Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Age of Opportunity

The Age of Opportunity: Lessons from the New Science of Adolescence by Laurence Steinberg, Ph.D., immediately caught my eye because I am now the parent of teenager, with two more soon to join that demographic.  And as the onset of puberty looms, I am looking for a way to understand what is going on in the minds of my children.

Steinberg's book is well researched with scientific information about the way the brain works and develops, yet written in terms I could understand.  He grabbed my attention from the very beginning by noting that our society is confused about the teen years:  we try teens as adults for crimes, yet don't allow them to purchase alcohol until they are twenty-one, decisions that are at odds with each other.  Adolescence is no longer a process that lasts only a few years, but has stretched into a portion of life that can last for up to fifteen years, from the age of ten until twenty-five (from the onset of puberty until marriage).  My own teenage years are still etched in my memory, something that is true for many people. Steinberg is easily able to explain the reason for this.

There is a wealth of information in this book, which makes me regret that I didn't jot down a few notes.  However, in the book's conclusion, there are recommendations for parents, educators, employers and policy makers when it comes to adolescence.  

Parents and educators will find this book explains a great deal about the way the brains of adolescents work.  And, although it might not make the teen years any easier, it gives important insight into what is occurring in the minds and bodies of teens.

Waiting on Wednesday

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.

This week's pick:  The Boston Girl by Anita Diamant
Due out: December 9, 2014

Product Information taken from

From the New York Times bestselling author of THE RED TENT and DAY AFTER NIGHT, comes an unforgettable novel about family ties and values, friendship and feminism told through the eyes of a young Jewish woman growing up in Boston in the early 20th century.
Addie Baum is The Boston Girl, born in 1900 to immigrant parents who were unprepared for and suspicious of America and its effect on their three daughters. Growing up in the North End, then a teeming multicultural neighborhood, Addie’s intelligence and curiosity take her to a world her parents can’t imagine --- a world of short skirts, movies, celebrity culture, and new opportunities for women. Addie wants to finish high school and dreams of going to college. She wants a career and to find true love.
Eighty-five-year-old Addie tells the story of her life to her 22-year-old granddaughter, who has asked her “How did you get to be the woman you are today.” She begins in 1915, the year she found her voice and made friends who would help shape the course of her life. From the one-room tenement apartment she shared with her parents and two sisters, to the library group for girls she joins at a neighborhood settlement house, to her first, disastrous love affair, Addie recalls her adventures with compassion for the na├»ve girl she was and a wicked sense of humor.
Written with the same attention to historical detail and emotional resonance that made Anita Diamant’s previous novels bestsellers, THE BOSTON GIRL is a moving portrait of one woman’s complicated life in 20th-century America, and a fascinating look at a generation of women finding their places in a changing world.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Murder at the Brightwell

Amory Ames has been invited by her ex-boyfriend, Gil, to come away with him for a week to a seaside resort where she is to convince Gil's sister to leave her boyfriend that Gil does not approve of.

Amory has been married for five years to Milo, a bit of a bad boy, and is dissatisfied with her marriage.  She is all too happy to accommodate Gil's request.

And the resort is beautiful with an interesting group of friends also there for a vacation.  

Until a murder takes place. It is  Amory who discovers the body of Rupert Howe, Gil's sister Emmeline's boyfriend. And it is Amory who heard Gil and Rupert arguing the night before she finds Rupert's body.

Milo arrives uninvited, and despite her general annoyance with him, Amory does realize that the two make a great pair of investigators and work well together.  Even as they are uncovering clues another murder takes place right under their noses, keeping the two guessing.

Ashley Weaver's novel is a great, entertaining read.  The 1932 setting is perfect and I have read that Downton Abbey fans will love The Murder at Brightwell. I am reminded a bit of the Maisie Dobbs series as well.

Weaver's novel contains suspense and it also contains a little romance.  Although Milo is initially perceived as a rather poor husband, I couldn't help but root for him to make things right with Amory as he quickly appears to help her solve this case.  There is a definite chemistry between the two.

I have found nothing indicating this is the beginning of a series, but I am hopeful that is the case. The novel leaves plenty of room for readers to meet up with Amory again and I would love to see what else Weaver writes.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Night Blindness

Jensen was best friends with her brother, Will, and his friend, Ryder.  Thirteen years have elapsed since Will's tragic death - something Jensen has never talked about.

Jensen left her family and Ryder behind shortly after Will died, first attending boarding school, and eventually marrying an artist and living in Santa Fe.  Her attempt to start over has worked for thirteen years, but when her father is diagnosed with a brain tumor, Jensen returns home.

One of the first people she runs into is Ryder, and it is evident from their interactions with each other that there is more to their relationship than just mere friendship.

Ryder is now her father's doctor, a brain surgeon.  And Jensen has agreed to stay with her parents and assist in her father's care and treatment for the next two months.  

Sarah Strecker's novel was hard to put down. Not only was I interested in Ryder and Jensen's relationship, but I was also curious about what happened the night Will died, which is not initially revealed. There are some interesting family dynamics at play, Jensen's abandonment of piano playing - her passion, her father's cancer treatment, and Ryder's relationship with another doctor at the hospital that all add to the drama and suspense and create a very real and human story.

This is Strecker's first novel, and I can hardly wait to see what else she writes.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Sunday Salon: Fabulous Fall

It is truly fall as I look out our dining room windows at the beautiful trees.  Yesterday Big Sister's XC team had their conference tournament.  It was a cool day, but without wind, which I always think is a good thing for running. Now her season is done. I am happy that she has said she will miss it. That means she had a good time and will be looking forward to next year.

Middle Sister's birthday ended with dinner at Old Chicago.  I get one "cheat meal" of the week, and I saved up so I could eat pizza with the family.  I won't deny that it tasted great.  Today I am back on the wagon again.

This coming week I have parent/teacher conferences at school.  That means two late nights of work, but I will have Friday off.  So looking forward to a three day weekend.  

I have no plans for supper yet, and need to run to the grocery store for a few essentials.  After that, I'll be folding laundry and getting things organized for a busy week at school.

I'd love to sit down and watch a show on Netflix. My girls are upset because TLC shows have been taken off of Netflix. That is pretty much their "go-to" TV channel, so this development hasn't made anyone very happy.  I'd like to see Downton Abbey or Parenthood or The Good Wife.  Just like with my reading- I'll never catch up!

Enjoy the rest of this beautiful October afternoon!

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Middle Sister's Day

Happy Birthday to Middle Sister! Hard to believe she is 11 already.  She was born 11 years ago today, also on a Saturday, and has kept us hopping ever since.

Last night we shopped on for her present- a pair of Uggs

This morning she enjoyed homemade cinnamon rolls for breakfast.  (I was up at 4 AM to make these just for her!).  

Later today we have soccer games for Middle and Little Sister, Big Sister has her conference cross country meet, we have tickets to see UNI play football this afternoon, and are planning on eating out for Middle Sister's birthday. 

A whirwind birthday!

Friday, October 17, 2014

Friday Five

I wish I could take credit for finding this awesome bag, but Ti from clued me in to them last week, and now I am wanting one for myself. They are a littel pricey, but when I see pictures of them, I can tell they are super sturdy. I can't help but think of how this bag looks like it could withstand carting a lot of library books around.  Check out the Merin Designs website.

You know, last week I was finally ready to admit I was OK with it being fall, and just seven days later, I'm scoping out Christmas decorations.  I guess my mindset has changed a bit.  This is the third year I've admired this Advent calendar garland that Garnet Hill carries. The $98 price tag is still restricting me....I keep thinking these will go on sale but every year they remain at full price.  

Groove Book is an app for your phone that is awesome!  Just get 100 pictures printed for you each month, mailed o you in this bound "groove book" for just $2.99 each month.  I always feel like I don't take that many pictures, but it is surprising how many I take now that I have a decent phone.  And I wasn't ever printing any photos out before. The quality of the photos isn't great, but my girls love looking at them. I am thinking it would be a great thing to have in my purse (moms of toddlers could really love this) to pull out at various waiting rooms, church, or anywhere to entertain kiddos.

A nice leather jacket would be a total luxury item, but each year I admire them when I get my Eddie Bauer catalog.  I have a 30% coupon, but even with that, the price is still high.  I'm dreaming of a year when this is an investment I can make.

I was out shopping last Thursday and saw this shirt at Crawdaddy Outdoors, our local sporting store.  I've looked on the Adidas website but can't find this shirt.  I'm waiting until it goes on's got a nice warm lining and I love the design.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Enzo Races in the Rain

Harper Collins has sent me another great picture book: Enzo Races in the Rain by Garth Stein.

At first I questioned how much I needed another cute dog book, but after reading it to Little Sister, I realized that it doesn't really matter that there are other cute dog books out there. She still loved this one.

Enzo became famous for the book written by Garth Stein, The Art of Racing in the Rain, which was then written at a child's level -a junior novelization.  Now, we see Enzo again in this new picture book.

Enzo explains that although he is a dog, he feels like a person. People don't understand his barks, even though Enzo is trying to tell them something.  However, when he meets Zoe, the two have a connection. She quickly brings her new puppy home, and Enzo is excited to be loved and have a home on a farm. However, Enzo is a runner, much like a race car driver.  His running sends him on an adventure to the city that isn't safe or fun. 

And then suddenly he remembers Zoe, and heads back home, where he finds Zoe tearfully hoping he will return.

R. W. Alley's illustrations help make this book so enticing.  Although I notice illustrations, I have no skill in this area myself.  I was impressed while reading in the copyright information that the illustrator used pen, ink, pencil, watercolor, gouache, acrylics, and coffee spills on paper to create the pictures in Enzo.  The result is worth it.

Enzo is a title I will be adding to my school library.  Thanks to Harper Collins for allowing me to review this book.  As always, although I did receive a complimentary copy from the publisher, my thoughts are my own.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.

This week's selection: Mrs. Grant and Madame Jule by Jennifer Chiaverini
Due out: March 3, 2015

Product Information taken from Goodreads:

The New York Times bestselling author of Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker and Mrs. Lincoln's Rival imagines the inner life of Julia Grant, beloved as a Civil War general’s wife and the First Lady, yet who grappled with a profound and complex relationship with the slave who was her namesake—until she forged a proud identity of her own.

In 1844, Missouri belle Julia Dent met dazzling horseman Lieutenant Ulysses S Grant. Four years passed before their parents permitted them to wed, and the groom’s abolitionist family refused to attend the ceremony.

Since childhood, Julia owned as a slave another Julia, known as Jule. Jule guarded her mistress’s closely held twin secrets: She had perilously poor vision but was gifted with prophetic sight. So it was that Jule became Julia’s eyes to the world.

And what a world it was, marked by gathering clouds of war. The Grants vowed never to be separated, but as Ulysses rose through the ranks—becoming general in chief of the Union Army—so did the stakes of their pact. During the war, Julia would travel, often in the company of Jule and the four Grant children, facing unreliable transportation and certain danger to be at her husband’s side.

Yet Julia and Jule saw two different wars. While Julia spoke out for women—Union and Confederate—she continued to hold Jule as a slave behind Union lines. Upon the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation, Jule claimed her freedom and rose to prominence as a businesswoman in her own right, taking the honorary title Madame. The two women’s paths continued to cross throughout the Grants’ White House years in Washington, DC, and later in New York City, the site of Grant’s Tomb.

Mrs. Grant and Madame Jule is the first novel to chronicle this singular relationship, bound by sight and shadow.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

I Am Jazz

I have debated sharing about this book for a few weeks now.  I have talked about it with friends just to see if they think I am way off base.  I have thought about it some more.  

Before I start, you should know that I am conservative. But I don't believe in censoring. I might tell my children that a movie or television show is not ok to watch, but I don't think I have ever said the same about a book.  

A few weeks ago we picked up I Am Jazz by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings.

It looked cute.  As we began reading about a boy who liked to dress up like a girl and enjoyed more girly things I began to feel like I might know where this story was heading.  

And yes, I turned the page only to have the big reveal that Jazz is transgender.

I suggested to my daughter that we read a different book, but she of course wanted to keep going.

As a parent, I am not sure that I think my daughter needs to know about transgenders when she is just eight years old.  She had no idea that anything like this even existed.  The idea is a little confusing....if a boy plays with dolls does that make them transgender?

I will admit the topic of transgender is done well in this book, simplified for children and without the drama and emotion the parents must feel about dealing with a child who is transgendered.  My daughter wanted to know if this is a true story and liked the photographs at the end of Jazz as a boy AND a girl.

However, her overall comment about this story: creepy. 

I Am Jazz is no doubt an important book and one that a few children will definitely identify with. And I will note that after looking at reviews on Amazon I am definitely in the minority. Nearly every review applauds this book and the need for children to know that everyone should be accepted for who they are.

I agree that accepting others is something we should help our children do.  And Jazz should be accepted, but my mistake was not reading the inside flap, and knowing what this book was about before I read it to Little Sister.