We have a winner!

A few days late, but scientifically chosen*, the winner is NANCY!

Nancy – get in touch on Facebook or by email with your snail mail address and I’ll get the book to you soon!

*Names were written on identically sized pieces of paper, folded identically, and then one was chosen by my beautiful daughter, who happened to be visiting.  🙂  So scientific.

The Beautiful Daughters by Nicole Baart

If you know me, you know I love authors.  I love to listen to them talk about their books, about their writing process, about their view the world, about the books the love to read.  I’m also loyal to authors.  If I like a book, I will continue to follow that author to see what they will come up with next.

If you know me, you also know I’ve been in a reading slump – planning a wedding and getting married takes a lot of brain power and time!  So when Nicole Baart, (an author I’ve followed since I read her book The Moment Between in 2009) posted on Facebook that she was looking for members of a “street team” for her newest book, The Beautiful Daughters, I applied!  The opportunity to read an Advanced Reader’s Copy, offer it for a giveaway, and then to receive a copy of the book when it is published on April 28, 2015 – I love stuff like that!  I was tickled to be chosen for her Street Team and for The Beautiful Daughters to be the first book I read in 2015.  Bonus:  She sent her favorite chocolates, book marks, signed book plates, and homemade soap made receipt of the package even sweeter!

Below is the description of the book from the Digital Catalog at Atria Publishing (a branch of Simon and Schuster), the tentative cover design, and a little info about Nicole Baart, the author.

Below that is my review and details on how you can get your hands on my ARC!!

The Beautiful Daughters – 

The Beautiful Daughters by Nicole Baart
The Beautiful Daughters
by Nicole Baart

From the author of Sleeping in Eden, described as “intense and absorbing from the very first page” (Heather Gudenkauf, author of The Weight of Silence), comes a gripping new novel about two former best friends and the secrets they can’t escape.

Adrienne Vogt and Harper Penny were closer than sisters, until the day a tragedy blew their seemingly idyllic world apart. Afraid that they got away with murder and unable to accept who they had lost—and what they had done—Harper and Adri exiled themselves from small-town Blackhawk, Iowa, and from each other. Adri ran thousands of miles away to Africa while Harper ventured down a more destructive path closer to home.

Now, five years later, both are convinced that nothing could ever coax them out of the worlds in which they’ve been living. But unexpected news from home soon pulls Adri and Harper back together, and the two cannot avoid facing their memories and guilt head-on. As they are pulled back into the tangle of their fractured relationships and the mystery of Piperhall, the sprawling estate where their lives first began to unravel, secrets and lies behind the tragic accident are laid bare. The former best friends are forced to come to terms with their shared past and search for the beauty in each other while mending the brokenness in themselves.

Nicole Baart’s lush and lyrical writing has been called “sparkling” (Publishers Weekly), “taut and engrossing” (Booklist), and “evocative and beautiful” (Romantic Times). The Beautiful Daughters is another exquisitely rendered, haunting story that will stay with readers long after the last page.


Nicole BaartNicole Baart is the mother of four children from four different countries. The cofounder of a non-profit organization, One Body One Hope, she lives in a small town in Iowa. She is the author of seven previous novels, including, most recently, Sleeping in Eden. Find out more at NicoleBaart.com.

My review:

I really enjoyed this book.  I love books with rich character development.  I love beautiful descriptions.  This book has all that, plus a suspenseful plot with insight into how tragedy affects people.  The book also tackles sensitive topics, but I don’t want to spoil the suspense.

Some of the passages that I re-read and bent the pages for include:

Regarding Adri’s father, Sam:

“Her father was one such daydreamer, the kind of man who spoke volumes in silences and heard God whisper in the song of distant stars keeping watch over the land that he plowed.”

Regarding Adri’s fiance’, David:

“In his personal life he was sensible and composed, able to take up and set aside the mantle of a playboy as easily as donning a coat.  To laugh and joke and drink until his imposing mother slipped into the room, a quiet and watchful revenant whose presence instantly sobered and reined in her son.”

Regarding The Five:

“Jackson was hand in hand with Nora, a new girlfriend who didn’t quite fit.  Harper couldn’t help resenting her.  When Nora was around, they were quick to pair up, but when it was just the five of them, they were a unit.  A fist clenched tight.”

This book is about young adults who meet at a small college in Blackhawk, Iowa.  Adri and her brother Will grew up on a farm in Blackhawk, and David grew up at Piperhall, a mansion down the road.  Along with Harper and Jackson, The Five become fast friends and spend most of their out-of-school time playing grown-up at Piperhall and when Harper suggests a trip to commemorate their college graduation and mark endings and new beginnings, they are unaware of the tragic event that will happen and change their lives forever.  They scatter – Adri to Africa and Harper into dark relationships – and are called home five years later when the matriarch of Piperhall dies.

This is a page-turner and I’m so thankful it was the first book I read in 2015!

Now, to get your hands on my Advanced Readers Copy, please COMMENT BELOW with the FIRST BOOK YOU READ OR ARE READING in 2015!  If you share this blog post on Facebook or Twitter (and share the link), you 10933699_10152994556774210_1188091013014551439_nwill get extra entries!

I’ll pick a winner WEDNESDAY JANUARY 28.

How to sum up awesomeness?

2014I like to end each year by looking back and thinking about the big things and the little things, summing it up and tucking it away to be recalled in the future.  2014 was a big year.  Here is a sad attempt to summarize its awesomeness.  (Lots of links you can click on if you want more info or fun videos! Anything underlined is a link.)

Movie chat!
Movie chat!

I saw some movies in the theatre.  In no particular order, I saw Inside Llewelyn Davis, Her, The Lego Movie, The Great Beauty*, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, Saving Mr. Banks, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Divergent, 12 Years a Slave, Belle, Neighbors, Chef, The Fault in Our Stars, A Million Ways to Die in the West, The November Man, Boyhood, Unbroken, Wild, The Hunger Games: The Mockingjay Part 1, Dumb and Dumber To, St. Vincent, and Gone Girl.  (*Rochester Int’l Film Fest)

Some were seen alone, some with girlfriends, some with family, some with Chris.  Some felt like they were MADE FOR ME (The Grand Budapest Hotel, Boyhood, Chef, St. Vincent); others not so much, but I love a movie in the theatre, no matter what.  (Thankful for that Mayo discount and living within walking distance to a theatre!)

Netflix DVD watching also happened, including The Salt of Life, 20 Feet from Stardom, Austenland, Iron Man 1, Iron Man 2, Iron Man 3, 10 Years, August Osage County, Blazing Saddles, What’s Up, Doc?, Here Comes the Boom, Love Is All You Need, My Life Without Me, The Tiger and the Snow. 

None of them stand out as wonderful, except 20 Feet from Stardom – that was fun.  I blogged about that around Oscar time last year.  Some were sent back without being watched – life was just too busy to sit on the couch in 2014!

Great seats for our first show!
Great seats for our first show!
The stage and Proscenium
The stage and Proscenium

 

In 2014 I saw some things on a stage.

Musicians – The Skivvies at 54 Below with Koni and Troy in NYC, Jeremy Messersmith at First Ave for Marissa’s birthday, Jim Brickman with Chris for Valentine’s Day, Paul McCartney at Target Field with Mom and Dad, Marissa and Chris

Comedians – Lorna Landvik at her Party in the Rec Room at Bryant Lake Bowl in January with John and Deadra, Mike Birbiglia at the Pantages with Marissa (on a whim, due to horrific driving conditions keeping me in the Cities longer – so glad we went! Thankful we weren’t later arrivers!!)

Plays – in Minneapolis Jenny and Chris and I saw Peter and the Starcatcher, and it didn’t disappoint the second time!  We hung out after and listened to the actors talk about their magical performances night after night… So fun.

Authors – only one in 2014!  Allison McGhee, a Minnesota author.  I still haven’t read any of her books, but she was fascinating to listen to!  I do love to listen to and meet authors!

And speaking of books – you can click the BOOKS I READ IN 2014 page on my blog to see the list of books that I did accomplish in 2014.  I didn’t meet my reading goal (again, not a lot of time to sit around and read in 2014!) but I changed my goal and hopefully set a realistic goal for #marriedlife2015.

Heading in to the first show of our trip!
Heading in to the first show of our trip!

And speaking of plays, can’t forget Broadway!  I had TWO trips to NYC in 2014! The first was in early January – a girl’s weekend with my sister-in-law/great friend, Koni.  We ran through airports to catch planes, celebrated the arrival of our luggage, we braved their elements (12 degrees, which was 30 degrees warmer than we left) and were the only ones to show up for the  cupcake walking tour of the Lower East Side.  We ate delicious meals, we SHOPPED, we saw THREE Broadway shows (Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder – the Tony winner of 2014! – Cinderella, and Matilda!), we saw people singing in their underwear at 54 Below (the Skivvies – click to see a video!), we celebrated when our flight home was cancelled, as it meant we had a bonus day to see our 3rd show, hang around the Superbowl celebrations in Times Square, and enjoy more Cake Boss treats.  Read ALL about it here.

One of everything!  Yes, please!
One of everything! Yes, please!Also in 2014:

Also in 2014:

  • Birthdays were celebrated – at wineries, at the Lake, at restaurants.
  • I went to as many kids’ sporting events as my schedule would allow.
  • I continue to love my job, crazy schedule and all.  Coming up on my 3rd anniversary on January 30.
  • Someone drove through our Target exit doors, right after Chris and I walked out. Quite freaky!
  • Choir continues to bring joy and happiness to me and all who participate – can’t wait to start up again!
  • Marissa met a man that she enjoys immensely, so that’s fun for mama.  She continues in graduate school, hoping for an early spring graduation.
  • Cosmo Girls continued to meet monthly – a solid crew of amazing women that I am thankful for!
Cosmo Girls at RAC 2014
Cosmo Girls at RAC 2014

And then of course, last but not certainly not least,
we got engaged in July and married in October 2014!

The ring arrived!
The ring arrived!

Proof that he is the ONE?  When we were discussing the hows and whens and wheres of getting married, he said, “Can we get married in New York City?” Um, yes!  Most people think it was my idea, but it was his idea, which is why I love him so.  He knows how to make this girl happy.  I’m very lucky!

July to October was spent hammering out details, planning, organizing, and celebrating.  Chris moved in with me in July and that adjustment has been surprisingly smooth (further proof that he is the ONE!).  I had a wonderful, abbreviated Ferragosto week at the lake, which was almost like a Bachelorette week.  So much celebrating and planning and laughing!

It was great fun to plan the week in NYC for family and friends.  Everyone was so joyful and lovely.  The blog detailing the events of Wedding Week 2014 can be read here: #woohoowedo2014.  I’ll end this never-ending blog with the ceremony that Chris and I worked on in the hopes that we would have time in the chapel for more than just vows – and we did.

2014 was sure filled with blessings!  Looking forward to #marriedlife2015!  More adventures await!

LOVE Sculpture!
LOVE Sculpture!

-NYC Wedding Ceremony October 1, 2014- 

OPENING PRAYER – Dad
COMMITMENT TO THE COUPLE / RING WARMING
SCRIPTURE READING  – Koni
POEM – Deadra
READING (If time before vows) – Robert Fulgham
VOWS
CLOSING PRAYER – Dana

OPENING PRAYER – Dad – He did his own prayer 🙂 

Dear God, for the joy of this occasion we thank You. For the friends and family who are here today to witness this joy, we thank You.  For the significance of this wedding day we thank You. For this important moment in an ever growing relationship we thank You. For Your presence here and now and for Your presence at all times, we thank You. In His holy name. Amen.

COMMITMENT TO THE COUPLE / RING WARMING – Beth

Your very presence here, in this city, in this building, shows how much you love and support Chris and Danette and their life together.  Will you promise to continue to surround this couple in love, offering them the joys of your friendship?  Will you support this couple in their relationship, at times of conflict, offering them the strength of your wisest counsel and the comfort of your thoughtful concern?  At times of joy will you celebrate with them,nourishing their love of one another?

(Hope for enthusiastic “WE WILL” from all!) And they said “WOOHOO WE DO!”

During this ceremony, Chris and Danette will exchange rings.  These rings are a strong and visible sign of their love and commitment to one another. Chris and Danette ask that you, very important and loved members of their lives, hold their rings in your hands for a moment and warm them with your love.  Say a silent prayer or make a wish for Chris and Danette and their future together.

SCRIPTURE READING – Koni

1 Corinthians 13:1-13

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge,it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror;then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully,even as I am fully known.

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

POEM – Deadra

i carry your heart with me ~ e.e. cummings ~

i carry your heart with me (i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go, my dear; and whatever is done
by only me is your doing, my darling)

i fear
no fate(for you are my fate, my sweet)i want
no world(for beautiful you are my world, my true)
and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows

(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life; which grows
higher than the soul can hope or mind can hide)

and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart
i carry your heart (i carry it in my heart)

VOWS – Jimmy 

Benediction – CLOSING PRAYER – Dana

The wedding is not over – it has just begun.  Marriage is not something said and done, but a promise, whose fulfillment is acted out over time.

So for Chris and Danette, we simply pray that the promises of marriage have a long and complete fulfillment; that their love is nurtured and shared by their families and friends; and that the seasons be joyous along the way. In God’s name we pray. Amen.

READING Union  ~ Robert Fulghum ~ Read by Marissa at Starbucks

You have known each other from the first glance of acquaintance to this point of commitment. At some point,you decided to marry. From that moment of yes, to this moment of yes, indeed,you have been making commitments in an informal way. All of those conversations that were held in a car, or over a meal, or during long walks – all those conversations that began with, “When we’re married”, and continued with “I will” and “you will” and “we will” – all those late night talks that included“someday” and “somehow” and “maybe” – and all those promises that are unspoken matters of the heart. All these common things, and more, are the real process of a wedding.

The symbolic vows that you are about to make are a way of saying to one another, “You know all those things that we’ve promised, and hoped, and dreamed – well, I meant it all, every word.”

Look at one another and remember this moment in time. Before this moment you have been many things to one another – acquaintance, friend, companion, lover, dancing partner, even teacher, for you have learned much from one another. Shortly you shall say afew words that will take you across a threshold of life, and things between you will never quite be the same.

For after today you shall say to the world –

This is my husband. This is my wife.