Review: Red by Jed Alexander

I realized it’s been a while since I’ve reviewed a children’s book. We’re in that fun phase where Middle Brother wants the same books over and over, so it’s been a while since I’ve read a new one.

Red actually isn’t new. We’ve had it four a year or more. We enjoyed it for a while when we first got it, then rotated in to new things. It made a reappearance because we still haven’t unpacked all the books from the move and I remembered how much we’d loved it.

It’s a beautiful wordless picture book. I like that every time we “read” it, the story is slightly different, since it’s directed by what the toddler picks out in the pictures. The images are gorgeous, in all that black and white and red. It’s a fun twist on the Red Riding Hood story that I believe we’ll keep enjoying even after the littles have been exposed to the original tale.

If you’re looking to weave a story together with your littles, pick this one up.

This Is How It Always Is

We got everything out of the old apartment and surrendered the keys yesterday. After a long and busy book fair season, getting used to a brand new store, the holidays, and moving the house, I was really looking forward to just relaxing at home and gradually unpacking the remaining boxes this weekend and maybe getting some reading done.

Naturally, Big Brother woke me up before 5 AM on Saturday because he had a stomach bug. I spent the morning trying to keep the littler boys away from him and get some things unpacked while making sure he had what he needed, but by afternoon, Middle Brother just wanted to play with his brother.

So, we got out of the house for a bit. We turned the keys in, we picked up Little Brother’s jacket from the sitter it got left with last week, we went to our favorite local bakery, mostly for their delicious Nutella latte for a very tired Mama, but also so Middle Brother could apparently just rub chocolate all over his face. Middle Brother, who napped a bit during the driving around, woke up asking for a slide, so we stopped by the park to enjoy the weather. Big Brother texted to ask for a large ice water (our new fridge is huge and gorgeous, but we can’t get the icemaker to work), so we picked up water for him and dinner for us and got home in time to watch a movie before starting bedtime.

Once I finally got the little ones to sleep, I felt that thing moms feel, like I should be doing the unpacking now or at least reading the book for an upcoming author event at work, but I didn’t. I reminded myself that motherhood means there’s always something to be done, and there’s always something else popping up to prevent you from doing it, and sometimes you just need a break. So, I called a girlfriend and got in some adult conversation time, and then watched Outlander as I fell asleep. I’ll get some unpacking done between cooking and playing, and it will all get done eventually, and everyone will survive. But more importantly, they’ll feel loved and seen, and I’ll feel rested and appreciated.

I’m Definitely a Real Adult Now

I realize I haven’t been posting much at all lately, but it’s been a long time since I posted about life outside of books. The holiday season has been nuts. We had a lovely Christmas with family, but on December 23rd, we took up residence at our new house. The move is ongoing.

Yesterday, I loaded the dishwasher for the first time. Since I may not have mentioned it previously, our beautiful, weird, perfect home came with all the kitchen appliances. It was definitely a bonus to not worry about those purchases right after a down payment. I adore the side-by-side fridge, but hadn’t even looked at the dishwasher.

Upon opening it to load, I squealed with delight, then immediately took a picture to text to a friend. This is how I finally began to feel like a real adult person at the age of 35 with three children. I got so excited about a dishwasher that I texted a friend, you guys.

In my defense, it is pretty fabulous. The shelves both have high clearance, the racks fold down in places so I can put in those large dishes that I’ve always had to wash by hand, and it has a second sprayer on the upper shelf to wash those dishes better. Anyone would get excited about that, right?

I also got an air fryer for Christmas, now that I have the counter space for another small appliance, and spent some of my Christmas money on a new adjustable showerhead and kitchen faucet with a sprayer.

The boys are loving having their own rooms. I was worried about how Middle Brother would adjust to being alone, and on top of it, his toddler bed broke in the move. Fortunately, we’d gotten a low double bed from my parents set up in his room in case I had to sleep in there with him some nights, and he has made it his own. Pictures of his room will be forthcoming once we get all the decor he got for Christmas set up. (Don’t worry, he also got plenty of toys.)

Little Brother is finally sleeping in an actual crib, and not in the pack and play in the living room with me on the couch. He always had a crib, I just didn’t want to be waking my husband with the nighttime feedings and we’d just gotten used to the setup.

Big Brother got some LED lights he can change colors with his phone, so his room looks pretty awesome, although since it’s the size of the master suite, it also looks pretty bare. I’m sure he’ll find ways to fill it up over the years we still have him at home.

While I’m ready to be done with the move, we’re all very excited to have spent our first Christmas in our own house, and I’m loving every minute of this journey with my boys.

Review of The Christmas Boutique by Jennifer Chiaverini

The Christmas Boutique is the 21st book in a series, but don’t let that scare you off. I have read zero of the other books, and I liked it just fine.

I listened to this one as a digital audiobook. I have no particular feelings about the narration. It was fine. I don’t feel like the voice added to the experience, but it didn’t lessen it, either.

We follow a couple of women I assume we might already know if we’d read the previous books in the series, and get some historical backstory perspective of one of the characters. There are complicated female relationships, marital issues, quilting, and problems with kids.

I loved this as a Christmas read because while it is about Christmas, it’s not one of those over-the-top Christmas-centric reads. It is a full, beautiful novel that happens to be set at Christmastime. You get all the holiday good feels without the annoying fluff of books that were written for a two month sales period.

I also loved it as a mother. It’s got all the family stuff that real families deal with, handled in a realistic way. It gave me the warm and fuzzies.

This book is a good choice for anyone wanting to embrace the holiday feeling right now, but also for anyone wanting an uplifting read at any time of year.

Review of Get a Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert

I listened to this as a digital audiobook. A note on the narrator: Her voice kind of annoyed me at first. It’s a bit growly. But as the story goes on, it suits Chloe’s character, so I started to appreciate it.

Beyond that, I adored this book. It is raunchy and hilarious in that British way. The heroine is a woman of color who suffers from fibromyalgia. It was nice to see a heroine whose one flaw wasn’t her weight, not that I don’t like to see heavier heroines.

Red Morgan, the hero, has a deep emotional life, and his past pain affects his life in ways other than his relationships. I also adore this. So often, heroes’ lives are perfect except for whatever keeps them from committing to the woman. He also manages to pull off strong and sensitive.

I don’t even really know what to compare this book to. It’s obviously for fans of romantic comedies, and fans of British humor. Also, fans of Bridget Jones’s Diary and We Met in December, I should think.

Review of The Handmaid’s Tale and The Testaments by Margaret Atwood

I read these books back-to-back, and I assume most people know the general plot, so I figured I’d review them together. I know I’m incredibly late to the game on The Handmaid’s Tale, but I was curious about The Testaments, so I figured I’d better read the first one. As a disclaimer, I haven’t watched the show. I was thinking about it, which also prompted the timing of this reading.

I can’t say I enjoyed these books, because the content makes that feel wrong. They are, however, powerfully written. You don’t want to put either of them down, even though they can be hard to read. I happen to live in Texas, where occasionally they find extreme religious sects, so none of this feels as unbelievable to me as it may to some.

I had some fears about The Testaments, due to the announcement of its publication coming after so long right as the Hulu series was popular. It turns out they were unfounded. While it may still be that the author was prompted to write this sequel due to newfound interest in the first book, it was clearly something she had thought about well before that. It is a fantastic story in its own right.

The Testaments did things I never would have expected upon completion of The Handmaid’s Tale. I thought after finishing the first that I had an idea where the second would go. Some of my predictions came true, but most of the book was surprises beyond my imagination. I adored it.

These books are perfect for readers if dystopia, but also for people who read the likes of Any Man or The Power. I’m going to try the show, but I’m afraid that visually it may be too much for me.

Review of Highfire by Eoin Colfer

I really knew nothing about this book before I started listening to the audio, except that my store took part in a cover reveal campaign. I’ve also never read Eoin Colfer before, so this whole thing was an adventure for me.

I listened to the digital audiobook of Highfire. A note on the narrator: He. Is. Flawless. I could listen to this book on repeat forever.

I laughed, I sat on the edge of my seat (do not advise while driving), I cursed at certain characters. Overall, this book is a modern-day dragon adventure set in the corrupt swamps of Louisiana. We follow Squib, a young boy trying to find his place in the world; Vern, an old dragon trying to find his place in the world, though he doesn’t know it; and Regence, a middle-aged constable who, if I’m being honest, has no place in this world.

Squib is just trying to make some money to help his mom, however he can come by it. Vern is trying to stay out of sight so the mob won’t come after him. Regence is trying to take over the world, starting with the small town they all reside in. The three accidentally all end up in the same place at the same time and an unfortunate chain of events is set in motion.

I had such a good time listening to this one. Highfire is due to publish January 27, 2020, but you can always gift a preorder on, or just preorder it for yourself.

Review: A Good Man by Ani Katz

I received an ARC of A Good Man in my job as a bookseller. It is due to release January 13, 2020.

This book is really creepy. It’s told in first person, and the whole time you know that the narrator has done something awful, but you don’t know what it is. I feel like this must be incredibly difficult to do well, but Ani Katz pulls it off.

While you’d think the horrifying ending would be enough, you learn all sorts of awful things that happened to all the characters along the way. I think that what makes this book so terrifying is that by the end, you sort of understand how the narrator ended up where he did. Not that you condone it, but you could see it.

I am not a fan of the horror novel, but as a mother, part of me would have had an easier time reading about some human-eating supernatural beasty than this. It’s a fantastic book, I absolutely recommend it, but it is not for the faint of heart.

While thematically very different, for feel I definitely suggest this book for readers of Any Man by Amber Tamblyn.

Review: We Met in December by Rosie Curtis

I listened to We Met in December as a digital audiobook. The narrator has a delightful British accent. I wanted to listen to the whole thing curled up on the couch with a fuzzy but slightly itchy (I don’t know why, but that’s what I pictured) blanket and a cup of tea.

This is not specifically a Christmas romance, which I actually think is a plus, but if that’s what you’re looking for, this is not it. It starts in December and ends in December, so there is Christmas in there, but that’s the extent if it.

This definitely felt like Bridget Jones’s Diary for a new generation. There are two guys to pick from, there’s a character making her way as a young woman in London, and there’s that fantastic self-deprecation. Overall, this is a romantic comedy at its finest, and I loved every minute.

Review: Look Both Ways by Jason Reynolds

I know it’s been a while since I’ve posted a review, and I apologize. Let me open this one by saying that while I’ve met the author a couple of times and hearing him speak at conventions always gets me fired up for bookselling, for some reason this is the first book of his I read. That was my mistake.

I listened to Look Both Ways as a digital audiobook. Having not read it in the traditional format, I can’t say this definitively, but I think audio is the way to go. There is a different narrator for each of the ten interwoven stories, and it gives the book a unique feel. I really enjoyed the listening experience.

This book is interesting in that it brings the short story format to middle grade. I’m sure it’s been done before, but I haven’t read any. We follow ten kids whose lives intersect in various ways, but their stories are each their own. As a parent of kids growing up in firmly middle class suburbia who herself grew up in firmly middle class suburbia, I’m glad I read this book, and I’m glad to have it to share with my younger boys as they get older. It’s not a devastating view of a harder life, but it is a realistic view of kids whose lives are different than my sons’ will be.

As a bookseller, I hear a lot of talk about windows and mirrors, and even use some of it myself in simplified conversations. This book is a much needed window for my family and mirror for others. The fact is, though, that all books expand your worldview if they’re well written enough to put you inside a character, and this once is certainly that.