Monday, June 30, 2008

Unconditional Parenting

I can't believe I missed reviewing this book. This is one of those in my parenting top 10. It explains a way to parent that is not really practiced much here in the U.S. and it contains LOTS of research on the effects of different types of parenting skills on the children, which I think is great for those who feel the need to be, or can be, convinced by research, although of course there are plenty of problems with any kind of research and it also just appeals to my own common sense.

This is a must-read for anyone who wants to raise his or her child with a sense of respect for that child as a person, who wants to enable the child to reach his or her full potential and be unafraid of his or her abilities. It is also a must-read, in my opinion, for anyone who believes that "permissive parenting" is really the problem.

That being said, please note that there is a type of "permissive parenting" that is not helpful to children either, but mostly the problem is that parents do not respect children enough. We don't recognize their autonomy in ways that helps them grow, and we hold them to a much, much higher standard than is realistic in many cases, and definitely than we hold ourselves to.


Thursday, June 26, 2008

The Boleyn Inheritance

This book, by Phillipa Gregory, is a follow-up to The Other Boleyn Girl, a book I read several years ago when it first came out, and which has recently been made into a movie which is, of course, not nearly as good as the book. But I have to say, I liked this book much better than that one.

This tells the story of Anne of Cleves and Katherine Howard, Henry VIII's fourth and fifth wives. Although the ending is tragic, as is to be expected if you know the historical details, it was a fantastic read. Everyone who knows me knows how much I *heart* Tudor England, and especially historical fiction involving Tudor England, so of course I follow Ms. Gregory's work. But this was the first of her books that actually made me think of the main characters in a way different from how I had thought of them before--especially Anne of Cleves, the Mare of Flanders. It was sort of feministastic, which is to say that it showed a very strong independent woman who managed to get through some very tough times. I had just never really considered before that after her marriage was over, she was still hanging around in England, and what that was like for her and for the other players in this drama. Thought-provoking and intriguing--now that's my kind of read!

Excellent stuff. Loved it!

Edited to include: As I was thinking further about this book and my review of it, I realized that I left something out. One teeny weeny little criticism I have is that I felt that the author repeated herself a few too many times. The book is comprised of three separate women's voices woven together to narrate the story, and it seems like she'd have Anne say something, then the next two people would narrate, and then when she got back to Anne, she'd have her say the exact same thing she said last time. Perhaps that's for emphasis, but it just seemed like that sort of thing happened a little too often for my taste, as I obviously hadn't forgotten about the first time I heard that line. Anyway. Just a very small insignificant little dinghy adrift in the sea of praise I have for this book. But I thought you should know. Consider yourselves warned.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Victoria Victorious

This one is a historical novel by, you guessed it, Jean Plaidy. I think I read every single one of her historical fiction novels when I was about 12. They're mostly about England, France, and Spain, from about 1300 to...well, the end of the Victorian Era. And there are maybe 70 of them. The girl obviously has talent.

Other than that, I'm not going to go into the story much. Suffice it to say that this is the only historical fiction novel actually focusing on Victoria's life that holds my attention. It's just such a long story! But good stuff.

The Queen Gene

This book, by Jennifer Coburn, is possibly one of the weirdest pieces of girlie lit that I've ever picked up. If it really is girlie lit. I'm not even sure. It certainly has several elements one can expect: a crazy dramatic self-centered mother with a purse-sized chihuahua, for one. The Junior League wearing their theme sweaters, for another. Gossip about the hot guy next door, also.

But there's also a ghost story, sort of. And some unusual story lines having to do with an 80-year-old lady and some women who take their clothes off for money. And just a bunch of random weirdness. It wasn't just completely a wreck, and I didn't hate it. But it sure was weird. Eh.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

American Gods

I LOVED this book. But it is very strange. Even more so than The Thirteenth Tale. I think you have to be in a certain mood to read this. The words that come to mind when I try to describe it are Strange and Mighty.

The book, by Neil Gaiman, centers on a recent prison parolee named Shadow, who becomes the focus of a war in America. The war is between the Old Gods of America and the New. The Old include all the creatures and spirits that people brought over to America with them when they immigrated here: their versions of Odin, Anansi, the Queen of Sheba, The Zorya, etc. The New include things like Technology, Media, Credit, etc.

It is brilliant, but also disturbing. NOT a PG read. The strangest little piece of this book as far as I'm concerned is the part about a goddess (Bilquis) whose girl parts actually eat men. Just so you know.

So now that you know that, if you want a very intelligent, thought-provoking, uniquely fun and entertaining and intriguing read, go for it! It was one of the best books I've read recently, and I'm planning to get my hands on another Neil Gaiman book in the near future.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

The Third Circle

Oops. I promised American Gods but forgot I read this book in the middle! Ha ha.

This is just the latest Arcane Society romance mystery by Amanda Quick, aka Jayne Ann Krentz, read in the very short time between yesterday evening and this morning. (Edit: that was last Friday.) I saw it in the "new arrivals" section at the library and figured I deserved another quick and mindless fun Victorian era read. I just can't pass up a book whose first line is Late in the reign of Queen Victoria...

It was good but not great, and completely unsurprising. I enjoyed it. The End.

This doesn't even count, but...

I read teeny-tiny pieces of Nora Ephron's "I feel bad about my neck" and Paula Spencer's "Momfidence." Both were just not capturing my interest. I liked part of Ms. Spencer's message, that YOU should be your child's parent and not just mindlessly listen to advice books and such, but she comes off sort of bitter and also as AGAINST reading the books, which I think might be helpful to those who can then think critically about their messages. Also not a mother I could identify with. And I think I thought Nora Ephron was someone else, because her little stories were just too vain for me--apparently post-menopausal women only think about purses and neck flaps, or at least that's what they think of first, according to this author. Sigh.

Wise Woman and Celtic Memories

These are two books that James handed me in the Myths and Legends section of our local library. They were both really good! They reminded me of how fun it is to read myths and folklore and the like.

Celtic Memories was retold by Caitlin Matthews, and it was really interesting, because she actually took some old legends and combined them and added her own flair in a really fluent and beautiful way. It was also short.

Wise Woman contains 100 stories that include strong and/or smart women, with the idea being that most women in fairytales are not exactly good role models. It has some familiar ones like Beauty and the Beast but also some really strange ones from the American South and was just lots of fun to rip through. Good stuff. Can't remember who put it together though. Sorry.

Oh and this was the PERFECT way to get ready to read American Gods, the next book I'll review. Which is funny because I picked up American Gods on a whim a couple weeks after James handed me these two. Thank you, Fate.

Lead a Horse to Murder

This is the next in the series by Cynthia Baxter that includes Putting on the Dog...She's a good storyteller, I care about her characters, but she stinks at endings....just drops the ball with everyone else and all the other carefully weaved pieces of the tapestry except for the *dramatic ending.*

So not that great, but then again, there's much worse out there. Eh.

The Mother Dance

This book is by Harriet Lerner, also famous for authoring The Dance of Anger. It was fairly good, but I didn't identify with her particular struggles as a mom and it wasn't nearly as good as The Mother Trip, which I read just prior to this one, so it suffered unfairly in comparison.

Still, a good read. Helps you be more insightful into your own life history and "issues" and such. I'd recommend it, although it didn't blow my mind or anything.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

The Mother Trip: Hip Mama's Guide to Staying Sane in the Chaos of Motherhood

I just finished this book, by Ariel Gore, today, but even though I have several other reviews from my vacation that need posting, this couldn't wait. It is an AMAZING read, absolutely revolutionary, as well as entertaining. I can't say enough good things about this book or about Ms. Gore's philosophy: that mothers don't need any more criticism and that we can change the world for the better, or at least that's the best summation I can come up with. For example, one of my favorite stories from the book goes something like this:

Picture the perfect mother. What does she look like, what is she wearing? Where is she? What is she doing? What is she saying?

Now look in the mirror. That is the perfect mother for your children.

This is a must-read. It is also perfectly designed for moms, who might not necessarily have a lot of time to sit down and read...each chapter is a self-contained little essay, and the whole thing only took me maybe an hour to read anyway. So go get it from your local library, or if you're lucky enough to have some disposible income (unlike me), go buy it!

Friday, June 6, 2008

Live from New York: An Uncensored History of Saturday Night Live

I picked this book up and read a good bit of it while we were at the grandparents' house in Oklahoma. Pretty interesting, although ultimately fluff. It's mostly quotes from many of the cast members, pieced together by the authors, Tom Shales and James Andrew Miller.