Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The Divorce Diet

Title: The Divorce Diet
Author: Ellen Hawley
Published: December 30th 2014 by Kensington
Format: eBook; Paperback, 240 pages
Genre: Women's Fiction
Source: My thanks to Netgalley and Kensington for an opportunity to read an advance copy of this book.

I am a bit too jaded to take the rantings of a twenty five year old new mother and recently separated woman seriously. Abigail and Thad have an up and coming life until their baby was born and Thad decided that he was not ready for the responsibility of marriage and fatherhood. This now leaves Abigail (not Abby) with the only choice of moving back in with her parents, figuring out her laundry, lying on applications to get waitressing jobs, using a babysitter as a therapist, using her daughter Rosie as a cuddle toy so she (Abigail) can get to sleep and realizing that losing weight through the urgings of a non-corporeal guru are not the best life choices, yet they seem to be all that she has.

With a lot of humor and a lot of redundancy, the read follows Abigail’s rhetoric about having to grow up and become responsible. Granted, the cards were stacked against her when she was comfortable in a life with no education and no job skills, but she did not need them, she had been an underground restaurateur and Thad was making a good living in his white dress shirt world, but when that came crashing down, she had to grab her bathroom scale and admit that she was no longer the person that she wanted to be.

With a seven-month-old baby girl that is the center of her life, Abigail must forge a new path, one that came from an unexpected place and has given her the artistic outlet that she longed for. Outside of her daughter Rosie, her passion has always been cooking. So why not use this as the starting point. Why not show her ex-husband that the food he always critiqued is what others need to feel healthy and whole. Why not write a newspaper column with humor and insight to teach the young and hip how to cook without being afraid of an oven or an egg. Why not create a world around your passion.

As I said, I may be jaded and could not fully connect with Abigail, but I could acknowledge the struggle that she endured and I can appreciate and respect the woman that she became. Will this book be for everyone, I cannot say, but there is something familiar about it, a little like The Undiscovered Goddess by Michelle Colston, but at the same time, it does stand on its own. It will resonate with some and others will shake their heads in wonder and frustration.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Once Upon a Grind

Title: Once Upon a Grind
Author: Cleo Coyle
Published: December 2nd 2014 by Berkley Hardcover
Format: Hardcover, 416 pages
Genre: Mystery
Series: Coffeehouse Mystery #14

I am not sure that I liked the whole “Clare has psychic abilities” thing that is prevalent in this book. I get that the premise is fairytales, but the clairvoyant thing after drinking coffee made from magic beans is a bit much to take.

The Village Blend is taking part in Central Park’s inaugural Storybook Kingdom weekend celebrating the Brothers Grimm, Mother Goose and other classic literary characters. The prologue tells of a Princess meeting up with a predator, but it isn’t until further long that we learn of the Princesses and how Clare and Matt will be drawn into their exploits.

This is where the story goes off the beaten path. Apparently, coffee beans that Matt sourced in Ethiopia have extraordinary powers and if the drinker has a special sprit or a natural gift of insight, it is enhanced by these beans which is what happened to Clare when she has a vision that she is chasing Mike’s kids into the Ramble of Central Park.

No wonder the Village Blend decided on Jack and the Bean Stalk as their theme for Fairytale weekend.

Then the story tumbles down into the rabbit hole with the Russian Mafia, the CIA, blackmail, a slam poet proposal, an underground dating club, a Sleeping Beauty poison that is only counteracted by the Keppra-based Intravenous Sensory Stimulator (KISS) and all the while Clare is deciding if she wants to leave the Village Blend in New York City to start up a new life with Mike Quinn in Washington, D.C.

There is a great deal going on in this book and I do recommend that you try and read it in large chunks so that you can keep the flow going. The whole fairytale thing is a departure for this writing team, but it works if you choose to suspend reality and just go with the happily ever after theme that they are aiming for.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Bringing Up Bébé: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting

Title: Bringing Up Bébé: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting
Author: Pamela Druckerman
Published: February 7th 2012 by The Penguin Press
Format: Hardcover, 263 pages
Genre: Parenting

When I picked up this book, I wanted to dislike it. Who does that? To be honest, since I have raised my children I get this gitty glee when I read a book by some young mother that is trying to reinvent parenting. Some ivy leaguer that just knows more than her mother or grandmother could ever know about what a child needs to be the Supreme Being that this new mother knows her child is.

This is where I need to apologize to Pamela Druckerman. I am sorry for my prejudice.

As I turned these pages, I found myself saying, “Geez, we should have done that”, “really, all I needed to do was …..”, “are you telling me that others knew this all along”. Makes me want to rewind the last 25 years and see if it would have made a difference. Granted, I have two adult children that have turned out very well, but still, maybe this would have prevented that very embarrassing temper tantrum in Home Depot, or the teen eye rolls. Granted, Ms. Druckerman’s children have not yet reached the teen years, but still, setting the foundation might make those years a tad bit easier.

Being a transplanted American had its share of bumpy roads, but when the author saw how unhurried the mothers of young children were, and how well behaved the children are, she was determined to find the answers. Between book research and quizzing other mother’s, Pamela Druckerman was able to find a peaceful middle between American and French parenting.

From the outside, they are vastly different. The French would never consider being a helicopter parent and find it ruins children. They feel no guilt about returning to work and placing a 4-month-old child in daycare. There are no fussy eaters since the child is introduced to varying foods early. The French child is taught from a very young age to delay gratification, in both food and actions, and that it is just as important to play by themselves as it is to play with other children. Most importantly, French children are taught how to “find their nights” by three to four months.

Ms. Druckerman did not come right out and say it, but it does appear that children are the first step towards their parents’ divorce if certain ground rules are not strictly adhered to. There is children’s time and there is parent’s time. Once 7:30pm rolls around, it is parent’s time, tomorrow they can have their time again. This seems barbaric to American culture, but it makes sense. Plus, it give the parents their much needed time together and a little end of the day romance that seems to disappear when a child comes along.

I could go on and on about the differences and logic, but this is a book that will need to be read by both of the expecting parents and possibly the expecting grandparents to make sure that everyone is onboard as to the new household regime.

My takeaway, boundaries – consistency – a few rules (not many but those that you do have will be strictly adhered to) – no loud voices – discipline in a confident tone – do not overly compliment (this will create children that need to be praised for everything they do) – listen to your children, but remember that they do not get the final say – and manners.

The French way is really a lifestyle change and unless everyone is onboard, you will get stares and comments, but then all you will have to do is look around to see who “gets it” and who does not.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Death is Like a Box of Chocolates

Title: Death is Like a Box of Chocolates
Author: Kathy Aarons
Published: September 2nd 2014 by Berkley
Format: Paperback, 304 pages
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Series: A Chocolate Covered Mystery #1

I know it was me when it came to this book. I had the hardest time keeping all the characters straight. Who was married to whom? Who was whose sibling? Was she the Mayor or the woman that worked in the hardware store? Was he the war veteran or the book author? I now know that I should have taken notes.

Michelle Serrano and Erica Russell own a combined bookstore and chocolate shop. Their small town is gearing up for a Fudge Festival with the renowned Hillary Punkin coming to judge their small competition. One yay from her and Michelle knows that her shop will get the recognition that it needs to bring in to the next level.

All that comes crashing down when Denise, the local photographer, is found dead in the chocolate shop while eating a box of Michelle’s confections.

What ensues is a tangled tale of who wants whom dead, who is blackmailing whom, and the reason behind Denise’s murder. I got lost somewhere in the middle and if it was not for the recap in the last chapter I would still be wondering whom everyone was and how everything was solved. Since this is the first book in a planned series, I am going to assume that Kathy Aarons was just setting the stage of West Riverdale, Maryland and that once her readers are invested in the characters, the future books will have a more laid back feel without packing too much in and the rush to the end of the book.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Saving Grace

Title: Saving Grace
Author: Jane Green
Expected Publication: December 30th 2014 by St. Martin's Press
Format: Hardcover, 352 pagess
Genre: Women's Fiction
Source: My thanks to Netgalley and St. Martin's Press for an opportunity to read an advance copy of this book.

Though this book has a “read that before” feel, I have to admit for one short period, I wondered along with Grace if I was just imagining it. That Jane Green was going to put a different spin on this already used plot and leave the reader with a sense of “what did I miss”.

Grace is living in constant fear of her husband’s next mood swing; she finds ways to leave her home early for her job at Harmont House where she uses her kitchen skills to cook for the women whose lives are in transition. It brings her peace and at the same time teaches skills to those who are in need.

A twenty-five year marriage has its challenges but trembling every time a door slams or her name is bellowed has Grace on edge. She somewhat knew what she was getting into when she first met Ted Chapman the world renown author and creative genius. To the outside world, she had the perfect life; it was what happened behind closed doors that had her quaking.

There was never physical abuse; it was his rages that lasted longer and longer and his finding constant fault with her. When she was near her breaking point, by serendipity her daughter Clemmie meets Beth at an Honors Dinner.

This is where Grace’s life takes a turn that has her wondering at her own mental health. Her mother was mentally unstable, the last time Grace saw her, she was living in a homeless shelter. Life with her mother was constant turmoil so living with Ted was no different. It was her sharing of this information with Beth, who was now Ted’s new assistant, which changed the dynamic of the Chapman home. Ted has been bewitched by Beth, a woman that inspires worry, a woman with her own agenda.

By the time that Grace sees Beth and the situation for what it is, it is too late. Grace’s career is over, the money is gone, many of her friends turned on her and now it is up to Grace to make the decisions. To decide what is worth fighting for and what is too far-gone to even care about.

As I said this is a plot that has been used before, yet, Ms. Green puts a slightly new spin making the reader wonder who truly is at fault in this scenario. There was a point in the book that it could go either way and that is why I continued to read. Grace is an endearingly strong woman and I was going to stick with her to the end. No matter where that end lead.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

There Was a Little Girl: The Real Story of My Mother and Me

Title: There Was a Little Girl: The Real Story of My Mother and Me
Author: Brooke Shields
Published: November 18th 2014 by Dutton Adult
Format: Hardcover, 416 pages
Genre: Memoir

I am not sure how others will interpret this book, but to me, it came across as a rough draft written by a person that was just spewing and needed to have an editor with a firm hand and a very red correction pen. Paragraphs rambled and repeated themselves, incorrect tense of words and in some cases, completely wrong words, and large sections read more like ideas than well thought out paragraphs. You would think that Dutton or Penguin would kindly pat Brooke’s hand and say, “thank you, we will take it from here”, but no, they let this drivel go on for four hundred monotonous pages.

Yes Brooke, we get it, your mother had a drinking problem and you did not separate from her the way most offspring do and until her death, you did not know where she ended and you began. This sad fact did not need to be repeated in every chapter. It did not endear you to me; it just made me sad for a daughter that was desperately trying to redeem her mother in the eyes of the public.

I am not saying that there was not love between mother and daughter; I believe that they loved each other so much that there was little room for anyone else. Unfortunately for Brooke, from a very young age, she decided to ignore her mother’s compulsive lies and chose for most of her life to believe what she needed to believe. Laughing off the stories as little white lies and making excuses became Brooke’s full time job.

By the end of the book, I was sad for Brooke. Except for the alcoholism, I was beginning to see Brooke as no different from her mother. The stories were exaggerated, name-calling of ex-boyfriends, twisting situations to where she always came out on top. Dramatic outburst and hyperbolic language seemed to be the same go to for both mother and daughter.

If you can make it to the end, there is a very loving tribute and that is where the book should have ended. But of course not, the hand of reason did not eliminate the section telling of Brooke’s purchasing yet another home and decorating it, having a breakdown of sorts and rushing out to buying new furnishing that were more along the likes of her husband and herself. Really, this should have been used as the beginning of another book. One where she is finally building her own life.

Brooke herself said that the writing of this book was not cathartic for her and I would have to say that it was not beneficial to me either. This is one of those books that is best picked up from a bargain bin or a library rummage sale.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Mr. Miracle - The Movie

Rob Morrow.....Harry Mills
Michelle Harrison.....Celeste
Britt Irvin.....Addie Folsom
Andrew Francis.....Erich
Malcolm Stewart.....Mr. Conceito
William C. Vaughan.....Andrew Fairfax

Why can movies not be a direct production of the book that they are made from?

Since I was not a fan of Mr. Miracle the book, I decided, for some unknown reason, to watch the Hallmark Channel movie version to see if my perceived issues with the book were different in the movie. Yes, they were, but at the same time, they created other issues for me.

For one, Mr. Mills in the book came across as naive, in the movie; he appears to be emulating Dustin Hoffman in Rainman, not an improvement. In the book, Erich is in a car accident and breaks both arms – in the movie, it is a skiing accident with a broken leg and a strained back. I must admit, one of the scenes in the book where Addie is trying to help him with both of his arms in casts was exhausting but very funny. That same humor was missing from the movie.

Maybe it was my interpretation, but the mothers in the movie are much younger then I call in the book and the neighborhood is definitely nicer. Plus, in the book, Mr. Mill’s does not live on the same street and I do not recall Addie wanting to work in a medical clinic. I recollect something about being a Veterinarian.

The movie was true to Celeste and Andrew. The movie infers that there might be a second book/movie that centers on Andrew and his story.

This is your typical Macomber Hallmark movie that I am sure will become a holiday staple.

Once again, either pick the book or pick the movie since they only tell the basics of the same story.

One final note – the movie is a walking commercial. Folgers coffee containers prominently displayed, giant Wal-Mart shopping bags, etc. It got to the point that I was looking for the next product placement instead of following the movie.