Book Review: The Reader by Bernhard Schlink

Grade: B

Sometimes, not very often but sometimes, I can finish reading a book and still be unsure whether I liked it at all. I’d imagine the fact that I finished it at all means I liked it at least a little, since there are other books which I can simply walk away from and say, “No thank you.” Maybe the truth is simply that I did not love it. I certainly did not love The Reader by Bernhard Schlink but I am glad to have read it, I did find myself anxious to read ‘what happens next’ even if I never really fell in love with any of the characters or their story.

The Reader tells a few stories. It tells the story of a grown woman who has an affair with a fifteen year old boy, and the consequences of that affair for the boy as he grows up in his love life and beyond. It tells the story of a generation of young Germans trying to understand the Nazi past that most of their parents had had involvement in – how do you deal with knowing what your loved ones have done or lived through? How do you deal with what fellow humans like yourself are capable of? But this story also tells, and this was the most enjoyable part of the story for me, is the story of a woman who cannot read or write, and her shame in this and her inability to admit it to anyone, has a long laundry list of consequences. It effects every area of her life, always for the worst, and even when admitting to her illiteracy could potentially save her, the shame of being found out is just too great – the things she suffers for her secret are astounding. Never mind the small details of a life without written word, all the simple things which become difficult that nobody could understand or expect without knowing.

The first half of this story, the story of Hanna and Michael’s affair, I could not relate to, did not enjoy and mostly just suffered through. If I had not known what was coming next, I can assure you I would have walked away from this story very early on. But between the Nazi Germany connection and the story of Hanna’s illiteracy, I kept reading, knowing that those stories could be wonderful. And while I’m still not sure if they were wonderful, they were definitely worth reading. I tend to read much lighter stories, rarely venturing back into the world of ‘serious literature’ so in part, this may be simply a complaint with having forced myself to read a ‘grown up book.’ It was also translated from German, and it’s possible that in the original language, if I could read German, that it might have been a better story – translations never show the exact beauty of the written word as it’s originally intended – you are often just left with the basic bones of the story, which while interesting, I doubt it is the same at all. And of course the last possibility, is that I simply did not love it.

I would still encourage anyone interested in The Reader to try it. It was not a difficult read, despite those draw backs previously mentioned. I read it no more or less quickly than another book of it’s size and even for those who might feel squeamish about the first part of the story, Hanna and Michael’s story, I can say it could have been worse. Anyone who has had a physical relationship should be able to handle reading this, I’d think. But to those readers who are younger and have not experienced this, I’d advise they wait on reading this one as it is fairly detailed (without being down right smutty). Basically, I say this book is worth a shot and certainly capable of being an enjoyable read. I wouldn’t be surprised if many, many people love it in a way that I simply did not.

About the Momma:

Jen is a Stay at Home Mom and Loving Wife. She spends her time online reading RSS feeds and posting in her blog. If you haven’t heard from her in awhile, she’s likely lost in a good book, sleeping or watching Grey’s Anatomy.

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Book Review: Here’s The Story by Maureen McCormick

Grade: A

I originally decided to read Here’s The Story, a memoir by Maureen McCormick, simply because it was the ‘memoir of Marcia Brady’ or rather the actress who played her. I was curious about her life, liked the book cover and thought the Brady references would be fun – a nice, light read. Yeah right. I ended up loving this memoir because it wasn’t just those things at all – it was so much more, far from light and because of that, much more satisfying and riveting to read. You forget sometimes that these celebrities are more than the characters they play – and where Maureen McCormick is concerned I had no idea. It was like finding out that the pretty, seemingly perfect girl from high school has real feelings, a real story, a real life – that in some ways, she’s just like you.

Now, I’ve never suffered from an eating disorder, I’ve never been a drug addict, I haven’t suffered from depression – I’ve had a much easier go if it than Maureen McCormick, but still I can relate to all these shocking things and more. It’ the bits and pieces that made her human, that make me human, too – and those I think are universally relateable. McCormick’s memoir is long in the sense that a lot of stuff happens, seemingly each chapter becomes worlds different from the chapter before, as her life was a roller coaster of new things, new places, new people and new experiences and all of it was fascinating to me.

The “story” has a relatively happy ending, although being her real life and the fact that it’s still going – not everything is resolved by the end and of course it isn’t really an ending at all, just a stopping point. This memoir has everything – you’ll want to laugh and cry along with her throughout her tale and by the end of it, I was truly sorry to finish the book and move onto something new. I’d consider it a must read.

Did you watch the Brady Bunch growing up? Who was your favorite character? Have you heard of Maureen McCormick’s memoir or the life she’s led post Brady?

About the Momma:

Jen is a Stay at Home Mom and Loving Wife. She spends her time online reading RSS feeds and posting in her blog. If you haven’t heard from her in awhile, she’s likely lost in a good book, sleeping or watching Grey’s Anatomy.

Mom-in-Chief by Jamie Woolf Review

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The Mom-In-Chief’s main declaration [to me] is:

“If you’ve ever thrown your hands up in frustration over a pesky toddler… then Mom-In-Chief is a must read!”

My toddler’s middle name might as well be trouble. I have recently learned that her pesky side comes from boredom. Having this knowledge is certainly helping our relationship but prior to this knowledge things have been difficult for me and her.  Though, I still feel like I need certain tools to help her and me.

Working Mother magazine is one of my favorite ones I subscribe to. I love reading about other professional mothers who thrive on business and family life.  During a recent issue of Working Mother they showcased Jamie Woolf’s Mom-in-Chief. I knew I had to give this self help book to try to incorporate my business skills with my home skills.

Mom-in-Chief states that it will help with things like:

  • How to maximize the learning opportunities that come from mistakes
  • How to stay connected with a pesky toddler or testy teenager
  • How to create rituals that strengthen the family’s esprit de corps
  • How to feel less like a maid or short-order cook and more like a skilled leader capable of unleashing the potential of others
  • When to step in and when to step back
  • Why working with your spouse or partner is crucial to executive function and team happiness.

I found this self help book to have some great tips. I felt, though, when Woolf began breaking down the type of parent you may be, called Mom Modes that it made me zone out. After taking the online test since the book version was too long and confusing it was determined that I am a: Foster Individuality – Liberators type parent. Which means that it is important to me to foster my daughters individuality and uniqueness. It seems I care more about that than I do about emotional attachment and achievement.

The best part of the book was hearing the stories of other parents’ experiences with their children. The stories explain what they did right and wrong. Also, they explain what could be done different next time. These made the biggest impact on me.

For business oriented moms who need help with running their households and raising their children the way they want them to be raised, Jamie Woolf’s Mom-In-Chief might be the must read. Purchase your copy today at Amazon for only $15.61.

About the Momma:

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Andrea is a 26 year old work at home professional and mother to two beautiful little girls, Cayleigh (7) and Gabrielle (2). She is married to her one and only love Marc. Andrea currently runs Mommas Review and handles the marketing and publicity for it. She is addicted to reading, social networking, and reality television.

Book Review: Waiting For Birdy

Grade: A+

I read a lot of books during my first pregnancy and shortly after giving birth to my son – but I found it was the handful of memoir-style books that appealed to me the most – real stories in all their imperfection helped me cope and deal and plan much moreso than the technical tombs like What To Expect…, etc. When I got pregnant a second time last fall, I began searching out similar books but based on a second or third pregnancy, etc. I already know what babies are like and how to go about raising them, for the most part – what I was looking for was a book about learning how to “stretch your love” so to speak – the feelings of this pregnancy are different than they were with a first pregnancy. You know the basics and understand why your body is changing, but the idea of a new baby coming into the world and competing for love and affection with your current brood can be daunting. Am I making the right decision? Will I be a good mother of more than one? Am I completely crazy?? (That last one usually gets asked when I find myself in the middle of not dealing terribly well with something my 2 year old is doing.)

There isn’t much out there – at least not much that I’ve found – so I lucked out that the one that I found – Waiting For Birdy by Catherine Newman – was perfect and exactly what I was looking for. Not only is she pregnant with her second child and raising a just turned three year old boy (dealing with potty training and typical toddler turned preschool mayhem) she is hesitant. Constantly – “Am I doing the right thing?” comes up a lot. Which for me is a godsend, because an entire book of, “I’m so happy and together,” probably would have driven me insane. Now I feel slightly better prepared – armed – she was just as scared silly and just as normal and she made it through okay – she loved her new baby and eventually her son came around and decided to like the new baby okay, too.

This book was filled with relate-able humor and I found myself laughing a lot. It was real – I found myself worrying a lot, too, but everything worked itself out in her life which makes me feel like maybe everything will work itself out in mine. Life is full of the occasionally seemingly insurmountable odds, but it’s full of laughter and kindness, too, depending on where you look. You’ll find all of that here. And Newman is a terrific writer – this book was originally a weekly column at babycenter.com called “Bringing Up Ben and Birdy” – learning this made me laugh hard, because I read babycenter.com all the time – heck I map my pregnancy by it, thoroughly week by week, as my regular readers well know. So this is also kind of pretty cool proof that this blogging thing can be more than just a hobby, can be real and fulfilling and for some of the lucky, can lead to bigger things.

In short, I loved this sweet, funny memoir on second time pregnancy and recommend it to any mother, new or old.

Book Review: God’s Debris

Grade: B+

Scott Adams is probably best known for his hugely popular comic strip, Dilbert, but he’s also written a couple of books that you could categorize as philosophical fiction, or as he likes to call it, a thought experiment. My husband (who is a fan of both Dilbert and Adams’s books) has been encouraging me to read God’s Debris for years and I finally broke down and did so a couple weeks ago. It didn’t take long – these books are very thin, quick reads, despite the whammy of intellectual stimulation going on between the covers, I managed to finish it in a few days.

This book is fiction, but the ideas in it are very philosophical. The ideas presented in the story might offend some people or simply confuse, but if you like challenging your opinions on things possibly well established as facts, this might be the book for you. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that college aged guys in particular will like this – people who say, “Why?” a lot might like this. People unsatisfied with conventional outlooks on religion, science and life will like this.

I’ll confess I got frustrated with this book a lot, especially in somewhere in the middle when the two (only) characters seemed to go off on the world’s longest tangent talking about I still don’t even know what – something in the math science realm I’m assuming. For me, it was akin to being in a room with two people talking about a subject you know so little about that they could be speaking a foreign language for all you know, and ignoring you completely. I almost put it down and moved on, but my husband insisted that I finish it and keep reading so I did and it did get better. The end of the book was probably my favorite. Now that all the big walls of thought have been essentially torn down, physics, math, science and religion sort of redefined – they move onto much easier to digest concepts and I found myself nodding along and going WOW to a lot of basic concepts about things about relationships, communication and how we learn. I even learned a thing or two.

So where does that leave me? I think that if you are like me, in that you are comfortable with having things you consider a fact questioned – maybe you are even a little thrilled by it – that you will likely enjoy the book, at least in parts. For me it was worth the quick read entirely for the few things I took away from it. If you have a scientific or mathematic background and can handle and understand language from those areas – man, I think you will love this book with a passion. I highly recommend it for those people and cautiously recommend it for the rest of us.

The Bubble Planner & Giveaway

Using the Bubble Planner is a simple two-step process. First, write down everything that is on your mind. If any of the items are connected, draw lines between the bubbles to reinforce the connections. Second, use another to page to break down the items from step one. Start with the first item and identify the “Next Physical Action” you need to take to complete the task. Do this for each item until you have a full page. Whichever item feels the most important, start working on it. When you have completed that item either cross it out or highlight it.

Here’s an example (See Diagram). I have to send out a Swap-bot package to a random person expecting fabric from a (you guessed it) swap. In order to accomplish this, I need to pick up the fabric from my store, buy a mailer, and go to the post office. While I’m at my store I might as well pic up my laptop and the dress I just finished for my little cousin. You connect the bubbles of related actions and you get the idea.

This is the Bubble Map theory. Some people do great with bubble maps because they’re supposed to:

  1. Improve Communication with the Brain.
  2. Engage Memory.
  3. Convert Energy into Action.
  4. Offload Mental Processes.
  5. Create Focus and Concentration.
  6. Spark Creativity.
  7. Establish Boundaries.
  8. Support Visual-Spatial Learners.

You can read full descriptions of this list at the Bubble Planner site.

The back of the page is a space for you to create a list – ie grocery shopping. That’s cool, except I have like 5 shopping list booklets around, with an awesome one that I actually use for that purpose. The others end up being notes to the babysitter.

Unfortunately, I’m not into the bubble map system, being more of a linear person myself. My favorite feature of this system was the ability to move pages around, as easily as you would refile a Rolodex card. One gentle tug, and the notches release from the rings. To add more paper or replace a page, just press the notches around the rings.

What I’m going to do is create my own planner pages. I think this is a trend starting in my life. I need something pretty linear with the dates and times already written out, my cleaning routine pre-populated (including daily, weekly, monthly, and seasonally specifics), my daily water intake, exercise goals, and maybe a food log. I could also add in a section to chart the baby’s routine, but I’m pretty good at remembering that stuff.

We are giving away a Bubble Planner. Here’s how you can enter to win:

  1. Tell us which color one you want – My Daily Bubble or Bubbles for Busy Moms
  2. For an extra entry, you can follow us on Twitter. Post a comment here with your Twitter username.
  3. For a third entry you can tweet about this giveaway or post about it on your blog and leave a comment here with either the URL of your post or your twitter profile.
  4. For a fourth subscribe to our RSS feed, leaving a link here to tell us you’ve done so. We’ll be posting more giveaways on Momma’s Review
    soon so subscribing will be a great way for you to stay informed about
    all the great things you can win in the days and weeks to come.
  5. As a final entry donate $1.00 (or more if you’d like) to the I Heart Tucker fund. This can be done through PayPal and your donation would be greatly appreciated. Just visit I Heart Tucker and click on the donate
    button on the right sidebar, you can also enter raffles on the I Heart
    Tucker site with donations you have made!  Make sure to come back and
    tell us you donated.

This giveaway is open to US readers only (sorry to our international readers)!

The contest will close at 12:00 p.m. EST on Wednesday March 25th.

About the Momma:

Amanda @ funkEpunkEmonkE.com

Mrs. Suzzi Heartbreaker is a homemaker, roller derby vixen, freelance web architect, boutique owner, wife, and mother of two girls. She is a supermom and loves it.

Book Review: The Perilous Journey

Grade: A+

I am in love with this new series by Trenton Lee Stewart! The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey is the sequel to The Mysterious Benedict Society. That’s quite a mouthful, I know, but it’s seriously worth every word. My husband and I are both huge fans of this new series about a group of extraordinarily gifted children: Reynie, Kate, Sticky, and Constance – each uniquely talented, smart and savvy in their own ways and together quite a team.

I love how this series shows kids that there are different ways to be smart and none are more or less impressive than the others. It teaches kids that there are a lot of ways to solve their problems and that when they think hard and care about something that they can accomplish anything – especially when working together as a team. What a great lesson to learn while reading a thrilling adventure story, huh? They’ll even pick up some great new vocabulary words along the way.

In The Perilous Journey the heroic foursome find themselves leaving home to rescue their beloved mentor, Mr. Benedict, and against all odds manage to leave England and travel to many new, exciting countries, facing off against some pretty terrifying bad guys, and learning a lot about themselves along the way. For four very smart children, they still have a lot of growing up to do, and like all children it isn’t always easy for them – or for their friendships.

I really recommend this series to any child or adult – I think it could be a really fun book to read with your children – or on your own. This, in my mind, is the new BIG series worth trying. I promise you will love it! You can buy the Mysterious Benedict Society and The Perilous Journey together at Amazon.com today for less than $20 with free shipping!

Book Review: Revenge of the Spellmans

Grade: A+

Next Tuesday, March 10, Revenge of the Spellmans by Lisa Lutz hits bookshelves everywhere. This is the third installment in a truly addictive series about a family of private detectives, namely one Isabel Spellman. Izzy could be considered the black sheep in her family. Despite her good intentions, things never really go the way she hopes and she frequently finds herself a bit in over her head, getting caught up in her own curiosity and sometimes letting normal people details escape her. And while you may not always be able to say you’ve “been there” when reading about her escapades, in spirit you have. I think we’ve all kind of felt like the black sheep of our lives at one point or another (or constantly).

And that’s one of the things I love about this series. You will find no unrealistically good looking, smart, savvy people who you could never dream of being. I hate those people. Talk about an ego suck. Like Stephanie Plum in Janet Evanovich’s Plum series, Izzy Spellman is a girl like you, even on your worst of days, who pulls through in spite of herself. Now, don’t get me wrong, in a lot of ways Izzy is one smart chick. She is a talented PI, in a family of talented PIs, and can usually sniff out a mystery with her nose plugged. It’s turning that curiosity off that’s usually the problem. Imagine being unable to stop yourself from reading that diary, following that car, running a background check on all your boyfriends (and all your family and friend’s significant others, too). She seems to lack an off switch, which makes the people around her crazy sometimes. But to be fair, I don’t think anyone in her family has an off switch either. It’s a family trait.

Anyway, in Revenge of the Spellmans Izzy is forced to endure court-ordered therapy, unemployment, a not so preferable living arrangement, a mountain of secrecy, mysterious blackmail letters, an unintelligible Irish bartender, oh and the guy she’s pretty sure she’s in love with but can’t quite bring herself to tell him? He has a girlfriend now, who despite all her best efforts, she can’t seem to dislike. Amidst all of this is the usual circle of mysteries, in which Lutz weaves the worlds biggest whose duping who and seriously whodunnit web of awesomeness. I actually never figured out any of the mysteries in this book before Lutz wanted me to and I’m GOOD at figuring plot lines out. It’s a talent.

I really cannot complain about this latest installment of Spellman goodness, except to say that, “Lisa, that kiss – and you know which kiss I speak of – was heart breaking. And I’m not sure I’m okay with it.” Oh, and, “I can’t wait for book four!”

Are you new to the Spellman series? You’ll want to start with book one, The Spellman Files (now in mass market paperback!), then move on quickly to Curse of the Spellmans (now in paperback), before finally devouring Revenge of the Spellmans (comes out in hardcover March 10).

If you are already a SpellmanAddict like me, have you gone to Lisa Lutz’s website yet? You can sign up for her quarterly newsletter here!

Book Review: Something Rotten by Jasper Fforde

Grade: A +

It’s no secret that I love me some Jasper Fforde. His Thursday Next series just blows my mind every time with brilliant awesomeness. From the first book, The Eyre Affair, I was absolutely hooked and I’ve been devouring them ever since, most recently with book four, Something Rotten. These books have a little bit of everything – the literary references are never ending and wonderful, the worlds he creates inside and outside of literature is fascinating, detailed and wonderful even when absurd. There is a science fiction angle involving things like time travel, cloning, eradications and being able to jump inside (and out of) books. There are wonderful commentaries on religion, politics, marketing, big business and more. There’s even a love story thrown in for good measure.

It’s hard to go into great detail as any number of details from this book would be a spoiler for books prior to it – and you really don’t want any mysteries spoiled going into this. I will say that the Thursday Next series, while wonderful, is not as easy a read as the other books I typically read. I can usually read any standard book (okay fine, young adult and chick lit) in under a week. Thursday Next books take me at least two (the first one took me even longer, as I had to acclimate myself with Fforde’s hugely detailed plot lines, not to mention the complex world he’s created). But I love every minute of it. My husband frequently gives me strange looks when I laugh out loud in the middle of the night (when I should be sleeping but instead am up reading justonemorechapter) and has enjoyed several passages that I’ve quoted for him out loud when I just couldn’t stand keeping the brilliance to myself.

So if you like science fiction, literature, love stories, satire, and funny, intelligent plots with a never ending twist, I highly recommend the Thursday Next series, including but not limited to Something Rotten, book four.

Book Review: Envy by Anna Godbersen

Grade: A+

Can you believe it was only one year ago that The Luxe by Anna Godbersen hit bookstores everywhere? Having no idea what it was about but being smitten with the cover, I knew I had to read it. I had this hunch it was going to be really, really good. I was loving the idea of historical fiction meets young adult romance, and the fact that it took place in New York, very close to home for me, was an added bonus. And did I mention the gorgeous cover?

Well, I was right, The Luxe was fabulous, in ways I’d never anticipated. It was also suspenseful, addictive and heartbreaking in other ways I hadn’t imagined. When I finished it, I was desperate to read book two, Rumors. And seemingly days later, it was Envy, Godbersen’s latest installment in the series that I was coveting so badly that I could hardly stand it. After the incredible cliff hanger of book two, I was heartbroken and hoping for some sort of comfort, some kind of, “and then…” that would make it all okay.

And while Envy was nothing remotely close to comforting, it was just as amazing as the first two books in the Luxe series, if not better. At this point in the series we are well acquainted with the four leading ladies of this suspenseful love story which takes place at the dawn of the 20th century, a time of gorgeous ball gowns, arranged marriages and the always demanding status quo. I loved reading from the points of view of all four ladies, even the ones you loved to hate and seeing how all of their actions affected the lives of the others, even if they didn’t realize it. I loved holding my breath, waiting for something to go right, only to slam my fists in dismay when it only got worse. Godbersen creatively weaves you along, making you think you have it figured out only to take you somewhere else entirely. And of course, Envy ends at another terrible cliff hanger, causing me anxiety over not knowing when book four, Splendor is due to publish.

I won’t give any more than that away, because these books I think are best enjoyed with complete mystery shrouding them, so you can really enjoy the full course of the story in each installment, and be thoroughly surprised along the way. Have you read these amazing books yet? What are you waiting for?? Pick up the Luxe today and I’m willing to bet you’ll have devoured Rumors and Envy as well before the month is out!

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