Turtles All the Way Down: Book Review

Title: Turtles All The Way Down

Author: John Green

Publisher: Dutton Books

Copyright Date: 2017

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“You remember your first love because they show you, prove to you, that you can love and be loved, that nothing in this world is deserved except for love, that love is both how you become a person, and why.” (Green 283)

Aza Holmes had enough trouble trying to get through high school and battling her own anxious thoughts without the drama of a missing billionaire to complicate things. Just before he was arrested, Russell Pickett went missing. He left behind a fortune, an exotic pet, and two sons (and he ranked their importance in that order.)

With a hundred thousand dollars on the line, Aza’s best friend, Daisy, is convinced that the two can solve the mystery. Daisy enlists the help of Aza because she used to be friends with the billionaire’s son, Davis, back when they spent their summers together at “Sad Camp.”

After reconnecting with Davis Pickett, Aza learns that wealth isn’t everything. Davis grew up fed by a silver spoon yet he experienced grief and loneliness akin to her own. As the two grow closer Davis begins to break down the wall of anxiety that Aza has built around herself. Together with her closest friends, Aza focused on Russell Pickett’s disappearance while also working through her internal demons.

Lately, some of my favorite books have been based on mental illness. When We Collided by Emery Lord and Words in Deep Blue by Cath Crowley were phenomenal books that dove into issues of anxiety, depression, and grief in an honest way. I felt like John Green also did a good job covering topics that teens wrestle with in an authentic light. In the Acknowledgements at the end of the book he provided resources for those struggling with mental health and admitted to his own struggles that were reflected in Aza’s character.

Mental illness has been a trending topic both in writing and the media. With recent suicides in Hollywood a lot of energy has been focused on getting people the help that they need. As someone with diagnosed anxiety, I found myself relating to Aza on some level while also being inspired to push past my fears in order to avoid situations she faced.

I’m a fan of John Green. I liked The Fault In Our Stars, Looking for Alaska, and Paper Towns. In my Honors History classes, I occasionally show clips from his Crash Course Youtube channel where John Green and his brother explain eras of history in their own quirky way. When I first started teaching, his books were all the rage, but with his movie deals and Youtube Channel it’s been a while since he released a book. Last year when this book came out I added it to the top of my To-Read list on Goodreads. Thankfully, I finally had the opportunity to read this one. It was a quick read, and totally worth every minute. At times, the main character really annoyed me, but it helped me to see what anxiety can be like for the people surrounded by it. Mental illness affects far more than just your mind. Relationships feel the tremors and fallout associated with the internal battles we all face.

Follow me on Goodreads to see what I’m reading next!

The Ameri Brit Mom

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My First Tattoo

My God has been my anchor during a tough and tiring time in my life. It’s been a period of health issues and anxiety. I’ve been tossed in the waves of uncertainty and I’ve nearly sank a time or two. But each time I reached out to my God he gently guided me to shore. Whether that was through a word of peace, a friendly encounter, or the strong and safe arms of my husband. I felt God numerous times holding me these past few months. Beckoning me to rest and just breathe. And so I decided after some contemplation that I wanted to have a permanent reminder of the love, hope, and safety I find when I seek God in all things. With that in mind I set out to find a tattoo that would commemorate this time period.

Ask me a couple years ago if I would ever get a tattoo and I would have quickly brushed it off with an, “I doubt it.” But in my mind I was never closed off to the idea. I just knew that if I was ever going to make a permanent decision it would have to be based on a piece that was significant enough to warrant residency on my skin.

With everything I’ve gone through, I felt drawn to the reminder of the anchor as it represents what God has been for me during this time. So it is with all of this in mind that I chose to get my first tattoo. And when choosing where to put it…I didn’t want to hide it. God’s peace is nothing to be ashamed of and he’s provided me a pretty awesome testimony that wants sharing. So on my prominent forearm is where I’ve chosen to make this reminder a home. It’s a reminder if I ever try to reach for something else that God really is the only one to quiet the rough waters. It is a reminder at all times that no greater peace is found than the one provided by my God. Some days my fear was so crippling that it is because of Him alone that I was able to continue to breathe. God has been my strength and will continue to be. And that is the story behind my first tattoo.

It’s been a year since I last wrote on my blog. A lot has happened between my last submission and now, and one day I hope to share much of that journey with you. I’m still working through a lot, but a few things I know–I am blessed beyond measure, I am surrounded by people who love me, I have a beautiful family that I couldn’t possibly love any more than I do, and my God has never forsaken me during any step of this crazy life.

The Ameri Brit Mom

Five Minute Friday: Blessing

What is Five Minute Friday?

It is a link-up (which is equivalent to a Meet-and-Greet in the world of blogging.) Each week, the topic changes and participants are encouraged to take five minutes to write according to the prompt. Because you only have five minutes, posts are raw and unedited. Luckily, Five Minute Friday is a positive place and by joining the group you are giving yourself permission to step outside the confines of perfection. It’s a place to write from the heart and to be encouraged.

So here is my unedited post on this week’s topic, Blessing:

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As I sit in England typing away from the second floor of an old English home, I’m reminded of all the things in my life for which I am thankful. When I think about my friends, family, and health I am overcome with the blessings each bestows on my life.

I am thankful for the people I love and their influences in my life.

I am thankful for the family that God has formed for me to belong to.

I am thankful for the blessings of good health and a sound mind.

I am thankful for those large gifts, but even more so I find myself thankful for the small things. The wind in the trees and the sun warming my skin are proof of God’s provision in my life. Technology and its ability to expand communication and creativity is a blessing. A cup of coffee, a smile from a stranger, and a good book–all of these things make me thankful for the life I lead and point me toward recognizing the blessings that surround me everywhere I look.

The Ameri Brit Mom

A Piece of the World: A Book Review

Title: A Piece of the World

Author: Christina Baker Kline

Publisher: William Morrow

Copyright Date: 2017

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My first ever published book review was on The Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline. Since then, I’ve awaited a new novel by this spectacular author who is known for weaving narrative into non-fiction stories. In A Piece of the World, Christina Baker Kline writes a fictional account of the woman pictured in Andy Wyeth’s famous painting, Christina’s World. Although the story itself is a novel, much research went into finding the facts and spirit behind that original painting.

Christina Olson lived on her family homestead in New England along with her brother Alvaro. Too weak to live on her own due to a physical ailment, Christina tried not to depend too heavily on any person. On one side, her family came from the Hawthorn line, notorious for her ancestor’s role in the convicting of witches in Salem. On the other side, she traced back to a poor Swedish family. The family farm had been an heirloom for many generations, and when her other brothers leave to create their own lives they leave their invalid sister and her closest brother to continue the work of the self-sufficient home.

A life of washing, making, and sustaining is all Christina knew until one man shows up and offers her promises. His grand words and attention conjure up fantasies of a normal life outside of the white washed walls of the family home. But, Christina’s own stubbornness becomes her worst enemy.

After neglecting the help and well wishes of others, Christina Olson reserved herself to life as a spinster on the farm where cats, dishes, and sewing are all she needed. She let opportunities slip through her fingers and turned down any offers to help her physical condition. Years go by where she and Alvaro slave away each day to maintain the home until a young visitor and her artist boyfriend show up on the doorstep. The artist wanted to paint her home.

The artist became a summer fixture in the Olson home spending hours in an upper room capturing life on the farm. And it is in the final revealing of years of work that Christina finally sees and accepts that this home is her entire world.

It was there that she learned to walk, love, and survive. What else could she possibly need?

This story was very well written and even though it’s about a woman who rarely leaves her home it is filled with twists and drama that hook the reader. Having recently visited New England I also enjoyed getting caught up in the vivid scenes and settings painted by the words of the author.

The Ameri Brit Mom

Bullet Journal Updates (June 2017)

I realize it’s been a while since I last updated on my personal bullet journal. Even though it hasn’t appeared on my blog, I’ve been using the thing like crazy! My beautiful Moleskine resides in its own special place in my purse and I carry it with my daily. I thought I’d share some photos of ways I’ve used my bullet journal most recently.

  1. Monthly spread and review: 

    2. Vacation Daily Tracker:

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3. Recipes:

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4. Online Course Creation:

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5. Summer Goals and Routines:

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My favorite pens to use in my bullet journal are the Paper Mate Flair pens. I love the vibrant colors and the ease at which I can write with these pens.

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What are your favorite bullet journal tools or utensils?

The Ameri Brit Mom

 

Family Adventures in Boston (Part 3)

Day 4: Natick and Framingham

After several days of travel in the car, we planned one day where we wouldn’t have to sit in gridlocked traffic entering the city. Since our hotel was in a suburb of Boston we set out to explore the surrounding area. Our discoveries led us to a very nice mall in Natick where we visited the American Girl shop and several other upscale retailers. For lunch, we ate at California Pizza Kitchen in the mall. Afterwards, we ventured to nearby Framingham for putt-putt. Our daughter has never played before so it was fun teaching her how to hold a putter. Also, the game was fun because I was the family winner! Day 4 came to a close at Ben and Jerry’s where we all tried new ice cream flavors. The pace was slower, but it was still a really fun day.

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Day 5: Boston

The only rainy day of the trip was reserved for an indoor visit to the Boston Museum of Science. We sipped our coffee and ate our doughnuts as we waited in bumper-to-bumper traffic into the city. Peak travel times are very difficult to navigate by vehicle in Boston. If you are able, I would suggest using public transit and staying in the city. However, we knew ahead of time that patience would be required commuting from our suburban hotel so we made the most of it. I kept a bag in the car of activities for our daughter and I think my husband and I learned the lyrics to every iHeart radio top 40 song over the course of our stay in Boston. (I’m even working toward knowing the Spanish lyrics to Despacito) We made waiting in traffic a fun time!

As for the museum, it was wonderful. Three floors of interactive science lessons and activities filled our entire day. Arianna is in a stage where she is really interested in how things work so it was fantastic to use this visit as a learning tool. We’ve visited our local science museum (COSI), but she’s always been too young to take much learning away from those trips. It was fun to watch her learn about gravity, the human body, dinosaurs. space, and the life cycle of animals.

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The drive back to our hotel for the night was even worse than the drive into the city. We ended up using Siri who took us on an impromptu driving tour of Harvard University in Cambridge. It was a lovely campus nestled on the water. I wanted to take photographs, but alas, Siri’s directions were more important at the time.

Day 6: Boston

The final day of our family adventures began by packing and checking out of the hotel. One thing we liked about Extended Stay America was that we were able to do all of our laundry on-site. Boston was only the beginning of a much longer trip as we were scheduled to fly to London from Logan Airport, so it was nice to wash all of our clothes and not arrive to England with suitcases full of dirty laundry.

After our check-out we still had five hours before we needed to arrive at the airport. We decided to look at a local bookstore in Westborough called Tatnuck. This hometown bookstore was one of the coolest I’ve ever seen. The front of the building was made up of aisles and aisles of gifts, jewelry, and clothes. We spent a long time just going through this section. Then, there was a coffee shop. And in the back and center of the store stood hundreds of shelves of books. If we hadn’t been nervous about travel time to the city we would have stayed for hours.

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We still made it into Boston with hours to spare so we parked at Copley Square (For a ridiculous price) and walked around the shops, toured Old South church, and saw the location of the Boston Marathon Finish Line. We finished our visit with a nice lunch and then made our way to the airport where we returned our rental car and checked-in for our evening flight.

Overall, I loved Boston and I can’t wait to go back someday. We spent a lot of time in the car and if that’s something that bothers you I would first recommend flying to Boston instead of driving and then also I would recommend staying in the city as well and using public transit.

If we end up back in Boston one day some other things I’d like to do include: Duck Tours, seafood on the piers, visit Cape Cod/Martha’s Vineyard, historic museums and boating. It’s hard to fit everything in to such a short visit while also accommodating a four year old. We are lucky she’s such a great traveler, but there is still so much to do an see in Boston.

Thanks for following our adventures–now off to England for more memory making!!

The Ameri Brit Mom

 

Family Adventures in Boston (Part 2)

Day 3: Boston

On the east coast, you can’t drive five miles without running into a Dunkin’ Doughnuts. So after our first night in Boston we loaded up our rental car and made a pit stop at Dunkin’ Doughnuts before heading into the city. The night before, we purchased ferry tickets to Spectacle Island from the Boston Harbor Cruise Company. We parked at Long Wharf again and walked around a bit before our scheduled departure.

Once on the island, we felt like we had our own private piece of the world. Only fifteen other people were there and during our stay we ran into no one. When we swam in the sea off the coast of the island we did so alone. When we hiked the nearly three mile perimeter trail we didn’t cross paths with a single soul. It was such a great experience.

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The final ferry left the island at 4:00pm which still left us many hours in the day. We decided to walk part of the Freedom Trail upon our arrival back in Boston. We walked from Faneuil Hall to the Boston Commons and back. During the walk we stopped at a local pub for dinner and then let Arianna splash around in the fountains in the Boston Commons.

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This day happened to be my favorite from the whole trip. I highly recommend a ferry trip to one of the harbor’s islands if you ever find yourself in Boston. Although it wasn’t quite the sandy beach that many people frequent in the summer it was still a beautiful place to swim and explore.

*Check back over the next few days for the remaining chronicles from our family adventures in Boston.

The Ameri Brit Mom

Family Adventures in Boston (Part 1)

Before embarking on our annual trip to England visiting with my husband’s family we decided to drive to Boston, Massachusetts for a family vacation. We spent five days in this coastal metropolis and made so many family memories that I couldn’t pack it all into one post. Over the next several days, I will provide a chronicle of some of the things we did while in Boston.

So why Boston?

I have been fascinated lately over the New England coastline. Maybe it’s from books I’ve read set in Cape Cod or pictures from other bloggers. Maybe it’s the rich history and importance. Either way something about the place has been drawing me for a year. So when my husband was shopping for our flights to England he called me at work and asked how I felt about a quick stay in Boston before the flight. We hired a rental car for the two day journey and then flew out on Sunday from the Logan Airport in East Boston.

Here’s my bullet journal overview of the trip I will be describing over the next couple of posts:

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Day 1: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

We spent nine hours of the day in the car as we drove through the turnpikes of Ohio and Pennsylvania. Our hotel was just east of the city in Cherry Hill, New Jersey. Since we had a late arrival we started the visit off with a trip to Geno’s Steaks where we sat and watched some pickup games of basketball and ate our Philly cheesesteaks and fries.

As the sun set we decided to stroll through historic Philadelphia. The museums were all closed for the night, but it was the only time during our travels that we would be able to check out the sites. It was a beautiful night. Temperatures were warm, but the breeze felt good. Independence Hall lit by the setting sun was absolutely gorgeous. We took a walk around the historic center of Philadelphia and appreciated all the rich history made within those few city blocks.

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Day 2: Boston, Massachusetts 

We were on the road again by 9:00am the next morning to finish the journey to Boston. We drove through scenic parts of New Jersey, New York, Connecticut and Massachusetts before arriving at our hotel just outside of Boston in Westborough. That first night we had dinner and then drove to Long Wharf on the Boston Harbor. We walked along the seaside and shared an ice cream in the Quincy Market, an historic marketplace on the Boston Harbor. Being on the sea was picturesque and everything I had hoped it would be.

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**Check back soon for the second leg of our family adventures in Boston

The Ameri Brit Mom

Five Minute Friday: Worth

What is Five Minute Friday?

It is a link-up (which is equivalent to a Meet-and-Greet in the world of blogging.) Each week, the topic changes and participants are encouraged to take five minutes to write according to the prompt. Because you only have five minutes, posts are raw and unedited. Luckily, Five Minute Friday is a positive place and by joining the group you are giving yourself permission to step outside the confines of perfection. It’s a place to write from the heart and to be encouraged.

So here is my unedited post on this week’s topic, Worth:

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I’m sitting in a warm upstairs bedroom with the windows open and the sound of birds providing white noise. It’s 85 degrees Fahrenheit today in England and I’ve never been this warm in my life. Sure, in Ohio we have days much warmer, but air conditioning is not commonplace in this part of Europe. Most days are cool and rainy, but lucky us, we arrived during a heat wave. So as every part of my body drips with sweat and the promise of a cool indoors isn’t quite what it is in America, I stare at the netted drapes flowing with the breeze and count my blessings.

It’s all worth it.

It’s worth the hassle of international travel, and questions from border patrol. It’s worth the worry that accompanies me with traveling. I must admit as much as I love to visit new places and get outside of my hometown I do stress a bit when it comes to the actual travel part. It’s worth it to be a near-melted-mess as we walk through the town.

The minute my daughter stepped through the gate and spotted her English Grandad her face lit up. It was worth it. Seeing my mother-in-law and chatting about life made all the jet lag worth it. Sitting in this hot house trying to down glasses of squash (british juice) to stay hydrated is worth it. To make these memories and be with these people is why I put myself through the insanity of travel abroad.

Hello from the UK this week!

The Ameri Brit Mom

 

Female of the Species: A Book Review

Title: The Female of the Species

Author: Mindy McGinnis

Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books

Copyright Date: 2016

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Mindy McGinnis draws you immediately into the action of this novel with the hook, “This is how I kill someone.”

Alex Craft’s sister was murdered, and ever since Alex has struggled to feel anything but numb. Withdrawn from the rest of humanity, Alex finds herself reluctant to log hours for a senior project at the local animal shelter. While working at the shelter, Alex meets Peekay, the Pastor’s daughter, who helps Alex open up little by little. A friendship forms between the two, and Alex finds herself thrust back into social interactions. But there was a reason she hid away. She’s protecting those around her.

The death of her sister not only stole her emotions, but also created an instinct. That instinct pulls Alex toward revenge and violence. As Alex goes from another face in the crowd to part of the in-crowd it becomes more of a challenge to keep her beast at bay. Falling in love also proves to be just as dangerous as she feared.

Told from three perspectives this novel gives the reader a glimpse into life of a pastor’s kid who loves to get drunk and frisky, a jock who falls in love with Alex, and a female vigilante out to avenge her sister’s murder.

I liked to envision Alex Craft as a young, female version of Dexter from the television series. She’s odd. People don’t really know the real Alex. Oh, and in her spare time she kills the bad guys that the cops let get away.

I’m a fan of anything Mindy McGinnis. After hosting her at my school, teaching her novel Not a Drop to Drink in my classroom, and encountering her several times in my SCBWI group I have mad respect for her as an author. This book is very well written, but I caution readers of her other works that this one is written for a much more mature readership. From the outset, she makes it clear that the intended audience should be okay with vivid scenes of violence. Additionally, she covers topics like rape, sex, and drugs throughout the course of Alex’s story.

Other books I’ve reviewed by McGinnis include: Not a Drop to Drink and A Madness So Discreet.

“The female of the species is more deadly than the male.”-Rudyard Kipling

The Ameri Brit Mom