Posts Tagged ‘This is How It Always Is Review’

February 2017 Must-Reads

Thursday, March 2nd, 2017

February 2017 Must-Reads from MomAdvice.com

How are you? I hope you guys had another great month of reading. It’s such a pleasure to connect with so many of you through our online book club and hear what is in your book stacks. I managed to get in seven great reads during the month of February in a variety of genres this month. This month I’m sharing a great fictional memoir, a genre-bending thriller, science fiction, young adult, a nonfiction memoir, and some good old-fashioned literary fiction. I am hoping you find a book or two in this month’s stack that can make its way over into yours.

I’m still working my way through the MomAdvice Reading Challenge and tackled four categories for this month. It has really helped me to broaden a bit outside my normal genres. I hope you are enjoying working your way through it too.

Just as a reminder, I read many more books than are just featured here, but try to feature the ones that are my absolute best picks.  If you want to see more of what I am reading,  please feel free to friend me on GoodReads! You can find me right here and I am always happy to connect with people there too! There is nothing more motivating than seeing what other people are raving about and my to-be-read pile continues to grow with all of my new friends on there! In fact, many of the books featured are ones that I have found through my friends on GoodReads.

7 Must-Read Books from February 2017

Carrying Albert Home by Homer Hickam

Carrying Albert Home by Homer Hickam

Carrying Albert Home happened to be our selection this month for the MomAdvice Book Club so it was the first one I wanted to tackle in preparation for our discussion.

Described as Big Fish meets The Notebook, this was one of the strangest, funniest, endearing reads I’ve read. This is the “mostly true,” story of Hickam’s own parents who went on a wild road trip with an alligator.

I told you it is unlike anything I’ve ever read.

Elsie isn’t sure that being a coalminer’s wife is all that it is cracked up to be and she longs for a different kind of life. After a whirlwind romance though, she finds herself married and the proud owner of an alligator that was gifted to her by an old flame.

Baby alligators are cute, giant alligators are a lot of trouble…especially when your husband isn’t so fond of him. Elsie & Homer decide it is time to take Albert somewhere warmer and the three go on an epic road trip that is both bizarre and wildly charming.

I doubt you won’t be swept away in this unlikely love story of a pretty girl, a simple coalminer, and their adorable alligator.

If you want something highly original, add this one to your book stack!

Reading Challenge Category Completed-MomAdvice Book Club selection

4 Out of 5 Stars

A Girl Named Zippy by Haven Kimmel

A Girl Named Zippy by Haven Kimmel

I love a good storyteller and Kimmel delivers classic storytelling magic with her memoir, A Girl Named Zippy. Set in a small town in Indiana, Kimmel shares stories of her childhood with humorous storytelling that rivals some of my favorite David Sedaris reads.

I had picked this one up numerous times at the library, but each time I seemed to have a trouble connecting with it. The audiobook on this though, is perfection and a great one if you prefer short story escapes with your dishes like me!

If you are a child of the ‘70’s you will relate to the parenting and antics of this fun family. As a girl growing up in a small town in Indiana, I found this one highly relatable in so many ways.

Reading Challenge Category Completed- A book that takes place in your state or town

4 Out of 5 Stars

The Zookeeper's Wife by Diane Ackerman

The Zookeeper’s Wife by Diane Ackerman

In anticipation of the upcoming film, I wanted to make sure to read the true story of the Polish zookeepers Jan and Antonina Zabinski who saved over 300 Jews from the Nazi’s.

There is SO MUCH to learn about in this book as Ackerman jams this story to the brim with the habits of its animal inhabitants as well as the survival techniques that were used to survive during this horrific time in history.

If you want to be inspired by a truly resourceful woman, Antonina is a powerhouse who was able to tap into basic animal instincts, even when it came to the Nazi soldiers, to protect those who were hiding secretly in her zoo.

Although the waters of storytelling are a bit choppy in this one, Ackerman delivered a story that I doubt I could ever forget of beauty and survival even in our history’s darkest moments. The author could have benefited from a bit of finessing in her storytelling instead of, at times, what felt like a book report.

Do read this one before seeing the film though. I highly doubt they can capture the animal magic as beautifully as it is told through this story and you will have loads of fun facts for your kids over dinner!

Reading Challenge Category Completed-A book that’s becoming a film

4 Out of 5 Stars

This is How it Always Is by Laurie Frankel

This Is How it Always Is by Laurie Frankel

I devoured This Is How it Always Is in less than 24 hours and found it to be a compelling read as a parent. This fictional story is about a little boy named Claude who knows that, more than anything, he wants to grow up to be a girl.

Lucky for Claude, he has two parents who deeply desire for him to be happy and it is with his happiness in mind that they work together to help Claude be who he is. When they feel Claude’s happiness is at stake, they decide to move to a town who will be more open to who he is and Claude becomes Poppy.

Their new friends and neighbors do not know about Claude and it is a secret that they keep to protect her. The question becomes, what happens when people find out and what’s next for Poppy.

Frankel shares that she is the mother of a little boy who is now a girl, but reassures readers this is not their story, but a fictional story to discuss more of a broader social issue that roads are not always clearly defined for each child.

If you are looking for a book club book that will lead to a good discussion, you will find a lot to talk about in this beautiful story.

Read our interview with Frankel this month as we discuss this beautiful book!

5 Out of 5 Stars

behind-her-eyes

Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough

The latest big buzz thriller is called, Behind Her Eyes, and is a fun and highly imaginative psychological thriller. Her marketing team started the hashtag #wtfthatending that you can tweet when you finish. As a seasoned thriller reader, I thought I had it solved and then I didn’t… And then I REALLY didn’t.

It’s impossible to talk about this book without a big reveal so let’s focus on the generic plot points and say that this is a love triangle between a gorgeous wife, her dashing husband, and the slightly frumpy secretary. When the wife decides to pursue a secretive friendship with her husband’s secretary, a game of cat and mouse begins.

Here’s the thing, the reader will never guess the cat or the mouse and I told my husband, bewildered, that I was almost finished with the novel and still clueless where it is going. And then…well, #wtfthatending.

You’ll love it or you’ll hate it. I sat in the middle for a bit, not sure what to think about it. I will say, in the end, I appreciate that this wasn’t the same old, same old, BUT a reader must set aside a bit of reality for this genre-bender.

I’m excited to have Pinborough join us this Sunday to share more about her writing process for this book and what else we should read from her 20 (!!!) published works. Stay tuned and don’t say I didn’t warn ya!

4 Out of 5 Stars

The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon

The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon

Oh, I am a sucker for a good YA novel and this one did not disappoint AT ALL.  Immigration is a hot button topic and it is addressed through this book through the children of two immigrants who find each other one fateful day and fall in love.

Natasha is from Jamaica, but does not consider it to be her home after growing up in the states. When her father gets pulled over, they discover their family is living in the states illegally and they are to be deported. Grounded and a head full of science, she couldn’t be more of an opposite of Daniel, when they meet.

Daniel is Asian-American and is working hard to fulfill his parent’s destiny for him to become a doctor. He wants to be a poet though and has always been a dreamer and a romantic.

12 hours before Natasha is to be deported, they meet and a beautiful relationship develops between the two. Although this sounds like a simple love story, it’s beautifully woven with many supporting characters that all have found their way in the threads of Daniel & Natasha’s destiny.

If you are a big fan of Eleanor & Park, I just know that you will love this sweet story that Yoon has developed. It’s no surprise that this one has been a National Book Award Finalist and a #1 New York Times bestseller.

Meaty enough for a book club or sweet enough for an escape this month, I can’t recommend it enough!

5 Out of 5 Stars

Reading Challenge Category Completed- A YA Novel

All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders

All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders

All the Birds in the Sky was selected by our local book club this month and also happens to be a book club selection for MomAdvice this year too. I was really excited to read this one because it was a coming-of-age story and is a science fiction/fantasy novel so it was a bit out of my usual comfort zone for reading. This is a highly quirky story of two kids that both have unusual special abilities. Patricia is magically gifted and Laurence is a scientific genius. They lean upon each other through the early years of not fitting in and then. Later, they go their separate ways when Patricia is selected to attend an academy for magic while Laurence focuses on inventing things like a machine for a billionaire that will allow for intergalactic travel to save humans after they have destroyed their own world. When technology brings them back together they think it is forever except for the whole world coming to an end thing.

This was quirky and had some laugh-out-loud moments, but I wasn’t in love with this one. The first half of the book was highly enjoyable and the second half hit a bit of a lull for me. This is one of those books that you have to truly appreciate quirk and fantasy to enjoy it. While it held my attention, it definitely did not end up being a favorite like I had hoped this year. Too many random elements and disjointed storylines made this one a difficult one for me to pick up and get into.

Reading Challenge Category Completed- A sci-fi/fantasy book

3 Out of 5 Stars

February 2017 Must-Reads from MomAdvice.com

What did you read this month? Looking for book ideas? Check out our entire Book section of the site! Don’t forget to friend me on GoodReads! xo

*this post may contain affiliate links- I only recommend what I love though.

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Sundays With Writers: This is How it Always Is by Laurie Frankel

Sunday, February 26th, 2017

Sundays With Writers

photo credit: grant beachy photo

It’s such an honor to share an interview with Laurie Frankel today and hear more about her incredible novel, This is How it Always Is. I have heard so much buzz about this book that I couldn’t wait to share it with you today so you could read it too. If I was going to select a solid book club choice that would get everyone talking, this would be top on my list this year.

In light of all that is happening in this world, it is an eye-opening novel about parenting a child who struggles with gender identity and how one fictional family navigates the world to help their child live in a place of compassion, joy, and acceptance. Perhaps, we see this more as a news headline issue, a debate about bathrooms, or an issue for others.

This book gives the reader the chance to slip into a family’s life that mirrors your own and see what it would be like if that was your son or daughter.

It gives you the chance to read from a different perspective. Perhaps, it changes a viewpoint!

This Is How it Always Is by Laurie Frankel

This fictional story is about a little boy named Claude who knows that, more than anything, he wants to grow up to be a girl.

Lucky for Claude, he has two parents who deeply desire for him to be happy and it is with his happiness in mind that they work together to help Claude be who he is. When they feel Claude’s happiness is at stake, they decide to move to a town who will be more open to who he is and Claude becomes Poppy.

Their new friends and neighbors do not know about Claude and it is a secret that they keep to protect her. The question becomes, what happens when people find out and what’s next for Poppy?

Frankel shares that she is the mother of a little boy who is now a girl, but reassures readers this is not their story, but a fictional story to discuss more of a broader social issue that roads are not always clearly defined for each child when it comes to gender.

Let’s chat with Laurie this morning over that mug of coffee !

Laurie Frankel

Parenting is hard and I often reflect on how I wish I would have handled tough situations with our kids in better ways. Rosie & Penn, the parents in this beautiful story, seem to offer all the right types of love and support for their child as he struggles with gender identity. Since your child faced similar issues, were these responses how you also reacted or was this more of a reflection on how you wished you could have responded in those moments?

Ha! What a good question. It’s true that made up parents are often more patient than actual ones, but then it’s also true that made up kids are often better behaved. In fact, the struggles the parents and the children face in This Is How It Always Is are themselves mostly made up, never mind their reactions. We’ve been very lucky in that my child’s transition hasn’t necessitated much struggle or strife — for her, for her family and friends, at school, or in her community — so the challenges both the kids and the parents face and respond to in the book are all made up.

Poppy’s parents begin to explore other areas in the world to find places that can accept Poppy for who she is from Seattle to Thailand. I know your family resides in Seattle, but how did you make the discovery that Thailand was so open and welcoming in this way?

There are in fact a lot of cultures — including Native cultures in the United States — that embrace and celebrate a third gender or a non-binary concept of gender. Thailand is one of many. I originally thought the characters might drive cross country rather than going halfway around the world, but in addition to its openness to its transgender citizens, Thailand is also Buddhist, and because (as you note in the next question) I wanted to talk about gender as something other than black and white, the Buddhist notion of the Middle Way became paramount.

Your exploration of gender identity is an unusual one because you are really showcasing that gender identity does not need to be a black or white issue. For example, not every child needs to make life-altering decisions, like involving medical or surgical intervention, right away. What message do you hope your readers will walk away with from this family’s fictional journey?

For me, the message is in the title: this is how it always is. Most kids aren’t transgender, but most kids are gender nonconforming — sometimes, in some ways — and all kids are sometimes nonconforming and sometimes don’t fit in and sometimes face challenges. And all parents want to love and help their kids, and no parents always know the best way to go about doing so. We make the best decisions we can and amend as necessary. This is how it always is — and not any more so or any scarier for transgender kids and their families than for any others.

I do also believe that the more and more quickly we stop thinking about gender — and most things — as either-or, black-or-white, the better the world becomes for all of us.

Poppy did not disclose her gender to her closest friends and her family chose to keep this a secret and live her life as a girl. Do you think keeping this secret is wrong?

Nope, I don’t think it’s wrong. I think it’s hard. Transgender kids and their families face tough questions when they meet new people. Their bodies are no one else’s business, and yet their histories and identities are important and to be celebrated. For most people, those two notions aren’t in conflict. When they are, no choice is wrong, and all choices are difficult in different ways.

In this difficult political climate, how can we be true and kind advocates for transgender or gender nonconforming children and their families?

Love them. Celebrate them. Let them be who they are. Don’t rush them. Don’t judge them. Don’t assume. Make sure they know whoever they are and however they are is normal and awesome and a great way to be. And I’d expand that from gender nonconforming to nonconforming period. It might also be useful to remember that the world urgently faces many complex, critical problems at the moment, and where people go to the bathroom just isn’t one them.

 The cover of your book is beautiful. What does the orange peel on your cover symbolize?

Ooh, thank you. I love it, but I can’t take credit for it. That cover is entirely down to the geniuses at Flatiron Books. I think the orange peel makes you think about insides versus outsides, about layers, about what’s on top and what’s underneath and which is important and which can just be peeled away.

This is How it Always Is by Laurie Frankel

I’m always thankful for these moments with writers and I hope you will pick up this amazing book! You can always connect with me on GoodReads, through our books section of our site, and you can read our entire Sundays With Writers series for more author profiles. Happy reading, friends!

*This post contains affiliate links!

It’s the 3 Little Things: Abstract, Warm Feet, & Good Reads

Friday, February 17th, 2017

rob-bell

Last year I had a rather frank talk with my physician about ways that I could improve my health. So much of my own self-esteem and self-worth, honestly, have stemmed from my ability to fill my calendar so it was disappointing to hear that one of the greatest ways I could improve my health would be to slow down. I preach on simple living, but not necessarily slowed down living. How could I ever adjust to that?

Although I believe many of the books and our culture are now trying to teach us to slow down, it has been a really hard year for me.

This past week I have been down sick with a horrible bug and it has given me some quiet time to reflect on what it is about slowing down that has been so challenging for me. I  don’t know if this is a challenge for you or not, but this is where I am at with it.

My ultimate challenge:

I must slow down.

Yet, no one else must.

It is like suddenly being gifted unlimited time for your friends and family, but their lives continue to be full of activity.  It’s learning that this isn’t personal AT ALL , but they might not have availability for many weeks. It means I’m almost always available, but they aren’t. It is really recognizing that busy has been my drug choice for a long time and feeling a lot of withdrawal this year from it. 

I read a lot of thoughtful pieces on slowing down and letting go of busy, but less on the challenges of finding the balance in relationships when you have slowed down, but everyone around you hasn’t. I read less on the withdrawal experience and more on the joy in doing less. Do people honestly just swing into this and don’t have any growing pains with a slowed down life? I guess I’m not weathering it well.

I wonder how I will feel about this slowed down life a year from now. Will I have a new sense of contentment? Will I find a slowed down circle? Will the relationships with my immediate family blossom because there will be less to focus on?

I guess only time will tell! Have there been any growing pains with embracing a slowed down life in your own life? I’d love to hear from someone a little further down the road than me.

Here are a few things that have brought me joy this week…

abstract-logo

Binging on the Abstract Series

As soon as I saw the trailer for Abstract, I knew that I was going to love it. In four short days, we blew the eight episode series and I feel like I have a completely new appreciation for artists and their work.

In each hour a different type of designer is profiled and it’s quite the mix. They profile a photographer, car designer, shoe designer, graphic designer, architect, set designer and so many other cool design jobs that I knew very little about.

For example, Beyonce’s Grammy performance took on a whole new level after watching a set designer at work to create these visual elements for concerts. I also have a new appreciation for Time Magazine covers after one of their top photographer’s was profiled.  An innovative architect has given me a new appreciation for well-designed buildings.

If you are thinking about watching this one with your kids, there are a few bad words, but for the most part this series is squeaky clean! If you have a kid interested in art, design, or engineering, they won’t want to miss it with you! These stories are inspiring for all ages.

Add this to your Netflix agenda STAT and find a new appreciation for good design.

keysocks

Keysocks Are My New Jam

Once in awhile I will accept a product to review in this segment for you and Keysocks reached out to me to see if I would be interested in reviewing their socks. I have Raynaud’s disease so my feet are constantly freezing and even turn blue a lot. Poor circulation means my feet really need to be warm all the time, but I struggle in the warmer months when slip-on flats and heels need a no-show sock.

keysocks

I really hate those little ones because they constantly slip off instead of staying in place. Great in theory, annoying in practice. Keysocks are designed to be no-show, but they stay in place and keep your legs warm too. They sent me two pairs and I am going to be ordering more. They come in both winter and spring weighted fabric and even cute designs.

If you like to wear socks with your flats, these socks are an awesome option especially in our chillier Midwest weather. You can order them on Amazon or directly through their site. If you do it through their site, be sure to sign up for their email list to score a 20% off coupon on your order!

This is How it Always Is by Laurie Frankel

Consuming a Book in a Day

Are you looking to escape with a good book this weekend? I have one for you. Although I normally reserve book reviewing until our monthly must-reads list, I would love for you to snag This is How it Always Is for your stack right away! I have already reached out to Laurie to secure her for our Sundays With Writers series so read this in preparation for her story behind the story.

This fictional story is about a little boy named Claude who knows that, more than anything, he wants to grow up to be a girl.

Lucky for Claude, he has two parents who deeply desire for him to be happy and it is with his happiness in mind that they work together to help Claude be who he is. When they feel Claude’s happiness is at stake, they decide to move to a town who will be more open to who he is and Claude becomes Poppy.

Their new friends and neighbors do not know about Claude and it is a secret that they keep to protect her. The question becomes, what happens when people find out and what’s next for Poppy?

Frankel shares that she is the mother of a little boy who is now a girl, but reassures readers this is not their story, but a fictional story to discuss more of a broader social issue that roads are not always clearly defined for each child when it comes to gender.

If you are looking for a book club book that will lead to a good discussion, you will find a lot to talk about in this beautiful story.

Instant Pot Salsa Chicken

source: skinnytaste

Eating: I made this salsa chicken in my beloved Instant Pot this week and we loved it. I tried it with chicken breasts the first time and didn’t love it. Boneless skinless chicken thighs though made a huge difference in flavor and we devoured these in record time.

Reading: I just started this thriller for a quick escape and I’m really enjoying it. I understand the ending may make or break this one for me though. I’ll keep you posted!

Belly Laughing: I became a big fan of Wendy’s after I heard what their social media team has been up to in 2017. How fun would that job me?

LOVING:  My swimsuit arrived and it is perfection. If you are looking for a modest one piece with all the fun, this is it!

Have a lovely week, friends!! xoxo

*this post may contain affiliate links- I only recommend what I love though. Check out past editions of It’s the 3 Little Things!