I love James Patterson's Middle School series, following the down and out, Rafe Khatchadorian and his life navigating the crazy of middle school, bullies and all. In the latest, Middle School: Just My Rotten Luck, Rafe joins the football, putting him side-by-side his number one enemy. But Rafe has a plan. Sticking to his true (artistic) colors, he has big plans for a secret art project that is sure to get him some needed attention, if his skills on the football field don't do that first. You heard me. Number seven is a great addition to the series that I promise will get your middle schooler reading.
I love the concept of Adi Alsaid's latest teen read, Never Always Sometimes which is about two best friends who are NOT trying to be like those cliché high school kids, but then realize that maybe by trying so hard to be different they are limiting themselves from having the full high school experience.
When they were freshman, Dave and Julia created a list of rules that one should never do to be different in high school, including #10 - never date your best friend which is a huge bummer because Dave has been in love with Julie since day one. Honestly, some of their rules make sense, especially the one about never hooking up with a teacher, but not joining in on the high school hooray - or skinny dipping (which is rule #6) is just silly. During the last few months of their senior year, the two of them start to question the rules they made so long ago, and try to save their high school experience before they literally miss out on everything, including love.
A solid two years ago I reviewed the popular true-life adventure, The Boy Who Said No (you can find it, here) and today I am pleased to review it's sequel, Stalked: The Boy Who Said No by Patti Sheehy who in more of a novel form, picks up where she left off after Frank Mederos officially escapes Fidel Castro's Cuba and lands in Florida where the struggles continue. It was definitely interesting to me, as an American, to read about Frank learning our customs for the first time, but not the most interesting with the Cuban Missile Crisis and the Bay of Pigs also going on during that time. And like the first book, there was a lot of suspense and a lot of intrigue, AND my favorites, romance and espionage. All the makings of an amazing read.
I finally finished The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt which has been on my bucket list for a while. At just under 800 pages, it was a little overwhelming, but what a ride! Set in present day New York City, thirteen-year-old Theo Decker has just been suspended from school. Forcing his hardworking single mom to take the morning off to meet with his principal. On their way, they decide to hit the museum, after separating for only a moment, a giant explosion kills almost every person in the place. On a whim, Theo took his mother's favorite painting, The Goldfinch, hoping to see her again back at the apartment, since there was so much commotion. Only to find out that she wasn't a survivor. This event will now dictate the rest of Theo's extremely dysfunctional life. I wish I could go through every character that crosses Theo's path from then on because they are all incredible. But that would take forever. Through the hundreds of pages, I was shocked often, laughed a lot, and truly felt for our main character and all the loss that followed him. If you have some time, I definitely think that Tartt's novel is worth the read.
Once I finished The Rosie Project, I immediately ran to the library to put a hold on the next installment, The Rosie Effect which follows Don and Rosie to New York where Don works as an associate professor at Columbia and Rosie is a doctorate student in psychology. If you are new to these books by Graeme Simsion, please stop right here and go grab the first book. You will not have nearly as much fun reading the second one first.
In New York, Don and Rosie have fallen into a comfortable life. They both travel to Columbia daily and work together as bartenders a few nights a week for extra cash as Don's salary is their only income. Don is still weird, and Rosie still loves him, which is surprising to Don who always has in the back of his mind that Rosie will change her mind at any moment. And when Rosie tells Don that she's pregnant, and he runs off without a word, I'm sure she thought twice about her love for him. But Don's a planner, we know this from the previous book. He can't really handle surprises, and in this book we learn how he has been coping with meltdowns commonly found in people who are autistic. Anyways, the hits just keep on coming when Gene moves to the big apple and in with Don and Rosie after his split with Claudia, which puts a strain on Don and Rosie's relationship. And then there is the time that Don gets arrested... But I don't want to spoil everything so I'll leave it at that. This was the perfect sequel, just good as the first installment, which is quite the accomplishment.
With this warm weather upon us, and spending our own time in our gardens or with our flowers, it is the perfect time to page through Embracing the Seasons: Memories of a Country Garden by Gunilla Norris which is a bit of a memoir of Norris's year lived in the countryside. She shares her experience and her thoughts on living in a world where things are quiet. When you can hear the animals and the brooks running around you and where you can take the time to watch things grow, from vegetables to flowers. She touches on all four seasons in the life of a gardener, beginning in the spring and will help you find joy in the simplicity of everyday.
Parenting in this day and age terrifies me. And not only because I teach summer school and am so incredibly aware every single day how badly you can screw it up. Julie Lythcott-Haims' book tilted How to Raise an Adult: Break Free of the Overparenting Trap and Prepare Your Kids for Success, has NEVER met my tenth grade class, who clearly need a little more parenting. But as a parent who is going to have their shit together, I definitely don't want to be doing everything for my kids so that they can't even breathe, let alone fly, the second they leave home. I don't want to be a helicopter parent. I don't want to handicap my children by making their lives easy. So, when the time comes, what do I do? Enter How to Raise an Adult.
First off, your children are not your puppets. You need to let them be themselves, unless they are assholes. And you ARE doing them a great disservice by not letting them experience the tribulations of life. Your children WILL get hurt, and you have to stop trying to control that. And your kids need to carry their own stuff. And they need to not be scared of everything and everyone in the world because you are. The stories are interesting, but not everyone is going to like what Julie has to say, as some of you may realize that the real-life dangers your children are realistically facing, are you.
Growing up we always ate dinner together as a family. At the dinner table. No television, no cell phones (because we didn't have any), just the six of us talking about our day, or fighting about something, but whatever. Until we reached middle/high school age and away games got in the way. So we switched it to breakfast. Until college, we all ate breakfast as a family before we went off to our various schools/jobs. And now that we are all adults, we still have family dinner once a week at my grandma's house. It's important, and if you're not doing it, you may want to pick up a copy of Home for Dinner: Mixing Food, Fun, and Conversation for a Happier Family and Healthier Kids by Anne K. Fishel, Ph.D. who is a professor at Harvard Medical School and a mother, so she knows how important family dinners are.
Home for Dinner is not only filled with healthy and easy to make recipes, there is also a major focus on how to initiate meaningful conversations and multiple ways to connect with your kids at any age...during dinner. Fishel does go a little psychologist on us, but when there is evidence showing that family dinners enhance children's intellectual functioning, promote mental health and improve physical health, why wouldn't she share it?
The Ghost in my Brain: How a Concussion Stole My Life and How the New Science of Brain Plasticity Helped Me Get it Back is a true account designed for anyone suffering or has someone close to them suffering from a traumatic brain injury or, as the title states, even a concussion. Dr. Clark Elliott writes of his experiences after a concussion he received in a car accident and it is out of this world scary. Like, I will never let my son if I ever have one play a contact sport scary. His accident happened in 1999 and he was a professor focusing on artificial intelligence at the time, what was viewed as a minor concussion changed everything . Elliott shares his symptoms and how he has found life again after trauma through brain plasticity. What helped him could help you or someone you love, so it's worth the read.
Professor at Stanford University, Tina Seelig has made a career out of giving people step-by-step instructions on how to bring their ideas to fruition, and now invites you into her classroom in her book Insight Out: Get Ideas Out of Your Head and Into the World.
With four main components, Imagination, Creativity, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship, Insight Out will help you escape your comfort zone and make your dreams a reality. As someone who has recently started her own business (Captured by Jenilee), I found Seelig's book to be extremely insightful. No pun intended. But really though. Are you looking for help solving problems? Are you looking for a clear road map for moving from inspiration to implementation? Are you ready to start something new? Anything new. Doesn't have to be a company. If you answered yes to any of those questions, then this book is absolutely for you.
Because I am in the midst of teaching summer school. One week down, five to go! I appreciated Lynne Kenney and Wendy Young's Bloom: 50 Things to Say, Think, and Do with Anxious, Angry, and Over-the-Top Kids, because although this book is designed for parents of overly anxious and angry early childhood aged kids, and my "kids" are in 9th and 10th grade, they are WAY over the top, and it can't be too late to help them. Amen?
Moving on. I know about things getting heated with a kid in class, and I'm sure parents who live with anxious/angry children can relate far better than I can. A major idea behind Bloom is to stop yelling and start soothing. And those of you who have to deal with behavioral challenges every day will get a lot out of the 50 strategies and references to help you "calm the chaos" and understand your child's behavior so that life can improve for everyone involved.
I would absolutely consider Kimberly Guifoyle's Making the Case: How to Be Your Own Best Advocate a professional development guide that just about everyone can get something out of. Whether at work or at home, we all want to make the most of our lives. We all deal with conflict. We all want SOMETHING. Well? Go and get it.
Topics in her book include: getting hired/promoted, mid-life career changes, personal finances, advocating for your health, minimizing family drama, maintaining strong friendships, caring for aging parents, raising strong kids, etc. Keep in mind, advocating for yourself isn't about arguing or starting any sort of fight or drama (although weak people may tell you that). Advocating for yourself is about knowing what you want, the facts, and being educated, being clear about your needs and what you deserve. By sharing her failure and triumphs in her one of a kind voice, Kim will become your biggest asset. So? Let's start now.
Miss Emily: A Novel by Nuala O'Connor is the story of the Emily Dickinson's maid, eighteen-year-old Ada Concannon. Just a story mind you, but a lovely work of fiction by O'Connor about how two very different women can become friends. The story is set in Dickinson's Amherst Massachusetts household in the 1860's. Emily is quite a bit older than Ada, living her spinster existence shut up in her family's home while Ada has quite the spirit to go out and live. But once Ada finds herself in some trouble, Emily must let go of the comforts of home and go out on a limb for her new friend. The novel is an old school read that adults young and old are sure to enjoy.
Ever wonder what happened after the Brown v. Board of Education decision when one Virginia school system refused to integrate? Well, I didn't either until I discovered Something Must be Done About Prince Edward County: A Family, A Virginia Town, a Civil Rights Battle by journalist Kristen Green, the TRUE account of the aftermath of this important event in our country's history.
Green, who grew up in the same town, and gives readers a personal look into her own life, as well as a behind the scenes look into Prince Edward County, Virginia, it's black citizens, and all the racism and corruption in between. All of us remember her small town's resistance to change, but many don't know that they went to such extremes. Closing all public schools in order to stop integration. Opening private white-only schools. So much light was shed in this extremely interesting read.
Things have been a little crazy around here. My first anniversary, the first week of summer school, me trying to finish the almost 800-paged The Goldfinch. But I can always make time for a "coregasm" and you should, too with Dr. Debby Herbenick's The Coregasm Workout, which shows you how to enhance your sex life through fitness.
Dr. Herbenick insists that this book is NOT about getting your jolly's off at the gym. Gross. Exercise makes us feel more connected to our bodies, thus leading to better sex, hopefully at home. Being a doctor, she's all about facts and data and includes those as well. I mean, her book is designed to promote a healthy lifestyle by adding cardio and strength training into your life AND shows woman how to get the most out of their orgasms. What's not to like?
Prepping for summer school, I haven't been reading anything new lately. A string of giveaways is the result. Get your summer off to a relaxing start with a FREE copy of Coloring Flower Mandalas: 30 Hand-Drawn Designs for Mindful Relation!
I haven't spent a huge amount of time in Switzerland, not like many of the other places I've written about on this blog and paired with the appropriate travel guide, but as a woman of the world (or half of it), I know a good reference when I see one. Lonely Planet has not let me down yet, and their Switzerland Travel Guide is no different. Packed with every sight to see (and there are A LOT in Switzerland as it's super beautiful), Lonely Planet shares how find those picture perfect spots. They also give you a month to month play by play on the happenings, what's new, what's delicious. But Switzerland isn't all landscapes and yodeling, there are some cute cities to see as well. Hey, Switzerland can be hip.
My advice? If you're in Lucerne which you probably will be, eat as much chocolate as you can and then go up Mt. Pilatus. Just don't try to sled down it like my brother did. Fricken Americans.