Tag Archives: Books

Six Books On Motherhood

August 25, 2015

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Edited From The Archives

As a reader and parent, I’m often asked what books I’d suggest to new moms. The truth is I didn’t read a lot of parenting books when my son was born. I started many but only finished a few, namely the ones that didn’t gloss over the hard stuff. The rest of the time I read coming-of-age memoirs and end of the world fantasy thrillers. You know, to keep my mind off the fact that I was now in charge of another human.

I have read a few great motherhood memoirs over the years. Stories about the love and tribulation that comes along with parenthood. Today, a list of the best of the best. Most revolve completely around parenting, a few do not. I can assure you non-moms will enjoy them as well.

If you ended up here because you are going to a baby shower and you thought you’d get her a book, here’s my advice: buy her the first two memoirs, a giant tube of lanolin, and a box of dark chocolate. You’ll be golden.

As always, all book reviews are spoiler-free.

Happy reading.

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1. Waiting For Birdy.

If You’re Looking For: Parenting Memoir, Non-fiction, Humor

If You Liked: Operating Instructions

My Review:  Catherine Newman is the kind of person you want to invite to your book club just to trick her into being your best friend. She is funny, irreverent, and cursed with a sappy heart just like the best of us. After my first baby was born, my friend Elizabeth passed this book along to me and I soaked in every word, every little detail and joke. I laughed until I cried, and read paragraphs out loud to anyone who would listen (no one). It is the book I wish I wrote. My very favorite parenting memoir next to Operating Instructions. A must read for the millennial mom.

Their Review: “Catherine Newman’s new book about the rock and roll life of newborn parents is hysterical… Don’t give birth without it.” —Jacquelyn Mitchard

Quoted: “Until it happened to us, I didn’t understand that having a baby would feel like falling in love on a bad acid trip. With an alarm clock–a pooping alarm clock. I wasn’t prepared to lie awake by the sleeping babe, my heart pounding audibly and so swollen with passion that I could barely breathe. I hadn’t realized that my mind would scan constantly for disaster, like a metal detector casting around for the big stuff and turning up endless bottle caps. What is that? Pneumonia? A brain aneurism? Woops, ok, no, just a little cold.”

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2. Operating Instructions.

If You’re Looking For: Parenting Memoir, Non-fiction, Humor

If You Liked: Waiting For Birdy

My Review: A few months ago I went to see Anne Lamott talk about her newest book. She was exactly as expected; bright, wise, unbelievably funny. When it was my turn to finally meet her in the book signing line, all I could say was thank you. Thank you for all the books, but especially this one. It saved me in the middle of newborn colic and complete despair over having a newborn who never stopped crying. Really, there is no reason not to read this book. My favorite parenting memoir to date.

Their Review: “Painfully honest, laced with humor and poetry and moments of profound insight. It captures the intense fluctuations of feeling, the rapid alternation of exhilaration and fury, love and despair, that characterizes new parenthood.” –San Francisco Examiner

Quotable: “I guess he’ll have to figure out someday that he is supposed to have this dark side, that it is part of what it means to be human, to have the darkness just as much as the light- that in fact the dark parts make the light visible; without them, the light would disappear. But I guess he has to figure other stuff out first, like how to keep his neck from flopping all over the place and how to sit up.”

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3. The Battle Hymn Of The Tiger Mother.

If You’re Looking For: Parenting Memoir

If You Liked: NurtureShock

My Review: Funny, engaging, and raw. I’m not sure what all the negative press and fuss was about. This book was never supposed to be a parenting manual, just a story of one mom trying to do her version of best. Chua is a brilliant writer and great story teller. I recommend it to everyone.

Their Review: “Readers will alternately gasp at and empathize with Chua’s struggles and aspirations, all the while enjoying her writing, which, like her kid-rearing philosophy, is brisk, lively and no-holds-barred. This memoir raises intriguing, sometimes uncomfortable questions about love, pride, ambition, achievement and self-worth that will resonate among success-obsessed parents… Engagingly and provocatively chronicled. Readers of all stripes will respond to [Battle Hymn of the] Tiger Mother.” –The Washington Post

Quotable:  “Unlike Western parents, reminding my child of Lord Voldemort didn’t bother me.”

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4. How To Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk.

If You’re Looking For: Self-help, Advice On Discipline, Books On Older Kids

If You Liked: Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child

My Review: The only parenting manual I’ve read without falling asleep. Practical, manageable, and wise. The perfect remedy for millennial mothers trying to follow Maya’s advice: When you know better, do better.

Their Review: “An exceptional work, not simply just another ‘how to’ book…All parents can use these methods to improve the everyday quality of their relationships with their children.” –Fort Worth Star Telegram

Quotable: “I was a wonderful parent before I had children.”

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5. Expecting Adam.

If You’re Looking For: Parenting Memoir

If You Liked: Operating Instructions

My Review: The true account of an academic Harvard couple who conceive a baby with Down’s syndrome and decide to carry him to term. A wonderful read for anyone, including my husband who read it before we met or had children and cried like a baby. One of the very best birth stories ever been told.

Their Review: “Expecting Adam is not one of those grit-your-teeth, lemons-into-lemonade sagas that leave the reader feeling more besieged and guilty than the writer. It is a long hymn, from a practical woman caught flatfooted by amazing grace. Martha Beck is a celebrant skeptics can trust.” –Jacquelyn Mitchard

Quotable: “…then I understood. She was talking about the soothing, singsong language mothers speak spontaneously when they talk to babies. Baby talk is found in all nations, all cultures; it is the original Mother Tongue. It translates across any language barrier because it is more about music than about words; the sounds themselves, not their meaning, give comfort and support.”

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6. Bossypants.

bossy

If You’re Looking For: Parenting Memoir, Non-fiction, Humor

If You Liked: Yes Please, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?, all that is sacred in this life for the love

My Review: I have read it seven times.

Their Review: “A masterpiece in comedy writing…I was hooked from the first word.” -Sunday Telegraph

Quotable: “Read! When your baby is finally down for the night, pick up a juicy book like Eat, Pray, Love or Pride and Prejudice or my personal favorite, Understanding Sleep Disorders: Narcolepsy and Apnea; A Clinical Study. Taking some time to read each night really taught me how to feign narcolepsy when my husband asked me what my “plan” was for taking down the Christmas tree.”

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Favorite Books

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Book Review: Sick In The Head + Pretty Is

August 18, 2015

Judd

Hello readers. I’m back again with two great books you need to read this summer. One is non-fiction–a collection of interviews with great comedians that I read not once, but twice. The other is fiction. A novel about two girls and what happens when our truths change with time and distance.

As always, all reviews are spoiler free.

Happy Reading.

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1) Sick In The Head.

sick in the head

If You’re Looking For: Memoir, laughs

If You Like: Comedic technique, behind the scenes specials, Jerry Seinfeld, comedians, interviews, writers on writing, pop culture 

My Review: This isn’t a funny book, this is a book about funny. A glimpse into the mind of comedians. Over the past 30 years, Judd Apatow has put together a bona fide treasure trove of interviews with greats such as Jerry Seinfeld, Albert Brooks, Steve Martin, Chris Rock, Amy Schumer, Sarah Silverman, Jon Stewart, Louis CK, and Jimmy Fallon. After I finished it, I immediately read it again and bought it as a belated Father’s Day gift for my dad. It is a goldmine for genuine comedy lovers and pop culture nerds (hey there). 5/5 stars.

Their Review: “Incandescent . . . an irresistible, ultimate-insider’s comedy-interview extravaganza . . . [Judd] Apatow never loses his unabashed fan’s enthusiasm even as he asks canny questions that yield superbly illuminating conversations rich in shop talk and musings on the lure, demands, and resonance of comedy.” —Booklist (starred review)

Quotable: “There are always people telling you that your experience doesn’t matter, that it’s navel gazing or unnecessary. ‘We don’t need to hear about twentysomething girls who feel like they’re ten pounds overweight. We don’t need to hear about forty-year-olds getting divorced.’ But we do need to hear it, because…it can be the difference between someone feeling like they have a place in the world and someone feeling they don’t.”

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2) Pretty Is.

pretty is

If You’re Looking For: Page Turners, drama, suspense, “chick-lit/thriller hybrid of the more literary variety”

If You Liked: Room, The Lovely Bones, Sharp Objects, Big Little Lies, Rabbit Back Literature Society 

My Review: Maggie Mitchell is really great at picking book titles. She’s also great at storytelling. I read this book, her debut novel, in two days. The story is told from the alternating perspectives of two women who were kidnapped when they were twelve, slowly revealing the details of their abduction and aftermath as adults. Their voices are strong but different, and as the story unfolds, we are left wondering how time has changed what is truth and what is a memory. Pros: Dramatic, well-written, readable even if you have a sensitive mom heart (me). Cons: Slow to end. In short, add it to your end of the summer reading list. 4/5 stars.

Their Review: “[A] stunning, multilayered debut . . . . with a great deal of intelligent, beautifully written panache. . . . What a satisfying novel, with its shifting perspectives and competing stories and notion that our relationship to the truth changes with time and distance.” –The New York Times

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Favorite Books

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Up Next: Her & Everything I Never Told You

Book Review: Four Page Turners For Summer

June 16, 2015

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Hello summer readers. I’ve read two great books in the last two weeks. Both were thrilling and wonderful and kept me up late at night, despite my best efforts to be “responsible” and “an adult.”

First I read a recommendation from a reader, a Finnish novel recently translated into English, followed by the wildly popular The Girl On A Train. Their reviews below, paired with two old favorites for a list of page turners to get you through hot summer days.

As always, all book reviews are spoiler-free.

Happy reading.

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1. Rabbit Back Literature Society.
rabbit back

If You’re Looking For: Creepy fairy tales, books for writers, magical realism, books that make you say “what now?”

If You Liked: I literally cannot think of another book like it.

My Review: A wonderful reader named Shannon suggested this book to me in the comments of another book review post, peaking my interest and sending me to the library to request it right away. I had no expectations, no back story. I only knew it was recently translated into English and a little strange. Here is what I’ll say about this book after reading it in just a few days. 1) It is strange. 2) It will make even the most novice writer want to write a fiction book. 3) If you like American endings with plot points tied up with strings, this might be a stretch. 4) But if you can keep an open mind and don’t mind a little crazy, it’s wildly fascinating and one of the most titillating books I’ve read in a long time. A true gem.

Their Review: “With an uncanny understanding of authorial insecurities and a freakishly honed sense of the supernatural origin of literary inventiveness, acclaimed Finnish novelist Jääskeläinen eerily explores the nature of creative inspiration, incisively exposes writers’ desperate aspirations, and suggestively unveils the price one pays to have one’s dreams fulfilled.” –Booklist

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2. The Girl On The Train.

the girl on the train

If You’re Looking For: Thrills, suspense

If You Liked: Big Little Lies, Gone Girl

My Review: I feel bad for Paula Hawkins. No one wants to hear “This is the next Gone Girl!” or “You’re the next Gillian Flynn!” Or maybe she does, I don’t know. Either way, I tried to separate this novel from all the comparisons and take it as it is, its own story. Here is what I found: A psychological thriller focused on character study and development. Quick to read, hard to put down. The perfect book to get back into summer reading. An easy pick for book club or something to bring to the beach. It’s over before you know it. 4/5 stars.

Their Review: “Psychologically astute debut . . .  The surprise-packed narratives hurtle toward a stunning climax, horrifying as a train wreck and just as riveting.”—Publishers Weekly

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3. Gone Girl.

gone girl

If You’re Looking For: Thriller, suspense

If You Liked: The Girl On The Train, We Were Liars, Sharp Objects

My Review: I read this book three Christmases ago. My friend Elizabeth gifted it to me, which was very sweet but also irresponsible because it’s one of those books that keeps you up until 2:30 in the morning, huddled under the covers, trying not to wake your spouse with gasps of “HOLY WHAT NOW?!”  One of those books that after you read it, you’re in recovery. I read it in less than 24 hours, which is really a testament to the book because it was a busy weekend. I skipped out on a lot of sleep and ate meals without looking up. I also had to read it on my tiny iphone screen because she gave it to me electronically and I had no other device to read it on. I nearly went blind but it was worth it. As an aside, please note this book should be filed under “books not to recommend to someone on their honeymoon.” It’s also not a book for your mother-in-law. It’s okay if she reads it, but you don’t need to be the one to recommend it. In short: The very best thriller I’ve ever read. The movie is pretty great too (but read the book first, of course).

Their Review: “Gillian Flynn’s third novel is both breakneck-paced thriller and masterful dissection of marital breakdown… Wickedly plotted and surprisingly thoughtful, this is a terrifically good read.” –Boston Globe

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4. Never Let Me Go.

never let me go

If You’re Looking For: Dystopian novels, contemporary fiction

If You Liked: Oryx and Crake, The Handmaid’s Tale

My Review: I read this book over a decade ago and it instantly became one of my very favorite books of all time. Beautiful, gripping, suspenseful, and surreal. A book that sticks with you for life. I recommend it to everyone even though it meets such mixed reviews. There’s nothing else to say without ruining it. Skip the movie.

Their Review: “So exquisitely observed that even the most workaday objects and interactions are infused with a luminous, humming otherworldliness. The dystopian story it tells, meanwhile, gives it a different kind of electric charge. . . . An epic ethical horror story, told in devastatingly poignant miniature. . . . Ishiguro spins a stinging cautionary tale of science outpacing ethics.” –Publishers Weekly

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Favorite Books

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Couldn’t finish: The Rosie Effect

Up Next: Amy Falls Down

Book Review: The Martian + The Age Of Miracles + The Snow Child

May 4, 2015

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Hello earthlings! I am back after a mild book coma where I blacked out and read a book about a guy on Mars for a few days. It was as great as it sounds.

Making my summer reading list and hoping you’ll share yours, too.

Two great ones (and a boring one) below.

As always, all book reviews are spoiler-free.

Happy reading.

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1. The Martian.

the martian

If You’re Looking For: Believable Science Fiction, Page Turner, New Fiction

If You Liked: Station Eleven, Oryx and Crake, A Walk In The Woods

My Review: A classic tale of survival against all odds–basically Robinson Crusoe on Mars. You don’t have to be a space nerd to enjoy it, although it would have made it slightly easier to comprehend. So many times I stopped to think, “Wait. What?” Still, I couldn’t stop reading. Charming, funny, and insanely well-researched. Not your average fiction read in any capacity. Five stars for originality and suspense.

Their Review: “Riveting…a tightly constructed and completely believable story of a man’s ingenuity and strength in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds.”- Booklist

Quoted: “If a hiker gets lost in the mountains, people will coordinate a search. If a train crashes, people will line up to give blood. If an earthquake levels a city, people all over the world will send emergency supplies. This is so fundamentally human that it’s found in every culture without exception. Yes, there are assholes who just don’t care, but they’re massively outnumbered by the people who do.”

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2. The Age Of Miracles.

age of miracles

If You’re Looking For: Coming-Of-Age Novels, Soft Sci-Fi, Young Adult Fiction, Summer Reads

If You Liked: The Lovely Bones, We Were Liars, Fangirl, Eleanor & Park

My Review:  Young adult fiction at its best. I zipped through this novel in a day, compelled by the gripping plot line and wonderful writing. A beautiful marriage of apocalyptic fiction and a coming-of-age tale. One of those stories that gets stuck in your head long after it’s over, especially the terrifying details of our (seemingly plausible) end. A great, smart book for the beach or backyard. Five stars for writing, depth, and feeling.

Their Review: “[A] gripping debut . . . Thompson’s Julia is the perfect narrator. . . . While the apocalypse looms large—has in fact already arrived—the narrative remains fiercely grounded in the surreal and horrifying day-to-day and the personal decisions that persist even though no one knows what to do. A triumph of vision, language, and terrifying momentum, the story also feels eerily plausible, as if the problems we’ve been worrying about all along pale in comparison to what might actually bring our end.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

Quoted: “How much sweeter life would be if it all happened in reverse, if, after decades of disappointments, you finally arrived at an age when you had conceded nothing, when everything was possible.”

PS: I read this a few years ago! Re-reviewing to showcase great summer reads for the blog.

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3. The Snow Child.

the snow child

 

If You’re Looking For: Magical Realism, Alaskan Fiction, Adult Fairy Tale

If You Liked: Chocolat, Olive Kitteridge, Everything Is Illuminated 

My Review: This was our book club book a few months ago, and while I tried really hard to love it– I found most of it uninspired, slow, and a bit too “this is what is happening.” I can see why so many reviews sing its praises; I mean, it’s a nice story. But not once did I ever feel shaken or swept along. To sum it up: underwhelming. Three stars because I wanted to (and did) finish it.

Their Review: “The real magic of The Snow Child is that it’s never as simple as it seems, never moves exactly in the direction you think it must…Sad as the story often is, with its haunting fairy-tale ending, what I remember best are the scenes of unabashed joy.”―Ron Charles, Washington Post

Quoted: “We never know what is going to happen, do we? Life is always throwing us this way and that. That’s where the adventure is. Not knowing where you’ll end up or how you’ll fare. It’s all a mystery, and when we say any different, we’re just lying to ourselves. Tell me, when have you felt most alive?”

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Favorite Books

Up Next: The Girl On The Train, The Rosie Effect

Book Review: The Passage + Waiting For Birdy

February 26, 2015

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If you would have told me a few weeks ago that I’d spend an entire snowy weekend reading a 900 page zombie novel– I would have laughed. I am not that girl. I can hardly watch LOST without nightmares.

But then a great review on a friend’s Goodreads account spiked my interest and here I am, 900 pages later, waiting for the sequel to arrive. What really got me was the post-apocalyptic dystopian appeal, one of my favorite genres, and the challenge of reading something so long. It only took me five days of neglecting my kids, but I did it and really enjoyed losing myself in Cronin’s world.

Today, a review of The Passage by Justin Cronin, and a very opposite book, Waiting For Birdy, a beloved mother’s memoir I recently read again for the third time.

Both equally and oppositely great.

Happy Reading, friends.

PS: All book reviews are spoiler-free.

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1. The Passage.

The Passage

If You’re Looking For: Sci-fi, Fantasy, Thriller, Dystopia With Teeth

If You Like: Tom Clancy, Stephen King, John Steinbeck The Road, Oryx and Crake, Vampires, Zombies

My Review: Full disclosure, Cronin never actually uses the word “zombie,” so I suppose this is not actually a “zombie novel.” In fact, after I finished the book and read reviews, I learned the word vampire might be more accurate. Either way, I’m new here. So bear with me. This is a story about life after a great collapse. Think the story of Noah mixed with some crazy bio-terror. A beautifully written, character driven journey about survival and humanity. Epic, haunting, and surprisingly “quick” for 896 pages. A+ for imagination, depth, and the kind of writing that keeps you turning the page far into the night.

Their Review: “Imagine Michael Crichton crossbreeding Stephen King’s The Stand and Salem’s Lot in that lab at Jurassic Park, with rich infusions of Robert McCammon’s Swan Song, Battlestar Galactica and even Cormac McCarthy’s The Road.”—The Washington Post

Quoted: “So perhaps the greatest worry of all was that one day you would realize that all the worries of your life amounted to one thing: the desire to just stop worrying.”

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2. Waiting For Birdy.

waiting for birdy

If You’re Looking For: Parenting Memoir, Non-fiction, Humor

If You Liked: Operating Instructions

My Review:  Catherine Newman is the kind of person you want to invite to your book club just to trick her into being your best friend. She is funny, irreverent, and cursed with a sappy heart just like the best of us. After my first baby was born, my friend Elizabeth passed this book along to me and I soaked in every word, every little detail and joke. I laughed until I cried, and read paragraphs out loud to anyone who would listen (no one). It is the book I wish I wrote. My very favorite parenting memoir next to Operating Instructions. A must read for the millennial mom.

Their Review: “Catherine Newman’s new book about the rock and roll life of newborn parents is hysterical… Don’t give birth without it.” —Jacquelyn Mitchard

Quoted: “Until it happened to us, I didn’t understand that having a baby would feel like falling in love on a bad acid trip. With an alarm clock–a pooping alarm clock. I wasn’t prepared to lie awake by the sleeping babe, my heart pounding audibly and so swollen with passion that I could barely breathe. I hadn’t realized that my mind would scan constantly for disaster, like a metal detector casting around for the big stuff and turning up endless bottle caps. What is that? Pneumonia? A brain aneurism? Woops, ok, no, just a little cold.”

PS: A few years ago I talked about this book along with a few other great reads in a post called “Books To Read While Your Perineum Is On The Fritz.” Essentially, a list of books for mamas. Just in case you needed a few more mama books while you (or your friend) recovers.

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Favorite Books