Tag: review

Parenting Review: 1-2-3 Magic

I know, this isn’t exactly the type of non-fiction book review you’d expect to see on a book review blog. But I really enjoyed reading it, and it has changed my parenting game, so I wanted to leave a brief review here. Our pediatrician recommended this book a few years ago, and I filed it away one my mental to-be-read shelf. A few months ago, another pediatrician friend raved about it, and that sealed the deal. (When she said this book was required reading for her entire residency class, I knew I had to read it too.) “1-2-3 Magic” is simple and effecting, and really reduces stress for parents and kids.

The premise of the method is simple. So simple you might think you’re already doing it. Count stop behaviors.

That’s it.

I mean, there’s more. But the basic idea is to only count stop behaviors. (Things you want your child to stop doing.)

If you have kids, I’m almost positive you’ve used the, “If you don’t do XYZ by the time I get to three . . . one . . . two . . . two and a half . . . three!” And then . . . nothing happens most of the time. The kid doesn’t do what you want or stop what you want them to stop, and most of us don’t really have a great follow through. I’ve had several friends without kids catch me doing that, and when they ask if counting to three really works, I always had to say, “No, not really.” “1-2-3 Magic” plays on that counting theme, and it actually works.

When your child is doing something you want them to STOP, say, “That’s one.” If they continue, you say, “That’s two.” If they stop, great! Move on! If they don’t, it’s, “That’s three, go take five,” and they go take a five-minute break in their room or wherever you choose, or they give up whatever it is they’ve been misusing. And that’s it. Really.

There are no long explanations of why what they’re doing is wrong, why you don’t appreciate it, the history of all children everywhere, etc. That’s my downfall; I always want to over explain things to my kids, and all they hear is, “blah, blah, blah.” The most you really have to say is, “We don’t do that, that’s three, go take five.”

The first couple of weeks were a little rough as my kids got used to the new counting method, but now I rarely get past two before they stop. They know what to expect, I have a follow-through plan, and we are all way less stressed out. I don’t get frustrated when they’re misbehaving, because a simple plan is already in place, and if they actually make it to the third count, their anger at getting a time out (and it’s not really a time out) is short-lived because they know at the end of the five or ten minutes, the whole thing is finished and they’re not going to get a long speech from me about the golden rule.

It. Is. Magic.

There are a ton of great ideas in this book, including some about using positive reinforcement for start behavior (things you DO want your child to do, such as getting ready for school in a timely fashion), but the modified counting method is the main event.

You can definitely read this book in a few days, even just one day if you have the time. I read the e-book and then bought the paperback version, and I would recommend just buying or borrowing the paperback. The e-book version seemed to leave out quite a bit, and it’s nice to be able to flip back and forth in the real version.

Do you have any parenting books you love? Let me know!

Review: A Court of Thorns and Roses

If you enjoy fantasy novels, have I got a series for you!

A Court of Thorns and Roses is the first in a trilogy by Sarah J. Maas that is loosely based on the tales of Beauty and the Beast and Tam Lin. Feyre is 19-years-old and in charge of keeping her family (two sisters and father) fed and alive. While Feyre is out hunting, she kills a wolf in the woods who ends up being a faerie. Tamlin, a beastly creature, shows up and not so graciously gives her the option of being killed immediately for her actions or leaving her family forever to live with him. She chooses life. Things are not as they seem when Feyre arrives in the Fae world. The faeries aren’t all the monsters she grew up hearing about, and Tamlin might not be as beastly as she thinks. There is also a curse on the entire Fae realm that affects Tamlin, and will begin to affect Feyre as they realize she may be the only person to break the curse.

This is not usually the type of fantasy novel I go for. I do love fantasy, but more along the lines of Harry Potter and The Once and Future King. That being said, I really loved A Court of Thorns and Roses! The beginning is a little slow and heavy, but once the story gets going it is unputdownable, and I ignored my family for a good chunk of a weekend to finish it. The story is great and Maas really paints a clear, beautiful picture of everywhere Feyre goes: the bleak, cold village where she lives, the lush, extravagance of Tamlin’s lands, and a few other places I’ll leave out due to spoilers. The best part, though, is how Maas writes the characters. Often when a book is plot-heavy and action-packed, the characters are an afterthought. We read those books to find out what happens next, and the characters are simply vehicles for the author-chosen action. I don’t feel that way here. I was turning the pages to read more about the characters, as well as to find out what happens next, and I think that’s rare in this category. Feyre is a strong female leader and hero, and as you’ll find out, she doesn’t let anyone tell her what to do. She isn’t the simpering, meek female lead usually presenting in fantasy and romance novels. She can hold her own, and I genuinely like her. Maas really rounded out everyone, even the supporting characters, and I cared about what happened to all of them. Not every author can do that, but Maas can, and she does it well.

There is some cheesy writing, especially in the romantic scenes, but don’t let that put you off. Those bits are quick and don’t really detract from the rest of the story.

My one disclaimer here is about the novel’s categorization. The series is categorized as YA, but I really don’t think it is true YA, or was intended to be. Maas’s books seem to be categorized this way simply because they are fantasy novels, and as a way to increase readership. (And while I am in no way supportive of banning books or not letting kids read certain books, the sex scenes in this novel and its sequel are explicit enough that I would hesitate to hand them over to a kid.) I think this is kind of a shame, because there are plenty of adults who enjoy reading fantasy! (Raises both hands.)

The second book in the series is A Court of Misty and Fury, and the third and final, which will be released on May 2, 2017, is A Court of Wings and Ruin. I honestly can’t wait to find out how the story ends!


Review: Dispatches from Pluto


The Basics:

Richard Grant, a British journalist who moved from New York City to Pluto, Mississippi, a small community deep in the Delta, chronicles his new life there, with each chapter serving as a short story. Even if you don’t usually read non-fiction, I would highly recommend this book. The characters are interesting, the story itself is fascinating, and it is a far cry from some of the dry, non-fiction travel books out there. Grant really highlights the race issues in the Delta (and if you think you understand race issues in America, just read this book; everything is magnified, and the Delta almost feels like another country) in a way that makes me want to read more about that area. I can’t wait to pick up his other books after reading this one!


The Long of It:

I first heard about Richard Grant on Rick Steves’ podcast, Travel with Rick Steves. (If you’re not subscribed to his podcast, you really should be.) He was on the show to talk about Dispatches from Pluto, a non-fiction book chronicling his move from New York City to the Mississippi Delta, specifically an area known as Pluto. As you can imagine, a British journalist living in NYC, uprooting himself and his girlfriend to live in an old plantation house in one of the poorest, most racially segregated areas of the country, is like a fish out of water tale on steroids.

The few stories he told on Travel with Rick Steves were enough to peak my interest. (The charming British accent didn’t hurt, either.) Being from a small, Texas border town, I have a slight obsession with other small towns and the way people live, survive, and cultivate culture in their own little corners of the country.

The book has plenty of lighthearted moments, like dealing with killer mosquitos, the quirky characters, and discovering that winters in the south can be more difficult than winters in the north, but it is the spotlight on race issues that really makes this book stand out. This is not a heavy-handed, knock you in the head study on race, but the issues are so matter of fact in the Delta, in a way that they just aren’t in most other areas of the country, that you can’t help but want to dig deeper into that world.

I couldn’t help but think of John Berendt’s Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, one of my very favorite books, while reading about Grant’s adventures. There’s not a scandalous murder at the heart of the story, but the characters are similarly quirky and unforgettable, and it is written in such an engaging way that it could be fiction. (And in the hands of the right people, it would make an amazing screen adaptation. Just saying.) If you are a fiction lover who feels like you need to add some non-fiction into your reading life, but have trouble getting into those books, give Dispatches from Pluto a try. I think you’ll love it!


2016 Top Five

Hello! 2016 was a pretty good reading year for me. I read new releases, old classics, and a few that had been on my to be read list forever. (The never ending to be read list!) In general, my least favorite question is, “What is your favorite book?” Picking favorite books is like picking a favorite movie: I just can’t do it! Unless I truly hate a book or cannot bear to finish it, I like them all for different reasons.

For the purposes of this list (I do love book lists), I narrowed my favorites for 2016 down to 5! They are not listed in any order, because I don’t want the books to feel bad about themselves. They’re all number 1 on my bookcase.


The Marriage of Opposites by Alice Hoffman

This is a departure from Hoffman’s regular magical realism genre, and she appears to have made a seamless transition into historical fiction. (Although she does manage to weave a bit of magic in with her excellent writing.) This book tells the story of the painter Camille Pissarro, beginning with his parents. I didn’t know anything about Pissarro before reading this, and after I wanted to know more. His story begins on the island of St. Thomas, with how his parents got there, met, and fell in love, and winds its way through Paris. It’s a journey full of passion, unrealized dreams, and the struggle of doing right vs. doing what we want vs. doing for our families. The unusual way his parents meet and fall in love, and the very unusual stories of the island itself, make this a magical book rooted in reality.


Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

“Homegoing” is the extraordinary debut novel by young author Yaa Gyasi. This certainly doesn’t feel like a debut novel, and given the years of research Gyasi did for this novel, I’m sure that by the end it didn’t feel like the first for her either. The story spans 300 years in both American and Ghana. The chapters alternate between two sisters: one who gets sold into slavery and one who is married off to an American stationed in Ghana and lives a more comfortable life, if only physically. 300 years in 320 pages sounds impossible, but it’s not. The history of the sisters, and how they intertwine and pull apart over the centuries, is perfectly told, and the end of every chapter left me saying, “I can stay up a little longer to read just one more.” This book has stayed with me ever since I finished reading it almost a year ago, and I already want to re-read it.


Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

While I do enjoy dystopian YA literature, I don’t gravitate toward end of the world, Walking Dead type novels. (There aren’t any zombies in this novel, but I think the landscape is very similar to that show.) Emily St. John Mandel is a master at writing a popular fiction book with a great hook, which is a page-turner, and is also literary fiction. This story is about Kirsten Raymonde, a member of a traveling group of actors and musicians who tour what is left of America 20 years after a flu pandemic. The novel moves back and forth between Kirsten’s childhood and adult life, and covers the twists and turns that can only result from a lawless land in a post-apocalyptic world. I loved seeing what was important to people, even after an end of the world situation (such as Kirsten’s group trying to keep the arts alive), and what people had to let go of in order to survive.

What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty

Can we all agree that we love Liane Moriarty? Her books are well written, her characters are more than interesting, and we can probably look forward to TV or film adaptations of all her books. This one is my hands-down favorite. The premise of this book is, I think, as Modern Mrs. Darcy puts it, one that you shouldn’t pay attention to. Just start reading the book. Since this is a brief review, and I can’t just order you to read it, I’ll give you a quick rundown. Young wife, pregnant with her first child, wakes up on the floor of her gym and discovers that it is 10 years in the future, she has 3 kids, and is getting divorced. As Alice travels through this new-to-her life, she realizes that she is not the person she thought she would, or ever intended to, be, and must decide if she can live with herself or if change is possible. Ignore that this sounds like a Lifetime movie. It’s not. I promise. It made me examine my own life, and think about decisions I’ve made in the past and how my life might have been, or could be, completely different. This book will make an impact on your life, and you won’t be able to stop reading it.


The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

This is historical fiction at its best. Kristin Hannah, author of women’s lit books such as “Firefly Lane” (another of my all-time favorite books) and “Winter Garden,” completely switched up her usual writing genre, and she did it perfectly. The book is about two French sisters, Vianne and Isabelle, during WWII. One is responsible to a fault, the other is passionate and reckless. The narrator of the novel tells the story from present day . . . but you don’t find out who is narrating until the end. The war is, of course, a major player in this novel, but what’s really at the heart of it is family and how sisters respond differently when under pressure. Hannah was inspired by the real-life nightingale, a Belgian woman named Andree de Jongh, who put her own life at risk to rescue downed Allied pilots from Nazi territory. It is truly an unputdownable book, and if I had to pick one favorite for 2016, this would be it.