The Last Neanderthal by Claire Cameron (NetGalley Review)

The Last Neanderthal by Claire Cameron
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company (April 25, 2017)
Description from the publisher:
40,000 years in the past, the last family of Neanderthals roams the earth. After a crushingly hard winter, their numbers are low, but Girl, the oldest daughter, is just coming of age and her family is determined to travel to the annual meeting place and find her a mate.
But the unforgiving landscape takes its toll, and Girl is left alone to care for Runt, a foundling of unknown origin. As Girl and Runt face the coming winter storms, Girl realizes she has one final chance to save her people, even if it means sacrificing part of herself.
In the modern day, archaeologist Rosamund Gale works well into her pregnancy, racing to excavate newly found Neanderthal artifacts before her baby comes. Linked across the ages by the shared experience of early motherhood, both stories examine the often taboo corners of women's lives. 

I do love a good dual timeline narrative, and the subject matter of this book felt different from the usual in the genre. I wasn't sure if the Neanderthal's story, given she has a vocabulary of less than half a dozen words, would make for riveting material. However, the author assuaged all of my doubts with such a strong voice for Girl, who is clearly the protagonist of this novel. 
Going into it, I thought I'd be more compelled by the modern day heroine, Dr. Gale. Yet, I found myself riveted by the everyday life of survival for Girl and her family, and wanting to hurry through the present day struggles of Dr. Gale. In any other novel, her story would be fraught with tension; but set against the backdrop of the literal life and death struggles of her Neanderthal counterpart, the money and job woes paled in comparison. 
Dr. Gale seems to serve as model for what we have lost versus the things we have gained in modern society. Cameron also deftly addresses how women's roles have changed in modern times, and there is a lot to unpack on feminism, family and what makes us human.
Additionally, the story made me more curious about the things that I might have missed in science class and the more recent studies on the intelligence Neanderthals. All around fascinating stuff that I would otherwise not have sought to learn more about - a sign of a really good book, methinks. Many thanks to Little, Brown and Company for an advance copy for my review!


Everyday Life and Menu Plan (4.24.17)

I had quite the fun and JAM PACKED week, but now this introvert is TIRED. Don't get me wrong, I am not shy and I love to socialize - but it drains me! By Saturday night I was in my sweats with a celebratory glass of bubbly.

Let's back up... It was an eventful week at school with some PTA meetings (one ending with booze and another involving coffee the following day) and fundraising activities for my older kid's outdoor education camp coming up next year, in addition to the usual weekly volunteering in the kids classes.
This was also Tenacious Ten week! Thanks to all who used my discount code and I hope you had as much fun as I did. 
Also tiring: waking up super early on a Saturday morning with the setup crew, but worth it - long story short: I am OVER THE MOON about being able to run consistently again after finally shaking my stubborn case of plantar fasciitis. I will do a write up soon about the treatment that finally worked, for all my fellow PF sufferers. 
And, last but not least, it was my son's first weekend of flag football. I am hoping that next week I am not sitting outside for two hours in a deluge...
My daughter, bless her, took it in stride and the kids had fun, which is what matters.
This week:
As always, I'm linking up with Org Junkie, and now Beth Fish Reads weekend cooking - be sure to check out all the great weekly food inspiration!


April Book Haul

I am OVERWHELMED with book options this month! The stack from the library is pretty darn awesome, I got THREE books with some credits at Book of the Month, a new ARC I'm OVER THE MOON about, and I decided to get back on the audiobook train thanks to a recommendation from Tara and the fact that Lincoln in the Bardo is narrated by ALL THE AWESOME ACTORS.

 I had been looking forward to Susan Meissner's latest - A Bridge Across the Ocean, as I THOROUGHLY enjoyed A Fall of Marigolds, and didn't realize it was being released in paperback. I got lucky and found it on my library's choice reads shelf and can renew it with impunity for three months! The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas is everywhere I look and I'm super pumped to delve into the hype. Dumplin' by Julie Murphy, another YA, has been out for awhile. My interest was piqued when I heard that Disney is producing the film version with Jennifer Aniston as the mother. Perfect Little World by Kevin Wilson was a prior Book of the Month pick that I passed on, but decided to pick up from the library and am REALLY enjoying right now! Many of my Goodreads friends have raved about The Nix by Nathan Hill, so I picked it up - which was rather difficult, as it's a good 600+ pages. I might just wait for the digital copy to come in (I put holds on both for most books to see which comes in first). 
For my April Book of the Month I chose Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann. I never got around to The Lost City of Z, and this (true) story of the crimes against Osage Indian Nation sounded even more compelling. I added Exit West by Mohsin Hamid and finally came around to steeling myself for When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi.
SQUEEE! Young Jane Young is the upcoming novel from Gabrielle Zevin, the writer of one my all time favorite books The Storied Life of AJ Fikry, and I got the ARC this week!

Other Digital Books in the Queue:
The Last Neanderthal by Claire Cameron (NetGalley ARC I just finished and it was GOOD!)
Sympathy by Olivia Sudjic
On Turpentine Lane by Elinor Lipman
Victoria by Daisy Goodwin
I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh
Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough
All Our Wrong Todays by Elan Mastai
Tiny Little Thing and A Hundred Summers by Beatriz Williams
Church of Marvels by Leslie Parry
The Fifth Season by NK Jemisin

Audiobooks in the Queue:
The Rules Do Not Apply: A Memoir Ariel Levy
Lincoln in the Bardo: A Novel by George Saunders

As always, I am open to commentary and suggestions!


Everyday Life and Menu Plan 4.17.17

This was a nice week of getting back into the swing of things after spring break and my husband and I kicked off the weekend with a lovely brunch at The Commons on Good Friday. He had the day off work, but the kids had school - yay! Getting a warm cinnamon roll as an appetizer is required.

We don't really celebrate Easter, but we are big on traditions, especially pagan ones that involve decorated trees or bunnies that deliver presents! So after a little egg hunt around the house and baskets filled with candy and toys, we headed out to the zoo to take advantage of the lovely weather.
Also, the Grilled Chimichurri Chicken and Avocado Salad from Cafe Delites from last week's menu was DELICIOUS. We'll definitely add it to our rotation of salads, I added feta cheese and maybe will add some artichokes or roasted red pepper next time.
This week:
As always, I'm linking up with Org Junkie, and now Beth Fish Reads weekend cooking - be sure to check out all the great weekly food inspiration!


Fun Activities for Early Readers (Featuring Favorite Book Characters)

Over Spring Break, I kept the kids plenty busy with fun outings almost every day. But, we still had our fair share of downtime at home. My daughter, who is in first grade, is currently OBSESSED with the Critter Club series. A few weeks ago, I did some research on the books to see when we'd eventually run out: book 17 comes out next month, so I think we're good for awhile. And while I was clicking around Simon and Schuster's website for the series, I found printable activities! I saved them up for Spring Break and my girl was BESIDE HERSELF.
Her own clue journal! As well as a form to play her own game of MASH. Oh my gosh, I can't believe this is still a thing, and it's awesome. Now that she's got the hang of it, we play all the time. We've wasted time waiting for big brother to get his hair cut, or waiting for our dinner after Cirque du Soleil playing MASH. The 'name of the person you will marry' has been substituted with 'the name of your pet' in accordance with the theme of Critter Club.

I then went down the rabbit hole of all her favorite book series and their websites, and most have fun printable activities! Some even have educational teacher guides (which would be great for parents, too) and event kits for parties! Perhaps a book club meeting for 7 year olds is in order... So, if your first grader also loves Heidi Hecklebeck, Ivy and Bean or Judy Moody - click on the links and print away. We only got through Critter Club stuff over break, but I'm saving up some of these others for the inevitable rainy day this summer. 

Not wanting my fourth grader to be left out, I did some sleuthing on some of his favorite series and, lo, the Diary of a Wimpy Kid contingent did not disappoint. It happens to be the 10th anniversary of the series and there's a bunch of fun stuff on the Wimpy Kid website. He's growing out of some of these things, but had fun testing his book knowledge, drawing his own Greg and book cover. 
I could kick myself for not discovering these activity packs back when he was in first grade and reading Stink Moody, Captain Underpants and Big Nate. Alas, I thought it best to share this information in the event that someone else hadn't figured this out yet either, and would find it as awesome as I did! Big thanks to Simon and Schuster, Chronicle Books, Scholastic, Harper Collins, Candlewick Press and Amulet Books for enriching our kids reading lives.


Everday Life and Menu Plan - Spring Break Edition (4.10.17)

First things first, the Curried Chicken with Coconut Lime Rice from One-Pan Wonders last week was great!

It was super easy to prep and cook, but I may add a little crushed red pepper or cayenne next time. The curry on the chicken flavored the whole dish nicely, but could have been a tad spicier. 

We had a fun Spring Break staycation, although the weather could have cooperated more. At least we did get some time outside early in the week and no one was sick this year, unlike last year. This meant I was able to bring the kids to the Y every morning to get our day going, and my oldest even joined me for a workout!
As for afternoon activities, Monday we went to the park and Menchies, Tuesday was a hit with our first visit to McMenamin's Anderson School and the Lagoon pool.
They had so much fun and begged to go to the restaurant overlooking the pool after our swim session. It was three in the afternoon and we'd already had lunch, but I caved because I figured we were on vacation! 
I let them eat dinner and I got a Mai Tai, then gave them a bowl of cereal at dinner time. Ha! Next time we go, which will be soon I'm sure since it's about a five minute drive from our house, I'll try and time it around a meal.
Wednesday was haircut day and lazy movie afternoon, because you have to have at least one of those days. Thursday we went bowling, because you have to have that day on staycation, too. 
And we capped off the week on Friday with the best outing to see Cirque du Soleil!
I already gushed on Facebook and Instagram, but I can't stress enough how wonderful Luzia is and how much I loved sharing one of my favorite things in the world with my kids. This was probably the 9th Cirque show I've seen and it's definitely up there as one of my favorites.
Alright, time to hang up my cruise director hat and get back to the weekly routine!

Monday - Pizza
Tuesday - Moroccan Butternut Squash Soup with Coconut Ginger Cream (this recipe from Half Baked Harvest can easily go in the slow cooker and blended with an immersion blender!)
Wednesday - Thai Sticky Chicken Fingers with Brown Rice and Roasted Broccoli (a favorite from Iowa Girl Eats)
Thursday - Turkey Burgers on the Grill and Roasted Potatoes  
Friday - Sheet Pat Green Chili Beef Nachos (from How Sweet It Is)
Saturday - Fancy Macaroni and Cheese (tried and true recipe from The Pioneer Woman)
Sunday - Grilled Chimichurri Chicken and Avocado Salad (trying this yummy sounding recipe from Cafe Delites)

As always, I'm linking up with Org Junkie, and now Beth Fish Reads weekend cooking - be sure to check out all the great weekly food inspiration!