First just let me say that Melissa Dalton-Bradford is my spirit animal. She and her husband raised their family of four children in Hong Kong, Vienna, Oslo, Paris, Munich, Singapore, and Switzerland, AND after twenty years she finally decided to sit down and write about it in her fantastic memoir titled Global Mom: Eight Countries, Sixteen Addresses, Five Languages, One Family.
It all began when she was living in NYC with her husband and two small children. Bradford was working as a theatre actress. In the middle of a show she gets a call from her husband saying that they need to make a decision to move to Norway for a great work opportunity for him, pretty much immediately. A month later, she said her goodbyes and away they were. Bradford is such a wonderful storyteller, and I loved reading about how her family acclimated to Norway, the language barriers, the drastic climate change, everything. Navigating medical systems, especially when Bradford gave birth to two more children was also a favorite part for me. I loved the funny anecdotes, and how real this author is. I especially enjoyed reading once she got to a city I have visited before. Like Munich and Paris. This memoir is great for moms, a family considering moving abroad, or someone who has always wanted to.
Kind of Cruel is the 7th book in the very popular Zailer & Waterhouse series by Sophie Hannah. In this installment we meet Amber Hewerdine who suffers from chronic insomnia, leading her to call a hypnotherapist as a very last resort. Not feeling confident that this will help, she attends her first session feeling skeptical. Coincidentally, she meets Detective Charlotte Zailer who was also waiting to see the counselor for smoking. Her and her husband Simon Waterhouse are the crime solvers of which this series was named. When the hypnosis causes Amber to say the words "kind, cruel, kind of cruel" she has no idea what they mean or where she saw them written, but the next thing she knows, she is picked up by the police for questioning regarding the murder of a local school teacher, Katherine Allen.
The point of view shifts back and forth between Amber, the therapist, and each of the detectives involved with the case, so readers must be paying very close attention. This is not a light read, but it's got psychological insight, a twisted plot and intrigue.
I love a good rags to riches story, and The Barefoot Queen by Ildefonso Falcones was an excellent one, although it was hard to read at times. Surrounding the life of a slave named Caridad who was torn away from her mother as a child, then torn away from her son to travel with her master from Cuba to Seville. When her master dies at sea, she is left to her own devices, a free woman, which is super terrifying as she knows no one. She is taken under the wing of Melchor, a leader in the gypsy community, where she will be safe, or so she thinks. This is 18th century Spain after all, the abuse of woman was common, and it was a harsh time for gypsies in general. Falcones didn't hold anything back, describing the horrid and the happy, the injustice and the love with the same enthusiasm. If you can stomach it, read it immediately.
When you see the name Duke Ellington, you think JAZZ, but Mr. Ellington was so much more than a pianist, band leader, composer...he was an ORIGINATOR of big-band jazz music in the early 1920's. Jazz musician turned author, Terry Teachout is known for his fab bios and doesn't disappoint in Duke: A Life of Duke Ellington. This author is nothing if not honest, and he's not afraid to tell you what you don't want to hear. That being said, don't let the personal stuff get in the way of your opinion of Ellington as a musician/composer. No, he wasn't the best husband, but he was the best damn jazz composer pretty much ever...with the help of his bandmates. Hey, the man was smart and knew how to make hits like no one else. Credit where credit is due. Ellington was a musical genius who struggled to gain respect, not only for himself, but for his race. Teachout was a little judgy if you ask me, but if your best friend wrote your biography it would be pretty boring.
Dirty Rowdy Thing by Christina Lauren is the second installment of her super popular Wild Seasons series, the first being Sweet Filthy Boy. The titles alone let you know good times are ahead, and you won't be disappointed in book two or the relationship between the 'all the women who independent' Harlow and the super sexy, yet guarded fisherman Finn. They may have only been married for 12 hours in Vegas, but they had enough orgasms to feed a third world country. Having only seen each other once since then, you can imagine Harlow's surprise when Finn turns up in San Diego. Finn is in town for a couple of weeks, and because they have some friends in common, the two keep bumping into each other. Not only does the physical attraction between them sizzle right off the page, it's fun watching them get to know each other. I dare you not to make a baby after reading this, I mean, if you want to.
You know those Christmas letters that people send along with their Christmas cards? Filling you in on how their family is doing, what's going on, milestones from the past year? Everyone makes their lives sound much more wonderful than they actually are, we know this. Like when people ask me how married life is and I say good, what I really mean is this is not a fricken fairytale. In Hello from the Gillespies by Monica McInerney, Angela Gillespie has decided to make the first draft of her Christmas email (this is the 21st century) ring of truth this year. While writing about her dysfunctional family was super therapeutic, (we're talking affairs, personal fantasies, delusional children), she didn't mean to actually send it to anyone. So when it accidentally gets emailed to over 200 of her closest family and friends because her husband is a big fat dummy, shit hits the fan pretty quickly. Some characters you'll love, some you'll want to slap. Either way you will no longer feel guilty about lying in your annual Christmas letters.
The Savages by Matt Whyman is sure to keep your ninth grader reading and you happy, as long as you're not a prude. The Savage family have a secret that dates back one generation, from a time when Grandpa had little to nothing to survive on. It's a secret that has now become a family tradition, only for very special occasions. Not only are The Savage family, Titus, Angelica, 15-year-old Sasha, 12-year-old Ivan, toddler Kat, and grandpa Oleg, CANNIBALS - they have plenty other things wrong with them as well. Titus is never up to any good with his shady business deals. Mom, Angelica is a shopping addict and has racked up an insane amount of debt she's trying to hide from Titus. But Ivan and his string of dangerous practical jokes is definitely the cherry on top as he has a tendency to kill people on accident, sort of. And poor Sasha's biggest problem is she's dating a vegetarian who she absolutely cannot bring home to her family who enjoys a man-flesh sandwich on special occasions. This super dark young adult novel manages to be funny when it needs to be, it's a little awkward at times, but since high school is pretty awkward, it fits.
I love a good cocktail book. I have two bars in my home. Yes, two. So I can always use one or seven as décor. Because I'm classy like that. Dave Arnold takes cocktail books to a whole new level with his Liquid Intelligence: The Art and Science of the Perfect Cocktail. This is pretty much an encyclopedia on perfecting the perfect cocktail. If there was a degree in cocktail making, Arnold would have a PhD. The section on making your own ice at home was a little over my dainty head, as I like to drink more than I like to make ice from scratch, but many of you will get much out of these tips. The photographs are beautiful, the 120 recipes are easy to follow, since it's the time of year to freeze where I'm from, the hot drink section was extra enticing, but there's definitely something for everyone.
Did you know that teachers stop teaching grammar to students when they reach high school? I mean, it could be middle school, but when I taught ninth grade no one wanted me to touch on grammar. It was pretty much, if they don't know it by now, they are a lost cause. I mean, WHAT? The Regents exam for English doesn't even grade for grammar. If your essay portion reeks of misspelled words and run on sentences and your instead of you're, no one cares! I still can't handle it, so I am taking a stand and review my new favorite grammar resource, Grammar Smart, 3rd Edition by the very prestigious Princeton Review.
In an interview, if you don't speak properly you will not get the job. In college, if you don't write properly you will not get a 4.0. That's where Grammar Smart comes into play. In this book you will master the art of writing and speaking. If you're feeling lazy, at least take a look at the punctuation section, even I got something out of that. There are lessons,and quizzes for you to practice. If you or your child has a noticeable grammar deficiency, because saying you sound dumb would be rude, this is absolutely the resource for you.
I'm not big into reality television. I mean, if JWOW & Snookie are on or it's The Bachelor season finale, I'll tune in. But I haven't committed to anything. I have heard about Dance Moms on Lifetime, I just could never bring myself to watch it, which is crazy because I LOVE dance competitions. But I mean, a train wreck on The Real Housewives of New Jersey is expected, but a train wreck involving cute little dancers is no fun. However, I may give the show a try after reading Abby Lee Miller's Everything I Learned About Life, I Learned in Dance Class which is a tough love guide dedicated to helping parents of talented kids make it big. This book isn't for every parent, especially if you're one of those parents who thinks every kid in the softball league should get a trophy, even if they didn't make it to the championship. Oh, oh, or you love participation ribbons, yes. Those parents should worry about other things, like your child becoming a serial killer. But if you want to help your kid follow their dreams, Miller will get you started.
Terry Pluto is a super popular sports columnist for The Plain Dealer, he's won multiple awards and written 24 books, his latest being Glory Days in Tribe Town: The Cleveland Indians and Jacobs Field 1994-1997, which tribe fans are already raving about. If you happen to care about such things as America's favorite sport and fast balls, you will also enjoy this book reliving the most thrilling seasons in the ballpark for this beloved team. Reading about these dream seasons kind of brought me back to the Bills in the 90's, how depressing. But enough about me. I appreciate that Pluto includes fan mail along with stories collected from interviews he had on the job during that time period. This book is so 1990's and I love it.
We are all teachers. Parents, big brothers, little sisters, cousins, grandparents, etc. etc. At some point in our lives we will be put in the position to teach something to someone else. Probably more than twice. Vanessa Rodriguez with Michelle Fitzpatrick discuss how teaching is a cognitive skill AND what it actually takes to become an expert teacher in their book titled The Teaching Brain: An Evolutionary Trait at the Heart of Education.
These ladies begin at the beginning. What is teaching? A human and evolutionary skill, whether you decided to pay the ungodly amount of money to get your masters to be a teacher, or not. Among other things. Also touched upon is how schools take that natural relationship between teacher and learner away in the classroom with all of their crazy rules and state tests. As a teacher who finds Common Core and the idea that teachers should be "graded" based upon student performance on state mandated tests, ridiculous, I found this book to be a great read. I was right there with Rodriquez when she discussed her first year of teaching and how she was told to hold her passion back, ask comprehensive questions, and basically leave your creativity at the door. My first year ruined teaching for me. I vote Rodriguez for president of educational reform so that maybe I can love it again.
Psychology lecturer and very clever, Ben Ambridge has come out with a book filled with quizzes and experiments to learn more about ourselves, others, and why we do what we do. PSY-Q: Test Yourself with More than 80 Quizzes, Puzzles, and Experiments for Everyday Life is 2015's Psych 101, and if you're interested in finding out if your boyfriend is a psychopath, this is a good place to start. I think that everyone should take the time to complete the Personality Profile at some point in their lives. I mean, how else are you going to find out which personality trait you are. Are you open to experiences, agreeable, an extrovert, overly consciences or neurotic? I mean, I would want to know. I am an extrovert, by the way. One of my favorite parts about the book is The Raw Shark Test. You know, when the doc pulls out a weird ink spotted picture and you have to say out loud what you see. Ambridge has you look at the picture, write down what you see, and then find out what your answer says about you on the next page. Apparently I have daddy issues, but who doesn't? There are a lot of quizzes, so I'm sure you'll find one that suits you. This book is great for a party, couples getting to know each other, any new relationships really. It's fun for regular folks. I mean, if you were a complete psychopath you probably would have killed a butterfly by now. So I'm sure there's nothing to worry about.
Since The Hobbit trilogy has officially come to an end (the third installment is out in theatres now), fans are more excited than ever for Ian Brodie's The Hobbit Motion Picture Trilogy Location Guide: Hobbiton, the Lonely Mountain and Beyond which shares beautiful photographs of the movie-set locations in New Zealand. If you can't visit these historic sights yourself (hello, bucket list), this book is the next best thing. And showcasing gorgeous landscapes is not all that this guide does, Brodie also shares background information and behind the scenes stories about the filming of the movies that no one else has told, as well as quotes from the cast and crew. No, it doesn't end there. Also included are maps, directions to the special sights AND accommodations and restaurants that are near by. It's no wonder Brodie is an award winner of lots of things.
Being a veteran is so much more than a 10% discount, and many of us forget to celebrate the contributions of those who have served our country when they return home. Howard Schultz and Rajiv Chadrasekaran are happy to give us a healthy dose of patriotism in their book titled For Love of Country: What Our Veterans Can Teach Us About Citizenship, Heroism, and Sacrifice, which includes several short stories sharing how veteran's have gone above and beyond, during their service to our country and even after their military service was complete. The stories shared are incredible. It is reiterated in the book how important it is to help our veteran's return to civilian life, how difficult it is for them to go back to living the way we do everyday after what they have experienced. It definitely puts things in perspective. I mean, I cried through the whole thing, but that's besides the point.
The comic strip series surrounding the life of eleven-year-old Nate Wright can now be found in paperback. Big Nate's Greatest Hits by the very funny Lincoln Peirce is officially available tomorrow, and I'm pretty excited about it. I am a huge fan of comic strips because they get kids reading. And this is a comic strip for the middle grades which makes it even better. Here's a little taste of the funny...
Big Nate is a sarcastic, self-proclaimed genius, and this series is all about his life as a sixth grade boy including family (he lives with his single dad and older sister, keeping very much with the times), best friends, school, girls, grades, and all the angst. There are adventures and misadventures. It's the best kids comic strip collection out there hands down, parents will find the humor as well.
Joan of Arc believed that God had chosen her to lead France to victory in its long-running war with England. So this peasant girl convinced Charles of Valois to allow her to dress up like a man and lead his French army into battle that ended in victory over the English in the Hundred Years' War. Then of course when she was 19 she was tried and burnt at the stake for witchcraft because of all of her running around claiming that she was the virgin destined to save France from its enemies. This was one badass virgin; whether hearing voices is sorcery or not, Joan of Arc risked everything for her country and Kathryn Harrison's Joan of Arc: A Life Transfigured is my favorite account of her life to date. In this book Joan of Arc is viewed as an historical figure, and Harrison does not romanticize her like so many others. It's very factual, interesting, and will be such a great resource to use in the classroom.
2014 has been the best year of my life so far (in fierce competition with 2011, the year I went to Europe twice). I married a kick ass guy, had some amazing adventures, and got into professional photography which has always been my dream. In 2015 I am going to write more, unplug more, and learn more about everything that interests me. What are you going to do?