Review: 24/6 by Tiffany Shlain

I listened to this as an audiobook ALC in my job as a bookseller. A note on the narrator: This book is narrated by the author. She’s good, and when she talks about things like her father passing, you can hear her choke up a bit. It adds some weight to the reading.

I think all the parents I know struggle with the use of devices in families. While we have chosen so far to not have any apps on phones or tablets for the toddler and don’t allow devices at family dinners for the teen or us parents, we do rely heavily on the television to entertain. Husband and I do disagree about how much the TV should be on. He thinks of it as background noise, but the toddler clearly doesn’t. He wants Pokemon all the time.

I like the idea of a day of tech rest. 24/6 makes some compelling arguments, though I’m not sure I needed any. It also has some actionable ideas for how to make it work, which is incredibly valuable. I think we’re going to institute it. I am taking some prep time to figure out when works best for our family, especially given that Husband and I work opposite days. A full tech shabbat may not work for us, or at least not at the same time. The kids and I may have to do it alone on a traditional weekend day. Once I start it, though, I will let you guys know how it goes.

Review: Where’s Buddha by Marisa Aragon Ware

You guys, I’m a bookseller, and that means I’m picking up books all the time: new books I happen to check in at my store, used books I see on the shelf, ARCs and finished copies at conferences. I’m also a book tourist, so I stop by independent bookstores whenever I travel and buy at least one book every time. All this is to say, tonight I was looking through the picture book department of my home’s bookshelves for something we haven’t read at bedtime the last 600 consecutive nights, and I saw this little picture book and thought, “Where the heck did I even get that? How long has it been here? How have I not noticed it in the last 600 nights of trying to not read the same book over and over?” I can answer none of these questions.

Thing you should know about my household: Husband is staunchly Methodist, I am spiritual but not religious, and we did not discuss at all before having children how we were going to raise them, religiously. We are now over two years into raising our shared boys, and we still haven’t discussed it. Since I don’t really need a discussion, as I’m all for getting them familiar and comfortable with all faiths, I just haven’t broached it.

Where’s Buddha? is not a particularly Buddhist book. It’s very simple text that just implies that the spiritual is in everything. It just so happens to do so with Buddha. Since I am not terribly familiar with the specifics of Buddhism, I like it as an entry-level picture book that as my children get older may bring up some questions we can look into together. The illustrations are gorgeous, with eye-drawing color and just enough details to keep my toddler engaged. We will definitely add it to our bedtime rotation, now that I know it’s there.

Review: Fuck, Now There Are Two of You by Adam Mansbach

Fans of Go the Fuck to Sleep, now there’s Fuck, Now There Are Two of You. To be more accurate, soon there will be. It’s due in October. I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

In case you missed the previous two books in this series, which is totally okay, they’re picture books for adults on the joys of parenting. With curse words. I adore them. They’re great for a laugh when parenting has got you down.

This one is perfect for where I’m at right now. Obviously, I have three boys, but Big Brother is so big he barely counts as a kid anymore. It feels like I’m actively parenting two. If someone you know is about to add their second child, definitely give them this book to help out when the stress level seems unbearable.

Review: Talking to Strangers by Malcolm Gladwell

A note on the audiobook: This is an audio experience. Malcolm Gladwell talks about it a bit in the beginning. He chose to use audio recordings of interviews, etc., wherever available instead of just reading the quotes himself. There’s music spattered throughout. It’s kind of a book/podcast. It is not just a direct reading of the text. Also, Malcolm Gladwell has a soothing voice but covers some unsettling topics, so you can definitely listen to this one and not fall asleep.

I won’t say I enjoyed this book, because how can you enjoy something that talks about all the unpleasant side effects of misinterpreting interactions with strangers? But it was incredibly interesting. We hear about what went wrong with Amanda Knox, the Brock Turner trial, and Sandra Bland, amidst many other examples. I love books like this that examine psychology through real life things. My favorite section is the one on default to truth, I think, although it’s hard to pick.

I definitely feel like I learned something from Talking to Strangers, and for me, that’s really the best way to judge a nonfiction title.

I listened to an ALC of this title in my job as a bookseller.

Review: Chosen by Kiersten White

This is the sequel to Slayer, so if you haven’t read it, go do that real fast, then come back. Also, Chosen doesn’t come out until January 2020, but go ahead and preorder it so you don’t forget. You’re going to want it. I received an ARC because I demanded it from a publisher rep in my job as a bookseller.

Because this review is so early, I’m going to do my best to avoid anything even kind of spoiler-y. It may be enough to say that if you’re a fan of Buffy, you will love this book, but I’m going to go ahead and say a little more than that.

First of all, it was true of Slayer and it’s true again here, Kiersten White does a phenomenal job of incorporating Buffy-speak into the book. It feels like a continuation of the TV series. Who doesn’t want that? Also, we again get to see some characters from the show, and they feel true to themselves and it’s a delight.

The storyline of this book continues on from the end of Slayer. I personally had not read Slayer since before its publication, so it took me a minute to refresh, but this book did a good job of catching you back up if it’s been a while, without an unnecessary info dump in case you’re reading them back to back. There are all the things you’d expect from a story in the Buffy-verse: demons, intrigue, romances that seem doomed, witty banter, an apocalypse. I adored every page, and I never wanted to put it down.

If you love Buffy (and if you don’t, you’re the monster), you will love this book.

Possibilities

Middle Brother loves that tree in the front yard. He loves the tiny rocks around the bushes by the street. Big Brother loves the room on the opposite side of the house and a different floor than the rest of the living quarters. I want to get those things for them so bad.

We have a contract, you guys. We had a home inspection today. We’re still waiting on results. It all feels like a very real possibility all of a sudden, this thing I thought would never happen. And then almost simultaneously, it feels like surely this isn’t real, and something will come up from the inspection that means we can’t get this house. It’s nerve-racking, too say the least.

In the meantime, though, I’ve been doing a ton of reading to keep my mind busy, so stay tuned for reviews.

Book Review: Twice in a Blue Moon by Christina Lauren

Twice in a Blue Moon is one of those books I gave up sleep to finish. I wouldn’t have thought that would be the case in the beginning, but there it is.

I’m not giving anything away here you won’t read in a synopsis. This is a second chance at love story. The book begins fourteen years in the past when the hero and heroine first meet. My one bitch about this novel is this setup takes too long. It’s absolutely necessary. You need this backstory. It’s not even that it’s not interesting. I just personally prefer my backstory woven in to the present storyline.

Once you get through the build-up, though, it’s fantastic. What the flashback did well was thoroughly set up the main conflict. There are still a few things that pop up that could have been avoided with simple communication, which I know is a pet peeve for some people, but given that’s a huge problem in my real relationships, I totally buy it.

There’s a period where I think I was supposed to hate the hero. The authors were much too successful at making him really likeable for that to happen. I believed the whole time that there was a good explanation and he was not a bad guy. I did get why the heroine wanted to hate him, though.

Overall, this is a really great, fun read. This is a contemporary romance, but with enough wealth to make it feel slightly fantastical. The two main characters still feel like very real, flawed humans. The central conflict is believable, and the motivations ring true. There’s some spice, and certainly a couple of sex scenes, but it’s not a super high heat level book. It’s much more about the feelings than the sex. I definitely recommend this one for fans of contemporary romance or light fiction.

An ARC of this title was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Twice in a Blue Moon is due to be published by Gallery Books on October 22nd.

Review: Saint X by Alexis Schaitkin

Just so you know, this book doesn’t come out until February 2020. So, you can get all excited about it with me, and preorder it here, but you can’t read it yet. I was provided with an ARC in my job as a bookseller.

Regardless, you should get excited about it and preorder it. It is fantastic. The promotional quotes didn’t really work for me, with all the emphasis on race and privilege. It sounded like it might be a dry, preachy book. It isn’t.

The plot of Saint X is primarily a mystery, and it reads like one with pacing gathering speed until the conclusion. But mystery readers may be disappointed, because it’s lacking a lot of the quirks of the genre. Upon finishing, it feels most like a coming of age novel. There is a focus on race and privilege, but it’s done in such a way that you don’t even notice you’re thinking about it until it’s over. Everything about this book is subtle and entrancing. It will make a great book club read.

If you’re a fan of books that make you think without being “think-y”, slice of life novels, or even true crime, you’ll love this gorgeously written book.

Patients

Thing I thought I’d never say: We put in a bid on the house. Sadly, so did someone else. So, now we wait. We’re up to the highest bid we’re comfortable with, and there’s nothing to do but wait for a call.

People prepared me for all sorts of things about attempting to buy a home. The main focus seemed to be on accepting the fact that you may not get the house you want. We may not get this house. I can live with that. There will be other houses. There, in fact, are other houses, that would work just as well for our family. They just didn’t speak to me like the crazy tile in this house. But we do have a next choice if this one doesn’t pan out.

What no one prepared me for was the horror of waiting. Patience is not my strongest suit, but it isn’t my weakest, either. I’m accustomed to waiting. This particular waiting just feels terrible. I’ve done all that I can, and I have no way to know the probability of it working out in my favor until someone calls with our fate.

This kind of waiting is not outside my realm of experience; it just conjures up the worst of it. Big Brother had what turned out to be pyloric stenosis as an infant, but until they found it, he was just vomiting all the time and losing weight, and I was just trying to figure out how to keep any milk in him. Little Brother got a staph infection at ten days old, but it didn’t present typically and so there were a lot of cultures to rule out possibilities while we sat in the hospital. My father had what turned out to be a stroke, which also didn’t present typically, on his 65th birthday and once we got to the ER, not only was there nothing we could do, but I was told to go home because I was pregnant.

Obviously, this is not as bad as that. I’m not waiting to find out if someone I love might be permanently damaged or die. I just think that this particular type of waiting, where I have no control over the outcome and no options to change it once it comes, has brought up some trauma I didn’t realize I hadn’t dealt with. Today, I’m hugging all my boys a little tighter. I’m also still really hoping we get this weird little house.

Review: The Enlightenment of Bees by Rachel Linden

I’m going to be honest. I got this audiobook as an ALC in my job as a bookseller, and downloaded it at the same time as several other books. By the time I got to it, I couldn’t remember what it was about. I’m embarrassed to say that for a while I thought it was a memoir, until things started happening that I knew I would have heard about if they were real. I blame it on the first person POV and mommy brain.

A note on the narrator: Love her. I will be looking for more books read by Madison Lawrence. Although she sounds a lot like one of the narrators from Three Women, so in the beginning I kept expecting a very different character.

I did not love this book, and it pains me to say it. It’s classified as Christian fiction, which I don’t really think it is. There’s a lot about finding your purpose, but nothing I can remember about God. This isn’t an issue for me in itself. Since I thought I was listening to a memoir, I certainly wasn’t intentionally picking up a religious book. It just bugs me when books are marketed as things they aren’t. On the other hand, I don’t really know how to classify this book. My main problem is that it just feels like there’s too much going on. There are times when agoraphobia and refugees feel like plot devices, which is never okay. There’s a romance that never really makes any sense. And there is such repeated use of the term “Saint Mia” that I wanted to stab myself in the earholes.

What kills me is that there are a lot of makings of a really great book, and it just didn’t do what it could have. I kept hoping for it to be better, and it just wasn’t. I wouldn’t recommend The Enlightenment of Bees unless you’re a very uncritical reader.