Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Book Review: Tangled Ashes

Tangled Ashes by Michele Phoenix

Hard-nosed and hard drinking Marshall Becker is good at his job as a general contractor and has built a profitable business in Boston.  He is not, however, good at relationships.  So when his business partner and friend decides to expand their ventures overseas, Marshall reluctantly agrees to go to Lamorlaye, France and oversee restoration on an ancient castle.

Amid extensive renovations, the castle is suddenly plagued with nighttime disturbances and random vandalism.  These acts seem to be linked to events that happened during the Nazi occupation of the chateau 50 years before.  Add to that, the presence of the owner's two children and their fiesty nanny, Jade, and Marshall Becker has a lot on his hands.  Living on site, Becker tries to uncover who the midnight intruder all while keeping his heart sealed off from love.

My Thoughts:

There are many stories and movies out there about Nazi atrocities during the 1940's but this story is truly unique.  Interwoven throughout the modern story of Marshall's renovation is the story of Marie and Elise, two French teenagers hired on as maids in the manor during the Nazi occupation.  During that time, the manor changes from a command headquarters to a hospital for pregnant, young blonde women.  What the Nazi's have planned for these women and babies will rattle the girls' worlds.  Both girls must choose which side they are loyal to.

I thought this was a wonderful story.  I loved the 1940's part of the story and I loved Marshall.  He is completely real and completely flawed.  He is not your typical hero who is handsome and resolves all his problems in the course of the story.  He is a rough, alcoholic who is just trying to find a way out of his pain.  Likewise, Marie and Elise are both well-rounded characters who have to endure authentic problems - problems that don't always turn out well in the end. 

Tangled Ashes is well written and engaging.  The plot is unique and the author does a great job of intertwining two seemingly separate stories and making them all come together in the end. I highly recommend this book.

I give this book 5 out of 5 stars.

I was provided a complementary copy of this book by Handlebar Publishing for review.  The honest opinions are my own.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Awesome weekend links

For all of you out there who need something to browse through this weekend...

Check out my favorite links from this week:

If you are looking for some great, unique Christmas gift ideas, browse the comments of this Hip2Save small business post.

For all you moms who are weary and caught up with keeping everyone in your household happy, We are THAT family helps you remember that Moms are People Too.

Wondering how to teach your kids about money?  Check out Jill Savage's Blog Hop.

And my favorite?  Money Saving Mom's great new October Series - 31 Ways to Earn Extra Cash Before Christmas.  A new idea is posted every day!


Thursday, October 18, 2012

Booksneeze: The Choice

The Choice by Robert Whitlow

The year is 1974 and 17 year old cheerleader, Sandy Lincoln, finds herself pregnant after only one night of giving into to her football player boyfriend.  Abortion is touted by friends and family as the "cure" for her "problem."  Amid an overwhelming amount of well-meaning advice, Sandy must make a choice: abort the baby, keep the baby, or give the baby up for adoption.  Two of those options involve facing the world as a pregnant teenager and being forced to finish high school at the juvenile delinquent alternative school.

Fast forward 33 years...Sandy is a veteran English teacher in the same hometown that she grew up in.  Suddenly a shy, Spanish-speaking student comes to Sandy with the information that she is pregnant from the result of rape.  Following the rules, Sandy take the student to the school counselor who pushes the girl to abort her baby.  She exerts so much pressure in fact that she starts pressing charges against Sandy for interfering with the girl's life.  How best can Sandy help her innocent, young charge?  How does Sandy's past affect this girl's present situation?

My Thoughts

I think Robert Whitlow's book is brilliant.  The setting of the book is 1974, one year after Roe vs Wade made abortion legal in the US.  The long-term psychological effects of abortion are not known.  At that time high schools would not allow you to continue to attend if you were pregnant, so choosing to have the baby could also result in losing your chance at a high school diploma.  Our society today is a lot more tolerant of pregnant teenagers than it was in 1974.  I think that makes Sandy's choice that much more difficult.

Whitlow did a great job of describing Sandy's inner turmoil as well as her justifications for her final decision.  It was also interesting to remember a world where phones are attached to walls with a cord and a tank of gas can be bought for a $5 bill.  He did a good job of inserting those little tidbits to remind us of the setting without going overboard with them.

Without revealing too much about the plot, there were parts of the story that I thought were a little too coincidental, but I kind of expected them to come.  In general, I thought the story line was very well done, very unique and also very timely.

Whitlow does a great job of giving us lovable fully rounded characters, ones that have to make hard decisions.  In neither situation - Sandy's or her pregnant student's - is the choice easy.

As he mentions a little in the Author's Note at the end, Whitlow's choice of title was very purposeful.  The Pro-Choice movement leads us to believe that the word "choice" really means "the choice to abort."  But in this story, a young girl is about to be deprived of her choice not to abort.

This is a great, thought-provoking, easy-to-read story that everyone will enjoy.

I give The Choice 5 out of 5 stars.

I was provided with a complementary Kindle version of this book by Booksneeze.  The honest opinions are my own.

Monday, October 15, 2012

How to Make Your First Science Project

Several weeks ago Julie was assigned her first science project - make a 3D replica of either a plant cell or an animal cell.  The plant cell was more complicated, so, of course, that's the one she chose.

You paint styrofoam ball cell nuclei in your bathing suit too, don't you?  Don't forget to add the playdoh center.

That nucleus was put inside a handy Amazon box because a plant cell has a rectangular shape (that was worth 10 points).  Julie lined the box inside and outside with yellow paper (cell wall - 10 points), then we lined it with saran wrap (the cell membrane, another 10 points).  Our goal was to make the box leak proof for the hair gel cytoplasm to be added later (10 points).

Unfortunately, as you can see, that plan didn't work.  It leaked.  But, thankfully, that didn't make a difference on her grade.

Cell wall - Amazon box
Cell membrane - Saran wrap
Chloroplasts - 2 shades of green playdoh
Nucleus - painted styrofoam ball with a fourth cut out. Center is orange playdoh.
Vacuole - shower puff thing with little piece of sponge inside (to be the waste in the vacuole)
Cytoplasm - very smelly, cheap hair gel (don't recommend that for future projects)

Including each of these parts was a total of 60 points.  Turning it in on time was another 20 points.  Correct cell shape was worth 10 points and labeling everything was the final 10.

All in all, it was a fun project.  We enjoyed working on it together and figuring out what to use for each part.  Julie was very proud of it and got 100!!