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    The Thunder Beneath Us by Nicole Blades (A Book Review)

    The Thunder Beneath Us by Nicole Blades
    thethunderbeneathus

    Publisher: Dafina (Kensington Publishing Corp.)
    Format: Paperback
    Pages: 320

    Synopsis
    To the world, Best Lightburn is a talented writer rising up the masthead at international style magazine James, girlfriend of a gorgeous up-and-coming actor, and friend to New York City’s fabulous. Then there’s the other Best, the one who has chosen to recast herself as an only child rather than confront the truth.

    Ten years ago, on Christmas Eve, Best and her two older brothers took a shortcut over a frozen lake. When the ice cracked, all three went in. Only Best came out. People said she was lucky, but that kind of luck is nothing but a burden. Because Best knows what she had to do to survive. And after years of covering up the past, her guilt is detonating through every facet of her seemingly charmed life. It’s all unraveling so fast: her new boss is undermining and deceitful, her boyfriend is recovering from a breakdown, and a recent investigative story has led to a secret affair with the magazine’s wealthy publisher.

    Best is quick-witted and headstrong, but how do you find a way to happiness when you’re sure you haven’t earned it—or embrace a future you feel you don’t deserve? Evocative and emotional, The Thunder Beneath Us is a gripping novel about learning to carry loss without breaking, and to heal and forgive—not least of all, ourselves.

    Reflection
    Survivor’s guilt.  It’s something many people deal with at some point in their lives.  People living with survivor’s guilt for extended periods of time often experience depression, self-loathing and self-punishment.  In each situation in their lives – whether it’s a relative living as an addict, a parent being a full blown alcoholic, or being the lone survivor in an accident – they feel like they had somehow, unfairly, escaped the doom and gloom that seemed to prey upon the people they love the most.  Sometimes they even believe they caused it.  As a result, people suffering from survivor’s guilt end up wasting a lot of time and emotional energy trying to answer questions like, “Why them and not me?”  If you’ve ever experienced the pain of survivor’s guilt in some capacity then The Thunder Beneath Us is the book for you.

    The opening line of this book made me laugh out loud – literally!  It immediately intrigued me and drew me into the story.  Best (short for Bathsheba) is a beautiful, accomplished magazine journalist dating a hot actor.  What more could a woman ask for, right?  Although it sounds like she has it all together on the surface, her life is a hot mess! She’s been living with so many secrets that eventually begin to come bubbling to the surface and rock her world upside down.

    Although I think the first half of this book was a bit slow to develop, the second half definitely made up for it and had me turning the pages so fast wanting to know what was going to happen next!  After having a breakdown, Best visits her childhood home in Canada.  That’s when we learn what really happened ten years ago when she was the sole survivor of a terrible ice accident that tragically took the lives of her two brothers. What she had to do in order to survive turns out to be the mystery.  For years Best lived with survivor’s guilt, without ever expressing her feelings.  Can you imagine what that must feel like?

    While Best isn’t the most likeable character, I did find myself relating to her in some chapters.  Her personality can be described as sassy, witty and funny.  Some may even call her a hater.  No matter how you feel about Best Lightburn I think you’ll find yourself cheering for her, laughing at her, crying with her, cursing her out and wanting to reach out and give her a big hug at times.  She’s not perfect – she’s human.

    I love the author’s attention to detail and the way she describes each character, their actions and the scenery around them.  The Thunder Beneath Us is a very thought-provoking, gripping, compelling and emotional book with themes of: love, family, relationships, personal discovery, self-acceptance, healing, loss, forgiveness, coping with the past and moving forward.  There are some valuable personal growth and self-discovery lessons to be learned for people who have struggled with things that haunt them from their past.  Best is forced to finally confront her tainted past so she can finally move on, forgive herself and experience happiness in her life once again.

    Add this book to your holiday gift list for yourself or a friend.  This book has it all: fresh, detailed and concise writing, scandal, secrets and workplace affairs it’s great for reading while traveling or over the weekend.

    About Nicole Blades
    nicoleblades

    Nicole Blades is a novelist and journalist who has been putting her stories on paper since the third grade. Born and raised in Montreal, Quebec, by Caribbean parents, Nicole moved to New York City and launched her journalism career working at Essence magazine. She later co-founded the online magazine SheNetworks, and worked as an editor at ESPN and Women’s Health. Now a freelance writer, her features and essays have appeared in MORE magazine, Cosmopolitan, NYTimes.com, WashingtonPost.com, MarieClaire.com, BuzzFeed, SELF, and BlogHer. Nicole has been a speaker and panelist at BlogHer, Mom 2.0 and the MA Conference for Women. She also created Ms. Mary Mack, a blog that aims to bring compassion and common sense back to parenthood.  Nicole currently lives in Connecticut with her husband and their son.

    Connect with Nicole Blades!

    Website| Instagram | Twitter | Facebook

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    Food Anatomy by Julia Rothman (A Book Review)

    Food Anatomy: The Curious Parts & Pieces of Our Edible World  by Julia Rothman

    foodanatomyPublisher: Storey Publishing, LLC
    Format: Paperback
    Pages: 224

    Synopsis
    Get your recommended daily allowance of facts and fun with Food Anatomy, the third book in Julia Rothman’s best-selling Anatomy series. She starts with an illustrated history of food and ends with a global tour of street eats. Along the way, Rothman serves up a hilarious primer on short order egg lingo and a mouthwatering menu of how people around the planet serve fried potatoes — and what we dip them in. Award-winning food journalist Rachel Wharton lends her editorial expertise to this light-hearted exploration of everything food that bursts with little-known facts and delightful drawings. Everyday diners and seasoned foodies alike are sure to eat it up.

    Reflection
    I’m so impressed with the Anatomy series by Julia Rothman!  I’ve read the two previous books and this third one surely didn’t disappoint – it’s so deliciously gorgeous!  Being a fellow foodie, I enjoyed this book immensely and learned so much from it.  Food is a topic that literally everyone can get behind because it’s something we all need in order to survive.  There’s something for people of all cultures in this charming international guide.

    The book starts out providing readers with a brief history of food from 80,000 BCE right up to modern day. It also includes detailed illustrations of place settings from different cultures around the world: formal American, Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Korean and Indian/Nepalese.  It’s filled with interesting nuggets of information like this of all things related to food – one of my favorite subjects.

    Did you know there is a special type of fork for eating asparagus or a special spoon specifically for eating grapefruit? Or that in the Philippines people typically like to eat banana sauce on their french fries?  Do you know how to braid a challah or make tofu or chocolate?  You’ll learn the answers to these questions and so much more by reading this book.  What makes this book so scrumptious are the whimsical illustrations on every page.  They look good enough to eat!  In addition, the paper quality is top-notch and really helps to bring out the lovely hand-drawn illustrations.

    It’s evident a lot of time and research went into compiling all of this information.  I think this book is well suited for adults and children alike.  It serves as a wonderful reference book and will make a lovely addition to any coffee table.  There are also several recipes included throughout the book for things like: creamy maple mocha pudding, shikanjvi (a spiced lemonade drink from India) and noodle pudding.

    I believe readers will enjoy the crisp, clean perfectly imperfect lines and detailed information that has been the hallmark of Rothman’s work since the very beginning.  Not to mention all of the tidbits of information and the recipes.  It’s a true gem!  This books makes an excellent gift for readers of all ages – especially for food lovers.  Did I mention that I love this book? 🙂 I’m sure you will too.

    Check out all the books in this series: The Julia Rothman Collection | Farm Anatomy | Nature Anatomy

    juliarothmancollection

    The Julia Rothman Collection presents all three of Julia Rothman’s popular Anatomy volumes in a handsome giftable box set featuring a specially designed slipcase and 10 framable prints.

    Your turn: Have you read any of the books in this series?  Feel free to share in the comments.

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    What I’m Reading (in October 2016)

    I realize it’s been a while since I’ve told you guys what I’m reading.  Over the summer I was so engaged with the kids and their activities that I didn’t take as much time to read as I normally do.  Now that the kids are in school, I’m back to my normal routine of reading 2-3 books per month.  Here’s what I’m reading this month:

    Quiet Power: The Secret Strengths of Introverts by Susan Cain
    quietpower

    Synopsis
    The monumental bestseller Quiet has been recast in a new edition that empowers introverted kids and teens. Susan Cain sparked a worldwide conversation when she published Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. With her inspiring book, she permanently changed the way we see introverts and the way introverts see themselves.

    The original book focused on the workplace, and Susan realized that a version for and about kids was also badly needed. This book is all about kids’ world—school, extracurriculars, family life, and friendship. You’ll read about actual kids who have tackled the challenges of not being extroverted and who have made a mark in their own quiet way. You’ll hear Susan Cain’s own story, and you’ll be able to make use of the tips at the end of each chapter. There’s even a guide at the end of the book for parents and teachers.

    This insightful, accessible, and empowering book, illustrated with amusing comic-style art, will be eye-opening to extroverts and introverts alike.

    I was immediately drawn to this book because not only am I more introverted, but my daughter is too.  I am in LOVE with this book you guys – it’s so insightful!  I think it’s a must read for all parents raising introverted children.  Be sure to check out Susan Cain’s Ted Talk which still stands as one of the most viewed Ted talks of all time.

    Like Magic by Elaine Vickers
    likemagic
    Synopsis
    This sweet middle grade novel featuring a diverse cast of characters proves that friendship can be just around the corner.

    For three ten-year-old girls, their once simple worlds are starting to feel too big. Painfully shy Grace dreads starting fifth grade now that her best friend has moved away. Jada hopes she’ll stop feeling so alone if she finds the mother who left years ago. And Malia fears the arrival of her new baby sister will forever change the family she loves. When the girls each find a mysterious treasure box in their library and begin to fill the box with their own precious things, they start to feel less alone. But it’s up to Grace, Jada, and Malia to take the treasures and turn them into something more: true friendship.

    Your turn: What books are you currently reading?  Feel free to share in the comments.

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    Welcome to the Club: 100 Parenting Milestones You Never Saw Coming (A Book Review)

    Welcome to the Club: 100 Parenting Milestones You Never Saw Coming by Raquel D’Apice
    welcometotheclub

    Publisher: Chronicle Books
    Format: Hardcover
    Pages: 144
    Available for Sale:
    September 20, 2016

    Synopsis
    From the comedian behind the popular parenting blog The Ugly Volvo comes a refreshing spin on the baby milestone book. Instead of a place to lovingly capture the first time baby sleeps through the night, this book shows what it’s like the first time baby rolls off the bed/sofa/changing table, leaving mom or dad in a state of pure terror (it happens). These 100 rarely documented but all-too-realistic milestones—such as “First Time Baby Says a Word You Didn’t Want Her to Say”—provide comfort, solidarity, and comic relief for new parents. Laugh-out-loud relatable text and distinctive paper-cut illustrations of these “bad” parenting moments make this a must-have book for anyone entering the mysterious club of parenthood.

    Reflection
    In the introduction of the this book it says, “This is a book to let you know there will be different levels of hardships – some that you’ll handle with a smile and a good-natured eye roll, and some that will make you sob hysterically into your phone because you want your old life back.”  This couldn’t be more far from the truth.  It also states, “This is not a book designed to be read all in one sitting, because the phase of your life when you could read things all in one sitting is probably behind you.”

    Oh, the joys of parenthood!  Four years ago, I became a parent for the first time when I gave birth to my daughter and then my son just 15 months after that.  Needless to say, I was in “baby mode” for two and a half years back-to-back with no breaks.  It was a constant whirlwind of breastfeeding, pumping, changing diapers, doing laundry and going to countless doctor’s appointments.  While there were many fun times mixed in, I’m glad the kids are bigger now and more independent.  Don’t get me wrong, I know there are many more fun and challenging days of parenting ahead of me, but I feel like I’ve turned a major corner in some ways so I’m enjoying it while it lasts.  Reading books like Welcome to the Club helps remind me that any parenting issue I’m going through is real and normal and it too shall pass.  It’s the parenting book I wish someone had given me along with all the other traditional ones I received. Did I mention how funny this book is?

    This book is broken down into a few different sections that contain all-too-realistic parenting milestones:

    The Early Days
      This section is downright hilarious and brought me back right to the first year of parenthood.  Some of the topics include: First Time Packing a Diaper Bag, First Time You Try to Install a Car Seat, First Outing with the Baby When You Forget Something Crucial and First Time You Have the Thought “What If Having a Baby Was a Mistake?”

    Oops  Accidents happen, right?  This section highlights some of the funny “firsts” that can happen when you have a new baby including: First Time Your Child Rolls Off the Bed/Sofa/Changing Table and First Time You Forget to Lock the Wheels on Your Stroller

    This Is Disgusting.  Please Send Reinforcements No one ever tells you about all the disgusting things that can happen when you become a parent like: Baby’s First Ungodly Poop Explosion, Baby’s First Poop Explosion When She Reaches Down and Gets It on Her Hands, First Time You Pee on Yourself and who can forget Baby’s First Poop in the Bathtub!

    Interactions with Other Adults Funny topics from this section include: First Time You Have to Spell Something Out So the Baby Doesn’t Realize What You’re Talking About, First Date When You Try Desperately to Not Spend the Entire Date Talking About the Baby and First Time You Post a Photo of the Baby to Facebook and It Gets More Likes Than Anything You’ve Ever Done…so true!

    Eating, Sleeping, and Other Total Disasters Remember some of these firsts? First Time Your Baby Sleeps Through the Night, First Time Your Child Refuses to Eat Something, First Time Flying with a Baby and First Time Taking Your Child to a Restaurant

    Minor Panic Attacks I can definitely relate to some of these topics: First Time Leaving Your Baby with a Babysitter, First Doctor’s Visit Where the Baby Has to Get Shots, First Time You Meet a Kid Your Child’s Age Who is Way More Advanced Than Your Child and First Time You Drop Off Your Child at Day Care and Second-Guess Everything About Your Life…that was so me!

    Toys, Games, and Other Vague Attempts at Recreation Here are some of my favorite topics from this section: First Time You Realize That Some Expensive Toy You Loved (and Hoped Your Daughter Would Love) Is Ignored Because She Has Fallen in Love with Some $3 Piece of Garbage, First Time You Start to Hate One of His Books and First Game of Peekaboo That Lasts for What Feels Like Forever…yes, forever!

    Stolen from the Traditional Baby Book This section highlights some of baby’s traditional “firsts” in a hilarious way like: First Smile (This Isn’t Gas), First Tooth, First Time Sitting Up and First Word…both of my kids first word was “dada” – go figure when I did most of the work!

    “It All Goes By So Fast!” Kids do indeed grow up so fast, but doesn’t it annoy you when people tell you to “enjoy it because it all goes by so fast?”  This section highlights this topic and others including: First Time You Bribe Your Child and First Time Your Child Refuses to Share

    Stuff You Never Saw Coming The final section of this book discusses additional things you never saw coming the day you agreed to become a parent like: First Time You Realize That 90 Percent of Your Phone Memory Is Photos/Videos of Your Child, First Time You See Another Parent You Previously Would’ve Judged Harshly and You Just Feel Sorry for Them and First Time Your Child Says, “I Love You”…awww!

    Being a parent can be tiring and challenging.  Over the years I’ve been pooped on, peed on and thrown up on.  Our family expenses have increased as have the laundry and the dishes.  My life seems to move a lot slower with kids (mealtimes, running errands, etc.) and sometimes my time, my body, and my brain does not feel like my own.  I’ve experienced so many of the things mentioned in this book.  And yet there are so many things that far outweigh the lack of sleep and the constant ring of crying in my ears.  This book helped me remind me that no matter how tough (and funny) the job of parenting can be, it’s worth it.  Every. Single. Second.  Gift this book to a mom-to-be to help her laugh on the days when she feels like crying during the first year of parenthood.

    About the Author
    Raquel D’Apice is a humor writer and founder of the popular blog The Ugly Volvo.  She lives in New Jersey with her husband and son.

    Your turn: What’s your funniest parenting milestone moment?  Feel free to share in the comments.

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    What I’m Reading (in April 2016)

    I can’t believe the last time I shared the books I’m reading was in January!  The months of February and March flew by…wow!  I assure you I was reading books, I just didn’t post them…my bad!  Sometimes I get so caught up in all of the amazing children’s books that I tend to forget to update you on the books for us adults.  By the way, if you’re a woman I highly recommend reading the book, Woman Code by Alisa Vitti.  I read that book in February and found it to be very informative and useful.  Essential reading for women of all ages.

    Below are the books I’m planning to read in the month of April.  Feel free to join me if you’d like!

    Recently, NPR featured a fantastic article on their website about how adults can encourage kids to be original thinkers.  Did you see it on my Facebook page?  You can read the full article here.  I love NPR!  Anyway, I found the article to be fascinating and I immediately added the book Originals to my list of books to read.

    Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World by Adam Grant
    originalshownonconformistsmovetheworld

    Synopsis
    Using surprising studies and stories spanning business, politics, sports, and entertainment, Grant explores how to recognize a good idea, speak up without getting silenced, build a coalition of allies, choose the right time to act, and manage fear and doubt; how parents and teachers can nurture originality in children; and how leaders can build cultures that welcome dissent. Learn from an entrepreneur who pitches his start-ups by highlighting the reasons not to invest, a woman at Apple who challenged Steve Jobs from three levels below, an analyst who overturned the rule of secrecy at the CIA, a billionaire financial wizard who fires employees for failing to criticize him, and a TV executive who didn’t even work in comedy but saved Seinfeld from the cutting-room floor. The payoff is a set of groundbreaking insights about rejecting conformity and improving the status quo.

    The Lifeboat Clique by Kathy Parks
    thelifeboatclique

    I tend to read a lot of personal development books, but I like reading fiction books too.  Reading fiction books allow me to escape the daily grind of my own life, especially if it’s a really interesting or funny book.  I’ve heard this book is funny and since I love to laugh, I’m going to check it out even though it’s a YA (Young Adult) novel.

    Synopsis
    Mean Girls meets Life of Pi in this darkly humorous, compulsively readable teen novel that’s perfect for fans of Libba Bray and Andrew Smith. A hilariously dark and twisted story that sparkles with a remarkably fresh voice, The Lifeboat Clique is Kathy Parks’s irreverent yet insightful novel about how to survive in the most unthinkable circumstances.

    Your turn:  What are your reading plans for the month of April?  I’d love to hear what you’re reading!  Also, do you enjoy hearing about the books I’m reading or do you prefer to read about children’s books?  Feel free to share in the comments.

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    Spark Joy by Marie Kondo

    As you may recall, the two theme words I’ve chosen for 2016 are: joy and reach.  If you missed the post where I mentioned why I chose those words, you can read all about it here.  In that post, I also told you my favorite book I read last year was  The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo.  So, I was literally jumping up and down when I found out the follow-up to that book was being published this year!  The companion book is entitled Spark Joy: An Illustrated Master Class on the Art of Organizing and Tidying Up.

    sparkjoymariekondo

    Synopsis (from Amazon)
    Japanese decluttering guru Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up has revolutionized homes—and lives—across the world. Now, Kondo presents an illustrated guide to her acclaimed KonMari Method, with step-by-step folding illustrations for everything from shirts to socks, plus drawings of perfectly organized drawers and closets. She also provides advice on frequently asked questions, such as whether to keep “necessary” items that may not bring you joy. With guidance on specific categories including kitchen tools, cleaning supplies, hobby goods, and digital photos, this comprehensive companion is sure to spark joy in anyone who wants to simplify their life.

    This year I have a goal to finally declutter and organize our basement and garage.  I’m talking a complete overhaul.  Our basement isn’t finished so we’ve been using it as a storage area since we moved into our house over ten years ago.  It’s a huge space and has lots of potential, but we need to get it cleaned out.  Same goes for our garage.

    I’m really looking forward to reading this book since it includes actual illustrations on exactly how to do the KonMari method.  I’m a more visual person so most times, I’d prefer to see exactly how things are done rather than have someone tell me.  I remember reading the first book thinking, “how should I be folding my clothing”?  This book will provide the answer – yay!  Thanks, Marie!  I can’t wait to dive into this book in the coming weeks!  Will you be reading?

    To learn more about Marie Kondo or her books visit her website here.

    Your turn:  Did you read Marie’s first book?  Are you as excited as I am to read this companion book?  Feel free to share in the comments.

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    What I’m Reading (in January 2016)

    Like many of you, I see the new year as an exciting opportunity to set some epic goals for the year ahead. This year is no different and one I’m very excited by is my goal to read for at least 30 minutes every day in 2016.  This 30 minutes won’t include reading children’s books with the kids either.  I’m talking about reading books just for me whether they be physical books, e-books, or audio books.

    Here are my picks for January 2016:

    Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand In the Sun and Be Your Own Person by Shonda Rhimes
    yearofyes

    I LOVE anything that Shonda Rhimes is involved with (especially Scandal) so I’m sure I’m going to enjoy reading this gem.  I’ve heard nothing but great things about this one!

    Synopsis:  This poignant, intimate, and hilarious memoir explores Shonda’s life before her Year of Yes—from her nerdy, book-loving childhood creating imaginary friends to her devotion to creating television characters who reflected the world she saw around her.  And it chronicles her life after her Year of Yes had begun—when Shonda forced herself out of the house and onto the stage, appearing on Jimmy Kimmel Live, and giving the Dartmouth Commencement speech; when she learned to say yes to her health, yes to play and she stepped out of the shadows and into the sun; when she learned to explore, empower, applaud, and love her truest self. Yes.

    This wildly candid and compulsively readable book reveals how the mega talented Shonda Rhimes, an unexpected introvert, achieved badassery worthy of a Shondaland character. And how you can, too.

    Wake Up Happy: The Dream Big, Win Big Guide to Transforming Your Life by Michael Strahan

    wakeuphappy

    I never watched Michael Strahan play football for the New York Giants, but ever since he started hosting the morning show with Kelly Ripa I started following and discovered I adore him.  He’s appears to be such an optimistic, down-to-earth, easy-going guy.  Therefore, I’m interested to read this and learn more about him and his views on life and dreaming big.

    Synopsis:  In Wake Up Happy, Michael shares personal stories about how he gets and stays motivated and how readers can do the same in their quest to attain their life goals.  Inspiring and chock full of advice that will help the reader make significant strides toward pursuing his or her dream, Wake Up Happy is a book no one, young or old, male or female will want to miss.

    Best Friends Forever by Kimberla Lawson Roby
    bestfriendsforever

    If possible, I like to have at least one fiction book in the mix of books I’m reading during any given month.  I enjoyed reading some of Kimberla Lawson Roby’s books in the past so I’m excited to read her latest book.  Sounds like a good one!

    Synopsis:  Things are falling apart in the Richardson household. Angry arguments between Celine and her husband, Keith, have become routine. She resents that he’s working long hours and staying out all night, and he accuses her of not giving him the attention he deserves. Their marriage is at a cross-roads and Celine worries how her 10-year-old daughter, Kassie, will be affected.

    But the situation turns devastating when Celine is diagnosed with breast cancer. As her relationship with Keith deteriorates, Celine worries that she’ll be left to navigate the difficult process of cancer treatment alone. But comfort and support come in the form of Celine’s best friend, Lauren. They’ve been attached at the hip since they were children and it is Lauren who’s there for Celine in her darkest moments.

    Now, Celine will be forced to make tough decisions-about her marriage and otherwise-and for the first time in her life, she wants to give up. Lauren vows to help by any means necessary and makes the kind of sacrifice only a best friend can. But will it be too late?

    Your turn:  What are your reading goals for the new year?  What books do you think I should read in 2016?  If you have any suggestions please feel free to share in the comments.

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