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!

The Far End of Happy by Kathryn Craft–and a chance to win a great book

Please scroll to the bottom of the post for a link to the Rafflecopter giveaway of a Landmark fiction prize pack, for your chance to win

ABOUT THE FAR END OF HAPPY:

The Far End of Happy is a powerful new novel based on author Kathryn Craft’s personal experience with a stand-off involving her husband.  Here Craft delivers “real, raw emotion” (Library Journal) exploring a marriage unraveled by mental illness; and one man’s spiral towards a violent conclusion that tests the courage, love, and hope of the three women he leaves behind.

When the emotionally troubled Jeff engages police in a deadly stand-off, his wife, mother-in-law, and mother struggle to understand why the man they love has turned his back on the life they have given him, the one they all believe is still worth living.

“Framing the novel within a 12-hour period keeps the pages turning (Library Journal).” Narrating from the alternating perspectives of three women, whose lives will be forever altered by Jeff Farnham, gives an intimate look at the steps a woman will take to get the help her husband so urgently needs while desperately trying to keep her children safe.

The Far End of HappyThe Far End of Happy by Kathryn Craft

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’m going to write this review beginning with a confession. When I began reading this book I had not read that it was based on a true life event. Would it have changed the way I felt about it? Perhaps.

Since I did not know until after I read this that it was based on experiences from the author, I am going to write the review as I would have if I had not learned that information, with one minor exception–I now know how the author managed to make the feelings of pain and uncertainty so real in this story, and I applaud her for putting into words what only time and reflection will allow us to examine.

Now on to the review.

This is a powerful, painful, shocking, realistic and at times difficult to keep reading piece of literature. The author really knows how to express the pain that suicide and mental health issues, especially depression, inflict on the family members around the victim.

The thoughtful prose and highly quotable phrases in this novel are not few and far between. This is a book that will make you wonder how lucky you are to be you in this moment, make you think about the people you know ho have not been so lucky and make you realise that your problems may be small in comparison.

This isn’t a book that I would recommend to everyone. Although I do not see this as a selfish attempt from the author, but more part of a healing process for herself and her family, I also think that it is a highly personal sort of story. It is intense and as stated above, emotionally difficult.

It was a hell of a book, for the better or worse.

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

RAFFLECOPTER GIVEAWAY:

please click below to go to Rafflecopter and enter for your chance to win!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The Faerie Tree by Jane Cable

The Faerie TreeThe Faerie Tree by Jane Cable

How can a memory so vivid be wrong?

I tried to remember the first time I’d been here and to see the tree through Izzie’s eyes. The oak stood on a rise just above the path; not too tall or wide but graceful and straight, its trunk covered in what I can only describe as offerings – pieces of ribbon, daisy chains, a shell necklace, a tiny doll or two and even an old cuckoo clock.
“Why do people do this?” Izzie asked.
I winked at her. “To say thank you to the fairies.”

In the summer of 1986 Robin and Izzie hold hands under The Faerie Tree and wish for a future together. Within hours tragedy rips their dreams apart.

In the winter of 2006, each carrying their own burden of grief, they stumble back into each other’s lives and try to create a second chance. But why are their memories of 1986 so different? And which one of them is right?

With strong themes of paganism, love and grief, The Faerie Tree is a novel as gripping and unputdownable as Jane Cable’s first book, The Cheesemaker’s House, which won the Suspense & Crime category of The Alan Titchmarsh Show’s People’s Novelist competition. It is a story that will resonate with fans of romance, suspense, and folklore.

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I love books that can manage a bit of magic and still seem so real. This is definitely one of those stories that makes you believe in the power of love.

I think what made me like this novel more than anything else, was the way the characters mirrored real people. The conversations didn’t feel forced and I saw multiple sides of each character so by the end it was like I had known them forever. There were times during this story when I was surprised by the level of emotion the male lead character showed, and that was a nice change. Some authors seem to be afraid to show any weakness in their main character and that makes me feel like I can’t get close to them, but in this story, that was not the case.

When I began reading this I sort of expected it to be an overdose of magic realism as that seems to be a trend, but by the end of the first couple chapters I was pleasantly surprised that this is a very realistic story. The magic comes from people and their relationships with one another, rather than a wand or an incantation.

This author makes you believe what you are reading and wonder what happened to the characters after her stories are complete.

I really Enjoy Jane Cable’s writing. She takes the time to let her story develop, has memorable characters, and knows how to build suspense and curiosity in her readers.

Overall, this was a great book that I happily recommend to other readers.

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

Read an excerpt from Windemere! Sleeper of the Wildwood Fugue Now Available

Sleeper of the Wildwood Fugue

Find it on Amazon.com

Read an excerpt from the book below

“The room is comfortably warm due to the sunlight passing through the glass dome that acts as a ceiling. Tropical plants cover the edge of the room, which has soft grass growing out of the spongy floor. A gentle rain falls out of the ceiling and onto the foliage, giving the air a crisp freshness that invigorates the wildlife. Peacocks and peahens strut around the room, the males brandishing their colorful plumage when Kira arrives with her guests. An albino peacock stands by a low table and hops into the heiress’s lap when she sits on the lush grass. A gracious wave of her hand is all she does to get Sari and Luke to join her on the floor. With a cordial cough, she redirects her fiancée to sit at the head of the table, placing him between the two women.

“I didn’t realize the peacock room would have actual peacocks,” Sari admits, reaching out to a nearby bird. The animal pecks at her fingers and disappears into the surrounding plants. “This place seems kind of restrictive for them. Poor things must miss flying in the fresh air.”

“There are hatches in the walls that they use to get into the outside garden. Our peacocks are trained to stay within the manor grounds. You would have seen them already if you were awake when my father’s men brought you here,” Kira replies as she strokes the ivory feathers of the beautiful bird in her lap. She reaches out to pour a cup of coffee for the gypsy and slides it across the table. “So we finally meet, Sari. I can say that I’m not disappointed in your beauty. I’ve also heard stories of your victories and public displays with Luke.”

“Thank you. You’re more gorgeous and elegant than I expected,” the gypsy replies with a genuine smile. She takes a sip of the strong drink, which makes her shudder. “Luke and I have been trying to keep things platonic lately. Knowing that we were coming to Bor’daruk, we thought it best to tone it down until we speak with you.”

“Am I supposed to say something during this meeting?” Luke asks as he unstraps his sabers and places them on the grass.

“You can say whatever you want, lover,” Kira replies, emphasizing the last word. She takes a sip of coffee and passes the drink to the half-elf, making sure he notices the lipstick marks on the edge. “This is going to be awkward. Traditionally, we discuss this prior to the interested parties doing whatever it is they wish to do. I’m assuming you’ve done everything with Luke that I’ve done, so this is going to be more of a . . . review.”

Take a Peek with Peek-A-Bear

Take a Peek with Peek-A-BearTake a Peek with Peek-A-Bear by Jill Mangel Weisfeld

“Take a Peek with Peek-a-Bear” is cleverly designed children’s book filled with colorful imagery and playful poetry that takes you on a exciting interactive adventure with the character Peek-a-Bear. It is the first of a series of “Peek & Play” books.

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

If you are looking for a great gift idea or an entertaining way to spend time with young children, this is a wonderful option.

Not only does this book feature delightful illustrations and age appropriate poetic rhyming, but it has extras as well. There are lots of colours, textures and moving parts in the book, so that kids can play peek-a-boo with bear. (Mum had a lot of fun playing peek-a-boo too.)

There are a lot of creative books out there, but this one has the kind of special quality that makes children’s eyes light up and makes them want to read it again and again.

An imaginative and adorable book for young children, highly recommended.

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

View all my reviews

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. 🚢

What doesn’t Kill her by Carla Norton

What Doesn't Kill Her (Reeve LeClaire, #2, US Edition)What Doesn’t Kill Her by Carla Norton

Read

What Doesn’t Kill Her (Reeve LeClaire #2)

by Carla Norton (Goodreads Author)
From the acclaimed author of The Edge of Normal, a riveting new thriller in which the heroine must confront her former tormentor who has escaped from a hospital for the criminally insane

Reeve LeClaire is a college student, dammit, not Daryl Wayne Flint’s victim. Not anymore—not when Reeve is finally recovering a life of her own after four years of captivity.

Flint is safely locked up in Olshaker Psychiatric Hospital, where he belongs. He is walking the grounds of the forensic unit, performing his strange but apparently harmless rituals. It seems that he is still suffering the effects of the head injury he suffered in the car crash that freed Reeve seven years ago. Post-concussive syndrome, they call it.

For all that Flint seems like a model patient, he has long been planning his next move. When the moment arrives, he gets clean away from the hospital before the alarm even sounds. And Reeve is shocked out of her new life by her worst nightmare: Her kidnapper has escaped.

Less than 24 hours later, Flint kills someone from his past–and Reeve’s blocked memories jolt back into consciousness. As much as she would like to forget him, she knows this criminal better than anyone else. When Flint evades capture, baffling authorities and leaving a bloody trail from the psychiatric lock-up to the forests of Washington state, Reeve suddenly realizes that she is the only one who can stop him.
Reeve is an irresistibly brave and believable heroine in Carla Norton’s heart-stopping new thriller about a young woman who learns to fight back.

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a really terrifying, edge of your seat kind of book. If you are bored with thrillers that claim they will keep you up at night and then disappoint, this is a book you should read. It has been a long time since I was excited and frightened at the same time to turn to the next page.

Carla Norton has brought us characters that seem as large as life and that are easy to care about (or hate with a passion, depending on which character it is.) Whilst reading this I felt my own pulse responding to the fear factors and yelling out loud at the characters to run! Hide! (Don’t read this book around others if you want people to think you are well adjusted.)

From the very first chapter this is a novel that will take you to unexpected places and thrill you. I never found myself obsessing over the percentage on my kindle…surely a sign of a great book.

The only gripe I had throughout the whole thing, is that the main character at times seemed to jump to conclusions about things a bit quicker than I would have expected.

My favourite character was bender. He is tough, intelligent and the kind of guy that you can’t help but love from the start.

I think this would be an awesome book for a book club or other group reading as there is so much in it that could be discussed later on. I’m hoping for a sequel.

Go. Read it. You won’t be sorry you did.

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

One of Everything by Donna Carol Voss

ONE OF EVERYTHINGONE OF EVERYTHING by Donna Carol Voss

Is It Possible to OD on Life?

The recipe for happily-ever-after? Start with one middle-class white girl in 1976. Add in her longing for love and acceptance, another middle-class white girl, a huge dollop of gossip, and excruciating peer and family pressure. Stir in youthful travel abroad, a Berkeley education, and a foray into paganism, drugs, marriage, and divorce. Whip until frothy with interracial and bisexual affairs, relationship violence, and exploration of multicultural mores. Season with salsa dancing. Temper with a segue into Mormonism. Decorate with a Temple wedding and garnish with motherhood to three adopted siblings. And what you have is a memoir capable of sating anyone’s need for a great read.

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a very courageous memoir that does not hold back from telling the truth about the author’s life. She writes with a strong voice and gives her audience the kind of audience that one hopes for when they pick up a memoir.

We all have struggles in our lives at some point, some more so than others, and I applaud Donna Carol Voss for using her own experiences to help others that may be experiencing some of the same things.

She writes about a lot of different topics, some very personal, some not as much, but each one of them is interesting in a different way. The author had a lot of unique experiences when she was younger and travelled a long road to come to the realisation of her true faith and what she was meant to do with her life.

From her early life and questions of her sexual orientation to her feelings about motherhood and the relationship with her own mum, she covers a lot of ground in this book.

If you enjoy memoirs and are looking for something good to read, this is a book that I think you will enjoy. Open, honest and helpful.

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

The Haunting of Sunshine Girl

Based on the wildly popular YouTube channel, The Haunting of Sunshine Girl has been described as “ Gilmore Girls meets Paranormal Activity for the new media age.” YA fans new and old will learn the secrets behind Sunshine—the adorkable girl living in a haunted house—a story that is much bigger, and runs much deeper, than even the most devoted viewer can imagine…

Yes, I think that is really supposed to say ADORKABLE

The Haunting of Sunshine GirlThe Haunting of Sunshine Girl by Paige McKenzie

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

First–an admission. I was not one of those people who followed the Sunshine Girl videos on YouTube so I came into this unaware of what it was about and went off the book blurb to tell me about it. I’m not sure if that is a good thing or a bad thing. I suppose I went into reading this without any real expectations.

For the first third or so of this book, I was pretty enthralled. I liked Sunshine and her mom Kat right away. I liked the dog and the cat and the best friend and I was grateful that the author didn’t wait until the last page to start revealing the paranormal aspects of the story. This seemed like it would turn out to be the kind of old-fashioned, creepy ghost story that relies a lot on the unseen to create terror. The it went a different way.

I can’t say that I didn’t enjoy the rest of the book, I did, but in a bit different manner. Rather than being a ghost story, this book becomes more about the strange qualities of the main character and what her future holds. I thought the plot line was pretty unique, and I was still happy to continue reading, but I also was a bit dismayed that the story went from being about one thing and suddenly became about another. I’m not sure (again with the lack of videos) where the author will take this series, but it should be interesting to see.

I do have to say, the final battle with the dark force in the story was not my favourite. It seemed a bit too easy and too convenient for such heavy subject matter. I also want to mention that the bathtub scene is possibly one of the most terrifying scenes in any book I’ve read. So, I guess it balances.

Overall I think teens (and adults) will enjoy this book. I look forward to reading the next and seeing what happens to Sunshine in the future.

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

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.