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by Margot Livesey
Donald believes he knows all there is to know about seeing. An optometrist in suburban Boston, he is sure that he and his wife, Viv, who runs the local stables, are both devoted to their two children and to each other. Then Mercury—a gorgeous young thoroughbred with a murky past—arrives at Windy Hill and everything changes.
Mercury’s owner, Hilary, is a newcomer to town who has enrolled her daughter in riding lessons. When she brings Mercury to board at Windy Hill, everyone is struck by his beauty and prowess, particularly Viv. As she rides him, Viv begins to dream of competing again, embracing the ambitions that she had harbored, and relinquished, as a young woman. Her daydreams soon morph into consuming desire, and her infatuation with the thoroughbred escalates to obsession.
Donald may have 20/20 vision but he is slow to notice how profoundly Viv has changed and how these changes threaten their quiet, secure world. By the time he does, it is too late to stop the catastrophic collision of Viv’s ambitions and his own myopia.
1 OUT OF 5 FLEURS DE LIS
Mercury by Margot Livesey
Though there is a horse cover of this novel, the horse doesn’t actually factor in as much as one would imagine. I’m OK with this; I’m not really a horse or horse book fan. What I wasn’t OK with was the extremely slow plot development, the plethora of characters, or the fact that these two married people seemed to be living in different worlds, neither of them expressing to the other their discontent.
Viv and Donald Stevenson have been married nearly 10 years, have two kids, and vastly different careers. Donald left his surgical career after the death of his father to become an optometrist. Viv left a fast paced job in New York City to work with horses at a friend’s stable. What was once a pleasant relationship becomes filled with secrets and comes to feel perfunctory. Viv falls in love with Mercury, a horse that seems to give her a new lease on life and a chance to capture her lost childhood dreams.
The book starts off very, very slowly. To be honest, it didn’t ever truly pick up speed. The characters all felt boring to me. The only one who had a modicum of personality, Donald’s friend Jack, lost it after he started a relationship with a woman. Even the Stevenson children do nothing to bring levity or humor to this droll story.
One thing that bothered me a lot is the extremely heavy use of foreshadowing. Several times a chapter, the narrator would say something like, “But how could we know what was to come later?” or, “Looking back, I wish I would have known…”. It took me way out of the story and I just plain didn’t like it. I would like to just experience what is going to happen as it’s happening, thanks very much.
As a married person, I can see how the tedium of everyday life can cause stress on a marriage. But if you want to make it work, why not talk it out? Viv and Donald ignore each other, speak under their breath, and do nothing to make the other aware of how they’re feeling in any way. Instead of trying to talk to each other, they hide in their work and confide in others. I guess this does happen, but as a happily married person I found it very sad and immature.
I finished only about half of Mercury and couldn’t complete the rest. It just didn’t grab my attention on any level.
About the Author
Margot Livesey is the New York Times bestselling author of the novels The Flight of Gemma Hardy, The House on Fortune Street, Banishing Verona, Eva Moves the Furniture, The Missing World, Criminals, and Homework. Her work has appeared in the New Yorker, Vogue, and the Atlantic, and she is the recipient of grants from both the National Endowment for the Arts and the Guggenheim Foundation. The House on Fortune Street won the 2009 L. L. Winship/PEN New England Award. Born in Scotland, Livesey currently lives in the Boston area and is a professor of fiction at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop.
Title: Touch Me
Author: Skye Malone
Series: Book One of the Demon Guardians Series
Genre: New Adult Paranormal Romance
Publisher: Wildflower Isle
Publication Date: September 16, 2016
Cover Artist: Karri Klawiter
six-foot-two, and easily the most gorgeous man I’ve ever laid eyes on. And he
smiles like he knows me. Like he’s saying hello.
— Excerpt from Touch Me (Demon Guardians #1) by
Skye Malone. Copyright Skye Malone. All rights reserved.
Be Frank with Me
by Julia Claiborne Johnson
Reclusive literary legend M. M. “Mimi” Banning has been holed up in her Bel Air mansion for years. But after falling prey to a Bernie Madoff-style ponzi scheme, she’s flat broke. Now Mimi must write a new book for the first time in decades, and to ensure the timely delivery of her manuscript, her New York publisher sends an assistant to monitor her progress. The prickly Mimi reluctantly complies—with a few stipulations: No Ivy-Leaguers or English majors. Must drive, cook, tidy. Computer whiz. Good with kids. Quiet, discreet, sane.
When Alice Whitley arrives at the Banning mansion, she’s put to work right away—as a full-time companion to Frank, the writer’s eccentric nine-year-old, a boy with the wit of Noel Coward, the wardrobe of a 1930s movie star, and very little in common with his fellow fourth-graders.
As she slowly gets to know Frank, Alice becomes consumed with finding out who Frank’s father is, how his gorgeous “piano teacher and itinerant male role model” Xander fits into the Banning family equation—and whether Mimi will ever finish that book.
4 OUT OF 5 FLEURS DE LIS
Be Frank With Me by Julia Claiborne Johnson
Alice is 24 years old, working in the book publishing world, and is sent to be an assistant of sorts to the famous-for-one-novel Mimi Banning. When she meets Mimi’s 9 year old son Frank though, she suddenly has to become so much more. Frank lives in his own unique world to say the least. Adults either cannot deal with him or find him endearing, and children his own age just find him plain weird.
Mimi has been in hiding since the massive fame she gained with her first and only novel. Having Frank has changed her, but not necessarily for the better. She now is on a tight deadline to come out with another bestseller, and Alice must keep her household and child under her sights while Mimi tries to do just that.
I quite enjoyed this look into the lives of some truly intriguing characters. I instantly fell in love with Frank, even though many may find him annoying or struggle to understand him. It’s never stated, but seems obvious to me, that Frank falls somewhere on the autism spectrum. His mother, delicate as she is, loves him but does not always have the energy or attitude necessary to keep up with him.
I loved the bond that Alice and Frank formed. It’s cliche to say they both helped each other learn a lot, but it’s true. Frank needed Alice to guide him socially and in some other ways, and Alice learned that things are not always so cut and dried and perhaps can be looked at from another angle by watching Frank.
One thing I didn’t understand nor was it even touched on was the reason why Mimi was so rude. Alice was there to help her, after all. Maybe Mimi resented needing the help; maybe she felt she was being spied on and didn’t like it; maybe she became jealous of the attention Alice was getting from Frank. These are all plausible, albeit facetious reasons that could explain Mimi’s perpetual nastiness towards Alice, but it felt like something deeper was at play.
I don’t know if the book could be described as hilarious or heartwarming, but I’m glad I read it, if only because I was introduced to young Frank. He’s a character that will stay with me for some time and make me think of him often. I loved the author’s writing style, though I didn’t particularly like the flow of the individual chapters.
Give this novel a read if you love characters with a lot of heart and honesty, or if you’re interested in reading a story that is true to life about a child on the autism spectrum.
About the Author
Julia Claiborne Johnson worked at Mademoiselle and Glamour magazines before marrying and moving to Los Angeles, where she lives with her comedy-writer husband and their two children.
Have you heard about Disney’s heartwarming newest film release? It’s called Queen of Katwe and will be in theaters September 30, 2016. I’m happy to share information about the movie today, and tell you a little about an unlikely hero of my own.
Queen of Katwe is based on the vibrant true story of a young girl from the streets of rural Uganda whose world rapidly changes when she is introduced to the game of chess, and, as a result of the support she receives from her family and community, is instilled with the confidence and determination she needs to pursue her dream of becoming an international chess champion. Directed by Mira Nair from a screenplay by William Wheeler, Queen of Katwe is produced by Lydia Dean Pilcher, p.g.a. and John Carls, p.g.a. with Will Weiske and Troy Buder serving as executive producers. The film stars Golden Globe nominee David Oyelowo, Oscar winner and Tony Award nominee Lupita Nyong’o and newcomer Madina Nalwanga.
In the film, a young girl named Phiona becomes an unlikely champion when, through the support of her mother and a local missionary, she learns the game of chess, then excels at it and advances farther than anyone thought possible. We have all met an unlikely champion in our lives at some point. I’m lucky to call mine my husband.
My husband, Jared, was first born with some health issues. He was a sickly baby and then at 7 years old, he was found to have scoliosis. It was such a severe case that he had to undergo multiple back surgeries just to correct the extreme curves. He had metal rods implanted and then removed from his spine, as well as staples down the length of his back–this was before the days where laser surgery was routine. Going into surgery, he was told there was a chance he might not walk again if anything went wrong. This was at 14 years of age. After an 8 hour surgery, then 2 weeks of hospital recovery including ICU time, Jared was sent home to recover for a few more months. When he finally returned to school, he had to wear a back brace–which is always fun for a high school boy who was already on the small side.
My husband made it through all of these struggles wonderfully, and when we first met and started dating, he laid it all out on the line for me–bravely, as if saying, “This is what I am, take me or leave me.” I loved him for it then and there, and now nearly 12 years and 2 kids later we are still going strong. Jared is a champion because he’s living his everyday best life and providing for us, though sometimes he still experiences pain. He refuses to sit around and let others do for him, or try to portray that he has any disability. He is a hero to our two boys, and to me.
I hope you’re now thinking about your own unlikely champion, and you will take them to go see Queen of Katwe, opening tomorrow!
For more information, visit the Queen of Katwe website.
Sometimes, you decide that one or even many rooms in your home are in need of a new look. Or perhaps you’ve just moved into your own place and want to put your personal spin on its’ decor. You want your home to look its’ best and reflect your style, but you need to do it on a budget.
This is absolutely possible with Replica Furniture Melbourne. Here you can shop for the hottest trends in furniture at a fraction of the price. Some popular designer replicas featured are Philippe Starck, Hans Wegner, and Noguchi.
Pieces are are of the utmost quality and are sure to pass for the real thing to your friends and family. Whether you need to update your living area, bedroom, kitchen and dining area or outdoor patio, you can find the right item to fit your style. Real, natural materials are used, just as in studio pieces, so you will know your new furniture purchase is a solid buy. And there is a money back guarantee for most items, so you really don’t have anything to lose.
Don’t spend thousands on decorating your home when you don’t have to–it’s time to give replica furniture a closer look!
Someone Must Die
by Sharon Potts
When her six-year-old nephew vanishes from a neighborhood carnival, Aubrey Lynd’s safe, snow-globe world fractures; it shatters when the FBI’s investigation raises questions about her own family that Aubrey can’t answer.
Aubrey picks apart the inconsistencies to expose the first of many lies: a ransom note—concealed from the FBI—with a terrifying and impossible ultimatum. Aubrey doesn’t know what to believe or whom to trust. The abduction is clearly personal—but why would someone play a high-stakes game with the life of a child? The more she presses for answers, the more Aubrey is convinced that her mother is hiding something.
Desperate to save her young nephew, Aubrey must face harsh truths and choose between loyalty to her family and doing the right thing. And she’d better hurry, because vengeance sets its own schedule, and time is running out.
MY THOUGHTS: 2 OUT OF 5 FLEURS DE LIS
I haven’t read as many kidnapping/mystery/thriller type books in recent years as I used to. I believe it’s because I found the books to be getting repetitive and myself as a reader getting harder to actually surprise. This novel unfortunately had both of those aspects going on, and I struggled to finish it.
The story begins when 6 year old Ethan, who’s just recently united with his grandmother, is kidnapped while under her watch at a carnival. The grandmother, Diana, had only a few months ago made amends with her son, so losing his only child was a devastating blow to their shaky relationship. Diana’s younger daughter, Aubrey, comes back home to be there for her family and try to help the authorities in any way she can.
It took me a couple of weeks to finish this book–it just never really grabbed me. I didn’t truly feel a sense of danger or thrill conveyed through the author’s writing. I didn’t care for the style that much–the dramatic ending sentences of chapter, which I’m sure were supposed to be darkly foreshadowing, felt overdone to me. I was actually reminded of the way chapters end in the Goosebumps series of books I read about 20 years ago–not good if you’re trying to write for adults.
There are several avenues the investigation goes. Diana is involved with a man running for judge, Ethan’s other grandparents are ridiculously rich, Aubrey’s ex boyfriend is even mentioned as a possible person of interest, but it takes some digging to find out that the kidnapping is connected to a past Diana still suffers everyday. Of course, the police don’t learn this information; Aubrey investigates on her own and interrogates her mother without their help.
Many things about this book felt unrealistic and disjointed to me. The ending was also very lackluster and kind of sudden. I made myself finish this book because I started it, but I can’t say there was too much I liked about it.
About the Author
Sharon Potts is the award-winning, critically acclaimed author of five psychological thrillers, including In Their Blood—winner of the Benjamin Franklin Award and recipient of a starred review in Publishers Weekly. A former CPA, corporate executive, and entrepreneur, Sharon has served as treasurer of the national board of Mystery Writers of America, as well as president of that organization’s Florida chapter. She has also co-chaired SleuthFest, a national writers’ conference. Sharon lives in Miami Beach with her husband and a spirited Australian shepherd named Gidget.
At some point in their career as a homeowner, many people find that they’re dissatisfied with the look and feel of their residential property. If you’re feeling this way right now, it’s time to implement the changes necessary to take your home to the next level of comfort, functionality, and visual appeal. Luckily, there are several simple strategies you can implement to achieve these outcomes. Some of them include:
1. Buy New Blinds.
Having nice blinds improves the aesthetic appeal of your windows while simultaneously shielding you and your loved ones from excess light or visibility to the neighbors. Since this is the case, it’s a good idea to buy new blinds every now and then. You can purchase your product of choice from companies like Next Day Blinds Winchester. This organization has a website which can be accessed at Nextdayblinds.com.
2. Create More Space.
Physical clutter in your home is unaesthetic. Additionally, it can create a sense of anxiety and disorder that detracts from your ability to enjoy your home. As such, it’s a good idea to implement strategies that will enable you to create more space at your private property. There are numerous techniques you can use to realize this goal, one of which is to simply getting rid of your old furniture. You can donate this furniture or dispose of it through a yard sale.
3. Implement A Meditation Practice.
If you’re serious about getting your home in great shape, be sure to implement a meditation practice. Doing so will afford you the opportunity to designate a specific room or region of a room to a calming practice. This strategy will help you learn to associate your home with the peace and calm that is induced through the meditation practice. Additionally, you can decorate your meditation space with calm, cutting edge color schemas that optimize your sense of tranquility while also enhancing the visual appeal of the room.
In addition to enhancing the ambiance and aesthetic appeal of your home, meditation can improve your health by reducing stress levels, enhancing sleep, and optimizing the functioning of your respiratory system.
4. Let The Professionals Help You.
If you really want to make your home a haven, be sure to let the professionals assist you. By hiring an interior decorator or contractor, you can attain assistance from industry experts who have extensive experience in the home optimization process. To ensure that you select the best home designers on the block, be sure to do online research so you attain a clear, thorough understanding of the company’s reputation, specialties, pricing, level of customer service, etc.
Individuals who are interested in taking their home to a new level of exceptionalism should know that they can start the optimization process immediately. To attain the best results quickly and correctly, it’s a good idea to think and act strategically. Some of the strategies that you may find particularly useful include buying new blinds, creating more space, implementing a room for meditation, and letting the professionals help you. Once you implement these techniques, you’ll likely start to love the look and feel of your home!
DISCLAIMER: Sony Home Video provided me with some of the materials I used in this Blog Post/Giveaway. The opinions I share are my own.
When I was a little girl, I loved the original Swan Princess film. Recently released on September 6 is another addition to this fun, beloved franchise–The Swan Princess: Princess Tomorrow, Pirate Today!
In the brand new original animated film, Princess Alise is training to be the perfect royal but in her heart all she wants to do is sail the seven seas as a swashbuckling pirate! After setting sail, Princess Alise is shipwrecked and washes ashore on an island where she meets Lucas, a young boy who has been living there by herself. They have to work together to survive and get back to civilization!
Would your child like to WIN a copy of The Swan Princess: Princess Tomorrow, Pirate Today of their very own? To enter, simply have your child take the quiz below to find out if they are more pirate…
Leave your answer in a comment and one lucky winner will receive a DVD copy of the film!
My big boy took the quiz and yeah, he’s proud to be a pirate. He’s now asking me if he can play in the forest all day! (You’ll know what I mean when you take the quiz.)
Please leave your results below and one winner will be chosen by September 25!
CLICK THE PHOTO TO TAKE THE QUIZ
Buy The Swan Princess: Princess Tomorrow, Pirate Today!
Follow The Swan Princess: Princess Tomorrow, Pirate Today!
I am excited to share my thoughts on the faith based, heart grabbing film GREATER, releasing in theaters on August 26, 2016. The movie stars Neal McDonough and newcomer Chris Severio as Brandon Burlsworth.
Brandon Burlsworth is perhaps the greatest walk-on in the history of college football. Brandon had always dreamed of playing for the Arkansas Razorbacks, but was considered too short and too fat to play Division I. Undeterred, Brandon took a big risk and walked on in 1994.
Written off by fellow teammates and coaches, Brandon displayed dogged determination in the face of staggering odds. An extremely devoted Christian, Brandon never cursed or drank. He was genuinely humble and low-key. He worked harder than anybody, on and off the field, becoming the first Razorback to earn a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree while still playing. The overly-fat kid who was once an embarrassment to his teammates and an annoyance to his coaches, ended up becoming the most respected player in the history of the program, changing the lives of all he touched.
Eleven days after being drafted into the NFL, Brandon was tragically killed in a car accident, crushing all who knew him. Brandon was “too good to be true”. How could something like that happen to this guy? The age-old question slammed down upon all with terrible force: “Why do bad things happen to good people?” Brandon’s story is more than mere football. It is the ultimate expression of the question “Why?” Greater will provide hope and inspiration as it strives to wrestle with this challenge and find reasons to trust. It is “Rudy” meets “It’s a Wonderful Life”.
To me, this was the story of the rewards from never giving up, learning to be faithful, and the bond between brothers. Brandon is extremely close to his older brother Marty, who at 17 years older is something of a father figure to Brandon. Marty inspires Brandon to succeed, celebrates with him when he does, and consoles him when he doesn’t.
I enjoyed seeing Brandon push himself to be the best. He did whatever it took, whatever his coaches told him and more to achieve his dreams. I have two young sons and I hope that they will take these same lessons with him in their lives, both on and off the sports field.
I liked how the film didn’t just focus on the football aspect or the faith aspect of Brandon’s life; we also get to see how he sometimes struggled socially, liked to be by himself, and even battled with obsessive compulsive disorder. I believe this is so important to show, because there are so many kids out there with issues like this who need to know they’re not alone and they can be successful just like Brandon was.
Both my husband and I were very touched by Greater and had tears in our eyes by the end. Yes, it’s a faith based film and to some that will make it a little corny or sappy in some parts, but the actors’ performances get you into the story and feeling their emotions.
I recommend the film Greater to sports fans, parents, and anyone who loves a story with a lot of heart.
I have a special giveaway for my readers courtesy of Grace Hill Media. Two winners will receive a promotional Brandon Burlsworth GREATER jersey, with his number 77 and in the Arkansas colors, as modeled by my son here!
Giveaway is for US only and will end 8/31/2016. Please leave a comment telling me who you’re rooting for this college football season!