9.19.2017

The Trick by Emanuel Bergmann (NetGalley Review)


The Trick by Emanuel Bergmann
Publisher: Atria Books - an imprint of Simon & Schuster (September 19, 2017)
Description from the publisher:
In 1934, a rabbi’s son in Prague joins a traveling circus, becomes a magician, and rises to fame under the stage name the Great Zabbatini just as Europe descends into World War II. When Zabbatini is discovered to be a Jew, his battered trunk full of magic tricks becomes his only hope of surviving the concentration camp where he is sent.

Seven decades later in Los Angeles, ten-year-old Max finds a scratched-up LP that captured Zabbatini performing his greatest tricks. But the track in which Zabbatini performs his love spell—the spell Max believes will keep his disintegrating family together—is damaged beyond repair. Desperate for a solution, Max seeks out the now elderly, cynical magician and begs him to perform his magic on his parents. As the two develop an unlikely friendship, Moshe discovers that Max and his family have a surprising connection to the dark, dark days the Great Zabbatini experienced during the war.

Recalling the melancholy humor of Isaac Bashevis Singer and the heartbreaking pathos of the film Life is Beautiful—this outstanding first novel is at once an irreverent yet deeply moving story about a young boy who believes in magic and a disillusioned old man who believes in nothing, as well as a gripping and heartfelt tale about the circle of life.

I normally limit myself to one or two World War II novels per year, so this description really got me! However, in this dual timeline narrative, the past is mainly centered around the time leading up to the war. You will not be thrust into the day to day of Auschwitz, plunked down in London during the blitz or thrown into Paris during the Vel' d'Hiv. It is not just a story about war, but about the reverberations of war, or any actions of our lives on the future.

Some of the actions of Moshe throughout his very complex life are quite despicable, but I couldn't help but find him an endearing, hilarious and heartbreaking character. Equally endearing is Max's story in the present day timeline, attempting to prevent his parents divorce by finding Moshe to perform the 'eternal love' trick. The juxtaposition of the young and 'magical thinking' boy, set against the curmudgeon-y old man is rife with moments of great humor and heart. There are many laugh out loud moments that balance out what could have been too saccharine on one hand, or horrific on the other. The final scenes from both narratives had my heart pounding for vastly different reasons. Bergmann must have children to convey with such hilarity and accuracy a visit to a thinly veiled version of Chuck E. Cheese, and the way he depicts Moshe/Zabbatini's performance of the eternal love spell there had me RIVETED. Then as I went back in time to Auschwitz to finally discover the plot connection to the present day, I was biting my nails in fear and hope.

If you enjoy dual timeline historical fiction, family drama, plot driven narratives, witty writing, I would highly recommend The Trick. It is also a perfect transition from super light summer reading, to something with a little more heft, but not too much. Many thanks to Atria Books and Netgalley for providing an advance copy for my honest review!


9.14.2017

Summer Reading 2017 (Plus the Kids Favorite Books of the Summer)

Summer reading is not something I have ever put on the bucket list, because it is just implied that the kids are going to participate in ALL the summer book fun. The program through our library system is a highlight, as my kids are always chomping at the bit to see what the yearly prize will be (in addition to Storm tickets which we will hopefully carve out time for one of these days). This year they got awesome backpacks, which worked out great for containing all of their car entertainment on our annual summer road trip!

We also participated in the Scholastic Summer Road Trip event at our local independent bookstore.
My son finally got to meet Kazu Kibuishi, local author of the Amulet graphic novels (which I gush about here). 
There were prize wheels and activities to take home, as well as a Captain Underpants sighting.

Later in the summer daughter FINALLY got to attend an author event. She'd been jealous that her brother not only got his Amulet books signed, but his Diary of a Wimpy Kid's as well. Meeting Asia Citro (also a local!) who wrote the adorable science/magical creature Zoey and Sassafras series, as well as 150+ Screen-Free Activities for Kids, was a highlight of the summer. 
There was a super cool activity where she was tasked with 'freeing a dragon' from ice!
They were given salt, a cup of water and a dropper to experiment with the fastest way to unlock the dragon from it's icy prison. 
As for the books that dominated the piles next to their beds this summer, it was ALL about books in a series for BOTH of them:

My son (10) burned through James Patterson's House of Robotsseries. Highly recommend!
He also swears by these Dragonbreath books.
And the John Scieszka Frank Einstein series.

In addition to the Zoey and Sassafras books, my daughter (7) read every Stick Dog (and Stick Cat) book she could get her hands on this summer.
She is also loving Owl Diaries, which are right in line with her Sophie Mouse and Critter Club sensibilities  - i.e. animal loving.
Even though she normally shuns the princess stuff (I have no idea how I dodged that bullet), I convinced her to try The Princess in Black because I heard good things - and now she's gobbling them up.
Now it's time for back to school reading and I can't wait to see what they bring home from the school library... As always, I love to hear recommendations for early middle grade readers!

9.08.2017

Scoring my Summer Bucket List

Ah, that bittersweet time of year is upon us! The end of summer and beginning of the school year gives me such conflicting emotions, especially as my kids get older - they get more fun as they mature, and it's sad to think about the dwindling number of childhood summers we have together. 

On the other hand, they were breaking out into intense bickering sessions way more frequently near the end there, and I am enjoying eating my lunch in silence (sitting down, even!) again...

Anyway! Evaluating the summer bucket list is a fun way to look back and preserve the memories of another summer:
Try one new hiking trail and also do the Big Four hike
Well, we definitely got a new trail under our belt on our trip to Rainier National Park. Alas, we didn't get over to Big Four this year. (Half a point for this?) The trail to Grove of the Patriarchs and Naches Peak were both excellent.

Go bowling
Check! Full marks for bowling and FINALLY ridding ourselves of those cursed prize tickets.
Go to the movies
Check! Just one outing to see the latest Minion movie, but it was fun.

Play mini golf
This is an easy and fun favorite we checked off early in the summer.
Teach the kids the art of making friendship bracelets
Big fat ZERO on this one. Although we have been keeping up with our creative side over the summer with Kelly Kits. (Half a point?) I got a deal for a trial three month subscription and might just subscribe for the year now, they are that awesome. It is a nice low maintenance option for those of us who feel so overwhelmed by the craft store. Each kit has just what I need to do at least two art pieces for two kids, with a really thoughtful and educational handout on the theme for the month.
Hit up a farmers market
Alas, this did not happen - hopefully we can squeeze one in before the season ends...

Annual summer road trip!
Yay! This was a blast and I think I might do a photo dump here soon for posterity. Short version: the Alta Crystal Resort is adorable (and I'm fervently hoping every day that our wildfires do not inflict damage to this lovely spot), the Gondola and Summit House at Crystal are both excellent, and you can never go wrong with a visit to Mount Rainier National Park.
Go blueberry picking and make blueberry dump cake
Check! We went to a new blueberry farm and it was great - we decided on these Smitten Kitchen muffins instead of dump cake. 
Make smores
Handily supplied to us at our resort on the aforementioned road trip:
Picnic at a new-to-us park
We didn't picnic, but spent an afternoon exploring the Lewis Creek Visitor Center one afternoon.
Visit Woodland Park Zoo (and hopefully see new baby giraffe!) as well as Point Defiance Zoo
Check and check!
Visit MoPop
Womp, womp. Hopefully soon...

Visit the Bellevue Art Museum
I visited TWICE. The cut paper exhibit is just amazing and we brought the kids to their first Bellevue Arts Fair.
Visit Pike Place and the new waterfront market
Check!
Try a new restaurant
It had been a long time since we had gone out for Italian, and as I mentioned in my monthly meal wrap up, we decided to try the new Carmines in Bellevue and it did not disappoint!
I also took the kids out for my kids first sushi experience and they ventured just as far as I thought they would: cooked crab being the most exotic choice. Baby steps.
Make frosΓ©
I did this almost weekly! Maybe two points? This recipe continues to be a favorite. 

Make a new cocktail recipe
I mentioned this in the July monthly meal wrap up - this Gold Rush cocktail is so simple and DELICOUS.
Take a blog break
I still posted almost weekly, but I think I found a good rhythm for going forward and hope to stick with it!

Bonus points for my daughter finally tackling the rock wall at the Y this year!
She came thisclose to ringing the bell at the top. We may have to hit up some open climb times so that she can achieve this summer goal!

Bonus points for mother nature bringing a solar eclipse pretty close to our neck of the woods! It was a morning we'll never forget.
Peace out, summer of 2017! Now it's time to look forward to THE MOST WONDERFUL TIME OF THE YEAR...πŸŽ„πŸŽ„πŸŽ„