Book review: How to Raise an Adult by Julie Lythcott-Haims

How to Raise an Adult: Break Free of the Overparenting Trap and Prepare Your Kid for Success

How to Raise an Adult: Break Free of the Overparenting Trap and Prepare Your Kid for Success by Julie Lythcott-Haims

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


This book is a wake-up call for all parents who are prone to worry, stress, and over-protect their children, which is to say, the majority of us. The author is a former dean of freshmen at Stanford University and draws on her considerable experience dealing with young adults as well as referencing many studies and conversations with other experts to tell us all (with data to prove her points) that we are creating a generation of adults who aren’t able to perform basic life tasks, let alone think for themselves.
The appeal of this book is that the author is optimistic about the future of young adults and provides examples and concrete tips (and lots of reassurances) about how to better parent children to produce independent, productive, and responsible members of society.
While the book is most helpful to parents of younger children, even parents of college students and young adults can benefit.
For those of you who have read my review of “The Coddling of the American Mind,” this book calls out similar themes but provides more practical child-rearing tips.
I highly recommend it!



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New Year’s Eve 2019

We have marvelous friends (more like family) who, for some unfathomable reason, decided to host a New Year’s Eve dinner and invited us to help cook (the unfathomable part of it was letting us help cook). What that really meant, of course, is that they allowed us into their kitchen to create a gigantic mess. Who does this, other than family?

Anyway, the huge mess we created did actually result in a delicious dinner. The menu was as follows:

NYE 2019 menu

Apple Rutabaga soup (served with 2008 Louis Roederer Cristal)


Royal Petrossian Caviar station

caviar station


Tuna Fire & Ice (served with Mountain Field Treasure Junmai Sake)

fire & ice


Foie Gras on brioche (served with 2017 Bouchard Père & Fils Chassagne-Montrachet)

foie gras on brioche


Uncrab Cakes with Crab (served with 2017 Paul Hobbs Chardonnay)

uncrab cakes with crab


Wagyu and Marrow Bones (served with 1998 Rudd Estate Jericho Canyon Cabernet Sauvignon)

wagyu & marrow bones with potato soufflé


Bûche de Noel (served with 2003 Chateau d’Yquem Sauternes)

bûche de noel

New Year’s Eve itself was celebrated with a bottle of 2006 Pol Roger (Winston Churchill’s favorite champagne)

I wish I could say that I didn’t eat after that for a month, but, alas, that is simply not true.

Happy (belated) New Year!

Book review: Fire in the Blood by W.R. Gingell

Fire in the Blood (Shards of a Broken Sword #2)

Fire in the Blood by W.R. Gingell

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


This book is the second of a trilogy (the first book being “Twelve Days a Faery.” Both books are standalone in the sense of despite the fact that there is an overarching narrative arc for the trilogy, the stories stand on their own (at least so far).
Rafiq is a dragon who is being held in Thrall by Prince Akish. He’s not a fan of this state of affairs but has resigned himself to his fate. They are off to rescue a princess in an enchanted keep and encounter the princess’s servant, Kako, who offers to help with their quest. Despite the suspicions of both men, they accept her offer, and she accompanies them as they go through the Seven Circles (seven quests) to rescue the princess.
The story is fairly straightforward as is the puzzle. But the author’s strengths are building a world of consistent magic, surprising you just when you think you have everything all figured out, and the depth of her characters. She’s not much on romance, but I forgive her this minor flaw because the characters are so interesting and compelling.
The book is more a novella than a full-length book. It is a fast-paced and easy read. I highly recommend it!



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Book review: Call Sign Chaos by Jim Mattis and Bing West

Call Sign Chaos: Learning to Lead

Call Sign Chaos: Learning to Lead by Jim Mattis

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I’m not typically a fan of military books on leadership as I often find that the traits that make for strong and capable leaders in the military don’t always translate to the private sector. This book is an exception to that assumption. While Jim Mattis (and his skillful co-author Bing West) draw upon Mattis’s experiences with the Marine Corps to convey their ideas of successful leadership, a surprising amount of their wisdom can be applied to the private sector. Specifically, Mattis’s leadership fundamentals of competence, caring, and conviction ring true as necessary for leaders in all organizations. In addition, his emphasis on recruiting for attitude (rather than skill), transparent communication, and tolerance of mistakes (on the theory that if risk-takers are punished, then only the risk-averse remain) are all values that companies would do well to follow.
And his final point that leaders should shelter non-conformists and mavericks who make institutions uncomfortable is almost comical coming out of an institution better known for conformity, and I appreciated the point even more because of that.
The writing is easy to follow, and the book is a quick read. (Never mind that it took me a couple of months–I was busy!) 🙂
There are interesting examples from his own career that are compelling from a historical perspective, but there’s no doubt that the conclusions he draws about successful leadership are principles that can be used anywhere today. I highly recommend!



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Book review: Twelve Days of Faery by W.R. Gingell

Twelve Days of Faery (Shards of a Broken Sword #1)

Twelve Days of Faery by W.R. Gingell

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


This is an original take on a traditional fairy tale plot where unfortunate accidents happen to a prince’s girlfriends/fiancees, and the king has offered a reward to whomever breaks the curse. I enjoyed the first person narrative of the king, who is simultaneously shrewd about ruling his kingdom and oblivious about personal relationships. There is the obligatory mystery of who or what is causing the accidents and delightful world building of the faery world. Interesting backstories are hinted at although not fleshed out.
In fact, my biggest criticism of the book is its novella length. There was so much more in the story that could have been elaborated on, but the short length of the book prevented that from happening. While this book is in no way equal to the author’s Two Monarchies series, it is a pleasant, fun, and unusual story. And the author’s writing is, as always, a pleasure to read.
3.5 stars.



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Book review: The Hanover Square Affair by Ashley Gardner

The Hanover Square Affair (Captain Lacey, #1)

The Hanover Square Affair by Ashley Gardner

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


This book is the first in a historical mystery series. The protagonist is a veteran of the Napoleonic wars and has returned to England with no money, no prospects, and PTSD. This is no light-hearted and frothy mystery but, rather, a gritty story that exposes the underside of London life, some of the horrors of the war and the after-effects for the returning soldiers. (Think more in the style of C.S. Harris and less in the style of Georgette Heyer.)
Captain Lacey isn’t a particular likeable character in the first book, although he has some excellent qualities to him. There is a complicated back story for him, which makes him an interesting and somewhat mysterious character. Sometimes the hints thrown off about his back story come across as a bit manipulative, but you do want to learn more about him. Captain Lacey’s unpredictability and depression weave through the story like a train wreck–you know what’s coming but you can’t look away.
I actually would give this book 3.5 stars, but I also tend to give debut novels of a series the benefit of the doubt. I will definitely read the second in this series to see how the character grows and (maybe) flourishes.
Fans of the Sebastian St. Cyr novels should definitely check this series out!




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Halloween Week Festivities at Sidwell Friends School

Our son goes to a private high school in Washington, DC where the academics are excellent, the kids are (mostly) affluent, and the pressure can sometimes be intense. This is especially true during the last week of October when the seniors have Early Action college applications due (November 1 is the actual due date).
Marcus (on his own) decided that the high schoolers all needed to relax, have some fun, and remember to be children again. So he decided that Halloween week needed to be celebrated. He proposed his idea to student government, who were enthusiastically in favor, and then to the administration, which gave him permission to move forward.
Monday, 10/28, was the first day. Marcus managed to convince a group of his friends to show up to the school at 7:00 am (an hour before school started) to help him decorate the high school. And so it happened.


He also held a photo scavenger hunt (e.g. take a selfie with something orange, take a selfie with someone from every grade, etc.). His first winner emailed him the photos at 8:07 am. (He decided to award 3 prizes that day instead of 1.)
Tuesday, 10/29 was Halloween trivia contest day. And Wednesday, 10/30 was a pumpkin hunt (like an Easter egg hunt, only for pumpkins) and a mummy wrap game.
But Thursday, Halloween itself, was the highlight. A costume contest was held, with winners awarded from each grade. In addition, a faculty and staff costume contest also took place. To Marcus’s delight, the hallways were filled with costumed students and faculty alike, all excited about Halloween. Trick-or-treating with student government staffed stations and some faculty during class also took place. And, at the end of the day, faculty and students alike had some fun, remembered their inner child, and celebrated Halloween together. As the Head of School said, “It almost felt like a real high school.”

We could not be prouder of him.

Book review: Blackfoot by W.R. Gingell

Blackfoot (Two Monarchies Sequence, #2)

Blackfoot by W.R. Gingell

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


This is the second book of the Two Monarchies Sequence. (“Masque,” which I reviewed earlier, was the first book written but is the last book in the series.) “Blackfoot” starts essentially right where “Spindle” left off, although the actual story starts several years later. The book starts Annabel’s story and continues Melchior’s story. And while there is no actual fairy tale inspiration for this book, it has all the requisite fantasy elements: an interesting heroine who is smarter than she gives herself credit for; a sarcastic and mysterious hero who is wise but not too wise; and an annoying but lovable best friend. The magic remains complex but internally consistent, and the villain is quite scary.
My only disappointment after I finished this book is that there is only one more unread book in the series for me. (I may just have to re-read “Masque” to get all of the inside baseball references.) I can’t wait to see what the author writes next and the rest of her books are on my list to explore.




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Disneyworld & an 18th Birthday

To be sure, we celebrate every trip to Disneyworld. And we certainly celebrate every birthday trip to the happiest place on earth. But this particular trip (the birthday boy’s 61st trip, to be exact) is best known as “the Galaxy’s Edge trip.”
If you don’t belong to the Star Wars fandom, then that phrase has no meaning whatsoever. So for those barbarians, I will explain that Galaxy’s Edge is the new Star Wars land, located in Hollywood Studios in Disneyworld. There is currently only one ride there, known as Millenium Falcon: Smugglers’ Run where you are the pilot/gunner/engineer for the Millenium Falcon. Anything else I said would spoil the surprise and be inadequately descriptive of the ride. But let me repeat the key takeaway here: you are ON BOARD the Millenium Falcon. There are no other words necessary.
The theming of Galaxy’s Edge is pretty amazing, even by Disney standards. Kylo Ren and his stormtroopers make unscheduled but frequent visits. Chewbacca and Rey also appear (and I’m told that there are stories of people who try and hide Chewbacca when the stormtroopers appear). You can play an online game assuming the role of a supporter of the First Order, the Resistance, or an ordinary scoundrel. (I was most displeased when our daughter decided to install surveillance equipment on behalf of the First Order. She will do anything for Kylo Ren.)
Despite her inadequate moral framework, we all had a memorable time exploring Galaxy’s Edge and the rest of Disneyworld, of course, as part of the oh-my-gosh-the-boy-is-legal birthday celebration.

entering Galaxy’s Edge!
blue milk or green milk? (blue is better)
the Millenium Falcon!
on board the Millenium Falcon
waiting to board the ship
Galaxy’s Edge

Book review: Spindle by W.R. Gingell

Spindle (Two Monarchies Sequence, #1)

Spindle by W.R. Gingell

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


This book is a re-telling of the Sleeping Beauty fairy tale but to say that is like saying that Shake Shack is just another burger joint. This re-telling of Sleeping Beauty is original, intricate and complex. The magic (or, more accurately, the magics) are complicated and internally consistent. Poly, the heroine, suffers from imposter syndrome (people think she’s a princess) and is courageous and resolute. Luck, the hero, is enigmatic and occasionally annoying (in a good kind of way). Their relationship is simultaneously amusing and touching. The allies and enemies that Poly and Luck meet on the way are well characterized, and the time travel element fits well within a fantasy story (as opposed to a science fiction story). The prose is elegant and accessible, and the foundational elements of the fairy tale are recognizable while, at the same time, the author imaginatively expands the story line.
I read the first two books of this series out of order, but they are both standalone books. W.R. Gingell is a gifted author, and I look forward to reading the next book in the series.




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