Archive for the ‘Reads’ Category

Sundays With Writers: Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger

Sunday, February 1st, 2015

Sundays With Writers

I am so honored to be featuring another amazing writer today in our Sundays With Writers series. Today I am interviewing William Kent Krueger after finishing his beautiful book ORDINARY GRACE and discovering that this book was anything BUT ordinary. If you are looking for a fast-paced roller coaster ride of a book, this isn’t it. This is slow-telling writing and a genuine crafting of a story sat its finest. It is the kind of book that you could hand to anyone and they would see small glimpses of their own childhood in it.

William Kent Krueger is new to me, but not new to mystery lovers. He writes a series called the Cork O’Connor mysteries that I am now looking forward to checking out. ORDINARY GRACE is his second stand-alone novel (the other being THE DEVIL’S BED) and has received rave reviews, awards, and accolades. In fact, ORDINARY GRACE has won the Edgar Award for Best Novel, Midwest Booksellers Choice Award for Best Fiction, Dilys Award, Independent Mystery Booksellers Association, Left Coast Crime “Squid” Award for Best Mystery Set Within the US, Barry Award for Best Novel, Anthony Award for Best Novel, Macavity Award for Best Novel…You know, just to name a FEW! AMAZING!

Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger ORDINARY GRACE is a  beautiful coming-of-age story surrounding a small town and a series of murders that happen there.  I can admit that while I was able to figure out the killer early on in the story, it did not take away from the beautiful writing that filled the pages. I really enjoyed the book and the author’s carefully crafted characters that made this story read more like a memoir than a piece of fiction.

After finishing the book, I emailed Kent and asked if he could join us today and share a little bit about why he created this stand-alone book, who inspired it, and if the pressure of putting such a beautiful book out in the world (and receiving every dang award) build upon his pressure of being a writer.

Grab your coffee and let’s chat with  Kent today about his amazing book!

William Kent Krueger

You are quite famous for your Cork O’Connor mystery novels, which I am so excited to explore now. ORDINARY GRACE stands on its own, although it has an element of mystery to it like your other books. What compelled you to develop this novel for your readers?

When you delve into the Cork O’Connor series, you’ll find that many of the stories have an undercurrent that involves the spiritual journey. This is something that comes naturally out of who Cork O’Connor is, a man of mixed heritage, part Irish-American and part Native American (Ojibwe).  He comes from two different spiritual traditions and in the stories he’s often trying to find his own spiritual way.  I’ve always seen Ordinary Grace as an opportunity for me to explore more deeply the question of the spiritual journey in ordinary lives.

Also, I’d wanted for a very long time to write a story that would allow me to return to an important period in my own life—the summer I was thirteen.  For many reasons, I’ve remembered that summer vividly across these many decades.  I wanted to recall that time and the kind of place I was living and the concerns that I had and put them on the page in a way that might help readers born years later to understand what it was like to be thirteen years old in a small Midwestern town in the summer of 1961.

And finally, I wanted to write a story that, although there would be a mystery at its heart, would be stylistically and structurally different from anything I’d written for the Cork O’Connor series.  I simply wanted to stretch as a writer.

Told through the 13 year old eyes of your narrator, Frank Drum, this book reads like a beautiful memoir of adolescence. Did you channel a lot of your own boyhood stories in this book? What is one element of Frank’s life, in particular, that readers might be surprised to know comes right from your very own childhood?

I didn’t necessarily relate real occurrences, but rather a real backdrop that came from my childhood. Although based on several real towns in Minnesota, New Bremen is a reflection of the Midwest landscape of my adolescence.  The quarry the kids swim in, I swam in.  The excitement about the Fourth of July fireworks was my excitement.  I lived in a house very similar to the Drum house and played on the banks of rivers very much like the Minnesota River.

What readers might find interesting is this: The Drum family is, in fact, based on my own family.  My father wasn’t a small town Methodist minister, but he was a high school English teacher in a small town, a position elevated in the eyes of many.  My mother, like Ruth Drum, was a frustrated artist. And I had siblings I loved dearly.  A lot of the adjunct characters came out of my life, men or women I’d known along the way.  So very much of the story was from my own experience.  But thankfully I never suffered the kind of loss the Drum family suffers.

I am going to quote you from another interview where you said that the “seed of the kind of book I wanted to write,” was in your mind for 5 years. What would you say to someone who is harboring those kinds of seeds for a book and what pushed you to finally create it? Was writing it harder for you than the writing your Cork O’Connor mysteries or easier?

I think I wrote the novel when I was finally ready to write it, when I finally understood enough about storytelling to do the story justice. I didn’t have all the details in place when I launched into the work, but I had a good sense of the Drum family and of New Bremen.  Much of the story itself I discovered along the way.  Which is very different from the manner in which I’ve always approached the Cork O’Connor stories.  Because the books in my series are, generally speaking, true mysteries, I’ve almost always plotted them carefully in advance.  I know how a Cork story begins, how it ends, who did what to whom and why.  A mystery is literary slight of hand.  It’s constant misdirection, and how can you misdirect your reader if you yourself don’t know where the story’s going?

Oddly enough, the writing of Ordinary Grace was the easiest and most satisfying piece of work I’ve ever done.  I think this was because I was constantly tapping the deep roots of my own experience for the story.

ORDINARY GRACE has won just about every kind of award there is for a mystery novel (Edgar Award for Best Novel, Midwest Booksellers Choice Award for Best Fiction, Dilys Award, Independent Mystery Booksellers Association, Left Coast Crime “Squid” Award for Best Mystery Set Within the US, Barry Award for Best Novel, Anthony Award for Best Novel, Macavity Award for Best Novel). What does it feel like to have this book validated like this by critics and earn so many awards? Did it help validate your departure from your series for a bit? Do you feel pressured to create this level of storytelling in your future books?

It’s always a great risk when you depart from a well-established and popular series. That’s one of the pitfalls in our business, that if you try something different, readers may turn their noses up at it.  This happened once before in my career.  Early on, I wrote a novel that wasn’t a part of the Cork O’Connor series, a novel titled The Devil’s Bed.  It’s what, in the business, we call a stand-alone thriller.  It experienced abysmal sales.  Not because it was a bad book—it got great reviews—but because Cork O’Connor wasn’t in the story, and readers were unwilling to follow me to a place that didn’t have Cork in it.  So I was tremendously uncertain about the reception Ordinary Grace might experience.  But as you’ve pointed out, and to my great relief, critics and readers alike have opened their arms to the book.  I have more freedom now to depart from the Cork O’Connor series if I choose to do that.  And I have.  I’ve just completed the first draft of a companion novel to Ordinary Grace.  It’s titled This Tender Land.

You ask if I feel pressured now to try to maintain the level of storytelling that readers saw in Ordinary Grace.    And that’s been an issue, because I’m concerned that readers will want another Ordinary Grace, and this book is very different.  So we’ll see.

The theme of spirituality is very prevalent in this book. Why was spirituality such an important theme in this story?

The question of the spiritual journey has been an important one my whole life. I’ve never felt comfortable about religion, and I’ve always felt as if I’m on a spiritual pilgrimage to a place that hasn’t been revealed to me yet.  But what I’ve seen in life is that we experience the divine every day, in the blessings and graces that we offer one another, in our ordinary kindnesses, in our habitual forgiving.  And I wanted that outlook to be at the heart of Ordinary Grace.

I understand that you might be building upon the story of ORDINARY GRACE? Can you tell me more about that possibility? What else are you working on that we should be looking for?

As I mentioned earlier, I’ve completed a draft of a companion novel: This Tender Land. One of the themes I touched on in Ordinary Grace was the terrible wounding of spirit that my father and the fathers of so many of my friends experienced as a result of fighting in World War Two or the Korean conflict.  I wanted to explore the nature of that wounding more deeply, and also the question of how we heal.  Southern Minnesota, which is the setting I’ve used once again, is a perfect backdrop for an exploration of great wounding.  It’s an area whose history is written in great struggle and great suffering.  The Dakota Conflict of 1862, which occurred in the Minnesota River Valley, resulted in the largest mass execution in this nation’s history.  Thirty-eight Dakota men were hung on the same day at the same hour from an enormous scaffolding constructed in Mankato, Minnesota.  The Dakota were driven from Minnesota, from their homeland, and remained in exile for many years before returning to a place where they’d lost everything.

This Tender Land is a companion novel to Ordinary Grace, but not a sequel.  It doesn’t deal with the Drum family, nor does it take place in the fictional New Bremen.  I call it a companion because it’s also set in southern Minnesota in earlier time—1958.  And the theme this time around is, quite simply, the healing of the human spirit.

If you could tell anyone to read one book (other than your own) what would that book be?

My all-time favorite novel is To Kill A Mockingbird. Anyone who hasn’t yet read this American classic absolutely must.

You can connect with William Kent Krueger on GoodReads or on Facebook! 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!
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January 2015 Must-Reads

Friday, January 30th, 2015

January 2015 Must-Reads from MomAdvice.com

I promised you book reviews in the new year and I am delivering on that on the last Friday of each month. Did you know my dream job is to be a book concierge so that I could select books for other people based on their hobbies and interests? It really is. It thrills me to no end to share my favorite books with you and I try to read a wide range of books so I have something for everyone.  I am hoping that you will enjoy these special selections and be sure to keep your eyes peeled for my Sundays With Writers where I have the unbelievable job of interviewing the authors from my most loved books! I know, PINCH ME.

This month will be longer than most since I took two weeks off this winter to just read and be with my family over the holidays. Two of the books that I read ended up squeaking in on my best books of 2014 list- did you see it?  A few today, I have no doubt, will be on my 2015 best book highlights.

The Book of Unknown Americans by Christina Henriquez

The Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henriquez

This was an absolutely beautiful story about what it would be like to come to America as an immigrant. Told from alternating viewpoints all from immigrant neighbors in one apartment complex, it gives the reader the opportunity to see America through an immigrant’s eyes. From struggling to make ends to meet, to the struggle to communicate, to finding a job, to sending your child off to school, to the sacrifices that are made when leaving your own country for something you believe will be better than the life you are leading- it looks at it all through new eyes.

The story hinges around two sets of parents who have sacrificed everything for their kids and the blooming love between their children in a beautiful coming-of-age story. Honest, human, and so moving. A must-read this year.

I have reached out to Cristina to hear more about the story behind the story for our Sundays With Writers. Fingers crossed that you will be reading this interview soon- I can’t recommend this novel enough!

5 Out of 5 Stars

Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger

Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger

If you are into vivid storytellers, William Kent Krueger’s novel is a book for you. After I finished it, I emailed Kent to see if he would like to share more about this book and you can read my interview with him on Sunday.

This novel is set in 1961 in New Bremen, Minnesota and is told through the eyes of thirteen-year-old Frank Drum.

When tragedy unexpectedly comes to call on his family, which includes his Methodist minister father, his passionate, artistic mother, Juilliard-bound older sister, and wise-beyond-his years kid brother, Frank finds himself thrust into an adult world full of secrets, lies, adultery, and betrayal.

On the surface, ORDINARY GRACE is the story of the murder of a beautiful young woman, a beloved daughter and sister. At heart, it’s the story of what that tragedy does to a boy, his family, and ultimately the fabric of the small town in which he lives.

This is a beautiful coming of age story that reminds us of our youth. While I was able to figure out the killer early on in the story, as this is meant to be a mystery, it did not take away from the beautiful writing that filled the pages. I really enjoyed the book and the author’s carefully crafted characters that made this story read more like a memoir than a piece of fiction.

4 Out of 5 Stars

Fingersmith by Sarah Waters

Fingersmith by Sarah Waters

I’m not even going to lie, this novel is absolute perfection from start to finish. Never a lag, never a dull moment, audible gasps at shocking plot twists, a steamy sordid love affair…friends, THIS is unbelievable. Now as a disclaimer, the love affair lies between two women so if you don’t want to read that, then continue on with your life. That being said, it is tastefully done and the love affair scene is more Snow Flower & the Secret Fan rather than that cheap stuff in 50 Shades of Grey. I could not put this book down and actually bought it for my Kindle (due to its whopping 596 pages in length), and kind of already want to reread it again. Or just have you all read it so I can talk about it. I mean- it’s THAT good.

Sue Trinder is an orphan, left as an infant in the care of Mrs. Sucksby, a “baby farmer,” who raised her with unusual tenderness, as if Sue were her own. Mrs. Sucksby’s household, with its fussy babies calmed with doses of gin, also hosts a transient family of petty thieves—fingersmiths—for whom this house in the heart of a mean London slum is home.

One day, the most beloved thief of all arrives—Gentleman, an elegant con man, who carries with him an enticing proposition for Sue: If she wins a position as the maid to Maud Lilly, a naïve gentlewoman, and aids Gentleman in her seduction, then they will all share in Maud’s vast inheritance. Once the inheritance is secured, Maud will be disposed of—passed off as mad, and made to live out the rest of her days in a lunatic asylum.

With dreams of paying back the kindness of her adopted family, Sue agrees to the plan. Once in, however, Sue begins to pity her helpless mark and care for Maud Lilly in unexpected ways…But no one and nothing is as it seems in this Dickensian novel of thrills and reversals.

As a reader, you are taken on a Dickens-esque roller coaster ride with plot twist after plot twist. I could not put this down and can’t wait to dig into more of her books now that I finally know what all the fuss is about. This book was amazing!

45 Out of 5 Stars (I’m Not Kidding!)

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler

Did you catch my interview with Karen Joy Fowler this week about this amazing book? You must read the book and then read my interview with her.

First, don’t read any reviews on this one. Just read it so you can have fun with the surprise- kind of like the shocking twist in GONE GIRL. It’s got that element of, “WAIT, WHAT?!”

Meet the Cooke family. Our narrator is Rosemary Cooke. As a child, she never stopped talking; as a young woman, she has wrapped herself in silence: the silence of intentional forgetting, of protective cover. Something happened, something so awful she has buried it in the recesses of her mind. Now her adored older brother is a fugitive, wanted by the FBI for domestic terrorism. And her once lively mother is a shell of her former self, her clever and imperious father now a distant, brooding man. And Fern, Rosemary’s beloved sister, her accomplice in all their childhood mischief? Fern’s is a fate the family, in all their innocence, could never have imagined.

This is one of those books that you want others to read just so you can talk through it. I avoided reading any reviews on this and I am so glad I did because half of the fun in this one was making sense of this unusual family and just what makes them so unusual. So beautifully executed that it reads like a memoir, it was such an enjoyable and believable read that you want to go on a narnia of fact-finding on Wikipedia to discover all of the inspiration behind this novel and read more about how many of these cases featured were true.

Although the execution of delivering the information in a mixed up timeline can be confusing for the reader, the originality of this unique & heartbreaking story made this a book that I just couldn’t put down.

5 Out of 5 Stars

Landline by Rainbow Rowell

Landline by Rainbow Rowell

First, this was just not my favorite Rainbow Rowell book. If you are wanting to read something by this author, I can’t recommend ELEANOR & PARK enough. It’s YA perfection. This book was cute, but not my favorite. I am apparently in the minority though because this one won the GoodReads Choice Award Winner for the Fiction Category for 2014.

The story is about a troubled marriage where the couple end up being separated for the holidays and Georgie, the wife, discovers that she can communicate with her husband in the past through a landline phone in her childhood room. They chat at night and Georgie wonders if by chatting with him (pre-marriage)  she is changing their future or can repair mistakes from the past.

This had all the signature Rainbow Rowell charm with a touch of magical realism laced in where a relationship is revived through a rotary phone that can take the main character, Georgie, back in time to a pivotal moment in the relationship with her husband. I am always a big fan of books that explore the, “what if?” and this did that in a failing marriage and what could be done differently if given the chance. Although this one lacked the ELEANOR & PARK charm, I still thought it was a great little escape. Fans of Allison Winn Scotch’s, TIME OF MY LIFE,  will fall in love with this one as it builds on such a similar concept.

For me the first half was slow and the second half was cute. I recommend this one if you need a little escape or a lighter read between heavier books.

4 Out of 5 Stars

Wheat Belly by William Davis

Wheat Belly by William Davis

I’m trying to dive into a bit of nonfiction this year and thanks to our m challenge series and the monthly selection, I tackled my first nonfiction book this year.

WHEAT BELLY focuses on the quality of the wheat that we now consume and how removing wheat from your diet can help you to lose weight and live longer. The scientific research that supported this book as well as patient studies showcased not only the difference in the health of our body, but also how eating clean can help you mentally too.

Although every study and patient situation in this book seemed to have remarkable differences in their health without the gluten, I tend to not be an extremist when it comes to diet planning unless you have a health reason (like having celiac disease) that might not benefit from my, “all things in moderation,” planning.

The most interesting part for me about this book though were the studies on mental health, particularly the schizophrenia study, that showcased how much better patients did mentally with a wheat-free diet. I know that I have felt sluggish and out of sorts when I overload on carbs, but I never realized the benefits of wheat-free eating if you were suffering from a mental illness.

Overall, I really did enjoy this book and had the pleasure of listening to this one on audiobook this month thanks to my Scribd membership. I’m thrilled they are now offering an unlimited audiobook offering along with my book selections which has been a great way to absorb another book while tackling knitting or household chores!

4 Out of 5 Stars

Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder

Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls

I read and loved this one as a little girl and this month I read it with my little girl. The circle of life is a beautiful thing.  I think reading this again was even better as an adult. I am reading these with my 9 year-old daughter and am shocked how many scenes I can recall in vivid detail from my childhood. As an adult though, you certainly have more of an appreciation for all the work that Ma & Pa did to keep their household running smoothly. I also have found that Laura is a bit of a Ramona in this story- yup, she’s a little sassy and I love it.

This book really showcases all of the chores that the family must do and how they prepare their food for the long winter. The entertainment resides in Pa’s fiddle playing and making things from scratch.

This book is a treasure, no matter what your age! I look forward to reading the rest in the series this year with her.

5 Out of 5 Stars

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What Is On My Nightstand Now

Deep Down Dark by Hector Tobar

Deep Down Dark by Hector Tobar

I am over halfway through DEEP DOWN DARK and absolutely loving it. I heard about this book on NPR since it is their first Morning Edition book club selection and we know I am all about anything NPR-related. When a Chilean mine collapsed in August 2010, it trapped thirty-three miners beneath thousands of feet of rock for a record-breaking sixty-nine days. This book is the story of the miners and what they  experienced below the surface. Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, Hector Tobar gains exclusive access to the miners and their stories and tells these beautifully. It helps to offer an understanding of the families and the personal stories of these miners, as well as adds insight into what it would be like to work in this type of job.

When I read stories like this, much like the beautiful book UNBROKEN, I am reminded that I would die in the first day because I am a very weak, weak person. I could not exist in this kind of tomb-like existence. It is an incredible testimony to the strength of these men and the love they had for their families.

I really recommend this one, even though I haven’t finished it yet!

Inside the O'Briens by Lisa Genova

Inside The O’Briens by Lesa Genova

I was lucky enough to score an advanced reader of this book on NetGalley this month. I am a huge fan of Lisa Genova, particularly her novels STILL ALICE (have you seen the flick yet?)  and LEFT NEGLECTED. She truly has a gift for writing about illnesses and diseases that can affect the brain and mind. This novel promises a bit more of the same, but is exploring Huntington’s Disease.

Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder

Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder

We are riding along in the wagon with Laura as her family leaves her little house in the big woods. I won’t lie, Emily started sobbing when the wagon found its way into the creek and their dog goes missing. I forgot how brutal this trip was.  Of course, I always loved the most depressing books when I was a kid, so this should come as no surprise that I remembered this one fondly. I also am reminded that I wouldn’t survive (see above for why).

Essentialism by Greg McKeown

Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown

My work life has been out of control these past couple of years and this year I really want to scale back.  This book is going to help me say no more to the things that don’t matter and make room for the good stuff. I am really enjoying this one and find myself highlighting the entire book. It’s the kind of book you want to revisit periodically when life feels out of control.  For me, it is like working with a business coach, but it doesn’t cost as much. I see so much of myself and my struggles in this and so much of my husband’s struggle with balance that we are both reading it right now and talking about it.  It is helping me to refocus this year.

What should I be adding to my library bag?  Leave your suggestions in the comments below! Looking for book ideas? Check out our entire Book section of the site! Don’t forget to friend me on GoodReads! xo

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

 

 

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m challenge: Wheat Belly Book Discussion

Thursday, January 29th, 2015

Wheat Belly by William Davis

I hope that you have been enjoying the m challenge this month and the information we showcased on health & wellness this month. Many apologies for the delay in our WHEAT BELLY discussion. Between having my home renovated and some family things going on, I got a little behind on our discussion. That said, I finished the book and really loved it.  Despite this topic being a little on the dry side for me, there was a lot of humour to keep me entertained while being educated on what wheat does to our systems. It was a good one to listen to on audiobook while I tackled my chores.

As you guys know I eat gluten-free almost 100% of the time, with a few indulgences around the holidays and the occasional, “JUST GIVE ME REAL PIZZA,” moments. For me, it has been transformative in so many ways. My stomach is finally quiet,  my skin is no longer as rashy, I have more energy, and even my hairdresser has remarked on how my hair doesn’t even feel the same.  Although I never had the colonoscopy to find out if I am celiac, it does run in my family, and I am aware that gluten does something to my body that isn’t good.  The change for me has been really transformative. I feel like me again.

WHEAT BELLY focuses on the quality of the wheat that we now consume and how removing wheat from your diet can help you to lose weight and live longer. The scientific research that supported this book as well as patient studies showcased not only the difference in the health of our body, but also how eating clean can help you mentally too.

Although every study and patient situation in this book seemed to have remarkable differences in their health without the gluten, I tend to not be an extremist when it comes to diet planning unless you have a health reason (like having celiac disease) that might not benefit from my, “all things in moderation,” planning.

The most interesting part for me about this book though were the studies on mental health, particularly the schizophrenia study, that showcased how much better patients did mentally with a wheat-free diet. I know that I have felt sluggish and out of sorts when I overload on carbs, but I never realized the benefits of wheat-free eating if you were suffering from a mental illness.

Dr. William Davis

On the Wheat Belly diet you eliminate all wheat, including bread, pasta, cereal, pretzels, doughnuts, etc. You may not eat anything made with wheat, barley, rye, spelt, or certain oats.

Unlike a gluten-free diet, Dr. William Davis cautions against simply replacing these items with “gluten-free” versions, which often contain cornstarch, rice starch, potato starch, or tapioca starch and will not aid in weight loss. The doctor says they trigger the same blood sugar response as gluten from wheat.

As someone who eats gluten-free, I have to agree that I don’t always feel great when I eat products that are gluten-free replacements. I try to eat these in moderation and make smart decisions. Unless it is gluten-free Girl Scout Cookies which happened to be my new discovery this year. If it is those, than I will do the best I can. *ahem*

Davis also suggests cutting out high-fructose corn syrup, sucrose, salt, sugary foods, rice, potatoes, soda, fruit juice, dried fruit, legumes, and more. You should also avoid trans fats, fried foods, and cured meats on this plan.

The diet outlines that you can eat:

Vegetables
Some fruit (namely berries, apples, oranges), but much less of “sugary fruit” (pineapple, papaya, mango, banana)
Unlimited raw nuts, plant-based oils such as olive, avocado, coconut, and cocoa butter
Grass-fed, humanely raised meat and eggs
Full-fat cheese
Ground flaxseed

You can also eat limited quantities of:

Full-fat, unsweetened cottage cheese, yogurt, milk, and butter
Soy in its fermented forms: tofu, tempeh, miso, and natto
Olives, avocados, pickled vegetables, and raw seeds
After you’ve transitioned off wheat, you may eat limited quantities of other whole grains, such as quinoa, millet, amaranth, and chia, as well as beans.

As far as alcohol goes, wheat-brewed beers are definitely off the list, but Davis does support red wine for its heart-healthy benefits. You can read more on the Wheat Belly blog.

Although I don’t eat like this for weight-loss,  I can honestly say that I eat like this almost all of the time for my health.  At first, the transition was hard. I felt like I was detoxing those first few weeks. Over time though, and as so many other diets support clean eating pop up, it has become easier and easier. Almost everyone I know eats like this now.  As a disclaimer, although I choose to eat like this for myself, my husband and family still eat as usual except for the meals we share together. Why? Because ain’t nobody got time for cooking one meal, let alone two meals.

I’m curious for those who read this one what you thought about it? Were there any big moments in this book that made you think or have you considered/done/are doing a diet like this? Feel free to chat in the comments below!

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Amy’s Notebook 01.28.15: The m challenge Focus on Health Syllabus

Wednesday, January 28th, 2015

m-challenge Note: As a wrap-up of each month’s m challenge theme, we will be using the last Notebook of the month as a sort of “Cliffs Notes” edition of the challenge – a place where you can find a list of all the articles we’ve published for the challenge, as well as more inspiration and links from the web around the challenge theme. Our hope is that this will serve as a one stop shopping for the theme that you can refer to as well as catch up on in case you’ve missed anything!

January m challenge: Focus on Health

Recipes:

Healthy Links:

Stay in Shape via Living Well Spending Less

Source: Living Well Spending Less

 

Five smart ways to get motivated and stay in shape–without breaking the bank!

You’ll definitely find something to help you focus on health in this huge list of 101 ideas for simple, healthy changes.

25 exercise playlists – I can’t be without music in my workouts!

Great tips on how to get your energy back.

The only 12 exercises you need to get in shape.

22 simple ways to start eating healthier this year.

Healthy Lunch Ideas via Back to Her Roots

Source: Back to Her Roots

 

Healthy, easy, and quick lunch ideas.

32 healthy cooking tips for any level of cook!

11 DIY protein bar recipes.

How to shop healthy – the dos and don’ts for healthy grocery shopping.

12 healthy salad dressing recipes to jump start you to healthy eating in 2015.

Healthy smoothie recipes that are fast and easy.

18 mason jar salads – love these as a fun, healthy lunch idea!

amys_notebook

I hope you enjoyed this notebook, a collection of gathered links all around our m challenge about focusing on our health. Nothing brings me more joy than to highlight other fabulous bloggers. Follow me on Pinterest for daily inspiration!

 

Sundays With Writers: We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler

Sunday, January 25th, 2015

Sundays With Writers

It’s so good to be back to Sundays With Writers and sharing my first interview for 2015. Over my two week holiday, I read several really incredible books and one of those books happened to be,  WE ARE ALL COMPLETELY BESIDE OURSELVES by Karen Joy Fowler.  I read about it in this fantastic list of 6 interesting and very different novels that are worth your time on Hollywood Housewife. Laura always has some unbelievably great picks so I knew that if she said this was worth my time, it would be. I avoided all reviews of the book and dug into it.

As a reader, I love a good surprise.

And this book was SO surprising….much like that delicious twist in GONE GIRL where you flipped the page and you were like, “Wait! WHAT?!”

After I finished it, I had to track down Karen Joy Fowler to see if she could share with us a little bit more about herself and her book.  Although this was a tricky interview to do, there are no spoilers in this interview.

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler

Meet the Cooke family. Our narrator is Rosemary Cooke. As a child, she never stopped talking; as a young woman, she has wrapped herself in silence: the silence of intentional forgetting, of protective cover. Something happened, something so awful she has buried it in the recesses of her mind. Now her adored older brother is a fugitive, wanted by the FBI for domestic terrorism. And her once lively mother is a shell of her former self, her clever and imperious father now a distant, brooding man. And Fern, Rosemary’s beloved sister, her accomplice in all their childhood mischief? Fern’s is a fate the family, in all their innocence, could never have imagined.

This is one of those books that you want others to read just so you can talk through it. I avoided reading any reviews on this and I am so glad I did because half of the fun in this one was making sense of this unusual family and just what makes them so unusual. So beautifully executed that it reads like a memoir, it was such an enjoyable and believable read that I will spend the rest of the night trying to find all of the inspiration behind this novel and reading more about how many of these cases featured were true. Although the execution of delivering the information in a mixed up timeline can be confusing for the reader, the originality of this unique & heartbreaking story made this a book that I just couldn’t put down.

I’m not the only one who loved this book though! WE ARE ALL COMPLETELY BESIDE OURSELVES has won the Pen/Faulkner Award for 2014 and was nominated for a 2014 Nebula Award as well.  The book was also shortlisted for the 2014 Man Booker Prize- it’s that good!

Grab a cup of coffee and let’s chat with Karen Joy Fowler this morning about this intriguing book. Remember, no spoilers, friends!

Karen Joy Fowler

You have the unbelievable gift of writing books that cover a wide range of genres beautifully, which I find quite amazing as a reader. Would you find writing in one genre to be monotonous? Do you have a favorite genre that you feel most comfortable in?

I feel most comfortable between genres.  Actually I feel most comfortable when I don’t think about genre at all, but just do whatever seems best to me for the story at hand.  My recollection of the children’s room in the library where I grew up is that books weren’t separated by genre – none of that space rocket on the spine, cowboy hat on the spine that I found in later libraries.  So it was years before I understood that genre mattered, because it never had to me.

WE ARE ALL COMPLETELY BESIDE OURSELVES explores the topic of animal testing for medical purposes and tells this story of what was happening in the ‘70’s in a truly unique way. How did you decide that this was a subject you wanted to tackle and what types of research did you have to do to prepare for this book? Did your father’s work as a psychology professor who studied animal behavior contribute to you wanting to explore this topic further?

My father’s work and my childhood perceptions of it, as best I can remember them, gave me the confidence to think I maybe could write this book, even though I had no experience or knowledge of chimpanzees beyond the basic when I started it.   The idea came during a conversation I was having with my daughter about my father’s work.  I comforted myself that, if I didn’t know much about chimps, at least I knew a lot about psychologists.  That gave me the nerve needed to begin the reading and research required.

Did writing this book change any of your own views about animal rights? Were you able to relate to one of the characters, in particular, and their viewpoint about animal rights?

I was always an animal rights advocate, but writing the book really expanded my sense of that.  Before I did the research I was most sympathetic to those animals with traits I could identify as human-like, those whose intelligence seemed to echo human intelligence.  I was well into the book before I took a closer look at my own assumptions.  Doing the research widened my circle of empathy as well as my fascination and respect for the cognitive abilities of our fellow creatures.

A few centuries back, Jeremy Bentham said:  the question is not, Can they reason? nor, Can they talk? but, Can they suffer? Why should the law refuse its protection to any sensitive being?… The time will come when humanity will extend its mantle over everything which breathes… “

I wonder if things have taken a bit longer than Bentham expected.

In the book, Lowell is something of an extremist, but I am quite sympathetic to him.

It is rare for a novel to take me by surprise, but you carefully crafted the first portion of your book with a big reveal halfway through that simply shocked me. It is actually preventing me from asking you questions I would like to because half of the joy of reading your book was in the discovery of this surprising twist. Did you always know that you wanted to set this story up in this way for your readers?

Yes, before I had written a word, I’d planned to withhold this crucial bit of information until partway in.  My reasons for doing so were not just for the surprise, although I like that side effect.   My reasons were the same as the ones Rosemary offers when the reveal finally happens.

Your book reads like a memoir to me and the way you crafted the story through Rosemary’s eyes made me check the listed genre again after I was done to make sure this wasn’t a true story. Was it easy to create Rosemary’s voice for this book? How hard was it to develop the psychological angle of the loss of Rosemary’s sister?

Having never remotely gone through anything like Rosemary’s life, I was forced to simply imagine it all.  I could do the research I felt I needed for Fern (and besides, I’m never inside Fern’s head, so an outside, researched view will do.)  But creating Rosemary was the most difficult, and also the most fun, part of the book for me.  I find that most difficult and most fun often go together.

If you could tell anyone to read one book (other than your own) what would that book be?

I’m not sure I can answer this question.  It would depend on the anyone – I don’t think books are a one-size-fits-all sort of thing.   But a current enthusiasm is Kelly Link’s new short story collection, GET IN TROUBLE.  Coming out in February.  I will be so happy if you all buy and read it.

You can connect with Karen Joy Fowler on her website and become a fan on GoodReads! 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: A New Podcast to Love, Mad for Laura, & Moving Documentaries

Friday, January 23rd, 2015

It's the 3 Little Things

Happy Friday, friends! This week has been a little crazy as our little ’60’s home is being renovated…I know…again. I have always grown up in a one bathroom home and to have an extra half bath in our house has been a delightful luxury. Things are about to get a bit more luxurious though thanks to All-Pro Renovations as they add a shower in our guest bathroom this week. You can’t even imagine my excitement that we will have TWO showers. I also am remembering how hard it was to juggle a family and one bathroom and have come to appreciate the luxuries of multiple bathrooms all the more.

On a superficial note, I am also quite excited about the pretty subway tiled walls, hex tiled flooring, and pretty painted planks that are going on the ceiling. I can’t wait to show you soon since I have NO DOUBT this will be on the happy list in just a couple of short weeks!

A couple of fun housekeeping things on MomAdvice. First, Sundays With Writers is back for the new year on Sunday with a VERY special writer who is sharing a little of her heart and the story behind her book with us. In all honesty, I can’t believe she answered my email so this is a really special one for me. Secondly, our Wheat Belly discussion is on my schedule for Monday and I’m very excited to be sharing my thoughts on that book with you. Third, it was requested that I continue sharing my book reviews with you here so on the last Friday of each month, plan to meet me here for a monthly recap of what I’m reading each month instead of the happy list. Yay! 

Here’s the happy for this week!

Invisibilia

A New Podcast Addiction

Although I have had to say farewell to my Serial podcast addiction, I am able to handle it so much better than I expected thanks to the new Invisibilia podcast.  Invisibilia (Latin for “all the invisible things”) explores the intangible forces that shape human behavior – things like ideas, beliefs, assumptions and emotions. Although, I have to say, that description sounds quite drier than what it actually is.

Each week there is a subject of exploration and real people who struggle with it.  I listened to, “The Secret History of Thoughts,” and “Fearless,” which shared the story of people who struggled with things like thoughts or fears (or lack thereof)  and then the show shares the scientific & psychological research behind each topic. It kind of reminds me of Oprah meets This American Life. I really have enjoyed the first two episodes immensely and can’t wait to listen in on the next one today!

Little House: The First Five Novels

Little House: The First Five Novels (IN ONE!)

I had a bit of a Laura obsession when I was younger and I am thrilled to be seeing the Laura gleam in my daughter’s eyes now that we are reading these books together. For Christmas, I asked her grandparents to get her this Little House reissued classic from Barnes & Noble. The book costs a mere $18 and has the first five novels in one book. The inside has a calico print, it has a ribbon bookmark, and the pages have golden edges. It is just a treat for your bookshelf and a treat to read with your child.

Emily & I finished Little House in the Big Woods this week and we just started Little House on the Prairie a couple of nights ago.

I can really tell she caught the Laura bug when I was making her dinner last night and she said, “Oh, I wish we had our own pig so we could slaughter him like Laura’s family does.”

Ummmmm….

No.

After we finished reading it, I nestled the book with all of the other pretty classics I have been collecting and she pointed out the fact that 1. This was not a book for MY bookshelf and 2. Was I enjoying this book that was not my gift as much as I was enjoying the Taylor Swift CD that was not my gift in our car? I had to explain that I thought it might be easier to find the book on my shelf and we have to keep the CD ready for her so that I can play it right when she gets in the car off her bus.

I’m not sure she’s buying it- but I sure am loving her gifts this year! :)

Living On One Dollar

A Documentary for the Whole Family

Our family is still doing our Docu-Pizza nights and last week I stumbled upon this film, “Living on One Dollar,” that is currently on Netflix.  Four people take on the challenge of living on less than $1 a day in Guatemala. This challenge is something that 1.1 billion people face in our world every single day and they attempt to do just what they do on this amount of money. They show what it would be like to try to get a loan if this is your income, what it would be like to give up your schooling to keep your family fed, and the real issues that those in poverty face every single day.  This movie is so beautifully told and shot that it really brings perspective on just how lucky we are to live such a privileged life. I wouldn’t say it made me HAPPY (except the sweet, sweet ending), but it made me THINK A LOT about how we could do and be better. And that, of course, makes me happy.

We talked a lot about this one after it was done and  how we could be better stewards of all that God has given us.  After clearing out my pantry and fridge just days before,  it brought to light how much better we could be doing with eating at home and wasting less food.  This is a small switch that we all could do to free up more funds to give to those in need- what a wonderful thing.

It really is a good one for the whole family and I definitely recommend it over your next homemade pizza night!

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

Now it’s your turn! What’s making you happy this week?

Amy’s Notebook 01.21.15

Wednesday, January 21st, 2015

Lace Containers via Design Mom

Source: Design Mom

 

Gorgeous DIY containers with lace imprints.

Slow cooker enchilada quinoa bake- get in my belly.

No sew blanket cape- I feel inspired!

I was addicted to Serial- now what?

I like this secret trick!

10 things I have learned by downsizing my life- I love this and the commitment to smaller space living.

Thankfulness via A View From The Fridge

Source: A View From the Fridge

 

A great reminder to give thanks.

Bright & easy rope coaster DIY.

10 ways to cuff your jeans.

Potterhood. Made me laugh especially after just seeing Boyhood this week!

Lined faux fur infinity scarf- get in my closet.

Knuffle Bunny- Oh, snap!

amys_notebook

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 then to highlight other fabulous bloggers. Follow me on Pinterest for daily inspiration!

37 Things That Make Me Happy #thisis37

Friday, January 16th, 2015

this-is-37-1

It’s my BIRTHDAY today! I know you are just so excited for me. In all honesty,  I  can’t believe that I am turning 37 this year. I remember thinking how old that was when I was a youngster and now when I hear about people who are turning sixty, I’m like, “She’s so young! She’s got a lifetime ahead of her!”

It’s funny how perspective changes as we age.

I  feel happier and more self-assured than I ever did in my twenties. How lovely to stop caring so much about what everyone thinks about you. How freeing to let things go a little easier. How refreshing  to not feel like you have to keep up anymore because we are all just trying to play the game of life together.   I hear that I have even more to look forward to as I get older.

Truly though, I don’t feel a day over 20. Unless it is past ten o’clock. Then I feel like the oldest person in the room and I think about my bed and how it needs me a lot. I guess in some ways, I do feel every bit my age.

Maybe it is just age that finally lets you say “uncle,” and not feel like the best things happen after ten.

In honor of my 37 years of life, here are 37 things that are making me happy!

1. Coffee and lots of it.

2. NPR every day. All day. I feel like I’m finally aware of world issues and it makes me feel passionately about things I thought I would never care about. I’m proud to be able to participate in conversations about those issues too. Well, unless the conversation is political. Then I shall let you have the floor and I will go get a drink while you share it.

3. Sponsoring our first child from World Vision and receiving her updates in the mail.

4. Siblings for friends. What a rarity in life to say that your best friends are your siblings. I try to never take it for granted.

our-q-and-a

5. Journaling with my husband. I look forward to his hilarious and heartfelt responses every morning.

6. Being a mom to two awesome kids. Nothing made me beam more this year than to hear from our teachers things like, “Your child…she/he is just GOOD PEOPLE.” Good people and being the one who raised  ‘em- that’s some happy stuff right there.

7.  Volunteering and reading to my kids at school every week. I want everyone to be a reader and love books as much as me. Seeing kids struggle with that and then feeling the triumph of them discovering a love for books makes my heart unbelievably happy.

8. Real and true friendships. The lifelong kind.  No BS and drama-drama-drama. I am thankful I have those kinds of friends.

9. Finding my dancing feet again. I hope I never lose them.

10. Saying no. A lot.

12. Making my little home into the kind of place that I can be proud of. 11 years ago I would have never dreamed of all that we could do in our 60’s fixer upper. I’m still dreaming.

13. Ditching the Facebook addiction and the happiness and peace that came from that decision.

14. Books, books and more books. The Sundays With Writers has been food for my book-loving soul and a dream come true for this reader. Reaching my reading goal of 50 books (and surpassing it) is something  I am really proud I accomplished this year.

15. The absence of so much “stuff” in our home and the joy & peace that comes from clutter-free spaces. It’s always a work in progress and I’m trying to make a commitment to bring in only the stuff I really love.

16. My minimized wardrobe. Raise your hand if you didn’t think I could do it (raises a hand for her very own self).  How lovely to wake up and know just what to wear. And to give to others all that I don’t need.

17. Getting my passport. The first step towards seeing the world with my best friend.

18. Finding two new sources for secondhand goodness for my closet. Consignment shopping from the comforts of my own home is quite lovely!

19. Finally have glasses confidence. Four eyes ARE better than one!

20. Friends finally coming to Netflix.

how-to-make-a-blanket-scarf-21

21.  Learning to embrace and appreciate the beauty of a scarf to my slimmer wardrobe. The transformation is a delight.

22. Beauty products that keep a girl trucking along in her late thirties. I’d love to get a shout out to this BB cream, this skin cleanser, this at-home hair color, and this exfoliator for making me feel young and happy as I age.

23. ePantry, for not only helping me become a huge fan of so many new green products for the home and saving me trips to the grocery store, but even more for the fact that they made a HUGE donation with my affiliate credit to two amazing organizations in our town on my behalf. Blessing our local women & children shelter and our church’s food pantry for those in need was such a great way to pay it forward this year.

how-to-paint-laminate-furniture-5

24. Having a fireplace in our home- what a treat this spot has become this year. Picture my husband with a pipe and smoking jacket, me with my knitting, and This American Life on the radio by our roaring faux fire.

25. My growing vinyl collection. There is just so much nostalgia in getting and playing records…especially the ones I loved as a kid.

26. Mastering the filet. It is the one life skill I wish I could gift everyone.  Our date nights have gotten much more economical now that I know how to make the one thing I was always after when I went out.

27. Boxed wine. Thank you for your easy-to-pour spout after not-so-easy days.

laura-ingalls

28. Reading my favorite childhood books with my children. It’s been a Little House year with my daughter and rereading the words as an adult make me just as happy (if not happier) than when I read them as a child.

29. Having the pride of parents. My job is weird and hard to explain, yet they still try to share about it with everyone they know. What are we without our parents?

30. Giving, giving, giving- my heart, my time, my talents, my belongings, my funds. How lucky to be in a position that I can share?

31.  The joy I feel when cooking for people I love- my happy place is definitely in the kitchen cooking and creating for them.

nutcracker-1

32. Seeing my daughter dance her first Nutcracker this year- it was truly magical.

crazy-8-holiday-line-6

33. Every moment that I get to be with this kid, knowing that these years with him are passing me by, far quicker than I would like.

34. The joy I feel every time I see my book at a store. I take a picture EVERY TIME.

35. Finally having red lipstick confidence.

36. Our little shelter cat who has become my third child. I am embracing the crazy cat lady that I never knew I was.

37. This corner of the internet. What a boring life I would lead without you.  I am thankful for anyone who would take the time to read my words. Thank you from the bottom of my heart!

 

xoxo

 

Amy’s Notebook 01.14.15

Wednesday, January 14th, 2015

Book purse via A Beautiful Mess

Source: A Beautiful Mess

 

Hello, adorable book purse.

I still can’t stop laughing about this.

14 classic college books you’ll want to read again as a real adult.

Flipping the cabinet doors. Pretty much genius.

Messy waves for 2015.

New Year’s cooking goals & 20 recipes to get started- I need this.

Detox Drinks via Camille Styles

Source: Camille Styles

 

10 best detox drinks.

I love the idea of a monthly discipline challenge (and all Laura learned from it).

10 blogging apps that you need right now.

The thing about being more awesome

Good travel hack to know!

amys_notebook

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 then to highlight other fabulous bloggers. Follow me on Pinterest for daily inspiration!

 

It’s the 3 Little Things: Marriage Boost, Family Games, and Vinyl Perfection

Friday, January 9th, 2015

3_little_things

It is so good to be back with you this week! I am so excited about our m challenge focus on the site and I loved reading your enthusiasm about this too. I hope you enjoyed the first week of posts as we explore our health and fitness topic.  As promised, I also wanted to continue our regular features that you love so this will be the first 3 Little Things for 2015 since I know you love it so much.

As a confession, I did have to tweak my fashion capsule so I rebooted it after a month of fumbling along and then getting some key pieces as holiday gifts, so I am restarting my Project 333 officially on December 22nd pushing me out to March, which will be great for timing anyway with my Spring wardrobe.  I will update the photos in my fashion capsule so you can follow along, but have a need to be honest about all of that since this was my first winter wardrobe and I am still learning right along with you.

Here is what is making me happy this week!

our-q-and-a

Our Q & A a Day: 3 Year Journal for Two People

After being married for almost 15 years,  you would think that I would know all there is to know about my husband. Turns out, not the case.  I happened upon this Our Q&A a Day 3 Year Journal and thought it might be a fun way to tackle two important things to me- communicating with my spouse and keeping a journal.  Each day there is a writing prompt like, “What feels vitally important right now,” or “Do you have enough independence,” for example. On one page, there is room for three years that gives each person the opportunity to write a line or two to answer the question. Each year, you answer the same question so you begin to see how your answers have changed each year.

We have this on our bed and I move it to his side after I fill it out. I look forward so much to reading his responses and it has been a good way to begin talking about things that we didn’t even know were important to each other.

This is going to be my new go-to present for weddings because I can’t imagine what my answers would have been in those first three years of marriage versus where I am in my (almost) 15th year. I HIGHLY recommend this for relationship building.

tapple

Tapple

Each year the grandparents send a little spending money for us to purchase Christmas gifts. This year we used the money to get a couple of games for the kids to play over their holiday break.  Tapple was a game that our whole family loved and every family member could play.  The object of the game is very simple and there aren’t a lot of rules.  There are a set of cards that tell you a topic like, “Pizza Toppings” or “Animals at the Zoo.” You start the timer and then you try to think of a word that starts with each available letter on the game board that fits under that category. If you can’t get it under the allotted time, you are out, and play continues with the remaining players.

The kids absolutely loved this and really loved making up their own categories (an option available on the cards) to create their own game like, “Words to Describe Our Cat Lulu,” or “What Mom Is Like Before Her Coffee” (hardy-har-har!)  We all LOVED this game and it is going to be one of those things we can do together on family nights. If you are looking for a new game for the collection, I recommend this one for a really fun time!

ella-and-louis-vinyl

Ella & Louis On Vinyl

I only asked for one record this year for Christmas and it was this reissued Ella & Louis on vinyl.  My in-laws gave me this album for Christmas and I am pretty sure it is going to be a permanent fixture on our turntable.  The two of these voices together is absolutely magical and the song selections are sheer perfection.  I wish everyone could experience this and at a mere $22, it can be had for a steal! It’s a must for vinyl collectors simply for that adorable cover alone.

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

Now it’s your turn! What’s making you happy this week?