Book Review: Bloom: A Girl’s Guide to Growing Up Gorgeous by Carmindy

Bloom: A Girl's Guide to Growing Up Gorgeous cover imageTeen girls are often looking for tips on taking care of their skin and figuring out how to apply make up. Now they can get advice from an expert, Carmindy, who is familiar to many people from the time she spent on TV’s What Not to Wear, giving women tips and techniques for how to use makeup to bring out their best features. In her book Bloom: A Girl’s Guide to Growing Up Gorgeous, Carmindy starts out by encouraging girls to find the beauty they have inside. She talks about how lots of girls feel like they would be happy with their looks if only they had...a different hair color or face shape, thinner brows, fuller lips, etc. She calls it the compare game and says even famous models feel the same way. Carmindy even relates a story from her own childhood and how she was bullied about the way she looked. She talks about overcoming her insecurities by learning to notice the positives about herself when she looked in the mirror. But she alto talks about how you can feel better about yourself when you put in an effort to look good. The rest of the book focuses on how teens can look and feel good by focusing on a few simple techniques. Bloom covers topics like taking care of your skin with cleansers, toners and sunscreen, shaping eyebrows, and using foundation, mascara, blush and eye color. Carmindy gives tips for finding the right colors to go with certain skin tones and talks about trouble-shooting issues like getting zits or cold sores and having body odor. Bloom finishes up with photos of girls who are going for certain looks, like what to wear to take a class photo, go on a date, attend a party, go to an honors banquet, or get interviewed for college. The book is illustrated with lots of photos, a list of tools needed, and sidebars with good information. Overall, I think it’s a good guide to help girls feel good about who they are inside as well as how they present themselves to others. The publisher provided me with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Q and A With Joani Geltman, Author of A Survival Guide to Parenting Teens

Joani Geltman, MSW photo Yesterday I featured a review of A Survival Guide to Parenting Teens by Joani Geltman. Today, I'm following up with some questions and answers where Geltman talks about the challenges of parenting teens, keeping the lines of communication flowing,  mistakes parents typically make, and more. Here's a bit of background on Geltman from her bio: Joani Geltman, MSW, is a prominent parenting expert who provides home-based parent coaching, speaks publicly on issues relating to child development and parenting, and designs and implements training workshops on parenting and education leadership development. She has four decades of experience helping young people, serving as a social worker, therapist, student advisor, adjunct professor, and youth program director at various schools and organizations. The author of a new book, A Survival Guide To Parenting Teens (AMACOM May 20, 2014), Geltman has been featured in, or written for, USA Today and The Boston Globe. Her writings have appeared online at The Washington Post, Huffington Post, Psychology Today, Mommy & Me,, Working Family, Global Post Parenting, and on scores of blogs. She was also featured as a parenting expert on Better TV, Good Day New York (Fox), Good Day Connecticut (Fox), and Fox-TV in Boston. Geltman, who previously authored I Get It: Three Magic Words For Parents Of Teens, has served as an adjunct professor for the past two decades at Curry College in Milton, MA. Geltman teaches in the department of psychology, covering child and adolescent development, family psychology, and dysfunctional family life. In addition to her professional experience, she knows firsthand the perils of raising a teenager. Her daughter, Ari Graymor, has grown into the star sitcom actress of CBS television’s new series, Bad Teacher. A resident of Natick, MA, Geltman earned her Bachelor of Science in education from Lesley College and her Master of social work from Washington University. To find out more, visit   What is the most challenging part to parenting a teenager? JG: For most parents, trying to understand why their teen does so many “stupid” things, makes so many “stupid” decisions, and doesn’t want to listen to their advice gained from so many years of experience is crazy making! Without understanding what drives their teen’s behavior, parents just go from one crisis to the next, throwing around consequences and punishments hoping that something they do will stick and change their teen’s terrifying ways. But alas, just saying don’t do it or you better not, and then grounding them when they do, does not change behavior. Many parents of teens feel an enormous loss of control. “Because I said so” is no longer an effective parenting tool. You cannot parent a teenager the same way you parent a younger child. It is this redefining of parenting style that most parents of teens are unprepared for. Doesn’t every stage of parenting present hurdles and roadblocks? What’s so different about the teen years? JG: Teen brains are experiencing enormous growth. This means that they are literally seeing the world through a new lens. Additionally in adolescence, the emotional part of the teen brain is in higher activation than their thinking brain, which is completely opposite from the way an adult brain functions. This means teen behavior is driven by emotion and impulse rather than by the rational and the thoughtful. Except for the first 18 months of life, there is no other time in life when there is such extreme brain change. It’s biology baby! For parents this is scary because just as their teen’s brain sees the “awesomeness” of it all, they are exposed to experiences that carry tremendous risk. How should parents talk to their child about sex, sexting, and dating? JG: With understanding and honesty. Parents should really try to stay off the lecture circuit. Telling teens how they should behave will fall mostly on deaf ears. Saying: “ I get you are going to be interested in sex. I know I’ll have to get used to thinking about you in this new way. I know you will be in situations that you have never been in before with boys/girls. I also know kids talk to each other in very sexy language, and I’m guessing that can be pretty fun, but it can also get you into real trouble. Here are some of the things I do not want to see on your phone or computer.” Parents should say all those “dirty” words they do not want on their kid's phone. Saying “inappropriate language” just won’t cut it. Kids need to hear what it sounds like out loud!. What can a parent do to keep the lines of communication flowing with their teenager, to ensure honesty, openness, and forthrightness? JG: The biggest barriers to open communication are words that criticize and judge. For example when parents see their teen wasting time online and texting when they are supposed to be doing their homework, they are more likely to say: “Stop being so lazy, and get off that damn phone.” Rather than: “I get how important your friends are to you, and how important it is for you to check in with them, but homework is important too, and we need to find a strategy that gives you time for both.” Now, instead of teens feeling like they have a character flaw, which pushes them into arguing and defense mode, they can work on solving a problem. What are four typical mistakes or assumptions parents make about their teen children? JG: Parents think that their teens do not want to spend time with them. WRONG. In a survey I did with teens in 9-12th grades, almost all the kids said they wish they could spend more time with their parents. Just don’t do it on a weekend night! Labeling their teen. Many parents see their teens doing bad things, and label them as bad. Not true!! There is a huge learning curve during the teen years. Part of the process of leaning is making mistakes, and making bad choices. Making these learning opportunities rather than just punishing “bad behavior” is what changes behavior. Over-thinking and over problem-solving. Many times teens come to their parents to just vent about a situation they are having trouble with. They aren’t looking for a fix, just a shoulder to lean on. Parents like fixing, and go right to the “here’s what I think you should do…” Teens then react with anger, and “you just don’t understand.” And the lovely moment has gone ugly. Unrealistic expectation. Not all teens are meant to be honor roll students. Some have strengths in other area that as life goes on will be equally if not more important in the long run of adulthood. What inspired you – or rather, what events necessitated you to pen A Survival Guide to Parenting Teens? JG: I can’t tell you how many parents come up to me after one of my parenting seminars or email me with a “can you just tell me what to do about….? So much of parenting a teen is going from crisis to crisis, and a tomb on the psychology of adolescence is useless in that minute. I wanted to give parents their own “parenting coach” for those moments when they just need a game plan. I think the 80 tips in the book cover most situations parents of teens face daily and need a quick go-to. Let’s face it. Parents cannot monitor everything and don’t have the time or energy to get involved in every aspect of their child’s life. Should parents just trust their child and give them independence and be free to make mistakes? JG: Making mistakes is a good thing, when it comes to natural consequences. Not getting up on time for school and getting detention; waiting till the last minute and failing to get a paper or project in on time and getting a bad grade; staying out past curfew and missing out on going out the next weekend; forgetting homework and leaving it at home and getting a zero; these are all things kids should and can be responsible for, and yet these are the things that most parents rescue their kids from, worrying that it will affect their grades or chances to get into honor classes. Monitoring technology until a teen brain has matured enough to manage dangerous impulses is worth that energy. Serious mental heath issues, and legal consequences, these risks are just too steep.   How has parenting a teen, circa 1984, changed from raising one today? JG: As teens, this generation of parents experienced much of what their teens are experiencing; teen angst, puberty, alcohol, drugs, sex, so at least that gives them some perspective. But technology was not a part of their teen years. Unfortunately we have all jumped in the pool together and parents and teens are sharing in the excitement of all this new technology simultaneously. But teenage use and adult use are not the same, and no one was prepared for how all this technology could and does impact a teen’s life. Who knew teens would be sending naked pictures and using language fit for 1-900-SEXY as just part of the normal teenage experience, or that the family TV would become a dusty relic as teens hunker down in their caves watching movies, playing games and getting naked away from the prying eyes of mom and dad. What are the rewards to investing time and attention to your child’s well being during their tumultuous teen years? JG: The most exciting part of raising teen is watching this new person develop, like seeing your baby walk for the first time. They are now capable of seeing all that the world has to offer. They are at the buffet of life, and they will need to try out different offerings to see what is right for them. Everything a parent has taught, and nurtured up till this point is all in the mix, and parents need to trust that. A parent’s greatest gift to this emerging adult is to let go of their own expectations of what they want their teen to become, and let their teen become who he/she is meant to become.

Book Review: A Survival Guide to Parenting Teens by Joani Geltman, MSW

A Survival Guide to Parenting Teens cover imageIf you are like most parents, talking to your teens about touchy subjects liked sexting, drinking, drugs and other risky behaviors ranks even lower on your list of things to do than getting a root canal. You know it’s going to be awkward, you’re not sure what to say, and you know your child wants to have the conversation even less than you do. Joani Geltman, MSW, knows what you’re going through. A parent, Geltman also has four decades of experience working with young people, including as a psychology professor, a school counselor and social worker, a family therapist, and a parenting coach. Her book, A Survival Guide to Parenting Teens: Talking to Your Kids About Sexting, Drinking, Drugs, and Other Things That Freak You Out, could be just the thing you need to overcome your reluctance and have the conversations with your kids about important issues. If you’re not facing a particular issue with your teens, you can read the book from front to back and cover all the topics Geltman brings up. If you have a specific issue, it’s easy to find and get her advice. The book is divided into 10 parts with 80 sections of advice and not all of the sections will make you want to lock your kids in their rooms and throw away the key. Some of them contain general life advice, like teaching money management, helping your teen with remembering things, and looking at your parenting style. Others, like the sections on sexting, social media posts, and teenage alcohol and drug use, can be eye opening. For each issue, Geltman explains the problem, explains why it’s a problem, and offers a solution. Certainly, not every solution will resonate for you and your family. But overall, Geltman’s advice will arm you with knowledge and tools that you can use to better understand and parent your teen. I highly recommend it. The publisher provided me with a digital copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Book Review: Undecided. Navigating Life and Learning After High School by Genevieve Morgan

Undecided cover imageIf I could hand students in high school one book to help them figure out what they want to do when they graduate, it would be Genevieve Morgan’s Undecided: Navigating Life and Learning After High School. As a volunteer in the College and Career Center at my daughters’ high school, I spent seven years talking to juniors about what they planned to do. Some of them knew exactly where their paths would take them, others were not so sure. All of them could have benefited from reading Undecided. Why do I think it’s such a great guide? For one thing, Morgan’s down-to-earth writing style makes you feel as though you are talking to a trusted friend. For another, the book is divided into sections that will walk students through the process of figuring out what they like and what they are good at and then present them with quite a few options that go beyond the expected university or community college enrollment. I also love the sidebars Morgan includes in the book. She includes things like checklists and quizzes to help students figure out their personality types, budget worksheets, and more. Profiles of famous people and the courses their lives took are also featured. Even with my training and experience in the high school, I didn’t know a lot of the details that Morgan covers as she discusses four-year universities, two-year colleges, joining the military, volunteering, signing up for a service program, going to work and more. I highly recommend Undecided for high school students as well as their parents. The publisher gave me a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Book Review: 77 Things You Absolutely Have to Do Before You Finish College

77 Things You Absolutely Have to Do cover imageFor many young adults, being in college is the first time they get to try out being on their own. And while partying may be the first thing that pops into your mind when you think about older teens branching out, author Halley Bondy thinks there is much more to consider: 77 things to be precise. Her guide, 77 Things You Absolutely Have to Do Before You Finish College is a thoughtful look at the whole experience of going to college and the benefits you can get outside of the education you receive there. Recommendations are divided into seven categories that address dorm rooms/apartments, getting around on your own, getting the most out of school, being social, taking care of your health, spoiling yourself, and preparing for getting out of college. Each idea is presented on a two-page spread, so it’s easy to pick up the book and focus on one or two ideas at a time. Many tips are practical, like “Learn to prepare one meal perfectly.” Others are meant to help students branch out to things they may not normally do, like “Join an a capella group.” or “Contribute to the school paper.” Some, like “Get a massage,” are just fun Bondy’s tone is light and conversational and her suggestions are peppered with pull-out quotes and relevant sidebars like a lesson on how to set a table and a list of signs to help you tell a bad friend from an abusive friend. All in all, 77 Things makes for a great guide to pack along in your suitcase whether you are a freshman starting out or a student returning for another year. It makes a great gift too. The publisher gave me a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Book Review: The Time of the Fireflies by Kimberley Griffiths Little

The time of the Fireflies cover image Larissa Renaud knows her family is unusual—they live above the antique store they operate in a small Louisiana town. She also stays to herself after nearly drowning while being taunted by local kids. But even she has to admit that the phone calls coming in to the disconnected antique phone in her parents’ shop is stranger than normal. The vaguely familiar voice on the other end tells her to trust the fireflies. So when a group of fireflies show up dancing before her eyes, she decides to follow...right to the scene of her near drowning. Putting her fears aside she crosses over into a world she would have never thought existed, a world straight out of her family’s past. While there she discovers a family secret that needs to be put right, or else it could threaten her pregnant mother. In The Time of the Fireflies, Kimberley Griffiths Little returns to the banks of the bayous several of her other books were set. She does a great job of expanding on a character from another novel and creating another thrilling story. At heart, this story is a great tale about the relationship between mothers and daughters. The special bond Larissa has with her mother shines through even when they are too busy or preoccupied or afraid to confide in each other. The mystery of who is making the phone calls and what Larissa is supposed to discover lend and urgency to the story, as Larissa works to overcome her fears and set an old wrong right. Readers will love following along with the adventure and mystery. I recommend The Time of the Fireflies for mother-daughter book clubs with girls aged 10 to 14. The publisher gave me a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Check Out WOW blog tour for YA Novel, Voices of the Sea

Voices of the Sea cover imageA young adult novel about a Siren named Lorelei in love with a human? Sounds like a fun book to read before summer runs out. The book is called Voices of the Sea by Bethany Harar. Check out an interview with the author, enter to win a copy (before midnight EDT on Thursday, July 31), and follow along with the blog tour by visiting The Muffin, published by WOW-Women on Writing.

Going Over by Beth Kephart

Going Over cover imageBefore the Berlin wall came down, people in East Berlin were separated from family and friends in West Berlin. Although visits were allowed, moving from East to West was nearly impossible. Under those circumstance, many attempted to escape; some died trying. Beth Kephart’s novel, Going Over, captures the difficulties people faced on both sides of Berlin with the story of Ada, a girl from the west, and Stefan, a boy who lives in the east. Ada and Stefan have been friends all their lives, because when their grandmothers were young, they were best friends. When the wall went up, they were separated, but they continued to see each other on visits. Neither has an easy life. Ada lives in a tiny apartment with her mother and grandmother, works in a daycare center, and creates art by tagging the walls of buildings. Stefan lives with his grandmother, always afraid of who is listening and who is watching their actions, especially since his mother and grandfather attempted escape in past years. The two need each other to help get through the difficulties they face. But for them to be together, Stefan must risk capture or death and go over. As the story of the two teens unfolds, Going Over paints a vivid picture of life on both sides of the wall. In the west there is prejudice against and exploitation of workers brought over from Turkey to take on menial jobs. Surrounded by East Berlin, residents of West Berlin may be free, but they can still face deprivation. In East Berlin, all forms of rebellion and dissent are not tolerated. But the story is hopeful as well. Ada and Stefan believe that people can make a difference, and they are both determined to find a way to do it. I highly recommend Going Over for readers aged 14 and up. Members of book clubs will find a lot to talk about in the historical setting as well as issues of the human condition. The publisher gave me a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.