Review: Wide-Awake Bear by Pam Zietlow Miller

Middle Brother is affectionately called Bear in our house, which maybe explains all the roaring, and has never slept as much as he’s “supposed to” at any given age. So when I saw this book, I had to get it for him.

Wide-Awake Bear is so cute! Middle Brother went and got his bear to snuggle with while we read. A bear cub is supposed to be hibernating, but no matter what he does, he is still wide awake. While the story hits a little close to home as the mother of a toddler, the illustrations are adorable, and Middle Brother actually sat through the whole story.

If you’re looking for a good snuggly story with an opportunity to teach about hibernation, this one’s for you.

Review: Fair Play by Eve Rodsky

Fair Play feels like a game changer. I don’t generally follow celebrity book clubs, because I’m in book clubs in real life and have three billion not book club books to read, but I looked into Reese’s since I felt so informed by this book. I’m going to at least consider the titles going forward.

Eve Rodsky specializes in organizational management, and she’s applied those principles to making a system to create equity in household labor. That sentence sounds really dry, but the book isn’t. She uses her own marriage as an example as she illustrates how the Fair Play system works. She walks us through the ways we may be contributing to the problem without realizing it (I personally am incredibly guilty of the frustrated “I’ve got it” approach), the types of husbands we might be dealing with and how best to approach each, and then (get this, ladies) a solution.

The solution is a process, but it’s a process meant to be easily individualized for each family. I am really excited to try it. I spend a lot of time venting with my girlfriends about the amount of household work we still take on as fulltime working mothers, and I would love just that time back, not to mention the time I’m actually doing the household work.

Obviously, since I just read the book, I can’t personally attest to the results, yet. I have set up a date with Husband, though, to work out the system for our family, and I’m really excited about it.

Tech Shabbat

We did our first tech shabbat this weekend. Overall, I’d call it a success. We elected to try 7 PM Friday through 7 PM Saturday, so we turned off screens just in time to eat dinner and do the bedtime routine last night, so no one noticed but me. Big Brother was intentionally elsewhere this weekend so he wouldn’t have to participate.

This morning, we ate breakfast with no requests for cartoons. Our first hiccup came when we left to hunt for a Pokemon Halloween costume for Little Brother. I purchased a minivan when we decided we wanted to be a family of five, and got the built-in TV system since I’m a huge fan of road trips. As soon as we started driving, Middle Brother asked for “my TB.” I explained we weren’t going far, but it was still touch-and-go for a minute. After the first store, he was so animatedly telling me about the animatronic dragons and things that he didn’t ask again. We didn’t find the costume we wanted, but after a while we gave up and went to the park, because it was gorgeous out today. Both littler brothers had a great time, and I made no one pause for pictures.

We did take one picture today. We drove by what I still hope will be our future home. We’ve gotten a couple of extensions on our option period as we hammer out some pretty major repairs that need to be done. That’s the only news on that front, for those of you wondering.

We came home for lunch, and hoped for naps, but no luck in the sleep department. Middle Brother helped get dinner in the slow cooker, and then we played more than I can remember playing on a Saturday in a long time. Middle Brother asked for Pokemon once, but was easily distracted. What surprised me was that as we got into evening, he kept trying to hand me my phone. Evidently, I’m on it when I’m with the littles more than I realized.

I ended up turning on the television a half hour early because Middle Brother was tired, and therefore a terror, while I was finishing dinner. We’re going to have to work through the kinks of no naptime in the future.

I absolutely intend to keep this up. It felt really refreshing, and I felt really present with my boys the whole time. Thanks so much to Tiffany Shlain and 24/6 for giving me a kick in the pants.

Review: Cursed by Thomas Wheeler

Thing I’m not proud of as a parent: We listened to Cursed as a bedtime story for my toddler. Hear me out. I was listening to it at 1.5 times, so it was too fast for him to catch most of it, and he doesn’t know a lot of these words yet, anyway. But the narrator’s British accent is very soothing, and it was effective. I’m counting it as a win.

The storyline is not very soothing. I downloaded the ALC of this book in my job as a bookseller because it promised a King Arthur tale. King Arthur is by nature not a happy story for anyone. This isn’t really one of those, anyway. It’s a pre-King Arthur narrative that’s more twisted than any other I’ve read in that world. I loved every minute of it.

We follow Nimue, future Lady of the Lake, as she inherits the sword of power and tries to figure out what to do with it. We meet all the characters we expect to meet, although not always in the form we expect. There is so much violence, but also tenderness and familial ties and love. Nimue is truly confused and conflicted, and I love that the story centered around her.

I know this is an upcoming Netflix show, but I hope there’s a full series of books coming, too. I want more.

Review: Elizabeth Webster and the Court of Uncommon Pleas by William Lashner

I listened to Elizabeth Webster and the Court of Uncommon Pleas as an audiobook. The narrator is awesome!

This book is kind of a mix of Goosebumps and Theodore Boone. It’s a middle grade mystery with ghosts and demons. It’s not incredibly scary, but maybe not a good read for nervous children.

I really enjoyed it. I did not want to stop listening. There’s an interesting cast of characters, a good mystery, and some real legal information. The main character is also kind of a math nerd, which I would have loved in my own middle grade years. Also, it’s a great read for children in blended families, as it deals with some of that without being preachy.

I read this book as an ALC in my job as a bookseller. It releases October 15th.

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.