Monday, November 30, 2015

Book Review: Between the World and Me


Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Goodreads Summary:
“This is your country, this is your world, this is your body, and you must find some way to live within the all of it.”

In a profound work that pivots from the biggest questions about American history and ideals to the most intimate concerns of a father for his son, Ta-Nehisi Coates offers a powerful new framework for understanding our nation’s history and current crisis. Americans have built an empire on the idea of “race,” a falsehood that damages us all but falls most heavily on the bodies of black women and men—bodies exploited through slavery and segregation, and, today, threatened, locked up, and murdered out of all proportion. What is it like to inhabit a black body and find a way to live within it? And how can we all honestly reckon with this fraught history and free ourselves from its burden?

Between the World and Me is Ta-Nehisi Coates’s attempt to answer these questions in a letter to his adolescent son. Coates shares with his son—and readers—the story of his awakening to the truth about his place in the world through a series of revelatory experiences, from Howard University to Civil War battlefields, from the South Side of Chicago to Paris, from his childhood home to the living rooms of mothers whose children’s lives were taken as American plunder. Beautifully woven from personal narrative, reimagined history, and fresh, emotionally charged reportage, Between the World and Me clearly illuminates the past, bracingly confronts our present, and offers a transcendent vision for a way forward.

My Review:
I really struggled to understand this book. It was so foreign. That was kind of the point though. Ta-Nehisi Coates is writing to his son about his struggle to understand what I means to live in his black body. I struggled to understand his struggle.

The book is written in a long, flowing letter. It reads like a memoir at times, but more philosophical at other points. It touches on some elements of history, like the Civil War, but most references are to brutal police killings of black men.

I had to read this book in complete silence. The writing is beautiful, but it's hard to follow. I kept reading and tried to focus on understanding the overall message, versus the individual sentences. Although there were many amazing statements throughout the book.

Ta-Nehisi Coates, an affluent, black writer, fears for his body and the body of his son. He points out that the huge divide in our country is not between the rich and the poor, but between those who are black and those who believe themselves to be white. I was blind to this point before reading this book. I naively assumed that black people who escaped the inner city escaped the violence against them. The continual police murders are showing that this is not the case. It is dangerous to be black everywhere in this country.

What I could relate to was his separateness as an atheist and his love for his son. The things he says and the stories he recounts from his son's childhood make it apparent how much he loves his boy.

I see why John Green said all young people should read this book. And I'm glad that I read it. For its value to our society, I gave it 4 stars even though it wasn't what I'd call an enjoyable read.

What I want to know now is how do we fix our country? Where do we start?

Favorite Quotes:
Somewhere out there beyond the firmament, past the asteroid belt, there were other worlds where children did not regularly fear for their bodies. I knew this because there was a large television resting in my living room bearing witness to the dispatches from this other world.

My work is to give you what I know of my own particular path while allowing you to walk your own.

There was before you, and there was after, and in this after, you were the God I'd never had. I submitted before your needs, and I knew then that I must survive for something more than survival's sake. I must survive for you.

You must wake up every morning knowing that no promise is unbreakable, least of all the promise of waking up at all.

Black people love their children with a kind of obsession. You are all we have, and you come to us endangered. I think we would like to kill you ourselves before seeing you killed by the streets that America made.

But the price of error is higher for you than it is for your countrymen, and so that America might justify itself, the story of a black body's destruction must always begin with his or her error, real or imagined.

It is truly horrible to understand yourself as the essential below of your country.

And I would not have you live like them. You have been cast into a race in which the wind is always at your face and the hounds are always at your heels. And to varying degrees this is true of all life. The difference is that you do not have the privilege of living in ignorance of this essential fact.

I am convinced that the Dreamers, at least the Dreamers of today, would rather live white than live free.

My Rating: 4 Stars
Understand my ratings.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

A to Z Bookish Survey

I saw this meme on The Critic and The Fangirl soon after I started blogging, and I thought it would be fun to do. I finally got around to doing it.


A: Author You’ve Read the Most Books From

According to my Top Ten Tuesday post, it is Ann M. Martin. But if I don't count book series from my childhood, then it would Jodi Picoult. She was my favorite author starting in my teen years, and I've read all of her books. My favorite it is Vanishing Acts because of a cute scene involving sharing french fries.


B: Best sequel ever

I'm going to have to go with The Lunar Chronicles on this one. Those books just keep getting better and better. I liked Cinder, but I loved ScarletCress, and Winter. I really enjoy the additional characters and the more complex plot as the series progresses.


C: Currently reading

I'm reading the following books:


All In (The Naturals #3) by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
The Rule of Thoughts (The Mortality Doctrine #2) by James Dashner
In the Unlikely Event by Judy Blume
My friend's manuscript



D: Drink of choice while reading

It used to be tea until I gave up caffeine. I still sometimes drink Tazo Wild Sweet Orange tea while reading, but I also just drink water or seltzer or nothing at all. At night when I read, sometimes I drink a Redd's Apple Ale.



E: E-reader or physical book

Both! I read a lot of physical books from the library, but I almost never buy paper books. I read a lot of Kindle books on my iPhone. I'm not picky.


F: Fictional character you probably would’ve dated in high school

I didn't actually date in high school. But if I had and if he was real, I'd have to pick Josh from The Future of Us. I love the boy next door type. I don't understand by girls in books and movies never pick the boy next door. I'm looking at you, Katniss!


G: Glad you gave this book a chance

I almost didn't read The Girl on the Train because everyone was comparing it to Gone Girl, which I really didn't like. I'm so glad I read it though, because I really liked it.


H: A hidden gem book

I absolutely love The Time Traveler's Wife. I think it is the most realistic time travel story I have ever read. I have the audiobook, and I've listened to it MANY times. I love how consistent the timeline of the story is. It's so believable!


I: Important moment in your reading life

Starting this blog in May was pretty significant. It's helping me to read more and to think more critically about the books I'm reading. It's also going to really help me remember the specifics about the books I read. I'm bad at details. Goodreads helps me remember the rating (that's another great moment in my reading life - using Goodreads!), but my reviews will help me remember why I loved a book, so I can make better recommendations to people.


J: Just finished

I just finished reading Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates.


K: Kinds of books you won’t read

I don't read romance novels. I like a good romantic story, but anything labeled as romance I steer clear of.

I also don't like horror. I'm just too much of a wuss.


L: Longest book you’ve ever read

I listened to 11/22/63 by Stephen King, which is 849 pages in print. It was pretty good, but way too long IMO.


M: Major book hangover because of

I'm not sure I've actually had this problem. Most of the series I love have ended well, so I'm not too sad that they're over. I kind of like that the waiting is finished and things have wrapped up well.

Maybe Allegiant because I didn't like how the Divergent series ended. I thought it all resolved too quickly in a completely ridiculous way. And I'm not even talking about the major thing that happens at the end.


N: Number of bookcases you own

As I said above, I don't buy a lot of books. I actually only have one book shelf, and only 2 of the 3 shelves have books on them. I've been thinking of getting rid of even these books. I'm not really one to collect things I don't use frequently.



O: One book you’ve read multiple times

Can I only pick one? My favorite go-to book when I'm sad is Bookends by Jane Green. It's about two friends who open a book story. And there's some romance. I just love it! And it makes me happy when I'm feeling kind of down. I haven't read it in a while. I really should read it again. :)

If you count listening, then I'd add Harry Potter. I've listen to Jim Dale read all of those books at least 20 times. I love them so much!


P: Preferred place to read

In my new closet-turned-reading-room! Or on any couch in my house. I like to read sitting up, so I don't get sleepy.



Q: Quote that inspires you or gives you all the feels

I love when Dumbledore says, "To the well organized mind, death is but the next great adventure." As an atheist, this brings me some comfort since I don't have the belief in heaven to quell my fears.


R: Reading regret

That I'll never get to read all the books I want to read.


S: Series that you’ve started and need to finish

I'm very obsessive when it comes to series, so I usually read the next books as soon as they come out for any series that I love. The only ones unfinished are those I don't plan to finish...except this one, which I just picked up at the library earlier this week.

Career of Evil (Cormoran Strike #3)


T: Three of your all time favorite books

Not counting books I've already mentioned, my top three favorites are...

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
Attachments by Rainbow Rowell


U: Unapologetic fan girl for

Harry Potter. Always.


V: Very excited for this release

Glass Sword by Victoria Aveyard

Winter releases are the best. They make the awful weather more bearable!


W: Worst bookish habit

I can't think of one. Maybe I don't have any?


X: X marks the spot; pick the 27th book on your shelf

The 27th book on my shelf is Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.


Y: Your latest book purchase

Polar Express and How the Grinch Stole Christmas. I bought them for Christopher, so we can do an Advent Calendar of books this year. Thanks for the inspiration, Sheila! (The Deliberate Reader)


Z: ZZZ-snatcher book (last book that kept you up WAY late)

Eight Hundred Grapes by Laura Dave - so good!


Have you done this survey? If so, post your link. If not, join the fun!

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Book Review: A Step Toward Falling (YA)


A Step Toward Falling by Cammie McGovern

Goodreads Summary:
Cammie McGovern follows up her breakout young adult debut, Say What You Will, with this powerful and unforgettable novel about learning from your mistakes, and learning to forgive. Told in alternating points of view, A Step Toward Falling is a poignant, hopeful, and altogether stunning work that will appeal to fans of Jennifer Nevin, Robyn Schneider, and Jandy Nelson.

Emily has always been the kind of girl who tries to do the right thing—until one night when she does the worst thing possible. She sees Belinda, a classmate with developmental disabilities, being attacked. Inexplicably, she does nothing at all.

Belinda, however, manages to save herself. When their high school finds out what happened, Emily and Lucas, a football player who was also there that night, are required to perform community service at a center for disabled people. Soon, Lucas and Emily begin to feel like maybe they're starting to make a real difference. Like they would be able to do the right thing if they could do that night all over again. But can they do anything that will actually help the one person they hurt the most?

My Review:
I really enjoyed this story. It unfolds from the perspective of two characters: Emily and Belinda. Emily, a shy, nerdy, do-gooder, witnesses Belinda being sexually assaulted at a football game, and she panics and does nothing. Belinda, who has some developmental issues due to seizures at an early age, struggles to understand what happened to her and to understand why Emily and Lucas, a football player who also witness the attack, did nothing.

I loved alternating points of view, so this book was right on the mark there. The voices of both characters were so great. I related to Emily a lot, since I was similar in high school.

Emily and Lucas have to do community service as penance for their lack of action, but they both feel that helping other disabled young adults isn't really helping Belinda. Emily remembers that Belinda was a wonderful actress when they were younger, so they decide to put on a play, starring Belinda.

Oh, how I loved this plot element. Belinda is obsessed with Pride and Prejudice and Colin Firth, which was so fun to read about. The way the play unfolds was so real. I won't say anymore.

The parallel stories of Belinda and Emily navigating their way through high school and relationships was great. Cammie McGovern was able to make Belinda's story relate-able to everyone. This type of diverse book is so necessary in our society.

I struggled with the horrible adults in this book. Emily's parents were so concerned with her future that they ignored her feelings about the event. And Belinda's grandmother was too controlling. I did admire Belinda's mother, although I would have liked to learn more of her story. I wondered whether she may have had a similar horror from her own high school past.

The pacing of this story was great. Details about the past were revealed as necessary. I love when books jump right in and give you backstory as you read.

There were a lot of side characters that did confuse me a little at times, but overall the character set was good. Both Belinda and Emily had friends who rounded out the story.

I definitely recommend this book to fans of YA and fiction in general.

Favorite Quotes:
What you do if you fall in love with a character in a movie is decide what you like about that person and start looking for those qualities in a real person.

These folks aren't childish; they just haven't lost the enthusiastic attachments I associate with children.

There's a logic to the place Pride and Prejudice holds in any lonely teen's heart.


That's how people like us get through high school. We expect to have a much better time when we get out.

My Rating: 4 Stars
Understand my ratings.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Friday Fiction #6: Fear (with link up)

I started the Fiction Friday series in October to help improve my descriptive prose writing. Perhaps I'll write a book some day, most likely not, but I'm enjoying being creative each week. If you'd like to write along with me, I will have a link up for the series each week. Add a link to fiction on your blog.

This week's story is pretty short as I'm preparing the posts early because of Thanksgiving. Enjoy!

----------------------------------------------------------------------------

Madeline has to hide. Quickly! She searches around frantically for somewhere she can squeeze her body, so HE can’t find her. She has to hurry. Time is running out!

She finds a small cavern. Will she fit in here? She has to. She’s out of time. HE will be coming after her very soon. She gets down on all fours and backs herself into the hole. She makes her body as small as she possibly can. She tucks her arms in tightly to her sides. She tucks her chin down to her chest.

She hears HIS voice call out. Oh no! HE is coming. She hopes HE won’t be able to see her in this tiny space, won’t be able to hear her breathing.

She breathes softly, trying to slow her rapidly beating heart. Her hands grab at the fabric of her shirt. She grits her teeth.

She can hear HIS footsteps. HE is very close. HE is going to find her. She knows it. She holds her breathe and listens as hard as she can.

“Found you!” Michael yells.

“Oh, man,” Madeline wails. She’s been discovered. She climbs out of her hiding spot as Michael moves on, trying to find his next victim in this game of hide-n-seek. 

Madeline heads back to the couch in the family room, the starting place for this game. She’ll wait patiently for everyone else to be found. And then, they’ll play again.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------

Your turn! 


Thursday, November 26, 2015

Thankful

Happy Thanksgiving!


We've celebrated Thanksgiving in Florida with my parents for the last six years. That first year we started a new tradition. We add our hand prints to a white table cloth, using fabric paint, and then write five things we're thankful for. One for each finger.

It's been fun to watch the kids hands grow. And to see how their interests, and ours, have changed over the years. The first few years we choose for them, i.e. Thomas the Train, Friends at daycare, etc. Now they're old enough to choose for themselves, which is awesome!

It's gets harder and harder to come up with unique things to be thankful myself. I don't want each hand print to say the same five things: family, friends, financial stability, etc. I try to add a couple of unique things each year.

This year I am thankful for...

1) Kindergarten Activities/Friends 

We moved to New Berlin a little more than 3 years ago, and we knew no one. I've tried to make friends with other parents at daycare, and I was somewhat successful, but the ultimate for me has always been when Christopher started elementary school. I knew he's be there longer and all of the families there would live near us. Families came to our daycare from all over. We had enough friends outside of our town. I wanted people who lived nearby.

Thanks to sports this summer before school and now all of the school events, we are finally meeting other families in our town. I'm loving it! I even started a new book club, which I've been wanting to do for 3 years, with other moms from Christopher's grade.

2) Evenings Off

Some time within the last year, I think, Jim and I changed the bedtime routine. We now have assigned nights of the week, which allows us to more easily schedule activities for our evenings. I feel like I've become more of my own person again in the last year and a half, not just "Mommy." I now have Sundays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays off from putting Christopher to bed, so I have time to read or go out with friends for Girls Night or Book Club. It's so necessary!

3) Jim

I could not read as much as I do or have any real time to myself without Jim. We've both been traveling more for work the last 5 months, and while I love my time away, Jim's time away has made me more appreciative of when he's around. I do not want to ever be a single parent. It is hard! I need him around to share the responsibilities, to fix stuff around the house, and to hang out with, both at home and when we go out.

4) The Book Blogging Community

When I started this blog in May, one of my reasons was to connect with other book lovers. I love reading other bloggers posts, commenting on the books they're reading, and getting ideas of what to read next. And it makes me so happy to have other people reading my posts and commenting with their own thoughts and ideas. I have found a group of other bloggers that I interact with almost daily, and it's made this whole experience so much more valuable. I am thankful for all of you!

5) Christopher

My son can be challenging. He knows how to push buttons and drive me crazy. But he also brings so much joy to my life. Watching him learn things and seeing him experience new things in the world is so satisfying. I am awe of him ALMOST every day.


What are you thankful for today? Does your family have any unique Thanksgiving traditions?

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Where I read

With our recent home improvements and movement of furniture, I now have excellent lighting and comfortable furniture in many different rooms of the house. That means...multiple places to read! A few months ago, I was limited to reading only in our sunroom, when it was light outside, or the playroom or in my bed.

I actually prefer reading sitting up. When I lay down in bed to read, I inevitably start to fall asleep. Does anyone else have this problem?

I absolutely love having choices now when I read! Here's a look at my favorite reading spots around the house.

The Living Room
My go-to reading location now is the love seat in the living room. It allows me to be close to Christopher when he's playing or watching TV. But it's my own space, so I get to feel separate as well. I sit on the love seat instead of the couch because it's in better shape. I prefer the seat closest to the fireplace because it has better lighting.

Any of these spots will do, but I prefer the love seat left side. 

A book and a beer, which more does a girl need?

My Reading Closet
When I want to get away and read somewhere quiet and not be interrupted, I go into my "reading closet." I converted this walk in closet into a reading space a few months ago after Jim started working from home. Our comfy reclining chair used to be in the sunroom, but once Jim made that his permanent office, he started using that room in the evenings as well to play video games.

I missed my comfortable chair and the only room on the first floor with a door, so I decided to make a reading room upstairs. Jim hauled the recliner upstairs ALL BY HIMSELF one day. It does break into two pieces, but still! I was so happy. It's a little tight, but it's my own space. And I can close the bedroom door and have near silence. It's not quite sound proof. That would be amazing!

Comfy recliner and my stack of books.

I still need to get my NerdCon poster up on the wall and get some additional decorations, but I love this space at night when I want to be alone. I use it mostly while Jim is putting Christopher to bed or if I've had a rough day and need to get away.

This "room" has only an exposed light bulb on the ceiling, but for reading, it works great.

Reading in my closet. Haha!

The Playroom
During the day on the weekends when the sun is shining, I really love to sit on the corner of the couch in the playroom and read. Christopher can be playing nearby or in another room. I just love soaking in the sunlight.

My favorite reading corner and my favorite reading buddy.

The lighting in this room is still pretty bad, so it's a daytime only reading space.

Reading to read!

My view while reading in the playroom. Love the sun in here!

The Sunroom
Jim bought a giant beanbag chair for his office. I've only used it once, but I think it will be another fun daytime spot. The other weekend Christopher and I shared the beanbag. I was reading. He was watching the iPad. We often snuggle like that, doing our parallel activities. I've gotten pretty good at tuning out the sound of his videos while I read.

You can't really tell, but Christopher is kind of on my lap in the beanbag chair.

Again, bad lighting, so this spot is daytime only, unless I'm reading on my iPhone, which I do do a lot. Another bonus of this room, is that Jim's computer is nearby, so he can do his parallel activity as well. We do our own thing a lot in our house. Is this normal?

Me reading in the beanbag chair while Jim plays on his computer.

The TV Room
At night, especially on Mondays because Jim has a standing online video game playdate with his guy friends, I like to read in the TV room. It's farther away from the sunroom, so I can't hear Jim while he's Skyping with his friends. And I just love the new lighting in here and the new couch. I wasn't able to read easily in this room for 3 years, so I am enjoying this space now that I can.

Me reading on the new sectional in the TV room.

More parallel activities - reading and watching the iPad.

My Bed
When I'm tired, I do like to lay in bed and read a few pages...or chapters. The overhead light in our room isn't the best, but I have a clip on lamp for my bed, and it is MORE than adequate. And I don't have to get out of bed to turn it off, which is fantastic.

He was "reading" in my bed while I was reading in the closet.

I still want to update the lighting in the playroom, the guest bedroom, and the sunroom. My goal is to be able to read anywhere, but I am happy with all of these spaces for now. It's a lot, right?!

What's your favorite place to read?

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Book Review: Preschooled


Preschooled by Anna Lefler

Goodreads Summary:
Behind the toddler-proof gate of Santa Monica’s exclusive Garden of Happiness, it’s the grown-ups who are getting schooled.

When new preschool parent Justine discovers that the man who broke her heart back in grad school is a dad in her daughter’s class, she tells herself she’s immune to the superficial charms of the ex she calls “the crapwizard.” But when his presence opens a time tunnel of potent memories from her life before motherhood, she must find a way to defuse her old attraction to him before it undermines her marriage.

Then there’s Ruben, rookie stay-at-home dad and standup comic who quits his day job to pursue his TV-writing dream on his wife’s condition that he take her place among the “power mommies” on the school committees.

And ruling the sand box with an iron fist is Margaret, whose ongoing divorce from her dentist-turned-New Age-surfer husband forces her to rely on her dubious people skills in order to keep the school that has become the cornerstone of her identity.


When the new school year kicks off with a flight-risk rabbit named Ozone, a school secretary in desperate need of a social filter, and some double-barreled committee recruiting tactics, it’s not all juice and cookies for Justine, Ruben, and Margaret as they struggle to play nice.

My Review:
I enjoyed this book, but it really felt more like three parallel stories instead of one cohesive novel. The book follows the lives of three characters, all connected to the Garden of Happiness preschool. Margaret, the owner, is dealing with a messy divorce and trying to save her school from being sold, so her soon-to-be ex-husband can get his half of that asset. Justine, a new preschool mom, gets roped into being the chair of the school auction. She's also dealing with her insecurities when an old boyfriend pops up and when a woman from the office starts making moves on her husband. Finally, Ruben is a stay-at-home dad rocking his preschool committee assignment and working on his sitcom script and stand-up comedy on the side.

I loved Ruben! He and his wife, Deandra, had such a positive and healthy relationship. I also loved his humor and his ability to work the moms. He was a great friend to everyone and a wonderful father. I was rooting for him throughout the book.

I identified a lot with Margaret. She is a high powered business woman who can be more than a little unfeeling with other people. Her world is crumbling, and she doesn't know how to ask for help. She's afraid of losing face with her preschool parents, but she's pissing everyone off left and right, including her daughter. Her story was a little tough to read because the divorce was so ugly.

I could not stand Justine. It was painful to read her chapters. I wanted to stop her from making bad choices and ruining her marriage with her jealousy.

Overall, I wish the three stories had overlapped more. The pacing was a bit too slow for my taste, and some of the dialog was kind of awkward. I enjoyed the antics of preschool, although suburban Wisconsin is much different than Southern California.

My Rating: 3 Stars
Understand my ratings.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Inside & Out over at Bookmark Lit

Today I am being featured in Lauren's Inside & Out series over at Bookmark Lit.

I started reading Lauren's blog in June. I love her reviews and her other bookish posts. She and her boyfriend Chris are always doing interesting things, so I love reading her life recaps as well. They remind me a lot of Jim and me 10 years ago. And today too, actually. On November 10th when Lauren and I both bought Winter on its release day, Chris and Jim both bought Fallout 4, which happened to have the same release day.

Lauren is one of many other book bloggers who has made me feel welcome in this online community. Thanks, Lauren!

Check out Lauren's blog here.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Life Milestone: Loosing the First Tooth

Christopher has had a loose tooth for a long time. I mentioned it back in my September recap, and then in October I made a tooth fairy pillow, so we'd be all ready when the time came. The new tooth has been growing in behind the old one for many weeks as well. Last Sunday Christopher took this super cute selfie on his double tooth.

Double tooth selfie!

Friday night we were at the playground (indoor) for a kindergarten play date, and Christopher came over saying his tooth was really wiggly. And it actually was! He was able to get it to stick straight out when he closed his mouth. 

Eww. Check out that tooth!

He kept wiggling it and wiggling it for the last 30 minutes of the play date. He was determined to get it out, and so was I actually. Although I tried to encourage him to wait until we got home, so we wouldn't lose it.

Wiggling his tooth. I tried to ignore how dirty his hands must have been.

When we got home, he had some apple slices to try and get it to fall out. It didn't work. I was able to twist it around backwards, but then it started hurting so I stopped. I tried pulling as well. No luck.

You gotta bite it with your front tooth, Buddy!

We headed upstairs for bedtime. I brushed his teeth a whole lot, trying to get it to come out. Nope. I only succeeded in making it bleed.

Many weeks ago when he was nervous about losing his tooth, he told me he didn't want it to bleed a lot. I told him it probably wouldn't bleed too much, but that that was actually my favorite part of losing teeth when I was little. I really liked the taste of the blood. Am I the only one? I told him it tasted like metal (iron, ya know?). And then I let him lick a coin to see how it tasted.

When the time came, he wasn't bothered by the blood. Maybe my little pep talk and experiment helped, or maybe he was just so excited about the money the tooth fairy was going to bring. Who knows? 

Anyway...we went into his room to read stories. He kept wiggling. He let me try to pull it out again, this time using a tissue, so I could get a good grip. It was still holding on by a thread. We read for about 20 minutes. I really wanted to tooth to come out, so he wouldn't stay up all night playing with it. Or end up losing it in his sleep. And we had a babysitter coming on Saturday night, so I didn't want to have to have her deal with it. Translation = I didn't want to miss any of the excitement! Seriously, I'm not sure who was more excited, him or me. Jim stayed downstairs because he was a little grossed out. Ha!

After stories I tucked him in and convinced him to let me try one more time. It came right out. It was amazing. Perfect timing! It bled a lot more than I thought it would. We needed two tissues. 

Success! First lost tooth.

We headed downstairs to show Daddy. He joined in with tons of enthusiasm. When we got back upstairs, Christopher wanted to check out his hole in the bathroom.

Checking out the hole in the mirror.

I took more pictures. I actually almost forgot to get these shots. 

The hole. It's a little ruined because the new tooth is already in, 
but he still looked pretty cute in our family portrait pictures on Saturday.

Then we put his tooth inside the tooth fairy pillow and put the tooth fairy pillow under his pillow. He was going to make me work for it! I mean...the tooth fairy. 

The boy and his tooth fairy pillow. It matches his room. Pure coincidence.

I told him he could reach under his pillow and feel the tooth through the pocket on the tooth fairy pillow, but I didn't want him to take it out because I didn't want it to get lost. Amazingly enough, he went right to sleep. 

A few hours later, I went into his room to play tooth fairy. Luckily, he sleeps with the light on, so I could see what I was doing. He was moving a little in his sleep, but I was able to extract the small pillow from under his big pillow, replace the tooth with a dollar bill, and tuck the tooth fairy pillow back under his pillow without him waking up. 

I measured the pocket to perfectly fit a folded dollar bill.

Now I only have to do it 19 more times.

This is my pillow from childhood. My sister has it.
I made Christopher's pillow from memory. Not bad, huh?


Do you enjoy playing the tooth fairy? How much do you leave for your kids? Do you have a tooth fairy pillow?

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Kid Lit: Let's Count to 100!


Let's Count to 100! by Masayuki Sebe

Goodreads Summary:
Let's Count to 100 comprises 11 bright panoramas, each featuring a delightful assortment of 100 different objects. Readers are invited to count the items and are also challenged to find specific details, such as a mouse with a red bow or a lone rabbit amid a giant flock of sheep. This book is packed with appealing images of children, fish, cats, moles and other cute critters -- no two of which are alike -- and readers will enjoy the many different moods and expressions on display. Each spread is also full of hidden dramas youngsters will love discovering for themselves, such as a hungry piranha poised to take a nibble of an elephant's pink trunk. Kids will also like spotting how each scene, such as a meandering stream or a bustling cityscape, visually connects to the one that came before and the one that follows.

Background:
Christopher picked out this book on our last trip to the library, and he checked it out with his new library card. We left the library that trip with 25 books. I literally had to drag him away from the children's department. I felt bad, but we can only read so many books in three weeks, ya know. This book was the very last. His final plea for "just one more book." I'm glad I gave in. We finally read this book last night.

My Thoughts:
Christopher and I both enjoyed this book. I love math books, and this one was no exception. Instead of a simple counting book, this book features 100 items on each page. And rather than count to 100 on each page, which would have driven me crazy, there were challenges on each page, i.e. How many ants are carrying a piece of candy? And on some pages the items were colored in groups of 10 items of each color, so we got to practice counting by 10s as well. It was a nice review and reinforcement of counting. And it was so fun!

The best part is that on the last page of the book there are specific items you have to go back through the book and find. We really enjoyed that part. Some of them were kind of tricky as the image was superimposed or flipped upside within the actual book pages.

I'm not sure I'd buy this book because it might not be as fun after a couple of times reading it through (unless your child is still learning to count to 100). But it was a great library find. There are others in the series, so we may need to get some of those.

My Rating: 5 Stars

Friday, November 20, 2015

Friday Fiction #5: Blind Date (with link up)

The last 4 weeks I've written stories that were based in truth. I thought it was time I tried writing something that was completely fiction, but I didn't know where to start. Then I found this page of writing prompts. Today's story was inspired by this prompt:

Eye Contact: Write about two people seeing each other for the first time.

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I’m sitting at my desk at work. I’m supposed to be preparing a budget presentation for our next big marketing campaign, but I can’t focus. I’m going to kill Becky. Why did I let her set me up for this blind date? Sure, Keith sounds like a great guy – stable job, involved in his church, never been married. But I hate meeting new people, especially in awkward one-on-one settings where I’ll actually be expected to talk about myself. I’m not that interesting. I live alone with my two cats. I watch TV and read for fun. I never really go anywhere besides work.

I pull out my iPhone and text Becky. I am freaking out!

She responds right away. It’ll be fine. Keith is nice. You’ll love him. I promise.

Feeling only slightly better, I clench my jaw, put on my headphones (Taylor Swift) to drown out my thoughts, and go back to work. Amazingly enough, when I look up again, two hours have gone by. People are starting to leave the office. Thank God, the workday is over. I mean: Oh shit. My date is now only two hours away. I am freaking out again.

I shut down my computer, pack up my bag, and head towards the elevator. I work on the 14th floor of a high rise on Wisconsin Avenue. A middle aged man joins me in the hall by the elevators. I smile at him and then look down quickly. I’m not in the mood for small talk. When the elevator dings, I rush inside and jab the button for the first floor. I fix my eyes on the illuminated number 14 over the door. The doors close, and I watch the descending numbers light up as the elevator speeds down. When the doors open, I call a quick, “Have a nice night,” over my shoulder and walk briskly out to the parking garage.

I find my red Honda CRV quickly on the ground floor, stow my work bag on the passenger seat, and back out of my space. At the exit, I swipe my employee badge to open the gate. Once I’m out on the road, I call Becky as I head to the highway. It’s a 20 minute ride home. Plenty of time to discuss what I should wear tonight. I’m meeting Keith at The Italian Grill, a popular restaurant in our suburban neighborhood. That’s another positive about Keith. He lives nearby.

“Hey,” Becky answers. “How’re you doing?”

“Why am I doing this? I’m happy alone. I don’t want a boyfriend,” I lie.

“Chelle, relax. It’s going to be fun. You’ll be so much happier if you have someone to spend time with. It’s not healthy to be alone all the time.”

“Excuse me,” I say. “I’m not alone. I have Whiskers and Mr. Toes.”

“Cats don’t count as company, Chelle,” Becky replies. “You need human contact.”

“Fine. What should I wear?” I whine, giving in to her insistence that it’s not normal to spend every night alone. I agree. I’m just painfully shy. I always have been.

“What about that cute top you bought last weekend? And your favorite jeans. And boots. Nothing too fancy. You should be comfortable and feel like yourself.”

“Right. Thanks. Good advice.”

“You’re meeting Keith at the restaurant, right?” Becky asks. She already knows the answer, but I suspect she’s trying to help me calm down. Make me feel better by going over the details of the night. She knows I love details.

“Yes. Then I can leave whenever I want. I won’t have to suffer through an awkward ride home if the date doesn’t go well.”

“You’re being ridiculous,” she says. “It’s going to be great. I just know it! I’ve been wanting to fix you up with Keith ever since John told me about him last spring. And then when I met him at Fall Fellowship Night, I knew you guys would be perfect together.”

“OK,” I say. “Distract me. What’s new with you?”

Becky dives into a long string of stories about the latest craziness from her students. She teaches 3rd grade at the elementary school in the next town over. I can’t believe the stunts her students try to pull. It works. I’m drawn into her world for a few minutes while I finish my drive. When I pull into my driveway, I end the call with a hasty, “Wish me luck.” She does.

I grab my bag and head into the house. I hang up my coat, take off my shoes, and head into the kitchen to fix dinner for my cats. Mr. Toes hears me opening the can of food and comes slinking into the kitchen. He jumps up onto the counter and starts eating as soon as I dump the Fancy Feast into his dish. I set Whiskers dish on the floor. My boys don’t like to eat together. I know he’ll come out later and get his food once his brother is gone.

I head upstairs for a quick shower. When I finish, I put on the outfit Becky suggested and sit down to read for a few minutes while my hair dries a little. No luck. I can’t focus. I give up and start blowing my hair dry right away. My mind is racing with possibilities for tonight. What if I don’t know what to say? What if he finds me boring? What if I start crying? I do that sometimes when I’m nervous or put on the spot.

When my hair is dry and styled, I put on a little makeup. Only mascara and lip gloss. I don’t like the feeling of foundation on my skin. And I’m too nervous to put on eye liner. I’d probably poke myself in the eye and then look like a total freak for Keith.

I glance at the clock. 6:17. I still have about 30 minutes until I need to leave. Now what?

I head downstairs to watch a little TV. I sit down on my black leather couch and grab the remote. I flip through the channels, not really registering anything. I’m thinking again. I need to stop that! I finally settle on HDTV. They’re redecorating a kitchen. My favorite. I get sucked into the beauty of the granite counter top and dark wood cabinets.

Whiskers come out of the kitchen and jumps up next to me. I stroke his fur while I watch. My phone buzzes. A text from Becky. Good luck! Love you.

It’s 6:49. I better go. I turn off the TV and head through the kitchen to the back hall. I pull on my brown boots and my jacket. I call goodbye to my cats and go into the garage. Once I’m in the car, I plug my iPhone into the AUX cable and put on a little Katy Perry. After only two songs, I arrive at the restaurant. I think I’m going to be sick.

After a few deep breaths, I get out of the car and walk to the front door. I find the hostess and tell her I’m meeting someone. She says Keith is already here. She leads me to a table in the back of the restaurant. A man with dark hair and beautiful brown eyes is sitting at the table.

“Hi,” I say.

“Hi,” he says back.

I sit down. And my blind date begins. 

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Your turn.



Thursday, November 19, 2015

YA Book Club: November 2015

Last night was book club night! I love book club. Don't you?

The Book

Annie picked the book this month. She read the physical book from the library, while Sarah and I listened to the audiobook on Audible (separately this month).


The Program by Suzanne Young


The Venue

We ate at Baker's Square this month. It's a Midwest chain diner, similar to Perkins. I've only been there a couple of times...for book club. The first time I walked in it took me back to my college days because it smelled exactly like an Eat'n Park, which is a PA/OH/WV diner chain. Instead of smiley face cookies that Eat N Park has, Baker's Square sells pie.

AND on Wednesday nights, you get a slice of pie free with every entree. Since pie is a symbol of Thanksgiving, in my family at least, I selected Baker's Square for this month's meeting location.


I usually get chicken pot pie, but this time I branched out and got turkey pot pie. It tasted about the same. I also ordered fries because they looked so good. They were OK.




Annie and Sarah had breakfast. Sarah had these amazing pumpkin spice pancakes. She let me try a bite, and they were delicious!




Then of course we got our pie. Apple for me, triple berry for Sarah, and French Silk for Annie to take home and share with Ben. Or maybe for Ben to eat all by himself. Annie, please comment and correct me on this one. :)




The Book Discussion

As you know from my review, this book didn't really work for me. A lot of it may have been the narrator. She made Sloane sound very melodramatic. Annie read the book in only a couple of days when she was sick, and she loved it because it held her attention much better than TV. Sarah really enjoyed it because she loves any book with a rebellion against society. I wanted to like it for that very reason, but it just wasn't enough revolution for me. I also wanted more than a love story, but Sarah was down with the romance. We all thought it was cool how they retained their feelings even without the memories.

Ratings:

Annie - 5 stars
Sarah - 4 stars
Me - 3 stars

Annie read some comments on Goodreads about the flippant treatment of depression in the books before she read the sequel, so she didn't like that book as much. And neither did I as you know from my review of The Treatment. We talked in code about the ending of the sequel, so we wouldn't spoil it for Sarah.

The Non-Book Discussion

As usual, we talked about a lot more than the book. Some highlights:

- Thanksgiving plans

- My trip to FL for work last week
- Winter!
- Christmas gifts and shopping - Annie is almost done already!
- The Hunger Games since the new movie is coming out
- Funerals and tears :(
- Cat antics
- The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up - it is really changing Sarah's life

Did you read the book along with us this month?


Do you want to join us next month?




We'll be reading The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey for our next meeting on Wednesday, December 9th.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Inside Out Book Tag


I didn't love Inside Out as much as others did. It was just too sad. But I do like the characters, and I really liked how each person had a different predominant emotion. Mine is anger, but I am working on that.

Thanks to Grace at Rebel Mommy Book Blog, who tagged me for this post. And thanks to Christy & Erica at Novel Ink for putting together these awesome images.


Can I cheat and say all of Rainbow Rowell's books? Seriously. I love them all, especially Fangirl and Carry OnHarry Potter also makes me very happy. That's why I keep listening to it over and over again on audio.

Looking back at my recent reviews, I came up with three other books that brought me joy while I was reading them.



Emmy and Oliver by Robin Benway - such a cute love story
Wanderlove by Kristen Hubbard - made me want to travel ASAP
The Life List by Lori Nelson Spielman - I wanted to be reading this book all the time!



If you know me in real life, you know that I don't cry very often. EXCEPT when I'm reading books or watching movies. I can experience the emotions of others much easier than I let myself experience my own emotions. Not sure why that is, but these are some of the books that have made me cry, or at least come close.


The Fault in Our Stars by John Green - I think we all cried at this one.
Me Before You by Jojo Moyes - and this one too!
If I Stay by Gail Foreman - I can't remember if I cried at the book, but I did at the movie.
Looking for Alaska by John Green - John Green got me again on this one.



I don't like scary books, so I don't read them. I can't think of any books for this category. I'm lame. I know. :)


For this category, I decided to pick a book where I felt anger on behalf of the character, instead of anger for myself (i.e. time based on a bad book). I could only come up with one.


The Truth about Alice by Jennifer Mathieu - I read this book before I started my blog, but here's my "review" from Goodreads.

Wow! So heartbreaking. So true. I think every teenager should read this book to understand how much a lie can ruin someone's life.


I wasn't sure how to interpret this category. I decided to pick books that disturbed me. When I finished reading them, I wondered either "Why did I read that?" or "Why did the author write this story?" or "What a sick person?" or "Who would do that?" or maybe all of those things at once.


Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn - if you read this blog, you know I hated this book
Still Missing by Chevy Stevens - that poor, poor girl
Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire - such a bad relationship example for teens
We Were Liars by E. Lockhart - so awful


Tag

I tag Lauren @ Bookmark Lit because I think she'll have fun with this one.

Anyone else who would like to do this tag, go for it!


Have you seen Inside Out? What did you think? What's your predominant emotion?

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Book Review: The Bronte Plot


The Bronte Plot by Katherine Reay

Goodreads Summary:
Lucy Alling makes a living selling rare books, often taking suspicious measures to reach her goals. When her unorthodox methods are discovered, Lucy's secret ruins her relationship with her boss and her boyfriend James—leaving Lucy in a heap of hurt, and trouble. Something has to change; she has to change.

In a sudden turn of events, James's wealthy grandmother Helen hires Lucy as a consultant for a London literary and antiques excursion. Lucy reluctantly agrees and soon discovers Helen holds secrets of her own. In fact, Helen understands Lucy's predicament better than anyone else.

As the two travel across England, Lucy benefits from Helen's wisdom, as Helen confronts the ghosts of her own past. Everything comes to a head at Haworth, home of the Brontë sisters, where Lucy is reminded of the sisters' beloved heroines, who, with tenacity and resolution, endured—even in the midst of change.

Now Lucy must go back into her past in order to move forward. And while it may hold mistakes and regrets, she will prevail—if only she can step into the life that's been waiting for her all along.

My Review:
This book is hard to review. There were parts that I really enjoyed, but other parts where I was really confused about what was happening. The pacing did not work for me at all. It felt like this book should have been a sequel, but instead Katherine Reay rushed the beginning to get to the story she really wanted to be telling.

It starts off with Lucy, who works in an antique/decorating shop in Chicago. She manages the book selling business within the shop and assists the owner/designer with house decorating jobs. James comes into her shop several times to buy books, and they start up a relationship. I really wanted more time with their courtship. It could have been a whole book. I enjoyed their shared bookishness. It was a glimpse of what it would be like to be with someone who shared that love. But the way it was written was very confusing. They'd mention things as if they'd already been discussed, but the reader had no knowledge of them. I honestly don't know how long their relationship was supposed to have gone on until James finds out about something dishonest that Lucy has done.

Then it all falls apart, except that Lucy is invited on a trip to England by James' grandmother. This story is the one I really enjoyed. When Reay wasn't discussing decorating or literary references, which were over my head since I haven't read the Bronte sisters' books (except Jane Erye), she told the story of an older woman full of regret who was trying to right the wrongs of her past. Helen also wanted honesty at the end of her life, and her conversations with Lucy were so real and enjoyable. But unfortunately, there wasn't enough of that story line.

James and Lucy's relationship, which I honestly didn't care very much about, kept muddling up the story. Had this been a sequel, I would have been invested in their story. But the rushed romance at the beginning of the book didn't do enough to make me want these two characters to end up together. The small bit of romance between the chauffeur and the inn keeper would have been enough for me.

Overall this is a sweet and quiet novel with good characters but poor plot and pacing. I loved Reay's other Austen-inspired novels, so I was disappointed that this one didn't work for me. Maybe fans of the Brontes would like it more?

My Rating: 3 Stars
Understand my ratings.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Book Review: Winter (YA) & Giveaway!


Winter (The Lunar Chronicles #4) by Marissa Meyer

Goodreads Summary:
Princess Winter is admired by the Lunar people for her grace and kindness, and despite the scars that mar her face, her beauty is said to be even more breathtaking than that of her stepmother, Queen Levana.

Winter despises her stepmother, and knows Levana won’t approve of her feelings for her childhood friend–the handsome palace guard, Jacin. But Winter isn’t as weak as Levana believes her to be and she’s been undermining her stepmother’s wishes for years. Together with the cyborg mechanic, Cinder, and her allies, Winter might even have the power to launch a revolution and win a war that’s been raging for far too long.

Can Cinder, Scarlet, Cress, and Winter defeat Levana and find their happily ever afters?

My Review:
This book exceeded my expectations. I was worried that there would be loose ends at the conclusion of this series. I need not have been concerned. Marissa Meyer wrapped up everything for everyone, including Adri and Pearl, who I'd kind of forgotten about, and Jacin's parents.

Readers of the series have a general idea of what will happen in this book, but it was not as predictable as I had thought it would be. There are many twists and turns with the plot that kept me guessing. It's a pretty chaotic story, but that is part of the charm of these books. I loved reading about the next mess that Cinder got everyone into.

In my excitement for the revolution Cinder had promised at the end of Cress, I had forgotten that this book would also be a re-telling of Snow White. Once again Marissa Meyer provide her mastery. That story was woven into the overall plot so beautifully. Jacin and Winter were so adorable. They reminded me of Katniss and Gale from The Hunger Games.

All of the couples were so enjoyable to read. I loved all the little moments and acts of love amid the craziness going on around them. The beauty of this book is really in the details. All of my questions were answered and more. And Iko was completely equal to the other characters, which made me so happy, as she is one of my favorites.

The story is told from many different points of view. It seemed like everyone had at least a chapter. I really enjoyed that aspect of the book. It's all in third person, so I didn't find it confusing at all.

There were a couple of points in the plot where things were happening very quickly, and I got a little lost. And the timing seemed off at the beginning of the story, but the general pacing of the story was great. It's a long book, but it moves along quickly. I was captivated the whole time.

I am glad I read Fairest before reading this book. Meyer fills in the holes a little with mention of some of the back story from that book, but reading it gave me a fuller picture of it all.

I'm sad this series is over because I love all of these characters so much. But I'm glad it ended well. I will definitely be listening to this book, and the others in the series, again and again. And I really hope they make them into movies soon.

My Rating: 5 Stars
Understand my ratings.

Giveaway:
Enter below to win my copy of Winter. Since I don't own the other books in the series, I don't really need to keep my copy. I just needed to read it ASAP and couldn't wait for the library hold.


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Kid Lit: Dino-Swimming


Dino-Swimming by Lisa Wheeler

Goodreads Summary:
The Land Sharks take on the Algae Eaters in a dino-swimming showdown! Raptor and Stegosaurus start it off in the individual medley, while the Ptero twins battle it out in the butterfly race. Then Galli and Diplo wow the crowd with their flips and tricks off the diving board! But which team will win the swim meet? It comes down to the last event, the backstroke. Both Stego and Galli think they'll take the prize. Let's hope these dinos remembered their goggles―this swim meet is bound to make a splash!

Background:
Lisa Wheeler's dino sports book are a big hit in our house. I've already written about how awesome these books are for young kids. The last time we went to the library, Christopher checked out a bunch of the earlier dino sports books with his new library card. And he asked again when Dino-Swimming was coming out. I was surprised to find that we'd missed the October 1st release date. Luckily we were able to get this book from the library within a couple of days.

My Thoughts:
This book is just as good as my favorite earlier books. Once again, Lisa Wheeler is able to explain the basics of swim meets while weaving together a fun competition between the meat-eaters and the plant-loving dinosaurs. There is even the introduction of a new dinosaur, which was cool.

My son and I have started keeping track of which group wins in each book and seeing who wins the overall series of whichever set of books we read during that sitting. We really should own these books. They're so awesome. I may need to break down and buy some for Christmas this year.

If you have a sport-loving kid in your life, I strongly recommend these books! Dino-Swimming was so fun. And the teaser at the end is Dino-Racing, which will likely be our household favorite when it comes out (date unannounced) as my son is obsessed with Cars, Cars 2, and racing in general.

My Rating: 4 Stars

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Book Review: The Treatment (YA)


The Treatment (The Program #2) by Suzanne Young

Goodreads Summary:
Can Sloane and James survive the lies and secrets surrounding them, or will The Program claim them in the end? Find out in this sequel to The Program, which Publishers Weekly called “chilling and suspenseful.”

How do you stop an epidemic?

Sloane and James are on the run after barely surviving the suicide epidemic and The Program. But they’re not out of danger. Huge pieces of their memories are still missing, and although Sloane and James have found their way back to each other, The Program isn’t ready to let them go.

Escaping with a group of troubled rebels, Sloane and James will have to figure out who they can trust, and how to take down The Program. But for as far as they’ve come, there’s still a lot Sloane and James can’t remember. The key to unlocking their past lies with the Treatment—a pill that can bring back forgotten memories, but at a high cost. And there’s only one dose.

Ultimately when the stakes are at their highest, can Sloane and James survive the many lies and secrets surrounding them, or will The Program claim them in the end?

My Review:
Unforunately, just like the first book in this series, I was left wanting more. I liked the introduction of the new characters: Cas and Dallas. It rounded the cast out a bit, but the plot was still lacking. James and Sloane are on the run after escaping The Program. They join up with the rebels, but they just seem to be aimlessly wandering around. And the rebel group doesn't really consist of anyone other than Cas, Dallas, and Realm.

Speaking of Realm, we do find out a little more about him in this book, but I still didn't trust him anymore than I did in the first book. I couldn't take anything he said seriously.

I got through this book quickly. It's really a continuation of The Program, picking up right where that book left off. Again it's told from Sloane's POV, which was too melodramatic for my taste. I know her life was in danger the whole series, but I wanted her to be stronger. Maybe series like The Hunger Games and Divergent have spoiled me, but I expect a strong female lead in a book like this.

I won't be reading the companion novel. Sadly this series just didn't work for me.

My Rating: 3 Stars
Understand my ratings.