Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Depth of Deceit, by Betty Briggs
Purchase Depth of Deceit here

Blonde and beautiful, fledging attorney Stephanie Saunders vows to protect the innocent even though as indigent defense attorney her clients rarely are. Does that include Josh Durrant who seems to be following her? Stephanie is dismayed when her peers begin calling her “Prom Queen” as her boyfriend, Todd Saxton, often does. Desperately trying to prove her worth, she falls prey to those who steal her innocence. Although she plans to forgive Todd for his ultimate betrayal, she is never given the chance. Her boss, Attorney Charles Connelly, offers solace, but is Stephanie’s welfare, or his own, top priority? The only thing that keeps Stephanie sane in her insane world are the horses she loves but does not own, especially the abused mare, Riskie Business, whose example helps Stephanie make the most difficult decision of her life. Relying on wit and courage, Stephanie must save herself and another during the final showdown where she proves a loyalty of which she never knew herself capable.

2010 Winner of the Silver Quill for second place in the Fiction category for the League of Utah Writers Publication Awards.

I didn’t expect to enjoy this book.

I certainly didn’t expect to love it.

But I did. I couldn’t put it down.

Stephanie Saunders is tired of being given all the worst cases at her law firm, but as the lowest man on the totem pole she’s left with no options and is stuck trying to prove herself with repetitious indigent defense cases. When she’s assigned to defend the irritatingly good looking Josh Durrant she has trouble maintaining an impartial attitude. She’s sure he’s a bully, though her job is to defend him. She also keeps getting distracted by his polite manner and apparent genuine concern, which are in definite conflict with the fact that he seems to be stalking or her.

When things turn out badly with Stephanie’s boyfriend she falls apart and her kind boss, Charles, is there to pick up the pieces. In her vulnerable state she finds herself thrown into the position of looking after an abused expectant mare, Riskie Business. She identifies very strongly with Riskie as the two of them move through their difficult times together. All the while Josh hovers in the background, in one minute an empathetic friend and the next a creepy stalker—though he continually denies the allegation.

Just when Stephanie starts to find some backbone, things explode and she finds out that she’s been on the edge of disaster without even knowing it. There’s danger at every turn and she’s got to pull it together to survive.

I was irritated by Stephanie’s weakness on two counts. First, her boyfriend was a jerk. He never treated her well but she stayed with him anyway. He seemed to be all about her appearance rather than who she was. I would have liked her to send him packing. Second, she relied too heavily on her boss to help her through her tough times. It didn’t work for me that a smart, driven, young women, who has pulled herself through law school under difficult circumstances would fall apart so completely that she couldn’t even live on her own for several months. However, those two irritating character defects didn’t keep me from devouring the book. Inconsistencies in character are all too real.

My favorite part of the story was the confusing relationship she had with Josh Durrant. Evil stalker or empathetic friend? Well done.

Depth of Deceit keeps you hooked until the end, wondering which players are the good guys and which ones are the bad guys. The characters are well developed and enjoyable. I’m so glad I was introduced to this book, and I look forward to more from Betty Briggs in the future.

Once in a Lifetime

I recently returned from a glorius Senior trip with my daughter, Sam. We starated a tradition with our oldest son, to take our graduating Senior on a trip sometime during their Senior year. Bruce took Jason to England. I took Sam to Italy. We couldn't really afford it but what the heck, it's only money.

The trip didn't start out under the best of circumstances. In order to actually graduate, Sam had to finish her two online classes before we left. She made it, barely. We flew without incident to NYC, but then stalled. Our plane hit another plane on the runway and we were stuck.
You can watch a video of our little "accident" here:

We eventually made it to Venice, Italy--after running for two flights (we didn't make either) and arriving a day later than expected. We even made it to the cruise before it pulled out of port. Bonus.

From Venice we traveled down to Bari, Italy, then Corfu, Greece, and then Dubrovnik, Croatia. It was a lot of fun, although a bit nippy. We managed to lay out on deck one afternoon. I've never been on a cruise before where they put out blankets next to the towels on deck.

The blankets were more high demand than the towels.

The best thing about the trip? Spending time with Sam before she moves out for good. I'm going to miss her piano playing. It was so much fun to see her experience a trip to Europe. It can be startling when all of the chatter around you is in various other languages. We noticed that each country had it's own "look." From the red tiled roofs in Bari, to the gray stone buildings on Corfu, and the high fortress walls of Dubrovnik, the views were spectacular.

Venice was unlike any other city I've been to. Delta Airlines was gracious enough to change our flights so we could come back a day later than planned to make up for the day we lost in NY. The buildings go right down into the water. Seriously, you can't see the ground. I assume there's some dry (ish) land somewhere under all those buildings. Here's a picture,

and another

The thing most apparent to me on this trip is not very politically correct, but what the heck, here it is. I first noticed when a family was pulled aside after we left the plane in Venice. Most of us were in a lemming line to go collect our baggage. One family was pulled aside by police and they were talking. The family, consisting of a mother and father and two small children, looked like they were from a Arab country perhaps. I wondered at the time if they were pulled aside due to racial profiling.

I noticed it more on the cruise and various ports. There were many languages spoken but Sam and I were sized up for a moment and then spoken to in English. No one ever tried to speak to us in French, German or Italian. I began to notice what people looked like when others spoke to them in Italian, or another language. Italians LOOK Italian. German's have a look about them. Even the French, kind of. I would look around the dining room and everyone in the room could have been American, but we really wouldn't all have been Italian, or German, or French. Then I thought back to the family at the airport. I don't think they would have been singled out in America--there would probably have been an outcry if they were. But in Italy (or Greece or Croatia) you can kind of tell by looking where a person is from.

In the United States you can't tell. AND I LOVE THAT. I love that about our country. It's our differences that make us the nation we are. If you tried to judge someone by their appearance here you would more than likely be wrong. We get our strength from those independant and strong individuals who gathered themselves to the land of the free, mingled with those who were already here and those who were forced to come.

On the ship and in all the ports we heard more American music than native music. We did hear a bit of Italian, but not much. We were in a bus in Bari, taking a city tour, and the tour guides had Train playing. Sam and I smiled as one of the other passengers sang along. English was obviously not her first language and some of the words were more approximated sounds than anything. But she knew the song. The common language was English. Why? England is a pretty small country and the US is on the other side of the world. But mostly we heard American English, not British. I had worked on my Italian but hardly needed it. It was unexpected, the American influence I mean.

And now some quick pictures of Bari, Italy; Corfu, Greece; and Dubrovnik, Croatia.

Corfu, at the old fort.

Dubrovnik, the wall goes all the way around the old city and we walked the whole thing.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Contest with author Laura Bingham!

Visit Laura Bingham's blog and enter her contest with tons of cool prizes (mostly books, yay)!

I loved reading Laura's first book, Alvor and can't wait until NEXT month when her long awaited sequel, Wings of Light, comes out. Twins Erin and Bain have become ELVES and continue their quest to find their mother.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Little Women, The Opera

I went to the opera last night with my husband and 3 of our 4 little women. (The 15 year old really, really didn't want to dress up and listen to people singing all night.) It was better and worse than I expected.

They started with Laurie coming back from France married to Amy. Jo became upset with how things change and turned back time a few years. They didn't cover the younger years but picked up where John Brooks has taken Meg's glove and will soon propose to her.

First favorite, the way Mr. Brooks was portrayed was great. He became almost a romantic figure instead of the awkward, half developed character I never liked in the book. He was never really a problem in the book--I just never liked him much. In the opera he sings a sweet little love song and captures Meg's heart.

I also liked the insight into the relationship between Jo and her Aunt March. There's not much time spent on it but there is a well defined connection that makes sense when Aunt March leaves Jo Plumfield.

Negatives, they left out two of the best lines in the book. First, the one where Beth is dying and says she gets to be the brave one for once and go first, and second, Mr. Behr's proposal.

Also, confession, I didn't love the music. It was fine, and probably wonderfully modern, and there were parts I enjoyed, but I really would have liked to come away with some tune in my head I could hum. (Sorry for the run on sentence, that's how I think.) It was moving and did a great job evoking emotions--which is the point I think, but a couple of memorable melodies would have been great.

Grades from the kiddos:
18 year old-enjoyed it
12 year old-okay
11 year old-wished she hadn't come (but I'm glad she did)
I very much enjoyed it and so did my husband.

Hmm, maybe I like the opera. Who knew?

Secret Sisters

"Ida Mae Babbitt didn't know what kind of cookie to serve with bad news."

With an opening line like that you know it's going to be great--and Tristi Pinkston doesn't disappoint. I LOVED this hilarious book. Here's the blurb from the back:

Ida Mae Babbitt, president of the Omni 2nd Ward Relief Society, didn't mean to become a spy. But when visiting teaching stats are low,andshe learns that one family under her care is in financial trouble, she'll do whatever it takes to make sure they have what they need. If that includes planting surveillance cameras in their home and watching them from a parked car in the woods . . . well, isn't that what any caring Relief Society president would do?

With the help of her counselors, Arlette and Tansy, Ida Mae soon learns that there's more to the situation than meets the eye.

But it's all in a day's work for the Relief Society.

The zany antics of this well-meaning grandmotherly wanna-be detective keep the story moving as Ida Mae works to uncover what's going on at the Dunn's house. She's helped along the way by her nephew and her two counselors. There are also other important happenings in town and Ida Mae's got her work cut out for her trying to keep everything organized and everyone fed.

This is a great read.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Open Letter to My Daughter

Dear Sam,

You’re off to spend a fun, exciting week at Jr. Miss.

I am proud of you, I love you, I miss you . . . and I worry about you. To be honest, I worry about all of the girls there. How will you/they come away from your week? There are not enough prizes to go around; some will walk away with nothing. What would that do to you—to walk away with nothing after all your hard work and time spent? What will that say about you, to you?

Here’s what I hope for.

Please know that your worth is not dependant on your talents or how good you make a dress look. It is true that every girl there is talented and beautiful and beloved to her family. But the girls back home—the ones who didn’t make it to State or who never even tried—have just as much worth as each of you beautiful and talented girls. You have to understand that your importance as a human being does not depend on how you look or what you can do. It’s inherent, simply because YOU ARE.

Now don’t get me wrong, what you do with yourself, how hard you work to improve yourself and develop talents is very important. You are in the process of creating yourself and who you can be. Your hard work will create of you a masterpiece, but really, it will all be for naught if you can’t recognize the beauty inside yourself and everyone around you. It is our differences that make the tapestry of humanity so interesting and perfect.

It is one girl’s privilege to walk away as the winner at the end of the week. She will have scholarship money and many responsibilities—that each of you, no doubt, would happily accept. But 33 of you will walk away with less. Less scholarship money, less responsibility, fewer pats on the back, but hopefully not less in your feelings of self worth. I believe it is one girl’s destiny to walk that path, but for the rest of you, your path will be different. Some will walk away with nothing . . . but the memories of your great experiences and hopefully a greater appreciation of who you are and who you can become. The feelings you walk away with are entirely up to you.

Make a lot of friends, enjoy your experiences, learn to interview well and balance your life, learn to appreciate and serve those around you, and bring your changed self home to bless the lives of those around you. Enjoy this experience that few will have, and learn to see the beauty in every person, no matter what talents they have, how much money, how they look—and sometimes even how they behave.

I would say this on behalf of every mother of every girl there this week: We love you and are proud of YOU—for what you have accomplished but also for who you are. Have a GREAT week, no matter what happens at the end of it.



Sunday, January 30, 2011

Basketball Madness

My life right now is completely submerged in basketball--and I love it. I have two daughters on basketball teams, and I'm running an ongoing basketball tournament for 10 teams of girls through our church. I also play on a team on Wednesday evenings.

I got wind of a comment that was made today by a father to his daughter as they were leaving the game. He told her to be more aggressive and that the level of her aggressiveness would be determined by the officials. He was telling her to do whatever she could do to dominate.

Here we go, I feel a good rant coming on.

I still play basketball as often as I can. When I was introduced to a couple of new players last week they said, "This is Marilyn. She always calls her fouls." We don't play with refs, and I don't mind playing hard, nor do I mind being fouled, but if I feel myself commit a foul I call it.

In our girls program, we call them young women, the refs are volunteers. Most of them don't know as much as they think they do about officiating a basketball game. The most common issues:
  • Blow the whistle loud, don't be afraid of it.
  • Tell the scorekeeper who made the foul and/or what violation was committed.
  • You've got to call the foul quickly or the moment is gone.
  • Figure out how the possession arrow works.
  • A made shot is a live ball (no substitutions).
  • Three seconds, five seconds, ten seconds. Always counting.
  • A foul can be committed without even using the hands.
That said, I'm very grateful for our volunteer refs and I take what I can get. I myself am not such a great ref--not a fun job. I always encourage the girls to play with integrity. If they knocked the ball out of bounds, admit it. If you're called on a foul, take the call. Don't fight with or talk back to the refs. Don't complain about the calls or lack of calls. We're all doing our best.

I was saddened that a father would undermine his daughter's integrity in such a way as to tell her to get away with as much as she can. It goes against how I feel the game should be played both on and off the court. Maybe you could justify it with more experienced refs and I admit that I often up my play according to how my opponents are playing, but nobody likes a dirty player. And that certainly should not exist in this basketball program with young inexperienced players and refs. Teach them integrity on and off the court. To be honest, that's how these girls play naturally and I love it. Here's what I hear on a regular basis:
  • "Oops, I hit it out."
  • "Sorry, did I hurt you?"
  • "Oh, was that a foul? Sorry!"
  • "My bad."
  • "Let me help you up."
They have a lot of fun and help each other. They sometimes cheer when the other team scores (if the scores are vastly uneven.) Please, fathers, please don't take that away from them.

I'm probably overracting, but from where I stand these girls are just out to have a little fun. I'll be talking with them this week about integrity on the court and balancing that with playing hard and having fun.