Week in Wardrobe: Get Your Pretty On Summer Style Challenge

Hey guys – remember how I participated in the GYPO Spring Challenge and loved it? Now it’s time for the Summer Challenge! Registration is already open. Here are the important dates:

Summer Style Challenge Important Dates:

  • Early Bird Registration Opens:  5/22
  • Regular Registration Opens:  5/28
  • Shopping List Release:  6/4
  • First Outfit Release:  6/14

Early bird registration is $29. After that it’s $39. Let me know in the comments if you have any questions. Click here to sign up. Hopefully I’ll see in the challenge Facebook group!

Book Review: Going Clear:Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief by Lawrence Wright

Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of BeliefGoing Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief by Lawrence Wright
Publisher: Knopf
Release Date: January 17, 2013
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Publisher’s Description:

Scientology presents itself as a scientific approach to spiritual enlightenment, but its practices have long been shrouded in mystery. Now Lawrence Wright—armed with his investigative talents, years of archival research, and more than two hundred personal interviews with current and former Scientologists—uncovers the inner workings of the church. We meet founder L. Ron Hubbard, the highly imaginative but mentally troubled science-fiction writer, and his tough, driven successor, David Miscavige. We go inside their specialized cosmology and language. We learn about the church’s legal attacks on the IRS, its vindictive treatment of critics, and its phenomenal wealth. We see the church court celebrities such as Tom Cruise while consigning its clergy to hard labor under billion-year contracts. Through it all, Wright asks what fundamentally comprises a religion, and if Scientology in fact merits this Constitutionally-protected label. Brilliantly researched, compellingly written, Going Clear pulls back the curtain on one of the most secretive organizations at work today.

This book is not only a comprehensive history of Scientology but also a biography of L. Ron Hubbard. It’s amazing that Hubbard went from an author of pulp science fiction novels to the founder of a major religion/cult. I had to wonder if Hubbard was mentally ill and really believed the stories he told about alien overlords ruling over humans millions of years ago. Or was he intelligent and calculating and knew he could make a ton of money off of his ideas?

The aspect of Scientology that was most surprising to me is the horrific abuse that the non-celebrity members endure. They are punished for various transgressions with being made to perform horrible tasks or imprisoned in unspeakable conditions. I had to wonder how this imprisonment is legal. Why don’t the members who have escaped file charges against those in the church leadership. Partly, it’s probably because the church has so much money that they can literally destroy your life if you speak out against them in any way. I was stunned that an organization in the United States can get away with the things they get away with. Their behavior is that of a fascist dictator.

Paul Haggis (director of the movie Crash) was a Scientologist for 35 years before he finally left the church. His perspective on why a seemingly smart person would remain in the church is insightful. I wanted to read more about other celebrity Scientologists. There is a lot of information on John Travolta and Tom Cruise but not much on anyone else. I have to wonder if the celebrities in the church know about how the rest of the church works – the imprisonment, child labor, etc. Are they so brainwashed that they will make excuses for what the author has uncovered? If they choose to remain in the church, I think they have a responsibility to work to reform it and put a stop to the abuse. I’m sure if they threatened to stop the millions of dollars they donate, the leaders of the church would stand up and take notice.

This book is very well-researched, especially considering the fact the church is so close lipped about what goes on behind closed doors. Wright was able to interview several of the former church leaders who have defected over the years. If you want to know the truth about Scientology, this book is your best bet.

Book Review: Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan

Counting by 7sCounting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan
Publisher: Dial Books
Release Date: August 29, 2013
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Publisher’s Description:

Willow Chance is a twelve-year-old genius, obsessed with nature and diagnosing medical conditions, who finds it comforting to count by 7s. It has never been easy for her to connect with anyone other than her adoptive parents, but that hasn’t kept her from leading a quietly happy life . . . until now.

Suddenly Willow’s world is tragically changed when her parents both die in a car crash, leaving her alone in a baffling world. The triumph of this book is that it is not a tragedy. This extraordinarily odd, but extraordinarily endearing, girl manages to push through her grief. Her journey to find a fascinatingly diverse and fully believable surrogate family is a joy and a revelation to read.

This is the first middle-grade book I’ve read that was so compelling I couldn’t put it down. My boys were also enthralled with it and they both gave it an enthusiastic thumbs up. My eight-year old is highly sensitive about death and tragedy so the fact that he liked it even though Willow’s parents die is pretty amazing. He said he liked it because he could relate to Willow. I think most kids will find something about Willow to relate to even if they aren’t a super genius like she is.

I loved Willow. I liked her observations about life and people. I thought all of the characters were wonderful even though they all had their flaws. Dell, the school counselor is horribly inept which I found to be a unique twist on this type of story. Normally, I would expect that the school counselor would be the hero, helping Willow cope with the loss of her parents. Instead, Willow is the one helping him. That’s a running theme in this story – Willow gets support from a variety of people but she teaches them all things too. It’s a two-way street.

I really appreciated the fact that there were several characters of color in this book, including Willow herself. It’s nice to see diversity in any book but especially in one for children.

This book was a selection for the Intergenerational Book Club my sons and I belong too. Ideas for theme related snacks included seven-layer dip and seven-layer cake. The book club is through the Unitarian Universalist church that my family attends. UUs have seven principles that we strive to live by so part of our discussion included which of the seven principles are represented in the book. (If you look at the principles on the UUA’s website you’ll probably notice that they seem pretty wordy for middle-grade kids to understand. We have more simplified versions of the them that the kids learn in Sunday school.) Anyway, I’m not trying to proselytize – I just thought it was neat that they tied into our discussion so well because there are seven of them.

Counting by 7s is a powerful story about family, community and the power of love. Highly recommended for kids of all ages.

For more reviews of books for children and teens, check out Booking Mama’s feature, Kid Konnection, posted on Saturdays. If you’d like to participate in Kid Konnection and share a post about anything related to children’s books (picture, middle grade, or young adult) from the past week, you can go to her site to leave a comment and your link .

My Week In Wardrobe: Get Your Pretty On Style Challenge

For the past twenty-one days I’ve been participating the Get Your Pretty On Spring Style Challenge. Here’s a refresher of how it works: You sign up for the challenge and are sent a shopping list of all the items you will need to style the 21 challenge outfits. This challenge is not about buying an all-new wardrobe. Alison encourages shopping in your own closet for the items first. There were about 20 items on the list and I had around half already. All of the items mix and match – you are building a spring “capsule”. Ten days after the shopping list is released, Alison starts releasing the daily outfits. Then dressing for the day becomes a snap – you have all the items needed for the outfit, just put them together and go! There is room for creativity too – you can use a different color scheme than the sample items on the shopping list or make substitutions. You can find my first six outfits here and my second six here. Below are the final nine:

Go to Get Your Pretty On and you can get even more details and view past challenge materials. It’s not too late to join in the fun!

(This post contains affiliate links.)

Book Review and Giveaway: Why’d They Wear That?: Fashion as the Mirror of History

Why'd They Wear That?: Fashion as the Mirror of HistoryWhy’d They Wear That?: Fashion as the Mirror of History by Sarah Albee
Publisher: National Geographic Children’s Books
Release Date: February 10, 2015
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Publisher’s Description:

From the invention of needles made from woolly mammoth tusks in 10,000 B.C., to the evolution of armor from chain mail to modern-day bulletproof vests, to the controversy surrounding contemporary outsourcing, Albee looks at history through the lens of fashion as a way to engage young readers.

Each chapter focuses on a major period of world history, from the Neolithic era to the present day, and explores the evolution of fashion as a reflection of the politics, class hierarchies, religion and economics of the time. This highly visual collection is full of colorful sidebars that answer questions that are not usually addressed in the classroom: How did people keep their clothes on before zippers or buttons were invented? How did soldiers go to the bathroom when wearing their heavy armor? Pictures, paintings and artifacts further illustrate the concepts discussed in each chapter, while funny anecdotes and a focus on cultures of interest, such as the Vikings, will keep even the most reluctant readers hooked.

Snappy headlines, a stylish layout and a foreword by “Project Runway” fan favorite Tim Gunn make this extensive and entertaining guide perfect for both in-depth study and casual browsing Why’d They Wear That? is ideal for fashionistas, theater aficionados and history buffs of all ages.

Why’d They Wear That? is full of colorful images and interesting sidebars and boxes with factoids that will keep tween fashionistas interested as they’re learning about fashion through the ages. They’ll be learning about history as well, though they probably won’t even realize it since this book is such a fun read. The history presented in this book is pretty Euro-centric but there a few tidbits from other cultures. It would great if this was the first book in a series. Asia, Africa and the Native Americans could each easily fill a volume with the history of fashion in their cultures I’m sure.

I learned a lot reading it even as an adult as well. I was especially interested how fashion has shaped our language. For instance, the term “mad as a hatter” came about because mercury was one of the ingredients used to make a hat from a beaver pelt. Mercury poisoning can cause erratic behavior and personality changes. Mercury poisoned hatters roamed about towns and cities – thus “mad as a hatter”.

I liked the light-hearted tone and humor with which Why’d They Wear That? was written. The description of polyester had me cracking up, “Polyester can spring back into shape after wear and look just as awful as when new.”

Why’d They Wear That? is a fun and educational book for kids of all ages.

I’m pleased to be able to givaway one copy of Why’d They Wear That? to a lucky reader with a US mailing address. Just fill out the form below. I will take entries until 11:59pm CST on May 7, 2015. Good luck!

(I received a complimentary review copy of this book.)

Book Review: The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

The Girl on the TrainThe Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
Publisher: Riverhead Books
Release Date: January 13, 2015
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Publisher’s Description:

Rachel takes the same commuter train every morning. Every day she rattles down the track, flashes past a stretch of cozy suburban homes, and stops at the signal that allows her to daily watch the same couple breakfasting on their deck. She’s even started to feel like she knows them. “Jess and Jason,” she calls them. Their life—as she sees it—is perfect. Not unlike the life she recently lost.

And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough. Now everything’s changed. Unable to keep it to herself, Rachel offers what she knows to the police, and becomes inextricably entwined in what happens next, as well as in the lives of everyone involved. Has she done more harm than good?

Rachel is an alcoholic. She drinks so much that she often has blackouts. This makes her a very unreliable narrator. She also makes REALLY bad choices which makes her a very frustrating narrator. The kind I want to reach into the book and shake some sense into.

The other narrators are Anna and Megan. Anna is Rachel’s ex-husband Tom’s new wife. She loathes Rachel because some of Rachel’s bad choices involve drunkenly calling Tom or coming over to their house at all hours. Megan is Jess of Rachel’s fantasy couple that she watches from the train. I wouldn’t call Megan unreliable but she withholds a lot of shocking information from the reader.

When Megan goes missing, Rachel becomes obsessed with trying to solve the mystery of her disappearance. But how much help can a person who doesn’t even remember large blocks of her life really be? This book has so many twists and turns, I lost count. Just when I thought I had it all figured out, new information would come to light. I loved that I couldn’t trust Rachel and that neither one of us knew what really happened during her blackout periods and were kept guessing almost until the end.

This book has been called the next Gone Girl and I can see why. It has some of the same elements -a missing wife being the main one. However, whereas Gone Girl has The ONE BIG TWIST and then is just plain creepy after that, this book has a lot of little twists and not as much creepiness. I think it’s important to go into reading this with the right expectations. It’s a great thriller. But it’s not a carbon copy of Gone Girl (which I loved) and that’s a good thing. Highly recommended.

DreamWorks has recently acquired the movie rights to the book. I think this book would make a great movie and I hope the adaptation does it justice.

Author Event: David Sedaris

I was lucky enough to see David Sedaris read Wednesday night. He was hilarious as usual. He read some pieces he had written for the New Yorker as well as other pieces. He always wraps up by reading entries from his diary. This time he warned us that they would be “harsh” and that if that wasn’t for you, you could leave and get a good spot in the book signing line. Harsh was a major understatement! Some of them were raunchy and some of them were downright disturbing. The kind of thing that is so horrible, you can’t help but laugh and then you feel kind of like a bad person for thinking it was funny. I loved it and didn’t even consider walking out. There was a tween boy in the front row who is probably scarred for life.

Then – the book signing. David is famous for taking time to really talk to each person in line. So his line moves very slowly. It’s worth it though. I always get really nervous trying to think of what I’m going to say to him. During his talk, he said that he had a copy of the Japanese translation of Holidays on Ice and he would give it to whoever could speak fluent Japanese. My roommate in college was a Japanese exchange student and she and her friends taught my friends and me how to say, “You have a small penis.” in Japanese. (Can’t wait to see what kind of spam my blog gets after writing that.) So I thought I could either tell him that or mention that I missed him last time he was in town because I was in a coma. When I got up there, I decided to go with the Japanese phrase because my coma story is kind of a downer. That led to a five-minute conversation with him about different types of penises. I’ll spare you the details. He’s probably the only author you could have that kind of conversation with at the book signing table!
His show was just as funny as ever – I love him so much. I can’t wait to see him again next time he’s in town!

Week In Wardrobe: Get Your Pretty On Style Challenge

I’m still loving the ease of planning my daily outfits with the Get Your Pretty On Spring Style Challenge. Here’s a refresher of how it works: You sign up for the challenge and are sent a shopping list of all the items you will need to style the 21 challenge outfits. This challenge is not about buying an all-new wardrobe. Alison encourages shopping in your own closet for the items first. There were about 20 items on the list and I had around half already. All of the items mix and match – you are building a spring “capsule”. Ten days after the shopping list is released, Alison starts releasing the daily outfits. Then dressing for the day becomes a snap – you have all the items needed for the outfit, just put them together and go! There is room for creativity too – you can use a different color scheme than the sample items on the shopping list or make substitutions.

This is the second six-day collection of outfits. If you look back at the first six days of outfits, you’ll see that still no outfits have been repeated! I got a little more creative in my interpretations of the outfits too. Which of course is fine – there are no rules, just guidelines. Scarf lovers – scarves are one of the accessories used in the challenge but I don’t wear them because I hate having something around my neck. So if you love scarves, don’t despair! They are part of the challenge.

Day 7 - New for challenge: skirt (Kohl’s), shirt (Old Navy), tank (New York & Co.), shoes (Target).
Day 8 – From my closet: jeans, t-shirt, necklace. New for challenge: cardigan (Target), shoes (Target).
Day 9 - From my closet: shirt, pants, sandals. New for challenge: cardigan (Old Navy), necklace (Target)
Day 10 - From my closet: denim jacket. New for challenge: shirt (New York & Co.), pants (New York & Co.), shoes (Target).
Day 11 – From my closet: shirt, pants (Stitch Fix!). New for challenge: bangles (Charming Charlie), shoes (Target)
Day 12 – From my closet: shirt (Go Royals!), pants, shoes). New for challenge: nothing!

I love that this challenge is helping me accessorize. Before the challenge, the only jewelry I ever wore was my wedding ring, diamond studs and a necklace with the birthstones of everyone in my family (day 8). Now it’s fun shopping at Charming Charlie because I know that I will actually wear what I buy there.

Go to Get Your Pretty On and you can get even more details and view past challenge materials. It’s not too late to join in the fun!

(This post contains affiliate links.)

Book Review: Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls by David Sedaris

Let's Explore Diabetes with OwlsLet’s Explore Diabetes with Owls by David Sedaris
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Release Date: 2013
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

As one should do with all David Sedaris books, I listened to this on audio. David reads his books himself and his wonderfully dry delivery adds even more humor to his essays. That said, Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls is not his funniest work. I found all of the essays to be entertaining and amusing but only a few had me laughing out loud. He also includes some fictional pieces that he’s written expressly to be appropriate for high school kids to use for forensics. He says that he’s gotten quite a few requests from kids who want to perform his work but struggle finding pieces that would work for the high school environment. These pieces were okay but I would rather have had more of essays about his life and family.

I’m seeing David read tonight at the Kauffman Center and I can.not.wait. I’ve seen him live three other times and always laugh so hard my cheeks hurt.  Remember when I saw him a few years ago and HE WROTE DOWN WHAT I SAID?? Supposedly, he remembers people he talks to in line. I wonder if he’ll remember me? If he does, Travis will have to carry me out to the car because I will pass out right there. I may be a wee bit of a fangirl for David. I’ll let you know how it goes!

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle

A Wrinkle in Time (A Wrinkle in Time Quintet, #1)A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
Originally Published in 1962
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Publisher’s Description:

It was a dark and stormy night; Meg Murry, her small brother Charles Wallace, and her mother had come down to the kitchen for a midnight snack when they were upset by the arrival of a most disturbing stranger.

“Wild nights are my glory,” the unearthly stranger told them. “I just got caught in a downdraft and blown off course. Let me sit down for a moment, and then I’ll be on my way. Speaking of ways, by the way, there is such a thing as a tesseract.”

A tesseract (in case the reader doesn’t know) is a wrinkle in time. To tell more would rob the reader of the enjoyment of Miss L’Engle’s unusual book. A Wrinkle in Time, winner of the Newbery Medal in 1963, is the story of the adventures in space and time of Meg, Charles Wallace, and Calvin O’Keefe (athlete, student, and one of the most popular boys in high school). They are in search of Meg’s father, a scientist who disappeared while engaged in secret work for the government on the tesseract problem.

I feel funny about reviewing A Wrinkle In Time because everyone but me has probably already read it and has formed their own opinion on it. So instead, I’ll write about what the intergenerational book club my sons’ and I are in did when we discussed the book. My boys are eight and ten years old and both of them really liked the book. My ten year old went on to read the next two books in the quintet. I read most of the book aloud with my eight year old son. I’m glad we did it that way because there were some words he didn’t understand. There were even some words that I didn’t know the definition of!

I was in charge of snacks for our meeting. We try to have snacks that are somehow related to the book. I brought Ruffles potatoes chips because Ruffles have ridges. Ridges = wrinkles! I also brought liverwurst and crackers because the kids in the book eat liverwurst sandwiches. I thought it would be funny to see if any of the kids tried it. My sons didn’t and were disgusted that I brought it in the first place. Another boy tried it and loved it! He ate several slices. His mom and I were both a little queasy watching him eat it.

For an activity, I brought shoestring licorice and Sour Patch Kids. In the book there is an illustration of what it looks like when an ant crosses a wrinkle in time. We made our own wrinkles with the licorice and the Sour Patch Kids crossed over it. And then of course the kids got to eat their project.

The kids in the book club all gave the book a thumbs up. I give it a thumbs up too but at the same time I don’t have the urge to read the rest of the books in the quintet. One of my reading goals for this year is to read more of the classics or the books that are on the many “Books You Must Read Before You Die” lists. I’m glad I was able to cross this book off and I’m really glad I read it.