Archive for May, 2012

The Package Deal: My (Not-So) Glamorous Transition from Single Gal to Instant Mom

May 20, 2012

Rose, Izzy. The Package Deal: My (Not-So) Glamorous Transition from Single Gal to Instant Mom. Three Rivers: Crown. May 2009. 288p. ISBN 978-0-307-45433-1. pap. $14.95.

This candid, optimistic memoir readably recounts Rose’s journey from single San Franciscan to stepmother of two adolescent boys in Texas. Clear-eyed, funny observations complement 21 “rules of motherhood” (e.g., compromise but without sacrificing yourself) and show how real people blend.

This review appeared in Library Journal’s Collection Development article Stepfamily Ties on 04/01/2009; the galley was shredded on May 20, 2012.


The Unwanted Sound of Everything We Want: A Book About Noise

May 19, 2012

Keizer, Garret. The Unwanted Sound of Everything We Want: A Book About Noise. PublicAffairs: Perseus. 2010. 400p. ISBN 9781586485528. $27.95.

Keizer (Help; The Enigma of Anger) notes that while no one thinks much about noise, we sure do prize our quiet. Noise could be defined as “unwanted sound,” but when one really considers how much of it there is around, that subjective definition is silly. Is it the incessant ice cream truck bell? Noisy to us, but not to the kids who want ice cream. Noise is ever-present; as I wrote this, I was trying to tune out a nearby lawn mower, the murmurs coming out of a meeting in the back room, traffic noise, and the desperate, hoarse pleas of the prisoners I have locked in the coat closet. Keizer focuses on the social aspects of noise as a concept that has many meanings. It’s about power and class-those who don’t want noise near them (e.g., wealthy suburbanites) shunt it off on those who cannot fight back (e.g., urban poor who live near highways). It’s also about economics because civilization goes nowhere fast without a hell of a lot of big, loud machines. So many aspects of social history are woven into this mix that it is a seemingly never-ending story. This book is great on at least three levels: it is well written, has energetic writing, and will challenge readers to think.

This review appeared in Library Journal’s Books for Dudes How To Be Hard-Core (or Fake It Well) ; the galley was shredded on May 19, 2012.

Midlife Crisis at 30: How the Stakes Have Changed for a New Generation–And What To Do About It

May 18, 2012

Macko, Lia & Kerry Rubin. Midlife Crisis at 30: How the Stakes Have Changed for a New Generation–And What To Do About It. Rodale. Mat. 2004. c.288p. ISBN 1-57954-867-9. $23.95. SELF-HELP

Macko and Rubin (both television news producers) eloquently capture the bewildering stresses and strains that middleclass American women aged 25 to 37 face in managing the often mutually exclusive arenas of career, kids, husband, and body. The authors maintain that women must move beyond the cultural expectations associated with contemporary “success” and achieve their own personal balance. In an intense, sometimes edgy tone, they focus on whether women can realistically “have it all,” all at once. Mentoring is provided via the personal stories of notable women; stories like Judy Blume’s cogent discussion of balance will have wide appeal, but others are rather unrealistic, as when Mary Matalin talks about her nanny. Read in conjunction with Sherene Schostak and Stefanie Iris Weiss’s Surviving Saturn’s Return: Vital Lessons for Overcoming Life’s Most Tumultuous Cycle, this book provides much food for thought. The only drawback: it’s unnecessarily long. Essential for women’s studies programs and recommended for all public libraries.

This review appeared in Library Journal. 129.3 (Feb. 15, 2004): p146; the galley was shredded on May 18, 2012. 

Living your Colors: Practical Wisdom for Life, Love, Work, and Play

May 17, 2012

Maddron, Tom. Living Your Colors: Practical Wisdom for Life, Love, Work, and Play. Warner. Dec. 2002. c.178p. ISBN 0-446-67911-9. pap. $13.95.

Basing this book on the ancient Greek concept of the four temperaments (sanguine, melancholic, phlegmatic, and choleric), first-time author Maddron refers to them as colors–orange, gold, green, and blue, respectively. Each has a “ruling sign” (air, earth, water, and fire) and is typified by physicality, high standards, intellectualism, and sensitivity respectively. Chapters cover the characteristics of each personality type as well as various combinations, and the author includes an instrument for self-analysis. Particularly intriguing is Maddron’s discussion of how colors complement one another in functional society and the importance of understanding and appreciating the strengths and limitations of each. Despite the risks inherent in oversimplifying people and society, Maddron’s treatment is nonetheless very thoughtful. Recommended; Maddron’s narrow scope results in a clear, entertaining read.

This review appeared in Library Journal. 127.19 (Nov. 15, 2002): p90; the galley was shredded on May 17, 2012.

The Trouble with Perfect: How Parents Can Avoid the Overachievement Trap and Still Raise Successful Children.

May 16, 2012

Guthrie, Elisabeth, M.D. & Kathy Matthews. The Trouble with Perfect: How Parents Can Avoid the Overachievement Trap and Still Raise Successful Children. Broadway. 2002. c.256p. ISBN 0-7679-0751-5. $22.95.

Parents often worry about how much they should pressure their kids to succeed; the Trouble with Perfect is a meandering work that leaves readers searching for an overall framework. Guthrie (clinical director, Learning Diagnostic Ctr. at Blythedale Children’s Hosp., Valhalla, NY) and writer Matthews seem to probe topics only partially instead of drawing conclusions. Although they identify seven pressures that American parents feel (e.g., that money equals happiness) and present some useful insights (i.e., “Some parents just can’t tell the difference between their needs and those of their children”), these analyses are not coherently woven together. At best, an optional purchase; libraries might instead consider Robert Brooks and Sam Goldstein’s practical Raising Resilient Children. T

This review appeared in Library Journal. 127.6 (Apr. 1, 2002): p132; the galley was shredded on May 16, 2012.

The Forest Laird: A Tale of William Wallace

May 15, 2012

Whyte, Jack. Forge: Tor. 2012. c.483p. ISBN 9780765331564. $25.99. F

Whyte traces the life, development, and awesomeness of William Wallace who, after he became Mel Gibson and insulted Jewish people everywhere, was one of the main dudes leading 13th-century Scotland’s independence movement*. Through a cleverly invented narrator, Wallace’s cousin Jamie, Whyte describes daily routines and historical events and lays down the detail needed to convey a story of this historical complexity. As a monk, Jamie’s dual concerns are learning (he’s the abbey’s librarian) and serving as liaison between church and nobility; these jobs give him insight into the political attitudes of everyone from the royalty to the peasants. Jamie also chronicles Will’s growth into a fleshed-out hero/outlaw/rebel/patriot. The details that usually bog historical fiction down to “unreadable” are here, but damn if Whyte doesn’t manage to keep things engaging and consistently paced. One learns of archering as well as monking (Wallace begins as a bowman): “Iberian yew was unobtainable now in its native form, since most of Iberia had fallen to the Moors in the eighth century, but prudent merchants had salvaged a few thousand seedlings and saplings from the largely unoccupied but still contested areas of Galicia and Asturias during the tenth century, and plantations had been established in Italia and had flourished there, precious and close guarded.” Wait, did Proust write this?
So…why should dudes read it?It’s thick. There’s brotherhood, patriotism, and political intrigue. And archery. Plus there’s just enough Scottish dialect to leave a hint of haggis.

Never mind that a scant 400 freaking years later England and Scotland joined up again anyway, thus wasting the lives of thousands of soldiers and “all those innocent contractors” hired to fix the castles and schlep the catapults and grog for the armies.

This review appeared in Books for Dudes: The Good Guys, the Bad Guys, and the Ugly Guys in Six Suspenseful New Novels, February 21, 2012. The galley was shredded on May 12, 2012.

Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems

May 14, 2012

Ferber, Richard, M.D. Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems. rev. ed. Touchstone: S. & S. May 2006. c.550p. ISBN 0-7432-0163-9. pap. $14.95. CHILD REARING

Ferber (director, Sleep Lab & Ctr. for Pediatric Sleep Disorders, Boston Children’s Hosp.) is a sleep giant in the land of nod. In the 21 years since the first edition of this book was published, many “Ferberized” babies have cried themselves to sleep per the author’s famous “progressive-waiting” method. This revised version maintains that most sleep disruptions in one- to six-year-olds are caused by improper sleep association (e.g., being rocked instead of lying still). Suggested corrections, often backed with specific case studies, are considerate of children; ditto for advice on prebedtime routines. Further, Ferber’s stance on co-sleeping has softened. Though sympathetic to exhausted parents, Ferber reminds them that they “may have to tolerate some crying” to help their baby develop a healthy sleep schedule. Interruptions in sleep (e.g., bedwetting, nightmares), establishing schedules, and children’s natural sleep rhythms are all explored. Many consider Ferber the polar opposite of William Sears (The Baby Sleep Book: The Complete Guide to a Good Night’s Rest for the Whole Family), but both compassionate authors deserve space on the shelf. For all libraries.

This review appeared in Library Journal 15 Mar. 2006: 92+; the galley was shredded on May 16, 2012.



May 13, 2012

Farah, Nuruddin. Crossbones. Riverhead. Sept. 2011. 400p. ISBN 9781594488160. $27.95. F

Farah is a special writer, the first I’ve encountered who effectively translates between my suburban white American world and the African one. As such, Farah is able to highlight those cultural trappings that don’t mean a thing in Africa, but that American eyes are drawn to, like how bedraggled a man’s beard is or how tightly his clothing fits. The book is also a soothing, exotic read, with vivid language that pours as smoothly as water from a deep, clear well. The plot follows a freelance journalist named Malik, who is Somali by birth but was raised in Malaysia and now lives in America. Malik journeys to his “homeland” of Somalia, seeking stories for articles. Though he is experienced in dangerous locales, he doesn’t know wtf he’s doing when it comes to Somalia, so his father-in-law, Jeeblah, goes with him as shepherd. All sorts of wackiness ensues, but a multicultural version of The Hangover this ain’t. Character interactions reveal culture clashes of all conceivable stripes among the country’s political and tribal factions, and Farah conveys them all through a remarkably clear lens. “After all,” he concludes, “every resident of this city is guilty, even if no one admits to being a culprit.” Images are precise yet leave all to a reader’s imagination. Thus, a balcony isn’t given specific dimensions, but is “large enough for a sumptuous party,” and a jeep becomes a “four wheel drive.” A pleasure.

This review appeared in Books for Dudes at Library Journal on August 4, 2011. The galley was shredded on May 13, 2012.

Father and Child Reunion: How To Bring the Dads We Need to the Children We Love) later

May 12, 2012

Farrell, Warren. Father and Child Reunion: How To Bring the Dads We Need to the Children We Love. Tarcher: Putnam. 2001. c.320p. permanent paper. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 158542-075-1. $24.95. SOC SCI

Like his earlier Women Can’t Hear What Men Don’t Say, Farrell’s latest book will evoke strong responses with its polemically argued thesis: that fathers are often missing from the family equation and that this is to the detriment of both children and mothers. His research shows, for instance, that children with involved fathers score better on academic and social competence measures as well as on physical and psychological health tests. Issues like child support, visitation, and the female domination of legal proceedings are critiqued and shown to be frequently unfair to men. Unfortunately, Farrell’s intensely pro-male tone pits men against women and obscures otherwise thought-provoking comments. In addition, the style is often overly dramatic, e.g., the author asserts that the denial of father-time is “one of the most documentable forms of child abuse.” For a positive, supportive title, try Divorced Dad’s Survival Book: How To Stay Connected with Your Kids (Perseus, 2000. reprint). For only the largest public and academic libraries.

This review appeared in Library Journal. 126.4 (Mar. 1, 2001): p118; the galley was shredded over 10 years (!) later on May 12, 2012.

The Pleasure Trap: Mastering the Hidden Force that Undermines Health & Happiness

May 11, 2012

Lisle, Doug & Alan Goldhamer. The Pleasure Trap: Mastering the Hidden Force that Undermines Health & Happiness. Book Pub. Sept. 2003. c.240p. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 1-57067-150-8. $24.95.

Lisle and Goldhamer, a clinical psychologist and a chiropractor, respectively, claim that modern life is “the root of the vast majority of disease, disability, and unhappiness in Western civilization” in their convincing, if dramatic, argument for a back-to-essentials diet. Humans, like all animals, are genetically wired to pursue pleasure, avoid pain, and conserve energy. Life today, however, “has magic buttons that can short-circuit the natural connection between happiness and pleasure-seeking behavior with products such as recreational drugs, processed foods, pain-relieving medications, and gambling.” Advice, though ardent and thought-provoking, is unorthodox on the whole, e.g., “consume a diet of whole natural foods, excluding all meat, fish, fowl, eggs, and dairy products.” Readers may find Laurel Mellin’s The Pathway: Follow the Road to Health and Happiness more palatable. Order on demand.

This review appeared in Library Journal 15 Sept. 2003: 77; the galley was shredded on May 11, 2012.