January Books: Mini Reviews

I read six books in January. Here are my mini reviews (and as always, no spoilers!):

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My Sister’s Grave by Robert Dugoni: This crime drama about sisters started out slowly…and the middle was slow…and then the end was fast-paced and exciting. There were a lot of family dynamics and a handful of gruesome crime scenes, which didn’t really make it great pre-bed reading. I give it three stars.

Private Relations by Diane Chamberlain: I’ve been on a bit of a book binge with Diane Chamberlain, and I loved everything I read…until this book. Oh you guys, this book was so bad. The characters weren’t believable at all, their relationships weren’t realistic in the slightest and the main character wasn’t very likable. Since I always finish books I start, I read the whole thing…but it never got better. I really need to rethink that policy. One star.

Three Wishes by Liane Moriarty: This is another author I’ve been bingeing on, and this was one of her best ones. In this tale about triplets, Moriarty did a great job of layering their life stories for the reader as their current dramas unfolded. She managed to blend some pretty serious issues with some hilarious scenes, making me think and laugh all at the same time. Four stars.

The Time Between by Karen White: White’s books often take place in southern and coastal towns, and the way she writes mimics the slow way southern summers seem to go by. The story builds and builds until the last few chapters when there is no way you’re putting the book down. This story winds around two sisters, their loyalty to each other and –despite that loyalty–the secrets that they keep from each other. The only problem I had with this book is that I felt like White didn’t give enough to some characters–particularly a perceptive child who had psychic abilities. I really wanted to know more about this kid, but the author did not provide and that was frustrating. Three stars.

The Last Summer (of You and Me) by Ann Brashares: Oh, this writer. I loved the “Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants” series, but I think what I liked about it was that I had a chance to get to know the characters through so many books. I’ve read most of her other stand alone books, and they drive me a little crazy. The characters in this book…well, they’re weird and they make bad decisions. The story circles around three people–two sisters and a boy they’ve known their whole life. The book gives us romance, sisterly bonds, heartbreak…but it doesn’t give us time to really get to know the characters and figure out why they’re making such ridiculous decisions. There is a nice, wrapped up happy ending though–and I approve of that. Two stars.

The Last Anniversary by Liane Moriarty: I told you I was bingeing on this author! This book was so absurd but that made it fun. The main character was really funny, but the twists, turns and events in the story weren’t relatable at all because it was so far out there. Good escapist fiction with a mystery element, but not much more than that. Three stars.

What was the best book you read this month?

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Why: A Poem of Questions

Today’s Mama Kay Writing Workshop prompt: write a poem about the last conversation you had with your kid.

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“Mom? Why?

Why do I have to wear my coat outside?

Oh, it’s only 30 degrees? Well, I really don’t mind.

Why can’t I eat only yogurt all day?

It will make my tummy hurt? Well, if that’s what you say.

Why can’t I wear my pirate costume to bed?

Nah, I don’t think my sword will poke me in the head.

Why can’t I put neon paint on the wall?

I don’t think the next tenant will mind at all.

Why can’t I watch YouTube late into the night?

Does it matter which sock goes on the left or the right?

Why do I have to say thank you and please?

Why can’t I open my eyes when I sneeze?

Why is lava so hot and ice so cold?

Can I have a pet dinosaur when I’m old?

Mom, do you love me even when I make a huge mess?”

“Silly boy–the answer to that is always a yes.”

Showing my #DisneySide!

I was provided with a free party kit from Disney Parks and MomSelect, but all opinions are my own.

Anyone who knows my family knows we are “Disney people”. Actually,you don’t even have to know me…all you have to do is walk through my front door and you’re greeted with our wedding portrait, taken in front of Cinderella Castle. It’s kind of a giveaway.

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So I was very excited when I was chosen to host a #DisneySide @home party. We haven’t been to Disney World in awhile so it was perfect timing to add a little pixie dust to our world.

When our big party kit arrived, JC was very excited to find it full of “Cars” decorations, games and door prizes. Perfect for a 4-year-old boys and his buddies! It even had a cake mix and Mickey shaped pan.

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Our party isn’t for another month, but it’s fun to do a little Disney dreaming on a cold day in January when a good portion of the east coast is buried under snow. We’re expounding on our “Cars” theme and making our party a Disney transportation party–because who doesn’t love the monorail, the WDW Railroad, and all the dudes from “Planes”?

Have you ever thrown a Disney themed party? I’d love to see what you did!

National ReadAThon Day–it’s #TimeToRead!

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Saturday is National ReadAThon Day. From 12-4 all over the country, people will be gathering to read and raise money to support literacy. You can find all the details and how to make donations here.

We’re definitely going to be participating in the ReadAThon. We’re even making a special trip to the library to stock up on books to read together as well as some JC can flip through on his own so that I can start The Last Summer (of You and Me) by Ann Brashares.

Some ideas for your own ReadAThon:

  • Make it an event. Talk it up beforehand with your family, borrow or buy some new books, and stock up on some yummy snacks.
  • Check your local library and bookstores and see if they’re having a group ReadAThon.
  • If you’re reading at home, make a special reading spot. Pitch a tent or build a fort and fill it with squishy pillows and blankets. Wear your comfiest clothing and stretch out.
  • Take it outside. If you’re lucky enough to have mild weather this weekend, find a sunny spot and take a picnic along with your books.
  • Pick a theme: read all the books you can find about dinosaurs, fairies or–like we’ll undoubtedly be doing in our house–trains.

20 Ways This is Going to be the Best Year Yet

Welcome to another Writers Workshop Thursday, brought to you by Mama Kat! Today’s topic: 20 ways this is going to be the best year yet.

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1. Because Judy Blume is going to publish another adult novel. Are you there, God? It’s me, Allyson…thank you for finally answering that request!

2. Because I’m going to publish a book this year. No, I don’t have an agent, or a publisher…yet. But I do have some great rough drafts, the makings of a kick-ass query letter and a whole lot of belief in myself.

3. Because Friends and Gilmore Girls are on Netflix now.

4. Because I’m not allowed to pin anything crafty until I finish a project I’ve already pinned. Less mental clutter and more fun projects.

5. Because I get to host a #DisneySide party next month! Stayed tuned for a review.

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6. Because things are a little crazy at my house right now. We’re facing some big changes as a family, which is terrifying…but I’m trying to remind myself that change doesn’t have to be bad and can be the start of exciting opportunities. Time to bloom!

7. Because of this blog and my newly refreshed fitness blog, Girl Seeking Healthy. I love writing and blogging and I love getting to know my readers.

8. Because I’m working on a “long weekend getaway” wish list. There are lots of places I want to visit–and a fair number of them are close by. Mini break, anyone?

9. Because two of my BFF’s are moving and they will be closer to me. Hurrah!

10. Because JC turns 5 this year, which is important because “it’s a whole HAND, mom.”

11. Because I’m going to learn to make my own pasta this year.

12. Because I’m going to learn to speak Italian this year.

13. Because my husband and I celebrate a decade of being together this year, and I think that’s a big deal.

14. Because Zoo Atlanta is opening their brand new reptile house this year. Little boy heaven, anyone?

15. Because even though 2015 has already thrown me a lot of curve balls, there is still plenty of time to look up and keep perspective.

16. Because I just discovered this awesome independent bookstore and plan to spend a lot of time in it.

The Little Shop of Stories. Which of course makes me sing: Little shop...little shop of stories...

The Little Shop of Stories. Which of course makes me sing: Little shop…little shop of stories…

17. Because I’ve finally mastered my iPhone, and I can’t upgrade until December, so I have a full year of knowing what buttons to push.

18. Because for every book I read, I find two more to add to my “to read” list. Best problem ever.

19. Because I’m determined to have a family portrait taken this year. We haven’t had one done since JC was 14 months old.

20. Because there are new paths to explore, sticks to whack trees with, friends to make and naps to take. What else could a girl want?

Books in Real Life: ‘All You Need for a Snowman’

Even though we don’t get much snow in Atlanta, we can dream about it, right?

This month I chose Alice Schertle’s All You Need for a Snowman to highlight for my Books in Real Life post. It’s a great book, especially for groups, but a lot of the activities that go along with it can be applied to other winter books.

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One of my favorite ideas to go along with this book is a build-a-snowman station.This is a great activity to do with a handful of kids or to leave you kids to their own devices. I was surprised at how long this kept JC occupied.

I made a batch of our favorite play dough:

1 cup flour
1/3 cup salt
1 cup water
1 tablespoons oil
1 tablespoons cream of tartar
Food Coloring (if so desired)

I put it all in a pan, turn on low heat, and mix until it stiffens up. Let it cool for a few minutes, and then knead the color in. I always think it isn’t going to work because it starts out so runny…but it always does!

Then I set up a little box of “snowman fixings”…little twigs, buttons, fabric scraps, etc. 

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And the finished results:

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Here is a quick and healthy snack idea for when you read the book. Decorate clear cups with snowman faces, tie a little scarf around them, and fill with freshly popped popcorn. Perfect to snuggle up and read the book!

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Leslie over at Teach Junkie has a free download that goes along with the books that includes some great descriptive writing sheets. If you have younger kids, they can also be used as coloring pages. You can find the download here.


What are your kids reading this month? These are some of our current top requests.

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Your Mom is Your First Audience

JC is learning how to tell  jokes.

“Hey mom,” he said the other day. “What does a frog say when he sneezes? ACHOO!” And then he laughed hysterically.

Whenever he tries to make me laugh, I am reminded of a Robin Williams quote.

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I love teaching him how to tell jokes…but I often find him funnier when he’s not trying to be.

For example, he seems to think that California is the gateway to everything. We live on the east coast and have never been anywhere near California. This conversation happened in the car last week.

“Mom, do you know where my favorite place on the whole earth is?”

 “Where?”

 “The north pole. Mom, why is it called the north pole?”

 “Because it’s the northern most point on the earth.”

 “And it’s really far away from Mars!”

 “Yes, it is. What makes it your favorite place?”

 “Santa Claus is there. And I want to take a train there to visit him. Do you know what train goes there?”

 “The Polar Express?”

 “However did you guess, mom? Lets go to California.”

 “Wait—why?”

“Because that’s where the Polar Express’ station is. And then we can go to the north pole.”

He recently came to me and asked for a piece of paper and  pen. When supplied with these things, he wrote the handful of letters he knows and a couple of drawings of a train. Then he returned to me.

“Mom, I wrote a speech. But I need you to read it to me, because I wrote it in Spanish and I don’t speak Spanish.”

Some of his best work is about his imaginary friend, Ansel.

“Mom, Ansel drives a Lancer. It’s pink and it has the word “whatever” written on it.”

“Mom, Ansel is in time out. He took all my clothes off my hangers and put them in the bath tub. But I don’t need a consequence. I’ve already handled it. 

Ansel is getting his own blog post soon. He is a trouble maker.

JC has very specific ideas about how we should play together.

“Mom, I want to play football outside. You be the guy who gets tackled, and I’ll be the guy who wins.”

(I can’t tell you how excited I was about that one).

Mom, your name is Captain Foofamaloo and I’m Captain JC. You drive the ship while I relax. You don’t sound like a pirate. You need to sound like, ARRRRRR. Or like Hagrid.”

Apparently, I need to work on my accents.

What was the last thing your kid said that cracked you up?