Book Review: The Girl From The Train

The Girl from the TrainThe Girl from the Train by Irma Joubert

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Oh how I loved this book! If you’re reading my reviews, you probably think, “she always says that”. But I’m so fortunate to read really awesome books and my motto is, “life is too short to read bad books”.

This book was wonderful. A truly wonderful, heartwrenching story of a little girl, Gretl, who is on a train bound for Auschwitz. Her mother and grandmother encourage Gretly and her sister to jump off the train, telling them they would so jump and they’d all be safe. Before her mother and grandmother could jump, the train is blown up. The accidental explosion, mean to blow up a German troop train, was set by Jakob Kowalski.

Jacob finds Gretl and her sister Elza and takes them to a family. Elza dies and the family can’t continue watching Gretl when they have four children of their own. Jakob takes Gretl to live with his family. He never really gets to know her until he is injured in the war and comes home to recover. This is where he learns what a smart, special little girl Gretl.

Eventually, Jakob’s family can look after her no longer and he takes her to an orphanage with the home that she will be one of 50 children selected to go to South Africa and be adopted into new families.

As one of the older children, Gretl relizes she’s not going to be chosen so she uses her smarts to get selected and sent to South Africa where she is adopted by a wonderful family. She’s never known a life like this, one of privilege, and she grows up to be a successful college student when she runs into Jakob again.

Jakob had to leave Poland or be arrested and ended up in South Africa because they were looking for engineers and he knew the country was against communism. He also knew that Gretl was there.

They come back together, eventually falling in love. But his Catholic faith and her Protestant faith don’t make the arrangement look possible in the eyes of her father.

This is a wonderful story. It’s sad and happy and I wish it wasn’t over. Two thumbs up! :-)

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Book Review: Girl Meets Class

Girl Meets ClassGirl Meets Class by Karin Gillespie

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I just loved this book! I have loved all of Karen Gillespie’s books and was excited to read another.

This one is about Toni Lee, who is a former child tennis superstar who’s life has come off the rails due to a career ending injury. Toni Lee’s dad isn’t good at disciplining her because her mother died when she was 4 so he calls in her Aunt Cornelia.

Aunt Cornelia, Toni Lee’s mother’s sister, is the CEO and founder of a large caned Southern food company. She has basically been funding Toni Lee’s party girl existence and she decides it’s time to stop, to rein Toni Lee in.

She makes a deal with Toni Lee, telling her that if she gets a job that Aunt Corny approves of, keeps it for a year, and keeps to the other dictates of the contract, that she’ll give her a $5 million inheritance at the end of the year.

Toni Lee struggles to find a job. With time running out, she takes a job through Teacher Corps. They are supposed to teach college grads how to become teachers while they are placed in their first teaching jobs. Toni Lee finds out too late that the positions are hard to fill because they are in bad neighborhoods with out of control kids.

The story takes the reader through Toni Lee’s trials and tribulations at the school and she is one tough cookie.

Loved it! Two thumbs up. :-)

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Book Review: The Coincidence of Coconut Cake

The Coincidence of Coconut CakeThe Coincidence of Coconut Cake by Amy E. Reichert

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I loved this book! I was sucked right into this cute story about Lou, a restaurant owner and chef.

She in engaged to Devlin, a handsome and successful attorney. She is part of his plan for a perfect wife, a perfect life. He doesn’t, however, support her dream of owning her restuarant, Luella’s. His mother worked two jobs when he was growing up to make ends meet and he thinks he can save Lou from that life. But Lou loves her restaurant.

After walking in on Devlin and his intern on his birthday, Lou’s life starts falling apart. The dreaded restaurant reviewer, AW Wodyski chooses that day to visit Luella’s and is treated to terrible service as the staff were so concerned about Lou and horrible food because Lou didn’t know well enough to just get out of the kitchen.

The resultant bad review pretty much ends the promising future of Luella’s. While Lou is drinking it off at a pub, she runs into Al, and makes plans to show him the City. They begin their relationship on a “no work talk” policy and they have fun and eventually start falling for her.

When Al finally realizes that she is the owner of Luella’s, he’s horrified. He tries to get his editor to let him do another review but he won’t let him. They officially kill AW Wodyski and Al supposedly takes his job but Devlin finds out the truth and shares it with Lou who is devastated once again.

This story is about how Lou eventually finds success in both love and business and it was a great read. I couldn’t put it down. Highly recommend! :-)

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Save Lives California Tobacco Rally

On Wednesday morning, bright and early, I carpooled with two other folks from the American Heart Association up to the state capitol in Sacramento. We were joining the many other groups that make up the Save Lives California Coalition for a tobacco rally.


A special session was held to approve a package of six tobacco bills. 

The package included:

  • SBX2-5/ABX2-6, which would add electronic cigarettes to the existing definition of tobacco products;
  • SBX2-6/ABX2-7, which would add hotel lobbies, small businesses, break rooms and tobacco retailers to the list of smoke-free workplaces under state law;
  • SBX2-7/ABX2-8, which would increase the minimum age for purchasing tobacco products to 21 years old;
  • SBX2-8/ABX2-9, which would require all schools in the state to be tobacco-free;
  • SBX2-9/ABX2-10, which would allow local jurisdictions across the state to tax tobacco; and
  • SBX2-10/ABX2-11, which would create an annual Board of Equalization tobacco licensing fee program (California Healthline, 7/17).

Cigarette smoke related disease is the most preventable cause of death. The measures above should not only save money to the California health care system, it will also save lives. 

The day started with a press conference in the park. 


Then we were broken up into groups and we visited the lawmakers on our list asking them to consider supporting the bills, giving them the reasons they should support them, and sharing our personal stories. 

My group included Jang, a heart attack, stroke, survivor, heart, kidney transplant wonderman and three medical students from UCSF: Rachel, Iris and David. 


It took us a while to get cleared to go into the building.


But when we did, my group and I visited all of the lawmakers on our list. I thought we did a great job of presenting our case and were received very well. Then Jang and I decided to visit one of our local assemblymen. He hadn’t received a visit from anyone so we were happy we stepped outside the box on that decision. :-)


I read this morning that the bills passed the Senate. I hope they will become laws and more control will be placed on the smoking and second hand smoking here in California. 



Bay Area Wellness Symposium

On Tuesday, I was invited to attend the Bay Area Wellness Symposium put on by the American Heart Association. Although the focus was on workplace wellness, because I’m interested in health and fitness, I was very excited to attend!


The day started with  welcome followed by a panel interview. All of the panelists spoke about the employee wellness programs they are operating at their companies. They are doing some innovative things and they are getting lots of participation which equals healthy employees and healthcare cost savings.


Then we had a little Zumba before the break. It was fun to watch the whole audience participate but it would’ve been hard not to want to follow the lady who was leading it. She was upbeat and fun!

 After that, there were two break out sessions to choose from. I chose the session on Fit-Friendly Worksites. I don’t currently have a job, but if I did, I would want it to fall in line with these guidelines. I think it’s a great opportunity for people to be motivated by their co-workers to optimum health. Excellent idea that I’m also hoping I can figure out how to translate to our apartment complex here. 


The morning ended with a keynote by Jeffrey Pfeffer who spoke to us about Dying for a Paycheck. His preseantion was about his research into the negative effects of workplaces on our health. He was funny and extremely interesting!


I’m glad I learned about and decided to attend the Bay Area Wellness Symposium. Not only did I take away some great information, it also allowed me to start connected with the American Heart Association in the Bay Area. :-)



Book Review: Twillyweed

TwillyweedTwillyweed by Mary Anne Kelly

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was a very interesting book and there was a lot going on.

Although it initially seemed that the focus was on Jenny Kate trying to connect with her mother, who had given her up for adoption, it became so much more. I loved the characters in this book. I love how they interacted with each other.

As the book went on with more twists and turns, I grew to love it more. Loved this book! :-)

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Bicycle Safety

And no, I’m not talking about your safety while riding a bicycle. I’m talking about the safety of your bicycle. 

I just opened our resident portal here in California to report that my kitchen light is flickering when I saw a note that two bikes had been stolen from our supposedly secure parking garage. Having had one of our vehicles broken into already and seen people in the garbage dumpsters who I’m pretty sure don’t live here, I have never considered leaving my bike in the garage. 

Instead, when I’m not riding it, my bike lives in the entry way,


or next to the stairs (both of which David hates, but I get busy you know),


or on the balcony which really makes the most sense to me.


There are lots of bike riders in San Jose. When you ride around you see bikes locked up but that’s clearly not enough because, additionally, you’ll see they have a wheel or the seat removed for extra safety.

It was really interesting when I was home in Tulsa last week. I was getting into my car after picking up my pizza (vegan) and noticed a family ride up on bikes. Well, maybe it was a family with a lot of kids or a family with their kids and their kids friends. But in any case, there were at least eight people and eight bikes. 

Do you know what they did when they got to the front of the restaurant? They got off of their bikes, parked them and went in the door to eat. There wasn’t a lock among them. All the seats stayed in place as well as the wheels. 

I reflected about the bikes here in San Jose and came to the conclusion that bikes are much safer in Oklahoma. 

I’m not sure if this is a good thing or not, though. Does it mean Oklahoma has less thieves? Less active people? Better things to steal? 

As I ponder this, I’ll continue to ride my bike and keep it safe. In the living room. I mean on the balcony. ;-)

Promised Post Pageant Donut

We stumbled upon Psycho Donuts on one of our morning walks a month or so ago. I loved how the outside was decorated. We didn’t go in but when I got home, I investigated a little further and decided that after the pageant, I was going to Psycho Donuts and have a donut. 


This morning, in a radical departure from my normally ultra healthy diet, we indulged.  It was truly difficult to decide which one of these amazing donuts I wanted to try. I asked the man in front of me if I could take a photo of his box and he said, “Sure”. 


After we ordered, he ordered 6 more! It really is a tough decision.


We decided on the Rocky Road (David) and the S’Mores (me)


They were served up by this very pleasant health care provider. :-)


We also had a cup of coffee. I had the dark roast which was excellent and David had the lighter roast. 

Oh yum!!!!


We grabbed some napkins for the sticky deliciosity.


Sat at a cute table. 


It was amazing. Afterwards, I was buzzed to the max, ready to walk another 1397 miles. David just wanted to sleep. :-)  

Although it’s not in my usual repertoire of food choices, I’m glad we tried Psycho Donuts. It was awesome! :D

Book Review: Everybody Rise

Everybody RiseEverybody Rise by Stephanie Clifford

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I really loved this book and didn’t want it to be over. I really loved Evelyn and I wanted her to be successful.I was cheering for her!

Evelyn, isn’t from old money but, rather, new money. Her father, a plaintiff’s attorney has set the family up pretty well but Evelyn always feels on the outside looking in. She does have a few well placed friends from when she was in school and uses these connections to try and help her with her new job for a website called People Like Us, a sort of upscale facebook.

After talking Camilla Rutherford into joining the site, Evelyn becomes entranced with her world and becomes her almost instant best friend. Racking up thousands and thousands of dollars in debt trying to live up to people who have trust funds, her world starts caving in around her when she learns that her dad has been indicted.

I was happy at the end of the book that Evelyn seemed to have figured out what was important and was on her way back towards success.

Loved it, great book! :-)

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The Strawberry Tree

Yesterday, I videotaped part of my walk so you could see the strawberry tree. Then I ate the strawberry I picked up.

Y’all, those things are awesome! Really, really sweet. The outsde is pretty bumpy and I didn’t care for it so much but the insdie? Delicious! David wouldn’t even try it. His loss. I didn’t die so it’s all good. :D

Here’s the video. :-)