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Random Review: Sir 7's "Looking for Domingo"

Besides my faith, music has been one of the foundations of my life.  When I was growing up in the 1980's, my parents created a rock band named Colour.  They played parties, benefit concerts, and was even aired several times on a local radio station in Dallas.  When my parent's weren't practicing there was always some type of music playing.  I always tell everyone that I grew up with a record player more than I did with a television set.  Not everything I grew up with was rock 'n roll either.  I thank my parents for introducing all types of music into my life.  It's explains my very eclectic love of many various genres.

When my parents split in the early 1990's, Colour broke up as well but that did not stop my dad from pursuing other musical ventures.  When I graduated in 1999, my dad, along with two of my uncles, formed a band: Sir 7.
In the 18 years since their conception, Sir 7 has released four albums, the latest being Looking for Domingo.  You would think that since the band is family that I would be easy on them when I reviewed this album, but you would be mistaken.  In all actuality, I think I listened with a more critical ear because, knowing that they're family, they can take the criticism.

What I love about Looking for Domingo is how each song has it's own flavor.  Not one song sounds like the other so when you go to the next song you don't know what you're going to get.  From the blues ballad "Don't Keep Me Waiting" to the Latin-infused "Life is Bueno", there is something for every person and every mood.  Many of the songs are very catchy and I caught myself singing them long after I listened to them.

Sir 7's style is a fusion of Texas rock with jazz and rhythm and blues.  Looking for Domingo is a great album to listen to when you're just chilling or to have playing while you're cruising down the highway.  I personally enjoy listening to "Life is Bueno" on my way home from work on a Friday afternoon.  The Herb Alpert sounding trumpet line gets me every time.

I also had the pleasure of interviewing the members of Sir 7 this summer.  It was so fun to be able to sit down and talk with each band member about their inspirations, experiences, as well as the behind the scenes tidbits of the creation of Looking for Domingo.   You can find all of those interviews on their YouTube channel under Interviews but I also linked up my interview with Charlie "Guitar" Swisher below which happened to be my favorite interview.

In all honesty, this is by far my favorite Sir 7 album to date.  The mixture of musical flavors is tantalizing and you can hear the work that went into this album.  It is one that I have listened to several times since sitting down to listen for my review which says a lot.  

One of the greatest accomplishments I can say about this album, and Sir 7, was being able to see it performed live at the infamous House of Blues in Dallas this summer.  It was an unforgettable night and was so amazing to see a bands dreams become a reality.  

I highly recommend Looking for Domingo for those who love jazz, rock, and blues all rolled into one amazing package.  I promise you won't be disappointed. :)

You can purchase Looking for Domingo on Amazon as well as listen to the album on Spotify, Amazon Music, Google Play, and Deezer as well as hear it streaming live on ZooTapRadio.com.  If you're in the Dallas area, Sir 7 plays several venues regularly in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex so you can see them perform live.  Check out their website for all upcoming concerts, events, and all things Sir 7.

*I received a complimentary copy of this album from Robare Music and Sir 7 in exchange for an honest, unbiased review

Merry and Bright

Christmas is in the air!  I love seeing all the twinkling lights, the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, and being able to snuggle up under a warm blanket and watch some sappy, romantic Christmas movies on Netflix.  Sometimes, though, you want to read a good book instead that has the same effect which is exactly what I felt when I read Merry and Bright by Debbie Macomber.

Merry and Bright is the story of Merry Smith and Jayson Bright, two people who seem to be in two different places in their lives but are both secretly yearning for the same thing: love.  Merry's focus is helping to take care of her family as well as work her intense temp job.  Jayson is all business, as Jayson is Merry's boss, and his focus is all on a major campaign that is nearing its due date. 

For Christmas, Merry's brother and mother create an online dating profile for her, knowing that she needs a man in her life.  At first Merry is against the idea until she gets a message from a charming stranger and before long a relationship is blossoming.  What neither of them realize is that "Jay" online is really Jayson Bright and "Merry" online is Merry Smith.  (Jayson never puts two and two together due to Merry's name being misspelled on her desk at work.)

They agree to meet face-to-face but to Jay's disappointment Merry doesn't show.  What he doesn't realize is that as he sat there, Merry shows up and realizes who Jay actually is.   It's Mr. Bright, her boss!  Now Merry wants to end the relationship, since her and her boss do not get along well, but how can she when she can't without revealing who she really is?

This story is full of charming characters, is wonderfully written, and a quick read which is perfect for the holiday season.  It's a sweet story that is not too far fetched and not too sappy.  You find yourself rooting on Merry and Jayson, and really do want to see these two get together.  Not to spoil anything, but I did finish the book with a little smile on my face.   It's a cute story that gets you in the Christmas spirit. 

*I received a complimentary copy of this book from Random House Publishing and NetGalley in exchange for an honest and unbiased review

Finally Focused

I have always known that my firstborn was different.  The day he was born he was already straining to hold his head up.  Most babies that are only a few hours old would be chilling but not my little one!  From the word go he was everywhere.  He could never sit still through an entire television program and would go from one activity to the next after only a few minutes.  

I recognized the ADHD tendencies early on, and when he started school I saw the issues with even more clarity.  He was officially diagnosed with severe ADHD in 2012 and it's been a daily struggle.  We've tried several medications but the adverse reactions he's had have not made them worth it.  We did have one medication that actually did help him tremendously but with our high deductible insurance plan there is no way we can keep him on it.  It was time to find alternative treatments for my son. 

You can find many decent resources on ADHD all over the internet, but I have found none like Finally Focused by Dr. James Greenblatt.  Dr. Greenblatt has been a child psychiatrist for over 30 years and has see thousands of patients that struggle with ADHD. 

The main focus of the book is on nutrition and supplementation but Dr. Greenblatt also recognizes that there are certain circumstances where medication is needed.  This is not a one-size-fits-all plan but rather figuring out what works for you or your child.  Dr. Greenblatt uses The Plus-Minus Plan which he created to help you navigate through different treatments to find out what is right for you.  Some treatments are geared towards a certain age group but the Plus-Minus Plan itself is "age-neutral."

Finally Focused is written like an instruction manual but it is very easy to read and navigate.  Each step is backed by scientific evidence where are referenced continuously throughout the entire book, so you can feel secure in knowing that each step has been tested and not just the author's opinion. 

At the end of each chapter there is a "Step-by-Step Action Plan" that breaks down what you need to do into easy to understand steps.  Once implemented you should see results in as little as four weeks, so you do not have to wait very long to see results. 

I haven't been able to start my son on any of the recommended supplements yet but I intend to.  I love how Dr. Greenblatt isn't quick to put children on medication which is what we've dealt with so far on our ADHD journey.  I love how it is written for anyone to understand and this is a resource that I will continue to come back to.  Dr. Greenblatt has a wonderful way of explaining everything so you can do the steps with confidence.  Highly recommend!

*I received a complimentary copy of this book from Random House and Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest, unbiased review

All She Left Behind

The roads life take you on are unpredictable.  You think things are going to go one way, but choices and circumstances end up taking you places you've never dreamed would be possible.  When you look back on your life you see the intricate paths that led you to the place you are now, and you realize you are exactly where you need to be.  It is amazing.  

I love reading stories about those that lived before me.  Hearing about life in a certain era and realizing they struggled with the same things that we struggle with now is fascinating.  

One amazing life's journey is the story of Jennie Pickett in All She Left Behind by Jane Kirkpatrick.  When the story begins, Jennie is living with her sister's family and her husband and son in Oregon, shortly after the Civil War ended.  Her husband works at a jail with her brother-in-law and is secretly addicted to drugs and alcohol.  He is becoming more and more verbally and physically abusive with her.  Jennie dreams of being a doctor but has struggled with reading and writing her entire life so she quenches her hunger for healing by using herbs to heal with naturopathy and hopes to one day be able to cure her husband's addiction.

When Charles secretly divorces her, and leaves her and their son for the "vile, enticing siren," that is drugs and alcohol, Jennie and her son move in with her parents and Jennie feels like her life is over.  Little does she know that this choice by her addicted husband sets her on the path to her dreams.

At times, Jennie's story is slow and seems to drag in parts but isn't that life?  It was a slower read for me, but I enjoyed it nonetheless.  I felt such emotions as Jennie had to deal with quite a bit of loss in her life but I also rejoiced as I saw her dreams become reality.  Being based on a true story, I enjoyed the author's notes at the end of the book that give even more details about Jennie and those she shared her life with as well as where the author found her sources.

Another treat was "Jennie's Herbs and Oils," which lists out what homeopathic physicians used in Jennie's day.  Many of them are familiar and are still used to this day.  There is also a short reader's guide which several questions that would be perfect for book clubs.

Though this story is a little on the slow side, I feel like it is worth the read.  It is an inspiration to see a woman that is able to rise above her circumstances and fulfill her dreams despite the obstacles she faces.

*I received a complimentary copy of this book from NetGalley and Revell in exchange for an honest, unbiased review

The Space Between Words

I remember where I was when I heard about the shooting at the Bataclan in Paris on Friday, November 13, 2015.  I immediately said a prayer about the situation and read all I could about what happened and what could've caused such an incident to occur.  It broke my heart that 130 people lost their lives and hundreds were injured and left to live with the nightmare of what happened inside that night club.  It's always the why that gets me.

As time passes incidents like these are still in our minds but what you never really ponder is the victims and how they are handling life after such an incomprehensible horror.  This is the reason why I was drawn to The Space Between Words by Michele Phoenix. 

Jessica is living in Paris with her best friend Patrick and roommate Vonda.  Patrick and Jessica are planning a road trip across Paris but before they go Vonda invites Jessica and Patrick to a concert at the Bataclan.  Patrick can't make the concert but the girls do and they are there when the terrorists come in with guns blazing.  Jessica wakes up in a Paris hospital having been shot.  Patrick is by her side but Vonda can't take it and goes back to America.  

Jessica allows Patrick to talk her into continuing with their plans for the road trip so once she's out of the hospital and taken a few days to adjust to a new normal they are on the road.  They end up at a little bed and breakfast in the Paris countryside and this is where the story gets interesting.  There are some interesting twists that occur and Jessica ends up with "pages of a Huguenot Bible in an antique sewing box in Southern France, along with the journal of its last owner."  

The journal belonged to Adeline Baillard, a woman whose family was being persecuted for their faith, and had lived hundreds of years before Jessica reads her words.  This find sparks a hunger for knowledge of what happened to the Baillard family.  The journey to the truth takes Jessica to people and places she could've never imagined and brings her to a place she never thought she would get back to.

This book is not characterized as a suspense but you never quite know what is going to happen next which adds to the stories charm.  Being one that loves history and suspense I really enjoyed this book, even if it was nowhere near what I was expecting.  The characters are well developed and the story itself is beautifully written.  The tale of faith and overcoming even the most horrific ordeals is so inspiring.  Highly recommend!

*I received a complimentary copy of this book from NetGalley and Thomas Nelson in exchange for an honest review

The World of Laura Ingalls Wilder

I am one of those people that love the story behind the story.  After I read a book I love to do more research on the subject especially if it's historical fact or fiction.  I have read all of The Little House books as well as seen every episode of the television show in my lifetime but I've never really delved too much into the history of it all until I read The World of Laura Ingalls Wilder by Marta McDowell.

Talk about bringing back good memories!  Reading all of The Little House series I already felt like I knew Laura Ingalls Wilder and her world but this book takes you even deeper into the details about the actual landscape that surrounded her throughout her life.  You feel like you are actually seeing these wonderful sights with her and through her eyes.  The photography and illustrations are just beautiful and you would think that a book about landscape would be drab but it really does hold your attention.

The part I was most impressed with was the amount of details in this book.  There are resources to help you grow your own Little House garden as well as a comprehensive list of all the plants that Laura grew, pictures of her family, maps, etc.  This book is a plethora of information and great for horticulturists and history buffs alike!  I would love to be able to re-read the books and have this book beside me as a companion.  It truly does make the stories come to life.

Highly recommend!

*I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review

Holiday Cookies

I absolutely love the holiday season.  There is an electricity in the air that is almost tangible.  The holiday spirit takes each person to a place they might not normally live in their every day lives.  For me, and many others, it takes me to the kitchen.  Being one that rarely (if ever) bakes during the rest of the year, I excitedly pull out my apron, and get started on traditional treats of the season.  

Usually I bake a pie or make some rice crispy treats but this year I really want to try something completely different and out of my comfort zone.    

Which is why I chose Holiday Cookies by Elisabet der Nederlanden.  Let me start my saying that this book is absolutely stunning!  The photos are gorgeous, yet the treats look like something that could be attained by anyone that attempts them.  The author talks you through everything throughout the entire book which is extremely helpful for one whose knowledge is lacking and she has a very down-to-earth language.  It has a "friend's swapping recipes" feel to me, especially when you read through the Cookie Tips & Tricks at the beginning of the book.

The "Very Merry Classics" chapter is pretty much the cookies that you'll see every holiday season but then there's the "Around the World" chapter which has cookies I've never even heard.  Many of the recipes look and sound delicious and have piqued my curiosity.  I also love the chapter entitled "Cookie Exchange Party" which are cookies that are easily massed produced for any of your holiday gatherings.  The way the entire book is organized makes it easy to find what you're looking for.

While skimming the recipes I did notice a few ingredients that I've never heard of before and I'm not sure how hard they will be to find if I attempt that particular cookie which could prove problematic.  I also have yet to try any of the actual recipes yet so I can't tell you how my results were just yet but I have several bookmarked and hope to bake them in the coming weeks.

I can't tell you if this book is good for the cookie novice but for a cookie newbie it is amazing!  Highly recommend!

*I received a complimentary copy of this book from Ten Speed Press and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review
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