Personal, Uncategorized

On Empty Nesting: Time for My Interests

A year ago, I was really struggling with the idea of my girls growing up and having lives of their own, separate from me.  I’ve talked to several of my friends about it and they felt the same way.  For so long, so much of my time and energy – both physical and emotional – was invested in my kids and it was sad to know that was coming to an end as my girls are now 16 and 18.  They will both be taking college classes starting next month!

In the last year, however, I have realized that now is actually my time.  My time to pursue things that I am interested in – it’s not about what the kids want or giving them a particular experience – it’s about what I want.  I love to read and I love being part of the bookstagram and book review community–I get so many great recommendations and I love talking about the books I love with people who also love them!

I have also realized that now is the time for my husband and I.  It’s our time to do things together that we want to do.  We’ve always sort of done that, but now we can do it on a larger scale and more often because we don’t need babysitters!  It’s kind of like dating all over again!  We went away from Wednesday, July 4 through Friday, July 6, just the two of us.  We rented a tiny house in the Catskill Mountains.  We had no wi-fi and decided to make it an internet free time (we did check texts and text our kids).  We cooked at the tiny house, went on long walks and hikes, read books, sat by a fire and my husband played guitar.  It was wonderful and romantic.  We have another getaway scheduled for Labor Day weekend.

IMG-2297My husband and I also took on a challenge this year to go on 9 hikes.  We have had so much fun with this!  We have discovered some local trails that we never knew existed.  My husband has been talking to people and scouring the internet for new hikes to go on.  We walk and talk and sometimes just walk in silence.  My blood pressure just literally drops when I get into the woods.  I physically feel different, better, more calm and at peace.  Last weekend, we went out for an amazing vegan brunch at Seed to Sprout in Avon-by-the-Sea, NJ and then went to Cheesequake State Park.  My husband planned the whole thing and it was a beautiful, perfect day!!  The weather was perfect, the trails were quiet, the smell of sassafras was strong, we sat in a grove of cypress trees for a half hour, just taking it all in.

We are realizing that we can pursue our interests now – garden tours, vegan brunches, hiking.  As much as I miss when my girls were little and we did everything as a family, I am enjoying this time that I get to pursue things that I am interested in.

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5 star reviews, homosexuality, Racism

Speak No Evil by Uzodinma Iweala

5/5 stars

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I struggled with the writing style at first.  The dialogue is not separate from the paragraphs and there are no quotation marks, so sometimes, especially in the beginning, when there is a lot of talking, it was confusing as to who was speaking.  But, I stuck it out and I am glad that I did.

Niru is growing up in a wealthy suburb of Washington, DC.  He goes to a private school, he is a track team star, he has a great best friend and he was accepted to Harvard early admission.  And he’s gay.  His father is from Nigeria where being homosexual is punishable by 14 years in prison.

Speak No Evil is about more than homosexuality, however, it’s also about being a black man in America in 2018.  We still have a very long way to go in terms of viewing everyone equally.  We need to all work at that and this book is a step in that direction.

There is a lot in this book.  A lot of relevant material that made me think, that made me see things through a different perspective, that made me realize the emotional ramifications of religiously inspired traditions or politically charged rhetoric.  I think this is an important book and one that anyone interested in understanding how a different ethnic group views America and how their experience is different due to the color of their skin, should read this book.

 

4 star reviews, cookbook, Health, Cookbooks, vegan

Vegan Yack Attack On The Go by Jackie Sobon

4/5 stars

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I hope that those of you who follow me because we share a love of fiction will not mind if I review some vegan/vegetarian books and some yoga books.

I have been a vegetarian for 30 years and lately, more and more I am finding that I don’t want to eat dairy or eggs.  I know that part of this is that being a vegetarian has changed so much in the last ten years.  More and more people are eating healthier, organic and plant based – it’s no longer just for crunchy hippie types.  There are tons of blogs and cookbooks for plant based dishes and the innovation has been amazing!  Thirty years ago, at 16, I lived on vegetarian chili, pasta, salads and peanut butter sandwiches.  Now there are so many amazing and delicious recipes and more and more I am finding that I don’t want to eat dairy and eggs because there is just no reason to and I feel better when I don’t.

I will say that I don’t judge other people for eating meat or dairy or eggs.  I think we all need to do what makes us feel our best and I think often there is a learning curve with that.  I will also say that although I do follow a plant-based lifestyle, I don’t follow it blindly, I do my own research and I do what makes sense for me and for my family.

There are so many different ways to eat – paleo, vegan, raw food, Mediterranean – and they all claim to be the healthiest for you.  How are you supposed to know what is really the best way to eat?  Everyone agrees that more plants and less meat; more whole foods and less processed foods are healthy so start there.  Then listen to your body.  Moderation is key.  Drink plenty of water.  Move around more.  Anything that seems extreme is probably not the best idea.

I am so happy to be part of the book review community and when I signed up for Netgalley, I never thought about the possibility of reviewing vegan and vegetarian books or yoga books, but those are things that I am passionate about, too and so I hope you will bear with me.

My Review:

Some of the things I LOVE about this book: There are bulk cooking recipes, 30 minute recipes and lunch box recipes!  As a busy mom who tries to eat healthy, I appreciate being able to make food ahead of time or quickly.

My daughters and I tried the Recovery Smoothie which is like a decadent chocolate milkshake and soooo good and creamy and delicious!  I also made the Lentil Balls with Zesty Rice and my husband said to put it in the rotation!  My daughter is dying to make the Pumpkin Maple Donut Holes but she’s decided that sounds very fall-ish so she is forcing herself to wait until fall.

The Cauliflower Curry Grill Packets, Campfire French Toast and Campfire Banana Splits seem like they could be fun for camping.  We are going to a vegan potluck soon and I am planning to make the Peanut Butter S’Mores Dip.

I love the author’s take on ethnic dishes like Kluski – like the author’s father, my father is Polish, too, and I was excited to have a vegan option for this!  I was also excited to have vegan recipes for hearty fall and winter meals like pot pies.  I find it’s easy to be vegan in warm weather when fresh fruit and vegetables are plentiful for salads and it’s a little more of a struggle when fall hits and there are not a lot of stick-to-your-ribs hearty meal options…but innovative folks like Jackie Sobon are creating delicious, hearty vegan recipes and for that, they are my heroes!

I would like to thank Netgalley and Fair Winds Press for my copy!

Chakras, New Age

The Ultimate Guide to Chakras by Athena Perrakis

3/5 stars

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My Review:

I know some people might not believe in chakras and find it all a bunch of malarkey.  I was always intrigued by the idea.  Then, last year, a friend and I did a Chakra Yoga Challenge with Journey Junkie.  After the second day, she called me crying and we sat there and both realized we were emotionally a mess.  We needed self-care bad and we had been warned that a lot of emotions could come up when activating this chakra.  We both experienced it.  We were raw.  We had to take care of ourselves.  Over the next few days, as we activated the other chakras and aligned them, we felt better than we ever had.

I also had the opportunity to take an Energy Healing workshop that was amazing!  If you ever have the opportunity to take one and you are at all inclined — just do it, don’t hesitate!  We learned about our chakras in that workshop and we worked through healing them and aligning them.  We learned about positive and negative energy and people, thoughts and actions that can zap that energy.

All of this is to say that I have some experience with chakra and there was nothing new or exciting in this book.  I didn’t care for the way it was laid out.  It felt like a textbook, very wordy with a lot of words on each page, not a lot of diagrams or drawings to keep your interest as is the current trend in non-fiction. The exercises were good and well-thought out and easy to follow and I did appreciate that the author included which gemstones, essential oils and herbs went with each chakra and how to use them.  I also appreciated the mantra for each chakra.  The introduction of tarot I found to be almost off-topic, tarot can be it’s own book.

From the Publisher:

With The Ultimate Guide to Chakras, tune in to your chakras, the power centers connecting your physical body and the world of energy.

Your chakras are the power centers that translate between the seen world of the physical body and the unseen world of energy. First discussed in ancient Hindu texts and studied for thousands of years in numerous spiritual traditions, including acupuncture, meditation, and yoga, chakras hold the key to our well-being. By tapping into the power of our chakras, we can live healthier, balanced, and more abundant lives.

Athena Perrakis, leading metaphysical teacher and creator of the world’s largest online metaphysical resource website, SageGoddess.com, addresses the nine major chakras we can tap into to balance, heal, and manifest. This guide explains how and why different crystals, essential oils, and sacred plants help to support each chakra.

Each chapter of The Ultimate Guide to Chakras includes magical exercises for accessing the energy of each chakra, including meditations, journal exercises, and working with goddesses and spirit guides. Readers will even learn how to create a dedicated chakra altar. Lavishly photographed and illustrated, this guide promises to be an essential volume for beginners and experienced energy workers alike.

4 star reviews, bookreview, contemporary fiction, Uncategorized, Women's Fiction

The Perfect Couple by Elin Hildebrand

4/5 stars

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I don’t remember what year I discovered Elin Hildebrand, but I know the book was Barefoot and my girls were still in school, we still had a Swim Club membership and I sat beside the pool that summer and read every single one of the books she had published up until that point, while my girls splashed and played with their friends.  Since then, I have looked forward to her summer book.

I saved this one until we were in LBI for a few days.  I wanted to read it on the beach.  Which I did.  And I enjoyed every single second of it.

Celeste is from a lower middle class hard working, close-knit, very moral family and Benji is from a very privileged upper class family that originally came from England, but now lives in the US.  Her mom works at the Crayola Factory in Easton, PA and his mom is a well-loved novelist.  Her dad sells men’s clothing at Neiman Marcus and his dad is some sort of hedge fund manager or something financial like that.  But Celeste and Benji meet and date and decide to get married.

On the morning of their wedding, her maid of honor is found floating in the marina outside Benji’s family’s Nantucket compound.  An investigation ensues to determine if this was foul play or an accident or even suicide.

The mystery is playful.  It didn’t feel dark or sinister, yet it was very intriguing.  I kept thinking that I had figured it out, and then was wrong.  Over and over.  Which was fun and kept me reading.

There are two beautiful love stories.  I loved Shooter’s storyline and Karen’s storyline.  I think Karen and Bruce (aka Betty and Mac) ARE the Perfect Couple.

The author encouraged the reader to contemplate how class and privilege weigh in to people’s decision making.  Were the Winburys more morally corrupt because they had been given everything and just thought they could/should have whatever they wanted?  Did the Winburys make poor choices because their choices never involved survival, homes, cars, foods would never be an issue for them.  Did Mac and Betty make better choices because they had to work hard for everything they had and the threat of it being taken away was always there?  Did Mac and Betty have higher morals because they couldn’t afford not to?

I thought the author did a great job with keeping a murder mystery not too heavy or dark (who wants heavy and dark on the beach?), but still raising questions about class and privilege and still telling a fabulous story!

I would like to thank Netgalley and Little Brown for my copy.

Blog Tour, Uncategorized

Tied to Deceit by Neena H. Brar

BOOK COVER PIC

On a drizzly August morning, the inhabitants of the hill town of Sanover, Himachal Pradesh, wake up to the shocking news of the murder of the exquisite, secretive, malicious, and thoroughly immoral Devika Singh.

As Superintendent of Police Vishwanath Sharma begins to sift through the hidden secrets of Devika Singh’s life, it becomes evident that everyone who knew her seems to have a clear-cut motive for killing her.

Faced with the investigation of a crime that appears to have as many suspects as there are motives, Vishwanath Sharma probes the sinister web spun around a tangle of lies and deception.

Praise for Tied to Deceit:

“A remarkable whodunit that’s as sharp as it is concise.

Brar enhances her taut murder mystery with an engaging setting that effectively incorporates the local culture. The smart, believable denouement will have readers looking forward to Brar’s next endeavor.”

-Kirkus Reviews

“A literary mystery saga that includes far more depth and psychological and cultural insights than your typical murder mystery’s scenario.”

-D. Donovan, Midwest Book Review

………………………………………..

A SHORT EXCERPT FROM TIED TO DECEIT:

Dr. Rajinder Bhardwaj, the owner and the head physician at Lifeline Hospital, Sanover, had showered after his brisk morning walk and joined his wife for an early morning tea. Gayatri Bhardwaj sat with her second cup of ginger tea on her favourite old, worn, woven chair on the verandah which overlooked their front garden: a tapestry of blooming carnations, marigolds, roses, and chrysanthemums. She longed for a clear, bright day and the dazzling blue sky of summer.

It was her favourite spot to sit in the mornings; a place from where she could witness the brilliant dawn streaking half of the sky coral; raindrops soaking everything wet during the monsoon; specks of silvery snow falling from the sky during winter. She could take in everything from the serene mountain peaks and the forest to their house—its roof, windowpanes, and the pebbled driveway that snaked its way criss-cross toward the outside big iron gate. She would sit there until Dr. Bhardwaj joined her after his daily ritual of a brisk morning walk.

They had done this for years despite the changing seasons and the changing equation of their marital relationship. They had spent endless mornings of their initial married years there, when their hearts were still giddy with the feeling of young love, and they would talk about everything and nothing. She’d been a bride at barely twenty, young and naive. He’d been ten years her senior, already on the way to establishing himself as a successful physician, the younger son of a landlord aristocratic family with old wealth. He had swept her off her feet then, and was all charm and charisma but then the magic slowly diminished and finally died due to his secret betrayals over time. Thousands of little resentments had replaced the early warmth. But their hearts, although heavy with bitterness and anger at the failed expectations, had gotten used to the solace of each other’s company that often comes with years of living together, and they never stopped performing this morning ritual of their married life.

 

AUTHOR BIO:

Neena H. Brar lives in Edmonton, Canada with her husband, two children, a highly energetic German Shepherd, and a lifetime collection of her favorite books.

A hermit at heart, she’s a permissive mother, a reluctant housekeeper, a superb cook, and a hard-core reader.

Tied to Deceit is her debut novel.

 

AUTHOR CONTACT DETAILS:

Website:  http://neenabrar.com

Instagram: @bookaddictnwriter

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/NeenaHBrar/

 

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Tied to Deceit tour banner new

4 star reviews, cookbook, outdoors

The Campout Cookbook by Marnie Hanel and Jen Stevenson

4/5 stars

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I live close to the beach and one of my families’ favorite things to do is go to the beach late in the day, make a fire and have dinner and stay until late in the evening.  We normally roast hot dogs over the fire (veggie hot dogs for my younger daughter and I), eat chips and make s’mores later.  When I saw this book, I was excited to get some other recipes and not just rely on hot dogs every time we do this.  Because, you know, hot dogs…

I appreciate the forager’s guide to pernicious plants, even though I would be using this book more on the beach than in the woods, I still thought it was a really cool addition to the book.

I wish there were more recipes that you did not have to prepare at home, but there were several fish recipes that could be prepared completely on site around the fire and since we would be at the beach and I do eat fish, I was pretty stoked for those!

I thought the campfire cookery toolkit was a GREAT idea and my husband was so excited by it that he has already started putting one together.

Excellent takes on the traditional s’mores recipes that we are excited to try!  Also, a recipe for homemade marshmallows — if you have never made marshmallows, they are freaking killer and well worth the effort to make them!

My husband appreciated the thermos cocktail recipes.

I thought the drawings were really cute and overall this was an interesting book.

I would like to thank Netgalley and Artisan books for my copy in exchange for my honest review.

 

 

4 star reviews, Childrens' Books, Uncategorized, Yoga

Yoga for Kids by Susannah Hoffman

4/5 stars

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In the foreward for this book, actress Patricia Arquette writes how “we live in a world of chaos” and “it’s important to find ways to heal and combat the fast world”.  That is what yoga is.  Yoga forces us to slow down, to breathe deep, to focus on our movements,  to accept ourselves where we are – I have yet to take a yoga class where the teacher does not, at some point, remind us that we are all different and that maybe we could do a pose deeper the day before but, like Susannah Hoffman, the author of this book tells readers that they are doing yoga perfectly for them that day, even if one side is tighter than the other or it’s more difficult today than it was yesterday.

This book starts by explaining that in yoga, we often start with “Om”–seated on the mat, cross-legged, leaving everything else behind and focusing on our breath.  And we end with “Namaste” – hands at prayer position, the light in you recognizing the light in others.  It’s the message we end with and try to take off our mats back into the chaotic world.

The first poses are warm up poses, simple things like shoulder stretches and side stretches, which encourages a warm up before getting into more complicated poses.  There are two pages explaining how to do each pose. After every few poses, Susannah Hoffman shows the reader how to put it together in a sequence or, as we say in yoga, “how to flow”.

There are pop-ups on some of the pages for grown-ups to tell them what the pose is doing and how to make sure their child is doing it in such a way that they won’t get hurt.

The photographs in this book are beautiful and very engaging and inviting, they made me want to get up and do yoga!  I loved how they used different kids of different ages and abilities and several kids with Down syndrome.

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I thought this was a great introduction to yoga for kids ages 7-12.  I would definitely consider buying this for the library.

I would like to thank Netgalley for my digital copy.

4 star reviews, contemporary fiction, Women's Fiction

All Your Perfects by Colleen Hoover

4/5 stars

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My Review:

Beautiful book, well-paced, inside view into someone else’s relationship and marriage.

This book goes between 7 years ago and present.  Seven years ago, Graham and Quinn met, started dating, fell in love and got married.  Present day is seven years later and they are having fertility issues that is driving them apart.  I love books that give you an inside look into someone else’s relationship or marriage because I do think we all have a story to tell and I also think it’s interesting to see what makes other people’s marriages tick.  I felt myself getting caught up in their relationship and hoping they would work things out.  I actually got tears in my eyes when they wrote letters to each other…I don’t want to say anymore because I don’t want to give too much away!

I recommend this book to fans of romance, women’s fiction and domestic dramas.  If someone is struggling with fertility issues, I think this book may be a good fit to see how another couple deals with things.

From the Publisher:

Quinn and Graham’s perfect love is threatened by their imperfect marriage. The memories, mistakes, and secrets that they have built up over the years are now tearing them apart. The one thing that could save them might also be the very thing that pushes their marriage beyond the point of repair.

All Your Perfects is a profound novel about a damaged couple whose potential future hinges on promises made in the past. This is a heartbreaking page-turner that asks: Can a resounding love with a perfect beginning survive a lifetime between two imperfect people?

 

 

4 star reviews, thriller

The Last Time I Lied by Riley Sager

4/5 stars

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From the Publisher:

Two Truths and a Lie. The girls played it all the time in their cabin at Camp Nightingale. Vivian, Natalie, Allison, and first-time camper Emma Davis, the youngest of the group. But the games ended the night Emma sleepily watched the others sneak out of the cabin into the darkness. The last she–or anyone–saw of them was Vivian closing the cabin door behind her, hushing Emma with a finger pressed to her lips.

Now a rising star in the New York art scene, Emma turns her past into paintings–massive canvases filled with dark leaves and gnarled branches that cover ghostly shapes in white dresses. When the paintings catch the attention of Francesca Harris-White, the wealthy owner of Camp Nightingale, she implores Emma to return to the newly reopened camp as a painting instructor. Seeing an opportunity to find out what really happened to her friends all those years ago, Emma agrees.

Familiar faces, unchanged cabins, and the same dark lake haunt Nightingale, even though the camp is opening its doors for the first time since the disappearances. Emma is even assigned to the same cabin she slept in as a teenager, but soon discovers a security camera–the only one on the property–pointed directly at its door. Then cryptic clues that Vivian left behind about the camp’s twisted origins begin surfacing. As she digs deeper, Emma finds herself sorting through lies from the past while facing mysterious threats in the present. And the closer she gets to the truth about Camp Nightingale and what really happened to those girls, the more she realizes that closure could come at a deadly price.

My Review:

The Last Time I Lied was an unpredictable mystery.  I could not figure out who did it.  The main character, Emma Davis, is an artist.  She was the last person to see the girls that went missing and had been their friend.  When the summer camp re-opens, she is asked to be the art teacher.  She goes back to the camp 15 years later to try to figure out what happened to them.  Someone puts birds in her room and she knows someone is spying on her, but she doesn’t who.  It’s very creepy with a lot of twists and turns.

It was told in alternating narratives from 15 years ago (when the girls went missing) to now.  The pacing was very fast paced.  My daughter read it in 2 days.  It took me a bit longer because I had a lot going on, but we both enjoyed it immensely.

I would like to thank Netgalley for my copy.