Saturday, February 28, 2015

The Paying Guest by: Sarah Walters Book Review

The Paying Guests

By: Sarah Walters
Good Reads Synopsis:
It is 1922, and London is tense. Ex-servicemen are disillusioned; the out-of-work and the hungry are demanding change. And in South London, in a genteel Camberwell villa — a large, silent house now bereft of brothers, husband, and even servants — life is about to be transformed as impoverished widow Mrs. Wray and her spinster daughter, Frances, are obliged to take in lodgers.

With the arrival of Lilian and Leonard Barber, a modern young couple of the “clerk class,” the routines of the house will be shaken up in unexpected ways. Little do the Wrays know just how profoundly their new tenants will alter the course of Frances’s life — or, as passions mount and frustration gathers, how far-reaching, and how devastating, the disturbances will be.
My Feelings on The Paying Guests:
I absolutely LOVED this book to start out with!  I feel like this book was incredibly well written but I had a difficult time towards the end, because it just didn't hold up the way it started out at the beginning. Sometimes it just felt drawn out when it didn't have to be.   I normally do not like reading about same sex relationships but this book was definitely intriguing and kept my attention, it just seemed like after that was over everything else in the book seemed to fall apart. 
My favorite quote from The Paying Guests is:

 Find me on Goodreads:  Rachele Hirsch-Brooks

30 Before 30 - 30 Handwritten Letters

Ok - so one of my 30 before 30 was to send out 30 handwritten notes.  So after I got baptized I got to work and got 8 of these out right away!  YAHOO!  It was so easy to thank the people who were amazingly supportive of me and Mason.  So here are the first who I wrote to.
1.  Rev. Keith Emerson
2.  Natalie & Steve
3.  Kristen & Jeff
4.  Jill and her boys :)
5.  Connie
6.  Aunt Robin
7.  Mom and Al
8.  Dad and Carrilin

That same week I got a couple others in the mail.  I always miss my best friends. I haven't seen them in such a long time.  I sent them a little message and gift.  Hopefully it brightened their day.

9.  Nicole Larsen
10.  Catherine Yaw

So Suffolk Reading Council has been working on a book drive the first couple weeks in February.  There was a lady who did a wonderful job getting 300 books donated at her school so I decided to write her a note as well.
11.  Mrs. Harrell at Nansemond Parkway

My brother is across the sea, and even though we don't talk often I truly miss him just not being a phone call away.  I put together a little package for him for St. Patrick's Day, even though it doesn't seem like he will get it until after the fact, but I tried and I was able to write him a heartfelt note to let him know I care and that I am thinking of him.

12.  Sgt. William Hirsch

Monday, February 23, 2015

First Frost By: Sarah Addison Allen Book Review

First Frost

By: Sarah Addison Allen
First Frost (Waverley Family #2)
Good Reads Synopsis:
From the New York Times bestselling author of Garden Spells comes a story of the Waverley family, in a novel as sparkling as the first dusting of frost on new-fallen leaves...

It's October in Bascom, North Carolina, and autumn will not go quietly. As temperatures drop and leaves begin to turn, the Waverley women are made restless by the whims of their mischievous apple tree... and all the magic that swirls around it. But this year, first frost has much more in store.

Claire Waverley has started a successful new venture, Waverley’s Candies. Though her handcrafted confections—rose to recall lost love, lavender to promote happiness and lemon verbena to soothe throats and minds—are singularly effective, the business of selling them is costing her the everyday joys of her family, and her belief in her own precious gifts.

Sydney Waverley, too, is losing her balance. With each passing day she longs more for a baby— a namesake for her wonderful Henry. Yet the longer she tries, the more her desire becomes an unquenchable thirst, stealing the pleasure out of the life she already has.

Sydney’s daughter, Bay, has lost her heart to the boy she knows it belongs to…if only he could see it, too. But how can he, when he is so far outside her grasp that he appears to her as little more than a puff of smoke?

When a mysterious stranger shows up and challenges the very heart of their family, each of them must make choices they have never confronted before. And through it all, the Waverley sisters must search for a way to hold their family together through their troublesome season of change, waiting for that extraordinary event that is First Frost.

Lose yourself in Sarah Addison Allen's enchanting world and fall for her charmed characters in this captivating story that proves that a happily-ever-after is never the real ending to a story. It’s where the real story begins.
My Feelings on First Frost:
So this is the second book about the Waverly Family.  I loved Garden Spells from the first page I opened it.  Come to think about it I have not disliked one book of Sarah Addison Allen's.  She is an amazing writer who is able to use magical elements to make her characters and the events they go through that much more special.  I love the fact that this story revolves around the magical apple tree that is in the back of Claire Waverly's property.  I am so glad the Waverly's story did not end with Garden Spells and I liked seeing how Claire evolved throughout the two books and completely came full circle in First Frost.  She finally because vulnerable and able to ask for help from her family.  I love this wonderful story and hope there will be more to come!
My favorite quote from First Frost is:

 Find me on Goodreads:  Rachele Hirsch-Brooks

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Lent - A time for reflecting


Ok, if you haven't ever spent time on SHEREADSTRUTH > you need to go there.  I love my daily emails.  Helps me most days to quite the background noise and focus on something real to pray for, about or to.   I am so overwhelmed with these words that are completely relate-able and real.  Right now in my life I need the realness and I need to engross myself in the word of God.  I feel completely at home when I am a church now, and I will be perfectly honest I cannot remember half of everybody's names, and that normally makes me completely clammy.  I am home in the idea that I am exactly where I need to be.  For once I feel that peace and security like I have found my spiritual home.

So that brings me to yesterday, Ash Wednesday, not something I have ever celebrated.  However, the nasty weather prevented me from actually partaking in the actual service at the church.  I spent my first Ash Wednesday in spirit with one of my good friends, Natalie, who I think is very instrumental in my faith at the moment.  She sent me a wonderful email that got me on the right track to start the day out right.  For lent, I have decided to keep it simple at least I think so.  I have given up Social Media for lent. I believe it takes up too much of my time and I am glad to turn them off and turn God on and up in my life.  I am also following along with some more catholic tendencies, with no meat on Fridays and I am fasting Monday's Wednesday's and Friday's.

I prayed this prayer found on shereadstruth here it is as follows:
Almighty and everlasting God, you hate nothing you have made and forgive the sins of all who are penitent: Create and make in us new and contrite hearts, that we, worthily lamenting our sins and acknowledging our wickedness, may obtain of you, the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

What powerful words.  I am looking forward to this season of lent and my spiritual growth!

Sunday, February 15, 2015

30 before 30 -Become Closer to GOD-

Rhonna Design iPhone Make iPhone Wallpaper
Ok - so one of my main goals was to become closer to God before my 30th Birthday!  I am so unsure of where to start with this post.  I will start with the fact that I have been going to St. Paul's on and off since meeting Bobby.  It is his childhood church home and where his mother still attended.  She sings in the church choir and loves everything that is about St. Pauls and the Episcopalian faith. 

I love the idea of family in the church and felt like I was completely excepted here and felt a sense of belonging.  What a relief since I did not feel like I was in the right place at any of the churches I had recently visited.  

So one afternoon after church I just felt it on my heart that I needed to know when I was baptized, so I texted my mother.  Come to find out I was not baptized, NEVER baptized.  I could not believe it!  I for sure thought this the end of the world, but quickly reassessed my situation.  The following week I spoke to the Priest at St. Paul's and talked to him of my concerns.  Before I got off of the phone with him we had a date set with him for the 15th of February.  Whew....I was relieved!  

On the day of Mason and I's baptism I was completely awestruck in the fact that I had so many of my friends there to share with me this time.  They filled up an entire pew, and I was completely grateful for their love and compassion that they showed us as we took this next step in our faith.  

Here are some of the pictures from that day!
Mr. Bedford (Mason's Sponsor) , Myself, Mason, Connie (mother in law and my Sponsor), and Rev. Keith Emerson

Us in front of the alter

One Happy Family!

So I am so glad to say I feel home with St. Paul's and feel content with my spiritual life.  Not that there isn't more work to be done and more learning to know, but I feel at peace that I am finally on the right path!  

Friday, February 13, 2015

Station Eleven By: Emily St. John Mandel

Station Eleven

By: Emily St. John Mandel
Station Eleven
Good Reads Synopsis:
An audacious, darkly glittering novel set in the eerie days of civilization's collapse, Station Eleven tells the spellbinding story of a Hollywood star, his would-be savior, and a nomadic group of actors roaming the scattered outposts of the Great Lakes region, risking everything for art and humanity.
One snowy night Arthur Leander, a famous actor, has a heart attack onstage during a production of King Lear. Jeevan Chaudhary, a paparazzo-turned-EMT, is in the audience and leaps to his aid. A child actress named Kirsten Raymonde watches in horror as Jeevan performs CPR, pumping Arthur's chest as the curtain drops, but Arthur is dead. That same night, as Jeevan walks home from the theater, a terrible flu begins to spread. Hospitals are flooded and Jeevan and his brother barricade themselves inside an apartment, watching out the window as cars clog the highways, gunshots ring out, and life disintegrates around them.
Fifteen years later, Kirsten is an actress with the Traveling Symphony. Together, this small troupe moves between the settlements of an altered world, performing Shakespeare and music for scattered communities of survivors. Written on their caravan, and tattooed on Kirsten's arm is a line from Star Trek: "Because survival is insufficient." But when they arrive in St. Deborah by the Water, they encounter a violent prophet who digs graves for anyone who dares to leave.
Spanning decades, moving back and forth in time, and vividly depicting life before and after the pandemic, this suspenseful, elegiac novel is rife with beauty. As Arthur falls in and out of love, as Jeevan watches the newscasters say their final good-byes, and as Kirsten finds herself caught in the crosshairs of the prophet, we see the strange twists of fate that connect them all. A novel of art, memory, and ambition, Station Eleven  tells a story about the relationships that sustain us, the ephemeral nature of fame, and the beauty of the world as we know it.
My Feelings on Station Eleven:
Woah, AMAZING book.  Wonderfully written.  So I started reading this book in the midst of our Flu Outbreak that wasn't responding to the shot that had been administered at the start of the cold season.  So it was already so surreal that this was talking about the Georgian  Flu that caused the world to basically fall apart.  I was captivated with all of these characters throughout the book.  Even though the end of the world does not seem like a reasonable feat, but throughout the entire story line everything was believable and well thought out.  I liked the flashbacks that came throughout the book;  to go from the past to the present was a wonderful way to convey the story line.  I highly recommend this book!
My favorite quote from Station Eleven is:

 Find me on Goodreads:  Rachele Hirsch-Brooks

Friday, February 6, 2015

.Grout Refresh. HOME PROJECT - Tile refinisher

Ok - so I have been desperately trying to sell my house for the past month!  YIKES, I am so ready to just have one house payment between my husband and I!  We have been doing some renovations to make it more "likable".  My body completely aches when I leave here and then I return to my own home and try to attempt the same thing at my own humble abode.  I will honestly say this doesn't always occur.  Renovations whip my tail especially since most of it has something to do with dust, dirt, or other things that likes to agitate my allergies.  YIKES!  So I am lucky I have my husband who is normally amazing when it comes to home repairs.  He however does not do so well going from a crouching or sitting stance to standing in succession. Hence my first project.  Dunndunnnannnnn.....GROUT REFRESH!  
This stuff is amazing for what it does on tile!  It was a little hard to enjoy this project since I did not have any hot water to rinse out my sponges with, but this is a great option if you don't want to completely re grout your tile or if it is starting to look a little dingy.  

I started this little journey by first watching this very same YouTube video.  

So here is my step by step pictures of this process.
Here is the before picture.  The grout for this tile was a little too dark for my taste and most of the taste of people coming in to look at the house.  So it has to go, see there are other projects going on as well with the caulk gun on the floor as well.
This is after I applied a bit of the tile refresh on a good sized section of tile in the front foyer.  It is kind of like just painting it onto the existing grout in your space.  I just didn't have a small paintbrush yours could look neater than this!
 The end product!  YAHOO!  There was a decent amount of bending over and then standing up to rinse out my sponge and dry cloth that I used.  I would recommend getting a sponge that has like a Brillo pad on one side and the spongy part on the other.  It made it easy to scrape off of the sides of the tile and then a dry or slightly damp cloth was useful to get get all the Refresh residue off of the tile.

 In all this was a relatively simple project that gave great results for very little money putting out.  I am glad I did this project.   In order to complete a 13 x 13 room it took me approximately 2 hours.  I did this technique in my front foyer, half bath, kitchen and formal dining room.  Hopefully this was helpful!  If you complete the project please leave feedback on things you might have done differently or pointers!

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

The Boston Girl By: Anita Diamant Book Review

The Boston Girl

By: Anita Diamant
The Boston Girl
Good Reads Synopsis:
From the New York Times bestselling author of The Red Tent and Day After Night, comes an unforgettable coming-of-age novel about family ties and values, friendship and feminism told through the eyes of young Jewish woman growing up in Boston in the early twentieth century.

Addie Baum is The Boston Girl, born in 1900 to immigrant parents who were unprepared for and suspicious of America and its effect on their three daughters. Growing up in the North End, then a teeming multicultural neighborhood, Addie's intelligence and curiosity take her to a world her parents can't imagine - a world of short skirts, movies, celebrity culture and new opportunities for women. Addie wants to finish high school and dreams of going to college. She wants a career and to find true love.

Eighty-five-year-old Addie tells the story of her life to her twenty-two-year-old granddaughter, who has asked her "How did you get to be the woman you are today." She begins in 1915, the year she found her voice and made friends who would help shape the course of her life. From the one-room tenement apartment she shared with her parents and two sisters, to the library group for girls she joins at a neighborhood settlement house, to her first, disastrous love affair, Addie recalls her adventures with compassion for the naïve girl she was and a wicked sense of humor.

Written with the same attention to historical detail and emotional resonance that made Anita Diamant's previous novels bestsellers, The Boston Girl is a moving portrait of one woman’s complicated life in twentieth century America, and a fascinating look at a generation of women finding their places in a changing world.
My Feelings on The Boston Girl:
I really  enjoyed this book, well wrote and lots of great information! I am not Jewish and did not understand some of the sentiments portrayed in the book, but I also didn't feel it was necessary either. This is truly a look into what women's lives were like around the turn of the century. My only wish would have been for it to be an actual biography, so I might be able to hold onto it with some truthfulness and validity.  Wonderfully written and masterful details all throughout!
My favorite quote from The Boston Girl is:
“When a shy person smiles, it’s like the sun coming out.” 
― Anita DiamantThe Boston Girl: A Novel
 Find me on Goodreads:  Rachele Hirsch-Brooks

Monday, February 2, 2015

The Miniaturist Book Review

The Miniaturist

By: Greer Macallister
Good Reads Synopsis:
Set in seventeenth century Amsterdam-a city ruled by glittering wealth and oppressive religion-a masterful debut steeped in atmosphere and shimmering with mystery, in the tradition of Emma Donoghue, Sarah Waters, and Sarah Dunant.

"There is nothing hidden that will not be revealed…"

On a brisk autumn day in 1686, eighteen-year-old Nella Oortman arrives in Amsterdam to begin a new life as the wife of illustrious merchant trader Johannes Brandt. But her new home, while splendorous, is not welcoming. Johannes is kind yet distant, always locked in his study or at his warehouse office-leaving Nella alone with his sister, the sharp-tongued and forbidding Marin.

But Nella's world changes when Johannes presents her with an extraordinary wedding gift: a cabinet-sized replica of their home. To furnish her gift, Nella engages the services of a miniaturist-an elusive and enigmatic artist whose tiny creations mirror their real-life counterparts in eerie and unexpected ways . . .

Johannes' gift helps Nella to pierce the closed world of the Brandt household. But as she uncovers its unusual secrets, she begins to understand-and fear-the escalating dangers that await them all. In this repressively pious society where gold is worshipped second only to God, to be different is a threat to the moral fabric of society, and not even a man as rich as Johannes is safe. Only one person seems to see the fate that awaits them. Is the miniaturist the key to their salvation . . . or the architect of their destruction?

Enchanting, beautiful, and exquisitely suspenseful, The Miniaturist is a magnificent story of love and obsession, betrayal and retribution, appearance and truth.
My Feelings on The Miniaturist:
Well, I normally LOVE historical fiction, but I found it difficult to care for some of these characters.  I had such a hatred for Johannes and Marin.  I kept saying to myself, what horrible people.  I liked the story line, and was compelled to continue reading, I just didn't think the characters were very well developed or believable.  I gave this book 3 stars.  I read it because there was a lot of hype relating to the release of this book.  I felt like it would be something truly captivating, but the characters just didn't do it for me. 
My favorite quote from The Miniaturist is:
“Every woman is the architect of her own fortune.” 
― Jessie BurtonThe Miniaturist
 Find me on Goodreads:  Rachele Hirsch-Brooks