March 2014 archive

Review: The Promise of Amazing

The Promise of Amazing by Robin Constantine

From Goodreads: Wren Caswell is average. Ranked in the middle of her class at Sacred Heart, she’s not popular, but not a social misfit. Wren is the quiet, “good” girl who’s always done what she’s supposed to—only now in her junior year, this passive strategy is backfiring. She wants to change, but doesn’t know how.

Grayson Barrett was the king of St. Gabe’s. Star of the lacrosse team, top of his class, on a fast track to a brilliant future—until he was expelled for being a “term paper pimp.” Now Gray is in a downward spiral and needs to change, but doesn’t know how.

One fateful night their paths cross when Wren, working at her family’s Arthurian-themed catering hall, performs the Heimlich on Gray as he chokes on a cocktail weenie, saving his life literally and figuratively. What follows is the complicated, awkward, hilarious, and tender tale of two teens shedding their pasts, figuring out who they are—and falling in love.

Jennie’s Thoughts: So…is it cheesy if I use the word amazing to sum up my feelings about this book? Probably…but I’m doing it anyway. :) I wasn’t prepared for a dual POV, however I completely loved it. Hearing from Grayson and Wren was just the perfect way to watch these characters intertwine and live.

Oh man, and Grayson’s friends…ohhhhhh. I wanted to get violent and throw some of my own punches. And Wren…her struggle with average…something I completely understand. (I understood her feelings when I was an in high school and still do now)

Basically, this book was amazing! (Cheese!) And, a huge plus for having involved parents and families. I wanted to squeeze the stuffing out of this book for many reasons…but that was the biggest.

Review: Curly Girl: The Handbook

Curly Girl: The Handbook

From Goodreads:
… Curly Girl is the surprising bible for the 65 percent of women with naturally curly or wavy hair and a desire to celebrate it.

Curly Girl is packed with unique and fail-proof hair-care methods, inspiration, and an empowering pro-curl attitude. It’s all here: daily routines for Botticelli, fractal, and wavy curls; Lorraine’s no-more-shampoo epiphany—handle your hair as gently as you do your best cashmere sweater; homemade lotions and potions.  …

Jenny’s thoughts:
This book has been on my TBR for an embarrassingly long time.

I first learned about the Curly Girl Method on the first blog I ever followed, written by a friend’s older sister. The basics of the method were enough to hook me, so I started my own experiments using what knowledge I grabbed from blog and forum searches. My curls came to life like never before.

I lived my life thinking I had awful, frizzy hair that couldn’t be tames. It turns out I have a pretty combination of wavy hair and botticelli curls.

I haven’t used regular shampoo on my hair since 2008, and I only use CGM-friendly styling products (my favorites right now are Kinky Curly Knot Today leave-in conditioner and Biosilk Rock Hard Gelee gel), but I am still missing that important piece – a stylist who cuts my hair the right way.

It wasn’t until I heard the Devacurl Website had a stylist finder that I thought about reading the book again. I thought I’d surely gathered all I needed from my Internetting, but I picked up the book just in case.

You know, because books are still better than the Internet.

Guess what! I learned something that would be saving me my current frustration. Never ever ever let your stylist thin or debulk your hair in an effort to stop the weigh-down factor.

Now I’m stuck with ugly ponytails or pathetic, wannabe curls waiting for this mess to grow out before I visit a stylist in my area who has taken Lorraine Massey’s classes.

If this is your first time hearing about the Curly Girl Method, save yourself and get the book. Curly-haired folks are in the population majority, but our society is for straight hair only.

Stop shampooing. The standard sulfate shampoo dries out all hair, but it dries out curly hair even more because it’s more porous than straight hair.

Ditch your silicone conditioners. The silicone is meant to replace what the sulfates strip, but it’s silicone. It coats your hair with yuck that doesn’t hold curl.

Quit frying your hair with heat – hair dryers and flat irons. Again with the drying out. Dry curls are sad curls, and letting your hair air dry after a bit of scrunching is not only a better way to treat your hair, it’s easier.

So much of this sounds like Curly Girls are burning our bras in protest of the hair industry’s oppression, and … okay. We sort of are. But it’s liberating! It works! My hairstyling adventures each day take a fraction of the time, and I’ve never been happier with my hair in my life.

Read the book, discover what kind of curls you have then learn how to treat them well with curl-safe cleaners, conditioners and styling methods. The book even teaches you how to trim your own curls to stretch out the length of time between expensive cuts.

Most importantly, learn how your stylist should and shouldn’t cut your hair.

Review: The Long Road Home

The Long Road Home by Mary Alice Monroe


From Goodreads: Recovering from the shock of her husband’s suicide and trying to deal with his debts, Nora MacKenzie looks for peace on the small farm in Vermont, but a handsome farmhand shows up and her reaction is anything but peaceful.

What I thought: I gave this book 3 stars on Goodreads when I read it on March 8. When I was browsing through my 2014 Goodreads shelf, though, I had to read the description for it to trigger my memory. That doesn’t mean I take back a star, though….

This book was a fun, light read (despite the depressing GR synopsis!). It took me less than a day, there was both romance and family tension, and the scenery was nice. I’d definitely recommend picking this up for your next trip to the mountains, when all you want is a few hours’ escape.



Get To Know You Giveaway!

So we’ve been kicking around our little area of the internet for about 6 months now. If you have kids, you know that 6 months is when it gets a little more fun: they are less blobby, they are taking on shape and personality and you are just starting to get to know them. We are totally in that place. We feel super comfortable with our blog, love it even, but feel like we are just now getting to know it, getting to know you.

In an attempt to know you better, we’ve set up a little survey (Don’t you wish THAT part translated over to parenting! “Here, take this survey so I can figure out what your urgent little grunts mean! Thanks!”) and are excited to see the answers!

There are only 10 quick questions, it will just take a couple of minutes and filling it out enters you to win fun, bookish prizes! We’ll give you a week and a half to fill it out (it should take closer to 5 minutes :) ) and let you know the winner on April 4th!

Winner goodies include ARCs, a hand crafted bookmark, and a combo pack of books – Anna and the French Kiss (paper back) and Lola and the Boy Next Door (hard back) by Stephanie Perkins!

Create your free online surveys with SurveyMonkey , the world’s leading questionnaire tool.

Review: And the Mountains Echoed

And the Mountains Echoed, by Khaled Hosseini

Synopsis (Goodreads): Khaled Hosseini, the #1 New York Times–bestselling author of The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns, has written a new novel about how we love, how we take care of one another, and how the choices we make resonate through generations.

In this tale revolving around not just parents and children but brothers and sisters, cousins and caretakers, Hosseini explores the many ways in which families nurture, wound, betray, honor, and sacrifice for one another; and how often we are surprised by the actions of those closest to us, at the times that matter most.

Following its characters and the ramifications of their lives and choices and loves around the globe—from Kabul to Paris to San Francisco to the Greek island of Tinos—the story expands gradually outward, becoming more emotionally complex and powerful with each turning page.

Jacki’s Thoughts: I know that you’ve probably seen reviews of this book 900 times, but I’m about to make it 901, because this is one of those books that I want every single person to read. I get you-must-read-this crazy about books every once in a while, but honestly it has been a long time since I’ve gotten one. This one did it. 

I read The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns and thought that they were just phenomenal. For me, And the Mountains Echoed blew them out of the water.

I think that the scope here was just huge. The relationships were huge, but also the political side of Afghanistan and the immigrant experience and how that looks/feels to people who stayed in Afghanistan… he just hit so many issues and so many people but it never felt preachy or overly political, it just felt like this perfectly balanced story.

Each chapter was told from a different connecting character’s point of view. Honestly, it took me a couple of chapters to get into the groove because I didn’t expect the switch, but once I realized what was going on, I was in like Flynn.

The fact is, it’s so easy to sit in our living rooms and watching these images of what is happening in other countries and just feel this level of remove. I know that I do. I love getting into a book that brings that to life. This book did that for me in a huge, huge way and that’s why I want to shove it into everyone’s hands.

This is a beautiful, sweeping story that will sweep you up and put lives behind the images you see on TV. Please, please read it. So good!


Review: Mrs. Lincoln’s Rival

Mrs. Lincoln’s Rival by Jennifer Chiaverini

From Goodreads: Kate Chase Sprague was born in 1840 in Cincinnati, Ohio, the second daughter to the second wife of a devout but ambitious lawyer. Her father, Salmon P. Chase, rose to prominence in the antebellum years and was appointed secretary of the treasury in Abraham Lincoln’s cabinet, while aspiring to even greater heights.

Beautiful, intelligent, regal, and entrancing, young Kate Chase stepped into the role of establishing her thrice-widowed father in Washington society and as a future presidential candidate. Her efforts were successful enough that The Washington Star declared her “the most brilliant woman of her day. None outshone her.”

None, that is, but Mary Todd Lincoln. Though Mrs. Lincoln and her young rival held much in common—political acumen, love of country, and a resolute determination to help the men they loved achieve greatness—they could never be friends, for the success of one could come only at the expense of the other. When Kate Chase married William Sprague, the wealthy young governor of Rhode Island, it was widely regarded as the pinnacle of Washington society weddings. President Lincoln was in attendance. The First Lady was not.

Jennifer Chiaverini excels at chronicling the lives of extraordinary yet littleknown women through historical fiction. What she did for Elizabeth Keckley in Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker and for Elizabeth Van Lew in The Spymistress she does for Kate Chase Sprague in Mrs. Lincoln’s Rival.

Jennie’s Thoughts: I love historical fiction in general, and I love presidential biographies, and this book just combined the two in a beautifully written way. I haven’t found many historical fiction novels that also include a presidential race and/or politics in Washington DC. (Side note: If you have recommendations for me – PLEASE share!) This book was not bogged down in the political drama, but it provided a map, if you will, for which the plot followed.

The ebbs and flows of Congress and political upheaval were throughout the pages, but also the characters were well developed and Kate Chase is a woman I’d have liked to meet. She was a swirling pot of descriptions, both beautiful and smart. In many pages, she completely stole my attention and I wished she could’ve been in the White House instead of Lincoln.

The assassination of Lincoln was well-handled and heartfelt, and Kate Chase’s response was what I’d imagine of her. Her relationship with William was both sweet and dramatic…one minute I was rooting for them, the next I was wishing for the relationship’s demise.

If you’re a historical fiction fan, or a history fan who reads about the Civil War, I highly recommend this one!

Review: Your Three-Year Old: Friend or Enemy

From Amazon (the Goodreads summary was terrible): A three-year-old is a real puzzle to parents, sometimes anxious to please and befriend, sometimes strong-willed and difficult to get along with. At the heart of the three-year-old’s personality is often an emotional insecurity—and this causes a host of problems for parents! Drs. Ames and Ilg, recognized authorities on child behavior and development, help parents understand what’s going on inside that three-year-old head, what problems children have, and how to cope with the toddler who is sometimes friend, sometimes enemy.

Jenny’s thoughts: This is the first parenting book I’ve read, and it was honestly everything I was hoping for.

The book is old. Like, it’s almost as old as me. That’s OLD. Okay, not really, but it was published in 1985, and most parents of today’s Internet age prefer the newest, shiniest advice around. There is nothing new or shiny about this book’s advice.

For example: “Remember that television can be your friend. When used, it can keep a child happy, well behaved and out of difficulty for long periods.”

Direct quote, no paraphrasing. Yes, the 80s were a different time. Yes, I was 3 in 1985 (ha! I’m reading about ME!), and I turned out perfectly fine. But. Things change. Maybe?

I mean, I admit to turning on a show so I can cook dinner without tripping over people (and save us all from severed fingers or burned body parts). My kids are no strangers to television, and I only use it as a distraction for short periods, not long.

Frankly, I wasn’t looking for advice. I have a unique situation with triplets – both as a parent and as growing children. Things in my house are just different from the house of a singleton 3-year-old, and that is why I haven’t read a parenting book. Any advice I find has to be chopped up into bits, doled out into appropriate piles of three, glued back together and then strung together. Kids are all different. My kids are all different. Their moods are different depending on how each of them are feeling that day, and their behavior greatly depends on how they’re each behaving then how they’re interacting multiplied by my patience level for the day.

What I was looking for in this book was confirmation that my 3-year-olds are supposed to be awful (sometimes), and that their (sometimes) awful behavior is a developmental milestone.

I found exactly that.

While advice for how to live with the Threenager might change, a lot of explanation for why 3-year-olds are so dang crazy is exactly the same.

This book did a fantastic job of making me feel like a normal mother instead of a big, fat failure. A 3-year-old is supposed to push his or her mama’s buttons, and I’m not crazy (or neglectful) for needing a break from them (and they from me). My kids aren’t ditching their good-eating habits because they suddenly can’t stand food – it’s a developmental thing.

If you’re looking for a how-to manual, this isn’t it. If you’re looking for a ME, TOO! manual, this is totally your book.

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