Monday, July 3, 2017

July Book Club Pick

Image from Goodreads
June's book club pick was from C and she chose The Color of Water by James McBride. I was pretty surprised that this book isn't more popular. It was a fantastic read. The Color of Water is the story of the author, James McBride, and his mother, Ruth McBride-Jordan. Ruth was a Jew, born in Poland, the daughter of a rabbi, and raised in the American South. She married her first husband, a black man, in the early 1940's and spent her life raising 12 children in the projects of Brooklyn, and managed to get all her children through college. While Ruth's story is one of overcoming her past of abuse and dealing with prejudice (or not dealing with it), James story is one of self-discovery. He grows up confused, as a black child in a black neighborhood, with a white mother and attending a predominately white school, in the midst of the civil rights movement.  What comes out of their stories in amazing journey in to Ruth's past. Everyone in the group was enthralled with this book, most of us reading it in just a couple of days. Most people said it reminded them of The Glass Castle, but not having read that one I can't say anything about it. However, it did remind me of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, mostly just in the way James talked about growing up poor and, obviously, being set in Brooklyn. We were also surprised at the way Ruth was able to just ignore talking about the issue of race in her house. She refuses to answer questions when James is growing up, and changes the subject whenever it's brought up. However, we were all in agreement that Ruth was an amazingly strong woman, in her own way, and managed to raise 12 children and send all of them to college. I gave this one 5 out of 5 stars and I highly recommend it to everyone.

July was my turn to pick. I went back and forth between several books for a week before I made my final decision. Snobs by Julian Fellowes, The 13th Tale by Diane Setterfield, and Ready Player One by Ernest Cline, were all on the table at one point but I ended up choosing my initial pick.

Image from Goodreads
This book is amazing! I'm excited to share it with the book club even though it's a little outside of what most members would usually read. I look at it as expanding their horizons, but I'm also going into this pick knowing that not everyone is going to like it. With my last pick (The Other Boleyn Girl) I think I would have been heartbroken if someone had hated my favorite book in all of existence, but this one I think I can handle it.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Review: New Boy by Tracy Chevalier

Image from Goodreads

Blurb from Goodreads
Arriving at his fifth school in as many years, a diplomat's son, Osei Kokote, knows he needs an ally if he is to survive his first day so he's lucky to hit it off with Dee, the most popular girl in school. But one student can't stand to witness this budding relationship: Ian decides to destroy the friendship between the black boy and the golden girl. By the end of the day, the school and its key players - teachers and pupils alike - will never be the same again. 

The tragedy of Othello is transposed to a 1970's suburban Washington schoolyard, where kids fall in and out of love with each other before lunchtime, and practice a casual racism picked up from their parents and teachers. Peeking over the shoulders of four 11 year olds Osei, Dee, Ian, and his reluctant girlfriend Mimi, Tracy Chevalier's powerful drama of friends torn apart by jealousy, bullying and betrayal will leave you reeling.

This book is a retelling of Othello, set in a 6th grade class in 1970's Washington D.C.. You might think that's an odd setting for any Shakespeare retelling, and you're right. The whole thing just did seem to fit.

I mean the characters were well done, in that they were the typical roles you'd find on any playground. The popular kids, The Loud Girl, The Perfect Girl, The Quiet Girl, The Rich Boy, The Bully, The Sidekick. But as the story progressed these kids got way too adult. The plotting that went on, and the over the top sexual stuff. Maybe things were way different when I was in 6th grade in the late 90's, or maybe I hung out with a different group of people but stuff like this just did not happen. I think it's simply that Shakespeare's work is meant for and written about adults for a reason, and children are supposed to tell these kinds of stories, no matter what time period it's set in. I just can't buy into kids being in this story and having the adult motivations and lines of thought that they did in the book.

By the end of the book I was only reading because it's so short and I felt like I had to finish it. It just didn't work. 1 star- Do not recommend.

Note: I received a free copy of this book through Blogging for Books, in exchange for an honest review.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Barefoot and Balanced Review

Image from Netgalley 
Description from Netgalley
Today's kids have adopted sedentary lifestyles filled with television, video games, and computer screens. But more and more, studies show that children need “rough and tumble” outdoor play in order to develop their sensory, motor, and executive functions. Disturbingly, a lack of movement has been shown to lead to a number of health and cognitive difficulties, such as attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), emotion regulation and sensory processing issues, and aggressiveness at school recess break. So, how can you ensure your child is fully engaging their body, mind, and all of their senses?

Using the same philosophy that lies at the heart of her popular TimberNook program—that nature is the ultimate sensory experience, and that psychological and physical health improves for children when they spend time outside on a regular basis—author Angela Hanscom offers several strategies to help your child thrive, even if you live in an urban environment.

Today it is rare to find children rolling down hills, climbing trees, or spinning in circles just for fun. We've taken away merry-go-rounds, shortened the length of swings, and done away with teeter-totters to keep children safe. Children have fewer opportunities for unstructured outdoor play than ever before, and recess times at school are shrinking due to demanding educational environments.

With this book, you'll discover little things you can do anytime, anywhere to help your kids achieve the movement they need to be happy and healthy in mind, body, and spirit.

I got a lot more out of this book than I thought I would. When I started reading it there was a lot about problems in the classroom, studies that showed kids needed to move more, input from seasoned teachers, the authors experiences running a camp, and all of that is great. This book is well researched and well reasoned, the author makes her point clearly and concisely, but I didn’t feel like it pertained to me and my child. The Toddler has never been in a classroom, so the problems of school age kids, even preschool, seem very far off to me right now. It wasn’t until I got to chapter 8, When Is My Baby Ready For The Outdoors?, that this book really got my attention. Because up till now I’ve never really made outdoor play a priority in our day.

I never even really thought about letting her play outside, let alone play outside unsupervised. She’s my baby, why would she ever need to play without me? But after reading Barefoot and Balanced I’m thinking playing outside might be exactly what she needs. I’ve noticed a lot of things since we began packing for our move and one of them is that she depends on me, or whatever adult happens to be at our house, for play, independent play doesn’t really happen, and creative play doesn’t really happen either; a tea set is just a tea set, the play kitchen is just for storage, empty containers are just empty containers. I’m not giving her space to explore and be creative. She is my baby and she does still need me, but she needs to be able to explore the world and her own limits too. At first, I was sitting on the couch reading, going ‘that's not about my parenting, I don’t need to do that’ and I got a little defensive and wanted to quit reading, but I quickly realized that it is about my parenting, and that reading books like this one, accepting the new knowledge and doing better going forward was exactly why books like this are important to read. It’s not about criticizing parents, it’s about learning to be better parents who are better able to meet our kids needs and let them learn skills that will serve them for their whole lives.

Personal tangent aside; After getting past the school age kids part at the beginning, Barefoot and Balanced has chapters about what ages kids should be outside at, how to involve kids in outdoor time, how to overcome fears about letting kids play outside (I needed that part!), how to slowly transition to and encourage independent play, and how to get younger kids to be comfortable with less parental involvement.  The author also makes a point of saying that it’s still important to play with your kids, play is bonding and will always be important, which made me feel better because I hated the idea of not playing with The Toddler. There is also a large list of recommended reading at the back of the book, and I can’t say I’ll read all of them but it’s something I would like to take a closer look at.

There’s a lot of great information in this book, and I found it a great opportunity to grow as a parent, and I’ve decided to make outdoor play more of a priority for both The Toddler and myself. Since being outside is recommended to help manage anxiety I feel like we can both benefit from it. I gave this book 4 out 5 stars, just because the beginning is a bit preachy, when it comes to schools and recess, and things like that. This was a very informative read, and it’s encouraged me to look more into my parenting and things I could be doing differently. I’ve got a couple of books that are about the Charlotte Mason method  that I bought a few months ago but never read, so those will be coming up soon!

Okay, it’s been a couple of months since I wrote this review and I wanted to come in a update it. Since reading Barefoot and Balanced I have made an intentional effort to make outside time a regular part of our day. Nearly everyday we go outside after naptime. The Toddler plays in the yard while I read a book on the porch, and I have to say it’s probably the favorite part of our day for both of us. It’s relaxing for me and an energy burner for The Toddler. She sleeps better, she plays better, and she’s more independent. If you have children of any age I strongly recommend this book. It’s been a good thing for both me and The Toddler.
Find it on Goodreads here.

I received this book free through Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.

June Wrap Up

June was a crazy month. Most of the month was spent in a weird comfort reading/reading slump thing because of all that first trimester fun. You know what I mean, anxiety attacks, morning sickness, extreme fatigue. It's been a fun ride...
But as I'm nearing the second trimester and starting to feel better I'm getting back into good routines, and forming new ones in the new house, including having some scheduled reading time each day. Usually it's early morning after The Husband leaves for work and before The Toddler wakes up, afternoons during outside play time because I can sit in the lounger on the porch and read while The Toddler plays. and right before bed. I'm still reading pretty slowly but it's something.
I also made a crazy decision. I talked to my doctor about my anxiety. I've been down the road of uncontrolled anxiety and depression with a new baby and I don't want to go there again. On top of that, as my hormones and body get more and more out of whack, so does my anxiety. My intrusive thoughts are back with a vengeance and I can't deal with this on my own any more. However, the doctor I saw at my last appointment was one I've never met before and I feel like she kind of gave me the brush off. She wants me to talk to a social worker before we talk about medication and she promised to email the social worker, but we'll see if that actually happens. I know all to well that doctors say a lot of things they don't mean or intend to follow through on.

But back to the books! The last wrap up I posted was April so I'll cover May and June, try and set some new goals for going forward, and at the end I'll update on some fun stuff that might be coming up.

Books I Read in May

1. Midnight Riot by Ben Aaronovitch
2. Balanced and Barefoot by Angela J. Hanscom (Review coming soon!)
3. The Falconer by Elizabeth May (Review here)
4. 10 Things I Can See From Here by Carrie Mac (Review here)
5. The Shoemakers Wife by Adriana Trigiani 
6. Moon Over Soho by Ben Aaronovitch

Six books doesn't seem bad. But, exactly ZERO of those books counted for the RMSC. So as of May I was still at 10 out of 25. 

Books I Read in June

1. The Cat Who Played Brahms by Lillian Jackson Braun
2. The Cat Who Played Post Office by Lillian Jackson Braun
3. The Cat Who Knew Shakespeare by Lillian Jackson Braun
4. The Color of Water by James McBride

That's it. Just the four, And again zero of them counted for the RMSC. On the plus side I met my Goodreads goal for the year of 35 books and have officially upped it to 50.  

As for goals for July, I think 5 books is a good goal. Two RSMC books at a minimum. I think that's a do-able goal for the next month. I have six months left to meet my RMSC goal of 25 books, so I'm going to need to pick up the pace but I think it's still possible. I just need to get back to reading regularly.

What I'm Reading Right Now

Image from Goodreads
1. A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J. Maas - I want to get into to this one so badly, but I'm just not feeling it right now. I went though this when I was pregnant with The Toddler too, this inability to read fantasy books. I'm going to keep trying with this one though because I really love Feyre and Rhysand.

2. Simplicity Parenting by Kim John Payne - I've been making an effort (once again) to simplify things in our home to A) help with my anxiety and B) make things easier to clean/maintain and C) make more time for family and less time for cleaning. I've done pretty well so far and this book was recommended on several minimalist and simple living blogs that I follow so I decided to give it a try. 

Image from Goodreads
3. Mistress of the Monarchy: The Life of Katherine Swynford, The Duchess of Lancaster by Alison Weir - I know I've written about how much I love Alison Weirs writing before. During this reading slump I had an urge to read some history so I turned to her. And (BONUS!) this one counts for the RMSC. Katherine Swynford was first the mistress and then the wife of John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster and her life, although we know little about her, was very interesting. She was the mother of the Tudor dynasty, she and John of Gaunt had several illegitimate children who were then legitimized by the Pope after their marriage, founding the Beaufort line, And Henry VII's mother was Margaret Beaufort! Of course Henry VII was born 100(ish) years after Katherine died but still, without her no Tudors. I could go on about family trees and the Wars of the Roses forever because I really love this stuff but I'll just say this; Read the books!

Upcoming (Maybe) Stuff

I've kind of taken a break from reading ARC's for the last couple of months but now I have a lot of really good books waiting for me on Netgalley and I'm going to try and get back too them. For one of those books I've been invited to participate in a Blog Tour, which I've obviously never done before. It would include a giveaway for my readers but I honestly don't know if I have enough readers to bother participating. So if you read my blog and want to enter a giveaway for a book let me know so I can let the publisher know I'd like to participate in the Blog Tour. 

Next, I got an email today that I'm being sent a box from a marketing company in California. It says it should be here by July 11th but I'm kind of nervous about this because I have no idea what it could be for, the email gives no details whatsoever. I'm assuming it's for the blog but I really don't know. So as soon as I get that I will be opening it and post on here about whats in it, regardless of what it is. Unless it something embarrassing like diarrhea medicine or underwear or something, in that case I'll spare you.  

Book shelf organization post! I unpacked all my books without taking pictures, however they are in no way organized yet, as my motivation to do anything but watch Gilmore Girls and eat watermelon has been nonexistent. So I'll be taking some pictures and doing some organizing in the next couple of weeks. 

Book Club for June! It was my pick for June and I think I picked a good one. I'll be writing the Book Club post in the next couple of days.