Wednesday, January 21, 2015

No Regrets Parenting - Harley A. Rotbart, MD

No Regrets Parenting: Turning Long Days and Short Years into Cherished Moments with Your KidsPublisher:  Andrews McMeel Publishing
Release Date:  February 21, 2012

Genre:  Non-Fiction, Parenting

Length:  211 pages

My Goodreads Rating:  3/5 stars

 Summary from Amazon:
No Regrets Parenting is a book for busy parents in our busy times. Juggling family and professional lives is not a course taught in high school or college--many parents find the challenges of being all things to all people daunting. This theme is ubiquitous in today's culture--movies, theatre, books, magazine features, and human interest news stories all find the challenge of raising children to be prime fodder for audiences. How to do it all? How to stay sane while trying to do it all?

  No Regrets Parenting teaches parents how to experience the joy and depth of the parenting experience amidst the chaos and choreography of daily routines. Car pool, bath time, soccer practice, homework, dinner hour, and sleepovers all become more than just obligations and hurdles to overcome to get through the day. They are opportunities for intimate and meaningful time--quality time--with young kids. It's not how much time you have with your kids, but how you spend that time that matters in the life and legacy of a young family. No Regrets Parenting readjusts parents' perspectives and priorities, helping them find the time to do it all and feel good about your kids' childhood.

  There is a simple, single truth for every parent. Your kids need you to be there. They need to see who you are and how you live your life. And, in return, they will help you to see who you are and how you should be living your life. For all of that to happen, parents need time with their kids. Memorable and meaningful time. No Regrets Parenting is about time. Finding enough of it and making the most of it.


My Review:

I came across this book in a round-about way.  Dr. Rotbart’s more recent book was mentioned in a magazine (probably Parents).  That one wasn’t available at my library, but this one was.  It sounded interesting, so I requested it.
I have 11 and 14-year-old step-daughters who have been part of my life since they were three and five.  Additionally, I now have my own 17 month old son and another on her way.  The fact that the days are long but the years are short is something I am intimately familiar with.  Along with the feeling that there still aren’t enough hours in those long days and that I am missing critical moments and interactions with my kiddos.  I am smack in the middle of Dr. Rotbart’s target audience.

I will start with the opinion that I could have done without all of Part 1.  It was fairly common sense and kind of boring.  But Part 2 of the book absolutely made up for that.

I love practical.  I love books that aren’t just theory but give the reader a “to do” list of sorts.  That is Part 2 of this book.  It is broken into categories of life (sleep, school, work, home, entertainment) and how to include your kids more into the every day (or to insert yourself more into their every day).  There were suggestions I could implement the day I read it.  Some to put on the calendar in the coming week or so.  And some to keep in mind for the future.

The chapters are short.  In fact, Dr. Rotbart suggests you keep the book in the bathroom to read a chapter during your daily trips there (See…practical!).  So it is easy for a busy parent to get through the reading.  It is also ideal to keep on your shelf as a reference.

Good parenting book to help us all make the most of the short time we have with our kiddos under our roofs.  (Only 940 Saturdays from birth to the departure from college!)

Thursday, January 15, 2015

The Boston Girl - Anita Diamant

Release Date:
  December 9, 2014
Historical Fiction, Women’s fiction
322 pages
My Rating:

 About This Book (from Goodreads)
From the New York Times bestselling author of The Red Tent and Day After Night, comes an unforgettable coming-of-age novel about family ties and values, friendship and feminism told through the eyes of young Jewish woman growing up in Boston in the early twentieth century.

Addie Baum is The Boston Girl, born in 1900 to immigrant parents who were unprepared for and suspicious of America and its effect on their three daughters. Growing up in the North End, then a teeming multicultural neighborhood, Addie's intelligence and curiosity take her to a world her parents can't imagine - a world of short skirts, movies, celebrity culture and new opportunities for women. Addie wants to finish high school and dreams of going to college. She wants a career and to find true love.

Eighty-five-year-old Addie tells the story of her life to her twenty-two-year-old granddaughter, who has asked her "How did you get to be the woman you are today." She begins in 1915, the year she found her voice and made friends who would help shape the course of her life. From the one-room tenement apartment she shared with her parents and two sisters, to the library group for girls she joins at a neighborhood settlement house, to her first, disastrous love affair, Addie recalls her adventures with compassion for the naïve girl she was and a wicked sense of humor.

Written with the same attention to historical detail and emotional resonance that made Anita Diamant's previous novels bestsellers, The Boston Girl is a moving portrait of one woman’s complicated life in twentieth century America, and a fascinating look at a generation of women finding their places in a changing world.

How and Why I Acquired This Book
I picked up this book because it was on a recommended list from a blogger I follow and happened to be on the "just returned" shelf when I went to the library.  I read Diamant’s The Red Tent years ago and remembered finding it interesting.

Were my expectations met?
My expectations for this book were met.  It was an enjoyable read that was not too heavy but still contained themes of substance.

Prose & Dialogue
The flow of this book was ideal for a busy reader.  There are larger sections that consist of shorter chapters.  The sections are labeled with a date range while the chapters each have a sentence out of the chapter as the “title.”  I found it interesting to consider why each particular sentence was chosen to identify a given chapter. 

Because the chapters are shorter, it was easy to pick up and read a chapter or two in five minutes between other things going on through the day.

The story is told chronologically by Addie Baum to her granddaughter.  This gives the whole book a very conversational feel.  The engaging tone draws the reader in from the start.  The only drawback to this is that occasionally Addie breaks from the story of her history to address her granddaughter.  Each time that occurred, it was jarring. 

Characters & Points-of-View
The characters are all well-developed throughout the narrative.  The reader is really drawn into the story of Addie, her choices, and her life.  The secondary characters such as her family, mentors, and friends provide support to the story line through further developing the main character and providing points of conflict.

Story Structure & Pace
The conversational tone of the book draws you in right away.  There are many secondary characters as Addie goes throughout her life.  However, they are introduced at different times as people move in and out of her life.  So it isn’t overwhelming. 

I did feel like the ending was somewhat rushed.  Three chapters cover 1931 to 1985.  However, I understand the need for it as otherwise the book would be forever long.  And I think that Diamant does well at wrapping up all pertinent story lines.

Questionable Content
For the more conservative readers, there are a few swear words (none of the more vulgar ones) and allusions to sex – both married and not.  Also, the book and characters deal with life issues:  family members and conflict, death, disappointment, even attempted rape and abortion.  I believe these issue were addressed in an appropriate manner within the context of the story. 

·         Instantly engaging
·         Easy to read whether you have small or large chunks of time to read
·         Deals well with some challenging topics

·         Some swear language
·         The jarring moments when Addie comes out of the story to address her granddaughter

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Room - Emma Donoghue

Summary from Amazon:
To five-year-old-Jack, Room is the world. . . . It's where he was born, it's where he and his Ma eat and sleep and play and learn. At night, his Ma shuts him safely in the wardrobe, where he is meant to be asleep when Old Nick visits.
Room is home to Jack, but to Ma it's the prison where she has been held for seven years. Through her fierce love for her son, she has created a life for him in this eleven-by-eleven-foot space. But with Jack's curiosity building alongside her own desperation, she knows that Room cannot contain either much longer.
Room is a tale at once shocking, riveting, exhilarating--a story of unconquerable love in harrowing circumstances, and of the diamond-hard bond between a mother and her child.

This book…my word. 

It was hard reading at the start due to the voice of the five-year-old narrator.  That took some getting used to.  But by page 50, I was hooked.  I didn’t want to set the book down.  I needed to know what happened.  How Jack & Ma were doing.  What was next. 

Donoghue does a fabulous job of drawing you into her characters.  I had visceral emotional responses to them and their situation.  I would find myself praying for Jack throughout the day.  They became real people in my world. 

I also appreciated the separation from the horror via seeing it through the eyes of Jack.

Really, I don’t know that I have an criticism for this book. 

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Learn Me Good - John Pearson

Engineer turned 3rd grade teacher...what's not to love?

I thought that I might struggle with the format.  The entire book is written as emails from teacher, Jack Woodson, to a former coworker at the engineering firm.  But that only added to it's appeal.

I literally laughed out loud at many points.  As a previous junior high teacher, I could picture so much of it in my mind. 

I appreciated how even the frustrating aspects of teaching can be looked at through the lens of humor. 

Witty.  Sarcastic.  Real.  A must read for any teacher.  A should read for any person.

Silenced - Dani Pettrey

Partial synopsis from Amazon:A relaxing day of rock climbing takes a disturbing turn when Kayden McKenna's route brings her face-to-face with a dead climber. Is it a terrible accident or something darker? When the case is handed to overburdened sheriff Landon Grainger, he turns to Jake Westin for help. With Jake's past now revealed, he's ready to use his talent for investigation again--but he could never prepare for where the mystery will take him.
This is the fourth book in the series, and my ratings on the books have decreased with each new installment. 

I did enjoy visiting Alaska and the McKenna family again.  However, that is about all I feel this book has going for it.

It is lacking in the outdoor adventure aspects that I liked in the past.  It was incredibly predictable - even the plot twist.  But probably my dissatisfaction comes most from the ending, and that has shaped my view of the entire book.

The climax and conclusion came too swift.  It felt forced, and the timeline even seemed inconsistent.  And the result for the villain was anti-climactic at best.

Additionally, there was the whole plot thread of the initial dead climber that didn't seem wrapped up.  The reader is left in doubt on if the right person was apprehended.   

At this point, if there is a fifth book to cover Reef McKenna (the only remaining single McKenna), I will most likely not be reading it.

The Hundred-Foot Journey - Richard C. Morais

Partial synopsis from
That skinny Indian teenager has that mysterious something that comes along once a generation. He is one of those rare chefs who is simply born. He is an artist."
 And so begins the rise of Hassan Haji, the unlikely gourmand who recounts his life’s journey in Richard Morais’s charming novel, The Hundred-Foot Journey. The Hundred-Foot Journey is about how the hundred-foot distance between a new Indian kitchen and a traditional French one can represent the gulf between different cultures and desires.

This was my book club's pick for May.  Half of us gave up on it before finishing.  The other half (including me) finished it but did not find the reading enjoyable.  As one member described it, the writing was "laborious."

I did enjoy the section based in Lumiere the most.  And appreciated the character growth and development of Madame Mallory.  The other characters, however, were more static and one dimensional. 

However, the narrative itself was unbelievably slow.  The descriptions of food, of settings, of everything was over the top (and I'm usually a fan of descriptive writing).  The random French words and phrases I'm sure were there to give the novel more flavor and perhaps sense of place.  However, I found them just plain frustrating as again and again I had to go to Google to find translations.

And, honestly, the significance of the whole message of the novel passed me by.


Thursday, June 7, 2012

Ronald Reagan: 100 Years

Synopsis from B&N:  February 6, 2011, marked the one hundredth anniversary of Ronald Reagan's birth. Known as "the Great Communicator," Ronald Reagan combined the best of small-town values and remarkable virtues with the eloquence and charm that came from a life spent in the public eye. As governor of California, Reagan earned the respect of world leaders and the American public. But it was as president of the United States that his strength of character, leadership, and love of country were best displayed. His eight years in the Oval Office ushered in remarkable change domestically and brought international peace, prosperity, and freedom.

I’ll admit it, I was a toddler and in elementary school while Reagan was president.  So I don’t personally recall a lot of what happened; I wasn’t big into politics when I was 9.  J  However, every time I’ve heard something about him or watched bits of speeches he gave, I am inspired.  He was a true American leader; a president working for the people.  He believed in the power of the human spirit and in the greatness of our country.
I love that he came from humble beginnings and was not a career politician.  I knew that he had been an actor, but his careers in sports broadcasting, as governor of California, and as a host for GE and other television shows I was unaware of.
The book was both informational and entertaining.  It was easy to read, and I loved all the pictures.
And, while the book didn’t focus much on Mrs. Reagan, Nancy was one classy lady. 
After reading this I am interested to read both Reagan’s autobiography and his letters to his wife.
His terms as president was a good time in America’s history.  He accomplished what he had set out to do - in his governor role, as president, and in his personal life and goals.  And that in itself is an accomplishment.