35 Books in 58 Days - Today's Category is Historical

I'm so excited to do these next several postings. Why? Because it means I finished all 35 Whitney finalists. Truthfully, it should say 33 books because I'd read three of the books before the finalists were announced and I had to squeeze an unrelated book in there because I was participating in a book review blog tour.

That's a lot of reading. My family can attest to that. It helped that I have a Kindle and can take it pretty much anywhere I go. It also helped that I could read on the treadmill as I did my training. That gave me a lot of reading hours. I'm excited now to read a few other things, including Death of a Disco Dance (a book I've heard a lot about as some have complained it wasn't a finalist) and The Road (a book my daughter just sobbed through for her AP Lit class and wants me to read so we can talk about it.) I can also focus on class preparations for my youth summer writing camp and write.

But I'm happy to say, I've read them all. It definitely had its ups and downs. There were some I really, really liked. Loved even. There were a few that were harder for me to get into and I had to force myself to finish them before moving on to others I was looking forward to. There were some delightful surprises, a couple that really touched my heart and a few that were really entertaining. I'm not going to rate each of them. I'm just going to list the category and the finalists and tell you what the highlights of that category were for me.

I didn't read each category in its entirety before reading other things, so that's why I had to finish them all before starting these posts.

So here goes: Historical Fiction

The finalists were:
Daughter of Helaman by Misty Moncur
Fires of Jerusalem by Marilyn Brown
Isabelle Webb: The Pharaoh's Daughter by N.C. Allen
Letters in the Jade Dragon Box by Gale Sears
Miss Delacourt Has Her Day by Heidi Ashworth



My favorite book in this category was a runaway. It isn't that I disliked the others, but Letters in the Jade Dragon Box surprised me in the best possible way. Perhaps it's because my son is on a mission in Taiwan (mentioned in the book as part of the first Asian Mission that is a central part of the story) or the beautiful writing. Or maybe it's the sweet and endearing characters or the fascinating historical setting, but whatever it was, I loved this book and even though I've read others since this one, my mind wanders to this story again and again. I highly recommend it.

If you've read any of these, feel free to share your thoughts about them.

Up Next: Romance

Water

I have a love/hate relationship with water. Let me explain.

I love drinking a glass of water. I love a nice, hot bath and a book. I love the sound of water tripping over rocks. I love a beautiful fountain. I love swimming. I love bobbing up and down as the waves roll in at the ocean. I love the way a couple of tablespoons of water steaming over an egg makes the white solid and the yolk the perfect softness.

I hate water that seeps out of a crack in a dishwasher, ruining hardwood floors and cabinets. I hate water that drips down a window frame and makes paint bubble. I hate water that rises out of a toilet that isn't flushing properly. I hate water that seeps up through a drain in the basement because the tree roots in the front yard are clogging the pipes. I hate water pressure that slows to almost nothing because someone, somewhere has done something to the waterline. I hate water that gets stuck in a sink because a renter poured bacon down the drain. I hate water that rises to my ankles in the shower because the drain needs snaked.

Today I'm dealing with the water pressure one, but sometime in my past, the Water Fairy got annoyed with me over something and decided to cast a spell on me. "May every home she lives in be plagued with an unpleasant and inconvenient water issue." It was a pretty powerful water fairy, because no matter where we live, no matter how old (or new) the house, we've had water problems, including but not limited to ALL those I mentioned above.

I'm sorry, Water Fairy. I'm sorry for the extended showers I've taken. I'm sorry for leaving the water running while I brush my teeth. I'm sorry for throwing cold water into the shower of an unsuspecting husband. I'm sorry for everything I've ever done that has upset you.

Now, please reverse your curse and leave me alone.

One of the Reasons I Love Him

Today we drove to Bountiful for my nephew Jack's baptism. The drive takes almost an hour. Just after we left home, we ran into the store to pick up a couple of necessities. When the girls and I got back to the car, Travis was on his cell phone with XM Radio technical support, trying to get his radio working again. (It comes with his business car and has a great 80s station that the whole family enjoys.)

The radio hasn't been working for a week and this was his 8th call to them. In addition to the calls, he'd taken his car to the dealer to have it checked. They discussed the problem and tried a few things. He waited while she tried to get information that would solve the problem and I wrote down a few codes and phone numbers for him since he was driving.

Technical difficulties make me irritable and frustrated and after 8 calls, most of us would be losing our minds, but Travis joked with the technical support woman and during the 40 minutes he was on the phone with her, they discussed the radio, music, a tragic skiing accident, his father and mother-in-law's mission, his son's mission, my mission, and Travis's mission.

When he hung up, his radio wasn't yet fixed and there will need to be a 9th call, but somewhere in Tech Support Land there was a woman who'd just hit the jackpot when she picked up my husband's call. Instead of being yelled at or the recipient of frustrated sighs, she'd spent the call laughing, chatting and learning more about LDS missionaries than she'd known when she went to work. I'm sure she wishes all callers were as pleasant.

Sleep

I've read many articles lately about how important sleep is for our health. The most recent was a particularly good one. Sleep affects all kinds of things, from our weight to our moods to our blood pressure. It gives our body a chance to heal and restore.

I've been a night owl for years. I'd developed my own little system--stay up late reading, watching television, cleaning house, browsing blogs and interesting websites, or writing. I went to bed late (always well after midnight) and got up early every morning (6 a.m.) because no matter how late I stayed up, I still had to get my children up and ready for school. I'd go this way for a week or two, until I hit a wall.

I always hit a wall, eventually, and when I did, I spent a day being pretty useless. Tired, I'd recline for a little power nap and several hours later, I'd finally come back to life.

When I decided to do this half marathon, I decided that I needed more sleep. I'm no longer in my teens or twenties (or even thirties) and I knew my body needed more sleep if I was going to be able to do this. Several things I'd read on running stressed the importance of recovery after workouts and I knew I needed to give my body every advantage I could since it's already working with several disadvantages (age, knees, extra pounds, frizzy hair, etc.).

I've tried hard over the past nine months or so to get 7-8 hours of sleep every night. I know that isn't perfect, but it sure beats the 4 1/2 to 5 I was getting before. It has made a big difference and even though I'm still struggling to beat years-long bad habits, I've made improvements.

Until the last few days. The last four or five days, I've fallen off the sleep wagon. I blame all the reading I'm trying to do (and Stephanie Black's Rearview Mirror didn't help), but the last few days my sleep has been back to between 4 and 5 hours and my energy during my workouts has reflected it. So has my productivity during the day and so have my moods.

So today I recommit to being in bed between 10 and 11 p.m. No more reading until 2 a.m. No more getting involved in a movie that won't end until 1 a.m. No more late-night news and from now on Psych will be recorded for viewing the next day. (Who decided 11 p.m. was a good time to air a new episode of a series anyway?)

Why don't you join me and let's start a whole club of well-rested people. And if you see me on Words With Friends after 11 p.m., just pretend you're my mom and tell me it's past time for bed.

Review of The Alias

I was lucky enough to pick up a copy of The Alias by Mandi Tucker Slack at a group book signing I participated in during January. The story sounded interesting and when Mandi asked me if I'd join her blog tour and post a review of the book, I was more than willing.

First a disclaimer. Mandi is really nice--friendly, personable and funny. So of course I hoped I'd like the book. I didn't want to write up a scathing review for a nice author. Luckily, that wasn't a problem.

The Alias is a really good story. I liked the characters a lot and was cheering for them to have a happy ending (except for the bad guys, of course). The setting was believable and the challenges Jacey and her son faced felt real.

Before I tell you my thoughts about the FBI and their initial interrogation, I should let you know I'm a crime show snob. For example, I love Goren and Eames on Law and Order: Criminal Intent but couldn't stand Jeff Goldblum's Zach Nichols, no matter who his partner was. It may stem back to my work as a legal secretary in a large public defender's office, but the initial FBI interrogation in the book didn't feel real to me. It happens in the first few pages of the book and when I was reading it, I was worried I might struggle with the rest of the book.

But I didn't at all. In fact, once those first pages were over, the rest of the book was suspenseful, interesting, gripping and hard to put down, so when you're reading, be sure to move beyond those first few pages. You'll be glad you did.

Thanks Mandi, for asking me to participate and for giving me a book I really enjoyed reading. I'm looking forward to your next one!

Our Solution to the Christina Problem

When I was a teenager, my family had a subscription to Sports Illustrated. I came home from school one day to find my mom coloring in the swimsuits with markers, transforming the barely there swimsuits into modest one-piece suits. We laughed about it but it made an impression about what was appropriate to look at.

I really enjoy The Voice but Christina Aguilera's plunging necklines have been so yucky that I've been uncomfortable watching it with my husband and son sitting in the room. I can't take markers to the television, but last night as the show started, it occurred to me that the camera angles on the judges are almost always the same. So with a couple of sheets of paper strategically placed the problem was solved and with a distraction much less jarring than being forced to look at Christina's surgery, we watched the entire show. Yay!

As long as I'm on the subject of The Voice, I have to express my disappointment in the pairings last night. There were two different matchups last night that pitted our favorites against each other. We lost Lee Koch and Jamie Lono. I didn't want their competition to go home either, so it was frustrating. But Cee Lo Green was disappointing last night. I've always liked how he treats his team-members and he's always been very supportive. But last night he paired Jamar Rogers and Jamie Lono for the battle round. I like both of these guys and didn't want either of them to go home. But Cee Lo was completely unfair to Jamie Lono, choosing a song so far removed from his style and voice that he didn't have a chance. And that's too bad because insisting that someone with his style sing a power ballad is about as fair as asking Tom Cruise to play a 6'5", 250 lb ex-military police officer.

Oh wait. Bad example. They did that. But I think you still get my point.

Randomness

Before you go to a busy, crowded restaurant, please shower. Monday night we went to Cheesecake Factory for Travis's birthday. We shared three meals between the five of us and ate way too much warm bread and butter. It was delicious. We were "encouraged" to take our cheesecake home with us to eat because just as we were finishing up dinner, a group of people were seated right behind us. As they walked by our table, a cloud of reek enveloped us and only slightly dissipated once they sat down. It wasn't the scent of skiers just off the slopes or an athletic team who just won a hard-fought game. It was the smell of bodies and clothes that haven't come in contact with soap for weeks. Possibly months.

Lately I've read a few unflattering things about my book, Gifted. I expected some of that since now that it's been nominated for a Whitney, there would be people reading it because they have to and not because they want to. Some people who are reading it now would never choose it--it isn't their style of book. I'm okay with that. But I recently read a review that said I'd tried to make the book allegorical, with Anna being a substitute for the Savior. HELP ME! I had a dream that gave me an idea about a child with unusual gifts and sat down to write. In all my writing, not even one time did I think I was writing a parable and never would I presume to write something where I thought I could create a worthy substitute for the Savior. IT'S JUST A BOOK. I'm not deep enough or smart enough to do what he suggested I'd done and I don't want anyone to think that I think I am. Enough rambling, but please know--Gifted is just a story of a girl, her family and her friend. That's all.

In my reading for the Whitneys, I've come across some books I never would have read that I've really loved. I've also come across some I had to force myself to finish. When I finish them all, I'll post a list of my favorites. 

After a request from one of my Dad's cousins, I've created a blog to document my parent's mission. It will be updated when we get their letters in the same way that I update my son's mission blog. You can take a look if you want to follow the lives of an Elder and a senior couple.

It's Friday! That means the kids are out of school (YAY!), Joe has a basketball game (YAY!) and Shark Tank is on tonight. If you haven't watched Shark Tank, you should watch it and see what you think. It's one of my favorite shows.

In our training for the half marathon we're signed up for, Monday was the biggest run to date. The assignment was to run 1 hour 35 minutes. Could someone please shoot me? What crazy demon had taken over my brain when I suggested we do a half marathon? I so wish someone would have talked me off the ledge and insisted we try a 10K. We could do that and run the whole time. I just don't know what's going to happen with a half marathon. Monday night my left knee and right hip were giving me grief. And we've already paid the entrance fee. And this Monday we have to run 1 hour 55 minutes. SIGH!
Hey! Are they making fun of me? I promise that in the race I won't wear anything short or sparkly.

And finally, my friend highlighted these adorable things on her blog. Can you believe how cute?. Oh what a clever idea. Enjoy and have a great weekend.



44 Years Ago

(***This post should have gone up yesterday, but because I had to leave the giveaway up until midnight, I'm posting this today.***)

Forty-four years ago was one of my luckiest days. And I didn't even know it.

Why? Because it's the day Travis was born.

He'd later become a man who'd work hard and put up with all kinds of garbage to support our family.

He'd become a dad who loves and leads our children.

He'd grow up to be funny.

He'd grow up to love sports.

He'd become someone willing to serve others and make sacrifices.

He'd become someone who can see a problem and figure out ways to fix it.

He'd become an amazing man.

Happy birthday, Travis. I love you.

Congratulations, Gwen!

What a great giveaway! Thanks for all the comments and for so much support. It was great hearing what some of your favorite books are so far this year. (I have to note Melissa, who said her favorite book so far is Gifted--even if it is the only book she's read this year!)

The winner was chosen with random.org and was Gwen! In just a few days you'll have a gift card to buy a new book and some of the best hot cocoa EVER!