  It is worth checking out what your library has to offer.

Second, it is quiet.  Well, relatively.  If you need a place to escape to where you don’t have to purchase a $5 coffee and listen to the person at the next table talk about their upcoming visit from in-laws on their cell phone, this is a good spot.  You can’t eat and drink in the library at ours, but they have a great grassy area just to the side of the library that makes for good picnicking and some libraries have rooms where you can eat and drink.

Third, it is constantly changing.  Much like the local bookstore, but without the price tags, our library is constantly changing up the books on it’s front tables.  It has art work that changes every few months.  It offers new selections constantly and often has new activities to try out (we have a knitting group, a book club, a chess club for teens, family movies on Sunday afternoons – with popcorn).  I am always curious to see what they have and what they have going on.

Fourth, and this is parent-specific, your kids can look at books, play with toys and use a computer without you having to worry about buying it later! BONUS:  Other adults are there too! I have tried to teach my daughter that we don’t need to buy something every time we go to a store.  And we often don’t.  But, it is always a battle.  At the library, when she finds a book she really likes, I can feel good about saying, “let’s get it”.  I can also feel good about bringing it back when she has read it and will never look at it again!  Our library has blocks, felt boards, puppet theater with puppets, etc.  It is air conditioned, so in the hot months, it is a great alternative to the park.  They have coloring sheets and crayons and pencils.  And usually, you can find a friendly adult to chat with while your kids play.  It feels safe.  It feels comfortable (I’m not constantly fretting about what she can and can touch).  It is enjoyable without costing a penny.  I can sit and read a book myself, or look at magazines, or even work on something and she is in a safe, cool space.

Fifth and most important, it helps to keep much-needed public spaces available in our communities.  When the big bookstores came to town, a lot of libraries struggled to prove their need in the communities.  Funding was cut.  Hours were cut.  And if people don’t use these services, demonstrating that the community supports and NEEDS these services, the cuts will continue.  We are lucky to have a supportive community, so our library is actually expanding hours back in the Fall (they had made significant cuts a while back).  Public spaces that offer resources for everyone are important to me.  Although I can afford to go to Barnes and Noble or shop online at Amazon to buy my daughter books (we actually buy quite a few at thrift stores, because reuse, recycle, etc.), I want every child, no matter what their financial circumstances to be able to access books and literacy programs and a space that is inviting and encouraging of reading.  I also want adults who do not have computers in their homes to have access to those resources. My parents used the public library computers for a dozen years, never choosing to have a computer in their home.  Many seniors and homeless individuals use the computers at the library to get access to needed resources.

Public spaces can be scary.  After all, they are so, well, public.  Homeless people do use the library much more often than Barnes and Noble (although, sometimes they are in the cafe there).  And to some people, that is a bad thing.  But, to me, this is reality.  And facing the individuals in our communities who are not thriving hopefully will help us remain a community rather than being divided by social class.  We have prided ourselves on NOT being a society based on class division, but we have created these consumerist walls of division between those of us who can participate in that consumerist lifestyle and those who can’t/don’t.  I think that doing more to create community through our public spaces is important.  And if homeless people abuse the public space, they should be removed (and hopefully provided with the help they need, although that is another area of funding that has gone to the wayside in recent decades – our mental health services have collapsed, but I will leave that for another post), but just because they may not be dressed as nice as we are or smell as good as we do or have their hair styled does not mean they don’t deserve to be recognized and served as the humans they are.  I like that the public library provides a space for all of use to coexist.

 

Stray Thoughts Sunday

Stray Thoughts Sunday

Well, another week is gone.  My DD made it through her first week of First Grade and I start back to teaching tomorrow.  We had 18 people over to our house last night for a work event (regional coaches of Speech and Debate) and my house is already pretty much back to clean (amazing, considering what it looked like when I went to bed last night as the last guests left).  I am not totally where I want to be with my classes, but I have the major things done for them and I’m feeling like I have a good plan for each class.  So, overall, I’m feeling pretty good about Fall 2015.

Stray Thought Sundays

First Grade is now a thing in our lives.  And so far, its good.  My DD’s teacher mailed this to each of her students before school started.  Definitely an anxiety reliever…

Jitter Glitter

Second stray thought:  I have to admit that I’ve been more than a little disappointed in America’s reaction to some of Donald Trump’s (what I would consider to be) hateful comments, I found this to be an appropriate sum up of my feelings on the importance of considering not just WHAT you say, but also HOW you say it:

11223816_1608556026061724_6764318664710225365_n (1)

 Next, I used to see this commercial for psoriasis medication and think that it was somewhat just a plea to vanity, like the Botox commercials used to be.  But, now that I have been suffering from this guttate psoriasis for almost a month, I get it.  It isn’t vanity.  It is the need to feel normal – like you won’t offend people with your appearance.  Luckily, most of mine is in places that are covered up by everyday clothes and I have no need to don a swimsuit for any reason.  I am sure that most people would think I was contagious.  And it just looks, well, unsightly.  I am going to go back to the dermatologist and I guess we’ll try the light box treatment, since the topical ointment hasn’t worked at all.  And if the light box fails (which it might because my lower legs have been exposed to sunlight quite a bit and it hasn’t gotten rid of the psoriasis there, which is much less than on my thighs, back and stomach area), I will have to take some immune-suppressing medication.  So, Bean and I will be suppressing our immune systems together…  great…

And this week, I will leave you with what may be my favorite article online…ever.  Murder She Wrote’s Primetime Feminism, from which my favorite line is (warning, bad language):  “But the reason the show works is because of what Lansbury brings to it: she plays the widow with equal parts charming comedic airs and take-no-bullshit feminism.”  I am going to be getting the Peter Fischer biography the article talks about posthaste.

What’s straying your thoughts this Sunday?

Hope you have a great week!

Uncategorized

A Quick Update – Back to School!

Well, today was Back to School day for my DD:

Ready_for_First_____Grade_

I haven’t been posting here much lately for a couple of reasons.  First, we went away for the last four days with family and the internet was spotty at best.  Second, one of the exercises in Say Goodbye to Survival Mode: 9 Simple Strategies to Stress Less, Sleep More, and Restore Your Passion for Life was to list out my priorities.  When I did so, this blog was not on the list.  I didn’t think about it until afterwards when I went back to review them to set goals and realized the blog was not even on the list, so no goals were needed.

I am a little disappointed as I like the THOUGHT of blogging on a regular basis and forming a community and maybe even making some money from writing one day, but this made it clear that this is just something that is not important RIGHT NOW.  I do like that Crystal Paine (the author) talks about seasons of life and how some things just don’t fit with what you’re doing at THAT TIME.  It doesn’t mean I will never be a “blogger” in some serious way or that I can’t blog when I have the time here, it just means that right now it isn’t really something that is a priority for me.  It is kind of nice to see some things fall away that would stress me out (yes, even though I don’t have a ton of followers or a big demand, I would stress out about missing blogging days).  Blogging when I have so many other things to do is one of them.  Maybe when I get my routines down and time starts to become more available, I will be able to devote more time to it.  But for now, I’m going to aim to do Five Minute Fridays (because I love that exercise and that community) and Six Word Saturday  (because who can’t write six words?) and maybe one other day a week if I have time.

I haven’t found a lot of other things I can just let go of so easily, but I am working at making my classes manageable as far as grading and prep is concerned (trying to do a lot of front-end prep work right now).  I am also NOT volunteering to do things I might have done before because I realize that I need to figure out my schedule and time management and priorities first before I can start adding things in (even those things that are on my priority list).  If you’re curious about my priorities, here they are:

Family/Parenting:  Spending quality time together as a family everyday.  Includes: eating meals – breakfast and dinner together.  Game night once a week.  Family walks three times a week.

Work: Prepare and perform to provide my students the best possible experience both in and out of class.  Includes:  Be prepared!  Start each week with a clear plan for each class and time set aside for grading.  Being present in class.  Focusing on students – their learning and experiences in each class.  Use office hours for work projects.  Focus on advising, grading and Forensics projects.  Finally, stay on top of email!  Zero inbox every three days is the goal!  Respond, Refuse or Refer!

Health:  Get and maintain the best possible health to protect me now and in the future.  Includes:  Do regular check ups for medical and dental.  Eat right – healthy food and 4-5 meals a day.  Exercise – weight resistant/bearing exercise 5X/week and cardio 3X/week.

Finances:  Get all accounts in order/paid up or off and then maintain a budget and spending plan.  Includes:  Get taxes done for 2014.  Conserve money for only things we REALLY want/need. Question everything!  Meal plan to reduce food waste.  Do online points programs to make extra money each month.

Relationships: Establish and maintain relationships with God and good people.  Includes:  Attend church at least 2x/month or more (whenever not traveling for work).  Do morning devotional every day.  Do Bidwell Pres prayer list everyday.  Go out with friends at least 1X/month.  Send 5-10 cards each month to friends, family and coworkers.  Do friends trip 1X/year at least.  Date with my hubby 2X/month.

Life Management: Manage my household responsibly to have a clean, peaceful and enjoyable space, physically, mentally and spiritually.  Includes:  Do MOMS App for daily household duties.  Set up and keep routines that WORK!  Purchase only what you love and declutter all else.  Continue working on simplicity and minimalism in my home and life.

So, that’s not much, huh?

I did include blogging when I did my weekly time block planning (I allowed for seven hours – one per day), but that time block is not going to work unless I get my act together and do the things above.  So, there is blogging in my future – maybe pretty immediate future, but for now, it is not going to be done unless the other stuff is done above.

I will say that reading this book (I am now on page 83) is making reminding me how much I live my life in fire fighting mode.  I simply wait around for the three alarm fires to get so bad I can’t ignore them anymore and then I fight to put them out.  Exhausted after all the effort it takes to get the blaze out, I collapse in a mess and wait for the next three alarm fire.  I need to do some prevention now and make my life calmer, more satisfying and less exhausting.  It won’t be easy.  I’ve been living this way for a while now.  But, I’m looking forward to living a fire-free life!

So, that’s where I am.  You will see me on a somewhat irregular basis for a little bit (hopefully not long).  And when I am here, I hope to be focused on this space and better at writing, sharing and saying things that matter.

Motivational Mondays

Ch…ch…ch…changes – taking first (baby) steps

Welcome to Monday, which right now looks a lot like Saturday and Sunday in my world.   But, that is all going to come to a screeching halt next week and we’ll be slammed forward into a new school year – no air bags provided.

are you ready-!-

I’m not.  I hope to be more ready six days (!) from now when my DD starts back to school (I can’t believe she’ll be in First Grade…there was many a day when I wondered if she would ever come home from the hospital, and now she’s going to be a First Grader!).  I hope to be even MORE ready when I start back to teaching thirteen days from now (holy cow – that’s less than two weeks people!).  BUT…I’m not going to try to do the same things I’ve done in the past (which haven’t worked and I think Einstein was a pretty smart guy and he says its insane to continue doing the same things and expect different results).  So, I’m really trying to do things differently.  What am I doing differently?  Well, let me tell you!

  1. I am NOT trying to do every possible Pinterest perfect project for back-to-school.  We got my DD’s First Day of School outfit today and I’ll make a sign for her to hold before leaving that morning so I can take a picture.  That’s it.  No best breakfast or special lunch or crazy pre-first day party.  So, in a more wholistic view of things, I am being REALISTIC.
  2. I am starting a routine THIS week instead of trying to start on the first day of school.  My DD THRIVES on routines.  She loves a list and completing the list is a serious big deal for her.  So, I took an archived Kid’s Routine from My Simpler Life, changed it up a small bit and printed it out for her last night.  I posted one upstairs and one downstairs and she has one she can carry around with her.  It includes all the things I need her when school kicks in, but she is doing all the other stuff this week.  So, when school starts, she will already have a routine and will just add in school.  Brilliant!  She’s loving it so far.
  3. I am prepping my classes COMPLETELY for at least the first month of school.  I’m hoping that I can get even further than the first month, but four weeks being completely done and posted on Blackboard with notes in my day planner for what needs to be printed out or added in, etc. will be awesome.  Most of the time, I’m trying to do this the weekend before school starts and I never get it done, so I end up flying by the seat of my pants in at least half the classes and trying to make technology work for things that it doesn’t really work for and getting frustrated and overwhelmed.  So, now I have almost two weeks to get it all done and I think that will be enough time (I already have one class done through Week Three and just a couple of more things to add for Week Four).
  4. I am really looking for places to delegate.  This is a HUGE weakness of mine.  Part of it is my lack of organization makes it difficult for me to hand things off to other people.  I’m either so late doing things that I need to do it myself because it would take too long to bring someone else in on it or I can’t get my $#@! together enough to make it understandable to someone else and when I do, it is an abject failure which makes both them and me feel bad.  So, I’m trying to get ahead of the game, figure out where I need help and asking for it in plenty of time (e.g. babysitting in three and a half weeks – I need that…and I can start figuring out who is available now; having dinners figured out so I can tell my hubby what to do to get it on the table while I’m at work).

The book Say Goodbye to Survival Mode is really changing my life.  And I’m only through 41 of 220 some pages!  I feel like Crystal Paine GETS me.  I’ve read other books and they always seem to be saying, “just do this and everything will be great.” and I would try to do the things and it wouldn’t be as easy as they said and everything was not great.  But, she makes it clear that it isn’t going to be easy and its going to require changes and we need MARGINS (spaces for us to make mistakes and still recover – time cushions, planning for disasters that are sure to occur, etc.).  It isn’t something that I haven’t heard before, but the way she says it is in MY language.

Anyways…I’m really trying to get to bed by 11 p.m. every night and up by 6 a.m. everyday.  Getting on that schedule/routine myself before school starts.  So, I’ve got to hit the hay.  Although I’m terrified, I’m also excited about the new school year and what it will bring.  I just hope I can stick with some of my new found baby steps!

What about you?  What are you doing, if anything to prepare for the new school year/new season?

Crazy Kindle Library - CKL

My Crazy Kindle Library and Challenge for Year 47

I have always been a collector of books.  I have books in multiple places in my house, shelves of them in my office at work and I will often visit Barnes and Noble just to wonder around and touch books.  It is kind of an obsession.  I got a Nook way back when they first came out, but I missed the feel of the books.  I missed turning the pages.  The smell of the paper.  But, really, I just liked touching the books, not actually reading them.  So, I would buy books and put them on shelves and there they would sit.  I think my friends and family have read more of my books than I have (I am a generous book lender).  So, I forced myself to stop buying books.  But, then when I got my iPad (free through work), I discovered the Kindle reader app and I could collect books, many for free, and not have them piled up anywhere.  They were all there…inside my Kindle…should I ever want to actually read them.  But, I didn’t have the guilt of looking at them.  They were hidden away.  Out of sight.  There wasn’t a lot of reading, but I didn’t feel guilty about them.

kindle

My kindle list of books is a mish mash of genres.  I have fiction, non-fiction, lots of mysteries, some recipe books, quite a few parenting books.  Just a whole lotta literature there!  So, today, I took my iPad to swim lessons and I sorted the books alphabetically, which is basically totally random.  And I started reading the first book.  And I’m going to see what I can get through in my crazy kindle list over the next year (tomorrow is my birthday).

I am a little shocked to say I am 47.  That seems so….well, old.  🙂  I realize that it should have been obvious that I was getting to be that old, but it still seems way to close to 50 for me.  I don’t feel like a 47 year old.  Having a six year old is probably a big part of that, but not having achieved a lot of what I would consider a middle aged person to have achieved in life is also part of it.  I mean, I have a career that I love, but even it seems somewhat underperforming when I look at the fact that I am a Part Time Faculty (although, I’m not, that is what I’m categorized as) and that I am not really looking at a lot of space for advancement (I don’t need that as much as I need the stable benefits with my DD’s health) and that I haven’t really figured out how to make my life work without a lot of chaos (despite what I consider to be my best attempts).  So, yeah.  Here I am.  Entering my 47th year without a whole lot more to show for it than when I started this blog two years ago.  I’m not disappointed persay.  I just feel like I’m underperforming in most aspects of my life.  And 47 seems like a good year to challenge myself.  I’m still shy of 50 (which seems like a rather intimidating number as an age), which gives me some time to make things a little better.  A chance to shine a little.  A chance to, as the blog title reads, BE MORE!

So, I’m starting with the As in my crazy Kindle Library as a bit of a challenge to start reading.  A lot.  And to get something out of that reading.  Enjoyment.  Education.  Experiences.  Whatever it is, I’m going to look in the book.  I will probably mix in some actual paper-based books as the year goes on.  But, I’m going to focus my efforts on the Crazy Kindle Libary (CKL).  I’ll post updates here and let you know how the reading is going and what I’m loving, learning and living because of the CKL.  It has stuck my fancy.

The first book I’m reading is one called Abandon by Blake Crouch.  Not to be confused with the trilogy series by Meg Cabot.  The beginning definitely sucked me in and I’m hooked.  I can’t wait to find out what happened in Christmas 1893 that left only a small, murderous child alive.  Paranormal, mystery and relationships.  Sounds like a good read to me!

So, tomorrow I am going out to dinner with friends and then to the Concert in the Park downtown where some “Honky Tonk” band will be playing.  I’ve scheduled a sitter, six of us are going and I’m actually looking forward to it.  So, here’s to year 47, as old as it seems, I’ll live it to the fullest.

Book Reviews

Book Review – Three Silver Doves

 I am participating in another Book Tour at Beck Valley Books.  Unfortunately, my mom’s unexpected stay last week threw a wrench in my review’s scheduling which means you all missed out on the Giveaway related to this book.  Sorry about that!  But, I thought I would go ahead and share my thoughts and the book information.  So, here are my thoughts:

Although this book is described as a mystery, after reading it, I think it is equal parts travel story, romance and mystery. Desperately in need of a vacation when I started reading, I really enjoyed the descriptions of the hotel/spa and the surrounding environment. The author does a good job of putting the reader in the place through her descriptions. I would have loved to have checked myself in to the Agua Encantada for a few days, enjoyed the mineral baths and the delicious food!

If you’re looking for a fast-moving thriller, this is not the story for you.   But, if you’re more someone who likes character and setting development and/or a little romance rather than constant edge-of-your-seat action, then this book is definitely for you. I love the development of relationship between Paige and other characters throughout the book, both those in Agua Encantada and her boyfriend in far-off Wyoming.  The mystery develops slowly but surely and has the reader following a trail of clues along with Paige, with page-turning interest.

The book is a great summer read that allows for a little escape even for those of us who are not so lucky as to be traveling ourselves during these summer months. This is a book in a series, but I had not read any of the previous books and I didn’t feel like it negatively affected the story at all.

And now the details on the book:

NEW BOOK RELEASE….

When New York reporter Paige MacKenzie heads to Tres Palomas, New Mexico, the resort of Agua Encantada seems a perfect destination to combine work with pleasure. A quick article on the healing mineral springs and a few leisurely soaking sessions in the resort’s soothing waters promises well-deserved rest and relaxation.

Paige is immediately intrigued with a local artist’s one-of-a-kind jewelry designs, as well as weekly gatherings to hear legends from an elderly storyteller. But when identical jewelry shows up on another guest and the storyteller goes missing, Paige’s R&R is soon redefined as restlessness and risk. Curious and persistent by nature, Paige is convinced there’s a connection. Enlisting the help of a flirtatious resort worker seems like a good idea until it begins to test her loyalty to her favorite cowboy, Jake Norris. Will an unexpected overnight trip to Tierra Roja Casino lead her to the answers she seeks, or are darker secrets lurking along the way?

eBook available from…Amazon.com    Amazon.co.uk



Paperback also available from…

Amazon.com    Amazon.co.uk   Barnes and Noble

About the author
Deborah Garner is an accomplished travel writer with a passion for back roads and secret hideaways. Born and raised in California, she studied in France before returning to the U.S. to attend UCLA. After stints in graduate school and teaching, she attempted to clone herself for decades by founding and running a dance and performing arts center, designing and manufacturing clothing and accessories, and tackling both spreadsheets and display racks for corporate retail management. Her passions include photography, hiking and animal rescue. She speaks five languages, some substantially better than others. She now divides her time between California and Wyoming, dragging one human and two canines along whenever possible.
Find the author on the following sites…
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I received this book to review through Beck Valley Books Book Tours, all the opinions above are 100% my own.

 

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