Life By Kristen

Go, and embrace your liberty. And see what wonderful things come of it. – Little Women

Archive for the category “Books”

Book Review: Nourish

Nourish: The Definitive Plant-Based Nutrition Guide for Families–With Tips & Recipes for Bringing Health, Joy, & Connection to Your Dinner Table, an evidence-based, practical resource that explores the many benefits of a plant-based diet and provides parents with the tools they need to provide excellent and balanced nutrition to their families.

I’ve lost track of how many meals I’ve made during the pandemic, but it’s been QUITE. A. LOT. In addition to needing new ideas for meals, we’re also trying hard as a family to consume more plants and less meat. Well I’m trying, and Q just complies as long as I make him some red meat a couple of times a week, and my son just eats whatever we give him (at the moment!). I was very happy to have early access to this great cookbook which has lots of great tips and recipes for eating more plant-based food.

The book has great strategies and ideas for how to incorporate a more plant-based diet into your life. The book is divided into 4 sections- consideration, care, confidence, and connection. It looks at the health and science behind plant-based diets, explains terms, and provides information and research to back up the various claims, all of which I appreciate very much. I especially appreciate as a new mom trying to navigate food options for my son that there was a lot of information on kids and plant-based diets since there is so much information available about what does or doesn’t constitute a healthy diet and food for growing kids.

This books is more about the science and nutrition of plant-based diets than cookbook. I appreciate that it breaks down the various nutritional bits about types of food and the different nutritional needs for children as they grow. as well as understanding which foods help kids stay fuller longer. There are some recipes and meal ideas, as well as some sample menus which I’m slowly working into our meal rotation. We’ve done “meatless Monday” for a long time so it’s great to have a few more ideas to add to the rotation.

 

Buy the book!

 

I was provided an advanced copy of the book in exchange for my honest review.

All opinions are my own.

Book Review: You’re Pulling My Leg! Junior

I grew up in a game playing family. We’d play cards or Bingo at my grandparents’ house on Saturday nights, and as we got older, Scrabble and Cranium were family favorites. Q and I are known to play Phase 10 and Jenga from time to time, and I cannot wait to introduce our son to games as he gets older. I was excited to have the opportunity to review “the ultimate storytelling game” as it sounded like something we’re going to like a lot in our family.

I’m a fan of anything that gets storytelling going- that’s some of the best part of holiday and family gatherings are the memories and stories that come out. Allen Wolf wrote a fun game that is based on questions that provoke conversation, stories, jokes, and fun. He originally created it as a gift for two friends who were dating and wanted to get to know each other better.  It has an extra element of fun because many of these questions wouldn’t come up in normal conversation and part of the game is trying to figure out if someone is telling a true story or, as the title suggests, is pulling your leg. There is a game book for adults and the junior version, which I reviewed.

In the Junior version. there are fun and silly questions like “tell me about a time when you ate too much candy” or “tell me about your imaginary friend.” The game is in the easy book format so no special play devices or game sets are required, so no need to worry about losing pieces, instructions, or cards. It’s something you can play multiple times with different groups of people at different occasions because the stories are always going to be different. Even though our son is too small for this book now, I know it’s something we’ll use a lot in the future when he gets older. I’ve even asked Q some of the questions as I was reviewing it!

Check our the game website to see both versions of the book/game!

Book Review: A Mother’s Grace

A Mother’s Grace: Healing the World, One Woman at at Time shares remarkable true (and inspiring) stories from female change-makers with advice about turning adversity into action. The women featured in this book were brought to their knees after profound loss of life, home, health or livelihood. Though they experienced unimaginable tragedies, each of them turned their suffering and grief into something positive to help others.

Written by Michelle Moore, who also founded the Mother’s Grace nonprofit, the book chronicles Moore’s journey through breast cancer and dealing with her son’s serious juvenile diabetes. By sharing not only her personal story of overcoming adversity, but also the story of ten other women who have also overcome many obstacles, she highlights the importance of “turning lemons into lemonade and thriving.” The book is also timely because the author recently overcame COVID-19 as well. The book highlights how to overcome fear, calling upon grace to move forward, and how to handle challenges head on.

Don’t we all need a little hope to lift our spirits in these weird and trying times? Read more about the book !

Book Review: Lola Koala’s Travel Adventures

When I thought about becoming a mom, I hoped my future child would love books as much as I do. I’m happy to report my little guy is a book lover- currently, he’s a fan of any book with animals and really loves books with things “to do” like touch different textures, slide to reveal things, or lift the flaps. I was excited to be able to share this book with him because it had lots of flaps for him to play with!

The book has some great illustrations and lots of flaps for little hands to explore. The rhyming is great and the story is interesting. The book is geared towards children a bit older than  my 16 month old son with lots of questions to promote conversation and talking, so I know this is a book we will continue to enjoy together in different ways as he gets older. I especially appreciate that the author is a speech pathologist so it’s written to help promote building language skills and learn.

For more information on the book and author, check out the website!

I was provided an advanced copy of the book in exchange for my honest review.

All opinions are my own.

Audiobook Spotlight: Therese Plummer

I’ve written many times about my love of audiobooks- not commuting during the pandemic has drastically cut down on my consumption of them, but over the last decade of commuting in my job, I’ve listened to so many audiobooks. While I do listen to a lot of memoirs read by the author, I love a good audiobook narrator whose voice takes me right into the book just as if I was reading it.

Therese Plummer is one of those amazing voices. She is a seasoned narrator and storyteller whose voice has taken readers to many places and worlds. If you’ve listened to any of romance author Robyn Carr’s books, you likely have heard Plummer. She’s been doing voicework for over 15 years and has a wide variety of clients, recording over 400 audiobooks for all the major NYC publishing houses. She is the voice of Maya Hansen in the Marvel graphic motion comic Ironman Extremis, Dr. Fennel in Pokémon, and for various “Yu-Gi-Oh!” characters. She’s also had television guest roles on The Good Wife, Law and Order SVU, and Virgin River for Netflix.

 

Storytelling is an important art form that is more than just reading the words on the page. Plummer brings life to the narrative and characters, no matter the genre. It’s quite a talent to bring a world alive from words and directly into a person’s ears so I’m so pleased to be able to highlight the work of this amazing storyteller!

Book Review: Love, Life & Lucille

Love, Life, & Lucille: Lessons Learned from a Centenarian by Judy Gaman

While writing a book about longevity, Judy Gaman met centenarian (100+ yrs in age) Lucille Fleming in Dallas. Lucille was larger than life, and what was supposed to be a short meeting turned into an inseparable friendship. As the two bonded and through their shared stories and their faith, they learned that true friendship knows no age. They also discovered that the human experience, regardless of generation, has similar milestones that shape our lives and make us who we become.

Lucille’s lessons would ultimately help Judy break free from the chains of workaholism. But, it wasn’t until Lucille’s death that Judy realized the importance of the first lesson Lucille ever taught her. Love, Life, & Lucille highlights the core of Lucille’s secret to a long and meaningful life.

 

My review: 3 stars.

It was quite interesting reading this book in the middle of a global pandemic. The author, Judy Gaman, is all go-go-go, until her perspective in life changes from meeting centenarian Lucille in an interview. It’s then that the author really stops her busy life to think about what matters and changes things, as well as develops a friendship with Lucille that transforms her.

First off, Lucille seems like a spark plug of a human and it’s clear that in her lifetime she had a great effect on many people in her universe, not just the author of the book. How many 100 + year old folks do you know that are willing to try sushi? Between her personality and what sounds like amazing style/wardrobe, she must have been a remarkable lady.

Lucille lived a full life and the author tries to capture Lucille’s wisdom and insights within the book, as well as chronicle their friendship. Every interaction is full of stories and memories, but lessons as well. Lucille loves baseball, her family, God, and so much more. The lunches she shares with Judy, and Judy’s friends and family, are always insightful and interesting. One of my favorite quotes from Lucille’s ideas of life– “any day that starts with waffles can’t  be a bad one.”

I’m not spoiling anything in a book about someone who lives to be 104 that there is death, but the story of Lucille’s life and her friendship with the author don’t make it a very sad ending. The last chapter and epilogue really encompass the impact Lucille had on the author, and the main lesson of the book– so I won’t spoil it.

I was provided an advanced copy of the book in exchange for my honest review.

All opinions are my own.

Book Review: The Road to Delano

Synopsis: Jack Duncan is a high school senior whose dream is to play baseball in college and beyond, as far away from Delano as possible. He longs to escape the political turmoil surrounding the labor struggles of the striking fieldworkers that infests his small ag town. Ever since his father, a grape grower, died under suspicious circumstances ten years earlier, he’s had to be the sole emotional support of his mother, who has kept secrets from him about his father’s involvement in the ongoing labor strife.

With their property on the verge of a tax sale, Jack drives an old combine into town to sell it so he and his mother don’t become homeless. On the road, an old friend of his father’s shows up and hands him the police report indicating Jack’s father was murdered. Jack is compelled to dig deep to discover the entire truth, which throws him into the heart of the corruption endemic in the Central Valley. Everything he has dreamed of is at stake if he can’t control his impulse for revenge.

While Jack’s girlfriend, the intelligent and articulate Ella, warns him not to so anything to jeopardize their plans of moving to L.A., after graduation, Jack turns to his best friend, Adrian, a star player on the team, to help to save his mother’s land. When Jack’s efforts to rescue a stolen piece of farm equipment leaves Adrian?the son of a boycotting fieldworker who works closely with Cesar Chavez?in a catastrophic situation, Jack must bail his friend out of his dilemma before it ruins his future prospects. Jack uses his wits, his acumen at card playing, and his boldness to raise the money to spring his friend, who has been transformed by his jail experience.

The Road to Delano is the path Jack, Ella, and Adrian must take to find their strength, their duty, their destiny.

My review: 3 stars.

This book falls into the genre I probably read the most (historical fiction), so it was right up my alley. 1968 was a tumultuous year in the US (Assassinations of RFK, MLK Jr., major student protests, to name a few things) with a lot of change happening. This book is about a very specific event and place that year, but it captures the spirit of the air of change that took over the whole country at that time.

I love to read about something I don’t know a lot about and that’s definitely true of the labor strikes of agricultural workers in Delano, CA in 1968. Cesar Chavez is featured in this experience. This story deals with the Filipino and Latino agricultural workers, but could easily have been any number of places with labor strikes during that time period. The story captures the experiences of the two main characters- Jack Duncan and Adrian Sanchez- as they work through the changing landscapes of their lives– Jack as a son of a grape grower and Adrian as the son of grape worker on strike ( his father also is one of the more vocal protesters in organizing the picket lines and such.) Both boys are trying to make their way in the world, decide what matters to them, what they stand up for and believe in as they mature and decide who they are going to be as adults.

It’s a story that is not unique to that experience in 1968 and that’s what I liked the most about the book– young men finding their “moral courage” through a difficult moment endures no matter the time and issues. You really see the evolution of the characters within the book, especially Jack as he transitions more into an adult role in his community.

The writing is good, though I did find some of the details to be a bit too much for me, though the book wasn’t slow and had a suspenseful element to it, which I appreciated as its a bit outside my normal reading comfort zone,

 

I was provided an advanced copy of the book in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own

Book Review: Fly, Fly Again

One of the best parts of being a parent is the sharing of my love of reading with my son. I love that he likes books so much already- even at 7 months old! I look forward to showing him all the books I loved as a child that made me a lifelong reader and lover of books, and finding new ones to discover for the first time together!

Fly, Fly Again is by a mother-daughter team Katie Jaffe and Jennifer Lawson and  introduces young readers to the concepts of flight – lift, gravity, thrust, and drag, along with pitch, roll, and yaw.  Jenny and Jude accompanied by their pets, Kitty and Hawk, work together to build a flying machine. It is a fun story of adventure, teamwork, and perseverance that begins to lay a foundation for aerodynamics in an adorable picture book format.

5 stars!

Gray is all about animals at the moment and was all smiles when he saw the bird that is part of the story with the main character Jenny. It was a cute story line about the different elements involved in flight, but I really loved that it had a little girl trying hard to make something that would work so she could fly.

The illustrations were lovely and vibrant, making it great to show Gray even though he doesn’t understand it all quite yet. I can see this book being something we’ll go back to as he develops more as it had a great rhyme and story that explained in clear terms about flying to make it understandable for a child.

More about the book!

 

I was provided an advanced copy of the book in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own

Book Review: The Song of the Jade Lily

Synopsis:

A gripping historical novel that tells the little-known story of Jewish refugees who fled to Shanghai during WWII.

1939: Two young girls meet in Shanghai, also known as the “Paris of the East”. Beautiful local Li and Jewish refugee Romy form a fierce friendship, but the deepening shadows of World War II fall over the women as they slip between the city’s glamorous French Concession district and the teeming streets of the Shanghai Ghetto. Yet soon the realities of war prove to be too much for these close friends as they are torn apart.

2016: Fleeing London with a broken heart, Alexandra returns to Australia to be with her grandparents, Romy and Wilhelm. Her grandfather is dying, and over the coming weeks Romy and Wilhelm begin to reveal the family mysteries they have kept secret for more than half a century. As fragments of her mother’s history finally become clear, Alexandra struggles with what she learns while more is also revealed about her grandmother’s own past in Shanghai.

After Wilhelm dies, Alexandra flies to Shanghai, determined to trace her grandparents’ past. Peeling back the layers of their hidden lives, she is forced to question what she knows about her family—and herself.

The Song of the Jade Lily is a lush, provocative, and beautiful story of friendship, motherhood, the price of love, and the power of hardship and courage that can shape us all.

My review: 4 stars

I didn’t mean to read two World War II era novels right on top of each other, but it was interesting to do so because they both were quite different and both exposed stories of World War II that I didn’t know anything about which is always great.

The dual timeline trope definitely seems like a trend in the past few years with historical fiction and depending on how it’s handled, what the purpose is with moving story lines forward and similar questions, I am all for it. It works in this case very well I think because most of the arc of the novel is from the contemporary point of view of Alexandra, as opposed to this back and forth with the historical story and it not being clear what the ultimate story line is.

Buy the book here!

As part of the TLC Book Tour for this book, I was provided an advanced copy of the book in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.

 

Book Review: Resistance Women

Synopsis:

After Wisconsin graduate student Mildred Fish marries brilliant German economist Arvid Harnack, she accompanies him to his German homeland, where a promising future awaits. In the thriving intellectual culture of 1930s Berlin, the newlyweds create a rich new life filled with love, friendships, and rewarding work—but the rise of a malevolent new political faction inexorably changes their fate.

As Adolf Hitler and his Nazi Party wield violence and lies to seize power, Mildred, Arvid, and their friends resolve to resist. Mildred gathers intelligence for her American contacts, including Martha Dodd, the vivacious and very modern daughter of the US ambassador. Her German friends, aspiring author Greta Kuckoff and literature student Sara Weitz, risk their lives to collect information from journalists, military officers, and officials within the highest levels of the Nazi regime.

For years, Mildred’s network stealthily fights to bring down the Third Reich from within. But when Nazi radio operatives detect an errant Russian signal, the Harnack resistance cell is exposed, with fatal consequences.

Inspired by actual events, Resistance Women is an enthralling, unforgettable story of ordinary people determined to resist the rise of evil, sacrificing their own lives and liberty to fight injustice and defend the oppressed.

My review: So far, 4 stars!

I say so far because, in full disclosure, I haven’t finished reading it yet. At 608 pages, it is a pretty dense book and with baby boy arriving in 4 weeks, my brain can only handle so much at one time. It has nothing to do with the writing, the story, or the author’s approach and everything to do with baby brain!

The author has been on my to-read list for a few years so I jumped at the chance to finally read some of her work. Add in my favorite time period of World War II  and I’m really glad I have this book in my hands. As a historian who is particularly interested in women’s history, I am also a huge fan of the publishing trend in the last few years of highlighting hidden women’s stories throughout various time periods, but especially during the life-changing era of World War II.

The book is rich in detail and it’s clear Chiaverini did  A LOT of research on this book which I appreciate on many levels. The book also covers an expanse of time– 1929 through 1946– and follows three women. These factors alone would make the book long, but when Chiaverini adds in her masterful storytelling and dialogue, it’s pretty easy to see how the book came to be 600 pages (I wonder what the earlier drafts looked like!). I appreciate the expanded time period because so often in World War II era fiction it jumps right into Hitler and things going terribly without the slow buildup that led to his rise in power.

One of the reasons I like historical fiction as a genre is because it brings life to often well-known events and provides creative personal insights. What I like even more is when I learn about something I had no clue about before. I’ve read a few novels about the various resistance movements during World War II (The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah being one of my favorites), but this book is based on the German- based spy/resistance movement based in Berlin called the Red Orchestra, which I had never heard of before. This is definitely the area where Chiaverini’s research comes through because there are a lot of facts and information ( I’ve been googling a lot while reading) but they aren’t boring and don’t read like non-fiction.

I’m hoping this weekend I’ll have plenty of relaxation time in my sunroom to finish the book!

Buy the book here!

As part of the TLC Book Tour for this book, I was provided an advanced copy of the book in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own. 

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