"Even when the rainbow seems to pass right by me....I'm still finding Gold in the clouds....."

31 August 2015

2015 Book Review #31: The Silent Sister

One thing about being away on vacation, is that I have more time to just sit and read.

Although this was a kayaking and hiking vacation, I did do a lot of reading in the late evenings and very early mornings....so I finished another book from the library. 

This author is a fave of mine although it had been quite a while since I read one of her books.

STORY SUMMARY

The MacPhearson family consists of Riley, age 25, and her older brother Danny.  They are all that is left of the family.  Their dad recently died and their mother died of cancer while Riley was in her last year of high school.  Their older sister, Lisa, committed suicide at age 17.

Lisa had been a violin prodigy.  She had a stunning career as a classical violinist before her.....yet...something went horribly wrong and she shot her violin teacher when Riley was just 2 years old.  Riley has no memory of that.  All she knows is that Lisa committed suicide due to depression.  All these years, Danny and Riley have believed the lie that Lisa was depressed.  This is what they were told. 

Riley has spent her whole life believing the lie about Lisa.  It shaped her and Danny's views of their family, their own childhood, and their family dynamics.  Riley only remembers her mother as being utterly sad and quiet.  She does not remember her dad as being fun and playful  although they had a very good relationship and she loved him dearly.  Now that he is gone, she has been assigned, by him, as power of attorney over his belongings, house, and the RV park he owned and operated.  Danny gets to keep some of the land where his own RV sits and where he lives.  He prefers to stay out of Riley's way as she prepares to sell the family home and go through their father's belongings and papers.

And then she discovers the truth......Lisa is still alive!  She is alive and lives under a new identity.

Now Riley wants to know why she was on the run for the last 20 years??  What really happened with Lisa?  What secrets are still being kept?  What will those secrets reveal about their family?  And is Riley really adopted like the strange woman her parents knew claims or is that another lie??

Riley begins to uncover the truth, along with some help from people her parents knew, and what she learns begins to make her question her own existence and the very things she held dear to her heart about her family.  What will this truth be like for her in the future?? and how does it impact her present as she faces the past??

MY THOUGHTS

Well, this book was a tad bit predictable or else I'm just a good guesser but I totally guessed, and got correct, the puzzle about Riley and her parents ( I don't want to say what it is as I don't want to spoil this story for you!).  I also guessed correctly the reason Lisa killed her violin teacher.  There was a twist to it though that went back to when Lisa was a small child and it broke my heart.  A very powerful plot for sure!

I connected with the Lisa character right away....I just felt for her.  I also loved the portrayal of Riley as being so alone...the author did a marvelous job tugging at the readers' heart strings over each and every character.  You can just feel the overwhelming confusion and sadness emanating from Riley and Danny.

Once the truth comes out, you begin to cheer Riley on.......and although rather predictable, this story is still exciting, fast-paced, and powerful.

The main themes in this story are the bonds between siblings, love for family, and loss.

I don't agree that living a life of lies is the best way to live but it works for this story....thank goodness it's fiction!! (and that makes me NOT want to give it a 10).

 Honesty, in my opinion, is still the best policy.  And yet...I get why the author wrote the story in the way that she did.  It Is very powerful and thought-provoking.

In my opinion, this book is appropriate for ages 14 and older.

On a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the highest, I rate this a 9.




30 August 2015

2015 Book Review #30: The Right Thing

Do you need a light, easy, "feel-good" story??

Then this is it!

What a fun book.  It is set in Mississippi in 1964 and in 1990.

STORY SUMMARY

Annie Banks is a skinny, rich, "only child" spoiled southern girl.  She is 7 years old and being raised by her father who is a pediatrician, and her mother who is the "perfect genteel southern lady".  Annie is always in trouble though for doing the wrong thing, for causing trouble, and for being irresponsible.

Her best friend Starr Dukes is the only child of a mother who abandons her and her strange preacher-Pentecostal father who is constantly on the move and dirt poor. They are not really accepted into "proper polite society" in Jackson, Mississippi.

However, Annie and Starr get along great and are always making up stories and playing Queen for a Day with their Barbie dolls.  They also get into all kinds of mischief and have many fun adventures.  When Annie can sneak away! They are best friends although Annie's grandmother and mother do not agree that they should be!

Annie eventually grows up to be the wife of a very prominent lawyer in Jackson. She ends up filling her days with shopping excursions, helping at the Ladies League and smoking cigarettes and drinking black coffee to stay thin.  She is bored with her life.  She has done what is expected of her.  Or so she thinks.

One day she is shopping in the exclusive Maison-Dit clothing store when she runs into Starr.  It has been 27 years since they have seen each other.  One night, back when they were just 7 years old in 1964, Starr just up and disappeared with her daddy.  And Annie and she have never been in touch since.  

Starr is pregnant and has been having an affair with a powerful married man.  He wants her to leave town but she has no where to turn.  She also has no money except for some that a friend of hers who lives down in New Orleans is keeping safe for her.

Annie is so determined that she is going to do the right thing for Starr this time. So she offers to drive Starr to New Orleans.  And thus, a road trip occurs.  Annie will need to face the gap between her friendship and responsibilities at home;  she will need to face her safe and perfectly kept existence with the dreams that she longs to pursue and has become used to denying for herself.

MY THOUGHTS

This was a great read.  The humor in it is so refreshing and there are serious parts as well. The ending of what happens with Starr is brilliant and funny.

The main themes are centered around powerful friendships, love, and courage.

The contrast between the 1960s/1970s with 1990 was interesting especially as I grew up in that era, having been born in 1959.  

Even though Annie is portrayed as rich and spoiled, I ended up feeling sorry for her.  She truly is a "poor little rich girl".  I loved how brave she was in the end with facing her reality and with pursuing her own dreams and getting away from an emotionally abusive husband even though it would shock the townspeople.

I didn't like her mother at all in the story until the very end of the book when the author has Annie confront her mother about her situation (which I don't want to divulge as I don't want to be a spoiler) and Annie's mom begins to tell her own story of growing up. It was very heart warming and fit perfectly with the plot. I ended up loving the mother!

I liked how the author brought out the points about responsibility and doing the right thing and how sometimes those look different.

I have always said I don't think I could ever live in the south with all the prejudices down there but this book has characters that overcome those snobbish prejudices and Annie eventually does do the right thing.

In my opinion, this book is appropriate for ages 14 and older.

On a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the highest, I rate this a 10.





24 August 2015

I will be on a blogging break for the next 2 weeks......

.............we are heading to the northern part of the Adirondack Mountains............my husband, my youngest, her best friend, and me.........

............hiking, kayaking, swimming in remote lakes............

...........washing our spirits clean by spending time with God, in His Handiwork................

...........gearing ourselves up emotionally, physically, mentally, and spiritually for a new (school) year.........................



See you in a couple of weeks!







21 August 2015

Local Faves

It was a hot and humid week here in eastern New York!

I'm thanking God for our home having central air conditioning because these nights have been downright sticky!  But it's still better than winter weather in my opinion!

Let's take a moment, grab a fave iced beverage, and reflect back on the week looking for five of your fave moments.  Then link up at Susanne's site. 

FIVE FAVES

Mine are all things that are local to my area of NY.....we got a lot done this week....in all parts of our Capital Region area......some were spontaneous, others were planned, all were special and make my faves list!


The outdoor theater area of The Egg
downtown Albany
14 August 2015
  • MOM-DAUGHTER DATE NIGHT:  Last Friday evening, Claire had a friend in a summer ballet company performance in downtown Albany.  I took her to the show and it was performed outside under The Egg.  It was only an hour long (a piece of "Mid-Summer Night's Dream") and it started to rain just as the performance was ending, but it was a lovely way to spend some time in the Capital with my own ballerina girl.  I even took some photos as I realized after living in this area for over 25 years, we have never taken photos of the Empire Plaza!! Downtown Albany has some beautiful architecture that we just don't see up here in suburbia. Here are a couple photos for you to see:



view of  The Capital/Legislative Building
(my oldest daughter used to call it a castle :) )



Empire Plaza
Albany

  • SUNDAY SERMON:  Wow.  Our pastor preached an amazing sermon last Sunday.  I mean...it blew us away.  It was about the 5 things we need to be doing for spiritual success.  The sermon series for the summer has been "A Guide to the Good Life" and it has centered around our spiritual growth.  The 5 points are:  Hear the Word, Read the Word, Study the Word, Memorize the Word, and Meditate on the Word.  He then recited a Scripture for every letter of the alphabet....called the Vitamin Nutrition(ex. are you empty? take Vitamin E "enter into His courts with praise...")  I highly encourage you to listen/watch his sermon.  It was very convicting to me.  You can find it here. I am SO thankful for my church and our senior pastor.

  • LOCAL BERRIES:  fresh, local blueberries and raspberries for adding to my oatmeal, cold cereals, and yogurt in the morning.  Sometimes I just grab a few as a snack, too.  Love them and am so thankful for local farm stands and markets.  







  • SHOPPING TRIP:  My daughters and I took the day Monday to go "back-to-school/work" shopping in the outlets just over the NY border in Massachusetts.  We love shopping in MA as there is NO sales tax!  And gas is cheaper so I fill the tank up when I get to the village there.  Claire found some great deals and the above photo depicts what I bought.  I had some great sale items!  The skinny jeans in that dark grey are perfect for the dress code at work.  I am allowed to wear "jeans" if they are not blue denim.  Both tops will go with skirts and pants and that black skirt is replacing a very old skirt I just donated to Salvation Army.  The scarf is a color I've been wanting and it was a very low price compared to the stores around my area.  After we shopped we had lunch together at a fantastic wrap shop and then bought Dave  something for work.  I then had Claire practice driving home via the scenic route, over and down the Berkshire Mountains. (She already has experience with the MassPike and the NYS Thruway). She did very well and is ready for her road test later today!!




Erie Canal Trailway/Mohawk River
from the Bike Trails
Colonie/Niskayuna, NY
  • PAUSE:  I was running all over town on Wednesday doing some necessary errands when I decided to stop for a chicken salad sandwich and an iced coffee and eat my lunch with my book on a bench along the biking/hiking trails along the Mohawk River in town.  Wow...did I need this pause in my day and from the looks of the trail and picnic tables, so did many other people. Most were men and women on their lunch break from work as indicated by their clothing.  Most were sitting alone like me, just enjoying the beautiful breeze and scenery.  That white speck in the background of the photo was a large boating vessal cruising down the canal.  It was a beautiful, although humid, day but that river breeze felt great.  I sat there for about an hour just reading and praying.  I love those spontaneous moments!  (and later that evening, I was right back there as my friend Anita called me to go walking and then we treated ourselves to fro yo at the new Greek place!)   I love summer and am going to miss these pauses in my day once I am back in the classroom!
Those were the highlights of my week.  How about you? What was a fave thing or moment from the past week??









Note:  a couple of readers emailed me asking how I was feeling from the sinus/ear infection I've been on meds for.  I'm fine now, thanks to strong antibiotics!

And for those of you who wanted a photo of me climbing that ladder on Crane Mountain:

photo courtesy of Cheryl A Blask
Crane Mountain summit trail
August 2015



19 August 2015

Book Review #29: The Kept

One of the most.bizarre.books. ever read.

This novel caught my eye when my youngest and I were browsing in Saratoga earlier this summer at a local book store....the bookstore is family owned and operated and we like supporting those kinds of places.  It was displayed near the Adirondack section because the author is a local although he no longer lives in the area.  The setting for the book is somewhere in western NY out by Lake Erie.  And that right there should have been a clue.....the book's setting was so inconsistent. First he describes the book as being in the north ( to a NYer, the north is the Adirondacks) but then the description was more out toward the Great Lakes and the Rochester/Buffalo area which is west.  It just bugged me.

There were many things that bothered me about this story.  Yet, the writing was, in parts, exceptionally well done thematically and symbolically speaking.

STORY SUMMARY

It is the late 19th century......the winter of 1897.

Elspeth Howell is a midwife who has been away for several months from her family and farm/homestead in upstate NY. 
Upon arriving home, the house is dark and no fire is going...she sees no smoke from the chimney.  She rushes in only to discover that her entire family has been murdered.  Jorah, her husband, has been shot to death in his bed.  Her children Mary, Amos, Jesse, Emma (the youngest) have all been shot and left in various positions.  Her son Caleb is missing.  

She later discovers that he had been hiding in the pantry when she first arrived home and shot her, thinking she was one of the killers coming back.  He describes that he saw 3 men, all wearing red scarves, shoot every member of his family.  He had been in the barn and the men never saw him.

They mourn together and vow to get revenge.  They travel to a lakeside town that is known for violence..in both setting and people.  They begin to settle there, all the time seeking the killers.  Caleb is forced into adulthood and slowly learns truths about his family that he never suspected.  Elspeth needs to confront her own past, her terrible urges which are like an addiction and the temptations that haunted her for years.......and in that haunting, she learns some truths herself.

Only the love between this mother and her son are what bond them together in this world.

MY THOUGHTS

Well, this book simply was slow to start yet with the discovery of what was happening to the Howell family...and with the realization I arrived at about what Elspeth was really doing, it began to pick up.  However, it continued to just plod along.

It was bleak, stark, disturbing.  Much description in the beginning of the book.

The book is divided into three parts.  Book One is the present with a lot of backstory about Elspeth and Jorah thrown in.  But it is done haphazardly......you will be reading a section of a page and all of a sudden you are back in the past.  That was way too cumbersome  and confusing at times.

Book Two is their lives in Watersbridge, the town where they are hoping to find the killers.  

Book Three is the pursuit of the killers and where everything plays out.  You discover that Caleb is not who you think he is......although by now, because the reader knows about Elspeth and her wrong choices, you will figure it out before this section.  The ending is just odd.  It annoyed me....yet, in a literary sense, it was brilliant......because you, the reader, need to figure out what Caleb will do next.  How he will survive.

This book just wasn't the thrill I was expecting.  How it made the National Bestseller list I will never know.  But...it IS the author's first novel so......and the storyline itself was gripping...disturbing...but gripping.  I had to finish it only to find out what happens with Caleb!  My heart just broke for him.

The one saving grace for this book is that there is a pervasive sense of bleakness....and the setting description....that western NY winter...that is so bleak and isolating (at least I imagine it was back in the 19th century more so than today and even today those upstate NY winters are pretty harsh and bleak) really ties things together.  Perfect setting for such a dark story.

In my opinion, this book is appropriate for ages 17 and older due to mature theme/content.

On a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the highest, I rate this a 7.



18 August 2015

August Break: Look Up!




looking up....along the Murphy, Middle, Bennett Lakes trail
in the Wilcox Lake Wild Forest, southern Adirondacks hike I took with a friend last September.