Archive for the ‘Reads’ Category

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!

Amy’s Notebook 02.22.17

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2017

DIY Dishwasher Tabs

source: one good thing

I’ll have to try this diy for dishwasher detergent tabs!

7 books you should be reading during black history month. My pick? Read this STAT- the audiobook is amazing!

This post on renovation regrets really helped me as someone who is constantly renovating.

Here are a few ways to get in more reading this year- love the library lending hack!

beauty-uniform-afzaa-17

source: cup of jo

“For me, wearing a hijab has given me an identity as a Muslim American. My hijab speaks for me before I do; it tells people about my morals, beliefs and values. It gives me a sense of self-confidence and strength.”- I love learning more about the hijab and what it signifies.

DIY those pizza lunchable kits- so smart. My kids would flip for these.

This task is on my spring cleaning agenda. Lots of good tips for getting this area organized this year!

I’m reading this book for my local book club this week. I have to say, it is so very different than anything I’ve ever read. Have you read it?

Check out the winners of the Little Free Library design competition. I have a crush on that owl library- too cute!

Designer Home on a Budget

source: the glitter guide

Tips for achieving that designer home look on a budget.

12 reasons why millennials are leaving the church. Great strategies for doing better- love the focus on serving!

9 recipes based on 9 of this year’s Oscar-nominated films. What a fun date night this would be!

You guys must be stocking up your tees for spring too- this was your top purchase this week. PS- they are perfection- not too thick, not too thin, & true to size!

This is such a wonderful piece of advice on marriage.

Anyone else laughing about this new trend? Hahaha!

Comment of the Week: I’ve said it before but it bears repeating, I love your Notebook. It’s so simple yet so informative. Definitely keeps me coming back to see what new and fun things you’ve been doing. Keep up the great work!- Kristen

Whoa! Thank you! One question people ask is how I do the hunting & gathering for this post. Let me tell you, it takes awhile.  I subscribe to a ton of blogs & read through Feedly with my morning coffee each morning, bookmarking things I think you might enjoy. It’s a week of work for a single day, but I’m so happy to hear that you enjoy this feature so much! I thought it might become extinct when Pinterest took off, but you proved me wrong. Thank you, Kristen! xoxo

I hope you enjoyed our notebook, a collection of gathered links to DIY crafts, food projects, thrifty ways to spruce up your home, and thoughtful reads. Nothing brings me more joy than to highlight other fabulous bloggers. Follow me on Pinterest for daily inspiration! Please note, there are affiliate links that do help support our site- thank you! xoxo

 

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!

Amy’s Notebook 02.15.17

Wednesday, February 15th, 2017

Closet Makeover

source: hi sugarplum

This closet makeover transformation is gorgeous.

Now this is a new way to look at packing your lunch- bahaha!

Being lonely is okay.  Doing something about it is better.  I feel so much of this in the stage we are in right now. Have you struggled to find your tribe?

I have devoured this book in about 24 hours flat! You must add it to your book stacks.

I love a good one pan dish and this One Pan Tuscan Garlic Chicken Tortellini looks like something you would enjoy at a high-end Italian restaurant. YUM!

Please feel free to soak my gummy bears in rosé. Wouldn’t that be a fun summer party treat?

Hulu does it again! Don’t forget to order a shirt to wear while you binge on this.

Sheet Pan Shrimp Boil from Damn Delicious

source: damn delicious

I love the idea of doing your shrimp boil on a sheet pan! This is going on our planner this week.

Sunday night habits of successful people.

For my crocheting friends, these crocheted arm warmers are too cute!

15 dirty spots you’re probably missing when you are cleaning. Noted!

I’m piecing together my spring capsule and got this top in ivory. It is PERFECTION and will be a perfect layering piece for my spring layers!

I also stocked up on my basic t-shirts. At this price- I could afford a couple! Love the high reviews on these.

I’m going to have to try this plant fake-out technique since our house doesn’t get a lot of light. Just don’t look too closely so you can be impressed.

Comment of the Week (from Two Twenty-One)- I COULD KISS YOU!!! I ordered a pair of Sienna Ugg rainboots because I thought my calves may be too big for the Shayes. The Siennas are almost too big! This never happens!!! Thank you!!! Also, if you haven’t yet, check out Bella Vita– LOVE their stuff!!

Noted! I’ve never heard of Bella Vita, but I’m all over it now! So fun- love your comments, friends!! xo

I hope you enjoyed our notebook, a collection of gathered links to DIY crafts, food projects, thrifty ways to spruce up your home, and thoughtful reads. Nothing brings me more joy than to highlight other fabulous bloggers. Follow me on Pinterest for daily inspiration! Please note, there are affiliate links that do help support our site- thank you! xoxo

 

 

 

Sundays With Writers: I Liked My Life by Abby Fabiaschi

Sunday, February 12th, 2017

Sundays With Writers

When I picked up I Liked My LifeI thought it would be a light escape between my heavy historical fiction picks last month. What I never expected though was how much this book would move me and make me consider my own interactions in my life. I saw so much of myself and my life reflected in these well-woven characters. Then I learned more of Abby Fabiaschi and her activism as a human rights advocate and commitment to use proceeds from her incredible book to support the causes she cares about and it became important to me to share her journey with you.

I knew Abby had so much she could teach me (and maybe you!) about writing her first book and more about her passion for human rights. In this difficult political climate, I’m so moved by stories of good people. Living our family motto this year of finding the good, I am thrilled to share more about the good that Abby is doing in the world and how we have the power to be the good too.

I Liked My Life by Abby Fabiaschi

Honestly, if I was going to pick a book that surprised me the most last month (check out last month’s stack of must-reads!!),  I Liked My Life would be it! The idea for this story sounded horribly depressing. A mother commits suicide and her family is left to pick up the pieces… but it is so much more than that!

Fabiaschi writes this story in a way where the mother, Maddy, is still there and able to manipulate her family members into doing what she needs them to do by speaking to them through their thought streams. From helping them find better solutions to deal with her death, to guiding friendships, and even finding her replacement. Her presence and voice is one of the alternating chapters in this novel, along with the voices of her husband and teenage daughter.

Each character reflects back on the good and the bad that has happened in their lives in real moments that mimic your own. The petty fights, the difficulty as a mom to make every day special for your family (while no one makes the effort for you), and the struggles of mother and daughter relationships. I could see so many of of my own struggles in this character, making Maddy real and relatable.

Heartbreaking at times, laugh out loud funny at others, I doubt you would pick this one up and not get something out of it. I am committed to no spoilers, but want you to know the ending is quite satisfying as a reader!

Grab your coffee and let’s learn more about Abby and her fantastic debut!

Abby Fabiaschi

Congratulations on publishing your first book! What an incredible accomplishment for you and your family. Why did you decide to leave the corporate world and pursue writing and how long was the process of getting published?

When I started writing I Liked My Life I was working 60/70 hour weeks in high tech and pounding away at my keyboard nights and weekends. At the time, I could balance my hobby, my work, and my marriage. Then I got a third and fourth job named Page and Parker, 11 months apart, and something had to give. Writing time was replaced with diapers and cuddles and ear infections.

When my kids turned three and four in what felt like one season, I resigned from the corporate scene. It was time. Most of the alpha males I worked with found it insane to ditch a lucrative post for something with a .2% success rate, but it wasn’t about getting published for me. I needed a lifestyle change, and I was fortunate: with spending changes, my husband’s career could support our family.

The book sold about two years after becoming a fulltime writer.

Her Future Coalition

Before we dive into the plot, I’d love to share about your mission to donate a portion of the proceeds to survivors of human trafficking and your volunteerism as a human rights advocate. Can you tell us more about this important cause and why this is of importance to you?

After resigning from the corporate world, my family right-sized our lifestyle to accommodate the loss of income. When we were off and running on our new salary, I realized that nothing of substance had changed. As “they” say: The most important things in life aren’t things. My husband and I agreed that if anything were to come of my writing we would donate a fifth of it systematically. Now, twenty percent of my after-tax proceeds, including foreign and film rights, are donated to charities benefiting women and children.

I’m passionate about economic solutions to severe social and cultural problems such as human trafficking, domestic abuse, and child marriage. As board chair for Her Future Coalition, I get to see the success of this approach firsthand. Fiscal independence is a powerful tool—providing training, education, and employment is an effective way to help victims remain forever free. If you’re interested in donating or learning more, visit www.herfuturecoalition.org.

In the same vein, I think you are also such a great example of someone who has found a way to prioritize charity by adjusting your lifestyle to put money towards those in need. Do you have any tips for putting money or time towards the causes we truly care about while doing the mom juggle?

I recommend adopting a cause. After reading Half the Sky, I felt a tremendous call to action to fight human trafficking. There were practically trumpets playing in the background as I started researching the different ways to get involved.

When you find an organization that supports your passion, think of how your skill set and connections can be leveraged to their benefit. If you offer up what you’re already proficient at, it’s easier to efficiently add value.

From a donation perspective, there’s a tradition I love: every year for holidays and birthdays give your children a check to donate to the charity of their choice. This turns giving time into family time, and plants the seed of altruism.

I understand it was your own experience with death, at the age of 15, which gave you the idea to explore the mourning process through this coming-of-age story. Do you then see yourself in both Eve, from your teenage years, and in her mother, Maddy, now as an adult? Has it been therapeutic to reflect on this?

I Liked My Life was written as a way to unburden my loss onto unsuspecting characters, so yes, therapeutic is the right word.

The first draft was completed when I was twenty-four. I had no children; I’d been married all of five months at its inception. I wrote from three intertwining perspectives—mother, daughter, and father—but given the extent of my life experience, only the daughter’s section was relatable.

Years after that first draft, my father died of a heart attack at fifty-three. When I revisited the manuscript, I was a mother two times over who’d grieved as an adult, side by side my husband of eight years. It was then that the mother and father’s section came to life.

Age, gender roles, personality types, financial obligations, these all change the way tragedy is digested.  I Liked My Life isn’t about mourning generally, it’s about the reality that we must grieve around others who are also grieving, and the loss can at times feel competitive.

You write about marriage in such a relatable way. Those silly petty fights and frustrations make for a real and true portrait of marriage. Do you think illustrating this helped shape Brady’s story more and his own emotional hurdles of forgiving himself?

I’m now thirteen years into my marriage and I see the layers of it with more clarity. There’s the daily grind—the back and forth where I know I’m loved but sometimes don’t feel appreciated. There’s tests—darker times where I question if I’m understood at all. And there’s nuggets—moments where the value of my role in the family is revealed and validated.

The more interesting thing to realize is that the same ebb and flow holds true for my husband. I don’t think either of us fully fathoms what the other accomplishes and carries in a day, and I no longer think we have to in order to be happy.

In I Liked My Life Brady arrives at this same conclusion in stages. Each revelation is accompanied by a different emotion: anger, guilt, sadness, and, ultimately, acceptance.

Why was it important to have Maddy’s voice be such a big part of your story and how much fun was it, as the writer, to have her manipulating plot points in the book?

With Maddy, I looked to put words to the connection I still feel with loved ones I’ve lost after their physical time with me is over. As I wrote, at times I felt the people I miss so much cheering me on, so the joy in creating Maddy’s voice was personally meaningful to me.

As a reader, I found myself walking away with a heightened sense of consciousness about my interactions with my loved ones and how important they are, even when you sometimes feel unnoticed as a mom. What feelings do you hope your readers come away with from reading this story?

I’ve been in book clubs for over a decade and have learned that a reader’s takeaway is unique to their experience, past and present. For me, I take comfort in the knowledge that if you can rise above the fog and haze of grief, there are slivers of beauty in life’s most agonizing moments. The challenge is that anything gleaned is at the expense of your loss—and it will never be worth it—so you have to accept the injustice of that.

Did you or do you have anything special planned in celebration of your first book being out on bookshelves? Will you be taking some time off or are you on to the next book?

I have more of a what’s next? personality. Right now I am all in on promoting I LIKED MY LIFE. I worked hard to get this opportunity and I want to do everything I can to help get it in the hands of readers.

My second novel, tentatively titled WHATEVER HAPPENED TO LUCY BISCARO?, should be out with St. Martin’s Press in the winter of 2018. It explores the polarizing hold that memories can have on us, and how every decision we make is layered with our past experiences.

I Liked My Life by Abby Fabiaschi

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: The Boxed Wine Win, Tiny Tables, and All the Hygge

Friday, February 10th, 2017

high-school

Thirteen years ago, I started this site as I tried to navigate my own rough waters of parenthood online. The site was a journal experience, for me,  as I figured out how to make baby food for my son, how to keep him entertained (without losing my mind), and how to run a household…

E. has been a big part of this weird career journey from its virtual beginning.

That’s why it is so strange that yesterday I signed that sweet baby boy up for his high school classes.

I held it together until I got in the car and then I had a good cry.

Mostly, I was just crying because I am so proud.

It feels very braggy to share,  but THIS IS MY SITE so I’m going to tell you why I’m beaming today.

He’s one incredibly gifted kid. Flagged for all honors courses and even an AP class, I couldn’t be prouder of his academic success. I wasn’t that kind of student and I don’t necessarily expect it from my kids so I’m awfully proud that this is where he is.

What makes me prouder than that though is that he is GOOD PEOPLE.

He is incredibly kind. It’s been an honor to observe his interactions with others and how he genuinely loves people.

Not just some people.

ALL the people.

No matter what.

Although this is bittersweet, I’m awfully happy and proud to say that this is the kind of person we are sharing with the world.

Don’t blink, mama. I’m learning how quickly time flies.

Here’s what else is making me happy this week!

winking-owl

wine glasses

Winking Owl Boxed Wine

The local grocery store had lured me away from my weekly ALDI run with the whole online ordering and personal shopper bit, but I’m back. Nothing like New Year’s resolutions to do better with your money to get your spending back on track. Seriously, you just can’t beat the prices. My kids eat me out of house and home so every dollar counts these days!

As you know, I’m a big fan of boxed wine and ALDI unleashed their inexpensive (like, less than $3 a bottle, yo!) wine in a box. I purchased the Red Blend at my store for a little over $10 for FOUR BOTTLES in the box.

At that price, I had low expectations of how good it could be.

You guys. It is GOOD. It’s not too dry, not too sweet with a smooth finish.

It is better than Trader Joe’s two buck chuck by a mile and it comes in this convenient box for all your weeknight needs.

Seriously, this boxed wine did not disappoint!

If you have ever been curious about ALDI, check out my behind-the-scenes piece on visiting their headquarters! It is still my #1 fave forever. Amen.

plant-stands

follow me on IG

Tiny Tables for My Coffee

Our home has come with challenging small spaces and one of those challenges is our bathrooms. I have learned that thinking outside the box is key with our small space. When I discovered this incredible vanity, for example, I knew that we could fit it in our wee bathroom and create the perfect spot for getting ready.  The other challenge was finding a spot for cup propping (a necessity for this coffee addict) in our bathroom.

While walking around Marshalls, I saw a plant stand and knew I had my answer for our wee space. They had this tiny table for just $10 and it has become my new favorite spot for soaking in the tub (note to self: reorder giant bag of Epsom salts since I’m soaking all the time!)  with coffee and a good book on my bath tray.

It also happens to be perfectly portable to move it to other areas in our home when a coffee stand is needed.

Plants might die here, but coffee never will! Might as well shop for a table for it.

hygge

yoga pants (that hold your belly in)- cha cha cha!

A Whole Lotta Hygge Going On

Pronounced ‘hoo-gah’, hygge is the Danish concept of living cozily and I’m all about it right now. Indiana winters are hard especially on these old lady joints and I’m pretty sure my attitude isn’t great about it. Hygge embraces those winter days and adds cozy comfort while embracing all those simple pleasures that life has to offer.

Hmm…embrace winter instead of complaining about it? What a novel concept!

I am making one day a week (minimum) an official hygge day that’s focused on all the cozy comforts life has to offer. One day this week  I hit an incredible yoga class, heated up my cozy throw, filled my coffeepot to the brim, and curled up with a good book for the entire day.

As we went around the dinner table to discuss the Roses and Thorns of the week, when it was my turn I REALLY had some Roses.

“Well, it was a treat yo’self day. I read a book, I drank coffee all day, I finally finished a season of a show, I went to yoga, I took a nap. It was heaven..”

Everyone was so happy for me since they all had Thorny days so they were like, GOOD FOR YOU!!!

Perhaps, we all might need a hygge day!

Homemade Lunchables

Eating: I’m addicted to snacking these days so I made myself some grown-up Lunchables for the week.  Black Forest Ham, cheddar cubes, tomatoes, carrots, roasted almonds- it’s all protein-filled yumminess and gluten-free. I don’t like my stuff touching or getting soggy so I used cupcake liners to keep everything fresh.

Reading: I’m listening to this book this week and loving how there are three narrators with this one. This one definitely feels YA, but it has some important lessons in it. I’m enjoying it!

Thankful: Can’t tell you how much I am enjoying my daily newsletter from theSkimm. Even when the news isn’t so great, I love the snarky non-partisan 5-minute informative read over my morning coffee!

LOVING:  My rain boots came and they are better than I ever dreamed. The footbed is so cozy you don’t need boot socks and the width is perfection for this lady with bricks for feet. If you have a wide foot, your feet will be REALLY happy!

I hope you all have an incredible week filled with all the HYGGE! Don’t know how to cultivate it? Check out this Facebook group for some tips.

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

Sundays With Writers: Mischling by Affinity Konar

Sunday, February 5th, 2017

sundays-with-writers-1

It is such an incredible honor to share an interview with Affinity Konar, the gifted and talented author of, Mischling.” I doubt that you could read her haunting book and not be completely moved, both by the story of these incredible children and the poetic words that Konar writes in this finely crafted novel. I could not wait to reach out to her and share more about her own story behind the story on the site.

It is a book that I can’t stop thinking about and the story of Mengle and his experiments, truly, shook me to my very core.

Don’t worry, if you haven’t gotten to this one yet, there are no spoilers in this interview. I would love for you to learn more about this and Affinity’s own journey to Poland to connect with her Jewish heritage and think this interview offers so many important lessons, especially so shortly after Holocaust Remembrance Day.

 

Mischling by Affinity Konar

As you know, I have read so many books about the Holocaust over the years, but I never feel like I am informed enough about the horrors and struggles that were faced during this time in history. Once again, I find myself oblivious to those who suffered as Konar unfolds the story of twins, Sasha & Pearl, who became a part of the experimental population of twins that were known as Mengle’s Zoo, based in Auschwitz.

Many begged and falsely claimed that their children were twins to be part of Mengle’s Zoo because they believed they had been saved from certain death. Unfortunately, these children were far from safe and became a part of tests to separate the twins from one another, both physically and psychologically. Konar explores this through these sisters, told from alternating perspectives, as they are brutally experimented upon.

How something so horrible could be written so beautifully is a true tribute to Konar’s writing.  Her writing style reminded me a lot of Eowyn Ivey’s writing in her beautiful book, The Snow Child, an almost magical quality even to the harshest of moments. It’s impossible to read Konar’s words and not feel deeply moved and surprised by her well-crafted language.  Beautifully told and based upon the stories of real victims of these crimes, Konar’s debut is strong and promising!

Please grab your coffee and settle in for more about Affinity’s story!

Affinity Konar

Your book is absolutely incredible, heartbreaking, and important. I have read many books on the Holocaust, but I have never read these stories told with the storybook or fable-like quality when writing about these unspeakable horrors. Why did you choose this approach to your prose?

I’ve always loved Jewish legends and fables, stories that approach transformation, hardship, and dignity, often with a lilt of humor and a sense of the unknowable. I hoped that the book might carry an echo of that texture, that it could inform the voices of girls with these transformative perspectives, and carry them through a world of unimaginable pain and loss. Auschwitz-Birkenau was anti-meaning–I wanted the girls to defiantly find their own world of symbols and objects and living things within it, to cling to any meaning they could create for themselves while in the midst of such dehumanization.

When Stasha sees violence and reconfigures it into something pretty, she does so not in the interest of merely finding prettiness, but to self-protect. It’s a child’s rebellion, a reaction to a life lived in constant peril. I didn’t want to claim that life is beautiful even in the face of suffering, but to explore how trauma might compel one to dwell on what may remain beautiful, in order to endure. I thought that by enlarging the private worlds of the girls, the horror of what they were escaping might be underlined. I often thought of the approach as masking and unmasking. The mask might be fanciful, but the need for it indicts the terror it conceals.

Josef Mengele

How did you run across the story of Mengele’s “Zoo,” and which real-life accounts influenced your body of work the most?

I grew up reading a lot of Shoah literature, particularly Primo Levi. And I remember reading Paul Celan for the first time as a teenager and feeling utterly changed. So this history and literature was always a presence in my life, especially since my family had been among so few who escaped Poland before the war. But everything culminated when I was sixteen and dropped out of school for a period of time. At the encouragement of my education-obsessed parents, I undertook a kind of autodidactic study and that’s when I found Children of the Flames by Lucette Lagnado, which chronicles the experiences of the twins of Auschwitz. Through that unforgettable book, I found so many others.

For a long time, I focused on Jewish prisoners with medical expertise who were forced to answer to Mengele, like Dr. Gisella Perl and Sara Nomberg-Przytyk. I read a great deal about Jewish resistance within the camps, and the operations of the underground. I became interested in the role of music within Auschwitz, and read Playing for Time, by Fania Fenelon, who was a member of the orchestra.

Twins

(Eva & Miriam)

And later, I’d find the story of Eva Mozes Kor, who survived Mengele along with her sister, Miriam Mozes Zeiger.

The Diary of Anne Frank was, of course, never far from my thoughts. I studied many books about Mengele and chose to include very little of them in the end. And I was constantly returning to Levi.

Why did you chose the word, “Mischling,” as the title for your book?

It was always tied to the story in my head, as it held a lot of dualities that felt important to the novel. When I first heard it, as a very young person, I was drawn to its lilting, diminutive quality, and then I found its meaning and shuddered, because it’s a term the Nazis used to classify Jews of mixed heritage. If you were mischling, you were afforded certain privileges that assisted survival, but of course, being privileged in the midst of such torment is not without its own psychological burdens. Stasha pummels the word throughout; she uses it to disguise herself, and fantasizes about thwarting Mengele beneath its cover. I hoped to anchor the book with the gravity of this term.

I am sure it would have been easier to have kept the focus your story on Mengele, but you choose to keep the focus on the children instead. Why was it important to tell your story this way?

One of the greatest challenges of the book was measuring how much of a role to give Mengele within the story. I didn’t want to brush past the man and his crimes, but I also feared rendering him in a way that might risk humanizing him. I fell short in trying to comprehend Mengele’s brutality, which was so elaborate and calculated and monstrous that the accounts of it read with a certain surreality that is very dangerous to handle on the page. I worried about lending him a glimmer of charisma, and yet, I couldn’t avoid the fact that Mengele was known to be charming and handsome; he courted the children with attention and candy and gave them rides on his shoulders. This treatment of the children that preceded his vicious experiments–the sickness of it is unspeakable.

After so much time trying to understand something so bottomless, I limited his role severely. I occasionally wondered if I lacked ambition or wisdom for not exploring him more, but ultimately, I couldn’t let him be more than shadow. I wanted the strength of the twins to overwhelm Mengele, to diminish and lessen his presence. Their innocence and love and longing for survival were far more worthy of articulation. He was not to have a voice.

Stasha and Pearl, as twins, have similar but very different voices. What was the writing process like writing these two voices? Did you write these chapters in the order we are reading them or in sections? Did you find one twin’s voice easier to write than the other?

I always envisioned the book as a conversation between a pair of twins, but Pearl’s was the real challenge for me, and I nearly abandoned it after the first half, because I was so daunted by the responsibility of rendering a narrator who bore witness in a very reliable, calculated fashion. That’s unbelievable to me now, because the book would be nothing without her, but it was a real temptation for a bit, and it took me some time to find my footing within her perspective. Stasha’s voice was far easier for me, as it’s pure emotion and image. She’s longing and lament and intensity. That was incredibly satisfying to write, particularly after spending so much time within the research.

The chapters were written very much out of order, partly because I spent many years not knowing what the book needed to be, and partly because of my terribly disorganized nature. I wanted the voices to be similar, but to also bounce off each other in contrast. So I’d spend months writing in one voice, and then return to the other, hoping to make them meet. Properly setting up the links between Stasha and Pearl was one of the biggest technical challenges for me, and it took a great deal of traveling between chapters to smooth the transitions between them.

As a reader, it was often difficult to read of the tortures that were inflicted upon these children. How hard was it to immerse yourself in this work and what scene did you find the most difficult to write?

I understand how hard it must be to read, and at the same time, I feel that it can never be hard enough. I only felt the enormity of the immersion after it abated somewhat, and I have to say that I gained immense respect for individuals who investigate crimes against children, genocide, and trauma, because the repeated exposure does appear to change a person. It can hollow you out, or heighten your sensitivities. It can make the prospect of a normal conversation feel impossible. I found myself addressing this grief by reading poets like Paul Celan or Dan Pagis or Edmund Jabez, looking at the paintings of Charlotte Saloman, finding accounts of Jewish resistance, or listening to Yiddish songs from the ghettos and camps. And I tried to be aware of the extreme distance of my pain, of how I was constantly measuring my own sensitivity against horrors I haven’t experienced. I didn’t want to write with a sort of performative empathy, in which sinking yourself into someone else’s torment is the ultimate goal. I simply wanted to write two girls whose love for each other could be touched by horror, but not broken by it.

So many scenes were hard to undertake. The very beginning, where they are parted from their mother and grandfather, under the illusion that Mengele will care for them–even now, I have trouble reading that. The description of the children in the laboratory. The details of Pearl’s imprisonment. And the chapter where Stasha is given an injection by Mengele, and she reconfigures this assault in her mind, to provide herself with an illusion of control–I edited that repeatedly, because it was hard to calibrate what I could personally handle against what needed to happen.

I understand that you recently visited Poland to reconnect with your own Jewish heritage. What did you discover, about yourself,  through these travels?

 

I never imagined I’d go to Poland. I’ve dealt with agoraphobia for many years, often leaving my apartment only for work. So for one of my first real ventures outside of my routine to be in Poland, and then, in Auschwitz-Birkenau–it was a shock to me, and the experience of visiting the camp exposed me to my limitations as both a writer and a person. There was no sense of tidy confrontation and resolution–things opened for me instead, and felt more endless. I felt very small, partly because of overwhelming nature of the experience, and partly because I was with my parents. My father is a well-traveled man, but he’d always avoided Poland. To be there with him, and my mother, who I couldn’t possibly comfort–I’d thought myself emotionally prepared, but I wasn’t. From an early age, I’ve had an irrational fear of separation from my parents, brother, and sister. So to be on grounds where innumerable severances had taken place–it was very fearful, and I felt a bit disassociated from myself while walking through the camp. The very fact that my mind would need to impose this distance on a simple visit, when my life was entirely unthreatened, was illuminating and humbling and it made me question myself a lot. I’d just written a book that claimed that beauty is a reason to live, a form of revenge against the Nazis, a way towards meaning. I still believe this, but when I left Auschwitz, I felt that beauty in its highest form must surely a disruption of cruelty. I’d edged towards that notion before, but I knew then, that I could never go back to thinking of beauty in any other way.

If we are interested in reading more about the real-life heroes that inspired your story, what books or documentaries should we check out?

All of Primo Levi’s books were heavy influences early on, but especially The Truce and  The Periodic Table. Children of the Flames by Lucette Lagnado was a vital introduction for me.  I Was a Doctor in Auschwitz by Dr. Gisella Perl, a harrowing account that partially informed the character of Dr. Miri. Auschwitz: True Tales of a Grotesque Land by Sara Nomberg-Przytyk, which I discovered late and can’t recommend enough for its unexpected tone and vibrancy.

Eva Mozes Kor’s work is indispensable. She and her twin sister, Miriam Mozes Zeiger, survived Mengele’s experiments at Auschwitz. They founded CANDLES, and a museum in Indiana dedicated to preserving the history of the twins. She has a searing book, Echoes from Auschwitz: Dr. Mengele’s Twins:  The Story of Eva and Miriam Mozes, and a documentary “Forgiving Mengele”.

Mischling by Affinity Konar

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: No More Yelling, Peaceful Invasions, & Cooperation

Friday, February 3rd, 2017

Snow in Indiana

We got a bit of snow in Indiana. Although I’m not a big fan of the chilly temperatures, it was beautiful to wake up to a little snow globe one morning. This happens to be my favorite street in our little ‘hood so I drove down to take a picture for you! Isn’t it gorgeous?

I got to sneak out to see Dirty Dancing on the big screen with my bestie. Do they air old movies again at your theaters? It’s such a treat when they bring back one of my favorites. One year, my husband got us tickets fors Breakfast at Tiffany’s and it was pure magic.  When we checked in for La La Land, I saw the sign to catch Dirty Dancing coming soon and it was SO COOL to see it that way. Sign up for those emails from your movie spot so you know when these special events happen.  It’s amazing all the little details you miss if you don’t see it on the larger projection.

Let’s get happy!

Dinner Bell

No More Yelling

YOU GUYS!! The best thing that happened this week was discovering that I had the power all along, my dearies!

Do you have trouble getting everyone around the dinner table? Since we live in a quad home, I can have people two flights down or a flight up and it is annoying to have to repeatedly yell, run around, knock on doors, go down two flights, go up three, etc… just so we can all eat together.

When we went to an antique shop, over our fall vacation, I found a call bell for an accent on my bookshelves. It has been sitting on the shelves for months and one day, I was too dang tired to do the, “gather round, people” shuffle. I started banging the top of this bell and EVERYONE OPENED THEIR DOORS AND CAME DOWNSTAIRS.

No yelling. OMG! I’m a genius.

I have been doing it every night and they all come to the table without me yelling.

Here is a cheap version for $5.99 or you can get a gorgeous antique one over here.

SERIOUSLY, DO IT!

Where to Invade Next

Peaceful Invasions

I’m not a huge Michael Moore fan, but I ran across this documentary, Where to Invade Next, and noticed it had all the stars on the reviews. We started watching it and couldn’t stop. The premise of the documentary is that Michael Moore goes to other countries, learns a new approach for an issue America seems to be struggling with, and plants his flag there to signify invasion and taking that principle home.

From the health care crisis, to prison systems, to maternity leave, to school lunch, to college debt,  to standardized testing…he explores all of this with real people and diplomats.

Even if you are a conservative and don’t necessarily agree with Moore on a lot, I doubt you could walk away from this and not feel inspired to want some of these incredible changes for our country and some of our broken systems.

It is rated R (a couple of F-bombs, references to sex/contraceptives, and a nude scene (hey, most countries are a little freer than us- ha!), so we watched this one just with our older kiddo and let our daughter watch parts of it that had to do with schooling and lunches.

It’s a lot to chew on- you can catch it on Prime!

Pandemic Board Game

Cooperative Gaming

I am learning how much fun it is to do cooperative games in our family, especially to help our younger child to feel included. We got Pandemic for Christmas and it has quickly become one of our new favorite games. In the game, four diseases have broken out in the world and it is up to a team of specialists in various fields to find cures for these diseases before mankind is wiped out. Players must work together playing to their characters’ strengths and planning their strategy of eradication before the diseases overwhelm the world with ever-increasing outbreaks.  But the diseases break out really fast and time runs out quickly.

We have played this multiple times and the first time we won it and we were like, “How pleasant and easy.”

Then we read the instructions and realized half of the stuff we were supposed to be doing we weren’t actually doing and that is why it is the only time we have beaten it.

This game is challenging and a ton of fun! It’s also nice because you can play it with just two people so this is one we can continue trying to beat after our kids go to bed.

We still haven’t really beat it, but we are having a blast in the process.

Sausage & Vegetable Frittata

Eating: I’m back to making frittatas for easy lunches! Today I’m mixing up and photographing a new flavor combo for you. I love that these are protein-packed and gluten-free! Give this recipe a try and buy yourself a cast iron skillet for the occasion. It will be your most-used kitchen item, I promise!

Reading: I am trucking through this month’s book club selection and laughing out loud. It’s charming and a good one for Ove fans.  If you haven’t joined my book club, get on it!

Thinking about: This documentary A LOT. It is up for a ton of awards and worthy of them all. The prison system is broken and this explores the how and why. After you are done watching it, search 13th on Netflix and it should pull up an Oprah interview with the author to understand this complex issue more.

Lucky For You: My favorite cardigan ever got marked down to $9.99. If you are looking for a cardigan that covers your bum, is warm, but not too warm, can be belted, or can be left open, this one is PERFECTION. See how I styled it over here.

Laughing: Hope you enjoy these laughs for a Friday pick-me-up!

  hair

This semi-annual haircut picture is for my mom. The whole abandoning FB thing might be a little detaching for our family. You can always find me over here, mama!!

PS- Trying to grow out these bangs is some work, yo!

Happy Friday, my 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!

Amy’s Notebook 02.01.17

Wednesday, February 1st, 2017

Orange Avocado Kale Quinoa Salad

source: two peas & their pod

One giant spoon please for this orange, avocado, & kale quinoa salad! Yum!

Lessons learned from a social media fast.

Still struggling through the political mess? Don’t forget to take care of yourself.

If you feel like  the other side is CRAZY, you might be living in a feed echo chamber.  I’m giving this site a try this week to understand both sides.

After a lot of debating on brands, I went ahead and ordered some rainboots and I can’t wait to get them. Fingers crossed they fit well!

I can’t wait to try this fun chicken wing spice and dip combo. It sounds divine!

Painting Countertops from In My Own Style

source: in my own style

I’ve been talking to my husband for awhile about painting our countertops and this post is so inspiring! Have you tried it?

Big things happening for a trendy new clothing line. SO excited for my pals!

My kids would flip for these black bean breakfast tacos!

Speaking of breakfast, I’d love to try this technique when cooking eggs for a crowd.

Staging Your Home To Sell from Emily Henderson

source: emily henderson

Tips for staging your home to sell.

I got up really early this morning to read this book. It’s gorgeously written and a relationship I knew nothing about! You can see what I read this month over here!

Choosing minimalism is a privilege- have you thought of it that way?

10 celebrity narrated audio books for your commute. Adding these to my wish list!

 

Looking for something new to read this month? Be sure to join our Book Club group to get daily deals. Today’s deals were too good not to share here too!!

THE PARIS WIFE, $2.99
WHILE MY EYES WERE CLOSED, $1.99
MONSTER, $1.99
BILLY LYNN’S LONG HALFTIME WALK, $1.99
THE MASTER, $2.99
THE SISTERS BROTHERS, $1.99
EVA LUNA, $2.99
OXYGEN, $1.99
JONATHAN STRANGE & MR. NORRELL, $1.99
THE BOOKSELLER, $1.99
A MOMENT ON THE EDGE, $.99
THE IMAM’S DAUGHTER, $.99
THE GOOD LIAR, $1.99
THE THIRTEENTH TALE, $2.99
A MOVEABLE FEAST, $2.99
THE POISON ARTIST, $3.99
THE LANGUAGE OF FLOWERS, $1.99
SUGAR CRUSH, $1.99
THE ACHIEVEMENT HABIT, $1.99
GODS WITHOUT MEN, $1.99
WOMAN IN BLUE, $1.99
GHOSTS IN THE WIRES, $1.99
THE OPPOSITE OF EVERYONE, $.99
THE WRONG UNIT, $.99
WITNESS TO A TRIAL, $.99

I hope you enjoyed our notebook, a collection of gathered links to DIY crafts, food projects, thrifty ways to spruce up your home, and thoughtful reads. Nothing brings me more joy than to highlight other fabulous bloggers. Follow me on Pinterest for daily inspiration! Please note, there are affiliate links that do help support our site- thank you! xoxo

 

January 2017 Must-Reads

Tuesday, January 31st, 2017

January 2017 Must-Reads from MomAdvice.com

I hope that you are off to a great start with your year of reading. I’m over here furiously flipping pages between the MomAdvice Reading Challenge, our online book club, local book club, and reviving our Sundays With Writers series. Of course, there is no other way I’d rather spend the day then curled up with a good book, especially in the winter. I’m excited to share eight great reads that I tackled this month with you.

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.

8 Must-Read Books from January 2017

Mischling by Affinity Konar

Mischling by Affinity Konar

I have read so many books about the Holocaust over the years, but I never feel like I am informed enough about the horrors and struggles that were faced during this time in history. Once again, I find myself oblivious to those who suffered as Konar unfolds the story of twins, Sasha & Pearl, who became a part of the experimental population of twins that were known as Mengle’s Zoo, based in Auschwitz.

Many begged and falsely claimed that their children were twins to be part of Mengle’s Zoo because they believed they had been saved from certain death. Unfortunately, these children were far from safe and became a part of tests to separate the twins from one another, both physically and psychologically. Konar explores this through these sisters, told from alternating perspectives, as they are brutally experimented upon.

How something so horrible could be written so beautifully is a true tribute to Konar’s writing.  Her writing style reminded me a lot of Eowyn Ivey’s writing in her beautiful book, The Snow Child, an almost magical quality even to the harshest of moments. It’s impossible to read Konar’s words and not feel deeply moved and surprised by her well-crafted language.  Beautifully told and based upon the stories of real victims of these crimes, Konar’s debut is strong and promising!

Affinity will be joining us this month for our Sundays With Writers series- stay tuned!

Reading Challenge Category Completed-  A book that takes place during a war

5 Out of 5 Stars

The Sound of Gravel by Ruth Wariner

The Sound of Gravel by Ruth Wariner

Laura Tremaine shared about this beautiful memoir when discussing her favorite books of the year on Sorta Awesome. I listened to this book, read by Ruth, and was so moved by her story that I can’t stop thinking about it. This book is haunting!

Ruth is the 39th child in her polygamist family of 42 children. Ruth’s father was brutally murdered by his own brother and Ruth’s mother later marries another polygamist who cares little for these children or providing for his family. He is the epitome of a deadbeat dad with little to offer to his family.

This is also a true survivor story as Ruth becomes sexually abused and the people who should love and believe her the most are not there for her in her life. It’s about what it is really like to grow up in poverty, the true challenges of being just one of many wives, the challenges of disability, and how Ruth has had to learn to stand up for herself.

Well-written and hard to put down, the tragedy that unfolds left me stunned and in awe of Wariner’s strength and resilience.

Reading Challenge Category Completed- An audiobook

 

5 Out of 5 Stars

Her Every Fear by Peter Swanson

Her Every Fear by Peter Swanson

I received an ARC from the publishing house in exchange for my honest thoughts and opinions on this book.

Swanson’s last thriller, The Kind Worth Killing, was so solid that I could not wait to get my hands on his latest thriller.

In this story, Kate and her cousin Corbin, decide to apartment swap so that Corbin can conduct some business in London while Kate is given the chance to escape to take art classes in Boston. Kate has had some trauma in her life and struggles with anxiety and is using this trip to prove to her friends and family that she is stronger than they think she is. Of course, the neighbor next door gets murdered and contributes to Kate’s uneasy feelings.

Not knowing her cousin well or anyone in the area, Kate begins to try to piece together what has happened to Audrey, although she could never guess how deep Corbin is involved and the cat and mouse game that is now mounting for him and for her.

This was entertaining for a light escape between my heavier books and I would recommend it for The Girl on the Train fans!

Reading Challenge Category Completed- A thriller

3 Out of 5 Stars

Evicted by Matthew Desmond

Evicted by Matthew Desmond

I am, admittedly, not much of a nonfiction writer, but when I read about Evicted, I knew that it was a book that I should read this year. If you are looking for a compelling nonfiction read that explores an issue that is not talked about enough, this is the one for you.

Desmond threw himself wholeheartedly into learning more about the eviction process and follows eight families struggling with the basic necessity of home. He sheds light on a very broken system from poor wages to the ramifications of eviction on a family’s life to living in neighborhoods filled with crime and drugs. There are so many survival tactics needed to just keep a roof over one’s head that you find yourself, as the reader, hoping and praying for a better outcome for so many in this book and marveling at the tricks of the trade to just get by.

As an ethnographer, Desmond pulls himself completely out of the equation until he shares how he built his book at the very end. It’s an incredible testament to his great writing and documentation that he is able to build the story in a way that you feel like you are with these people as they struggle with basic needs and necessities.  He, in fact, lived in a trailer park to fully immerse himself into the daily life, even struggling with issues in his own home while writing.

I doubt you could read this and not feel a new sense of compassion and gratefulness or to not feel compelled to explore how our country could develop a better system for those in need. This is a must-read!

Reading Challenge Category Completed- A book you will be proud to share you finally read this year

5 Out of 5 Stars

The Stranger Beside Me by Ann Rule

The Stranger Beside Me by Ann Rule

Another pick from Laura Tremaine that I wanted to dive into this year was, The Stranger Beside Me, as my true crime selection for the MomAdvice Reading Challenge. Ann Rule worked at a crisis clinic, answering calls on a suicide hotline, and it is there that she met the charismatic Ted Bundy.  The book builds as Rule begins to suspect and then comes to grips with the fact that her kind and sensitive friend is the prolific serial killer that confessed to killing thirty-six young women.

Ann Rule keeps to basic facts and stays away from many of the horrific details of these killings, making it a, perhaps, easier to digest story than it should be. Although this case was extreme, it does make one think how we can know someone and not really know them.

Those wishing to dive deep into Bundy’s psyche will be disappointed as Ann honestly shares that she is no expert and can only go on her own feelings that Bundy was rejected and went out to seek women he could kill and, ultimately, reject them. Rule definitely wasn’t gullible; she just was charmed as so many others by the presentation that Bundy was able to pull off.

Reading Challenge Category Completed- A true crime book

4 Out of 5 Stars

History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund

History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund

I love when readers reach out and ask me if I have read certain books (feel free to do that anytime!) and the book I was asked about this month was, The History of Wolves. I hadn’t read it, but decided to put it on my stack after reading that Fridlund had won the McGinnis-Ritchie award for its first chapter and then decided to expand upon that story for this book.

I know as soon as I began reading her words that I would love this book. Even something as monotonous as swinging becomes a thing of beauty when told by Fridlund.

“Later, I could get that drizzle feeling just about any time I saw a kid on a swing. The hopelessness of it—the forward excitement, the midflight return. The futile belief that the next time around, the next flight forward, you wouldn’t get dragged back again. You wouldn’t have to start over, and over.” 

Coming-of-age stories are often my favorite each year, but can feel predictable at times. Fridlund’s book, however, is anything BUT predictable and that is why I enjoyed it so much. Without giving too much away, a teenager begins babysitting for a local family and a mystery builds around this child and these parents that the narrator reflects upon from her youth. Her need to belong to someone is so strong that it overrides, perhaps, how one might normally respond to a situation.

If you like neat and tidy stories,  skip it! There is nothing tidy about this tale and the ending feels as confused as the narrator probably feels at the end.

If you like depth, meat, and uniquely told stories though, this book is for you!

4 Out of 5 Stars

Faithful by Alice Hoffman

Faithful by Alice Hoffman

Hoffman’s novel has been in my stack forever and I’m not sure why it took me this long to finally settle with it. I was an avid reader of all her books for many years and I must say, this is one of her sweetest stories of all.

The main character, Shelby, is a teenager who has been involved in a tragic car accident that leaves her best friend in a coma. Unable to forgive herself, she finds herself on a downward spiral.  Motivational messages are being sent to her from an anonymous sender though telling her to keep fighting and going. These act as  an important catalyst as Shelby’s life begins to find new purpose.

Heartbreakingly real, this redemption story of finding you are loved, even in your darker moments, is surprisingly hopeful. If you like a good love story, you’ll really enjoy this book.

4 Out of 5 Stars

I Liked My Life by Abby Fabiaschi

I Liked My Life by Abby Fabiaschi

I received an ARC from the publishing house in exchange for my honest thoughts and opinions on this book.

If I was going to pick a book that surprised me the most this month, I Liked My Life would be it! The idea for this story sounded horribly depressing. A mother commits suicide and her family is left to pick up the pieces… but it is so much more than that!

Fabiaschi writes this story in a way where the mother, Maddy, is still there and able to manipulate her family members into doing what she needs them to do by speaking to them through their thought streams. From helping them find better solutions to deal with her death, to guiding friendships, and even finding her replacement. Her presence and voice is one of the alternating chapters in this novel, along with the voices of her husband and teenage daughter.

Each character reflects back on the good and the bad that has happened in their lives in real moments that mimic your own. The petty fights, the difficulty as a mom to make every day special for your family (while no one makes the effort for you), and the struggles of mother and daughter relationships. I could see so many of of my own struggles in this character, making Maddy real and relatable.

Heartbreaking at times, laugh out loud funny at others, I doubt you would pick this one up and not get something out of it. I am committed to no spoilers, but want you to know the ending is quite satisfying as a reader!

Abby will be joining us next month for our Sundays With Writers series- stay tuned!

5 Out of 5 Stars

January 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

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