Friday, February 26, 2016

The Charm Bracelet: Book Review and Giveaway

Books. One of the best ways to cope with winter.

Yes, in typical Midwestern fashion, I'm getting through February with a combination of grim determination, Walking Dead binging, and lots and lots of reading. So much reading, in fact, that I'm running out of books, as well as the money required to buy said books.

Because of this literary poverty, I was pleasantly surprised to be contacted by the publicity team of Viola Shipman to review an advance copy of the author's debut novel, The Charm Bracelet. Viola Shipman is actually the pseudonym of one of my long-time favorite writers, Wade Rouse, who chose the name as well as the book's title as an homage to his late grandmothers, avid fans of charm bracelets. Rouse has authored several great non-fiction books, including It's All Relative and I'm Not the Biggest Bitch in This Relationship, both of which of I reviewed here.

The Charm Bracelet arrived at my house last week, and the winter air seemed to lift as I opened the package and turned the pages of this warm novel, the multi-generational story of artsy Lauren, driven Arden, and their aging matriarch, the irrepressible Lolly.

As its title suggests, the book tells the tales of the characters' lives and ancestry via the charms of a bracelet. From the hot air balloon charm, ("to a life filled with adventure"), to the tiara charm ("to a life in which you get to feel like a queen, even for a day"), Rouse weaves the three interlocked stories wonderfully, dipping in and out of each woman's life with ease and grace.

The effortless pace of this novel impressed me the most. I found myself midway through *The Charm Bracelet before I realized it, filled with hope that Lauren would find her passion, Arden would find some peace, and Lolly would once again find her family.

I'm always in awe of non-fiction writers who cross over into fiction. It's difficult enough to compose stories from real life, but the writing is made easier simply because the events really happened, and the characters actually existed.

The fiction author's job, however, is to craft a believable story out of thin air, hundreds of pages of plot, setting and characters pulled from the far reaches of the imagination, or in this case, the charms of a bracelet.

Now, I write only non-fiction for specific reasons, and those are: A) I'm lazy; and B) the act of creating fiction -- an entire world from nothing -- seems impossible to me. But Rouse (a.k.a. Shipman) writes his first novel masterfully, with his finger on the pulse of three very different women who reconnect thanks to some links of chain, bits of metal and the tenacity of the buoyant, unforgettable Lolly.

Warm up your spring with this wonderful, utterly charming (see what I did there?) book, on sale March 22.

One reader will win a copy of The Charm Bracelet, courtesy of Thomas Dunne Books, a division of St. Martin's Press. Comment below to enter, then check back in the comments next weekend to see the lucky winner.
Winner: please contact me with your snail mail address at

Friday, February 12, 2016

Too Cool for Coats

(post copyright 2016, Dawn Weber)

He's a straight-A student. He took talented and gifted classes. He scores in the 96th percentile or higher on all standardized tests.

Nonetheless, I'm starting to doubt his intelligence, because it is 18 degrees outside, and he's not wearing a coat.

So I ask him, "Hobo, why aren't you wearing a coat?"

But my son, in all his talented and gifted wisdom, informs me that a coat isn't necessary when has a sweatshirt.

"I don't need a coat when I'm wearing a hoodie," he mumbles, shuffling out the door.

This conversation takes place at 6:30 b.c. --before coffee -- and I don't yet have the wherewithal to collar and force outerwear on the boy. It's Friday, my one weekday off, and he's clearly used to me not being there. Monday through Thursday he can amble out the door wearing whatever he wants. Which is apparently close to nothing.

I guess a Hobo cares not what he wears. And I call him that for a reason. He eschews fashion and, up until recently, avoided any sort of personal hygiene. Smart as he is, he sometimes needs direction when it comes to matters of wardrobe.

It's not just him. There's a trend, nay, a downright epidemic of coat-free adolescents all across America. I see them when I drop the boy off at school, walking in hordes, shivering and shaking and hustling frantically into the school building because it's what? Freaking cold outside.

Now, as my loyal readers (all seven of you! I love you guys!) may remember from my post last year, I feel very Get off my lawn! about the new-fangled "cold-weather cancel" in which school is called simply because of chilly temperatures. Like I said, when I grew up, classes were only canceled on account of snowy, icy roads - never cold weather alone. I spent many a sub-zero morning cursing this fact in our driveway, as my hair froze solid under the hood of a wonderful invention called -- you guessed it -- a coat.

However, after last year's post, a few of my teacher friends informed me that the reason for the cold-weather cancel isn't part of the rampant wussification of American kids, as I'd guessed. It's because of unfortunate children, many of whom don't have -- or aren't wearing -- coats or warm clothing.

Now, my heart goes out to any child who truly doesn't own appropriate outer-ware. In fact, send those kids to our house. We have several unused coats available.

But after five years of fighting with my own kids to wear jackets, I'd be willing to bet good money that many of the children who don't wear coats aren't doing so because of a lack of money. They're doing it to follow the crowd. To look cool. 

And they look cool, alright. Downright frozen.

They are just too cool for coats.

But as the Hobo informed me, when one has a hoodie, one need not be concerned with vagaries such as "wind chill,"  "frost bite" and "certain death," no sir. One can just march out the door, ride to school and shuffle inside, unless it's canceled on account of cold weather and kids without coats and . . .

. . . Wait a minute. Wait just a minute.

Fact one: School gets canceled because kids aren't wearing coats.

Fact two: My kid refuses to wear a coat.

Mystery: solved.

That boy is smarter than I thought.