Apple Girl

I was invited by Ionia to post a review blog on the new Apple Watch. I know it isn’t exactly something you read, but it is product review so please bear with me.

First of all, my disclaimer is that I’m an Apple girl. I haven’t always been an Apple girl, but once I, uh, took a bite of the apple (sorry, I couldn’t resist), I was hooked. And Apple continues to make better and better products all the time.

So, when they announced the Apple Watch, I knew I had to have one. Pre-orders were at 12:01 Pacific time which is an ungodly time Eastern time, but, hey, I wanted one. They were selling quickly because my first band choice was already backordered an hour after pre-orders started. So rather than wait, I opted for my second choice.

It arrived exactly on the first available date and I could hardly contain my excitement. Of course, I first had to contain my impatience as I waited for UPS to show up. I worked from home so I wouldn’t miss it. The tracking information said it would be here by 3 pm. Naturally, it arrived at 2:50 pm. It felt like a really long wait.

Now, keep in mind, I didn’t have the opportunity to see the watch in person, hadn’t tried it on and had only seen the same ads you all saw. But from the day they announced watch details, I have been carrying a paper template that was the size of the watch. I have small wrists and I was worried that it would be too big and feel clunky. So, my watch has arrived and I tore open the packaging to reveal and most elegant looking white case containing my watch. It already had the small band attached so it was ready for me to wear. Plus it had a 64% charge so I could play with it right away. And the watch is a perfect size for me. I got the smaller of the two sizes available.

And play I did! I explored, pushed buttons, turned the digital crown, arranged apps and checked out all the screens. What really happened is that I fell in love.

First full day of use though gave me a real opportunity to see what it could do.

7:30 am – I took it off the charging magnet and on my wrist. By 8:00 am I was using the GPS/Map function to guide me on a 3 hour trip. You may think that the screen is too small to see anything – you would be wrong. It is perfect. The background is black and that makes all the lettering stand out. The GPS function alerted me with a discreet sound and vibration when it was time to make a turn. In between, I was alerted to text messages and could quickly glance to see who it was from. I was driving so I didn’t do any replies other than the pre-programmed replies. But when I stopped I could reply from my watch by using the talk to text feature. I was also able to check my emails (a couple of lines along with the sender are provided). I could either delete them or save them for later.

I also used Siri – a lot. I swear someone somewhere is laughing at me because I ask Siri for some crazy things.

I would say that I gave the watch a pretty heavy work out throughout the day. I was little nervous about not having a charger with me since I’ve heard that battery life is the biggest obstacle. I used GPS for the 3 hour return trip too. So, lots of messaging, checking the weather, using Siri, GPS for 6 hours, and reading emails. I was finally notified that I was down to 10% power remaining at 10:30 pm. That is only 15 hours – I had heard it was supposed to last for 18 hours. But, again, I gave it a pretty heavy workout. Battery life is mobile anything’s biggest challenge. I wasn’t unhappy though. It got me through my day – and, remember, I still have my iPhone to fall back on.

I think there will be an explosion of apps that are released in the coming weeks/months for Apple watch and I look forward to finding new ways to use it. I heard that one hotel has already released an app that will let you check in and unlock your door. I’m geeky enough that new technology excites me. Plus using Apple Pay with my watch is uber-convenient. Controlling my iTunes music is awesome (or even Pandora) – I wish Spotify had an app though.

I think everyone should have an Apple watch – but then I think you would all be happier with a Mac, an iPhone, and an iPad!

150 years

A hundred and fifty years ago
Came dark and depressing days
Some stood unmoved
As others sang his praise

Our American Cousin, a comedy they said
But before the culmination
A man of honour dead

A lot of tears, fright and confusion
A derringer, an actor, a master of illusion.

We all know the story
We’ve heard it inside and out
But there are deeper questions
More to think about

One carried from the theatre
Not under his own force
One escapes into the night
On the back of a borrowed horse

One fought for rights for all
Regardless of coloured skin
One who feared change and oppression
For him and all his kin

One who died in early morning
Of a fateful spring
One who made it 12 more days
Before justice would ring

Two men, two lives
Tied inexorably together
Two men, two lives
Made history in 1865

What happened 12 days later
When Booth met his maker?
Was he denied access,
As an admitted life taker?

Was Lincoln standing there,
In his stovepipe and tails?
Does St. Peter consult him
To see if Booth passes or fails?

Imagine the conversation,
Between Lincoln and Booth
The president calm as always
The entertainer facing truth

So here they stand in heaven
Before the pearly gates
Booth scuffing his heels
As impatiently he waits

Before the man who rewrote history,
Ended slavery and showed such tact
And then Booth looks up and realises
St. Peter is Black.

150 years ago today we lost one of the most memorable men the world has ever known. Take a moment today and think about how many changes this man was responsible for, and be thankful for pioneering spirits. :)

Also a moment of silence for those lost on the Titanic on April 15th. Sad day in history. 🚢

Sisters of Heart and Snow by Margaret Dilloway

Sisters of Heart and SnowSisters of Heart and Snow by Margaret Dilloway
Rachel and Drew Snow may be sisters, but  their lives have followed completely different paths.

Married to a wonderful man and a mother to two strong-minded teens, Rachel hasn’t returned to her childhood home since being kicked out by her strict father after an act of careless teenage rebellion. Drew, her younger sister, followed her passion for music but takes side jobs to make ends meet and longs for the stability that has always eluded her. Both sisters recall how close they were, but the distance between them seems more than they can bridge. When their deferential Japanese mother, Hikari, is diagnosed with dementia and gives Rachel power of attorney, Rachel’s domineering father, Killian becomes enraged.

In a rare moment of lucidity, Hikari asks Rachel for a book in her sewing room, and Rachel enlists her sister’s help in the search. The book—which tells the tale of real-life female samurai Tomoe Gozen, an epic saga of love, loss, and conflict during twelfth-century Japan—reveals truths about Drew and Rachel’s relationship that resonate across the centuries, connecting them in ways that turn their differences into assets.

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a beautifully written and deeply thoughtful story. With dual tales in this novel, one set long ago in the twelfth century and one set in the current day, this book has a lot to offer to both those who love contemporary writing and for those who love historical books.

Margaret Dilloway keeps getting better with every novel she writes. I was not only impressed with her dialogue in this book as it was easy to read and believable, but also with the unusual family dynamics she creates for her characters. This author gives you a reason to want to continue with her books from the very first page.

When reading this, I found that I became very involved in the story of Tomoe, wanting to know more early on. The descriptions used for the setting were wonderful and made it easier to visualise the story. I like the parallels between the modern story and that of the Shogun period.

This book made me smile, made me cry and in the end and is a novel that I happily recommend to others. Margaret Dilloway is quickly becoming one of my favourite authors and a name I automatically associate with above-average fiction.

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher. All opinions are my own.

Amish Confidential (light on the confidential part)

Amish ConfidentialAmish Confidential by “Lebanon” Levi Stoltzfus

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I’d like to preface this review by saying that this is a well written book, but definitely not what I expected it to be. Who doesn’t love a bit of sensationalism? I, like many other people, watched this show because it was interesting, and because it blew apart an ideal that many of us who are not closely familiar with the Amish held. They are different than us–we knew that, but I suppose I thought that meant that they did not experience the same things that we do out in the “English world.” I was aware whilst watching the programme that some of it must have been filmed as it was to increase the shock value for the viewers, but I also felt that it showed some true events going on that no outsider to the communities featured would have ever guessed at. I was hoping for more of the same with this book.

It wasn’t what I expected.

Based upon what was said by Levi himself, I thought this book would be more of a ‘here is what was and is really going on behind the scenes’ kind of thing. I expected to learn more about those he felt had wronged him and thought he would offer up an explanation for some of the events America witnessed on the series but didn’t learn more about. That isn’t what this book is. With the buildup for the release of the book and the promises of secrets exposed, I think a lot of people will buy this in close connection with the end of the series, thinking they will find out what happened to favourite cast members or get a peek at what producers and cast members didn’t or weren’t allowed to share during the filming. They won’t learn a thing.

Even so, this is an interesting look into the world of the Amish. Levi and his co-author do a good job of putting the traditions and long-standing beliefs of his people into focus for those of us who would not ordinarily understand them. There is a lot of information about events that have happened in the Amish community, although many of them weren’t shocking, or anything that you could not google and come up with results for on your own.

I suppose getting an insider’s take on things when you are curious about a certain region or community does have benefits over just researching news articles, and Levi does include many personal details about his life.

My honest opinion is that this is a good history of the Amish and a look at the daily lives of those who follow this lifestyle, but isn’t anything so dramatically exciting that you will be rushing to share tidbits with your family and friends.

I think the ever present threat of lawsuits for slander stop people from saying what they really think a lot of the time. I have a feeling a lot more could and would be said if it weren’t for that fact. The show was exciting and filled with lots of “I can’t believe he did that!” The book is not.

Although I can respect the co-author for making the book grammatically correct and for flowing smoothly, I did not see the big personality from Levi as it was displayed in the TV show. I missed that. Eighth grade education or not, I felt like he should have been more present in his own book.

Overall? I’m glad I read it, but I think in this case, the marketing was more exciting than the book.

Finding Jesus: Faith, Fact, Forgery

If you are a Christian, or even if you aren’t and are just interested in religion or history, this may be very interesting to watch. Here is the trailer, and the press release is below.

 

CNN New Original Series FINDING JESUS
Blends Science and Archaeology
to Offer Fascinating Insights into
Well-Known Biblical Relics

Academics and theologians examine the value and authenticity of six objects which could shed new light on the historical Jesus
in show premiering March 1, 2015

NEW YORK, NY (Feb. 4, 2015) – Loved and worshipped by billions, Jesus of Nazareth is, unquestionably, the most famous person of the last 2,000 years. His influence on art, politics, education, literature, music, law, language, philosophy and philanthropy continues to this day. But he left no physical trace.

Or did he?

That’s the question at the forefront of Finding Jesus: Faith, Fact, Forgery, a CNN original series premiering March 1 at 9 p.m. ET/PT that discovers fascinating new insights into the historical Jesus, utilizing the latest state-of-the-art scientific techniques and archaeological research. Part documentary exploring the marvelous and mysterious artifacts emanating from the world of the Bible, the series is also a thrilling and emotional drama, examining the Gospel characters and stories connected to these artifacts – the baptism, the betrayal, the Passion, the Resurrection and after.

Each episode of the six-part series investigates the value and authenticity of a historical object which could shed new light on Jesus: the Shroud of Turin, relics venerated as part of the True Cross, the gospel of Judas, relics believed to be of John the Baptist, the burial box of Jesus’ brother James and the gospel of Mary Magdalene.

A first-class panel of on-screen contributors will provide expert comment – academics from the world’s best universities including Yale, Harvard, Princeton and Oxford provide historical and theological insight, while the likes of Father James Martin SJ (the editor of ‘America’ the United States’ national Catholic magazine), the Rev. Paul Raushenbush (executive religion editor of the Huffington Post), and Erwin MacManus, senior pastor of MOSAIC Los Angeles, help bring our characters and their emotional journeys to life for our audience.

Also appearing to offer expert analysis throughout the series is David Gibson, an award-winning journalist and filmmaker who specializes in covering the Catholic Church. He is co-author of the series’ companion book from St. Martin’s Press, also titled Finding Jesus, due to be released Feb. 24.

###

About Nutopia Productions:
Nutopia is a television company with offices in the UK and US. Founded in 2007, Nutopia is best known as creators of the ‘mega doc’ and produces factual programming for networks including HISTORY, DISCOVERY, CNN, BBC, CNN, ITV, C4 and National Geographic.

About CNN Original Series:
The CNN Original Series group develops non-scripted programming for television via commissioned projects, acquisitions and in-house production. Amy Entelis, senior vice president of talent and content development, oversees CNN Original Series and CNN Films for CNN Worldwide. Vinnie Malhotra, senior vice president of development and acquisitions, works directly with filmmakers and producers to develop original projects for CNN Original Series and CNN Films.

 

My Sunshine Away by M.O. Walsh

My Sunshine AwayMy Sunshine Away by M.O. Walsh
It was the summer everything changed.…

My Sunshine Away unfolds in a Baton Rouge neighborhood best known for cookouts on sweltering summer afternoons, cauldrons of spicy crawfish, and passionate football fandom. But in the summer of 1989, when fifteen-year-old Lindy Simpson—free spirit, track star, and belle of the block—experiences a horrible crime late one evening near her home, it becomes apparent that this idyllic stretch of Southern suburbia has a dark side, too.

In My Sunshine Away, M.O. Walsh brilliantly juxtaposes the enchantment of a charmed childhood with the gripping story of a violent crime, unraveling families, and consuming adolescent love. Acutely wise and deeply honest, it is an astonishing and page-turning debut about the meaning of family, the power of memory, and our ability to forgive.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What a book to read on the way through Baton Rouge! Incidentally I was reading this book on the way to NOLA, so it was very appropriate.

I honestly can’t think of a single negative thing to say about this novel. It starts out raising the curiosity of the reader and keeps that pace and momentum going until the very end.

This book deals with a very serious issue, rape, but also with what it is like to come of age in a typical American neighbourhood. The trials and tribulations of an adolescent boy’s life are laid out plainly and truthfully on these pages, but in such a way that even a person never having been in the same situation can understand and appreciate.

The descriptions that M.O. Walsh uses in his writing are more than adequate, they transform a page full of words into a hot Louisiana night, where you can smell the air and see the happenings of the neighbours.

I was impressed with the way he chose to end this book as well. Since the story was built mostly around one important event, I half expected it to end the way most authors would have chosen to take it. This was different. Well thought out and unexpected, the climax of this story did the rest of the book justice.

I cannot recommend this book enough. Tasteful, exciting, fresh writing from an author I hope to see much more from.

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through Netgalley. All opinions are my own.

The Peculiar Life of a Lonely Postman by Denis Theriault

The Peculiar Life of a Lonely PostmanThe Peculiar Life of a Lonely Postman by Denis Thériault
A beautifully tragic and thought-provoking tale that perfectly reflects the elegance and style of Murakami and the skill and plotting of Julian Barnes

Bilodo lives a solitary daily life, routinely completing his postal rounds every day and returning to his empty Montreal apartment. But he has found a way to break the cycle—Bilodo has taken to stealing people’s mail, steaming open the envelopes, and reading the letters inside. And so it is he comes across Ségolène’s letters. She is corresponding with Gaston, a master poet, and their letters are each composed of only three lines. They are writing each other haikus. The simplicity and elegance of their poems move Bilado and he begins to fall in love with her. But one day, out on his round, he witnesses a terrible and tragic accident. Just as Gaston is walking up to the post-box to mail his next haiku to Ségolène, he is hit by a car and dies on the side of the road. And so Bilodo makes an extraordinary decision—he will impersonate Gaston and continue to write to Ségolène under this guise. But how long can the deception continue for? Denis Thériault weaves a passionate and elegant tale, comic and tragic with a love story at its heart.
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I’ve got mixed emotions about this book. I would certainly call it more experimental than mainstream, and yet there is a certain brilliance in the way the author made this book less about character development and more about the art of Haiku. It is almost like the poetry replaces the main character in much of the book.

This is a strange book. The reader never really gets to know a lot about the main character, but you get the sense that loneliness controls his every thought and action. The author did a good job of portraying what it is like to be an extreme introvert and I liked the relationship the character built with someone he had never met–even if the way he did it was somewhat creepy.

This novella has a few different interesting themes and the author explores the human heart, mind and decision making abilities of his main character well.

Overall, I thought this was worth the time to read. If nothing else, it will make you think.

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through Netgalley. All opinions are my own.


Win a copy of “The Good Lie,” Starring Reese Witherspoon

It is that special time of year when there are contests galore, and here is a very special one. simply share this blog post with your favourite social media outlet and drop me a comment to let me now you have, and you will be entered to win a DVD copy of “The Good Lie.” A winner will be chosen on the 23rd of December!

This film has gotten absolutely fantastic reviews and is definitely worth taking the time to see.

Find out more about the movie below. Happy holidays everyone!

1000439308BRDLEFO_f2fef56 THE GOOD LIE THE GOOD LIE

Click on the press release below to enlarge.

thegoodliepic

Revelation! From the Treetops

ionia martin:

A revelation indeed! Be careful in those trees, Jules.

Originally posted on Julian Froment's Blog:

The ‘double top secret’ project from my post of a few days ago, ‘Holy Crap!’, is now completed and can be revealed. So without further ado, except for the obligatory drum roll, here it is.

A Poetic ProposalIt is available here:

Amazon US

Amazon UK

I have been working on a small collection of poems, a humble effort that I have now published on amazon. Most of you that have been following this blog for a while will not be surprised to know that the entire collection is dedicated to the love of my life, Ionia, the inspiration in all I do. This includes a personal message for her, and this book is my version of shouting my love for her from the treetops. The poems are all based on love and separation, as you could have no doubt guessed.

I would also like to have a blog tour (some…

View original 39 more words

Lolita in the Lion’s Den by Justin Forest

Lolita in the Lion's Den or Pre-Tween JuxtapositionLolita in the Lion’s Den or Pre-Tween Juxtaposition by Justin Forest

A troubled young man must find a way to navigate his hypersexualized world in Justin Forest’s riveting new novel, Lolita in the Lion’s Den or Pre-Tween Juxtaposition.

Glen has always been an outcast. Born into an emotionally abusive household, where his mother relies on him as her only confidante and his father is a child molester, his sense of self-hatred only fuels the isolation he experiences both at home and at school.

Finding relief from the harsh realities of the world through increasingly vivid fantasies, Glen has finally had enough.

Quitting school and fleeing home, he drifts from one aimless job to the next as he wrestles with this attraction to both women and girls.

Fearing he will one day become like his father, Glen must come to terms with the person he truly is in order to learn how to become the person he wants to be.

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

3.5 stars.

I like books that make other people squirm. I’m still trying to find one that can make me uncomfortable.

So, since I am the odd variety of reader that reads a little bit of everything, I found this interesting. I did a review on a book called “Perv” earlier in the year that I found rather fascinating and this book even mentioned that book, so automatically I wanted to read more.

When you first get into this book, you really aren’t sure if you are reading fiction or part-fiction or non-fiction. It is a strange sort of book that will make some people angry early on and turn them off from finishing it through brutally honest language and the sort of realism that many do not wish to face. Others, myself included, will find it daring and bold and congratulate the author for not holding back. I don’t have to agree with the author to find value in a book, and this book, fiction or otherwise is all about reality.

This is not the kind of book that I would recommend to everyone I know. It isn’t an enjoyable afternoon read or a fun romp into the imagination of a creative author. It is a disturbing, at times difficult to read book with an important message–anything can happen at any time and the experiences of childhood can create lingering issues in adulthood.

Overall, this was interesting and I was glad I read it. If you are looking for something different, and you can handle a bit of harshness, then this would be a good choice.

This review is based on a complimentary copy in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

View all my reviews