Book Review: Two Children's Books

Baby Chewie loved this book from the library this past week. Originally I reserved this book because Baby Chewie is taking swim class and he was not a fan of putting his face in the water. I was on a hunt to find books to help him get over his fear of putting his face and nose in the water. As it turns out, this crocodile really didn't like water because SPOILER ALERT he wasn't a crocodile. The illustrations are quite lovely and I like how the story progresses. It's easy for a 3.5 year old to follow along with the pictures. 

Baby Chewie says, "I liked the dragon and his sneeze!"

This book is so much fun to read and such a fast and easy read. I really appreciate the fact that people of color are the prominent family and that makes me so happy to share with my preschooler. I really try to make sure that we include books like this because it is so important for kids to see different people and see the way that families of all colors, shapes, sizes live. The little boy wakes up first. The little boy eats breakfast first. The little boy gets hurt first. The little boys cries first. The boy washes up first. Baby Chewie is in a phase right now where HE HAS TO BE FIRST and this book completely spoke to him. He knew exactly what the boy was feeling and Baby Chewie enjoyed reading this book over and over again. I really liked it too - the words matched the pictures on the page very well and the illustrations were bright, colorful and simple to understand. 

Happy preschool reading!!


Bubbles for Phil

I was watching an Instagram video of dogs popping bubbles with their teeth and immediately wanted to see if Phil would pop bubbles. And he does!

If The Monkey blows bubbles, then both Phil & Baby Chewie jump for the bubbles. It's like two kids in a candy store. I'm really excited to try the bubble machine this summer!!


Book Review: Red Clocks by Leni Zumas

Ooh. This book. This one got to me and at the same time I rolled my eyes so hard.

The characters in this book absolutely thought that laws do not apply to them. But then they all learned the hard way.

No abortions. No IVF. And adoption is possible to 2-parent households.

So there it is. That's the basics of this book. Then you can guess what happens with the plot - a lovely teacher is single and and 42 and she wants a baby so she goes for IVF. It doesn't work. Then she finds out a student is pregnant. The teacher wants to adopt the baby but just can't find the right words to say when the opportunity arises to ask for the baby. 

A woman wants to leave her husband. She tries to have an affair but honestly, she finds the biggest dumb-dumb of a man so that obviously doesn't work. 

The local healer gets arrested because a woman claimed that she was pregnant and asked for an abortion. (Turns out the woman was beaten and being abused by her husband).

There's quite a few storylines here. And they're all really sad. I'm not sure I agree with the reviewer who said they love this book with their whole heart (A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara, that book is AMAZING and lovely and that book has my heart). I say this because I've read better books about women-hating culture - Vox is another good read where women cannot speak more than 100 words per day. Which, fuck, that would never happen here. I would probably be burned alive on a stake after a week trying to save my daughter from the same fate. 

But I digress. I did like this book - but I felt there were lots of story lines and they all intertwined with one another in such a way that this story would only work in a small town, which thankfully is the setting. The author also glosses over the complacency and inattentiveness to the news and media - how people just let things happen to them and say that the new laws won't affect them. It's really interesting how the author pushes her characters forward with life through everything that women and families now CANNOT do. 

There's a short blurb on the resistance in this book, I wish there would have been more dedicated to the resistance and underground helpers working to get women abortions (or IVF too). It didn't seem like that was such an important area of the book and I wanted more about that, or to have the main character join it or somehow do SOMETHING. Which I think is also a point the author was trying to make - people let other people make changes and make laws and didn't stand up for what was right and what they believed in. People stood by and let misogynists take over government and let the women-hating go on. 

SOOOOO...if you need to get fired up about saving Roe v. Wade, read this. If you need IVF and you think that men don't hate you - read this. In my opinion, the government needs to stay out of the doctor's office when it comes to personal choices like choosing to do IVF or having an abortion. Whatever you want to do...do it...without worry that you're going to be thrown in jail.

I don't feel that I can say "Happy Reading" for this one considering the topic of the book, but I can for sure say that if you're interested in women's fucked up literature, then this is a book for you.


Book Review: Normal People by Sally Rooney

I really enjoyed this story, about two teens growing into themselves and then through their time in college. I was concurrently reading a Tana French mystery which also takes place in Dublin. I confused myself a bit and had to look at all of these places on a map to try and picture where all the different places are - especially Trinity College and then the different parts of Ireland. Much like America, the Irish can tell where people are from in Ireland because of their accents. It's like the "Ya, sure, you betcha" that sticks out if you're a Minnesotan. This definitely comes into play in later parts of the book when the two are in college.

First, the two friends have a different relationship from what most people would deem as normal - Connell and Marianne ignore each other at school but are definite best buddies outside of school. They have a romantic relationship. Marianne is convinced that Connell would be embarrassed that he's with Marianne. He eventually asks a different girl to a dance and breaks Marianne's heart.

Then they go to college.

It turns into the opposite - Marianne is the popular one and Connell is not. She pulls him into her circle and she has some asshole friends (which eventually she figures out in the last few pages of the book, because of course when you're a teenager you don't know you have asshole friends). They're together off and on. They each have different lovers and date other people.

One thing that I think irritated me the most was that Marianne's character wasn't as well developed as Connell's character. I kept wanting to know WHY she was the way she was and HOW she got to be the way she is. The little bits of background stories basically told nothing - only that her family wasn't that great. Finally towards the end of the book we got more information but yet that didn't make up for all the lost information in the beginning. Marianne comes from a rich and wealthy family where she fits in better at Trinity College. I think the readers needed MORE information - and more insight into what the characters were thinking and why. Connell isn't exactly a dummy but he is a young male which means that he thinks a heck of a lot more with his penis than his brain. In the book, he thinks more with his brain than his penis - and Marianne thinks more sexually than what most people would think. Is this wrong or bad? Nope, absolutely not! But it seems that Marianne's character development is really poor and some background stories may have been added as an afterthought instead of being included in backstory to help the reader understand Marianne's thoughts along the way. This isn't something that totally detracted from the story, just an observation.

To note Marianne has an abusive relationship towards the end and this is where the reader gets more background information. I also enjoyed reading about Connell's mother and her background - I just wish that Rooney would have written more background information about Marianne's parents and family to round out her character.

Rooney seemed to give up the information about Connell without a care - his story seemed to pour out but Marianne's seemed a bit harder to write, possibly? I'm not sure. Both characters had their flaws which make them more human and relatable. 

I really enjoyed Marianne's realization of who her friends were/are at the end of the novel when she's speaking with a friend that moved away. The friend she was speaking with said something that suddenly made something in Marianne's head click - it was like a switch flipped and she figured out why she was miserable or why her friends seemed not to be her friends. That really made Marianne's character grow and mature - but I wished that realization had come a bit sooner in the book and maybe had a different outcome at the end? I'm not sure how that might play out.

If you're interested in a coming-of-age book that takes place NOT in the USA, and has a slight Romeo/Juliet feel, this is probably the book for you. Overall I give it 4 stars, but just wished that Marianne's character was a little more developed and had more information before the last quarter of the book. It was like reliving high school and my first year of college all over again - to a certain extent! HA! 


Book Review: Tana French's The Secret Place

After reading Broken Harbor I decided to keep going with the Dublin Murder Squad series so that I wouldn't forget the characters. I had taken so long to keep going with the series in the past that this time I made it a priority to keep going with the series. I like French's writing style and I like how her style changes with her characters. The Secret Place was next up in my reading queue. 

The main character that this story is told through is Detective Stephen Moran - and I couldn't quite remember the other detectives in the Squad room from previous books. I don't really want to go back to read them though because I have so many books on my to-read list, I just wanted to read the book.

The mystery was good but also in a way, a bit predictable. I like how French captures the dramatic teen moments (or what seems to be dramatic by adult standards) and really makes them stand out showing that teens really do live day by day and moment by moment and live to avoid embarrassment almost at all costs. And friendships - the way the friendships were described and written were very realistic, the keeping of secrets between teens and thinking secrets are ok, the keeping secrets to possibly protect one another but because it's four girls, the keeping of secrets goes just terribly wrong. Someone ends up dead. And one of the four girls knows something.

Now should I tell spoilers? Is anyone actually planning on reading the book? 

I'm going to spoil from here so stop reading this now if you're planning on reading the book.

I'm not sure I can follow the believability of how the detectives get together as a team - however, the book only takes the courses of action over one whole day. The beginning of the day is started in the office, the end of the day the murderer is caught and sprinkled between the investigation is the interweaving stories of the dead boy and the four girls.

There's also this weird magic witchery shit that's in the book that I don't think is relevant at all. That could have been left out - it's literally one girl making light bulbs pop and moving objects. The first time I read it, I thought nope, cut this shit out. It really had no serious affect on the outcome of the story. At all. The editors should have caught that crap and cut it all out of the book - it was just added words that didn't need to be part of the story. 

Overall, I thought the mystery was good but I kept thinking I was missing something when the actual killer was revealed - if you pay attention to the small details, you'll be able to spot the killer from the  beginning. Wink, wink, nudge, nudge. 

Happy reading, friends!



We went to a friend's wedding in Chicago and stayed at the hotel across the street from Google. The hotel was the MOST MILLENNIAL hotel that I have ever been in. Seriously. 

While the boys had bagels with the groom, I made my way around Chicago and stopped at an Italian bakery and had a lovely coffee and a croissant sandwich. So delicious! Especially since I was a little hungover after having a few cocktails at Rick Bayless's Tacqueria/Brewery.

We went to Au Cheval for lunch. Apparently they're supposed to have the best burgers in the USA. Unfortunately, I didn't think so - I live with two children that are burger connoisseurs and I have definitely had better burgers at other places - including a Juicy Lucy and the ever-consistent 5 Guys. I also have to add that Au Cheval has a special sauce that they put on the burger and I'm not a fan of mayo, nor sauces on my burger - so I usually never opt for sauce because a burger is supposed to show off the burger. I didn't know that Au Cheval put sauce on their burgers when I ordered so I think had I known, I wouldn't have got the sauce and I would have liked my burger better. See? I'm a bit of a burger snob. The bun was delicious and I really enjoyed the homemade pickles though - and I really liked their Bloody Mary! I could definitely get that again. 

Despite the face that I thought the burger was just ok, I still ate the shit out of it and it definitely disappeared from my plate and into my stomach. 

The wedding took place at a vintage furniture store. Seriously. Everything had a price tag on it. I really wanted to bring this home for our backyard but Bimmer Man said no! BOO!! 

Even in college, this is exactly where you could find the Sigma Nus - right at the bar! I had to take a picture because it was seriously too funny to see...15 years after college.

Bimmer Man stole my phone and discovered that I had a portrait setting.

And my morning workout after the wedding. I realized I needed to sweat out all the booze I had. It was a real serious all HIIT cardio workout and my stomach was turning after the Triple Bears but I still did it. I got through it. And I'm way too old to stay out later than 2 am.


Chicken Wild Rice Soup

Wild rice soup is so delicious! And living in Minnesota means fresh wild rice. And you can even harvest your own wild rice in some spots in Minnesota! One of my very good friends lives in Bemidji, and this past year they took a canoe and harvested their own.

Also, there's no picture of it because...we ate it. All of it. Including the children!

Basically - this is a riff off of Byerly's Wild Rice Soup. The actual Byerly's recipe isn't quite enough to feed us all so I've been tweaking this over the years and here's what I have memorized.

Wild Rice Soup

1/2 cup butter
1 small onion, chopped
1/2 cup flour
4 cups chicken broth
2 cups cooked wild rice
3 medium carrots, shredded
1/4 - 1/2 cup slivered almonds
2 cooked chicken breasts, shredded
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 1/2 cup half and half or cream or milk (honestly, whatever you have on hand works, I've even used almond milk!)
1/4 cup Dry sherry
Chopped parsley

Melt butter in large heavy stockpot. Add in onion. Saute until softened. Add in flour and whisk until the flour is cooked through - at least 3 minutes. It should smell a little nutty.

Add in chicken broth, slowly at first. Whisk until combined and not lumpy. Bring to a simmer.

Add in wild rice, shredded carrots, slivered almonds, shredded chicken, salt, and pepper. Simmer for about 10 minutes.

Add in the dry sherry, simmer for another 5 minutes. Serve with warm crusty bread or really good salty crackers.

Top each bowl with chopped parsley.


Way To Go, Vikings!!!

Surprisingly the Vikings have been doing really well. Who would've thunk it??

Several weeks ago Bimmer Man and I went to a game. The seats were nice, they had a fabulous view and the stadium was really fun to be at too. I was really impressed with the amount of people that dressed up (both in costume AND just wore nice clothes). 

We had really good tacos from the Rusty Taco stand. And beers from a local brewery too. This was the first time that I had been to a sporting event at the new Viking stadium - I brought The Monkey to a Taylor Swift concert last year. At the concert, I didn't realize how big the stadium actually is. We saw it in the dark and I didn't see the seats all the way up at the top. Normally I'm not a huge fan of professional football - I'd rather cheer for the Golden Gophers any day but I will happily cheer on another Minnesota team. We seem to eff it all up and become dumpster fires by the end of most seasons so this was a good game to attend.


Phil Loves Water!!

Not only does he love the bathtub we found out, but just this morning he loves to climb in when you shower. It's endearing...possibly? I find it funny (thank goodness because otherwise it would be REALLY ANNOYING). The kids like taking baths with Phil too - he bobs for bath toys and licks running water and drinks all the drops off the side of the tub. And he likes warm baths too. Phil has been a fun puppy so far (and naughty too! He's a counter surfer!). I'm so excited for the summer to be able to bring him to lakes. I can't wait to see if he can swim really well or just likes to jump around. This summer will be so different AND so much fun.