Stress-Free Small Talk by Richard S. Gallagher, LMFT

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A guide to managing social anxiety and making conversation

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Nonfiction

Easy to read

Exercises to practice

LOVE IT OR LOATHE IT

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Sometimes engaging in conversation can be hard. Though this book deals more with those who struggle with social anxiety and therefore struggle with conversation, I felt that many of the  skills taught benefit all. Though I don’t suffer with social anxiety I have had my share of conversations that have not gone well. Often it is the small talk conversations that seem the most difficult for me and I found the suggestions very helpful. 

The book discusses what small talk is, why it is important and how it is used in society.

Explains shyness, introversion and anxiety.

Includes skills and exercises to prepare for social situations

Includes skills to handle social situations where small talk takes place. Even includes small details like how to stand and where to look. Lots of exercises are given to practice and use when in social situations.

Author includes personal experiences and experiences of other people to help show skills.

My copy of Stress-Free Small Talk was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review

Auntie Poldi and the Sicilian Lions by Mario Giordano

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After the death of her husband Auntie Poldi retires to Sicily to grieve and relax. But those plans are interrupted with the disappearance and death of her handyman.

QUICK GLANCE

– 1st Book in the Auntie Poldi series

– Cozy mystery

– Beautiful setting

– Slow read

– Book in translation

– Strong older female main character

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Auntie Poldi and the Sicilian Lions started off very slowly for me. It took me a few chapters to get into it and I struggled a bit with the narration. But once I got used to it, it became a really fun book and there were parts I really enjoyed. Though I did find the Italian words thrown in throughout to be confusing and I never really did get used to that.

I loved the wide range of eccentric characters and Auntie Poldi’s relationship to them. Auntie Poldi being the most eccentric character. She goes through a wide range of emotions, from grief and depression to being feisty and strong willed. I also loved the minor characters Death and Inspector Chance.

The plot was a little slower moving than I was expecting, even for a cozy mystery. But the ending and the erupting volcano saved it for me.

I felt like the best part of the book was the setting. The descriptions of Sicily were gorgeous. I may never go to Sicily but I feel like I know exactly what it looks like.

A Shared Grandmother’s Journal by Marianne Waggoner Day

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Writing prompts for a grandparent and grandchild to share stories, feelings, likes, dislikes, dreams, etc. 

QUICK GLANCE

  • Colorful pages
  • Easy to respond to prompt

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I really love the idea. I think the prompt ideas were all great and it could be a great way to learn more about one another. However, as I think about it, I think I would have trouble finishing it. I can see myself starting off great and being excited about it but as life happens I can see it getting pushed to the bottom of things to do. I also think a grandparent would like this a lot more than a child. Though I loved the prompts, I think they are pretty similar to prompts kids are writing in school and I can see kids not being very excited for yet another writing assignment.

My copy of A Shared Grandmother’s Journal was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review

 

The Mindfulness Journal for Teens by Jennie Marie Battistin,MA, LMFT

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Mindfulness is being fully present in the moment. It means being aware of what you are doing and how you are feeling. This is a book that teaches mindfulness with a teenage perspective through prompts and journal ideas. 

QUICK GLANCE

  • Prompts are quick and easy
  • Book is easy to understand
  • Beautiful pages

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Even though I am an adult I have really enjoyed reading through this book. Even though this is a journal for teenagers I felt it could easily be applied to any age. In fact I plan on going through the journal more slowly and really thinking through the ideas and prompts. The prompts dealt with everyday issues like self-esteem, personal growth and relationships.

My copy of The Mindfulness Journal for Teens was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley

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Flavia de Luce is an eleven year old girl who lives in the grand estate of Buckshaw in England in the 1950’s. She lives there with her widowed father, and her two older sisters. She spends her days antagonizing her sisters and doing chemistry experiments. Until one day, when a dead bird is found on the back doorstep with a postage stamp stuck to its beak, then the next morning she finds a man dead in the cucumber patch.

QUICK GLANCE

– #1 in the Flavia de Luce series

– Cozy mystery

– References to chemistry, stamp collecting, books

LOVE IT OR LOATHE IT

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I often struggle with books when the main character is a child because so often I don’t feel like the child acts, or talks, or behaves like a child. In The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, Flavia definitely does not act, or behave like any children I know. She is extremely smart, loves chemistry and knows more about chemistry than anyone I know. She is extremely independent, to the point of continually leaving her home on her bike and riding to different towns miles away with no one in her home having any idea where she is. She is forward and has no problem speaking to adults. She has no fear and thinks she can solve all the problems she faces. She is a character I really should not like but for some reason she works for me and I really enjoyed her. I didn’t always like her, she was so mean to her sisters and sometimes to others. She had a complete disregard for adults and authority. And there were some situations that didn’t seem very feasible. But I found the story and the mystery a fun read anyway. Maybe because Flavia isn’t ever suppose to be like most children her age. I enjoyed the setting of England in 1950 and the small country towns. I enjoyed the bits of English history and I learned about stamp collecting and lots about chemistry, which to be honest went right over my head. I liked the looks at a home when a mother has died and though this wasn’t a huge part of the book I think it did have an affect on the characters. I actually look forward to continuing with the series.

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

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Guy Montag’s job as a fireman is to burn books. When he meets a new neighbor, Clarisse, and begins talking to her, he learns that the world he knows is different than it once was. He begins to question the changes and wonders if life was better before. Then he must decide if he can live with the way life is now or if he must do something.

QUICK GLANCE

– classic

– Science fiction

– Happiness

– Knowledge

– Books

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I was actually surprised by how much I enjoyed Fahrenheit 451. I enjoyed the world that Bradbury built and I was shocked when I discovered he wrote it in the 1950’s. While things like the TV walls and the seashell radio do not seem that far fetched today, I imagine it must have seemed unbelievable in the ‘50’s. When I have read other science fiction books written in the past that have come true in many depressing ways, I find the books discouraging. I loved how Fahrenheit 451 gave me things to think about, especially about this world that I do live in now, but also showed hope in humanity. I only wish there was more of Clarisse and that their relationship was developed a bit more. It felt a bit rushed to me and far to short.

The Quilter’s Apprentice by Jennifer Chiaverini

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When Sarah struggles to find a job in a small town she agrees to help seventy-five year old Sylvia prepare her family estate for sell, while she continues to look for work. The estate has been neglected and much work is needed. In exchange for the help Sylvia, a master quilter, agrees to teach Sarah how to quilt. Along with the quilting lessons Sarah also receives fascinating stories about Elm Creek Manor which cause her to fall in love with the estate. Sarah then seeks to find a way to keep Sylvia from selling the estate.

QUICK GLANCE

– #1 in the Elm Creek Quilts series

– Quick, easy read

– Family

– Friendship

– Art, creativeness

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I loved the look into Elm Creek Manor and the stories Sylvia told of the people that have lived there and the things that happened there. I also really like the relationship of Sarah and Sylvia. They were friends who helped one another and I loved that idea of a friendship between two women of such differing ages and experiences. Sarah joins a quilter’s guild which also showed friendships between women of different ages, personalities and experiences. I also loved the theme of creativeness and it’s importance in our lives and in society.

I struggled a bit with the main character Sarah. I listened to this on audiobook so I don’t know if that had something to do with my problems with Sarah, but I got annoyed with her. She seemed to complain and whine a lot and I just never really connected with her.

I will continue with the series but probably in book form and hopefully I’ll like Sarah better.

Bethlehem Road by Anne Perry

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Inspector Pitt investigates members of the Parliament who keep turning up dead tied to a lamp post. On investigation, they are all good, kind, strong family men who shouldn’t be found murdered. So why are they?

QUICK GLANCE

– #10 in the Charlotte and Thomas Pitt series

– Victorian London

– Women’s suffrage movement

– Mystery

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I really enjoyed Bethlehem Road. The mystery had me stumped and after hearing evidence against many people I enjoyed the final answer and the reasons why. Bethlehem Road tackles the issues of freedom and the choices given to people. I found the different explorations of these themes fascinating. Thomas and Charlotte continue to grow and develop and I felt this book had a bit more about the personal struggles they each face.

Celine by Peter Heller

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Celine is a private eye who specializes in finding missing people. When Gabriela comes to Celine to find her father who went missing over twenty years ago in Yellowstone National Park, Celine is off to Yellowstone with her husband Pete, hoping to be able to reunite father and daughter. 

QUICK GLANCE

  • Great descriptive setting
  • Older main character
  • Slower descriptive read
  • Mystery
  • Teenage pregnancy 

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As a reader who is nearing into the older side, I have started to love books with older main characters. Celine was a great older character. She had so much complexity that I think comes with a longer life. She was a compassionate woman who has one of those personalities that people find themselves comfortable around and opening up to. Yes, this is a mystery and we follow Celine to Yellowstone to go with her as she researches and hunts for clues to find what happened to this missing man. But, the story felt not so much about a mystery but about Celine. The mystery was the way for us to get to know Celine and understand her. I really loved this flip on a mystery and I found myself wanting to know more about Celine and wanting to observe her as much as I wanted to know what happened to Gabriela’s father. 

Before going to Yellowstone Celine flies to Colorado, were her son lives, to borrow his camper which she then drives to Yellowstone. I grew up in Colorado and as a child we took many family vacations camping in Yellowstone. Author, Peter Heller, brought all those memories alive for me with his descriptive writing. I could see The Colorado Rockies and I could picture that drive to Yellowstone as you travel through sparse Wyoming. Then to arrive in Yellowstone and see the animals everywhere, the trees, the people, it was all as I remembered it. 

This book had me with an older main character, Colorado and Yellowstone. And it kept me hooked with the mystery, Celine and the descriptive writing. 

Bringing Down The Duke by Evie Dunmore

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In England in1879, Annabelle is among the first female students to attend Oxford. In return for her scholarship, she must support the rising women’s suffrage movement by recruiting men of influence to help their cause. Things become complicated when she meets the Duke of Montgomery, who opposes everything she stands for, but who she can’t stop thinking about.

QUICK GLANCE

– #1 in the A League of Extraordinary Women series.

– Women suffrage movement

– Forbidden love

– Steamy scenes

– Historical fiction/ romance

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I really enjoyed the historical fiction aspect of Bringing Down The Duke. I liked learning more about the women’s suffrage movement, what was done and some of the reasons it was done. I really enjoyed reading about Annabelle, a woman who loves to learn and working hard to be able to do so. The friends she makes while working with the suffrage movement were all fun and varied. I liked how the women had different reasons for supporting the movement, I would have enjoyed going more into depth about these women. I enjoyed Sebastian, the Duke of Montgomery and reading about the challenges of being a young Duke and the responsibilities that he had and felt.

I had a really hard time with the romance between Annabelle and Sebastian. It happened so fast that I just didn’t buy it. There were steamy scenes that felt forced to me, they did nothing to add to the characters or the plot and they were to explicit for me. I feel like they could have been cut out and wouldn’t be missing at all.

I found Bringing Down The Duke to be a great historical fiction read and not a great romance.